Category: faith life (Page 1 of 2)

More Than We Can Ask or Imagine: A Poetic Reflection

Amelia Pahl - More Than We Can Ask or Imagine: A Poetic Reflection

I see that moment of grace when the sun breaks through a murky sky.
I see the little spark of hope that flairs when someone asks just the right question – and then cares to listen.
I see a new sort of possibility appear amidst the mundanity of daily life. 
I see a dreamer who counts the stars and still only fathoms a drop of water in the ocean of the universe.

“More than we can ask or imagine” evokes a sense of absolute grace, a hope that, whatever our shortcomings,
whatever our mistakes,
whatever our inconsistencies
we’re part of a vast, bold, extravagant universe that is endlessly giving birth to itself.

I don’t know about you, but that’s a wee bit more than I can imagine on a typical day.

I’ve been writing poetry since I was at least seven, and words have come intuitively to me for as long as I can remember. I don’t really write poems, and I hardly ever think them – it’s more like I suddenly find myself bleeding words onto a page and all I have to do is get my self out of the way. For me, poetry is an act of grace, a moment when emotion, intuition, and words come to a head and explode into written form.

Often, in these moments, I feel an enormous sense of relief when I can find just the right words in just the right place on the page to express what normally can’t be expressed in words. It’s a moment of birth after what is usually weeks of growing and churning inside of me; suddenly I am given words for my experience of life – and it’s miraculous.

I like poetry because it doesn’t have to make sense. It allows us to give up our need to understand – if only for a little while – and instead to sit with life exactly as it is. And I’ve found that, in the sitting, life actually starts to make a little more sense. This is grace. This is more than we can ask or imagine. 

Poetry doesn’t have to make sense, and that’s why it can glimpse an unimaginable God.

Here is a poem.

The poet Adi al-Riga, as quoted by Rumi:

“I was sleeping, and being comforted
by a cool breeze, when suddenly a gray dove
from a thicket sang and sobbed with longing,
and reminded me of my own passion.

I had been away from my own soul so long,
so late-sleeping, but that dove’s crying
woke me and made me cry. Praise
to all early-waking grievers!”

Here ends the poem, but the grieving still runs thick in my veins,
I am up to my eyes in unknowing, swimming in the sluggish questions of my waking life,
Wondering where my awkward dance fits in with the graceful grace-filled folly of my world,
            your world, our worlds colliding and
            never quite knowing what to do about the wondering.
Each day I step out in trust
            – or maybe it’s stupidity, I can’t remember which –
And I hold on for dear life, never really sure
            who knows, who cares, who loves, who dares to question with me
            this spinning, half-sleeping place we call home,
            or life, I can’t remember which.
I am alone and never alone
I am known and unknown
I am strange and I am familiar
I am water I am air I am breathing universe I am ancient sleeping tree
I am the early-waking griever.

I died
Once or twice while writing this,
But death is dawn in Rumi’s books, and I tend to agree, though
            not in so many words.

I don’t know anything; I know that much.

Amelia Pahl is in her second year at CMU. 

Ordinary Angels: A reflection for Advent

“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to all on whom Gods favor rests.” —Luke 2:13-14

Angels.

My life is far too commonplace, routine, normal, conventional, standard, typical, and well, ordinary, for an angel.

Anna Epp - Ordinary Angels: A reflection for Advent

I grew up being an angel in Christmas pageants at church, dressed in white with tinsel on my sleeves, moving as though I had wings. I never thought of angels any other way. And I knew for certain that one of these extraordinary angels had never appeared to me bringing good news of great joy.

As I grew up, angels became different, hard to think about, and maybe even hard to believe in. It’s not that I didn’t want to believe in them, but they became what was unknowable for me, but not for God.

My expectations of angels have changed since the days of tinsel trimmed sleeves, and running as fast as you can in the hopes that your feet may lift off of the snow-covered ground and fly.

Theologian Rowan Williams reminds us that angels are more than what fits into our annual church Christmas pageants; that “it is worth thinking about angels as a short hand description of everything that is around the corner in our perception, the things that are not a part of our understanding of the universe – including the universal song of praise that surrounds us always”.

Anna Epp - Ordinary Angels: A reflection for Advent

An angel may never appear to me as to the shepherds who watched their flock by night. Instead I wonder if angels are there in between my comings and goings, complemented by the universal song of praise of God’s presence that surrounds me always.

Angels are but ordinary friends who, around each corner of our perception accompany us along the journey, and whom we have the pleasure of never knowing.

“For nothing is impossible with God” the angel said.

May this season of advent heighten our awareness to all that is just around the corner in our perception.

May we be open to the possibilities of angels in our lives, and the way that God works in the ordinary.

May the unexpected nature of God continue to surprise us in this time of waiting.

Amen.

Anna Epp is in her third year of a BTS degree.

Living on campus: Close to class, closer to community

You live 15 minutes away from here? Why do you live on campus? Isn’t it way more expensive than living at home?

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Well the practical answer is easy. Look at our roads right about now. Look at your thermometer, or, the weather app on your phone. Check your bus schedule, and find out that your daily commute is over an hour each way, and that’s when those Winnipeg buses are actually on time. 

So if I choose to live at home, I can either spend a pile of money on a car, or spend my most valuable resource – time – out in minus-40 weather.

That was enough to sell me on dorm life, and I hadn’t even set foot in Poettcker Hall yet.

The first thing I noticed was how great dorm life is as a stepping stone to adulthood. There’s no one checking in on you, making sure you follow rules or get to sleep at a decent hour, but you don’t have to worry about what to cook (or how to cook) every day. Ted Dyck and his crew take great care of that, and the food is unlimited!

6th year

Right from the start, you find out that there are always exciting events on campus, and there’s something for everyone. From incredibly talent-filled coffeehouses to Blazer game days at the Loewen, and everything in between, there’s always something to do. You’re a 30-second walk from chapel twice a week, Wednesday Night Worship, fellowship groups and many more opportunities to discuss and worship God.

There are some challenges as well. Chances are you will quickly have a new sense of appreciation for your mattress at home, or simple things like laundry machines that don’t require your hard-earned-Bible-camp salary to operate. You might come back to your room on a Sunday night to find 2000 water-filled Dixie cups covering every square inch of floor and table space, but hey, you left your door unlocked so what do you expect?

1st year

Most importantly, living on campus is the best way to experience community at CMU. I’ve lived in dorm, then at home, and now in apartments on campus and it’s clear that I’m closest to the people here when I live here. In my first year, I found myself staying up until two or three in the morning regularly, engaging in deep faith discussions with other first years. These were people going through the same life changes, anxious and stressful moments as me. I can honestly say that I learned more about my faith in those talks in my first semester than I had in any sermon or lecture.

CMU is a community, and the best way to experience it is being present all the time, and engaging in everything it has to offer. Take the plunge, move in, and you’ll feel it.

Thomas Friesen is a senior Communications and Media student from Winnipeg, Manitoba.

From South Carolina to the South Side of Grant

Andi Jacobs - from South Carolina to the South Side of Grant

Throughout high school I knew I wanted to do something different for college. I didn’t want to attend the same four universities that nearly everyone from my high school chose. So when my family was visiting friends in Toronto, and I learned about International Development, a degree that is not widely offered in the States, I felt the opportunity to take a different path. It sounded like it would be just the right fit for me.

After a quick search on Google, I learned about Canadian Mennonite University. Not only did CMU offer a degree that was different, but it also offered small class sizes and a real relationship with my professors, which was definitely something I wouldn’t have if I attend the larger state schools in South Carolina.

CMU also offered a schooling option that was affordable. It’s no secret that American schools are crazy expensive, especially if you are considering attending university in a different state or a private institution. So even though I’m an international student, CMU is just as affordable as staying in my home state of South Carolina. Not only am I going to a great school, but I will also graduate with relatively no debt (thanks mom & dad).

I’ll admit that I was a little nervous going to university so far from home, as this would be my first time living on my own. Not only was the school far away, but it was also in a different country, which was nerve-racking, yet also exciting at the same time. The unknown is what frightened me, yet the possibility for new friends and a new city to explore far outweighed the risks. Thankfully, the community I found once I arrived at CMU was more welcoming and supportive than I could’ve ever imagined. True to their stereotype, Canadians are a friendly bunch.

Another important factor in my choosing a university was whether I would have the opportunity to play competitive volleyball. I had never considered looking at schools in Canada, but I’m so thankful I did. Last January I visited Winnipeg (my parents wanted to make sure I had a chance to experience Manitoba in winter), toured the campus, and practiced with the volleyball team. My visit sealed the deal. CMU was a perfect fit.

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The support on campus for academics and spiritual growth is something I have already learned to treasure. There are both chapels and fellowship groups during the week, and the leaders guide us through different worship styles whether that is contemporary, traditional, or something different altogether. While this Christian community is a big part of CMU, you can be as involved or uninvolved as you want. Regardless of your beliefs, you will be accepted for who you are as an individual.

Not only are the people welcoming, but CMU’s location is a welcoming place too. It is a smaller, more traditional campus with wonderful scenery, yet it’s only a few short minutes from being in downtown Winnipeg. If I need some fresh air after studying, there are miles of walking trails in the Assiniboine Forest, right behind campus. It is really the best of both worlds.

I am so happy with my decision to come to CMU. It truly has something to offer everyone.

Andi Jacobs is a first year student from Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

How One Step of Faith Led to a 600 km Walk

Leading up to the summer of 2017, I could never have anticipated the depth of transformation I would experience, and the alteration this would have on my daily life as a young, white, settler student, and as a Christian.

Colin Remier 2

As I prepared to work over the summer, Erin Froese (a fellow CMU student, and previous #myCMUlife blogger) planted a seed in my mind at a screening of the documentary film Split Lake last Spring, about entering the Indigenous-settler conversation more intentionally through the Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights.

While I thought little of it at first, God pulled me in. After consulting with some of my spiritual advisors, I took a leap of faith and committed to the entire walk: 600 km from Kitchener to Ottawa.

Did I know what I was getting myself into? Was I prepared for God’s new, transformative path, of which he had begun preparing me for? Could I have anticipated being who or where I am now, from who I was and where I began last spring?

The answer? No.

With great joy and exhilaration I walked; learning along the way, first hand, what it meant to be an Indigenous ally, to walk the path of reconciliation, and what the struggles have been like for our host peoples over the past 150 years of colonialism. 

Colin Remier 3

Engaging with people of faith and walking day after day, I found a deeper connection and passion growing inside me for the pursuit of justice and reconciliation, believing even now that the church belongs here.

As I developed relationships with specific people such as Leah Gazan, Steve Heinrichs, and MP Romeo Saganash, this personal drive grew exponentially. 

Along the way, I contacted my parents and asked about my grandfather’s work with the Indigenous communities of Manitoba, and came to learn that my ancestry traces (at least partially) into the Indigenous community of The Long Plains. Recognizing that I am the grandson of honorary Chief White Cloud, and that indigenous peoples’ value ancestry very highly, I committed to reignite the reconciliation work my grandfather had begun back in the 1970’s.   

Colin Remier 1

Following the completion of the Pilgrimage, I found myself planning, but in a type of limbo as if waiting for some guidance as to the direction I should go. While developing a list of actions surrounding the Pilgrimage and Bill-C262 had been simple, taking initiative to provide local education and support in my hometown of Boissevain, Manitoba (Treaty 2 territory), proved to be quite challenging.

However, after several meetings with my pastor, various conversations with fellow Indigenous allies, as well as suggestions from mentors and my parents, I pushed hard for action in August. Since then, I have begun planning possible citywide events with Kerry Saner-Harvey of Mennonite Central Committee Manitoba around a variety of Indigenous issues, particularly those surrounding Muskrat Falls. 

Through the editorial assistance of a few individuals, I wrote and had an article published in the local paper, the Boissevain Recorder, where I discussed the relevance of the Pilgrimage, and the essential importance of Bill-C262 being passed. I have also become a Fellowship Group leader, leading a group on the study and discussion of Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry, a book that tackles church-indigenous relations.

Last, but not least, since the latter half of the Pilgrimage to now, I have become an activist on social media lobbying for the Bill, for Indigenous Rights, and for the positive change that can and is happening.

Colin Remier 5

While I am back at CMU, I continue to lobby and participate in various actions surrounding Bill-C262, and am excited for the future of where this new path may take me. It is here that I have found truth to the phrase, “the joy of the Lord is my strength.”

I found joy on the Pilgrimage, and in discussion and writing over the summer, and I continue to find joy and see God’s grace in the love and community that I have returned to for another year at CMU.

Colin Reimer is a third year Psychology major at CMU.

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