Author Archive: Lora

living & dying well

I will not die an unlived life. I will not live in fear. –Dawna Markova

Over the summer, I was asked if I would be willing to teach a Sunday School class at my church on grief and loss. I agreed without any hesitation. When I recently sat down with the pastor, I realized that she had titled the class, “Living and Dying Well.” I had been thinking a lot about resources for loss, but the change in name reoriented me; now I am pondering what it means to live well. I could probably change the name of the class, but I’ve always loved a good challenge and it seems to me that they’re equally important and equally difficult discussions in the Western world.

When I think of living well, I think of laughter, good meals, a nice bottle of wine, practicing resurrection, community that shapes and sustains. But I wanted to pose this question to each of you, as well. As you go about your daily lives, whatever your goals and whatever your place in the formal economy, what does it mean to live well? How does it incarnate itself for you?

Christarchy: Support groups for the Jesus revolution

A friend who is a Mennonite pastor in Minneapolis sent me a link to Christarchy!, and I thought some of you might be interested. From the web site:

Christarchy! is a growing network of people who want to put the teachings of Jesus into practice (living simply, caring for the poor, practicing hospitality, making peace, etc.) Jesus calls us to a revolutionary, transformational way of living life. He challenges the economic, political, social, and religious status quo. And we want to follow in his footsteps.

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a paradigm parable

This isn’t the “Part II” I intended to post, but perhaps I’ll save that for a rainy day. I found this post this morning and thought I’d repost it here. Via The Parish.

1 And it came to pass that Jesus came to America, not in the way of Joseph Smith’s story; rather, he showed up at Chili’s in a Southern state. He was tired and hungry and wanted bread and wine. 2 When he discovered the wine available at Chili’s, he immediately left that place and went to a local restaurant with a better menu. 3 The place was frequented by many different people of various races and religions (some having no religion) and political leanings. 4 He sat at a table in the rear of the bar and ordered a red table wine (under $15) and a basket of bread. 5 After the server brought the bread and wine, she asked if she could get Jesus an appetizer or lunch. 6 “Nay,” Jesus replied. “But please, invite all the patrons to come have bread and wine with me.”

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Paradigms & Christianity, Part I

An acquaintance of mine, who is in college hundreds of miles away from where he grew up, once suggested that perhaps one of the most radical things he could would be go home after he graduated–commit himself to the land and the people and his church and stay there, for better or for worse.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be Christian and be radical. We get a mix of the expected and unexpected answers on this blog–to be radical is to work for peace, to work for rights of the oppressed, to stay home instead of traveling abroad. Reading the post on “Covenantal Christians” inspired me to add another layer to this discussion: it is radical to love Christians with whom we disagree without any intent to convert or judge them. (more…)

Bible Verse of the Day

I find it sort of interesting how the ten commandments have been so fully absorbed by Christianity, and yet we pay so little attention–for better or for worse–to other Old Testament writings.

From Exodus 23, verses 2-9 (NRSV)

“You shall not follow a majority in wrongdoing; when you bear witness in a lawsuit, you shall not side with the majority so as to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to the poor in a lawsuit. When you come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey going astray, you shall bring it back. When you see the donkey of the one who hates you lying under its burden and you would hold back from setting it free, you must help to set it free. You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in their lawsuits. Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and those in the right, for I will not acquit the guilty. You shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the officials and subverts the cause of those who are in the right. You shall not oppress the resident alien; you know the heart of an alien for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”

an ordination sermon

I attended the ordination service this past Sunday at James Street Mennonite Church. I recorded most of the service with a hand held digital recorder and thought some of you might find the sermon interesting. A little background first: Elizabeth Nissley, who has been an associate pastor at James Street since 2002, was ordained; Lancaster district bishop Linford King also received the ordination credentials for Kathy Keener Shantz. (Her credentials had been held by Pacific Southwest.)

The sermon was preached by Jane Hoober Peifer, pastor of Blossom Hill Mennonite Church, and it can be downloaded here. Thanks to Denver for uploading it for me.

Bible verse of the day

The Bible verse of the day has taken a long hiatus, but as I was discussing how power is, or rather, how power isn’t passed along in the Mennonite church, someone referenced this verse. I’ll be the first to say that there are many mandates in the Hebrew Bible I’d happily pass over, but this one did make me think.

The LORD said to Moses, “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting, but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the tent of meeting, but they themselves must not do the work. This, then, is how you are to assign the responsibilities of the Levites.” — Numbers 8:23-26 (TNIV)

anti-abortion, pro-abortion?

I didn’t pay much attention to the recent Supreme Court ruling on abortion. I skimmed the headlines, noted that pro-abortion activists were “outraged” while anti-abortion activists were celebrating, and went on to the next page. (In case you’re fuzzy on the details, the Supreme Court upheld a ban on partial birth abortions.) But this past week, I noticed that another web site had reprinted Tim’s post, “The Altar of the Gun.” The blogger said he didn’t agree with Tim’s post but wanted to provide another perspective on idolatry. At one point in the article, he inserted this: “No mention whatsoever from this crowd [that would be YAR] that this Democratic congress supports the murder of five million people per year with abortion…”

Abortion is an incredibly complex topic; it’s never as simple as either side wants it to be. Even the words we use, how we chose to define ourselves, matters: pro-choice? Pro-life? Both phrases sort of rankle me. But I really want to know: how do we here at YAR feel about abortion? Since I’m asking you all to perhaps make yourself vulnerable, it’s only polite of me to go first. (more…)

the problem with feminism

In the past several months, whenever the issue of gender equality has come up in conversation, I’ve heard several of my white male twenty-something friends express frustration at the guilt they feel about being white men. A good friend once said to me, “I feel like I have two strikes against me: one for my ethnicity and one for my gender.” I don’t think anyone knowing these men would say that they don’t have something (perhaps rather significant) to contribute in all of this, and yet the question persists: in our attempts to diversify and enrich our churches and organizations, how do we avoid disempowerment? I’m uncomfortable and dismayed whenever feminism is used as an easy scapegoat, but I’ve never really known how to respond. This post, however, touched on something I’ve been trying to articulate for a few years now: “Men are in trouble because of the feminist movement, but it’s not feminism’s fault.” I’m particularly interested in what the men who read and contribute to this blog think. Some of you have put way more time and energy into this topic than I have. Thoughts?

college students (and a few others) on the church

Every now and then, I freelance articles. It’s a fun gig since it lets me cover some really cool events and pays me (admittedly not much) at the same time. I spent last weekend at a conference on the Ministry Inquiry Program, which was held at Eastern Mennonite University. MIP is jointly run by Mennonite Church USA and a number of Mennonite-affiliated schools and it lets students do 11-week internships in churches as a way to explore their callings to ministry. I had many, many quotes I wanted to include in the article but wasn’t able to do so because of length, so I’m including them here. I’m not identifying anyone since I never asked permission to do so, and also because I don’t have everyone’s names, but I found what they had to say to be both energizing and hopeful. (more…)

The Church of Football

I’m not much of a football fan–I went to a Mennonite high school, so I never really learned enough to fully appreciate the sport, and my Super Bowl tradition consists of rooting for whoever everyone tells me is the underdog and making sure I’m around when the commercials are on. I am, however, slightly fascinated by the role that professional sports (and athletes) play in our culture. It’s a civil religion I’ve participated in on rare occasion; mostly I just observe from the sidelines.

Robert Lipsyte, writing in The Nation, makes several correlations between Christianity and football, including sainthood and the variety of ways in which it is experienced:

Given the chance, I’d watch the Super Bowl with the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who knows about Baal and ball. Twenty years ago, in Lynchburg, Virginia, at a Liberty University Flames game, Dr. Falwell told me: “Jesus was no sissy. He was tough, he was a he-man. If he played football, you’d be slow getting up after he tackled you.”

He had me at “sissy.” The rest was revelation. The muscularity of Dr. Falwell’s evangelical Christianity was a perfect fit with football, another win-or-lose game. For Americans, war hasn’t produced a real winner for more than 60 years. That’s why we need football. But let’s get back to Dr. Falwell. “My respect for Catholicism and Mormonism goes straight up watching Notre Dame and Brigham Young play,” he told me. He hoped that, someday, Notre Dame and Liberty, his evangelical college, would meet for the national championship, thus informing the nation that “the Christians are here, we’re not meek and we’re not going to fall down in front of you. We’re here to stay.”

While we wait for his Holy Bowl to show us how to kick the other cheek, we do have the gospels, saints, and rituals of the Super Bowl, arguably the holiest day of the American calendar. Nothing in sports draws us together as surely–not elections, the Academy Awards, disasters, terrorist acts, or celebrity deaths. The Super Bowl is a melting pot hot enough for atheists, Sodomites, and Teletubbies to become one with the Saved, if only for a single Sunday. But that’s a start.

You can find the rest of the article here. Enjoy the game.

Introducing the Anabaptist Network

In his post on January 20th, Benjamin Anderson asked for ways we could act on the ideas and values discussed on this blog. Here’s one suggestion: the Anabaptist Network.

In the last few months, I’ve posted some information about a developing networking project aimed at helping Mennonite young adults (a generally transient group) to better connect with each other and with the broader church. We’re starting with a group on Facebook (yes, Facebook) and exploring the idea of a web site, as well. If you have a Facebook page, come find us, and if you don’t, just know that you no longer need an email address with “.edu” in it to sign up for Facebook. We have no idea where it will go, but the project is building on the frustration of talking so much about issues within the church without any tangible ways to address those frustrations. We’re trying.

generic anabaptism and postmodernism

I’ve been reading DreamSeeker Magazine for a few years now, and was struck by two articles in the most recent issue. DreamSeeker is published and edited by Michael A. King, of Telford, Pennsylvania (he’s also the pastor of Spring Mount Mennonite Church). The mission statement says DreamSeeker is “dedicated to publishing ‘voices from the soul,’ meaning writers aching to share passionate and personal dreams of how the void has been or could be shaped into a new creation.” It features predominately Mennonite voices, but stretches the definition of such.

The first article, found here, is entitled “At the End of Ethnic Mennonite Life” and is by Michael King himself. It touches on the cultural expressions of Mennonite faith versus the spiritual practices and the tension sometimes inherent in that.

The second article is entitled “Cultural Agoraphobia: Why Young Postmodern Mennonites Struggle to Follow or Lead,” by David Landis. He writes of the incredible number of options available to young adults and how quickly it can overwhelm, saying “The trick to countering this paralysis is to name the power we have in a way that allows us to trust ourselves and others as leaders. Although this seems like an obvious statement, it’s one I have seen Mennonites and sometimes other Christians hesitant to embrace. Postmodern culture’s default setting seems to be doing a good job at encouraging engagement, but it doesn’t seem to be naturally promoting empowerment.”

a year-end blessing

This year has been a year of transitions for me. I’ve moved twice, changed jobs, started graduate school, left graduate school, and watched the path of my life change in ways I never would’ve imagined when the year began. This is how life goes, I guess: we think we have it figured out and new things come along and we find ourselves all over again. In the past year I’ve learned that there’s a difference between job and vocation. I’ve been reminded that no one really has it figured out, no matter how much it appears that way. I’ve come to appreciate—again—the myriad of opportunities I have in my life, and am continually trying to figure out how to make the most of what I’ve been given.

To all of you, wherever you are and whoever you are, young or old, may the coming year be a year of growth, of challenges, of opportunities. As you celebrate the birth of Christ and enter into the new year, may you find yourself discomforted in ways that move you to work for peace in your own life and in the world. May the light of Christ shine within you and among you. May you find God in unexpected places.

the numbers game: a cranky opinion

I spoke at a small Church of the Brethren congregation in Napannee, Indiana last Sunday. The church seems to be an older congregation, which was interesting mainly because in Sunday School, a somewhat skeptical older gentleman turned to me, and out of the blue, said that while the numbers of non-denominational churches are rising, the Church of the Brethren (and, he presumed, the Mennonite Church) is shrinking. He asked me why I thought that was. I didn’t say that I think it’s dangerous to assume that growth is always the best indicator of the health of anything (take obesity as a prime example). (more…)