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Aylmer, Ontario

I went to seminary in Toronto, Ontario, Canada’s largest city. The seminary boasted some of the top Christian scholars in Canada and was located in the upscale suburban neighbourhood of North York.  […]

8 Advantages of a Mobile Mindset

I’ve always envied those who’ve lived in the same area their whole life. Their family is near by; their friends know all their childhood secrets and family idiosyncrasies; their future appears more stable; and they have a whole community in an emergency. However, I know that I would not be the person I am today if I hadn’t moved. I can’t even begin to imagine how my perspective on life would be different. While neither a mobile or stable perspective is better than the other, here are eight reasons I’m grateful I’ve moved: #1 Loose Hold
Over the years people have asked me “Do you like this area better than this area?” My standard response is that it is the people who make the place. Every area has its advantages and disadvantages: The Shore has mystical fog and friends who refuse to let me stagnate. The Shenandoah Valley had changing leaves and deeply respected mentors. Florida had the Spanish moss and friends my age.
Moving forces me to enjoy my current situation, while accepting that it’d be okay if I had to leave at some point. It creates a homesickness for heavenly perfection, and it creates strong friendships which have to survive the test of distance.
#2 Newcomer Sensitivity
Because I’ve been the newcomer before, I tend to notice new people quicker than others. I have a better sense of how to help them fit in and what will be uncomfortable for them. #3 Unique Experiences
I’ve lived on the Shore for 6 years, but have never gone to the Pony Swim or up to Wallops to watch a rocket takeoff. Sometimes I become immune to the joys around me. They become mundane. But when I am new to an area, I take advantage of all the new and different opportunities. In the course of life I’ve had experiences that while considered ordinary in some localities are unique in others; I;ve been to quilting circles, oyster roasts, and concerts. I’ve had both a fox in my backyard and a drug ring next door. Similarly, my friends have been varied since I haven’t kept the same ones from elementary school --missionary kids, immigrants, homeschoolers, public school teachers, Mennonite, Baptist, Pentecostal, liberal, and conservative.
#4 Broader Worldview
I don’t mean to be arrogant in stating that those who live in the same area their whole life aren’t aware of what else is going on in the world. That’s not true. Yet, I’m grateful for the new people and different experiences I’ve been given. For example, having a Haitian college friend has dramatically affected the way I interact with my Haitian students and helped me better understand their educational background and cultural values.
Once, when returning to an area I used to live in, I found that a local conflict seemed far less important since I had since been exposed to bigger issues. I was much more willing to focus on our commonalities than before. #5 God-Dependency
My friends who’ve lived in the same place for a long period of time know who to ask about a car question, who everyone borrows tablecloths from for their wedding, and who doesn’t mind babysitting for them. They have no trouble raising support for a mission trip since they have know people of all ages. Building those connections is usually a slow process for newcomers like myself who tend to only be introduced to one group at a time (e.g. co-workers or young adults).
Guess what that means?
I get to ask God for help a whole lot more! The answer isn’t always just a phone call away.
#6 Courage
Life is more comfortable when I’m settled. The longer I am in a area the less I will want to change, the more complacent I am. Goals like a master’s degree seem unimportant compared to my current busy schedule. Yet, my mobile perspective has taught me to be less afraid of change and new possibilities. While I don’t feel as courageous and creative as Henri Nouwen’s description, I still like the way he puts it: “I am constantly struck by the fact that those who are most detached from life, those who have learned through living that there is nothing and nobody to cling to, are the really creative people. They are free to move constantly away from the familiar, safe places and can keep moving forward to new unexplored areas of life.” (52)
#7 Fresh Identity Every place I’ve lived, people view me differently. With two siblings in web development occupations and two other siblings who know far more about technology than I do, I didn’t think of myself as very tech-savvy until my current job where I’ve been one of the main proponents for 1:1 student devices.
Again, in comparison with my family, I never thought of myself as athletic, preferring to read inside than shoot hoops with my brother or walk with my mom. Yet, my college friends had a different perspective of me, voting me as athletic director of my intramural group and grudgingly attending the school sports games that I dragged them to.
I’ve appreciated developing new hobbies and interests, and quite frankly, not being as limited by others’ expectations or family comparisons. #8 Gratefulness In my experience, the saying "Distance makes the heart grow fonder" is completely true. I value my family, my heritage and my friends more because I've had to live without them at times.
If you’ve moved, do any of these descriptions apply to you? Would you add any? Do you tend to view moving as positive or negative?
Works Cited:
Nouwen, Henri J. M. A Letter of Consolation. New York: Harper & Row, 1982. Print.

Friday Fruit (06/23/17)

On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read other perspectives, and for me to give props to the many voices leading the way...Weekly Round...

DAMN. and the Crucified Christ

Image result for Kendrick Lamar's new album, DAMNThis week, Rev. Greg Henneman returns to BTSF, partnering with his son, Noah, as they review Kendrick Lamar's new album, DAMN.
So I was takin' a walk the other day, and I seen a woman—a blind woman—pacin' up and down the sidewalk. She seemed to be a bit frustrated, as if she had dropped somethin' and havin' a hard time findin' it. So after watchin' her struggle for a while, I decide to go over and lend a helping hand, you know? "Hello, ma'am, can I be of any assistance? It seems to me that you have lost something. I would like to help you find it." She replied: "Oh yes, you have lost something. You've lost... your life." [sound of a gunshot]
This is the story of Good Friday. Christians remember Good Friday as the day that Jesus was executed. Fully divine and fully human, Jesus entered human history amongst its struggle and sought to lend a helping hand by modeling a new way to live centered around love of neighbor. Jesus offered assistance. For this, Jesus was killed. On Good Friday, 2017, these words introduced the release of Kendrick Lamar’s newest album, DAMN. Lamar’s normally aggressive and quick words are countered with softness as the song BLOOD. serves as the album’s preface. At the end of this metaphor, the man offering assistance is killed. Related imageThroughout this album, Kendrick aligns himself with the Crucified Christ. In the song, DNA, Kendrick is both “Yeshua’s new weapon” and seen as “an abomination”. His very DNA places him amongst a minority culture, thus making him a threat, described by the soundbite voice of Geraldo Rivera as being a part of hip hop music which has done “more damage to young African Americans than racism in recent years.”  Ironically, the song Rivera criticized, Alright, is one in which Kendrick offers hope and encouragement, that against the struggles of life he repeats “we gonna be alright.” “Alright” has become an anthem of the Black Lives Matter movement. Yet, despite the song’s claim of assurance, Black DNA makes him a threat to dominant American culture, just as Jesus’ words of inclusion threatened the political and religious powers of the Roman Empire. Within popular music, there may not be a more powerful voice in 2017 than Lamar. When Beyoncé had to cancel her Coachella music festival appearance, it was Kendrick that replaced her with a lauded performance. A recent survey of music reviews came to the conclusion that Kendrick is the highest rated performer of the 21st Century. Despite all of the critical and commercial success, Kendrick does not exalt himself in praise, but places himself amongst struggle. He does not see himself as exalted, but views himself from his Compton roots. He aligns himself more with the Crucified Christ than Glorified God. He wonders if success will last and asks in the song FEAR., “All this money, is God playin' a joke on me? Is it for the moment, and will he see me as Job?” Image result for kendrick lamarJust as Jesus found disciples asleep in the garden and found himself abandoned on the cross, Kendrick’s repeated cry echoes across multiple songs on the album “aint nobody praying for me.” But while Kendrick often feels trapped within his Compton roots and culturally alienated, he finds unity with God. The song GOD. unites God’s and Kendrick’s shared perspectives. The song begins with God saying, “this what God feel like.” Kendrick responds that “ever since a young man” God has been watching over him for his whole life. After describing the behaviors Kendrick used to and is still doing Kendrick says “don’t judge me”. and God responds “who are you talking to, do you know who you are talking to”. And then he says all of the things that God says like “everything I touch is a gold mine.” The song finishes with both God’s and Kendrick’s perspective talking with each other. Kendrick’s struggle, unified with that of the Crucified Christ, is powerful, but is not a lone voice. Image result for Chance the RapperThe most noteworthy winner at this year’s Grammy’s was Chance the Rapper who despite being a self-published artist without a record label won best new artist, best rap album, and best rap performance. Chance’s lyrics mix unashamed praise for God with the reality of his experience growing up in Chicago. In the midst of singing about praises and blessings, Chance makes the same connection as Kendrick between contemporary struggle and the Crucified Christ with the statement, “Jesus black life ain’t matter.” The latest album by Logic, “Everybody” is also filled with theological questions. The album includes an exchange with the voice of Neil deGrasse Tyson as the voice of God in which the meaning of life is explored. But as noted in Kendrick Lamar and Change the Rapper, these are not mere philosophical wonderings, but connect to modern life. In the song “Confess” Logic asks: “Dear God, I just wanna know why, Why do you put us here? Why do you put us below? Why do you put us subservient?” Across the spectrum of modern rap music, questions of where God can be found are being asked. Most often, God is found amongst the struggle. God’s voice is speaking from the streets. The prophetic voice is not only coming from the pulpit, but from the microphone.

Interview: Heather Lehman, Light Magazine Editor

Heather and I have been friends since we were teenagers​; we've played instruments together, shared book suggestions, road tripped to Ohio, sewed purses (mine was a flop), and studied 1 Corinthians at a local coffee shop. Heather's unashamed desire to follow God as well as her creative and independent spirit have inspired me over the years. Thankfully, even though our lives have gone different directions, we've kept in contact through the Light Magazine. Recently, I got a chance to ask her some questions about her part in Light Magazine. What first gave you the idea for Light Magazine?
Digging back through the archives as far as I can, I find a single, folded piece of white copy paper decorated with markers. “Girls for God” is scrawled across the top. I may have been nine years old when I wrote this, and whatever spurred me has long since disappeared from my memory. Later I created farm “newspapers” on an old typewriter I found in the shed. I wrote a family newsletter. I created several issues of a sundry of girls’ publications. As a teenager, I decided to see if one of my magazines could become real. Ten years later, I guess I can say it did. What do you look back at from the first issues and shudder at?
While the content from those first issues isn’t very deep or insightful, it makes me smile. It’s very personal and real. The graphic design, on the other hand, is a nightmare. Why did you choose light as a symbol for the magazine?
I can’t really say that I intentionally choose this symbol. It sort of evolved with time. My cousin, who fielded a long list of potential magazine names, told me she liked the name Life in the Light. I used this name for seven years before streamlining the name to simply Light. Now I realize God guided our seemingly random name choice.
Light is rich with symbolism that fits well with the mission of Light Magazine to bring clarity to difficult topics, to spread joy wherever we go, to be daughters of purity and integrity, and to share the Gospel with our lives and words. Light Magazine is about living in the light of truth and living as light in the world.
Years ago, you told me that you do a lot less writing than you thought you would for the magazine. What do you mainly do? Do you wish you had a better balance? How did you develop your photography and design skills? Writing is my first love when it comes to creative pursuits. Art, music, photography, sewing, graphic design, and baking are nice, but writing won my heart first. Still, it’s true that I don’t do as much writing for Light as you might expect. My articles get cut first if space runs tight, and even if they stay in, that’s only four articles a year. Meanwhile, I have one hundred and twenty-eight pages to layout and design and several dozen articles to edit. The ratio, while not my preference, is needed. Plus, though I love writing more, graphic design comes much easier than writing during seasons of personal dryness.
I’ve learned to appreciate graphic design as a form of communication in its own right and do genuinely enjoy it. Unlike writing, which I’ve studied formally, I’ve learned design entirely through trial and error, which has only recently been supplemented by a few classes through Most of the photography is delegated to the staff photographers or done by freelancers. Did editing Light Magazine help prepare you for your current job? Absolutely. The magazine gave me practice doing graphic design, editing other people’s writing, and communicating extensively through email. I use these skills all the time in my work as publications editor for DestiNations International (the mission agency of the Biblical Mennonite Alliance). Only recently did I realize that all your DIY type activities in Light Magazine had a spiritual focus. Why? With the advent of Pinterest, most of us don’t have any trouble finding projects to do. The greater challenge is finding ways to bring the fragments of our lives into a cohesive spiritual walk with God. Light can’t really compete with all the tutorials and activities available to us, but what we do try to offer is something different: a holistic approach to life that doesn’t separate fun crafts from spiritual reality. Your family lived in Tanzania for 3 months when you were growing up. Later you spent some time in New York City. How do those places affect the type of material and perspective that you bring to the magazine? How have you provided a global focus for Light Magazine? I turned fourteen in Tanzania and have vivid memories of that birthday. My dad took me out for lunch, and I ordered a chapati and tea while the geckos ran around in the thatched umbrella over our outdoor table. Those months we spent in East Africa challenged me to see beyond my own experiences and into the lives of others. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of visiting several other countries and working with people from many ethnicities in New York City.
Heather Lehman (Istanbul, Turkey)
These experiences have helped me resist the status quo of the western world. I have no qualms about being different and standing against the tide. For Light this means I want to share insights from around the globe to help others gain a broader perspective, and I want all of us to live with the understanding that sharing the Gospel is my job -- not just the job for a professional missionary. There’s nothing more encouraging than hearing how God worked in someone else’s life. Two of Light Magazine's features focus on this --the Good News Record and Jasmine’s interviews. Tell us a little bit about these two features. Sure. The "Good News-Record" is the oldest regular column in Light Magazine and consists of two pages in the very center of every issue that are dedicated to sharing true stories of God’s faithfulness or provision. Jasmine Martin also writes a regular column called "Life on Purpose". Based on interviews, she shares the life stories of others with us.
I’m a huge fan of true stories and believe that recounting stories of God’s faithfulness brings Him glory and fuels our faith. While we occasionally share stories from the past, most of the stories in these features are current so we are reminded that God is at work in our day and our generation.
Do retreats and magazines go together? Tell us about the Light Retreat. Would you ever do one again? I’m meeting with a friend this Saturday to discuss possibilities! ☺
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