Monday, October 4, 2021

This Is Not the End of You

For all who have survived and all who will survive
October 2021

This may be the end of what you thought would last
This may be the end of what you thought was "the real thing"
This may be the end of what you said "I do" to


This is not the end of you.

The words she used were hurtful
The things he did were harmful
The time and energy they took can't be replaced
The scars will remain, even after the wounds heal


This is not the end of you.

You believed the lie that it was your fault
You thought maybe it was true that you can't do anything right
You can't shake the feeling that you just didn't try hard enough


This is not the end of you.

You listen to me now:
You are worth so. much. more.
You are of untold value.
You--yes, YOU!
YOU are loved.
YOU are lovable.
YOU are beloved.

This is not the end of you.

There is hope. There is hope. There is hope.

Let this be the beginning of something new.

This is not the end of you.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. If you or someone you know is experiencing harm in an intimate or familial relationship, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or You can reach the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673 or Learn more about building healthy relationships and spreading awareness of domestic and intimate partner violence by visiting the One Love Foundation at or the Domestic Violence Awareness Project at

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Dear Jim

You started telling me years ago that you wanted me to do your funeral. I figured you'd long outlive my tenure at your church, however, and that you would get to know pastors who followed me, too, and one of them would (and should) do your funeral. And truth be told, I fervently hoped I wouldn't have to do your funeral. You were the lay member to annual conference, a Sunday school teacher, a member of the choir, and one of the most faithful members of that church. You were proud of being one of the longest-standing members there. The church needed you (and you needed the church). It's kind of funny: even when you do so many funerals as a pastor, there are some people you think might never die.

So I'm writing you this letter too late, as these things happen. And I'm not doing your funeral...but this fact brings me no joy, and perhaps, I should have been willing to say yes, if circumstances had permitted. Life is full of these decisions we see differently on the back side, isn't it?

There's so much I would say about you, if I were doing your funeral, and so much I probably should have said to you...but that time has passed. I have so many memories of being your pastor for four years. I mean, I have lots of memories of four years at your church, but also, memories just of you.

You called me your "guru." You came to talk to me about everything and anything. It didn't take long to realize you were lonely. I remember you always wore your wedding ring, and very early on, you pointed out that you were not single by choice. You'd talk about your "first wife," Shirley, and it was obvious that you would have given anything for her to be with you still. I always imagined there are some things in your house that were left untouched, just the way Shirley had left them, as a sort of shrine, a way to call up her presence in your loneliest moments. Of course, I don't know that to be true...but from what I know, it seems possible. You loved her so much. And you missed her so painfully. I knew that. It wasn't hard to tell it, and I tried to be present for you in those lonely moments. Sometimes it was too much for me, though. I failed you, so many times.

You see, the thing about being a pastor is that part of your job is to lay bare some of yourself, so that others can feel comfortable doing that, too, and then it's hard to help people understand that the closeness they feel isn't really as personal as they think it is, after all. This doesn't mean pastors are actors or are being disingenuous; it just means we are always balancing how to care for others and share ourselves enough to help foster their spiritual growth in genuine ways, with how to protect ourselves in important ways, too.

But you and I had a different relationship from what I had with many other church members. When you asked questions of me, you wanted a real answer. You respected my opinion on lots of things, though I remember one time I noted I had read something in the Washington Post and you said, "We may have to work on your choice of reading material." You were ready to jump into whatever I suggested as a small group study or a new direction for the church. Few church members have respected my authority and training and knowledge the way you did. We didn't agree on everything, and you liked to parse concepts into so many pieces that it drove me nuts sometimes, but you valued what I had to say.

You brought me newspaper clipping after newspaper clipping, and magazine articles and church bulletins. You wanted to share all the ideas you got from everything you read and every place you went. I kept it all, while I was there. There was a box under my desk that held all the stuff from Jim. And I dutifully packed most of it and moved it with me 3 years ago. It meant something to you, and I felt it important to honor that, though you probably never knew that. Just recently, as I tried to clean the closet in my office, I came across a bunch of that stuff. Some of it I did finally pitch, but a lot of it is still there.

This week, as I prepared to record a sermon for the church I presently attend but do not work at, I had even said to myself, Jim will be happy he can actually see me preach this week. (When I was getting ready to leave your church, I remember you asked where you would be able to watch or listen to my sermons each week, but that isn't usually possible, in the ministry where I serve now.) I was excited that you could watch, this one time, and I made a mental note to be sure to send you the link. But then I got a phone call Wednesday evening, letting me know you had gone. And I can't stop thinking that I wish you were around to see this service, not because it's anything great, but because I know you would have wanted to.

There's so much more to say. There were days you were the last person I wanted to see and times I tried to avoid you. Your attention was sometimes disconcerting and probably inappropriate. You were protective of me, which was unwarranted and unnecessary. But I know all of this came from a good place and was borne out of a deep regard and love. And I wanted to appreciate it and honor it. I wanted to be the pastor you needed. I wanted to have the healthy boundaries I needed for me and my family, too. It is so damn hard to be a pastor and care for people and care for yourself in the midst of dealing with all the mess of your own life and a whole bunch of other people's, too.

I failed you, Jim, because I am a broken human, after all. But I was trying to do my best. And I haven't been your pastor for almost 3 years, but I hope you knew that didn't mean I stopped caring about you and hoping you were still growing in your relationship with God.

Maybe you did understand. If nothing else, I know the last time we talked, I did tell you I loved you. I meant that. And that's all I know to say now. I love you, Jim. May you rest in peace and rise in glory.

-Betz CE

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

"Nothing" Means A Lot

Currently, my "office" space is comprised of the end of our couch, a plant stand with a basket of desk supplies on top of it (wedged in between the arm of the couch and the wall), and the area surrounding the plant stand and an end table that sits near the end of the couch. Needless to say, it's a lot less space than the office where I usually do campus ministry and the office I've recently acquired on campus, for the one course I've been teaching.

As I sat on the end of the couch recently--the space where I spend my morning devotion time, where I sit and scroll through social media, where I read and write and watch TV, where I hold Zoom and Facebook Live ministry events--in a particular moment, I took note of the kitsch spread out on top of the end table, and noticed something kind of peculiar. Whenever I am not sharing the space with the cat, so he can look out the window (knocking down as many things as possible as he sits there), 2 little plaques are displayed, and recently, I've been leaving a note card from my sister there, too. All three of these happen to have something in common: the quotations on them include the word "nothing." There's this from Jane Austen: "There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort." And this from Maya Angelou: "Nothing can dim the light that shines from within." And recently, this scripture verse: "for with God, nothing shall be impossible" (Luke 1:37).

Now, first, the inclusion of "nothing" in all of those statements reminded me of all the times I've read students' essays this semester that talk about "everyone" and "no one" and all the other over-generalizations that young writers are prone to use. (Did you know that all "older" people are opposed to tattoos and unusual hair coloring? Also, everyone of a certain age is under pressure to post everything they do on social media; were you aware of this?!) It struck me as ironic that I've populated my own "inspirational spot" with a trove of (over?)generalized quotations. Are they true? Are they overstatements? Do they have any accuracy? (The writing instructor in me need to consider the ethos of these claims!)

Well, maybe these comments weren't intended to hold up against this kind of scrutiny, and that's OK. In this moment, I think what they all have in common is that, ironically enough, that little word "nothing" actually opens up a crack in the dull hopelessness that creeps in about 11:00 each morning (if not before). If it's true that there is "nothing like staying at home for real comfort," maybe it's OK that I can't be at either of my offices and see any of my students in person. If it's true that "nothing can dim the light that shines from within," then maybe what I'm doing here isn't a complete waste of space and time and energy. Maybe, even though I'm not physically saving lives on the front line of this pandemic, there's some kind of light that I'm shining to make the world a better place, anyway. You see, it's easy to feel like whatever I am doing--and some days, it feels like I'm "doing" precious little, other than keeping my children from killing each other--is just not that important. But a little "nothing" reminds me that whatever I manage to do just could be brightening up a darkness in someone else's life that I don't even realize.

Of course, that last quotation I mentioned, the Bible verse, means something deeper than Jane Austen's statement and a little bit more specific than Maya Angelou's. "For with God, nothing shall be impossible." This "nothing" should be rooting me right now. When I think of the suffering others are experiencing, when I see the unemployment numbers each week, when I read about the dead and the injustices being perpetrated in this country, even amidst the pandemic (#BREONNATAYLOR #SAYHERNAME), things seem pretty dang dark. I don't know or understand all of what God is up to, but it doesn't exactly seem like enough, to me. I pray for the same things day in and day out, and they don't seem like enough. Nothing seems to change. In some moments, nothing seems possible.

But "for with God, nothing shall be impossible." I should be expectant with hope that there is possibility for healing, wholeness, and justice--even when that's not what it looks like, right now. I should be reminded that the things that have seemed unlikely, unreasonable, and even out of the realm of possibility have been happening, from the beginning even until now. After all, this statement, as quoted from the gospel of Luke, was made to a young girl who was about to become pregnant out of wedlock with the baby who would be the Savior of the world. I guess if she could put her faith in it, so can I. Sometimes "nothing" means a lot!

Monday, May 4, 2020

It's Monday Morning. I Already Messed Up.

I started writing more blog posts a couple weeks ago, to give myself something to do, other than scroll through social media and get dragged in to conversations that are better left alone. I was trying to do something that would be positive, rather than stay stuck in the negativity that this time so easily breeds.

Today, before 8 a.m. on a Monday, I had already failed. Rather than thinking about and writing something positive on this blog, I mindlessly scrolled through Facebook, found a post I disagreed with, commented on it, then congratulated myself on my superior intelligence and critical thinking. Not surprisingly, I highly doubt that person will be reading what I post on my blog now. Why would they? Was what I said necessary? Was it charitable? Was it how I should be spending my time and data usage?

The short answer to those questions is definitely "no." And I could easily allow that to turn a pandemic Monday into a manic Monday and hate all the things I do that annoy me (imagine what else annoys everyone else, too!). But I'm not going to. I said what I said. It wasn't the nicest thing, though it could have been much worse. I'm not going to engage further. And I'm going to move forward. Just because I messed up at 8 a.m. on Monday doesn't mean 8:01 a.m. couldn't be better. I am determined to make the rest of the day better. It can only go up from here, right?

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Care Comes in Packages

Do you remember that book about 5 love languages? I read part of it, or did a workbook related to it in a small group, or something like that, but anyway, it said one of my love languages is giving gifts. I don't know how much else about that book is accurate, but this much is true: I like to give people things. This proclivity is not without its hazards, especially when you have limited resources...

Anyway, today I am celebrating that part of my job--my calling, actually--involves giving people stuff. Usually at this time of year, I'm about to go buy a bunch of snacks and goodies for students, and prepare to make pancakes on a Tuesday night, and figure out how we'll celebrate our graduating students. This year, the pancakes only happen with my family. There won't be a spa night with pictures of pretty awful-looking facial masks. I won't buy a cake twice the size of what we need, in an effort to make sure we have plenty for all the partying we will do for our last week together. This year, I will entrust the "EIU alumni" mugs to the Postal Service, for safe delivery to our graduating students, instead of handing them out myself. It's a bit of a bummer.

But still, what I can do right now is send my students stuff to remind them that they are loved, to give them a break from the stress of the end of the semester, and to make their day a little brighter. I am thankful that I can send them stuff because of the support and care of all sorts of people who give money to churches that support EIU Wesley Foundation and who give money directly to EIU Wesley Foundation. Care comes in packages right now. And that is fine with me.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

On Being Hopeful

Yesterday was a horrible day. Let me qualify that: I did not fight to save anyone's life, watch anyone die, suffer any horrible pain, or say goodbye to a loved one, so I understand that my "horrible day" pales in comparison with that of so many other people's day.

Still, both children ended Sunday pretty badly, and Monday morning started with attitude from the 8-year-old and the 4-year-old's super power--being impervious to his parents' requests/directives--in full swing. At some point in the afternoon, I abandoned the children entirely into the care of their father and spent over an hour organizing my beads and jewelery-making supplies...not because I planned to use them, per se, but because doing that seemed no less futile than anything else that actually rightfully demanded my time or attention.

Needless to say, today showed up needing a new infusion of hope and positivity, perhaps like no day quite had needed it before. During breakfast, it occurred to me that our dog exhibits the most enduring hope of anyone in our household, even in the least likely circumstances. Now, it's true that most of the time she is intensely hoping that the 4-year-old will drop his food, or that one of us adults will toss her a forbidden bite of human food goodness. Her hope is far less complex or deep than what I am working on regularly. But still, I suppose it doesn't hurt to see how she hopes, then aspire to something like that: hope that arrives with each new day, each new meal, each potential pat on the head (well, maybe not that last one). Where are you finding hope today?

Monday, April 27, 2020

On Productivity

Let me just say a few words about productivity. I've been hearing a lot about it recently. There's a million tips out there for how to be productive if you're working from home right now. There seems to be a line of thinking that if you are working from home right now, you have a whole lot of free time and should also be learning a new skill or otherwise improving yourself. Then there are those of us who have about twice as much to do, now that we're working from home. And I know plenty of people who can't work from home, and many who are working even harder at their away-from-home jobs right now.

So, yeah, here's what I think about all this conversation about productivity: you do what you have to or are able to do, and I will do what I'm able to, and maybe we can quit trying to tell each other how we're supposed to be doing this thing that none of us have ever dealt with before.

Oh, and I made myself some earrings yesterday because being creative feels like a better thing than trying to be productive all the time.

I wonder what it would be like if we could talk about how to "be" more and how to "do" less. What do you think?