Tag Archives: justice

Hope in small lights

The other day I was working in my office with a lovely west-facing window and wondered why “all of a sudden” the room was so dark….”Must be a cloud over the sun, after all it’s not even 5 o’clock yet”.  Ah, yes. The final weeks of November and first ones of December always catch me off-guard.  How can it get this dark this early??

Yes, I know it’s about orbits, axis shirts and seasonal cycles, but it still holds my imagination and wonder.  And Awe.  And truthfully, not a little fear…I admit I’m intimidated by rural driving in the pitch black.  Then I turn on the coloured lights on the evergreen outside my front window.  Ah, yes.  Small lights make big differences.

Those lights often encouraged me in my spiritual life this week.  I was so frustrated by the news: dwarfing of remembrance of some events (like the 28th anniversary of the intentional hunting of women at École Polytechnique in Montréal) in light of others (the Olympic Committee’s response to athletes of only one nation who cheated to win). That got more airtime than reports of ongoing bombing and fighting in the Levant.  There was more efforts to downplay the claims by those targeted for abuse and harassment because of gender – 1989 all over again.  Then there was That Announcment by the USA formally recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel – despite international law about occupation, UN policies on “international cities”, not to mention a seemingly flagrant indifference for consequences in terms of disregard of general human and minority rights in the occupied part of East Jerusalem, not to mention geo-political consequences.   It seems that the clouds of reason have darkened the sun…it is too early for “all hell to break loose” – again.christmas lights


And that’s when those little coloured lights start to remind me of the underlying truth of all festivities this month: there are little pricks of light in the darkness, and taken together can make something beautiful.  Whether that’s in Romeo Saganash’s speaking Cree in the House of Commons on behalf of Bill C-252, or groups that gather to encourage one another in the hope and vision that if we all were treat every person in our community (and globe) as if they were family, kin, there would be no greed or need and peace would reign.  Or that with a birth of one child a new world order of justice and peace begins.  Or that through unseen collaboration one small vial of oil can light sacred space for 8 days.  Or gathering enough food for many families to make merry, one can, one box at a time.  Miracles of light in a world where darkness casts its pall.

We may curse the darkness.  But we can also show the small light of Hope that each of us carries.  Together we can make a beautiful place, and “say to the darkness ‘we beg to differ.’”*   So thanks, Spirit, tonight, it’s not quite so dark.


*quote attributed to Mary Jo Leddy, 1990 book of that title

Thanks to smithsonianmag.com for the photo.



Ever Wondering

EW confI spent the weekend at a conference which explored what it means to have an “expansive spirituality” beginning by asking “Ever Wonder…”: what are the values on which I make my life choices? how do I understand, or even begin answering for myself, Life’s Big Questions? How, and with whom, do we sustain the counter-cultural values and vision of this world being more just, loving and peace-full than it is now?  what it means to answer those questions without traditional – maybe without any – religious language and images?  

Do you find yourself asking what’s life about?  Why are we here? What kind of world do I want, and want my younger family and friends, to live in? How, and with whom, do I help build that? And how do I know something is true?  Who, or what, am I in relationship with what is beyond me – Planet Earth, the others with whom we inhabit it, with whatever or whoever is beyond our planet home?

Those are spiritual questions.  How we answer those questions form our belief system.  And our beliefs ground our choices in life, how we behave towards our self, towards others, towards our Home of Planet Earth.

What do you base your values and choices in life on? 

Religionless spirituality isn’t a new thought.  It’s been around in Western scholarly spiritual work at least since the 1940s.  One well-respected, highly educated, German Lutheran pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, asked if humanity has developed to a point of requiring a “religionless Christianity”?  From around the same time to now, other deep thinkers – from Roman Catholic monks to secular humanists – have offered non-traditional ways of asking and answering those questions.

This conference is part of this ‘chain of tradition’.  Can one be Christian without the so-called “must-believe” doctrines, and mythical stories?  What does it mean to be on a spiritual journey without requiring belief in any dogma, or an ‘outside agent’?  What does it mean to have an expansive spirituality?  And how does any of this help me to live my day-to-day life?  And with whom can I struggle those question into a place that is Life-enhancing for myself, others, the planet?

Do you have those conversations? How and with whom?  I am fortunate that, through my professional duties, I often get to be part of those conversations.  I am honoured to be asked to share my experience, strength and hope (to borrow a phrase) of what gives my meaning and purpose to my life, what supports & sustains my belief that Life is Good, that love is better than hate, that the way things are is not the way they have to be, that the world can be a more just, loving and peace-full place for all of Earth’s inhabitants.  And, since I was 23, what I share doesn’t resemble what I was taught as a child. (That story’s for another time.)

So thanks, folks who created the “Ever Wonder” conference.  These are necessary questions as we wonder together how we shall live for the common good.

Charlottesville is also here

For two weeks I’ve been hearing about Charlottesville, VA: the event itself, analysis, the hand-wringing about ‘how could this happen?’, could it happen in Canada?  Really?  That’s a real question?  For two weeks I’ve been trying to find a way to explain my non-surprise.

The good thing about all of this is, my work is about seeking the sacred in the everyday. Easy: The Sacred brings us to Life in its Fullness, always moving us forward and so the Sacred has been at work as we lament the events and begin to confess our part in why they happen.

The violence at Charlottesville is only the latest manifestation of the “why”.  The hatred, the frustration and the violence that was evident in those events is what happens when we allow a culture to persist in which “some people don’t count”.  For the “white nationalists” people of colour don’t – or shouldn’t – count, especially in making policy and setting direction for “their” nation. For those who oppose that racism, and the prejudices that fuels it, there’s a fine line between saying “those ideas are not worthy of us” and “those people don’t count”. All of the violence is spawned by the same force.

When we persist with a culture in which “some people don’t count” we end up with: residential schools, not caring that hundreds of women have gone missing or been murdered (Indigenous & non-) especially when they are street-level sex workers. We end up arguing about whether or not people can wear conspicuously religious symbols at work.  An unfair taxation system which favours those with money to invest and handicaps those whose incomes are used entirely to pay bills and to make ends meet.  It’s what allows a citizen to use weapons against those whose ways make them feel threatened.  When we allow a culture in which “some people don’t count” we end up low wages for ECE workers,  overloaded child protection services, policing that racializes crime (that’s what racial profiling is), and civic policy that criminalizes poverty (that’s the anti-panhandling laws).  It’s why there is an increasing call for programs to teach how not to bully (that’s another blog…).  So, really, are we so surprised that events like those in Charlottesville happen?

But when we are open to the Sacred, which like our culture, is all around us…and within us, musingsfromaministerswife com 1 Jn 4

we move towards becoming our Best Selves; we get to let go of that being scared of the unfamiliar.


We stop making an “Us” and “The Other”.  When the Sacred is moving in us, we are moved to behave as if we truly believe Everyone Counts.

But it’s hard work.  Look around you, within you, see who has become, to you, the “ones who don’t count” (we all have them); then work towards seeing them as humans who do count. Because until we do that Charlottesville will just keep happening.

Alternative Facts?

I’ve been part of many conversations this week that were commenting on (ok, mostly ridiculing) the idea of “alternative facts”.  Yes, it does sound like Orwell-speak.  But I’ve been thinking….I wonder if there isn’t  a case to be made for alternative facts?

Case in point: my friend and I were discussing someone we both know.  You wouldn’t know from our independent “facts” that we were describing the same human being. My experience and his experience of this person were as different as chalk and cheese.   Were my “facts” – my own experience – of this person any less true than my friend’s?  Did we have alternative facts about the same person?

What about on a macro-level?  Are my “facts” about (for example) the current Israeli government’s treatment of people in Gaza – gathered from the information I research, the agencies I support, experiences I have, the concerns that I hold – any less true than my Jewish friend’s “facts” (from the same kinds of sources and her fear of anti-Jewish sentiment increasing in Canada (I agree with her on that….)? Are these not “alternative facts”?

Facts are information accepted as informed by our perspective.  And what we value.  And what kind of world we want to help build.

I’m talking about alternative facts – based on evidence and experience, not rumor and assertion; not based on something made up with hopes that the louder they are proclaimed the truer they will get. (Sad but true, even legitimate media are slipping into the same muck as the self-determining media wannabes, spreading “we think” as fact.)

But back to the point: information comes at us from so many directions, how do we know what’s true?  Facts we rely on is the information we take in, subjected to critical thinking,  vetted by the questions we ask, the values we hold, and the kind of world we want to help build.  What are the questions you ask?  What informs your values?

My values are informed by my faith: that Life will be Abundant for all people only when we see one another (every ethnicity and cultural heritage, gender expression, religious expression, political persuasion) as a sister or a brother; that peace does not come through intimidation but by wanting for the next person the same as I want for my self; that justice is not a synonym for revenge but a path to restoring relationships to a place of balance; that reconciliation isn’t a politically-correct slogan, but a willingnthe-very-powerful-dr-who-4-2ndess to shape, and be shaped by, one another so we are both the best we can be.  In the end, I accept as my “alternative facts” that for which the “bottom line for me and mine” isn’t the only criteria for making decisions.

And, with respect to The 4th Doctor*, I don’t believe truth and fact are the same.  Facts are information. Truth brings Life for everyone, everywhere; that’s what makes it Holy, that’s what draws us together.  That’s what will set us free.


Oh, Canada?

I was running errands around Brandon last week and was surprised to find many stores red maple leaf commons wikimedia orgopening Canada Day on ‘holiday hours’.  This spring I listened to people on both sides of the question of making the English words of O Canada gender-neutral. (Of note: the English words are nowhere close to the original in French, and I learned that the words “in all thy sons command” first showed up in 1914 to encourage young men to volunteer for service in World War 1. )  The original, French-language, version is purely a hymn to the country, no sons, daughters, or commands present. And nothing about hockey or “That Doughnut Chain” in either language…

So this started me thinking about what it means to be a Canadian.  Are the values that we all share? Do we see each and every person – regardless of skin tone, ethnic heritage, gender expression, sexual orientation, religious identity, place of residence – as equal?  For me that’s the place where spirituality becomes a point of challenge and gift: how do we see “the other” as part of “my family”, as my sibling or parent (or in the words I first heard from Rosanna Dearchild, host of CBC radio’s Unreserved, “hey, we’re all cousins here”). (more: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/unreserved)

I grew up with the Canadian mythology (the good kind) that we were a “mosaic of people”, that differences were part of our strength, that being homogenous meant only one group got to set the standards and if you didn’t fit then you didn’t belong and wouldn’t that be shame? Not to mention boring.)  I like that myth.  I like that we can build on one another’s perspectives and ways of doing things instead of insisting that we all be the same.

The challenge, of course, is to set aside the notion that “the way we do it” is the “way it ought to be done”.  The spiritual challenge is to keep asking “is this the way that most people will benefit?” And though someone will “lose” something in the process (as always happens), we need to ask “who” is losing out, “what” are they losing, “why” are they losing out, and does their losing out make this great country of ours more just, more compassionate, and therefore more successful?

(So I ask, as examples: Will men lose anything by allowing the word “us” to be sung? does making that word gender-neutral space for others to feel that they belong more? Does it make space for those who do not identify with one gender to feel they belong more? OR what happens to us as a community when our “national day of pride” becomes simply a short commerce day?)

And, as a Jesus-follower, I realize that sometimes I need to lose out a bit in order to make space for me to truly “love my neighbour as myself”.  And that is where I find the Holy present.

It’s summer. It’s a holy-day. It’s enough.  Enjoy the diversity that is Canada. And find its holiness.