First of all a big thank you to last week's Guest Blogger Williams Ottens. What great insight and information about how books can broaden our worldview and help us become more inclusive.
When I was a kid, like most Community of Christ children I was asked to participate in the worship service by reading a scripture, praying, etc. I tried to get out of doing this because I was shy and disliked being in front of people. Despite my worthwhile attempts, my mother lovingly coerced me to be a participant. I would walk up to the podium, talk until my voice cracked, turn beat red, finish whatever I was saying, sit down, and say to myself and my mother "I'm never doing that again."
As you can probably gather, each time was never the last time. However I remember my mother softly praising me after every attempt, putting that little question in my mind "Did I really do ok?" My mother knew that skills and talents are things which are developed. You may not naturally have it but through time and effort skills arise. She seemed to understand the importance of doing things which make us uncomfortable and pushing through the fear that holds us captive. Over many years, my mindset about being in front of others has changed in thanks to the continued experiences I had.
We all have natural gifts and talents. Some we know about and others are yet to be discovered. The environments around us play a major role in how we develop our gifts. Churches can play a positive role in gift and skill development however I know for many the church environment has not been a supporting place for this to happen. In fact its been the opposite, something hurtful and counter productive.
People have been rejected for trying to share their gifts while others were told they were not good enough. And for some they were never looked at to provide anything past what others already thought they could do. So let's look closer at the various parts that go into using and developing our gifts and talents.
What Are My Gifts?
Sometimes we do not see the talents and skills we possess. However others can and do. This point is one reason why being a part of a community of people caring about you is imperative. That community is hopefully cultivating those skills from what they notice in you and encouraging you along the way.
In a church community gifts are to be used and given to God and others. Not only do you need the community to help you realize your potential but the community needs you and the skills you bring. I think its important to note that these gifts should also be used outside the walls of a church building. If you are curious what some of your strengths may be you can take this free strengths test from high 5 test. You can also read Janet Scarborough Civitelli's article "Strengths Assessment: 10 Ways to Know What You Are Good at Doing."
All Are Called
The Community of Christ has an enduring principle that All Are Called. This is a belief that everyone is given gifts and talents that can be used to share the peace of Christ in the world. You do not have to be a minister or even church member to use your gifts to provide service.
I believe this principle is one reason why so many Community of Christ congregations are led by lay ministers (bi-vocational ministers). It's a belief that everyones gifts are important and should be used to help the church function. It also means Community of Christ congregations seek active participation from its members as they are comfortable.
From a skill development standpoint this can be great because it allows us as disciples to actively develop and refine our gifts with encouraging people around us. On the other hand it can cause added stress as we are pushed outside our comfort zone. Bottom line is we each have to decide what we are going to do with the gifts God has given us and the ways in which we can develop them.
I know some churches only use the best of the best. I get it, they want to create an atmosphere that will pull people into their inner selfs and connect them at a deeper level with the divine. But I also see this leaving a large majority of people to be observers, that are not cultivating their gifts. The debate will continue about what is better for those coming to church. And truly I don't know if there is a right answer but just different expressions based on what people need. I do believe the spirit moves not just based on our talents and how good we are but when we give of ourselves in the moment.
If you are a person who has been rejected or pushed out I sincerely hope at some point you find your way back to sharing your gifts in a church community. It can be difficult to risk sharing again. It can be a long process in figuring out what the next steps are. Take your time and find what is right for you.
Giftedness and What Really Matters?
What really matters is your continued development of gifts to be used in positive ways throughout the world.
I believe God sees you in this very moment. I believe God delights in who you are and sees the hidden talent that is waiting to emerge if only you believe in yourself. I believe people are waiting to benefit from your gifts if only you step outside your comfort zone. So don't hesitate but be willing to give of yourself to your community and/or religious organization. Bring positivity, bring joy, and bring the peace of Christ to others.
Thank you again for all those following along! This week explore your giftedness by asking someone close to you to identify 5 strengths/ things you are good at.
Meet William Ottens our guest blogger this week! William is the Cataloging and Collection Development Coordinator for the Lawrence Public Library. William is also the author and creator behind the blog Librarian Problems which uses GIF's to humorously identify the funny problems Librarians encounter in their profession. We are super excited to have him share his thoughts this week. You can follow William on Twitter @williamottens
“Reading is an exercise in empathy; an exercise in walking in someone else’s shoes for a while.” - Malorie Blackman
My junior year at Graceland University, I took an author study course on Toni Morrison, led by Professor Emeritus Dr. Barbara Hiles Mesle. It quickly became one of my favorite classes I’d ever taken. There were no more than fifteen students, and we were tasked with reading and discussing seven of the author’s novels throughout the semester. Aside from the worksheets, tests and papers, it felt much like a book club.
I also appreciated this course because it was the first time I had done an in depth reading in an experience outside of the white, anglocentric focus that typically dominates required high school lists in the United States. It opened my eyes to the value of reading books by and about people who aren’t like me and the importance of the voices of the marginalized.
Toni’s first novel, "The Bluest Eye", tells the fictional story of Pecola Breedlove, a young black girl who prays for blue eyes and blonde hair. With her dark skin, curly hair, and brown eyes, she’s mocked by other children and knows she doesn’t fit in.
Because Pecola, and the other children, don’t have access to dolls, books, magazines, and other media that depict people who look like her, they’ve been led to believe that beauty means whiteness. Beauty means blue eyes and blond hair. This fallacy ultimately leads to the deterioration of Pecola’s mental health.
Moving Beyond the Single Story
"The Bluest Eye" was written published in 1970. Beyond beauty and whiteness, the novel addresses important questions about race, class and gender in a way that an author outside of the black, female experience would never be able to do to the same effect.
While society, media and the publishing industry have made some progress, there’s still a considerable lack of diversity on bestsellers lists and bookstore shelves. Though that’s not to say diverse stories aren’t out there; you just have to do some digging.
In her TED Talk, "The Danger of a Single Story", author Chimanda Ngozi Adichie explains that we risk critical misunderstanding when we hear from one perspective. “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.”
So how do you move beyond the single story? How do you read outside of your comfort zone? How do you find books written by diverse authors?
As I’m a librarian, that answer comes easily for me: your local library. Whether you live in an urban area or a small town, your public library should be able to provide you access to books (and other media) written from a number of different perspectives and experiences. They might even be able to curate a list for you.
Enduring Principle: Worth of All People
The Community of Christ upholds the enduring principle that “God views all people as having inestimable and equal worth.” It’s easy to claim this, but how do you exemplify this in your day to day lives? How could you uphold this through your reading practices?
Humans are creatures of habit, and we naturally stick to what we know and with which we are comfortable. Even if we aren’t intentionally exclusive, we gravitate toward the familiar because of that internal bias. As I look back at my own reading list, I see that, even with my job and the world’s resources at my fingertips, I’m guilty of this.
It’s not wrong to read what you like, but if you limit yourself to one perspective, how can you learn about and appreciate others? How can you fully know that those who don’t look like you, those who don’t believe the same things you do, those who come from different places, have worth? That is the value of diversifying your bookshelf.
Through listening to and learning about others’ perspectives, we can understand more fully that black lives have worth, that Indigenous lives have worth, that Muslim, LGBTQ+ and other marginalized lives have worth. And through lifting up and supporting those marginalized voices, we can demonstrate this enduring principle.
I want to give a big thank you to William for sharing his wisdom and experience with us about incorporating diversity into our reading. If you have any further questions or comments shoot them our way and I will be sure to have William respond.
This week identify an interesting book written by an author from a different cultural background. Buy it, borrow it, or find it at your local library and get started!
One morning my family was eating breakfast when my oldest son, who was 4 years old at the time, started a race to see who could finish their milk first. We all began chugging our milks. Of course I went slower to make the race close however ended up finishing first. I thought my son might show disappointment for not winning but instead I heard, "And the winner is Mistress Daddy." This was a reference to page 45 of the Richard Scary book "Cars and Trucks and Things that Go" where Mistress Mouse wins the race. He showed excitement, joy, and happiness for the events that transpired. His focus was on the joy he was experiencing in the moment. I realized sharing in people's joy is a major part of being welcoming. When we genuinely get excited for other peoples joy, connections are made creating opportunities for deeper relationships to prosper.
So how do we embrace our own and others joy? Let's look deeper at the wholeness aspect of sharing joy, how we can contribute to others feeling the emotion, and what specific things stop us from sharing and experiencing joy in our lives.
Making Joy Complete
Minimalist Joshua Becker wrote an article "Joy is Experienced to be Shared." In his article he states, "The practice of sharing new things with others improves their lives. It allows them to discover the same joy. But it also enhances ours as well. It makes our joy complete. It bring new fullness to our lives."
What does it mean that our joy is more complete when we share it with others? I think it means we can experience joy but the emotion is magnified when we are able to show and give it to others. It seems that sharing the joyful things in our lives gives others permission to share openly with us about their joy and also unhappiness.
5 Simple Ways We Can Share Joy With Others
1. Share recommendations - Give suggestions of books, movies, coffee flavors, new restaurants, etc. specifically with others you think would enjoy it.
2. Invite people to participate with you - Ask others to be a part of things that bring you joy. This might be bowling, having a movie night, participating in a book club, hiking, or singing karaoke.
3. Use social media - Social media can be an effective way to communicate to others the good news happening in our life. This is not to boast but humbly sharing activities and events that bring you joy. More specifically social media should be used to directly communicate to others. Many scroll feeds cause people to be envious and ultimately depressed. Read this Psychology Today article about how Facebook causes users to be sad. Social media used in the right way helps communicate and invite others to participate in joy.
4. Tell Jokes - Laughing and smiling are healthy things for us. Telling and sharing in jokes with others keeps people light hearted.
5. Invite Others to Share in Ministry - Ministry is about bringing support and comfort to other people. It's an activity of peace bringing. So asking others to help in ministry is a powerful way to experience joy from the service you give.
I want to share this short video called Joy Story to provide another way of illustrating how joy is about giving and sharing.
What Stops Us From Sharing Joy
Usually there are certain things holding us back from sharing joy with others. Let's look closer at some of these.
Judgement From Others
Many times we hold back from sharing in fear of what other people think. This makes an assumption that other people will not like it. Not only do we miss out on the opportunity to share but others miss out on the potential of something which could positively impact their life.
Sometimes our own self-images stop us from sharing. Self-image is made up of three components. 1. The way we think of ourselves 2. How we interpret others perceptions of ourself 3. Who we would like to be. We might contain our joy because thats not who we are or doesn't fit our image. Also sharing joy may not be our ideal self or fit with others perceptions of who we are. Joy is an emotion we experience that brings happiness to the world. If we are able to let joy to be expressed without the context of who we are in the world than we free the emotion. If you want more information on self-image go to this article about self-image by Adam Sicinski.
Fear of Depressing Others
I think its awesome that we empathetically think about others. However we make the assumption the other person doesn't want or need to hear about my joy because of what's happening in their lives. This is a case by case basis but I think we should often side on sharing when appropriate. Sharing openly can cause others to become joyful! Being apart of someone else's joy is fun and exhilarating. It also provides an opportunity for them to reveal exactly whats happening in their lives. In other words we get to become a listening support.
Out past experience plays a lot into what we share with others. If people have been cynical to our joy than we usually refrain from sharing. There are some people in which joy brings discomfort. It may be an emotion that hasn't been allowed to be shown or past trauma which has buffered its full effect. We need to be aware of this when interacting with others. However we should not allow past experiences to prevent us from sharing our life with others.
Forget the Invitation
The most often is that we forget to invite others to be apart of what we are doing. We think its too late, or their already busy. People are more isolated than ever before. Don't believe me look at this article from The Conversation. That's right people are longing for more interaction in their lives. They are longing for people that get them, that they can connect with. Many times it all starts with an invitation to do something joyful. So go out there and invite!
Questions for Discussion
When is a time you experienced joy?
What is something you get joy out of that you can share with somebody else?
What barriers do you have that prevent you from experiencing joy or sharing it with others?
This week I hope you find yourself inviting others to be joyful with you.
Next week we will be focusing on how books can help us become more diverse and inclusive. To do this we have a special guest blogger by the name of William Ottens who is a librarian by trade and works at Lawrence Public Library. He is the creator of the blog Librarian Problems which uses GIF's to address problems librarians face in a creative and funny way. So I hope all of you are as excited as I am to have William help us discuss this topic.
The last blog of each month will be dedicated to various spiritual practices. I believe continued use of spiritual practices help us maintain good mental health and spiritual well being. The purpose of exploring spiritual practices is to expose ourselves to various ways we can connect with God and deeper our relationship with the people around us. Spiritual practices are actions undertaken to connect deeper or cultivate spiritual development in oneself.
Since so many people have made new years resolutions to get in shape I thought this would be the perfect timing to look at how exercise can be used for the good of our body and more importantly our soul as a spiritual practice.
Let's look closer at how our brains/ bodies are impacted by exercise and ways we can turn our movement into a spiritual practice.
Exercise and our Brains
Exercise has profound affects on our physical health. However it also impacts our brains. Check out this short video explaining how our brains benefit from exercise.
If you want further information here is an article by Psychology Today that discusses how "Physical Activity Improves Cognition." You can also check out Wendy Suzuki's TEDtalk about "The Brain-Changing Benefits of Exercise."
Making Exercise and Everyday Movement a Spiritual Practice
Spiritual practices are all about intentionally finding ways to develop spiritually. Exercise is something that is good for us and something that some people are already doing. For others exercise may be the last thing you want to do. So how do we turn this task into a spiritual practice?
A few years ago I took up running preparing for an adventure race. Around this time I also became fascinated with the book "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall. It's awesome you should definitely pick it up! Each morning, I became acutely aware of the time it took to run and wondered how I could intentionally use it better. This chain of thoughts while running led me to focus on my thankfulness for the people in my life, and praying for their well-being. This small but significant change in my thought processes became a powerful tool for my spiritual life. I could have very easily focused on any discomfort or pain during the run, frustrations in my life, or future events that would be taking place. But the intentional shift of my thoughts quieted my mind, shortened the perception of my run, and made me crave to exercise more. My runs began to take on meaning in my life outside of the goal I had set for myself.
Now my experience is just one method. There are many ways to use exercise/ movement as a spiritual practice. I think it is important to note we can make any movement in our lives spiritually intentional. It doesn't mean starting a new exercise routine but may be just using what you are already doing in a different way.
Dr. Heidi Hanna from the American Institute of Stress wrote the article "How to Use Physical Exercise as a Spiritual Practice." In her article she talks about the benefits of exercise in quieting the mind. She also provides these 5 ways to use exercise as a spiritual practice.
1. Listen to inspirational music or a podcast
2. Practice paying attention to your surroundings and body (Mindfulness)
3. Reflect on people and things you are grateful for
4. Use breathing patterns to meditate/ personal mantras - breathe in what you want and breathe out what you need to release
5. Invite a friend to participate with you - Share what you appreciate about each other, etc.
The Blog Wanderlust by Clark Hamilton Depue also identifies "Why Fitness is a Spiritual Practice." If we intentionally use exercise as a spiritual practice there is an amazing opportunity to bring meaning to our lives and our physical bodies.
I know what you are thinking - My church needs a yoga class! Well if that's the route you want to go, best of luck with your downward facing dog. But more importantly I hope this subject begins to let us think about how we can use movement in and outside of our religious settings as a practice of our spirituality.
What benefits have you seen from exercising?
What movements in your life can you use more intentionally?
What would church be like if movement was incorporated into it?
Thank you all for your support! Please continue to share our blog with those you know. This week intentionally use a movement you are already doing as a way to intentionally focus your thoughts.
Every year the Salina Community of Christ holds a clothing drive for three weeks helping those out in the city that need extra items. This last year they saw over 150 people come through and gave out three turkey's to families in need. One interesting situation took place this year that took those helping by surprise. There was a family in attendance whose house had just burned down. The Pastor took the family through helping them find the sizes they needed. At one point he looked up and everyone else in the room had stopped. They were all looking at the family and apparently knew of their recent situation. Some people stepped back so they had room while others began shouting out the sizes they needed. The attendees of the clothing drive searched table by table and even gave up the items they had already taken for themselves. The people provided service by searching and disregarded their own desires for the sake of others who they felt needed it more than them. This was not pity but a sacrificial love for others.
Sacrificing our own wants and desires for the benefit of something more important or worthy can be powerfully freeing. Sacrifice is an interesting and controversial issue among some groups. Let's look closer at how sacrifice can play a role in our spiritual life, what is sacrificial love, and if we should have limits of what to give.
Drum Major for Justice
Since today we celebrate the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr., I think its imperative we take a little time to pull him into this discussion of sacrifice. Martin Luther King believed in equality for all people. It was a cause that meant so much that he was willing to take the risks of harm, jail, and even death in order to ensure those for others. The peaceful, non-violent marches raised awareness of the injustice happening in America. He believed his sacrifices and personal harm was little compared to the worthy cause of equality. There are many ways Martin Luther King lived this out in his life but maybe there was nothing more widespread as his sacrificial love for others in the belief we are "the beloved community". This spoke through his actions in attempting to end racism and give equal rights to all. For more information on Martin Luther King please read the TIME Magazine "What People Still Don't Know About Martin Luther King Jr."
Injustice still happens in our world, even surrounding some of the same issues Martin Luther King Jr. fought for and against. It is our actions as a beloved community which can eliminate injustice and show sacrificial love for others.
Sacrificial Love and Our Spiritual Life
Sacrificial love is about giving up our own selfish desires for those of others. Agape love would be another term used for it. You are making a choice to respect and honor another individual while seeking their overall well being. This type of love is of moral integrity and is at the heart of God. Our spiritual lives can thrive when we choose to love sacrificially in the situations life presents.
Check out this video by the Bible Project describing Agape love and how Jesus modeled this in his life and ministry.
If we allow our love to expand for the well being of others around us people are impacted in creative and life changing ways. Are you currently living out sacrificial love in your work and personal life? How would you be different if you choose to sacrificially love those around you?
When we seek the heart of God by sacrificially loving those around us our spiritual lives deepen. Our own personal desires suddenly become aligned with the will of God for our lives. We listen more attentively, walk more confidently, and open our eyes to the needs of others. I love this song by Jeremy Camp "Empty Me" because it speaks to opening ourselves up to the Spirit of God in our lives.
Limits and Boundaries to Sacrificial Love
Sometimes we will go out of our way to help others. We might think if we just give more and try harder it will happen. However sometimes that is not the case. Giving can be tiresome, and emotionally exhausting, especially if it is always one-sided.
Somewhere along the way we have equated sacrificial love to giving everything for others, even if its not good for us. Sacrificial love is at the heart of God but does God want us to personally suffer from our giving? And if so how does that impact our spiritual life?
I think it comes down to us really knowing who we are and what we want. Sometimes others can take advantage of people knowing they will give if they ask. Other times people might try to shame or guilt us into actions. Sacrificial love always comes from our desire to help but it has to be our desire. If we are doing it from a position of obligation, worry, or attempt to keep a relationship than I would argue it is not sacrificial love. It seems like we need to have healthy boundaries that protect us and lead us into relationships of respect and accountability.
Aaron Ben-Zeev wrote an article on Psychology Today titled "Does Love Involve Sacrifice or Compromise" which discusses sacrifices in relationships which might be helpful for you. Chiara Mazzucco's blog "3 Toxic Signs of Sacrificial Love: Why it Doesn't Work and How to Detach" describes some of the issues of not having healthy boundaries in our life and how they impact our relationships.
Now there are some people who would argue sacrificial love is never wrong. We give and do not expect anything in return. We love without conditions and do not look back no matter what or how others treat us. What do you think?
I think its important to remember Jesus had boundaries and expectations for others especially those in power. Jesus met the needs of others but did not let others walk all over him. He peacefully and confidently handled concerns upholding the worth of others and himself.
As I stated above sacrificial love is a controversial topic however its important we think and talk about it. We each have to decide what it means for our lives and what boundaries we should have.
Questions for Discussion
When have you seen sacrificial love displayed?
When is a time you have given of yourself for another?
What injustices are happening in your community?
Should there be limits or boundaries for ourselves when we love sacrificially with others? If so what should those be?
How do you align values, lifestyle with God's will for your life?
Thank you all for following along and sharing! This week think how you sacrificially love others and what boundaries are helpful for you.
Craig Hidy like the majority of ministers in Community of Christ is a bi-vocational, self sustaining ordained minister. He is a member of the Midlands Mission Center Emporia Team and an ordained Seventy. He and his family, live in Topeka, Kansas.
What is a Seventy?
The Seventy carry out missionary work for the church in close association with other missionary leaders. They represent Christ primarily as ministers of evangelism through witnessing, inviting, and church planting. They especially proclaim and promote Jesus Christ’s invitation to faithful discipleship through vibrant witness, and train individuals and congregations in witness and invitation. They particularly minister with seekers, individually and in groups, to share the gospel in relevant ways and to invite response. They support sacramental ministries by preparing people for baptism and/or confirmation, presiding at sacramental services, and performing most sacraments. They promote community by inviting individuals, households, and families to respond to Christ’s call to discipleship. They promote justice and peacemaking by inviting people to experience all aspects of Christ’s peace through active discipleship. They create ministry partnerships with mission center officers, apostles, elders, and evangelists.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ or Midlands Mission Center. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.