Tuesday, August 7, 2018
Almost all the women I know are, or have worked a full-time job, in or out of the home. Their lives are filled with caring for spouse, partners, children, parents, and any number of critters. They are volunteers, active in their churches or other support groups. The list goes on and on about their busy lives.
My life is just as busy, but due to a lucky turn of events I stumbled across my first Women's Retreat and I was hooked. From that day forward, I have been on the search for the next Women's retreat, I have invited any number of women to attend a retreat. I have concluded it is very difficult for most women to take time for themselves away from friends and family. There are a host of reasons but let’s just leave it at who's going to feed the goldfish.
So here is my pitch for why your life will be better if you skip all the events you could attend this Labor Day, and pack your pillow and attend the Women's retreat at Camp Cascade, .... you will find:
Quiet, A quiet walk with only the sound of God’s voice whispering through the pines. Quiet that leaves you able to hear your own answers to questions you have struggled with.
Time, time to share with like-minded women. Time to meet new friends, or catch up with friends you have not had time for in too long. Time to do nothing accept share a few chores with the rest of the girls.
Most important the peace you will find when you get home. The peace that comes from having taken the time to recharge your batteries, come closer to God, taken time just for you.
This year instead of saying maybe next year to our Women's Retreat, tell your friends and family you might join them next year, at what it is they are doing this Labor Day, and join us at Camp Cascade. I suspect your friends and family will support this plan.
I look forward to sharing time with you at Camp Cascade. Retreat information and registration can be found at http://www.cofchrist-iwest.org/women-s-retreat.html or contact Sandy Decker at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions.
Wednesday, July 11, 2018
It was a couple of days before the Community of Christ Cromberg, California Family Camp. Lori and I flew into Sacramento earlier to spend time with our friends Ruth and Mike Seagraves and their family, before we all packed into the cars and headed off to camp together. Ruth was the director and had asked Lori and I to be guest ministry for the week. Lori and I were excited to experience a new campground and family camp, spend time with cousins who would be there, and share in ministry.
As we were sitting around talking and laughing, Mike told us that their middle daughter was going to be baptized during camp by her grandma (Mike’s mom). This just added to the anticipation and joy of the coming week. For the baptize Mike was going to play guitar and sing, but was not finding the right song. Lori asked if he knew the song “O Sun” by Peter Mayer ( ). Mike loved it and began writing out the music and learning to play it. Now the house was filled with Mike strumming a few chords, the scratch of his pencil on the paper, more strumming, humming . . . by the end of the day he could play it by heart.
At Cromberg campground they have an outside baptism fount. It is up the hill from the cabins and tucked underneath towering pine trees. When the time came for the baptism service the camp made its way up the hill gathering around the fount. Warm sunlight filtered down through the still pines. Bird song and twitters gave welcome to the sacred moment. Beginning with hymns we joined our voices with the avian choir in that church of pines.
As granddaughter and grandma descended into the pool of water, Mike began to play “O Sun.” The song is about being filled by the sun, wine, and wind. The lyrics express sacramental language of asking to be filled by life, strength, and breathe. And to help us shine, to be opened-wide, and to pour forth the same life and love we receive from God through blessings of community, unity in diverse, sacredness of creation, and worth of all persons.
During the second verse of the song that asks “O wind, come fill me” a gust of wind whoosh through the pines surprising us all. At the end of the verse the wind was gone. As Mike finished the song, I looked at him and his face was just radiating with the huge bewildered smile that seemed to ask the same question I was pondering: “Did that really happen?”
When the service was over some of us practically sprinted down the hill to download the video that was taken of the baptism onto a laptop. We hit “play” in wonder and anticipation. “Did that really happen?” It did! That gift of gusting wind filled the pines, filled Mike’s and Ruth’s daughter, filled all of us with God’s Spirit in that sacramental moment.
This was a baptism experience I will not forget as God’s Spirit whooshed through the pines!
Friday, June 1, 2018
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
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
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: https://www.ammoniteink.com/shop-1
Monday, March 5, 2018
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
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!