Friday, April 19, 2019

Every Day is Christmas by Barbara Miller-Collins

     Christmas is a busy time of the year.  But underlying the hurry scurry is the underlying theme of “love”.  Every day is Christmas to me.  Every day I am reminded of the love of Jesus Christ, His mercy and kindness to me.  My life has been preserved and extended for His purposes.  I survived stage 3B aggressive breast cancer in 1995.  A miracle happened again on December 7, 2018.
      Chris and I were returning from purchasing kitchen cabinets for our rental house.  I was dozing in the passenger seat of our car as we crossed the confluence of the Yakima and Columbia Rivers on SR 18 at milepost 34.  It was a dark night at 5:10 p.m. and we were traveling in a solid stream of cars in rush hour traffic going 60 plus mph in our Toyota Camry. 
     A sudden deceleration of speed and then a massive blow sent me flying forward violently and then I slammed backwards.  My eyes flew open to see dimly that we were stopped in a medium strip between two speeding lanes of traffic.  Our car was stopped at the entrance to an exit onto I-82.  The lights from the traffic speeding within feet of us were disorienting.  I was trembling.
     Our seats were now laid back fully with the portion under our backs broken and bent in a 35 degree angle.  They were inoperable.  The back doors would not open.  The rear view mirror had become a flying projectile.  The trunk had been shoved almost into the back seat.  The car frame was bent.  Our rear bumper and muffler were grinding on the pavement as Chris managed to move our car forward to a wider place in the medium strip between the I-82 exit and the busy SR18.  We sat shaking and in shock trying to orient our thoughts as to what to do.  The ¾ ton Chevy Silverado truck that had rear-ended our car at high speed was now stopped beside us.
      I looked up and saw a woman walking down the middle of the medium strip.   She had crossed two lanes of heavy bumper to bumper traffic to reach our car.   “Are you hurt?!” she demanded.  “What is your pain level?” I was incoherent, in shock.  "Give me your hand!”  She demanded.   I gave her my hand.  She prayed an anointing that my body would not suffer any ill effects and would be healed.  She asked God for healing, peace and comfort for me.  I felt the quiet peace cover me and the confusion lifted.  “Give me your hand!” she urgently commanded Chris.  Again, she prayed over him that any ill effects from the accident would be healed.  There were no injuries in the other vehicle.  A state patrolman gave us a ride to the hospital eventually.  X-rays showed no broken bones.  We were in some mild pain.  Chris’ bad knee had hit the dashboard.  The rear-view mirror had hit him in the ear.  My upper spine felt tight and my right knee was sore.  But we did not need pain medicine.
      Assessing what had happened; Chris realized that given the force that had crumpled metal so badly and broken our seats, we were lucky to be alive.  Miraculously, our bodies sustained little damage.  We were no more sore than what we were before the accident.  We were able to resume our daily activities quickly.  No additional medical treatment for injuries has been required in the 4 months since the incident.  Even the big financial loss of our car turned into a blessing.   We were able to replace it with an AWD vehicle before our family arrived for the Christmas holidays and importantly before record breaking heavy winter snows came to Washington State a few months later. 
     Chris and I feel inspired and miraculously blessed by the faith of this unknown disciple who in Christ-like love put her own life selflessly at risk to come and pray for strangers in their time of need.   She truly was Christ-like in her ministry to us. 
    John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life.”  Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ.  God is love.  Christmas is love.  Let us love one another even as Jesus Christ loves us.  Let every day be Christmas.  

Friday, March 1, 2019

Giving up for Lent by Lavera Wade

Ash Wednesday is March 6 and I have decided to give up my obsessive habit of checking the news several times a day.  I will admit it has taken me over a month to decide that I can achieve this. 
I grew up in the Methodist church and was not in the habit of observing Lent as a time to give up anything.    I joined Community of Christ in 2011 and that first spring I had words with a friend about of all things how to load the silverware in the dishwasher.  Handles up or down, I believe I was right but did not want to end the friendship over how to load a dishwasher.  So I apologized for showing my frustration and thought nothing more of it.  A month later I found my friend reloading the silverware again her way.  And again I found I had to apologize after expressing my frustration.
After some reflection and because Lent was upon us I decided somewhat impulsively, I am going to give up the need to be right for Lent.  I shared that I was going to try for 40 days to just let anything I disagreed with go.  I was not making promises I would achieve this, and that this was not forever, just forty days.  I did pretty well actually and have each year given up some other habit just for lent and as best I can.  Sometimes I think it would have been a lot easier to give up chocolate.  No self-reflection required with chocolate.
So imagine my surprise when I googled “give up the need to be right”, in preparation for this article and found it is all about control.  As were the habits of the other years.  This year is about the drama, but that is another story.
I am involved in Spiritual Companionship training and learning about discernment.  Much of what I am reading speaks to how we often fail to seek God’s will in our lives, and try to call our own shots.  For me this has led in my past to some really poor choices.  It’s not so much the mistakes that have caused me the most sorrow. It has been the loss of peace and hope, that comes when I do not trust God to lead me in the right direction.  Thinking I can come up with a better idea.   To be honest there wasn’t any thinking just not including God in my life in any meaningful way.
I have learned through the years that God is always willing to work with us, making the best results out of even the most hopeless situation.  But my new journey with God, practicing discernment is to try to seek his will before I make a choice.  Asking God to send his Spirit to guide me.  I now spend time in Spiritual practices, and the prayer of exam, opening my heart so that I may be lead. 
And so I am excited to begin my Lenten journey this year.  I have three books that I am looking forward to reading.  All address learning more about developing a closer relationship with God.  As always I say this is only for forty days.  And I will do the best I can.
Blessings to you in your Lenten journey.   

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Permeability of the Spirit By Brad A. Martell

“Permeability, porousness, works both ways.  You are allowed to move through the woods with new eyes and ears when you let go of your little annoyances and anxieties.”           – Gary Snyder, A Place in Space, 198.

Trudging along the trail, head down staring at only a few feet in front of each boot step, I was weighted down with more than what was in my backpack.  It was raining, cold, and dark in the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina.  Encased in my Omni-Tech raingear I was armored against the elements.  And encased in my acerbity I was trying to armor myself against the annoyances and anxieties I was carrying in my emotional and spiritual backpack.   
Lori and I were in our first semester of our master’s in environmental education.  I was having an extremely difficult time understanding the experiential learning model at the core of the program.  I was experiencing lots of confusion and struggle as I was not letting myself be open to a new way of learning.  I wanted the same kind of experience I had in college – give me the syllabus, tell me what to read, write, and what will be on the test.  Before my master’s I understood (and was quite happy with) education that fit a certain structure and process.  It was predictable with clearly defined boundaries.  But when I boarded “The Bus” (Audubon Expedition Institute master’s program) I found my footing precarious.  I had not yet grasped the understanding that education was not just “book learning” but it was every encounter, relationship, and experience in my life. 
Going into the backpack, I was so frustrated and anxious about when I was going to get my “assignments” completed that I was fighting against being present, porous, and paying attention to this particular experience with my community, engaged in wholistic learning and being mindful of the woods.  I was wearing a literal and metaphorical shell to protect me from the physical, emotional, and spiritual “elements.”  However, as much as I fought against the moment, there was something that began to soak in and bring me out of my protective shell. 
Wild natural places are where I feel closest to the Spirit.  After a few days I was able to discard the worries and anger I “packed in.”  I was able to sink in place and be present, porous, and paying attention to the wonders of the woods, the fellowship with my community, the peace of the Spirit.  My anxieties diminished and my agitation was soothed.
The day we hiked out there was a light rain, but I didn’t put on my raingear.  The warm rain felt refreshing falling on the bare skin of my face, arms, and legs.  I was practicing permeability, porousness to allow the flow of the Spirit to soak into me.  In that spiritual soaking I was made new. 
What is holding you back from being permeable to the Spirit?

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Spiritual Formation and Companioning Program by Carol Ann Reiff

Walking onto the Happy Valley Campground I sensed a spirit of love and welcoming from each of those who were called to serve us and who had been praying for us.  Terry and I remarked that we felt as one with the group from the beginning.  All nervousness about this program fell away.  I think all those who came were just hungry for connection with God from the start.

When the first class by Laurie Gordon ended, I felt like dancing before God!  Laurie, a retired Research Biologist, Spiritual Director and Evangelist in Community of Christ, showed us how God is always beyond our understanding of God.  I was filled with humility and joy.  Her classes were only part of the experience of worship I was blessed to enjoy.

When around 100 voices joined together to sing, I wondered if people were chosen because of their ability to sing.  The worship leader was Katie Harmon-Mclaughlin, a Spiritual Formation Specialist.  I came so needy and I was not let down.  The Spiritual Formation Team taught us many ways to connect with God:  Holy Attention, Lectio Divina, Centering Prayer, Contemplative Prayer, Dwelling in the Word, Prayer of Examen and more. 

We walked among the redwoods; hiked the mountain behind us; ate delicious, nutritious food; and visited with old and new friends.  In small covenant discipleship groups, we shared stories of our own journeys and learned how to listen to others.

I came to this experience feeling so flat and in need of uplift.  I’m now so excited to continue on this journey with others and with God.  I believe God has brought me to this place and I feel thankful that God has never let me down on my journey.