Faith from the Edges

Faith and life from the perspective of me.

Archive for the tag “faith”

Symbols and Reconciliation

This was first published in The Messenger – the paper of the Anglican Diocese of Edmonton.

Recently in Wetaskiwin the local Canadian Tire store rose the Treaty 6 flag over its store. There it flies surrounded by the flags for Canada. The store owner said it is necessary to move forward and to recognize on whose shared territory the store sits and to acknowledge the need for better relationships with the First Nations in that area. For those living in Wetaskiwin and in Maskwacis this is an important symbol of reconciliation in the communities.

In parishes all around our diocese you will hear someone acknowledging the traditional territory on which the church sits at the beginning of Sunday worship. A symbol that recognizes that we are all treaty people and that we are all neighbours on this land.

Why is this important you may be asking? Aren’t concrete solutions better than symbols? The answer is yes and no. Concrete solutions are important but symbols help us to change the conversation. If we all begin to think that where we live is treaty land, then we begin to think of everyone who lives here as human, for we all share the land together. We all begin to know that we are each other’s neighbours and that we are all loved by God.

In our churches we have a number of symbols that speak to us each week – bread and wine for the Eucharist, the different colours for the different seasons, the robes our clergy wear and so many more. These symbols are the ones that speak to our faith and enrich our faith, they are symbols that we would not be without and would be angry if they were taken away from us.

How many of our churches now have a smudge available before worship starts? Not as many as could be or should be, but some do. How many have First Nations art and other symbols up in their buildings? Some do and we all need to find ways to make room for more. How many of us have invited First Nations leaders to pray before an event or during Sunday worship? Some have, more could. See how the conversation changes when we make our symbols present and more concrete.

This past Christmas I was given a ribbon skirt by one of the members of the Reconciliation Team at Immanuel, Wetaskiwin. Gloria and I have become friends. Her input into the work of reconciliation is so important. Now unless you are from a First Nations community or family, and especially if you are a settler, you aren’t likely to have a ribbon skirt. Gloria’s gift to me of this beautiful symbol was a gift of reconciliation, an understanding that our relationship, our bond as women, our bond as sisters of faith, has come to the point where she has welcomed me into the community of women who wear ribbon skirts. My ribbon skirt and my wearing of it is a symbol of reconciliation, it is a concrete action of relationship, it is wearing the prayers and love that were put into the making of it.

Reconciliation and Symbols

The dear one and I on Easter Sunday. I’m wearing my ribbon skirt.

Let’s look for those symbols of reconciliation and realize how they have changed the conversation between settler and First Nations, realize how they are making concrete the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and realize that neighbours are seeing each other in the light of reconciliation. Symbols of reconciliation can and will lead us to concrete actions of reconciliation.

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#AdventWord #Mend

#AdventWord #Mend

Those of you who have been following/reading my blog for a while will know that two years ago I had the worst year of my life as regards to my health. I found out that I had ovarian cancer, which meant surgery and 6 rounds of chemotherapy. I have to say that I am finally feeling like I am settled into my new normal. Today’s Advent word is mend. I thought to myself that I have done a lot of mending and that sometimes you need to break before you can mend.

When you get a cancer diagnosis, you may not be feeling that ill, but the treatment does make you ill. Chemotherapy means putting drugs into your system that kill the cancer cells. This is really hard on your body, your mind and your spirit. You just feel worse and worse after each treatment. You have to break before you mend.

When I was undergoing treatment I had so many people praying for me and holding me up in so many ways. It was what gave me the strength to keep going going. It’s what held my faith together. Here’s what I learned and some of it is what I remembered – God doesn’t make you sick, God puts the people in place to help you mend and get healthy again.

I am not broken anymore. I am relatively healthy and so far so good on the cancer not returning. The picture on the left is one from two years ago when I was just recovering from chemotherapy. The picture on the right is me now. I am so much better and I am grateful and give thanks to God for that everyday. To mend for me is to get back to a place of good mental and physical health and I’m working on both those things everyday.

#AdventWord #Simplify

#AdventWord #Simplify

Every afternoon about 2 pm I stop and make a pot of tea. If the dear one is home I bring him a cup of tea (and today two ginger cookies). This tea break in the afternoon is one of the ways that I stop and breathe and remember that simple things are often the things that give me the most joy.

An afternoon cup of tea is the pause that allows me to think more clearly, to find creative space, to simplify my thought processes. It also tastes really good and that is a simple joy that can last a long time.

I often think that my faith can get cluttered with all kinds of unnecessary things. Am I saying the right prayer? Am I praying enough? Am I being thoughtful and caring? Am I  being an evangelist  to those I meet? Then I pause, often with a cup of tea, and remember that Jesus asked one thing, that I follow him and live out the values of the reign of God – love, justice, peacemaking, truth, reconciliation.

When my life gets too cluttered and too busy then I know it’s time for that cup of tea and time to simplify.

 

Gender Based Violence

Today here in Canada is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. It is to remember the 14 women who were murdered for just being women at a university in Montreal on December 6, 1989. They were all engineering students and the man who killed them said that feminists had taken his life away. It is one of the biggest massacres that has ever happened in Canada. It started a conversation here about violence against women and about gun violence, it is a conversation that we are still having.

In 2009 I was asked to preach at Christ Church Cathedral for the 20th anniversary of this day. I recently found my sermon and thought that it was worth sharing here. I hope that it touches you, I hope that you are pushed to action. If you want to find out how domestic violence has affected one particular person, then please check my sister’s blog Freedom Within

Candles Day of Remembrance and Action

A Service of Remembrance: 20th Anniversary of the Massacre at Ecole Polytechnique
St. Nicholas Day

Scripture Readings:
Judges 11: 30-40
Psalm 55
1 Corinthians 13: 1-13
Mark 7: 24-30

“Faith, hope, and love abide, these three: and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

Here is a story of love. In a country far away and in a time long ago there lived a poor family. The parents had been blessed with the arrival of three daughters in their family. They loved their girls, as much, if not more than any parents had ever loved their children. In the time that they lived, it was up to the parents to provide a bridal gift, a dowry, to the parents of the young man who was going to marry their daughter. Unfortunately the parents did not have enough money to be able to provide for their daughters. After a long, agonizing time the parents decided that their only option was to sell their daughters into slavery. The mother cried many tears. The father became stony quiet with grief.

In the community where they lived there also lived a bishop, whose name was Nicholas. This bishop heard the story of this family. His heart was moved. Nicholas decided that he needed to do something. He gathered enough money to make three bags that would make their bridal gifts. Late one night before the girls were to be sold Nicholas threw the bags of gold over the fence. In the morning the family discovered the gift and the girls were saved.

Here is a story of hope. Twenty years ago today a young mother was holding her tiny baby girl in a small town in southern Saskatchewan. As she did most days she had her radio tuned to CBC. It helped to remind her that life was not all about babies. That day she was listening to the radio in the late afternoon as the news began to come forth that a young man a had gone through the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal and that he had targeted and killed women only. This mother looked at her baby girl and tears welled up in her eyes. She thought of all the mothers who would be weeping that day. At that moment this mother determined that she would speak out about violence against women, that she would raise her daughter to be strong and able to make her own decisions.

That baby girl is now a young woman of 20, a university student in southern Ontario, an activist, a person of hope, someone who continues to make me proud to be a mother and gives me hope for the future.

Here is a story of faith. A woman lived in the region of Tyre with her little girl. The little girl had something wrong with her. It was like she was possessed by a demon. The mother was worried out of her mind. She just wanted her little girl to get well. Jesus decided that he needed a break. He went to a house in the Tyre region where he thought no one would notice him. Yet, Jesus being Jesus, could not escape the notice of the people living in the area. This mother heard that Jesus was there. She had heard that Jesus was a great healer, one who came with God’s power to save. She decided that she needed to go and ask him for help. What mother wouldn’t do the same?

When she came into the house, she bowed down at Jesus’ feet. She was that desperate. She begged Jesus to heal her daughter. Now remember, this mother was not Jewish. She was a Greek. Jesus said to her, “The children need to be fed first. It is not fair to take their food and give it to the dogs.” This mother had great grit and did not back down from Jesus at that. She told him, “Even the dogs are allowed to eat the crumbs from the plates of the children.”

At that point Jesus said, “For saying that, your daughter is well. Go and see.” This mother left and found her daughter well and normal.

Just as the women of Israel would gather to remember and lament Jepthah’s daughter, today we gather to remember and to lament. We remember and lament the 14 young women who were murdered today just because they were women, for no other reason, just because they were women. We remember Genevieve, Helene, Nathalie, Barbara, Anne-Marie, Maud, Maryse, Annie, Michele, Ann-Marie, Sonia, Maryse, Annie and Barbara.

We need to remember and lament the missing and dead women from Vancouver’s East Side – many of whom were from First Nations communities. We need to remember and lament the missing and dead women along the “Highway of Tears” – the #16 highway that goes between Prince George and Prince Rupert in northern British Columbia – many of whom are from surrounding First Nations communities. We need to remember and lament Hillary whose body was found this fall. A young 16 year old woman from the Miqmaq First Nation in Burnt Church, New Brunswick. If you look on the internet and go to a site called Missing Native Women, you will find name after name of missing and murdered women from all across Canada. The numbers are staggering, over a thousand women. Remember and lament each of their lives.

What many of these women have in common is that they come from small, isolated northern communities. Communities that make up the part of the church that I live and work in, the Council of the North. It is a tragedy that haunts the lives of our people, of our clergy and especially our youth. Remember and lament.

These are not isolated incidents. Looking around the world we are called to remember and lament many stories. The girls in Afghanistan who cannot go to school because they are afraid of acid being thrown in their faces. Just because they are girls who want to get an education. We need to remember the victims of feminicido – the murder of women – in Mexico; especially Alicia Gomez Lopez who was recently murdered and is the niece of a Primate’s World Relief & Development Fund partner. Remember and lament.

While it is important for us to take the time to remember and to take the time to lament before God the losses that have touched us, it is not the place that people of faith are supposed to stay. Christians like you and me are called to do something more.

Sisters, like the gritty, determined woman living in Tyre we are called to a strong and bold faith that speaks out on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves. Sisters, who will you speak out for? Sisters, who will you speak to and change their mind just like the Syrophoenician woman did with Jesus? Be of strong and bold faith my sisters.

Brothers, like Nicholas, you are called to acts of generous, loving service for those who are in need. Brothers, who will you act for, which life will you try to save? Brothers, what life story have you heard that challenges you, makes you think, moves your heart that you need to take action on? Be generous and loving in all that you do my brothers.

Cast your burden upon the Lord,
You will be sustained,
The righteous will not stumble.
(Psalm 55:24)

A River of Women

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River of Women

River of Women

I stand still and watch the colours wave around me

I remember my mother and my grandmothers

I think about my daughters and my nieces

I hold hands with my sister and sisters of my heart

I am in the river of women

This river which holds our blood, our tears

This river of our hopes, our dreams

I move with the colours that swirl around me

I look back and give thanks to the women who walked before me

I am in the river of women

I am surrounded by the colours of grief, the colours of love

I am filled with the songs of women and the cries of women

I am in  a river of persistence and resistance

This river flows over me, around me, beneath me and through me

I am in the river of women

I hear the voices of all the different women who I have crossed paths with

I hear the women who have been abused, catcalled, murdered just because they are women

I drop to my knees on Mother Earth and let my tears fall

My tears join others in the river of women

I am in the river of women

I am lifted up by the river of women

I remember that being a woman is to be strong, to carry pain, to give birth to new things

I look to the future and see women from there beckoning to me

I see the strong women, the Indigenous women, the women of colour hold me up

I am in the river of women

I hear the prayers of women that feed the river

I am upheld by those prayers of hope, love, persistence and resistance

I add my prayer for justice to feed the river of women

I let the river flow through me and set me on my path

I am the river of women

P.S. These are my reflections for this International Women’s Day and some art work I did while reflecting. Grateful for this day that allowed those creative parts of me to merge.

#AdventWord #Embrace

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#AdventWord #Embrace

Yesterday was a hard day. I live with a chronic illness – rheumatoid arthritis – mostly it is invisible – yesterday it wasn’t. My hands got swollen and red and it was hard to do much. So I didn’t. It was what my body needed to rest. So I did.

The Advent word for yesterday was embrace. I realized that I needed to embrace where I was at the point. When I am in pain it is hard for me to feel hopeful, it is hard for me to find the faith that life will get better. What I said on my Instagram post was ‘this hand will embrace hope even when it is hard’. It is hard work embracing hope, when all around you see darkness, despair and you have no idea how to keep going.

I am going to work on embracing hope even when it doesn’t seem worthwhile to do so. For tomorrow often brings a new perspective and sheds a new light on a difficult situation. It doesn’t mean that I will stop caring for myself, because I have to otherwise I just stop functioning. It does mean that when I get to those moments of darkness I will remember that embracing hope may be the only thing I can do. Embrace what you need to, to get you through the hard moments, days, nights. With you I will remember that God came to us in the midst of great darkness, to give us hope to embrace and to make faith that much richer.

 

#AdventWord #Trust

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#AdventWord #Trust

Over the years the dear one and I have prayed together. From time to time we have done that separately but recently we are working at getting back into the habit of saying morning prayer together. It is an act of trust for us to share our prayer time together. We trust each other, we trust that God will hear our prayers, we trust that we will hear God speaking to us in our time together.

This is going to be a short post – my rheumatoid arthritis is flaring and that means pain is getting in the way of my being able to think clearly. So dear readers if you could say a prayer that the pain would ease, I would much appreciate it. I am trusting that the meds I am taking and the rest that I am going to have will help to calm things down.

#AdventWord #Act

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#AdventWord #Act

There’s no doubt about it, yesterday was a rough day. I couldn’t even come up with an image for the day’s word, act, until almost the end of the day. I certainly didn’t have the energy to do any reflection about it. Here we go, a day late, but I’m keeping my promise to do this for every image.

The picture above is last night’s supper. My homemade mac & cheese which is just one of those basic comfort foods in our house. It took an actual act of faith for me to get that done. I just wanted someone else to come and take care of us. It was I must admit not one of my better moments. I was just cranky and done with everything. In fact the dear one and I got into a miserable squabble about apparently nothing.  So to make our supper was the only real nice act I could do to get something decent back from the day.

Do you ever have days like that? Days where it seems like every little thing is conspiring against you? For me there is only one thing I can do. Call a halt and do something kind for someone else. To act in such a way that God’s light gets a chance to shine. That’s what making supper for the dear one and I was all about – letting some light shine on what was a not so great day.

Thankfully today has been better. Hopefully tomorrow will be as well.

#AdventWord #Commit

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#AdventWord #Commit

This is my dear one working on the plumbing for our laundry room. Oh the joys of living in a character home where you think a change to the washing machine won’t be that difficult and then your beloved opens the walls and goes…..well I will leave what he said to your imagination. But you know what he doesn’t give up, he has committed to getting this done and he will get it done. It is one of the many reasons that I love him, his perseverance and his commitment to get done what he has said he would do.

I just knew when I read that today’s Advent Word is commit that it had to be a picture of my dear one doing something that he cares about and loves to do on his day off. I am so grateful to be married to this man – someone who has come through so much and still has a deep faith and commitment to the church he loves. He is one of the main reasons that I came through my year of cancer in such good shape.

I share in his commitment to make the world a better place, to show the love of Jesus wherever we go, to have our marriage be something others look to and get inspired by.

 

#AdventWord #Be

#AdventWord #Be

There are few places in my home where I can just sit and be. On the couch near this fireplace is one of them, in the summer it is on our deck sitting in the shade on a warm day. Both are places that I can just sit, sip a drink, have a quiet moment with the dear one, just be present and not think about what needs to happen next. There are not many places in my life that can happen at the moment. I am grateful for them, for they calm me down, and remind me that being present helps to settle my heart and open me to God’s presence in my life.

During Advent it can be hard to find those moments and just be. There is always something that needs doing, something that needs attending to, something that needs to be planned. Taking those moments, slowing the heart down, being present to those around me, are for me what is really important about Advent. It is about making space in my life for the Spirit to speak to me and help me see the coming of God’s kingdom. Now it’s time for a cup of tea and a moment to just be.

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