Butterfly in Brazil

Last week I was sent a book by Glenn Packiam entitled Butterfly in Brazil. The premise of the book is that small changes in the way we act can have major impact in the world and in the lives of others. As he points out most of us don’t believe that small change can make a difference and often don’t do anything because we feel that we cannot accomplish anything by our actions. I thoroughly enjoyed the book which is filled with a sense of hope and passion. It is an easy and entertaining read.

I particularly loved the human stories that Glenn shared about ordinary people such as Rosa Parks whose small actions literally changed a nation. The story of Nehemiah he refers back to throughout my book also places this in a helpful scriptural context. I also loved the stories he told of ordinary Christians who had gone overseas in missions and accomplished incredible things. I have many friends that I admire greatly who have made missions a life long commitment. They may never be known by more than a few friends but they are slowly transforming the communities in which they work. My friends Rich and Cheryl Mackey are like this. They run a small ministry in Juarez Mexico which has had an incredible impact on the poor in that community. For more information check out the website of Arrow Outreach.

As I read the book I was a little disappointed however at how few stories Glenn shared that showed how ordinary Christians who live in places like Colorado Springs are making a lasting impact in their communities and our world with their changed lives. Maybe I am just a little cynical but I have found that many people use the “I couldn’t do that” rationalization as an excuse to not change their lives.

It is not just those that go to Nepal like his friend Ben and give their lives who make an impact. Ordinary every day Christians living in the suburbs of Seattle or Los Angeles can change their lives and make an impact too. Every time we make a decision based on the values of God’s shalom kingdom rather than on our own self centered values we make an impact. And these decisions are possible for every person that calls themselves a Christian. In fact it is sometimes the small and insignificant things – like when we place a comforting arm around a grieving friend or when we spend an afternoon at a local homeless shelter – that have the greatest impact for God’s kingdom.

I think I may have used this quote from page 134 of Compassion by McNeill, Morrison & Nouwen but it is one of my favourite and so bears repeating. It follows the quoting of Revelation 21: 1-4.

“This is the vision that guides us. This vision makes us share one another’s burdens, carry our crosses together, and unite for a better world. This vision takes the despair out of death and the morbidity out of suffering, and opens new horizons. This vision also gives us the energy to manifest its first realization in the midst of the complexities of life. This vision is indeed of a future world but it is no utopia. The future has already begun and is revealed each time strangers are welcomed, the naked are clothed, the sick and prisoners are visited, and oppression is overcome. Through these grateful actions the first glimpses of a new heaven and a new earth can be seen.

In the new city, God will live among us, but each time two or three gather in the name of Jesus he is already in our midst. In the new city, all tears will be wiped away, but each time people eat bread and drink wine in His memory, smiles appear on strained faces. In the new city, the whole of creation will be made new, but each time prison walls are broken down, poverty is dispelled and wounds are carefully attended, the old earth is already giving way to the new. Through compassionate action, the old is not just old anymore and pain is not just pain any longer. Although we are still waiting in expectation, the first signs of the new earth and the new heaven, which have been promised to us and for which we hope, are already visible in the community of faith where the compassionate God reveals Himself. This is the foundation of our faith, the basis of our hope and the source of our love.”


Keeping Up with Facebook

Well like many of you I have succumbed and become a member of Facebook.  I have enjoyed connecting to groups as divergent as Make Poverty History, and Celtic Christianity and am amazed at how many of my friends of all ages are already a part of this social network.  I have realized that this is a great way to connect to friends and make new friends in many parts of the world.

However there is a downside to all this technology – it takes time.  In order to make it an integral part of the rhythm of my life I have needed to take time out of other commitments.  However at this point I think it is worth it, not as a substitute for face to face community but certain as an integral part of it.

The Rosies’ Prayer

Here is a prayer I was given a few years ago by someone from the Rosies organization in Australia. It seemed an appropriate prayer to consider in relation to the confession that I posted yesterday.

O Jesus,
Make our hearts so human,
That others may feel at home with us,
So like yours,
That others may feel at home with you
So forgetful of self
That we might simply become the place where you and they meet
In the power of your love and the joy of your friendship
(by Fr. Paul Costello)

Tagged for Confession

sharp-edges.jpgI was tagged by Doug a couple of weeks ago for a confession meme. It has taken me this long to get around to it because I did not want to just quickly write something down and forget about it. I really wanted to take this seriously and appreciate Doug suggesting this. I have been thinking and praying a lot since then about my need for confession (not something that is necessarily encouraged on the protestant side of the church) and just wanted to say that these confessions really do come from the depth of my heart.Here are the rules for this procedure.

    1. Apologize for three things that Christians have often got wrong. Your apologies should be directed towards those who don’t view themselves as part of the Christian community. Alternatively, apologize for things you personally have done wrong towards those outside of the church.
    2. Post a comment at the originating post so others can keep track of the apologies.
    3. Tag five people to participate in the meme.
    4. If desired, send an email with the link to your blog post at the Christians Confess site, giving permission for your apologies to be added to the website.

Three Confessions

I confess that I have not always taken seriously God’s mandate to “steward creation and make it flourish”. Care of creation was the first responsibility that God gave to the human race yet we in the church have often polluted rather than cared for God’s world.

I confess that I have not always shared with the poor and the vulnerable out of the abundance that God has given me in spite of the fact that 1 John 3: 16, 17 are scriptures I often quote (This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for one another. If any one of you has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in you?)TNIV.

I confess that I am often more likely to criticize and judge others who are very different that myself rather than looking for how the image of God is revealed in their face and in their life. And yet I strongly believe that the image of God is present in every human being and that part of what it means to be a Christian is not just to look for that image but to deliberately work to enhance that image in places where it is distorted and disfigured.

I tag the following people to participate in this meme

John Chandler

Christine Paintner

Eliacin Rosario Cruz

Mike Morrell

Will Samson

Paying More For Less

folk-animals.jpgYesterday I visited the Ten Thousand Villages store near us to buy a wedding present.  I was impressed with the rich array of goods available from this wonderful store in which everything is fair traded – from the beautiful plant pots (obviously one of my weaknesses as I am a keen gardener) to the scarves and hand made garments.  That started me thinking about the fact that many of the malls and super stores already have Christmas goods out.  I know it is still a long time till Christmas but I don’t think it is too early to start strategizing about how to make this a Christmas that doesn’t just benefit us but also benefits those we buy from.

Tom & I are Christmas people as are many of my friends.  Maybe it just means that we are too much in the grip of consumerism, but we do love to celebrate and buying gifts does seem to be part of celebration.  This does mean that buying no Christmas gifts (or gifts at any time of the year) is just not an option.  We are considering going completely fair trade this year and Ten Thousand Villages is obviously a wonderful place to start.  However going fair trade does mean goods are more expensive – which just goes to prove that many artisans and crafts people do not receive a living wage for their efforts.  That means of course that we may need to buy less gifts, which probably means they will be more treasured by the recipients.  And it might also mean that the artisans whose goods we purchase are able to have a happy and abundant Christmas too.

So what is fair trade? Fair Trade is an alternative approach to conventional international trade. It is a trading partnership which aims at sustainable development for excluded and disadvantaged producers. It provides better trading conditions, by awareness raising and campaigning.

Many of us are aware of fair trade coffee but that is often as far as our knowledge goes.  There are a growing number of fair trade stores around the world however.  If you are interested The Fair Trade Foundation is a good place to start.  Or you may like to investigate Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International.  Both of these organizations can put you in touch with the broader discussions about fair trade and the organizations in your country that participate.  So lay some foundations for a different and good Christmas this year and let me know both what you do and what you think about this.

Geography of Grace

I was just given the information on a new website that has profoundly impacted me. It is called called Geography Of Grace It is a resource for grassroots urban leaders doing “theology from below.”

Center for Transforming Mission and Mile High Ministry in Denver have teamed up to create this new resource. Scott Dewey and Sam Trujillo from Denver are the managing editors of the site. They have had lots of experience with this sort of thing and have led us into this very thoughtful and creative effort to actually do theology from below with a world wide network of grassroots leaders.

I was particularly impacted by the entry Table of Hope with the painting of Jesus with the street children in the Philippines. It is often hard for us to remember that Jesus identifies as much if not more with children like these than he does with those of us who are wealthy. The kingdom of God truly does belong to children such as these.

I think that it also impacted me because of my recent reading of Danielle Speakman’s book Nothing But a Thief that I mentioned in a previous blog.

Enjoy our 16th annual Celtic retreat with us

I have just returned from Camano Island and MSA’s annual Celtic retreat. This is always a relaxing and renewing time for me. Some of us spend the weekend camping on the land though most of the participants only come to spend Saturday with us. This year we had 25 adults and 5 children

The adventure begins

View the entire slide show here

Our Theme was The All Embracing Community: Celtic Christians held a deep love for the Trinity and every family, clan and tribe was seen as an icon of the Trinity. The Celts felt very comfortable with a God whose very nature was portrayed as a companionable relationship between persons and consequently were strongly committed to community life. As Esther de Waal expresses it “A God who is Trinity in unity challenges self centred isolation and points instead to fellowship.” They were very aware that to come into the presence of God meant to be drawn into community not just with the Trinity but with the entire human family and even into unity with God’s creation. It meant to enter into fellowship with sisters and brothers from every tribe and nation – rich and poor, young and old, disabled and whole. It meant to identify with the sick the oppressed and the marginalized.

The strongly monastic character of the Celtic church produced a model of ministry that was community minded rather than individualistic. “Ministry in all aspects… was undertaken by teams of men and women, ordained and lay, who lived together in community and operated from a common central base from which they went out among the people preaching, teaching, baptizing, administering the sacraments, caring for the sick and burying the dead.”

It was a great day of prayer, worship, meditation and celebration with friends. I hope that some of you can join us next year.

Celtic Morning Prayer

Here is a link to a great Celtic morning prayer that was on Beliefnet recently.

The Toxicity of EveryDay Products

I have just been browsing through the latest edition of Alternet and environmental ezine that often has fascinating though at times decidedly anti Christian articles that relate to the environment.  I appreciate its viewpoints because often it gives me insights as to why so many environmentalists are anti Christian. (though that is worthy of another article)

The article that caught my attention in this issue was The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products in which the author looks at the contrast between regulations in the US and in Europe for the labelling of products.  Concerning stuff that only reinforces the research I have done myself that suggests cleaning products, toys, and even processed food stuffs all contain toxic chemicals.  All of us are concerned today about what comes out of China but maybe we should be jsut as concerned about what is produced closer to home.

While I was reading this article the sidebar reference to another article The Stone Age Diet: Why I Eat Like A Caveman caught my attention.  I am convinced that there is a diet out that rationalizes the eating habits of every food fanatic but this one is definitely one of the most interesting I have come across for a while.  Unfortunately one of the strong advocates recently had a heart attack but he blamed that on all the broccoli his mother made him eat as a child…. hmmm! not too sure about that.

The Real Message of Jesus

Over the last few days I have been reading a number of books that talk about “the real message of Jesus”.  One book that really challenged me is Danielle Speakman’s Nothing But a Thief.  The author spent time working with street children in Peru with Word Made Flesh and she wrote the book “to give them a voice, and in so doing to bring them the justice and the love all humans deserve to receive.”  I was particularly impacted by her reflection on the real world. 

It is for certain that the “real world” isn’t quite like the way we picture it in American suburbia.  Funny how since I came home from Peru, many people have said things to me like: “Well how has it been, adjusting back to real life?”…. When I’m told something like that, I feel a little turned around about what the real world really is. We in suburban North America live in a bubble far different from our neighbors to the south … the street boy growing up parentless in the city of Lima defines that place as his reality… Experiencing another person’s real world forces redefinition,.. it forces us to admit that the real world is a mixed world.  There are both the rich and poor, there are those who always suffer and those who rarely suffer, and there are different kinds of sufferings…

A mixed world requires us to deal with connections.  How do the rich connect to the poor?  How does my life affect their lives?  How does my real world interact with theirs?  How then shall I live?”  

The other book that I enjoyed getting into this week was Ron Martoia’s Static in which he reflects on ways in which we turn people off from the real message of Jesus.  I particularly enjoyed his chapter on Redrawing the Lines,  in which he asks “What if the kingdom of heaven is essentially about the restoration of things to the way God intended them to be?” … “What if the coming of Jesus was the arrival of God’s future into the present?”

Such important questions for us to think about – particularly in light of the fact that half of the world’s population lives in a reality in which there is not enough food, there is not enough shelter and in which they are unlikely to live out the the life span that we think of as normal.

What does the reality of the kingdom of God look like?  For me it looks like God’s shalom world in which all of us are once more restored to our full potential.  It is a world in which we are once more in perfect relationship with God, with each other and with God’s good creation.  It is a world in which justice has come for the poor, the hungry are fed and the oppressed are set free.

The wonderful thing as Ron Martoia suggests is that we all have the opportunity to enter into that world now. Every time we reach out in love and compassion, every time we heal the sick and feed the hungry, we bring a glimpse of God’s shalom world into being and we enter into the hope of that longed for future time in which Christ returns and all that God has created is indeed made whole.

We are not called to be isolated individuals who are concerned only for our won fulfillment.  We are called to be part of God’s great family, caring for each other and for God’s creation and living into that world of health and wholeness that God promises.