Another Valentine's Day has come and gone, but as I write this, the holiday-industrial complex looms over me. As a child, I never liked how favoritism, cliques, and other social constructs could infiltrate even elementary school egalitarianism. Some of us collected more than our share of chalk hearts inscribed with untrue odes, while others held true to Valentine's authentic spirit and doled edible indulgences only to a favored few.<read more>
by Merrill R. Miller
"Otterville" is copyrighted and is not to be reproduced in any form without permission. Contact Merrill Miller at <email@example.com>
Of righteousness and dual citizenship
by J. Ron Byler
I am struck by the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 112 where "righteousness" is presented in clear relationship to "giving to the poor." Our worship, "Happy are those who fear the Lord," is side by side with our work, "It is well with those who deal generously."<read more>
Or as John Dominic Crossan says in his book, The Greatest Prayer, in commenting on Leviticus 19, "the Priestly tradition resolutely refuses to separate ritual action from distributive justice." Human holiness means not "reaping to the very edges of your field," and leaving some for the poor.
In 1996, Jhon Jairo Martinez's community of about 45 families in Colombia was forced from their homes due to armed combat between guerrilla and paramilitary groups. The community eventually resettled on a farm and began farming again. However, in 2003 Jhon and others in the community began receiving threats from a local cattle rancher who wanted to use the community's farm for his cattle. Jhon was involved in a public dispute with the rancher to resolve the issue.<read more>
On June 28, 2009 four armed men, presumed members of a local paramilitary group, entered his home and asked for some water. When Jhon walked to the kitchen to get the water, the men shot him. As Jhon fell into his wife's arms, they shot him a second time and fled the scene. It is believed that the cattle rancher is responsible for Jhon's death. Jhon is survived by his wife and three children ages nine, seven and two.
Many years ago, I was visiting friends in Burma. It was April, the hottest and driest time of the year. I was sitting in a small office with eight friends, trying to carry on a discussion about the work of the youth in the church of Burma. Without air conditioning, the room was brutally hot and the overhead fan, turning lazily and reluctantly, did little to relieve the heat. I was having a very difficult time concentrating on what friends were saying, and even began to wonder if there was any value in holding the discussion.<read more>
Where to start? Two recent news articles prompted me to write this February Peace Signs column about what we might call "literal" heart health--taking care of the heart and circulatory system. While not romantic in itself, the idea of focusing on the heart for a column in February, with its Valentine's Day associations, seemed fitting.<read more>
But, as I thought about the column it began to grow, for the word and idea "heart" in the Bible refers to much more than the physical organ. According to the Holman Bible Dictionary (at <http://www.studylight.org>), the heart is "[t]he center of the physical, mental, and spiritual life of humans." The word heart, as it appears in the Bible and was thought of in Hebrew culture "refers to the physical organ and is considered to be the center of the physical life." But this is not all. Holman's goes on to say that, "[t]he heart and the intellect are closely connected, the heart being the seat of intelligence."
This is the time of year when my thoughts inevitably turn to gardening and I find myself daydreaming about digging in the dirt, and planting seeds, and how wonderful a warm, just-picked, sun-ripened tomato tastes. I feel spring stirring in my soul while frost is yet on the ground. When this happens, I pull out my copy of The Wind in the Willows and look in on Mole, inside cleaning while, "Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing."<read more>
This month's prayer for peace was written by Byron Rempel-Burkholder, editor at Mennonite Publishing Network.<read more>
Find out what readers had to say about our January issue.<read more>