Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Lost and Found by Dodie Gregory

Possibly my story may have a familiar ring to some reading this………………..or not.
Due to a devoted mother I was raised in the church through childhood.  I even have a perfect attendance Sunday school sticker book.  I was baptized at 8 years of age and proceeded to embarrass my mom with my giggle attack during confirmation.  After graduating from high school and going off to nursing school, where I had no RLDS classmates and worked weekends, I slowly slipped away.  I married a Lutheran and neither of us pursued a spiritual path.  We had 2 children and occasionally took them to church. The effort was small.
Not to say I didn’t continue to recognize God in my life—there were just other distractions.  Actually I carried guilt along the way.  I drove by our church everyday going to and from work, but couldn’t bring myself to even look at it.
Brothers and Sisters from church extended an invite for years, as did my Mom, but of course I had other things to do.
OH! And I kept promising God I would be back but right then wasn’t a good time for me. By then the guilt was so strong that I felt ashamed to face my congregation.
So if all this applies to you, then you too have been found or else you wouldn’t be reading this.
SOOOO….finally God had enough of my excuses.  This is how it went down.
I’m just minding my own business one Saturday morning and out of nowhere I hear a voice saying “YOU ARE GOING TO CHURCH TOMORROW”.  That was it, no angels singing, no brilliant white blinding lights, no euphoria.  I looked around, no one there, and again, “YOU ARE GOING TO CHURCH TOMORROW”.  Having been steeped in being obedient, I went to the phone called my mother and asked her if she was going to church tomorrow?  She said, “Are you?” Me, ”yes, I’ll pick you up”.  And my life changed.
The congregation was awesome, no judging, no condemnation.  Just loving. I tease them to this day when I tell them I didn’t feel worthy to be in their presence but found out they are sinners just like me.
It’s been a journey but since we are human and live on earth, there are still ups and downs, challenges and rewards.   I’m no different than any of you but am blessed that God loved me so much that he gave me that extra nudge one Saturday morning.
Forever blessed and loved

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Presence of the Holy Spirit by Laura Carnie

During my nearly 62 years of church membership I have been blessed with an awareness of The Holy Spirit’s presence many times. Some of those experiences were life changing and continue on in memory. Others were for the time, experienced, applied and became part of the fabric of my life.
Possibly the first memory of the Holy Spirit is when, as an elementary school age child, sitting under a big white tent on a wooden pew at the east side of the Hagerman, Idaho lava rock church building during a district reunion prayer and testimony service and being filled with joy and awe at the spirit present.
As I matured, my relationship with the Spirit became more personal. During my teen years, there were a number of experiences at camps and reunions. One Camp Cascade youth camp morning worship, vividly comes to mind. Again at the Cascade Reunion grounds where Cecil Gilmore offered my Evangelist Blessing which helped provide guidance as I made decisions about further education and marriage.
 As a young mother of one, pregnant with a second child, and experiencing problems, I requested administration hoping to avoid a miscarriage. The Spirit rested with me. Even though the words of that blessing requested healing and saving the pregnancy, I came out of that administration knowing that I would not carry the baby to term. Associated with that understanding was a blessing of peace and reassurance.
When called to the priesthood as an elder, I accepted and took the Temple School classes in preparation but kept asking myself, “Is this truly a call from God?” During my ordination, I had a sensation of heat flowing from my feet to my head and the hands of the elders. After the service, Lois Twitchell came up to me and shared that during the ordination, she saw a pink color come over me. Again the Holy Spirit was providing reassurance.
I’ll conclude with one final spirit experience. At the Mission Center Conference in Boise, fall of 2010, evangelist Harriet White walked up to me and indicate that she felt called to offer me a special blessing because she was made aware that I would face some special challenges during the next year. My mind immediately went to various family issues and challenges and accepted trusting her inspiration was from God. We went into a quiet room and I received the blessing. The words were of strength, courage and reassurance that God’s Spirit would be with me as I faced challenges to come.
On Saturday, January 29th of 2011, I had a medical emergency of a double pulmonary embolism and was put on blood thinners. As part of the treatment, the cardiologist recommended and got my permission for an exploratory angioplasty where a small tube is treaded from groin to heart to check for blockage in the artery and heart. Thankfully the artery was clean. But, in the process a small nick was left in my artery. I was kept until Thursday and sent home.
 By the following Saturday I had extreme abdominal pain and had my husband take me to emergency around four in the morning. After checking me over, I was sent home with an antibiotic. By late morning, the pain had increased to the point that I could not walk on my own, so my husband and son-in-law took me back to the emergency room. After hours of waiting and some testing, it was discovered that my lower abdomen had filled up with blood from the leak. There were no rooms available for hours, but eventually in the evening I was moved to a progressive care bed and then in the early morning Sunday into the intensive care unit. It was there that, having nearly bled out and with my body trying to shut down, I experienced the Spirit with me, reassuring me that It did not matter if I lived or died, God was with me and I with God, in life or death.
“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39 NRSV
Physically it was and is an extended recovery. I have been forced to re-evaluate much of life. I find that I am more patient and more accepting of mine and other’s human weaknesses. I have had to take a new look at my remaining gifts and talents as regards my service to God and others. I find that I am more trusting of God, more aware of God’s Love. I am blessed and count my blessings often. God is Good! Our creator’s gift of the Holy Spirit for our guidance and reassurance is a wonderful gift of Love.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

A Different Kind of Gift By Lori Martell

In a season of gift wish lists and commercial overload, it is a different kind of gift I am remembering.

Early in 2000, I was diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease.  I was extremely ill—in constant pain and always tired, sleeping up to 16 hours per day.  I couldn’t work full time and Brad was working as an intern in Peace and Justice at Community of Christ Headquarters.  As the months passed and my medical bills mounted, we were feeling the financial strain.  I could not qualify for unemployment or temporary disability.  The day came when we had to admit we could no longer continue renting an apartment.  We would have to move out.  Even though it was difficult, we stood before our congregation and asked for help.  We were hoping to store our belongings in someone’s garage and maybe find someone else to let us live in their basement for a while. 

But, giftedness abounds within our faith community.  Care and concern, generosity, willingness to help—these are gifts that endure.  The word quickly disseminated from one person to the next, and soon some family friends heard about our need.  It turns out they had an extra house laying around they were willing to lend us.  What were the odds of that?

Before we knew what was happening, we had been moved by church friends from a dumpy little duplex into an adorable 2 bedroom house which was offered to us rent free in exchange for upkeep and yard work.  It was a dream come true.  We asked humbly for crumbs from the table, and were offered a copious banquet instead. 

We helped our friends as well.  Sad circumstances lead to extra house.  Having someone trustworthy to take care of it gave them time to grieve the loss of a loved one and decide what they wanted to do with the house.

As my health cycled through periods of improvement and relapse, it was such a gift to have the safe space of that home in which to heal.  We lived there about two years until the church relocated us out of state.  As the years passed, I recovered my health thanks to much prayer and great medical care.

Ten years later, I remembered that gift when I found myself on the other side of similar circumstances.  During the economic downturn a friend was laid off and like too many folks was having trouble finding work.  Brad & I were new homeowners and we decided to offer free housing to our friend.  She lived with us for two years until her financial situation improved.  It warmed our hearts to give the same gift that had helped us so many years before.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Risk Something New to Live, Love and Share Zion by Brittany Mangelson

I wasn’t necessarily looking for a new faith home when I found Community of Christ. My faith in God and church was crumbling, but I was trying to find something to hold on to. I walked into Red Cliffe on a warm June morning and encountered God in a new, life-giving way. Over the next several months I continued to discern where God was calling me. Community of Christ has so many special points of history, theology and culture and I fell in love with all of it rather quickly. I was fascinated to hear of the church’s journey over the last several decades that took the us to unfamiliar and uncharted places. I fell in love with the members of my congregation who had been living in area that can be challenging for those who don’t fit the religious mold. These people had persisted for years answering God’s call to live out their discipleship in our little corner of Christianity. I learned how the church came together in faithful disagreement, still holding each other when times were hard and hearts were breaking. I learned what grace looked like and realized that no matter how much I tried to talk my new community or God out of it, there was a place for me here.

My family joined Community of Christ just over 6 months from when I first came to reunion. It was a radical transformation that still has lingering effects today. When I joined, I knew Community of Christ was a safe place to explore my personal theology and a place where I was loved and welcomed in just as I am. I also realized this was a church I could feel comfortable raising my kids in. I was excited to teach my children the Enduring Principles and Mission Initiatives and to help them come to know what exactly Christ’s mission is. It’s an excitement that still radiates in my home.

Community of Christ, we have such a rich feast to share. Our table is open and our circle is drawn wide and we have much to offer the world. I have been transformed by our little church and there are many, many others who are searching for the love we have to share and for God we worship. Sometimes I fear that we look at our small congregations or our websites or whatever other insecurity we’re feeling and we forget what we do have. We have a group of sisters and brothers in Christ who are striving for Zion here and now. Just think about that for a minute!

Some of the women in our Mission Center experienced the reality of Zion recently at a women’s retreat. I almost didn’t let myself participate in this moment because of my own fear and insecurities. However, thanks to the blessings of community I was once again love and welcomed in, just as I am. We came together at the end of a meaningful discussion and participated in the sacrament of administration. The Spirit overflowed as women were administered to by women for the first time in their lives. I saw their expressions, held their hands and I saw what Zion looks like. I suspect those who were there still carry a tender spot in their heart for that evening. It is these sacred experiences, experiences that I cannot put into words, that makes this journey worth it. When we take a risk and step outside of ourselves, even a little, God can work in and through us in ways we cannot imagine. It is difficult, messy and sometimes we feel like we have nothing to offer the world, but if we invite our neighbor to the table, our neighbor will come.

Community of Christ, we have such a rich feast to share. We’ve done this over and over again and opening our table to new possibilities has blessed the church time after time. As we read in our newest section of the Doctrine and Covenants Section 165, “Beloved Community of Christ, do not just speak and sing of Zion. Live, love and share as Zion: those who strive to be visibly one in Christ, among whom there are no poor or oppressed.”

I’ll be forever grateful I decided to risk something new on that warm June morning and I’ll be Living, Loving, and Sharing Zion for the rest of my life. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Nothing is Impossible with God by Teresa

My husband of nearly 30 years passed away from cancer in 2010.  Since then I have had to make many decisions. One of those decision was what to do with his precious 24 foot cabin cruiser.  He just loved that boat and took very good care of it.  I was very hesitant to sell it because of the sentimental value I had put on it.  However, I knew I could not just let it sit there and slowly deteriorate.  So in 2012 I decided I was going to sell it.  I licensed the boat and I started to clean it.  I talked to some coworkers and did some research on what it was worth, searching to see if anyone was interested in it.  I had a couple of people come and look at it.  A couple of weeks passed and the anxiety I felt over selling the book took over my emotions and I could not sell.  I believed God wanted me to let go, but I just could not do it.  I was very upset over the anxiety I was experiencing. I was very upset with myself that I could not go forward with what God was putting in my heart.

In 2014, once again, I felt God put on my heart that it was time to sell the boat.  I felt God gently pushing me to let go of the boat.  I knew it wasn’t about selling the boat, but it was about healing my heart, letting go and moving forward.  I realized I could not move out of the mourning phase. I also realized God was thinking of my emotional health.

So, of course, I made a deal with God.  I told Him that if He wanted me to sell it, He was going to have to help me make it happen.  All the anxiety I felt in 2012 came back.  I really didn’t think I could sell it.  I made a to-do list in order to prepare the boat.  The boat was stored in our 40’x36’ barn so I had to work out a plan to pull it out.  I needed to find someone to pull it to a boat shop, so I could have it thoroughly gone through.  I was going to have to post an ad.  Then there would be the test drives, which meant I would have to have help pulling the boat to the river.  Who knows how many times I would have to do this?  Further, in my heart, I had 3 issues I was concerned with.  I never shared these 3 concerns with anyone, they were just heavy on my heart.  The first one was my concern whether someone would want me to finance it, or pay with a check, because I preferred to receive cash and not worry about receiving a bad check.  My second concern was that the name of the boat would very likely be changed.  You see, the boat was named after me, so it was special.  My third concern was that some individual would buy it and not take good care of it.  I was hoping it would end up with a nice family with children and they would truly enjoy it like we had.

Through everyone one of these steps, I would ask God to help me because inside I wanted to back out.  Let’s just say that I was digging my heels every step of the way.  One day I made the comment to God, that “if I could only find a boat mechanic that would come to my house”.  I was not having any luck finding someone who could pull the boat out of the barn and haul it to a boat shop.  The boat shops I had spoken to were not willing to come and pick it up. 

A few days later, out of know where, I received a call from a young man.  He introduced himself and told me that he had acquired my cell number from my son.  This young man had stopped at Office Depot to have business cards printed up for his new business.  It just happened that my son was working at Office Depot in the print shop and he assisted this young man (who also had attended high school with my older son).  It also happened that this young man had been recently laid-off from work and he was starting a mobile boat mechanic business.  My son shared with him that I was looking for someone to help me with preparing my boat to sell.  We settled on a time for him to come over to my house.  He truly was a God sent!  He pulled the boat out of the barn.  He went thoroughly through the boat and completed all the needed maintenance.  He then offered to meet with any of the potential buyers and if necessary, take them out for a test drive.  I offered to give him a commission, but he did not want one.  Of course, he was going to get a commission even though he did not want one.  I felt blessed by his presence and he felt blessed by my presence because he was trying to get his new business off the ground.

I was preparing to go on a month long vacation at the beginning of June, so I had decided that if I did not sell the boat by then, I was taking it off the market.  I placed an ad at my place of employment.  After 1 week, I decided to put it on Craigslist. I was very reluctant to do this just because I was not familiar with it and felt uncomfortable dealing with a broad audience of strangers.

So Easter Sunday was right around the corner and I had many activities I was involved in at church and had not checked my e-mail for days.  Saturday night (day before Easter) when I arrived home and was getting ready for bed I decided to quickly check my e-mails.  There I found several e-mails from the same individual very interested in the boat.  He had been e-mailing me since early Thursday.  Though, since Easter and all the activities leading to Easter were very special to me, I had already decided that I was not going to deal with the boat during this time frame.   I just felt it was not appropriate.  However, God had another plan.  It was 9:45 pm when I e-mailed this individual that if he wanted to get a hold of me he was going to have to call my cell phone, however I did not want to deal with the boat until after Easter.  It must have been 3 minutes within the time I sent the e-mail he was calling me.  I could not believe that he was on-line at the exact time I e-mailed him.  He was very persuasive and I agreed that I would meet him at 6:00 Sunday afternoon.  At least my Easter Sunday activities would be coming to an end by then.

When I arrived at my house at 6:00 pm, he was already waiting for me.  He was so excited going through the boat.  However, he was asking me questions that I could not answer.  I called the young boat mechanic who had helped me prepare the boat.  After apologizing to him for bothering him on Easter, I asked him if he would talk to the man over the phone.  He instead said he just happened to be near my home visiting family and he was just going to come over to my house.   The mechanic hooked the hose up to the boat and ran the motor. There was no need to take the boat to the river for a test drive.  The man made me an offer, which I accepted.  He offered all cash.  At this point his wife got off their vehicle to look over the boat. While the buyer was walking around the boat, he made a comment to his wife that the boat was already named after her.  It just happened that she and I shared the same name.  His wife shared with me that they were wanting a larger boat so they could take their adult children and grandchildren out boating and spend the night on it.

I was in complete awe on how God’s hand was in selling this boat.  I was so touched that God addressed all three concerns I held in my heart.  This entire process started mid-March and on 2014 Easter Sunday the boat sold. Nothing is impossible with God.  I learned that God gives us the ability to do things that we believe are impossible. I learned that when God is for me, nothing can come against me. I learned that God cares about every aspect of my life.  I can’t even express in words the growth I made in my walk with God because of His hand on my life.  There were so many others little things that occurred that I did not mention that were evidence of God’s love and presence in my life.