Spiritual Life

Prayer Warriors

Please, I am wondering if anyone knows of a less militarized way of labeling a group of people who commit to praying for an event or process. I am gathering a group of people to give SERIOUS prayer support to the process of pastoral transition at church. Traditionally, the term “prayer warrior” has been used. I like the sense of commitment, power, authority, determination, and passion that this label carries, but it is just too violent. Warriors kill and train to dominate and decimate their enemies. We are pacifists and so need a better term…one that connotes all these qualities above but isn’t war-like. (more…)

Jesus Radicals! Anarchism and Christianity

New Heaven, New Earth: Anarchism and Christianity Beyond Empire
August 14 & 15, 2009

Location
Caritas Village
2509 Harvard Avenue,
Memphis, TN 38112

This year’s anarchism and Christianity conference, hosted by Jesus Radicals, will look squarely at the economic and ecological crisis facing the globe, and point to signs of hope for creativity, for alternative living, for radical sharing, for faithfulness, for a new way of being. We are living in a karios moment that will either break us or compel us to finally strive for a new, sane way of life. The question we face at this pivotal time is not if our empires will fall apart, but when they will fall–and how will we face it? We hope you will join the conversation. (more…)

The Capricious hand of ICE and Lenten fasting

crossposted from As of Yet Untitled

On Thursday evening Charletta and I watched The Visitor. Charletta and I watched the The Visitor last night. Friends had recommended it and I expected a quirky, lovable independent film. It’s this, but it is also a devastating portrait of ICE detention centers from the inside and draws us into the story of the way they tear apart families and dehumanize people. Yet its not a depressing film. It combines gritty honesty and playful hope in an strikingly un-Hollywood way.

After the film finished, I thought of my friend Anton Flores (see my profile of him from last fall) whose life work is supporting those who have become ensnared in the immigration system. The next morning I woke up to an email from Anton describing his DriveFast, in which he will abstain from driving at all during Lent. His pledge, however, isn’t just motivated out of green sensibility. Instead it points to the way drivers license restrictions are used to control and dominate undocumented workers in the small town in Georgia where he lives. He’s told me stories of standing besides immigrants as they are belittled by judges for driving without a license, even as they embody the system that is taken that right away. I stayed with a family in his neighborhood who must drive every day without a license because they have no other way to get to their job. They live in constant danger of being pulled over and possibly deported (more…)

A bicycle pilgrimage

Hey! These folks are riding from Harrisonburg, VA to the Asuncion, Paraguay for the Global Youth Summit of Mennonite World Conference. Check them out!

http://americas.bikemovement.org/

As anyone who has been on a bike for an extended amount of time for their primary form of transportation knows, it is a life-altering experience. Godspeed to Lars and Jon and Love to all whom they will visit. I am in the process of encouraging the youth group from my church to bike to the Mennonite Youth Convention in Columbus, Ohio June 30-July 6. I hope it works out…it will definitely be life-altering. Besides saving money and petroleum, getting some fresh air and exercise, biking together is a great self-esteem and group-building opportunity. It generates an equality among races and genders through the creation of a camaraderie and shared intense, rewarding experience.

But there is some resistance. Sometimes I get so excited about something I can’t embrace alternatives. Pray for me as I discern how much to push and where to step-back….And DO visit bikemovement America’s website.

The Trouble with Thanksgiving: A Reflection by Nekeisha

Thanksgiving makes me nervous.

For years, I’ve gotten a sinking feeling in my stomach as the month of November draws to a close and this day looms. On the one hand, Thanksgiving is about joy and gratitude. It is a time when I travel to see family and friends, welcome a few days of rest and look forward to the holiday season. In my mind, I know it is a good thing to have a day where the sole emphasis is to give thanks to God for all God has done. I also appreciate the opportunity to celebrate all my loved ones do and are to one another.

And yet Thanksgiving reminds me of a beautiful but altogether itchy sweater. Sure it looks good on the rack in my closet. It is slimming, well-made, gorgeous color—everything you could hope for in a sweater. But if I put it on I’m guaranteed to spend the whole day tugging, scratching and feeling downright uncomfortable. Try as I might, I can’t shake that weird feeling about that good ole holiday. It gets to the point where weeks in advance I’m trying to come up with other things to say besides “Happy Thanksgiving.” And since “Happy Day Off” doesn’t cut it I go ahead and mutter the greeting anyway, wheels still turning for a suitable substitute. (more…)

Proposition Hate

Tuesday was quite the night. Like Celeste, I found my way to Grant Park (coveted tickets for the official campaign event in hand) and joined the crowd of a hundred thousand gathered to scream, cry, hug, and jump our way into a new spirit of hopefulness that is solidifying around us.

Besides Obama’s victory, there was another vote that meant a lot to me on Tuesday, and left a lingering bittersweetness to the otherwise perfect night: Proposition 8 amended the California constitution to define legal marriage as exclusive to opposite-sex couples, overturning the decision of the Supreme Court and ending the right of California same-sex couples to the legal protections of marriage for the near future.

Initial reaction: rage. I found someone who expressed this very very well:

Ultimately, though, rage against injustice must energize something else, something life-affirming.

(more…)

What happens in church on a Thursday night when you are not looking.

The church basement’s cinder block walls radiate the cold. Coffee permeates the air. Two dozen people or so sit at 8′ X 3′ wooden folding tables, set up in a circle, eating cake and drinking the aforementioned coffee. Another dozen or more sit at chairs placed around the room. My friend, we’ll call him Brian, sits at the front, the Serenity Prayer scrawled on a plaque on his right.

God, Grant me the serenity,
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

This is an A.A. meeting.

Brian is celebrating one year. He is chairing the meeting, which means he gets to tell his story, speak however long he likes, and call on any member he sees fit to call on. Before any of that can begin, though, the various “officers” read off various lists of A.A. “rules”, “codes of conduct”, and other bureaucratic regulations. You would think these to be many considering A.A. has a reported 1,867,212 members worldwide with 106,202 meetings.

To put this in perspective A.A. is about the same size as Jehovah’s Witnesses, and larger than the Assemblies of God in the USA. (more…)

When will they update the 12 marks?

In class we’ve been studying a lot about New Monastics. Lots of good stuff that you can read about it in many places, some even on this blog. Since it’s a fluid movement, I was wondering when they are going to update, change, or adjust their 12 marks. I have some comments on a few, and I’m sure others do as well, so when is the next conference? Or do we just email somebody like Johnathan W-H?

I agree (in thought and action) with a lot of what is said in the 12 points and what I see in the daily lives of the community around me and my interaction with some of these folks. But my particular question is spurred with regards to mark 1, which says that they relocate to abandoned places of Empire.” Some think that I am doing the “new monastic thing…” I’m not sure about that, but I do know that I am in my home area…and it fits many of the descriptions, but it’s not abandoned by Empire. Or do they mean that it’s abandoned by Empire because no (or hardly any) white people live in the area? There is a beautiful organic culture here and I don’t want to discount that by saying it’s abandoned. I think it is important to affirm the initiative of persons rather than possibly falling into “white savior” complexes again. I see that many New Monastics are very aware of race and class dynamics, so I’m hoping that mark 1 can be articulated in a more antiracist way. (more…)

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?

Ministry to the Outcast

In every society there are the rejected that Jesus is intensely interested in assisting. But the church often is in the place of judging the outcast at the side of the rest of society. Below is my vision, based on Jesus’ ministry, of how the church should look when they are responding to the outcast as they should. These are also the principles on which my ministry is based:
All true ministry has the goal of leading a people to faith in Jesus as Lord and living that out in their lives.

Identification—I Cor. 9:19-23
Some within a congregation that will take on the role of an outcast in order to reach them. Get rid of the separation between the “server” and the “served”.

Offer to be Family—Mark 2:15-17; Luke 15.
Total love of the “sinner”, and an offer to partake in acceptance. This is the major felt need of the outcast—social acceptability. To offer acceptance is not to have the outcast feel that acceptance—this only comes with an acceptance of forgiveness and inclusion in the community. This sense of family cannot be created by a program, but one can use a program as a base-point to increase this acceptance.

Listening—James 1:19
You cannot meet anyone’s needs until you know what they are. Get past the first hurdles in order to discover their real needs (e.g. no one needs money, money is a means to meet the real need)

Benevolence
Trying to meet their needs, but doing so with dependence on God. Those with resources, give what you have (Luke 12:33); those without, pray for healing (Matt 10). To give what we have, may be to offer what God alone has to give, instead of the petty resources we have (Acts 3:1-8). (more…)

Spirituality from Prison: a sermon on Anabaptist/Mennonite spirituality

Don’t worry. I won’t bombard ya’ll with every sermon I preach. But I thought I’d share this one from this past Sunday since it’s specifically about young anabaptist radicals from a long time ago.

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Title: Spirituality from Prison
Date: July 20, 2008
Texts: Gen 32:22-32; Matt 11:25-30

Alone.

It was night, and Jacob was alone. He left his family and possessions behind on the other side of the stream; now he was alone, surrounded by darkness. And the wrestling begins.

Jacob isn’t a spiritual superhero. He hasn’t mastered the spiritual disciplines; nor has he celebrated them. He isn’t known for fasting. Nor for meditating on Scripture—obviously, since it wasn’t written yet. And he isn’t a prayer warrior.

Jacob isn’t known for any of those spiritual practices. Instead, he’s known for his trickery and tenacity. He will get what he wants no matter what. His name, Jacob, Ya’aqov, means heel catcher and deceiver. His name remembers his struggle with his brother, Esau, in Rebekah’s womb (Gen 25). And his name remembers his trickery and deception later when he steals Esau’s birthright blessing. Jacob, his very name, testifies to his devious ways. (more…)

McCain’s Sacred Violence

Gun rights activists in DC
As many of you may have read, the Supreme Court today made the tragic decision to overturn the hand gun ban in Washington D.C.

I’ve written here before about America’s view of the gun as holy. So I shouldn’t have been surprised by Senator McCain’s response:

“Unlike the elitist view that believes Americans cling to guns out of bitterness, today’s ruling recognizes that gun ownership is a fundamental right — sacred, just as the right to free speech and assembly.”

But it made me wonder. What other things does McCain see as a sacred? (more…)

In need of other young adult opinions on “Assesing Believers Churches’ approaches to evangelism and mission in our time”

Hi All, I need your help. I will be presenting at a North American Believer’s Church Conference in about a week and will be representing young adults….ha! This is an impossible task and an enormous responsibility. The context of the overall conference is, I believe, the “tension” between the individual congregation and the denomination. The theme of this particular workshop I’m presenting at is “Missional vision and practice of denominations together with congregations in the Believers Church family: Present-day issues and opportunities.”

The specific questions are:
1. How do young adults desire to engage in the church’s ministry of mission and evangelism?
2. Where do you see possibilities and problems in the church’s approach to mission in our day? Provide illustrations.

Well I have PLENTY to say on these topics but I desperately need the counsel of others of my generation/culture or those who are “young adult” at heart. Questions like these should be answered in community and not by an individual. If you have problems with the language in these questions, by all means, provide alternative language as you answer the question as you understand it. These questions are asked in the context of a discussion about the local (congregational) and global (denominational) roles of the mission of the church and a trend toward “local-centred” mission initiative and the way that a Believer’s Church self-understanding intersects with missional ecclesiology.

I don’t think I’ve ever introduced myself on YAR properly before. I was born in Canada, grew up in E. Africa, went to the US for college (EMU), then worked in Virginia, went to seminary in Manitoba, Canada, spent some time in Mozambique, worked for Mennonite Church Canada and am now headed for Israel/Palestine soon as an international worker for Mennonite Church Canada. Faith-wise, I consider myself Christian anabaptist, from a Mennonite/Methodist family and am currently inspired by emergent/missional writings when they’re real and down to earth. I am often disillusioned with the church but hopeful at the same time.

I’ll post some of my opinions on my topic once a discussion starts :) And I really would appreciate feedback.

Wisdom from Those Gone Before

ST’s post reminded me of a conversation I had last September with someone I’ve admired for his consistent commitment to justice-making over decades (peace and development work in Vietnam during the American War in that country, international and community interfaith work with the Fellowship of Reconciliation, etc).

Knowing that it can be easy to burn out or drift toward the mainstream, I was interested in how he’s sustained his passion and activism over the course of the years. His answers came almost faster than I could write. (more…)

An Invitation To Express Yourself

Okay so we are Young Anabaptist Radicals—but that doesn’t mean that we are in agreement on the basics. I’m not talking about the basics of what is “young” “Anabaptist” or “radical”. These terms have been discussed. I mean the basics of what is significant—what is the good, what is truth, what is moral, what is justice, what is our hope, and how do we know any of these things? And what is the minimum that we expect others to agree with us in order to discuss any of these things? Some of the disagreements we have originate in differing opinions on these matters, and we often go to loggerheads in our discussions because we think others think as we do. Folknotions brought up this issue in Katie’s “Tired” post, and I thought that perhaps instead of assuming where we are all coming from, perhaps we should explore it.

So, this is my recommendation: If you can, put your basic worldview down in a paragraph or two, so we can know where you are coming from when we discuss things. If it is significant in your life, then talk about Jesus and/or Scripture, but the most important thing is that you talk about the foundation of your beliefs and morality, not what you think others want to hear. (more…)