Belgian national residing in Sweden with partner and two wonderful children.
Educational background in Asian Studies, Peace and Conflict Studies, and Management.
Work life: refugee assistant, tourguide, translator, community building, peacebuilding, humanitarian aid.
Professional interests: humanitarian and development aid, role of religion in peace and conflict, disaster risk reduction, climate change, corporate social responsiblity.
Filling up the gaps with: good music, Capoeira Angola, cooking.
Religion and spirituality: ah those labels...maybe something like a very liberal evangelical? I have a profound interest for the mystics of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Advaita Vedanta, and Buddhism.
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Great question about Orthodox Judaism. I was mostly involved with the Chabad variety...which as you probably know holds tightly to the mystical/kabbalistic teachings of Judaism. For me, a non-mystical approach to Judaism (or Christianity) doesn't make much sense. Remove the mysticism, and you end up with just a set of rules, or an intellectual exercise. I don't know if you read my blog post about leaving Evangelicalism, but I talk a bit about it there. Chassidic Judaism (which is more accurately what I was involved in) makes EVERY moment of life an opportunity for elevation, or transendence. I find that Quakerism (aside from Orthodox Christianity...ie the Russian or Greek variety) is the only form of Christianity that also holds to a mystical understanding of G-d, and remains open to mysticism in general. I couldn't stay in Chassidic Judaism, mainly because I believe the Messiah to be literally Yeshua (Jesus)...but I also hold to the mystical view that there is the "Christ", or the Spirit of Messiah, that "divine Spark" which resides in everyone. It's our journey here on earth to uncover those sparks in each other, and in the world around us. So...in keeping with true Kabbalistic thinking, my idea of G-d, and who He is has multiple layers of truth and expression. I find that in Quakerism, there is room for all of those layers to co-exist in unity, even in sometimes seeming contradiction. It is my biggest struggle in life to not be consistently rejecting one part of myself or another (ie Christianity, Judaism, Quakerism....even some Christian Science and Islam thrown in there!) so I can make myself somehow feel more "whole". G-d is One, He is Whole, and in Quakerism, as well as in a mystical understanding of Judaism, I can see my identity as Whole in the Heavenly Realms without having to make an intellectual decision about "truth", etc.... G-d will make all of that clear in the end. In the meanwhile, all I have to do is continuously turn back to H-m, finding my identity in H-m, however he chooses to express H-mself to me.
I don't know if that answers it....I could write paragraphs and paragraphs on this...it's one of my favourite topics!!!
I was in Brussels in March of 2006 and visited the Friends house there one Sunday for worship. I don't remember whether or not I gave ministry that Sunday, but perhaps you remember better than I. It is heartwarming to think that I may have been serviceable to Friends during that visit.
I'd love to know more about Friends where you are. Please feel free to write me at my email, micahbales [at] gmail [dot] com.