Some Interesting Links about Disability Awareness

Here are some cool links to check out (they aren’t necessarily Anabaptist, but fun nonetheless):

Dolls with Down Syndrome Prove to be an Internet Hit: http://www.thestar.com/life/parent/2013/04/16/dolls_with_down_syndrome_prove_to_be_an_internet_hit.html

Lost in Thought (A Blog About Asperger’s Syndrome): http://seventhvoice.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/lost-in-thought/

Disabled Christianity Blog: http://disabledchristianity.blogspot.com/2007/03/at-end-of-february-i-had-opportunity-to.html

TED Talk (Compassion at the Dinner Table): http://www.ted.com/talks/james_forbes.html (posted by L’Arche Toronto)

And if you’re looking for why you should study peace studies (you can even combine your passion for peace studies with your passion for disabilities studies) check this out: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/14/world/americas/14iht-redpeace.1.16931708.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&

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Technology – A Necessary Evil?

In light of what I shared yesterday about the internet being down, I thought I would share this article with you all.  It was published in 2011 in the Tyndale Student publication – The Canon 25.

We live in a technological spiderweb characterized by T.V.s, Blackberries, MP3 Players, and the internet.  We live in a time and space where our morals, integrity, and values are heavily influenced by commercials and ads.  We have so much high speed information right at our fingertips just by typing in a single key word on Google.

Our lifestyle has rapidly turned into a “three minute culture” which consists of surfing millions of websites at once at of boredom and a sense of wanting excitement.  Never before have we been able to text our friends, listen to music, write a wall post, and talk on MSN all at the same time.  Then again, never before have we found such delight in the unfortunate events of someone else’s life who we don’t even know.  On top of all that, the internet is constantly drawing us away from reality by bombarding us with images on how we should look, feel, think, and act.

Technology has long been a topic of controversy and some people look at its merits with very sceptical eyes because they see it as a form of entrapment leading us along the path of sin.  Their argument does hold some weight.  Our generation grew up with the computer and so our whole understanding of life is characterized by it.  The widespread use of the internet has rendered once valuable skills such as penmanship and mailing letters obsolete and has shaped the way we form our identity.   Not to mention the fact that 30 years ago no one got in trouble for something they carelessly wrote on facebook, and everyone had to confront people face-to-face.

Technology has produced a few serious problems.  Due to the widespread use of iPods and MP3s we have forgotten what silence is.  Good friends should feel comfortable with each other even when no words are exchanged, but instead we just find silence awkward and feel the urge to fill the gap with jokes or meaningless words.  Facebook also provides us with a host of problems.  It determines who’s in and who’s out, and people without facebook are seen as an “inconvenience”.  Sometimes they are even left out of social events.  Facebook also provides us with the opportunity to be more popular than we really are by having “friends” who we never even talk to.  It also gives us the chance to procrastinate when we should be writing papers.  And then there’s my favourite technological peeve – texting right in the middle of a genuine dinner conversation or in church, and having the person tell you that they are still listening to you.  If that’s the case, they should be looking you in the eye and focusing solely on what you are saying.

Having said all of this, technology has also provided us with a lot of unique opportunities.  The internet has provided us with quick and easy access to a wide range of topics, and it’s also given us different venues for ministry and evangelization through a whole host of media.  Facebook and other social networks are also great tools for connecting with old friends, staying in touch with current friends, and making new ones.  Some of us might even meet our future spouse online!  And who doesn’t get a laugh out of hearing their roommate play the same song at the exact same time that you are listening to it on youtube without either one of you knowing it?

Technology, like anything else, is a device that can be used for good or evil.  The internet itself is not a bad thing, but it can easily turn into that if we allow our minds and temptations to go wild.  If we choose to honour God in all ways, including when we are online, though, we may begin to understand that there is a point to this whole technological maze.  It is through embracing this that we are able to continue to develop our understanding of what it means to be a Christian in this day and age. Image

Ring Before Spring – Myth or Reality?

Image The following is an article which I published in the February 2013 issue of the Tyndale student publication: The Canon25.  Some of it has been adapted for suitability for my blog audience rather than simply for the Tyndale student body.  The main thrust of this article is to encourage thought regarding our relationship and attitudes behind celibate Christians within the church context (whether celibate for a season, a purposeful choice to be celibate, or simply because one does not desire marriage).  I am currently very interested in exploring celibacy within Christian communities as I feel it is an often overlooked area.  For me personally, being celibate can come as a challenge at times because so much of church life is geared toward married couples and families including the very liturgies we speak, the sermons we hear, the activities suggested to us to “do with our families”, and young married groups that do not include anyone who is single.  Being a Christian single can be a very difficult and lonesome road.  Nevertheless, I still maintain that God does use strong Christian singles and thus the church should work towards ways of including singles more and should not hold groups at the expense of excluding a single person from their activities.  This article is written by a celibate young woman who feels that so many people who speak about celibacy are married and thus more celibate people need to come bring a voice to this important topic.

Ring Before Spring – Myth or Reality?

By: Deborah-Ruth Ferber (2012 Graduate)

“I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the does of the field, that you not stir up or awaken love until it so desires.” – Song of Solomon 2:7

Christians love to foster romance.  Sometimes a little too much.  When I started high school, the principal of my small rural Mennonite high school had a meeting with each individual student telling them who they were related to and thus who they should not be dating. 

Upon coming to Tyndale, it became apparent to me early on that there was a lot of pressure to date.  Although some of this was done in jest, the underlying message was still there: now is the time to find that someone special.  Our favourite phrases of “ring before spring or your money back” and “Bridal College” were constantly heard.  During frosh retreat Dean Sweetman [our dean of students] would mention that we could be sitting next to our future spouse, and of courses, there was the whole “insta-babies” thing.

During my three years at Tyndale, dating was always on the backburner.  Some people may say things such as that there are slim pickings or not many guys to choose from, but for me, I just never had that type of burning desire.  I can count the times I was physically attracted to men (including those on TV) on one hand.  I have never found the concept of marriage as appealing as some others have.

Now of course, there were also some young women who would tell me at frosh week that God was calling them to celibacy, only to start dating 6 weeks later, get engaged 6 months later, and married the following year.  I guess that call was only for a season.  If that.

Don’t get me wrong, marriage is a wonderful, God given gift and God certainly does use strong Christian couples to extend His Kingdom vision.  But let me be clear about one other thing: God also uses singles.

Despite the fact that I am in my early twenties, I have not had many instances in my life where I have seriously considered marriage, because of this,  some people at Tyndale used to say things to me such as that there was something wrong with me and I should see a doctor.  Our female dorm events often went into these touchy-feely discussions about purity and how we all wanted a boyfriend but needed to be patient and not become jealous, and for sure, those discussions were important to have, but I never really connected.  Instead I saw my singleness as a gift – one which enabled me time to be with other female friends, focus on school, volunteer, and be free to pursue my passions.  Something I knew would be harder to do in a relationship.

It was not until I was 21 that I developed my first crush and began to see myself as getting married someday.  Some may find that strange, especially those who have crushes since they were 9 or 10, but every day I thank God for guarding my heart until this year.  Once I started thinking more about possibly getting married and having children in the future, I learned a few things.  I would like to demythologize some of them for you here:

1)      Relationships are hard work.  That’s just the truth.  You’re dealing with someone who may have completely different dreams and goals than you do.  You may, at times, find it hard to understand the reasons why the other person thinks as they do.

2)      Relationships are very time consuming.  Your significant others is going to want to spend time with you, and when you’re studying full time and involved in church or other forms of volunteering, working, or student leadership, the limited time you have left will be split between your significant other and all your other friends.  Some days you will have to choose who you are going to be spending time with.  More than likely, your significant other will win.  Depending on how much you are involved with, this can really make you feel alienated from others and you might feel like you really don’t have that many other friends other than your significant other.

3)      Being in a relationship can really bless your life, but it can also really harm your life and you can end up worse off than if you never dated.  Choose someone who will be a blessing to you, not who will take away from your blessing.

4)      If you are an eagle, go for someone who is an eagle.  Not someone who is a duck.  In other words, if you perceive yourself to be someone who likes to move around and change jobs, marry someone who is going to be okay with that, not someone who only wants to stay in one spot.

5)      People will get involved in your relationship and tell you what they think about your ideas for marriage and raising kids and even about the person you are dating.  If they raise concerns, don’t let love blind you.  At the same time, take responsibility for your own decisions.

Once I started thinking more about dating, I’ve learned just how sex saturated our society is.  It is expected for people to be with someone, but there is danger in awakening love before it is time.  It is better to wait on God’s timing.  At the same time, I warn against dating only to marry – thinking the first person you date is the one God intended for you can be a good thought, but it is also dangerous.  Clearly, I am not advocating physical union before marriage, but I also mean it is dangerous for emotional reasons.  You might start talking about marriage after a month, about your future kids after two months, and soon that is all you ever talk about.  God may choose to save your heart for only one person, but God may also give you experience or allow you free will.  Face it.  For many younger people it’s hard to be in a serious relationship because you’re still discovering who you are and what you like and what you will or won’t put up with.  Then on top of that you have to discover the other person.  It can be a lot for many younger people to deal with unless they are marrying someone of the same culture and same age as they are.

I will be honest, I have discovered how wonderful thinking about marriage can be, but marriage isn’t everything.  Marriage can help you define or recognize your goals, but it can also be confining.  Marriage should be one goal among many.  Marriage should fit into the other goals and expectations you have in life such as your ministry, your job, travel, other friends, and other passions.  It should not be your one and only goal.

I am well aware that it is harder to be in ministry when single instead of married.  In seminary almost everyone is married and almost all churches prefer a married couple (preferably with kids) to a single person.  I also know it is considerably harder to adopt kids as a single person than as a married couple.  However, being single is a gift and it is always your choice to be in a relationship or not.  Don’t get married just to be married.  In fact, don’t get married just because you love someone.  Get married because you want to be a blessing to each other.  And if you don’t ever want to get married that’s okay too.  If you’re idea is not to find a spouse a Tyndale, don’t let any of these notions get to you.

The Correlation Between Having Asperger’s Syndrome and Childhood Bullying in the Anabaptist Perspective

This semester, I am writing a major paper (which I am calling a thesis because it is going to be 20-25 pages in length and includes a peer review and a defense of sorts) on the correlation between childhood bullying and Asperger’s syndrome.  In this post, I will not be able to explain the research in any professional terms, as a blog is not the place to do so, however I would like to share with you all about why I have chosen this topic and the lessons I have learned along the way.

Just a few months ago, I became very passionate about the connection between disability theology and Christian ministry.  I have become very enthusiastic about learning how to better include our abled brothers and sisters into congregational life and how to help them to reach their full potential in the incarnational mission of the church.  At the same time, I have been learning so much from them – probably way more than I could ever teach them, about the virtues of humility, honesty, hard work, and pure determination.  I see in these brothers and sisters a true love for Christ that far outshines anything that I have witnessed in any other group of people.  For the lessons they have taught me over the past three months as I have been interviewing and spending time with them for all of my class projects, I am thankful.  They welcomed and accepted me right away – far faster than any other friends that I have met in seminary have.  Best of all, they love me for who I am without judging based on appearance or how smart or articulate I am.  Regardless of how many John Howard Yoder, Karl Barth, or Dietrich Bonhoeffer books I have read.

At the beginning of the school year, I knew that I wanted to learn how to incorporate my discipline of peace studies with my new found passion in disability awareness (particularly in the area of developmental disability), yet, I was not sure how the two were related.  It wasn’t until I attended the Intercollegiate Peace Fellowship (ICPF) hosted at Bluffton University back in early February, that I learned that peace studies actually is very related to disability awareness.  At the ICPF, a gathering of young adults who are just as passionate about peace and social justice as I am and who attend Mennonite universities and one seminary (AMBS), I heard a speaker talk about how disability awareness can be seen as a discipline within peace studies because it is about giving people on the margin a voice.  This woman shared with us her personal experience of having an aunt with down syndrome and how much she had learned from her, as well as her experience working with people with developmental disabilities through being a part of the Anabaptist Disability Network (ADNet) and L’Arche (an intentional community for people with developmental disabilities).  This woman really sparked my interest and so I exchanged email addresses with her at the end of her address.  That same evening, I joined a group of university professors over dinner to talk about peace research.  I was a bit intimidated being with such well educated men (and one woman), but they welcomed me right away into their group even though I was only a student, and they already had PhDs.  They were very interested to hear in my desire to study peace from the lens of disability awareness, and one professor in that group shared with me that he was doing some similar types of research related to inclusion and peace.  He provided me with some handy books recommendations and conference suggestions.  I left that evening thinking “Deborah, you truly are a Mennonerd.”

After that conference, I knew I wanted to do a project on peace and disability, but how exactly does one articulate giving someone else a voice and how does one even start on research which seems so broad?  I let it be, until it was the deadline to submit our research proposal.  That day I looked through a list of what had been done before and decide to talk about bullying in relation to children with disabilities.  It wasn’t until I actually started doing research that I learned that there was so much information out there specifically on the topic of Asperger’s Syndrome and bullying.  When I discovered this, I decided it was the direction I wanted to take.

I have since learned that there is relatively little information on the Spiritual implications that bullying has.  Hardly any books talk about bullying from a Christian perspective, especially when it comes to children who are bullied because of special needs.  I noticed that there was even less research done on dismantling bullying in an Anabaptist perspective.  When I tried to find a book written about children who were bullied because they had Asperger’s, I found many non-Christian resources, but not a single Anabaptist resource.  Perhaps there is one and I just am not aware of it, but either way, I realized that because bullying is such a peace studies issue it is important for historic peace churches like the Mennonites to get involved with it.

My research will be on bullying explicitly from an Anabaptist understanding of peacemaking and overall Shalom.  It will be written as a scholarly journal and in much more articulate and thoughtful ways than this summary blog. 

I feel very inspired by how I have seen the Holy Spirit work with this research paper.  In all of my years of formal education, I have only had one instance where someone explicitly asked to read my paper (that was when I was writing a paper on the Iranian church and the Persian service that I visited wanted a copy of my paper).  There was one other instance where I shared a paper that I wrote for my body images class with a friend and she in turn shared it with two others she thought would benefit from it.  Yet, never before, have I had so many people interested in any topic that I was writing about.  All of a sudden, after I started telling people about this project, virtually everyone who knew about it was interested in reading my scholarly journal.  Furthermore, I have met so many people who have shared with me how their child, grandchild, niece or nephew has Asperger’s syndrome and is currently being bullied in school, and how they hope that this research will help them make sense of it in some way.   This gives me great hope, not because it boosts my self-esteem in my own writing abilities, but rather because for me it means that finally Asperger’s and bullying will get a voice within the Mennonite church which in my own opinion is much needed and yet has been lacking.

I would be happy to share this paper with any of you readers who would like to learn more about bullying in the peace studies context.  If you would like a copy of the paper please send me an email at: deborahruthferber@gmail.com.  You might not receive a copy until the end of May because it will be edited several times to ensure good quality work, but I would love to help you in your process of bringing this voice to the church. 

The Internet Deserves a Sick Day

The internet wasn’t working for almost the entire day.  I got up this morning and all I wanted was to check facebook to see if an inbox message I had sent out last night had been replied to.  Then I just wanted to check my email.  The router didn’t work.  I found myself frustrated… not a good way to start the morning.  No problem, I would just go to the library to see if the internet there worked.  It didn’t either.  I went almost the entire day without the internet.

It reminded me of how technological I have become and how dependent on the internet I am.  I try to do the discipline of “Bible before breakfast”, but it seems that even before I start into my morning prayers a short trip to visit Facebook is in order.  This semester I have been grappling with the connection between technology and the Christian faith in one of my seminary courses on intentional living in an age of diversion.  For this class, I am reading through a book by Arthur Paul Boers “Living Into Focus”.

One thing this book has taught me is about how social networking curbs our loneliness as a society and yet at the same time makes us more lonely because it limits our face to face interactions.   Personally, I find the internet a great tool for connection – it’s how I chat with my Ontario buds for hours while hundreds of miles apart in Indiana (okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration perhaps).  Facebook is also how I keep up to date on Mennonite news and who’s getting engaged or married or having kids.  Sometimes I even get excited for people that I’m only acquaintances with.

Yet at the same time, Facebook provides me with a false sense of identity.  I used to have close to 1000 friends.  One day I got tired of this, since I hardly knew these people – most of them were random people I bumped into in the hallways of Tyndale, so I deleted close to 400 of them.  Yet, I still have over 600 “friends”, but how many of these “friends” really know anything about me or vice versa?  How many of these “friends” are people I could talk to about anything and everything, could go to for advice, could give advice to, would invite for an overnight stay at my house?  My guess?  Less than 50 of them.  That’s not to say I don’t care about the others, I am still interested in their lives to an extent, but that is to say many of them are still at the acquaintance not friendship level.

I’m also aware of how technology takes away from my quiet times with God.  On the one hand, I’m spending all of this money on Spiritual direction, planning silent retreats, and listening to Taize music, yet on the other hand, my life is constantly filled with distractions and noise.  This last week alone, I have filled almost all of my free time watching YouTube clips and movies, have spent countless hours on Facebook, have become addicted to blogging, have played online games and listened to online music, and Skyped for 2 hours with one of my closest friends from Tyndale.  My cell phone is always on me and even when I go to church I am greeted with by the friendly usher and the friendly powerpoint slide presentation.  I can access my church bulletin online and can use my phone to call up the Scripture passage.

I’m trying to find a happy medium between the technological age and that Old Time religion.  It’s a hard road to follow.  I have heard of a few experiences which really make me excited for the potential technology has in the worship setting.  Churches which have young adults text questions to the pastor and thus engage more in worship.  I have even heard of a church where an Iranian woman used her cell phone in the service to call her husband who was still in Iran so that he could listen to the preaching since Christianity was illegal over there. 

Yet, I have heard of many other stories which make me feel like technology needs to stay out of the church as much as possible.  Youth groups that get together only to watch movies or to play Wii without even interacting with one another.  As a preacher, I have also experienced a few (perhaps one or two) sermons that I have preached where I tried to use powerpoint or a YouTube clip and the technology invariably failed leaving things slightly awkward to say the least.

I do think technology can be a very powerful and helpful tool so long as churches do not rely too heavily on it.  But I am challenging myself to find that happy medium.

Theses are just some super disjointed thoughts that have been rattling in my brain all day while the internet was down.Image

Follow What I’m Reading This Summer

Books will be placed in chronological order with the latest book to be read placed first:

Book 33: The Return of the Prodigal Son By: Henri Nouwen ( 139 pages) – This book is one of the most unique Nouwen books I have read so far, in that it is very focused on art and one painting in particular – the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt.  In this book, Nouwen focuses on the three main characters in the story: the younger son, the elder son, and the Father sharing how much he is like each one of them and exploring the lostness of both the sons (rather than just the younger one).  Nouwen also begins each section with a short biography of the life of Rembrandt thus adding even deeper meaning to his painting and makes constant references to Rembrandt’s life throughout.  If you read this book, you will be able to discover this very common children’s Bible story in a whole new way!

Book 32: A Spirituality of Caregiving By: Henri Nouwen (69 pages) – A very short, quick read that was actually compiled after Nouwen’s sudden death through other writings that he had published as well as a few of his unpublished manuscripts.  In this short book, we hear the heart of Nouwen as he talks about what caregiving looked like at L’Arche, as well as provides insights to others who are receiving and giving care.

Book 31: Seeing Beyond Depression By: Jean Vanier (69 pages; actually was 89 pages, but since some of the pages were of quotes I don’t count those as full pages)

This book was different from the majority of Vanier’s other books in that he didn’t share any personal anecdotes or information and so it seemed kind of clinical and impersonal.  At the same time, it was very much like Vanier’s writings in that it focused on certain themes that he often discusses such as vulnerability and the essence of being human.  It certainly was a very helpful read and a good reference for anyone who struggles with depression or has a friend who is struggling.

Book 30: With Burning Hearts – A Meditation on the Eucharistic Life By: Henri J.M. Nouwen (108 pages; actual: 126 pages but that includes some pictures) A short meditative piece written by Nouwen who describes the journey the disciples went through from Jesus’s death until after Emmaus.  Nouwen also relates all of this back to our own lives sharing with us the spiritual themes of hospitality, friendship, and enduring trust in God even when it seems like we have been abandoned or forgotten by Him.

Book 29: Love In A Fearful Land By: Henri Nouwen (128 pages)This book is a different type of book from the ones that Nouwen frequently writes.  It is actually a story about the disappearances and mass murders that took place in Guatemala in the 80s when Christians were being persecuted.  Nouwen shares the legacy specifically of one Priest, Father Stan Rother, who was a martyr and who Nouwen and the Guatemalan people already believe to be a saint (although he has not officially been Canonized yet).

Book 28 : Life of the Beloved By: Henri J.M. Nouwen (119 pages) In this book, Nouwen exchanges letters with his friend, Fred, who is going through a difficult time in his life (after divorcing his first wife).  Nouwen speaks from the heart about being the Beloved Son (or daughter) of God even during times when we feel unloveable and he talks about how God can use even the most negative experiences in our lives to bring us joy and peace.  A short, easy, and very inspiring read!

Book 27: Whatever Happened to Dinner? Recipes and Reflections for Family Mealtime By: Melodie M. Davis (229 pages) I originally just picked up this book because after briefly looking at it it had some very good recipes in it (some of which I have already tried at L’Arche and have been hits).  But as I started reading the book, I realized that there was so much other good stuff to Davis’s writings.  She talks about how much we waste, how we can cut down on the price of our food, and the importance of saying grace before eating.  Davis is also one of the Mennonerds I blog with, so that made it doubly important for me to read what the other Nerds are writing other than blogs.  The only thing that I wish the book had is more vegetarian menu options.  I felt it was very heavy particularly on chicken, but a few more vegan and vegetarian dishes might be helpful because so many of my Menno friends are going that route.

Book 26: The Naked Anabaptist By: Stuart Muarry (172 pages) – Very quick and

easy read outlining the church history of how the Mennonite and other Anabaptist churches came to be.  This book was written in the European context and deals with the demise of Christendom and what it means for us today – what our strengths and weaknesses as a church are in a society that has ceased to be completely Christian.

Book 25: Spiritual Formation By: Henri Nouwen (135 pages) A very good read written post-posthumously using some of Nouwen’s unpublished writings about the journey one takes to achieve Spiritual maturity.  Nouwen talks about there being 7 movements of the Spirit: From opaqueness to transparency, from illusion to prayer, from sorrow to joy, from resentment to gratitude, from fear to love, from exclusion to inclusion, and from denying to befriending death.  He also talks about the difference between the journey inward and the journey outward and how we need both aspects to truly become mature.

Book 24: According to the Grace Given to Her – The Ministry of Emma Sommers Richards Edited by: James E. Horsch, John D. Remple, Eldon D. Nafziger (150 pages)

Review: Emma Sommers Richards was the first woman to be ordained as a pastor in the Mennonite Church back in the 70s.  Through compiling information and stories from her friends, family members, colleagues, and congregants, we learn her story and see how God has used her to shape the Mennonite church.  The cool thing for me in reading this book is that many of the authors who contributing to this work are people that I met while in Elkhart and while in seminary including some of my professors and alumni from AMBS.

Book 23: Nevertheless By: John Howard Yoder (132 pages)

Review: In this book, renowned pacifist and ethical writer, John Howard Yoder, speaks about the various types of Christian pacifism and does a systematic and philosophical unraveling of each type.  It’s a book that I have been meaning to read for a few years and finally got around to.  As someone who studies peace studies, I think it is a must read, but it is very heady and academic so it all depends on what you are looking for.

Book 22: The Heart of L’Arche By: Jean Vanier (95 pages)

Review: In this book, Vanier talks about the Christian spirituality behind L’Arche largely from a Catholic perspective but what he says could be helpful to any Christian.  Vanier talks about the lessons one learns at L’Arche such as being present, attentive, and listening and he talks about how to grow Spiritually when you are living in a community.

Book 21: The Way of the Heart (Desert Spirituality and Contemporary Ministry) By: Henri Nouwen (82 pages)

Review: This is definitely one of Nouwen’s shorter books, however, although short it is powerful.  In this book, Nouwen does not talk about his work with L’Arche or even his experience as a professor – rather he talks about the importance of silence, solitude, and meditation.  He shares with us why these practices are important to any Christian and helps us to learn how to cultivate them in our heart.  Drawing from ancient church history – this book has both past and present implications for our daily life (especially those of us who are involved in ministry).

Book 20: Holy Laughter and the Toronto Blessing By: Dr. James Beverly (162 pages)

Review: For years, the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship – one of the most charismatic churches in the GTA (and possibly in North America) has hosted strange encounters of people roaring like lions, being covered in gold dust, losing gold teeth, and barking like dogs.  Although millions flock to this church to experience the Holy Laughter and say that it brings them closer to God, Dr. Beverly questions the legitimacy of these encounters.  Using critical thinking, Beverly interviews several involved with the Toronto Blessing carefully weighing the pros and cons.  It’s a good read – critical but not judgmental.  It’s worth it to read.

Book 19: Chicken Soup for the Canadian Soul By: Various Authors (360 pages)

Review: A collection of good ‘ole Canadianna stories including everything from the happy to the sad.  Uplifting and encouraging and packed full of history 🙂

Book 18: All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes By: Maya Angelou (211 pages)

Review: Angelou, an African American woman journeys into Ghana and learns what it truly means to reclaim her African heritage.  Full of stories about racism, fighting for women’s rights, and learning to reclaim a love for family, Angelou is a brilliant woman who combines autobiographical writing with thought-provoking quotes.  I’d give this book 3.5 stars out of 5.

Book 17: Thinking in Pictures – My Life With Autism (By: Temple Grandin) – 243 pages

Review: Grandin, a woman with mild autism (I would hazard to say Asperger’s, though she personally does not think of herself in that way) works with cattle.  She explains in her book how her autism has helped her to be able to understand cattle and to work with them in ways that people who are “normal” can’t.   She also describes some of the challenges that people with autism have as well as facts on medication, aggression, and being non-verbal.

 

Book 16: The Inward Pilgrimage – Spiritual Classics from Augustine to Bonhoeffer (By: Bernhard Christensen) – 165 pages

Review: This book includes short biographies and select quotes from some of the famous Christian writers of all time including the Desert Father, St. Teresa of Avila, John Bunyan, etc. It wasn’t entirely what I thought it would be because I thought it would actually have whole chapters written by each person, but it is a very nice overview.  If you’re looking for some background information on a famous Saint or you want to know what St. Augustine’s “Confessions” or the Book of Common Prayer are about without having to go buy a copy, this is a good book for that.  I would give this book 3 stars out of 5.

Book 15: God in the Alley: Being and Seeing Jesus in a Broken World (By: Greg Paul) – 130 pages

Review: God is present in the brokenness, the grief, the puzzle pieces that won’t fit back together again, and the child crying out to his drug addicted mother.  Christ walks with us in pain, in suffering, and in loss.  Many of us who grew up in the church have heard these phrases quite often, yet, they remain just abstract expressions to us.  Greg Paul, one of the leading members of Sanctuary – a local Toronto outreach that many students at Tyndale participated in – has seen this lived out in real life.  God in the Alley beautifully weaves together stories of homelessness with a strong theology of social justice and the love of Christ.   It’s been one of those books that I’ve meant to read for years, but only got around to now.  I think because of Tyndale’s connection with Sanctuary, because I have heard Greg Paul speak at Tyndale, and because I have been on a street walk with Patrick (a man whose story is found in this book) that it has become more meaningful to me.  Sure, any author could have also written about the homeless of downtown New York, Chicago, or the slums in India, but there’s something about Paul’s words coming from a person who has lived in Toronto for three years and will be back there in one month (hopefully to stay).  I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Book 14: Love Wins (By: Rob Bell) – 196 pages

Review: I have long heard about Rob Bell’s liberalism – love it or hate it, so I decided to finally read this “controversial” book which I have meant to pick up for a few years now.  This book describes the fact that a loving God would not cast people into hell and that there are many paths to get to heaven.  Despite my own personal convictions, I feel that Bell never really developed his arguments, did not have a good grasp on Scripture (he proof-texted and took things out of context a lot)  and that in general, he seemed to not be all that great of a writer (he asked a lot of rhetorical questions which just got annoying at times).  He did offer some rather helpful pieces of advice: such as being more sensitive to others who do not have Christian roots when broaching the subject of death (he talked about the difference between telling a Christian she will see her Christian loved ones in heaven some day and telling a Christian with atheist relatives that she will never see them again but she will be so busy praising God it won’t matter – yet her family members are the most important people in her life).  He also offered a lot of helpful advice related to not writing anyone off and not being so preoccupied with the heavenly realm that we forget the social justice endeavours that must be taken here on earth.  I definitely think those are important points to make.  One of the most surprising things that remains to me, though, is how Bell became a liberal Christian.  He did his schooling at fairly evangelical institutions, also many Tyndale students loved the Nooma videos and listen to Mars Hill preaching but don’t like Bell.  I didn’t like this book as well as I liked Sex God, but it still did have some good points.  All in all, I would give it 2 out of 5 stars.

Book 13: Little Foxes that Spoil the Vines (By: W. Barry Miller) – 100 pages

Review: This book centers around the verse in Song of Solomon which says, “take us to the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines for our vines have tender grapes.” (2:15).  These foxes are the Gray, Red, Blue, Green, Yellow, and Black foxes representing careless words, anger, depression, envy, cowardice, and despair.  Miller talks about how these areas of our lives can take our mind off Christ and cause us to stumble.  He suggests that as Christians we need to depend upon our loving Father to help us get through these life struggles and ask Him to place people in our lives who can help us to also work with these difficulties.

Book 12: A Spirituality of Fundraising (By: Henri J.M. Nouwen)64 pages

Review: A very short book by Nouwen describing how fundraising is a Spiritual discipline and the theology/Christian philosophy behind it.  While Nouwen is not necessarily a businessman, he does offer some helpful suggestions about how riches can both hinder and help the Kingdom of God (including that some rich people are actually quite broken).  He also has a few quotes from some of his other books.  Out of all the Nouwen books that I have read, I would say this one was my least favourite.  He didn’t seem to be the most qualified person to write on this topic nor did he write with the same passion as he did when he wrote about L’Arche.  Nevertheless, it is good to read on a topic like this since it is rarely discussed in Christian settings or in “polite company”.

Book 11: The Shack (By: William P. Young) (248 pages)

Review: Many authors write beautiful fiction, few write with the same depth of theological clarity as W.P. Young while maintaining their creativity.  I decided that I wanted to read this book a second time since the first time I read it I was 17 and had no Theological training or education.  After 4 years of religious instruction, I have to say, I have picked up on so many intricacies that I did not notice the first time around.  W.P. Young really challenges our preconceived conceptions of God.  He brings into light Feminist theology, womanist theology, Asian Feminist Theology and the problem of evil/pain (theodicy).  He also challenges our conception of salvation, grace, and judgement.  While some would likely find Young’s work to be more on the liberal side, I think that he still does stay true to the Scriptures for the most part.  It is a refreshing and challenging read for any seminary or Bible College student.

Book 10: Adam (By: Henri Nouwen) (128 pages)

Review: Adam is a man who is non-verbal and completely dependent on others.  He has a severe intellectual disability and is also given to epileptic seizures.  Still, Adam, becomes Nouwen’s confidant, teacher, guide, and spiritual director.  Even though to the world Adam seems “useless”, to Nouwen and to all the residents and assistants at L’Arche, Adam is so much more.  Adam is a very special man who incarnates the depths of Christ’s love in visible form.  Throughout his brief account of Adam’s life, Nouwen pauses to reflect on the lessons Adam has taught him about looking beyond himself and coming to terms with his own life and death.
It’s a short, but very powerful book.  I had goosebumps by the time it was done.  This book is especially meaningful to me because it teaches peace studies in a different way than the one offered in the classroom.  In this book, Nouwen talks about how one may find peace working with people with a disability.  This book is also important to me because both times I visited the Daybreak community I had the opportunity to meet Adam’s brother, Michael, who asked me to be his sister.  Michael actually just celebrated his 60th birthday only a few days ago.  I’m looking forward to joining Daybreak this summer and getting to know Michael and the rest of the residents more.

Book 9: Peacework (By: Henri Nouwen) (127 pages)

Review: In this book, Nouwen recounts his time at L’Arche as an experiment in peacebuilding and offers helpful advice to Christians who wish to spread the Gospel of Peace and Love.  Nouwen does not discuss in detail his experiences working with people with disabilities, but does give much thought to the lessons of community, prayer, and discipleship that he learned during his time with those who could not communicate with him the same way as others.  Nouwen offers philosophical insights and helpful strategies.  Throughout it all, he reminds us of the Spiritual discipline of peacemaking all rooted in Biblical understandings.

Book 8: Autism & Alleluias (Kathleen Deyer Bolduc)  (140 pages)

Review: Bolduc is a mother to a boy with Autism.  She traces her son’s journey from early childhood until his mid-twenties when he moves out of her house for the first time.  Bolduc shares the joys and struggles of raising her unique son in short excerpts and stories that are written in a devotional way.  Her stories challenge the rest of us to find God amidst chaos and confusion and to cling to the peace that God provides us even during the most challenging, stressful, and difficult of times.

Book 7: Reading the Bible With the Damned By: Bob Ekblad (196 pages)

Summary: Ekblad, a chaplain at Skagit County Jail, works with inmates who have been drug users, alcoholics, abusive husbands, and sometimes illegal immigrants.  Ekblad uses his book to address some of the social justice issues that arise within the criminal justice system (particularly in relation to immigrant reform) and shares the Gospel with the inmates in a way which they will understand.  Ekblad says that Jesus is like “living cocaine” when describing the story of the woman at the well in John where Jesus tells her that He can give her everlasting water.  Ekblad also calls Jesus a “good coyote” when telling immigrants that just like they have “coyotes” who smuggle them across the waters even when it is illegal, it is the same with Christ reaching down to meet us.  I like Ekblad’s writings which are out of the box and written in a way that resembles a Bible study type book.  Recommended.

Book 6: Dancing With Disabilities ~ Opening the Church to All of God’s Children  By : Brett Webb-Mitchell (139 pages)

Summary: A great book which introduces some concepts about disability awareness within the Christian church.  It looks at such issues as baptism, communion, summer camps, Sunday school classes, and spiritual abuse in relation to those with developmental disabilities.  I think it’s definitely a good resource, though it is written from a more liturgical background and talks quite a bit about infant baptism and the Anglican/Catholic/Lutheran understandings of the Eucharist, so some of it wasn’t entirely applicable to me as an Anabaptist.  On the other hand, I can definitely use most of the suggestions in pastoral ministry which is a good thing.

Book 5: Let’s Do More With Persons With Disabilities By: Emma Jane White (70 pages)

Summary: A collection of stories written by individuals in various churches who work with people who have various types of disabilities (intellectual, emotional, physical, etc).  Some of the anecdotes offer good stories, however, it was very out of date and they used very politically incorrect language which was a bit disconcerting.

Book 4: The Selfless Way of Christ  By: Henri Nouwen (81 pages)

Summary: One of Nouwen’s more devotional type books.  This book is the first Nouwen book that I read which doesn’t focus on his L’Arche experience.  The book is actually about our human tendency to always reach for the top (what Nouwen calls “upward mobility”), and Christ’s call in our life to be humble (what Nouwen calls “downward mobility”).  The book focuses on Christian vocation, temptation, and formation.  In the Christian vocation section, Nouwen introduces themes of humility and virtue and the tension that Christians live in.  In temptation, Nouwen sketches out the ideas that he presents in his book In The Name of Jesus concerning our temptations to be relevant, spectacular, and powerful.  Finally, in formation, Nouwen shares about spiritual direction and personal devotional life and how these are powerful concepts.  I would recommend this book.  It’s short, yet very powerful.

Book 3: A Testament Hope (Excerpts)  By: Martin Luther King Jr.  (139 pages)

Summary: A collection of Dr. King’s speeches, articles, and interviews.  King is a good writer, however, not surprisingly given the amount of speaking engagements he had he is a bit repetitive.  But you should read the address he gave the night of his assassination – truly an inspiration.  I would even venture to say more of an inspiration that I Have a Dream even though that is everyone’s favourite.

Book 2:
Jesus, Gift of Love  By: Jean Vanier (189 pages)

Summary: A beautiful, poetic book written by the founder of L’Arche focusing on Biblical Spirituality.  A refreshing read after so many intense textbooks.

Book 1:
The Great Shalom By: Peter Dyck (83 pages)

Summary: A somewhat juvenile read about animal friends in a forest learning about how to live peaceably with an enemy who is destroying their natural habitat.  It is rather childlike, however, after doing a ton of academic reading it was a nice break and I was impressed with how many peace studies issues the novel brought forth: ecological well-being, animal rights and justice, etc.

Summer Reads Pt. 4

Here are some remaining books.  In another document, you can follow what I’m reading this summer as I am reading it (they will be placed in chronological order with the latest book I have read at the top).  But first to finish off this segment of things:

MENNONITE/ANABAPTIST BOOKS

1) What We Believe Together : Exploring the “Shared Convictions” of Anabaptist-Related Churches By: Alfred Neufeld (145 pages)

Review: This book was put out by the Mennonite World Conference and describes the similarities that the Brethren in Christ, Mennonite Brethren, General Conference Mennonites (of which I am a part), and other global Mennonite groups have in common taking into considering our common confessions (known as the Sheliteheim Confession). I found the book to be a very helpful way of describing the Mennonite faith and would recommend it to anyone who had questions on different topics. I agreed with most of what it said, except that I disagreed with the fact that they say that Spiritual Warfare is a false concept and that instead we are simply in a “battle of the pacifists” which does not really hold weight for me. Other than that, I think it’s a pretty cool book. Someday if I am a pastor, I may use it for my discipleship classes. Oh, they also don’t talk about the Evangelical Mennonites or the Evangelical Mennonite Mission Church although I believe that they are also a part of us.

2) 100 Ans: de Mission Mennonite en Republique Democratique du Congo (313 pages) Vincent Mulebo Ndandula, Jean-Felix Cimbalanga Wa Mpoyi, Beleji Mwatha Jackson

Review: A great book!  Even better if you know some French :).  It recounts the Mennonite mission in the DRC for the last 100 years.  If you don’t speak French, they also have an English version. Add to e-Shelf

The Jesus tribe : grace stories from Congo’s Mennonites 1912-2012 : a project of Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission

Rod Hollinger-Janzen; Nancy J Myers; Jim Bertsche 1921-; Vincent Mulebo Ndandula ; c2012

PEACE AND SOCIAL JUSTICE

1) Banker to the Poor: Micro-lending and the Battle Against World Poverty By: Muhammad Yunus (277 pages)

Review: A very interesting read about micro-financing and business. I love how Yunus talks about empowering people who are in poverty and that even a little bit makes a difference. I also like how he talked about micro-financing in “rich” countries like Canada and the U.S. So often people only talk about it in the context of 3rd world countries, but it is also needed in North America and Europe. Also, it was really interesting to hear how women in Muslim countries can live. Yunus mentioned that they didn’t feel they were “competent” enough to handle finances. And he also mentioned that in Bangladesh (where his story takes place) that having a telephone is a sign of importance/wealth. Only about 1 person in every 300 has a phone and the more phones you have the more important you are. This really surprised me because in Canada I just take the phone for granted.

DISABILITIES AND THE MENNONITE EXPRESSION OF FAITH

1) Mennonite Central Committee Canada, and Mental Health and Disabilities Program. 2001. Light for all: worship resources for including people with mental illness and disabilities. Winnipeg: Mennonite Central Committee Canada. – 90 Pages

More of an anthology of prayers, sermons, etc for inclusion into disability awareness within the church

DISABILITY AWARENESS

1) Show Me The Way (Henri Nouwen)  – 140 pages

Review: Nouwen’s collection of readings for every day of Lent.

2) Befriending the Stranger By: Jean Vanier, 131 pages

A devotional read about how Jesus walks among us and retelling Gospel stories on hospitality. It was laid out very well and very well rooted in Scripture. Even though L’Arche is a part of all of Vanier’s writings, it was not at the heart of this book. This book was written primarily for personal quite times, with L’Arche only used as illustrations to make points.

3) An Ark for the Poor: The Story of L’Arche By: Jean Vanier 120 pages

A very interesting play by play as to how L’Arche was founded and Vanier’s learnings along the way. The book recounts how L’Arche was originally founded in France and then moved to many other countries, and it talks about how L’Arche went from being Catholic to being ecumenical and in one case even multifaith.

4) Brokenness and Blessing: Towards a Biblical Spirituality By: Frances M. Young – 122 pages

This was another assigned book for class, but it was interesting because the whole book is centered around L’Arche (even though I didn’t know that when I first started reading). It’s about how people with disabilities see God, and also about generally how we read the Bible.

5) From Brokenness to Community: By Jean Vanier – 52 pages

A short book about why Vanier created L’Arche and some of the lessons that he learned while he was there. It struck me how similar his writings are to Henri Nouwen. He talks a lot about his brokenness, his struggle to achieve power and to climb ladders, and how L’Arche is counter cultural because it is about being last rather than being first.

6) Krafft, Jane. 1988. The ministry to persons with disabilities. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press. – 54 pages

A very good overview as to how to engage people with various disabilities (both physical and intellectual) into the church setting. It was a bit old and out of date, including ideas and phrases such as “retardation” which are no longer used, but all in all, helpful in giving suggestions to churches including the physical layout of the building.

7)  Davie, Ann Rose, and Ginny Thornburgh. 1992. That all may worship: an interfaith welcome to persons with disabilities. Washington, D.C.: National Organization on Disability. – 50 pages

A book with helpful prayers, short sermons, children’s features, etc that can be used in Jewish and Christian settings.

GENERAL CHRISTIAN BOOKS

1) Living Into Community: Cultivating Practices That Sustain Us By: Christine Pohl (176 pages)

A great overview of some important themes in community particularly truthfulness, promise keeping, and when it’s important to acknowledge someone or to give them credit. Pohl was very “real” in her writing, using real life examples and telling the truth about things that really take place in church life, Eat This Book By: Eugene Peterson – 180 pages

I was a little apprehensive to read this book because I haven’t heard too many good things said about Eugene Peterson, but it was assigned for a class. All in all, it was a good book. He explained why he wrote the Message and talked about he grew up not being a believer in paraphrases himself. He also talked about the role of joining into the Biblical story and about how to approach teaching and reading the Bible.

 

2)  Life Together By: Dietrich Bonhoeffer – 122 pages

 

A very good introduction to what it means to have life in community with others. Bonhoeffer stresses the importance of silence/waiting for God, fellowship with others, and Scripture reading, but he says that everything in the community must be rooted in prayer. He warns against power struggles that sometimes occur in community and talks about how community is not an idealized fantasy, but that it is indeed hardwork to live with others. Nevertheless, he maintains, that forgiveness, reconciliation, private confession to God and apologizing to others are the important ingredients in keeping a community healthy. He also warns against people just joining a church or other Christian community because they are lonely and want to be with others so they don’t have to be by themselves. He does say it is important to be with others, but he also believes that church and Christian community need to be so much more than this.

3) Ponder and Pray By: Victor Shepherd (158 pages)

Review: A great devotional book with good insights from one of my favourite Tyndale professors. It combined real life scenarios/stories with prayers and poetry. I enjoyed it.

4) He Chose the Nails By: Max Lucado (151 pages)

Review: Lucado is a good writer and I always enjoy his books. As the title suggests, this book looks at the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. I found it to be a good devotional book and a nice break from such academic readings. The one thing about his writing, though, is that he seems to use so many examples of married life that as a single person I found it a bit harder to relate to it.