I believe the Holy Spirit speaks to us in very powerful and personal ways. It's at those unexpected moments in time that we have the opportunity to grow closer to God as He pulls us into His fold and allows us to write our stories.
In 2014, the Spirit enveloped my heart when I heard a story on the radio about a woman who became a living kidney donor to a total stranger. I immediately began to realize the effect of their testimony as I made a personal run down of all the reasons why I should be a donor too. The right timing makes a huge difference, and the time was now.
I felt the presence of God with me as I pondered the possibilities of His plan for my life, and more importantly, those lives yet to be touched. I couldn't let this go because, it wouldn't let go of me. There was something to this plan, much more than an impulsive thought from a radio story. It was burning in my soul, and it felt like love...like, faith in action. Was it possible that God really wanted to use me as a vehicle to change other lives besides my other professions as an Elder and a nurse? I believed so.
My husband thought I was out of my mind when I told him what I was thinking. We researched the good and the bad of all the possibilities. We talked to doctors and looked online. I read everything I could find, and I simply decided to leave it up to God. Prayer and scriptures are my go-to tools in making tough decisions. By January of 2015 I made the decision to start the process of testing as an altruistic donor through Integris Baptist Medical Center's Nazih Zudih transplant program.
I also made two friends online during my research through the website I originally heard about on the radio. One was the older sister of a boy in need of a kidney. They lived in Houston and were of the Muslim faith. My other friend lived in Bronx, New York and was a transplant candidate. She had a very thick New York accent. Now if that isn't Unity in Diversity, then I don't know what is. I wanted to be a donor for these individuals but for lots of reasons, it just didn't work out. Instead, they became my extended support system, and I became theirs, and we have remained as such still today. I did figure out one thing. I wanted to start a chain of donations. I felt very strongly that this was God's plan. I just didn't know when, where, or who, yet.
By late April I had completed all the testing needed to prove that I was a suitable donor. I hated the idea of surgery, but I really looked forward to watching God's plan unfold. It was sort of like a mystery with a new clue around every corner. Who would it be? While I was still questioning my sanity God's Holy Spirit answered me one night when when my dad and the band we sing and play in were asked to sing in a nearby church that hosted a benefit for a local charity. Unbeknownst to us it was LifeShare, an organ donation program, and the speaker was the parent of a kidney recipient! I felt God's presence stronger than ever! The next step was to place my information into the organ donor data base where my DNA would electronically be matched to potential recipients. Then more blood work and direct matching could determine if we were truly compatible. This was a big deal, and one that my family was secretly hoping I would give up on and forget.
Then one day in late spring of 2015 our family was hit with tragic news. My dad became increasingly weak and was diagnosed with advanced cancer that had metastasized to his liver. At the same time, my husband's dad was diagnosed with end stage Parkinson's and severe debility which forced him to be placed in a nursing home. I couldn't understand why God asked so much of me and led me so far into the donation process only to sideline our families with such devastation. Not only could I not donate to my precious friends, but now I may never get the chance to donate at all.
What I thought was a sideline turned out to be an amazing twist in a plot only God could create. When saints are downtrodden we do what we are called upon to do, turn to the sacraments. The gift of Administration is powerful. In our darkest hour, right before the biopsy, my dad was administered to, and God responded with the craziest diagnosis ever. Yes, my dad, the first man in my life, did indeed have metastatic cancer, a very slow growing, rare, and controllable type that invaded his liver and damaged his heart, and came with a mini set of miracles that involved monthly injections, a huge open heart surgery and a prognosis of many more quality years. Not only did God deliver on his promise of faithfulness to us, but His power went even further than the doctors believed treatment would take my dad. Despite the specialist's prediction of best outcomes, my dad's tumors shrunk by almost half, his blood pressure returned to normal, and his prostate cancer PSA levels (which had nothing to do with his new cancer) dropped by half. He started planning his future once again. One that didn't involve funeral arrangements. Unfortunately, my father-in-law did pass on by early fall. It brought my husband and me closer together as we planned and I helped preside over his services.
I began to realize a revolving theme of someone's parent in need of God's care....and someone's parent in need of a kidney. By the fall I knew it was time. In November while my dad was preparing for surgery, I was matched with a compatible recipient, 1400 miles away!! Her daughter, like myself wanted to save her mom who was so ill, but was not compatible. I was. She was a woman in her 60's, like my parents, and facing a life sentence on dialysis that would likely end in death in a few short years. Her amazing daughter also granted my request to further the chain by donating to a young woman in her early 20's on dialysis. GOD was and is beyond GOOD!
On Sunday while at church, the day before my surgery, I asked for administration, not just for me, but for everyone on my chain. The next morning, I checked in for surgery accompanied by my husband and a waiting room quickly filling with people awaiting their surgical destiny. I prayed a silent prayer for all of us. The night of my surgery on December 7th, I laid in my hospital bed with all kinds of tubes attached, literally feeling like I'd been slammed by a semi-truck, and beside me were both my parents (dad still recovering) and my husband. We were told that my left kidney, which had a plane ticket to Baltimore, had arrived safely and was working well (making urine) in its new body. The next day, on December 8th, my recipient's daughter gave up a kidney for her new recipient. And so, my little chain of two had begun. Two weeks before our scheduled surgeries, my husband finally came around to the acceptance of what I felt led to do (another small miracle). My dad, after his medical ordeal accepted what I wanted to do, and even more so when he learned it was another parent and another daughter who were willing to walk the same tight rope as we were. We needed this experience. We all needed God. We needed to feel Jesus Christ in action. And we all were able to give and receive of God's blessings because of it. The Enduring Principle of Grace and Generosity abounded as well as The Worth of All persons, All are Called, Unity in Diversity, and Sacredness of Creation (for the good things and the difficult). The Blessings of Community between Stillwater, OK and Baltimore, MD (Integris Baptist and John's Hopkins) were both unpredictable and wonderful surprises. Responsible choices were carefully considered during the donor process, and the Continuing Revelation of God's unyielding love for us (His creation) have brought forth unbound joy for several families all because someone believed.
“What no eye has seen, nor ear has heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 NRSV
There are moments when it can appear that there is nothing but bad news that comes from World Church, especially when it comes to finances. However, for this month’s testimony I want to to share with you another perspective, the other side of the story, the good news about generosity in the church and the impact we are making. Here are three generosity facts for each Mission Initiative from the past 12 months:
Invite People To Christ
Abolish Poverty and End Suffering
Develop Disciples to Serve
What is the message we should take from the past 12 months in the life of the church?
I want to suggest that the message is: Membership is growing, generosity is increasing and the church is making an impact. Thank you!
Generosity Team Leader
Find out more about Richard by clicking here.
There were sacrifices made, I’m sure, for Mom and Dad to send me to church camp. I remember worrying the registration fee might be too much some years. To offset some of the costs, our congregation’s group of Skylarks, Orioles and O’Teens would sell Current stationery door-to-door in our neighborhood in Independence as a fundraiser. I’m sure I sold SOME, but as I think back, it seems we had a lot of Current stationery in the desk drawer at home. Another sacrifice made by Mom and Dad.
After having prepared my suitcase and Dad’s heavy, brown sleeping bag with flannel bird-hunting fabric inside literally weeks ahead, the day would finally arrive for camp. Whether our parents delivered us to Camp Doniphan or we rode the old Stone Church bus, my friends and I were beside ourselves with giddiness.
I didn’t realize it then, but we pretty much roughed it back in those days at Doniphan (especially compared to how the campgrounds are at Saints Grove now). In the 70’s, there were no air conditioners in any cabins or buildings, and summers in Missouri were hot. I hated that sleeping bag for sure when trying to sleep each night, but appreciated its weight when the mornings were cool and damp.
The next 3-7 days would fly by, filled with classes, crafts, outdoor adventures, campfires, meals in the old dining hall, cabin devotions, hiking, giggling and swimming. I still have a fondness for a good oatmeal assembly line because of my Camp Doniphan days. Campfire was my favorite thing ever. From the beginning, with all the silly skits and songs, to the end, where other young girls’ and counselors’ testimonies touched my heart in new places…and stuck. I would eventually open up to share my own testimony for the first time at a campfire. It’s true that a spark can get a fire going.
As I grew older, junior high and senior high camps were filled with more new experiences. I remember our counselors being called “parents” over a group of teenage girls and boys, and we met for activities in “families”. Sometimes there would be fussing (drama) between some of the group. I recall our family being taught to listen to each other and work out our problems in positive ways.
After moving to Oklahoma, I was blessed to marry a man who saw how important my camp memories and experiences were. Although he needed to work and couldn’t attend reunion with us at Saints Grove, he made it possible, and was proud for me to take our sons when they were young. Packing and preparing each year for a week’s stay with my boys, I still had that sense of giddiness I had as a young girl.
Camp at Saints Grove these days is in no way roughing it. I sit in the air conditioned sanctuary, often with my two granddaughters near, and gaze up at the high, vaulted ceiling. I imagine the wooden beams telling the stories of the years they’ve observed my family grow and change. From toddlers, having to be entertained during evening services, to teenagers, performing in talent shows, to grown men, sharing their love for camp and our church with their families now.
And I think of all the testimonies I’ve heard. All the people I’ve met. All the faith I’ve seen. All the listening and talking and becoming I’ve done.
No matter what age I am, I guess that place in my heart will always beat for camp experiences. My fervent prayer is that our church people will rekindle that fire, that tradition of making sacrifices to send their children to camp, that tradition of working as counselors, volunteers and directors, and that tradition of attending reunion as a family.
My granddaughter, Cora, who is now 8, was asked not too long ago what holiday she enjoys most. I think there were three favorites, but “church camp” was among the list. She started going to camp with me when she was 3. This Gram’s heart is giddy once more, knowing she and her sister, Magnolia, will be flying from Los Angeles to attend reunion this year with me. What a wonderful faith tradition (and camp-going tradition) we have. Let’s pass it on.
What a devastatingly difficult time in the life of Community of Christ!
We just lived through a frightening year of budget reductions and staff layoffs. With such sadness barely behind us, how could this be happening AGAIN?!?!
Several days have gone by now, since the news began going out to the church. In a way, it hasn’t gotten any easier. But the Holy Spirit is so very persistent.
Words from Doctrine and Covenants 164: 9a keep asserting themselves in my mind.
9 a. Beloved children of the Restoration, your continuing faith adventure with God has been divinely led, eventful, challenging, and sometimes surprising to you. By the grace of God, you are poised to fulfill God’s ultimate vision for the church.
Challenges abound! That’s sure an understatement!
Poised to fulfill God's ultimate vision for the church?!? What might that be? Is that message to us a mistake?
What’s really wild is that everywhere I go in the church I see opportunity as never before. At no time in my lifetime, have I had so much hope for the church I love.
Self-sustaining leaders of all ages are stepping up with renewed energy and determination to engage in Christ's mission, offering invitation, peace and refuge.
People are experimenting with exciting new ministries, creating entry points for people into the church, to be embraced by the Holy Spirit and to find a loving community. We've got Meetups on Meetup.com, Coffee and Conversation groups at local coffee houses, Community Place creatively using the internet to keep people connected, Congregation Revitalization at world church and in mission centres, the Leading Congregations in Mission Program, innovative ministries, campus ministries, volunteer teams leading mission centres, Developing Disciples to Serve Retreats and other similar leadership classes deepening our discipleship, community gardens, community meals, campgrounds, new congregations springing up and heritage congregations rediscovering pride in a sacred identity worth sharing.
Thousands of people, Latter-day Seekers and others, every year, are checking out the Community of Christ. Many are finding it to be a good place of sanctuary, openness, authenticity and a spiritual home through which to engage in mission.
So much financial stress and strain and so much hope, all at the same time! I so hope we haven’t really reached the limits of our generosity! I’m really hoping that we’ve not yet achieved our true capacity, so that we can ramp up our giving to be able to pursue all these opportunities.
Our heritage of faith is filled with stories of God choosing to work with the one who others might dismiss. (David, the shepherd boy, Mary, the unwed young mother, Saul, the hateful persecutor, Joseph, a poor boy seeking answers.)
We must not give up!
Don't miss out on the opportunity to be part of what God has in store for us.
These are not just words. It is time to faithfully apply all the work we’ve done together over these last years, to discern God's call to us as a church for this day and age.
We must share our basic beliefs, our enduring principles, our mission initiatives and the wonderful spirit of the Restoration with others.
Share about our Children’s Peace Pavilion! Invite friends into the great story of this fabulous ministry that’s not just a museum in Independence, but a program that can be established in a variety of ways in your very own community.
Share about Outreach International! Invite friends to know of this life saving ministry!
Share about Encounter World Religions! Invite friends to thrill in learning and building new relationships across cultures! Did you know that this unique program of Community of Christ has been honored as a gift to the world by the Parliament of the World’s Religions?
Share about the work of our church Peace and Justice Team, or the Human Rights Team! Invite your friends to make a difference!
Share our sacred story with a Latter-day Seeker! Prepare yourself through studying materials on the Latter-day Seeker website. Become a living sanctuary of God’s grace with those searching. Mentor someone in person or on-line.
Share our beautiful new hymnal! Consider having extra copies to give to interested friends. This is a wonderful witness for sharing our message of God’s love for all with the world.
Share the sacred story of our church, the adventure, the way it has made a difference in your life and in the lives of others around the world! Read Community of Christ, an Illustrated History, and then share it with a friend. Then share another copy with someone else.
Share an invitation to a camp or a reunion!
Share an invitation to a silent retreat or to another opportunity to grow spiritually!
Share an invitation to build relationships through conversation that matters!
Share an invitation with a brother or sister, someone from Community of Christ, who has been neglected or ignored, or who we've struggled with, to sit down for a chat. Listen to them.
Pray the Mission Prayer every day, or multiple times every day. Share and invite as you feel led.
Prepare to be astonished at what is going to happen as we respond. Can you almost catch a glimpse of it (God's ultimate vision for the church)?
Friends, God's not done with us yet! This wonderful Community of Christ is about to burst with all the potential inside. Let's let it out!
I am deeply honoured to be one of your apostles in this exciting time!
In Christ's peace,
Council of Twelve
"A kaleidoscope is a cylinder with mirrors containing loose, colored objects such as beads or pebbles and bits of glass. As the viewer looks into one end, light entering the other end creates a colorful pattern, due to the reflection of the mirrors. Coined in 1817 by Scottish inventor Sir David Brewster, kaleidoscope is derived from the Ancient Greek kalos, ‘beautiful, beauty’, eidos, ‘that which is seen: form, shape’ and skopeō, ‘to look to, to examine’, hence ‘observation of beautiful forms’.” - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaleidoscope
I’ve spent many hours looking through a kaleidoscope over the years; entertained and intrigued by the numerous (seemingly infinite) patterns created as I held it to the light and slowly turned. As it turned, the pieces moved and fell in an intricate dance; sometimes lingering for a while, sometimes only touching for moments, then drifting away to connect with another piece in a magical puzzle that reflects even the smallest amount of light.
One of the best kaleidoscopes I’ve ever seen was a beautiful one made of wood. It had one end that was able to be opened so you could place whatever you wanted inside; a red rubberband, a piece of quartz, a tiny pebble, an eyeglass screw; anything small enough to fit. Seemingly ordinary items became beautiful when placed together in the kaleidoscope and held up to the light. It’s as if something new had been born. What started out as random items, tossed and turned together in the framework of light-reflecting mirrors, became an intricately beautiful and balanced structure. What a wonderful metaphor for life!
Just as seemingly ordinary items become beautiful when placed together in a kaleidoscope, seemingly ordinary people become beautiful when placed together in a community that reflects the light of Christ.
Each one of us is a piece in the kaleidoscope that is “the body of Christ”. We are each uniquely gifted, marvelously created people, whose lives can reflect the love of God in a way that displays the multi-faceted God we believe in and the One we pray others will come to know and love.
Kaleidoscopes are never made with only one or two items inside. It is impossible to create the intricate splendor without the benefit of a variety of pieces. Diverse shapes and colors are necessary to create the beautiful patterns. This is equally true with communities. Everyone benefits when there is variety in giftedness. Diverse ideas, viewpoints and experiences are necessary if we are going to come even remotely close to sharing the love of Christ through human interaction.
The optics in a kaleidoscope are used to enhance our vision. Community can be an instrument to enhance our vision as well. Community blesses us with a reflection of God in ourselves and each other. Seeing God in you helps me see God in myself and in those who aren’t a part of our community. Community reveals who we really are to ourselves and to others, enabling us to see a true beauty that only exists as we take part in community.
When ordinary people are willing to join in true community, the light of Christ touches them and transforms ordinary into extraordinary.
It was in the kaleidoscope of community that I first discovered God. In addition to what my family taught me, there were nursery workers, Sunday school teachers, choir directors, Skylark and Oriole leaders, camp directors and counselors, testimony givers, church cleaners, bulletin typers, Bible school workers and countless others who made up the community of my childhood; each one enabling me to begin to see my vision of God. As a youth I moved to Oklahoma and beheld a new community, just as intricately beautiful as the first. Like a kaleidoscope turning to make a new design, my community slowly changed and with that change came a different understanding of God. I was broadening my knowledge as well as my experience.
I came to see that God was not only a crucial part of the community kaleidoscope, but at the same time, an entire kaleidoscope all of His own. Each time the community moved and changed they helped me to see and understand a new facet of God.
Sometimes we enjoy the view we have of God’s kaleidoscope so much that we don’t want it to change. It appears to be beautifully perfect and knowing the delicate balance of all the pieces, we dare not move the kaleidoscope for fear we will destroy the structure that we have grown so fond of. I was looking at God without turning the object chamber, enjoying the beauty of this view, never even thinking there could be another just as beautiful, just as remarkable. But this view of God is incomplete and the beauty isn’t destroyed when we dare to turn, it is enhanced and multiplied.
It was during a time when I saw a new facet of God that I needed my community the most. I hadn’t willingly turned the kaleidoscope, something had bumped into me and the pieces had fallen into an arrangement that was not only unfamiliar, but one I didn’t find particularly attractive. I became discontent, which eventually turned to bitterness as I struggled to keep the former vision of God I had been so comfortable with.
True community dares to love the discontent and bitter. True community dares to love the wounded, suffering and broken-hearted. True community dares to love what it doesn’t understand; accepting brokenness as a part of the journey toward a greater understanding of God.
There have been times when living in community has been painful. One day in particular I remember feeling that I was at the end of my rope. I had done all I could to try to demonstrate patient love, but I felt that my heart was just about dried up. All of a sudden thoughts and feelings became so painful that I could hardly keep myself from running out the door that very moment, and I couldn’t envision myself maintaining my membership beyond the length of that service. The only thing keeping me in my seat was the fact that I was up front to assist with serving the communion. A myriad of thoughts and feelings swirled around in me and I’m certain my heart was racing. Sadly, I just did what was expected and went through the motions, serving the bread while I was full of distractions, until I reached the back of the room. As I approached Jerry to give him my communion tray, he held up a key, looked me in the eye and told me that Autumn was in the Pastor’s office. I was immediately confused and several questions ran through my mind. Was he telling me that Autumn was locked in and he needed me to unlock the door? How could that have happened and why hadn’t he just let her out himself? He must have recognized my confusion because then he told me that he thought that she was “feeding”.
In a split second I was overcome with the sweetness of community and tears came to my eyes. You see, Autumn is my daughter who has a baby daughter herself and Jerry was sensitively and attentively sharing his love and respect for our community. Noticing her leaving the service with the baby, he either helped her to the pastor’s office or paid attention to where she went. Then, to ensure their privacy and comfort, he specifically gave me the key so that I might slip in without disturbing them, to serve her communion while she nursed her baby. It may seem like a small thing, but it spoke volumes to me of how special our community is. Our small congregations may be a problem for some people, but the fact that we are small in number enables us to have the opportunity to know a great deal about each other and knowing each other better leads to greater opportunities to love, support, and serve each other.
The blessing of community was revealed to me in a different way just recently. Each Sunday, during the offertory, the young children walk through the congregation looking for those holding out coins. They enthusiastically take the coins down to the front where a green vase waits to collect money for Outreach International. You frequently hear people in the congregation calling the names of the children, trying to get their attention so they can distribute the coins among them as equitably as possible. On this particular Sunday, there were a few more children than normal, so it was cheerfully chaotic. The speaker and I were on the podium, doing our best to catch their attention. I called out several times to Eliot, but in the chaos he didn’t hear or see me. I’m pretty sure it was Dave that was able to get the attention of one-year-old Titus who came up on the podium and then engaged in an offertory dance! The children's actions and the smiles of the adults were such a joy to watch! Then my eyes met Eliot’s and I could tell he was wondering if I had money for him. I showed my open hands, indicating I had no more money while I mouthed, “I called your name but you didn’t hear me”. I’ll never know if he actually understood what I was trying to show him, but at that instant his eyes lit up, his face broke into a smile and he ran up to give me a big hug! The surprise hug from an exuberant Eliot, the spontaneous dance from Titus and the joyful participation from his cousins was an absolute gift for the congregation!
As the music ministry began, I realized that I had just witnessed one of the greatest gifts of community. Each child who brought us joy that morning had one parent who had grown up in our congregation. In an instant I was flooded with an indescribable love and feeling of immense gratitude as I remembered the small part I had played in the lives of their parents. I’m having a hard time putting it into words even now. There was a feeling of being literally blessed by God at that moment. It was as if He had momentarily opened up a window to give me a glimpse of the kingdom as each child is finding their own unique place in the beautiful design of God’s community.
We usually see the broken and fragmented bits and pieces of our kaleidoscope; catching only glimpses of the grand design. That day God helped me see a part of His magnificent mosaic!
The words came out, and so had I. I had grown up in rural Oklahoma and had a great life, but I knew I was gay in a straight world at six years old...and that complicated things. My next-door-neighbor was also gay, and although we didn't know what that word even meant at the time, we confided in each other and knew this was a burden to bear on our own; after all, it's a sin, right? (Yes, a six-year-old can retain and apply sermons from church.) I never once uttered a word to a single person but him about my feelings, my urges, my interests. I never once shared my true self with anyone but him. Until I became brave.
I was a blubbering mess. A freshman, I broke down in my car one night at Graceland University with a good friend, and I told her the awful truth about me...I was gay. Just saying the word made me immediately want to vomit. They were words I knew I couldn't take back, and the deafening silence that followed left me in uncontrollable tears...the kind of tears that force every muscle in your body to tighten as if your body knows your mouth's betrayal could warrant the need for a quick escape. My friend was brave and said, "That's okay. You did nothing wrong." Sweet affirmation. It's all I'd ever wanted, and yet, in that moment all I could picture was a book of my life until now slamming shut. All those experiences I'd had up until then would be put on the shelf. That was the old me, after all. Or was it? Could I actually have my family, my church community, my life as I knew it AND be gay?
Bethany Dillon's For My Love was playing in my car on the radio as I mustered up the strength. The lyrics helped me to properly identify the core of my pain and struggles.
I was scared I wouldn't be worthy if I said the words. I was scared to be truly known, but I wanted to be truly loved. Loved by God, loved by friends, and loved by my family. I needed it.
A few months later I said the words to my parents with 1,500 miles between us, knowing the implications of such a confession could spell disaster. I was a World Service Corps volunteer working in the Canada West Mission Centre. It wasn't how I'd planned this out, having this conversation over the phone, but my mother had made an inquiry into my sexuality. I could be disowned. I could never see them again. I could never see my extended family again. I could be on my own. I could go to hell. I could lose my church family. I could be sent home from Canada. I could...(the list goes on). I uttered the words to my parents, not because I was selfish and only thinking of myself, but because I realized I was wrong for assuming that my parents wouldn't be able to handle the truth. I assumed they only wanted me a certain way or not at all, and I was missing out on a real relationship with both of them by sneaking. I assumed it was my responsibility to fit that mold in order to make others more comfortable. I was wrong.
My parents responded just as they should have...it was a shock, and they were just as scared as me; the only difference was that I'd had years to digest the implications of my sexuality, and they'd had mere seconds. (Early on, I'd told myself that whatever was said on the phone would be wiped from the record. It wasn't fair, I figured.) We took some time on our own to figure our next steps, and the subsequent months were tough with little communication.
After that difficult conversation, I plodded up the steps from the basement bedroom of my host family's house to find my host mom being brave. A church member, she and I had barely gotten to know one another as I'd only just arrived a few days before. When I crested the top step, she was sitting at the kitchen table with a mug of tea waiting for me across from her. She had overheard the entire thing. She hugged me, reassured me, fed me, and told me I was worthy. I wept as I realized that Community of Christ was not simply an intangible set of beliefs. I entered her kitchen in a foreign country to find Christ at the table that day in physical form. This woman changed my entire perspective on our faith tradition in that single moment by living out Christ's mission.
It wasn't until this experience that I recognized the uniqueness surrounding our faith community. Every single person I encountered throughout my coming out journey was a church member, and every single person was brave. Why? I believe our church has made us brave with its teachings of continuing revelation. It has opened our hearts and minds to recognize the beauty in the unknown as well as the ongoing evolution of our understanding of God.
A few months later I returned to Oklahoma to find that my parents had become brave. We spoke little about my coming out in the beginning, but as time went on we all opened up about it. Today, things couldn't be better between my parents and me. I believe my mother, being raised in the RLDS church, was exposed to these bravery teachings at an early age. My father, a convert to this faith community, although exposed at a later age by the church, had this bravery instilled in him by his mother from the very beginning. She had more empathy and love for all people than anyone I’ve ever met.
If you've ever seen We Built a Zoo, Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) has a wonderful quote that truly sums up this entry:
"You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”
As we continue to realize our potential as a people, let us also continue to act bravely in a world that primarily acts in fear.
I wanna see you be brave!
Christmas is my favorite holiday of the year. As Andy Williams sings, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” There’s so much to look forward to: family gatherings, fuzzy socks, snow, food, coffee, but most importantly, the birth of Jesus.
In preparation for Christmas day, there is a never ending list of things to accomplish. There’s shopping for presents, cleaning the house, cooking food, finding the perfect outfit for those anticipated family photos, and so much more. Although Christmas comes at the same time every year, it always seems that it sneaks up on us.
Luckily for us, we celebrate the Advent season. We spend four weeks preparing for the birth of Christ. We nourish and replenish our hearts and minds, in hopes that we will be ready to celebrate the life of our Savior. Each week, we read and learn a little more about the birth story of Jesus. We read about Mary and Joseph and the difficult journey that lay ahead for them. We sing. We light candles. And most importantly, we spend time together.
During these four weeks, we are encouraged to wait. And in that waiting, we are encouraged to think of the wonderful blessing that God sent into the world. We are encouraged to think of how God is working in our own life and what plans He has in store for us in the coming days, weeks, and years. We are encouraged to think of how He will use us, like he used his faithful disciple Mary.
But for some of us, that seems nearly impossible. Our daily lives do not allow time for waiting. There is always something we need to be doing. Our lives jump from event to event. Birthday to holiday. Holiday to work. Work to church. Church to volunteering. There’s very little, if any, time allotted for waiting. Christmas is coming. Presents need to be purchased and wrapped. Food needs to be cooked. The house needs to be cleaned. Clothes need to be washed. How can we spend time waiting for four weeks when there are so many things left to do?
Well, to my surprise, those four weeks have come and gone. Christmas is officially over. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel as if I prepared myself enough. I spent most of my time worrying about the little things that life and Christmas bring. I found myself always doing, never waiting. Never really enjoying the moment and seeking out the spirit. Never really thinking of how God is working in my life and opening myself up to the spirit’s guidance in this Christmas season. Instead, I found myself overwhelmed with To-Do lists and errands to run. Thinking about others. Not taking time for myself. Not taking enough time for God.
But thankfully, through the help of God’s strength (and an enormous amount of coffee), everything was accomplished. My lists have been checked off and thrown away. Presents have been opened. Food has been demolished. Laughter has filled the home. Jesus has celebrated yet another birthday. My stomach is full. My heart is full. But my soul longs for more.
The wonderful thing about Christmas and the gift that God sent us is that Jesus is the gift that keeps on giving. Jesus was sent to live on this earth as one of us. He has His whole life to grow and to serve ahead of Him. In the coming months, we will study and learn about this life and the events that eventually lead up to His death and resurrection. Easter. It seems so far away, but it will be here sooner than you think.
But, back to now. Back to this moment. What are we doing now? Our Savior is born! Our Light has entered the world! The Messiah is here!
Well, we once again find ourselves waiting. We are preparing ourselves to learn about the life of Jesus Christ and all of the truly wonderful teachings He brought to this earth. The parables. The healings. The miracles. They will all be shared in due time. But first, we must wait. We must prepare ourselves. More waiting. The hard part.
If you, like me, found yourself caught up in the doing and giving of yourself that comes with the holiday season, I encourage you to stop. Whatever you’re doing, stop. We have been given another opportunity to prepare ourselves. Luckily for us, the waiting game never ends. There’s always more opportunities to grow in our faith, grow in our relationship with God, and grow in our stewardship. We can always work on becoming better disciples for Christ.
In this new period of waiting, I encourage you to be selfish. Take some time to yourself. Spend time with God. Pray more. Worry less. Read your scriptures. Listen to soothing music. Take a walk. Take time to stop and think about all of the blessings God has placed in your life: friends, family, talents, and resources. Figure out how God is calling you to use them. And always remember that God’s gifts are infinite and His love is beyond abundant.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
Welcome to MOSAIC: Community of Christ Oklahoma Mission Center's new blog! This tool is intended to encourage connectedness across the mission center and beyond while providing an outlet for those who feel called to share. We look forward to building an online community with you.
Physical distance, busy schedules and/or just lack of time management sometimes keep us separated, but we hope that this new website can act as a catalyst to encourage the breakdown of those walls we create. As I type this blog entry, I'm immediately reminded of Tommy Emmanuel's Some Walls...a beautiful song about just that...the absence of walls.
If there's any hope for love at all, some walls must fall.
As a young adult (YA) myself, I wanted to pass along something that continues to warm my heart about the future of this church.
I've spent less than a month working as the "Communications Chair" for the mission center, and I have called, texted and emailed nearly every YA in the mission center at some point asking for a favor, an opinion or some kind of assistance with various projects...and you know what? Every single one of them loves this church deeply, and it shows. They have been enormously helpful, and they are excited about the future...I am too. Are you?
Brighten the corner where you are,
We all have a story to share. Mosaic is a collection of our stories.