Sacred Restraint

Subscribe to the Spiritual Formation Center to share your Lenten Journey experience.

A Radical Love

Subscribe to the Spiritual Formation Center to share your Lenten Journey experience.

hands holding the sun at dawn

Lenten Practice: Fasting
Daily Act: Engage in an act of generosity today. Buy someone a cup of coffee, send a note or gift to someone you think could use it, or make time in your day to spend with someone who could use your gift of time and presence. Dwell in the experience of self-emptying for the sake of another.
Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“OPEN ME TO RECEIVE MORE OF YOU.”

By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

The closer I grow to Christ
The more I feel
A radical love
On fire within me
Aching for release

How do I explain?
It is wholeness
It is salvation
It is justice

It is fulfillment
And emptying

What might happen
If I let this radical love
Lose on the world?

Where might it lead?
What might if ask of me?
How might it change me?

The more I get to know
The One I claim to follow
The more I see how
My wholeness is linked
With the well-being of all
The more I see how
The deepest dream within me
Is Shalom

Maybe this is what Lent is for
Attention to this radical love
Which is
Christ alive deep within you
With a heart on fire for
Something new

I am beginning to understand
In that space beyond words
What it means
That I must lose my life
To find it

REMINDER: March 1, 2015 is the registration deadline for our upcoming Lenten Retreat with Presiding Evangelist, David Brock. The theme is INTO THE WILDERNESS (March 13-15). If you are seeking a deeper exploration of the season of Lent in your life and yearn to grow closer with God, we would love to share this experience with you! Email khmclaughlin@cofchrist.org if you have any questions.

Lenten Spiritual Retreat with Presiding Evangelist David Brock.  March 13-15, 2015 Click here to register!

Still Time to Register! – YOUNG ADULT LEADERS’ RETREAT – MARCH 6-8, 2015

WhYoungAdultPostcardFrontPRo: This event is for anyone interested in young adult leadership or young adult ministries within the Community of Christ church (you do not have to hold a specific leadership role or be a certain age to attend (but 18+ please).

When and Where: March 6-8, 2015 at Bluewater Community of Christ Campgrounds in Lexington, MI (Flint, MI or Sarnia, ON are the nearest airports). Event will start approximately 6pm on Friday and end before noon on Sunday.

Cost: $45.00 We want this to be affordable, so the registration cost will cover food and accommodation. We encourage you to travel with friends to limit transportation costs to the campgrounds!

Registration forms can be completed here

 PLEASE RSVP to Noelle Gaffka at ngaffka@cofchrist.org to let us know you are planning to attend! 

GROW. Learn more about yourself, your gifts, your calling. Discover how to transfer your passions into your ministry leadership.

LEAD. Develop your skills and learn new ones. Receive valuable tools and resources that will help you be a better leader.

SERVE. Transfer skills to your local area. Find out how you can use these tools to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Deepen your spiritual connections and discern the ways your community needs you!

CONNECT. Build a community of supportive leaders working towards a common goal! Network, share ideas, build relationships that are intentional, meaningful, and helpful to you in your ministry with young adults!

This is a rare opportunity and has unlimited benefits to you and your communities – so don’t miss out! 

We encourage interested participants to partner with their congregations and Mission Centres. Talk to your leadership about your interest in attending, seek financial support, and offer to bring back what you’ve learned to your local area. The outcomes of this event are only as beneficial as the people you share them with! If you need help connecting with your local leadership, try these sources or contact us at yaministries@cofchrist.org:

Contact Noelle Gaffka at ngaffka@cofchrist.org or yaministries@cofchrist.org with any questions

This event is sponsored by Community of Christ Young Adult Ministries

GROW. LEAD. SERVE. CONNECT. – YOUNG ADULT LEADERS’ RETREAT – MARCH 6-8, 2015

GROW. Learn more about yourself, your gifts, your calling. Discover how to transfer your passions into your ministry leadership.

LEAD. Develop your skills and learn new ones. Receive valuable tools and resources that will help you be a better leader.

SERVE. Transfer skills to your local area. Find out how you can use these tools to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Deepen your spiritual connections and discern the ways your community needs you!

CONNECT. Build a community of supportive leaders working towards a common goal! Network, share ideas, build relationships that are intentional, meaningful, and helpful to you in your ministry with young adults!

This is a rare opportunity and has unlimited benefits to you and your communities – so don’t miss out! 

We encourage interested participants to partner with their congregations and Mission Centres. Talk to your leadership about your interest in attending, seek financial support, and offer to bring back what you’ve learned to your local area. The outcomes of this event are only as beneficial as the people you share them with! If you need help connecting with your local leadership, try these sources or contact us at yaministries@cofchrist.org:

WhYoungAdultPostcardFrontPRo: This event is for anyone interested in young adult leadership or young adult ministries within the Community of Christ church (you do not have to hold a specific leadership role to attend).

When and Where: March 6-8, 2015 at Bluewater Community of Christ Campgrounds in Lexington, MI (Flint, MI or Sarnia, ON are the nearest airports). Event will start approximately 6pm on Friday and end before noon on Sunday.

Cost: $45.00 We want this to be affordable, so the registration cost will cover food and accommodation. We encourage you to travel with friends to limit transportation costs to the campgrounds!

Registration forms can be completed here

PLEASE RSVP on the Facebook event or to Noelle Gaffka at ngaffka@cofchrist.org

Contact Noelle Gaffka at ngaffka@cofchrist.org or yaministries@cofchrist.org with any questions

This event is sponsored by Community of Christ Young Adult Ministries

World Service Corps: Application Deadline – January 31, 2015

discover wsc

Are you looking for an experience that will challenge you and transform you? World Service Corps may be the experience you are looking for! World Service Corps (WSC) is an international volunteer ministry of Community of Christ, committed to offering opportunities for leadership development, disciple formation, and cultural immersion.

Applications are being accepted now until January 31, 2015 to serve as a World Service Corps volunteer in 2015. Apply today! Visit our website to view more information or contact the WSC Coordinator if you have any questions.

What is it like to be a World Service Corps volunteer? Every volunteer experience is different. But read this story from Lawson Mushibwe to find out his perspective! Lawson is from Zambia and he served as a WSC volunteer in India for two months in 2014.

Testimony by: Lawson C. Mushibwe (from Ndola, Zambia)
World Service Corps volunteer, July – September 2014
WSC location: Uthamapalayam, Tamil Nadu, India

Phone rings…
Me: Hello…
Emily: Hello… Is this Lawson Mushibwe?
Me: Yes it is.
Emily: How are you Lawson?
Me: Thinking to myself, OMG, that’s an American accent… But I calmly in my polished accent responded, “Am fine thank you, and how are you?”
Emily: This is Emily Penrose McLaughlin calling you from Community of Christ. I am the World Service Corps Program Coordinator.

From this moment I knew that my WSC volunteer application had been considered. And not too long from that call, I was taking part in sharing the five mission initiatives, promoting communities of joy, hope, love and peace as well as proclaiming Jesus Christ as he is the centre of it all. I was also privileged to share at a prayer meeting on one of the eight sacraments (marriage) of Community of Christ to a couple on their fourteenth marriage anniversary.
It didn’t take me long to adapt to this new environment. Quickly, I had a family and in no time I developed new strong chords of love in friendship which created an atmosphere resulting in feelings I would get if I were home, so I indeed felt at home. Even though there was a bit of language barrier, I opened my ears to listen to people’s stories and testimonies which indeed strengthened my faith and changed my life.

Sunday school classes with the kids were exceptionally awesome. I had a good time with the Tamil children, very clever and intelligent children. Classes were never boring as they were actively involved and very participative. They portrayed the eagerness to learn more on the Bible, and indeed the bible stories. And so, on one Sunday, the kids were granted a chance to share in the Church service through a drama on one of the lessons they learnt about the Good Samaritan. Equally, the children from the local school where we volunteered were participative and intelligent. Their syllabus is quiet advanced as compared to my country therefore; I picked the lower grades/standards to save me some embarrassment [Hahaha].

As much as I was thoroughly prepared and ready for this tasked mission, what I found was humbling and made me to reduce myself to nearly nothing, giving up myself for service and striping off my right to be right on how I understand things. And yeah, sacrifice is the word to describe this humbling change I had to undergo. This was in regards to cultural differences and culture shock. Of course, each cultural practice with its own followings. Therefore, I chose to envision the emerging differences and diversity not as sources of conflict/division and distrust, but of strength and inspiration. And this provided a platform for me to share, experience and appreciate one of the Community of Christ Enduring Principles, Unity in Diversity. This resulted in my realization that although our societies may have differences; we are still highly connected through Jesus Christ.

All in all, for many people, sixty days of ministry would really be one day of ministry repeated sixty times differently. So was my WSC volunteer experience. Each day came with its own serendipitous experiences that will forever remain in my heart as it has impacted and enriched my life in this regard.

“Lawson Mushibwe (far right) with Wednesday prayer cell group, and WSC partner, Patrick Chunda (left).”

“Lawson Mushibwe (far right) with Wednesday prayer cell group, and WSC partner, Patrick Chunda (left).”

Create your own life-changing experiences!  Apply today!
Visit our website to view more information or contact the WSC Coordinator if you have any questions. 

Blessed to be a Blessing – Emily & Andrew’s Peace Corps Adventures

handsby Emily Allen Nilsen
Re-blogged from: May We Suggest

Blessing.

This word has meant different things to me over the course of my  life thus far. It once brought to mind the image of an all-powerful God who was moving pieces of my life around like a life-sized game of muggle-chess (yes, that is a Harry Potter reference). I used to believe blessings came from God and you were lucky if He chose to bless you.  I no longer see it that way.

As I got older, theological questions began to cloud my once clear picture and understanding of God. Why would God choose to bless me and NOT bless others? If God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all loving, how can extremely terrible things like natural disasters or genocide happen? Was God too busy “blessing” little ole me to do anything about those BIG issues. These questions and more plagued my heart and soul as I struggled to make sense of it all.

For a while, I wondered if I didn’t even believe in God, as least not in the same “God” I had before. I knew I believed in something; some collective, creative, connective power, but was that God if God meant all the images I had been taught for so long? I never felt comfortable saying I didn’t believe, because that wasn’t completely true, but I also couldn’t claim the concepts I once knew and stood by. I remember thinking that old saying “ignorance is bliss,” has so much truth in it. I wanted, on some level, to go back to my old ways of thinking. It was so much easier to just believe that God was in control, that God had a plan for my life.  If only I could take away the questions I wrestled with, the doubts that drowned me in darkness.

But I couldn’t go back.

I had been changed – by untimely deaths of friends and loved ones, by injustice that existed and still exists, by pain, by the cruelty in the world. I’d been forced to think – by hard academics/religious classes at Graceland (my alma mater), by friends going through similar faith crisis, by the questions that wouldn’t go away and shattered my pretty-ordered-God-in-a-box-world.

Even today, I’m not sure where exactly things changed. There was never a moment of clarity or insight, just a slow steady crawl to new understanding. There are truths I feel and recognize in my deepest soul; there is something more, there is some connecting spirit, we are many but we are one. Slowly, I began to claim God again. Not the same God as before, but I choose to still use the word “God” because I have no other word for “it.”

I believe in hope.  I believe in love.  I believe in the power we have to love and affect those around us.  I believe our thoughts and intentions are far more powerful than we have any idea about.  I believe the universe is a connected web of intentions, and relationships, and feelings rather like the neurons in our brains.  I believe that connective force that can transcend time and distance is what we have poorly understood as God, so we thought God should be more like us – human, white, male, and petty, choosing to bless some and not others.

The word blessing now means something very different to me as well.  Blessing is an active tapping into that loving, wise energy.  Blessing is about rooting oneself into that force and allowing one’s heart to expand.  It can be felt by individuals or groups, in times of sorrow, in times of joy.  Being blessed isn’t a passive state where God plays games with your life.  Blessing is listening to the callings and promptings, listening to the wisdom that exists in the lives all around us.  Blessings invoke ancient power within our own lives and souls, connecting us to each other and the Earth.

I now believe that blessings are far more about love.

This past Sunday was the last time Andrew and I would be with our local congregation for a few years.  On that day, we gathered with our friends and family to receive a blessing for our Peace Corps service.  It was an opportunity and invitation to accept love and support from our community.  It was an invitation to go deeper and to prepare emotionally to embrace the challenges and blessings our Peace Corps service has to offer.  It was incredible to feel such hope and such love.  Not many young adults participate in organized religion in the Portland area, but we feel the intergenerational relationships we have made the past 4 years, sharing with that community, have changed our lives for the better. We have their stories, their lessons, their support.

Regardless if you are Christian or not, or participate in any religion at all, it is my sincere hope that at some point in your life you feel the level of support Andrew and I felt last Sunday for transitioning to this new stage of life.  While it is difficult to say goodbye to people who have become our friends and extended family, we will carry their blessings forward.  Thank you, Tuality Community of Christ for being companions on our journey.

May we be open to the blessings today that our loved ones helped us find and feel.  May we listen with open hearts to the callings and promptings around us.  May we feel the love and support from this past Sunday so strongly that it can help sustain us and support us through our Peace Corps service.  May we be blessed.

A Moment’s Meditation: Yearning for More

by Matt Frizzell, Graceland University Campus Minister
Re-blogged from: mattfrizzell.com

deep-to-deep

Since finishing my formal studies in 2010, I’ve been on a journey.   First, I moved from Chicago to Graceland University, Lamoni, IA, to be the Director of Religious Life and campus minister in 2011.  I’ve spent the last three years settling into this position: learning Graceland’s current institutional culture, getting to know the students who come to GU, developing the courses I’m teaching, and finding my alchemical vision for Christ’s mission and Community of Christ’s mission on campus.   These responsibilities, and other denominational activities, have thoroughly absorbed the last three years of my life.

Beginning my fourth year, I can’t say “I’ve arrived.” I’m still navigating these areas and learning things.   But, I’ve come to a place where I have my bearings and some sense of direction.  I’ve identified areas that I think need long-term attention and collaboration.  I better know my circle of influence verses my circle of control.  I find meaning in daily life among students and colleagues at Graceland.  I also have more opportunities to be present with Margo and my two daughters at home.  Katy, my oldest, is a teenager this year.  She’ll be a freshmen in high school a year from now.  Kenzlee, my younger daughter, began middle-school this year.  Both are in sports and playing two instruments.  My best friend and wife, Margo, loves her faculty position in the Gleazer School of Education at Graceland, and has been working on an Ed.D. year-round for three years from Drake University.   Currently, she is writing on her dissertation.  Journeying to this point has been exhausting, but meaningful.   Yet, as I consider the future and try to navigate work and family, I have a dull nagging feeling within me, like a still small voice trying to speak or the distracting feeling of cool drips of water landing on the back of my neck.

I think living a whole spiritual life means we respond to the s/Spirit within us that yearns to give birth to something.   I call it “s/Spirit” because it is a fountain of life-giving and life-bearing energy in which God’s Life and Creativity entwine indistinguishably with our own lives and creativity. There is a summons to live a life of freedom and creativity.  That s/Spirit is that creative energy or vision, impulsive inspiration, and quietude of potential that haunts our working mind and resting moments.

However, I’m not being prescriptive.  We’ve heard enough from the spiritual marketplace and self-help culture about how much we need to express ourselves freely, connect with our inner-child, play and live creatively.  We’re too busy, paying attention to the wrong things.  Blah, blah, blah…..

OK. Fine.  Maybe.

Spirituality becomes another thing to do. <sigh>

And, when I stop and pay attention to that “dull nagging” desire in me, I don’t miss the obvious.  I don’t miss the fact that my family and daughters are, quite literally, part of this “birthing” in my life.  They are part of my life’s work.  They draw on and call forth my disciplined and creative energies.   Miraculously, Katy and Kenzlee are fordrop-of-waterming into generous, crazy, obstinate, and surprising young persons right before me every day.

I also don’t mean that my work at Graceland isn’t creative.  It, too, takes creative energies and inspiration.  It, too, gives life.

But, apparently, there is something more or missing.  The dull nagging or spiritual drip that’s thudding on my neck as I hunch over focused on “today’s tasks” keeps coming.  It doesn’t frustrate me or give me angst.  I think I just need to listen to that small voice and pay attention to that refreshing drip pool on me.   To disregard this nagging anxiously in the name of busyness, or to appease some insatiable need for productivity, only keeps my life locked in a cycle of deadlines and want for mindless entertainment.   So draining.  Still, “deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls,” Psalm 42: 7 says, “all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.”

Maybe that’s what I’m yearning for.