Friday, June 1, 2018

Reunion is Good for your Health by Lavera Wade

Loving God, how do we find the courage to love so abundantly, so inclusively? How do we allow ourselves to be loved enough that it softens us, breaks down our barriers, and humbles us.
I was a new member of Community of Christ in 2011 when I attended my first reunion at Samish Island.

My second day there a young girl hands me a sign, and says do you want to wear this?  The sign read FREE HUGS.

Did I want to spend my day hugging a large group of strangers?  My life experience as the child of an alcoholic would not suggest this was a good idea.  But for some unknown reason I dawned the sign and began my journey being loved in Community of Christ. I still enjoy the friendships that began at that reunion, and last year we made many new friends at Cascade reunion.

Christ said, they will know you are my disciples because of your love for one another.
Reunion is the place where we get to practice love for one another, by serving each other, worshiping together, and finding peaceful times when God can whisper of His love in the sound of the soft breeze through the tree’s.
Looking forward to reunion, Hope to see you there.

Over the years I have enjoyed meeting and hugging an ever growing number of disciples at several women’s retreats, more reunions, mission center conference, and World conference.  As we follow where the Spirit leads us each day, we are given the opportunity to become a Blessing of God’s Love and Peace. Looking forward to meeting you soon.
Note:  studies show we need 8 hugs a day for good health, 4 hugs just for survival, HUGS lower your blood pressure, and just feel Good.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Power of a Testimony by Brent Tovey

During my early teenage years, I would spend several weeks every summer in Pocatello, Idaho visiting my aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins.  One summer when I was 15 I was staying with my aunt and uncle and cousin who lived south of Pocatello in Arbon Valley.  During one of those weeks, a church reunion was being held at a camp on Scout Mountain which was in the Utah-Southeast Idaho District at that time.  The guest ministers were:  Arthur Oakman, Aleah Koury and Gene Chaney.
There was quite a number of kids my age in attendance.  We went to all of the services and one that was very meaningful and important to the youth was the morning prayer and testimony service.  I listened very attentively to the testimonies shared by my new friends.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that I did not have the kind of testimony being shared by my friends which were very spiritual, powerful, insightful, meaningful and pertinent to the issues, needs and problems of everyday teenage life.
All of the boys were staying in one large cabin a distance from the center of the campground.  It was a heavily wooded area which was very dark when the cabin lights were turned out.
I remember climbing into my bed, turning off my flashlight and laying in the silent darkness.  Everyone else was asleep.  I began to reflect on the prayer and testimony service of that morning.  Knowing that I was not in tune with the spiritual level and understanding of many of my friends, I asked God if He would help me to better understand His ways and purposes as they relate to my life that I might also be a servant for His cause and have a testimony of my own to share.
The event that took place next would change my life forever:  In the air above the foot of my bed appeared a bright light that radiated from the center in all directions.  In that moment, every cell in my body was aware that I was in the presence of the Holy Spirit.  That experience lasted about 15 seconds but will always be a part of my life – a FOUNDATIONAL spiritual experience!  I felt a sense of total acceptance and unconditional love.
As I reflected back on that event I was able to draw a conclusion as to what it meant:  The greatest thing that can happen to a human being is to have a personal, powerful, undeniable encounter with the Holy Spirit.  The life of anyone who has this kind of experience will never be the same again.  To some degree you begin to think like Jesus thinks and when you begin to think like Jesus thinks you begin to see the world and everything in it through His eyes.
I have a testimony!
For it is the God who said, “let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.   ( 2 Corinthians  4:6)

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Hate is NOT Welcome Here…But YOU Are! By Barb Brock

At a November 2016 rally in Spokane, Washington, an African American retired EWU photography professor, Robert Lloyd, waved his arm in the air and invited any of the 250 people packed in that gymnasium to come to Rocket Market every Thursday at 10 am and discuss Black Culture. I saw him wave across the room and immediately thought now THIS is something I could do - small group, informal, no agenda, long discussions, etc.  I’m not so much a “big organization joining” type of person, but love face-to-face interactions. So, that very next Thursday, I sat in the parking lot at Rocket Market and thought WHAT THE HECK AM I DOING HERE? What will I say? What could I possibly offer? Do I just say, Hey, I would like some Black friends? And the doubts flooded in. But I did join the table that day with Bob and 4-5 others. I rather clumsily introduced myself as did everyone else, and the conversations began.

Fast forward 18 months and nearly a hundred coffees (and gatherings) later, Vern and I are now faithful members of the Thursday Coffee group, which averages about a half dozen people each week. Occasionally, significant leaders or politicians of the community drop in for a chat, but mostly it’s a core of about five people. We’ve seen a dozen movies – often together and with discussion, read several books, and listened to lectures on topics from Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome to our fractured prison system.  I thought I was a “fairly good citizen” before, but soon realized how narrow and shallow my world had become. Now that we’ve had our new friends into our home and have been in theirs, all those honest and hard questions about racism, white privilege, politics, and priorities are so much easier to ask and discuss. And most importantly, we are beginning to understand what the “real” history of our United States is.

Thursday Coffee members have marched in support of a young black man shot in the back 30 yards away and killed by a white man who was acquitted by an all white jury on claims of “self defense.”  We’ve raised money to send 52 Black women and their daughters to the fabulous movie Hidden Figures to show what very bright African American women did in the 60’s for our space program. We’ve spent hours in Bob Lloyd’s home and learned the role he played in the 60’s, often shuttling Martin Luther King back and forth to rallies; his photography displaying a remarkable and personal journey through the Civil Rights Movement. Other ideas coming from Thursday Coffee include supporting two struggling artists of by providing art supplies each month, designing Hate is NOT Welcome shirts and signs (more info below) after Mr. Norris Cooley, a 66-year-old Black man, was harassed and shot at by two White Supremacists last October. Some have become Precinct Officers to encourage voting and neighborhood discussions, and a few of us participated in Refugee training. These discussions have morphed into another group of diverse women in Spokane, and my African American friends DG and Jackie came over to meet a dozen Cheney women at my house just yesterday. Now some of us are planning “Listening Tours” and half-day retreats in the future to become better and more compassionate listeners to ALL points of view.

Remember my story about sitting in the Rocket Market parking lot, feeling ignorant, inadequate, and wondering what in the world to say?  Well, the connections were practically instantaneous that morning, and making a few friends of color has made it SO much easier to make many more - and feel comfortable in diverse cultures and settings. I love the statement: It is hard to hate up close. We need to move in. It takes a little thought and time, but you can find a place to “dive in” to the circle. These future friends are awaiting our questions and welcome the chance to enlighten and be enlightened. I ask my Black friends now, “How can we white privileged folks find out more about you and your culture.”  They universally reply, almost laughing and shouting, “Just ASK!!!”  Begin these conversations, invite people of diversity, culture, and color to your table, ask important questions, listen carefully, and show love. Good, peaceful things follow.

Here are a few books and movies where we’ve gained great lessons. I can completely guarantee you will find enlightenment and increase your understanding of Black Culture. Just start ticking them off one by one!

BOOKS: Waking Up White, Small Great Things, Between the World and Me, Just Mercy, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, and Malcolm X

MOVIES: The Vernon Johns Story, 13th, Loving, Hidden Figures, Get Out, Where to Invade Next, Race, The Color of Fear, and Freedom Riders

Below is a statement from Randi Madison, the screen-print designer at Ammonite Ink in Spokane, who helped me design the Hate is NOT Welcome Campaign.

Hello Beautiful People!

 “I just wanted to share with you an example of how one woman and a handful of concerned citizens have taken a step-in action raising awareness around the disturbing and unsettling feelings surrounding hate crimes we have all witnessed in many forms in our city, country, and world. We are entering into a time where many of our society's dark secrets are being unearthed. We are at a unique time, as this unearthing of abuses, fear-based ideologies, and blatantly damaging personas are being revealed to us, and in turn ARE a reflection of us at some level. The “Hate is NOT Welcome Here” products were inspired by the recognition that we are at a powerful point of choosing to be complacent or to take action, of choosing to see what role we play in what we attract. I hope you are inspired to learn more about your own truths and radiate out a newfound commitment to compassion in action. Just taking the time to look inward, digest, transform your own outdated beliefs and reflect back to the world a more aware and mindful version of yourself is really the most powerful thing we can do. For that no purchase necessary! However, if you feel as if the messaging does reflect you or would be a great gift for those you know, please consider supporting the cause.  Every single dollar of profit will support the Center for Justice in Spokane. (The shirts are now available wholesale only for orders of 12 or more. Gather your friends together and get a few!  Website is:

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Sacrifice of Jesus by Blair White

You have heard it said that the sacrifice of Jesus occurs at the cross. While one cannot deny that perspective, I wonder if his sacrificial acts don’t start long before the cross.  During the period of Lent we follow the journey of Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem; a journey that starts with baptism and ends with crucifixion.
I see the sacrifice of Jesus playing out in each step of this journey.  Immediately after baptism, and subsequently confirmation, Jesus is immediately driven to the wilderness where he is tempted.  Mark doesn’t go into detail about these temptations, however the term itself implies a desire to do something that will often result in an unwise consequence.  To turn our back on temptation is a sacrifice.  While not part of the Lenten readings, as Jesus begins his ministry he immediately becomes known as a healer, but quickly recognized healing, as important as that is in transforming lives, in itself is not going to accomplish his mission.  Jesus’ mission is not just to transform lives, it is to transform systems. 
Transforming lives happens more or less on an individual basis.  Sure it can have ripple effects to family and friends, but transforming systems affects each individual within the system.  These transformations change the way people think and interact with one another.   First century Palestine is occupied by the unjust, foreign forces of the Roman Empire.  In their territory it is being governed by a Jewish family who has forsaken their own people for the sake of personal gain.  While the religious leaders; i.e. Pharisees and Scribes, are not happy with the situation, in times of turmoil it is fairly common to think that if we can just get back to the way things used to be, the future will become the romanticized version of the past.  Add into that the Pharisees are rule bound by nature, the situation calls for overzealousness to the rules. 
In Jesus’ lifetime he has seen all this play out.  He has seen the Zealots and other Jewish militia type groups revolt against the Roman government, the Sampson taking on Goliath if you will, only to see that most revolts fair terribly for his tradition.  Jesus recognized he must create an alternative vision for his people; a vision that is going to call out injustice and seek reform in the political as well as faith realm.  Jesus is not ignorant of the Pax Roma, the Peace of Rome.  This is not the peace of shalom, this is the peace of coercion; either one stays in line or suffer the cross. The choice is yours.
Jesus is not blind to this situation, nor is he ignorant of the likelihood the religious leaders will unite with government if it appears it will be in their best interest; they succumb to their temptations.  As such the whole journey from Galilee, the place where ministry starts, to Jerusalem becomes a sacrifice.  It becomes the yielding of self; the knowing that speaking out against the religious and political powers of the day is not going to fair well for the one who does so in the end. It is releasing of personal safety and gain for the benefit of the greater, common good knowing that the cross will culminate the journey.
Often the journey of Lent for us means the giving up of something, however in many instances, including my own, rarely has it meant there would be a net increase to the common good.  What if my vision of discipleship in Christ is too small?  What are the religious, political or other systems I’m a part of that need reformed not just for my sake, but for the sake of others?
Gracious, Merciful God, in this season of Lent open my eyes and heart.  Help me to see and use the now unknown resources at my disposal to create change not only for me and mine, but for the greater part of your here and now kingdom.  In the name of The One who gave so others might live, Amen.

Monday, February 5, 2018

God Speaks Today He Speaks To Our Youth - An Experience Never To Be Forgotten. By Joachim Stephan

I shared in previous stories my personal need for experiencing the presence of God in what we refer to as a “Spiritual Encounter”.  By that I mean a mental state in which we feel close to the presence of God.  We feel exhilarated, mentally enhanced and strangely detached from experiencing the world around us. We feel at peace. We feel happy. We may receive information on an enhanced plane.   And best of all we experience an indescribable feeling of love toward others - even toward those that we consider in a “normal” or “usual” state of awareness with indifference, dislike, even loathing.
I have learned to hunger for those kinds of experiences since I was a young adult.  I have found that I can experience them in the peaceful settings of nature, or gatherings that we refer to as “Reunions” or “Retreats”.  I have also found those experiences on sparsely inhabited Alaskan islands where I would not encounter another human being for long periods of time.
But I have also experienced that wonderful state of being in such locations as the Auditorium where I would worship, pray and sing in the company of some 6,000 other brothers and sisters in the faith.
And then there also were times when I experienced a “spiritual” experience when I was not even aware of it occurring.  I learned from those experiences that they were not necessarily meant for me – and that I was being used by the Holy Spirit to minister to someone else.  In such an experience God wanted to touch someone else – to provide direction to someone else, to physically or spiritually heal a life through a life altering event that the individual needed and would never forget or even deny.
The event I am recalling (how could I ever forget it?) in Columbus, Ohio where my family and I resided, worked and worshipped for some twenty years. We had been invited to an event at the Ohio State University where a young man whom we knew as “Teddy” was giving an organ presentation at Music School Auditorium on a Sunday afternoon.  You may have observed the same young man (we did during World Conference) exercising his masterful skills on the Temple Organ in Independence, MO. Teddy was giving what we essentially known to be his Master’s Degree Thesis by performing on the organ at the Music Auditorium. Because many of us knew the young man most of his young life, and had worshipped with him and his parents on a regular basis, we had been invited to attend this important occasion – an invitation that we eagerly accepted. I should note that a wonderful lady organist at North Church in Columbus had been his teacher and mentor for several years – my friend Elsie Zellers.
His parents were of course also present and so it was after Teddy’s performance we congratulated the parents on the professional skills displayed by their young son.  During our conversation we also happen to speak with a brother, who had been our pastor for several years.  He curiously asked me if I had been aware of an unusual event that his young son of 14 named “Paul” (not his real name) had witnessed or experienced that morning during the communion service.  I confessed that I was not aware of anything out of the ordinary. It had been an uneventful communion service for me, we had a big crowd and I had given the communion message, which I hoped had ministered to those attending the service.
Then my pastor began to tell me a story that fairly sent the chills through me:  I remember the young man and his mother sitting in the front row and moving around somewhat agitated.  His father told me that he had whispered to his mother – as I was giving the communion message: “Mom – do you see that arm”.  She looked at him and replied “What arm?” To which he replied: “The arm on Joe’s shoulder!”
Being a longtime member in the Community of Christ his mother was familiar with the kind of spiritual experiences that she and others had previously experienced in their worship services during their lifetime.  So, she responded in a positive way by asking her son: “What does the arm look like – describe it to me?”  To which the 14-year-old youngster replied: “There is a large hand resting on Joe’s shoulder and it is disappearing at the elbow in a mist!”
That is essentially what the young boy’s father related to me that Sunday afternoon and then, asked me if I had been aware of anything unusual happening.  I was astounded but I had to confess that I had experienced nothing unusual.
I think we both departed somewhat disappointed, not really being able to tie his son’s experience to anything unusual.
But I could not dismiss the event that the young boy had witnessed.  Paul was not the kind of individual that to my knowledge pursued any spiritual encounters; he did not seem to be intend on “tuning” in to God on a spiritual wavelength.  It was several weeks later – approximately 6-8 weeks later that my wife and I visited our pastor and his family on a friendly basis. And while in their home, being still very curious about what he had shared with me at the organ recital – I asked if he could ask his son Paul to share it with us his experience.  My pastor agreed and called to his son who was riding his Cushman motor scooter in the backyard.  Paul came in, flushed from his activities and looked at us – impatient to return to his outside activities. I should tell the reader that Paul was “all boy” on his way to become “all man” it seemed to me. There was nothing soft or sissy about him. And – he really did not seem to be interested in anything “religious” I soon found out how I had misjudged him.
His father inquired of him if he could relate to us the experience of some weeks before.  To our surprise, Paul instantly broke into tears whereupon his father asked him, “Paul, why do you think you had that experience?”  Paul replied between sobs: “Because I had my doubts about the church that morning, I also had my doubts about the ministry of the church really being called by God.”
It became obvious to me that sunny afternoon that the experience that Paul had was mostly for him. He felt the effect of it to a degree that none of us had. He had doubts about the church and her priesthood was really based on God’s calling.  But the vision that he had erased that doubt for him – probably for a lifetime. The experience he had been meant for him, and not for any of us.  And I realized in that moment, that for as long as Paul lived – he would never deny what he had experienced. God in that vision had revealed to him that he loved him and impressed on him not to doubt the message that had come to him through the church that he had been baptized in.  And that He – his Heavenly Father – was as close to him as his next breath.

We lost track of most of the church members when we moved West but we have never forgotten the many wonderful experiences we shared with so many of the brothers and sisters there. And I will never forget “Paul’s” spiritual encounter – so long ago!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Some events in life bring sadness to your heart by Denise White

Let me step back a little, in 2006 I became the pastor of the Wheeling, WV Community of Christ congregation.  I served in that role until my husband, Blair, and I knew in early 2016 that we would be moving to the Salt Lake City area.  We realized since the Wheeling congregation was very small when the two of us left the congregation, more than likely, it would close.
Even after we moved and we went back home for Christmas we volunteered to plan, preside and speak at the Christmas Eve service (my favorite service of the year!)
By the summer of 2017 the congregation had dwindled to 6 to 8 people.  The decision was made to close the congregation and sell the building.  A Methodist denomination purchased the building. It was one of the denominations that we worked with to provide an Ecumenical Vacation Bible School in the community.
The decision to close and sell the building made me sad, but because I was over 1,800 miles away I was able to put it out of my mind, until this past Christmas Eve. Blair & I was able to “go home” for Christmas so we decided to go and join the Methodist group in “our” building for their Christmas Eve service.
It was very difficult to see the building that we had lovingly built, cared for and worshiped in for so many years “belong” to someone else.  But as we sat and heard the familiar story of the birth of our Lord and Savior the scripture came to mind from Doctrine and Covenants Section 161 verse 5 “ Be respectful of tradition. Do not fail to listen attentively to the telling of the sacred story, for the story of scripture and of faith empowers and illuminates. But neither be captive to time-bound formulas and procedures.”
In the telling of sacred story, we became bound together. In two different groups coming together to listen attentively as one body, we were united as one. We may not believe exactly the same but we came together and listened attentively to the telling of the sacred story in the scriptures. 

Even though my heart was sad at the selling of a building and with the recognition that some of the old traditions will never be the same, I do not want my heart to be captive.  I want to be open to new possibilities.  Change is not easy but neither do I want to be closed off to new possibilities.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Christ: The Ultimate Comfort Food by Tyler Marz

The other day I made Chicken and Noodles, or Chicken and dumplings as some like to call it. This is one of my comfort foods. Homemade broth, slowly poached chicken, rustic hand-rolled egg noodles, thickened slightly to form a creamy comforting concoction that warms the heart, body and soul.
This is a newer comfort food, something I didn’t grow up with. I actually had it for the first time while working as a Baker in Arizona, near the north rim of the Grand Canyon at Jacob Lake Inn. A homey little catch-all, hotel, delicious home cooked food, kind people, and natural beauty. You see, Jacob Lake (which is really a misnomer, as it is a dry mountain with a pond of collected rainwater) is 30 miles from the closest town which doesn’t even have a grocery store. The next closest town with a store is another 10 miles. The “Big City” closest to us is St. George, Utah… 2 hours away (ok it depends on how fast you are driving). So if you didn’t get the picture Jacob Lake is literally in the middle of the most beautiful nowhere.  Surrounded by luscious ponderosa pine and abundant wildlife, you really are in nature. Just a few miles up the road is some of the most beautiful natural meadows I have ever seen. Surrounded by pine and birch trees that turn a glorious golden hue, purple, blue and yellow spots of wild flowers growing in the idilic grassy meadows truly is a sight to behold.
Sundays were treated as special days for employee’s at Jacob Lake. Comfort food and clover leaf rolls, or as they were cleverly called, “three headed rolls” were always on the menu! It was one of these sundays, after a days work (because tourists don’t stop coming on sunday) that I had Chicken and Noodles for the first time. Pure, silky, warm, indulgent comfort. It feeds the sprit too.
You see, Christ knows us individually. For some that might be a hard concept to grasp and I think in reality, all of us who know it, are still learning more about it. Every time we rejoice in triumph, dip our head in sadness, dance for joy, Christ is right there with us. Even in our most beautiful nowhere… He is now here.
Christ is present during the ruckus of little ones during communion, in the silence right before answering a question, in the chilly fall gloom of a doldrum-like day speckled with autumn colors of changing leaves. He is there in a child’s laughter, and music that makes us smile and relieves a tinge of stress. He is there as we lay in bed, looking at the ceiling and wondering what am I doing in life? He is there when our car makes that funny noise for the first time and you wonder, how much is that going to cost? He is there when you think back to how did I get here?, and am I making the right choices?… but then you think back to if life had gone that other way, would you be here now?
I know most certainly I wouldn’t. I can start at multiple points in my life and see how, looking back, had I not been lead down that path I would have taken a completely different fork in the road and gone a different way. While I was attending univer, I was prayerfully figuring our which career path to pursue. I had two that would have been great. After weeks of fasting, prayer and council, I received direct and simple words from God (while in class, in the middle of a conversation with a classmate) that spoke to my heart. And so I pursued that degree. Yet toward the end of my senior year, I realized (after some failure as well) that maybe this wasn’t the path for me. I knew that I wasn’t meant to do this for forever. But I asked God again, if this is my path, I will keep going, If not, I will pursue something else. He told me my second option of a career was ok too. My first thought was, what was the point of me going through all of this then, for me to switch? Well that answer became apparent a year later in my graduation, moving to a new city, pursuing a career that definitely has its challenges, loving myself more, using those things that I learned from my first degree path in my second degree’s field literally every day, and in growing closer to God than I ever had before. In finding a church that gives me room to ponder and grow. That lacks judgment and critique. That allows me to blossom truly into a Son of Him.  That He loves ALL OF ME. And, that He was there on the journey with me, and at every closed door…which He then opened a window. Better yet, He still is there with me.
Christ’s love has no bounds. Neither does His grace.
Christ is there, even in our bowl of Chicken and Noodles. He is the ultimate comfort food.