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.
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.
This week all across the world people are journeying with Jesus to the cross and will awaken on Sunday to find an empty tomb. The disciples ran when hearing word that the stone had been rolled away. Immediately after seeing the emptiness of the tomb, their thoughts took them to the most reasonable answer, Jesus body was stolen. Only later would they receive clarity to help them truly have their eyes opened to a new understanding of faith. Just as the disciples we have to interpret what that empty tomb means for us and our spiritual walk.
I think the experience of the disciples is similar to many going through a faith transition or crisis. Faith Transitions are painful! What we once clung too is now a hurtful remembrance of the changes happening in our beliefs. We feel alone, and lost. Our mind goes back and forth on what to actually live out in our lives. We fear the unknown. Often we feel others seem to not understand forcing us to continue to deny the questioning taking place in our heads.
Just as the disciples found, faith is a journey with ever changing knowledge and experiences that lead us to places far beyond our imagination. The empty tomb symbolized new growth as their faith transitioned into something greater.
So let's explore the empty tomb and how it relates to faith transitions. This may be small changes in our beliefs to major overhauls.
A Journey Of Questions
Jesus resurrection always brings many questions. For some its a matter of how the events transpired for others they ask did it really happen. Was this just a way for the early Christians to carry on Jesus' name or was Jesus really the son of God that resurrected on the third day?
No matter your stance, the empty tomb brings questioning. When we begin to question our beliefs or ask why we do certain things it can cause uncertainty. Our brains are wired for routine and assurance. It provides stability and safety. However curiosity is a natural part of our spiritual journey and should be upheld rather than discouraged. When it is upheld spiritual communities support and guide individuals to find answers.
Here is a short video by Mike Licona who tries to answer the difficult questions presented above with historical evidence giving us one way of how to work through difficult questions in our faith.
The Empty Tomb Brings Growth
Faith journey's call us to move out into the unknown world beyond our comfort zone. God is the great mystery! So when we find the empty tomb in our life, we are also given a new opportunity for spiritual growth. Spiritual growth comes from seeing with new eyes and responding with faith.
Whenever we gain knowledge we grow as individuals. Natasha Helfer Parker's article, "What is a Faith Transition?" provides 6 suggestions for people working through faith crises. She reiterates "shifts in faith are a normal part of the journey."
In July 2018, I wrote an article titled "Stages of Faith" reviewing Fowler's 6 stages of faith development. Many times our faith transitions have to do with our own personal development of faith. Thomas Wirthlin McConkie also discusses the development of our faith in this article "In A Mormon Faith Transition." He is the author of the book, "Navigating Mormon Faith Crisis."
Interpreting The World Through Jesus
It's important to remember the Christian faith is built around Jesus and the life he lived. This defining moment in essence tells us God loves us and will never leave us even through death. It is through Jesus and the interactions he had with others that lead us to know who God is and what we are to be about in this world. It is through the inclusion and welcomeness of Jesus that we interpret the world and our beliefs.
Jesus listened, radically welcomed, and questioned the unjust systems in place. He ate with sinners, upheld woman, and spent time with the poor. It is through his life that we learn about God and how to be in relationship with others. Whatever beliefs you have about the empty tomb I find it imperative for you to remember and uphold Jesus and his teachings.
This Easter we get the opportunity to interpret and define our lives through Jesus. The empty tomb brings meaning and hope of growth to us all! The divine becomes real and moves us past our original thinking. If you are struggling with your faith, I sincerely hope you find a welcoming community so you can discover and figure out the next steps on your journey. Remember it's a natural and healthy part of our personal development.
May we all experience the living Christ in our lives!
Happy Holy Week and Easter! I hope this Easter brings you joy!
This week identify what the empty tomb means for you and your walk.
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.
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.