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.
On my wife and I's honeymoon we cruised in the Caribbean's. Before we had to select what size of group we wanted to eat dinner with. Both my wife and I enjoy meeting new people and chose a large group 8+ to eat dinner with. We figured we would be placed with other just married couples or a combination of random people.
Our first night we dress up and head to the dining room. Struggling to find our table number we meander toward the back of the room. Finally our table comes into view. Immediately Emily and I look at each other as we notice the nine other people already sitting down. It was immediately apparent that these nine people were a family cruising together. So you can only imagine the awkwardness that first night as Emily and I imposed on their family dinner. I believe it was probably mutual as they waited to know who these two strange chairs were for and why they were placed with them. It was almost like the cruise line forgot about us and said, "Oh just throw two extra chairs in over there." But than again we did ask for a large group.
Emily and I had an opportunity to change tables after the first night however we decided to stay. Throughout the week, our relationship grew with this family as we learned about each other and our various cultures. The awkwardness slowly faded away as we and they became comfortable with one another. It was quite apparent the enjoyable relationship that was created by the greetings and conversation all of us had each night. By the end we felt like adopted members of their family.
I find this experience somewhat similar for those seeking a spiritual home. You come in not knowing what to expect but hold these previous experiences and perceptions. Questions float through our head. Will they accept me for who I am and how I am dressed? Will I do something stupid or say the wrong thing? Will they make me have to do something?
It's easy for us to stay at home and avoid the fear we have or the awkward interactions we think may come. However I guarantee if we push through our fear and allow the welcomeness of others to enter our lives we will find genuine relationship.
So let's explore the science of awkward situations, how they impact us when seeking a spiritual home, and why we need to push through them.
The Science of Awkwardness
All of us at some point find ourselves in an awkward situation. There is no way around it, it just happens. Many times we think about ourselves and how we acted, what we did, and how others will view us moving forward. However what we fail to realize in those moments is how everyone is living their own complex life leading most people to not focus or even remember those awkward moments. This video by the youtuber Vsauce describes the science behind awkwardness and how it can actually be a positive thing in our lives.
Attending a New Church is Awkward
I think attending a new church falls into the awkward category. I mean what other place do you go to that requires you sing and pray with strangers? I think most people would agree attending a new church stinks. Our anxiety heightens, sweat glands overreact, and we suddenly have no idea how to talk or act. This is especially true if we are going alone.
If you don't believe me check out the Recklessly Alive blog post "8 Reasons Being New to Church is the Worst Thing Ever" written by Sam Eaton. It's a great article describing the awkward situations he felt going to a new church. He also gives potential solutions for churches to make it more welcoming to new comers.
I can see why staying at home is easier. It stops any negative social interaction from possibly happening. On the other hand it also prevents any new positive experience from happening or developing a new relationship that may be just what you need.
Overcoming Awkwardness to Find a Spiritual Home
So why after all this talk about the difficulty of seeking a spiritual home would I encourage you to come to church. It's because people make a difference in our lives. When we can find individuals to share our beliefs, passions, and lives with it, it makes us happier, safer, and more welcoming of others.
Our faiths are a major part of who we are. Faith is meant to be lived communally. It is in our communal relationships where we truly understand what it means to live Christ's principles. Without relationships we and others miss the opportunity to know the divine through another's eyes. Now does that ultimately mean you need a spiritual home. Well no, its up to you. But a spiritual home can help your faith come alive and deepen the personal relationship you have with God. Why wouldn't you want to deepen your faith with others who also struggle along their own spiritual journey's? Because the reality is those that go to church struggle too. Our spiritual journey's are an adventure to be taken with others.
So if I did decide to look for a spiritual home, how do I overcome the awkwardness I'm trying to avoid? Well I think first you need to do your research. Search websites, talk with people, and look for a place that will be welcoming and inclusive to your needs. I also believe it starts with our mindset. We get what we are looking for, which means we need to focus on our intent and purpose of going, not on the social situations we find ourselves in. As with any situation, awkwardness fades the more we get to know others. If you still need other suggestions check out Trent Hamm's article "Seven Ways To Overcome Social Awkwardness That You Can Practice."
Hopefully wherever you find yourself on your journey you will remember awkwardness happens. I pray all of us will find genuine relationships in our lives where our faith deepens and speaks to our hearts through Christ like love.
Thank you all for following along to the blog. The Community of Christ World Conference in Independence starts this next week. I would encourage all of you to try to attend in person or online to the powerful worships they have planned.
This week live in that discomfort and do something new that would normally make you awkward.
A few years ago I was in a worship service singing the song "All Are Welcome" by Marty Haugen in our new hymnal "Community of Christ Sings." Check out this video by Chris Brunelle if you haven't heard it. It's a beautiful song singing about the worth of all people and how everyone is invited into this space. I understood the message of the song as I read the words and sang along. However it didn't really resonate with me until my youngest son, who was two at the time, starting singing "All Welcome" days later. Even though his language skills were not developed enough for him to say the entire phrase I knew this is what God's love is all about. At two years old he got it! All are Welcome in this Place! Accepting people for who they are! Creating authentic relationships with others that uphold their worth! It also made me realize the power of the messages we give our children even in the earliest of days. At two years old my son is hearing a collective voice singing the words "Let us build a house where love can dwell and all can safely live" and "All Are Welcome." I can only imagine how this message and others will impact his worldview and interactions with others as he gets older.
Our language is a major piece of welcoming others. The words we choose can be powerful and impact others in both positive and negative ways. What messages are you sending with your conversations? How has the language in your environment shaped who you are and how you see the world? In what ways is your language welcoming others into relationship with you and the God you know?
Language Impacts Thought Processes
In an article by Alan Yu with NPR titled "How Language Seems to Shape One's View of the World" he describes how the differences in language can change how we see the world. Language influences how we think and what we look for in interactions. You can also check out this TED Talk by Lera Boroditsky who reiterates similar findings of Mr. Yu in further depth. Enjoy!
Welkom, Bienvenue, Salve, Velkommen, Afio mai, Maeva, Bienvenido! This is just many ways to say welcome in other languages. Check out the translation of the word Welcome in other languages at Omniglot.com. How we use our language can help others feel welcome. However its important to remember hospitality is more than just our language but also the messages we send in all aspects of our lives. Here are some specific ways to be more welcoming and inclusive with our language.
1. Smile - Welcoming starts with our facial expressions. Non-verbal body language makes up most of our communication. If we greet each person with a smile we immediately send warmth and comfort.
2. Be Person Centered - Genuinely focus on the person by asking questions and getting to know them. Many people like to talk about who they are and what they are doing. Be active listeners allowing them to openly share and be thankful for them talking with you.
3. Avoid Excluding Others - Avoid using expressions or words that may exclude others or certain groups. This allows others to feel welcome and open to express their true thoughts and opinions. This can be done by using words such as we, us, or ours to evoke commonality.
4. Be Gender Neutral - This allows people to interpret the information in their worldview. In church settings God is often depicted as a father/ man though many people have had poor relationships with their father or other men. Using gender neutral language to express the divine gives others the opportunity to further their relationship in how they see fit.
5. Speak Common Language - Sometimes certain groups have acronyms, slang, or language which is used that others do not know. It's welcoming if we explain the language to those outside of those groups or to avoid the the use of them all together if we know there are outsiders there.
Language and Spirituality
What we say about our lives both personally and spiritually makes a huge difference! When we surround ourselves with welcoming language and intentionally focusing on making others feel included than as a by product we become more welcoming. In contrast when we are in groups that exclude others or limit various groups abilities we are as well impacted.
Church in particular can be a vital place for welcoming language to develop. Prayers, liturgies, responses, sacraments, singing, sermons, etc. all use language as a way to connect us spiritually with the divine. Many times it is through our words that we communicate with God. I know the hymnal referenced above was intentionally put together using peaceful and inclusive language. Language can be a spiritual guide helping us construct how our relationship with the divine is developing and maturing.
However I want to acknowledge that many have not felt welcomed, safe, or included at churches. I believe it is important for churches to use language and act in ways that welcome all people, stand up for the equal rights of others, and give opportunity for anyone to serve in any role. For all those searching and questioning, I hope you will find that welcoming community to further your spiritual journey.
How do you speak about your spiritual life and church?
What language do you use to welcome and accept others?
What spiritual practices or religious traditions evoke welcoming language?
What does the phrase "All Are Welcome" truly mean?
It is my pleasure to be able to write something that may be beneficial to you or others. I know it can be uncomfortable to comment but I welcome any and all thoughts to this article or the questions above. This week please reflect on the language you use to welcome others.
This last week I heard a story that took place over thirty years ago which I felt was important to share. An individual was preparing to be baptized and was highly concerned about having to be submerged fully underwater. Her baptismal day came and she stepped into the water with the minister. The minister raised his hand and said, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." She was slowly brought down into the water however her face did not go under. This was something that had been planned because the candidate was uncomfortable with being dunked.
A week or so after the baptism, a few of the members went to the District President, who was in charge of a large area of churches, with their concerns. "She wasn't fully submerged underwater which means she was not really baptized", the members argued. The President told them she was baptized despite fully going under the water. However they pleaded with the President that she needed to be baptized again to ensure she was going to heaven. The President looked at them and said, "I can guarantee she is going to heaven." The group looked surprised and said, "How is that?" Answering the question the President said, "Well she will be walking around without a face but most of her will be there." The members immediately said, "That's Ridiculous!" The President looked at them and said, "So is this conversation."
Now that may not be the best way to handle people however it got the point across. Don't get me wrong here, rules, policies, and traditions have an important place in church practice however when they infringe on the personal livelihood of an individual than they need to be reexamined to see if they still fit this time and place. Many people have been hurt by past church policies, driving them away. Let's briefly explore the aspects of this today.
The story reminds me of the Simpson's episode where Ned Flanders wants to baptize Homer and Marge's children, though the children do not want to.
Traditional practices are fantastic ways to meet God and where many have met God through generations. They set the stage for God to meet us where we are. However the true impact of traditions are the personal relationship they have with the person and the community. The way it connects the person to God and those around them in their lives. When we became more interested in specific rules in place instead of how it personally impacts the person than we have missed the point.
Churches are usually very slow movers. This frustrates those on the edge of normal church practice. They love the community formed but cannot stand the slowness of the church to sustain practices that are inclusive of all people. This has driven people away because they cannot continue to comply with such traditions that do not match their true beliefs. However on the other end, changes have been difficult for others to accept because of practices or beliefs they continue to hold onto. Those in the first category hope for the day when change happens but struggle daily with the internal conflict of attending somewhere that doesn't match their beliefs. And those in the second category also struggle with the newness of finding God in a different and uncomfortable way. Change for all people is hard and gives us even more of a reason to dialogue and work together to form community. Through dialogue we find God in ways we may have never anticipated. The conversations about our personal beliefs is what forms community because we begin to understand who we feel God is in this world. I hope all of you can find a spiritual home where these conversations take place.
How many times have we been like Sheldon Cooper having to sit in the same place on the couch but in relation to church practices? Jesus was brought many people to heal or touch showing an extreme flexibility to the moment. So lets not get so caught up in how it has to be and ask the question can it still work this way? Let's hold to the practices that are meaningful to us but also be open to knowing God can meet us in other ways.
What traditions or practices have been powerful for you?
When have you been flexible in the way you worship?
How has change in practices, policies, or traditions impacted you?
Has your church changed too fast or too slow for you?
Thank you to all those reading along! Please contact us if you have something specific you would like us to write about. This week share a tradition or practice that has been impactful in your life with someone else.
Many years ago I attended a Reunion (church family camp) as a Graceland Representative. Graceland University sends out representatives to Community of Christ camps throughout the summer in hopes of recruiting youth to their University. The last night of camp, I was asked to join the Sr. High youth at a campfire led by two other adults. As the campfire progressed you could start to feel the spirit moving in the moment. The adults asked the youth if any would like to be administered to.
Sacrament of Administration
Administration is a sacrament in the Community of Christ in which two ministers anoint the head of the individual with a small amount of oil and lay their hands on the persons head to pray for them. It is a prayer asking for the healing spirit of God to bless the individual in whatever way that person needs.
Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.
It's important to note that healing comes in many ways and does not always mean a miraculous physical healing will take place. In fact many times that is not the case. If you are interested in learning more about the other sacraments of the Community of Christ please click here.
The Rest of the Story
Two youth were prayed for and a third stepped forward to sit in the chair. As youth gathered around the two leaders motioned me to the middle asked me to administer to the girl. I was a newly ordained minister at the time making me a little nervous at the sudden request. But I moved with the spirit and allowed it to breathe in the moment. The girls head was anointed and I prayed for her. I remember feeling like these words were not might own as well as an overwhelming feeling of peace. She was moved to tears by the experience and shortly after the campfire was ended. It was in our camp closing service the next day where she stood up to share. She spoke of the night before and said, "When I was being prayed for, I felt like God was stitching my heart back together." She went onto say how she felt peace over her life. Her testimony confirmed to me God was moving in the moment and I just happened to be the vessel for which God used.
Moving Power of God
I think the experience I was apart of shows how God can move in powerful ways. When we intentionally allow God to breathe in our lives, we make room for God to love. This young girl had some sort of pain in her life. I do not know what that was but I do know that night she felt loved and in that love, the pain, shame, or guilt stood no chance. God's love trumps the human emotions we put on ourselves from the daily situations we find ourselves in. God is continually saying you are of worth and you are loved! We are all on various paths in this chaotic world, but wherever you find yourself please tell yourself that you have worth!
Missio Dei is a latin term referring to the "mission of God" or "sending of God". I believe the Mission of God is to love, to make whole, to provide hope, and to engage others in knowing there worth. Leading Congregations in Mission created this video which I want to share with you. I love how it says, "It's a moving mission of discovery, healing, and hope. An agenda of significance to all those who answer yes to the call to serve." I think this video will give a good understanding of how our spirituality cannot be separated from our daily lives. Its a never ending journey of discovery and serving those around us.
When have you needed your heart stitched back together?
How have you been a vessel for God's love?
When have you allowed God to breathe in your life?
How have you been a part of the mission of God?
This week let the spirit move through you in the places you find yourself. Do something nice for someone else that you do not know. You may just be the stitch that the person needs. Our small group is meeting this week, so those interested please submit the contact us and hopefully you can join us.
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.