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Dear Friend,

Sorry, about the disappearing act, right as I finished up my fast, life got crazy busy with work, exams, and the various outlets of life I have committed to this semester. You’re probably wondering how it went, this crazy fast of mine. Well, it was good. It wasn’t perfect and and had a few slip ups, I did my best and at the end of the week that those slip ups were okay with me. Yeah, I would much rather be able to say that I was able to fast and not make any mistakes here and there, but look at life, mistakes are everywhere. Life isn’t about making mistakes only to give up on yourself, life is about trusting God will forgive those mistakes and moving forward.

One part of fasting I wish I had done better was focusing on God rather than the fast itself. When I was fasting, I sort of felt that the two were intertwined, but in retrospective I was putting too much emphasis on the act of fasting, rather than the reasons for which I was doing it. This, more than anything I wish I could change. I have also been thinking about ways I could make fasting part of my regular spiritual life rather than a one time “fad-like” moment in my spiritual journey. I don’t know if this means I’ll fast once  a week/month/years or whatever…or even at all, but I want to give serious consideration to what role fasting will have in my future… and how to implement that role in a life giving and spiritually fulfilling way.

As I’m sure EVERYONE is aware, this past week was Valentine’s Day. Last year I wrote about how I always love the anticipation of Valentine’s day, but that when it arrives I find myself somehow surprised with how horribly it goes. It’s so true. It’s so hard to see people walking around with “significant others,” holding hands, and receiving flowers, chocolates, and other small gifts… For once in my life could a guy  like me enough to want to show ME some love?

Well… I guess not this year, but in the future, I hope so. You see I really do love Valentine’s Day. I love the music, eating chocolate with my friends, watching chick flicks with friends, and looking at the beautiful flower I received from my mother that is currently sitting in a vase on my dresser. But it also makes me wonder “am I intimidating?” because I don’t feel scary… but I realize it can be hard to talk to me (This is because I really, really, really don’t like and am ridiculously horrible at small talk) and I am fairly reserved… until you know me pretty well. So to all of the guys out there who are remotely interested in me (Because there has to be at least one) just talk to me, you don’t have to declare your love… to be honest that might freak me out, but be aware that I’m not going to think you’re a crazy person for talking to me… seriously, I’m not scary, at all.

Tonight, I has a beautiful conversation with one of my good friends, Morgan (Click her name to visit her blog, or you can also use the link on the side panel), about LOTS of things. Morgan shares my frustration with small talk and let’s just say that our ability to understand each other goes way beyond that. One topic we discussed is the idea of living out your faith. It is so hard to find ways to live out one’s faith, to keep the values taught by Christ in mind every second of everyday, to make living like Christ such a part of life, that it feels natural… In many ways, this is impossible… we all (as I said earlier) make mistakes, say and do things that aren’t Christ-like, but working towards living like him, should be our highest priority.

As someone who identifies with the Mennonite Church, I wish I could say that Mennonites have it all together, but we’re as flawed as the next church down the road. There are reasons, however, why I love this denomination. In fact I am going to try and sum these reasons up into a short bulleted list. These are points that I have created, not the church itself, so please, recognize that I am not an authoritative source. Anyways, here you go:

  • We believe that Scripture is interpreted through community life and discernment as opposed to a single person (as seen in the Catholic church with the Pope, or a small group of people (like Bishops, prophets, etc.) but that we come to a better understanding of the scriptures through Church life and being a community of faith.
  • We believe that our faith is best shown through discipleship, or living our lives in the example of Christ. That our actions should show those us around us the love of Christ.
  • We point to scriptures calling us to “love our neighbor as ourselves” and “love our enemies” as well as scriptures like “blessed are the peacemakers” to support our belief that God calls us to live nonviolently and to resist violence through nonviolent measures.
  • We believe in an international church, and are encouraged to travel and experience God in new, sometimes challenging, settings. Usually through service, where we can both give and receive God love.

Now these are points that I look to and say “this is what we believe” but to be honest, we are much more complex than this… and we don’t always do very well at accomplishing/displaying these beliefs. The hardest one for us to show is of course that our lives are reflective of Christ’s… But this is hard for people in all denominations. This goes back to what I was saying about mistakes and trusting in God’s forgiveness and trying harder rather than giving up. I may not think the Mennonite Church is perfect, but I do think that our focus on love and community is worth the effort.

Lots of Love, Mandi Jo