Colour your Prayers March 26, 2020

 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And the One who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27 NIV adapted)

I don’t know how it is for you, but there are times when I have the need, the urge to pray, and really don’t have words. I don’t know how to say what I am feeling, and the thoughts have not coalesced, solidified enough that I can attach actual words to them.

These days, there is so much. I am carrying in my heart voices of people I talk with on the phone, pictures of folks in the church directory that I look at, while I ponder who to call next. There are the memories of things I have been told.  I think about people I am used to seeing almost every day. I think about people I have not seen for years.

I wonder about our world, and what will happen this afternoon, next week, and on and on….

That’s how I am today. Full of… prayers, questions, worries, dark thoughts, hopeful glimmers, deep love, compassion. So much. Maybe you have times like this too.

Back when I was studying and teaching contemplative practices, and offering the ministry of spiritual direction (I did that for about a decade before I came to Harrow), I developed a way to pray, when I don’t have all, or any of the words.

It starts with my art box, and a blank page.

I write down names, places, concerns. I paint over them with a colour that feels like God’s love, God’s attention. I used watercolour today, but I’ve done coloured pencils, even crayons in the past. More words, names, places come to mind, so I add them. God’s love is not limited by the size of my heart, so I add more colour. It’s a bit of bright mess- and that’s about right, for today.

 

Worship for Sunday, March 22, 2020

julian of norwich

new link for audio file

This week’s learning time is the last in a series of 3 based on the story of Jesus’ Temptation in the Wilderness. This story from early in Matthew’s Gospel is traditionally read in church on the first Sunday of Lent. It  is so rich in content that we could easily spend a few months on it.

The link above (the red or pink words) will open an audio file that begins with the Gospel text, continues with the Learning Time, and ends with a following prayer, written by Carol Penner, a professor at Conrad Grebel College in Waterloo, Ontario.

If you would rather read than listen, the text is printed below. (In the second half of the learning time I talk about Julian of Norwich,  whose image is seen in the picture of the stained glass window.) Following the text of the learning time and prayer there is a link to a hymn suggestion.

Take a moment to get comfortable, to breathe, to unclench your hands and heart, and place yourself in God’s hands. Know that you are held by God, loved by God.

My plan for the Sundays in Lent was to look closely each week at the story of Jesus alone, out in the wilderness. It seems now like a totally appropriate text to sit with in Lent, and in this strange season, as we grapple with isolation, social distancing, and things over which we have no power, and about which we know so little. These days we may be even more aware of what has always been true: Our lives have always been in God’s hands.

Matthew 4:1-11 from the New International Version

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[b]

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[c]

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[d]

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’[e]

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Jesus was not alone in the wilderness, when he took that 40 day and night retreat, before he began his public ministry. God was with him.

Last week I spent some time exploring what we mean when we talk about evil, and about the personifications of evil that are well known in our culture- Satan, or the Devil. In the gospel story, this character is also called the Tester, or the Tempter, depending on the translation. I mentioned that we actually get most of our ideas and information about the devil from places other than the Bible.

This is also true when it comes to angels, the holy messengers that are mentioned in this story. Our mental images of what angels look like, and what they do come as much from cartoons and movies as they do the Bible.

Angels are mentioned twice in the story of Jesus in the wilderness, but they are never described.

The first happened when the Devil challenged Jesus to jump from a high tower, with the assurance that, because God would not allow him to be harmed, the angels would catch him before he hit the ground. Jesus rejected that challenge.

The other mention of angels comes at the end of the wilderness story, after Jesus faced the last of the Devil’s three tests, and had successfully told the Devil to leave him alone, the Gospel account says that Jesus was attended to by angels.

It’s a nice ending to a scary story- which is something we may appreciate even more these days, when we are hearing one pretty big scary story every time the news is on, and most times we look at our phone, or computer. There is a big scary thing happening in our world. Where is God in all of this? Where are the angels?

When I read that part of the story in which the devil challenged Jesus, to jump off the tower and just trust that God would save him- the most scared parts of me kind of wish we could call upon God to simply save us, rescue us, or send an angel squad to catch us before we fall too far. But Jesus says no to that, and our experience in life also says no to that.

God does not seem to work that way, for the most part. Our faith, our loyalty, our good works in God’s name, do not seem to earn us protection from pain, or sickness, or tragedy, or even pandemics.

Is there some consolation in knowing that according to this story, Jesus was subject to the same trials and issues as we are?

There was pain, and illness, and tragedy in his world. He was human, like us, and suffered. People he knew and loved, suffered. He healed some, and helped many, and offered words of hope, and taught people to find meaning in their lives- but he did not sell them holy umbrellas under which they could hunker down, safe from all that comes with being human, with being finite, mortal beings.

So if we cannot expect God to send angels down to wave magic angel wands and eliminate the things that currently place us in peril, what can we expect?

Most of the time, when angels appear in scripture, they bring a singular message- be not afraid. God is here.

I have been thinking a lot this week about a woman named Julian of Norwich. She was a woman of prayer, who experienced spiritual visions of God. Her most famous quote is:

“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

She was often ill in her own life, and even when she was physically well, experienced a life of isolation, and great privation. She lived from around 1342 to 1416. Five times in her lifetime, Europe was ravaged by the Bubonic plague. They called it the Great Pestilence, or the Black Death. Historians think that about a third of the people in England succumbed to the plague, and that in Julian’s area, Norwich, the death toll may have been closer to half the population.

How could she live through such terrible times, and still say, and believe that,

“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

Julian was a mystic. The gift of such people is the reminder they offer the rest of us, that our true peace, our true solace, our true sense that all can be well, is found, not in what we can do, or even in what is happening in the world around us, but with God.

Mystics invite us to quiet ourselves, to find the slow, unhurried part within us, that connects with the eternal, unchanging presence of God. With love. With our true hope.

It’s a bit like a line from the United Church creed, that says:

In life, in death, in life beyond death,

God is with us.

We are not alone.

Thanks be to God.

These words from our creed remind me:

There is more to us than our fear.

There is more to God than solving the problems of the moment.

There is more to our existence than the present.

God is with us in life, in death, and in life beyond death, or as Julian said,

“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

Julian’s confidence is one that I can trust, because she came to it in prayer, while she lived through immense pain and suffering, but she saw through, and beyond those things to gaze on the compassionate face of God. And she knew that God gazed back, and that the trials of her present time were not the end of the story. Amen

Pandemic Prayer, by Carol Penner of Conrad Grebel College

Great God,
you are an ever-present help in times of trouble,
and that’s why we’re praying now.
We are troubled and we’re worried things
are going to get more troubling.
This virus is spreading around the world:
so many are seriously ill
or will be seriously ill,
so many health care systems are stretched
or will be stretched.
Be with front line medical workers,
give them courage to do their work
and keep them safe.
Be with public health officials
as they make decisions for the common good,
and politicians as they roll those decisions out.
Help us to be kind to one another,
because anxiety can make us snappy.
Help our communities to be resilient
and expansive as we reach out to help
all who are isolated and afraid.
In these times of shutdowns and slowdowns,
when travel is restricted or banned,
as routines are disrupted and we spend
less time together or more time together,
help us zero in on what is essential.
Thank you that love is also contagious
and stronger than any virus.
You will be with us,
and we will be with each other
in sickness and in health.
Amen.

Link to Prof. Penner’s page

A good hymn for today might be “Come and find the quiet centre” which is Voices United 374. Here are the lyrics:

If you click on  this link it will take you to a youtube video that plays the accompaniment, and also shows you the lyrics, so you can sing along. Come and find the quiet centre

Come and find the quiet centre
in the crowded life we lead,
find the room for hope to enter,
find the frame where we are freed:
clear the chaos and the clutter,
clear our eyes, that we can see
all the things that really matter,
be at peace, and simply be.

Silence is a friend who claims us,
cools the heat and slows the pace,
God it is who speaks and names us,
knows our being, face to face,
making space within our thinking,
lifting shades to show the sun,
raising courage when we’re shrinking,
finding scope for faith begun.

In the Spirit let us travel,
open to each other’s pain,
let our loves and fears unravel,
celebrate the space we gain:
there’s a place for deepest dreaming,
there’s a time for heart to care,
in the Spirit’s lively scheming
there is always room to spare!

 

Jon Batiste, C.S. Lewis, and Love

 

american-singer-jon-batiste-with-his-keyboard-1530092302Jon Batiste is a musician from Kenner, Lousiana. (You drive by it on the way from Louis Armstrong Airport, if you are headed into New Orleans.) He grew up in a musical family, and also seems to be a deeply spiritual person. It comes through in his music, and even in the name of his band, which is Stay Human- he named it that to remind himself and his bandmates that human interaction during a live musical performance can uplift humanity in the midst of the “plug in/tune out” nature of modern society. He believes in using music to connect people, bring them together. He often organizes free street performances that he calls “love riots”.

He’s become quite famous, largely because of his role as the music director on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. A few years ago, my son and I got to meet him, and his whole band, after a concert. He was quite kind to my son, who at the time was learning to play the melodica, which Jon Batiste also plays. I think it comes through in the video, that Jon Batiste loves what he does, and that he’s pouring love out. His song “Let God Lead” is a great rendering of 1st Corinthians 13.

We begin to succeed
when the cares of our lives
begin and end
with the hurt of others

We begin to breathe
when the wounds of others
become relieved
with the love of others

 He who looks around and finds who’s in need
has made the best investment as a human being

 He who looks around to find who’s in need
has made the best investment in his legacy

 I say that love will never force,
love will never quit,
love ain’t never lose
love ain’t never miss

 Of all things lasting there remains only three
what money can’t buy only these will succeed
faith hope and love,

but the greatest of these
is love

 so here is a formula for a real hard situation,
just let God and let love
lead the way

Let love lead
Let God lead

Can love strut (no way)
can love destroy (no way
can love belittle (no way no)
can love pose
can love be proud
can love rejoice with a mother’s pride
love stands up when other’s won’t
love prevails without want
love puts up with anything
God is love and love is God

Let God Lead video

Love is a word we hear a lot, maybe a little more than usual around Valentine’s Day. I think it’s an important word, that deserves some caring attention.

Christians get a lot of ideas about how to love, from the New Testament. The New Testament we read is a translation, based on earlier texts, the oldest of which were written in an ancient form of Greek called Koine’.

The first translations were from Koine’ into Latin, which became the official language of the Roman Catholic church. Much later on, the Bible began to be translated into languages spoke by ordinary people.

The first English translations appeared early in the 17th century. Translation is far from an exact science. Anyone who speaks more than one language can tell you that it can be challenging to find a word in one language, that is close enough, to the word or idea you were thinking, in another language.

The translators struggled, and did the best they could, and sometimes took shortcuts, and over-simplified things, in their efforts to create a clear, readable English version.

The original versions of the New Testament used at least 4 different words, that were all translated to the English word “Love”.

C.S. Lewis, was a British writer well known for the Chronicles of Narnia. He was a respected academic and lecturer at Oxford and Cambridge, and good friends with JRR Tolkien, who wrote The Lord of the Rings.

the four loves bookIn the late 1950’s Lewis wrote a series of lectures for the BBC called The Four Loves. They were popular in Great Britain, but thought of as too risque’ for the United States, because in them he dared to discuss human sexuality.

The four words that were all translated into English as the word “love”, are: Storge, Phileo, Eros, and Agape.

Storge, or Affection, is the most simple of the loves. We can have affection for a thing, or enjoy a particular flavor of ice cream, or get engrossed in a tv show, or take up collecting a certain thing. This kind of love might be the starting place for the other kids of love. At its best, this kind of love awakens us to what we like, what we appreciate in the world, and in people. Taken to an extreme- the love of things for their own sake can be an unhealthy replacement for the deeper kinds of love, and result in hoarding, or obsessive collecting.

Phileo, or friendship is what it sounds like, the love of affiliation. Friendship may arise if we spend time with someone with whom we share similar interests or concerns, passions, or commitments. Friendship can grow into genuine appreciation for, and concern about another person, but it has its roots in what we have in common.

Eros is the kind of love some Americans did not want C.S. Lewis to talk about on the radio. It is love with the added energy of sexual attraction. The positive expression of this is the desire to bring joy and happiness to another person. Erotic attraction can be the gateway that leads to a real partnership between people. The immature expression of this kind of love can result in objectification, in which possessing the person feels like the goal. This unhealthy kind of erotic attraction often has little to do with the actual person, but only an illusion of them, or what fantasy they seem to fulfill.

Agape is considered by Lewis, and many others, to be the highest, most unselfish of the loves. In the King James Version of the passage from 1st Corinthians 13, where we read “Faith, Hope, and Love, and the greatest of these is love”, the text uses the word Charity. Faith, Hope and Charity. Charity in the old-fashioned sense is about giving without expecting reward- not even a tax receipt.

C.S. Lewis thought that of the 4 loves, Agape was the one that went most against human nature. Where Affection, Friendship and Erotic Love all contain a component of there being something in it for me, Agape love is totally about giving. It gives all, and expects nothing, asks for nothing in return.

This is the kind of love considered to be the most like the way God loves us- without condition, and with total generosity. This is a love that risks everything, and does not count the costs. It is also, paradoxically, what makes us the best we can be. It is not about how we feel, but about the kind of person we choose to be. C.S. Lewis said it like this:

The rule for all of us is perfectly simple.  Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor; act as if you did.  As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets.  When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love them.  If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking them more.  If you do them a good turn, you will find yourself disliking them less.

Jon Batiste sang it this way:

He who looks around and finds who’s in need
has made the best investment as a human being

 He who looks around to find who’s in need
has made the best investment in his legacy.

 

Blessing the Fleet

On Saturday, at the request of a past commodore of Kingsville’s Cedar Island Yacht Club, I took part in their annual Sail Past and Blessing of the Fleet.

The last time I went sailing, it was to watch the Canada Day fireworks at Bronte Harbour in Oakville. The captain who hosted us had to have his boat towed back to the dock at the end of the night, because his motor failed. That event was more humorous than dangerous (although Captain John wasn’t laughing!) but it did give us a taste of the vulnerability inherent any time we venture out on open water.

There is a famous vbreton fisherman's prayer plaqueerse, known as the Breton Fisherman’s Prayer:

Oh God thy sea is so great and my boat is so small.

This little prayer was engraved on a brass plaque presented to President John F. Kennedy by US Navy Admiral Hyman Rickover. The admiral made it a practice to give the same gift to all new commanders of Polaris submarines.

Even the largest vessel can feel not quite enough, in a storm, or when any of the many things that can go wrong, do.

When we go out on the water there are opportunities to glory in creation, to witness sights and sounds, and smells, and sensations in real life, in real time. This is iedit of Darrow blessing the fleetncredibly important, in our age of electronic screens that provide, and mediate so much of our daily experience of the world.

The tradition of blessing the fleet is traced back to European fishing villages, in which the local priest would lead ritual prayers in a communal effort to ensure a bountiful season, safety for those who braved the waters, and peace of mind for those waiting at home. These prayers would have notes of gratitude and awe for the power of God and the beauty of the created world, as well as a chilling acknowledgment of the precariousness of life.

Awareness of both the sweetness, and possible shortness of our lives is at the heart of most prayers, I think. We stand in awe, and we stand with trepidation. Look what there is! Look what could happen!

The sailors I met on Saturday do not depend on their boats, or their time on the water to make a living. They do not brave dangerous wind and waves to catch fish, or transport cargo. They do not pilot ferry boats or operate patrol or rescue vessels. Even so, I have the sense their sailing adds much to their lives, and helps them stay in touch with the beauty, and the precious fragility of life itself.

After the formal ceremony, I was asked by members of the club to bless their boats individually. This is the prayer I used:

God of Creation, God of Love, God of Wind and Waters, bless this boat. Guide the captain at her helm. Watch over all passengers and crew and bring them to a safe return. We pray with gratitude and trust. Amen

At more than one of these moments of blessing, I could see this simple action of asking God to be with them, was important and meaningful to those with whom I stood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holy Whispers

Thirty years ago, I was a student minister, in rural Manitoba. One cold January night, around 9 pm, I was home alone in the manse, the minister’s house beside the church. I had been out earlier for a supper visit, that turned into staying for cards, and a second dessert. As a young, single minister in farm country, I rarely ate at home. The good part about that was I ate well. The challenging part was it meant I spent a lot of time with people. For an introvert like me, it could leave me weary at the end of the day, and ready to just be in my own space.

And that was my plan for the rest of that chilly winter evening, except that I got this odd urge to go out again into the cold without actually knowing where. I started up my little silver-grey Chevy Chevette, backed it out of the garage, to let it warm up (It was about 25 below that night, and then I headed out.

The village I lived in was very small, more like a place where two country roads crossed near a grain elevator. There were maybe 60 houses, one church, and a post office. It was only a short drive up the main street before it met the provincial highway.

By the time I reached the stop sign, I knew I should turn left. That took me south on highway 59, but I did not stay on the highway long. I turned right on the road towards the ski hill, which led up into rolling hills along the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border. You could stand at the top of the highest of those hills and be in two provinces at once.

fal2007_barnyard_at_nightMy little Chevy Chevette seemed to know where it was supposed to go. I slowed and turned right, and up the long driveway to Eric’s house. He was a man in his forties who was very involved in the church. His lights were on, so I was hopeful it wasn’t too late to drop in.

At harvest time a late night visit would have made more sense, because the odds would be good that Eric would have just been getting in from driving combine. But in the middle of the winter this was all very unusual.

Eric saw me coming up his drive, and light spilled out as he opened his mudroom door. I’d learned while living in Manitoba farm country that the mudroom is the way you enter if you’re not company. Company would use the front porch door. The mudroom is where you knock the mud or snow off your boots, hang up your outer wear, and come in the back of the house to the kitchen.

Eric welcomed me, and had me sit at the table while he put on the kettle for tea. Seriously, two guys sitting down in a farmhouse kitchen to chat over tea! He ran water into the kettle, but before he could plug it in, the phone on the kitchen wall rang. This was when people still had those phones on the wall, with the long receiver cord that allowed you to walk around the whole kitchen. But Eric did not move. He recognized the voice on the other end, said hello, and then just held the receiver against his head, and stood, mouth open.

When I saw his face, I knew why I was at there, at his house, why I had left my house so late at night, in the January cold, to show up unannounced at Eric’s door. There had been a tragic, unexpected death in his family, just around the time I climbed into my car. His brother-in-law was making the calls to let all the family know.

I sat with Eric for a few minutes, and went with him to the next farm over, where his mom and dad had also had their phone call. Eric’s older sister had died. The family, from different parts of the province, would all be coming home.

Have you ever been surprised by the urge to do something out of the ordinary? Some might call it a whisper from God. If you have had such a moment, did you follow the urge, and do the strange thing?

If we are open to being led by God’s spirit, then God’s spirit will lead us. I told you my dramatic example, because I will never forget that night. But little nudges, and good ideas, intuitions, and inspirations happen all the time.

 

 

Meditation on wheels

ride of silenceThe Ride of Silence…

Tonight we number many but ride as one
In honor of those not with us,

friends, mothers, fathers, sisters, sons
With helmets on tight and heads down low,
We ride in silence, cautious and slow
The wheels start spinning in the lead pack
But tonight we ride and no one attacks
The dark sunglasses cover our tears
Remembering those we held so dear
Tonight’s ride is to make others aware
The road is there for all to share20190515_185448
To those not with us or by our side,
May God be your partner on your final ride.

http://www.rideofsilence.org

I took part in Kingsville’s first Ride of Silence last night.  The Ride is an annual event in many places, that had its start in Dallas, Texas in 2003. In the words from the official website, the ride happens to:

  • To HONOR those who have been injured or killed
  • To RAISE AWARENESS that we are here
  • To ask that we all SHARE THE ROAD

THE RIDE OF SILENCE WILL NOT BE QUIET

On May 15, 2019 at 7:00 PM, the Ride of Silence will traverse and unite the globe as nothing before it. Cyclists will take to the roads in a silent procession to honor cyclists who have been killed or injured while cycling on public roadways. Although cyclists have a legal right to share the road with motorists, the motoring public often isn’t aware of these rights, and sometimes not aware of the cyclists themselves.

out of serviceIt was a beautiful night to be out with 38 other cyclists, most of whom took the temporary vow of silence quite seriously. We formed up behind a Essex-Windsor EMS ambulance, whose flashing lights drew attention to us, and brought a sense of solemnity to what we were doing. One rider quipped (before we fell into silence) that it was comforting to see the “Out of Service” sign that hung from the back of the ambulance.

At 7 pm, the poem “The Ride of Silence” was read, and we started out. It was lovely to have this as a meditation practice, a literal spiritual exercise, that included a sense of ritual, community, purpose, and the holy. Also, after the ride, there was beer. Many of the riders parked their bikes behind the Outdoor Alley Patio behind the Banded Goose Tap Room at 15 Main Street.

Good words about Inclusion from Richard Rohr

I attended an event today that celebrated the work of Community Living Essex County, an organization “committed to support people with an intellectual disability to achieve their goals and dreams and to realize their value as inclusionfull citizens in their community.”  

This was a great counter-point to Rohr’s words from “The Universal Christ”. Here are some of the phrases that jumped off the page:

God’s infinite love has always included all that God created from the very beginning

Faith at its essential core is accepting that you are accepted! We cannot deeply know ourselves without also knowing the One who made us, and we cannot fully accept ourselves without accepting God’s radical acceptance of every part of us.

We need to look at Jesus until we can look out at the world with his kind of eyes. The world no longer trusts Christians who “love Jesus” but do not seem to love anything else.

…we spent a great deal of time worshiping the messenger and trying to get other people to do the same. Too often this obsession became a pious substitute for actually following what he taught—and he did ask us several times to follow him, and never once to worship him.

A mature Christian sees Christ in everything and everyone else. That is a definition that will never fail you, always demand more of you, and give you no reasons to fight, exclude, or reject anyone.

The point of the Christian life is not to distinguish oneself from the ungodly, but to stand in radical solidarity with everyone and everything else.

Jesus had no trouble whatsoever with otherness. We must be honest and humble about this: Many people of other faiths, like Sufi masters, Jewish prophets, many philosophers, and Hindu mystics, have lived in light of the Divine encounter better than many Christians.

Remember what God said to Moses: “I AM Who I AM” (Exodus 3:14). God is clearly not tied to a name, nor does he seem to want us to tie the Divinity to any one name… This tradition alone should tell us to practice profound humility in regard to God, who gives us not a name, but only pure presence—no handle that could allow us to think we “know” who God is or have him or her as our private possession.

(Jesus) came in mid-tone skin, from the underclass, a male body with a female soul, from an often hated religion, and living on the very cusp between East and West. No one owns him, and no one ever will.

…there has never been a single soul who was not possessed by the Christ, even in the ages when Jesus was not. Why would you want your religion, or your God, to be any smaller than that?

You are not your gender, your nationality, your ethnicity, your skin color, or your social class. Why, oh why, do Christians allow these temporary costumes, or what Thomas Merton called the “false self,” to pass for the substantial self, which is always “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3)? It seems that we really do not know our own Gospel.

You are a child of God, and always will be, even when you don’t believe it.

When Christ calls himself the “Light of the World” (John 8:12), he is not telling us to look just at him, but to look out at life with his all-merciful eyes. We see him so we can see like him, and with the same infinite compassion. When your isolated “I” turns into a connected “we,” you have moved from Jesus to Christ.

“Does Blood have a Gender?” continued

Here is the reply I received to my letter to Canadian Blood Services. I am including the complete text. I am not sure why their letter included the *asterisk sign when they used the word “trans”. I wonder if the writer lifted text from another document, and did not include the footnotes.

Hello Darrow,

Thank you for your email and for taking the time to reach out to us.

In August 2016, Canadian Blood Services implemented a new screening process and eligibility criteria for trans* donors. These criteria are the first step in developing national criteria for trans* donors. We will be working with stakeholders, including members of the trans* community, to improve how Canadian Blood Services interacts with trans* Canadians who wish to donate blood. We are also working on updating our computer system so that donated blood components can be processed to reduce the risk of transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI) without donors having to be identified as female.

As of May, 2017 and as a result of the “2016 Summary Report – Consultations with Trans and Gender Non-binary Communities” Canadian Blood Services has implemented a training program for front-line staff with a 2018 rollout to ensure trans and gender non-binary individuals are treated respectfully.

We are grateful for the feedback we receive from donors and partners, which allows us to continuously improve how we engage with all Canadians. We understand that the pace of change is frustrating.

Donors will be asked the relevant questions for their sex attributed at birth and will be accepted or deferred based on these criteria. For example, trans* females will be asked whether they had sex with a male, and if the response is yes, they would be deferred for one year after their last sexual contact.

Given the complexity of screening donors according to both their sex attributed at birth and their affirmed gender, donors are instead deferred from donating blood for one year after their surgery. As the longest deferral period for sexual partner risk is one year, donors will be screened in their affirmed gender one year after their surgery. For donors with female sex attributed at birth, a code will be added to the donor’s file to decrease the risk of TRALI.

TRALI is a rare but potentially fatal complication that can occur in recipients after transfusion. Donors who have had a past pregnancy, including miscarriages and abortions, are more likely to have antibodies present in the liquid portion of their blood (plasma) that may cause TRALI in a recipient. To reduce this risk, we process blood donations from ALL donors coded as female in our computer system differently from donations from donors coded as male. The plasma from female donors is used to produce products such as immune globulin, instead of being transfused directly to patients. It is therefore important for us to know whether the donor’s sex identified at birth was female, so that their blood donation can be processed to reduce the risk of TRALI.

In May 2017, Canadian Blood Services released the 2016 Summary Report: Consultations with Trans and Gender Non-binary Communities”. This report summarizes themes that emerged from two in-person consultations that were held with trans and gender non-binary individuals in Vancouver on November 17, 2016, and in Toronto on December 8, 2016. Thought leaders in the trans and gender non-binary communities helped us plan this stakeholder consultation.

These consultations helped us identify that frontline staff is an important immediate priority for this community. Canadian Blood Services will implement a training program for front-line staff to ensure trans and gender non-binary individuals are treated respectfully. Planning is underway and we expect it will be developed and ready for rollout in 2018.

We will also explore how to modify clinic processes to allow individuals to select the gender with which they identify, while ensuring we have access to the information we need.

Sincerely,

Canadian Blood Services

Sarah

Customer Service Representative

National Contact Centre

canadian blood services logo

My thoughts about this reply from Canadian Blood Services

  1. The person screening me did not have, or at least did not share with me, any information about TRALI.
  2. The response from Canadian Blood Services did not acknowledge, or address the fact that the question of my sex was raised in the secondary screening, after I had already answered all the risk-related questions, and in which I answered all the questions about my sexual activity.
  3. Since I was asked about my sex in the second quarter of 2019, it would seem the roll out of a new protocol has not actually happened.
  4. I will continue to donate blood as often as I can, especially since learning that because of TRALI, all blood from female donors is diverted for the production of blood products, and is not transfused to patients in need.

 

Does blood have a gender?

blood donor cardI gave blood his week. After I’d already answered the screening questions, the secondary screening/identity confirmation person asked me what my “sex” is, and indicated there are only 2 choices. I asked them why I was being asked about my sex, rather than my gender identity, and why there were only two options, male or female. Really, in 2019? I wonder what it must be like for the people I care about who identify as non-binary. I also wonder why sex or gender is relevant, after a donor has already passed the screening for risks. Does blood have sex or gender?

To be clear, this ridiculous and unnecessary question did not stop me from donating blood. The person asking the question explained they were required by “higher up” to ask the questions. I refrained from saying that so am I!

Passing On the Good Stuff

 

Today I officiated at a funeral for Iona, a woman who lived to be 95. From all I heard, she lived her life on her own terms, as a strong, independent, and caring woman, who helped her family and friends, and made significant contributions to her community. Iona was active in several service organizations in Harrow, including the Full Circle Thrift Shop, which makes used household goods available to have a new life, by selling them at affordable prices.

Full Circle Thrift Shop

If that was not enough inspiration to keep working at being a decent human, I also got to meet some members of her family.

Meagan, (known in the gaming and Twitch communities as theladymea), and Carson, who has a great Instagram page featuring his art called carsondrewit, are Windsor-based artists.

Meagan showed me photos of a miniature gaming figure she hand-painted, using very small, fine brushes she inherited from her great aunt Iona, who painted ceramic figurines.

We had an excellent conversation about the latest Marvel movie Avengers: Endgame. I can’t write about anything we talked about, for fear of “spoiling” the movie for those who have not yet seen it.

They each do amazing work, and I encourage you to check them out.  The first image below is one of Carson’s, called Duality.

https://www.instagram.com/carsondrewit/

duality carson drew it

This next one is by Meagan, of jousting knights.

https://www.theladymea.com/

meagan painting

Both Carson and Meagan participate in an online community called Twitch. I need to check this out. It is possible to watch a livestream video of them creating their art.

Meagan said she is able to earn a large part of her income selling commissioned paintings, and the ones she creates as thousands of viewers watch her online.

It has to be a lot more interesting to view Meagan with her brushes and acrylic paints, or Carson with his pen and inks, than it would be to watch me pecking away at a computer keyboard, writing.

What really brought light to my day was the commitment they have to encourage up and coming artists. They understand that part of what it means to be an artist, is to nurture the creative urge in others. They pass along their love and joy for what they do.