Author Archive: ST

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…)

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…)

Leviticus 3:16b “All fat is the Lord’s.”

Hi Friends!
It is time for the 2nd preach-off between Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary and Goshen College. The first one was in 2006 (organized by some YARs) and it was very successful.

For the preach-off, folks will give three-minute sermons on scriptures they’ve received 24 hours prior. People can vote with their donations, and a panel judges will give humorous feedback.

The donations benefit up and coming young adult leaders from the Global South by giving them a full scholarship to attend the Global Youth Summit (July 10-12 in Asunción, Paraguay).

In addition to the fun of preach-off, we realize that the lives of many people in Northern Indiana have been enriched by connections with the global church. So this event will be interspersed with short testimonies from people in the area, celebrating these ties as we raise funds to support the next generation of Anabaptist leaders from around the globe.

So, YARs…we’re collecting crazy passages. If you know of one, please write the reference as a comment. Your help is appreciated…and if you’re in Northern Indiana at 6pm on Dec. 6 you are warmly invited to materialize and participate!

Envision 08: Toward Christian Unity in the Public Square

Is Christian unity in the public square an important goal to work toward? Here at seminary there are many people thinking about denominationalism as a theological issue/concern. I went to a conference to think about some of these issues. It was called Envision 08 (www.ev08.org) I helped out with a workshop on Sexuality and Faith. There were many young evangelical Christians who are freeing themselves from the grip of right wing politics there. The conversation was familiar to an Anabaptist like me, but it was like watching people hear the Good News for the first time. Everyone was so excited that faith meant more than rigid rules, hierarchy, and supporting the U.S.A.

The Declaration below, coming from “Envision: the Gospel, Politics, and the Future” at Princeton University June 8-10, 2008, began with an online dialogue of approximately 100 participants on June 2 about religion, social change, and politics. On June 8, a diverse panel of scholars discussed the results of the dialogue.

After attending the conference and hearing reports about the conversations that occurred throughout many aspects of the conference, the panel met and created the declaration. You can sign it if you want. (more…)

Conference Review

Not everyone can or wants to go to every conference. This is a summary of a recent conference. I think sharing the info that we learn at conferences is important.

The “Everything Must Change” tour came to Goshen College on May 9-10. This seminar was lead by renowned evangelical leader in the emerging Christian church movement, Brian McLaren. His focus for the event was addressing the following questions: “What are the world’s top global crises?” and “What does the message of Jesus say to those crises?”

Early on in the seminar, McLaren related a story in which he was leading youth worship as a young adult. He asked the youth to help him create a list of the major concerns at their churches. Issues such as whether or not to have guitars as part of worship music were brought up. He then asked the youth to help him create a list of the issues that they considered the most pressing global concerns, and issues like nuclear disarmament and famine came up. A startling difference was apparent between the two lists. Just like he suggested in the narrative of his story, McLaren instigated a call for a breaking down of the secular/sacred divide and for the Church to be deeply involved in the issues on the second list, the global list. Those of us who attended the seminar were treated to and challenged by a multi-dimensional, mixed media approach to exploring how to understand and deal with interconnected global crisis issues of planet, poverty, and peacemaking. The fourth major crisis McLaren introduced was “purpose”. He explained the latter concept in his assertion that “the biggest problem in the world is the way that we think about the biggest problems in the world.” (more…)

Intergenerational Activist Conversation

An older woman activist that I admire came up to me. She was obviously weary, and looked a bit as if she had just been crying. I had just received an email from her earlier, calling all the activists, who stand and witness for peace on Wednesdays at the Civic Plaza, to an emergency meeting. She asked me and my friend to come, saying in all sincerity, “we need a word of wisdom from the younger generation. We really aren’t sure what we should do.”

Only 2 or 3 people have been showing up in the last two months to the public witness here in town. Should we go on with our Wednesday 4:30pm vigils? Recently, the entire leadership of these vigils fell to this older woman–because others wouldn’t or couldn’t do it–and she was feeling exhausted. In addition to hoping to share the load with others, the sadness of the whole situation (16 more people were killed today in Iraq, for example) and the state of the world overwhelmed her. (more…)

Forgiveness time

Sigh. I’m exhausted from preparing for a mediation session tomorrow.

A white highly educated straight man new to the church community has remained apparently oblivious to racist and unkind remarks, gestures and communications that he has done in the last number of years. I spoke up about them after I’d been profoundly hurt. Now we are going to have a mediation session. I’m nervous about so many aspects of this conversation tomorrow. I was doing my homework, but I thought I’d write to YAR for encouragement since I can’t concentrate anyway.

I keep praying that I don’t get angry or try to make a point to make myself feel better/look better. Vengeance is not mine. I must entrust myself to the one who judges justly. But the balance is hard when I have to speak up for myself and for others who are still silent. I’m praying that no matter what happens, myself and others who have felt isolated and marginalized by his behavior will be able to move on and not let him control our lives at church. (more…)

The war needs to stop

I can’t even bear to write a post about the war.

This is just to send a word of encouragement to all working to stop the war and build societies of peace and justice. I hope you have found sustainable, life giving ways to resist and create. We must keep speaking up, because as Rev. Dr. MLK Jr. said, “our lives begin to end the moment we are silent about things that matter.”

Can I borrow your book?

I am in seminary and everyone is buying books. I am on a mission to buy as few books as possible. I am borrowing from everyone who I think has the textbooks I need for the semester, and then I’ll give it back to them after the semester. Most people are really nice about it and are letting me borrow books, but some think I’m weird for not wanting to own books or start my own library.

I mean, I can’t collect books! They’re really heavy, and I want to be really mobile (as in, I can’t imagine lugging a huge library with me all over the world). If I have to buy a book, then I am going to donate them to our church library afterwards (it really needs upgrading anyway) or give it to someone else. That makes sense right? Books cost a lot of money too. And paper = trees…

What are you all doing with your books that you had to read in undergrad or for your master’s degrees (if you went to college or grad school?) Am I doing myself a disservice by not “building a personal library?” What about the public library? I thought books were fading out anyway, and that they were all going online.

-Bookless MDiv

Inspirational Lunch

I had a great lunch conversation with two young white men today who are feeling the pressure to “produce and provide” and are looking for alternatives to succumbing to this stereotype and just joining the corporate project. After lunch, I wrote this:

As I think about our conversation more in the understanding of my daily work at a social services agency in town, I am reminded on the necessity to invite anyone and everyone with whatever ethnicity or background (age, sexuality, religion, political persuasion) to participate in the work of healing (and radical positive social change and happiness creation) in our society. There is enough pain to go around. Everyone can have a hand in creating peace. I think a place like where I work, is where push comes to shove, and the realization that we can’t find enough people (of ANY race, class or gender) to facilitate the creation of a new society, and not enough people to persuade others to stop beating each other in inter familial violence). It feels desperate.

There were some black people back during the time of emancipation, who didn’t want to participate in the mainstream US society, and they opted to farm somewhere and live in peace with their indigenous neighbors. Just a random thought about what it would look like if instead of clamoring to be just like white people (when I say white here, i mean the white people that southern black folks encountered…rich, conservative, separatist, tea parties, cult of true womanhood, Victorian, etc) and be accepted into their culture and politics, we searched the alternatives that our indigenous (to Africa) pasts gave us. but we didn’t for the most part. (more…)

Midwest going through hard times

The housing bubble has way-popped over here in Elkhart. There are a ton of houses around here for sale and no one with enough money (even with subsidies) to buy them. And last week an organization that supports housing for low-income folks had to close its doors as the result of circumstances, no operating costs and its board looking out for its own interests instead of the common good. So many foreclosures! :(

So for the folks in the Elkhart MVS unit, it’s been a tough week. But the South central community is still strong…and we believe, getting stronger.

One way we are getting stronger is that we are learning to support one another through these tough times. The NY Times said that foreclosure rates are on the rise, and if communities aren’t organized to pull together, the vacant houses will rip gaping holes in its social fabric. We are also reaching across ethnic boundaries, and learning together to look beyond capitalist assets to enrich our lives. Two examples of the budding community economy: (more…)

Mystics

“Ironic, but one of the most intimate acts
of our body is
death.

So beautiful appeared my death—knowing who then I would kiss,
I died a thousand times before I died.

‘Die before you die,’ said the Prophet
Muhammad.

Have wings that feared ever
touched the Sun?

I was born when all I once
feared—I could
love.”
-Rabia (Sufi mystic)

Mystics have saved my spirituality these last 4 months. Their wild, pithy, and beautiful poetry has inspired me beyond measure to continue to re-center and reconnect with the divine. I am just learning about mystics. Does any YAR out there have more information about them, besides what I can Google? Has anyone being loved by the Beloved? (more…)

Violent Video Game as Church Recruiting Tool

I’m really sad today. I often become sad when I read the NY Times.

I wasn’t sure which article I should write an urgent post about, there were so many. Women are being destroyed in Congo as rape has become the most common tool of war and the crisis has reached unprecedented proportions. I was sure I was going to blog about that–as soon as returned to the computer from a session of weeping–crying out and pleading with God that people in every country would respect women’s bodily integrity. Here is that article: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/07/world/africa/07congo.html?th&emc=th

But, I couldn’t write about that one because I got overwhelmed by the next article. Rape and pillaging in wars will never stop as long as long as people in the imperial center do things like spread the gospel using Halo3, a dichotomizing, bloody video game. The article is copied into this post. Here’s an excerpt.

Witness the basement on a recent Sunday at the Colorado Community Church in the Englewood area of Denver, where Tim Foster, 12, and Chris Graham, 14, sat in front of three TVs, locked in violent virtual combat as they navigated on-screen characters through lethal gun bursts. Tim explained the game’s allure: “It’s just fun blowing people up.”

Once they come for the games, Gregg Barbour, the youth minister of the church said, they will stay for his Christian message. “We want to make it hard for teenagers to go to hell,” Mr. Barbour wrote in a letter to parents at the church. “

HOW–with what words, passages, or guiding principles–can we speak to our christian “brothers and sisters” about this? YAR has been a community of support for speaking truth to power. Words of advice, comfort, or challenge as we welcome many more christians by way of accepting Jesus as their savior while they were aroused by the massacring and tag-team destruction they just did?

(more…)

Come be my Light, by Mother Teresa

The NY Times featured an article about a new book containing revealing letters written by Mother Teresa (title above). The letters detail that one of the impetuses for her to leave the Lorento convent and live among Calcutta’s poor was a feeling of spiritual emptiness…a feeling she apparently struggled with for her whole life. The NYTimes says:

‘“I think there is no suffering greater than what is caused by the doubts of those who want to believe,” wrote Flannery O’Connor, the Roman Catholic author whose stories traverse the landscape of 20th-century unbelief. “What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe.”’

How do those words feel to you, YARs? Like, what do you think? I’m excited to hear. The NYTimes continues: (more…)