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From ‘Imagine’ to ‘Material Girl’

Viewpoints | By Phil Wagler | Jul 12, 2010

As a fledgling whipper-snapper the great inherent threat to my young soul was said to be the subliminal messages being “backmasked” into music that would hoodwink me into becoming morally reprobate, or, worse, a Montreal Canadiens fan. Determined, and thoroughly misguided, religious groups fought to have backmasking on vinyl records banned forever.

Asking the right questions

Viewpoints | By Darryl Neustaedter Barg | Jul 12, 2010

I spend a lot of time pondering leadership these days. I see the word everywhere. I suspect I could take a course on leadership every weekend of the year in our city. Despite all this energy on building leaders, I hear more negatives than positives summed up by this recurring phrase, “We just need leadership,” as if this will solve all that’s ailing the church and the world.

Getting a perspective with numbers

Viewpoints | By Melissa Miller | Jun 23, 2010

Sometimes we find it helpful to use numbers as a way to gain perspective. Like the time I discussed a grievance with a consultant. He replied with numbers: “In my business, I’m interested in moving forward. If I see 2 percent that’s moving in the direction I want to go, I’ll put my energies there. And I won’t get too bogged down in the other 98 percent that isn’t moving in the right direction.”

No more cheap church

Viewpoints | By Phil Wagler | Jun 04, 2010

Nearly four score years ago Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote The Cost of Discipleship. Every Christian should read it because the German martyr was on to something: He exposed the scourge of cheap grace. “Cheap grace,” he wrote, “means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian ‘conception’ of God.”

A five-year retrospective

Viewpoints | By Will Braun | Jun 04, 2010

This is my 30th New Order Voice column since Aiden Enns and I started writing for Canadian Mennonite five years ago. It’s not a huge milestone, but an occasional look back can be fruitful.

Discerning alone and together

Viewpoints | By Muriel Bechtel | Jun 04, 2010

“Discernment” is the latest buzzword among leaders, not only in the church but also in corporate and business circles. Every day, it seems, a new book appears and promotes a new way of discerning direction and vision. In the church we often speak of discerning God’s Spirit.

Retirement: Eat, drink and be merry?

Viewpoints | By Kevin Davidson | May 31, 2010

What comes to mind when you think of retirement: Florida, golf, hobbies, volunteering, generosity, inheritance, higher education, death, or what will I do if I don’t have enough money?

The financial services industry recommends that we replace up to 80 percent of our working income to retire comfortably. This can make us slaves to our own retirement. Today, if 30 percent of our income goes to taxes, 20 per cent to mortgage payments or rent, and 10 per cent to raising kids, then we’re already living on 40 percent of our income!

Tending the boundaries

Viewpoints | By Melissa Miller | May 31, 2010

A number of years ago, my husband prepared to take a long trip, which meant we’d be apart for several months. I discussed this situation with a male colleague, who was also a friend. He quickly responded, “That will affect our working relationship as well.”

I was surprised, but understood his meaning better when he added, “Without your partner at home, you may be looking for emotional support from me, or I may feel some need to ‘take care’ of you.”

Financial trends and church health

Viewpoints | By Andrew Reesor-McDowell | May 31, 2010

There are many signs of good spiritual health in the body and ministry system that comprises Mennonite Church Canada. But there are also some worrisome trends.

The dangerous question

Viewpoints | By Phil Wagler | May 17, 2010

When I popped the engagement question I was pretty sure what the answer would be. I was 100 percent sure she was the one for me and 99 percent sure she felt the same.

Rebutting ‘a pernicious message’

Viewpoints | By Aiden Enns | May 17, 2010

My growing faith in Jesus has led me to see annual assemblies as increasingly blah. This feels inappropriate to say, yet necessary.

By my actions, I declare my commitment to the Mennonite church, its periodicals, congregations and schools. But in my heart I am succumbing to the lure of a difficult dimension of the gospel that causes those in power to grumble.

Reflections on leadership

Viewpoints | By Gerd Bartel | May 17, 2010

As I think back on my seven years of leadership in Mennonite Church British Columbia, I am filled with thanksgiving and hope at what has transpired and what I have experienced. In these years we have experienced a rollercoaster ride of diverse opinions, misunderstandings, accusations and finger-pointing without dialogue, and also many attempts at understanding and cooperation mixed with a perseverance and trust that God will lead us through the wilderness.

Take good care of your children

Viewpoints | By Take good care of your children | May 03, 2010

“Who will take care of our children if something happens to us?”

The decision about guardianship of minor children is one of the major hurdles facing parents when writing a will. Often it is because parents can’t agree on whom to name. Each parent may want his or her side of the family to be responsible. Sometimes they are in a new area and don’t yet have a lot of close friends to choose from. It may be that they have a special-needs child and have no one who could take on this responsibility.

Specializing in a Google world

Viewpoints | By Arlyn Friesen Epp | May 03, 2010

In a Google world where millions of written works are at your fingertips, it’s tough for the average user to discern appropriate resources for Christian formation, leadership, peace and mission. And it’s an even greater challenge to keep Anabaptist and related resources as visible and accessible as we’ve come to expect them to be.

Fortunately, there are circles of partnership in our wider Mennonite world that help us tailor bibliographies and help widen their accessibility:

They call it ‘couple-love’

Viewpoints | By Melissa Miller | May 03, 2010

A season of weddings. That’s what I see as I look ahead to the next few months. Many of the children born in the 1980s are now young adults falling in love, pledging their troth and bravely preparing to marry.

Several invitations for these weddings dot our family bulletin board, some of which include photos of the engaged couple. They are young, full of promise and good intention. With sparkling eyes and sweet smiles, they radiate joy and eagerness to declare their love. They are beautiful and so is the love that spurs them forward.

The gospel in three parts . . . times three

Viewpoints | By Phil Wagler | Apr 19, 2010

Before reading any further, answer this question: What is the gospel?

You didn’t do it, did you? You just kept reading. Bad reader. Return to line one.


Many Christians go into blushed silence when asked to articulate the good news of God’s reign. However, if we are to be cracked pots spilling out this glorious message, the gospel must be understood and lived. To that end, let’s look at three unique, yet interrelated biblical images of the gospel.

Seated among the unsettled

Viewpoints | By Will Braun | Apr 19, 2010

There are people who feel entirely settled in their lives. They feel confident about their location, occupation and calling in life.

Then there are the rest of us. We’re not so sure. We’re not sure where to live, what to study, who to marry, where to work, when to retire, which church to attend, whether to apply to Mennonite Central Committee or what our calling is. We spend an inordinate amount of time pondering these decisions, possibly wishing for audible directions from on high.

Counting the cost of retirement

Viewpoints | By Mike Strathdee | Apr 05, 2010

Are you somewhat jealous of your teacher friends, who, in their early 50s, are already counting the days, only a few years away, when they can say goodbye to their day job while enjoying a full pension? Do you wonder how your circumstances will ever make retiring possible?

It is pretty difficult to find any biblical support for the modern notion of retirement—turning our back on work at a certain age. God made us to be productive. But society has taught us all to look forward to retirement, if not how to plan for it properly.

Putting the cat to sleep

Viewpoints | By Melissa Miller | Apr 05, 2010

Recently I took my sick cat to the vet, who diagnosed him as having a significant tumour lodged in his intestines. That explained the odd behaviour we’d observed, like him using the breadbox for a bed and the bathtub for a toilet. There were other signs of distress, including loss of weight and difficulties walking. I had prepared myself for euthanizing my cat, but it was still a hard step to take. I gave my consent to the kind veterinarian, and soon my pet had “gone to sleep,” as the euphemism goes.

Convert . . . or die

Viewpoints | By Phil Wagler | Mar 22, 2010

It’s quite unfashionable these days to think people should change their minds. This is a strange thought that, well, needs to change.

In some parts of the world—places some Canadians look at with disdain because of their backward “fundamentalism”—to change one’s mind is an act of high treason. Think of those strange bedfellows Iran and North Korea. One is a theistic state, the other atheistic, yet both systems are equally paranoid of people changing their minds.

Pondering dissent from popular films

Viewpoints | By Aiden Enns | Mar 22, 2010

Warning: Part A below uses evangelical language. If you are sensitive to harsh judgments, please skip ahead to Part B for a gentle conclusion.

Part A: “Hate” is such a short, strong word, isn’t it? It’s so strong that I try to refrain from directing it at people and reserve it for more nebulous things. For example, I hate it that there are audiences for pornography, lotteries, and airports with shopping malls.

New directions in Manitoba

Viewpoints | By Hans Werner | Mar 22, 2010

At the recent annual gathering of Mennonite Church Manitoba, the talk was about new directions. It seems the search for new ways of organizing ourselves is in the air everywhere. Our connections to each other as congregations seem to be fraying, we value our independence in ever greater measure, and see less and less need to support and depend on each other.

Abundance in times of need

Viewpoints | By Dori Zerbe Cornelsen | Mar 08, 2010

Sometimes preaching and hearing about God’s abundance is harder than one might expect. Take, for example, Jan. 17, the Sunday after the devastating earthquake in Haiti. On that Sunday, pastors and congregations who use the Revised Common Lectionary will have read John 2:1-11, the story of Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana.

Handling each other’s pain

Viewpoints | By Melissa Miller | Mar 08, 2010

A month ago, I took an astoundingly fast fall on the ice. Instinctively, I did the wrong thing, putting down my wrist to break the fall, and cracking my right forearm (just below the elbow) as a result.

Gladly wear the name of Jesus

Viewpoints | By Elsie Rempel | Mar 08, 2010

As one who is preparing for the upcoming Mennonite Church Canada assembly in Calgary, I have had the theme, “Reclaiming Jesus™: Gladly wear the name,” on my mind for months.