In 2006 I spent the summer in Australia with World Service Corps. It was an amazing experience learning about another culture and being introduced into what it means to be present with others.
The 15 hour flight had us arrive first thing in the morning in Melbourne. Our hosts met my world service corp partner and I at the airport and let us know it was better for us to stay up as long as we could that day to help us adjust for the time difference.
Our schedule was busy orienting to our new place, learning and playing the sport footie, and attending a scripture study that night in a members home. By the time we got to the scripture study it was almost 7:00 at night. The people were excited to meet and entertain us for the evening. They welcomed us with much joy and made us feel right at home.
I have no idea what scripture we studied but half way through my eyes shut. Good night folks thats all there was! The back of my eyelids were just too hard to resist. Luckily I don't snore and hopefully I didn't drool. Someone eventually woke me up and I was welcomed to have dessert with them. No matter how tired you are, you can always eat dessert! They pulled out this amazing trifle which I scarfed down before traveling an hour back to our hosts home.
Thinking about this funny memory makes me laugh. Now obviously the people knew my circumstances but even if they didn't I don't think it would have mattered. The people were genuine, gracious and loving. Welcoming was part of their nature even if I hadn't acted in my best form. It was something they had chosen and strived to be well before I knew them.
There are so many ways to welcome others. Despite the method the meaning comes through. You openly offer what you have and who you are to others without reservation or condition. What can we do to show hospitality to others? What is the welcoming nature of God? Let's explore this further.
Hospitality and Hostmanship
Hospitality is the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers. This definition indicates it is an action but I also think it is a mindset we can choose everyday if we wish. Hospitality is all about welcoming others with an overwhelming grace. We do not have to be perfect, or have everything in place. That's not what its about. We must remove all of our expectations and conditions. Its about understanding the needs of others and meeting them where they are at. If we can do this we will truly be hospitable and welcoming to others.
Jan Gunnarsson from Sweden talks about Hostmanship in his Tedxtalk "How To Make People Feel Welcome." He lists qualities of a welcoming mindset (openness, curiosity, non-judgment, humility, sensibility, respect, presence, and dialogue) which I really like and goes on to state it really starts with us as an individual. Its a call for us to be present in the moment. Not thinking about the next task, our own intentions, but merely listening to the person whose face we see in front of us. Enjoy the short Tedtalk!
The Welcoming Nature of God
Community of Christ believes God's divine self is best revealed in Jesus Christ. Jesus' message and actions speak to the welcoming nature of God. Jesus loved those he came in contact with unconditionally. His radical love crossed cultural boundaries, gender stereotypes, and religious laws. Children were asked to come unto him as he welcomed their presence. Matthew 25:35 says "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in."
Jesus welcomed the stranger, the poor, the unholy, and the sinner into his life without hesitation. He saw the worth in them even when they themselves did not. Jesus engaged them with his presence, listened to their stories, and called them a child of God. You too are part of his fold no matter what has happened. Jesus understood God's love has no boundaries and it was through these acts that he was to teach us the true nature of God's love and welcoming spirit. We are called to find this characteristic in ourselves, in our time and place? It is through our self-reflection and choice in which we become more welcoming and present with others.
If Jesus was here today who would he welcome to teach us? Who is it in your life that you need to welcome? Taking the time to be welcoming allows us to take a breath and live in the moment. We open ourselves us to allowing God to work instead of always trying to get back to our own agenda. It takes us out of the equation and puts our focus on others and the moment we are in. We can allow welcoming to be apart of us if we let ourselves.
Let us each take the steps toward a welcoming mindset so that we can live the love of Jesus in our lives.
I appreciate the comments and positive statements on all of our social media posts. Keep them coming!
This week take a breath and give the next person you meet your undivided attention.
This coming Sunday, Sept 15 will be Community of Christ Heritage Sunday in which we celebrate the history of the restoration. This year the Topeka's congregation's focus is on how our history has always spoken of being people of Peace and Justice. You can find a lot of other historical stories like the one I share below at the Historic Sites Foundation.
There are always a myriad of thoughts surrounding Joseph Smith Jr. from in the Community of Christ however Joseph Smith III is highly beloved for his genuine ability to care for others and form the roots of who we are today.
One amazing story of Joseph Smith III happened on his farm. Three boys who found themselves on the Smith property, began picking apples from their tree without permission. While this was going on, Joseph Smith III caught them in the act. Now Joseph could have ran them off however he decided to take a different direction which showed the nature of who he was. He called the boys over saying, "Throw those apples on the ground and come inside for the good ones have already been picked." This choice of response initiated a invitation to relationship. It wasn't about the apples, but about taking the time to learn and listen to their story. These boys came away with not only the best apples from the tree but now a family who took the time to get to know them.
I find this story extremely thought provoking because I don't know what I would have done in a similar situation. Would I have been as generous? Would I have used this circumstance to focus on relationships? Who am I in the midst of uncomfortable or unsettling situations in my own life? Faith journey's are all about being in relationship with God and others. When we take the time to listen and learn others stories we come away changed. Let's look closer at Joseph Smith III and how relationships play a vital role in faith journey's.
Joseph Smith III
Joseph Smith III lived a good life filled with lots of love. He thoughtfully and pragmatically made decisions as he formed this church and what it has come to be with his mother Emma by his side. He openly understood and communicated the faults of his father and yet upheld the belief in the ongoing spirit of the restoration. It was in this reserved confidence he had where he knew he did not have to be defend his father's past actions but instead was called to lead this restoration movement into one of peace and justice.
His moderate viewpoints created a foundation for this church which would eventually accept women into the priesthood, embrace other churches baptisms, welcome the marriage and ordination of LBGTQia+, and give an open Lord's Supper to all who were present.
Now was Joseph Smith III perfect? No by no means was he and I would imagine if he was here today there are many things he would regret and do differently. But I can imagine his delight in how this church has come to be from just his small gathering of saints who longed for the restoration message which welcomes and includes all who seek the message of Jesus.
Building and Engaging in Relationships
Relationships are hard work, taking time and effort. We share with others, build trust, and engage in interests. Its a two way street in which support is mutually given. Relationships are the key and foundation of community. In Community of Christ we have the enduring principle of Blessings of Community. This is the understanding that Christ's love is shared through others and with others.
How do we get to the point in which we completely focus and engage in those around us? How many of us feel alone because the lack of sharing with others in our lives? Relationships can be healing and can make us develop a deeper trust and understanding God in our lives. The tedtalk below by Lindsay Adams talks about the benefits and keys of building relationships through an experience he had with building his house. It focuses on the need to serve those we come in contact with. Enjoy!
Relationships and Faith
How do we radically love others we come in contact with? Sometimes it can be extremely difficult to build relationships with others especially when they are not like us. We find things we don't like, do not want to tolerate, or simply can't take. Setting boundaries is healthy for us however we must also be conscious of our call to love others through the imperfections we see. God may be talking to you through this person.
"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with
one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace."
- Ephesians 4:2-3
Building relationships with others gives us opportunities to find God in people and ultimately strengthen our faith. God speaks to us through others and the circumstances we find ourselves in. This article by Lesli White titled "6 ways to Find God in Others" gives some great suggestions on how we can focus our minds to see God through people. Often we think it should come easy however as the article indicates it takes a lot of awareness from ourselves in changing our judgments, perceptions, and view of ourselves. This interpersonal work helps us live the Christ like love we have been called to share.
Relationships are also meant to be deepened. This article "15 Little Ways to Deepen Your Relationship With Anyone" gives some awesome ideas of how we can continue to go deeper with people. This article by Tris Thorpe "10 Ways to Deepen Your Connections With Others" also gives some wonderful thoughts. However we must acknowledge that deepening our relationships with others allows us to understand the intimacy God is wanting from us.
God yearns to meet us upon our first breath in the morning and feel our heart beat when we acknowledge the spirit present before us. Those deep relationships are only a fraction of what it feels like when the divine sees us as beloved. I encourage you to not only build relationships with those you are around but also to intentionally do that with the divine. This may be through spiritual practices or some other way that is authentic to you. Give it a try and invest time in relationships with God and others.
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This week plan something to do with a person you don't know much about.
In 5th grade, my school offered band class to help elementary kids learn how to play instruments. I was excited to learn and chose the saxophone since that is what my mother and brother both played. I dedicated myself to practicing every night however despite my efforts I could not vibrate the reed to make the right noise with the proper mouth placement. My band teacher, who was used to teaching high schoolers, would become irate at my lack of ability becoming quite loud and boisterous in front of everyone.
So a month in I switched to playing the trombone hoping that would be the fix. The trombone was easier to play however I still significantly struggled with it. Again the stress mounted on me from the continual pressure and disappointment from my teacher. The original excitement of learning quickly faded and instead became anxiousness and shame for not being good enough.
I talked with my mother about my concerns and she saw the continual unhappiness I would come home with from school. Eventually after these months we had the discussion of quitting. My mother always provided encouragement however in this moment she realized what it was doing to me. She permitted me to make the decision to not be in band.
Now I do not like quitting as I think there are things to be gained from enduring through various situations. However I have learned through the years we need limits and boundaries for ourselves and when something becomes unhealthy we need to rethink our participation in it. The next day I quit which did not make my band teacher very happy. The things he said reinforced why this decision was the right one for me.
I find this story relates to our faith journeys. Sometimes we just need permission to leave. Having permission makes it our choice. Immediately we reevaluate whether this is what is best for us and if it fits our current spiritual needs. It forces us to rediscover our current religious context. This can be wonderfully beneficial because it helps us ignite a passion for discovering what we believe and why. Many times we believe what we have known growing up however this journey may also push us to search new horizons.
So let's look closer at how rediscovering our faith is refreshing!
Rediscovering Your Faith
It is so refreshing when we really start to understand our faith and what we believe. We begin to feel whole and identify the things that really matter in our belief system. Investigating our current church practices and beliefs helps us narrow down what we like and do not like. We begin to formulate what really makes the difference in our spirituality.
When we find our current faith group or church is living what we believe it is exciting and invigorates us with passion. We want to share it with others so they can know the feeling. However it can also be devastating when we realize our beliefs are completely different from that faith group. In fact you might be an outsider for even having thoughts and beliefs that differ. You might feel shame or guilt for not being step in step. Just know there is freedom in giving yourself permission to explore and think outside what you have known.
So what do you do when you make the decision to leave? This article "5 Things to Do Before Leaving Your Church" gives specific things for each person to do before leaving their current church. One important statement it says is leaving your current church can be one of grace and doesn't have to be one of pain. It also indicates that the process should be one of self-examination. Carey Nieuwhof also has written an article "5 ways For a Church Member to Leave A Church Well" which also provides good insight.
Wherever you are at on your journey, continue to self-examine and evaluate who you are in relation to your beliefs.
I appreciate all of the kind words we have received. Please continue to share with whoever you feel would find comfort in this blog.
This week tell yourself its ok to think differently from those around you.
This month our spiritual practice focus is on labyrinth's. Many people may get confused thinking a labyrinth is a maze however in this context labyrinths are an ancient symbol relating to wholeness. It combines the imagery of a circle and spiral into a journey from outside to in and back out again. Usually there is only one entry into the path and people choose how fast, slow, or way to walk it. The practice provides a direct experience of walking a path as a metaphor for life's journey.
The first labyrinth I walked was 15 years ago. It was a movable cloth which could be transported and used anywhere. Headphones and a recorded CD was provided which lead you through the path. The journey took roughly one hour as the meditation stopped at various points along the journey where you interacted with materials previously set up. There were moments for reflection to dwell on your personal life and your internal thought processes. There were specific movements and actions asked of me which opened up my heart. The journey came to the end and I remember feeling completely relaxed and present in the moment. The journey was nothing I had ever encountered because it intentionally made me take time and focus my attention on the state of my heart.
Labyrinths can be incredible experiences combining movement and action with meditation. Let's look closer at labyrinth's and how they may fit your spiritual needs.
The History Of Labyrinth's
The Labyrinth Builders indicate the first examples of labyrinths come from neolithic and bronze age with images carved on rocks. Coins from Crete appear with the symbols around 1 BC. The design later became popular with the Romans who would put them on the floors of their homes and would use the design for horseman to practice riding. The imagery eventually developed and led to churches using them in their construction.
The first evidence of a religious use of labyrinths is from the 4th century where Basilica of Reparatus in Orleansville, Algeria was built. The most famous one is the Chartes Cathedral in France which was built in 13th century. Chartes Cathedral is widely known to have individuals pilgrimage there to partake in the labyrinth. Here is a picture below of the cathedral floor.
The blog Sacred Ordinary Days indicates labyrinths became a symbol for pilgrimages when those could not leave for various reasons. It was a spiritual journey they could take when the road to the Holy Land was not accessible or too dangerous for those to travel.
Meaning Behind Labyrinth's
Veriditas is a non-profit focusing on connecting individuals to labyrinths. If you click on their name it will take you to their website which has a great video about labyrinths. I encourage you to watch it.
There are many different ways and various reasons to walk a labyrinth. It may be for stress reduction, spiritual transformation, or just for fun. Whatever the reason its a good one as there is no wrong way to walk one.
Some people break up the journey into three stages which I have listed below.
Stage 1: Releasing - The journey inward is about letting go of your thoughts and concerns. It's about giving them up to be present on the journey.
Stage 2: Receiving - Reaching the middle of the labyrinth is a time of reflection. What have you received from your journey? What answers are you searching for? It's a time to sit, pray, quiet the mind, and be present in the sacred space. Spend as much time as you need in this sacred space.
Stage 3: Returning - The journey back outward is one of preparation for the world yet to come. You have journeyed to the center, opened yourself up to receive, and are ready to return to the world, possibly transformed or changed from who you were previously.
Many individuals have found amazing benefits and meaning from walking a labyrinth. I encourage you to find your own meaning and reasons as you walk your own. If you are interested in finding a labyrinth close to you. Go to the worldwide labyrinth locator.
Community Of Christ & Labyrinths
Community of Christ is always supportive ways people can connect and reflect with God in their lives. Labyrinths is just one of a myriad of ways. The Community of Christ Temple in Kansas City, MO, which is dedicated to the pursuit of peace, has a labyrinth on their outside platform open to the public just as the temple is. Here is a picture below of the labyrinth.
They have also have various resources giving direction on how to use labyrinths. First is this PDF called Introducing the Labyrinth which describes labyrinths, why people walk them, and how they connect to symbols and concepts of faith. There is also a webpage Walking the Labyrinth further describing the practice.
So go out there and try the spiritual practice of labyrinth walking!
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This week find a labyrinth near you and give it a try.
Many churches make bold claims about God, Jesus, heaven, hell, and various other Christian terms. It's awesome to have a belief system that helps you navigate the roadways of life. However when those belief systems cause division, point fingers or break down relationships then maybe its time they are questioned.
One thing my family and this faith community, have taught me that its ok to say “I’m not for sure” or “I don’t have it all figured out.” It's a freedom in knowing I do not have to have all the answers. The notion throws away rigidity and rightness and declares questions and lack of knowing as a natural process of our faith. With this sigh of relief people are allowed to lean into the divine being a mystery to which we are all discovering. Knowing any encounter can be the spirit breathing further understanding of God in our lives.
So why do some of us feel the need to be right and believe we have all the answers? How can our faith grow with the openness of not knowing?
Much of peoples need to be right comes from our own personal biases. A bias is a prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair. When we specifically look at faith much of our beliefs come from what we have grown up knowing. We hold biases based on the belief system that has been engrained in us. Now this is not bad, its just important to be aware that how we see the world and what we believe about the world may not be the entirety of what there is.
Chaehan So talks specifically about selective perception in regards to confirmation bias, self-serving bias, and hindsight bias. The ones he goes over is just a few of the 50 cognitive biases he states there are. It's a great Tedtalk informing us about our own internal processes and how many times we are wrong. Take the time to check it out as I promise he is entertaining and has good information.
So what does this information about biases mean for our unique faith journeys? Well we all might use this information differently. It informs me that I need to continually be open to listening and hearing ideas that are contrary to my prior judgements or beliefs. For others it may mean that exploring faith and other denominations is ok because its about figuring out what is right for you instead of holding onto potential bias.
Faith Growing By Not Knowing
Now many of us hate not knowing. I mean google is at our fingertips and with a few strokes we calm our fears by finding the answer. Uncertainty can be a beast in our lives. Researchers have found uncertainty is correlated with stress. The article "Why We Hate Not Knowing For Sure" indicates the more someone knows what will happen the less stressed they are even it if is a horrible outcome. Its calming for us to know, and we seek out that feeling.
However on the other hand, in some situations we can feel like we are the only ones that do not know causing added stress. Think about new experiences you have had, or walking into a church for the first time. We put stress on ourselves because we do not know how it will be or what to do. The article "The Wisdom of Not Knowing" talks about the freedom associated with not knowing everything. Many times others have been in the exact same situation or don't know either. But it seems like it takes so much time to figure that out. That's why being vulnerable is so important because it allows us to be free.
With faith there is great benefits of knowing your beliefs. It becomes an internal and external moral compass for how we live. However knowing your beliefs can also create lines causing what is not on that side or challenges it, to be wrong. When we take on an attitude of not having it all figured out we open up the freedom of finding God in new ways. Now I'm not saying throw everything away. That would be demolishing and send us into a crisis. Your past faith experiences should be lifted up and held valuable. But just as there are two sides to every story we must figure out the rest of it for ourselves and what is right for us individually.
It is perfectly ok to be set in what you believe if that works for you. Just be aware of how those beliefs inform your actions and dialogue with others. Ask yourself if it hinders in anyway relationships from being formed or good deeds from being done? If we are to live like Jesus we need to eliminate the biases from our lives by being open to the spirit that leads us. We must see outside of our own perceptual lenses. It is in this task of opening ourselves up that we may actually begin to figure things out.
Our blog is continuing to see great growth. If you feel like you have something to contribute and would like to be a guest blogger please submit your information at our contact us page and we will consider it.
This week reflect on your own interactions. Identify biases you have and how you can make changes.
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.