2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 160,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

WHAT A GAME!

       On Saturday, college football fans were treated to a gridiron classic, as Alabama defeated the University of Georgia 32-28 to capture the SEC Championship and a trip to the NCAA national championship game. Spectacular individual and team performances drove the fans to parallels of euphoria and bitter disappointment, depending on which team was their favorite. This was the zenith for college football and the young athletes who play the sport.

       I love college sports. The individual and collective feats of hardworking athletes are to be admired. I also admire the feats of athleticism on display at Shorter University. It is nice to pick up the paper and see an article about a pigskin victory, a day on the diamond, a holiday on the hardwood, a spike or volley, or any other mention of athletic heroics. I am glad that scholarships are being offered to so many students of diverse athletic persuasion so that they can further their education. Shorter did not have such a variety of sports to follow just a few years ago. When I was at Shorter, we had basketball, baseball, and an empty football  schedule with phantom home and away games. That was about it. (Sorry, this article was supposed to be about athletics, not academics.)

       There has been an explosion of sporting opportunities on the Hill this past decade. The Dowless era has continued the trend. Dowless, acting as General Manager, is striving to create an atmosphere of Christian athleticism in which each victory might be seen as a blessing from God. Why, I have even heard of trustees speaking of Shorter’s victories as being a manifestation of God’s favor on Shorter. I hear such fervor about Christians winning at sports but not so much about winning in the classroom. In fact, despite numerous articles in the Rome News Tribune and on the Shorter website, touting various sports results, there has been only one achievement of academic significance noted. (There I go again…)

       During the past year and a half, so many massive changes have occurred at Shorter that sports have served as a pleasant distraction. That can be seen as a good thing, for Shorter has experienced a LOT of pain. But hey, to borrow an athletic analogy, no pain, no gain! However, if gain does not occur, in the end, the pain might be followed by more pain in the form of a significant defeat brought on by the lessening of academic standards. (Focus…sports, sports, SPORTS!)

       At Alabama and UGA, sports are BIG business. TV contracts, ticket sales, boosters, clothing and memorabilia sales – these are ongoing sources of revenue. The reality is, other than some major universities and some well-run smaller schools, the athletic program is not a cash cow. It is closer to a cash hog. Having a large sports program is seen as a marketing tool, no matter the expense. At Shorter these days, stadium leases and remodeling, high tech scoreboards, and the like must be costing a WHOLE LOT MORE than any revenue they may be generating! Those expenses must have some bearing on the fact that neither faculty or staff – those who actually help those students earn their degrees – received their annual Christmas bonus at the faculty-staff Christmas banquet. (Oops, that pesky academic thing again!)

       Shorter football appeared recently on a regional cable network. It got the Shorter name out to potentially thousands of viewers. Perhaps there were some high school students and parents who looked further into Shorter. They may have viewed a catalog to see what academic majors are being offered. Problem is, in these changing times at Shorter, what is in a catalog and what is really being offered might be entirely different. I mentioned academics in a sports article again, but at some point the strength and conditioning of the academic aspects of the school must be studied. (Note that I used a sporty analogy, which keeps me on track in fleshing out my theme).

       As December rolls around, the college bowl season is set to begin on the national stage. In the classroom, students will take final exams to cap off their academic seasons. And for Shorter University, another outcome will be decided on December 11th, as the SACS report and recommendations for Shorter will be announced. Will that announcement be followed by the thrill of victory, or the agony of defeat? It will depend on how many of the abundant fouls and penalties committed by the Shorter administration were observed by SACS officials as a result of their April visit. Will we see a flag on the play? Just how well did Shorter implement their game-plan of deception? How closely were the officials watching those plays? If those charged with creating whole cloth from nothing were not able to “clean up” the little messes noted in the April visit, Shorter may be on the path to an eventuality that will put them in with the big athletic programs – probation. However it will not be an athletic one, it will be an academic one. And I will not apologize for THIS mention of a scholarly term!

Editor’s note:  Hat tip to Phillip Coffey for the following statistics -

More numbers

3702 enrolled fall 2011
978 graduated
possible returning students=2724

2932 fall enrollment 2012
525 graduates this fall
2407 students possible returning for spring
3329 enrolled Spring of 2012
2407 is 72.3% of spring 2012 enrollment

New enrollment for fall 2012 was at least 208 new students.

And enrollment is only down a little bit.
You decide

THANKSGIVING

     This season of the year provides us all the opportunity to give thanks for things that are important to us. I would like to list some things that I am thankful for, as well as some things that others MUST be thankful for.

Things I am thankful for:

- SOS, for continuing to shed light on shadowy behind the scenes maneuvering at  Shorter University.

- Past faculty and staff for establishing an educational legacy and traditions that, until recently, carried over the decades.

 - Current faculty and staff that remained through the recent upheaval to provide some continuity to upper-class students.

- New faculty, for doing their best in positions that many were not yet qualified for at this point in their educational journey.

- Alumni who care about Shorter enough to point out the slippery slope of academic obscurity that Shorter could be headed down with just a few more “edicts” or “sound decisions” by the Dowless administration.

- The Messengers who attended the recent GBC annual conference and also represented SOS in a dignified manner. Yes, many of us are Baptist and some are GBC Baptists. These Messengers also were able to listen to and videotape Don Dowless giving his “State of Shorter” speech to the Educational Committee of the GBC and the Annual Meeting attendees as well.

      Speaking of Don Dowless, he has things I am SURE he is thankful for:

-       Nelson Price, for bringing him to Rome, Georgia and giving him a thriving University to play “school” with.

-       A Board of Trustees that take him at his word that Shorter is thriving and about to explode. (Funny thing about explosions, they often blow up in the face of the detonating body.)

-       An ability to sell Shorter as a school that had “strayed” from the Godly path. This has served him well speaking to fundamentalist supporters who do not care about the quality of education, as long as the Bible is involved.

-       The athletic department, for serving as the object of his adoration. In the face of academic upheaval this acts as a great diversion when speaking to the public.

-       The GBC, which supports his every move and seem hell-bent -er- determined to make sure Shorter serves as a Sunday school-missionary-fundamental whirligig of academia.

         Regarding the GBC, they must be thankful also:

-       For President Simoneaux of Brewton –Parker College who spoke of his schools increased enrollment and presented his school in a positive and dignified manner.

-       For President Caner of Truett-McConnell, who also spoke of increased enrollment with statistics to back it up, while also speaking of traditional marriage and family values with such fervor that rounds of spontaneous applause errupted.

-       For President Dowless of Shorter University, who spoke of pride, pride, and…well…PRIDE. When prompted, the audience clapped politely. He also spoke of enrollment, presenting a figure of 2972 under the umbrella of Shorter. He failed to mention that this is a DECREASE of 730 students. However, this must be acceptable because he is so PROUD of the numbers. Nowhere in his address did he make mention of any academic accomplishment, save for the softball team’s scholastic prowess.

      Thanksgiving is also a time to pray for those less fortunate, and at Shorter this would be the students. Many upperclassmen are just trying to finish and get out. I pray that they will recall enough positive memories from their time at Shorter to offset the train wreck from the past year that was ushered in by the “New Shorter Order”. I pray for the freshmen who have little idea of how Shorter was just a short time ago, except for the brochures they read that featured those students, faculty, and staff who made up the Shorter University they THOUGHT existed.

Our former academic stalwart is in hibernation, and we must all pray especially for alumni and friends to care enough to take an unflinching stand that will allow Shorter to re-emerge as a Christian university that is athletically AND academically sound.

      -

A YEAR IN REVIEW

In September, over 50 SOS supporters met in Atlanta and Rome with Libby Nelson, a reporter for Inside Higher Ed, the number one online  magazine for educators. In an article out today, she recounts Shorter’s last turbulent year. You may read the article by clicking here.

Our thanks to Ms. Nelson and to Inside Higher Ed for its interest in documenting our story.

Yesterday, November 13, the Georgia Baptist Convention held its 191st Annual Meeting. Contrary to what may be believed, a number of our SOS members are Baptist and have a rightful voice at the gathering, so we thought it fitting for SOS to have its name represented at the meeting.

LUX VERITAS lives!

Over 200 of these fans were passed out to meeting messengers. Many asked what we wanted to “save Shorter from”. If you are here because you “followed the fan”, welcome! On these pages, you’ll learn exactly why we want to save Shorter.

Dr. Don Dowless said was proud to represent Shorter to the gathered attendees. Unfortunately, his audience was not as large as he might have liked. In the years before the Fundamentalist takeover of the GBC,  large arenas were rented to accommodate the crowd. As we reported yesterday, the GBC membership has fallen severely. Our messenger reports that there were only around 500 in attendance at any given time yesterday. The video linked here of Dowless’ comments was provided to SOS for our readers.

There are a number of issues that should be of concern to our readers and to Georgia Baptists especially.

  • Dowless begins his report by saying “Is there anybody here that doesn’t know where Shorter University stands?”  We suppose that Dowless was expecting a standing ovation or at least a loud cheer.  He didn’t get either.
  • He reports that “we are thriving – doing the best we’ve ever done.”  The loss to date of 90 employees, with more to come, calls that statement into question. When 4 deans, several vice-presidents, a number of department heads and your recently hired human resources director walk out, something is wrong.
  • Dowless reports an enrollment at Shorter of 2,972 students. According to the Shorter Fact Book 2011-12, last year, Shorter’s enrollment was 3, 702.

 

  • Total loss – 730 students.  And yet, Dowless reported to the Board of Trustees that enrollment was only down “a bit”.  The number he gave to Libby Nelson, in the article linked above, was 115 students. Readers, statistics don’t lie.
  • Dowless reports that the administration has stood firm and done it “in a loving, good spirit”.  Michael Wilson would differ with that. Scores of alumni who tried to talk with Dowless would differ with that. Former students who sought an audience with Dowless would differ with that. Community leaders and donors who talked to Dowless would differ with that.
  • He mentions the School of Nursing. He doesn’t bother to say that they lost the Dean of the School of Nursing to Berry College. He doesn’t mention the fact that his new dean had only 2 semesters of teaching and had just received her doctorate. He says nothing of the fact that students are desperate because they are being taught faulty science and because they’re having to teach the teachers. He doesn’t have a clue how many are planning to leave. What he DOES know, however, is that the students will be sent on mission trips.

The remainder of his message- part report, part sermon – is about mission trips and athletics. Only once, in the entire presentation, does he mention academic excellence and that as a passing reference to the softball team. Not once does he point to academic achievement in the business, education, science, communication arts or fine arts schools (Perhaps that’s because the fine arts school is nearly non-existent). In fact, the word “academic” is heard only once.

The one thing that Dowless does mention, however, and mentions often, is the word “proud”.  “We’re proud to be a Georgia Baptist University  . . .We stood on our values and we’re proud of it. . . We’re proud to say we’re a Georgia Baptist school . . . you ought to be proud of us too. . . (named in the Princeton Review) we’re proud of that. We’re proud that our nursing school has 83 students in it. . . I want you to be proud of Shorter University. I want Christ to be more proud of us.

There is a lot of “I” and “we” have done, but little that shows any humility for what has happened at Shorter. Dowless never gives credit to God for what has occurred at Shorter. Perhaps that is because what has happened is not of God, but of man. His thanks to the Georgia Baptists is cursory at best. He thanks his Board of Trustees not at all. Perhaps that is because the board has become filled with figureheads at best. His report is all about what he has done.

When ego supplants Divine authority, it does not bode well for Shorter.

Don Dowless, you should remember Proverbs 16:18 -“Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty attitude before a fall.”

191ST ANNUAL MEETING CONVENES

11/13/12  Be sure to check in for tomorrow’s post. We will be recapping Dr. Dowless’ address to the Georgia Baptist Convention and give you our response. There will also be a special feature that you will not want to miss!

Tonight, the Georgia Baptist Convention began its 191st Annual Meeting at the Second Baptist Church in Warner Robins with an Inspirational Rally.  Leading the program were GBC President, John Waters and GBC Executive Director, Robert White.

Tomorrow evening, faithful Messengers will gather from all over Georgia to hear about the state of the GBC , to celebrate its various accomplishments and to be charged, once more, with carrying out the Great Commission.  Most likely, what will NOT be discussed is the decline of the Southern Baptist Convention in general and of the Georgia Baptist Convention in specific.

In June, it was announced that membership in Southern Baptist churches had declined for the fifth straight year.  The statistics for 2011 showed that membership had dropped to less than 16 million – a statistic that had not been seen since 2000.  Baptisms are also down – drastically.

The Georgia Baptist Convention is in acute budgetary distress. At last year’s November convention, Robert White called on Georgia churches to increase their Cooperative Program giving by 1%. Keep in mind that the GBC keeps approximately 60% of every CP dollar. The average giving from GBC churches nowadays is less than 5%. By February, the GBC was announcing its fourth staff downsizing since 2009, calling it the most drastic cut yet. Discussions have been underway for quite some time about selling the $42 million dollar albatross that is the GBC headquarters (think of how many mission projects that much money could have supported). Perhaps Robert White’s exhortation has been heard, and then again, perhaps not.   As recently as May, the Consolation Baptist Association passed a resolution calling for all GBC churches to cut funding to the Cooperative Program in order to keep all donations within the Convention itself.

 With the changes in the GBC’s Church Planters Assistance Policy, new churches now are only required to support the Cooperative Program by giving 5% instead of the formerly required 10%. This move, we imagine, was only made in order to keep the new churches aligned with the GBC.  In any case, the new changes seem to affirm the Executive Committee’s realization that 5% giving may be the new normal.

The Annual Meeting promises to be a rally for the cause of Fundamentalism.  Perhaps the idea of supplanting the old Southern Baptist name and claiming the new Great Commission name will take hold. That will make no difference to the Fundamentalist agenda. No matter what the name, the objectives of exclusivity and control will be the same.

Without doubt, the Messengers will hear great stories of missioning and evangelism. Calls will go forth for more faith, for more proselytizing, for more giving.  The intention is to send the Messengers back home with a revitalized commitment to the GBC and to the rightness of the Fundamentalist values. If the current trends are predictors of future behavior, those calls will have limited effect. The GBC simply can’t replace thinking individuals with those who mindlessly follow the dictates of Fundamentalist leadership fast enough.

What does all of this have to do with Shorter? Despite protestations to the contrary, Fundamentalism is in an increasingly rapid decline and carrying the Georgia Baptist Convention and the SBC with it. The more stiff-necked the leadership becomes, the less effective their evangelism efforts. The more they speak of their New Earth theories, the rigidity of inerrancy as interpreted by the SBC alone, the more they deny the genetic factors that point toward the nature of homosexuality,  the more they fight among themselves over Calvinist doctrine, the more they separate themselves from fellow denominations and imply there is no place at their table for those who think differently than they do, the more unattractive they become to potential converts.

When you can’t recruit by evangelism and exhortation, when your coffers are rapidly growing smaller, when former allies walk away in disgust, where do you find your potential membership? You take over the halls of academia and force your beliefs on young minds. Instead of gathering converts who willingly gather at your table, you control every facet of education.You indoctrinate those young minds.  You have been entrusted to provide your students an academically rigorous education, where open inquiry is the hallmark and academic integrity is valued. Instead, you ignore academic principles in order to ensure future donors for your coffers.  You tell your churches that it is their duty to support the colleges and universities you control by sending their dollars and their children to uphold the cause of Christ. You purge the faculty of anyone who does not swear allegiance to your values. And  you do it all in the name of Christ. In other words, you pervert academia for your own purposes, few of which are Christ-centered and all of which support the power at the top.

When you preach God’s word in the light and with truth; when the love and acceptance of Jesus Christ at the forefront of the message, people cannot help but flock to you. So it has been for centuries. When creedalism, bigotry, narrow-mindedness, condemnation and greed take over,  people leave. From the SBC, from the GBC and from Shorter.

GBC Messengers, you have an obligation to a much higher power than that which sits in the GBC offices.  Christ calls us to be disciples of His truth and His love. Wash the clouds from your eyes; dare to speak out and demand the truth – from your pastors, and from those whom you elect. It was Christ’s way to challenge authority. Make it your way.

“I am the way, the truth and the light.” He said to his disciples. Bring back LUX VERITAS. Bring back truth and light.

GET OVER IT? NOT A CHANCE!

As a graduate of Shorter College, I have written before of my strong feelings for my alma mater and of those who nurtured the college over the decades.  It was those individuals who worked to make Shorter a superior institution of higher learning. I am turning my attention today – All Saints Day – to some comments that have been made in response to recent posts on this website, and the thoughts that have occurred to me.

While I noticed numerous comments of warmth and support for those no longer on the Hill as well as for those that remain, I have also read comments that convey the opinion that we at SOS should forgive, let things go, and move on. While these were made mostly in a friendly context with no hint of ill will, Let me share the reaction that those comments stirred up in my own heart and mind.

FORGIVE

I forgive those who are now in charge at Shorter; who have wreaked havoc on the lives of so many Shorter students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents and supporters. I forgive the ignorance revealed by their insistence that the school had “strayed” and needed to be whipped back into shape. I forgive their insistence that there needed to be a new beginning for Shorter, a sort of “Baptist-ism”, if you will. For Don Dowless and his administrative cronies and trustee emeritus Nelson Price,  this entails backstabbing, unjustified firings, half-truths, non-truths, and all sorts of cunningness, all disguised behind the righteous cloak of Christianity. I do not like this, but I forgive. The ever present photos of Don Dowless with a half-smirk – half-frown with arms folded, as though he has conquered our world, I forgive also for the Baptists need a hero to laud. Remember, we are not to hate the sinner, but hate the sin, and that, I truly do.

FORGET

There is an old slogan used on memorabilia that celebrates the old rebel South: “Fergit hell!” That is what I feel as I ponder the notion of letting this go. I think of so many men and women of strong moral fiber –those who set the course of Shorter long before the current administration and Fundamentalist GBC came along; leaders who taught us the way through true Christian higher education, recent leaders who chose to stay at Shorter to try to help steer the ship through these choppy waters. I think of how so many of them have been fired because of the “different direction” that was being taken – or whatever the excuse was for that particular week.

I think of a renowned music program that has been almost leveled, and I think about the faculty and the few students that are charged with keeping the shambles of the program that remains moving forward. I think of the theater program that has been neutered by censorship, yet the handful of students and a battered but determined faculty trudges forward.

I remember some alumni who expressed grave concern about the new direction of their alma mater until they were appointed to the Alumni Governing Board. I cannot forget how quickly they were charmed into falling in line behind the “new direction”. It no longer seemed to matter that the new direction either ignored or worked to squelch any voice that dared to speak out in opposition. Nor does it seem to concern them that the old alumni – their classmates and friends who helped to build Shorter’s traditions, are the ones that were giving voice to that opposition.

I know that if I visit the campus I will be reminded of the “new” Shorter because of the library addition that bears the name of Nelson Price. Never mind that this man has no academic ties to Shorter, who despite being a Georgia Baptist preacher for over 35 years at a church only an hour away, actually had to ASK FOR DIRECTIONS to the campus the first time he visited Shorter…after he was appointed as a TRUSTEE! I am told that our degrees will be of greater value because of all the things this man has done. But it is hard to believe this because I know so many things that have transpired behind the scenes – things in which he had a hand – to make these changes, this new “Holy Shorter” possible.

TRADITIONS

I read a comment about the “new” Shorter developing traditions that will be important to future students. I also recall a current Alumni Governing Board member alluding to “our” old Shorter and “their” new Shorter. There is nothing wrong with new traditions being created. What is wrong is the way the school has been taken over by ultra-fundamentalist dogma that seems to condone private sins as long as the public persona seems pure. You can get drunk as a skunk behind closed doors, but don’t be seen having a glass of wine in public, and for heaven’s sake, don’t come on the Hill with liquor on your breath. Those men on the Hill have not earned the right to set traditions. Even old traditions are being cast aside along with the old faculty/staff. The tradition of Halloween trick or treat on the residence halls has been cleansed from the Hill, since it is a pagan tradition. (Why could they not sanction TRUNK-or-treat? It can be found at many Baptist churches.)

It seems that one of their new traditions will be holding Trustee meetings in the buildings of the departments that have been hardest hit by the new regime. A sort of “hail the conquering hero” move is afoot.  The BOT recently held their fall meeting in the Fine Arts Building. Will the spring session be held in the Science Building?

OF DUE DILIGENCE AND MOVING ON

I went to Six Flags with friends recently. We waited in lines for the roller coasters. One line in particular had us waiting for over 2 hours. We would stand still, walk a few steps, stand still, walk a few steps, and it crossed our minds more than once that we ought to get out of line and do something else. We chose, however, to stay in line, and were rewarded greatly.

Pointing out the misdeeds at Shorter, and fighting for a better Shorter that does not operate unethically is similar to standing in that line. Our work here might be slow, it might sound crazy, it might get boring, but the reward at the end may be an exhilarating ride! It could be a ride that watches Shorter move away from the current unethical behavior that will ultimately cripple an influential university. It is our belief that Shorter could become an institution that borrows from the past, integrates an inclusive, loving Christian atmosphere in the present, and has a healthy leadership structure that will allow her to soar like the namesake of the ride we rode at Six Flags…Superman! In any case, SOS is not going away. While we ask God to help us forgive, we are not going to forget and we are not going to move on. Nelson Price told the Board of Trustees that the negative response to their actions on the Hill would blow over in a few weeks. It did not. He then promised that we would come around in a few months. We did not. A year later, we’re still here, we’re still watching, and in memory and in honor of all the saints from the Hill that have gone before us, on this All Saints Day we declare that we are here for as long as it takes and will be documenting what is happening to our Shorter every step of the way.

 

 

OF COMPASSION AND GRACE

In September 2008, I walked on to a beautiful college campus, so excited to be able to start a new career chapter in my life. As I walked past the fountain and up the steps of Sheffield-Thompson I kept thinking: I cannot believe I get to work in such a beautiful place; I cannot believe they picked me of all people to work here!

An hour later, two well-dressed men — one in a bow tie, the other in a sweater vest –walked through my door and entertained me with an impromptu, very jazzed-up version of a church hymn complete with dancing (and just for the record, it was very modest dancing). I remember thinking something along the lines of, “Alright, well, I’ve just signed up to work with a bunch of weirdos.” Needless to say, John Head and Ken Fincher both grew on me and I began to look forward to their many spur-of-the-moment concerts.

My time at Shorter was defined by many stories like the one I just described. When I think of all the wonderful people I have met over the last few years, I can’t help but smile. They were experts in their field, professionals who dedicated their entire lives to studying an area of interest and then sharing their passion, their life calling, with students. It was a wonderful environment and I am so thankful to have been a part of the Shorter family. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I learned so much about higher education, marketing and the importance of brand development. I looked forward to those laid-back summertime work days and I looked forward to those hot August days when the campus would come back alive. I loved when halfway nervous, halfway excited students would come up to me in the hallway and show me their schedule and say, “Can you help me find this classroom?”

This past year has been a tough one, so very different from the previous years. Lots of hurt and tears and confusion. But I am choosing to cling to the good.

And this is what I am taking away from Shorter:

Friendship.

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.” C.S. Lewis

There are friends, and then there are friends. You know, the ones that reach out to hold your hand even after you just wiped your runny nose on it because you’ve been crying. The ones that can tell you’ve been having a bad day just by looking at you. The friends that clear their calendars because you need to talk, or just sit and not say anything at all. Those friends that God sets you up with because He knows waaaaaay before you do that you’re gonna need them. Yeah, those friends.

I’ve been blessed to be able to make those kinds of friends at Shorter.

Compassion.

“Never dream of forcing men into the ways of God. Think yourself, and let think. Use no constraint in matters of religion. Even those who are farthest out of the way never compel to come in by any other means than reason, truth, and love.” —from a sermon in the Works of John Wesley

Ever felt like you’ve been looked down or classified as a second-rate Christian for what you believe? Not good enough to measure up to someone else’s definition of a true Christian? It’s not a good feeling. Jesus said: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

Love your neighbor as yourself.

To me, this means treating people as human beings that have feelings. This means loving people that might not think like you do. It means not showing favoritism. This means treating people right, regardless of whether or not they go to an “approved” church. It means loving them even if they don’t go to church at all.

Another verse that I’ve been reading over and over this year comes from Philippians. I like The Message’s translation of the verse. It goes like this: If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

If you have a heart.

If you care.

Don’t sweet-talk your way to the top.

Lend a helping hand.

I’m taking away a deeper understanding of how it feels to be unfairly judged and automatically discounted simply because of what you believe. I’ve learned that having to deal with that on a day-to-day basis makes you sad. It makes you frustrated. It makes you turn all freaky paranoid. It makes you tired. It wears out your heart.

It’s not bitterness that I am taking away (though I’m not going to lie, I struggle with that), its compassion. It’s a resolve to simply be kind and not turn up my nose at others, whatever differences we might have.

Questioning.

My relationship with Christ has been strengthened in ways that I could not have even imagined over the last few years, especially this year. When you see people you love go through so much turmoil over beliefs, it makes you examine what you believe yourself. It makes you question what you believe. Instead of leaning on explanations that had sufficed in the past, I wanted to find out. I wanted to know what I believed and why.

When that happens, you start turning to the Bible for answers. You start talking to God more. He starts talking to you more. Things get better, even when the little world you made for yourself falls down around you. For the better part of my life, I’ve heard “consider it joy when you go through tough times.” And for the better part of my life, I wondered where James was coming from on that concept. Joy when you feel like crying your eyes out? Joy when somebody is doing wrong by you, by the people you love? We’re supposed to be joyful about that.

See all those questions there? My questioning led to jumping into scripture, and praying and listening. God uses hardships as a time to teach. We just have to be willing students.

Some would say that questioning is bad. I think it’s just another word for growing.

So, thank you Shorter for the great memories and the tough times, the friendships and the heartaches, the laughter and the tears, the lesson in compassion and for making me question.

 

Aimee Madden

Public Relations Specialist

4 years of service