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Signs of the Times  •  14 March 2017  •  No. 112

¶ Processional. “Feast of St. Brigid of Kildare,” O’hAnleigh.

Above: The first bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) have been sited in the Texas hill country.

   “I should like a great lake of finest ale for all the people.
    I should like a table of the choicest foods for the family of heaven.
    Let the ale be made from the fruits of faith, and the food be for giving love.
    I should welcome the poor to my feast, for they are God’s children.
    I should welcome the sick to my feast, for they are God’s joy.
    Let the poor sit with Sophia at the highest place and the sick dance with the angels.
    Bless the poor, bless the sick, bless our human race.
    Bless our food, bless our drink, all homes,
    O God, embrace.”
    —St. Brigid (Brigit) of Kildare (aka “Mary of the Gael,” 453-524), a patron saint of Ireland and (among others) of children with abusive fathers

Right: “Brigid dancing monk” icon by Marcy Hall

¶ “Like community activists and nurturers, Brigit wove the fragile threads of life into webs of community. She invented a shriek alarm for vulnerable women traveling alone, she secured women’s property rights when a judge threatened to abolish them, and she freed a slave-trafficked woman. Above all, her generous nature ensured that the neart, or life force, was kept moving for the benefit of all and was not stagnated by greed.” Mary Condren, Irish Times

Best story you probably didn’t hear about. How Valerie Fambrough, mother of two who “had never protested anything in her life,” stood down Klan fever in a small North Georgia town. —Stephanie McCrummen, “In Georgia, reaction to KKK banner is a sign of the times” (a long but engrossing story)

Call to worship. "Anagehya, women of all the Nations, you are the strength, you are the force, you are the healing of the Nations," performed by Joan Henry, Earthsinger with remarks on the nature of traditional songs. (Thanks Karen.)

The 2017 International Women’s Day public profile is dominated by corporate logos of companies like BP, Western Union, and Pepsico. This is a long ways from the first “Women’s Day” demonstration, organized by the Socialist Party in New York in February 1909, which prompted labor strikes and a march in New York City by female factory workers demanding the right to unionize, better wages, and improved working conditions. Lucy Hadley, Sojourners

Another hidden figure. The sculpted portrait of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, which appears on 10-cent coins, was done by Selma Burke (photo at left), African American sculptor and educator who founded two art schools. Black

Hymn of praise. “We are One Woman, / Your courage keeps me strong. / We are One Woman, / You sing, I sing along. / We are One Woman, / Your dreams are mine. / And we shall shine. / We shall shine.” —international cast of artists, “One Woman,” for the UN International Women’s Day (lyrics below video)

The Bible and misogyny. “Within the Judeo-Christian world, resistance to gender equity has deep roots in Scripture and church history. While it is true that alternative texts and traditions can be identified in these sources, it is still imperative that we openly confront and address the elemental texts and pretexts authorizing overt and covert patterns of domination. What follows is a brief summary of such texts.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “The sinister side of Judeo-Christian Scripture and tradition regarding women”

Confession. “It was field day on the prison yard. A couple hundred inmates were competing in basketball and volleyball games and relay races. The cooler of fruit punch ran out, but they had a water fountain on the side of the building. But Montel was in a wheelchair and couldn’t reach the fountain. He wheeled over to the staff tent and asked for a cup of water from the staff cooler. Several staff said no. Then he turned to me, the chaplain, and asked for water. I said no.” —continue reading Nancy Hastings Sehested’s “Caught in the mess, caught in the mercy

A 31 March 1776 letter Abigail Adams wrote to her husband, John Adams, who later became the second U.S. president. [Her spelling intact.]
            “I long to hear that you have declared an independancy—and by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particuliar care and attention is not paid to the Laidies we are determined to foment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation. That your Sex are Naturally Tyrannical is a Truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no dispute, but such of you as wish to be happy willingly give up the harsh title of Master for the more tender and endearing one of Friend.” —access the entire text at PBS, "American Experience"

Hymn of intercession. “How many times / Have I stood / By the river / And could not see / To the other side / Hoping like Moses / The clouds / Would be lifted / Stretch out my hand / The waters divide / Lay back the darkness / Let in the light / Take all the wrongs / Make them all right / And if I could / Lay down these blues / For good.” —Kate Campbell, “Lay Back the Darkness” (Thanks Mike.)

Words of assurance.
    "And then all that has divided us will merge
    And then compassion will be wedded to power
    And then softness will come to a world that is harsh and unkind
    And then both men and women will be gentle
    And then both women and men will be strong
    And then no person will be subject to another's will. . .
    And then the greed of some will give way to the needs of many
    And then all will share in the Earth's abundance
    And then all will care for the sick and the weak and the old
    And then all will nourish the young. . .
    And then all will live in harmony with each other and the Earth. . . ."
   —untitled poem from "The Dinner Party" by Judy Chicago

Highly recommended. The quote at right is excerpted from Rebecca Solnit, Silence and powerlessness go hand in hand—women’s voices must be heard,” The Guardian

Here’s your Lenten testimony for the week. Sikh-American civil rights advocate Valarie Kaur's plea to her country in the time of trumphoolery. (5:59 video. Thanks Bernie.)

¶ “It is much easier to sing the lyrics of Hamilton than to accept the cold, hard facts. In Hamilton’s Report on Manufactures (1791), the treasury secretary was quite clear that the classes to be exploited as factory workers were women and children, even children of a ‘tender age,’ as he coldly put it.” — historian Nancy Isenberg, author of White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America, in an interview with Karin Kamp

When only the blues will do.Baghdad Blues,” Beverly “Guitar” Watkins.

By the numbers. Key indicators of gender inequality in 2017. Gender discriminatory laws still exist in 155 countries. Men make 23% more than women for the same work. Women undertake 75% of informal employment, low-paid and unprotected by labor laws or social convention. Women spend 2.5 times more hours in unpaid work such as child care and household responsibilities. Women take home one-tenth of global income while accounting for two-thirds of working hours. At the current pace of change, it will take 170 years to achieve economic equality between men and women. —UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri, “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030

Above: Photo by Brett Jorgensen, Shutterstockcom

Offertory.The Soundmaker,” sizzling acoustic guitar performance by Rodrigo y Gabriela. (Thanks Tom.)

Preach it. “When Pharaoh’s daughter goes to bathe in the Nile, she hears the cries of the infant, is filled with compassion, and seizes the moment to act. Some verses later, when Moses is already grown and God reveals God’s self to Moses, God uses the same words: ‘I heard the cries of my people.” So what we have here is not imitatio Dei. Here we have a story where God imitates us, a woman, no less, and an Egyptian daughter of a tyrant.” —Rabbi Naamah Kelman, “The holy work of dialogue,” Changing the Present, Dreaming the Future: A Critical Movement in Interreligious Dialogue, Hans Ucko, ed.

Can’t makes this sh*t up. “A Canadian federal judge [Justice Robin Camp of the Alberta Federal Court] who asked an alleged rape victim in court why she couldn’t ‘just keep your knees together’ resigned Thursday, after a judicial panel released a scathing report calling for him to be removed from office.” Derek Hawkins, Washington Post

Call to the table.Eat This Bread,” performed by the London Fox Taizé Choir.

Right: Ricardo Levins Morales, ©RLM Art Studio

The state of our disunion. Lack of affordable child care is the greatest barrier to women's economic sustainability. “The problem of expensive care is endemic in the U.S.; the study found that the cost of center-based infant care exceeds 7% of family income—the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' cutoff for affordability—in 49 states and the District of Columbia. But there is one exception: Louisiana. Claire Zillman, Fortune (Thanks Beth.)

Best one-liner. “She who laughs, lasts.” —author unknown

For the beauty of the earth. Watch this rare footage of a swimming Feather Star (crinoid, aka sea lily; 0:36 video).

Altar call. “But no one knows me no one ever will / if I don’t say something, if I just lie still / Would I be that monster, scare them all away / If I let them hear what I have to say / Let it out Let it out / Let it out now / There’ll be someone who understands.” —1,300-voice choir sing an anti-Trump protest song with MILCK in Toronto, “(I Can’t Keep) Quiet

¶ “To call woman the weaker sex is libel: It is man's injustice to women. If by strength is meant brute strength, then indeed is woman less brute than man. If by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man's superior. If non-violence is the law of our being, the future is with women.” —Mahatma Gandhi

Benediction. “Pretty women wonder where my secret lies. / I'm not cute or built to suit or fashion-model size. / I say, ‘It's in the reach of my arms, / The span of my hips, / The stride to my steps, / The curl of my lips. . . . / It's in the arch of my back, / The sun of my smile, / The ride of my breast, / The grace of my style.’” —Ruthie Foster, “Phenomenal Woman

Recessional. “You gotta sing all the time / you gotta find yourself a little song / and sing it all day long.” —Sarah Lee Guthrie, “You Gotta Sing

Left: “Hagar of Egypt” painting ©Dina Cormick in her “Heroic Women” series

Lectionary for this Sunday. “Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. The former is a transforming initiative we can take on our own. Forgiving frees us from the toxic grasp of vengeance. It is our imitatio Christi (imitation of Christ), who acted while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “There is a new creation: The Apostle Paul’s vision of the ministry of reconciliation

Lectionary for Sunday next. “Now goodness rests upon my head, / to follow all my days, no dread / but mercy comes running to embrace me / With love’s refrain I shall obtain, / a dwelling place in God’s new Reign / And fallow fields in chorus yield hallelujah!” —continue reading “Hallelujah,” a litany for worship, adapting Psalm 23; listen to Ken Medema’s musical rendition, using Leonard Cohen's tune

Just for fun.The amazing rice fields of Japan(5:31 video) shows rice farmers’ artistry in one region of Japan, using different species of rice plants to “paint” pictures. (Thanks Dan.)

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks

• “Caught in the mess, caught in mercy,” a maximum security story by Nancy Hastings Sehested

• “The sinister side of Judeo-Christian Scripture and tradition regarding women,” a summary of texts

There is a new creation: The Apostle Paul’s vision of the ministry of reconciliation

• “Hallelujah,” a litany for worship, adapting Psalm 23; listen to Ken Medema’s musical rendition, using Leonard Cohen's tune

©Ken Sehested @ Language not otherwise indicated above is that of the editor, as are those portions cited as “kls.” Don’t let the “copyright” notice keep you from circulating material you find here (and elsewhere in this site). Reprint permission is hereby granted in advance for noncommercial purposes.

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