Our guest blogger this week is Steve Hensley! Steve is a talented Comedian who was the former House Manager at Laugh Out Loud Theater in Schaumburg, just outside of the Chicago area. Steve is incredible at finding ways to make life become humorous. His impressions of George W. Bush, Denzel Washington, and Matthew McConaughey are amazing and can be found on his Youtube channel. Steve also hosts BedroomNews which is a political satire show exposing the humor in today's political arena. You can find his video posts on facebook or on Youtube. A big thanks for Steve sharing his thoughts with us this week.
I am a Christian Comedian?
“Are there any other catholic survivors here tonight?” This is an opening line I’ve heard on several occasions. Often times I feel like the earth is splitting under me and I have to choose to jump to the comedy side or the Christian side. This post is about finding similarities between the two.
All Are Welcomed on Stage and in the Church
“You’re welcome to join us on stage tonight as long as you don’t do something sexist, racist, or homophobic.” This is something you’ll hear at almost any performance opportunity in Chicago. In the Community of Christ I’ve heard on several occasions, “Come as you are.” We’re all a bunch of freaks. Yeah, especially you! Freaks are welcomed to both the stage and to the chapel. All are welcomed.
Allowing Ourselves to be Vulnerable
Comedy allows us to be vulnerable, which makes us relatable. We try so hard to be normal, so when we hear a comic say something off the wall that’s relatable, it’s a relief. “Yes, I’m not the only one!” You just can’t help but laugh, because you can relate. In the Community of Christ Mission Prayer it says, “Grant me courage to risk something new”. The best preachers and performers I’ve met are vulnerable, which makes them relatable. This is how we become more comfortable with ourselves and other people. This allows for us to build a closer more accepting community.
Justice is Served!
When thinking of justice, I like to think of the time when Jesus comes in to the temple and starts flipping tables and calling out a bunch of thieves. “And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money changers.”
I’m currently working with a group of comics on a show I host called Bedroom News. We are a political satire group that often times like to poke fun at things that are unjust. Like most sketch groups, our general rule is to punch up and not down. For example, we won’t make fun of someone with a disability, but we will make fun of someone in office doing something unjust. It’s our attempt to say, “Hey, that’s really messed up, and people need to understand that.”
We are a Joyous People!
I feel like Kevin Bacon over here trying to relate art to religion. God, wants us to feel full of joy. As the Community of Christ has said for years, “We proclaim Jesus Christ and promote communities of joy, hope, love, and peace.” The comedy community is a safe place for a lot of us. It’s our time to escape, play, and laugh with each other. I like to think back to teaching improv at some Community of Christ camps. It was a recipe for happiness. The kids were loved, physically active, and spiritually focused. Then they came to my class and we got to play and laugh. I’ve never been happier.
Good comedians want the audience to have a good time, even if they’re poking fun at an audience member. When people don’t like our set, we say we bombed. We feel awful, because you (the audience) didn’t enjoy yourself. However, when we “kill it” we feel full of joy because we made you laugh. Just like a minister, we want to help people.
Bringing the Two Communities Together
I think a lot of comics feel judged in some church settings. A high number of comics drink, swear, write edgy material, and etc. Many Christians may not agree with these actions, but it’s not a good enough reason to close the doors on them. Most of the people I’ve met at comedy clubs are kind and loving people. And I believe love is the root of our belief. Comedy community, you’re not off the hook. If we’re sensitive to things that are racist, sexist, and homophobic, then maybe we can work towards being more inviting to religion. Both communities will thrive in common ground. I’m done hiding part of myself, because like many, I belong in both communities. In the words of Kevin Bacon I say, “Let’s Dance!”... And laugh!
A big thank you to Steve for helping us tie comedy to faith! Sometimes laughter is the best way for us to sense and find God in our lives.
This week incorporate humor into your daily life with a joke, smile, or just laughing with someone. Also please follow Bedroom News on Facebook!
When I was eleven years old, two years after my father died, I went through a short stage of depression. I didn't know it at the time but I remember feeling empty. Nothing sufficed anymore or brought joy like it once had. I remember my good friends inviting me to their houses, and the feeling of not wanting to go. If I did go I would come home and just cry in my bed. My mother would comfort me as I said, "I didn't have any fun."
It was this dark abyss of emptiness taking over my life which led me to stay in my room and isolate from others. Luckily school started up and I got back into a normal routine. They lack of motivation faded away and became just a short time period in my life.
Looking back I can see how what I was experiencing was depression. By no means is this to the extent of what most people with depression experience. Its just glimpse of what it might be like to live with this mental health condition.
Today our focus on depression is to not only help educate and raise awareness but also to help those struggling find ways in which they can still find God in the midst of their struggles. Having depression or any other mental illness does not mean your faith is weak. On the contrary it means you are incredibly strong.
What is Depression?
Depression based on the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM-5) is a mood disorder characterized by experiencing a variety of the symptoms below.
- Depressed mood most of the day, every day
- Marked diminished interest in activities/ hobbies
- Significant weight loss or gain
- Slowing down of thought or reduction in movement
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or overly indecisive
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal ideations
According to the World Health Organization over 300 million people are impacted with depression. 16 million (7%) of Americans experienced a depressive episode each year. Depression is a common illness affecting a large amount of people, however much like other mental health issues we do not talk about it. Spring time in particular can be difficult for those with depression as others are excited to go outside while they may not experience the same feelings.
This short one minute video by the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) describes what depression is.
Depression can occur spontaneously or be triggered by an event or life crisis. People also believe other factors contribute to depression such as genetics, brain changes, trauma, etc.
I think its important to learn how depression works in the brain. If you are interested in this too please go to this youtube video "Depression and its Treatment" produced by Nature Video.
If you are experiencing depression or other mental health symptoms and are not currently being treated please call the NAMI Helpline at 1-800-950-6264 between 10am-6pm.
Faith and Depression
First let's start by saying Christians can have depression and still have a strong faith. However the lack of understanding by the faith community can cause further pain in those suffering from the illness. Depression usually does not just go away. Simple statements such as, "Just have faith", "Believe more", and "Pray harder" are not helpful for those with depression or anyone for that matter.
Life is seldom that easy and statements like this bring guilt to those individuals who sometimes have little control on what they are experiencing. Stephen Altrogge writes about this in his article "How to Fight for Faith in the Dark". Another article titled "Why Christian Love Matters in Depression" by Kathryn Butler discusses the misconceptions of some Christian communities and how the love of others in a faith community is powerful.
Below a blogger named Jo from Trauma Talk discusses how to still have a strong faith even if you are dealing with a mental health issue.
Therese Borchard writes a great article "How Faith Helps Depression" giving specific ways in how faith contributes to positive growth and outcomes for those facing depression. She identifies these five areas.
1. Faith Provides Hope - Hope is always with us when we hold to a belief in something greater than ourselves. Faith gives us hope that there is more than what we know and experience here.
2. Faith Changes Your Brain - Therese writes about a study completed showing how spiritual practices related to religion/ faith help contribute to changing brain patterns providing protective benefits against depression. Please check out our monthly spiritual practice blogs to learn more about spiritual formation processes.
3. Faith Assigns Meaning to Suffering - There is meaning in our suffering and faith reminds us of this. We can look to Jesus life and death for hope in our suffering.
4. Faith Provides a Support System - Many churches provide a great social network for support. Support networks are crucial for those experiencing any mental health issues. However we have to be open and vulnerable to sharing our concerns with people in those communities. For those of us in faith communities we really need to question the culture we have created to determine if it really is one of trust and openness for others to share deeply about their inner struggles.
5. Faith Provides Hero's and Inspiration - Faith traditions provide a place where sharing takes place. This sharing allows others to come to know the struggles they have went through. Many times this can give us people to look up to and model our lives after. These may be from the Bible or those who we see as mentors.
Faith is a powerful tool that does not heal or take away depression but can help individuals manage it. This is not a replacement for treatment but works with the therapy, medication, etc. you may already be receiving. Faith can be a way for people to find strength through their struggles.
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This week self-reflect on your own thoughts and possible judgments about mental health or other subjects.
Our guest blogger this week is Emily Hartford! Emily lives in Lawrence, Kansas and is a mother of four awesome kiddos. Emily is a member of the Lawrence University Congregation and Midlands Mission Center. She is currently participating in the Spiritual Formation and Companioning Program produced by the Community of Christ to learn more about spiritual practices. Emily is a member of Lawrence Babywearing and an avid swing dancer. She is also finishing up her training as a Birth Educator from Simkin Center for Allied Birth Vocations. A big thanks for Emily contributing her depth and knowledge to us this week!
"Listen in the Silence listen in the noise
Listen to the sound of the Spirit's voice."
- Community of Christ Sings
#153 (Listen in the Silence)
As a mother of four kiddos, and one fur baby, my house is always filled with noise. Sometimes the laughter and squeals of delight of my children playing with neighborhood friends. Sometimes the tense arguments over who did or said what to whom. Sometimes the chatter of a dinner table shared with friends become family. Sometimes the barks of our dog, as she and kiddos run around the backyard chasing a plastic jug.
Sometimes the heavy, deep breaths of truly restful sleep, or the sound of a little hand falling off a blanket as relaxation sets in. Sometimes the bounce of springs as one child spends time reveling in the magic of their body under a big blue sky. Sometimes bubbles being blown into cereal milk, or the squeak of the dryer as it dries another day’s adventures.
This past fall I began to regularly practice Holy Attention as a spiritual discipline. At the time, my life felt as though it were falling apart. Nothing was as it should be, and everything felt exceptionally hard. My mind could find the negatives so quickly, I could've been an expert. My practice began with superficial noticing's. Things I'd been directed to look at closely.
But, the more I practiced seeing God’s incredible creation, the more readily I found it. I began to notice the softness of my daughter’s hand as she reached up to stroke my cheek. The way the sun highlighted the magnificence of my son’s curls. The way my daughter’s body moved as she danced to music. The way my son’s eyes crinkled like his Pa’s when he smiled.
The more I noticed, the more I noticed. And the more I noticed, the softer my heart became. I began to find the beauty in the difficult days, as well as the easy ones.
My house is noisy, with occasional moments of silence, just like my life. And so I listen, in the silence and the noise, for the Spirit’s invitation to marvel in the beautiful that we co-created with God.
Again a big thank you to Emily sharing her thoughts! Please leave any comments or questions for Emily here.
This week stop and notice the moments where God is blessing you and those around you!
The last week of each month we focus on a different spiritual practice. This week its gardening! Its a good follow up after exploring last week's post Sacredness Of Creation based on the Community of Christ enduring principle.
My father and grandfather were both farmers. Each year my dad would work the family field preparing the soil and planting either soy beans or corn depending on the year. After the long process he would walk out into the field and say a prayer. "Lord I have done all I can do, the rest I leave to you."
Farming as well as gardening takes a lot of trust. We can do everything we can to have a fruitful harvest and yet there is an element that we cannot control. My father knew this and hence lifted it up to God.
Gardening gets your hands dirty by tilling soil, planting seeds, watering, and weeding. It is a process that takes dedication and care as you step into this sacred space each day to work and relax. It allows us to take time to focus our attention on caring for and improving the earth. We also get to reflect on our own thoughts and sense the divine that is all around and through us. It is in this time where we can meet God in a powerful way. I see so much symbolism in gardening to God nurturing us as individuals as we grow into fruitful beings. Its constant work but work worth the time. We have to be patient just as the divine is with us.
Reasons to Garden
There are a myriad of reasons to take gardening up as a spiritual practice. The great thing is you get to decide how this spiritual practice is important for you and why you should do it.
1. Ability to Create/ Design A Sacred Space - Gardening is a way for people to use their creative minds in designing and constructing a space which will fit the needs of themselves or their communities. This can also become a sacred space for an individual to meet the divine or to focus on their time with others.
2. Brings People Together/ Creates Community - Gardening is an activity which can be done with others. It can be educational, spiritual, and enjoyable all at the same time. When people get their hands dirty working on a common goal it connects them in a deep way. It creates positive relationships that can lead to further ability to impact the community. When we can create community we are living out the gospel message.
3. Decreases Personal Stress - Gardening can be relaxing as we put the worries in our life aside for a moment. We slow down and take time for the earth and ourselves. A study conducted in the Netherlands by Van Den Berg and Custers took thirty individuals who took a stressful test and immediately afterwards had to either go inside to read or go outside and garden for 30 minutes. The study found those who gardened had lower cortisol levels (stress hormone), and reported overall more positive moods. The stress levels of those who were reading actually increased during that time.
4. Opportunity To Be Generous - Gardens are an easy way to become generous. If you plant an edible garden, harvesting those fruits, vegetables, or herbs/ spices provides an opportunity to give to others. People genuinely appreciate receiving food that has been nurtured and cared for from someone they know. If you plant a flower, water, or some other type of garden than providing the beautiful view can be generous in itself. Again giving flowers away or inviting others into your sacred space can also be ways to be generous with that space.
5. It Makes Our World Better - Gardening puts plants on the earth creating more oxygen for our world. Plants also remove some pollutants from our ecosystems especially through water systems making it a safer place. Gardening provides food and shelter for wildlife. Animals may eat some of the food or use it for shelter benefitting the overall ecosystem. Bees and other pollinators also use gardens and plant life to stay alive. Overall gardening is a good thing for the world.
What Types of Gardens Are There?
If you are interested in starting this as a spiritual practice than its also a matter of choosing what fits your needs and style. There are many different kinds of gardens so I have chosen a few to give you some ideas.
Edible Garden - Growing vegetables, fruit, or herbs/spices. Before you begin planting make sure you research your weather region to know what grows, when to plant, how it grows, how often to water, and the supplies you need.
Water Garden - This is interior or exterior water features focusing on growing and showcasing aquatic plant life. If you want to learn how to build one check out "Water Gardening" which gives you instructions on how to build your own.
Flower Garden - Focuses efforts on creating a beautiful landscape of flowers. This may be a variety of flowers or dedicated to one kind such as tulips, roses, or something else that mixes a myriad of colors. Topeka has a Tulip Time Festival at Ted Ensley Gardens every year highlighting their flowers. You can check out this news article "Tulips in full bloom" from WIBW.
Japanese Garden - This type of garden attempts to keep a simple, minimalist natural setting to help people to reflect and be inspired. They are usually comprised of a few different elements and features. The important aspect of this type of garden is the focus on making it a sacred space for all to come and enjoy. A Japanese garden was created in the Community of Christ temple and is open to be seen by those who go there.
Urban Garden - For those of you living in the city or urban environment it is still possible for you to take up this practice. Maybe you just have a small space, a rooftop, or know a community garden down the way. Urban gardens provide a ton of benefits for those in a city. In fact they have found urban/ community gardens help improve neighborhood aesthetics, reduce crime, and improve community communication. Check out this article "The Real Value Of Urban Farming (Hint its not always the food)" to read the other benefits.
I sincerely hope after reading this you consider whether the spiritual practice of gardening is right for you. I believe it will benefit not only you and your connection to the divine but those around you and the environment. I will end this post with the wise words from Joe Dirt, "Life's a garden, dig it."
I appreciate all of you sharing this blog with those you know! The feedback we have received has been awesome!
This week really look at how the spiritual practice of gardening can work for you or an aspect of it you can adopt in your life.
God spoke to me today
In the beauty of the hills towering before me
Through the colors of the dawn painting the morning sky
With the music of the wind whispering through the trees
In the movement of the grasses waving to and fro
At the sight of the flowers opening to greet the light
In the flight of the birds soaring high and higher
With the dance of the dewdrops glistening like diamonds
In the awe of the rainbow giving us the promise of hope.
All of creation speaks of His love
I know that God is.
- Helen Billings -
I watched a documentary on caribou one night when nothing else seemed to interest me. It discussed the declining population because of human expansion and the continued challenges they face each year. One interesting fact they stated was that each year the caribou migrate back to the same area on the Arctic refuge's coastal plain to give birth to their young. This migration is reported to have been happening for over 27,000 years. These caribou, some thousands of miles away somehow instinctively know exactly when to head back and where to go.
The migration is not without challenges as wolves and bears hunt the caribou along the way. The caribou stay together and protect one another but ultimately they will lose some of their own. After making the long journey the caribou aggregate together and bring new life to their herds. After a set time the caribou migrate back to the places from where they came. Why not stay in the same place where it is safe? I'm not for sure however I find the communal act of migrating together just as their ancestors did to be fascinating. Maybe its the journey together which is the beauty of their life.
Just like the caribou we also our on journey's. When we are aware and open to witnessing God's spirit we can see the incredible ways God is speaking to us through his creation. It's all around us. I think about the shallow root system of redwoods and how these gigantic trees need to intertwine their roots with others trees and plant life to stand. Or how fungi generate partnerships with trees and other plant life creating healthy growth for both of them. All throughout creation God speaks!
Community of Christ upholds sacredness of creation as an enduring principle. What does sacredness of creation mean? How does it impact my discipleship? How do we live this principle out with the choices we make in a world driven by consumerism? What does it actually mean to hold to this ideal? Let's explore this idea a little more.
Sacredness of Creation Defined
Sacredness of creation is highlighted in five parts of this principle.
1. In the beginning, God created and called it good - Nature holds the spirit of God within it. Upholding all of creation as good and sacred helps us understand everything is spiritual. It's not just about us but about everything around us.
2. Spirit and material, seen and unseen, are related - Everything is intertwined together. Creation is a divinely interconnected web throughout the world. How it works is a beautiful mystery. I like to think of Newton's third law "for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." How does this apply, or does it to the interconnectedness of creation?
3. Creations power to create and destroy reminds us of our vulnerability in this life - God is much bigger than what we know and see in our world. The power of creation humbles us to understand and see the world with a wider and different viewpoint outside of just our own eyes. Knowing we are vulnerable allows us to be vulnerable to others.
4. God is still creating to fulfill divine purpose - Through creation, God is continuing to be actively involved. How awesome is it to think about God continuing to bring about divine purpose in our lives by creating?
5. We join with God as stewards of care and hope for all creation - We have a responsibility to take care of this world and the environment around us. Creation is a gift which should be honored and upheld. As stewards over this creation we work with the divine in continuing to bring hope for future inhabitants.
The Beauty of Creation
Look outside, really look! Look at the trees, the sky, the birds, the grass. Take in the integral parts of our world that we so often take for granted. Creation is beautiful. This video produced by Lake Cities Community Church brings incredible views of creation together with scripture. Take time to watch the short video to remember the greatness around us in this world and what your role is to make it continue.
Living Sacredness of Creation
What does it mean to live this principle in our discipleship? Should being good stewards of the earth be a part of Christianity? Ecotheology is a theology focused on the relationship between Christian faith and the environment. It connects our response as individuals to ecological crises to our discipleship. An article by the Student Christian Movement titled "Loving the earth means being good stewards of creation" discusses the connection between love and stewardship of the environment.
It seems there is much thought given to how upholding creation in our daily lives can become acts of connecting and following the divine. The blog No-Fuss Healthy Living discusses this very idea with "3 Ways to Exercise Creation Stewardship from a Gospel Perspective." It also provides some simple ways to get started at the bottom of it. You can also check out this article by Devon Baynes titled "Being Good Environmental Stewards No Matter Where You Live" which discusses the importance of doing what you can for the environment.
We have a responsibility to take action and respond to the things in this world that create injustice with creation. I encourage you to google or youtube ways in which products are hurting the environment. I will never forget a video I watched of scientists pulling a straw out of a sea turtles nose. Simple things we do make a difference to the sacredness around us. What will you do about it?
I hope you all had a wonderful Easter! Please follow us on instagram or twitter if you haven't already.
This week do something good for the environment. Plant some flowers, make a garden, or just celebrate life in the creation around 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. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.