Invest in Your Menopause

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Invest in some thirty-something friends.

Hanging out with hip, beautiful young people twenty years your junior seems like a counter intuitive, demoralizing, destructive idea.  But trust me.  These are your new people.

First off, while those your age find your unpredictable, cantankerous ways unpleasant and irritating, the thirty-somethings find you fascinating and quirky.  They don’t know that this hormonally imbalanced, erratic whacko looks nothing like your pre-menopause self.  Embrace the thirty-somethings because they will embrace you back.

These are also the people who are conscious in the wee hours of the morning.   Yes, while you are awake for NO REASON, the thirty-somethings are intentionally awake.  So at 1am after you have tossed and turned for forever, unsuccessfully relaxed using your deep breathing exercises and checked out Instagram you can text your thirty-something friends and solve all the problems of the world.  Not only is this highly productive but also much less lonely.

Invest in layers.

The ability to remove the majority of your clothing in less than twenty seconds is critical to surviving hot flashes.  Two words: loose layers.  Loose is less hot and easier to remove with the added benefit of hiding your disappearing waistline.  Win, win.  Layers mean you don’t end up sitting awkwardly in your bra and big girl panties while out in the big bad world.

Obviously natural breathable fabrics like cotton, linen and muslin are best.  Polyester can kill you.  I’m working on a flowy Annie Hall look – sans the tie.

Invest in disclaimers. 

I am not responsible for my actions, words and inappropriate hand gestures at this time.  Menopause is responsible.  I’m a moody, unpredictable jerk.  If I could crawl out of my skin and punch myself in the face I would.  In an effort to prevent others from punching me in the face I have come to use disclaimers throughout the day.

Morning husband disclaimer, “The sound of you chewing your cereal is filling me with rage.  I hate you and your cereal.  I’m sorry.  I don’t hate you.  I hate that you make chewing a soft, mushy cereal sound like a microphone jammed in a garburator.  Sorry.  I’m clearly over-sensitive this morning, proceed with caution.  I hate your stupid cereal.”

Afternoon kid disclaimer, “I am tired and grouchy.  I’m putting myself in a time out.”

All-encompassing evening disclaimer, “I’m barely keeping it together people.  Run.  Save yourselves.”

Invest in you.

Cut yourself some slack.  Menopause sucks.  Be good to yourself whatever, however that looks.   The world is not actually ending – just your ability to menstruate.  So layer up, throw out a disclaimer or two and go hang with your thirty-something friends.  You’ve got this.

Beautiful Broken Bits

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I admit it.
I’ve wanted your
Slick angled haircut
Flawless skin
Horned rimmed glasses
And wrap around pants.

I’ve wanted your
Perky breasts
Sculpted triceps
Tattooed back
And perfectly pierced nose.

I’ve wanted your
Beat-up station wagon
Mid-century house
Eccentric husband
And carefree life.

I’ve wanted your
Kindness
Grace
Fierceness
And tenacity.

I’ve wanted your
Creativity
Confidence
Depth
And desire.

I don’t want you.
I only want bits of you
To replace my unhappy bits.
And you want bits of me
To replace your unhappy bits.

Admit it.
We shout, proclaim, preach and teach.
But we don’t love us any more than before.
We are two-faced liars.
Selling our wares but never buying.

I will fight myself to love.
To love every ordinary, damaged, imperfect bit.
Every bit of me.
Every bit of you.
I will fight to love all the
Beautiful broken bits.

Lost Coin

I thought speaking about a parable would be fairly straightforward so I put up my hand.  I said, Pick me.  Sign me up.  This sounds fun.”

I was wrong.  This has been neither straightforward nor fun.  I started my week by reading the Parable of the Lost Coin.  I choose this parable for two reasons.  First because it is short – only two little verses and secondly because the main character is a woman.  I like short.  I like women.  So it seemed like a no-brainer.

After reading the parable, I decided to get my Google on and see what other people thought about the Lost Coin.  This was a very bad idea.  After two hours of reading sermons, articles and blogs with dozens of different interpretations regarding this blessed lost coin, I could no longer separate my own thoughts and ideas about this parable from those of my Google search.

So I thought I would clear my head and begin at the beginning.  I would look up the definition of a parable in one of the recommended reference books.  I was certain Klyne R. Snodgrass’ “Stories with Intent – A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus” would have all the answers I needed.  The words “comprehensive guide” seemed promising.  But I was wrong again.

I was happy to find this fairly straight forward definition towards the end of the chapter entitled “What is a Parable”, “A parable is an expanded analogy used to convince and persuade,” but I also found these gems:

  • The importance of the parables of Jesus can hardly be overestimated.
  • Possibly no definition of parables will do, for any definition that is broad enough to cover all the forms is so imprecise that it is almost useless.
  • The parables are among the most abused and mistreated stories ever told – the have been twisted, shortened, subverted, realigned and psychologized for centuries by pastors and scholars alike.

So if pastors and scholars can totally make a mess of interpreting a parable, what the heck am I going to do to it?  I closed Snodgrass’ book and looked up Robert Capon – another recommended resource.  He starts with:

Most of the time we get the parables of Jesus wrong.”

At this point my confidence and resolve are plummeting at an exponential rate.  But Capon continues on,

“We pick them up, and we think that Jesus is telling us what we ought to do. You know, they’re sort of lessons in loveliness. If we can master the lesson in the parable, we can turn out to be perfect peaches or something else. But the point is that parables are not first of all about us. The parables of Jesus are first of all about how God works in this world – the mysterious, strange, bizarre, odd way that God deals with us, because the parables are very strange things. Jesus is a genius of story-telling, and what you have to watch most of all with Jesus in his parables are the small twists, the little turns and the details you don’t notice. I can have read a parable for twenty-five years, preached on it twenty-five times, and in the twenty-sixth year all of a sudden see something I never saw before; and it has been buried there all along.”

And just like that I was back on track.  I read the parable of the Lost Coin again and again with one thought, “What can I learn about God?”

And here is the parable:

“Or imagine a woman who has ten coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and scour the house, looking in every nook and cranny until she finds it? And when she finds it you can be sure she’ll call her friends and neighbors: ‘Celebrate with me! I found my lost coin!’ Count on it—that’s the kind of party God’s angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God.”

Luke 15: 8-10 The Message

So here’s what I got from it this time around.   The woman is God.  We are the coin.  We probably don’t know we are lost.  But God knows and He is searching for us.  Oh and when He finds here is a big ole party!

The Parable of the Lost Coin is sandwiched between the Parable of the Lost Sheep and The Parable of the Lost Son.  In all three parables, someone is searching for something or someone lost.  When the something or someone is found there is a call to celebrate – and not celebrate alone but celebrate with others.

My new friend Capon has this to say about theses parables:

A lost coin never knows it’s lost. One place is as good as another. The point is that what these two parables put together say is that what governs God’s behavior to us is not our sins. It’s not our problems. It’s his need to find us. These parables go by the need of the finder to find, not about the need of the lost to be found. That’s obvious. We always knew that. We could have gone to our graves knowing that. The great thing is that the universe is driven by the need of the finder to find all of us in our lostness. And that, of course, is the beginning.”

During my Google search I saw a bit of the twisting and subversion of this parable.  One fellow preached about the value and origin of the coin – like how much would it have been worth and was it part of the woman’s bridal jewellery.  Another writer suggested that the main character of the parable is a woman because she represents the church and the church is always referred to as a female.  As a feminist, I was going to get all irritated about this until I read his next three paragraphs which then detailed the importance of sweeping and dust in this parable and the Old Testament so this crazy talk enabled me to dismiss his dismissiveness about women.

And I realized for me this parable is about God’s need to find his beloved children.  He is so crazy about us that he will go to any length to find us.  We are all lost.   So what is required of us when God finds us?  My guess is that we should probably recognize our need to be found by Him, enter into a relationship with Him and strive to be like Him – reconciling and restoring relationships with those around us – we are basically joining the lost and found party.

I was once part of a lost and found party.  Back in the day I was a highland dancer.  My friends and I would often dance at legions and nursing homes.  My Mom chauffeured us to where we needed to be and was usually rewarded with a plate of haggis or some other Scottish delicacy.  At one of these events my Mom lost a gold earring.  She didn’t realize it was lost until we got home that night.  She was pretty upset about losing it as the earrings had been a gift from my Dad.  We headed back to the hall first thing the next morning before the janitor got there to clean.  My friends and I crawled around on our hands and knees searching for the lost earring and to be honest, I didn’t think we had a hope but after about thirty minutes of searching someone found it.  My Mom was super happy and I remember feeling good too – partly because she was so happy but also because it seemed like a mission impossible and yet we had found it.

I sometimes think this God lost and found party is a mission impossible.  Like if we are supposed to be restoring and reconciling the relationships around us and helping others get unlost, I’m kind of sucking at it.  I have shared my personal “lost coin” experience with a couple of people in my life.  And I continue to live alongside them hoping they ask more questions or that by witnessing my life they too will become unlost.  But in typical fashion, I once again forget about God.  I forget that God is unrelenting in his pursuit of us and will go to drastic lengths to find the lost.  It doesn’t all fall on my shoulders.  Not even close.

 

Another great quote from Capon:

“We cannot get away from the love that will not let us go because God, who in all these parables represented by the shepherd, and the woman, and the father, never ceases to seek and to find the lost.”

” We cannot get away from the love that will not let us go.”    I love that.  I always need to remind myself that I am a precious, beloved daughter of God.  It’s so hard to imagine that with billions of people in the world that God cares that deeply for me and wants to keep me close.  He knew I was lost.  And he came to find me.

I should probably end on this warm fuzzy note but I just can’t.  There is a question that has been lurking in the back of my mind while writing this.  Why did it take God thirty-eight years to find me?  I had been looking for him for a good twenty-five years – like really looking.  I went to church looking for Him.  I asked the church people about Him.  I tried to find him in my King James Bible.  I looked for him in my bible study group.  I looked everywhere.  So if he was looking for me and I was looking for Him, why the heck did it take so long?

I made a little video to help me sort through this question.

I have so many questions – questions about why it took twenty-five years for me to meet God, questions about Jesus, questions about heaven, questions about timing, death, life, my kids, my work, my purpose – you get the picture.  And I probably won’t get a whole bunch of answers any time soon.  In fact, my list of questions will only grow.  But it doesn’t matter.  What matters is that I am a precious, beloved daughter of God.  I was lost and now am found.

And as far as parables go I’m not stressing about them anymore.  I will try not to abuse or mistreat them.  But I will revisit them.  One last thought:

But the parables of Jesus do not go quietly into the night; they powerfully and stubbornly keep demanding new attention and keep expressing their message.  Ultimately they are resistant, saying in effect, “Read me again.”  – Robert Capon

 

 

I Am Old Hear Me Roar!

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Two months ago my eye doctor cheerfully told me that I had graduated to bifocals.  Last week, my doctor confirmed that I was in the midst of the madness known as menopause.  And this morning I hung out with an orthopedist in the hopes of getting my arthritic feet some relief.   Oh joy!

This barrage of age related realities has befuddled me.  My body is clearly forty-eight years old but the rest of me is a spry thirty-two.  There is a disconnect between my physical self and my emotional, mental and spiritual self.

For example, the other day I was in line at the liquor store and the woman in front of me was asked for id.  She was crazy excited and made a big deal about being thirty-four and getting carded.  I’m not going to lie.  I was hoping to get asked for id.  And then it happened, as I slid my wine towards the cashier she asked me, “Do you have…”  YES! YES! YES!  It’s happening, “an air miles card?”  Dammit.

This isn’t a boo-hoo rant about getting older.  Forty-eight is cool.  As my Dad says, “It’s better to be a year older than dead.”

I do what I want and say what I think.  I’m who I want to be rather than who people think I should be.  I don’t have a Teflon coating but for the most part things slid off me instead of sticking and weighing me down.  Translation: I just don’t give a shit what other people think of me.  Take me or leave me, I’m all good.

My wrinkles and sagging body parts do not make me sad.  Not because I have “earned” them but because it’s my reality.  It’s everyone’s reality.  We are all going to age and get old or die trying.  Maybe I traded cellulite, mid-life acne and far-sightedness for an oversized dose of self-confidence.  SOLD!  These orthopedic shoes are way more comfortable anyway.

I’m just so tired of worrying about how I look.  The truth is my butt is sagging, my neck is pleating and skin tags are multiplying at an exponential rate.  But I will not be consumed by trying to undo what age brings.

I may just be talking smack.  I know there will be days when my self-confidence has a brain fart and I succumb to the last forty-eight years of brain washing that says, “Do all you can to look, feel and be a certain way.”

But I’ve had a taste of what not giving a shit looks like and I want more.  So bring on all the other old people things – osteoporosis, hearing loss, glaucoma and memory loss.  I’ll be a bloody super woman of self-confidence by the time I’m sixty.

I am old woman hear me roar or mutter.  Whichever.

Christmas Service 2015

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Last week I was in Mississauga attending the ministry centre Christmas party and Dustin Schellenberg from Crestview Park Free Methodist Church in Winnipeg, MB spoke to our group of party goers via Skype about this image.  I was moved both by the image and what he said about it so with his permission I am sharing his devotional from last week.

This is a drawing is by Sister Grace Remington from the Sisters of the Mississippi Abbey.  It is a drawing of Eve and Mary, iconic women of history.  Eve, the first woman and mother of us all she stands as a representative of all humanity.  Her eyes downcast and face sorrowful she appears heavily laden.  She stands naked before the world with nothing to cover herself but that which she possesses herself, and it is woefully inadequate.  Clutched in her hand the very object of disobedience and sin, the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil.  Her feet are tangled by the personification of evil, the deceiver, Satan as the serpent.   You can imagine beneath those tight coils a bruised heel.  She bears the curse that we each bear.

She even appears to be moving away from the bower setting around the frame, an entrance to a garden.  The serpent has led her away.  She has nothing but shame and the forbidden fruit as her possessions and she stands alone.  This is our mother; through whom we are each born.

And across from her stands the virgin Mary, theotokos, mother of God.  Garments of white to symbolize the purity and righteousness that is to come through Jesus Christ, yet tinged in blue to represent the kingdom of heaven that he will proclaim.  The serpent’s head firmly crushed under her foot as she is almost taking a step back towards the garden when God and humanity were not at odds.  And yet she bears a familial resemblance to Eve.  She is not divorced from the humanity of whom Eve is the progenitor, rather she is firmly part of it.  Mary is part of humanity; she is one of us.  They stand as two choices, disobedience and obedience, pride and humility.  Examples of the consequences of choice and the love of God.

Now consider their hands.  Mary doesn’t stand with her hands at her side or raised up nor even making some sort of holy gesture.  With one she reaches out to comfort Eve as if to say there is hope, lift your head, you no longer need to be downtrodden and defeated.  There is an end to the weight of your grief and you can know joy again.  Her other hand is entwined in Eve’s and rests upon the yet unborn baby.  These two hands stand as a symbol of salvation being interwoven with humanity, as if Mary is inviting Eve to come be part of the experience of redemption.

The focus of both women in the picture is also very important.  Where it could have been drawn with Eve looking at Mary and Mary looking to heaven or even facing forward as she is often depicted, they both instead peer downward at Mary’s belly, the unborn baby.  Mary isn’t the focus; Eve isn’t the focus; rather this incredible event is central to their focus.  And it is such a human event.  Pregnancy, childbirth, the very means by which we continue to exist is the method by which God enters the world.

The artist could have drawn Mary holding Jesus as a baby, but I think something really profound is said when she stands there pregnant.  If you recall the specific curse placed on Eve was that childbirth would be a painful ordeal and I imagine some of the sadness in her face as she looks down at Mary’s belly is how every childbirth is a reminder of that curse.  And yet Mary too looks down at her belly and knows that even though this childbirth will be painful, through it salvation will enter the world.

Because of this birth and the actions of the Son of God we are being invited back into communion with God.  So we look at these two women from the doorway of eternity.  We stand on the threshold of life with God because of this moment, not fully in the kingdom but not outside it either. I want to close with a poem one of the other sisters wrote to accompany this image entitled O Eve!

O Eve!

My mother, my daughter, life-giving Eve,
Do not be ashamed, do not grieve.
The former things have passed away,
Our God has brought us to a New Day.
See, I am with Child,
Through whom all will be reconciled.
O Eve! My sister, my friend,
We will rejoice together
Forever
Life without end.
— Sr. Columba Guare copyright© 2005 Sisters of the Mississippi Abbey

Call to Worship 

We gather –
people of faith
and no faith,
people of hope
and no hope,
people of peace
and no peace.

We gather with the longing
to be made whole again
if just for this time, here
and now.

We gather with a prayer,
however vague and tenuous,
that in spite of the absence
of virgins and angels,
wise men
and shepherds,
we might still be a witness
to the birth of all love.

We gather
as ready as we’ll ever be
for this story of faith to unfold.

Song  – O Come, All Ye Faithful

Reading 1 – John 1: 1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Reading 2 – Luke 2: 1-7

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone went to their own town to register.  So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

Song – Away in a Manger

Reading 3 – Luke 2: 9-18

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah,the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. – Luke 2: 9-18

Song – The First Noel

Prayer – All

God, we confess that often we find darkness more comfortable than light.
We confess that we find your good news frightening and unsettling,
especially when we consider its demands as well as its promises.
Forgive us, break us, bend us, remake us.
Give us the courage to lay ourselves open to the wonder and healing of your coming.

Song – Joy to the World

Benediction 

This Christmas
I wish for you light to crumple up the darkness.
I wish for you love to pull us closer to one another.
I wish for you peace the same as the angels sang.
I wish for you starlight to follow on your way home.
I wish for you promise to keep hope alive for you.
I wish for you God newly born and in the flesh.
I wish for you Jesus Christ, light of the world.

Go in peace.

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Resurrection Sunday Liturgy 2016

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Reading – John 20

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Mag’dalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.  He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in.  Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there,  and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.  Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;  for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.  Then the disciples returned to their homes.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him, “Teacher.”. Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” Mary Mag’dalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Song – Great Storm Is Over

Prayer

We really didn’t think this was going to happen
But now that it did
Now that you are standing here in front of us
The holes in your hand, the look on Mary’s face
It’s starting to make sense
You died so we didn’t have to
We die, so we don’t have to
You hung on that cross, in such a shameful way
So broken, so distraught that God forsake you

We felt forsaken too
We believe, help us in our unbelief
You lived the life that Israel couldn’t
You died the death that Israel wouldn’t
All these prophets words started to come back to us
You were the suffering servant
You were the broken Saviour
This is what we’ve been waiting for
This is Abraham’s promise being fulfilled
Jacob, Isaac, Joseph, David…
You were the light to the nations, you blessed the nations
You freed Israel from the law
You freed us from it as well

We welcome your death
Because this morning, even death doesn’t stay
Teach us how to die
So that we may live
Teach us how to live
So that we may die

We accept your gift
Your sacrifice
Your presence
Thank-you
Thank-you for everything
Creation
Your Patience
Your Direction
Your Way
Your Death
Your Grace

We rejoice in your resurrection
We accept your new way of life
Give us strength to keep on this new life
You’ve turned back news into good news
Now we will turn this good news into real life
You have risen
We choose to follow you
Be here with us

Amen

Song – In Christ Alone

Reading – 1 Corinthians 15

Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you–unless you have come to believe in vain.

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them–though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.

Prayer

By making this our story
May we live lives in light of the resurrection
May we live lives that that promote life – and not death
May we live lives confident in your forgiveness
May we live lives that reflect the reality that you are alive
That today – you have risen – death is no more
Life – newness – joy – peace – shalom.

Amen

Communion

Partake in the body of Christ.

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Good Friday Liturgy 2016

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Good Friday Liturgy

You are encouraged to hold the stone in your hand throughout the service.   

Place your worries on it. 

Feel its weight. 

At the end of the service, leave your stone at the base of the tree.

The liturgy is structured around Jesus’ last words.  Each reading is followed by a short prayer, each prayer followed by silence, each silence ended with a song. The length of the silences will also increase through the service.

 Liturgy

One: All you who pass this way
Many: Look and see, the shadow of sin
One: All you who pass this way
Many: Look and see the weight of the world
One: All you who pass this way
Many: Look and see, the suffering of our Savior.
One: All you who pass this way
Many: Look and see, the sorrow of Jesus Christ
One: Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

Song:  Go to Dark Gethsemane – Louisa Flute

Shadow of Condemnation

Reading: Luke 23: 32-34 – Candace

Prayer – Alison

Forgiving Christ,
when the world condemns us, when wrong is done to us, when we carry the weight of things that are too much to forgive, come along side us in the darkness, and give us the grace to be forgiven and forgiving.

Silence – 30 seconds

Song: Before the World Began – Violin Solo

Shadow of Separation

Reading: Luke 23: 35-43Louisa

 Prayer – Alison

Reconciling Christ,
we are weighed down by sin and separation, a world that is not at peace, people who are not whole. You reached out to the thief, you welcomed him to God’s side. Come alongside us in the darkness, and bring grace and peace to everything that is broken.

Silence – 1 minute

Song: Jesus, Remember Me – All (Louisa Flute)

Shadow of Sorrow

Reading: John 19: 25-27Candace

Prayer – Alison

Loving Jesus,
we carry the weight of the people we love, concern for their sorrows and suffering. Our care for them is deep, and sometimes there is not much we can do. Come alongside us in the darkness, and cradle the ones we love in your strong hands.

Silence – 1.5 minutes

Song: Ah, Holy JesusViolin Solo

Shadow of Despair

Reading: Mark 5: 33-34Louisa

Prayer – Alison

Lord Jesus Christ,
you know what it is to feel that God is far away. You know what it is to call out for God’s presence. Come alongside us in the darkness, and help us call out for God.

Silence – 2 minutes

Song: Our Darkness – All (Candace Violin)

Shadow of Suffering

Reading: John 19: 28-30Candace

Prayer – Alison

Suffering Savior,
in all our thirst, in all our sickness, in all our longing, in all our pain, you are there. Come alongside us in the darkness, and walk with us through all our suffering.

Silence – 2.5 minutes

Song: I Want Jesus to Walk with Me – All (Candace Violin)

Shadow of Death

Reading: Luke 23: 44-49 – Louisa

Prayer – Alison

Dearest Jesus,
even in death, you are there. When we mourn, when we are afraid, when we come to our own end, you have been there, too. Come alongside us in the darkness, and carry us through death to life.

Silence – 3 minutes

Song: What Wondrous Love Is ThisSolo Violin

When you are ready, leave your stone at the base of the tree. 

Leave behind your worries.  Let go of the weight.  Mark an encounter with God and honoring Jesus in his time spent in the grave until Easter morning.

Then break a piece of bread and instead of partaking, place the bread in the wine. 

Leave in silence.

Modified from The Young Clergy Women Project – Good Friday: A Service of Shadows and Stones

 

 

 

 

Words

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Photo by Juan Osborne

Words.
They torment me.
Anguish
Torture
Pain

There are so many words.
There is no right word.
Precise
Exact
True

They stare back at me.
I am at their mercy.
I think.
Analyze
Study
Examine

They are distorted.
I lose meaning.
They punish.
Me
Myself
I

I walk away.
They quietly follow.
They change.
Shift
Morph
Transform

I rush not to lose them.
They are not perfect.
Splendid
Sublime
Pure

I am forever one word away from beauty.

We Have Woven a Fabric

I am a mentor to a group of young girls at Rebound, a local youth centre.  We meet every two weeks for two hours.  We eat, craft, talk, dance and laugh together.  Our time is loosely structured.  Sometimes the conversations are heavy but most of the time they are light and fluffy.  After the first month I questioned if our time together was of any value to these girls.  How could just four hours a month hanging out with peers and mentors make any difference in their lives?

One of the mentees I am paired with didn’t want to be part of the program.  She was clearly anxious and disengaged the first couple of sessions.  In fact, she ended up hiding under a table an hour into the first session.  Flash forward five months.  She is no long stuck to my side with her bulky coat on.  She moves about the room chatting freely with everyone.  She laughs and jokes.  She takes her coat off.

This may seem like nothing.  So what if a kid takes her coat off at girls mentoring group.  But I know it’s a big deal. I know we have created a safe space for this young girl who has faced so much in her short life.  We have created a space where she can trust, listen, share, cry and laugh – a space where she can be herself.

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I feel the same way about my friend Lyn’s family room where women from our church gather every Thursday.  There was no great plan when we started this women’s group over a year ago.  A few months in, a couple of people suggested we share our life stories and get really vulnerable.

Since it was my big mouth that got the women’s group going I felt I should be the first to share my story.  I was able to sort my forty-eight years into six cue cards.  I’m not going to lie I was pretty impressed by that.  It was a cool exercise for me.  I saw patterns and themes emerge from my life that I had not seen or acknowledged or understood before which allowed me to connect some dots and gain understanding.  Some areas of my life still ache and hurt but I felt safe enough to share those too.

One thing I know I need and that has always been a central part of my life is sisterhood.  I don’t have a sister.  But I have a strong, beautiful community of sisters.  Some of these sisters have moved or passed away.  Some have faded to the background while others have taken centre stage – all part of the ebb and flow of life.

These sisters know all the messy, crazy details of my life.  They can cheer me on and call me on my shit all in one conversation.  They are gold.  So why do I need Thursday nights?  Why this intentional sisterhood?

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God.  God is the answer for me.  The majority of my sisters don’t know Jesus.  And while this has never been a prerequisite for me, I know I need other Jesus followers.   Before moving to Sarnia, I gathered with my small group in Hamilton  every Wednesday night.  It was there that I learned about Jesus, prayed for the first time out loud and understood why gathering with a group of Jesus followers is important.  I’ll be even more specific – praying with women is really powerful for me.  Throwing it all out there before God and each other brings me healing, connectedness and peace.

I need my Thursday night sisters.  I need other Jesus followers to drag me back on the path when I stray.  To help me wrestle with scripture that still doesn’t make sense to me.  To show me God when I can’t see or hear Him.  And to pray – pray for our church, community, city, partners, kids and families.  All of it.  Every last thing.

I was nervous before sharing my story.  It was unknown territory with a slightly known audience.  My vulnerability hangover was significant.  I had no regrets but it was just an odd feeling – like over sharing at a party when you have had one glass of wine too many except I was sober and doing it intentionally.  It was difficult to share everything as so much of the last twelve years has included my partner and daughters but I was vulnerable with what was mine.

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This experience of sharing our stories has connected us with invisible threads.  Threads of trust, hope, sadness, pain, worry, joy and love.  I hope our threads get woven together to create a beautiful, strong fabric.  One that we can hide under together with carton of ice cream and a giant bag of cookies when the going gets tough.  And one that we can run up a flag pole and dance around on a warm summer night just because.

Our world demands big things.  Little things are considered insignificant and unimportant.  If it isn’t big enough to get shared or liked then it’s not a big deal.  Four hours a month mentoring a group of young girls has made a difference.  Two plus hours a week with my Thursday night sisters has been a beautiful gift.  Little things count and a big thing has already happened.  We have made time to time to talk, listen and be still with each other.  We have woven a fabric.

 

The Path

I have been walking this path for a long time.  It leads me through valleys and mountains, rivers and deserts, forests and fields but what I long for is a light to guide my way.

Without a light I do not see the dangers lurking along the edges of the path and I am uncertain which way to turn when there are forks in the path.  I feel lost and alone in the darkness.  I need a light to save me.  I call out – asking, begging, pleading for a light.  I am overwhelmed on this path alone.  I cannot make it on my own.

Then one day I meet a man on the path.  He is so beautiful.  He has a light.  We travel together for a long time just walking and talking and then we decide to walk along side each other forever.  He will light my way.

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As we continue along the path we meet many people with lights.  Some have bright flashlights held boldly in front of them while others have small lanterns modestly concealed.  I ask these strangers where they found their lights.  Some tell of it suddenly appearing on the path in front of them, others speak of searching the path for years before finding it and some cannot remember when they found it just that it was always there.

One night we are walking along the path and I trip and fall.  I realize that I cannot use the light of my beautiful man.  It is his not mine.  It lights his way not mine.  I must find my own.  My search resumes.

Some of the people I meet along the path suggest different things to help me find a light.  I put many of these things into practice and at times I think I see glimmers of light but I am not certain.

Early one morning I wake to the sound of laughter.  I walk towards the sound.  I see a couple standing on the path illuminated from the inside out.  They do not offer to light my way but they do offer to walk beside me and help in my search.

My dreams are filled with light but then I awake again in darkness and I ask, beg, plead for this loneliness to end.   My friends tell me that there is nothing more to do but wait.  This is difficult to understand and hard to accept.  I wait.

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One night I am walking and I fall down a very deep dark hole.  I fall for a long time and when I hit bottom I shatter into tiny pieces.  I lay broken in this hole for many days.  The darkness devours me.  I do not know when the numbness in my body begins to disappear.  I do not know when my pieces get put back together.  I do not know the source of a dim light that now surrounds me.  I do know that one morning I am able to stand up, step out of the hole and continue on the path.

The light remains slowly growing stronger and brighter.  I still do not know its source but here it is. Every morning I wake wondering if the light will still be here and it is.  I am so thankful.

One morning I stop at the edge of a lake.  The water is deep blue and the surface like glass.  As I look out over the water a pure white light blinds me.  I search the horizon for the source but I don’t see anything.  Then I look down at my reflection.  I am the source of the light.  The light is in me.  I am filled with joy and gratitude.  I am saved.

I look back at my circle of friends who have gathered with me and smile.  Then I step into the water.

*I wrote this for my baptism 7 years ago.