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.
Camino de Santiago also known as "The Way of St. James" is a pilgrimage leading to the supposed remains of St. James in Northwestern Spain. Hundreds of thousands of individuals walk the spiritual journey each year hoping to find themselves, their purpose or just their way in this world that they live. Some carry tremendous burdens down the trodden paths that so many have walked before. It is on these paths where individuals no longer walk by themselves but are together searching for healing, reconciliation, belonging and self-worth. It is a journey of love!
We are all on a journey to love whether on a historic pilgrimage or just our everyday lives. The searching for this higher power is what transforms us if we let it. So let's explore what love is and what role it has in community.
What is love?
Oprah interviewed Pastor Wintley Phipps about his definition of love.
"Love is when you choose to be at your best when the other person is not at their best. Love is when what you want is never important. But what the other person needs and wants is always paramount."
I think there are some great points we can gather from this definition but I would also encourage you to read through 1 Corinthians 13. You can also check out how our brains are affected by aspects of love at SITNBoston.
1. Love is a Choice - This is what first stands out to me. We can choose to love every moment of every day and every person of that day.
2. Asks for Your Best Self - Love pushes us to be our best selves. I find this being so difficult at times but should be our ultimate goal when we love others. Healthy relationships and organizations help others move further along their journey to who they want to be. For more information about being your best self go to this blog titled Bestselfology.
3. Moves us into Community - You cannot know someone's best without taking the time to get to know their worst. Love pushes us forward into relationships and community. It is in community where love happens. Community knocks down the walls of division and unites us together. Our own personal inadequacies take on a different light and we are accepted for who we are. This is what love does.
4. Love Removes Ourselves - We all have things we want in our lives. However for us to truly love we must set aside our perception that our wants are important when compared to others needs. Our focus cannot be internal but an outward focus on others. Emptying ourselves of those selfish desires.
5. It Upholds People - The last part is the need for us to lift others up. Affirming and encouraging relationships that focus on the needs of others is at the heart of the virtue. Loving others is essentially moment by moment lifting others up. When this happens loving communities are formed and self-worth is renewed.
Communities of Love
Just like the Camino de Santiago many times we start our journey individually with our own purpose, goals, and burdens. However as we travel we share with others and suddenly realize our journey is not just our own. It's an intricately woven pathway that is connected with those that cross our paths. Our selfish desires move to the back while we uphold the weary travelers we meet along the way. Our hardships become easier and our decisions more meaningful. It is in these places and relationships where community changes who we are and sometimes even our destinations. Communities of love transform us!
Say "yes" this Advent season to the journey before you. This journey that brings us all into loving community if we allow it. Do not shy away because of the burdens you carry but choose to love.
Let's leave you with this awesome video about how communities of love can happen if we allow it. Plus the tune and dancing in it are just fun!
Advent season is moving right along! Please place yourself in loving community this week whether at church, in a coffee shop or a place of your choosing. Join us next week as we explore the virtue of Joy!
A couple I go to church with recently told a story about their interesting experience touring a historic mansion. They set up a tour time but were running late and quickly pulled into the Mansion driveway. Knowing she had just talked with the person they went ahead and walked in the main door. Immediately they noticed the shoes on the ground and slid theirs off leaving them with the rest of the pile. They began walking around the house looking for someone. Suddenly from around the corner they hear "May I help you?" She explained they were here for the tour of the house. The man gave a confusing look before letting them know they were at the wrong house as this was his personal home. The couple aghast at their mistake apologized immediately. The amazing part of the story is that instead of leaving the Mansion, the man offered instead to give them a personal tour of his home. Of course they could not turn down his generosity. They were gifted with a wonderful, genuine tour of a historic mansion, just not the one they expected.
I find this story incredibly inspiring! The man could have very easily escorted them out but instead welcomed them in and generously gave of what he had. Mistakes are often wonderful learning opportunities if we allow them to be. It really comes down to whether we welcome the opportunity before us whether that's from our own mess ups or someone else's. Welcoming is something everyone can achieve without a cost. Welcoming is about showing genuine positive regard to others while creating a safe environment. I know for some church has not been a welcoming place. In contrast it's been the opposite which has produced anger, shame, and many other emotions. Today let's examine how we can welcome mistakes as opportunities, identify what welcoming others is, and how we can become a "living welcome."
Carol S. Dweck wrote a book called, "Mindset: The New Pathology of Success." In the book Dweck writes about the difference between "fixed mindset" and "growth mindset." Fixed mindset is when you believe your skills and abilities are unalterable. In other words people believe their current talent, intelligence, or ability is what makes them successful. On the other hand growth mindset is when people have an underlying belief that they can develop their skills through hard work, strategy, and learning. Research indicates those using growth mindset achieve more. To learn more about growth mindset click here. A major part of growth mindset is praising effort and hard work not intelligence or ability. I think this practice is helpful for parenting, mentoring, or cultivating leaders. The most important thing to realize is we all have various traits we feel are fixed. That's ok, but for growth to happen we have to acknowledge what those are. We have to welcome our own inabilities, misconceptions, and mistakes. In doing so we truly begin moving into who we want to be.
What is Welcoming?
Welcome is a verb which means it is action oriented. The definition of the word is: "To greet someone in a glad, polite, or friendly way". In other words we show joy in our interactions with others. However I think welcoming goes beyond this. Such as setting aside our preconceived notions and putting ourselves in this persons shoes. Asking questions helps me identify how to welcome someone. What knowledge do I have that might be helpful for this person in this environment? What is my face and body showing? How will what I am doing or saying make them feel? What cultural background is this person coming from? Am I accepting all of this person for who they are? Welcoming others consists of all of this and much more. I encourage you to continue reflect on how you welcome others in passing, in your home, or at your church.
So how do we become a "living welcome?" It seems we first have to move ourselves, our positions, our church, etc. out of the way. Welcoming is not about beliefs or practices. It's about meeting people where they are at and becoming genuinely interested in them. This article "9 Principles That Will Make You Treat People Better" by Lolly Daskal really lays out what we can do. I like in particularly how we must remember everyone has a story. It is in the stories of life where we find understanding and appreciation of one another. I also love how she states we do not meet people by accident. When we see interactions in this light they are opportunities waiting to happen. If we allow these principles to be infused into our lives than we can truly become a living welcome.
And let's end today with "Moana's You're Welcome" not because of Maui's attitude just because I love the song.
I so appreciate all of you following along. What does becoming a "Living Welcome" mean to you? This week examine what changes you need to make to be more welcoming!
My wife and I were driving back from St. Louis this last week when we came upon some road construction. It was bumper to bumper traffic. Cars continued to zoom in the left lane going as far up as they could go before merging despite the signs saying no passing. A big rig in front of us pulled over to the left lane physically blocking the other vehicles who were attempting to zoom by past those who were waiting. I could hear a collective shout from the cars both in front and behind mine because the action the driver took. We joked about how events like this are when society is the most unified. This of course was the unification of the cars to keep out those who had not waited their turn.
This event reminded me of the importance social justice has in today's world. More than ever before we as a community desire to have social justice even in the smallest arena's of life. Some people have left churches because the lack of action and care for their community. I completely understand this because churches need to be actively living out the message of Christ. I also believe churches can be the primary change agent for social justice in a community. So lets look a little closer at social justice and who knows maybe you have the idea that a local church or community needs.
Value the Idea
Improv comedy is so much fun to watch. I laugh at the randomness and complete chaos it produces because it's original and authentic. One reason it's so great is because those acting value the ideas of those around them. If they didn't there would be lashing back and forth instead of a collective product for those watching to enjoy. Here's a clip of a group called Roman Improv. They play a game called Speak in One Voice which starts around the 1:30 minute mark. While you watch also see how they value the other's ideas.
Ideas are precious and need to be gently taken care of. When ideas are valued people are valued. The idea is something from the person, a part of them that could lead to something great. So how does this connect with social justice. Creating social justice starts with an idea. You never know how one little idea could impact your community. So hold up others ideas! Creatively think with them and together maybe change can happen.
The truck driver took action when he saw a need. We have opportunities everyday to take action too. Open your eyes to the needs of those around you in your community. I am sure ideas will float in and out of your head if you intentionally look. Harness the power of your thought and move on it. Remember, action is about collaboration. Who else is working towards the same goals? Who can benefit and build on this idea? What resources or people do you need to carry it out? Do you have a diverse team with different perspectives?
Doctrine and Covenants 165 1d&e
"Undertake compassionate and just actions to abolish poverty and end needless suffering. Pursue peace on and for the Earth. Let nothing separate you from this mission. It reveals divine intent for personal, societal, and environmental salvation; a fullness of gospel witness for creation’s restoration."
You Make a Difference
In the story above I have been both the person that zoomed ahead and also the person that waited in line. Social Justice in society is all about our perspective and culture. I think its important we keep this in mind. If you find something unjust than how you communicate it makes all the difference. The goal is to unify those around you so they see the need. Everyone makes a difference in creating social justice. I could have very easily slowed down and let cars in despite the action the truck took. But all those in line pulled together tighter for the same common goal. This shows we all have a role to play.
For those out there that are wanting to meet the needs around them and push forward social justice. I encourage you to find a community that will support your ideas and your initiative. I believe most Community of Christ congregations can be this place. Most are starving to become the hands and feet of Christ. It may just be your idea that they need.
Thank you for following our blog! This week think of ways you can help your community. Write them down and share them with a friend.
One time in elementary art class, I was sitting across from my friend Nathan. I had this thick rubber band I was playing with as the teacher was instructing us on what we needed to do. Jokingly I pulled it back and pointed it at my friend who was sitting two to three feet across the table from me with no intention of letting it go. He cautiously moved around avoiding the direct line toward him. In the middle of this playful dance between us the rubber band slipped from my finger springing it forward. It flew straight at Nathan hitting him right in his eye.
Immediately he grabbed his eye and his facial expressions showed a disbelief and anger for my actions. I felt horrible and apologized profusely. His eye turned red, watered, and he had trouble seeing out of it. The teacher eventually came around to our table at the far end of the room. First she noticed we were both behind having not listened to her instructions and second, Nathan's red eye prompting her to ask, "What had happened?" Nathan had every right to say something for my poor choices which probably would have ended with me going to the office however he instead told the teacher he got something in his eye. I was amazed and still am for the grace Nathan bestowed on me in the moment. A moment when he was in pain and yet chose to save me despite my actions against him.
There is so much here relating to our spiritual journey which I will try to break down. Hopefully it can be helpful to anyone who has been unintentionally harmed.
Churches sometimes hurt people when they do not mean too. This unintentional harm can come from practices, policies, personal disagreements, relational disputes, lack of action, and many other things. Many times a church or religious organization may not even realize the hurt they have been involved in because they are just practicing what they believe. We justify it in our heads that its ok because of our interpretation on scripture or some other religious experience. However if what we are practicing and believing is causing significant pain to others than an in depth reflection is needed. Our goal should always be on creating right relationships and healing in this world not brokenness and discord. I think God calls all of us to reexamine our beliefs, practices, and interactions with others. When we do this we create opportunities for us to become more knowledgeable, welcoming, inclusive, and supportive.
When a person is in pain because of some kind of unintentional harm than the community has been hurt. Now I know what you are thinking, we can't keep everyone happy, so why should we be concerned. Well no you probably can't, however being community is about acknowledging disagreements, valuing differences, and supporting those whom need supported. When someone is hurting than the community is hurting. Sometimes unintentional harm causes people to stop coming. Sometimes that person just needs to know that they are wanted. Other times they have concerns which need addressed. Who has been hurt in your community? Who haven't you seen for awhile? Who needs to be listened to and valued?
Doctrine and Covenants 161
3c. Be patient with one another, for creating sacred community is arduous and even painful. But it is to loving community such as this that each is called. Be courageous and visionary, believing in the power of just a few vibrant witnesses to transform the world. Be assured that love will overcome the voices of fear, division, and deceit.
If you noticed in the story, I immediately apologized profusely for my actions. Apologies are sometimes magical. They have the ability to soothe the situation and make things right. They can repair relationships and create healing in places where there has been pain. Sincerity is the essential part of any apology. Without it the heart and meaning has been lost and true healing has been missed. As I mentioned earlier churches or even personally we may not even know we have hurt someone which makes this part tricky. However when you first discover there has been harm done than we have the responsibility to address it and apologize for the actions that have occurred.
The last and most important part of the story is grace. No matter what we do God freely loves us. Despite our shame, guilt, and fear. God's grace prevails because its not about us. My friend Nathan bestowed grace on me. How often are we giving others grace, the benefit of the doubt in situations that arise? When we give others grace we give compassion, hope, and the ability for God to work in the moment. So no there is nothing we have to do to earn God's love however what we choose to do may end up being the hands and feet of God in this world. It may be your actions that lead someone else to experience grace.
When have you caused unintentional harm to someone?
Why is building community so difficult?
When have you felt the sincerity of an apology?
How have you felt grace in your life and how have you given it?
I'm so glad fall is here! Bestow grace on someone this week whether at the grocery store, work, or in your home. Give them the benefit of the doubt and love them for who they are.
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.