SPEC Weekly… a new blog series!

We’re really excited to announce a new blog series, SPEC Weekly!

One of our SPEC Today facilitators, Damon St. Thomas, started a blog after SPEC this year to keep his and John Wight’s class connected throughout the year. Several other campers and staff wanted to be included in the weekly devotions. Thanks to Damon’s willingness to make this available to the wider SPEC community, we’ve added some of our other SPEC Today facilitators as guest writers and would love to have camper perspectives too!

Follow the blog and get email updates when a new weekly devotion is posted.

We’re really excited about this new way to keep the SPEC family connected across the miles all year long.

Isaiah12.2

Where Are You Now?

Where are you now?

It’s been just over a month since we left the Graceland campus, saying goodbye to new and old friends to come home and…what? Where are you with your Spec experience? Did camp change you in ways you’ve brought home? Or have you let those feelings and experiences fizzle out as you’re unsure how to incorporate them into your life with people who weren’t there?

So often when people have great experiences, it’s hard to explain and live out when returning home. Many times it’s just easier to slip back into our old ways and tuck those new experiences away in a nice neat file in the back of our hearts and minds. If this sounds like you, I want you to take a moment and reflect on what Spec was for you and what hopes or goals you had for yourself upon returning home. Feel free to jot down your thoughts or just hold them in your mind as you ponder. If you’ve been able to live out how you let go of some negative things, I encourage you to challenge yourself to find new ways of being open to God’s nudges.

Whether or not you’ve been able to let go of image and be present; let go of judgement and be love; or let go of limits and be brave, I invite you to start small. Think of one small thing you can let go of. Pray on it. Ask God to support you, help you and give you insight. Open yourself to the whispers, promptings and nudges from God. Lean on the meditations we learned in class. Lean on those around you for sometimes change is hard. Letting go is hard. It is up to you to make that decision to let go of something that is no longer working for you. Check in here and tell us where you are now.

Letting Go of a Negative Relationship (with myself)

Isaiah12.2

In the last year, a friend I’d had a rocky relationship with decided to let go of our friendship…to let go of me. At first I was extremely shocked and hurt — it also didn’t help that I realized all of this the day before my birthday. Awesome. This was NOT my rainbows and lollipop version of what I thought “letting go” meant. I did quite a bit of soul-searching as to what part I played in the demise of our friendship. After a while, I realized the freedom of letting go of something that wasn’t healthy. I looked at the situation not as losing a friend (although I did miss this person), but as gaining insight into how I can be a better person and friend. Then I worked on being that better person. I often reflected on that old friend and tried to view them through this new lens of mine. The friend needed to let go of something unhealthy in their life so that they could be a better version of themselves as well. It wasn’t that I was unworthy or that I wasn’t worth the effort (which have been habitual beliefs for me in the past), it just wasn’t working for who each of us was at that time. The friend actually gave both of us a gift – the gift of space to evaluate, heal, and grow.

As the year continued and I continued to let God fill me with peace and love towards myself and this friend, I no longer had negative thoughts or feelings about the situation. It’s important to note that I made the decision to trust God and to accept that gift of space to evaluate, heal and grow. And wouldn’t you know it, God has recently reconnected us and we’re letting go of that old junk so we can fill our new relationship with positive love and light.

In Closing

Sometimes it isn’t easy to trust the journey of letting go and letting God fill you with new and positive things. Listen to the song “You’ve got the Love” by Florence + The Machine and consider your journey to let go of ____________.

Know that if you’re having a difficult time starting or being in the midst of that part of your journey, God’s love WILL see you through. Practice trusting. Practice letting go of fear. “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”

trust

Dive In

trust
The Opening Act

For many of you the summer is just about or now over. You’ve had your share of adventures, camps, reunions, spec and sleeping in until the afternoon. As you prepare for the beginning of another new school year, you turn the page on summer and prepare for chapter in life. Now just as we prepare for projects, homework, exams, new jobs, and new friendships, each stage in our life God prepares us for new works. Each day we are tasked to create community and share God’s love. The question that often arises in my mind is how that can be done. How to reach out to others, to hear their story, and share yours. It’s time to dive in.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkU8oOUr1TQ

Scripture

This week’s scripture comes from the book of Matthew 4: 18-22

“18 While Jesus was walking along the shore of Lake Galilee, he saw two brothers. One was Simon, also known as Peter, and the other was Andrew. They were fishermen, and they were casting their net into the lake. 19 Jesus said to them, “Come with me! I will teach you how to bring in people instead of fish.” 20 Right then the two brothers dropped their nets and went with him. 21 Jesus walked on until he saw James and John, the sons of Zebedee. They were in a boat with their father, mending their nets. Jesus asked them to come with him too. 22 Right away they left the boat and their father and went with Jesus.”

I’ve always found the best way to get started on something is to just do it. However, getting started can be confusing and scary. This can leave us discouraged. When we talk to others about our faith, it can make them uneasy and it’s easy to fear losing those. What is the hardest thing about sharing your faith? Do you feel that your friends (or people in general) are open to your beliefs? How do you combat these obstacles?

Jesus came to his disciples and asked them to drop everything. Fishing was their livelihood, how they fed their families. They exchanges their nets for a gospel of inspiration, mercy and love. What would you give up for your mission of Christ?

Blessings of Community

Just as a reminder from last week, Community of Christ’s enduring principle of

  • The gospel of Jesus Christ is expressed best in community life where people become vulnerable to God’s grace and each other.
  • True community includes compassion for and solidarity with the poor, marginalized, and oppressed.
  • True community upholds the worth of persons while providing a healthy alternative to self-centeredness, isolation, and conformity.
  • Sacred community provides nurture and growth opportunities for all people, especially those who cannot fully care for themselves.
  • We value our connections and share a strong sense of trust in and belonging with one another—even if we never have met.
  • Some disciples are called and ordained to particular priesthood responsibilities and ministries for the sake of the community, the congregation, and the world.
  • We are called to create communities of Christ’s peace in our families and congregations and across villages, tribes, nations, and throughout creation.

Thinking Deeper

What does blessings of community mean to you? Should all communities look the same? Matthew 18:20 tells us that when two are more are gathered in Christ, he is there. While going alone or just with a couple of friends to create community can seem impossible, know that the spirit is always there to lead you.

Take a few minutes to watch the video below. As you watch, ponder what communities you wish to create and what obstacles may stand in your way.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKAmujgS4mo

Mission Prayer

Though some of you have heard this prayer before, I find that it is a helpful reminder of how to prepare ourselves to go out each day in the world.

“God, where will your Spirit lead today? Help me to be fully awake and ready to respond. Grant me courage to risk something new and become a blessing of your love and peace. Amen”

As you enjoy your last week(s) of summer or start your new school years, may you embrace the challenge of creating community with everyone you meet and extend God’s gracious love and acceptance.

Finding God

flowersAsking the Question

What if someone asked you, not about your ideology, religious history or practices, but simply who is God to you? We as Christians have an amazing ability to express our faith and love through praise, worship, prayer, service, and in community but what may get lost in translation is why we do it. Would our church camps, reunions, and Spectacular be as amazing if not for the divine spirit that draws us together and unites us as one? Take a minute or so and jot down just some initial thoughts on “Who Is God to me?”

Scripture

So often throughout the Bible, God is described by many names Jehovah, Yawae, Father, Holy One, Alpha and Omega, and the list goes on and on. People have been trying to conceptualize God from beginning of time. Our scripture this week comes to us from 1 John 4:8-16:

Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.

Focus Moment

Last week we touched briefly on not always feeling God’s presence with the reading of the Footprints in The Sand poem. This week’s video is one that you may be familiar with as it is a few years old, but I find that despite not being your typical “worship” song, it is very profound because it asks the tough question. In Lamentations and some of the Psalms, God’s people lament, cry out, sometimes even complain to God about not finding him in their lives. It is an important practice to try to find God in everything that we do. But when we can’t, we tend to wonder why.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFg_8u87zT0

Enduring Principles

Over the next few weeks we will be exploring Community of Christ’s Enduring Principles.

Our Enduring Principles define the essence, heart, and soul of our faith community. They describe the personality of our church as expressed throughout the world.

The Foundation: God, Christ, Holy SpiritGod’s revelation in Jesus Christ and continuing presence through the Holy Spirit, as proclaimed by scripture, is the foundation of our faith, identity, mission, message, and beliefs.

We do our best to uphold these principles (values, concepts, themes) as a faithful response to our heritage and our continuing experience with God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

  • Enduring Principles
  • Grace and Generosity
  • Sacredness of Creation
  • Continuing Revelation
  • Worth of All Persons
  • All Are Called
  • Responsible Choices
  • Pursuit of Peace (Shalom)
  • Unity in Diversity
  • Blessings of Community

Each principle includes statements that help explain its meaning. These statements are not meant to be limiting or comprehensive.

Grace and Generosity

  • God’s grace, especially as revealed in Jesus Christ, is generous and unconditional.
  • Having received God’s generous grace, we respond generously and graciously receive the generosity of others.
  • We offer all we are and have to God’s purposes as revealed in Jesus Christ.
  • We generously share our witness, resources, ministries, and sacraments according to our true capacity.

Sacredness of Creation

  • In the beginning, God created and called it all good.
  • Spirit and material, seen and unseen, are related.
  • Creation’s power to create or destroy reminds us of our vulnerability in this life.
  • God is still creating to fulfill divine purpose.
  • We join with God as stewards of care and hope for all creation.

Continuing Revelation

  • Scripture is an inspired and indispensable witness of human response to God’s revelation of divine nature.
  • God graciously reveals divine will today as in the past.
  • The Holy Spirit inspires and provides witness to divine truth.
  • In humility, individually and in community, we prayerfully listen to understand God’s will for our lives, the church, and creation more completely.

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.

All Are Called

  • God graciously gives people gifts and opportunities to do good and to share in God’s purposes.
  • Jesus Christ invites people to follow him by becoming disciples who share his life and ministry.
  • Some disciples are called and ordained to particular priesthood responsibilities and ministries for the sake of the community, the congregation, and the world.
  • We respond faithfully, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to our best understanding of God’s call.

Responsible Choices

  • God gives humans the ability to make choices about whom or what they will serve. Some people experience conditions that diminish their ability to make choices.
  • Human choices contribute to good or evil in our lives and in the world.
  • Many aspects of creation need redemption because of irresponsible and sinful human choices.
  • We are called to make responsible choices within the circumstances of our lives that contribute to the purposes of God.

Pursuit of Peace (Shalom)

  • God wants shalom (justice, reconciliation, well-being, wholeness, and peace) for all of creation.
  • Jesus Christ, the embodiment of God’s shalom (peace), reveals the meaning of God’s peace in all aspects of life.
  • The vision of Zion is to promote God’s reign on earth, as proclaimed by Jesus Christ, through the leavening influence of just and peaceful communities.
  • We courageously and generously share the peace of Jesus Christ with others.
  • Led by the Holy Spirit, we work with God and others to restore peace (shalom) to creation.
  • We celebrate God’s peace wherever it appears or is being pursued by people of good will.

Unity in Diversity

  • Community of Christ is a diverse, international family of disciples, seekers, and congregations.
  • Local and worldwide ministries are interdependent and important to the church’s mission.
  • The church embraces diversity and unity through the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • We seek agreement or common consent in important matters. If we cannot achieve agreement, we commit to ongoing dialogue and lovingly uphold our common faith in Jesus Christ and the mission of the church.
  • We confess that our lack of agreement on certain matters is hurtful to some of God’s beloved children and creation.

Blessings of Community

  • The gospel of Jesus Christ is expressed best in community life where people become vulnerable to God’s grace and each other.
  • True community includes compassion for and solidarity with the poor, marginalized, and oppressed.
  • True community upholds the worth of persons while providing a healthy alternative to self-centeredness, isolation, and conformity.
  • Sacred community provides nurture and growth opportunities for all people, especially those who cannot fully care for themselves.
  • We value our connections and share a strong sense of trust in and belonging with one another—even if we never have met.
  • Some disciples are called and ordained to particular priesthood responsibilities and ministries for the sake of the community, the congregation, and the world.
  • We are called to create communities of Christ’s peace in our families and congregations and across villages, tribes, nations, and throughout creation.

Which principle speaks to you the most or do you feel you are most drawn to? Why? Should we all value each principle equally?

Worth of All Persons

As we learned last week from the Skit Guys video, God doesn’t make junk. This week while we are exploring who God is, and what God means in our lives, we’ll explore the Worth of All Persons. We are told love others as we love ourselves, and as we love God. Matthew 25: 31-46 tells us how we are to treat those who are poor, helpless and have fallen on hard times. Even Matthew 5:44 tells us to pray for those who do wrong toward us. By living and loving as God wants us to, we are able to understand who God is.

But this unconditional love isn’t always easy to extend. As humans, when we get hurt, sometimes we seek to hurt each other. We lie to those we love, we betray trust, and don’t reconcile. Is it always easy to love as God would? When can it be difficult to express unconditional love? How can understanding who God is help to express love to those who have hurt us, or lied to us, or betrayed us?

Open Eyes

“I found myself a couple of years ago on a young adult retreat in Washington D.C. Young adults from the mission center gathered together for a weekend of community building and fellowship. This particular weekend we were greeted by an organization who works with homeless people in the Washington D.C. area. We heard amazing stories from people who had been previously homeless. The struggles they encounter, the drastic changes that their lives underwent in such a short span of time and most importantly how they were able to overcome those struggles. We were given the opportunity to serve the homeless in the local area. If you’ve never been to Washington D.C., much like other major cities, it’s often divided by the more affluent side, that attracts tourist, and then there is the side that has “fallen on hard times” the side that isn’t promoted. DuPont circle is one of the more affluent areas in the city. It is geographically close to the monuments, museums, and other well-known attractions that the nation’s capital is known for.  Much to my surprise, the area we went to serve was not the broken down parts of the city where I had expected to see homeless people, but instead we went to DuPont circle. My entire paradigm was shifted. I walked through the part of the city with my group, observing other tourist in the area shopping, having picnics, taking photos, and noticed, for the first time in my life in plain sight, people in great need all around. Lying on benches, perched up against trees, setting next to trashcans. We began to engage these people, passing out bag lunches, and hearing their stories. Each person was unique in their experiences, and in who they were. As our time came to a close, I came across a woman sitting on a street corner. In 90 degree heat she was sitting with heavy clothing on, surrounded by several large black trash bags. When I encounter those who are without housing, or other basic needs, many of them have signs, explaining their situations or expressing need, but this particular sign that the woman held was profound in its simplicity. It simply read, “I’m Hungry”. I was blown away by the situation that I found myself in, kneeling beside this woman, in the moment of community. Fast asleep, she was never aware that I was there. I placed the bag lunch by her side, and went on my way.”

Give Me Your Eyes

In that experience I had a couple of years ago, I was blind to the need of others until I decided to be vulnerable in those moments.  When we open ourselves to express God’s love, we are able to see through God’s eyes. Affirming the Worth of All Persons is understanding that all of our journeys, struggles, gifts, talents are different and unique, but are of equal important.

Can you think of a time where you affirmed the worth of another person? What about a time when you failed to do so? Have you ever felt that someone has not lifted you up as an equal? How did that make you feel?

Who is God? God is love.

Sending Forth

As we close this week’s devotion, keep in mind that God loves us all no matter who we are. See others in the world as God sees us. Amen

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5AkNqLuVgY

Divine Purpose

let go photo
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others – Marianne Williamson

As we continue to walk through the paths of finding and defining who we are as individuals and finding our roles in our respective community, it is also important to explore within our identities, God’s plan for us; our divine purpose. Purpose is defined as the reason for which something is done or created, why it exist. I’m sure that each of us has asked that age old question to ourselves, “Why am I here?”

We search for answers in all kinds of places, sometimes the wrong ones. Just hoping that something will give our life meaning.

Scripture

While there a plethora of scriptures in the Bible that help us learn about our purpose, and God’s plan for us, the one that I felt spoke to me for this weeks devotion comes to us from the book of Matthew

Matthew 5:13-16

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

The journey that you live, the life it creates becomes a beacon for others. Whether you realize it or not your light helps other to push on, to find their purpose as we invest in the stories of others and in God’s plan for us. Even when things get hard, we keep pushing back the dark.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fF61jnKDyGg

Meditation Moment

This week’s meditation will be the footprints in the sand poem. Even when we are doing our very best to follow God’s plan, we can get distracted and lost. There may even be times, were we may not feel God’s presence. As you read through this poem, reflect on those times in your life, and how you overcame them, and if you are still living through that experience, how this poem may impact you.

One night I dreamed a dream.

As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.

Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.

For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,

One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,

I looked back at the footprints in the sand.

I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,

Especially at the very lowest and saddest times,

there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.

“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,

You’d walk with me all the way.

But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,

there was only one set of footprints.

I don’t understand why, when I needed you the most, You would leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you

Never, ever, during your trials and testings.

When you saw only one set of footprints,

It was then that I carried you.”

– by Mary Stevenson

Reaching Our Goals

For this portion of our devotions, simply put, what are your goals? What dreams to you aspire to live out? What do you want to accomplish in this life? These questions were asked to the campers in my delegation this year at spec and it blew my mind. These questions are so simple yet profound.

How can we help others reach their goals?

God’s Masterpiece

Living God’s plan for our live, finding his purpose for us sometimes conflicts with the plans we have made for our own lives. Have you ever experienced this in your life? Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we are God’s handiwork, created in Jesus Christ to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

We continue to embrace the theme of letting go in that, we let go of our plans for life, our methodologies, and embrace the plans, the lives that God has created for us, long before we were ever around.  God works in our lives, and the changes he makes, we may not always understand. It can be scary.  God chisels the imperfections that we put on ourselves from this world. He takes away the guilt of shame, the fear of failure, the expectation of being less than, and fills us with purpose, within divinity so great that merely embracing it can change lives.

I invite you now to view the video below and see how God works in our lives. You are God’s original masterpiece.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QCkBL2DfVg&spfreload=10

A Matter of Time

Have you ever found that you’ve been pressured to reach your goals quickly? Do you ever feel that you’ve failed because you haven’t done so? Driving by 16, graduate high school by 18, college degree by 22, married shortly after. We are rushed through life to reach our goals and anything short of that can be perceived as failure. What I’ve learned is that God’s time is not our time. So as our devotion comes to a close this week, watch a video that was recently shared with me, that will change your perspective on time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usb2435vSZA

Sending Forth

“As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Continue to be God’s hands and feet, as we walk the path laid out for us. God’s purpose for our lives allows us to be the light that pushes back the dark. Be open and vulnerable to the spirt and the places it may lead you.

#connectionsacrossthenation

Now What?

Now that it’s been a full week since spec, everyday life schedules have resumed for the most part. Though summer still allows for more flexibility that the school year which is quickly approaching (sorry peoples), we find ourselves back to work, chores, church, and social life. The monotony resumes, and as we turn the page for the next set of challenges and adventures that await us, the glow of Spec, fades just a little bit.
Throughout the week of spec, we referenced this scripture quite a bit:
Galatians 3:26-29

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”

I know that may be a lot to ponder in just a few short verses, but for the purposes this of this week’s devotion, we’ll only explore a couple of avenues, though there are countless perspectives for most any scripture.

During Spec this year, we talked about letting go of image, judgments and limits. Too often in our lives, these three words, have great power and influence in how we go about our days, our methodologies. But perhaps most importantly, those three words are tools we use to define who we are. Our judgments of who are, or who we aren’t, who we should be, fill our brains images of a life that we feel we are meant to live or status we should be living, and as a result we set limits on the things in life we can do in life.
Who Am I?

So the opening question for you to ponder is, “Who Am I?” Take a few minutes to really think about it. Write it out if it helps. What makes you who you are? What qualities, traits, skills, gifts and talents are you blessed with? What brings you great joy? What are you afraid of? Three words again with the power to change, but to change for good. Spend as long as you’d like and don’t’ feel rushed. You will find that this is only the tip of the iceberg and I’m sure each of us could spend countless hours outlining what makes us who we are.

Doctrine and Covenants 162:8a tells us

“You are a good and faithful people, but sometimes you fail to see the power that is resident in your own story and fellowship. Look carefully, listen attentively, and sense the Spirit among you”

We embrace the blessings of sacred community and all that it brings, but it is essential to understand who you are as God’s plan for your life is revealed each day that you live. However, when we go through our lives, when we are not in our supportive communities it’s easier to lose sight, to start to compare ourselves to others, to want to confirm.

Take a few minutes to watch the video below. Jason Gray – Remind Me Who I Am

Each of you are fearfully and beautifully made (Psalm 139:14) so do not be afraid to embrace the power of your story, your journey, and your unique path.

How can you see and express the gifts that God has blessed you with? What do you think his plan for your life is? How would you find out?

Meditative Moment

Take a moment and just breathe. Whether you’re doing this devotion in a group or by yourself, just breathe. In life we get so caught up our scheduling, running from one activity to the next that we forget to simply be. We forget that in the midst of searching for where God might be in all the chaos, he is always there, by are side. “Be Still, and Know That I Am God” (Psalm 46:10). Repeat this phrase from the scripture 3 times in your head as you breathe in slowly and exhale slowly. Slow life down for a moment and refocus. Remember, God is not in all of the glamour and loud noises, but he is there in the still small voice.

Reflection
Patrick Minor
Teacher
Northwest, Des Moines Congregation
Lamoni Heartland Mission Center

My final Spectacular, as a camper, was during the summer of 2009. I had just graduated high school, and was very ready to begin my freshman year at Graceland. This was an especially exciting summer, as it was an IYF and international SPEC year. There were hundreds more campers present, from all around the world. I took the most I could from this experience, as I knew it would be my last. I tried out for the talent show, I remained heavily involved in the worship class, and most importantly, I was very intentional about meeting new people and remembering their names. Now, at age twenty three, having taken my last class at Graceland over two years ago, I can still say I don’t have enough fingers to count how many good friends with whom I am still in contact from SPEC. (Including Mr. St. Thomas here) I have been a groomsman at five SPEC friends’ weddings, and still get to see them every year as fellow spec staff members. I was very fortunate to go to college with many of them. However, I know that very few people are privileged with that kind of experience. And there were many times in which I felt very disconnected from the spec community just a short walk from me, and even from God. My roommate and friend of over fifteen years shared some of these struggles. We talked about it at great length and came to realize that it doesn’t matter how far your friends are, if you speak with them every day, or if you never encounter anyone from spec in your life beyond. The spirit felt at spec is much more than the activities and people. It is the spirit of community. It is that feeling of radical acceptance, when you’re a scared freshman, but by the end of the first day, you’ve already met at least twenty new people who wanted to meet you just because you were there. It’s the same spirit that moved through Christ and his disciples. The spirit of limitless and sometimes defiant relationality. What spec offered me, was an opportunity to see the Gospels lived out to a certain potential. There was a vibrant spectrum of diversity, and rather than struggling to label or compartmentalize each other, we flourished in our unity. This is a spirit that may not be so apparent in other places, but because you have felt it, and let it transform part of your world, you can take it and make it known wherever you are. Take the time to intentionally consider how you can be like Christ to others as Christ was to you through your neighbors at spec. Every single genuine, “hello!” brings the Kingdom a little closer.

Blessings of Community

Our Galatians scripture tells us how we are one in Christ. This is not meant to strip away all the individual talents, abilities, and uniqueness that makes you who you are, but rather to emphasize how all of those things are brought together to make a beautiful community. The divisive barriers that keep people apart are no longer there because of the overarching all-encompassing love that Christ provides for us.
What do you feel you bring to your community? (Whether it’s your school, congregation, sports team or circle of friends) How does your story fit the puzzle? Is it ever difficult finding ‘where you belong’? How can you encourage others to come to the table?

As some of you may know, the first Sunday of every month in Community of Christ is communion Sunday. While there could be several devotions dedicated to what communion is, to give a quick statement, it is an opportunity to renew your covenant with God? For myself, it is a “why am I a Christian again?” moment. In our church communion is open and of free choice. So whether you decide to part take in or not, you are still loved and accepted.

As you go throughout this week remember, be present in every moment. Each day you live, each time you fail and succeed, you add another page to your story. Remember who you are in Christ, and how together we create God’s peaceable kingdom. Be and share love, and make connections across the nation

Spectacular Sunday

Image of the week

What’s in an Image?

Some of you may find this funny, others may find it a tad bit cheesy, But the Skit Guys, show an interesting perspective on imagine and being who God made us to be.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YGQqoQdhsY

Sending Forth

Mission Prayer

God, where will your Spirit lead today?
Help me be fully awake and ready to respond.
Grant me courage to risk something new and become a blessing of your love and peace. Amen.

Until our next post,

Grace and Peace,
Damon
#connectionsacrossthenation

The Journey Begins

Hello All,

And welcome to the first installment of our weekly devotions/blog. Each week there will be a new topic to read, view, reflect and react to. Some weeks it’ll be a video, others it’ll be an article or a picture, or some combination of material. I chose to do a blog, because I felt it’ll be the best way for everyone to share openly and honestly without having endless emails back and forth. I ask you to please be patient with me, as I figure out this site and work out all of the kinks.

As we get settled back into our routine activities and schedules, the adventures and lessons of spec can often seem like just a dream. These devotions will hopefully serve as a constant connection to that community. We will walk together in community, despite being across the country from each other. Some post will challenge you, inspire you and may confuse you. Do not be afraid.

As Doctrine and Covenants 164: 5 says:

“5 It is imperative to understand that when you are truly baptized into Christ you become part of a new creation. By taking on the life and mind of Christ, you increasingly view yourselves and others from a changed perspective. Former ways of defining people by economic status, social class, sex, gender, or ethnicity no longer are primary. Through the gospel of Christ a new community of tolerance, reconciliation, unity in diversity, and love is being born as a visible sign of the coming reign of God.”

Though we may have different opinions, lifestyle preferences, privileges, dreams, and so much more, we are truly one community in love and in Christ.

Though I ask you to share honestly and openly, I ask you also to be respectful of the views and experiences of others. I encourage each of you to share your experiences throughout the year so that we are constantly aware of things to pray for and to celebrate.

You will find our class photo posted as well.

The question to reflect on this week is simply: What at spec, were you able to let go of? How are you starting new now, with presence, love, and bravery?

Let Go

To let go doesn’t mean to stop caring; it means I can´t do it for someone else.

To let go is not to cut myself off; it’s the realization that I can´t control another.

To let go is not to enable, but to allow learning from natural consequences.

To let go is to admit powerlessness, which means the outcome is not in my hands.

To let go is not to try to change or blame another; I can change only myself.

To let go is not to care for, but to care about.

To let go is not to fix, but to be supportive.

To let go is not to judge, but to allow another to be a human being.

To let go is not to be in the middle arranging all the outcomes, but to allow others to affect their own outcomes.

To let go is not to be protective; it is to permit another to face reality.

To let go is not to deny, but to accept.

To let go is not to adjust everything to my desires, but to take each day as it comes and to cherish the moment.

To let go is not to nag, scold, or argue, but to search out my own shortcomings and to correct them.

To let go is not to criticize and regulate anyone, but to try to become what I dream I can be.

To let go is not to regret the past, but to grow and live for the future.

To let go is to fear less and love more.

Our combined efforts, stories, love and community and truly make a difference in this world.

We will also have a “hashtag” or #, for social media, Facebook, twitter, or Instagram. Ours will be connections across the nation, or #connectionsacrossthenation

This way we can all share the good news that our loving community can provide.

Until our next post,

Grace and Peace,

Damon

P.S. If you have any questions, suggestions or comments, I can be reached at drstthomas@gmail.com