Last week at Dialogue and Dessert each participant was asked to rip off the amount of toilet paper they use when they go to the bathroom. After the paper was passed around individuals had to count the number of squares. The number ripped off was the amount of facts they had to share about themselves. For time purposes we capped each person's at ten.
The group participants openly shared about who they were and the stories that shaped their life. Each one shared well over their amount but it didn't matter because the group was engaged in learning about the person and hearing their story.
One man shared about going off to war after getting married. While fighting on the front lines he received a Dear John letter. He described the pain he felt and how hard it was for him to endure. But his face brightened as he said "but that opened the door for me to meet my wife, whom I have shared forty plus happy years with." He blessed us with the knowledge that sometimes the bad that life brings is only the vessel for something greater if we allow it.
In these moments of listening to one another we were all touched and impacted. We had connected part of ourselves to the group. Sharing with others broadens peoples perspectives and helps them understand our viewpoint. It starts with thinking its "them" and "me" but suddenly moves our thoughts to "us." Connection makes us realize we are in this together. Our original perception and thoughts twist into something more real, genuine, and accurate. It is through these connections that life takes us into new seas and boundaries that we never would have expected.
Let's look closer at how connecting with others impacts our lives!
What's Behind Human Connections
Whether we are standing in line at Starbucks, sitting next to someone on a plane, or walking in our neighborhood there are always moments we can connect with others. It's a choice to engage in someone else's life. We need social connections! Research out of Stanford Medicine by Dr. Emma Seppala indicates social connections improve our physical, mental and emotional well beings. They go as far as saying "Lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking, or high blood pressure." The info graphic below is an awesome visual from Dr. Seppala about it.
What I find amazing about this research is that its really about our own subjective perception about the relationships we have. In other words how deep, genuine, and rich are those relationships. I find this is what we are called to do our faith journey's.
Executive Coach Dan Foxx provides another interesting perspective on connection in his TEDx talk. He discussed the importance of removing our own ego's by giving ourselves to the connecting moment.
Connecting On Your Faith Journey
The spiritual connections we make on our faith journey's are of the utmost importance. When I share with others vulnerably or openly sit in the presence of the divine with others our connections deepen. Whether they actually do or not my subjective perspective believes this which is my reality. Faith is always about going deeper and becoming more authentic. When we walk our faith journey's alone we miss the opportunity to connect.
Jesus connected with others! The scripture focus of our discussion the other night was from Luke 7:11-17 when Jesus came across the burial of a widow's son. Jesus immediately had compassion and was moved to action. He noticed and allowed himself to be connected which ultimately changed the circumstances in the story.
We are called just like Jesus to notice others and connect with them. Through that connection we can allow ourselves to miraculously love. For love changes the circumstances of the moment and calls us to rise forward into new life.
What will that new life be for you? Who will be changed by your decision to connect?
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Go out and connect with someone new this week!
Our guest blogger this week is Elder James O’ Neil DeAtley who is a native of West Union, OH. An alumnus of Morehead State University, “Neil” obtained a BA in 2013. Upon graduation, Neil began his teaching career where he taught 7-12 vocal and general music. In 2018, responding to God’s call, Neil began full-time studies at the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, pursuing a Master of Divinity. Neil has served as a summer guide and museum intern at the Kirtland and Independence Temples. Currently, Neil resides in Washington DC and is the full-time invitation support minister for Community of Christ in the Chesapeake Bay Mission Center.
Moses was shepherding the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. He led the flock to the west end of the wilderness and came to the mountain of God, Horeb. The angel of God appeared to him in flames of fire blazing out of the middle of a bush. He looked. The bush was blazing away but it didn’t burn up. Moses said, “What’s going on here? I can’t believe this! Amazing! Why doesn’t the bush burn up?” God saw that he had stopped to look. God called to him from out of the bush, “Moses! Moses!” He said, “Yes? I’m right here!” God said, “Don’t come any closer. Remove your sandals from your feet. You’re standing on holy ground.”
Exodus 3:1-5 The Message
Do you ever feel that there are simply not enough hours in the day? Do you find yourself stuck in the humdrum routine of attempting to accomplish the requirements of basic living? Between the daily tasks of work, commute, emails, school, and family life, many find themselves simply getting by, only to wake up and do it all over again. By glorifying busyness and placing one’s importance and self-worth on material gain, our culture has furthered this monotonous cycle. It probably does not take much consideration to think of instances where you have observed the ever-increasing societal emphasis on consumerism over community. In the midst of this life, the believer could reasonably ask, “Where is God?” “Is there more?” “Does God have a plan for me?”
The legendary and fabled biblical character of Moses could hardly be deemed as ordinary. Attributed with the authorship of the Torah, Moses is an iconic name in the story of Israel's escape from slavery in Egypt and the later transcendent reception of Ancient Israelite Law. The name Moses represents one who was a great teacher, leader, and liberator. Having fled Egypt in exile, the scriptures record that Moses took a wife, Zipporah, and started a family in Midian.
By all accounts, it would seem that Moses had settled into an ordinary life for a man of his time and place. It is during this phase of Moses’ life that we encounter him in Exodus 3 while he is tending to his father-in-law’s sheep. Going about his daily business, Moses was not seeking a miracle, and yet the Hebrew author documents that it was there that “the angel of God appeared to him in flames of fire blazing out of the middle of a bush.” What happened next is perhaps the most simple and important part of the narrative, “he looked.”
Is it possible that Moses could have walked past that bush many times before while shepherding the flock? Perhaps. Yet, in that moment something was different; Moses saw with new eyes. God saw that Moses had stopped to look and God called him by name. This prompted God’s divine invitation to Moses for an awakened life. The ordinary had been transformed by God, and in amazement of the presence, Moses removed his sandals. Amidst everyday responsibilities, the Holy One of Israel called Moses by name and he discerned God’s life changing plan for him.
This sacred encounter prompted a new life for Moses. A life full of adventure, imagination, and at times, obscurity and risk. In the busyness and monotony of daily life, do you take time to contemplate where is God calling you by name? Where is God longing to draw near to you? What is God inviting you to risk? In the face of a loved one or a stranger, in your commute to work, in your day-to-day duties, where is God longing to transform your ordinary to extraordinary?
As it was for Moses, this life changing adventure is yours for the taking. Will you expeditiously rise up and follow? Will you be full of trepidation and doubt? Or will you live in the nuance of both/and?
In the work Aurora Leigh, nineteenth century poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning writes, “Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only [they] who [see], [take] off [their] shoes; The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.”
Will you, like Moses, stop and look with new eyes? In awe of the presence of God will you take off your shoes in admiration? How will you respond to the divine invitation to an awakened life?
A big thank you to Neil for being willing to share his thoughts with us this week! We wish him the best on his work in the Chesapeake Bay Mission Center.
This week find the holy ground you are being called to and take off your shoes!
Growing up I would hear stories of how my mom's family would sit in the upper auditorium behind the stage every two years at World Conference waiting to hear where my grandfather was assigned. The minister and families did not know until announced on if they would be uprooted out of their current lives or be able to stay in their current fields.
My grandmother and mother have both talked about how nerve racking it was. One year in particular my grandfather was moved unexpectedly to Texas. I cannot imagine the entire world conference body of the church finding out the news that would change your families life forever at the exact same time as you.
Some of the moves were needed and had tremendous success while others altered families lives in negative ways. Part of this was the belief for the minister to have the faith to say "I will go where thou tells me to go." This blind faith to step out into the unknown was expected. What great trust they had and yet I believe faith doesn't always have to be blindly led.
I think back on this story and amazed at the ministers for being willing to risk everything in what they believed. However I am also somewhat ashamed for how the church treated their ministers and families. Luckily the church has understood that its really about our own personal callings and changed those practices to be more inclusive of the ministers life convictions. Lets look briefly at faith and how it impacts our lives.
Our Understanding of Faith
Faith is the complete trust or confidence in something or someone. Trust is the word that stands out to me. Relying on something outside ourselves. To push away our own thoughts and fears and walk in the unknown of our futures. Everyday we walk not knowing what will happen and yet we trick ourselves into believing we are in control. We try hard to keep everything in a box just how we want it and yet over and over again life happens. Giving away that control allows us to walk in faith and open ourselves up to divine inspiration.
And yet I do not believe we have to blindly step forward. God wants us to be well informed and feel the calling in our lives. Preparation by researching, planning, and collaborating are essential steps in bringing forth something positive to society. When we think about faith this way it is understanding that God made us with gifts to be used in various ways. We are a part of understanding how those gifts will impact the world. It's not some giant already perceived plan but a continual moving forward with divine inspiration in creating something special. We are creating with God and moving out with the notion that God is with us and always has been.
Community of Christ believes God still talks today and is present with us trying to create a world of peace. God calls us to be living witnesses in this world creating inclusive communities that welcome all people. Sometimes we become too comfortable in our lives. We come up with concerns, reservations and other reasons why something shouldn't be done, or we shouldn't do that. We take the easy, routine road instead of risking something something new. Sometimes we just need a disruption. This video by missional leaders shows a great prayer about how life can take control of us instead of allowing ourselves to be the vehicle in life to make change.
God, where will your Spirit lead today?
Help me be fully awake and ready to respond.
Grant me courage to risk something new
and become a blessing of your love and peace.
Go out there and risk something new this week!
Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp. - Psalm 149:3
The last Monday of each month we focus on a spiritual practice. This month is the eloquent and divine human movement we call dance.
Who doesn't love a dance party! I have some great memories in which my family and I danced together humorously in our kitchen. It was carefree, fun, and created much laughter and smiles. It got us creatively moving to the music creating space for connection, which surpassed words and moved straight to our hearts.
Dance has the ability enliven our body and souls, break down barriers, and free our bodies of worry if we let. The multi-sensory and emotional way it moves through our body creates moods and communication patterns. Its both an inward and outward experience connecting our mind and body together. I find it funny that this practice physically and emotionally changes us and yet there is often very little of it happening in church. Maybe its the stiff dress clothes, tradition of being proper, or just the thought that others would judge us.
None of them seem like good reasons in my opinion for us not to engage in something that can connect us with the divine.
So how can we use dance as a spiritual practice? In what ways can we incorporate dance in our religious and spiritual settings?
History of Dance
Dance is believed to be around before humans had written language. Many people believe it was used to pass the oral tradition of stories from one generation to the next. Dance Facts and History indicate the first "proof of dance" was discovered in paintings inside a 9,000 year old cave in India. It became common for dance to be used in religious ceremony or rituals in sharing the stories of others or to celebrate a certain time of the year. It eventually evolved into other forms of social life but remained in the religious realm as well.
"The ancient Greeks believed that man took delight in active movement. A person was considered educated if he could dance, and his moral code was defined by the dances he performed. Men and women in Greek society danced, though what they performed might not be considered dance today. It was an ordered form, integrated with music and poetry as part of rituals, religion, and social life (Human Kinetics)."
During the renaissance dances moved into forms of entertainment and display. It also had a major place in the social aspect of society. During this time dances were written down in detailed forms separated by categories. This time period had an explosion of art in the form of dance. Dance has continued to evolve into various other dances such as the floss as we have below.
Dance And Our Spiritual Life
Dancing is moving spirituality! It puts our emotions and feelings out for everyone to see. Sometimes you are even surprised at what comes when you allow your body to move. Dance is freeing and allows us to go directly to God with both mind and body. So how do we use it as a spiritual practice? How do we use it in our current settings? First check out the music video "God's Great Dance Floor" by Chris Tomlin.
1. Find Your Rhythm - When we find the rhythm of the music we can choose to be free with it. When we make this choice we allow the love of God to move freely through us. However we must each find the rhythm that works for us. Try different kinds of music, different dances, or just be free in your creative expression. Don't know what to try, try this!
2. Don't Care - Be like King David dancing and leaping before the lord. Our perceptions of what other people think stop us from using our bodies to move freely in dance. When we throw out those thoughts and judgments we open ourselves up to the divine. It doesn't matter if you have never danced before or if you are experienced. Dancing is for everyone!
3. Learn New Steps - Dancing can be incorporated into worship if we allow it but it means we have to do the first two things already listed. Sometimes it is easier for a group of people to be instructed first through choreography and other steps. It lessens the fear factor and allows them to feel like everyone is at the same level.
4. Dance With Others - Dancing with others allows us to be creative and free with someone else. Dancing can connects us physically, emotionally, and spirituality. It invites them into an intimate relationship where we express ourselves openly.
5. Find Time - Give yourself time each week to dance. This can be at home, out somewhere, or even in church. Dance can happen anywhere as its just allowing your body to react to the moments in your life. For churches they can intentionally schedule dance ministry or times in the service for dance to happen. Be creative!
So get out there and dance!
Thank you for all the kind words and support!
Take some time and dance this week by yourself or with someone else!
My grandfather Virgil Billings was a minister for the Community of Christ 50 years ago. Growing up I heard many stories about his ministry and interactions with others. One that always stuck to me was his time spent in southern Indiana.
He traveled to the area for a sermon series which included visiting members homes. One family in particular farmed watermelons. The husband was not a church goer but supported his wife attending. During the visit my grandfather spent a lot of time with the man talking about his farming and various other interests.
My grandfather told him, "In Texas they only grow the watermelon seeds on one side of the watermelon." The man looked in astonishment at my grandfather and eventually asked how. My grandfather with a sheepish grin replied, "They grow them on the inside." The two laughed at the joke. My grandfather invited him to come to church the next night and left to visit another family.
To my grandfather's surprise the man came the next evening. The man was focused intently on what was being preached and as my grandfather finished his sermon the man shouted for his attention, "Minister, Minister do you know how to get water inside watermelons?" My grandfather saw the proud look on the man's face and said, "No". The man shouted, "You grow them in the spring."
The farmer's entire reason for attendance was to tell the joke to my grandfather. Something transpired in their conversations, a relationship was sparked, and humor brought it all together. Sometimes we get so caught up in our traditional ways of sharing God that we miss at the basis of every relationship is mutual respect and enjoyment for each other. Humor in this situation was what made all the difference.
Let's look closer at how humor ties us together and can open us up for further relationship. And does God have a sense of humor?
The Power of Humor
We can find humor in just about every aspect of life if we look. Obviously not every situation calls for it but many are eased when we allow humor to be present. Laughter not only puts us in a good mood but has tons of health benefits. This article "Stress Relief from Laughter" from the Mayo Clinic indicates laughter soothes tension, stimulates organs, improves immune system, relieves pain, and relaxes your stress response system. Overall it allows us to relax our defense mechanisms and be open and present to the world around us.
Another research study suggests that those who laugh together have stronger bonds. The study "How Laughter Brings Us Together" discusses how laughter is a social glue that connects others and helps share worldviews. Our quality of life improves when we are able to laugh because we ultimately are connecting with people.
If you are looking for more information about how humor increases positive relationships and leadership check out this tedx video by Paul Osincup. Trust me its entertaining, funny, and yet informative.
If you need a short clip to laugh about the funniness of relationships check out this 2 minute bit by Comedian Steve Rizzo.
Humor of God
Does God have a sense of humor?
If God created us as him/her self than ultimately humor is one of the characteristics of God. Rarely do we talk about the funny things life presents in church or from the pulpit. If laughter truly has these amazing health benefits listed above and helps us connect with each other shouldn't it be something we are more intentional about.
A spiritual life is about being filled with joy and what more joy can you get than laughter. Kids in particular have a keen sense of humor, contagious laughter, and the ability to find the funny in mundane things. Kids mask that quality God has created in them. Maybe we should look closer at our children and try to catch a glimpse of their humor.
Acquainting God with a sense of humor makes the divine more humane and approachable. It takes away the notion of a God far away and puts the spirit lovingly beside us laughing together. I like to envision Jesus with a sense of humor. He was able to relate to a number of people, bring them joy, and redefine the spiritual laws of the time. This type of person had to have charisma and bring humor into his work with others.
So I encourage you to use humor not only in your daily life but as you are reading the bible, praying, and doing the spiritual practices that fit your needs. I think you will begin to find the funniness all around us and ultimately the humor of God. You can also check out one of our past posts by Steve Hensley titled "The Similarities Between Comedy and Church."
If you want to learn more about the Community of Christ please contact us as we would love to talk with you.
This week pick out a joke online someplace to use with people you interact with.
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.