First Friday in Lent – IWD

jesus and mm

Today is International Women’s Day and a fitting topic for today’s Lenten blog.  Shining a light on the women of the world celebrates just how far we have come in matters of justice and equality — but even more importantly, it shows how very far we have to go to ensure the safety and protection of women and girls everywhere.

In recent times, the #metoo movement bravely brought to light the many ways in which women have been victimized  and abused by those in positions of authority and power.  Most of my women friends can share experiences of lecherous bosses or handsy guys.  I recall a salesman making some overt comments about me at a convention a very long time ago.  Over the course of dinner and a number of scotches, his intentions were more and more clear and I, a very naive 20-something company rep, would have been in deep doo doo had I not been rescued by an observant co-worker who basically dumped the interloper on his derriere outside the restaurant.  I know many other women for whom there was no intervention.   #metoo has helped to put a laser on this behaviour.

I remember a distraught friend rushing over to my house in a blind panic.  She had suddenly remembered a date in college that was in fact, a drugged rape.  For fifteen years she had no memory of that night, except the puzzle of waking up in her bed naked, alone.  She had married, had kids and one day, watching the news of a woman whose date had drugged and raped her, the puzzle pieces came back together and she remembered what had been done to her.   Who could she report this to?  Where was the guy now all these years later?  How many other women had he raped?  Helplessness turned to rage.  And frustration.  And horror. And shame.  After so much time, there was not much to be done other than make a report.  Women deal with these kinds of feelings all the time. I think that is why #metoo has been so important.  It is time to raise consciousness.

Every day, women are emotionally and or physically abused by their boyfriends or husbands. They receive less money for the same job as their male counterpart. They get told they are hysterical when they show emotion, and called a bitch when they are justifiably angry.

When I was first ordained in 1985, I was told that I would have to work a whole lot harder than my male counterpart to be accepted in my role as clergy.  When I got up to preach, some people walked out because it was offensive to hear a woman in a leadership role in the Anglican church at that tender time of change.  I was told that women priests were distracting and cause men to think unclean thoughts.  When I was first pregnant I was “jokingly” told by my priest supervisor that he shouldn’t have given me time off, since I obviously enjoyed myself with my husband while we were on vacation….  oh, I have stories.

The battle for respect, equality and fairness is ongoing here in North America, especially with someone in the White House who has a vocal and blatant disrespect for women. There are states ruled by GOP men who are passing more and more oppressive laws dealing with women’s reproductive rights.  We need to be vigilant and not lose hard-won ground.

International Women’s Day casts a spotlight on the women in the world who still have NO rights, who live in oppressive societies, who may at any time be beaten by their husbands and whose lives are impossibly harsh. I saw an item on CNN that showed an app used by Saudi men who track their wives’ every move (some have multiple wives) and make sure that they don’t leave the country.  Hello?  2019.  Deck is stacked against anyone not male.

We cast the spotlight on those women around the world who are forced into the sex trade and treated like commodities, who have no freedom, no life of their own. When will serious efforts be taken to keep women safe?  This is evil borne out of greed and the behaviour of those who fuel this monstrous activity treating women and young girls like chattel.  Disposable.  Of no value other than for a man’s pleasure.  I read where 3 year old girls are being sold to be married in Yemen so families can survive.  This is unspeakable.

We cast the spotlight on the countless women who go missing every month.  Here in Canada, we continue to question the government about the dozens of Aboriginal women who’ve disappeared.  Where are they?  What happened to them?  They count.  They matter.  What are you doing to stop it?

This is a day when we take up the banner and make a noise. A loud and angry noise.  A noise so loud that it rises up like a collective volcano of hot fire and ashes.  We are strong. All women matter.  All women are important.  Don’t mess with our sisters.

Women matter. That should be obvious.  But as long as unevolved men who are threatened by the talents, intelligence, ingenuity and loving spirit of women are in charge, we will continue to fight for equality for all women on this planet.

Jesus was outspoken about the rights of women in his day.  He broke  patriarchal boundaries and spoke directly to women of other cultures.   He brought women into his group as spiritual leaders and disciples, even though Scripture doesn’t literally declare it.  He defended women who could be divorced by their husbands for any reason. He saved a woman from stoning by pointedly asking the men there about their own sins and actions. He reached out to heal both women and men.  He taught both women and men.  He did not indicate in any way that women were lesser.

It might be a good thing for those who call themselves Christian –especially those in authority — to go back to their bibles and read it, especially the gospel of Luke.

It was the women who stayed with him while he died on the cross. It was the women who prepared his body for burial. It was to Mary Magdalene that he appeared on that Easter morning.  Food  for thought.

Here is a beautiful prayer written for today by a Franciscan named Deborah Hirt.  May it be our truth.

Lord, make me an instrument of peace:

Bless all women who daily strive to bring peace to their communities, their homes and their hearts. Give them strength to continue to turn swords into plowshares.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love:

We pray for all women who face prejudice, inequality and gender disparities. Help us see and to face the discrimination against women in all the many forms it may take.

Where there is injury, pardon:

Comfort all women who suffer from the pain of war, violence, and abuse. Help them to become instruments of their own reconciliation and peace.

Where there is division, unity:

Forgive all women and men who let differences breed hate and discrimination. Let your example of valuing all of creation help us to see that we are equal partners in the stewardship of your world.

Where there is darkness, light; where there is untruth, truth:

Comfort all women who struggle in the darkness of abuse, poverty, and loneliness. May we stand with them in light to acknowledge their suffering and strive to remove the burdens of shame or embarrassment.

Where there is doubt, true faith:

We pray for all women who live in fear of their husbands, fathers, and forces that control their lives. Help them to be empowered to be their true selves through your everlasting love and faith.

Where there is despair, hope:

We pray for all women who live in the despair of poverty, violence, trafficking, slavery,and abuse. May the light of your love bring them hope.

Where there is sadness, new joy:

Help us to see the strength and goodness in all women and men.
Transform our hearts to celebrate the love and grace of all people.





Reframing Suffering

Today, I have mostly wiped the schedule.  So much planned, including a badly needed haircut, but my throat is scratchy and my head is achy.  I am staying put, taking vitamins and letting my body rest.

There is an idea that we must forge on when our bodies are not well, or when we are lagging behind.  Shake it off.  Push through it.  It’s just a cold etc.

We’ve been told from various pulpits that we must override the weaknesses of the body and not give in. In some religious circles, suffering is recognized as a kind of badge of honour.  Maybe this is a nod to St Paul who complained about his unnamed affliction, but continued his missions into foreign and often hostile territories.  I have friend who offers her suffering to assist those in Purgatory.

I find all of this confounding, this dislike of the flesh, this denial of our unique beauty.  We are made in the image of the Creator.  We are all sparks of the Divine.  God delights in us and wants us to be joyful and creative.  God wants us to be like Christ.

Oh. And Jesus suffered.  Jesus went to the cross for us.  So we must suffer too?  Cue the record scratch.

Let’s be clear.  God does not throw down thunderbolts at us.  God does not cause us to be ill.  God does not wish for us to bear heavy emotional burdens.  God does not want our pain.  Jesus took that on for us.  Willingly.  He did it to free us so that we know the LOVE that God showers upon us every minute of our lives.

That got twisted along the way.  christianity1

Today, let us celebrate the love that God brings to us to embrace and to share.  Here is my little podcast that talks about all this.


Ash Wednesday


Today, the wheel of the Church year turns once more and we find ourselves beginning a new season: the season of Lent.  On this Ask Wednesday, I invite you to listen in to our online service, live at 9:30 a.m. but available at the link whenever you wish to hear it.

I am sharing my homily here because it tells us about Ash Wednesday and what lent is about.  You can read along when you listen to the service. 🙂  Have a holy and blessed day, everyone.

Ash Wednesday Homily
Well, the pancakes have been consumed, Mardi Gras has wrapped up, the noisemakers and perhaps the treats have been shelved as we greet this new day. This first day of the season of lent.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of our 40 day journey through Lent leading to Holy Week, Good Friday and ultimately, the empty tomb of Easter.  As we begin the season of Lent, we are invited to take some time for self-examination, to really look at our lives and how we spend the time we have been given.

This is a good exercise any time of the year, but as we prepare our hearts for the events of Good Friday and Easter, it is a deeply spiritual thing to do, one that can help us grow in our faith and our self-understanding.

Over the next 40 days, we choose make time in our day to think about the people in our lives whom we have hurt or who may have hurt us and to work on moving to a place of peace and forgiveness.  We give this over to God and own up to our own behaviour, knowing that each situation has brought up lessons and insights into our lives. As we let it go, we also forgive ourselves.  And as we consider others that have wounded and hurt us, the point is not to excuse them but to move on in our own lives.  Give them to God, look to the strengths and good things that have come about as the result of the challenges.  There is healing in this for you even if resolution cannot be found.

During Lent,  take time each day to connect more fully with divinity – by reading inspirational books, by meditating, and by praying for ourselves and others.We can also to think of ways to reach out and give of our time, talent and resources.

Many people choose to test their discipline and willpower and decide to give up something that they enjoy.  This mirrors the sacrifices that Jesus made for us as he went to the cross and gave up his life for us.

I have learned over the years, with the ups and downs and stress of life that it isn’t always easy to give up something I like – such as chocolate.  When I cave in a and eat some it tends to cause more stress and even guilt, so I have changed that practise.

Now I use the weeks of Lent to get out my journal and think about the things that have a negative impact on me and release them from my life.  If something is not contributing to my self-esteem and confidence or making me feel good, then I choose to let it go.  I try very hard to shake the dust, even if it means letting go of a friendship.  If I am not being honoured or respected, then that person or circumstance has no resonance in my life.

During Lent, I use my “God Can” a lot more.  If I am worried about something, I write it down and put it into the “God can”, a special jar appointed as the receptacle of my fears, concerns, worries and negative thoughts.  I give it over to God and then as much as I can, choose to spend my day being happy, trusting that things will resolve for good with the angels and God working on it.  And, I try and do one act of kindness for someone in the course of the day.

Lent reminds us to live by faith, to deepen our connection to God and to all the people on this earth.  I do not believe that God wants us to sacrifice something I like or to suffer through a bad situation.  Jesus already did that for us!  God wants us to see ourselves as I we are regarded by our Creator – beautiful, perfect, joyful, prosperous and beloved. Forgiven and free, called to do the loving work of Jesus in the world.

So, I do turn Lent on its ear.

Instead of wearing sackcloth and wearing ashes, I profess my faith in a God who loves me so much he sent Jesus to tell me about that love and to show that love even beyond death.  I give thanks for Jesus who told me to reach out and help my brother and sister, to embrace everyone as a child of god.

I try to live each day connecting to God, writing down my worries and putting them in the God can, working to squeeze the most out of each beautiful moment in the day.  And, you know, living like this for the next 40 days as best we can, will make Easter a much richer experience as we proclaim the mystery and the wonder of our faith – that Jesus not only died for us but came back to tell us that we need not far anything in this life or the next because we are so completely loved by a all-accepting creator who is with us each and every day and into the life after this one too.

I pray that you have a wonderful and holy Lent, however you choose to observe it.  Let us have a prayer to set us on our journey.

Gracious God, be with us this day as we search our hearts.  In the things that we have said and done that have separated us from your love, forgive us.  May we be aware of you loving presence walking with us, holding our hand in the dark, bringing to us people who will love and uplift us, bringing us blessings and good things.

Be with all whom we love this day bringing peace to those who are under any duress, healing to those who are ill in body, mind or spirit, joy to those who are without hope, and love to all who are tired in spirit.

We ask your angels to fill this whole earth with your divine light and grace, melting every hardened heart, clearing the scales from the eyes of those whose hearts and minds are consumed by anger, greed, avarice and lack of compassion.  May we be instruments of your peace, your truth, your holy love and by our faith in you shine your light everywhere we go.  Amen.