A screen fast, you say?
The Lenten discipline we are encouraged to embrace this week is a 'screen' fast - to disengage from our phones, tablets, computers, etc. for at least one day this week. Or, alternatively, to be present in the moment, in the place where you are.
For many modern workers, our employment demands time in front of a screen. One of my jobs at Mennonite Church Canada's is managing its many social media feeds. We have 5 critical and several more less critical social media channels to manage. A screen fast seems impossible. News and prayer requests flow 24/7. For example, last night (March 27) I learned that Michael J. Sharp, a kidnapped UN worker and former MCC worker in Congo, and his colleague, have likely been killed. Urgent prayer support is needed by their families, friends, work and social networks.
It seems counterintuitive, but my response to the challenge of a screen fast is actually to embrace the screen more. I have had a life-long love affair with photography. More recently I have taken a stab at creating little snippets of poetry to accompany the scenes I capture. This is my way of exercising mindfulness - stopping for fleeting moments in between the seconds that tick off our lives.
I am especially enamoured of the prairie sky. It doesn't take long to look up and notice where the sun is, where the clouds are (or are not), how the light plays on snow or leaf or creek, or how it casts a long shadow. I capture these twinklings on my phone camera. Later, I'll look at these scenes and think about what has happened that day or week. Sometimes my reflection will incorporate an idea from a book, poem, or article I have read. I'll marry the image with some words or thoughts inspired by that God moment. Sharing these little wedding celebrations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter is an encouragement to others to lift up their eyes and look around. I don't share these to seek compliments, but rather as an act of worship that helps lift up the spirits of those with whom I am virtually connected.
Our screens are often negatively labelled as distractions. But taking my eyes off the screen and looking around, looking up, pausing for just a moment to reflect on scripture as written in nature is a pleasant and rewarding distraction. For me, these mindfulness moments are not reserved only for Lent, but are a year-round discipline.
I encourage you to get distracted by God's book of created life that manifests all around us, every day, every second - and even in between the seconds. And if your screen helps you do that, so be it.
I see what I do not understand: dancing ripples in sunlight; arching heavens above; aspens anchoring shorelines. Things too wonderful for me to know. I know of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see you. - words inspired by Mary S. Edgar, and Job 42
When the sun goes down, it's worth asking, "How has this day changed you?" Was there a moment of strength or weakness, a fresh word of clarity or thanks? When the sky's benediction fades to black, bestows its spray of stars across the vastness, what has recast your heart?
Time is a greedy thief when God lives only in between the seconds.
I was ambling along, staring at the ground, my feet stamping out the beat of a poem when I looked up and saw one.
"Ugh, we need to boil water before we can use it? How inconvenient!"
Almost two years ago I was made aware of the injustice that the community of Ojibwa First Nation, also known as Shoal Lake 40, has endured for over a century (see here to learn about the History of SL40). In some way, I feel like God was using this “annoying” and “inconvenient” thing, a boil water advisory, to prompt an investigation of how and where our drinking water comes from.
In October, 2015 I had an opportunity to visit Shoal Lake 40 with seven Winnipeg city councilors and representatives of various advocacy groups. A year and half later, I was invited to write a blog post about my trip. As memories of the details of the trip faded over time, I wasn’t sure if I can write down anything meaningful/not known to Home Streeters already. But as I struggle coming up with ideas, what always came back to my mind was the people I had the privilege to meet, the stories shared with one another, and the human connections that we had in those few short hours.
On our way to Shoal Lake, I was fortunate enough to have Sarah, a SL40 resident in our vehicle. Sarah shared with us the struggles that they face as a community as well as her personal struggles living on the reserve, but our conversation did not end there. She also shared with us her joy and her pride living on the reserve. We connected as fellow human beings – as friends, as equals. Just like the life modeled by Christ, building peace and advocating justice take more than “physically building the Freedom Road”, or in other cases physically giving resources to the oppressed. Jesus did not stop at meeting the material needs of the people, in fact, I think by “loving your neighbour” Jesus actually means getting to know them – know their names, know their stories, share the joy and suffering, and together we walk the journey of life. On this trip, I see that positive human connection can not only lead to compassionate and deeper understanding of one another but is also able to break down the barrier of one as giver and the other receiver.
While I can’t quite remember all the facts that we learned on our tour – the dollar amount required for the Freedom Road, the number of bottled water used per year etc – I will always remember the faces that we met, the stories that were exchanged, and the gift of the relationship that we were able to share with one another. Perhaps, peace building and advocacy for justice require relationship building: meeting not merely people’s material needs but the deep-rooted human desire for authentic relationship. To me, our trip to Shoal Lake was more than an opportunity to witness change and to be a part of a social justice movement. It was a chance to learn to connect with people who are so different from me, and to realize that we as fellow human being, share so much of life’s joy and struggle in similar ways, together.
photos and blog post by Jim Cheng, March 24, 2017
When Judith asked me last week if I would blog about practicing a Lenten discipline for the coming week, I said sure .. no problem. Little did I know what discipline it would be –holy doodling! Drawing is not something I do very much and when I do so it is for a purpose . In University I took a drafting course and worked as an electrical draftsperson for some of my University work-terms. My drawings tend not to be flights of fancy but are firmly rooted in trying to communicate a concept either for myself or others. Holy doodling! Is this something I’m even capable of? Well, it's worth a shot...
First attempt – stare at paper and ponder the theme and put pen to paper. I start off with a scribble, then immediately turn it into a 3d cube which then develops a roof –I have a building!! I am not impressed.
When I practice silent mediation, I try to let go of my thoughts. But to draw -- that implies that I do have a thought! I try a different tack: I will draw as my hand wills it, without thought. The results are about what you might expect –abstract in nature, and if I used a richer palette rather than a pen, perhaps some aesthetic potential.
All in all, this a very different discipline than I’m used to. I’m not sure that this would be fruitful direction to pursue but then I’ve hardly started...
I found last Sunday’s message, theme and service quite meaningful. Substitute "trust" for "belief" and a lot of doors are opened for me. The Enlightenment brought many good things, but some not so good, and this is one example. Apart from the possible meaning of the Greek terms, another interesting point to ponder is that English words themselves have shifted meaning. If you check the origin of the word "believe," you will find that in the Middle Ages and before, it did not imply giving intellectual consent to an idea or principle, but rather a relational trusting. Here is a quote from www.etymonline.com for the noun belief:
“late 12c., bileave, replacing Old English geleafa "belief, faith," from West Germanic *ga-laubon "to hold dear, esteem, trust" (source also of Old Saxon gilobo, Middle Dutch gelove, Old High German giloubo, German Glaube), from *galaub- "dear, esteemed," from intensive prefix *ga- + *leubh- "to care, desire, like, love" (see love (v.)). The prefix was altered on analogy of the verb believe. The distinction of the final consonant from that of believe developed 15c.
Belief used to mean "trust in God," while faith meant "loyalty to a person based on promise or duty" (a sense preserved in keep one's faith, in good (or bad) faith and in common usage of faithful, faithless, which contain no notion of divinity). But faith, as cognate of Latin fides, took on the religious sense beginning in 14c. translations, and belief had by 16c. become limited to "mental acceptance of something as true," from the religious use in the sense of "things held to be true as a matter of religious doctrine" (a sense attested from early 13c.).”