Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Blessings of Community - Tiona Reunion by Carol Ann Reiff

Terry and I had a bucket list dream of attending the Tiona reunion in Australia.  This year it became a reality.  December 12 we landed in Sydney, cruised the east coast, snorkeled on the Gold Coast, saw a performance at the Sydney Opera house, hand fed kangaroos and pet a Koala.  All of that was amazing but none of that compared with the beauty and warm hospitality of the Tiona reunion.
When I told one of the Saints at the reunion how lovely the people were to us he laughed, “Of course, we are at reunion!”  I stopped counting the number of times someone told me, “My grandparents came to Tiona every year and my parents didn’t miss a reunion and I wanted my children to be able to have this Tiona experience too.”  Tiona has Lake Wallis on one side and the Ocean on the other.  The beaches on each are treasures.  The long lake beach is only one half to a foot deep for over a hundred meters – lovely for the children to play freely.  The ocean beach carnival is a favorite each year.  I began to wonder if people worshiped Tiona instead of God!  By the week’s end I saw it was both.
Creative fun, lots of laughter, rich fellowship, reverent worship, many good classes taught by gifted mid lifers and the sacraments of baptism, communion and laying on of hands. Our favorite time of each day was sitting together in the outdoor “Green Cathedral” next to the lake, worshiping as we watched the sunset.  It was magnificent and unique each evening.
It was hard to leave Tiona and those lovely, hospitable people.  Like all of our reunions, the Love of God bound us together in a rich peace beyond our understanding.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Temple Story by Brittany Mangelson

The story I have for you, is actually three short stories that connect my distant past, my present understanding and my future with this sacred building. The first time I saw the Temple was 2002. I was a young teenager on a church history tour. I was not a member of Community Christ, but my heritage and history with faith shares roots in the sacred story of the restoration. Unfortunately, our itinerary for the tour did not include Community of Christ’s Temple. We did, however, eat lunch on the lawn of the LDS visitor’s center just across the street. I have a distinct memory of looking up at this building and being so curious about its soft , yet bold design. I was not seeking a new spiritual home at that point, but the architecture of this building stuck with me and I carried that curious image with me throughout the next decade.

The first time I was able to visit this sacred space was in 2016. By that point, I was a member of Community of Christ, an ordained priest, and was set to interview President Emeritus Wallace B Smith for Project Zion Podcast. My 5 year-old twin daughters and 2 year-old son were anxious after being in the car for the two day drive from Utah. My family pulled into the parking lot to set up for our important interview, and we weren’t even in the building before we were stopped and shown Christian love and hospitality by someone who has since become a friend. Nita Harder was a stranger at the time who took a moment to pause and see a family struggling with three young kids. She stopped to welcome us, to tell a few jokes, and help my kids get in a much better mood. She gifted us peace before we even walked in the door.

The next few hours were a whirlwind experience. I had heard so much about this building and I was afraid my enthusiasm was setting myself up for disappointment. Could it really be a place where all were welcome? Was it going to be as open, transparent, loving, and filled with grace as everyone said? As a young mother, I worried that my family would be seen as a burden, or that I would be pigeonholed into one identity and role because of my gender. Could I actually find empowerment and a voice of my own in this holy place?

The answer was YES!

From the moment we arrived, I was treated like family. We happen upon Apostle Linda Booth in the lobby who was thrilled to see us and paused her very busy morning to give us a tour of the Temple complex. My kids were able to meet a significant amount World Church leadership and I quickly realized that not only was I considered worthy and good enough to be in this space, but they were too. We left with chocolates from the UK, wishes and blessings that were given to us in Spanish and whichever language Bunda happened to be speaking at the time, and pens straight out of Scott Murphy’s personal collection.

Christ’s Mission and the ministries of the Temple came alive for me that morning. I was affirmed in a way I didn’t think was possible. I was given a deepened understanding that the soft, bold architecture of this building is reflected in the Spirit of Joy, Hope, Love, and Peace that we experience here.

Since that first visit in 2016, I have had the privilege of coming back four additional times as part of Community of Christ’s Seminary program. Each time, I have tried to carve out space to be alone and sit in the quiet peace I find here. I’ve never told this story before and to be honest, I wasn’t planning on ever sharing it, but during one particularly chilly and gloomy day in the middle of deep study, I found myself looking out a window onto the lawn across the street that I had once picnicked on. I went into deep reflection on what has happened to me since I sat on that lawn. My journey into Community of Christ was difficult, but in that moment the feelings of grace and gratitude was overwhelming. This journey had been worth it. Here I was, again just a young mom, who was being not only welcomed in this Temple, but empowered and educated here, too. I was being educated in the ways and teachings of Jesus. Those teachings of radical hospitality, of reconciliation and healing, and the reality that ALL are worthy and welcome to surrender to God’s divine grace. As I sat staring out the window, I knew I could not keep quiet about this. That’s the beauty of this Temple! We have a message to share! We come into the Worshipper’s Path and into this Sanctuary and we are changed and equipped for mission. We are charged to bring Christ’s message of peace to the entire world. My place in this puzzle of mission was made clear to me on that gloomy winter day. Because I am worthy enough to be here, I must invite others. The message is too important, too critical to remain within these walls.

This space has changed me. It has brought me a deeper connection to God, clarity, community, friendship, and most of all; peace. And that is the message I hope to carry out into the world.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

“If He Had Not Come” by David R. Brock, Redmond, Oregon

One of the stories my mom read to us at Christmas time when I was a child was, “If He Had not Come”. Many decades later, though I don’t recall the details, I do remember the strong feeling I had when hearing it.  My concern, mostly anxiety,(though I doubt it had much if anything to do with the story itself) was that if Jesus had not come there would be no days off from school, no presents to buy and wrap, no secrets to keep from other family members about gifts to come, no new pajamas on Christmas eve (every year, without fail!), no stockings to hang by the chimney with care, no parties at school, no annual children’s Christmas pageant, no tree to decorate, no visit from Santa—maybe no Santa at all, no north pole, no elves, no Rudolph, no two front teeth so I could whistle Merry Christmas (as the popular carol went).

Almost 60 years later, my response to “If he had not come” has changed. Hopefully I’m wiser and a little more mature, a little less self-centered.  Don’t get me wrong, though, I still get a warm feeling when I hear, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”  I would be sad if I didn’t hear “Joy to the World” or “Little Town of Bethlehem,” or “Good King Wenceslas” or “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” or even  “Snoopy versus the Red Baron”. Even though I’ve spent wonderful summer Christmases south of the equator, I’d prefer a little snow for the holidays and a few Currier and Ives winter wonderland paintings displayed around town—preferably a town decorated with thousands of holiday lights. And, dare I confess it, and please don’t tell anyone, I do take an occasional stolen glance at a Hallmark Christmas movie! 

However! Beyond all of that, I wonder, If he had not come  . . .

  • Would we proclaim and promote the worth of persons, ALL people, as clearly as we do . . . at least when we are at our best?
  • Would we expect to find God among the poor and the outcast and the widows and orphans and in places where there is no room in the inn?  Would we provide for and honor those people as we are taught to do—in unforgettable parables, in acts of forgiveness for prostitutes and persecutors?
  • Would we have the courage, would we take the risks, to confront, to ‘turn over tables’ and drive out the corrupt and unjust as some among us do in the halls of power, the boardrooms of the strong and well-connected?
  • Would we hold on as strongly to the hope that God is with us yet; that somehow in spite of all that is happening in our troubled world, goodness and right will eventually prevail?
  • Would we strive as valiantly to create communities of joy, hope, love and peace—even in fits and starts and ‘failing’ and starting over?
  • Would God seem as close, as present, as concerned, as gracious, as generous, as active in our lives, as much of an advocate for our wellbeing?
  • Would we understand that we too can be and are called to be the birthplace of God in the world?

Could God, has God, does God reveal many of those truths through other faith traditions? Is God made incarnate in our midst even from the dawn of creation, not only in a manger in Bethlehem 2000 years ago? Yes, but, as Marcus Borg wrote, “Jesus enfleshes, embodies, incarnates, God’s Word, God’s revelation, God’s character and passion in a human life. Christmas means that, for Christians, Jesus is and should be decisive. What we see in him, the Word made flesh, is our revelation, our light in the darkness.”

I don’t think we are asked to say ‘no’ to a lot of the accoutrements of Christmas. Go ahead and watch “The Muppet Christmas Carol”. Decorate a tree in a thousand lights. Stuff someone’s stocking with silly little gifts. It’s OK. What we are invited to do, however, is to say yes to the fact that God DID come to us in a unique way in Jesus. What we are invited to do is to understand that because God came to us and comes to us, we see differently, we live differently.  We give life. We nurture life. We choose life at Christmas and every other day.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Gratitude and Blessings by Lavera Wade

Early this morning as I ventured out to gather wood for the fire, I stopped for a few moments to listen to the tiny birds chattering about the frosty breath of a crisp fall morning.  The wonder and beauty of God’s creation opens my heart to the mystery and joy that is God.

I file the chatter of the tiny birds away as in prayer for tonight when I will thank God for the blessing of the joy, the sounds of the tiny birds and all of God’s creation gives me.  The list will often include the sound of the wind in the pines, time with a friend, my husband’s laughter, a kind clerk who helped me, the events of my day.

I have spent the last year in study with the Spiritual Companioning program.  This program has included devoting much time to various spiritual practices.  I have for the last forty odd years spent time each day in morning meditation, so was surprised at how much my life would be changed by going deeper into time with God. I read recently that Spiritual Practices are a bridge to God, that has certainly proven to be true for me this year.

And this is how I came to the Prayer of Examen, this prayer penned by St Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556) founder of the Society of Jesus (aka the Jesuits) is the one thing that Ignatius advised his priests they must do every day without fail.  This prayer has changed me, has changed my life.  I spend my days consciously, or without thought, preparing my list of blessings that I might thank God for each evening.  Some days I can hardly wait to begin my time in prayer so that I can express my gratitude for the life God has given me.

As I have spent my day collecting the blessings God has given me when I approach my King in prayer, my heart opens, and I can feel God’s presence in my gratitude.  The prayer continues by asking God to send his Spirit to guide me, and then I share the joy of where I have seen God’s face that day.  This prayer has brought peace to my soul, I find I have so much more compassion and patience with life events that in my past would have led to frustration and judgement.  As I continue with the prayer asking God to forgive me if I have left him out of my day, or if I have sinned. And to close, I ask God to grant me the grace to always be available to him.

November the month when Americans celebrate being thankful, of all the people in the world even at our worst we are greatly blessed.   May God richly bless each of you with His peace and love.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Daily Delights by Jennifer Brock Olson

“We hold the key to lasting happiness in our own hands. For it is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”                                                               —Brother David Steindl-Rast

Above is a favorite quote that has adorned my refrigerator for years. Over the years the practice of gratitude has served me well. However, as the concept of gratitude’s value became mainstream it has almost become something to accomplish. Like our daily steps, “gratitudes” are now something we count—a mindful way to increase our happiness quotient.  Fortunately, I recently began to add Krista Tippet’s “On Being Podcasts” to my gratitude practice. Krista’s interview with Ross Gay and their discussion of his Book of Delights has inspired me to begin looking for delights.

Delight is something that surprises. Delight incites glee. One smiles with delight and perhaps even giggles. Delight is fun. Delight is life affirming.

On August 11th, we attended the memorial service of Charlotte Peterson, our daughter-in-law’s grandmother. Delight was not expected, however it was found.

The piano itself was beautiful and the pianist was talented. From the podium in the church sanctuary Charlotte’s granddaughter Jessica used the word “kickass” as a descriptor for her grandma. (Jessica credits Charlotte for teaching her sassy is acceptable.)

The most surprising delight was the minister’s use of a one of my least liked scriptures. (Several passages in the bible have God’s messengers messing up the Message! This one with the Canaanite woman is especially troubling since the messenger is Jesus.) When Matthew 15:21-28 was read I may have actually shaken my head in dismay. And, when the minister took the podium to begin the eulogy he admitted the choice also confused his secretary.  (She even called to make sure he was not the one confused.) The minister smiled. He had chosen this passage specifically for Charlotte who was the definition of tenacious when it came to the welfare of her family.

The minister went on to present a new-to-me view of this biblical passage where Jesus tells a woman that his ministry was not for her—going so far as to compare her to a dog to which he would not throw away good food. The Canaanite woman held firm. “Even a dog gets table scraps,” she said. And, thankfully, Jesus lived up to his calling.

My new synopsis:  An outsider—a female outsider no less—stood up to having-a-bad-day Jesus and invited him to live up to his “The greatest of these is LOVE” message. I was delighted to take a new look at a scripture I’d trashed and at the same time learn more about my strong daughter-in-law’s feminist/womanist grandma.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Meditation on Hymn “We Shall Overcome” By Roberta Tilden

We shall overcome – I remember fervently singing this song when I was in high school.

I remember watching innocent people being beaten with clubs and attacked by dogs just because they wanted equal rights.  Been there done that.  I thought we had overcome fear and prejudice permanently.  Wrong, wrong, wrong.  Here racism is rearing its ugly head again.  What is a person to do?

Fortunately those of us who belong to Community of Christ have a real vehicle for change at our disposal.  We have been encouraged to proclaim Christ and create communities of Joy, Hope Love, and Peace.  I do believe that we SHALL overcome one person at a time.

Walking hand in hand to create communities where people truly respect each other, and love diversity is our calling and our hope. 

We can pray for peace but we must also work for peace.

Will we live in peace someday?  Perhaps that is up to you and me.  Violence and racism can be catching, but so can Joy, Hope, Love, and Peace.  Live your commitment to the Christ and someday we will live in Peace.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Reunion Adventures by Lavera Wade

I have been a member of Community of Christ now for nine or ten years.  I discovered Reunion the first year and look forward to this adventure every year.
I love being in God’s creation, the sound of the wind in the pines, that special early morning soft smell of the woods, a call of a small bird, and the somewhere whiff of coffee, new friends and some I have come to love, as the years have gone by.
This year I was signed up to attend Cascade Reunion. 
I was asked if I would put together the Sunday Service for the Samish reunion and someone would use the outline for the service.  A few weeks later I heard a friend needed a ride to Samish and thought why not.
What a treat.  My new road trip buddy and I dashed off early, heading toward the west side.  Traffic was light.  We made our first stop at a small gas station about an hour out.  No road trip is complete without snacks.  We watched the traffic pile up in the eastbound lanes as we flew over the pass and onto 405.  I decided then to come home the backway over the North Cascade highway.
Arriving at Samish I was greeted with hugs from good friends and the news that our cook this year was Tyler Marz a chef, the meals were to die for. 
David Anderson was the guest minister, and I very much enjoyed the adult class, and the guidance he provided on the spiritual practice of dwelling in the word.  The young people attending were a delight to spend time with around the campfire. Several of them promptly agreed to serve during the Sunday night service.
Due to other commitments I had to dash home after only a couple days, the trip through the back-country home included amazing vistas, almost no traffic, and interesting discussions on NPR.
A few weeks later I was off to Cascade Reunion.  Again, the opportunity to find peace in God’s creation, as I listened to stories of faraway places, and devoted disciples as David and Carolyn Brock shared adventures of many years of service in the church.  More guidance on spiritual practices, silly campfire songs with amazing youth, and lots of hugs and conversation with dear friends.
On the way home my spirit was filled but sad, as the attendance at both reunions was minimal and the budget was made only by the generosity of everyone who attended. 
The end of August I will be attending the Women’s Retreat at Cascade, and in September the Mission Center Conference in Whitehall.  I look forward to these events because I know my spirit will be filled.  The hymn, “As We Gather” so beautifully calls us together.  As we gather may your spirit work within us, as we gather may we glorify your name.  Knowing well that as our hearts begin to worship, we’ll be glad because we came. 
This hymn was written in 1946 when so many more gathered.  It calls us today.