Mary Ann, Calgary, AB, Canada
To the Calgary Community of Christ congregation,
I am so grateful to have your pumping machine to provide my milk to my son in the NICU. The MOM Project is an amazing act of concern for both baby and mommy.
You don’t know how you all touched my heart. Maybe for you it’s just a small deed, but for me it’s a reason to build and increase my faith.
Giving birth unexpectedly and seeing my baby so tiny with lots of stuff on his body makes me worry and feel down all the time. I know I have my family, relatives and friends to support me in this part of my life, and now, through the MOM Project, I have one more thing to drive me to be strong and fight my worries and fears.
I don’t know you all but you showed love through this selfless act for us mothers with babies in the NICU. You helped me not only financially, but you also helped me emotionally and spiritually by motivating me to not give up if there are big challenges that come into my life.
I want to thank you all for sharing this project with me.
When senseless acts of tragedy remind us
-LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA, Excerpt from his acceptance speech
after winning "Best Score" at the 2016 Tony Awards
just 24 hours after the Pulse Nightclub Massacre
A little over a year ago I had begun to finally understand my sexual orientation. It was a journey that took a long time and, in that moment in time, I was relieved to finally begin to understand who I was. The next step for me was to begin to stop living in fear, publicly “come out”, and claim my truth as a bisexual male. Of course, that eventually happened on December 5, 2016. Though, before I had even picked the date that I wanted to come out on, I almost came out one year ago today in response to the tragedy that occurred in the early morning hours of June 12, 2016.
A year ago this morning I was lying in bed at a rental home in Independence, Missouri. The Community of Christ World Conference had ended the day prior and I was on such a high from that experience. It was a Sunday morning and I was waking up to go to church at a local Community of Christ congregation before flying back home to Oregon. As I turned over to check my phone, I noticed that my notification screen was lit up with news alerts about a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Florida. I was numb. I was angry. I was sad. It wasn’t just an attack on a random group of people. It was a targeted, deliberate attack on a population that I identify with. This was personal. For on the verge of claiming my own sexual orientation, I was again reminded why so many live in fear of simply being who they are. I was reminded that living one’s truth as being LGBT can still, even in 2016, cause one to feel unsafe. As someone who puts the “B” in LGBT, I was also reminded why others who claim this same orientation as I, might choose to just focus on their attraction to the opposite sex and deny their own attraction to the same sex. I know I did for a long time. I was also reminded why others who are a part of the LGBT spectrum may decide to never come out at all.
No words can adequately capture the terror and devastating loss of what happened on June 12, 2016. The reality though, is that the terrorist attack that happened at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, happens every day every in our culture. It may not always be an attack that ends in a literal death but it is an attack that terrorizes the heart, soul, and mind of those who are bullied, belittled, and shunned because of who they are. It happens when a parent lacks love and support for their LGBT child. It happens when basic rights are denied to people because of who they love. It happens when Christian organizations claim to follow the teachings of Christ and love as God would love but then practice and preach something that is completely the opposite of that sacred love. It happens every time a child or adult is bullied and driven to contemplate or attempt suicide. It happens every time a beloved child of God dies of suicide. It happens every time someone has to live in fear because of who they are.
Today is a day to read the names of those who died and remember them, even if only in name. It is a day to remember that even though society has progressed in so many ways in accepting the rights of this beautiful population of people, that we can’t allow that progress to blind us or slow us down from continuing the journey towards full inclusion in our culture today. For as John Legend sang in the song “If you’re out there”: “The future started yesterday and we’re already late.” So let’s look hate in the face and say, “That’s it. You’re done!”. Let us embody the love of God by loving our neighbors as we should love ourselves. And remember, people can change their beliefs and attitudes but they can’t change who they are.
I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight the fact that today is also Loving Day. A day where we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down state laws that banned interracial marriage. Yet another example of the struggle our culture has had with labeling certain relationships as sinful or wrong when they don’t match that of the dominate population in society. May this be yet another reminder of our continual need to tirelessly work towards equality for all people.
I close today’s blog entry with this sacred text found in Community of Christ scriptures:
You do not fully understand many interrelated processes of human creation. Through its wonderful complexity, creation produces diversity and order.
Be not consumed with concern about variety in human types and characteristics as you see them. Be passionately concerned about forming inclusive communities of love, oneness, and equality that reveal divine nature.
Be passionately concerned about forming inclusive communities of love, oneness, and equality… I like that. I value that. Let’s live it. Let’s build it. In many ways, the lives of people you love depend on it. So as we celebrate how far we’ve come, let us find and create hope in the journey for where we are called to go.
A list of those killed at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on June 12, 2016:
Akyra Monet Murray, 18
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
Amanda Alvear, 25
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28
Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25
Antonio Davon Brown, 29
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24
Cory James Connell, 21
Darryl “DJ” Roman Burt II, 29
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
Enrique L. Rios, Jr, 25
Eric Ivan Ortiz Rivera, 36
Frank Hernandez , 27
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50
Geraldo A. “Drake” Ortiz-Jimenez, 25
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40
Jean C. Nieves Rodriguez, 27
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25
Juan Pablo Rivera Velazquez, 37
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22
Kimberly Morris, 37
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
Luis Daniel Conde , 39
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20
Luis S. Vielma, 22
Martin Benitez Torres, 33
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30
Oscar A. Aracena-Montero, 26
Paul Terrell Henry , 41
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31
Stanley Almodovar III, 23
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24
May we remember and honor them. May we continue to lift up in prayer and thought the loved ones they left behind as well as the over fifty additional people who were injured on that day.
This message was originally shared by Amy Cartwright on June 4, 2017, as guest ministry for Oklahoma Mission Center's Community Space online gathering. Roughly 42 were in attendance from four countries, seven states, and twenty-five devices.
37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. - John 7:37-39 (NRSV)
Rivers are life-giving for humans and many other forms of life. We require water for drinking, cooking, cleaning, farming and traveling. One of the greatest predictors of human life and the congregation of communities and civilizations has been the presence of these water ways. While rivers are the bedrock of our very life, these channels of moving water must be respected for their force and the danger they can pose.
When Jesus proclaims that those who believe in him will become as rivers of living water, the image that most readily comes to mind is one of bringing life and sustenance to the world. Because of our faith in Jesus, we are called to share his message of peace and deliverance. We are to be beacons of a life-sustaining faith—one that brings hope, love and a sense of responsibility in the world.
However, We are also called to be aware of the awesome responsibility that comes with this power. A river that overflows its banks is no longer living or life-giving, but a curse. The call to be living waters is one to keep our faith wild and exciting but also to be careful not to overspill our banks into the territory of fundamentalism, judgementalism or using our faith to harm others.
Unlike other sources of groundwater, rivers are constantly moving. This movement allows for travel and perhaps most importantly, helps to keep the water clean and more-fit for consumption than many other forms of fresh water. It is constantly changing, we don’t step in the same river twice (cue Disney music). Likewise, our faith should be in a constant state of movement and change, reaching out to new people, adjusting to new information and a force for movement in our lives.
In John 7:37, we learn that the spirit hadn’t been given to the people until this time. I’ve often wondered what this might mean. Surely these individuals had experienced what I would call the “spirit” before this moment—the feeling that God is present in my life and actions. But Jesus wasn’t calling for us to simply feel God’s presence, he called us to move and to change, to forge new territories of love, compassion, peace and radical grace. To be a follower of Christ is to move forward in this spirit. May we be mindful of the honour and responsibility that comes with being rivers of living waters.
...and for all you Disney fans...
Calgary Spark is a collection of stories told by members and friends of the church alike. Each person's story is helping to shape our community in new ways.