Why I Follow Jesus. . .

31 05 2013

By Rachelle Smalldon, Young Adult Ministries

Rachelle Smalldon finds that having Jesus Christ as her role model  makes her want to be a better person.

Rachelle Smalldon finds that having Jesus Christ as her role model
makes her want to be a better person.

In a Leadership Theory course I took in graduate school, we studied the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and were asked to discover and analyze our own personality types. I discovered I am an INFJ (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging), which means I often am categorized as an idealist.

My supervisor at work during those graduate years (who most definitely was not an idealist) said to me one day in a fairly snide tone, “You seem to have a very idealist, utopian view of life. I’ll be interested to see where that gets you in life.”

I used to resent that comment (and sometimes still do). His words cut me deeply and obviously stuck with me. But I think they have helped me grow, remember who I am, and know where that can take me in life.

I think he was right. I am an idealist. The more I learn about what that means, the more I am OK with it, even proud of it. I do believe in the potential for beauty, greatness, and a world of peacefulness in some capacity.

As we set our sights and beliefs on the vision we have for our church and our individual discipleship, maybe we all have a bit of “idealist” in us. Maybe having vision, striving for a beautiful and peaceful world, and believing the end goal is possible aren’t such bad things.

For as long as I can remember, I have known about Jesus. I have known he was the Son of God and brought to the world to share the gospel and teach us how to live in peace and with authentic love. I have always believed the teachings of Jesus to be good ones. I often remember the profound but simple “Golden Rule” when making behavioral decisions. These lessons have made a difference in my life and, I feel, have helped me be a better person.

As I have become more involved in this church, experiencing and sharing more about our faith and growing in my own relationship with God, I have learned much more about who Jesus was. The more I learn about Jesus, the more I like.

I find I can relate to Jesus because his life and teachings are practices I can attempt in my own life. I may not be able to perform miracles, but I can practice kindness and peace, extending God’s love to those I meet.

Knowing how Jesus lived gives me something to strive for. I continue to follow him because, for me, Jesus is the ultimate example of humanity. Jesus is the example of how I want to live my life and the footsteps I want to follow in.

Jesus was the kind of person I want to be. He was loving, compassionate, and radical. He promoted peace and love in all he did. Jesus makes me want to be better and do better.

Jesus is my ideal.

Getting “Messy” in the British Isles

29 05 2013
“Messy Church” invites creativity.

“Messy Church” invites creativity.

When I was a boy, if there was any mud around, I’d find some of it later on my shoes, face, and clothes. Food would find itself on my face or clothes. Pauline, my wife, would say nothing has changed.

That may be why I love it when my congregation in Nuneaton, England, holds “Messy Church.”

What is Messy Church? It began in the Church of England in 2004. Now several denominations and some Community of Christ congregations use it. The Clay Cross Congregation led the way, and now the Nuneaton, Leicester, and Penllergaer congregations use it, too.

Messy Church is a scripture-based sharing time for all ages. It involves crafts, worship, and the sharing of food. It’s adapted to meet the needs of different groups. Some use it once a month as the main focus of worship. Others have a midweek Messy Church. In the last year, one of our worship times at reunion was Messy Church.

Angie Vickers, one of three organizers in Nuneaton, says they begin with Messy Church materials and then adapt to fit the congregation’s needs and strengths. There’s time for making, doing, and chatting. A 20- to 30-minute worship is followed by a meal that often is “bring and share.” Angie says, “It’s a once-a-month time of creativity, worship, and eating together.”

We’ve found that people who usually don’t attend church, will come to Messy Church. New children come, and often they bring their parents.

Don’t forget that Messy Church is messy. It’s not formal. It’s rarely quiet. Things seldom go the way we expect. That’s the way the Spirit is.

…and When You Come, Drink from the Well

26 05 2013

By Darrell L. Belrose,
Airdrie, Alberta, Canada

People at the Prince Albert Congregation’s retreat were able to drink in the Spirit’s presence.

People at the Prince Albert Congregation’s retreat were able to drink in the Spirit’s presence.

Come to the Well” seemed like any other retreat the church or a congregation may use in invitation. But this one was different, very different.

This retreat transformed my life inwardly and led to an outward transformation of self. It didn’t happen suddenly. Rather, it occurred gently and slowly over several months.

Success has been intermittent, bumpy, and challenging. But the call to “come to the well” and drink deeply has echoed in my soul since this event.

In recent months we have been invited to slow down, be still, and know God wishes to bless us as we develop skills to experience the Holy personally.

Our retreat mornings were group devotions, individual reflections, meditation, and then time spent in the Kirtland Temple for personal prayer, reflection, journaling, and more. Our afternoons were classes on being still and leadership development. Then we formed groups of four or five to develop personal accountability and relationships to the degree that we could become transparent with one another. Our evening closed with worship.

How can four structured days make a difference? How did this relate to our Enduring Principles and Mission Initiatives? Can this type of event really change lives?

One example is expressed in the Prince Albert Congregation in the Canada West Mission Centre. At this writing, members twice have experienced a similar “retreating” for spiritual growth and discernment. Now they’re preparing for a third.

Are you envisioning a large group? I have been blessed to be among the seven to 10 members who gathered to experience the ministry of the Holy Spirit through meditation, classes, table ministry, and socializing! We have become family. We don’t remain in a cocooned environment but seek God’s will in ministering outward as needs become known.

This is what the peaceable kingdom of God is all about. As people come to “their well” for nourishment, guidance, and dwelling in the Word, they sense opportunity to be vulnerable to the Spirit, to be refreshed, and to hunger to be on mission with transformed peaceful hearts.

I give thanks for my encounter with newness. “Holy Spirit, mold me, melt me, use me” in personal, congregational, and community settings!

Going to the Grove…

24 05 2013

By Kathy Shockley, Independence, Missouri, USA

Temple Sacred Grove Glass photos 20130327 Dave Wheaton 0138The archway we pass through as we begin up the Worshiper’s Path is a beautiful woodland scene carved in glass. The detail—lady slippers growing on the forest floor, a nest of baby birds tucked into the fork of a tree, a delicate dragonfly flitting through the upper branches—is remarkable.

Visitors find that reflecting on the vastness of creation and the elegance of its design is inspiring and humbling. The words of “How Great Thou Art” seem appropriate for the beauty, diversity, and harmony of God’s creation shown in this remarkable work of art by Kathy Barnard.

Yet as wonderful and soul-filling as it is to reflect on God’s creation, we find another dimension here. The existence of this artwork is a testament to our God-given creative abilities. We have been created in the image of God. Endowed by God with the imagination and talents to be creators, too!

Consider the creative power demonstrated in this artwork. Science transformed sand into glass. The artist’s eye and hand duplicated a moment in the woods. Tools enabled the artist to carve that moment into the glass. All we have—from our tools to our toys—is built on the contributions of creativity and artistry.

As a writer I have written with pens, pencils, typewriters, and word processors. While I could not have created any of those tools myself, I greatly appreciate those who have. I acknowledge my indebtedness for being able to express myself through their efforts.

As a personal meditation, choose an object to reflect on. Consider its origins. Consider what it means to you and how it enhances your life or the lives of others. Consider how you benefit from the gifts of others. Give yourself over to awe and gratitude for being a participant in God’s ongoing creation.

Each of us, every day in our own way, uses God-given talents and participates in creation. May we let the Spirit guide us in an expanded appreciation of our interdependence, never losing sight of the goal of bringing forth the kingdom of God on Earth.

Let us claim with a new vigor Doctrine and Covenants 119:8b:

All are called according to the gifts of God unto them; and to the intent that all may labor together…with God for the accomplishment of the work intrusted to all.

Forgiveness and Respect: The Key Is Understanding

22 05 2013

By Carol Lei Breckenridge-Herrick, Joliet, Illinois, USA

Carol lei head` & shoulders I

Carol Lei Breckenridge-Herrick

Have you ever felt anger or resentment for a hurt inflicted by another person? Someone cut you off in traffic? A family member disrespected you? A terrible injustice caused even deeper hurt?

Knowing that you should forgive, have you wrestled mightily with how? If it is so difficult to forgive for one specific offense, how can we possibly live up to Jesus’ direction to forgive “seventy-seven times”?

The answer may lie in realizing that forgiveness is not a single act for a single offense. Rather, it’s an attitude that can permeate one’s entire being.

The key to such an attitude is understanding that we as individuals are at one with all others. We are equals, our gifts bestowed by God. Viewed in that light, it becomes clear that no person is superior—or inferior—to another.

Forgiveness also is tied closely to respect. By respecting others who may be different, who may “rub us the wrong way,” or may have a lifestyle or culture far removed from our own, we acknowledge we do not have all the right answers.

As Community of Christ, we believe God has, in the words of the old hymn, “more light and truth” to shower upon us. We acknowledge Joseph Smith III’s statement, “We do not consider…the Bible infallible…. We hold that everything that passes through human hands is fallible.”

Community of Christ is committed to building communities of peace. This does not mean conflict or controversy will not occur, or that we should suppress it when it emerges. It does mean we will strive to listen to each other for understanding. It means that we will create safe places for discussion, in which each person’s viewpoint is heard. It means we will be open to learning more about scripture, rather than closing our minds against new concepts.

Above all, it means we will keep our minds open to the possibility God may have something new to teach us.

If we truly embrace our unity with all humankind, an attitude of perpetual forgiveness and respect will follow. This, I believe, is what Jesus meant when he replied to Peter that we must forgive “seventy-seven times.”

Forgiveness becomes a habitual attitude of respect and unity with others that, with practice, transforms and nurtures our spiritual selves. God will help us develop such an attitude if we genuinely seek it. After all, God is the author of forgiveness, as is made clear in Colossians 3:13 NIV: “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Refuge of Hope, Path to Peace

20 05 2013

By Steve Kellogg, Africa and Haiti Mission Field

Few things come easily for the Ivory Coast Congregation, but world mission tithes are providing hope for a new building.

Few things come easily for the Ivory Coast Congregation, but world mission tithes are providing hope for a new building.

Oufffffffffffff! Very hard the mission,” wrote Baka Blé, Ivory Coast Liberia Mission Center financial officer, as he described unloading sheet metal for the new roof of the Soubré Congregation in Ivory Coast.

Not only was unloading the material difficult, Baka wrote, but “we had some difficulties in sending the sheet metal to the site.

The big truck that we rented was sinking into a hole, and we (fought) hard from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. to release it. …This is to tell you it is not easy in the field.”

True, but it is a labor of love for a future of hope in Soubré. Community of Christ continues to expand in Ivory Coast. As it does, its needs for worship and ministry space keep growing. World mission tithes are providing funding for Soubré’s new church building, which will accommodate 200 people.

Developing Disciples to Serve and Abolish Poverty, End Suffering are critical needs in this country of 22 million people. One-third are Muslim, one-third Christian, one-tenth indigenous religions, and the rest are other religions.

Since 2000 the country has been divided by a series of civil conflicts over control of the government. More than 9,000 United Nations peacekeepers have been there since 2004 in an effort to ensure peaceful stability.

Compounding the internal problems, civil conflicts in neighboring countries also affect Ivory Coast. Besides the half-million citizens displaced from their homes by civil violence, Ivory Coast now is home to about 25,000 Liberian refugees.

The Soubré Congregation is a refuge of hope. With people drawn from diverse faith traditions and personal experiences of acceptance and rejection, it welcomes all in the name of Jesus Christ and invites them to become disciples. The light of their collective hope illuminates the way to a future of peace.

Hardship, Hot Dogs, and Hospitality

18 05 2013

by Doug and Connie Altman, Bountiful USA Mission Center

Grilled hot dogs, opportunities for fun, and sincere invitations are bolstering the Pleasant Valley Congregation.

Grilled hot dogs, opportunities for fun, and sincere invitations are bolstering the Pleasant Valley Congregation.

In the foothills of Appalachia rests a little valley in southern Ohio. The recession got a head start here a few years back when a steel mill closed. Shortly afterward, Walmart moved in, and most other businesses moved out.

High unemployment is causing hardship, and many families find it difficult to put food on the table.
The Pleasant Valley Congregation began a pantry program that has grown considerably. It has supplied food for as many as 200 families a month.

Some members were concerned that providing food wasn’t enough. They wanted to make personal contact with the families and invite them to Christ.

Because the congregation was buying food through a government program, we could not hand out tracts or talk about the church to those who used the pantry.

So, some members began a Sharing in the Round ministry that coincided with the pantry program.

When people came to pick up their food, we set up a grill in a nearby shelter house and cooked hot dogs. We invited them to come over, sit with us, and share a meal. We took turns cooking, passing out food, and visiting.

The table fellowship has been wonderful. We have had the opportunity to invite one mother-to-be to have her baby blessed, and we shared information about Habitat for Humanity. Our hope is to share the love of Jesus Christ with others.

We also are blessed to provide information about social programs and ministries of healing and blessing. This blesses us, as well.

Our efforts to Invite People to Christ may or may not result in baptisms. However, building relationships, friendships, offerings of love, and acceptance are all part of what Jesus modeled. These are ministries that will build God’s kingdom on Earth.