Category Archives: Religion

I Want To See

When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

Mark 10:47 and 51  

My friend Esther sorts and packs recycled eyeglasses once a week. She volunteers for the Lions Club, a service organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the blind and visually impaired. Distributing some twenty million pairs of glasses annually to those who otherwise wouldn’t have access to them is only one part of the club’s global vision initiative.

Lion’s Club members know developing nations are disproportionately affected by eye problems for a variety of reasons including environmental ones. Tibet has one of the highest rates of cataracts because of soot and pathogens from the dusty environment and overexposure to UV rays.

Doctor checking children for trachoma in rural Ghana – Photo from FHI 360 a non-profit human development organization

Trachoma another eye disease rampant in developing countries could be eliminated by addressing environmental concerns like the inaccessibility of clean water and lack of proper sanitation facilities. The World Health Organization believes that with support and intervention 80% of the world’s vision problems would be avoidable.

The Healing of a Blind Man by Duccio di Buoninsegna- 1308

The Bible passages I quoted at the beginning of this post are from a story about a blind man named Bartimaeus.  Bartimaeus knows Jesus is nearby and calls out to him for help. Bartimaeus makes me think about the people around the world calling out for help with their vision difficulties.  Jesus restored sight to Bartimaeus. Our world has the resources to prevent blindness and improve the quality of life for almost all of the visually challenged in the human family.  

There are more than a hundred charitable organizations focused on hearing and answering the voices of those who are saying just as Bartimaeus did, “I want to see again”.  How can we help?

Read about an amazing project my cousin Dr. Stephen Fransen established in Nicaragua to help people whose sight has been compromised by retinal diseases

Read about a modern-day miracle worker who is doing the same thing Jesus did in Nicholas Kristoff’s column in the New York Times

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Filed under Health, Religion

Gifts From the Earth

And God brought us to this place,
gave us this land flowing with milk and honey.
So here I am. I’m offering some of what I’ve grown on this ground you gave me, O God.  Deuteronomy 26: 9-10

During the year we taught on the Hopi First Nation in Arizona a colleague asked us to join her family at dawn for the baby naming ceremony of her grandchild. Later we were invited into her home for breakfast. The meal was spread out on a large cloth on the floor so as we sat around it we would be close to the earth.  Before we ate the grandmother took a wooden bowl and filled it with small bits of food from the many different dishes she’d prepared.  The bowl was placed on the ground just outside the door of the house as a way to recognize the gifts received from the creator and the earth.

Corn grown by Manny Talasmaynewa near the Hopi village of Moenkopi. Photo by Elizabeth Hoover

In Deuteronomy 26:9-10 the children of Israel also offer a gift of food from the earth as a way to thank the creator.  The land flowing with milk and honey described in Deuteronomy 26:9 presents a stark contrast to the Hopi Nation where a scarcity of rain requires special centuries-old farming methods, careful preservation and care of the soil, and plenty of hard work and faith in order to harvest crops like corn, beans, squash and melons.

This weekend our American neighbours celebrated Thanksgiving. The holiday provides another opportunity to reflect on the fact that our food is a gift from the earth and from the creator. We are responsible to care for, preserve, and use the earth in the best possible way so the whole human family can share in creation’s bounty both now and in the future.

Other posts………

He Hasn’t Lost His Green Thumb

A Thankful Weekend

They Don’t Grow Tomatoes Like They Used To

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Filed under Holidays, Religion

The Color Purple- God in Every Living Thing

God not some gloomy old man like the pictures you’ve seen of him.
God, not a man at all.
God is inside you and everyone else
That was or ever will be.
We come into this world with God.
But only them who look inside find it.
God is the flowers and everything else
That was or ever will be.
And when you feel the truth so real,
And when you love the way you feel, you’ve found it
Just as sure as moonlight bless the night.
Like a blade of corn,
Like a honeybee,
Like a waterfall,
All a part of me.
Like the color purple,
Where does it come from?
Open up your eyes,
Look what God has done.

We saw the musical The Color Purple at the Manitoba Theatre Centre on Wednesday night.  The signature song The Color Purple brought tears to my eyes and as soon as I got home I looked up the words and purchased the music. Then I scrolled through photos I’d taken to find the color purple in nature. 

I keep thinking what a different world it would be if we all believed as the song says that God is in us, in other human beings and in every living thing. 

Other posts………

Two Poets on Prayer

Go To The Park

Living Beings Just Like Us?

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Filed under Religion, Theatre

Creation Care and the Bible

This past week a set of reflections I wrote connecting environmental stewardship with seven different passages from the Bible was featured in the Menno Media publication Rejoice.

I used a description of a sculpture from the Winnipeg Art Gallery collection to reflect on how a previous generation handled an environmental disaster during the Dust Bowl. I linked it to the story of Elijah during a drought in his country. 

I talked about how my high school students and I learned some valuable lessons about the importance of caring for the environment when we visited the country of Borneo together. I compared it to the way Timothy learned valuable lessons from his mother and grandmother to get him through tough times. 

I recalled a Consumption Sabbath event I had attended in Winnipeg a number of years ago and remarked how it reminded me of a parable that Jesus told about two housebuilders and the admonition Jesus included to not only hear advice but to act on it. 

I described how a prayer ritual at a baby naming ceremony on the Hopi First Nation made me rethink our stewardship of the earth. I connected that with a story in Deuteronomy about people bringing their produce as offerings or gifts to the Creator. 

A reflection about the environmental causes of vision loss was linked to the story of blind Bartimaeus.  

I used a passage from a Psalm to illustrate the importance of preserving the songbird population which is in dangerous decline.

I rounded out the week’s writings by listing all the positive things I see being done right here in Winnipeg to respect creation. That was inspired by the passage in Philippians 4 that encourages us to look for things to praise. 

If you are interested in ordering the entire book which features Scripture passages and reflections on the theme of God’s Earth for each day in September, October and November, you can do so here.

Writing and researching the series reinforced my belief that it is imperative for people of faith around the world to work together to help address the current climate crisis. 

Other posts………

Connecting with Rejoice

A Week in Rejoice

 

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Filed under Religion, Writing

Five Wives

I just finished reading Five Wives by Winnipeg author Joan Thomas. I loved her book Curiosity and this new novel is equally riveting. Like Curiosity which is a mixture of fact and fiction Five Wives is based on the true story of five American missionaries killed by the Waorani people of Ecuador in 1956. The young men were camped on a beach near a Waorani village hoping to make contact with the isolated tribe and convert them to Christianity. Their first interaction was friendly, the second disastrous.

Each of the missionaries killed was married and Thomas’ book profiles the five women left behind when the men died. We are also given a deeply personal look into the daily lives of some of the missionary couples and their families prior to the killings.

Photo page from the January 30, 1956 issue of Life Magazine

Life magazine sent a photographer to Ecuador who was there when the missionaries’ bodies were found. He took haunting portraits of the five young widows and their seven children. That magazine story helped turn the five men who died into international heroes and martyrs especially in evangelical Christian circles.

Reading Joan Thomas’ book makes you realize yet again how dangerous and damaging it is to believe your religious beliefs are so superior to the beliefs of others, that you are willing to die to try to convince someone else to follow your particular spiritual path.

Photos of the five young men who died from a blog post on the Mission Aviation Fellowship website January 8, 2016

The young men who died trying to bring salvation to the Waorani were pilots and law students, philosophy graduates and linguists. One had studied architecture. And they were fathers and marriage partners. What might they have contributed to the world had they lived?

The five men’s deaths brought such notoriety to the Waorani people that it wasn’t long before lasting contact was established with them. We learn from Joan Thomas’ book that as a result of greater contact with the outside world many Waorani died because they were exposed to diseases they were not immune to. Contact eventually led to the Waorani losing most of their traditional lands to developers. Oil companies built roads running right through Waorani villages.

While the missionaries wanted to bring a “better” life to the Waorani they may actually have helped make things worse for them in many ways.

The women and children left behind after their husbands died

The Toronto Globe and Mail reviewer gave Five Wives a glowing recommendation. I would wholeheartedly agree with him. I spent two days doing virtually nothing else but reading Thomas’ beautifully written and intriguing novel.

What was most interesting to me were some of the comments by online readers of the Globe and Mail review. One said they wouldn’t even bother to read the book because it questioned the work of missionaries who in the commentators’ opinion “had done so much good for so many people.” Another said they wouldn’t read the book either because it was clear from the review it painted Christians in a bad light. Quite to the contrary one of the things that drew me to Five Wives was the sympathy Joan Thomas has for her characters. Although I was disappointed to not have been able to attend the launch of Five Wives, someone told me later that when author David Bergen was interviewing Joan about her book he asked her if she hadn’t been too easy on her characters. 

Her book does, however, make it clear there are troubling things to consider about the whole idea of missions.
Joan explains in a Winnipeg Free Press interview. “You see, for example, the evangelical church as a bloc supporting Donald Trump, and all these heinous attitudes towards those coming to the southern border. Yet at the same time, they’re sending missionaries to South America. I really wanted to investigate some of the attitudes that let people live with this kind of doublethink.”

Five Wives by Joan Thomas is one of the nominees for the Governor General’s Literary award to be presented on October 29.

Joan Thomas’ book makes people of faith think deeply about many assumptions they may have made in the past. It raises a whole host of interesting and thought-provoking questions. And besides all that it tells a fascinating and absorbing story!

Other posts……….

Is It Wrong To Die For Your Faith?

Questions After Watching The Movie Silence

Common Threads- Aboriginal Spirituality

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Beginning With Respect

Last Sunday I gave a talk in a church and used the traditional indigenous teachings as a guide for approaching new beginnings. The first teaching I looked at was respect.  Respecting others and respecting ourselves makes new beginnings easier to navigate. 

In this 1796 painting, The Water of Life Discourse by Maria Anna Angelika Kauffmann Jesus talks respectfully with a Samaritan woman who is leading a rather unorthodox lifestyle.

I talked about how Jesus always approached the people he met with respect. He met them where they were in their lives whether they were dealing with a medical problem, had a demeaning or demonized profession, were facing mental health challenges, were working too hard or were in a bad place financially. He listened to them. He was non-judgemental, and he offered people hope for a new beginning in their lives.

Whither Thou Goest a painting of Ruth and Naomi by Sandra Freckleton Gagon

I also talked about the Old Testament character Ruth who showed such enormous respect for her mother-in-law Naomi as the two of them traveled to Bethlehem to make a new beginning in their lives. Even after Ruth found a new husband and began her life again she continued to treat Naomi with respect.

My grade one class in our school on the Hopi Nation

I gave the personal example of starting a new teaching year and how important it was to respect where my students came from. I had to be respectful and understanding of my students’ current home and family situation, and where they were at right at that point in their learning journey, not where timelines and checklists said they should be. 

Christ in the Wilderness by Moretto da Brescia (Alessandro Bonvicino) 1515-1520 in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum

Respecting yourself during a new beginning is also important. Jesus did that. When the crowds got too much for him he would withdraw to secluded spots on boats out on the water, in gardens, in desert places to take time to pray and get away from all the demands being made on his time and attention.

On a junk boat in Hong Kong with colleagues taking time for fun and relaxation away from our busy and demanding professional lives

I talked about how when I first moved to Hong Kong I got really sick.  The demands on teachers at our international school were extremely high and I was teaching all-new curriculum and courses. I was adjusting to being far away from my children and parents, eating new kinds of foods, living in a very small space with my husband and using new modes of transportation. I was also struggling to handle the extreme heat and humidity.  I had to learn to treat myself with respect -to care for my mental and physical health, balance work and relaxation and give myself grace and time to adjust- so that a new beginning in a new place could become a positive experience.

Respect for others and respect for oneself are very important as we make new beginnings in our lives. 

Other posts………

Beginnings

A Time of New Beginnings

A Life That Adds Up to Something

 

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Filed under Reflections, Religion

Statistics and Bible Verses

I sometimes think statistics have become the modern-day equivalent of Bible verses.

Both statistics and Bible verses are handy for proving almost any point. There are people who have a barrage of Scripture passages on the tip of their tongues ready to provide substantiation of any viewpoint. Quotations from the Bible have been used to defend all kinds of crazy things including……..the earth is flat, human beings never walked on the moon, women should be silent and education is bad. I read a story in the New York Times about an American pastor using Scripture to justify his advice to administer corporal punishment to babies. 

Statistics are often used like Bible verses. Pick a cause or an idea and you will probably be able to find a statistic to back up your opinion of it. It can be unsettling for people of faith when Biblical quotations are used to defend radically different ideas. Statistics can be equally unsettling.  

Take marriage for example. A Canadian statistical study on marriage looked at what factors lead to divorce and which indicators give couples a better chance to have a lasting relationship. Looking at them I can’t figure out whether my marriage has a good chance or not. 

dave marylou

Dave and I when we had just started dating and I visited his family in Leamington

My husband and I did not live together before we were married. This is in our favor since 35% of Canadian couples who cohabitate before marriage get divorced compared to only 19% of those who don’t live together. 

wedding 1973I got married at the tender age of 19.  My husband was 20. According to statistics, this makes it three times more likely we will end up in a divorce court compared to if we had waited until we were over 30 to marry. 

We attend church regularly and this is a statistic in our favor since it improves a couple’s chances of staying married. 

Another statistic would suggest shaky ground for my marriage. Women who work outside the home, as I have always done, have a higher rate of divorce. 

So which statistics should I take seriously, the ones that say my marriage has a good chance of surviving or others that say it doesn’t?  

on the la ceiba golf course with dave

Dave and I on the La Ceiba Golf Course in Merida Mexico last winter

I won’t be using Scripture either to predict the success of my marriage. “Those who marry will face many troubles,” says Saint Paul in the seventh chapter of 1 Corinthians.

“It is not good for people to live alone”, says the narrator in the second chapter of Genesis. 

Other posts……….

Is Marriage a Good Thing For Women?

Celebrating our Marriage History in a Historic Building

Bucket List For Marriage

Chinese Wisdom on Marriage

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Filed under Family, Religion