Author: Betty Pries

This is the forth and final post of our Valley of Dry Bones series.  Do not forget to take a look at Part I, Part II, and Part III.  If you are finding this series valuable, we would love if you would share it with your community! Of course, as you already know, this narrative arc of life, death and resurrection repeats itself multiple times over the course of our lives. We “die” multiple times before we die and we are “resurrected” multiple times before we are resurrected. According to the pattern, we experience wonder, suffering comes and, strangely, renewal occurs; we experience wonder, suffering comes and, strangely, renewal occurs...

This is the third post of our Valley of Dry Bones series.  Do not forget to take a look at Part I and Part II.  If you are finding this series valuable, we would love if you would share it with your community! In some ways, knowing that the world can be a place of wonder makes the valley of dry bones all the more tragic. In other ways, however, having one foot firmly planted in wonder allows us to find meaning – and yes, even wonder – in the most tragic of circumstances. At a visceral level, it even allows us to see the goodness and humanity of those who have caused so much pain and suffering. Here, I would like to return for a moment to Michael Sharp’s story. Michael easily had one foot planted in wonder. He laughed easily. Despite the trauma he witnessed on a daily basis, he seemed to live life with a lightness of being. But there is more. Because Michael had one foot planted in wonder, he saw the goodness and humanity in every single person he met....

This is the second post of our Valley of Dry Bones series.  Do not forget to take a look at Part I.  If you are finding this series valuable, we would love if you would share it with your community! By all accounts, the dry bones passage is a resurrection story. It has all the markings of the audacious hope associated with resurrection, and like all resurrection stories it is both macabre and strangely delightful. This prophecy is so remarkable, it is a sermon in and of itself. To deepen our appreciation of this prophecy, however, we do well to see it in its larger context. When I say this, I am not actually talking about the immediate context. With respect to the immediate context – Ezekiel is bringing a prophesy to the citizens of Judah who have seen their homes destroyed and who have been cast into exile, many of whom were also killed along the way. But it is the much larger context that interests me. What I am referring to here is the long arc of the Biblical story – or...

It was a Wednesday. I had just finished making supper when CBC news reported that the bodies of three UN workers had been found in a shallow grave in Congo where they had been documenting crimes against humanity. In a small way, I knew Michael Sharp, one of those UN workers. In 2010 and in 2015 Michael spent a portion of his holidays in Bammental, Germany where our family was living at both of these times. During those weeks, we had the opportunity to share a few meals, tea times and conversation with one another. Michael had dedicated his life to peacebuilding work. Now Michael is gone, killed precisely for the peacebuilding work to which he had dedicated his life. Michael made an impression on me – he was idealistic, funny, generous and kind. He had an incredible capacity for languages. And peacebuilding seemed to come to him as naturally as breathing. While the death of Michael and his colleagues has deeply saddened me, I know that as far as the Congo goes their deaths are only a few among many....

This is the final post of our Toward a Spirituality of Conflict series.  Do not forget to take a look at Part I and Part II.  If you have found this series valuable, we would love if you would share it with your community! Christian spirituality proposes that – with regard to the either/or and both/and frame – where we begin changes everything. Whereas much of Christian history has begun with an either/or theology of division (humanity as consumed by sin, deep divisions between God and people, one theological impulse as correct vs. another as wrong), Christian spirituality, as defined here, begins with the belief that God’s presence is alive in all of creation including with self and other. This space is inherently both/and in nature. It allows for wonder, the goodness of creation, the beauty that exists in both self and other, the fundamental unity of all of life (including self and other), harmony between humanity and God. It short, it affirms love as the fundamental source of all life. While our lives do not always reflect this harmonious reality,...

This is the second post of our Toward a Spirituality of Conflict series.  Do not forget to take a look at Part I.  If you are finding this series valuable, we would love if you would share it with your community! One of the most hopeful explorations of this dynamic of the self and other is provided by Barry Johnson. Referring to the either/or lens as a polarity, he proposes that while simple problems can be solved in an either/or fashion, polarities can only be solved with both/and thinking. Indeed, when we apply either/or thinking to something that is in fact a polarity, we fall into distorted patterns of behaviour that exacerbate and escalate conflict. Johnson’s modelling of this dynamic is helpful in understanding this reality: According to Johnson, if one lives only at X, one will fall into the weaknesses of X, just as if one lives only at Y, one will fall into the weaknesses of Y. The only way by which one can pursue the strengths of X is to pursue the strengths of Y at the very same time. Unfortunately,...

Over the years, I have sensed a profound need for the development of a spirituality of conflict transformation within the peacebuilding community generally and within the Mennonite peacebuilding community specifically. Spiritual foundations at turns challenge and support our underlying philosophical frames. Together, philosophical and spiritual frames have a significant impact on our personal lives and on the nature of third party engagement with conflict. Without a clear sense of and engagement with our underlying philosophical and spiritual frames we encounter the following significant risks: (1) We become vulnerable to being trapped by our own blind spots causing us to entrench rather than transform conflict; (2) we risk burn out; (3) we miss opportunities for deep transformation (including within ourselves) and (4) we lose out on moments of wonder and joy. These implications speak to the urgency of this exercise. By way of beginnings and a definition, let me offer the following: Spirituality, as I am defining it here, is the lived experience of God’s presence. A spiritual foundation for our work proposes that the transformation of conflict depends on listening for,...

How do we hear God speaking to us today? And if we do hear a voice speaking, how do we know it is God? And…what do we make of what we hear? These are not easy questions at all. The Bible has many, many different examples of how people heard God’s voice: In silence or small whisper (depending on the translation) in 1 Kings 19:22, in argument (Isaiah 1:18), through an angel (Luke 1:11 & 26), and as a voice from heaven (Luke 3:22). What seems to be consistent is the testimony that God does indeed speak and that this speaking is meaningful. God’s voice invites the listener to be changed in some way, to be transformed, and to act. Think about Moses for example. In Exodus 3, we see Moses doing a routine task, tending to his father-in-law’s flock, when he sees a burning bush. As he gets closer, God calls to him. God uses the burning bush to capture Moses’ attention and having done so, God delivers the message, “So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring...

This is the fifth post of a five-part series on shame. If you want to catch up click the links for the FIRST, SECOND, THIRD and FOURTH blogs. Make sure you subscribe to our mailing list so you don’t miss a thing! Perhaps the best Biblical example of shame and its consequences comes from the story of Jacob and Esau in the Old Testament. Although Jacob and Esau are twins, Jacob is born last and as a result, is not eligible for the same status as that bestowed upon Esau. Specifically, only Esau and not Jacob is eligible to receive his father’s blessing. Given the lens we are looking through today, we could argue that Jacob experiences shame as a result of his younger brother status. Jealousy, after all, is a consequence of shame. Jacob is jealous and takes extreme measures to change his birth order fate: First Jacob steals the birthright from his brother not once but twice, the second time by tricking his aging father to give him and not Esau the blessing. But Jacob’s deceit does not end there....

This is the fourth post of a five-part series on shame. If you want to catch up click the links for the FIRST, SECOND and THIRD blogs. Make sure you subscribe to our mailing so you don’t miss a thing! It is important to note here, that when Jesus exposes our guilt, he is not trying to throw us into a pit of shame. We are not being invited to believe that because of our guilt our identity is now one of a bad person. Instead, we are being invited to allow guilt to expose our inner wounds and brokenness that are causing us to act in ways that cause guilt and shame in the first place. In other words, because so much of our guilt emerges from our efforts to cover our shame, experiences of guilt can free us: When we pay attention to our guilt, we see the wounds of our shame that are so much in need of healing. Let me say that again: Because so much of our guilt emerges from our efforts to cover our shame, experiences of...