This week’s Lenten Practice: Holy Attention

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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

A Radical Love

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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!

Setting an Example for Your Elders

[Note: I want to preface this post by saying that this is merely a perspective on an issue related to the field of Young Adult Ministry. It is part of my role, and one of the purposes of the YA Ministries blog, to raise issues (even controversial ones) that young adults in Community of Christ deal with. I believe these are issues that Community of Christ, but also many different kinds of communities, deal with. It is in no way meant to represent the views of the Community of Christ church or be offensive to any person.
These are just issues and concerns based on some of my knowledge and experiences. 🙂 – Rachelle]

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In my role as the Young Adult Ministries Specialist for the Community of Christ, you can imagine that I hear about and think about young adults, particularly in the population of our church, a lot! Right now, most people who are considered “young adults” fall into what is defined as the “millennial” generation – people born generally in the 80s. 90s and early 2000s. Community of Christ classifies young adults as those aged 18-35.  “Young adulthood” is actually more a stage of life than an age range. According to Erik Erikson’s psychosocial stages, it is a transitional stage of human development between adolescence and adulthood. (Hence, the term can sometimes be offensive to individuals that the church defines as being “young adult” (between the ages of 18 to 35) who have actually progressed out of this stage of human development into full adulthood.)

If you treat adults like children, you get childish adults. If you treat people with suspicion, you will encourage devious behavior.
Fiona Smith

The millenial generation, in my opinion, receives a lot of flack. So often this generation is perceived by others as: selfish, spoiled, too technology-dependent, incapable, lazy, entitled, etc. (See this article written to comfort people about the possibility of having to work with [gasp] millenials. Or this cynical/satirical “training video” on how to work with this “challenging” generation.)

Did you also know that this same generation is also defined as having the most economic hardship, but still called “the most diverse and optimistic generation of any currently alive in the United States?” (“Reaching the Millennial Generation“, Lee, 2014)

It can be frustrating to listen to and continually read about older generations putting down or patronizing the younger (particularly when it’s your job to advocate for and support them). Sometimes it seems older generations want for millenials what suits them or appeals to their generation. They want millenials to grow up to be just like them.

An orange can’t expect orange juice to come from an apple.

I find this can, at times, be true in the church as well.

I sometimes hear millenials (in the church, termed “young adults”) being talked about as if they are some alien science experiment the world is trying to figure out how to deal with. That obviously doesn’t apply to everyone, and I admit is a bit sarcastic, but that is often a feeling I get both coming from within the church but also from outside our faith community. Sometimes, some members of older generations seem to have certain expectations and hopes for our young adults, but don’t seem to express much initiative in trying to understand or connect with the ones they say they want to engage. There have been times that I have been approached because there is a feeling by some that young adults aren’t living up to those expectations and hopes. They aren’t falling into the mold that was set for them (or has been set for years before them). I hear people talking about how they want the young people to step up and really expect “more” from them. But really, “more” comes across as “my way and my ideas.” I hear congregations talking about how they want to be intergenerational and inclusive but not really listening to what the people they are trying to include are experiencing or needing. I hear tired, experienced leaders talking about needing new leaders and wanting young adults to take on responsibility; but not really teaching them how to be successful, reaching out to offer support along the way, or listening to their ideas.

So, really … can you blame them?

Achieving our vision is a two way street.

“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be
[not what you want them to be]
and they will become what they are capable of being.”
– Goethe

What if, instead of identifying the shortcomings of an entire generation and speaking out about how they don’t attend our traditional congregation gatherings like we want them to, don’t give like we want them to, and don’t do a hundred other things like we want them to – we followed the platinum rule and treated them like they want to be treated?

What if we removed all our assumptions and expectations?

What if we try to get to know them and speak out about all the things they ARE doing – supporting and loving them. We talk about and connect with the three young people that DO attend our congregation, instead of the twenty that don’t. Instead of thinking about what we want them to do and be, we asked them what they want to do and who they want to be.

What if instead of waiting and expecting them to come to our church – we go to theirs! We are present at their camps, retreats, extra-curricular activities, or any community gatherings! Instead of talking about them and deciding for them, we include them in the conversation and help them achieve their visions and goals! We do for them what we would like in return.

We know that people (of any age) are more likely to be excited and engaged in something they are passionate about. Something that has meaning to them. Something they dream about! But do we even know what their passions are? Are we really listening to their thoughts and ideas? What they are actually saying? Or are we too quick to disassociate with what we don’t understand? Or to impose our own expectations, dreams, and years of wisdom?

Maybe the dreams of different generations aren’t as different as you might think. We just go about it differently.

I read a lot of blogs. Everyone out there seems to have some advice or lessons learned on every topic imaginable: 31 ways to do this. 75 reasons not to do that. How [insert anything] are you? Blogging makes the everyman an expert. So, that said, here’s another one of those indicating the author’s advice on what millenials “should” start doing. Among a list of ten points you would expect to find in any motivational “how-to” regarding gratitude, relationships, and passion; I found one I didn’t:

Set an Example to the Older Generation. Paul advised Timothy not to allow people to look down on him because of his age, which means that was probably happening. However, he didn’t tell him to push back and tell them to “stop judging him…” Rather, he told him to set the example. Are the “old” people looking down on you? Good. That means their eyes are on you. Now give them a good reason to keep looking at you. Serve well. Work hard. Be polite. Make eye-contact. Shake hands firmly. Smile.

– Taylor Murray from “10 Things 20Somethings Should Start Doing” on the blog taylormurray

Sometimes it’s important to be reminded that just as much as millenials can learn from older generations, they can teach older generations. So here’s my three-point challenge to the millenials (but really, I think it can be applicable to all generations in relationship to one another):

Be the example.

Don’t fight back with frustration or anger about stereotypes or expectations given by other generations. Let them be who they are. Listen to what they are really saying: their dreams. Their passions. Their heart. (Even older people have dreams 😉 ) Treat them with the compassion and respect they deserve as people. Like Dr. Phil says in his Life Law #8: “We teach people how to treat us.”

Respond. Be Open.

Offer help. Step up. Take the initiative. Remember that you have experiences and knowledge the other doesn’t. You have as much to offer and as much to receive in return. Be humble and open to learning.

Don’t live up to other’s expectations. Exceed them.

If other people’s ideas and expectations are being placed on you – do better. Exceed them. Break the mold in a positive way. Prove their judgments wrong. I think we often need to be reminded that we are all individuals and that stereotypes are often gross over-generalizations. The negative stereotypes of your generation do not have to apply to you.

We cannot achieve anything, or move forward, if we continue to assume we know what is best for other people and that we understand the desires of their hearts.

“Serve well. Work hard. Be polite. Make eye-contact. Shake hands firmly. Smile.” – Taylor Murray

Sometimes We Struggle With … Expectations

by Dan and Abby Nowiski, Lansing, MI
From the Peace Colloquy 2013 session: “Singing Through Life in Community”

yaplenary5We fell in love sometime between our first Alternative Breaks Board meeting and the spring break we spent on service trips in different parts of the United States. We bonded over discussions about social activism and a mutual commitment to a God who loved us and cared about justice and peace. Together we read continuing revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 163, and were fueled by the bold challenge to “be faithful to Christ’s vision of the peaceable Kingdom of God on Earth.” We yearned for community in which we could connect our faith and our desire to pursue peace.

As we studied abroad in different parts of the world we held each other, our relationship, and our future in prayer. We felt led to a new place, in a new state, so that Abby could pursue a Master’s degree and Dan could teach in an urban high school. We engaged in conversations about who we were and who we wanted to be. It was important to us that we honored the sacredness of creation by sharing our resources, reducing waste and owning only one car. We wanted to seek justice and engage in community.

We made what we thought was a responsible choice to share an apartment. We were not married.

We were welcomed with open arms and loved by our new church family. Dan continued his ministry as an Elder and Abby was becoming acquainted with the church.  A few months passed and Dan was mentioned as a possible pastor nominee (though he was not interested in that role).  At that time we were confronted with our shared living situation.

It wasn’t that we hadn’t considered the perception; it was that we didn’t consider how important it would be. We were young adults passionate about whole life ministry. Yes, we were living together before marriage, but we remained abstinent, had a healthy relationship, and were fully engaged in the life of the congregation.

danandabbyDan was asked by church leaders to refrain from public ministry until he was married or found his own living space.  It became easy for us to point fingers. What about the priesthood members involved in dysfunctional marriages or never present in the congregation? Surely they too were breaking a policy.  We started looking for another church. We were hurt and bitter. In a church that values the worth of all persons we felt like we were somehow less.

Decisions and rationale were given to us honestly. Several church members continued to provide us with abundant love, support, and encouragement.  Eventually, we were able to see past our emotions and receive the blessings of community. We were able to recognize that all are called to differing ministries and that for that time our public ministry wasn’t able to be accepted in that place. We learned to extend grace and generosity to those whose ethics and theology were different than our own and to find unity in diversity.

We could have disengaged from Community of Christ when policy conflicted with the enduring principles, but the love of God shared with us through brothers and sisters along the way kept us moving forward on the journey.

550
We Are Pilgrims on a Journey

We are pilgrims on a journey,
here together on the road;
we are here to help each other
walk the mile and bear the load.

England
8.7.8.7.

Words and Music: Richard Gillard, 1953– , alt.
Words and Music © 1977 Universal Music-Brentwood Benson Publishing

License number: 74431

A Community of Christ Sings resource
www.CofChrist.org/hymnal
 
**Due to copyright restrictions we are unable to post the entire song lyrics. Please refer to the song number listed in your Community of Christ Sings hymnal.