It's that time of year again! Yep that's right, get the popcorn out, make the hot chocolate, and start the fire as you put on a classic Christmas movie. There's not much better than watching the movies we have seen over and over again which still evoke memories and emotions connecting us to the Christmas season. Christmas movies help us remember our loved ones both past and present in our lives and focus us on the true meaning of the holiday. The movies also give us spiritual messages to incorporate in our lives.
So let's look closer at the 6 best Christmas movies and the spiritual messages we can receive from them this holiday season.
#6. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Dr. Seuss)
Of course we start here! What better story than how the Grinch found love for himself and others. This realization helps us all know that ultimately its not about us this Christmas season. Selfishness and greed are very real parts of the world. We must evaluate our thoughts and motives to make sure they are what's best for the community, not just ourselves.
There is a purpose behind the holiday that brings us together as a community to sing, laugh, and give thanks. The Who's accepted the Grinch with loving arms without reservation. And so are we called to this season to be inclusive with those around us inviting them to experience the living Christ in their lives. The Grinch was able to change because this radical love that persisted over his desire for material things.
Message: Focusing on others, not yourself brings joy
#5. Miracle on 34th St.
This classic always makes the top list because of its positive, uplifting message. It makes us check our greedy thoughts at the door and reminds us there is something greater than ourselves. Faith is inextricably linked to belief. This film helps us recognize that believing can make all the difference in our lives. Believing opens our heart to possibilities and the mystery of the divine. So believe and know there is something more than meets the eye. The birth of Jesus gives us all something to believe in this season.
Message: Faith makes miracles possible
This newer Christmas classic keeps you smiling throughout the film. It evokes happiness and joy as we laugh at the goofy idea and antics of Will Ferrell's character. In todays fast paced world this movie strikes home telling us to be aware of how we are investing our time. Our focus on obligations and responsibilities pulls us away from the real things that matter in this world. Elf tells us its ok to say no as we turn our time and focus to what really matters. Figuring that out is the challenge left for you.
Message: Find what matters in life to you and hold it close
#3. The Christmas Story
"I just won a major award!" The Christmas Story is either a movie you love or hate. Either way the movie takes you through the life of a boy named Ralphie who faces many dilemmas, challenges, and situations throughout the flick. The hilarious experiences Ralphie goes through gives him an array of emotions to which he has to manage. I believe this film speaks to how there is so much to learn in life through experience. Experiences shape who we are and who we are to be. We learn and become wiser as we live through the decisions we make in life. Through all of this God is always with us. We are never separated from the divine presence.
Message: Life is to be experienced, go out and enjoy it
#2. Christmas Vacation
Clark Griswold's perfect Christmas is shredded to pieces with the unusual and unfortunate events that transpire. However in the end he recognized the gift of truly being with family or those you care about despite all else. The Christmas season is meant to be shared with others. Whether its sledding, decorating lights, or drinking eggnog this movie reminds us how important it is to spend the holidays with people. So go be with someone you care about or invite them to do something.
Message: Share the holiday season by being with others
#1. It's a Wonderful Life
The angel Clarence says to George Bailey, "Each man's life touches so many other lives, and when he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?" This classic takes us on a roller coaster as we learn how a life can impact another's. George Bailey needed this experience to help him see the meaning behind his life. I hope all of us can find that meaning and purpose in our lives. Believing we have a purpose creates hope even if we don't know what it is. It helps us search spiritually to continually find where God is placing me and what God is asking me to do. We create meaning by loving others and doing what is needed in the moment. I hope this Christmas season you find meaning through your love of others.
Message: By loving others we impact their life in unforeseen ways
Merry Christmas! I pray that you all find the divine in your life this Christmas season!
This week watch your favorite Christmas Movie!
“To go on pilgrimage is not simply to visit a place to admire its treasures of nature, art or history. To go on pilgrimage really means to step out of ourselves in order to encounter God ... Christians go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, to Rome, and also to Compostela… to strengthen their spirit with the witness of faith and love.”
- Pope Francis
Pilgrimages have been around for millenniums and are critical parts of most religious traditions. Human kind has an internal desire to find the divine in unique locations that provide meaning to our lives. Often these locations come from our heritage and the stories we hear of God becoming real and present to our ancestors. We hold a view that in these sacred places the bridge between our world and God is closer and more accessible than the settings we find ourselves in each day.
Pilgrimages are about the search for God and/or moral significance in our life. Many times the upheld locations call us forward to meet the creator however the journey there is what shapes us and connects us with who we are and what God is calling us to be in this world.
Pilgrimage is an attempt to align our lives with what is right. To find peace, make spiritual progress, and encounter the divine. It's about living simply and moving toward what is sacred in our lives. Since it is a journey of physically going to a sacred space so does our hearts and souls. It is a journey both inward and outward with respect for the past and the present.
Community of Christ Heritage
As part of the greater christian community, Community of Christ joins with those in journeying to find God in their life from the sacred places of the past. Here is a list of the "6 Top Christian Pilgrimages" brought to you by lightworkers. com for you to check out.
With this churches unique heritage it provides additional sacred spaces to which we travel with the hope to find the divine. Let's look closer at these places represented in this tradition.
1. Kirtland Temple - During the early years of the latter day saints movement the Kirtland Temple was built by a community of believers. It was a place of community life anchored by the church and its beliefs. It was at this sacred space where many people felt the presence of God moving within their hearts and souls. To learn more about the Kirtland Temple and other historic sites please go to the Historic Sites Foundation.
2. Sacred Grove - In Palmyra, NY in this sacred grove is where a young Joseph Smith, Jr. had an encounter with God speaking into him a message of community through the love of Jesus that was unlike the other messages at this time. It was through this encounter where Joseph moved forward in creating this movement. Please check out this Sacred Grove link if you would like to learn more.
3. Nauvoo - Built along the Illinois banks of the Mississippi River Joseph Smith established another place for people to gather in community. It is here where Joseph Smith and his family lived out their lives. Though there are some difficult topics and practices that came from this time in the church the site remains as part of our heritage despite our current beliefs.
4. The Plano Stone Church - This church in Plano, Illinois was built and served as this denominations headquarters in the mid 19th century. Joseph Smith III started his trek as President in this area causing this to be an important piece of this denominations history.
5. Liberty Hall - Liberty Hall is located in Lamoni, IA and was the home of President Joseph Smith III. It also served as the headquarters for the RLDS now Community of Christ during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
6. The Temple and Auditorium - Located in Independence, MO this now serves as the headquarters for Community of Christ. Across the street they stand together creating a beautiful area for people to gather. Both are open to the public and the Temple is dedicated to the pursuit of peace. Fill free to stop in and tour both facilities as you walk the worshippers path.
Where are you going? What is your destination? Where is God calling you to pilgrimage? Go, look, search, and find for your place in this world.
I encourage all of you to journey to the places that are sacred in your life. Reflect and ponder on what has conspired and yet what is to come. Where do you find peace and significance? Where is the divine guiding you?
Thank you all for those sharing the blog. This week I challenge you to share the blog on Facebook with your friends.
This week really think about how pilgrimage could impact your life.
This month we are looking at the spiritual practice of art!
Art describes the vast array of mediums used to create something from imagination, emotions, and spirit. This may connect with others in a profound and engaging way or for the purpose of creation. The arts are an incredible opportunity to express ourselves, let go of stress, and create something for the world.
Art awakens us to our spirit to find our inner voice. It is a language that has given expression to God's work in the world through time and the personal spiritual journey's people have walked. It gives insight into the struggles and happiness people have lived. Art can touch the divine in each of us and give space for God to sit and be present.
Let's explore some of the ways art can impact us and how we can use art in our lives.
Art and Our Spiritual Life
Art can be anything that we create. Many times it is purposeful and intentional but sometimes it comes by accident. The creation is formed and evokes thoughts, emotions, and vibes into the world. Much like art our spiritual lives are also what we create. It is our opportunity to be purposeful and intentional in what we do. We can allow our emotions and thoughts to move and take form into beliefs and values that shape who we are.
Using art can be an instrumental method in helping us connect to our inner selfs. It can enlighten us into who we are and what we believe. Art can be a meditation helping us find what we are searching for by using our creative senses. This method can calm, relax, and refocus us on what we are to be about in this world. Our spiritual life is only enhanced when we find a spiritual practice that fits us. For some art is the vehicle which can help them spiritually grow on their faith journey.
Ways Art Can Impact Us
1. Gives Hope - Art is inspirational to others and provides hope. We all have struggles and times of difficulty. Art allows us to sit in those struggles and see the hope that lies in creation. Hope emerges through our canvas to bring inspiration to others and ourself.
2. Tells Our Story - Art is a way to communicate our story. This entails our current feelings, emotions, spiritual journey, and perspective. Sometimes it is difficult to use words to express our journey's. Art gives people opportunities to find their visual voices. Voices that speak beyond words into the emotions they feel.
3. Art Heals - Painting, drawing, sculpting, etc. give physical ways for people to express themselves and let go of their emotions. It allows new insights and perspectives to sink in. Healing takes shape and gives light to hope. Art allows us to restructure our pain into something powerful. It starts with a stroke and transforms into something beautiful.
4. Connects Experiences - What we see in art connects us to our own experiences. Memories flow through our minds, emotions relive, and for just a moment we are connected to the person who created it. Ultimately we are separate individuals but art engages us in that shared experience.
5. Invitation into Community - Engaging in activity is instrumental for community and our own health. Art is a common interest that people can share together by doing which not only enhances their friendships but also their own personal happiness. This participation is an invitation into community. An invitation to have others travel with you on your journey.
Incorporating Art Into Our Life
For those of us who do not use art on a regular basis the question is how do we use this as a spiritual practice. Here are some ideas:
Draw What You See - Look at something around you. I mean really look. Try to see the spirit in it and attempt to capture the essence of it in your art. It challenges you to look underneath the surface for meaning. How will you express what you see? What symbolizes the spirit captured in the moment?
Awaken Your Creative Force - Creating something is powerful and starts us on a journey of awakening something inside of us. The act of creation is inspiring and allows our inner self to be outwardly expressed. There is no agenda, no plan, just creating what comes without judgement.
Attend Art Walks - Art walks or art shows are great opportunities to incorporate art into our lives while also inviting others. Art provides conversational opportunities to discuss our thoughts and perspectives. This can enhance our friendships and connect us deeper to others.
Adult Coloring Books - Coloring is a form of art and can really help us go into a meditative state. Focusing on the task allows our body and mind to relax and let go of stress. This makes us present in the moment. They are an excellent strategy to use in church if you have difficulty focusing.
Art Blogs - Follow a few art blogs to learn skills and become inspired by new creative ideas. Exposure to art gives us permission to become artistic ourselves. Here is a list of the 14 top art blogs.
Carry Materials - Art can happen anywhere! Intentionally carrying a sketch book or other materials with you provides opportunities for us to engage in the practice. When you are inspired stop and be creative. This practice can allow people to live in the moment and make art a more center piece of their spiritual life. It also provides opportunities for connection with people to happen.
Be creative as you spiritually practice using art in your life.
Thank you to all those following along! Please comment on the blog if you like it by saying "This is awesome", "Thanks for sharing" or any other thoughts you want to express.
This week practice using art in someway to enhance your life.
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!
This month our spiritual practice focus is on labyrinth's. Many people may get confused thinking a labyrinth is a maze however in this context labyrinths are an ancient symbol relating to wholeness. It combines the imagery of a circle and spiral into a journey from outside to in and back out again. Usually there is only one entry into the path and people choose how fast, slow, or way to walk it. The practice provides a direct experience of walking a path as a metaphor for life's journey.
The first labyrinth I walked was 15 years ago. It was a movable cloth which could be transported and used anywhere. Headphones and a recorded CD was provided which lead you through the path. The journey took roughly one hour as the meditation stopped at various points along the journey where you interacted with materials previously set up. There were moments for reflection to dwell on your personal life and your internal thought processes. There were specific movements and actions asked of me which opened up my heart. The journey came to the end and I remember feeling completely relaxed and present in the moment. The journey was nothing I had ever encountered because it intentionally made me take time and focus my attention on the state of my heart.
Labyrinths can be incredible experiences combining movement and action with meditation. Let's look closer at labyrinth's and how they may fit your spiritual needs.
The History Of Labyrinth's
The Labyrinth Builders indicate the first examples of labyrinths come from neolithic and bronze age with images carved on rocks. Coins from Crete appear with the symbols around 1 BC. The design later became popular with the Romans who would put them on the floors of their homes and would use the design for horseman to practice riding. The imagery eventually developed and led to churches using them in their construction.
The first evidence of a religious use of labyrinths is from the 4th century where Basilica of Reparatus in Orleansville, Algeria was built. The most famous one is the Chartes Cathedral in France which was built in 13th century. Chartes Cathedral is widely known to have individuals pilgrimage there to partake in the labyrinth. Here is a picture below of the cathedral floor.
The blog Sacred Ordinary Days indicates labyrinths became a symbol for pilgrimages when those could not leave for various reasons. It was a spiritual journey they could take when the road to the Holy Land was not accessible or too dangerous for those to travel.
Meaning Behind Labyrinth's
Veriditas is a non-profit focusing on connecting individuals to labyrinths. If you click on their name it will take you to their website which has a great video about labyrinths. I encourage you to watch it.
There are many different ways and various reasons to walk a labyrinth. It may be for stress reduction, spiritual transformation, or just for fun. Whatever the reason its a good one as there is no wrong way to walk one.
Some people break up the journey into three stages which I have listed below.
Stage 1: Releasing - The journey inward is about letting go of your thoughts and concerns. It's about giving them up to be present on the journey.
Stage 2: Receiving - Reaching the middle of the labyrinth is a time of reflection. What have you received from your journey? What answers are you searching for? It's a time to sit, pray, quiet the mind, and be present in the sacred space. Spend as much time as you need in this sacred space.
Stage 3: Returning - The journey back outward is one of preparation for the world yet to come. You have journeyed to the center, opened yourself up to receive, and are ready to return to the world, possibly transformed or changed from who you were previously.
Many individuals have found amazing benefits and meaning from walking a labyrinth. I encourage you to find your own meaning and reasons as you walk your own. If you are interested in finding a labyrinth close to you. Go to the worldwide labyrinth locator.
Community Of Christ & Labyrinths
Community of Christ is always supportive ways people can connect and reflect with God in their lives. Labyrinths is just one of a myriad of ways. The Community of Christ Temple in Kansas City, MO, which is dedicated to the pursuit of peace, has a labyrinth on their outside platform open to the public just as the temple is. Here is a picture below of the labyrinth.
They have also have various resources giving direction on how to use labyrinths. First is this PDF called Introducing the Labyrinth which describes labyrinths, why people walk them, and how they connect to symbols and concepts of faith. There is also a webpage Walking the Labyrinth further describing the practice.
So go out there and try the spiritual practice of labyrinth walking!
Thank you for following us! Please go to our Emporia facebook page & like it.
This week find a labyrinth near you and give it a try.
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.