Adam Sinned and Women Bore the Consequences.

African women - photo by Matt Freer

African women – photo by Matt Freer

I wrote this post today for the series Return to Our Senses in Lent in honour of International Women’s Day tomorrow. Part of my scripture reading for the morning was Roman’s 5:12 – When Adam sinned sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone. Adam sinned and the first thing he did was blame Eve and it seems to me that the daughters of Eve have borne the burden of that blame ever since.

Downton Abbey brought this home to me recently. Ethel gets pregnant and is thrown out of the house, forced to become a prostitute. Thomas is revealed as a homosexual and is not only forgiven but promoted. Both activities were regarded as moral sins at the time, but treated so differently.

I sat here musing about this today as I considered the inequalities that still separate women from men – less pay for the same amount of work, the inability to own property in some parts of the world, the lack of legal representation in others and of course the more subtle forms of discrimination – gender selective abortion and even malnutrition. In spite of the fact that girl infants usually have a higher survival rate, in places where malnutrition is prevalent, more boys survive. The gender gap is closing but it is still very present in our world.

International Women’s day began as a day for celebrating the social, economic and political achievements of women.  It was first celebrated in 1911, around the time of Downton Abbey, when women in most parts of the world still had few rights.

Thinking about this reminded me of the many women I have known over the years who have impacted my own life because of their advocacy and social action.  I would like to pay tribute to some of these women today.

There are those who lived in the past when it was not easy for women to speak out in society:  – like Elizabeth Fry, the English Quaker who in the early 1800s became well known as a prison reformer and social activist.  Another was Daisy Mae Bates, a controversial Irish Australian journalist who made a name for herself in late 19th century Australia as a welfare worker and lifelong student of Australian Aboriginal culture and society.  She was known among the native people as ‘Kabbarli’ (grandmother).  Still another is Gladys Aylward who became a missionary to China in spite of being rejected by the China Mission Center in London.  In October of 1930 she set out from London with her passport, her Bible, her tickets, and two pounds ninepence, to travel to China by the Trans-Siberian Railway, despite the fact that China and the Soviet Union were engaged in an undeclared war.   She is best known for her trek across the mountains with 100 Chinese children during the war, a story immortalized in The Inn Of the Sixth Happiness.

Others are women I know today whose lives continue to inspire and encourage me.  LikeWangari Maathai an environmental and political  activist who in 2004 became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for “her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.”  Another is Edith Yoder – Executive Director ofBridge of Hope an organization that works to end homelessness by surrounding single parent moms with a church support team.

Still others are women whose achievements will probably never be known by any but a small group of friends – like Heather and her husband Dennis who have founded a school in China close to the Mongolian border and Jocelyn Cowey in New Zealand who is one of the most hospitable people I have ever known and last but not least my mother whose quiet strength has always encouraged and supported me.

Then there is the young woman whose name I don’t even remember who worked alongside me in the refugee camps on the Thai Cambodian border as a Khymer medic.  She had little training but her dedication and compassion not only impressed me but saved the life of many of her country men and women.  I have met many others like her around the world who struggle to survive in a world that often abuses, overlooks and discriminates against them.  Fortunately though I may not know their names I am sure that God never forgets who they are or the good contributions they have made to our world.

Some think that singling out women and their achievements like this is outdated and even obselete.  I suspect they are unaware of how many women still struggle to treated as equals. I will never forget the Cambodian refugee who said to me “Your being here gives me hope that one day my daughters will have the same kind of freedom that you have.”  The commemoration of a day like this which has fostered massive change, not only for women, but for children, the underprivileged and victims of discrimination still gives hope to those who long for freedom.  Its achievements cannot be forgotten or taken for granted.  While 60 per cent of the world’s poorest are female, 10 million more girls than boys do not attend primary school, and violence against women kills and injures as many women as cancer, International Women’s Day continues to be a relevant and vital encouragement toward liberation.

Franciscan prayer for Lent and International Women’s Day

Friday is International Women’s day and it seemed appropriate to reblog this beautiful prayer that I came across last year. It also makes a beautiful Lenten prayer

Godspace

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I know that I am posting this a little late in the day, but I just came across this beautiful prayer written by Deborah Hirt, Intern at Franciscans International.

Lord, make me an instrument of peace:

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

Where there is hatred, let me sow love:

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

Where there is injury, pardon:

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

Where there is division, unity:

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

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The Patches Make It Beautiful by Christopher Heuertz

Today’s post in the series Return to Our Senses in Lent is written by Christopher Heuertz. It is an excerpt from his latest book Unexpected Gifts: Discovering the Way of Community.  I have just finished reading this book and loved it. Chris describes himself as a curator of unlikely friendships, an instigator for good, a champion of collaboration and a witness of hope. He fights for a renewal of contemplative activism.

Friday March 8th is International Women’s Day. The theme for this year is The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum and I felt that this was a very important story to share in relation to that.

Sari Bari blanket in the making via http://www.saribari.com/

Sari Bari blanket in the making via http://www.saribari.com/

My favourite part of every Sari Bari blanket is the patches.

Sari Bari is a small business initiative that seeks to secure freedom and restoration in the red-light areas of Kolkata, India. It offers dignity-ascribing employment opportunities to women exploited by the commercial sex industry.

The name Sari Bari comes from two symbols. A sari, the traditional garment worn by Indian women, seen by some as oppressive, is an image of what can be reclaimed in a new way. In Bengali, the word bari means “house” or “home”. Sari Bari is a safe home where women who have been exploited in the sex trade can find their humanity restored and experience a new life in the making.

Women are trained to make beautiful quilted scarves, and purses and offered jobs in the Sari Bari community centers as a way out of prostitution. The products they sell are made from old, recycled saris, a symbol or restoration. Tossed-aside or thrown-away saris are recovered and cleaned. Something that appears used up, discarded, valueless is artfully transformed into something beautiful-even more, something valuable.

These products symbolize restoration. The process is a prophetic image of what the Sari Bari community is doing within the sex trade – allowing women who have been victimized and abused to recover their true identity….

Stitched onto every blanket, if you look hard enough, you’ll discover tiny patches cut our of the same material the sari quilt is made from. Some of the little patches are intricately sewn so that the pattern of the quilt lines up perfectly with the pattern on the patch. Other times, the patches stand out, a bold statement of colour that enhances the quilt’s design.

Generously added to some, sparingly to others, these little patches add a gorgeous layer of texture.

One day while with the women, sitting on the floor of one of the Sari Bari community centers, I was admiring their work and pointing out the patches, trying to communicate how beautiful I found them. Upendra, one of the English-speaking staff, overheard my fumbling attempt to get my ideas across and helped translate. He laughed our loud when he understood what I was trying to say.

He explained that each finished blanket is washed before being packaged. After they’ve been washed and dried, there’s a quality control check before they’re shipped. It turns out that the patches aren’t added to make the blankets more beautiful but to cover the flaws and tears on every quilt; they’re an inevitable part of recycling and restoring each sari blanket.

Even more ironic, the women hate having to go back and repair their work. The patches are time-consuming and tedious. Yet it’s the patches that make the quilts so beautiful and unique.

As is the case with us. In our own freedom , we still go about making mistakes, disappointing ourselves and others, living with guilt, shame, regret, or fear that the consequences of our worst moments will catch up to us. any of us have a hard time accepting the flawed parts of ourselves when we’re alone – a struggle that’s even more difficult when we’re in community.

 

 

Have You Ever Thought Of Going Solar with your Cooking?

It is a beautiful sunny day here in Seattle which turned my thoughts to how we can harness the power of the sun for our daily lives. I itch to experiment with solar cookers and am looking forward to experiments in this and other energy efficient ways of preparing my food. Would love to hear from those who have experimented already. Here are some great videos I found on this topic.

I loved this one on using a parabolic mirror for cooking a turkey burger. There are similar videos available on how to cook ceese sandwiches and in fact anything else that you might want to grill.

And this one on how to build a solar generator is both intriguing and appealing to me.

The one that most touched me and in fact brought tears to my eyes is this one. It is amazing to think that rape and violence against women could be reduced by solar cooking. Solar cooking can bring peace and dignity to women’s lives. What impact I wonder could our own creativity provide for people at the margins?

Synchroblog – All About Eve

All about eve

Each month I am invited to contribute to a synchroblog with other Christian bloggers. This month’s topic – All About Eve which I posted on yesterday has stimulated a lot of discussion.

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It’s Women’s History month and International Women’s Day is March 8. Women’s rights have been all over the news recently, from bills in Congress and state representative bodies to crass “jokes” by national broadcasters. The idea that women are or should be equal to men has become a polarizing topic of discussion on the national stage. So we thought Synchroblog might jump right in. Anything concerning women in general, women and the church, balancing women’s rights with religious freedoms, the differences between men and women … these are all good topics for blog posts.

There is one caveat, we are asking that the Synchroblog be a voice of moderation and temperance. You may have strong beliefs on this subject and that is good. Giving voice those beliefs in a spirit of cooperation and bridge-building is also good. We would like these posts to step in that direction.

Here are a couple of great examples of moderate writing on women’s issues to prime your writing …

–> An Apology From Limbaugh, But The Damage Is Done by Denny Burke –

–> And now…on the other side (critique of extreme complementarianism) by Roger E. Olsen

This topic idea brought to you by Wendy McCaig and Katherine Gunn (aka Jeannette Ailtes) … thank you for your help, ladies.

The link list is below …

Michelle Morr Krabill – Why I Love Being a Woman
Marta Layton – The War on Terror and the War on Women
Ellen Haroutounian – March Synchroblog – All About Eve
Jeremy Myers – Women Must Lead the Church
Carol Kuniholm – Rethinking Hupotasso
Wendy McCaig – Fear Letting Junia Fly
Tammy Carter – Pat Summit: Changing the Game & Changing the World
Jeanette Altes – On Being Female
kathy escobar – replacing the f-word with the d-word (no not those ones)
Melody Hanson – Call Me Crazy, But I Talk To Jesus Too
Glenn Hager – Walked Into A Bar
Steve Hayes – St. Christina of Persi
Leah Sophia – March Syncroblog-All About Eve
Liz Dyer – The Problem Is Not That I See Sexism Everywhere…
Sonja Andrews – International Women’s Day
Sonnie Swenston-Forbes – The Women
Christine Sine – 
It All Begins With Love
K.W. Leslie – Undoing the Subordination of Women
Carie Good – The Math of Mr. Cardinal
Dan Brennan – Ten Women I Want To Honor

It All Begins with Love

It all begins with Love

It all begins with Love

When I was first asked to contribute to this synchroblog I must confess I was not particularly excited. Here we go again I thought bringing up all the same arguments as to why women are equal to men and what we need to do about it. And after forty years of struggling and arguing about that I am not sure how much I felt I had to add.

Then I came across Kenneth Bailey’s commentary on 1 Corinthians Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes.  and Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyesbooks that I would highly recommend to anyone who wants to have their understanding of many theological issues turned upside down.  Suddenly I felt I was reading a new book one in which love and forgiveness not hate and repression were the halmarks of how we treated each other.

Bailey suggests that 1 Corinthians 13 and its focus on the royal command of love is the center of Paul’s beliefs on women and their participation in worship. I could not help but applaud as I read through his gentle commentary that suggested the admonition for women not to chat in church was because they belonged to an oral culture that did not train them how to focus on spoken sermons. It had nothing to do with their subservience.

God’s royal command – the practice of love – at the centre of all things I thought. If we focused on that in any context it would radically change the way we treated each other be we male or female, Jew or Greek, slave or free. All the rhetoric we can so easily get embroiled in fades into insignificance when we start with love no matter what we are talking about.

Sixteenth century mystic Madame Guyon called prayer “an exercise in love”. Or maybe it should be: “love is an exercise in prayer.” It is the forming of an intimate relationship between us and the loving heart of God. Perhaps the reason that women’s voices were silenced for so long is because it is the more feminine qualities of feeling, mysticism and the ability to develop personal relationships that are at the core of love and therefore at the core of our relationship to God. Discovering the heart of God’s love means breaking down the barriers that divide men and women, slave and free, Jew and Greek.  In our world today women need to be heard more than ever and so I have realized that it is not time to step out of this debate. I want my voice to be heard, not in argument and rhetoric but in love and forgiveness.  That is the only thing that will reveal to all humankind the heart of our God who is love.

Here are the links for the other contributions to this synchroblog:

Michelle Morr Krabill – Why I Love Being a Woman
Marta Layton – The War on Terror and the War on Women
Ellen Haroutounian – March Synchroblog – All About Eve
Jeremy Myers – Women Must Lead the Church
Carol Kuniholm – Rethinking Hupotasso
Wendy McCaig – Fear Letting Junia Fly
Tammy Carter – Pat Summit: Changing the Game & Changing the World
Jeanette Altes – On Being Female
kathy escobar – replacing the f-word with the d-word (no not those ones)
Melody Hanson – Call Me Crazy, But I Talk To Jesus Too
Glenn Hager – Walked Into A Bar
Steve Hayes – St. Christina of Persi
Leah Sophia – March Syncroblog-All About Eve
Liz Dyer – The Problem Is Not That I See Sexism Everywhere…
Sonja Andrews – International Women’s Day
Sonnie Swenston-Forbes – The Women
Christine Sine – 
It All Begins With Love
K.W. Leslie – Undoing the Subordination of Women
Carie Good – The Math of Mr. Cardinal
Dan Brennan – Ten Women I Want To Honor

A Franciscan Prayer for International Women’s Day

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I know that I am posting this a little late in the day, but I just came across this beautiful prayer written by Deborah Hirt, Intern at Franciscans International.

Lord, make me an instrument of peace:

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

Where there is hatred, let me sow love:

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

Where there is injury, pardon:

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

Where there is division, unity:

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

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

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

Where there is doubt, true faith:

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

Where there is despair, hope:

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

Where there is sadness, new joy:

Help us to see the strength and goodness in all women and men.
Transform our hearts to celebrate the love and grace of all people.
And may we be blessed with the courage of St. Clare of Assisi to follow our own path of love for you and all sisters and brothers.

The Wonders Worked by Womanhood from Lucy Kellaway

A friend (male) sent me a copy of this article The Wonders Worked by Womanhood which was published on FT.com today & I thought that many of you might enjoy reading it too.

….  It shows that when it comes to the intelligence of a group, the presence of women lifts the results, even if the individuals are not particularly brainy. The study, by Anita Woolley and Thomas Malone and written up in the latest issue of Harvard Business Review, shows that the more women there are in a group, the more intelligently it performs.  Read the entire article

First Wednesday of Advent – Waiting: A Reflection by Julie Clawson

Today’s post for the series What Are We Waiting for This Advent Season? comes from Julie Clawson who describes herself as a mommy, writer and dreamer.  Her most recent book is Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices. Julie is also involved in the Emerging Women and Emerging Parents networks. This post was first published on Julie Clawson’s blog on the First Sunday of Advent

Waiting

Julie Clawson

I love the traditional Carmelite themes for each week of Advent – waiting, accepting, journeying, and birthing.  For season that is all about the anticipation of a birth, using a framework that is rooted in the experience of childbearing connects this season to a side of the divine that is often neglected.  Feminine metaphors are well suited, in my opinion, to tell the story of a birth.

Women who’ve given birth know the mess and horrific pain that accompany the joy of welcoming new life into this world.   And the waiting for a birth is no less conflicted.  Nine months is a long time.  Between the bouts of morning sickness, the swollen ankles, and the indigestion there are the long discussions about names and getting the nursery just right.  Alongside the vivid nightmares and panic attacks that you are just not ready to be a mom, there are the daydreams about what it will be like to hold your baby.  Those few seconds in the ultrasound room with the closed-lipped technician do little to assuage your made-up fears or the gut-level desire to just have the baby out already.  Even before you are sick of wearing the same two pregnancy shirts over and over again, you wish that your belly had a little zipper that would allow you just one peak at the little one inside (or at least a short reprieve from having your bladder used as a trampoline).  Waiting for something beautiful to be born – for joy to fully enter your life – is hard.  The child is already there, the joy is present, but you still long for its arrival.

And so mothers learn to wait.

Waiting for the word to become flesh – for the advent of the Messiah was no less difficult.  The dream was in the making, the prophets had cast the vision of hope, but like a pixilated ultrasound image, it left the people wanting.  They knew one would come who would turn the world upside-down, who would hear the cries of the oppressed and bring justice to the land.  Isaiah had foretold of this coming time yet to be born –

On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.

On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;

he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The LORD has spoken.

Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.

He humbles those who dwell on high,
he lays the lofty city low;
he levels it to the ground
and casts it down to the dust.

Feet trample it down—
the feet of the oppressed,
the footsteps of the poor.

  • Isaiah 25: 6-8 & 26: 4-6

They were waiting for the world to change, for a new era to finally be born.  Like a mother longing to just hold that baby growing in her womb, they wanted the promise they had held onto for so long to finally come to fruition.  A few even realized that this gestation of a dream would reach it’s fulfillment in an actual birth.  And so we see prophetess Anna in the Temple approaching this incarnate deity exclaiming words of thanksgiving and giving encouragement to those there who had been longing for the redemption of Israel.  This child who Mary had waited a long nine months to finally suckle at her breast, was living proof that the dream was not in vain – that the wait was worth it.  The world that the prophets had imagined was finally being born where tears would be wiped away and all would feast on aged wine.

But births are never easy.  And upside-down kingdoms have a quirky way of being upside-down.  As joy arrived and dwelt among us, we discovered that there is meaning in the waiting.  The hope and joy is perpetually gestating and being born in light of the way this one little baby shattered every preconception we ever had about the dream we long for.

And so we wait. And anticipate. And live. And follow. And serve.

The child is here, the joy is present, and still we wait for the birth.  The waiting changes us and changes the world.

The Causes of Our Times

I am getting ready to speak at the West Coast Healthcare Missions Conference this next week and have been updating some of my statistics and presentations.  As usual this kind of preparation challenges me again to look at the needs of our world and to grapple with how my life can make a difference in the lives of those that are marginalized by our society.

Part of my reading this week has been the Millennium Development Report 2009 It makes sobering reading as I realize how much those at the margins have been impacted by the financial crisis of the last year reversing some of the hard earned progress against poverty.  It is estimated that 55 million to 90 million more people will be living in extreme poverty than anticipated before the global economic crisis.

In 2000, world leaders in the UN established what are known as the  Millennial Development goals with the hope of freeing a major portion of humanity from extreme poverty, hunger, illiteracy and disease by the year 2015. The goals are:

Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education

Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women

Goal 4: Reduce child mortality

Goal 5: Improve maternal health

Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other disease

Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability

Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development

Read the entire 2009 report here

Another part of my reading came, believe it or not from the New York Times Sunday Magazine.  Why Women’s Rights are the Cause of Our Time. The challenges of this issue complements the concerns of the Millennial Development report because one of the major areas in which we have made little progress is in the health and wellbeing of women.

Every year, 536,000 women and girls still die as a result of complications during pregnancy, childbirth or the six weeks following delivery.  Girls are less likely to be in school than boys.  They are taken to health clinics less frequently, are more likely to be malnourished and often suffer the indignity of too many babies too soon which results in vesicovaginal fistula that further ostracize them.    The magnitude of the fistula problem worldwide is unknown but believed to be immense. In Nigeria alone, Harrison (1985) reported a vesicovaginal fistula rate of 350 cases per 100,000 deliveries at a university teaching hospital.

In some countries women still have no rights of citizenship or the ability to own property.  This makes them extremely vulnerable if their husbands or fathers die or abandon them.  It can also binds them to abusive and degrading relationships with no recourse to the processes of the law.

The education and empowerment of women continues to be a huge issue in our time and one which I believe Christians should be at the forefront of addressing.  Jesus treated women in radical life affirming ways that were revolutionary in his day and age.  He treated them with respect and as equals.  In a society that believed women were incapable of learning, he allowed them to sit at his feet and listen.  He raised a widow’s son from the dead so that she would not be forced into extreme poverty and possibly into prostitution, the only profession that from ancient times has been open to women who are vulnerable and alone.

According to the New York Times:,

the oppression of women worldwide is the human rights cause of our time.  And their liberation could help solve many of the world’s problems, from poverty to child mortality to terrorism…. “Women hold up half the sky,’ in the words of a Chinese saying, yet hat’s mostly an aspiration: in a large slice of the world, girls are uneducated and women marginalized, and its not an accident that those same countries are disproportionately mired in poverty and riven by fundamentalism and chaos.  Read the entire article here

As a Christian woman I feel huge responsibility to be a part of God’s solution to this overwhelming challenge.  It was part of the stimulus I needed to read the Bible through the eyes of women rather than men, to see the liberation that Christ brought and that we too are challenged to bring.  It is part of what continues to motivate me to speak out against injustice towards women, the sex trade, mass rapes that occur in war and the patriarchal ways that we interpret the Bible.  It is the main reason that I am still so sensitive to even the little ways that women are discriminated against in our society.

Let me finish with one of the scriptures that I find most compelling in this regard.

It is for freedom Christ has set us free.  Stand firm then and do not let yourselves (or others) be burdened again by a yoke of slavery…. You my brothers and sisters were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature, rather serve one another humbly in love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: Love your neighbour as yourself. (Galatians 5: 1, 13, 14.)