Formed by Each Other

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Lenten Practice: Examen
Daily Act: Reflect on your life and consider the people who have helped you grow in your faith. Write a letter of gratitude to a person who has been formative to you.
Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“SEARCH MY HEART AND MAKE IT ONE WITH YOURS.”

by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

The soul is a pliable substance
We are formed by each other
Into holy shapes
Over time

If I were to begin to express
My abounding gratitude
For the many other souls
Who have participated
In shaping my own
It might go something like this:

Thank you for seeing me
Really seeing me
For taking a risk on the worth
And potential
You thought you saw
For investing yourself
So whole-heartedly
In the life of another
With no guarantee
Of anything in return

Thank you for awakening
Gifts lying dormant
And tending them
To fullest life in me

Thank you for the ways
You assured me
In each moment of doubt
Affirming my questions
As faithful
The questions themselves
Pathways into the future
I could not yet see
But could somehow still trust

Each word a shaping
Each moment a molding
Not into your likeness
But into the shape of the One
Shaping you
Shaping us

Thank you for what you never
Said out-loud
But lived
Which I noticed
Which I admired
Which I desired to live
Which spoke louder
Than anything
Anyone
Has
Ever
Said

“You hold precious lives in your hands. Be gentle and gracious with one another.”
Doctrine & Covenants Section 162

Go Buy A Piano

pianoby Jena Wight
Re-blogged from: Central Mission Young Adult blog

I recently read an article written by a famous pianist. In it, he challenges the reader to “find what you love and let it kill you.” He says maybe you love the idea of being able to play the piano. So instead of coming home after work and watching TV, he says, why don’t you go spend a hundred bucks on a used piano, get yourself a teacher, and spend 40 minutes a day practicing. And then after a few weeks you could play a Chopin Nocturne.

Or maybe you love to write. And so you’ve joined a book club. But wait—you love to write. So what are you doing in a book club? Go find a writer’s club. Where you have to bring a few pages of something you’ve written to each week’s meeting.

The point is—push yourself. Make your life about progress and growth rather than acceptance and complacency.

As followers of Jesus, we should be joining writers’ clubs and buying pianos—metaphorically speaking. What does it look like for you—you personally—to be working to build the kingdom of God on earth? Stop and think about it. And then when you have your answer, stop and think about it again. If you like writing and you join a book club, you haven’t put yourself in a position of true growth and opportunity. If you love God and want to help the world, allow yourself to really do that.

Doctrine and Covenants 163 says, “Community of Christ, your name, given as a divine blessing, is your identity and calling. If you will discern and embrace its full meaning, you will not only discover your future, you will become a blessing to the whole creation. Do not be afraid to go where it beckons you to go.”

Replace “Community of Christ” with your own name. Read that scripture as if it’s meant for you. If you will discern and embrace your full meaning, you will discover your future—and you will bless the whole of creation. So embrace your gifts and your passions, and then go buy a piano.

Lessons in Drowning

“Collectively and individually you are loved with an everlasting love that delights in each faithful step taken. God yearns to draw you close so that wounds may be healed, emptiness filled, and hope strengthened. Do not turn away in pride, fear or guilt from the One who seeks only the best for you and your loved ones … Be vulnerable to Divine grace.” —Doctrine and Covenants 163:10a,b

It was the week after Christmas at Tiona Reunion in New South Wales, Australia. The end of a busy and draining year for me. I was exhausted and all I wanted to do was relax on the beach. It was about the second last day of camp when I was almost finished with my responsibilities and had a few hours to finally go to the beach with a few of my friends, which I had been waiting for all week.

The water was freezing and the waves were high and rough, but this was our one chance to swim so we wanted to make the most of it. We braved our way out into the water. We would take about two steps then hold on to each other, bracing ourselves to resist the wave coming our way. We’d take a few more steps and attempted the next wave. They succeeded … I did not. Every time – I would stand as firmly as I could on the shifting sand. Every time – the wave won. I would get pushed over and found myself grasping for air as I tried to regain my balance. My knees were weak from the bad condition of my joints at that time. My body was exhausted. After a few scary struggles and requiring the help of my friends to even stand up after being tossed down – I submitted. I gave up. Leaving my friends in the ocean, I realized I was too weak and didn’t have the strong ground, the support I needed to stand on my own. A bit scared, defeated, and somewhat embarrassed, I grabbed my stuff and made my way back to camp.

I lay down on my bed, closed my eyes, and took a moment to digest what had happened. There were some really scary moments for me – not being in control of myself, or the waves, and being thrown down, unable to support myself. Eventually, I had to accept that I was losing this battle. Accept I was not strong enough. Accept I needed help from others, if I wanted to keep my head above water.

It didn’t take long for me to connect that experience to my life at that time. That year, I had felt so tired and weak, unlike my usual independent self. I had met numerous challenging waves that had tossed me around and taken me for everything I had, it seemed. I was thrown down, rejected, hurt and unable to find my ground when struggles were crashing down on me; each time just getting pushed down further and further. At least that’s how it felt. I had been floundering in the waves for a while. Although I didn’t like to admit it, I was drowning.

That afternoon at the beach was a wake up call to me. It was (almost literally) a slap in the face. I think God was definitely bringing me to an awareness. I think God does that sometimes. When we really need to be faced with our own realities, sometimes God gives it to us, whether we want it or not and in ways we might not expect. For me, it was a realization that I needed to reach out for support from people around me and rely on the strength of my friends and my God to help me find my own. I needed to become vulnerable and dependent in order to regain my independence and keep my head above water – to rise above it.

“Deep down, everyone wants to believe they can be hardcore. But being hardcore isn’t just about being tough. It’s about acceptance. Sometimes you have to give yourself permission to not be hardcore for once. You don’t have to be tough every minute of every day. It’s okay to let down your guard. In fact there are moments when it’s the best thing you can possibly do … as long as you choose your moments wisely.”    – Grey’s Anatomy

What waves are currently crashing in on your life? 

Australia, Canada Prepare for Conferences

Australia, Canada Prepare for Conferences

Reblogged from: Herald Magazine’s “Connect | Engage | Inspire”
by Greg Clark – Integrated Communications, Community of Christ Intl. HQ

A narrow field of issues will transcend a broad expanse of church geography in June.

Over a two-week period, Australia and Canada—more than 9,600 miles apart—will host similar national conferences that could impact ministry in their countries.

The conferences, each under the guidance of Doctrine and Covenants 164, will focus on issues of sexuality. Recommendations could lead to policy changes within their nations, and other countries certainly will watch.

Though Australia and Canada share similar situations they are taking different approaches and facing different circumstances. For example, same-gender marriage is not legal in Australia, but it is in Canada.

Australia’s conference will start June 2 when members meet at the Drumoyne Congregation in Sydney. Canada will follow June 16 when its members gather at 15 sites linked electronically. Kitchener, Ontario, will serve as the hub.

The Australia conference will focus on one issue: whether ordination should be open to people regardless of their sexual orientation. The Canada conference will address whether to permit ordination of people in same-sex/gender marriages and whether to allow priesthood to perform same-sex/gender marriages.

Both conferences are designed only to decide whether to make recommendations. The First Presidency and Council of Twelve will draft interim policies if a national conference recommends that a policy change.

Despite the differences, the nations hold commonalities, too. Each approached its conference after a prolonged period of discernment, prayer, and study. Each will have the benefit of the recently released Statement of Sexual Ethics (www
.CofChist.org/ethics/). And each is asking God’s Spirit of peace to help all voices be heard clearly and compassionately.

Section 164
The path to these national conferences opened when the 2010 World Conference accepted new scripture. It said some issues were better addressed in a particular nation or field, not the World Conference. Then it gave further guidance:

…timely resolution of pressing issues in various nations is necessary for the restoring work of the gospel to move forward with all of its potential. Therefore, let the proper World Church officers act in their callings—as already provided in church law—to create and interpret church policies to meet the needs of the church in different nations in harmony with the principles contained in this counsel.

Where possible and appropriate, convene national or field conferences to provide opportunities for broader dialogue, understanding, and consent. In those gatherings, let the spirit of love, justice, and truth prevail. —Doctrine and Covenants 164c–d

Apostle Susan Skoor noted Section 164 honors great diversity. “The intent…was to enable the church…to deal with issues specific to a nation, culture, or field when there are issues that could cause harm if considered in other nations….”

The recommendations of these conferences will not go before the 2013 World Conference. Even if recommendations receive approval, nobody should expect overnight changes. The conferences are only the middle point of work that Skoor said began with “prayer, preparation, discernment, dialogue, and conferring.”

If the conferences recommend changes, leaders will need time to:

  • Draft and revise policies.
  • Develop a framework for policy changes.
  • Provide pastoral care and follow-up to any members upset with decisions.
  • Assess when and how more dialogue is called for.

Also, if a conference affirms current policy, the church will need time to support that decision.

“So patience will continue to be needed among all concerned as we move into the weeks and months following the national conferences,” Skoor stressed.

The Journeys
It’s uncertain whether the journeys of the Australia and Canada conferences will reach similar endings. But there’s no question that they’ve followed similar paths.

Neither conference will use delegates, instead preferring open participation. Both have gone through months of study, dialogue, and prayer. Each conference will rely on similar consent-building methods. And both will need a two-thirds majority to make recommendations.

“The heart of the national conference itself will consist of another dialogue session,” explained Ken Barrows, president of the Australia Mission Centre. He projects 150–200 of the nation’s 2,900 members will attend.

In Canada, the 7,200 members are spread over vast areas, posing special challenges.

The answer was the electronic conference, but even that brought difficulties because of the nation’s five time zones. “Members from both ends realize the flexibility required to make it feasible to hold such a conference for all Canadians,” noted Tim Stanlick, president of the Canada East Mission Centre.

“No one knows the impact our decisions or lack thereof will have on others,” emphasized Stanlick, who expects about 750 participants. “We beat different drums.

“The post-conference follow-up ministry to individuals will be required no matter what the outcome. Undoubtedly, there will be members who will not be satisfied with the outcome. Our wish is for them to feel good about the process.”

The Future
The impact of the conferences will extend far beyond the events themselves because of what members learn in the quest to become a prophetic people. Skoor summed it up:

“The national conferences are an opportunity to confer in new ways and to celebrate the unity in the midst of diversity that makes this faith movement strong.”

She suggested the conferences would succeed “if we can learn from some additional ways about how to be a people of discernment, a people committed to common consent, a people empowered by God’s Spirit to discuss difficult issues in an attitude of love and compassion for one another.”

“To this end, may God bless us as we enter into the national conferences, and gain from them the teachings that may result.”

The “Faith App”

I had the privilege of attending the 2007 World Conference as a Delegate for South Central States Mission Center.  While at the conference, I heard the words to what became Section 163 of the Doctrine and Covenants.  The biggest portion of 163 addressed a progressive move forward; however, the content was nothing new.  The presentation provided a clear challenge to pursue peace and aggressively go forward seeking opportunities to share the Gospel with others.

D&C 3:b  “Above all else, strive to be faithful to Christ’s vision of the peaceable Kingdom of God on earth. Courageously challenge cultural, political, and religious trends that are contrary to the reconciling and restoring purposes of God. Pursue peace.”

Doctrine and Covenants 164 built upon section 163.  It challenges us to go further into action.  It’s a challenge to bring about the cause of Zion.  Make tangible your vision of a peaceable kingdom on Earth and do something.

D&C 164:d-f   “If you truly would be Community of Christ, then embody and live the concerns and passion of Christ.  The challenges and opportunities are momentous. Will you remain hesitant in the shadows of your fears, insecurities, and competing loyalties? Or will you move forward in the light of your divinely instilled call and vision?
The mission of Jesus Christ is what matters most for the journey ahead.”

There is not an application on your iPhone, Droid, or Blackberry that allows you to share your testimony to the person sitting next to you.  There is not an app that builds personal relationships with others that show the Love revealed by Jesus Christ.  You cannot download “faith” from the app store.  Faith involves action (James 2:17 “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead”).  You reveal your faith by the way you live your life. The “faith app” is the way you apply your faith in everyday action.

Will you remain hesitant to act, or will you embrace the call to help bring about the cause of Zion?

Healing Starts With Valuing All

Rachel Mills

For the last several years I have worked with adjudicated adolescents in drug and alcohol treatment. Their struggles are often intensified by or correlate to their addiction. Crime, gang involvement, familial problems, and other issues also contribute to their situation. I often hear statements that demonstrate their feelings of low self worth. Comments such as, “I don’t care if I die. I am a criminal. I have nothing to offer,” among others. Their demeanor, how they treat themselves and others, shows signs of what is known as “vacant esteem”. If esteem is our belief about our own value, vacant esteem denotes a negative view of one’s value.

I view these youths’ perceptions of themselves as part of widespread, not isolated, issue. Somewhere in the fray of our existence on this earth, we have come to regard worth as something to be measured, not something to be affirmed. It is evident in our current society, culture, and communities. From perceptions of beauty, wealth, family expectations, relationships, among others, we form in this understanding. It does nothing but tear us down. This way of devaluing is in direct contradiction to the message Christ has for us. For we believe that the worth of persons in great in the sight of God (Doctrine and Covenants 162: 6a). Nothing can change that.

Human issues are complicated, solutions even more so. However, in the midst of it all, I have taken to heart that the practice of recognizing that the worth of all people is a practical and spiritual necessity to help people heal. Through my education, scripture study, prayer, and social work experiences, I have begun to understand not only how to affirm worth in others, but also its extreme importance.

“For in their welfare resides my welfare” (Doctrine and Covenants 163: 4a). We are not separated, but we are connected. When I see these youth hurting, I recognize that something is grossly wrong, and I cannot ignore that. Their worth, which encompasses all that they are and are created for, is part of who I am as well. I have worth too, and it is our God which affirms that worth within us. It is our community, made up of all of us, which is responsible for affirming the worth of others. I have been able to see what happens in someone’s life when they recognize their worth. It creates a sense of joy within me, for we are meant to understand our worth. As a church, a culture, communities, and individuals we cannot live passive lives of ignorance. We must open our eyes to see the destructive nature of vacant esteem, and we must fight that which creates it. It requires us to look within and without. And it requires us to make changes that will truly affirm the worth of all persons we encounter.

I hope and pray that our world will realize this and begin the process of affirming.


Enduring Principle: Worth of All Persons

– God views all people as having inestimable and equal worth.
– God wants all people to experience wholeness of body, mind, spirit, and relationships.
– We seek to uphold and restore the worth of all people individually and in community, challenging unjust systems that diminish human worth.
– We join with Jesus Christ in bringing good news to the poor, sick, captive, and oppressed.

Read the “We Share Document” with our 9 Enduring Principles.

Rachel Mills lives with her husband outside of Portland, OR. She is currently getting her Masters in Social Work at Portland State University. She is involved in various ministries within her congregation and the Greater Pacific Northwest Mission Center. When she is not outdoors she is reading or cooking.
Find her on Facebook.