This month's focus on spiritual practices is Dwelling in the Word.
Dwelling in the word is a spiritual practice developed by Dr. Patrick Keiffert and Pat Taylor Ellison. It is a way of reading scripture that intentionally focuses people on listening to each other and discerning what God is up to amongst us. It does not seek to provide answers that arise or historical insight about the text. There is no correct thoughts or right answers but welcomes all thoughts and experiences as equal. It asks us to be present in the moment, aware of our thoughts, patient with others, and listen deeply to the spirit.
Welcoming and Discerning the Spirit
Dwelling in the word welcomes the spirit to breathe among those gathered and opens our imagination to what is being stirred. Keiffert states, ‘The Spirit uses whatever space we give to create an environment of spiritual discernment."
Bishop Mark Beckwith briefly talks about the spiritual practice and how it opens us up to conversations with others and deepens our relationship with God. He believes it helps us ask more questions about life and the purpose we have individually and collectively. Please take a quick listen before we describe more thoroughly how to use the spiritual practice.
How to Dwell in the Word
There are many different versions and ways to Dwell in the Word but all of them have the same focus of openness and allowing the spirit to be present.
1. Welcome the Spirit - Ask the spirit to be present with them through prayer, silence, or another way.
2. Read a Scripture - Have someone read the selected scripture aloud for the group. Sometimes two people will read the scripture with silence in between allowing more time for people to become familiar with the text.
3. Sit Silently and Reflect - Ask yourself 1). What captured your attention and/ or imagination? A word or phrase that jumps out. 2). What would you like to find out more about?
4. Share with a Partner - Find a partner in the group you can share your thoughts with about the scripture passage and what stood out to you about the questions above.
5. Share with the Group - Have people report out as comfortable what they learned from their partners with the larger group. This might be what was felt, thought, and experienced during the reading.
6. Wrestle Together - Take time as a group to discuss what God might be up to in this passage. Are there any key themes that stand out for the group and how does that impact the group today?
Why Dwell In The Word
If you have been bored with reading scripture or have no idea where to start, this might be a great starting spot. I believe this spiritual practice makes the text come alive for this day and age. Dwelling in the Word is spiritual practice that allows for openness in discussion and experience, thoughtful engagement with the text and a welcoming of the spirit in our lives.
Another aspect I like is that it develops community and deepens relationships when practiced with others. When we invite the Holy Spirit to be present among a group of individuals our response as a group can be powerful.
So go out there and Dwell in the Word!
Please follow us on Instagram or Twitter so you get notifications of our new posts. This week try dwelling in the word with a few people you feel comfortable with.
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.
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.