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Star Trek and faith: a cosmology of reconciliationhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Star-Trek-and-faith-a-cosmology-of-reconciliationStar Trek and faith: a cosmology of reconciliationBy Zachary Headings<p>Space and the unknown have called to me since childhood. Astronomy and travel among the galaxies fascinate me. The theoretical stuff, like the things you see in science fiction: <em>Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica</em>. It's fascinating what we imagine as feasible. </p><p>But with those interests came some confusion: I didn't know how to reconcile scientific knowledge with what the Bible says about the creation of the universe. </p><p>I was raised in a conservative environment where science and faith were kept separate. I was told to ignore the theories of evolution and the big bang. Anything that contradicted the explicit words of Genesis was not worthy of acknowledgement. No discussion. No debate. Full stop.</p><p>I first forayed into the reconciliation of science and faith at Hesston (Kansas) College where I took an astronomy course with Jim Yoder, who quickly became my favorite professor. He taught us that there is a distinction between the things that we know and the things that we believe. We <em>know </em>that the universe is hundreds of billions of years old and we <em>believe</em><em><strong> </strong></em>that God created the universe with spoken word. Those can be separate, and both still be true.</p><p>This was further clarified for me by a minor character in my favorite science fiction series, <em>The Expanse</em>, which explores the social, economic and physical implications of colonization within the solar system in a realistic and gritty way. Pastor Anna Volovodov is a Methodist minister on Earth in the show. When she is confronted by an alien technology that serves as the catalyst of the plot, someone asks her if she sees "her God" in this unknown thing. </p><p>She responds by quoting St. Augustine: "God gave us two texts: Scripture and creation, and if they seem to contradict, it's because we haven't understood one of them yet."</p><p>In my mind, there is no need for reconciliation. My favorite example of this line of thinking comes from imagining the writing of the book of Genesis. I see that God spent a few days explaining to Moses about the ins and outs of the big bang. God then talked about the development of living molecules in mud puddles, which eventually became human beings over the course of billions of years. Moses, of course, understands none of this, so God reframes it for him, explaining the creation of the universe as a seven-day process with spoken word and metaphor. Moses understands this version better, as it fits with the cosmology of the early Israelites.</p><p>My cosmology, based on God's "two texts," gives me hope for a "Star Trek future," where humanity lives together in harmony with itself in a post-scarcity society. Everyone is cared for and they have the things they need to survive. That seems millions of miles away right now, but the hope for that future is the only thing that keeps me sane at times.</p><p>A post-scarcity society like that can't exist without scientific and technological advancement. It also can't exist with a human desire to simply <em>be good</em>, which comes from God. That's how I reconcile faith and science. I don't. They're different ways of looking at God's work. If we as a people realize that, we might save this planet that we are ever-so-quickly destroying. And maybe we'll get to that far-off future. Who knows?</p><p>The understanding of God's "two texts" fuels my desire to become better at creation care and to hold the big corporations accountable for their contribution to humanity's carbon footprint. </p><p>It also fuels a desire for me to see humanity expand beyond this planet. I think God placed a curiosity and a desire to explore in humanity and wants us to do this. Imagine the mission field expanding to the stars: SOOP placements on Mars and a Service Adventure house beneath the surface of Ganymede. That sounds like a future I'd love to be a part of. I hope we can get there.<br></p>
New Zealand’s prime minister, trees teach compassionate justicehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/New-Zealand’s-prime-minister,-trees-teach-compassionate-justiceNew Zealand’s prime minister, trees teach compassionate justiceBy Mark Hurst<p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">We've moved into Magpie Hollow, a large house on a property of about 90 acres on the western edge of the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, Australia. We hope to provide retreat space to host workshops on everything from peacemaking to quilting. </span><br></p><p>There are many trees here. Aboriginal Peoples worldwide have always understood trees to be community members – not entities that exist in some biological separateness, but part of the human world and active members of our communities with lives, loves and feelings. <br></p><p>The April 11 issue of <em>The Guardian, </em>an Australian newspaper, published "<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/12/the-government-wants-to-bulldoze-my-inheritance-800-year-old-sacred-trees">The Government Wants to Bulldoze My Inheritance: 800-Year-Old Sacred Trees.</a>" In this opinion piece, Nayuka Gorrie wrote about trees slated to be removed to put in a road meant to save drivers two minutes in their travel: <br></p><blockquote style="margin:0px 0px 0px 40px;border:none;padding:0px;"><p>To sit in a tree that saw your people birthed, massacred, and now resist is a feeling that the English language will never be able to capture. What is two minutes to 800 years? These trees are my inheritance, our inheritance. Their survival and our fight to keep them alive and safe are a cultural obligation and an assertion of our sovereignty. This sovereignty is a threat to the state.<br></p><p><br></p></blockquote><p>Reading this news article, I was reminded of how Palestinian olive groves today are being bulldozed by Israeli occupiers. Destroying trees is a form of warfare as old as the Bible. For example, Deuteronomy 20:19-20: <br></p><blockquote style="margin:0px 0px 0px 40px;border:none;padding:0px;"><p>If you besiege a town for a long time, making war against it in order to take it, you must not destroy its trees by wielding an axe against them. Although you may take food from them, you must not cut them down. Are trees in the field<em> </em>human beings that they should come under siege from you? </p><p><br></p></blockquote><p>Most Jewish commentators interpret the words, "Are trees in the field<em> </em>human," not as a rhetorical question, but as a statement stressing the relationship or similarity between trees and humans. Rashi, the 11th-century Jewish authority, said that since the tree is not an enemy, we have no right to destroy it or make it suffer because of disputes between human beings. <br></p><p>One might expect religious Jews to respect olive trees owned and cultivated by human beings who, although not Jewish, were created in the image of God. Yet, religious Jews are the most frequent perpetrators of terror attacks on trees that are used neither as military bulwarks, nor as cover for would-be snipers, but as sustenance for Palestinian livelihood. <br></p><p>According to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2013/oct/14/palestine-economy-how-does-it-work">Visualizing Palestine</a>, as of October 2013, more than 800,000 trees were uprooted, with $12.3 million lost each year by the 80,000 families depending on the olive harvest. <br></p><p>One of the first parables in the Bible in Judges 9 involves trees, a common metaphor for Israel. After Gideon's victory over the Midianites, the elders of Israel tempted Gideon with power and prestige. His response provides a critical lead-in to the parable of Judges 9, which opens with one of Gideon's sons, Abimelech, and his ruthless pursuit of power. Abimelech murdered 69 of his brothers. The youngest, Jotham, hid himself and escaped the slaughter (Judges 9:5). <br></p><p>Jotham's creative and courageous response came in the form of a parable about trees searching for a king. After refusals from the olive and fig trees and the grapevine, the thorn bush is approached with the request to rule over the forest. These four "trees" are significantly smaller than the cedars of Lebanon (the species requesting a king), and thus incapable of fulfilling the request to "reign over" the cedars by virtue of their relative size.<br></p><p>The parable addresses Abimelech's lack of formal son status, which disqualifies him from service as the primary leader to replace Gideon. The first three "trees" knew what they were created for and were not successfully tempted to covet a role that was not theirs in order to gain power and the glory of position. <br></p><p>The thorn bush was a different sort of candidate. The thorn bush was lying in wait for an opportunity to dominate and rule. The thorn bush certainly has a legitimate purpose in the ecology of God's creation, but that purpose is not attended by the prestige or public honor that is granted to the olive, the fig, the vine, or the Cedar of Lebanon. <br></p><p>When we lived in Atlanta, Georgia, Mary and I learned about the kudzu plant. While certainly not the species referenced in Judges 9, the kudzu qualifies as a pesky plant of the highest order. It is opportunistic and voracious in its quest for dominance. It can grow as much as three feet on a warm summer day and can envelop and kill trees by dominating the source of sunlight so completely that the tree starves, even though there is a surface appearance of lush growth.<br></p><p>The thorn bush's eager acceptance and subsequent threat, "Yes, I will [be your king]. In fact, if you don't allow me to sway over you, I will personally destroy you by fire," shelter a tragic lie. The truth is that dominant coercive leadership brings decay and death. <br></p><p>We were in New Zealand when mosque shootings in Christchurch occurred. The tragedy dominated the news and people's conversations for weeks. One clear story emerged involving leadership. The New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern did an excellent job of leading her country through the horrors that shocked the whole nation. <br></p><p>Chris Marshall, a Victoria University professor in New Zealand, wrote that "[Jacinda] is being hailed around the world as a beacon of hope for a new kind of political leadership. In an international arena increasingly dominated by thugs, bullies and strongmen, Jacinda Ardern has provided a masterclass in what I call 'compassionate justice.'"<br></p><p>May we all be people who let compassion and love rule in our lives.<br></p>
What to do with back-to-school energy when you’re not going back to schoolhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/What-to-do-with-back-to-school-energy-when-you’re-not-going-back-to-school-What to do with back-to-school energy when you’re not going back to schoolBy Carmen Hoober<div><p><span data-contrast="auto" lang="EN-US"></span></p></div><p>Since you were a kid, you've likely learned to associate fall with fresh starts. Back-to-school mania meant shopping for new school supplies and the excitement of learning who your new teacher and classmates would be. This is the time of year when you can walk into a Target store at any given moment and hear a daughter pleading her case to her harried mother about why she neeeeds a chandelier for her locker. (By the way, I am the harried mother.) </p><p>Even for adults who are no longer linked to the school calendar, the muscle memory of fall still lingers. Whatever the reason, we gain energy and momentum in this short-but-sweet season that has as much to do with beginnings as it does with endings. <strong>Fall will always feel like a time to start new things.</strong> </p><p>You know what's weird? The first fall when you're no longer in school. It feels like you should be doing something, right? But what? You no longer need a locker chandelier, a dorm fridge, or overpriced textbooks. You're not "leveling up" to the next grade as you've been accustomed to your whole life. Leaving behind academia is a jolt to the senses (and even beginning grad school doesn't quite have the same feel to it). Your peers have scattered to the winds and everyone is pursuing something new and different. Maybe you feel a little … lost.<br></p><p>You've entered <strong>The Twilight Zone</strong> of emerging adulthood and everything feels off. The rhythm of life you've known heretofore has been disrupted. In <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Exit-Endings-That-Set-Free/dp/0374533903/ref=sr_1_1?crid=QDCZ2IYMTVU4&keywords=exit+the+endings+that+set+us+free&qid=1564595814&s=gateway&sprefix=exit+the+end%2caps%2c203&sr=8-1">Exit: The Endings That Set Us Free</a>, author Sara Lightfoot Lawrence writes that famous psychologist Erik Erikson "envisioned each stage [of lifelong development] as a conflict between progression and regression — an inevitable tension between staying put and moving on, between sticking with the familiar and moving toward the strange." </p><p>"Moving toward the strange" is a good way to describe this transitional time (also maybe a good name for a band). Fair warning: the unknowns of what lies ahead can cause you more anxiety than what you may even be aware of.</p><p>From what I hear from young adults (and what I remember myself), the liminal space of post-graduation adulthood is often felt most keenly as summer winds down and fall approaches. You have all the familiar, back-to-school energy, but nowhere to put it! </p><p>On the bright side, the rituals of falls-past are so embedded in our psyches that they continue to offer up a type of magic that is available to us in our post-academic lives, long after we've turned in our last papers or completed our final projects. I loved <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/scientific-reason-we-love-fall_n_57f41713e4b04c71d6f0979f">this article</a> from the Huffington Post that explains why I am a fall-o-phile and why I shouldn't apologize for it. Because of science! It has to do with temporal landmarks and social constructs that are wired into our brains as children. </p><blockquote style="margin:0px 0px 0px 40px;border:none;padding:0px;"><p><em>"According to </em><a href="http://dartmouth.edu/faculty-directory/kathryn-j-lively"><em>Kathryn Lively</em></a><em>, professor of sociology at Dartmouth College, our obsession with the season is a social construct that starts when we're children.</em></p><p><em>'We're conditioned from a very early age that the autumn comes with all these exciting things,' Lively told the Huffington Post. 'As children, we come to associate fall with going back to school, new school supplies, seeing friends. It's exciting, for most. We still respond to this pattern that we experienced for 18 years.'"</em></p></blockquote><p>For those who attend college after high school, we have even more years to become entrenched in those rhythms. The academic pattern shifts but only slightly. I have been out of school for going on 20 years and I still look forward to fall because (besides flannel, falling leaves, and football) I know I will have a little extra energy/motivation/enthusiasm to tackle life. In the fall, we can do things we can't do the rest of the year.     </p><p>From the very practical to the somewhat woo-woo, here are three ways I've learned to use this displaced autumnal energy to my benefit.</p><p><strong>1. Take control of your space.</strong></p><blockquote style="margin:0px 0px 0px 40px;border:none;padding:0px;"><p>An obvious way to start funneling some of that extra mojo is to start a project. One of the most immediate ways to relieve anxiety comes from managing your physical environment, so that's a great place to start. If you're in a new location and still haven't unpacked your boxes, make it a priority. Clean your home top-to-bottom. Make your space your own! Your physical environment creates energy … which impacts your mood, which impacts your relationships, which impacts your work, which impacts your ability to show up in the world the way you want to.   </p></blockquote><blockquote style="margin:0px 0px 0px 40px;border:none;padding:0px;"><p>This fall, my project is going to be cleaning out the storage area in my home. In my digital space, I also want to go through the pictures on my phone and figure out how to organize them. Need some other ideas?</p></blockquote><ul><ul><li><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Get a password organizing app. I use a free one called </span><a href="https://keepersecurity.com/" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;font-style:inherit;">Keeper</a><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">.</span></li><li>Perform a ruthless inventory of each item of clothing you own. I have a rule that if it's in my closet, I HAVE TO WEAR IT. (Part of my lifelong mission to prove the 80/20 rule doesn't. own. me.)</li><li>Take a look around your living space. Knock down cobwebs, scrub floors and counters. If you have roommates, call a house meeting about who will do what. Use a free app such as <a href="https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.roommate.android&hl=en_US" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;font-style:inherit;">RoomMate</a><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> or </span><a href="http://ourhomeapp.com/" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;font-style:inherit;">OurHome</a><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> to create some external accountability.</span></li></ul></ul><p>Pick the one task you've been avoiding and just go for it. What have you been putting off? Now is the time to act. </p><p><strong>2. Establish routines that lead to the kind of life you want.</strong></p><blockquote style="margin:0px 0px 0px 40px;border:none;padding:0px;"><p>Here's the thing. You WILL establish routines in the first month or two post-graduation whether you're trying to or not. The trick is self-awareness and intentionality. Establish healthy, life-giving routines before you develop unhealthy, life-depleting routines. After all, it's harder to break bad habits than it is to start them. <strong>"Someday" has arrived and the choices you make today are now a part of your adult life. </strong><br></p></blockquote><blockquote style="margin:0px 0px 0px 40px;border:none;padding:0px;"><p>You go the way you walk, my friends. Want to commit to waking up early to work out? Then set your alarm across the room and lay out your running shoes. Want to get in the habit of eating a healthy breakfast? Stock bananas instead of Pop-Tarts. Yes, your routines will evolve over time with maturity and changes in life circumstances … but beware of things that just kind of happen.  </p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">For m</span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">ore resources on establishing routines and goal setting, check out the following:</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span></p></blockquote><ul><ul><li><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Listen to </span><a href="https://www.jordanharbinger.com/benjamin-hardy-what-to-do-when-willpower-doesnt-work/" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;font-style:inherit;">this podcast</a><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> interview with Benjamin Hardy, author of </span><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Willpower-Doesnt-Work-Discover-Success/dp/0316441325/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2TGCSQ1K5E30T&keywords=willpower+doesn%27t+work&qid=1564511894&s=gateway&sprefix=willpower+doesn%27t+%2caps%2c161&sr=8-1" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;font-style:inherit;">Willpower Doesn't Work</a><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">, and learn how to optimize your environment for success. Skip to the last 15 minutes to hear the part about "forcing functions." According to Hardy, "If you have to use willpower, it's because you actually haven't made a choice yet." (Intriguing, no?)</span></li><li><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span>Find a routine you can transform into a ritual. While routines are a set of behaviors that we do on autopilot, ritualizing a behavior imparts a "sacred" aspect to the same exact action. There's no real trick here other than paying attention. Simply being mindful of the sights and sounds on your early morning run makes it an altogether different experience than a run that takes place in a veritable fugue state. Focus more on the activity itself than on checking something off your to-do list. Rituals help us see "magic in the mundane."</li><li>Have a goal-setting sesh! I love talking about goal setting and the best framework I've found is the <a href="https://www.mindtools.com/page6.html" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;font-style:inherit;">SMART goal</a><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Here is a </span><a href="https://www.someka.net/excel-template/smart-goals-template/" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;font-style:inherit;">free Excel SMART goal template</a><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">, or you can go the hand-written route (which I actually believe is more powerful) </span><a href="https://www.youngsurvival.org/uploads/audio-visual-library/ReadySetGo.pdf" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;font-style:inherit;">here</a><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">. As of this writing, I haven't found a goal-setting app I just love, but I have tried </span><a href="https://apps.apple.com/us/app/productive-habit-tracker/id983826477" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;font-style:inherit;">this one</a><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> and found it very intuitive. (If you have any recommendations, make sure to let me know!)  </span></li></ul></ul><p><strong>3. Do a little dreaming.</strong><br></p><blockquote style="margin:0px 0px 0px 40px;border:none;padding:0px;"><p>Do you have a vision for your life? A mission statement? Probably not. Most people don't. (<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Path-Creating-Your-Mission-Statement/dp/0786882417/ref=sr_1_4?keywords=the+path&qid=1564355152&s=gateway&sr=8-4">Here's a great resource for developing one</a>.) But you know what you do have? You have an imagination and you have desires. In my experience, fall is the best time of year to explore them.</p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Before going back to school as a kid, you might have imagined walking into your new classroom with a cool shirt or an edgy new haircut and people being like, "Whoa! What happened to so-and-so over the summer?" In your summer daydreaming, you became the cool kid or the best soccer player on the team. </span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Visualization is just day-dreaming's big brother. You're already wired to do this! Visualization is an activity scientifically proven to help you achieve the exact goals you picture in your mind. Research shows that your brain doesn't recognize the difference between a real memory and an imagined memory. According to </span><a href="https://entrepreneurs.maqtoob.com/4-scientific-reasons-why-visualization-will-increase-your-chances-to-succeed-5515ef2dbdb7" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;font-style:inherit;">this</a><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> article,</span></p></blockquote><blockquote style="margin:0px 0px 0px 40px;border:none;padding:0px;"><blockquote style="margin:0px 0px 0px 40px;border:none;padding:0px;"><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;"><em>"If you can vividly imagine and visualize a future situation, your mind will record it as a real memory; the situation will become something known, something you've 'already experienced.' Not only will the feelings of insecurity be reduced, but you'll feel confident in your ability to go through the situation because you will have successfully done it before (although only in your mind)."</em></span></p></blockquote></blockquote><blockquote style="margin:0px 0px 0px 40px;border:none;padding:0px;"><p>This kind of mental rehearsal is common to Olympic athletes who make it a practice to envision themselves standing at the top of the podium. But you don't have to be Simone Biles or Michael Phelps to use this technique.</p></blockquote><blockquote style="margin:0px 0px 0px 40px;border:none;padding:0px;"><p><em>"Visualize the most amazing life imaginable to you. Close your eyes and see it clearly. Then hold the vision for as long as you can. Now place the vision in God's hands and consider it done."</em></p></blockquote><blockquote style="margin:0px 0px 0px 40px;border:none;padding:0px;"><p><em>-Marianne Williamson</em></p></blockquote><blockquote style="margin:0px 0px 0px 40px;border:none;padding:0px;"><p>What would your "most amazing life imaginable" be?  <br></p></blockquote><blockquote style="margin:0px 0px 0px 40px;border:none;padding:0px;"><p><strong>Try this exercise:</strong></p></blockquote><blockquote style="margin:0px 0px 0px 40px;border:none;padding:0px;"><p>Clear your head with a practice like the ones found <a href="https://mindfulminutes.com/ease-anxiety-with-visualization-techniques/">here</a>. (I am partial to the Blue Light and the Double-Paned Window.) </p></blockquote><blockquote style="margin:0px 0px 0px 40px;border:none;padding:0px;"><p>Close your eyes and imagine your best life: the goals you will achieve, the lifestyle you will enjoy, the impact you will make, the people you will help, the paychecks you will cash, etc.</p></blockquote><blockquote style="margin:0px 0px 0px 40px;border:none;padding:0px;"><p>Now, pause the scene and focus in.</p></blockquote><ul><ul><li><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Where are you?</span></li><li><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span>What does the room look like? </li><li>What are you seeing, smelling, tasting, hearing and feeling</li><li>What are you doing?</li><li>What are other people saying to you and about you?</li><li>What emotions and feelings are you experiencing?</li><li>What else are you paying attention to?</li></ul></ul><blockquote style="margin:0px 0px 0px 40px;border:none;padding:0px;"><p>To finish, prayerfully offer this vision to God, and allow yourself time to listen for what God might be saying to you. (For maximum impact, write down or journal what you visualize and what you hear that still, small voice saying in response.)</p></blockquote><blockquote style="margin:0px 0px 0px 40px;border:none;padding:0px;"><p>Do this for just five minutes a day and see what happens! <br></p></blockquote><p><br></p><p>Leaning into discomfort is part of the process of maturing. Let's face it, there's no getting around the weirdness that happens the first fall after you graduate. But, like the ideas I've listed above, there ARE some ways to make it a little less taxing, a little more fun, and A LOT more productive. Don't let adulting get you down! The ground might feel a little shaky when you first step off the USS Academia, but being a landlubber has its perks. </p><p>If you're having a little trouble finding that spark as you embark upon this new season (literally and figuratively), I invite you to visit a Target store anywhere between August and mid-September. <strong>You're not there to buy anything</strong> (unless you're at a Target with a Starbucks, then you have my permission to grab a PSL). Instead, <strong>you're going to stock up on (free) motivational neurotransmitters, </strong>that you can then release on planning a project, setting a goal, or envisioning what matters to you in this phase of life. Spend five minutes in the school supply section alone and I guarantee you will walk out buzzing — and not JUST from your coffee! And make sure you say hi! I'll probably still be there, waged in a battle over locker décor. I might look harried, but rest assured that I will go home that night and follow my own advice. I'll be doing some visualization — most likely of a big, yellow bus pulling away from my house.<br></p>
Banners of peacehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Banners-of-PeaceBanners of peaceBy Joe Sawatzky<p>​When a student recently hung the Russian flag from a dormitory window at LCC International, a Christian liberal arts university in Klaipėda, Lithuania, and a Mennonite Mission Network partner, suspicions exploded in the national media. Was LCC supporting the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine?</p><p>In a recent presentation in Elkhart, Indiana, Dr. Marlene Wall, president of LCC, painted a portrait of a country on edge — of a Lithuania "jittery" from the threat of Russian interference in the still-young democracy of the former Soviet region. Guided by a Christian vision since its inception in 1991, LCC has acted as an incubator of democratic values of freedom and transparency amid a historic context of secrecy and autocratic control.  Campus visitors often comment on its democratic "feel," evident even in its architecture, which lets in natural light.  LCC's feel is matched by its international flavor — 67 percent of its students come from outside of Lithuania. Moreover, though the university is clear in its Christian convictions, only 30 percent of its students come to the school as Christians.  </p><p>This is the setting in which the student hung the Russian flag — and unwittingly launched a dramatic display of reconciliation. While Wall and her administrative team carefully crafted a statement to counter the media's false accusations, said Wall, "the students took care of the problem." Adjoining the flag of Russia, students hung the flags of every nation from which they had gathered as students of LCC. At the center of the display, between the flags of Ukraine and Russia, they adorned a heart shape in red lipstick. Upon hearing Wall's telling of the resolution, NATO representatives in the region marveled at the students' ease in fulfilling the "peacekeeping" mission for which they as international authorities strained.</p><p>The Hebrew prophets told of a time when the sight of the mountain of the Lord's house raised high would draw together a learning community among many peoples and nations. Schooled in the paths of peace, they would make peace (Isaiah 2:1-5, Micah 4:1-5).  Walking in the light of the Lord, they would become "a light to the nations, that [the Lord's] salvation may reach to the end of the earth" (Isaiah 2:5; 49:6). Drawn by the light of the Lord upon them, even rulers and authorities would acknowledge "the brightness of [their] dawn" (Isaiah 60:1-3).</p><p>In line with those prophets, Jesus came "proclaiming peace" (see Matthew 5:17, Ephesians 2:17). "He went up the mountain." "His disciples came to him" and "he taught them" (Matthew 5:1-2). He made them to be a light shining in plain sight, "so that others may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:14-16). As a community of the Lord's peace from "all nations," may the church — like those students from LCC International — pursue peace, "so that the world may believe" (Matthew 28:19, Psalm 34:14, John 17:21).   <br></p>
A peek behind the curtain of servant projectshttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/A-peek-behind-the-curtain-of-servant-projectsA peek behind the curtain of servant projectsBy Lauren Eash Hershberger <p>​Servant projects have been a convention highlight for many years, giving participants the opportunity to connect with nonprofits and do good in cities across the country. But what really goes into making them possible for thousands (yep, thousands) of convention-goers to serve in the local community?</p><p><strong>Reaching out</strong></p><p>Staff start working on making connections with organizations a year in advance to make sure there are enough placements to accommodate the various group sizes.</p><p><strong>Communication</strong></p><p>Participant information is gathered at convention registration. From there, the team takes over by communicating placements and times with group leaders, and making sure there are the correct number of giveaways for each group.</p><p><strong>Getting from here to there</strong></p><p>Imagine managing the transportation of 500 participants to around 20 organizations across the city. Now imagine doing it every day for a week! Starting to get a headache? The servant project team handles the coordination of up to 15 busloads of eager participants each day!</p><p><strong>Brave and valiant leaders</strong></p><p>Every group needs a service project leader to travel with them to the placement and to communicate with staff. Volunteers make up this crew, with around 20 people needed for the week. </p><p><strong>Orientation</strong></p><p>Servant project orientation is key: it's the one time during the week when Mennonite Mission Network staff hold the rapt attention of every participant. Introductions are made, guidelines are established, and servant project information and expectations are shared. Orientation is also a great time to remind youth of the service opportunities they can connect with though Mission Network!</p><p><strong>Office staff</strong></p><p>For the Servant Project staff, there really is no rest for the weary. Arloa, Jolene and Lori work with check-ins, giveaways, last-minute switches, no-shows, reminders and general troubleshooting throughout the whole week.</p><p><strong>What is the result of all this work?</strong> </p><ul><li><p>A network of relationships with organizational leaders, which lays a foundation for partnering with Mission Network in other future capacities. </p></li><li><p>Days of group team building, where participants step outside themselves to contribute to a greater good.</p></li><li><p>Concrete ways to give back to, and learn about, the local community that participants are a part of for a week.</p></li><li><p>Reminding people about our identity: Mennonite Mission Network is all about connecting with local leaders to serve. </p></li><li><p>To leave you with an impressive number, 34,985 participants have served since the beginning of Servant Projects in Orlando, Florida, in 1997!<br></p></li></ul>
How to have a great (video) interviewhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/How-to-have-a-great-video-interviewHow to have a great (video) interviewBy Carmen Hoober<p>Sometimes it seems like I interview people over videoconferencing platforms all-the-livelong-day. From Kenya to Ecuador to Canada to Spain to Germany, to the tiny island of Mauritius, and all over the good ol' US of A, I have Skyped, Zoomed, FaceTimed, and WhatsApp'd my way across the globe. So I like to think I've become a bit of an expert on the art of the video interview. Even though I'm interviewing for service and mission opportunities rather than traditional jobs, I ALWAYS appreciate when folks take their interview seriously and attempt to put their best foot forward. </p><p>I find that a lot of the time, though, people are a little uncertain as to how a video interview is going to work. I totally get it—this is still new to a lot of people. Technology is great, but it also creates one more opportunity for something to go wrong in what can be an already stressful situation. Sometimes things go so smoothly, you would almost believe you're sitting in the same room together. Other times, it can feel like you're in NASA headquarters trying to communicate with someone on the moon.</p><p>Look on the bright side! Video interviews have a lot of benefits. You don't need to worry about traffic! You don't have to be concerned about having bad breath or sweaty palms or how firm your handshake is! Wear all the perfume or cologne you want! As an added bonus, you might even get to have a good laugh if your interviewer's face freezes on the screen in a really unflattering way! Of course, there are some unique challenges, but keep reading and learn how to set yourself apart from the masses.</p><p> </p><p><strong>1. Location, location, location</strong></p><p>Please, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, find a private, quiet location (with good Internet connection!) with a door you can shut. Places that will not work include a busy hallway, the middle of a coffee shop or library, or a stairwell (with people walking past). If I can see other people in the background, I am immediately distracted from the awesome things you will presumably be saying. Other no-no locations include: </p><ul><li><p>A bathtub. </p></li><li><p>Anyplace outside.</p></li><li><p>In a moving car driving through the mountains. (Can you hear me now?)</p></li><li><p>Anywhere a cat will jump on your shoulder. </p></li></ul><p>So please. Have mercy. </p><p>Try your very best to find a neutral backdrop. If you can find a fancy-styled bookshelf to sit in front of (displaying all the tomes of great literature you've read), neat. Otherwise, a clean, blank wall is your best bet. </p><p>Next is to experiment and do a trial run (preferably on the same platform you will be using). Turn on your webcam in your chosen location. Is there enough light? Is there a weird glare? Can you draw the shades if needed? Is there an outlet nearby in case your computer battery is running low? Better to figure this stuff out well ahead of time instead of scrambling around at the last moment. If you feel like I'm advising you to design a movie set, you're kind of right! Now, get ready for your close-up! </p><p><strong>2. What you wear matters</strong></p><p>Whether you like it or not, your clothing communicates for you. In fact, according to the theory of <a href="https://positivepsychologynews.com/news/emily-vansonnenberg/2012052122126">enclothed cognition</a>, your choice of clothing not only sends a message to others, but it can also alter your perception of yourself and improve your performance! Learn how to harness this for your benefit.</p><p>Curiously, I find that when I interview people online, they tend to dress way more casually than they would for an in-person interview. I really can't figure out why that is. Maybe it's because they're in their own home? But, c'mon, it's still an interview. For my purposes, I don't expect people to show up in a three-piece suit, online OR in-person, but I still appreciate some effort. Of course, depending on your industry, you may well need to wear the suit and tie or a Hillary Rodham Clinton pantsuit. While conventional wisdom says that it's better to be over-dressed than under-dressed, I've personally had that work against me. The answer is to do your research! If all else fails, ask the HR person you're communicating with.</p><p>If "what to wear" has you stressing, it's worth noting that since you will be appearing on a screen, there are some differences. Depending on how much you care about appearing washed out, you might want to avoid wearing white. For example, good colors on camera are navy blue and grey. Stay away from busy, patterned prints or anything that might be construed as "revealing." Minimal jewelry, conservative makeup for women, and a fresh shave for men are also good decisions. And just because the interviewer will likely not see you from the waist down does NOT mean pants are optional! And, this should go without saying (yet I still need to say it), shoes are a MUST. </p><p><strong>3. After you speak, pause </strong></p><p>This is tricky. It's also hard to do if you're nervous. I notice that it's easier to talk over each other and interrupt someone in a virtual interview than IRL. Maybe because it's not as easy to catch those micro-expressions that send signals to our brains helping us to navigate conversations. Social cues are further confused when there's a lag between the audio and what you see on the screen. </p><p>I've learned to allow a few extra beats after I've spoken to give someone the chance to know when I'm expecting him or her to speak. I also wait a few beats longer than I would in normal conversation to allow space for someone to finish their thought before responding. </p><p>In my opinion, a good interviewer is a gracious interviewer. I've learned this stuff the hard way on my end of the webcam, and I don't hold it against folks who don't do this kind of thing every day. (And if they're not gracious? That's good data—remember that you're also interviewing them as well!)</p><p>Take note: An on-camera interview will often offer you the opportunity to display grace under fire. More than once I've made note of how someone is responding to unexpected technological issues. It's like a window into how they handle stress and working under pressure—something most interviewers would love to discover! </p><p><strong>4. Maintain comfortable eye … er, camera contact</strong></p><p>The best angle for a virtual interview is when your computer is on a desk or table and you are facing the camera head-on in a chair a comfortable distance away. Sit far enough back that you are filling the screen from the chest or shoulders up (please try not to move your computer or screen around a lot). I like to put the box with the other person's face just under the webcam to direct my eyes to the right place. </p><p><strong>5. Have your stuff ready</strong></p><p>Print off a copy of your resume and the job description so that you can talk intelligently without needing to mess around with finding a file on your computer (which you're using already). One tip is to put sticky notes around the edges of your computer screen with key phrases or questions you might like to keep in front of you.<br></p><p><strong>6. ALL THE OTHER INTERVIEW RULES STILL APPLY</strong><br>Be ready early. Silence your phone. Don't speak negatively about past employers or how poorly you were treated. Be honest. Have good questions prepared. Do your research about the company. Send a thank-you e-mail afterward. Etc. Etc. </p><p>We've all seen the hilarious <a href="https://youtu.be/Mh4f9AYRCZY">viral video</a> of Professor Robert Kelly being interviewed on the BBC while his toddler and baby interrupt him on live TV. It didn't stop me from laughing, but I really did feel for that guy (and his wife!). Man, he was doing everything right, and then BAM! His moment to shine became a three-ring circus. It just goes to show that all we can do is prepare to the best of our abilities, and then try our best to handle what life throws at us. And sometimes … you've just gotta be able to laugh at yourself.  </p><p>The most helpful interview advice I've received is to be SO prepared that when the time comes, you can relax and be truly present with the interviewer. That applies no matter the setting in which your interview takes place. An interview on your computer screen is still an interview. If you pay attention to the small distinctions I've discussed above, you'll be able to forget about the techy distractions, allowing you to concentrate on the MOST IMPORTANT THING—showing up as the best version of yourself.</p>



Missionary Myth #3https://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Missionary-Myth-3Missionary Myth #3By Joshua Garber GP0|#e284ba0e-faee-49c7-b590-84141094dd09;L0|#0e284ba0e-faee-49c7-b590-84141094dd09|Catalonia-Spain;GTSet|#f1c3ac69-6cd4-4109-8ba8-137477ba8a7d;GPP|#e1c6021e-2f25-46dc-91a1-be34789acdf9;GPP|#62ebb633-b401-4243-a537-1a85230e4ebf
Turmoil in Ecuadorhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Turmoil-in-EcuadorTurmoil in EcuadorBy Peter Wigginton GP0|#934efcfc-8004-48aa-b785-aff862d28dbd;L0|#0934efcfc-8004-48aa-b785-aff862d28dbd|Ecuador;GTSet|#f1c3ac69-6cd4-4109-8ba8-137477ba8a7d;GPP|#e2a61412-b024-41d7-adeb-1c4e0b790c03;GPP|#62ebb633-b401-4243-a537-1a85230e4ebf
Missionary Myth #2https://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Missionary-Myth-2Missionary Myth #2By Joshua Garber GP0|#89822f84-696e-4f7a-bc14-837545952bea;L0|#089822f84-696e-4f7a-bc14-837545952bea|Spain;GTSet|#f1c3ac69-6cd4-4109-8ba8-137477ba8a7d;GPP|#e1c6021e-2f25-46dc-91a1-be34789acdf9;GPP|#62ebb633-b401-4243-a537-1a85230e4ebf
Q&A: The God signs that brought me to Service Adventurehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/QA-The-God-signs-that-brought-me-to-Service-AdventureQ&A: The God signs that brought me to Service AdventureInterview with Cindy HeadingsGP0|#2ab17779-1e85-4ea3-bd7e-1348a1fb087a;L0|#02ab17779-1e85-4ea3-bd7e-1348a1fb087a|United States;GTSet|#f1c3ac69-6cd4-4109-8ba8-137477ba8a7d;GPP|#89f1dfe2-8e50-4b9f-b81a-f3f6dcbc35fc;GPP|#62ebb633-b401-4243-a537-1a85230e4ebf
Three missionary mythshttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Three-missionary-mythsThree missionary mythsBy Joshua Garber GP0|#89822f84-696e-4f7a-bc14-837545952bea;L0|#089822f84-696e-4f7a-bc14-837545952bea|Spain;GTSet|#f1c3ac69-6cd4-4109-8ba8-137477ba8a7d;GPP|#e1c6021e-2f25-46dc-91a1-be34789acdf9;GPP|#62ebb633-b401-4243-a537-1a85230e4ebf
Letting others be Christ to youhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Letting-others-be-Christ-to-youLetting others be Christ to youby Jenna BaldwinGP0|#2ab17779-1e85-4ea3-bd7e-1348a1fb087a;L0|#02ab17779-1e85-4ea3-bd7e-1348a1fb087a|United States;GTSet|#f1c3ac69-6cd4-4109-8ba8-137477ba8a7d;GPP|#89f1dfe2-8e50-4b9f-b81a-f3f6dcbc35fc;GPP|#62ebb633-b401-4243-a537-1a85230e4ebf
Reflections on my first day of schoolhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Reflections-on-my-first-day-of-schoolReflections on my first day of schoolBy Diana CruzGP0|#53f671dc-6b11-4308-ab01-f8c0f7df8786;L0|#053f671dc-6b11-4308-ab01-f8c0f7df8786|Benin;GTSet|#f1c3ac69-6cd4-4109-8ba8-137477ba8a7d;GPP|#4d0e08ea-d1a0-4141-9eba-431183992152;GPP|#62ebb633-b401-4243-a537-1a85230e4ebf
No one wants to be your mentorhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/no-one-wants-to-be-your-mentorNo one wants to be your mentorBy Carmen HooberGP0|#2ab17779-1e85-4ea3-bd7e-1348a1fb087a;L0|#02ab17779-1e85-4ea3-bd7e-1348a1fb087a|United States;GTSet|#f1c3ac69-6cd4-4109-8ba8-137477ba8a7d;GPP|#89f1dfe2-8e50-4b9f-b81a-f3f6dcbc35fc;GPP|#62ebb633-b401-4243-a537-1a85230e4ebf
Star Trek and faith: a cosmology of reconciliationhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Star-Trek-and-faith-a-cosmology-of-reconciliationStar Trek and faith: a cosmology of reconciliationBy Zachary Headings
New Zealand’s prime minister, trees teach compassionate justicehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/New-Zealand’s-prime-minister,-trees-teach-compassionate-justiceNew Zealand’s prime minister, trees teach compassionate justiceBy Mark HurstGP0|#2e063531-ff49-416e-a043-1783f69f43a3;L0|#02e063531-ff49-416e-a043-1783f69f43a3|Australia;GTSet|#f1c3ac69-6cd4-4109-8ba8-137477ba8a7d;GPP|#b75eb539-dc4e-4f93-9935-d94849571cd6;GPP|#62ebb633-b401-4243-a537-1a85230e4ebf