Why I Marched

Today, I joined approximately 60,000 women, men and children marching in Toronto for women’s rights. Such marches, originating in Washington, D.C, took place in 50 states and over 600 hundred marches in solidarity on 7 continents. For some, this was a protest against President Trump and his tweets and speeches that put women down, sexualize them or mistreats them. However, this march stood for so much more!

When I announced on Facebook that I was going to this march, I received quite a bit of resistance which surprised me, claiming, for example, that this was primarily a pro-choice march. In Toronto, we had an hour of speeches and this divisive issue was not mentioned. Instead, there was a focus on the way that women of all backgrounds and beliefs have been treated. What I found special about this protest march is that it brought together people who may not agree on many things, but who all stood for fair and equal treatment for women. It was a peaceful and nonviolent protest. There were people in their 80s present as well as babies. There were men of all ages there and many of them wore pink – to all the men who came, I want to say a special thank you for standing in solidarity with women’s rights. In doing so, you speak volumes that women’s rights are something that everyone should be concerned about.

At the outset, let me say a few things. First of all, I did not agree with everything that was said nor did I stand behind each sentiment on a protest sign. At the beginning of the march, we were given pins that asked “Why are you marching?” I spent quite a bit of time in the presence of women who I know have experienced similar things to think through why I was marching. The organizers of the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. posted a four page typed list of what people were standing for. And most of those things were why I marched. Second, I am also aware that this is a pretty negative post. It is all things that I think people need to hear. However, I’ve also been blessed with people who deeply respect women and value my input, gifts, experience and knowledge. I’ve been privileged enough that I haven’t felt that my gender has prevented me from work or from fair pay, a privilege I know many others do not experience. I’ve had the privilege of working for people who did not treat me differently because I am a woman. I am thankful for these people in my life and for the hope they give me in respecting women’s rights.

So let me get personal.

I have my own painful story of what I endured growing up and the consequences of speaking up. I’ve written about that elsewhere and want to focus this blog post on some other things I’ve experienced. However, this was one of the major motivations for me to walk today.

There is seldom a week that goes by when I haven’t been “cat-called” or had a comment about my body by a stranger.

I’ve grown so used to these comments that I don’t think about them anymore. Well, most of the time. Sometimes they still catch me off guard and anger me.

In the fall, I was assaulted on the bus by a stranger. I wasn’t the only one. Someone told the driver, who was subsequently required to stop the bus and wait for the police to show up. He was only allowed to tell us that transit control required him to stop. The men on the bus were quite upset that we weren’t going anywhere. Then the police showed up and removed the passenger in question. Then came the stories from all the young women on the bus who had been assaulted to varying degrees spoke about their experiences. This all happened in front of others. Granted, I know all to well how consumed in a book or my own thoughts I can become as I commute. But I have since found out that this is a common experience for women on our transit system.

Since that day, I’ve found myself sitting closer to the driver.

On Christmas Eve, I went to a candle light service that ended such that I would be at the subway station waiting for the bus after midnight. I could walk home, but the street is not well lit, there are a couple of bars with people drunk and smoking outside, and often shady characters. I asked a friend if she’d wait at the subway with me until a bus came as I didn’t feel safe.

If I’m walking at night, I am holding on to my phone – just in case I need it.

I am no longer surprised if I hear that someone has been sexually abused or assaulted.

In a workshop with youth about bullying, I had them write down on sticky notes things that they have been called. The words that the girls have been called break my heart.

Online dating is a thing for my generation. Many people have found their match through these sites and, as a tool, it alone is neither good nor bad. But for every polite conversation I have with a guy, I’ve had to delete a ridiculous number of messages that are overt in sexual come-ons.

In a recent Facebook discussion, I mentioned a stat that I had read that talked about how roughly 50% of girls who get pregnant, the father is 5-6 years older than them. Depending on how old the girl is, that is statutory rape. A person’s response was “Oh please, they wanted it”. If that was the only time I’ve heard such a sentiment, I think I could handle it ok. But it’s not.

Also in that discussion, the same person said that women should be in control of their bodies… because they are the ones that get pregnant. First of all, this dismisses the many people who have been abused, assaulted and/or raped and it’s a message we hear all the time. Why didn’t we do something about it? Why didn’t we kick or scream? Why didn’t we say no? Why didn’t we report it? But even in consensual relationships, it takes two to make a baby! Yet, I hear over and over and over how women are the ones who are to be responsible and the men get off. Interesting isn’t it, how in Scripture, the adulterous woman is about to be stoned and there is no mention of the man with whom she committed adultery!

I know what it’s like to not be believed. I know what it’s like to be dismissed because I’m hormonal. I know what it’s like prepare a sermon and have it called “teaching” simply because I was in a church that doesn’t allow women to preach. I know what it’s like to say something and have it dismissed, only for a man in the room to say the same thing and be applauded.

Today was a day that hundreds of people around the world said that all these things are wrong. It’s a day that we stood in solidarity saying that women have the right to be respected and a right to equality. It’s a day when we said no to hate. It’s a day where we said we will not be silent. It is a day when we said to each other – you are not alone. It was a day where people came together – despite their differences – to say that we demand that women be treated well. All the time.

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Feast Day – Holy Innocents

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When King Herod found out about a new king being born, he panicked – someone could overtake his throne? And so all baby boys under the age of two were killed. innocent lives were taken.

 
This is a part of the Christmas story that I don’t like and I would like to erase altogether. What tragic loss for all of the families that I cannot imagine. It does not seem fair at all that because the king was threatened by the Messiah’s birth, innocent babies are killed.
 
At the same time, there are innocent children around the world who are victims of violence – and victims of religious violence. One need not look further than Aleppo for evidence. I have known children and youth who have gone through things that no child should know about let alone experience. This feast day gives voice to children and youth around the wold who experience immense suffering at the hands of others, often in the name of “God”.
 
I think what this feast day says to me – is that God takes notice of the babies and children who are harmed or die at the hands of others. Even though we do not know the original victims’ names, God knows them and we remember them on this day.
 
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We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents Of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. (http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bio/24.html_)

Do Not Be Afraid

I have to admit – the past few days I’ve been a bit concerned about what is happening in the world. Trump and Putin talking about expanding nuclear weapons – whether this is a joke, a threat, or policy -has made me feel the darkness of the world in a new way.
 
Living in Canada, I’m pretty privileged. I am free to worship Jesus with fellow believers with the occasional jest made at my expense but nothing that really threatens my being. I really don’t know what it’s like to be a Christian in a closed Muslim country, a missionary to North Korea, a Syrian Christian in Aleppo. I understand from my Muslim friends that even fellow Muslims are not protected from ISIS attacks. I live in such privilege that I can choose not to even think about what others face.
 
But in the past few days, the topic of nuclear weapons has been on my mind. I read one article that talked about the capacity of these weapons to destroy – the capacity to decimate a large area and to cause 3rd degree burns in survivors. If the powerful countries with nuclear weapon capacity deploy weapons of mass destruction, the world could be a very different place. I shudder at the thought. I cry at the knowledge of how many nuclear weapons there are in the world – and these are just the ones that are known. And I fear. I fear the days ahead. The comments made by Putin and the President-Elect are not clear as what they would do with nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons may never be used. But the possibility that they could be – frightens me. Partly because of the world wide chaos that would ensue. But mostly because my own protection is not guaranteed.
 
Throughout the Gospel narratives, angels are telling people not to be afraid. Mary doesn’t need to be afraid because God has found favour with her. Joseph needs not be afraid because Mary is pregnant due to the hand of God and not infidelity. The shepherds don’t need to be afraid because the babe in the manger is the Christ child. In fact, one of the most common phrases throughout Scripture is “do not be afraid”.
 
I read the story on Syrian Christians in Aleppo celebrating Christmas (click here). In the midst of real danger – and danger from simply being Christian. And I am humbled. This is real faith. Faith in the midst of possibly losing your life for celebrating the birth of Christ. Faith that is determined to worship out of profound love for God and determination to not be afraid of man; The embody the words echoed throughuot scripture “do not be afraid”

It’s the messiest time of the year!

December 25, 2016 1 comment
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THE HOLY FAMILY – the nativity figures are hand carved from some place in Africa (which I realize really doesn’t tell you much, but I can’t remember which country). The doily is from Heidelberg, Germany – a gift from my parents when they returned from a trip to Europe when I was about 16 years old.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the messiness of Christmas.

A young unwed girl becomes pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Today, we would either say the girl is lying or get her psychiatric help. Or both. Mary’s pregnancy could of left her poor and destitute at best, or stoned at worst. I can’t imagine travelling far distances on a donkey – but to do so 9 months pregnant?

Then to be turned away and offered a place with the animals to give birth. Talk about unsanitary conditions! The son of God could have been born in a palace – but a manger was his bed. I watched a funny video of children telling the story of Jesus’ birth and they commented on how Jesus probably “pooed” and it was probably very smelly. Having worked at farms, farm animals are kinda stinky! Not very king-like. Definitely very messy. The son of God not only took on human flesh, but came as a helpless baby, totally dependent on others for his care.

Instead of the elites coming to praise and worship this king, shepherds – smelly, dirty, poor shepherds were the invited guests. I remember reading somewhere that they would not have been allowed into the temple – but they were invited into the miracle and mystery of God becoming flesh.

Then King Herod gets wind that there’s a new king born. He is so intimidated by a little baby, that a massacre of male babies under two is commenced. The “holy innocents” as the church calls them and their families bear the price of human sin, pride and power. Jesus escapes – but as a refugee in another land. Less than two years old, his life is wanted. It definitely wasn’t “the most wonderful time of the year”

This is how God sent his son into the world. Jesus took on human flesh and experienced the vulnerability and messiness we face as humans. This is such a mystery to me that God would choose such a messy way to come into the world. And yet, it is such a comfort and hope to me for Jesus knows my messiness – and believe me, I’m messy! Ultimately Jesus redeems that messiness through the Cross. But I think one of the mysteries of Christmas is that Jesus not only knows our messiness but it experienced it.

And so as I – and people I love – face messiness in our own lives – I take comfort tonight in the mess Christ chose to be a part of out of love for you and me.

 

Waiting… and waiting

I am in a time of waiting. I suppose that is appropriate given that it is also Advent, a season in the church life in which we wait and prepare for the Christ child. But I have been waiting longer than advent.

At first, the waiting was a welcomed time in my life. 2016 has been an intense year for me with many challenges, many hard learnings and, thankfully, some beauty to keep me going. I wrote a major paper this summer culminating practical learning, Biblical studies and research. I am proud of that paper and proud of the mark and comments from my professor. At the end of the summer, I felt that I needed to take some time to rest, reflect and rejuvenate. I also felt that I needed a break from school and that I would like to find work to stabilize and improve finances.

For a couple of months, I enjoyed reading, hanging out with my cat and rabbits, connecting with people, swimming most days. And I’ve been applying to everything I am qualified for, open to where God might lead me.

I was offered a job. I was a bit surprised at this given the questions that they asked and what would match the particular setting and what my answers and beliefs are. After prayer and talking with my mentors, I felt that I needed to turn it down. I felt like God was saying to me, “Wait – I have something perfect for you.”

I’ve never had the privilege of being able to turn down a job before and I have to say I was not at rest after I turned it down, even though in my heart I knew that it was the right thing to do. And then the confirmations came that I had done the right thing. The biggest confirmation was attending another church that I applied to and walking through the area realizing that the setting was far more along the lines of what makes my heart excited. I think I was enticed by the monthly paycheque and a common theme these days in my life is that I need to rely on God alone.

I believed that the church that I visited was where God wanted me to be. They accepted applications until the end of November and I haven’t heard from them. Either they have been exploring other candidates or they are caught up in advent and Christmas stuff – both are good possibilities. I am still hopeful.

But this season of waiting… is now hard. I’ve been making the most of this time. But I long for more. I long to be contributing in some way. I want to serve in ministry again. I am so darn ready for that “something else” that I felt God promising me. I don’t want to wait anymore!

The meditation for the 17th day of the month in the second celtic daily prayer book spoke to me today:

What God may hereafter require of you,
you must not give yourself the least trouble about.

Everything He gives you to do,
you must do as well as ever you can.

That is the best possible preparation
for what He may want you to do next.

If people would but do what they have to do,
they would always find themselves ready for what came next.

George MacDonald

God has directed me during this time of waiting. It’s not exactly what I would have chosen for these past four months.

But – I am involved in ministry. I have been devoting time to pray. Not because I’m some holy person or anything. But out of recognition that I cannot do anything to change lives, situations or fix things. And that ultimately it is God at work. I’m inspired by the Alpha program where people commit to pray in a separate room throughout the whole teaching and discussion time. There are ministries working with people who do not know God and I know that the evil one has his ways of trying to prevent this from happening. My ministry right now is to pray.

And I’ve been studying the book of Isaiah. Again, not because I want to be super holy or anything. But this book has intimidated me with its 66 chapters and different genres and some of it’s really harsh passages. Any time I’ve had the opportunity to write on Isaiah – I choose anything not Isaiah. But it’s such a foundational book that needs too be studied if I am going to shepherd and pastor any community.

George MacDonald’s words encourage me that I am not only in a season of waiting, but in a season of preparation for what is to come. And while I wish to be a part of something more, I do believe these tasks are God-directed and I must do them well. They will prepare me for what comes next. But also must be continued as the fuel for whatever comes next and now is the time to establish patterns and commitment while I am waiting.

Waiting is hard.

But waiting need not be passive. It is a time of preparation.

And so I wait.

 

Open Letter to Donald Trump

Dear Mr. Trump – you want to “make America safe again”?
I hear you say this over and over again in your campaign rallies, your interviews and the debates. I cannot comment on the veracity of your statistics or the genuineness of one of your go-to slogans.
Now would be a good time to demonstrate the leadership qualities of humility and to apologize wholeheartedly for your ‘locker room talk.’
You say that you apologized and others have backed you up.
But you have made the classic move that a sexual offender makes when caught for their actions.
You have said…
I’m sorry… if I offended anyone

I’m sorry… but I’m not a perfect person.
I’m sorry… but this doesn’t reflect who I am
I’m sorry… but I’ve done a lot of good
I’m sorry… but there are more important things to look at
I’m sorry… but Bill and Hillary Clinton have done worse.

This is not a sincere apology.

Mr. Trump – it was good and right that you said this in your public apology: “I said it. I was wrong. And I apologize.” You should have started and ended with these words. Maybe you could have offered us how you’ve worked to change your attitudes and words inciting violence against women. Though given the allegations that are popping up, it would be difficult to be honest or genuine. But owning what you did, stating that it was wrong and apologizing without any ifs or buts, would have been a good thing at a time like this.

As soon as you say “if I have offended anyone” – you demonstrate that you don’t really think you’ve done anything wrong. Instead, it is other people’s perceptions that cast you in a bad light, not your own words or actions. As soon as you say “but”, you negate the apology. As soon as you say someone did worse than you, you show that you really don’t know the gravity of your actions. As soon as you focus on how wonderful you really are, you minimize your apology.

So no… Mr. Trump did not offer a sincere apology. And until you make a sincere apology, I do not think you truly care about making America safe again. Until we see fruits of repentance – of a truly changed heart that has learned things along the way – the kind of America you have to offer is sadly the kind of society that so much of us already live in.

Why does this matter so much?

 
I suggest you do some research on how many women and children experience what you diminished and falsely label as “locker room talk”. Take a look into the prevalence of men using words, power, and actions to take advantage of far too many every single day.
 
You say it’s just words.
I don’t believe you.
But suppose for a moment, it’s “just words”.
 
Know that anyone who has experienced sexual assault will not feel safe in your version of America where it’s ok for anyone, let alone a presidential candidate to speak so crassly.
 
To deny it’s lewdness.
 
To diminish it’s effect.
 
It would do you good – if you really want to “make America safe again” to understand the gravity of sexual assault.
 
I know too many people to count who have to live out the reality of being sexually assaulted.
 
I have witnessed how long it takes to recover – if recovery is even possible.
 
I’ve seen the toll on their mental and physical health.
 
I’ve seen how it wreaks havoc in their relationships.
 
I’ve seen how the pain and memories can be all consuming.
 
I’ve seen how one is not the same after they have been assaulted.
 
I’ve seen the cost that victims of what you describe in your “locker room talk” bear.
 
Your words – even if they are “just words” – are not acceptable.
At all.
 
But even more so because you claim to be a leader and worthy of being the president of one of the most powerful countries in our world.
And in case this isn’t sufficient reason, it’s because your campaign is based on making America safe and great again.
 
(Maybe as a primer – watch this short clip by Joe Biden on Sexual Assault https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilOEuIxpfz4)

Petra, The Book of Alternative Services, Scripture and surviving adolescence

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I remember sharing my story with someone  who listened carefully, and then joking asked “With your background, why didn’t you leave and become a Buddhist or something?”

It’s a good question actually. Ultimately, I think God protected my relationship with Him. I had many real and powerful experiences of his presence while growing up, even at a really young age. There were many, many times that I was frustrated that God did not seem to hear my cries for protection and deliverance. But ultimately, He preserved my faith even in the most tumultuous times.

Today, I’ve been reflecting on some of the practices that held me together during some of the roughest times of my life.

Petra, the Christian Rock band of the day, was one of my favourite music groups. I think I owned every cassette and knew every word off by heart. As I’ve been playing their songs today, and realizing that the words of their songs are permanently written on my heart.

Words that would remind me that no matter what this life threw at me, No Weapon Formed Against Us shall prosper.

No weapon formed against us shall prosper

All that arises against us shall fall

I will not fear what the devil might bring me

I am a servant of God

Words that would give me words to pray

First I want to thank you Lord for being who you are

For coming to the rescue of a man who’s drifted far

For calling me to be your son and calling me to serve

Lord, the way you bless my life is more than I deserve

This is my prayer, lifted to you

Knowing you care even more than I do

This is my prayer, lifted in your name

Your will be done – I humbly pray

Let me be the evidence of what your grace can do

To a generation struggling to find themselves in you

May they come to know the love of God

May their eyes be made to see

Give me the opportunity to share the truth that sets them free

And may unity in all things be the banner of your church

And let your fire again begin to burn, begin to burn

And words that challenged me to love, even when love seemed impossible.

Love is patient, love is kind

No lines of envy, true love is blind

Love is humble, it knows no pride

No selfish motive, hidden inside

Love is gentle, makes no demands

Despite all wrong, true love still stands

Love is holy, love is pure

It will last forever, it will endure

Love knows when to let go

Love knows when to say no

Love grows in the light of the Son

And love shows that the Son of Love has come

Love is loyal, it leaves the best

It knows the truth, it stands the test

Love is God sent in His son

Love forgives all we have done

 

There are so many gems from this group – words that carried me in times of struggle and in mountain top experiences. Music speaks to my soul in a way that nothing else can.

I also discovered the daily office in the Book of Alternative Services. Morning and evening prayer provided bookends to my day. In the evening, I would put on some meditative music – usually John Michael Talbot – and light a candle and pray. I would create tunes for the Phos Hilaron (below) and other parts of the liturgy so that I would remember their rich words.

O gracious Light,
pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven,
O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed!

Now as we come to the setting of the sun,
and our eyes behold the vesper light,
we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices,
O Son of God, O Giver of life,
and to be glorified through all the worlds.

The practice of the daily office was something that gave me strength. It was during these prayer moments that I was assured that God was with me, even when everything else spoke to the contrary. The liturgy provided words that I could pray even when words were lacking.

The third practice that I have been pondering today is Scripture memory. I was very competitive in Sunday School. I remember learning all the memory verses because our teacher had promised to by us a cassette of our choice from the Christian bookstore. I won – and of course, I choose the latest Petra tape! My homeschooling curriculum also had me memorize parts of Scripture. Some of the verses were memorized without the context – although, I think there are truths in them even if the original meaning was different. Other times I memorized whole chapters. Somehow I developed a love of Scripture very early. Prayer has never come easy, but I love reading and studying Scripture. Memorizing God’s word enabled me to carry it with me when I didn’t have access to my Bible (remember, these were the days before smart phones!). In my mid-twenties, I met a P.O.W. from the Japanese internment camp who shared his testimony with me. He also had a similar experience of having God’s word to comfort him when he did not have a Bible because of committing these verses to heart.

As some readers will know, this has been an interesting time in my life. At the moment, I’m not taking any courses and I do not have consistent work. I have been trying to reflect on the practices (such as listening to soul music, praying the daily office, and memorizing/studying Scripture mentioned above) that sustain me, that empower me, that strengthen me… and (re)incorporate them into my life. As frustrating as this time can be, it is a time of building up, a time of preparation for what comes next. I have been reminded of the rich relationship I had with Christ throughout my teenage years – the powerful presence, the prophetic visions, the joy amidst sorrow, and the knowledge that God loved me. I’ve been reminded of how impossible today felt and yet after prayer, scripture, and music, I managed to get through so much as a teen.Without this, I likely would have given up on Christianity as so many with similar life experiences have.

I think my relationship with Christ has deepened and matured over the years. But I long for that closeness that I knew so well and that carried me through my youth. The palpable presence of God and the engagement of heart, body, mind and soul.