Category Archives: Religion

The Women of the Easter Story

Station of the cross, Saint Symphorian church of Pfettisheim, Bas-Rhin, France.

Station of the Cross Saint Symphorian church of Pfettisheim, Bas-Rhin, France.

A large crowd trailed behind Jesus including many grief-striken women. But Jesus turned to them and said, “Do not weep for me.”- Luke 23:27-28

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The Crucifixion by Vladimir Borovikovsky

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister and Mary Magdalene.  John 19:25

The Three Marys at the Sepulcher by Peter Von Cornelius

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.  They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

Holy Women at the Tomb by Peter Paul Rubens

While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them……

Three Marys at the Tomb by Sally K. Green

And one  said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here; he has risen!  Luke 24:1-6

Christ’s Appearance to Mary Magdalene After the Ressurection by Alexander Ivanov

At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.  He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.”  She turned toward him and cried out “Teacher.”- John 20:14-16

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A Scripture Verse For Spring

Spring warblers are filling the forest with sweet arpeggios. Lilacs are exuberantly purple and perfumed, and cherry trees are fragrant with blossoms.

Song of Solomon 2: 11-13a- The Message

Other posts………

Marriage Statistics and Bible Verses

If You Can’t Say Something Nice

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Miriam Toews Has A Complicated Relationship With Her Home Town

Alexandra Schwartz writes a lengthy feature in the current issue of The New Yorker magazine about author Miriam Toews who was born and raised in Steinbach, Manitoba.    

Toews’ eighth novel Women Talking will be released in the United States this week. Covers for the British, Italian and German editions of Women Talking are featured on Toews’ media sites. Schwartz interviewed Toews both in her current Toronto home and during a trip the two made to Steinbach to explore Toews’ roots, since characters and locations inspired by Steinbach people and places figure prominently in Toews’ novels.a complicated kindnessSchwartz also interviewed Steinbach teacher Andrew Unger who studies Toews’ best selling novel A Complicated Kindness with his high school students. Unger once featured Toews on his popular satirical Daily Bonnet website where he mused about why there wasn’t a giant statue of Toews in her hometown.  Of course Unger was ‘schputting’- a Low German word for making fun of something or being irreverent about it. ‘Schputting’ is explained in The New Yorker article with reference to Toews’ own writing.

Unger wasn’t ‘schputting’ however when he told The New Yorker that Steinbach hasn’t really acknowledged the accomplishments of Toews.  “We’ve done nothing as a community to recognize or honor her.”

Why hasn’t Steinbach recognized a woman The New Yorker calls one of Canada’s best loved and best known writers, a woman who has won international literary prizes and whose work is critically acclaimed?

I think one reason is because Toews’ books fictionalize real events and people. Steinbach residents who have knowledge of those same events and people tend to get upset because Toews didn’t write about them accurately.   

I was connected in several ways to the Toews’ family and have sometimes caught myself saying as I read Miriam’s books, “But that’s not the way it happened.”  I know that Toews is writing fiction but I understand how some people might be unsettled reading her fictionalized version of true events.

Toews’ mother Elvira puts it even more strongly in The New Yorker article when she talks about people who say her daughter “just tells lies.”  Mennonite novelist Dora Dueck confesses on her blog she initially struggled with something similar while reading Women Talking.  Dueck has high praise for the book but says she had to lecture herself that it was a novel and not journalism.

Another reason why Toews may not be lauded in her hometown is because the predominantly Mennonite population is troubled by her honest revelations about the abuse, oppression and hypocrisy particularly directed towards women by the historically entrenched patriarchy in Mennonite churches and the church’s tendency at least in the past, to ignore or silence people with addictions, mental health issues and family dysfunction.  The devastating consequences of these kinds of attitudes are being brought to light every day in every kind of church denomination but Toews’ books focus on the Mennonite church and so some Mennonites might feel they have been singled out for unfair criticism.

To balance Toews’ perceived lack of popularity in her hometown one has to remember she gives voice to many people who know from first hand experience that her accounts of growing up in in a small conservative community, and her characters’ experiences with the church ring true, no matter where they live or what religious affiliation they might have. Toews may not have enough fans in her hometown to be given recognition with her name on a building, or street sign, or piece of public art, but she does have a multitude of fans around the world who appreciate her and love to read her books.  

Other posts

Are Men and Women’s Friendships Different?

Mennonite Nuns

Violence in Christian Families

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What Should You Give Up For Lent?

The movie Chocolat tells the story of a  young woman and her daughter who move to a small French village just before Easter and set up a new chocolate shop directly across the street from the church. 

The mayor of the village, a very pious man, is appalled that a single mother would want to entice the community’s fine Catholic citizens with so pleasurable a thing as chocolate during Lent– a time of year when they should be denying themselves pleasure. 

In an attempt to reconcile the two,  the young priest from the village church delivers a Sunday message in which he suggests to his congregation that rather than give something up for Lent they embrace something new. They might befriend a new person or be open-minded enough to accept a new idea. 

I wonder if we couldn’t benefit the most by combining the ‘giving up’ and ’embracing something new’ aspects of Lent.

What if we……..

Gave up jealousy and joyfully celebrated the success of others

Gave up holding grudges and forgave those who have wronged us

Gave up worrying about our health and started doing something to improve it

Gave up gossiping and looked for positive things to say about people

Gave up losing our temper so quickly and tried to practice more patience even with the most frustrating people in our lives

Gave up being self-centered and thought about what we could do to help someone else

Gave up expecting the worst and hoped for the best

Gave up wishing our lives could be different or better and took steps to make that happen

Gave up__________ and ___________

This approach could have consequences. Researchers have found it only takes six weeks to establish a new habit. Lent, which lasts for forty days is just about that long. Who knows? If we do give up some negatives and embrace more positive alternatives for Lent we might just change our lives forever. 

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Another Last Supper

“MaryLou. The Last Supper.”  My sister pointed out a traditional print hanging on the wall near the table in a private home in Merida Mexico where she and I we were participating in a cooking class.  I immediately took a photo of the print.  My sister knows I collect photos of artworks depicting the Biblical Last Supper Jesus shared with his disciples.  I have found interesting versions in all kinds of places.I found this one in the city museum in Sydney Australia in 2010. It was created by aboriginal artist Linda Syddick. The U shapes at the bottom represent the twelve disciples.  The one for Judas who betrayed Jesus stands out from the rest since it is a different color and facing a different way. Jesus is serving the disciples billy tea instead of wine and damper a kind of Australian soda bread. I photographed this Last Supper made out of sand in Sedona Arizona on a family visit there in 1990.Steffi Lee one of my grade five students in Hong Kong in 2004 made this version of Da Vinci’s Last Supper for a project I assigned when we were doing a unit on the Renaissance in our social studies class. last supper tamarindo costa ricaI found this wooden engraved one in a Catholic Church in Tamarindo Costa Rica.

houle parfleches for the last supper

Parfleches for the Last Supper by Robert Houle at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

Parfleches for the Last Supper is a series of twelve artworks by Robert Houle that is part of the collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  Houle has designed a traditional parfleche (a bag for sacred objects) for Jesus and each of the twelve disciples who were present at the Last Supper. Note the black one for Judas and the white one for John in the bottom row.I photographed this colourful wool tapestry version of the last supper at the front of a small church on Waya Island in Fiji where we attended services one Sunday morning in 2011. I saw this copper version of the Last Supper by Albert Gilles on a visit to a gallery in Quebec City in 2015. This one was discovered on the wall of a noodle shop in Kyoto Japan.  Jesus and his disciples are enjoying some ramen noodles. 

Other posts……….

Parfleches for the Last Supper

A Black and White Religion

Inspiration in Fiji

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Another Creation Story

mayan creation story

Mayan creation story depicted in a mural by Fernando Castro Pacheco

While touring the Governor’s House in Merida, Mexico I saw this painting showing the Mayan story about the creation of human beings.  I discovered there are many versions of the story called the Popol Vuh but each recounts how the gods of the sea and sky first created mountains to separate their realms. Then they filled the world with animals and birds and fish and plants. They tried to make people from mud and then from wood but neither attempt worked out.  Finally the world experienced a great flood and after it was over the gods managed to successfully fashion people from corn.  

Creation – a watercolor by Diego Rivera 1931

Although Mexico’s famed artist Diego Rivera is more well-known for his large murals I found this water-colour illustration of the Mayan creation he did in the Library of Congress collection. The gods of the sea and sky are shown as serpents. You can see the mountains and animals and fish and birds and plants the gods created each depicted in separate sections of the painting. Most, like the jaguar and palm and lobster are native to the area in which the Mayan people lived. I am wondering if the two figures lying down beside the man and woman are the unsuccessful wood and mud versions of human beings the gods tried first. 

It is always interesting to learn new creation stories and compare them to the one in the Christian Bible which I grew up knowing. 

Other posts…….

Common Threads- Creation Stories

Was North America Created On the Back of A Turtle? 

Athena and the Creation of the Spider

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Chreaster Really is a Word

One year when we were living in Hong Kong we didn’t come home to Canada at Christmas time but decided to fly back at Easter instead because our son was going to have a leading role in a Winnipeg production of Jesus Christ Super Star and we really wanted to see him perform.  Since we hadn’t been here for Christmas we got together with our family for what I dubbed a Chreaster celebration.  We marked Christmas and Easter at the same time.  I gave the children and their partners both a stocking and an Easter basket filled with gifts.  I even wrote a newspaper column about our Chreaster celebrations. 

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Poinsettia and Lily photo by Sandy Keeton from the blog of the Saint John XXIII Catholic Parish in Perrysburg, Ohio.

I thought I had invented the word Chreaster but to my surprise I saw it in the headline of an article in The Washington Post this past week.  The columnist E. J. Dionne Jr. refers to Chreasters as people who only attend church on Christmas and Easter.  

Dionne says probably the Chreasters show up at church on holidays because they enjoy listening to familiar Christmas music and perhaps want to rekindle memories of their childhood.

He’d prefer to think they are people who have given up on the institutionalized church but still want to believe there is a transcendent being who creates beauty.  They still hope for a world where love and justice are the norm.  

I think a belief in a creative spirit and a hope for a better world is what motivates most good people in their daily life whether they never attend church, attend every Sunday or are Chreasters. 

Other posts…….

Indoctrination or Teaching? 

I Want To Be Like Anna

Violence in Christian Families

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