01 Jun

Unity is not uniformity

By Keifer Dooley

There has been a lot of talk about unity going around. Unfortunately, there also seems to be a big mix-up. Across the board, unity is being confused with uniformity.

A common misconception is that to be united everyone has to do everything exactly the same way and believe exactly the same details on every issue from A to Z. At least, that’s how unity seems to be interpreted by a majority of people. This misconception seems to be occurring in the church, in politics, in general.

As an easy example of why this is a misconception, take the United States of America. Today, 50 vastly different territories, or states, are “united” behind a common idea—“freedom.” Now, imagine if we called ourselves the “Uniform States of America.” That would change things significantly.

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr., brought together a deeply divided country, not by highlighting northern or southern differences in opinion, but by putting an emphasis on “American values.” Widespread disagreement over many very important issues abounded, but MLK was able to unite the country for racial equality in the name of love. A diverse population united for a common cause.

He would later say, “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

MLK’s words echoed those of the greatest teacher of all time, Jesus of Nazareth.

In John 17:23, Jesus was in the midst of prayer to His father, imploring on humanity’s behalf. Despite all of our differences in race, in culture and opinion, in talents, in upbringing, in wealth, power, prestige or status, we can be united because of Jesus. “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

Bill Johnsson writes, “Unity is not possible without diversity, otherwise, it’s just uniformity.” Both in the church and in the world, recognizing that all of our differences will shape individual worldview in dramatically different ways gives us the opportunity to meet each other in a place of respect, whether it be wildly differing viewpoints on topics like worship style, immigration, the ordination of women, or legislation for business for the well being of our environment. We must recognize that striving for uniformity, whether religious or secular, will lead to the ultimate demise of an institution. Unity within a diverse group of people promotes prosperity and growth.

Of course, it’s not an easy call. It sounds good in theory, but in practice, it’s very difficult to meet others with differing opinions in a place of respect. A good starting place is to identify the following:

A common identity
Shared values
Shared goals

Surprisingly, “identical opinions” is not on the list of important items to identify before achieving unity. It’s a difficult concept to recognize because it seems counterintuitive, but consistent consensus will degrade unity over time. In fact, most organizations, businesses, nations, etc., will actually find that they struggle with stagnation when the entire group is always in agreement. Recognizing that conflict can lay the foundation for improvement, Solomon penned the following, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”

As you navigate your world, seeking to be a faithful follower of Jesus while confronting challenging differences in opinion every day, consider practicing the following admonitions:

Be willing to listen.
Get to know someone different than you.
Show kindness, compassion, and respect at all times.
Work to keep communication and support open.
See beyond words, recognizing that fear often motivates actions.

This call is especially important in today’s climate of polarization. You’ll find that this issue of Mountain Views addresses a range of sensitive topics, including mental health and the future of the church. Many of the authors are young people, choosing to share because they love and value the work of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Rocky Mountain Conference. And, while the expressions will not be uniform, it’s imperative that as we fulfill our calling to share the name of Jesus and the good news of the Gospel, we continue to call each other to a greater standard. While a uniform consensus may never be reached on every issue, we can still be united behind our common identity as Seventh- day Adventists and our shared values of love, relevance, collaboration, integrity, and diversity. Furthermore, we can be united behind our goal to know Jesus and to make Him fully known. Or, even more simply, as Paul stated in Colossians 3, “put on the virtue of love, which binds all others together in perfect unity.” The words of King Solomon are also relevant here: As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

01 Jun

The ideal church

By Katie Morrison

It’s a common concern, a Catch-22. The church fears the departure of millennials and yet struggles to engage with the younger generations. Millennials fear their voices being ignored but resist commitment to any one church or religion. The current situation is hardly ideal, but what truly is? When asked to describe the ideal church, some of my friends mention one great thing they’ve experienced in the past: the music at an academy church, the senior pastor of the college congregation, the social activities of the youth group. Our concept of “ideal” is only based on something amazing we’ve experienced on earth. But this isn’t God’s ideal; to envision this, we need to set aside our previous perceptions.

Some of my peers have recently been questioning the structure of the Adventist church. What is the intention of the structure, the need for religion at all? To look at this, we examine the initial structural establishment of the Adventist church and the logic. In Matthew 28, God’s people are tasked with the Great Commission, spreading the good news to every corner of the earth. From Jesus’s own lips, we heard our mission. The Adventist roots latched onto that and established a structure to make it happen. From the General Conference down to the local congregation, the organizational intent was to reach the world, and it was done successfully! But at what cost?

Denominations and religions feel like they’re structurally set up to isolate. Even the verbiage feels divisive: us and them, our beliefs and theirs. Religion seems set up to protect the truth. An excellent book called Mission Drift studies organizations that were originally founded with radical mission statements, such as Harvard’s initial identity as a seminary, and the gradual and inevitable drift that can occur without firm guardrails. This feels especially relevant to the Adventist church’s beginnings. With twenty-eight (or so) fundamental beliefs, this governance was meant to protect our identity from mission drift. As the world church grew, our “truths” had much further to disseminate, offering more opportunity for misinterpretation and enhancing the necessity for an organized structure.

It makes sense that we don’t want to lose our identity as Adventists. But should that be the first thing people see?

Or should it be Jesus?

As the world church expanded, the process of conviction evolved. What worked locally was packaged and applied generically; if this worked for you, why not package that magic sauce into a palatable recipe for others? But this eliminates the organic growth, the natural development of a spiritual relationship, pointing to a set of beliefs and rules instead of the heart of our identity, the purest of truths.

Shouldn’t the journey start with Jesus?

If we lift up Christ and encourage relationships, it doesn’t release us from a higher standard. It doesn’t pardon us to behave recklessly. On the contrary, we’re called to a higher standard. This is only possible through the Spirit.

Consider the story of the woman at the well, found in John 4. She felt marginalized because of her background and social standing. But look at the difference in worship between the Samaritan woman and the Jews. The Jews were God’s chosen people. They had received God’s truth hundreds of years earlier and basked in the pride and safety that the truth offered. They worshipped in truth. The woman was operating from a different understanding, a less informed position but nonetheless poignant. The woman worshipped in Spirit. Comparing these worship styles is pretty unfair.

But, as Jesus pointed out in verses 23–24, “A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and His worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” Those who worship in Spirit, being led by the Spirit, will ultimately find the truth. But how much harder is it for those worshipping in truth to open and hear the Spirit’s calling? That’s the challenge facing Adventists, the obstacles of meritocracy and pride.

Bearing this in mind, let’s return to the original question: what is the ideal church? Do we answer that for the spiritual state of the church or do we answer it for the organizational structure?

Isaiah prophesied saying that God would “do a new thing, springing up rivers in deserts.” The physical vehicle through which the Spirit moves is often a “new thing” that we don’t expect, but that is always consistent is the Spirit itself.

Could it be that the ideal church is one that is more concerned with each individual bearing the fruits of that Spirit, allowing each community the flexibility to become whatever vehicle it needs to be to spread the Gospel? Is it possible for a world church to loosen its grip on its traditional identity in order to more tightly grasp the hand of Jesus, trusting His Spirit to lead and protect rather than an ever-growing list of ordinances and fundamental beliefs?

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul says that the love of God compels us. I see an ideal church as something outside of four walls, beyond one day a week. I see relationships that empower and uplift, that encourage in moments of doubt and remind one another of the identity we have in Christ. When we let our love for God compel us, the ideal is not black and white. The ideal has a million faces, one for each Christian who claims it.

Katie Morrison is a healthcare marketing professional and lives in Orlando, Florida. She was a communication intern at RMC in 2015. Email her at: [email protected]

01 Jun

Church Time Machine

By Jessyka Dooley

In the past handful of years, I have had the privilege of visiting churches all across the country and even a few spots across the world. Before I continue on, I want to be clear that every church has been loving and filled with wonderful people. But I can’t help but wonder what the average 20- or 30-something working professional would think if they walked into one of these buildings. More often than not, when stepping foot in the door at 75 percent of these churches, I feel as if the foyer acts as a fully functioning time machine. The decor begins to morph into colors, patterns, and baskets from the mid ’80s, people’s language seems to shift into a foreign language, the service seems to follow repetition more than worship, and the songs we sing and the words we speak are peppered with “doths,” “thous,” “haths,” “doom,” and “gloom.”

When I walk into a Seventh-day Adventist church, I am able to take these things with a grain of salt. This denomination is my family. When I walk into a friend or family member’s home and it’s a little messy, I’m not going to judge them. I know the week they had, the stressors that they face, and it gives me understanding. I walk into our churches with understanding because I’ve been there, because I know the people and the culture. When I walk into a new restaurant or doctor’s office, I enter with an observant eye. If you were to walk into a hospital where you would be getting surgery or a school where you are planning to send your child, you would walk in with an observant eye.

If your hospital had outdated surgery equipment and your doctor wasn’t interested in any of the new techniques in medicine, you might be a bit stressed. If your child’s school had science books from the ’90s and a bulletin board that the teacher had kept up for the past four years, you might be a bit leery. You see, we say our churches want to be places of outreach that we can invite friends and strangers to. We say that we want our churches to be for the kids and teens of the next generation. We say we want to be beacons of light for our community, but at the end of the week, we hop in our time machines on Saturday morning to take us back to a place of tradition and comfort, often leaving any new visitor confused and feeling left out.

I believe this epidemic isn’t because we simply do not care, but rather because we have refused to budge, to respond to little changes along the way. As time passes, so do our opportunities to grow, adapt, and change. Before we know it, we are left with the dilemma of whether to continue the path of no return or take a sudden “about face.” Shaking things up in the church does not mean that we aren’t thankful for what it has done in the past. Songs we have sung, traditions we have upheld, instruments we have played have all served and can still serve a purpose, but they are not the only way of worship.

The church needs to be relevant. Chances are, the way your church is decorated is not the way you, your family, or your friends decorate your home. Worship needs to be relevant. Chances are, the hymns and the music you play at church are not blasting on your car stereo throughout the week. Our relationships need to be relevant. Chances are, the Bible version you read is not the way you speak to your family and friends. Chances are, you might step into a time machine every time you attend church.

We need to be relevant for ourselves, our kids, and those searching for Jesus. It’s time to quite literally go back to the future. It’s time to prepare our spaces and our services in a way that says, “We want to welcome all to this space” rather than just wanting to welcome those who understand. The upcoming generations do not understand. The upcoming generations do not attend church out of the obligation of peer pressure, but because they find a relevant place to connect with God and others. It’s time to be intentional about being relevant.

Jessyka Dooley is RMC assistant youth ministries director. Email her at: [email protected]

01 Jun

Infinitely more

By Brigitta Beam

We all have a nose, eyes, we eat, we live the same. We are equals.

—Teresa Huayta

How great a pleasure it would be
to see the world through the eyes of a child
it’s been years since I’ve seen with untainted eyes
and yet each day is the opportunity to see the world as I once did

I think often about how God loves me
and yet struggle to understand how He can love everyone the same my enemies; those who kill and hate and steal

It’s a humbling and baffling moment
when you realize that the lines you draw for who God loves and accepts do not even exist in His mind
He loves beyond human comprehension

Every day is a reminder that while our love is finite
God’s love is infinite, as vast as the entirety of space and still . . . more.

Brigitta Beam is a Colorado native who returned upon finishing her education at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska. She is an active young adult in various ministries at Boulder Church.

01 Jun

Check on your strong friends

By Roxi Peterson

As someone who deals with depression myself, I know how easy it is to hide my true emotions from family and even my closest friends. The main reason my friends, family, and college professors know I struggle with depression is that I confided in them. But what if I hadn’t kept them in the loop? What if I told no one that I have depression? Would anyone notice? Would people be able to see my struggle?

Depression is not something only I deal with—many others do too. But to those who don’t have depression, it’s hard to understand. I’ve heard people experiencing depression labeled as sad, lazy, unmotivated, selfish, rude, aggressive, and more. But depression is so much deeper than that.

When I was feeling down, I researched articles about depression to try to understand what it means and how I could explain it to others. An article in The Guardian titled “What Does Depression Feel Like? Trust Me—You Really Don’t Want to Know,” states, “There is a heavy, leaden feeling in your chest, rather as when someone you love dearly has died; but no one has—except, perhaps, you. You feel acutely alone. It is commonly described as like viewing the world through a sheet of plate glass; it would be more accurate to say a sheet of thick, semi-opaque ice.” When I read this article, I broke down in tears because it hit home for me. Depression to me feels like my heart is constantly broken from a break-up or a death. All I want to do (or have the energy to do) is lie in bed. An accomplishment for someone dealing with depression can range from brushing their teeth to making their bed, and it most likely took all the energy they had to complete the simple task. Loneliness does not even begin to describe depression but is only a mere sliver of what that person feels.

Over the years, I’ve learned to manage my depression to some extent, but sadly some people don’t know how to take the first step in reaching out. A friend of mine asked me about someone who had lost their life to mental illness: “How could they let it get so bad? Why didn’t they reach out?” I gave him the best answer I could with an analogy that I hope helps explain. If someone finds out they have cancer, but catches it early enough, they can get the treatment they need to take care of it. If they don’t find the cancer soon enough, it will grow and grow until it takes over and their chances of survival are slim. Depression is the same way. If a person dealing with mental illness reaches out to get the help they need, they can get it under control. But if they don’t reach out, the depression will eat at them more and more until depression has swallowed them up and there isn’t much more they can do.

I know that doesn’t answer the question as to why the person didn’t reach out, but no one can possibly find all the answers. Even if people seem strong, like they have it all together, that is only what we see on the surface. Depression can look like a bubbly person who smiles, laughs, and appears put together, but only in front of others. Behind closed doors, that same person who seemed to have it all together could be sitting in the corner holding their knees, with tears rolling down their cheeks, hoping the day will just end. Or worse, that their life will end. It is so important to not only check on your friends who seem sad or down, but also your friends who seem super happy. They might deny there is anything wrong, but what if they choose to open up to you? What if you are somehow able to get through to them? You might just end up saving their life. Life is so fragile and can be taken away in the blink of an eye.

We don’t have all the answers, but someone does—God. God is always there to comfort us when we are at our weakest points. He cries with us, hurts with us, and embraces us when we can’t embrace ourselves. “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18, ESV).

In loving memory of those who’ve lost their lives due to mental illness.

Roxi Peterson is a senior communication student at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska.

01 Jun

A theology of suicide

By Abner Campos

Suicide is a taboo. Suicide casts a long shadow of stigmas which are often dismissed and unaddressed—probably for good reasons.

Suicide is the culmination of what is darkest in our world. It is the outworking of wounds and pain and despair. Maybe we know too little about suicide to address it. We certainly enter this topic cautiously, recognizing that so many live in the aftermath and carnage of suicide.

Though the topic of suicide is sensitive to many, it must be addressed because the church must address the issues that matter most. More than 47,000 Americans died by suicide in 2017. As a church, we must walk through this valley with our grieving brothers and sisters across the country [1]. The church must speak into the most chaotic pains that plague our societies.

As followers of Jesus, we look to the Scriptures for wisdom and understanding. Suicide is not foreign to the Bible. Abimelech, mortally wounded by a millstone, ordered his armor-bearer to dispatch him to avoid the suggestion he had been slain by the woman who had thrown the stone (Judges 9:52–54). The prophet Ahithophel hanged himself after betraying David (2 Samuel 17:23). Zimri burned his house down around himself after military defeat (1 Kings 16:18). There are also the more familiar stories of Saul and his armor-bearer (1 Samuel 1:1–6; 1 Chronicles 10:1–6), Sam- son, (Judges 16:28), and, of course, Jesus’ disciple Judas— although it is only Matthew’s Gospel that reports that he killed himself. (Compare Matthew 27:3–5 with Acts 1:18.)

There is nothing in any of these stories to suggest that the biblical narrators disapproved of the characters’ suicides [2].

In some of these instances, suicide is the result of despair, as in the story of Saul. However, in the story of Samson, we see a man who could not control his passions, yet still pursued pleasing God up to his last moment. Samson was honored in his death by his family [3].

Even so, these examples should not be our sole rule for determining a person’s eternal destiny. Why? Because salvation in Jesus is much more than these examples. We should not ignore these stories but put them in their proper place.

First, sin is more than the “transgression of the law” [4]. The Scriptures also offer this definition: “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin” [5]. One last definition: “Whatever is not from faith is sin” [6]. This is my point: sin is much more than just an act. Sin is a physical and spiritual disease, a force and cancer, a choice but more than a choice—a predisposition.

The healing balm for sin is not behavioral management, but Jesus. This is salvation, this is our soteriology. “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” [7]. A person has Jesus or does not, there is no somewhat.

Anyone arguing that a person will not experience eternity with Jesus based on his or her last act does not understand salvation. Salvation is not based on the merits and acts of the individuals, but on the merits and acts of Jesus. Salvation is not determined by a person’s last deed.

Please hear me: God does not desire that a person takes his or her own life. Jesus wants to rescue us from despair and hopelessness and pain now, not just in the life to come. Jesus’ view of suicide is not positive. Suicide is not a noble way of dying, but it is not outside of God’s grace.

Suicide is not the unpardonable sin and salvation is more than a person’s final act. Salvation is determined by the genuine relationship between a son or daughter with the Father in Jesus. I love these words:

The character is revealed, not by occasional good deeds, occasional misdeeds, or last deeds, but by the tendency of the habitual words and acts [8].  What does this mean for our loved ones who have taken their own lives? It means they were in despair, they were fighting a mental illness often unseen by those closest to them, they could not see any hope, and death was their only way out—but God still saw them in their pain until their last breath.

God’s throne is His mercy seat. Let that sink in. The thread woven throughout God’s government and judgment is mercy.

We can look optimistically and hopefully toward resurrection morning because God is love, compassion, and mercy. Our God is good. I look forward to the day when we will sing, “Just and true are your ways, O King!”

If you are having thoughts of suicide, please know that you are not alone. If you are in danger of acting on suicidal thoughts, call 911. For support and resources, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
or text 741-741 for the Crisis Text Line.

Abner Campos is an associate pastor in Washington State. He previously interned as a pastor at Brighton Church in our very own Rocky Mountain Conference. He and his wife, Debbie, are moving to Michigan this fall where Abner will begin his Masters of Divinity at Andrews University. Email him at: [email protected]

Notes:

  1. USA Suicide: 2017 Official Final Data, Suicidology, 2017. https://www.suicidology.org/Portals/14/docs/Resources/FactSheets/201 7/2017datapgsv1-FINAL.pdf. 2. Paul Middleton, Suicide in the Bible, Bible Odysseyhttps://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/people/related-articles/suicide-in-the-bible. 3. Judges 16:31. 4. 1 John 3:4. 5. James 4:17, NASB. 6. Romans 14:23, NASB. 7. 1 John 5:11-12, NIV. 8. This quote has been altered, originally from Steps to Christ, Ellen White, 57.
01 Jun

Giving their own way

By Doug Inglish

It may seem counterintuitive because every generation thinks succeeding generations are discarding the values they should be cherishing, but millennials give more than previous generations.

Yes, you read that correctly. According to studies by several organizations that track such things, the current crop of young adults is more likely to give to charity than boomers, Generation Xers, or any other defined generation now living. The Case Foundation’s Millennial Impact Report 2015 indicated that 84 percent of millennial employees gave to charity, and 70 percent donated an hour or more of labor to a charitable cause. If that ratio was transferred from one generation of employees to all members of our Conference, the impact would be incalculable!

In terms of actual dollars, baby boomers and Generation Xers give more, but that’s because they make up a greater percentage of higher income earners. That’s changing rap- idly as older workers retire and the expanding workforce brings in new millennials. Even more importantly, as millennials pay off student loans and climb the wage scale, their giving increases accordingly.

But the method of giving is different in three important ways. First, while many of us are still in the habit of writing a check to drop in the plate (or maybe a $5 bill if an unexpected plate passes by), the twenty- or thirty-somethings are much more likely to give digitally. Automatic bank payments, giving online through the church website and even in response to text messages make the process easy for a tech-savvy generation, and they are beginning to see the deacons coming down the aisle at church as relics of the past. Perhaps the simplicity of electronic giving helps account for the high percentage of givers.

The second difference is that millennials are more directed in their approach to giving. Specific projects are more likely to receive their generosity than ongoing programs. After all, knowing that a new well is being dug in a village that desperately needs one is more exciting than keeping the electric bill paid at the church. Putting in a day constructing a home for a low-income family gives a warmer feeling than serving on the school board. This is something that may start to have an impact on local church budgets if the importance of keeping the lights on is not properly communicated.

A final difference is a trend that has an immediate impact but will cause an echo roughly forty years from now. Millennials are more interested in charitable giving during their life- time than in making a charitable distribution a part of their estate plan. Typically they give at high rates now and plan that anything left over at the end of life will go to the family. This may change as they age and are able to see their children paying their own bills and building for their own retirement, but that is uncertain. If that attitude prevails, the hope is that increased giving during life will offset the charitable contributions that will be missing from estate plans. However, I can tell you that this trend is causing concern within the gift planning community, and how to adjust to the new reality is still unclear.

My own children are millennials. I am aware of their different ways of giving from my observations of how they manage their lives, so reading about these emerging trends has not caught me entirely by surprise. I’m aware of my generational biases, so I certainly don’t want to advocate that one generation does it better than another. In truth, I can’t help but admire millennials for their generosity and praise God that they are passionate about things that matter. Perhaps the best response my generation can have towards them is to keep them engaged in the decision-making process so that there can be intergenerational agreement about what things truly do matter. When that is achieved, I am confident that we will support those things appropriately.

Thanks to all of you, from all generations, for your support of the mission. I am encouraged that the giving trends of millennials indicate that the spirit of the mission is not being lost.

Doug Inglish is RMC director of planned giving and trust services. Email him at: [email protected]

01 Jun

Be a mentor

By Ron Price

In church recently, I spoke with someone about the house her daughter and son-in-law were building. She remarked that she and her husband both thought it was much larger than they needed. She then quickly added that her husband’s parents had said the exact same words to them when they built their first house.

Have you ever noticed that every generation takes issue with the practices, beliefs, and quirks of the next, or subsequent generations? My parents were of the Greatest Generation, and I’ve heard that in their youth they had contests to see how many people they could squeeze into a phone booth. Some of you are likely asking “What’s a phone booth?” I remember hearing of the indignity they felt with Elvis Presley’s swinging hips on the Ed Sullivan Show, and hey had no idea what to make of the British invasion which featured the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and other strange looking bands.

I sometimes wonder if we humans have a tendency to long for the past and wish somehow we could travel back in time to do it over again. Of course, we would only do so if we could know then what we know now. When we look at life through the prism of advanced maturity and experience, it is easy to regard the actions and behaviors of the younger generation as foolhardy if not outright dangerous and absurd. And, while it is easy to criticize, is it not likely true that you and I engaged in similar pursuits when we were that age?

While cross-generational critiquing is nothing new, it does seem to have increased in intensity regarding the millennial generation. We should also realize, however, that much of the criticism goes to the parents who produced, raised, and perhaps enabled that generation. The same can likely be said for all preceding generations, but you can relax. The focus of this column is not to affix blame on any- one. We’re all in this marvelous adventure of life together, and I need not remind you that none of us is perfect. You can be glad that you’re not perfect because if we found out you were, we’d have to nail you to a cross.

All generations have their good qualities along with those that are less commendable. One key is to be content with who you are. Once you are there, you can much more easily accept those who are different from you in various ways.

A second key to consider is how you might impact the succeeding generation for their, and ultimately society’s, good. Rather than grumbling about their lack of ambition or direction, look for someone you can take under your wing and help guide into a productive, satisfying life. Deter- mine to view the younger generation in as favorable a light as possible. Try to see each one as an individual who wants the same things as you do: “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” As Christians, we must certainly hope for and treat them as if they want a close relationship with Jesus and eternal life with Him.

There are numerous ways you can get involved with the next generation or generations. At church or on the job site, reach out to befriend a younger person. Don’t start in coach- ing or correcting mode, but look to earn their confidence that you care and have wisdom from which they might benefit. Focus on building the relationship and then look for opportunities to mentor.

For younger children, consider being a mentor through Big Brothers/Big Sisters or in a school. Please don’t waste the life lessons you have learned. While no one can help you remake poor decisions from your past, you very likely can help some young people avoid making those same mistakes themselves.

While I stand by my suggestion that you look for opportunities to impact younger generations for their betterment, I also encourage you to look for opportunities to allow them to do the same for you. We are all in this marvelous adventure of life together, and each one of us, regardless of our age, has something to contribute to others.

In the words of Dale Carnegie, “Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain—and most fools do.” Then he went on to say, “But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.” Please keep that in mind the next time you encounter a millennial or anyone who  is different than you in meaningful ways. Rather than be critical, ask God what He might have you learn from them, and/or what He might want you to do for them. It may not be as much fun as criticizing, but I have it on Good Authority that it’s a much better way to live.

Ron Price is a member of the RMC executive committee from Farmington, New Mexico. Email him at: [email protected]

01 Jun

Things I learned from my daughters

By Carol Bolden

Whenever friends discover the age at which I gave birth to my daughters, they often remark, “You must have been a lot more mature than most moms.” While I wish that were the case, I think it’s the give and take of parenthood, the day after day meeting of responsibility, the facing of challenges that mature us. I don’t think I was much more mature as a parent even at the ages of 36 and 39 than most parents who met that challenge much earlier. It was my amazing daughters who taught me so many things I might not have learned without them. Obviously, I made mistakes.

One thing I learned, though, is that it’s OK to make mistakes. While I always knew I wasn’t perfect, I thought I needed to look like I was. That was a big mistake in itself and a great burden to carry. It took some bumps and knocks in life to get me to see that being real and vulnerable puts me in a place where I can learn from my mistakes. Being open about my weaknesses was a much healthier way of being to pass on to my daughters. It’s OK to make mistakes. Here are a few more things I picked up along the way:

Every day is a new day. And every day offers another chance to start over. It’s a wonderful thing that God gives us new mercies every morning and that I can start over new every day. This amazing gift He gives us is one we can give to our children. I tried to remember that when our girls fought or disobeyed. The cloud of negativity or disobedience didn’t have to hang over them. They, too, could begin anew every morning.

Don’t worry about a messy house. My brother recently visited us from California and remarked that I had OCD as he watched me scurrying to put dishes in the dish- washer and wipe down the kitchen counters. It made me think back to the days when our girls were still at home. I spent way too much time worrying about whether or not our house was clean and not enough time letting them know that they were more important than a clean house. I wish I could go back in time and relax a little. Chérie and Krista, just so you know, you are infinitely more important than a clean house!

Enjoy the moment. I learned early on that the coos, the smiles, the sweet baby prattle give way to real spoken words and then a whole new level of communication. Every new stage left me mourning the loss of what was, yet rejoicing in the newest abilities and learning. I had to learn to enjoy the moment, focusing on the here and now rather than mourning the loss of what was or looking forward to what would be. Even when we passed through some difficult teenage years, I could feel good about how far the girls had come and rejoice in the relationship we had. Remember to enjoy the moment.

Don’t give up on being yourself. My daughters have very different personalities. One was outgoing, the other quiet. One was neat, one messy (and very creative, I might add). One was helpful, the other resisted getting involved. These two very different girls had a very “unique” mother (and father). “Mom, you’re weird,” they used to say. I’m grateful that God provides such a variety of people. How mundane it would be if we were all alike. It’s a tribute to my daughters that they insisted on being who they were and are. Don’t ever give up on being yourself.

Take time to listen. Our youngest daughter came home from school one day with a tale of mistreatment by another student. We talked about how she felt and how she could respond and she decided to take the high road. The next day when she came home, she had made a new friend. How differently this incident could have turned out if I had not taken the time to listen.

Say “yes” whenever you can. One of my many failures was allowing myself to become too busy. I remember a particular incident when our youngest was in elementary school. She wanted me to go on a field trip with her class. In fact, she begged me to go. But I resisted, knowing that when I returned to my job, the stress would have doubled. This daughter doesn’t even remember the incident, but I do and I repent all over again each time I think of it. I so wish I could have the memory of going on that field trip with her. It’s important to spend time doing what your children enjoy together. Say “yes” whenever you can.

Laugh every day. We had a lot of fun with blonde jokes at our house with two of us being blonde, but when the jokes became barbed we had to put a stop to them. Healthy fun, though, healthy laughter is like glue, binding hearts together. We can laugh at the funny things that happen in life and we can laugh at our responses to them. Injecting a bit of laughter can make serious things more palatable. Remember to laugh every day.

Say it out loud to make it real. When my oldest daughter was in her late teens, she began greeting me with, “Hello, gorgeous!” I was blown away. I didn’t feel gorgeous and her greeting made me slightly uncomfortable. Eventually, though, I accepted the love that came with the greeting and even began to feel a little bit pretty. She taught me that expressing something out loud can actually bring it to reality. I see so many applications where this can be used with children and youth today to create a better reality. Thank you, Chérie!

Say “I love you” every day. This is an instance where saying it out loud can make it real. We all need to feel loved and young people are like plants that need tending—watering, loving, and weeding, with an emphasis on “loving.” The more love we can deposit into their banks, the more easily we can do the necessary weeding. Say “I love you” every day.

Talk about spiritual things. Our girls had a children’s Bible written in poetry form that we often read when they were small. As they grew, we tended toward Guide and Insight. Bedtime was a great time to talk about faith and to pray. When we moved to Denver from Southern California, we were pleasantly surprised to find that we could listen to K-LOVE while driving, a treat the mountains denied us in California. That special, golden time when the girls were still under our roof is gone, a reminder to today’s parents to make the most of the time you have and continue to talk about spiritual things.

One thing I never knew until the parenting journey was well under way is that the journey never ends. Even when they’re grown, there will be nights of worry, a sweet agony made up of love and fear. So the learning continues. Even more effectively than the Apostle Paul’s admonition, my children have taught me to “pray without ceasing.

Carol Bolden provides editorial support for the RMC communication department. Email her at: [email protected]

01 Jun

The Power of GRATITUDE

By Shayne Mason Vincent

“Everything happens for a reason” is one of those clichés that aggravate me. “Everything” is not supposed to happen. We are Arminians after all, not Calvinists. God doesn’t plan for people to be abused, nor does He want our loved ones to die prematurely just so we can learn something from it. God doesn’t create bad things, nor does He call bad things good. But what God does do, and marvelously, is make beautiful things out of bad.

Illustrating this is a Japanese tradition called kintsugi. Over the centuries, Japanese potters developed an ingenious way of salvaging broken pottery. By knitting together broken shards with seams of gold, the scars make what was once broken and worthless into a beautiful work of art.

In the same way, God takes the broken and unwanted, and knits them back together, making them more beautiful than if they had never been broken at all. As Tony Robbins states, “If I am going to blame my abusive mother for all the bad things in my life, then I also have to thank her for all the strength she taught me in learning to overcome.” We must be patient with God, so He can create beauty from our scars.

Adyashanti, a Buddhist philosopher, once said, “You must choose between your attachments and happiness.” What does this mean? It means that we must choose between our expectations and what actually is. Meaning that happiness is a choice; a choice to be grateful for what is still good rather than fixating on what is not. As in the practice of kintsugi, we must choose to seek beauty among the scars of sin. We must, like Paul, recognize what is good, regardless of the circumstance.

In learning the truths of gratitude, God is not asking us to pretend those bad things are good. Consider these words:

For I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13, NLT)

Gratitude is not about being fake or naive. Believe me, there is a vast gulf between the facade of those who pretentiously claim to be “blessed,” and those who have truly learned to trust God, even when their house is burning down around them. The power of gratitude is that the more you speak light, the more you will be filled by light.

Perspective is everything.

The book, Ministry of Healing, expresses this concept perfectly:

No tongue can express, no finite mind can conceive, the blessing that results from appreciating the goodness and love of God. Even on earth, we may have joy as a well-spring, never failing, fed by the streams that flow from the throne of God. It is a positive duty to resist melancholy, discontented thoughts and feelings—as much a duty as it is to pray. If we are heaven-bound, how can we go as a band of mourners, groaning and complaining all along the way to our Father’s house? Often your mind may be clouded because of pain. Then do not try to think. You know that Jesus loves you. He understands your weakness. You may do His will by simply resting in His arms. Educate your heart and lips to speak the praise of God for His matchless love. Educate your soul to be hopeful, and to abide in the light shining from the cross of Calvary. (p. 138)

Are we willing to see the good that still exists in life? Or will we spend our existence mourning over unmet expectations? In Christ, there is hope in the midst of hopelessness. In Christ, there is still a purpose, even when ambition must lie at the foot of the Cross. Why? Because, just as thorns are real, so too are roses. In letting go of what is not, gratitude opens our eyes to the happiness of what we already possess: our family, our friends, a sunny day, a rainstorm, a good book, even puppies (yes, puppies). So let your joy be found in the journey because, “There is nothing in nature that blooms all year long, so don’t expect life to do so either” (Unknown).

Shayne Mason Vincent is lead pastor of the Casper Wyoming District. Email him at: [email protected]