Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Mother Teresa

No Greater Love
The most Accessible and Inspirational Collection of Her Teachings Ever Published

This was a beautiful book that I recommend to anyone desiring to live in a way more like Christ. Most of the books I read are more critical of Christian culture and are not nearly so inspiring. But there is more than one way to skin a cat and Momma T chose the way of love.
The thing that struck me most while reading this book is that it begins with prayer than moves to love, giving, holiness and service. When I think of Mother Teresa and the life she lived I think of the unloved people she reached out to and the dieing people she gave a peaceful farewell to. I do not think of her as a so-called prayer warrier but she makes it abundantly clear in her writting that to do these marvelous acts of charity it must be God's movement in us. Her live was an outpouring of prayer. Her life was prayer in action.

This was a valuable lesson to learn as we arrived in Brazil because it seems that the first week was a lot of sitting around rather than going out. We did some things but mostly orientation stuff. So knowing that God's work in the world is accomplished through God not our abilities or ambition I didn't feel so lazy and like our days were wasted. Personally the first week was standing on the balcony overlooking the favela praying for God to move and for us to be instraments. Now it seems we will have a more regular active ministry schedule but I will strive to make every thing we do a prayer. I'm still learning in this area but this book gave renewed peace about the mercy and love of God for all people and it's okay if I don't do well, God is sovereign.

Read this one, it is amazing!!!!!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Into the Wild

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

This is the story about Christ (Alex Supertramp) McCandless. He graduated from college and set out on a solo road trip in which he never returned. After he left he completely severed all ties, going by a made up name and not contacting any former friends or family. The journey began in Atlanta with detours through Arizona, California, Mexico, and South Dakota before his fatal ending near Denali National Park Alaska.
Part of me identified with this young man's passionate persuit into the wild but also his meathod was very selfish. He depended on no one for companionship or survival. He desired to be completely independent and at one with nature. I appreciate nature but realize that I prefer to share beauty with another person and know that sticky situations come up and it's good to travel with others for safety.
Chris' heros were Henry Thoreau, Jack London, and Leo Tolstoy. A couple quotes from the end of his life:
"Now what is history. It is the centureies of systematic explorations of the riddle of death, with a view to overcoming death. That's why people discover mathematical infinity and electromagnetic waves, that's why they write symphonies. Now you can't advance in this direction without certain faith. You can't make such discoveries without spiritual equipment. And the basic elements of this equipment are in the gospels. What are they. To begin with, love of one's neighbors, which is the supreme form of bital energy. Once it fills the heart of man it has to overflow and spend itself. And then th two basic ideals of modern man-without them he is unthinkable-the idea of free personality and the idea of life as sacrifice." Boris Pasterniak, Doctor Zhivago Page highlighted in one of the books found with Chris' remains; underscoring by McCandless.
Upon finishing reading Tolstoy's "Family Happiness" McCandless marked passages including:
"He was right in saying that the only certain happiness in life is to live for others...." "I have lived through much, and now I think I have found what is needed for happiness. A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possiblity of being useful to people whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one's neighbor-such is my idea of happiness. And then, on top of all that, you for a mate, and children, perhaps-what more can the heart of a man desire?"
These quotes make me wonder what would happen if Chris had managed to survive the Alaskan wilderness. Would he contact his family. Would he allow himself to be known and vulnerable to friends. Or would he continue to maintain only a relationship to the wild as Alexander Supertramp.
I love people and I hope my desire for adventures never supersedes my desire to know and love people.

Newsletter 1

Hello Friends and Family, If you are receiving this email I thought you would like to be includedin updates from my upcoming mission trip to Brazil. If you don't want to be receiving these updates, would rather I send them to another emailaddress, or know someone else who would like to be included; please reply to this letter with that information. I will be flying to Rio from Houston on August 18th and arriving on the 19th. I will be there for four months with three other interns and 5 permanent residents. I will know more specifically what I will be doingonce I get there and start getting involved. I do know that I will be inlanguage classes and will be working some with street kids, some with homelessmen, some with orphans, and some with establishing a new shelter for pregnantor street momthers with new-borns. I also know that I will be playing lotsof soccer, reading lots of books, living in less than comfortableconditions, and learning what it means to love people who smell, are strung out on drugs, or are otherwise different from those I generally hang out with. If you are on this list than you are important to me. I want you to know what I'm going through and I want to know what is happening in your lifeas well while I'm away. So when you receive my emails maybe you will wantto pray for our group and the people I tell stories about and then maybeyou will want to send me an email describing your day at work/school/vacation/whatever is going on with you. I'd reallyappreciate that. Also, I just received an update on how much money I have raised so farwhich amounts to $2350. This internship requires that I raise $4800. Thatmeans that as of today I am still short $2550. That's a lot of money and Itrust that it will all come in eventually. Unfortunately I have to have $3000to get on the plane. If you have not donated and you wanted to please takethis as a reminder and send it in as soon as you can. If you have already supported financially you can pray that the rest of the needed supportcomes in and talk to people who like to support these kinds of NGOs/missions. Attached is the support card that needs to be sent in with your checks. Remember, do not write my name anywhere on the check. It needs to bemade out to Word Made Flesh. On the support card you can write to apply thefunds to staff member Me (Jennifer Pare). If you are wondering how you can find out more about what I will bedoing in Brazil and who I will be working for OR if you misplaced the letter Isent out back in June explaining everything, I'm attaching a basic form ofthe initial support letter as well. If you still want more information orare really bored while surfing the web sometime check out wordmadeflesh.organd read the stories about others serving around the world. OK-enough talk about money. While I'm away I will also be updating myblogs. On blogger.com I will be writing book reviews on the reading I will bedoing while in Rio and perhaps some other reflections as well. My blog namethere is: jen-unconventionalwisdom.blogspot.com You do not need a blog of yourown to view it. I will also be updating my xanga, probably less frequently, about more day to day occurrences. My blog name there is zhinifo. Ithink you have to have a registered blog with xanga to view that one but Icould be wrong. I think that is all the pre-field updates I have to give. I'll beleaving Chicagoland on the 16th to drive to Lubbock where I will store my carwhile gone. So think of me on the 16-17. It's a 20 hour drive, alone.Otherwise expect to receive the first real newsletter towards the end of themonth. I plan to send them out every couple of weeks. There is a chance I may get some photos sent out as well. The plan with pictures is to take a couple disposables and mail them home as I use them up. Hopefully my parentswill be able to scan and send out the good ones and then I'll write aboutwhat they are after they get sent out. If you have any other suggestions or thoughts or support or anything else, you know what to do! I love you all (y'all),Jen Pare

newsletter 2

Oi from Rio
If this is your first email from me then know from this point forward you will be on my newsletter recipient list and you can read the first newsletter archieved at my blog: jen-unconventionalwisdom.blogspot.com. A copy of all my newsletters will be archieved there under the tag: Rio Servant Team.

A quick thanks to all of you who contributed financially to making this opportunity possible for me. Expect a real mailed thank you at some point hopefully in the near future but I'm still trying to figure out the postal service here.

I've been in Rio for 6 days now. The flight was uneventful. I met 3 of the four other interns in Houston. Heather is from Mississippi and is a nurse. Lisa is from Seatle and has worked in youth ministry. David is from Virginia and just graduated from Wake Forest with degrees in Political Science and Spanish. He also already knows Portuguese which is a really big help to the rest of us. Every evening we have Portuguese lessons from a woman who is a friend of WMF staff Jenna. We live in the favela Jacarexinho, Ben's bungalow floors 2-4. The women reside on the fourth floor and the men on the third. There are generally two rooms per floor. It is a really fantastic place to live. I spend lots of time on the porch off the 4th floor reading, praying, and studying the language.

A couple nights ago a friend of Ben's from Colorado visited and we all climbed to the roof where the kids fly kites and we viewed the stars and Christ the Redeemer statue. While we were up there we saw a blindingly bright shooting star. We spent the next couple hours in conversation while eating bread and mangos.

Traditional breakfast is coffee and bread (so much for quitting coffee for a while). Lunch comes around 2 or 3 and is the largest meal. Snack at 6 and supper at 9 or 10. Rice and beans are common for lunch and supper but also include other options including beef or chicken, some pasta, fruit and veggies. The food is good but I'm hungry a lot.

Tuesday we went to the Orphanage. It is a house and shop overseen by one old woman and 15 kids ranging from 2-16ish. We had lots of fun playing with the children. This afternoon we will go downtown for our first time and next week we will go to the missionaries of Charity home.

We are still waiting for the fourth intern to join us but he was declined VISA on his frist application and still waiting to hear back from his second attempt. Please pray for his situation.

Otherwise we are well and adjusting to our new home. We stay inside a lot while getting to know each other, learning the rules of the culture and neighborhood, and the language.

Thanks for reading. I hope you are all well. Blessings to you. If you want to brighten our day and send a letter or American junk food (cookies, peanut butter, that sort of thing) our P.O. box is:
Ben Miller (Jen Pare)
Caixa Postal 24103
AC Tijuca
Rio de Janeiro, RJ 20550-970
and write Air Mail on the envelope for speedier delivery!

love to you all!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Importance of Being Foolish

The Importance of Being Foolish: How to Think Like Jesus
Brennan Manning

This book was a short hard back so I choose to read it before leaving the country because it weighed as much as many of the more lengthy paper backs. Now I'm one down and like 12 to go (unless I choose to take along "Brave New World" and replace the weight I was trying to loose by reading quickly. If all that didn't make since here's the clarification. I'm packing to move to Brazil for four months and I don't want to take lots of heavy books but I still want to do tons of reading so in all my brilliant logic I decided to read the hard cover books first and try to read them before actually leaving. One down one to go before Saturday.

I expected this book to be all about the counter-cultural values of Jesus but it wasn't. I did discuss this but not at lenth. The focus of this book was love. Check out a few quotes that stuck out to me:
"Little brother, perhaps the most difficult thing for you to accept at this moment is your failure to have done with your life what you long to accomplish. This is the cross you wanted least of all, the cross you never expected, the cross you find hardest to bear. Somewhere you got the idea that I expected your life to be an untarnished success story, an unbroken upward spiral toward holiness. Don't you see that I am too realistic for that?" (pg. 163)
"Reason demands moderation in love as in all things; faith destroys moderation here." (pg 114)
"Once you come to know the love of Jesus Christ, nothing else in the world will seem beautiful or desirable.... I cannot let you go. In good times and bad, victory and defeat, my life has no meaning without you.... This and this alone is authentic Christianity. Not a code of dos and don'ts, not a tedious moralizing, not a list of forbidding commandments, and certainly not the necessary minimum requirement for avoiding the pains of hell." (pg 173-4)

Then the epologue gets into the foolish bit by suggesting that the common Christianity is not offensive. This nonoffensive brand will not transform anything. People will see what true Christians do and label them as fools because only a fool would love without moderation or regard to how they are treated in return.

The first third or so of this book dealt with common things that pull a person away from this foolish way of following Christ and those things were security, pleasure, and power. Manning tells some stories to illustrate this primary points and through these stories details how addicted we as a people are to those distractions listed above. One of the cures for these addictions is forgiveness of others and of self. And the last and most foolish point in the book was the seemingly foolishness of the cross. Manning tells stories of St. Francis weeping at the image of Christ crusified. He wept because of his uncontrolable love for Christ. He saw in Christ's death the immeasurable love of God for all people.

This book has reminded me of the centrality of love to who we are as witnesses for Christ. An important thing to be reminded of before hitting the streets. It also reminded me of a song by Nicole Nordeman- "Fool for You"

There are times when faith and common sense do not align
When hardcore evidence of you is hard to find
And I am silenced in the face of argumentative debate
And its a long hill its a lonely climb
Cause they want proof
They want proof of all these mysteries I claim
Cause only fools believe would want to chant a dead man's name
Maybe its true, yeah but..........

I'll be a fool for you (fool for you)
Oh because you asked me too
A simpleton who's seemingly naive
I do believe
You came and made yourself a fool for me

I admit that in my darkest hours I've asked what if
What if we've created some kind of man made faith like this
Out of good intention, or emotional invention
And after life is through there will be no you
Cause they want proof of all these miracles I claim
Cause only fools believe that men can walk on waves
Maybe its true, yeah but.......Chorus

Unaware of popularity
Unconcerned with dignity
You've made me free
That's proof enough for me
Oh, Oh yeah...........

I'd be a fool for you (fool for you)
Oh if you ask me too
A simpleton who's only thinking of
The cause of love
I will speak Jesus' name
If that makes me crazy
They can call me great
I'm happy to be seemingly naive
I do believe you came and made yourself a fool for me
(a fool for you)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Summer Reading List

I have compiled a stack of books that will be traveling with me to Rio. Here is the official list of books that you can expect to find written about in the next few months:

From Brokenness to Community.
Jean Vanier
Paulist Press, 1992

The Way of the Heart: Desert Spirituality and Contemporary Ministry.
Henri J. M. Nouwen
HarperSanFrancisco, 1981

Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life.
Henri J. M. Nouwen, Donald P. McNeill, and Douglas A. Morrison
Image Books, 1983

Good News About Injustice: A Witness of Courage in a Hurting World.
Gary A. Haugen
InterVarsity Press, 1999

The Jesus I Never Knew.
Philip Yancey
Zondervan, 1995

Announcing The Reign of God: Evangelization and the Subversive Memory of Jesus.
Mortimer Arias
Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1999

Rich Christians in and Age of Hunger: Moving From Affluence to Generosity.
Ronald J. Sider
W Publishing Group, 1997

Bible and Mission: Christian Witness in a Postmodern World.
Richard Bauckham
Baker Book House, 2003

Into the Wild.
Jon Krakauer
Anchor Books, 1996

The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius: A New Translation From the Authorized Latin Text.
Translated with Commentary by Pierre Wolff
Liguori/Triumph, 1997

How to Be A Monastic and Not Leave Your Day Job: An Invitation to Oblate Life.
Brother Benet Tvedten
Paraclete Press, 2006

No Greater Love.
Mother Teresa
MJF Books, 1997

The Importance of Being Foolish: How to Think Like Jesus.
Brennan Manning
HarperCollins, 2005

Punk Monk

Punk Monk: New Monasticism and the Ancient Art of Breathing
by Andy Freeman and Pete Greig
Regal Books, 2007

I actually read this book before reading Harry Potter and saved the epilogue and appendixes until today. This book reminded me a bit of Irresistible Revolution because of its purpose and narrative style. The authors of this book primarily tell the story of the conception of their boiler room in Reading, England and how it has developed through time.

"A 24-7 Boiler Room Community is a Christ-centered community that practices a daily rhythm of prayer, study and celebration while caring actively for the poor and the lost."
"Bonhoeffer recognized in Christ's Sermon on the Mount a subversive and revolutionary manifesto for a counter-cultural resistance that could be cultivated into a new form of monasticism."
"Do we believe that the world will change if we dare to live them [Jesus words in the Gospels] out radically?
"The monastic life was about, as Bonhoeffer reminded us, "an uncompromising allegiance to a life lived according to the Sermon on the Mount."
"Nearly every major monastic movement began as a violent reaction to compromised religion. Monasticism, at its best, has always been a cry for change--in our own hearts, in an over-accommodating Church and in society at large."
"Our mission is only and entirely to minister to Jesus, which we do primarily through prayer and worship, and secondarily by finding the face of Jesus in the faces of the poor and the lost."
"Aposto-monastic- seek to combine the inward call to intimacy in prayer with the outward commission to involvement in practice."
"Celtic missionaries believed that they would find God upon their arrival only if He walked with them the entire way. 'I shall not find Christ at the end of my journey unless he accompanies me along the way.'"
"When we pray, we cannot remain passive, because God stirs us to be active and to love the people we are praying for with our actions."

I hope I have not bored you with all these quotes but this is one of those books that I found myself highlighting several bits like these along the way. They are nuggets of wisdom that are surrounded by stories to illustrate the point. These boiler rooms are not very different from Celtic monasteries. They have a regular prayer schedule, liturgy, and evangelistic activity. They value/embrace/encourage creativity better than any other organized Christian gathering that I know of. They have exciting prayer, which is unfortunately a rare treat. These 24-7 Boiler Room communities seem to be doing a lot of great things around the world and embracing a population of people generally not reached by traditional churches.

Harry Potter 7

Harry Potter And the Deathly Hallows
by J. K. Rowling
Arthur A. Levine Books, 2007

This is probably the first series of books I've followed completely as they were written. No matter what anybody says these were wonderful books. I think they will benefit adults and children alike more than they could possibly harm. Reason being, the character development within the books is like a lesson in sociology and morality. What could I possibly mean? There are many types of characters in this book: young, old, male, female, popular, peculiar, good, evil, etc... There is development of people though their primary personality developing years, teenage. This means that those reading the book get the privilege of observing the dynamic relationships of people as they learn to relate to one another. This view I think could help readers understand more about themselves and what qualities a good friend might possess. Maybe that is a bit of a stretch but seriously that is the part of all of these books I have enjoyed the most.

There were parts of the books when Harry for instance struggled with the feeling like he had to do everything himself without the assistance of friends. There were times with everyone thought Luna was a nut. There were times when Ron lost his temper. There were times when Hermione was lonely. There were times when Neville began to stand up for what he believed. I understand that all these characters were made up but they are a beautiful portrayal of real personalities and real development. I hope that especially children reading these books will have seen though this seventh book that the best way to live is selflessly even to the point of actually being willing to lay down your life for another person.

What did I think of the actual story? I liked the journey feel. Harry and his two companions having to travel undercover to find and destroy the Horcruxes. In the last couple chapters I think Rowling tried to put too many main events. IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE BOOK AND DOESN'T WANT IT TO BE SPOILED DON'T READ THIS NEXT PART!!!!!!! first Harry is about to go to Voldemort then he goes to the castle with Snape's memory, then Harry starts going back to Voldemort, then he stops to chat with Neville, then Harry gets to Voldemort, then Harry dies, then Harry talks to Dumbledore, then he's back to life, I'll not write about the very last part unless some of you are still reading who haven't read the book. But is just felt very back and forth and overdone in the end. What would have been so bad about Harry actually being killed with Voldemort? I think the better ending could have been the interpretation of the prophecy being they either both lived or both died (this actually was the interpretation but of course in the end Harry lives while Voldemort dies) oops I gave it away.

All in all, I have really enjoyed reading this books and look forward to adding the complete set of audio books to my collection for long solo road trips (I wish I had them already because I'm about to drive to Lubbock, again).

The next book I will be writing about is Punk Monk. Expect to see that one today or tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Christianity Rediscovered

I read this book by Vincent J. Donovan for a intensive summer class called Christian Theology and wrote a practical application paper on it. This is a short easy reading book by a Catholic Priest in Tanzania in the 60s and 70s. This Priest decides that schools and hospitals are a hundred year plan for missions and so far in their 50 years of involvement there were no converts. So he develops a 1 year plan to evangelize 6 villages of the Masai tribe traveling everyday to one of the six villages and making the complete round each week. He follows this basic method for several years and the book is a reflection of his work and the lessons he learned along the way.
I think it is a valuable read because Donovan questions what mission is and the purpose of it. I will spoil one part of the book for you because I think it's a powerful image and sums up a chunk of what Donovan learned on the field. When Donovan went to Tanzania and sought out the Masai villages he thought he was hunting and seeking the lost but he was wisely informed that he is not the lion (the hunter), the lion is God. Donovan articulates this point beautifully so if you like it go to the primary source and enjoy.
Donovan really is a good writer and his story is entertaining but one bit of criticism is do what he says, not as he does. I was annoyed particularly by the fact that he observes and begins to understand the communal identity of the Masai people and yet he belongs to no community. He evangelizes as a lone ranger. He chooses to act the part of Super Man and go out when nobody else seems to be doing the job and he doesn't seem to even try to seek out a community to work with and share the burden with. He does a good job of analyzing and defining mission so I still found it to be a useful resource.