Postcard from Portugal (so why the cranes?!)



Every spring and fall, the North American prairies host a remarkable event. It’s called kettling. Migrating Sandhill CranesGrus canadensis pause en route to come together and ride the thermals. Their numbers reach hundreds of thousands, all aloft, all rising and soaring in a mysterious symmetry. I’ve stood below such a spectacle of swirling flight and marveled. What calls them to come together? Why not just set off in their individual flocks, as efficiency would dictate? I am not an ornithologist. I’m a storyteller and so my anthropomorphized version would go something like this: the Sandhill Cranes come for a family reunion of sorts – swap stories of the past season, make plans for the next, and encourage one another for the next leg of the journey.

I’ve just come back from a similar sort of family reunion. It was seriously lacking in the plumage and spindly legs of the cranes’ gathering, but we did come from varied flocks to fly together for a while in Portugal. A Rocha leaders and other participants from over 20 countries, on every continent but Antarctica (we’re still waiting for the penguins to send a delegate) came together for a five-day gathering that occurs just once every three years. We sang with gusto in at least three languages and were challenged by the wise words of biblical theologian Ruth Padilla DeBorst. But most of all we were encouraged by the incredible stories shared − stories of saving forests in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya, stories of opening the eyes of children to the wonders of creation in New Zealand, the UK and Uganda, stories of significant conservation research on elephants, storm-petrels, and plovers.

They were good stories. They were bolstering stories.

Would you like to hear one?

This one comes from Mwamba, A Rocha’s field study centre in Kenya, on the Indian Ocean coast and was told to me by Jaap Gijsbertsen who, along with his family, spent a year and a half helping lead the work.

He was asked to provide a retreat and teaching for Erisata, a community development organization in the Masai Mara reserve. Jaap happily agreed and put together a one-week course that included the theology of creation care as well as practical application, with plenty of time spent getting up close and personal with habitats and creatures surrounding the A Rocha centre.

At the end of the week, the A Rocha team took the Masai participants out in a glass-bottom boat over a coral reef reserve where they conduct their conservation research. None of the participants had ever been in a boat, let alone swum in water. As herdsmen, living 700 km from the ocean, learning to swim is completely irrelevant and even going into water is seen as dangerous and irresponsible behaviour.

Therefore, when Jaap offered these dignified Masai land-lovers snorkels, fins and masks, they balked. But with a bit more coaxing the village headman and pastor showed his leadership by accepting Jaap’s offer.

After strapping a flotation device around his waist, he took the plunge, and proceeded to float face down over the coral reef. He floated so long, without coming up for air, that his fellow tribesmen began to grow restless. Just as they were arguing about who should go to the headman’s rescue, he shot his head from the water. His face broke into a wide smile as he shouted, ‘Halleluiah! God is truly amazing! You will not believe what is under there!’

His amazement at the beauty of what he had beheld was infectious and almost all the other participants went in as well, each emerging with his own wonder-struck expression.

The week came to a close and the participants left transformed. They left not only with a fuller biblical understanding of God’s love for all of creation and their responsibility to actively care for the Masai Mara, but with an awe-inspiring first-hand understanding of a world they never knew existed.

And because, as leaders of A Rocha National Organizations, we came together and heard this story we left transformed as well – transformed in the knowledge that creation care begins with wonder.

Creation care begins with wonder and is sustained by gathering in friendship, song, wisdom and the sharing of stories.
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Hate Mail and the Good Christian Woman


“Hate mail” and “good Christian woman” are not phrases usually found in the same sentence. Good Christian women certainly do not write hate mail, and heaven forbid they should act or speak in a way that warrants receiving it.

And yet, when a good Christian woman steps outside the bounds of her prescribed social or political boundaries, when she dares to speak or act without permission from those setting the status-quo agenda, watch out. And get ready for an avalanche of vitriol.

Katharine Hayhoe is one such woman. She receives up to 250 pieces of hate mail a day—some of it so obscene and threatening that the FBI has been called in to investigate.

Her offense?

She’s a Christian woman of a theologically and politically conservative stripe and she is a Ph.D. climate scientist. Her mission: convince fellow Christians of the realities and dangers of climate change, a mission that last year landed her on Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” list.

Hayhoe is accomplishing her mission by presenting the irrefutable science in presentations across North America. She also is demonstrating how the proponents of climate change denial have purposefully targeted conservative Christians. It’s quite sinister, actually.....

Read the rest at Shelovesmagazine





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Becoming the Woman in the Mirror

Every time I look in the mirror I receive a jolt. Who is this woman staring at me through eyes marked by a spray of smile lines, with hair the colour of antiqued pewter? It’s not the signs of age that shock me—it’s the overall effect. The woman in the mirror looks mature in all senses of the word. She certainly doesn’t match the image I have carried of myself through most of my life—the image of someone young, a child even. Someone who giggles and speaks in a sing-song voice. Someone gentle and mistake-prone and completely lacking in authority and wisdom. 
But the grey hair and smile lines have started to dupe the outside world. Apparently, they think I have something to say, as evidenced by the number of invitations I am starting to receive to share “my wisdom” at conferences and gatherings...
Read the rest of this post (...how will it end!?!...) over at ShelovesMagazine

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Daring to Love Your Neighbour


I share a farm with five other families, a few singles, two cows and lots of chickens. Our farm balances on the crest of suburbia. As in, across the street from our muddy fields lie 600 cookie-cutter homes, almost all built within the past five years.

Back in December, as an expression of neighbourly cheer and communal togetherness, we decided to go Christmas carolling in this brand-spanking-new neighbourhood. We put up flyers on neighbourhood mailboxes and invited them for hot apple cider before and after the wassailing.
The first two homes we approached proved very promising. We belted out Frosty the Snowman with gusto and the children laughed and the moms’ eyes sparkled.

This was such a good idea! We would be like pied pipers spreading neighbourly affection! This was sure to become a cherished neighbourhood tradition and all our neighbours would sing our praises because we had started it!

The next string of houses proved not so promising. People opened their doors a crack and then slammed them shut. Some peeked out their front door windows and then walked away without a smile. The saddest moment came when we met a woman on the sidewalk. She emerged from her car, donning party clothes and had a gift in hand. As our paths crossed, someone in our group started singing We Wish You a Merry Christmas and we all joined in. In response, this woman tucked her chin into her chest, stared straight down at the ground and sped past us, ducking into the house without a glance or smile. Our voices died out like a record player that had been unplugged.

Read the rest of this post at Shelovesmagazine.com

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Stepping Out of Small



In elementary school I was the second smallest kid in my class. The only person smaller was a pinched-face boy with the nickname “Mouse.”

Even my identical twin had a 1-½ inch advantage on me from the day we were born. Our height discrepancy was the only way some knew how to tell us apart. My shortness was the clue to who I was.

As a child I learned to stay small, not only in size, but presence. Small people are better at ducking and weaving–avoiding responsibility and attention. I am now middle-aged and middle-sized, but the psychological symptoms of smallness are not shed with added inches.

Not all short people strive for a smallness of influence, of course. One’s influential presence is much more a symptom of personality and resolve than size. A roll call of the vertically challenged easily shatters the myth of a size-equals-influence corollary: the Calcutta missionary Mother Teresa, the abolitionist Harriot Tubman, founder of the American Red Cross Clara Barton, anthropologist Margaret Mead–all women who never made it past 5 feet tall. All women who changed their worlds.

Rosa Parks was 5’2 when she refused to relinquish her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery city bus, thereby breaking segregation laws and helping start a movement.

What did these small women have in common, besides their size?

Vision.

And the courage to take the next small step toward that vision.

I don’t like controversy and I don’t like limelight, so starting the first Christian Environmental Centre in Canada (with the ministry of A Rocha) at times has felt like a job for someone stronger and bigger. A Rocha started out so small and so humbly–in basements, with meetings attended by only handfuls of people–that sometimes I forgot to be scared. But those humble beginnings have led to some expansive places. And I’ve learned to take small steps toward a bigger vision.

This spring the donation of a three million dollar property–a property we’ve been stewarding and operating out of for the past five years–will be complete. A Rocha will own theBrooksdale Environmental Centre. It’s been a 13-year journey from an office in our basement to this place that looks like a cross between an English Tudor village and Shangri la.

While I rejoice in this gift and want to fall to my knees in gratitude, I also want to acknowledge that being big and successful hasn’t been our goal. The value of A Rocha’s newest Environmental Centre lies not in its stunning aesthetics, but in the change it creates. If I’ve learned anything from being small it’s that big does not necessarily equal better.

The thing that matters is change.

To read the rest of this post please click on the following link and visit Shelovesmagazine.com



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