Why I Feel at Home in Community of Christ

31 12 2012

BY URBAIN MBENGA MPIEM LEY, president of seventy

Urbain Mbenga and children of the Democratic Republic of Congo are finding joy in Community of Christ.

I was born in a Catholic family that gave me a Christian education. Because our home was near the church, I spent a lot of free time serving the church and priests.

I rose through all the levels a child could make: cantor, server, and finally sacristan. The way was open for the priesthood, Catholic evidently! But I was very disappointed. After my primary studies, my name was not on the list of pupils admitted at the small seminary. Two years later, I received encouragement from the priest of the college: “God knows those who God chose to be servants, and they will do so in spite of the meandering paths of life.”

The period that followed looked like a desert crossing with alternating secondary schoolwork and university studies. Despite the joys of youth and the liberty of life, I remained a good Sunday Christian. Toward the end of the 1980s, I had the opportunity to frequent the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, a movement that accents the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian (individual prayers in a high voice, speaking in languages, words of wisdom and knowledge, effusion of the Holy Spirit).

After my marriage with Séverine, we tried to lead a Christian life in our way. My wife was the first to join a Community of Christ congregation in the new district where we had just moved. My attitude was the one of Nathanael (John 1:46).

I distrusted this community that met under a mango tree. I distrusted the expansion of the churches and pastors. I went every Sunday to the Catholic Mass.

Conscious of the role she could play as a disciple (1 Corinthians 7:16), my wife always told me, “Come and see.” Thus, to please her, one Sunday I accepted and went to pray in “her church.”

Curiously, the simplicity, the transparency, and the spirituality of the service touched me. The depth of the message reminded me of services in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. It was a new departure. As with Nathanael under a fig tree, it was under this mango tree that I agreed to give my life to Jesus and follow him because he loved me as I was.

My wife and the community loved me and brought me the support I needed. They also love and follow Jesus. Even in the hierarchy of the church I met people who love and follow Jesus. How could I not walk in the footsteps of these elders in the faith?

Finally, Community of Christ permitted the achievement of God’s vision for me and my childhood dream. I became a servant who furrows the continents to testify that Jesus is the way, the life, and the truth.





Embracing the Spirit’s Call

28 12 2012

A day care for the elderly is now an expression of compassion for the Makiki Congregation.

BY MOANA S. FAANA, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

About five years ago we met Reiko Hayashi from Japan. Her mission was to find a place for an organization called Sakura House to open a day care for elderly people in Honolulu, Hawaii.

We met her through one of our church members. She visited our Makiki Congregation in Honolulu, saw potential, and immediately asked if her group could use our social hall for day care on weekdays. We met with her several times. She brought studies that showed the area was a prime location that desperately needed this service.

We shared the idea with members, who voiced many concerns. Like many congregations, we value the freedom of using our property. But other members expressed serious concerns about our stewardship. In 2009 a large majority decided to allow Reiko’s group to use our property.

It was a challenging moment because it meant not only major physical renovations, but a major spiritual renovation. Through the process of sharing concerns and hopes, the congregation recognized the call to share its resources and refocus its mission.

This difficult and time-consuming process allowed the Spirit to move and shake us into being a people responding to a call.

Of course, at the time the Mission Initiatives hadn’t been expressed. So when President Steve Veazey shared them in April 2011, we felt a quiet and affirming Spirit—a Spirit that told us we always had been called to Pursue Peace on Earth.

It was a humble moment of recognizing that our mission has always been about building compassionate relationships and creating sacred spaces to make life better for the burdened. It also was a moment that showed God’s Spirit moves through many lives to build sacred relationships.

During the opening celebration, it was clear that two Initiatives—Pursue Peace on Earth and Abolish Poverty, End Suffering—were in line with one another. And as we realized that, we also could Experience Congregations in Mission.

We truly are a community of Christ when we look to Jesus’ mission to shape our mission.





Advent Journeys: Pilgrimage as Spiritual Practice

25 12 2012

BY CAROLYN BROCK, Spiritual Formation and Wholeness Ministries

When I was 7 our family made the annual Christmas journey to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. The five-hour drive took us over a treacherous mountain pass and then long stretches of straight highway, edged by fir and pine trees.

It was dark, and the hour was late when large, soft snowflakes began to surround the car. The onslaught of thick, white crystals racing toward the windshield hypnotized me as I sat in the front seat between my parents. It was quiet, so very quiet, as the car traveled slowly through the snow-muffled forest.

I’m not sure why this particular Christmas journey etched itself into my brain. Beauty, peace, adventure, and mystery are feelings I can retrieve from my adult vantage point. Something strangely lovely and exciting—even slightly risky—was unfolding as our small vehicle moved through the vast snow-enshrouded silence.

We do not have Mary and Joseph’s travel diary to know exactly how the journey to Bethlehem looked and felt. The scriptural story and centuries of Christian tradition guide our thoughts and inspire our imaginations. Commentators say the journey of 80 miles probably took four days to a week, depending on Mary’s condition and the mode of travel.

The realities of traveling through hot, dusty terrain with difficult food and lodging challenges make the story less romantic. There almost certainly was hardship, discomfort, and fatigue.

Yet as the journey continued, surprising events transpired. Heavenly beings and signs appeared, ordinary people and places were bathed in light, and wonder altered setting and script.

The hardships and challenges of the holy family’s journey mingled with beauty, mystery, and adventure as a socially mandated “business” trip was marked by the birth of God’s peace in our midst.

The vast landscape of God is the backdrop that transforms all of our ordinary journeys into their much larger, lovelier possibilities.

The spirit of pilgrimage invites intentional travel to sacred sites, physical journeys with spiritual purposes and intents. It also invites movement into the inner depths of heart and spirit, where the Christ child is welcomed again by those who have eyes to see and ears to hear the soft, silent coming of God’s peace.





Catching Glimpses of God’s Kingdom

23 12 2012

BY ART SMITH, apostolic assistant

There were Tricia and Ashley, Carolina and Mariana, Rachel and Misha, Nelda and Celeste, Ernesto and Pablo. And now there are Katrina and Laurel. They’ve come from Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina, but most from the USA.

On their first day in Peru, volunteers Katrina Petz (center) of California and Laurel Eisler (right) of Missouri explored with World Church minister Wilfredo Carlos.

For years now, a little congregation in Peru has hosted young people from other countries who want to serve their church and have an intercultural experience through Community of Christ World Service Corps.

The good folks of Community of Christ in Peru are gracious hosts. Sitting in Sister Graciela’s second-floor living room (the same room that hosted all Callao church meetings for many years) I watch, intrigued, as Brother Wilfredo conducts the introductory meeting. Most of those in attendance are meeting Katrina Petz of Tracy, California, and Laurel Eisler of Blue Springs, Missouri, for the first time. He gives each volunteer a chance to speak. Then we go around the circle, and everyone introduces themselves. The introductions quickly turn into words of welcome and reassurance.

Laurel’s Spanish is a little fresher (Katrina hasn’t had Spanish since high school), but everyone is careful not to favor Laurel. They ask the volunteers questions in turn and take time to understand each response. Wilfredo reminds the group that the volunteers also are just getting to know each other. They hadn’t met until the previous week.

Laurel sings. Katrina plays the flute. Both are looking forward to helping with the kids in our congregations here in Filadelfia, Monte Sion, and Huanuco. Both are a little nervous about being on the preaching schedule. (Well maybe a lot nervous! But they’ll be fine.) There couldn’t be a less judgmental, more welcoming group of Christian brothers and sisters with whom to grow and challenge oneself.

Laurel and Katrina already have proven themselves to be open to new experiences and foods while venturing out on their own. They’ve eaten ceviche (that delicious Peruvian raw fish salad), cow heart on a stick, and a couple of flavors of masamoro (squash and purple corn puddings).

They’ve toured the market, wandered the ritzy seacoast part of Lima known as Miraflores, and been up the desert hill to meet the church of Monte Sion. They’ve taken taxi and bus rides through Lima traffic without even flinching (well, hardly flinching).

They’ll have a chance to learn about relationships and the challenge of forming friendships across language and cultural barriers. And they’ll do it while working on their relationship with each other.

Sitting in this introductory meeting and watching the first few days of interaction between these volunteers, I realize this is truly a laboratory for the kingdom of God. There will be moments of confusion and stress. Romantic notions of each others’ cultures may mix freely with feelings of nationalism and cultural superiority. But inasmuch as each person in this experience seeks to learn from the others, inasmuch as the gospel is the focus of their experience, and inasmuch as patience and love reign, all those involved will catch many glimpses of that kingdom of God.





Home of Hope in Odessa, Ukraine

21 12 2012

BY DAVID N. ANDERSON, apostolic assistant

Alexey from Home of Hope celebrates his baptism in the Black Sea.

 

Francis of Assisi purportedly said: “Preach the gospel always…when necessary use words.” A 21st-century example of this wise counsel is a drug- and alcohol-rehabilitation center called Home of Hope in Odessa, Ukraine.

Through compassionate ministries it helps those struggling with addiction. The center has 22 live-in guests, including a 2-month-old and a 2-year-old. Participants are people from Russia and Ukraine who need a healthy community and a safe place to help fight addiction.

Igor Bondarev, church member and director, and Volodya Glushkovetska, a World Church minister, work closely together in service to others. Igor provides vision and leadership. Volodya conducts pastoral support and spiritual formation.

At least twice a week, Volodya leads a Bible study with all participants gathering to discuss biblical principles in living out Christian discipleship.

Because of the cooperation and ministry of Igor and Volodya, Home of Hope has touched the lives of many people. Additionally, since these two met nearly a year ago, eight have sensed a call to live out their Christian discipleship in Community of Christ.

As a contributor to world ministries mission tithes, you have helped Igor and Volodya. Because of generosity by you and others, the World Church and Eurasia Mission Centre have contributed ministerial and financial support, including emergency assistance with basic living expenses for food and lodging at the center. Igor and Volodya are thankful for this generosity as they “preach the gospel” in the manner expressed by Francis of Assisi.





Who Is Waiting?

19 12 2012

BY JOHN WIGHT, senior president of seventy

As I visited with some of the 30 young adults who had come to Bluff Springs Campgrounds in northwest Florida last March, a picture of just how powerful invitation is began to unfold before me. I was attending the Azalea Reunion as one of two guest ministers; the young adults were at the campgrounds on a mission trip.

It became apparent that about one-third of the group did not hold membership in Community of Christ. Dan Gregory, young-adult minister in the Lamoni-Heartland USA Mission Center, confirmed the estimate.

Let’s get this straight. Thirty young adults had come to a church campground to spend their spring break raking leaves, painting, and cleaning, and a third of them weren’t members of Community of Christ.

“I think it’s two things,” said Gregory. “The cost is really cheap. We keep it well below what anyone would pay otherwise.

“The other is doing something that is attractive to them—this is how we’re going to make a difference. And once you get a few key people saying, ‘Hey I’m doing this; I think you would enjoy it as well,’ then others follow.”

So how did the invitation to participate get shared?

“Most people heard by word of mouth,” Gregory explained. “We have a pretty broad base of people who have gone in the past. This was our fourth trip. The word spreads pretty fast. We also use Facebook, a monthly newsletter, and mission center announcements.”

The power of such word-of-mouth invitation can be seen in one of many stories from this mission trip. One young woman from previous mission trips invited a friend to come.

“The friend had never been acquainted with the church before,” Gregory said. “Near the end of the trip, she and I had a conversation in which she said, ‘Dan, I was forced to go to church when I was growing up, but I never felt like I was at home. I think that I have found my home.’”

This young woman served on the staff of a senior high camp Gregory directed this summer. She ended up staying for part of a family camp the week following the youth camp.

“She continues to connect with the people,” Gregory said. “The lines of communication have really been strong.” It’s amazing what can happen when we issue an invitation to come share in accomplishing Christ’s mission.

Doctrine and Covenants 163:2b calls us to

Generously share the invitation, ministries, and sacraments through which people can encounter the Living Christ who heals and reconciles through redemptive relationships in sacred community.

It is good to remember that such sharing doesn’t stop at invitation. It includes walking hand in hand with newfound friends into paths of ministry and the sacraments, including baptism and confirmation, which can unite people with Christ and community in deeply meaningful ways. Who is out there waiting for an invitation from YOU?





Theological Foundations: Covenant

17 12 2012

Covenant is a gift of God’s grace for the blessing of human life and creation. Covenant is a foundational, scriptural, and spiritual concept that describes a primary way God defines and blesses Divine-human relationships for the sake of individuals, communities, and creation.

The concept of a covenant between God and man [humankind] is deeply rooted in the Old Testament, where it appears as an undertaking initiated by God and given to the people of Israel; an agreement under which God sets his people apart; promises fidelity to them, and requires fidelity in return. In Christian thought the concept is sometimes seen as the background of that divinely initiated bestowal of grace that enables Christians to do what otherwise they could not achieve by themselves.
—Geddes MacGregor
Dictionary of Religion and Philosophy

Of particular relevance to Community of Christ history and theology is the fundamental concept of the church as a “covenant people” or “covenant community” that lives according to “doctrines” and “covenants” that communicate divine nature and will.

Being a covenant people called by God for divine purpose shapes our identity as a church community. This identity is strengthened through the church’s sacraments. We are a highly sacramental church with eight sacraments. All the sacraments include vital expressions of covenant relationships with God, others, and the created order.

The church presently is exploring the overarching meaning of God’s commitment to a “covenant of peace,” which points to fulfillment of God’s ultimate vision for creation.

The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them…They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. —Isaiah 11:6–9 NRSV

For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you. —Isaiah 54:10 NRSV

While the covenant of peace described in Isaiah initially was directed to Israel as an expression of God’s steadfast love in the face of Israel’s rebellion, its broader application is revealed in Jesus Christ:

…Remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace… —Ephesians 2:12 ff NRSV

God’s covenant of grace and peace established through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, includes reconciliation, human salvation, and a coming fullness of peace on Earth. The broad nature of God’s covenant of peace anticipates that all of creation, including the Earth itself, will share in the blessings of the renewal and peace to come (Romans 8:18 ff).

The peace covenant God offers includes personal, interpersonal, global, and environmental peace. Community of Christ theology calls the church and the larger world to a holistic vision that incorporates all dimensions of salvation and peace.

Jesus Christ, the embodiment of God’s shalom (full peace), invites all people to come and receive divine peace in the midst of the difficult questions and struggles of life. Follow Christ in the way that leads to God’s peace and discover the blessings of all of the dimensions of salvation.—Doctrine and Covenants 163:2a

Community of Christ was divinely established to shape a prophetic people who would be witnesses and workers for God’s covenant of peace through Jesus Christ:

Actively and generously support the ministries of the church, which was divinely established to restore Christ’s covenant of peace, even the Zion of your hopes. —Doctrine and Covenants 164:3b

Application of the covenant concept and, specifically, God’s covenant of peace in Christ congregational relationships strengthens identity, commitment, trust, and faithfulness. It can significantly contribute to the establishment of justice and peace on Earth, “the Zion of your hopes.”





Opening Arms to the Least

14 12 2012

BY PAM ROBISON,
Worship and Music Support Ministries

Ministry is not a one-way street. Sometimes we think we know where we are going, but God sends us down unexpected roads.

Open Arms is a congregation in the shadow of the Auditorium in Independence, Missouri. Our focus is on reaching out to the neighborhood, especially those who are unchurched. Sometimes that is a challenge!

The Open Arms Congregation stepped forward on a journey by ministering to Dave Duff.

A couple of years ago, we became aware that several homeless people were joining us for breakfast and our potlucks. We welcomed them, and some began attending our worship services. Dave Duff, a member of that community, became a regular attendee.

He brought (and mentored) other homeless friends, helping them to understand appropriate behavior and helping our leadership become aware of potential challenges that some visitors might create.

Dave did not want to be merely a taker, so he quietly took it on himself to collect all trash every Sunday and take it to the garbage bin. He was not able to give financially, but he provided a consistent, caring ministry of service.

One Sunday, some of his friends told us an ambulance had taken him to the hospital a few days earlier. Worried, we tried to find him. We were unable to do so until a member of our congregation used his business contacts and found his body in the medical examiner’s office. Another member had information that led us to his family, and we were able to contact them.

Family members had been in touch with Dave, but they were unaware he had been attending church. They were surprised and touched by our congregation’s acceptance of Dave as part of our church family, and they visited us in appreciation.

Because Dave had become a quiet but important member of our family, we wanted to plan a memorial service to minister to our congregation and Dave’s homeless community. His family was not planning a memorial service, but they were appreciative of our desire to do so. And the service evolved.

Drama is important in Open Arms services, and our drama team coordinator almost immediately had visions of what the drama should be for Dave’s service. Because Dave’s family members planned to attend, we wanted to make sure we ministered to them, too. So we checked to make sure they would be comfortable with the service.

We decided to hold the service after church on a Sunday, and we planned to begin it with a potluck. This was for two reasons: It was how Dave came into contact with us, and Jesus spent time in table fellowship with those he reached out to.

Because we didn’t know how many people would attend, we had no idea how to plan for food. We simply prayed for a loaves-and-fishes-miracle, and it happened. We had enough food that no one went hungry, and we had plenty left to send with Dave’s friends to the homeless camp.

We sang together, we shared stories, we laughed, we cried. The drama—a powerful depiction of God’s acceptance and loving mercy to an outcast—resonated with all. We discovered this man, who had lived on the fringes of society, had touched many lives in unexpected ways. And we experienced what it means to be part of Community of Christ, as these words of appreciation from Dave’s nephew to the congregation express:

On behalf of the family of David, I would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude for the powerful words of friendship you have shared with us over the past few days. Your kind words have offered comfort to our hearts and have made present the very real meaning of what it means for the people of God to be a church.

Perhaps you know, our family comes from the Roman Catholic tradition, however, you welcomed us into Community of Christ with “Open Arms.” This gesture highlights what it means to be a church, and indeed what it means to be the collective Body of Christ. Perhaps the most powerful display of praise was indeed the coming together of two faith traditions to celebrate Dave’s life; but all the more powerful to celebrate a loving and steadfast God.

…You have lived the words of the gospel in that you gave dignity, compassion, and comfort to “the least of His.” Your compassion for the alienated of our community is a testament to the good work the Lord has begun in your ministry.

Our hearts are filled with the great promise of salvation, for Dave and indeed for all of us who profess the power of our Living and True God. Let us continue to pray for one another as we seek the healing power of the Spirit of the Living Christ.





A Journey of Tragedy, Faith

12 12 2012

Faith has helped Allison Angove and her family on their journey.

BY TERRI ANGOVE
Martinez, California, USA

I grew up hearing this scripture from my father, Lee Walden, and it continues to be an essential scripture for our family. Four months after his passing our daughter, Allison (then 16), suffered a traumatic brain injury April 10, 2009.

She was at a horse show in Fresno, California, and her horse fell. In that moment our lives changed forever.

Doctors removed the right side of her skull on the night of the accident to relieve intense pressure on her brain. The prognosis was not good. Doctors gave her a 10-percent chance for recovery and told us she probably would be in a vegetative state.

“Do you want your daughter to live like this?” they asked.

We responded by saying they didn’t know Allison. They didn’t know what an amazing person she is. And they didn’t know how trust in the Lord can help bring miracles.

And this is where Allison’s journey of healing began. We have been blessed throughout in so many ways. Our senses are keen to notice small things we might have missed in the past. We appreciate life more, and we see our blessings.

Allison has endured 15 surgeries and many infections that could have ended her life. She spent about 14 months in a coma-like state. She had a tracheotomy and feeding tube.

Later she was in a wheelchair, with the use only of her right hand. She needed to relearn everything. It was as if we were raising a newborn again.

But she did learn, beginning with swallowing and eating.

We rejoiced when she again could interact with us. Like before, her smile filled a room. Then she began to talk, struggling to form sentences and conversation.

In many ways, our family was reborn.

And then she was back home! After 27 months in the hospital and two weeks in a rehabilitation program, she was discharged July 28, 2011. We were grateful finally to be home as a family again.

After coming home, Allison started laughing more, telling us, “I am lucky,” “I am happy,” and “I love you.” She continued to improve. As she continued her journey, we saw her as a miracle.

We have posted her healing journey online to keep everyone informed of her status. We read Allison all the messages posted in the guest book to continue encouraging her. It helps others too. The website has inspired people all over the world to appreciate little things, to care for each other, to believe in miracles.

Love is the bond that keeps us all connected and strong.

Making the entries into the website’s journal also is a form of therapy for my husband, Grant, and me. And it’s a way for us to see how far Allison has come.

People ask, “How do you cope with such a tragedy? How do you get through each day?” I respond that they would do the same for their loved one. Our strength comes from the Lord, and we are blessed.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.—Philippians 4:13 NRSV

Of course that doesn’t mean we don’t have trials. We still face many years of rigorous therapy (physical, occupational, and speech). We still dedicate our time and energy to the 24-hour care and only occasionally get short breaks.
Even so, Allison, now 20, has drive and determination. She soon will receive pool therapy at home, which will help her brain make connections to her body again. One day at a time,

Allison is getting stronger and pushing toward a fuller recovery. She enjoys reciting our favorite scripture, the one from Psalm 118:

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Praise the Lord!





It’s Time to Fly

10 12 2012

BY MARY JACKS DYNES
Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA

It’s time to fly, Mary! It’s time to fly.”

Besides finding feathers all over the place, I have felt these words over and over the last year or so, and I have wondered what they mean.

Mary Jacks Dynes relies on the Jesus Prayer.

The words from John Kirvan sing to me:

Let us fly, fly away home into the depths of our souls where God awaits…where we are always welcome, always awaited, where we hear and recognize our mother tongue.

And I question myself, “Is it time to go deeper? Is it time to fly?”

Interruptions! My life has seemed like one series of interruptions. I remember complaining about all the interruptions that would hinder me from finishing my work. Could my husband’s suicide, my mother’s death, and my arm-breaking fall from a horse with subsequent surgery be interruptions, too?

As I look back on these life’s happenings, I wonder if interruptions were and are my work? In Reaching Out, Henri Nouwen writes that our interruptions are opportunities and challenges to an inner response by which growth takes place and through which we come to the fullness of being.

Richard Rohr shares in Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life that this is what the second half of life is all about. A crisis, a loss, a failure, disappointment, emptiness, sadness, and many others. They call us to see things from a different perspective than in the first half of life.

Nouwen claims the events of our lives mold us as the divine sculptor molds clay. It is only in a careful obedience to these molding hands that we discover our real vocation and become mature adults.

These unexpected interruptions are in fact invitations to give up old ways and outmoded styles of living. They open us to unexplored experiences. Perhaps our life’s history does not prove to be a blind impersonal sequence of events over which we have no control. Rather it reveals to us a hand pointing to a personal encounter in which all our hopes and aspirations will reach fulfillment.

Control and trust are the two areas I have had to grow in as I have struggled—albeit kicking and screaming—into this second half of life. Praying the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus have mercy upon me,” without ceasing has given me new strength to deal with my life’s interruptions. As I walk by the lake each morning I say this prayer with my lips. Soon I simply listen carefully to what my heart is saying.

The Art of Prayer, by 19th-century Russian writer Bishop Theophan the Recluse, talks about the Jesus Prayer being a concrete way to reach out to God from our innermost self. Theophan writes about descending with the mind into the heart. Standing in the presence of God with our mind in our heart is the essence of the prayer of the heart. It unifies our whole person and places us without reservation, mind in heart, in the awesome and loving presence of God.

For me this Jesus Prayer has been a special guide as I have searched for an intimate relationship with God while dealing with the pain of my interruptions. I have had to give up my illusory self-control and stretch out my hands in trust to God. And I have had to give up another illusion of believing this reaching out will free me from pain and suffering. Often it has taken me where I did not want to go.

As Rohr explains: “I must go down before I even know what up is.” In Things Hidden he states that suffering of some sort seems to be the only thing strong enough to destabilize our arrogance and our ignorance. Suffering is simply “whenever you are not in control.”

Rohr goes on to say that if we cannot find a way to make our wounds sacred, we invariably become negative or bitter. We normally will close up and close down.

Maybe this is what it means to be stuck in the first half of life. God calls me beyond closing up and closing down to move into the second half of life. That’s where there is intimacy with God, even through suffering and pain.

This movement requires a gradual detachment from all false ties and an increasing surrender to God, from whom all good things come. It takes courage to leave the safe place into the unknown, as Nouwen states, even when we know the safe place offers false safety and the unknown promises us a saving intimacy with God.

I am scared. But it is time. It is time. It is time to stretch out my hands and fly!