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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.

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“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.

 

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What if it’s all about love?

I am enjoying the tremendous privilege of a week of study leave. I let go of my plan to attend a preacher’s conference in Minneapolis, to stay home and rrichard rohr photo croppedead “The Universal Christ”, the latest book by Fr. Richard Rohr.

Richard Rohr is a Franciscan monk and priest, who lives and works at the Center for Action and Contemplation in New Mexico. I met Fr. Richard a little over a year ago, at Tulane University in New Orleans organized by my friend William Thiele and the School for Contemplative Living.

Rohr’s subject in this new book is the “Christ Mystery, the indwelling of the Divine Presence in everyone and everything since the beginning of time as we know it”

I thought that each day I could share some of the quotes that captured my imaginatiothe universal christ book covern.

“What if Christ is a name for the transcendent within of every ‘thing’ in the universe? What if Christ is a name for the immense spaciousness of all true Love? What if Christ refers to an infinite horizon that pulls us from within and pulls us forward too? What if Christ is another name for everything in its fullness?”

“The essential function of religion is to radically connect us with everything. (Re-ligio = to re-ligament or reconnect.) It is to help us see the world and ourselves in wholeness, and not just in parts. Truly enlightened people see oneness because they look out from oneness, instead of labelling everything as superior or inferior, in or out.”

“Numerous Scriptures make it very clear that this Christ has existed ‘from the beginning’ (John 1:1-18, Colossians 1:15-20, and Ephesians 1:3-14 being primary sources)”

“if you believe Jesus’s main purpose is to provide a means of personal, individual salvation, it is all too easy to think he doesn’t have anything to do with human history- with war or injustice, or destruction of nature, or anything that contradicts our ego’s desires or our cultural biases. We ended up spreading our national cultures under the rubric of Jesus, instead of a universally liberating message under the name of Christ.”

“A merely personal God becomes tribal and sentimental, and a merely universal God never leaves the realm of abstract theory and philosophical principles. But when we learn to put them together, Jesus and Christ give us a God who is both personal and universal. The Christ Mystery anoints all physical matter with eternal purpose from the very beginning.”

“a true comprehension of the full Christ Mystery is the key to the foundational reform of the Christian religion, which alone will move us beyond any attempts to corral or capture God into our exclusive group.”

 

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An old story about new life

Almost 20 years ago I wrote a short, simple drama for presentation to a group of leaders who gathered to pondering the future of their congregations. It has been published in one of our denominational resources, and performed in a number of Bible illustrsettings. I revived, revised, and recycled it for use this past Sunday at Harrow United Church. My daughter, Naomi Woods brought expression and life to the role of narrator. Laura George and Jeff Csikasz went all out as the fisher-folk. The costumes, props, and acting were great!

Gospel of John 21:1-14

Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together.

 “I’m going out to fish, ” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.”

 So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, ” Friends, haven’t you any fish? “

 ” No, “they answered.

 He said, ” Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some. “

Narrator: Imagine you were on that boat, with the disciples. What was going through their minds when they heard a person that they did not yet recognize, tell them how to fish? They had been fishing all night, without success, and were probably tired, and discouraged.

The story does not say the disciples immediately followed the advice to throw their net on the other side of the boat. Maybe they had to strike a committee, and talk about it first.

Disciple 1: I don’t know. We have always fished this way. There have been too many changes lately. This is the way we have always fished.

Disciple 2: But we haven’t caught anything for a while. Some of the other boats have had to quit. Their crews quit coming out. The younger ones are saying that fishing isn’t relevant.

Disciple 1: We are fishing the way we were taught. My parents, and their parents before them fished this way. It was good enough for them. Where’s your sense of loyalty and tradition? That’s what’s wrong with the world today.

Disciple 2: Times change. Conditions change. Maybe the fish have moved. What can it hurt to try a new thing?

Disciple 1: Look! We’re tired. Some of us have been fishing a long time. We can’t put a bunch of energy into some half-baked idea. We just have to get ourselves better organized, and try harder.

Disciple 2: What if he’s right? What if it’s time to try a new way?

Disciple 1: Are you going to take the advice of some stranger? We’ve known each other our whole lives. Our families fished together! Our grandparents built this boat. We can’t let some new guy come in and take over!

Disciple 2: But maybe he’s got a point ….

Disciple 1: I don’t even know this guy. Did he grow up around here? Does he fish? Who is his family? What will people think if we try his way, and we still catch nothing? They’ll laugh us out of Galilee!

Disciple 2: If we can fish all night and catch nothing, maybe there are no fish out there. Maybe it’s time to give up fishing.

Disciple 1: Do you mean that you would quit? Give up the tradition? You can’t do that! You have to have faith!

Disciple 2: No, I have to have fish. I have a family to feed, and bills to pay.

Disciple 1: That’s exactly why we have to be careful. We can’t just change direction without thinking it through!

Disciple 2: I have been thinking about it, all night. There hasn’t been much else to do, except look at the empty net, and think. And you know what I think?

Disciple 1: I am a little bit afraid to ask, but what?

Disciple 2: I think that we have to decide whether we are out here to fish, or to catch fish.

Narrator: The ad hoc committee on ways and means of fishing came to a decision. Half the disciples watched and waited, and were ready to point out errors, while the other half took a chance, and pulled up the net, and threw it on the other side of the boat.

When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”

 As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, ” It is the Lord, ” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it of and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full offish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.

 When they landed, they saw afire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”

Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast. “

None of the disciples dared ask him, ” Who are you? ” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

 

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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!

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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.

 

 

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The Local News

The-Harrow-News-PublishingI was interviewed today, by Shelby Wye, who writes for The Harrow News, a great local paper that serves the town where I work as the United Church minister. When Shelby called to set our time to meet, I asked if we could do the interview after I finished lunch at the Harrow branch of the Royal Canadian Legion. They have a lunch special on “Wacky Wednesdays” that can’t be beat, and I’d planned to go there with a group from the church, when they finished cleanup from a pie-making bee. (The church operates a pie booth at the Harrow Fall Fair that is a huge fund-raiser for our work in the community.)

While I was at the Legion, I checked in with some members of the executive about the annual grave decorating day, which happens on the first Sunday of June. Legion members and friends remove the old Canadian flags from the graves of veterans, and place new ones. As the son of an air force vet, who kind of grew up around the Legion, I am happy to be involved.

But back to the interview! Shelby, who in her words, “heard from a little bird” about my being a finalist for the 2019 Unhanged Arthur Ellis Award, came by to talk to me about my mystery novel, my aspirations as an author, and the competition. We had a great conversation, and she took a photo for the paper of me holding my manuscript. In the interest of full disclosure, the photo that will appear in the Harrow News will show me with a mock up of the actual manuscript, because at this point, it only exists in digital form. Click the link below to the imagined book cover I created, long before I actually wrote the novel.

book cover mock up