A Good Break

What a weekend. Friday evening Andy & Helen Harrington, good friends from Canada (though originally from England) came through on their way to California. It is always wonderful to have time to catch up with friends and Andy and Helen are special people. Andy Harrington heads up Youth For Christ in Vancouver British Columbia, one of the fastest growing and most innovative YFCs in North America which isn’t surprising since Andy is one of the most creative people we know. When we first met Andy and Helen about 12 years ago they had just returned to Britain after planting YFC in the war zones of Croatia and Bosnia. Their passion for helping those at the margins has not diminished. Andy was in Sri Lanka to help after the tsunami and Helen has worked with Hope International in Canada. They are presently developing a partnership with YFC in Rwanda. They were only stayed with us overnight but I was inspired and renewed by our conversation.

Sand Sculpture Port AngelesNo sooner had we waved them goodbye than Tom & I (and Bonnie) jumped in the car and headed over to the Olympic Peninsular. We were not deterred by the 2 hour wait at the ferry and soon arrived to stay at our friend Ardi Erickson’s house just outside Squim. What a beautiful place to relax and renew – which was just what I needed to do. good conversation, good food and some sight seeing around the area made this a wonderful weekend.The one dissonant note occurred as we walked along the waterfront in Port Angeles. In amongst the tall trees and rich green growth was a sign that read “Hollywood business and industrial park coming soon” I was appalled at the thought of this beautiful pristine vegetation being replaced by stark buildings – and this is what we call progress.

Sunday afternoon we headed to Port Townsend for what was the supposed reason for our trip – the wedding of good friends Tim & Cote. It was cold and windy but we still enjoyed the ceremony out on the bluff and the delicious spread that followed. All in all a memorable weekend and one that we could so easily have missed because in the midst of our busy schedule we were not sure that we had time to go away for 2 days. Once again I realize that taking time for friends is not at the periphery of what it means to be a Christian, it is the very heart of it.

Cote arriving with her father

This morning as I was reflecting on our weekend I wrote a short prayer that I thought you might enjoy
God we sing for joy this day and rest secure in your promises
Jesus Christ the ruler of all worlds, the shepherd of creation has entered our world
He comes not in power and might but in the gentleness of love
He walks beside us as a friend
Before us as a guide, behind us as a shield
He is not far off where none can touch or see
He is present in all to whom I speak
He is in the voice of all who speak to me
I see him in the face of friends
I hear him in the laughter of love ones
He comes not in power, not in might
But in the gentleness of love
Hallelujah! he is risen from the dead and is everywhere present with us.


Abbey of the Arts

Last week I had the opportunity to have morning tea with Christine Paintner who explores the relationship between spirituality and the creative arts.  I always enjoy getting together with like minded people.  We had a delightful time sharing our common interests in spiritual direction, photography and writing.

Among other things Christine runs a retreat in November entitled  Awakening the Creative Spirit.  which you may like to check out.  She also has some wonderful and inspiring photographs on her blog.

Jesus – A Man for all Nations

Here is a meditation video I put together for the MSA Seed Sampler on Indigenous Peoples and Christianity. I think that it is easy for us who are Westerners to think that Jesus was a white male who would fit comfortably into our culture. But it isn’t true. In fact I suspect that he would fit much more comfortably into some of the so called primitive indigenous cultures of our countries. I believe too that every culture reflects something of who Jesus is and of who God is. Early Celtic Christians believed they were privileged to live in a non Christian society because they believed it was through their interaction with people outside the faith that they learned more about who God is. I think that we would all benefit from that attitude. We go out into the world not as teachers but as learners. Refelct on that as you watch this video.

A Native American Prayer

This prayer is attributed to Chief Sealth (for whom Seattle is named). It is not written as a Christian prayer but I think that the sentiments expressed in it could easily be.

We belong to the earth this we know
The earth does not belong to us;
We belong to the earth , this we know
All things are connected like the blood which unites one family.
All things are connected.
Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons and daughters of the earth.
We did not weave the web of life;
We are merely a strand in it.
Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.


Harry Potter Goes Eco-Friendly

Here is a bit of news that I hope warms the hearts of all Harry Potter fans.  And all accomplished by a small non profit based in Vancouver. I am not sure what the connection is to the international prayers I have been highlighting but it seemed too good to ignore.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows“The seventh book in the blockbuster Potter franchise is being touted as the greenest book in publishing history, thanks to a non-profit group that has persuaded publishers, printers and pulp producers to opt for forest-friendly paper.

Raincoast Books, which expects to sell about 1.2 million copies of “Deathly Hallows,” was the first publisher to back the initiative in 2003.

Today, 16 publishing houses worldwide have committed to using recycled, or ancient forest friendly (AFF), paper for the final instalment of J.K. Rowling’s wizard tale.

That will mean 200,000 fewer trees will be felled to feed Potter demand, or the equivalent of 2.5 green and leafy Central Parks, according to Nicole Rycroft, executive director of Markets Initiative, the Vancouver-based group behind the push.  Read more on from the Financial Post

An African Prayer

One of my favourite books of prayers is An African Prayer Book, compiled by Desmond Tutu. It gives some powerful prayers and liturgies from Africa that really make me feel connected to the African people who wrote them. Here is one by Desmond Tutu himself that I think is quite profound.

Victory is Ours
Goodness is stronger than evil;
Love is stronger than hate;
Light is stronger than darkness;
Life is stronger than death;
Victory is ours through Him who loves us.

Under the Southern Cross

ausfalg-screenbean.gifIt is not just art that is impacted by our cultural views of Jesus. Our prayers are shaped by our culture too. Over the next few days I will share some that I have gathered over the last few years from different countries and cultures.

Here is one from the South Pacific Islands. It seemed a good place to start since the stars referenced in the prayer – the Southern Cross are the first that any good Australian student learns about.  I still remember learning how to find the South pole using the Southern Cross.  As you can see the Southern Cross is also a distinctive part of the Australian flag as well as flags of many other South Pacific nations. When I first came to live in the United States one thing I found rather disconcerting was the fact that I could not see the Southern Cross.

Surprisingly I did not really think about the Southern Cross as a reference to the cross of Christ until I read this prayer which I think comes from Fiji.

We ask you dear God that
Just as the great Southern cross
Guides our people as they sail over the Pacific at night
So may the cross of Jesus Christ
Lead us through the night and guide us safely into a new day


Theological Diversity in a Globalized World.

varghese-calming-the-storm.jpgYesterday I read Barbara Kingsolver’s essay A Fist in the Eye of God, in which she talks about the incredible diversity present in nature. The longer a crop has been grown in a country the greater the diversity of seed types that can be found. So a huge number of wheat strains exist in Ethiopia and the strength of the wheat crop has always depended on this diversity and local adaptability of the seed. Or at least that was true until globalization and the advent of agribusiness started pushing farmers to grow only a few seed types. And of course many of us are concerned that the loss of diversity not only means the loss of thousands of years of genetic adaptation, it also means increasing vulnerability to diseases. When all seeds work the same our food supply is not stronger it is weaker.

I think I enjoyed this essay because it dovetailed beautifully with my major assignment for the week. Much of my time has been spent working on a liturgy for our upcoming Seed Sampler on ethnic identity and the expression of Christian faith. As I have researched expressions of Christian faith in different cultures I have been intrigued by the incredibly rich and diverse ways in which Christians give voice to their beliefs. Tragically many of us think that our way of expressing faith is the only right way. We are not only closed to the richly diverse expressions we see in other cultures, we are even closed to the diversity of expressions we see in other denominations.

aboriginal-art-jesus-washes-feet-1.jpgIn Globalizing Theology: Belief and Practice in an Era of World Christianity, edited by Craig Ott and Harold Netland, we are reminded that “Christianity is increasingly at home in many cultures and will not be imprisoned by a single culture.” God loves diversity not just in nature but in the way that we express our faith too. Christianity has become a world religion not because everyone worships God in the same way, but because everyone worships the same God in their own culturally specific way. “Christianity is a world religion because it is a local religion”. The wonder of Christianity is that it is adaptable to any culture. It is at its strongest not when we all think and worship in the same way but when we all bring the diversity of our cultural expressions of faith and worship God together in unity and respect.

The early missionaries to Australia believed that they needed to teach Australian aboriginals how to wear Western clothes and follow Western rules of etiquette before they could become Christians. How much they missed out on because they could only see Christianity through their own cultural eyes.

praying-together-african.jpgI have learned so much from sisters and brothers in Africa, Asia and Latin America about what it means to be a follower of Christ. We live in an exciting time for Christianity when God’s promise to Abraham that all the people of the earth would be blessed through him is coming to pass. The church is growing in Africa, Asia and Latin America and theological voices are also growing that express views of faith that come not from Western perspectives but from African, Asian and Latin American perspectives.

nativeministry_lakotatrinity.jpgsawai1-l.jpgI don’t think that we will fully understand who God is until we learn to appreciate how others who are very different from us live out their faith. The question is are we wiling and able to accept the challenge? Let me know what you think.

But I Tell You

I have just been sent a delightful book by Barclay Press called But I Tell You: Jesus Introduces A Better Way to Live, by Karen Oberst.  It gives some fresh insights into the Sermon on the Mount which have come directly from the original Greek.  I particularly enjoyed the quotes like this one by Corrie Ten Boom: “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow.  It empties today of its strength.”  I also enjoyed the expanded translations she has at the end of each chapter.  How is this for a refreshing and challenging translation of “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” (Matt 5:*) “You are blessed when you view the world out of a heart like God’s.  You will begin to see God everywhere and in everyone you meet.”

The Healing Hand of Jesus

I just came across this beautiful picture of Jesus healing the lunatic boy on Matt Stone’s blog while I was hunting for paintings of Jesus from different cultures He has lots of other views of Jesus from African, Native American, Aboriginal and other cultures that I think you might enjoy as well.
Healing the Lunatic Boy