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!
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.
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.