My latest column for the Christian Courier.
It is difficult to be indifferent when someone is “put in their place!”
On the one hand, we are likely to experience real satisfaction, or a sense of justice, when another person is brought down a peg or two. “He was getting too big for his britches but she put him in his place!” On the other hand, if we are the one who has been put in our place, the feeling will be quite different. There will likely be some degree of shame or humiliation when someone insists that we have spoken beyond what we know or have acted beyond our competence.
It seems to me that nothing would be lost if that phrase (and the experiences that accompany it) were banished from our lives and lexicons. There is little grace in the smug satisfaction of the one who has put another in his place. And the person who has been put in her place will generally have little sense that the other has acted with genuine compassion toward her, or with a view to her growth as a person.
Putting someone in their place always seems to be a blunt, ungracious action.
At the risk of reaching beyond the scope of that phrase, however, it seems to me that there is still something to be said about discerning, and remaining within, our place. There is a set of boundaries that defines “place” for each of us – a set of relationships, and a geographic circumference, that creates a decidedly local web of awareness and familiarity. If we think of place in this way, then it is certainly important to remember that we have been put in our place and that we have some duty to remember our place. Continue reading
Many years ago now I visited Becky in The Gambia, West Africa. She was there working as a nurse and nurse tutor, and I was there for a short vacation over the Christmas holidays.
One of the experiences I remember from those 4 weeks in The Gambia was attending a church service in the village of Jarrol. This was a village just a few kilometers upcountry from where Becky was living and working. And it was a very small church – there were only 6 of us there that Sunday morning. Along with Becky and me there were two other health care workers (Australian midwives) – there was a young Christian man who was serving in the Gambian army – and there was the village chief, who was a Muslim. That Sunday I was asked to preach, which I did, and the young Gambian man translated my words into the Mandika language for the chief. As you can imagine, it was pretty informal – I sat on a bench in the church as I offered some reflections on a passage of scripture.
Everything went fine that morning. But then after the service, one of the Australian midwives pointed out that after reading the scriptures I had placed my bible on the ground next to the bench where I was sitting. She pointed out that in a Muslim context, this would have been a sign of profound disrespect for the bible – no Muslim would ever put the Qur’an, their holy book, on the ground. The only saving grace, she said, was that I had at least placed the bible partly on mat that was there on the ground beside me. Continue reading
Our family is participating in community supported agriculture for the first time this year and have received our first two baskets – lots of leafy stuff in these early days of summer. But also radishes and beets… We receive an email the day before each delivery of vegetables, and I thought I’d share the first part of that email, from Nora Johnson:
Every spring we never fail to be excited by the way our farm, which has lain quiet through the long winter months, comes to life around us. It begins, in late March or early April, with the sound of the wood frogs and spring peepers and grows in intensity. The greenhouse is a warm spot even before all the snow has melted and there is always a toad or two who emerges there in the spring.
This year one of our resident toads made its home in one of the flats of tomato seedlings and during the heat of the day it would burrow under the loose seedling soil. When I watered the tomato plants it would scrunch down and blink its eyes. Continue reading