Still Reading

These last couple of weeks have been a feast of reading for me. I have gone through two books by Tom DavisFields of the Fatherless and Red Letters. Great books with lots of stories about how to share the joy of compassionate living. In Fields of The Fatherless I was particularly impacted by the chapter on “What Does God Look LIke?” – My favourite quote is

“I think for the first time I saw the face of God – I saw it in the elderly woman who was lying on the ground in need of someone who would show her compassion.”

I been thinking a lot lately about the faces of a God who entered into the pain and suffering of our world in such a personal and intimate way. We are so used to looking for God in the prosperous and happy that we forget God is also reflected in the abandoned and despised – very profound and moving experience that will change our lives and hopefully force us to do more than just reflect.

In Red Letter I particularly enjoyed the chapter How to Bleed which gives practical suggestions on how to get involved on how to be Christ’s hands and feet in our world. I would highly recommend both these books to all who are interested in being God’s compassionate response to the needs of the world

I must confess however that my favourite book of the week was Isabel Allende’s The City of the Beast, a novel set in the Amazon basin that looks at issues of exploitation of Indians who have lived in the area unchanged for thousands of years. It is marketed as a book for young adults partly I think because it is also a coming of age book about two young teenagers on an expedition to find the Beast. However it is also a fascinating look at the so called “primitive” culture of the Amazonian Indians.

I also feel I should mention that my husband’s book The New Conspirators, is getting quite a bit of attention on the blogosphere. You can check it out on the official New Conspirators website

Byron Borger from Hearts and Minds bookstore in Pennsylvania has done a particularly in depth review. And the bookstore is even offering a special price for those who have not yet bought a copy.

Are cell phones harmful?

It sounds as though the jury is still out on whether or not cell phones can cause cancer. Concerns have been raised that RF energy from cellular telephones may pose a cancer risk to users. I thought that you might be interested in this article put out by the National Cancer institute. It really helps to explain some of the concerns and why research is still needed. You may also like to look at this article from the FDA which has a lot of information on the safety of cell (wireless) phones, how to reduce exposure, and the question of children using wireless phones:

Maybe these are good reasons to think about spending more time face to face rather than over the phone.

Bread Blog: Let justice flow…

Bread Blog: Let justice flow…

I had not been to the Bread for the World blog before but very much appreciate the work that they do.  There are some great resources here.

Let your Justice Flow like a River

I have just started to prepare the programme for our upcoming Celtic retreat on Camano Island August 9th.  This is one of my favourite events of the year.  I particularly enjoy getting ready for it as it makes it possible for me to reflect on my own life and is often also a time for learning from God and enriching my faith.  I thought that you might enjoy this prayer that I wrote last year for the Eucharistic service that we ended with.

(Adapted from Psalm 72:1-10, & Amos 5:24)

God let your justice and fairness flow like a river that never runs dry

Please help those of us who are rich to be honest and fair just like you, our God.

May we who have such abundance be honest and fair with all your people, especially the poor.

Let peace and justice rule every mountain and fairness flow as a river that never runs dry.

God let your justice and fairness flow like a river that never runs dry

May we your people defend the poor, rescue the homeless, and crush everyone who hurts them.

May we be as helpful as rain that refreshes the ground, to those who are treated unjustly.

Let the wholeness and fairness of your kingdom live forever like the sun and the moon.

God let your justice and fairness flow like a river that never runs dry

Because you our God rescue the homeless and have pity on those who hurt

May we who are rich stand up for the poor and let peace abound until the moon fades to nothing.

Let God’s kingdom of justice and fairness reach from sea to sea, across all the earth.

God let your justice and fairness flow like a river that never runs dry

Alternative Celebrations

the MSA team is thinking of putting together a celebration calendar for the next year.  We would like to highlight ways to celebrate the ordinary events of life – not putting emphasis on the negative but on the positive & giving them a Christian focu

Here are a few examples that we have thought of – Pentecost as a multicultural feast, Make Something Day (thanks to Ecclesia Collective rather than Buy Nothing day, Advent II Homecoming – feasting into the kingdom, and Stations of the Kingdom rather than Stations of the Cross.  We also want to highlight events like the Mutunga Challenge and  Prayer for Children at Risk Weekend. If you have any suggestions of events or ideas from celebrations you have held that you think should be incorporated we would love to hear from you.

Going Raspberry Picking

Ricci and I are going raspberry picking this morning.  It may not sound like a very spiritual task but I am recognizing more and more that spirituality is not confined to the boxes of prayer and Bible study and being out in the midst of God’s creation is definitely one place where I connect to God.  I think that the concept of “prayer without ceasing” is more an attitude of mind where we are alert to encounters with God in the everyday events of life.  God is revealed in every aspect of our world and in all the mundane activities with which we fill our days.  The problem is that we rarely listen or look for God in these situations because we have confined him to a small spiritual box that we close every morning after we have said our prayers (if we pray each day that is).

Perhaps it would be easier for all of us to pray if when we became Christians we were taught that prayer is about listening to God and responding to God’s presence in the world rather than about finding a quiet place with no worldly distractions in order to talk to God – or unfortunately more often to present our petitions and shopping lists to God.

What do you think?

On Becoming an American

Well the day is approaching.  Yesterday I received my notification in the mail that my citizenship swearing in will occur August 7th.  It has been a long process and one with a lot of struggle.  After all who wants to become an American when the economy seems to be sinking like a rock and the US dollar is devalued daily?

The final challenge was having to say No when I was asked would I be willing to bear arms for the good old USA.  The thought of bearing arms against anyone is anathema to me and I could not bring myself to say yes.  Having seen up close the atrocities of war and worked with those who have been the victims of war I think that war in any form is evil, condoning it even to become a citizen just was not something I could do.  Fortunately all it meant was that I needed to write a letter stating my objections but it made me wonder how many say yes and are afraid to speak up for what they believe.

So why am I becoming an American?  First because I don’t expect that I will leave here any time soon and having lived here for 16 years I think it is time.  Also I want to be able to vote and at least add my small voice to keeping out another president like George Bush.  There are other ways too in which I would like to be able to raise my voice that I have felt unable to do as a “resident alien.”  At times I have truly felt like a voiceless, faceless entity and I can only be a “voice for the voiceless” if I am able to speak out.

Will I give up bing an Australian? – No in fact I feel more Australian than ever these days.  I think that this process has given me more confidence in who I am as a person and the US is a richly diverse cultural gathering of people.  I am glad to be able to contribute to it.

Am I addicted

We arrived back from Winnipeg on Friday to find that our wireless router had died while we were gone.  Did I panic?  Of course not but I did go straight to Best Buy to get a new one in spite of the fact that I was still feeling spaced out because of lack of sleep.  It made me aware of how dependent I have become on the internet, email and believe it or not  even the blogosphere.  Is out use of the internet good or bad?  That I think deserves a long discussion in itself.  Does it improve or detract from our connectedness to God? For some is definitely distracts – a friend of ours is currently struggling with the fact that his son is definitely addicted to the internet and his marriage is breaking up as a result.

I would certainly like to know what you think.  Here is a great modern day Celtic style prayer that I came across in a book called Blessings for the Fast Paced and Cyberspaced, that at least connects the two and maybe helps us think about the ways that the internet can enhance rather than destroy our spiritual life.

O God, make my tools of technology into instruments of your peace today.

May my cell phone connect me to blessings but disconnect me from trivia.

May my car move me to safety past road rage and road rush.

May my e-mail enrich me with connectedness

May the internet open up the world to me but not snare me into addictions.

When day is done, may I come home again out of stress into peace and joy

Report from Winnipeg

Tom & I are still in Winnipeg enjoying our time at the Mennonite People’s Summit.  Tuesday we had the opportunity to have lunch with Jamie Arpin-Ricci.  We first met Jamie at a conference at Three Hills in Alberta several years ago and he and I have reconnected recently through facebook.  I love opportunities like this to get together with people with similar concerns for community and for the needs of our world.  We have also met with Aidan Enns of Geez Magazine. This is the most creative and challenging Christian magazine we have ever read and I highly recommend it to everyone.  We have also reconnected to a number of people who were part of a Youth Leaders course we taught at CMU several years ago including Bryan Moyer Suderman of SmallTall Music, and Krista and  Darryl Neustaedter Barg.  It is always good to reconnect to old friends as well as having the opportunity to make new ones.

Tom and I are always challenged by the whole life approach to faith of Mennonites.  It is a privilege and an inspiration to be involved in an event like this.

What is a Spiritual Practice?

Tom & I are currently in Winnipeg at the Mennonite Summit for North America. Our keynote is behind us and I am getting ready for a workshop on GodSpace: Creating new rhythms for life. As I prepare I have been reflecting on what spiritual practices really are . We like to spiritualize our observances and put them into a tidy box but I realize more and more how much we need to break out of that kind of thinking. A spiritual practice is anything that connects us to God – a thought about the cleansing power of the spirit as we have our shower, a revelation about the wonder of God as we look at a flower, an encounter with God reflected in the face of a stranger or the discipline of God administered through the voice of a friend are all spiritual practices that we both need to acknowledge and deliberately look for. I think that we miss out on much that communicates the presence of God because we are not looking and listening for God in our daily activities.

Where are you most aware of God? What draws you close? What makes you feel distanced from God?