6 Months at Zweibach and Peace

Image Well, it has been an incredible 6 months since I started blogging.  I want to start off by saying, thank you to all of you who read my blog.  I hope it has been fun for you and that there have occasionally been things that have stood out for you.  I’ve definitely enjoyed working on the blog especially when homework was looming and I was looking for a creative distraction :P.  All joking aside, I’m thankful for the opportunities I am given to write, reflect, and share. 

I’m also thankful to Mennonerds – http://mennonerds.com/ for allowing me to come on board and share some of my writings in an online community of other like minded individuals.  I have since been able to foster friendships as a result of this network and have been inspired and humbled by so many of the blogs that have been produced by the other people on the team.

I wish I had something profound to say or give away in honour of my six monthaversary, but I do not.  I just simply wanted to say thanks for making it happen and I look forward to blogging another six months with you all 🙂

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Honey from the Rock (A Short Devotional)

Image The following is a very short devotional piece of something God brought to my attention this week while sitting at the pond doing my devotionals.

“But I will feed you with the finest of wheat, and with honey from a rock I would satisfy you.” – Psalm 81:16

When I think of a rock I think of a hard object.  Oftentimes people talk about being “between a rock and a hard place.”  Rocks can be dangerous.  Kids throw them at buildings and shatter glass, kids throw them at cars and create dents.  Rocks can be dividing – walls made of brick and stone keeping others out.  But rocks can also be positive.  Some people collect rocks.  Some rocks tell a story of times long past – they are fossils.  Some rocks are used to build things.  We talk of something being “rock solid” when we mean something is good or strong.  We tell kids to “rock on”. 

Here God is promising to provide for us not just with a mediocre amount, but with the finest wheat He has.  He says He can bring honey from a rock – mirroring the truth of Him bringing water to the parched Israelities from a rock in the desert. We have all tasted honey.  It’s sweet – a natural sweetener for our coffee and tea.  I provides healing for the common cold.  It is included in many throat lozanges.  Here God is saying that from the difficult times in our lives He is making something sweet.  When we go through trials it may feel like nothing good will ever come out of it.  It may feel like the rock overpowers our lives, but God is using the rocks in our lives to not just produce honey for us, but for many others as well.  When life seems hopeless and desperate we have only to cling to Him and His promises.

“In seasons of distress and grief my soul has often found relief.  And oft escaped the Tempter’s snare, by Thy return sweet hour of prayer.” (Sweet Hour of Prayer, William Walford, 1845)

Exploring the Lord’s Prayer as a Dangerous Prayer

Image  The following is my lay exposition of the Lord’s Prayer.  Although I have studied Theology at both the undergrad and graduate levels this is meant simply for personal devotions rather than actual Greek/Theological exegesis.

Our Father – I’m saying Father here, not Mother, but Father.  Not that I have any problems with calling You Mother, but right now I need You to be a Daddy to me.  I tend to rely and trust women more than I do men, mostly because I am a woman and don’t always understand the ways of men.  But I’m learning to trust You.  I’m learning to be held by You.  I’m learning to believe that You’re a strong Daddy that will protect me.

Who Art in Heaven – You live in the Highest realm.  You don’t just look down on earth, though – You also came as a participant.  You have all the power over both the heavenly and earthly spheres.

Hallowed be Thy Name – Your Name is Holy and worthy of all praise  I want to magnify it – lift it up!

Thy Kingdom Come – Your Word says that Your Kingdom is not of this world.  Some people tried to force political power on You, You resisted it.  Your Kingdom is a reign of justice, mercy, and peace.  That’s what’s already happening in Heaven and that’s also what You are making possible to happen on earth.

Thy Will Be Done on Earth as it is In Heaven – It’s hard to know Your will.  It’s so easy to think that I know best, but in the end of the day I’m relying on You.  I trust You.  You’ve got my back.  Your will is one of both justice and mercy – such a strange dichotomy!  Your Will is always right.  In every situation You are working things for good.  In every season You are bringing healing and hope!

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread – I’m not asking You to give me strength for the long haul.  I’m not even asking You to give me direction for next week, next month, or next year.  I’m focusing only on today because each new day has enough opportunities and challenges in and of itself.  I admit this is really hard for me to do.  I’m a planner.  I’m very goal driven.  Give me a project and I’ll see it through to completion.  But here You’re encouraging me to slow down.  You’re instructing me to take a pause.  I’m only asking You for enough courage, strength, and hope to get through today.  I’m only asking that You give me what I need – emotionally, spiritually, relationally, materialistically for TODAY.  I don’t want too much.  I don’t want an abundance because I might become nervous and horde like the Israelites with their Manna. I might even despise You and become so secure in my wealth that I think I can go it alone.  But I also don’t want to be lacking, otherwise I’d have to beg and make people think I’m desperate and that You’re not providing.  But You are!  You always come through! [Proverbs 30:8-9]

And Forgive Us Our Trespasses – I know that I mess up, though I’m often too proud to admit it.  I hurt others and I hurt You.  Your Word is such a high standard!  You say that to lust is to commit adultery and to hate is to murder someone in our hearts.  Who among us hasn’t done those things?!?!  I hurt You and others by the actions I do and the words I speak and the things I should have done but didn’t because I overlooked it or it was an inconvenience.  I sin daily!  I’m sorry.

As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us – God, at the same time that I’ve hurt others, they’ve also hurt me.  But You’re calling me to a higher standard.  The world says that we should seek revenge, but You call us to live differently than the rest of society.  So that’s why I want to pray for those who’ve hurt me.  I pray that You will bring healing and wholeness into their lives – they must be very broken people.  I pray that if they don’t truly know You that they will.  That You will reveal Yourself to them.  If I don’t forgive I can’t expect forgiveness from You – Your Word is clear about that.  It’s a give and take.  But it’s not a one shot deal.  It’s a continuous thing.  You said not 7 times but 70X7.  That’s really hard.  Especially when people do the same things over and over and it feels like they will never change.  But then again, it’s the same with me. I always make the same dumb mistakes and You always call me back and give me a second chance.  Thank You!

And Lead Us Not Into Temptation – God, I’m tempted by so many things that are not of You.  I’m tempted daily to prove myself, to acquire wealth and fame, to seek my own desires first and to gratify the flesh.  I can’t do it on my own!  I can’t walk away from these things that are staring me straight in the face!  Especially when everyone else around me is giving in and telling me it’s okay.  It’s not OK!  Please lead me out of the temptation to be a victim – to think that everything is not my fault or conversely to think that everything is.  Help me to take a healthy dose of responsibility!

But Deliver Us From Evil – Evil is all around me – on TV, in the movies, in the news, and in ads.  Help me to stay away from the subliminal messages they’re sending me.  It’s incredible to think that You’re sovereign over the entire earth and yet You have counted every hair on my head and know my name.  You even see the sparrow fall and sparrows are worthless.  Even though You’re God of the Heavens, You’re also God of the Earth.  You still care about how I treat myself, my body, and the environment around me.  You’re calling me to make healthy choices.  I’m so important to You that You’ve even taken up residence in me.  My body is where Your Spirit dwells.  So I know that what I choose to do with my body – the food I eat, the shape I leave it in, is not just affecting me , but it’s affecting You!

I also know that there are some people who don’t abide by Your Word.  They make bad choices which can sometimes affect me.  Protect me from them, make their deeds come to light, and help them to discover the truth!

For Yours is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory – Your Word says that Your Kingdom will reign over all the earth.  It’s Your desire to establish what You have in heaven here on the earth.  You’ll make it so we don’t have pain – no fear, no crying.  You’ll completely abolish all sin and wickedness.  We wait for Your Kingdom to come, but we also join in Your reconciling mission and seek to serve the lost, needy, and broken.  By doing this, we’re already making Your Kingdom happen – but we’re not taking credit for it.  It’s all You.  You’re the One giving us the strength and the words – we’re simply Your instrument for proclaiming those words to the nations.

Forever and Ever – This prayer isn’t just a one time deal, it’s a continuous thing.  It’s something I bring before You daily.  These are the cries of my heart and as much as I mess up – I still cling to these truths.  I still stand by what I pray.  Your Kingdom also isn’t just a one time deal.  It’s constantly happening in our world in big ways and in small.  Sometimes it’s obvious and other times hidden.  But I’m grateful because You choose to reveal Your reign to the most unworthy and unlikely.  A humble spirit is #1 in Your books.

Amen – By praying this prayer I’m doing the dangerous.  This isn’t a “fluffy feel-good” prayer.  It messes me up each time I say it – whether alone or with others.  By ending this prayer I’m giving You permission to inconvenience me, disturb me, to all out trouble me.  I’m asking for Your reign to come, but I’m also signifying my willingness to help.  I’m asking all these things in Your powerful Name.  So be it.

 

God Called Me to Do the Uncomfortable

Here is the sermon I preached on Thanksgiving Sunday (October 13, 2013).

TEXT: Luke 17:11-19

The actual sermon preached differs in slight ways from what I wrote here.

To listen to the sermon: 1) Go to: http://danforthmennonitechurch.ca/church-life/recent-worship-services-at-danforth-mennonite-church/

2) Click on “Recorded Worship Services at Danforth Mennonite Church” (in blue letters)

3) Click the last recording – October 13, 2013

God Called Me To Do the Uncomfortable 

Many of us have been there at one time or another.  Stigmatized.  Put down. People look the other way – they see our pain but don’t really know how to react to it or if they should.  We see the pity in their eyes.  Their sad looks, yet sometimes it feels as if they aren’t seeing the person, only the situation at hand.  Standing off in the distance they try to let us know they care – that they are there for us, but in the day to day grind we feel alone.  Abandoned.  Rejected.  We wonder why God caused this disability or this tragedy to come upon us.  We wonder what God’s purpose could possibly be in the midst of all of this.

We are not the only ones to feel out of place and out of touch with society.  As if we are misfits or standing on the margins while life goes on around us.  For some of us, this experience might have been contained solely in our junior high or high school days.  The days when we had just reached puberty.  Hearing the boys start to have cracked voices and worrying about growing facial hair.  Hearing the girl’s concerns that they were fat or unlovable.  Wondering why they were the only one not asked out for the junior prom date.  Our faces riddled with pimples which even the strongest acne cream did not seem to subside.

Others of us live in this reality today and may for the rest of our lives.  Visibly we look different.  Perhaps a disability.  Perhaps the fact that our skin tone doesn’t match that of the privileged.  Perhaps it comes only in our speech – a slight impediment, but noticeable enough to those around us.  It makes us want to curl up and not speak in front of our church.  Maybe our marginalization comes in the form of an illness.  People worry that they might be able to “catch AIDS” and so they leave us alone.  People worry that a bipolar person has multi personalities and is dangerous and so they want to keep a safe distance just in case our shadow side comes out.  People see us as weak and fragile, they aren’t meaning to hurt us, but they simply don’t know what to do.  That not knowing, is sometimes more painful to us than having someone say something completely stupid but not meaning it.  Sometimes we wish we were just like everyone else.  Sometimes we question God wondering why we had to suffer this plight.

The lepers in Jesus’s time must have felt much the same way.  Rejected by society, having lost their national and religious identity to a disease that was slowly eating away at their bodies.  A disorder so visible that people could see it without even having to tell them.  Stigmatized and having to yell out from a block away.  There was no secrecy, no privacy.  There was no way of hiding one’s plight.  Unable to give or express love whether to a spouse or to a friend, at least not physically.  Unable to maintain or gain a place in society until one was healed, if they ever were.  Not able to be self-reliant.  Not able to take pride in a paycheck.  Not able to receive a hand up, but only a hand out.  

Such was the setting Jesus found himself walking in one day on his way to Jerusalem.  The territorial lines blurred because of a disease.  Samaritans and Jews found together as if what set them apart no longer mattered.  Before Jesus saw them, He heard them.  Heard them calling out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.” 

Jesus seems not to have even hesitated for a moment.  He simply commands them to do their religious and legally duty of showing themselves to the priests and as they are walking they become healed.  They seem to continue on with their day and with their lives.  They don’t go back to what once haunted them or to the place of pain because that would be too uncomfortable.  Jesus has healed them and so they go on with their day to day living leaving their past in the past.

That is except the one Samaritan leper.  He returns to Christ, falls at His feet, and thanks Him for all that he has received.  Jesus marvels at this man’s actions.  He had healed ten.  Where were the other nine?  What were they doing now that they were healed?  Were they using their healing to heal others or simply to keep it to themselves?  Did no one want to return to the uncomfortable and unfortunate situations except for this one man, this foreigner?  Jesus commands him to go.  Don’t stay in this place of uncomfortableness, but go and live out your life reaching out to others who are in similar situations and letting them know that there is hope.

I have seen this text lived out by many people who had difficult realities and now are using those circumstances to serve God.   One such example was a middle aged man I met on the streets of Toronto, Ontario, one cold December afternoon as a group of us from Tyndale University College were handing out sandwiches and spending time listening to the stories of the homeless.  This man, named Tim, was sitting by the subway station with his dog, Shadow.  Tim didn’t look like the typical homeless man, but he didn’t look like a professional either.  We noticed he was talking with a group of other homeless people so we decided to approach them all and strike up a conversation with them.  Tim shared with us his life story.  Born to an abusive father and chronic drug user and alcoholic mother, Tim often went hungry during his childhood years.  He was short statured and didn’t quite fit in with the other children.  He was doing poorly in school and had no motivation to continue his studies.  At 16, he fully dropped out of school, taking to the life of the streets.  While on the streets, he was negatively influenced by some older men who offered him protection and brotherhood in exchange for his services.  Tim needed the money and the protection so he began his life as a male prostitute in Boy’s Town (the gay neighbourhood of Toronto).  This gave him a needed income for a time, but soon, Tim found himself in need of even more money.  He wasn’t getting enough to eat and he wanted to find a place to live off of the streets, so Tim began to sell hard drugs.  Tim’s journey into drugs started off the same way many others experience the drug culture.  He started selling the drugs, never intending to become a user himself.  He hated what he was doing, but he felt like he didn’t have a choice.  Eventually, Tim moved from selling to experimenting with them.  There couldn’t be any harm in trying them, just for once.  They would make him forget about the cold, his hunger, the problems he was facing, and his lack of sleep.  Soon, Tim became hooked on the drugs, unable to live a single day without them.  Tim often told himself that he was in a bad state.  He wanted to get help, but was unsure how to.  He didn’t want to go to a clinic for fear that he would be “found out” and would have to spend time in jail.  All of his friends were drug users and he didn’t belong to any church so he didn’t know where to turn.  He vaguely remembered a friend from his childhood who had told him about Christ, but that memory had long since faded.  He didn’t know if he believed in Christ, and if he did, he thought he was much too far gone for that.  Christ had come to save sinners, but he was too deep into his sin.  He felt so hopeless, abandoned, and confused.  Living on the margins of society, people staying far away from him and instructing their children not to go near him because they thought he was a dangerous man.  He felt like his identity of Tim, the young boy who was learning to play the saxophone who played soccer and baseball was gone.  The drugs had claimed his whole identity.  He was no longer Tim the person, he was now only Tim the drug user.  He forgot who he was, he only knew who he was now.  A man who shook and went into violent rages whenever he didn’t get his next high.

One day, fully strung out on life and high, Tim decided to end it all.  His life had no meaning or purpose.  No one cared about him.  No one would miss him.  Tim went into the subway station and began his sprint towards the railroad tracks.  Until something caught his attention.  A dog.  The most beautiful golden retriever he had ever seen.  Something in Tim dramatically changed.  He forgot all about the reason he was at the subway.  He searched the dog for a collar, but found none.  “I’m going to have to find your master”, Tim said.  He left the subway that day with the dog.  He began to look all over the city for the owner.  He put up signs on posts and on storefront windows.  No one ever claimed the dog.  After a month of searching, Tim told the dog, “If we can’t find your owner, then I will be your owner.  I will become your father.  I will be a good dad to you and take care of you.  It will just be you and me, but everything is going to be okay.”

That day, Tim’s life dramatically changed.  He quit his drugs, began intensive therapy, and started to look for work.  He named his dog, Shadow.  Today, he believes that Shadow was directly sent from Jesus Christ in order to save him from death and protect him from himself.  Tim’s life has changed so much, that people no longer see him as Tim the drug user, but as Tim the street pastor and Tim the friend of the homeless.  Tim became employed by a homeless outreach in Toronto, gave his life to Christ, and today walks the streets of downtown Toronto every day helping those who were in a similar position to his.  Tim could have chosen to stay off the streets once and for all once he was healed by Jesus.  But instead, he has chosen a life of being uncomfortable and continually going back to his brokenness in order to reach out to others.

I can’t help but think that it must have been similar in some ways between Tim and the tenth leper.  Both having spent time on the margins of society, ashamed of who they were because of some force that was beyond them that was controlling their life.  Both having cried out to Jesus and almost instantly being healed, and then both coming back to Christ to not only thank Him, but in order to be once again at the place of their brokenness and discomfort.

Who are the people in our lives that we need to reach out to?  Each week, we walk past them oblivious to their needs and desires.  How can we be Tim or the tenth leper to them?  In what ways have our lives been broken and how can we use that brokenness to serve others as Christ?  It could be in the form of volunteering with the incarcerated or at a pregnancy resource center.  It could be inviting a young mother who was recently divorced over for coffee.  It could be walking alongside an alcoholic family member and refusing to give up on them even when everyone else thinks they are a hopeless cause and could never kick the habit.  Even if you’re only a bright spark, kindle.  Kindle the light and the love you’ve received from the heart of the sun.  You might even get fired up.  You might blaze a trail.  Stand up for others.  Seek out injustice.  Protest on behalf of the innocent.  Demonstrate for love.  Demonstrate love itself. 

Our task is seldom easy.  After all, we see through a glass dimly, but we can make a difference for the kingdom of God whether in big ways or small in our day to day lives and interactions.  May God bless us this week as we seek to serve Christ.  Amen.Image

2013-2014 Book Reviews

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Well, now that the summer is out, I am going to start logging the books that I read during the “school year” in here.  Since I’m not a student anymore, it feels a bit strange to call it the school year, but I don’t know how else to describe it :).  Also, I’m looking forward to being able to read books for pleasure that I actually want to read all year for a change 🙂

Book 20: The Hour of Sunlight By: Jen Marlowe and Sami Al-Jundi

Pages: 368

Sami Al-Jundi is a Palestinian man who shares his story as one who was arrested defending his rights, spent years in various prisons where he matured and grew in his political ideology, and later became an activist for an organization encouraging dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian children known as “Seeds of Peace.”  Al Jundi’s is a gripping tale of how youthful idealism can go dangerously wrong and how ignorance can wreck havoc in a society.

 

What I like about this book is that it provides a backdrop, one way of interpreting the crisis in the Middle East, as told in the personal story of one man and his family. It ushers in the daring possibility to courageously hope and persevere. Yet, it does not serve as justification for violent actions against a seemingly “giant” enemy. Rather, a healthy responsibility is taken on behalf of the unfortunate circumstances created and furthered by one side with a genuine request for the other side to accept that same level of responsibility.

 

Gripping, personal, and honest. I give this book 4 stars out of 5.

Book 19: Madame Guyon (Autobiography)

Toted as one of the best loved Spiritual writers of all times, this book is a classic which will inspire you to live out the Christian life regardless of its costs.  It’s moving and has good lessons.  I recommend everyone read some good spiritual classics like this one.

Book 18: Images of Pastoral Care By: Robert Dykstra

An overview taking into consideration the major writings of several well known pastoral counselors and chaplains, a nice collection to any pastor, chaplain, counselor, or student’s library.  Get to know your strengths and weaknesses as a pastoral counselor and get to know the history of how chaplaincy has evolved over time.

Book 17: I Am Troy Davis By: Jen Marlowe and Martina Davis-Correia

A gripping tale of one man’s innocence despite a system deeply pitted against him from the start, join Troy Anthony Davis on his death row experience that lasted over 20 years.  Get to know him as a person, get to know the circumstances surrounding his arrest, and see for yourselves how the death penalty pits two innocent families against each other.  Highly recommended.  For a longer review you can read mine at: http://www.peacenext.org/profiles/blogs/i-am-troy-davis-an-exploratory-book-review and at https://debdebbarak.wordpress.com/2014/03/27/i-am-troy-davis-by-jen-marlowe-a-book-review/

Book 16: Wounded Healer By: Henri Nouwen

This book is quite a bit different from Nouwen’s other books in that it is less reflective and more philosophical/theological.  In this writing, Nouwen seems to take on a character which is closer to C.S. Lewis than his general persona as he explains the problem of loneliness in our generation and how a minister is a lonely person ministering to other lonely people.  I did like it, but I think I would more likely pick up his more reflective books which talk about his personal experiences and about L’Arche.  I found this book a bit heavier and harder to get into than some of the other books he writes.  It’s certainly not a fast read.  It’s short, but if you truly want to digest what he is saying it would probably take some time.

Book 15: Heaven is For Real  By: Todd Burpo

When four year old Colton Burpo faces an emergency appendectomy, he is miraculously brought to heaven and verifies this claim by telling his parents what they were doing in different parts of the hospital.  As the years go on he reveals more and more about what he saw and experienced in heaven articulating Biblical truths in a way that is very unusual for a four year old.  I’m always a bit skeptical of these types of books although I have read several of them.  The interesting thing about this book, though, is that unlike the other books which suggest that the person died and was brought back to life, Colton never died but rather said that God took him in order to comfort him.  I am not sure where I stand theologically with a book such as this, however, it does offer hope and I suppose that is the most important thing.  It’s definitely not heretical, so if someone offers hope and consolation why not allow for it even if I may not see eye to eye theologically with all that is shared.

Book 14: Men are From Mars, Women Are From Venus By: Dr. John Gray

This book discusses the different ways men and women think, speak, and relate to one another.  Although written from a secular viewpoint, it is very clean and hopeful for all couples.  Although focused primarily on couples/married people, this book also provides a helpful outlook in even how we will relate to male/female friends and co-workers.  There are a few things that I have taken from this book that I want to put into practice even though I’m still single. 

Book 13: Men are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti By: Bill and Pam Farrell

This is a book discussing the different ways men and women think and how we can compliment each other in marriage and work hard to make our marriages work.  I appreciated this book because it did teach me a few things about how men think and helped clarify how I feel and think by putting it into actual terms.  I also really liked that it was written from both a male and female perspective and that it is a Christian book.  The parts that I didn’t like as much are the fact that it was very gender stereotypical and that it was geared almost entirely for married people.  I was looking for something more helpful in day to day life or dating, but this book didn’t really provide that.  On the other hand, I’m sure that reading it while still single will probably provide some valuable insights down the road and may save me from a few arguments. 

Book 12: Becoming By: Miriam Martin

This is a devotional book about trusting God and how God provides for us.  It’s full of short personal stories, Scriptural insights and reflection questions. 

Book 11: Hinds Feet On High Places By: Hannah Hurnard

This is one book that I never get tired of reading.  I’ve read it countless times, but it still remains one of my all time favourites.  It’s a beautiful allegory about how God transforms our lives and reminds us of His infinite love for us.  If you haven’t read it yet, you should 🙂 

Book 10: 5 People You Meet In Heaven By: Mitch Albom

For many years I have been a fan of Albom’s, especially his book Tuesday’s With Morrie.  In this short novel, Albom shares a gripping tale of what heaven is like.  It is inspirational and filled with good lessons, but it is fiction.  I found it a thrilling read that was hard to put down.  One light-hearted and heavy at the same time.  One that I wouldn’t over think, but also that has deep lessons to think about.  I would rate it 3 stars out of 5.

Book 9: The Ragamuffin Gospel – The Visual Edition  By: Brennan Manning

I read this book several summers ago when our book challenge was just starting up.  I’m home for the holidays now so I decided to pick it up and re-read it.  I was struck once again by Manning’s uncanny ability to write, his descriptions, and the visual appeal the book had.  It was a very simple message of grace, but also a challenge for social justice and love.  I would rate it 4 stars out of 5. 

Book 8: Befriending Life – Encounters with Henri Nouwen (Edited By: Beth Porter)

This book recounts several stories – some lighthearted and funny, some serious, some profound, about people at L’Arche Daybreak (and a few others) who spent time with Henri Nouwen as a friend, Spiritual director, and fellow assistant.  Stories are written both by other assistants, students of Henri, and people with developmental disabilities.  I appreciated this book because it gave me new insights on some of the core members and assistants I work with, however even though it did talk about Henri’s flaws, in many ways it seemed to be almost overbearing.  Henri was a very special person, however, he was only a person.  I appreciate what this book was trying to do, but in some ways it left questions about how people actually interacted with him when he was alive because it’s so easy to say such things about a person you hardly even know once they have passed away. 

Book 7: Why Does God Allow Suffering? (M.D. Examines) By: Dr. Brad Burke

This book was similar to Yancey’s – it was written primarily from a medical viewpoint (rather than emotional crises, etc).  Dr. Burke gives some solid evidence for why we should still maintain faith even when our world is shattered and he also writes with compassion and with a certain realness.  This book is one in a series so that made it a bit hard to follow at the end when he drew on other books he had written which I haven’t read yet, but all in all, it was a fast, easy read with crisp and clear language on each page.   

Book 6: Where’s God When It Hurts?  By: Philip Yancey

This book has been on my reading list for quite some time.  It’s a story about the problem of pain from a physical/biological point of view.  It is brilliantly written and addresses some of the major questions that people ask about suffering and why an all powerful God would allow disease and disaster.  It is uplifting,and  inspirational, but also realistic and down to earth.  A quick read in terms of length, but not without much depth and thought provoking questions/discussions. 

Book 5: Son of Hamas By: Mosab Hassan Yousef

Son of Hamas is a gripping tale about an extremist Islamic group and a young man who risks everything he has to come to Christ and expose the secrets of Hamas.  Yousef is a brilliant writer, courageous thinker, and also a very humble man who has truly put Christ first in his life regardless of what it has cost him.  While I may not agree with his theological angle on everything, the insider story of Hamas is terrifying, suspenseful, and written very honestly.  Yousef leaves no stone unturned in his autobiographical journey and challenges readers in the Western church to truly reach out to the Muslim people for Christ without fear of offense.  Highly recommended.

Book 4: Sacred Pauses: Spiritual Practices for Personal Renewal By: April Yamasaki

This has been a book that I have been reading for quite some time, but that I only got around to reading recently.  It’s written by one of the Mennonerds that I blog with, April Yamasaki.  It’s a very easy and simple read about our Spiritual life.  In this book Yamasaki helps us to recognize ways that we can carve out time in our Spiritual lives for God and gives simple suggestions for things we can implement into devotional times.  Yamasaki suggests that we need spaces in our lives to take a rest, an intentional pause, whether that is taking a nap, going for a walk, or meeting with a Spiritual Friend.  She also offers many helpful questions, journal prompts, and resources for further exploration into the Word.

Book 3: Finding Our Sacred Center By: Henri Nouwen

This is a very short book about Nouwen’s pilgrimage to France.  It talks about how he encounters God, himself – his own fears and dreams, and the Bible while drawing from his Catholic roots.  It’s written more as a reflective journal than as Theology, but he can’t avoid the fact that he’s a Theologian at heart.

Book 2: Home Tonight By: Henri Nouwen

This is a sequel to Nouwen’s first book on the Prodigal Son written primarily about Rembrandt’s painting which I have already reviewed (back in August).  This book does repeat some of the material from the last one, but it also is much richer in exegesis and shares more personal stories . Nouwen also includes a list of Spiritual disciplines at the end of each chapter to help bring us more in touch with the Scriptural text.

Book 1: The Reason I Jump By: Naoki Higashida

This is a very short and fast paced read written from the perspective of a young teenage boy who has autism.  In this book Higashida answers questions such as “Why do you run away?” and “Why do you flap your hands?”.  It gives some good perspectives into the life of someone with autism which is helpful for me because I (unfortunately) don’t know that much about autism and I work in a field where it would be important to know more…

Top 5 Blog Posts for the Month of September

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After not finding the time to post the top posts for August, I am back into the swing of things now and wish to share with you some of the amazing work that is coming from the Mennonerds that I write with.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Mennonerds and only read my blog, I’d really like to encourage you to check out with other like-minded Anabaptist/Mennonites are writing and thinking about these days at http://mennonerds.com/.

Here are 5 of the posts that caught my attention this month:

1)  The Good and Bad of a JW Tract – Ryan Robinson (The Emerging Anabaptist)

http://emerginganabaptist.com/the-good-and-bad-of-a-jw-tract/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-good-and-bad-of-a-jw-tract

Whether you’re the kind of person who runs away from JWs, engages them in a friendly debate just for the fun of it (using what you learned in seminary to your benefit), or you are the type of person who stands on street corners handing out tracts yourself, I think you’ll find this an interesting read.  Why is it that many evangelicals focus on the negatives, hmm?

2)      I’m Good.  No, Really – Steve Kimes (The Radical Reformer)

http://stevesbasics.blogspot.ca/2013/09/im-good-no-really.html

Complete with many media and pop culture references, Steve makes a case for what it truly means to be good and to love others…even when they are considered strange by us.  A funny and fast paced read.  I think you’ll love it!

3)     Freezer Staple: Peanut Butter Cookies (Finding Harmony Recipe of the Week) – Melodie M. Davis (Finding Harmony)

http://findingharmonyblog.com/2013/09/27/freezer-staple-peanut-butter-cookies-finding-harmony-recipe-of-the-week/

Sometimes we Mennonerds can get so caught up in the Theological that those of you who only have 5 minutes and are just passing through our website can wonder to yourself, do you actually have anything practical on here?  Well, what could possibly be more practical than making some yummy cookies?  It’s nice to know that even among the nerdiest of the Mennonites we do still have some friendly Grandmas or Omas who are willing to lend a hand and make you a lovely treat.  By the way, you all should check out one of Melodie’s books “Whatever Happened to Dinner”.  It has saved me more than one impending L’Arche kitchen disaster and everyone in my house loves the recipes she has to offer in there.  Truthfully, I took the book out of my church’s library because I was looking for some ways to make some healthy L’Arche food, but soon discovered it was so much more than that.  BAM! 

4)   Keep Dating While You’re Planning Your Wedding – Harry Jarrett (Harryjarrett.net)

http://harryjarrett.net/keep-dating-planning-wedding/

Really, I think that in this piece Harry gives some very important and practical advice for both those who are engaged (and/or dating) as well as those who are not dating right now but may very well be dating in the future.  It’s so important to keep loving your boyfriend/girlfriend before the wedding night and making time to do special activities with them.  To keep learning about them in different ways.  Highly recommended for all the couples in my life. 

5)   The Once and Future Pastor(s) – Brian R. Gumm (Restorative Theology)

http://restorativetheology.blogspot.ca/2013/09/the-once-and-future-pastors.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+RestorativeTheology+%28Restorative+Theology%29

Brian gives us some important background information on what being a pastor is to him and the pastors who have helped him in his own life and ministry.  PLUS he mentions Dr. Sara Wenger-Shenk, President of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, so how can we go wrong with this piece?