This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Friday round-up: Five things worth paying attention to this week

David and Leann Augsburger are two semi-retired people who co-lead a home base church (Peace Mennonite Church, Claremont, California) and volunteer to welcome, care and connect people in the San Gabriel valley.

This week we are talking about:

1. Trees: Redwood trees, millennia old, vertical columns in a forest cathedral, ferns cover their feet, slanted rays of sunlight, birdsong blends with the whisper of wind far above and the air is fresh with emitted life that nourishes all around. After a week in Northern California, we can’t stop talking about these life-giving giants, as well as the more recent oaks, palms, magnolias, myrtles; the valleys of citrus, almonds and avocados; and the blue jacarandas in bloom. Trees. Pause to breathe thanks for the tree near you. It is giving you breath.

2. Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. Each summer we have a film fest at Peace Mennonite Church, the home-base church we attend. This week’s film is a prophetic documentary on living maximally with the minimum of “stuff.” Less means so much more to the architects, designers, musicians, business people and other regular folks profiled as they witness to how they are getting the most out of life by consuming, hoarding and needing the least. You can order it from Netflix. You think you are living simply? It is worth thinking again.

3. Movie, The Big Sick: Don’t miss this amazingly human transcultural story from director Michael Showalter, writer/actor Kumail Nanjani, and his co-writer and wife Emily Gordon telling the story of their non-arranged marriage and the conflicting worlds of Pakistani and American families. It is about generational differences, about Muslims in America and the residue of 9/11. This comedy is serious business with insights that jolt and awaken us to how we are each shaped, more than we want to realize, by our families. It should come as no surprise that comedy can be both instructive and prophetic, since many, perhaps most of us, get a significant part of our news, political analysis, cultural wisdom and best moral commentary from comedians.

4. Alternate history in a cartoon? Last week, the cartoon strip “Candorville” offered a “futile fourth” meditation for Independence day—we clipped it and share it with friends as a terse statement of things we learned from Howard Zinn, James Loewen or other provocative historians. As the cartoon asks, “What if no revolutionary war? Then Britain would have freed the slaves in 1833. Then France would not have bankrolled us and drowned in debt imploding their monarchy-so, no Napoleon, no threat uniting the German nationalists—so, no WWI and WWII, Britain would not have turned to the Middle East and Africa to carve out an empire to replace the “New World” and break up the Ottoman Empire—so, no chaos in the middle east and no ISIS?” Why do they call this a comic? View the comic strip online. 

5. Fires: We turn to the 11 o’clock news to hear that a fire has broken out a couple blocks from our home. Fires become a part of our summer life. Twenty burning in our state alone. Should we keep a bag packed? Select from our necessary papers and valued treasures? What can we contribute to all who are burnt out in at least two meanings of the term? In a world of global warming, is this the new normal?

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