Grandpa and peaches

The peach season here is just starting into it’s peak. This past weekend, Tim and I went to a large farmer’s market in the country outside of town. Among other things, we got a basket of fresh peaches raised by Mennonite farmers. Every summer I look for fresh peaches. Usually I’m disappointed by the peaches I’m able to find, because they’re mealy textured and have no taste. I have this memory of the peaches my grandpa would bring home every summer when I was there visiting. They were juicy and sweet, and the flesh was tender. When you bit into them, the juice would run down your hands and face. For me, that’s what a peach tastes like. These peaches from the farmer’s market are the closest to grandpa’s that I’ve had in a long, long time. Also, there is a great ice cream place in our neighborhood here in Toronto. They have the very best soft serve vanilla ice cream I’ve ever tasted. They make it with cream rather than milk and it’s better than most people’s homemade ice cream.

Today was a pretty warm day. I’d spent a couple of hours working in the yard and came into the house a bit tired and hot. I remembered that we had some of that wonderful ice cream in the freezer and those amazing fresh peaches were sitting on the counter and I had a brain storm. I sliced up the peaches and put them over the ice cream…..nothing fancy or complicated…..just fresh, ripe peaches over really creamy, soft vanilla ice cream. As I finished the bowl, my mind filled with the memories of summers with grandpa…..fresh peaches he’d brought home that grandma would put into homemade ice cream…..going to that drive-in at the edge of town with the peach milkshakes he liked so much….how happy it made him to have his grandchildren with him (until we put rocks in the gas tank of his tractor, of course!). [Read more…]

Old churches

I LOVE old churches. It doesn’t matter what kind. Gothic cathedrals with stained glass and soaring ceilings, Protestant chapels with plain board exteriors in various states of repair (or disrepair), and old adobe missions all elicit the same joy and passion. Wherever I travel, I’m always on the lookout for an old church to wander through. I love the sound of church bells (so much so, that it’s become a running joke between my husband and me). Several of my fondest travel memories involve the sounds of church bells.

On the other hand, I don’t care much for modern churches. (I have made an exception for La Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona, but that’s a very special case.) To me modern churches mostly appear to lack beauty. Frequently they are utilitarian spaces that serve multiple purposes and are indistinguishable from warehouse or community center space. [Read more…]

Violence against women

I read with sorrow a recent article on Time magazine’s web site.

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2002340,00.html

This article has stirred so many thoughts for me. The subject of violence against women is a world-wide tragedy. The specifics may vary from country to country and culture to culture, however, there is apparently no place or culture that is immune.

I was directed to this article by a Facebook friend, Carolyn Custis James. The comment she included with the article link was “how is the church a sanctuary for women in crisis?” When I read Carolyn’s question, my thoughts ran in two directions. (Truth be told, and no surprise to those who know me, my thoughts ran in more directions than that. However, I’m focusing on two to try and keep this post a manageable length.) My first thought was to ask how the Church is a sanctuary for women in general, before trying to discuss how it’s a sanctuary for those in crisis. My second thought was to explore how people who choose to follow God, as revealed in Jesus, can and should be impacting the world around them. [Read more…]

Start here

A key purpose for this blog is to explore what it means to choose to be a Jesus follower but to question the value and role of the Church, or choose not to be a part of the Church at all. (For purposes of discussion here, I am using the initial cap form of Church to refer to any and all Christian denominations or organizations, in a universal sense.)

When asked about their religious beliefs, at least in North America, many people answer “I’m not religious, but I am spiritual.” What does that mean? What does life look like for those who are spiritual but not religious? How does being spiritual but not religious impact the world around us? Does being spiritual but not religious include a belief in and choices based upon moral absolutes? Is a declaration of being spiritual but not religious just a way of keeping anyone from questioning how you live out your beliefs? Is it following Jesus if you’re attempting to live out your beliefs outside of community?

The Church is seen by many as failing to live out the very beliefs it teaches. Is there any longer a purpose for the Church? For those who do see value in the Church and following a Church tradition, how much of that perspective is based on culture or tradition rather than actual belief? What did Jesus mean when He taught that His kingdom had come here on earth? Has the Church become more interested in establishing its influence in human empires rather than joining God’s work in establishing His kingdom? Jesus said His kingdom is established as we serve others. How is the Church serving?

My deepest desire as a Jesus follower is to reflect the image of God. Exploring what that looks like, both as an individual and as part of a group or community, is a journey I definitely believe is worth taking…and one that includes questions such as these.