Hello and welcome to my new blog. I’m excited to be here.
I have been an avid blog reader for many years now and, at any given time, I am following at least 20-some blogs. My preference tends to lean towards lifestyle/parenting blogs because, as a mother of two, they regale me with stories to which I can relate.
Classes are going very well. Students are appreciating the role-plays, practical illustrations, and the newly published textbook, which was partially funded by Waterloo North Mennonite Church (Waterloo, Ont.).
Some people are of the opinion that Jews and Muslims have always been, and always will be, in conflict. This is not true. Ishmael and Isaac both received a blessing from their father Abraham (Gen. 17:20), and in the end they came together to jointly bury their father (Gen. 25:9).
I got a warm welcome when I arrived at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, but, of course, nothing like the unprecedented welcome that Stephen Harper received! He was here with about 145 parliament, news and support people. Some will worked on economic and trade matters that are important to the present government. I hope that they also sought to understand the political realities and that they will work towards peace in this land.
Recently I was talking to a taxi driver. The conversation went like this:
I have received a new call from Bethlehem Bible College (BBC) and Mennonite Church Canada to go to Palestine/Israel for nine weeks to teach Pastoral Care and Counseling in the biblical towns of Bethlehem and Nazareth. There are over 70 churches and 55,000 Arab Christians in Palestine. Unfortunately, few of the pastors have been trained in the practice of pastoral care. I will seek to respond to some of that need.
What does active pacifism look like? What exactly is violence when you get past the classic images of guns and combat? What unique insights does my Christian faith have to offer in an interfaith conversation about injustice and oppression? These were just a few of the questions I found myself reflecting on during my summer 2013 training with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT).
What does cross-cultural learning have to do with our faith?
I believe it's at the heart of the good news that Jesus taught and lived: Reconciliation with God and reconciliation with each other. These are not mutual exclusive concepts. When we reconcile with each other, we have a more full sense of who God is and how God works in the world.
A mini-retreat this week for me, with a couple nights spent at a local camp while my spouse leads the Bible time. Good time for reflection, writing, thinking, reading scripture, walking… and swatting mosquitoes. A poem from one evening...
My hand rested on the shelf of books and I looked at the title of the volume under my palm. It was the same book that I'd remembered.
Another time, in the same small library, I'd pulled the book off the shelf and read it straight through in one evening. I'd resolved to live my life differently. To remember Sabbath… rest. Balance, rhythm, and the health and joy of God's gift of the Sabbath.
One class from my MA studies at Eastern Mennonite University's Center for Justice and Peacebuilding which continues to stick in my mind is a course called "Narrative Negotiation." We learned about the roles of worldviews in negotiating solutions to conflict and how sometimes it's not the issues or proposed solutions that cause a problem in carrying out a successful negotiation, but because groups are coming from completely different ways of seeing the conflict.
Much has been written on this blog about the stories we tell. This narrative perspective is becoming a stronger one in many fields of study, including therapy, education, conflict resolution, and negotiation.
My impression of AoyamaGakuin University in Tokyo was a college trying to keep its identity as a Christian college on a growing campus with increasing diversity. They seem to be doing a good job of balancing and finding integrity in the shifting realities, and they're not the only Christian higher education institutes to be dealing with this question of identity.
The view was breathtaking. On a clear day, from the 52nd floor, they said we should be able to see Mount Fuji. It was too hazy that day, though. All we could see were the blocks and blocks of concrete, towering buildings, and grids of traffic.
We were on the island! The train had risen about the surface of the water out of the underwater tunnel that had taken us a half hour to traverse. We looked at the rural villages, the mountains, the fields. This was Hokkaido.
Every now and then a familiar story comes to new meaning. A recent re-reading of the story of Bartimaeus in Mark 10:46-52 pushes me into an area of discomfort that challenges my identity and my understanding of our identity as a faith community. It makes me question our responses to Jesus' unexpected ways of transforming people. It causes me to wonder how good my vision is after all.
Procrastination happens for a reason. A quote I saw once suggested that often, it's because I don't give ourselves enough between projects to fully rest and enjoy the sense of accomplishment before starting the next. I feel reluctant to begin something, not because I'm not interested, but because I'm still not finished with the past project. A project is not complete until it includes the rest.
At a seminar on cooperative organizations in Saskatchewan, Harold Chapman, a 93-year-old professor, historian, and writer, told us the history from the inside of his involvement in cooperative organizations as a consultant. He talked about values and principles at the heart of this organizational model, and the challenge that it evolved in response to.
It was hard to know this Christmas how to hear the familiar story. Every year I look forward to advent, to hearing about Mary and Joseph and the new baby, to reflect again on what this story means for me and my community -- and how I live my life differently because of it.
Over the last year or so, I've appreciated the paintings, poetry, and musings of Jan Richardson on her blog, paintedprayerbook.com. Recently, one post caught my attention, "Salted with Fire." In a space of transition and waiting in my life, with many uncertainties as to what life will look like even a year from now, her description of salt in a potters' fire resonated with me.