After a Remembrance Day service, I talked with a stranger about the tragic loss of life in war. He quickly gravitated to expressing sympathy for families of Canadian Armed Forces personnel who lost a family member in Afghanistan. When I asked if he felt sympathy for Afghan families also, whether combatants or not, he looked at me in stunned silence, turned, and walked away.

When someone is declared to be the enemy, usually by governments, citizens of those governments often unquestioningly accept that declaration. Yet is the "enemy" not also a thinking, feeling, breathing human like us?

When we start to consider how the "enemy" is like us, the rationale for fighting begins to unravel and becomes gradually replaced with a desire to know, understand, and assist these strangers.

Reaching the Other Side is the story of someone brave enough to get to know the "enemy". Earl S. Martin, an M.C.C. worker in Vietnam at the end of the war, recounts the fascinating journey of faith that brought him into face-to-face contact with the North Vietnamese military, the "enemy".

His story gives us a modern glimpse into the peace vision that the writer of Ephesians presents.

"For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end. " Ephesians 2:14-16.

What might making peace with our political enemies look like? What might making peace with our personal enemies look like?

Have you ever walked into an old, extremely opulent church building with walls covered in marble, stain glass windows lining the walls as you walk in depicting the birth, life and death of Christ, Latin words carved into the stone in a centre dome, angels floating above you on the ceiling, an area to light candles for a loved one, a bowl filled with water for you to touch to remind you of your baptism, and a gift shop? Anytime someone tells me about a recent visit to one of these spaces they always say “it was just so much! I couldn’t handle all of it.”

I have always appreciated these types of churches. As an Anabaptist I’m told that I come from a rich heritage that emphasizes our interior design not being so…rich. However I love these opulent buildings because of what they do for me spiritually– and I never realized until more recently why I love these places so much.

On a recent trip to Buffalo, New York my friend took me to Our Lady of Victory National Shrine & Basilica. I am still thinking about this church. I remember walking in, touching the cold walls, feeling the old wooden pews, Gazing at the lucrative amount of art.gazing at the astonishing amount of art and being totally captured by this building’s magnificence. I sat down in a pew and I stared – processing what I was feeling, seeing, smelling, and hearing. I closed my eyes and I entered into a prayerful and engaged headspace that was enabled by this very active, very old, and opulent place. Everywhere I looked I was reminded of who I was as a created being, being lured into the Christian story that I was born into. My hyperactive mind loved wandering around in this visual playground, free from distractions of the outside world – completely soaked in the rich history of the church and the Christian story.

In my moments of prayer, in these places, I find a surreal sense of inner peace. My hyperactive mind is able to wander, be distracted, and yet I am kept focused on prayer and my words because of the incredible amount of images and words that I am processing all at once.

As a child we learn that prayer was about settling your body, folding your hands and sitting still. There is nothing wrong with this practice – in fact I really enjoy this practice when I am capable of getting into that headspace (more on that later), but at the same time I’ve grown a real appreciation for kinesthetic prayer, meaning prayer that involves movement, fidgeting, and letting the mind play a bit.

I'm going to identify two of many great gifts in Christian tradition that can help the kinesthetic learner stay focused and stimulated during prayer.

The Rosary: In short, the rosary is a rich Catholic tradition that involves a string of beads of various sizes that you hold. As you move it through your hand, touching each bead, a prayer is spoken. Being able to connect a prayer to our physical movements is enough for the fidgety-type person to keep them stimulated and focused in prayer. I’ve prayed once with a prayer bead – and I remember it working really, really, really well for me. Maybe this is something we need to consider having for our active type of people in the congregation!

Labyrinth: The labyrinth is a circular, maze-type path on the ground found inside and outside. I’ve seen them put on cloth for the sake of portability. I was in Vancouver last November and I was walking around the Unviersity of British Columbia and I found a labyrinth behind the Vancouver School of Theology. It was a cool and rainy day and I put my backpack down and I started to walk around this labyrinth nice and slow. I gave thanks for the rain, for the opportunity to take time off from work, and in that silent walk, feeling the rain drops run down my face, I was able to focus and create a meditative space for prayer. The water touching my face was perfect for keeping my attention; the movement of my body around the circle was perfect because I didn’t have to think about where I was going other than around, and around and around. Movement of the body and engaging the senses was perfect for me in this moment of worship and prayer.

The opulence and the over stimulation of our rich traditional churches has lots to offer the kinesthetic person. I invite you to consider the ways which you pray, and what your body might need in prayer. While you're doing that, I will consider how to translate my need for movement and stimulating the senses into a tradition that values simplicity.

One of the greatest revelations I had this last year was when I was diagnosed with probable adult Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). Although the doctors still have me in a trial phase, it’s become more and more apparent to me that this is my reality as I’ve discussed it with friends and family – letting them observe me,  and make note of behaviours when I am both medicated and not medicated.

I often realize now that I am forgetful, I often lack focus, I have a frenetic energy that makes me feel like, and seem like I am often buzzing with energy. My supervisor at work asked me once…”how does your body ever rest?”

This is a great question, one that I’ve never considered before because I’ve always struggled with rest. I remember I would sit in spiritual direction sessions back in my university days at Canadian Mennonite University – agonizing during our silent meditation times that I couldn’t calm my mind down. I would focus on the candle…focus on the candle…stare at the flame...suddenly my spiritual director's voice is fading out and I’m thinking about  the social event I’m supposed to be at later that night, or a conversation I had with someone earlier that day.The Energizer Bunny

There are a few observations about my spirituality that I would like to make in terms of how my ADHD is a gift, and also reflect on what changes I would like to see in myself as I continue on this journey. However, I won’t do that all in one blog entry…I want to keep things interesting and have enough content to span over a few weeks.

I will say this though – the one thing I need to pay attention to is my time. I can’t simply medicate myself to slow down and discipline my time, but I also need to do it intentionally.  I am extremely guilty of over commitment. I often feel like I am invincible with the incredible amount of energy I have – often feeling like the energy bunny…I just keep going, and going and going! Only to end up with a blood pressure of 146 over 89 like I did this time last November (this year I was 118 over 78). Most of my time is consumed by volunteerism and work, and now I’m starting to realize that I need to discipline my time and surrender it to simply resting. I need to start caring for myself, taking some time to chill, and start working in that space to create prayer and meditation.

Stay tuned for my next entry on meditation and prayer with a hyperactive mind…it gets interesting sometimes.

 

I just got home from the movie Fury, starring Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf among others.  Mostly it’s a typical war movie: a 5-man American tank crew battles and bonds together and they chase the determined remnants of the retreating German army in the final months of WWII.  Other than the fact that much of the movie happens inside a tank, the movie is made of the same stuff as the other WWII movies you’ve seen: the intensity and gruesome aftermath of battlefield violence, the bond of soldier brotherhood, the innocence of the fresh-faced recruit, and of course the irresistibly masculine archetype as the hero.

The thing that drew my attention, though, was the emergence of the tank itself as a metaphor for modern masculinity.

The five guys in the tank called “Fury” are deeply emotional creatures: crying over fallen comrades, spouting curses, raging against weakness, crying over horses, wooing virginal German girls whose hometown they’ve just destroyed (seriously?), crying over the futility of war, crying out of love for their brothers…. A lot of tears, open, unashamed—and entirely unacknowledged.  And anger, lots of anger, though the root(s) of their Fury remain unknown and unexamined to us and to them.

These complex emotions are recognized as a signal of their alive-ness, simultaneously mocked and treasured within their unit. 

And yet, the men are only at home behind the thick steel of their tank.  In here, the complexities of world and war are simplified through the narrow view of a periscope.  In here, the Scriptures give assurance that God is on our side.  In here, the brothers we fight with and for are all that we need, all that matter.  In here, the fight we’ve chosen is a righteous end in itself, results be damned.  In here, we are safe.

That’s the myth of modern masculinity: behind the walls—however wide we choose to draw that circle—we are secure.  Or if not secure, than at least we are (or rather, feel) in control.

The big reveal of the movie is that inside the tank, the naïve recruit admits his fear only to hear the Pitt-sized hero acknowledge “I’m scared, too.”  And then the war goes on, as though that fear might just be overcome with just a few more bullets.

But I’m left to wonder...  how many of our conflicts are fueled by a bunch of scared guys shooting at each other from behind their armor?  Like the soldiers inside Fury, how often are we stuck fighting conflicts we’ve never understood, much less asked for?  How much of our defense is against enemies we somehow identify with even as we demonize and destroy them?  How functionally narrow is our view of the world around us?  And what choices do we have beyond reinforcing our armor, drawing tight our allies, and blasting the bejeezus out of anything outside that looks remotely suspicious?

I’m not entirely war-movie naïve about the real conflicts and risks of life outside of our armor.  “Ideals are peaceful; history is violent” as the tagline of the movie brashly declares.

But that’s only the mantra being shouted from inside the tank.  What if the world outside is bigger than that?  What if the humanity we’re so suspicious of turns out to be just as full of complexity and life as we are?  There is beauty, and trust, and hope beyond our walls.

When

Adult Sunday School: 9:45 a.m. 
Worship: 10:45 a.m. 

Family Singing Time: 10:15 a.m. 
Junior Sunday School During Worship

 

Contact

Phone 306-373-2126
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Pastor Joe Heikman
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