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“I’ve always known I’d die alone”

-Captain James T. Kirk (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier)

Stay positive. Focus on what you can do. Easy mantras to say, hard to live when it is not good days you talk about during a week with the unknown rattling your brain and causing the reliving of mental and emotional pain, but good hours in the week. Yet it is the gratitude for what still is that must also be talked about within the journey. Each chapter of the book of our lives, begins with letters put together to form words, those words into sentences, those sentences into paragraphs, those paragraphs into pages, those pages into chapters, and those chapters into a book.

The thing about flashbacks is that when lived with sometimes, some good can be remembered. The quote that opens this reflection up may seem weird, yet in my time building children, youth & young adult ministries/groups and outreaches I have not only used spiritual texts but media to percolate constructive and critical thinking. The first I used in this purpose officially was Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, the movie where literally they discussed the purpose of pain in our lives, and where to discover the intrinsic spiritual piece, the shared belief in an afterlife paradise.

As Kirk pointed out to Spock and McCoy when Sybok came for his pain, we need our pain, it shapes who we are, it is how we have grown. This is partly true, pain plays that role, but through the actions of the movie and how family is shaped/found in the journey to beyond the Great Barrier, what is also shown is that bonds are created in gratitude, shared life and community. This is about that gratitude. Those moments of reading a few chapters of a book or writing a short piece and knowing the pain to come. But it is about still being able, however briefly, to participate in the simplicity of lifelong passions.

Much like was shared in the earlier post around my awesome employer, the PMO office, Service Canada and my MP aiding in ensuring my family’s continued financial viability.      The pause on the vocational journey for a family that has always been giving can be challenging, but there were still those moments over the past several months when we were able to feel included in creating that dream of a better world:

CP Kids and Families  is a great non-profit that aids families and individuals who are blessed to experience life differently due to Cerebral Palsy. It has many programs, but the adaptive bike clinic has blessed my son with freedom like none other. This year our funds may have been short, but gifts in kind we were able to provide art to support the silent auction at the annual Christmas Party, always a great time that the family enjoys as it becomes a community party based around fun and the joy of the season where labels slip away.

Cerebral Palsy Association in Alberta another great non-profit, where it aided us during this time is the ability to donate goods through their drop bins (you can never know when you have the energy to make it a place to donate, and sometimes it is only kids clothes you have as they keep growing).

Calgary Drop In Centre: Donations Centre & Recyle Centre the ability to drop goods off that aid in new homes is a great blessing, the fact they have ability to take goods around the clock gave us a great place to donate items. We knew that we were giving so others could enjoy a home.

Robert McClure United Church falls under the giving back section because it accepted my family, but more…it took both my kids as kids. The ability to be apart of both sharing their belief in a better world through fully participating in the Christmas Pageant without barriers or labels, participating in liturgical painting, and lighting the candle of Love while sharing Indigenous Sacred teachings…well…. I encourage all of you to look for the little ways you can give to make a difference whether it be in word, deed, goods, action or monies. However, you can help your neighbour, please do, for that is what makes community.

Kirk: I thought I was going to die.

Spock: Not possible, you were never alone.

It is true. In the darkness of the battle to stay upright some days, one does feel alone and that the end is nigh. Yes, in moments of life like this, you can lose “friendships” but that is what one should not focus on.

Yet it is not only building community through the giving to help others. Sometimes as much as we do not want to stubbornly admit it, we need help. The true gratitude is when it happens without judgment, without hyperbole, or making one feel less than. It is simply happening because we are family—blood or otherwise, bonded together through being. Whether it was simply spending time, sharing cake (deserts are always good); cup of coffee, meals, aiding with minor/major repairs; money, laughs and an ear,  if need be…and all the things in between, the small to major ways that life happens and can need support.

Being our neighbour, thank you.

For all those that stepped in to help my family up until and past now on this journey, we thank you for in the smallest of actions to the grandest, we know that we are not alone.

Bones: Do you ever think we will find God out there?

Kirk: Perhaps God is not out there (taps chest) but in here, you and me Bones.

How today will you create or realize gratitude within your interconnected life?

henson

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I encourage all to search out these books “Ordinary People Change the World” by Brad Meltzer, whether simply for your own reading, reading for family stories, use in your spiritual gatherings…great heroes, great stories, and if your family is anything like ours, great questions and discussion.


A few days back I wrote about the challenge of accessing the social contract in Canada. I still stand by for accessibility we could do more to make the system easier navigated for those in distress.

But this is to thank Service Canada, Rt. Hon. Trudeau (our PM); Hon. Duclos (minister over EI) and Hon. Deepak Obhrai (MP Calgary Forest Lawn) for their response to my communication, and once the missing documentation was submitted with support the expediting of my claim.

Here are some pointers for those accessing Medical EI:

  1. There is an Employer/Employee Portion.
  2. The Employee portion is to be done online and is quite lengthy, if you are in medical need ensure you get support as there is a lot of questions to be answered.
  3. Always follow up, if you cannot reach through Service Canada, contact your MP. I found that they have release forms available to look into your claim, and it never hurts to contact the minister responsible for the issue. Use e-mail for the communications, include your phone number and address to ensure follow up and as much of your story as you are comfortable sharing.
  4. When working through any medical issues and paperwork it is helpful to have that second set of ears and hands to ensure things are followed up promptly, so ensure if you have that someone you trust the proper releases are on file with the government and public health to allow for ease of communication.

When something is resolved, thank those that aided you, but also suggest some constructive improvements. As I sent the thank you to the Parliamentarians I did point out that in a system with someone in medical distress perhaps a simpler system where the employer submits the Medical ROE and the Doctor’s certificate/letter that kick starts the claim and begins payment. A more accessible social contract for all.

That is all for now, feeling some gratitude to have a supportive work network that helped out as well with investigation because the old noggin’ ain’t what it used to be most days.


We began questing, and have set up a regular rhythm. So expect a few reflective posts to come out of thoughts around and out of the Qur’an. Just like when the Rainbow Chapel was meeting, I continue to encourage folks to read spiritual works in groups together aloud. It is not only because most were crafted for this, but also allows for different life journeys to be brought to the text, and wisdom bases. Also, to have the generations involved is a whole other blessing, for how can the young learn to discuss what they believe if it is not modeled by their elders, and community happens when play happens and food is shared. As well, I encourage exploring other spiritual texts than those you are familiar with or from your tradition for it opens a new world of insight. As always I encourage use of the spiritual discovery tools discussed in other writings of mine to dive deeper into what the Holy Mystery is speaking to your soul.

Sura 1: The Opening:

  1. In the name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful.

  2. Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds.

  3. The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

  4. Master of the Day of Judgment.

  5. It is You we worship, and upon You we call for help.

  6. Guide us to the straight path.

  7. The path of those You have blessed, not of those against whom there is anger, nor of those who are misguided.

Remember as you journey through the words, it is not a literal understanding (as with Conservative Christian scholarship of the last 120ish years or allegory but rather the rhythm of contrast) it is the rhythm of contrast that reveals the unity that binds all through, with and within the Holy Mystery that is love.

The journey after opening brought us to the longest Sura 2, The Cow. It is actually quite a recitation that a student of the Hebrew Bible would recognize. Each time the Nation of Israel got a mulligan, they spent time—whether it was a leader, prophet, judge or king, reciting the story of the people and the law up to that moment in time. A device to remind the people of what the Holy had brought them through, and who they were as a tribe. As we began to explore the second Sura, this familiar journey was reminded. In the historic moment, Islam being officially the third religious sect sprung from the Abrahamic and Sarai Covenant with the Holy (first two: Judaism and Christianity, anthropologically this can be broken down to multitude more, but I will not digress). Reaching half-way through it showed a great discussion around monotheists, and polytheists as the contrast presented for those who have found the path and those that haven’t. Yet within the contrast what can be seen is not the challenge of how many spiritual beings exist, for all are within the one. What is seen to be judged is found in 2:14:

  1. And when they come across those who believe, they say, “We believe”; but when they are alone with their devils, they say, “We are with you; we were only ridiculing.”

That is, is what we say what we do…or do we only profess kindness while plotting only for our own glory?

How many recognize this challenge from other wells that they use to drink from the Holy River?

  1. Their likeness is that of a person who kindled a fire; when it illuminated all around him, God took away their light, and left them in darkness, unable to see.

-Sura 2:17

A reminder as the teaching the Holy light would shine into the darkness and confuse it had been around since the ancient myths of Prometheus stealing fire from the gods for humanity. What this verse does, is starkly remind us when we choose to live only for ourselves, to forget love of neighbour and self that flows out of the Holy River, the light never existed and all that is left is darkness.

Are you living the light or lying in the darkness?

 


We enter a social contract in Canada when we become citizens through whatever channel that takes. In the 1970’s and 1980’s it was dubbed the “Just Society”. But the rules are simply outlined in our Constitution Act 1982, Charter of Rights and Freedoms; and Canadian Laws. Over the past two decades the party’s that have formed Government have been bending and breaking the simplest of social contracts by not preparing for the lean times or the times of medical need. They have prepped our social safety net for health, not for what they are designed for. A prime example of this is Employment Insurance (renamed from Unemployment Insurance during Chretien’s tenure as PM). During the latest economic downturn Canadians have been hard pressed to access in a timely manner, thus driving up debt loads and creating a burden of poverty cycles upon citizens who wait or are denied that which they have paid into for their working life. These payments were for us in need, and our fellow citizens—our end of the social contract with the other end being from the government for prompt pay out when necessitated.

Part of this EI process is the medical portion, for a short 15-week duration so workers do not have to fear losing everything while this percentage of income comes in to cover costs of living while medical teams figure out what next steps are. This unfortunately has not been being dispensed promptly. I have waited 15 weeks for a 15-week payment program on a medical claim that has not been answered by EI yet, I have not been able to get through the call banks (which we know 70% of calls go unanswered). Below is excerpts from an e-mail communication I sent to the Members of Parliament listed, with Hon. Duclos being the minister over EI, and Hon. Hehr being the minister over disabilities. I encourage each person who has had an unanswered EI or EI Medical claim that has gone unanswered and is providing hardship to contact these ministers and your local MP to get answers and the support our social contact is to provide.

Please Note: This is not an ideological pissing match—both federal parties that have formed governments over the last 20 years have left EI ill equipped to fulfill its obligations to the citizen. This is about renewing the contract, and the other signee-the Government, respecting their end and ensuring the contract does not remain broken.

(once I have received my EI Medical there will be an update on lapsed time so others who need to apply can try to secure credit debt accordingly).

I also want to acknowledge being brain fog, stabbing pain into brain and undiagnosed seizure disordered subsided enough today for this communication-but how I paid after dinner for it (excerpts of e-mail sent January 16, 2018 to government):

_____________________

Dear Rt. Hon. Trudeau, Hon. Duclos, Hon. Hehr, Hon. Obhrai, and Hon. Angus:

October 2, 2017. That was 15 weeks ago when my employer filed for EI Medical coverage for me as I had to leave work due to stress induced unknown seizure disorder (40 noticeable events a day—that is someone else saw it happen to me) that was triggering neurological, physiological and post-traumatic stress disorder symptomology. It is only a 15-week program, so that is 15 weeks without income into my household. I am happily partnered with my wife who has health challenges; our two children (my daughter is termed “typically developing” and my son is blessed to experience life with tri-spastic cerebral palsy, legally blind, epileptic, and ADD with a global delay). We elected as a family to have one parent remain at home to aid with our son’s appointments and specialists, so yes, my wife is a stay-at-home Mum. But it was not my family’s personal stressors that brought me to need EI Medical (or even EI for the first time in my working life).

I serve in the non-profit sector attempting to eliminate homelessness within our great nation, have worked hard my entire life in peace, human rights, and poverty reduction—which has included work within dementia wards, youth outreaches, addictions/recovery, child sex trade (now called human trafficking) elimination on the front lines, emergency shelters, life and vocational skill coaching for persons with disabilities, and community and housing first housing programs. I have also taught post-secondary students from diploma through post-doctorate work and have mentored many a practicum student… I made a conscious choice to be on the frontlines in the working class to make change for those that fall between the cracks of our society….

How and why EI will not pay out what is owed? And they are unreachable (thanks to the CBC we know that 70% of calls go unanswered) …I await a prompt and positive resolution to my filing for EI Medical 15 weeks ago with the full back pay swiftly.

 


Weird things wind up in one’s mailbox with alumni associations like the one I have with Ambrose University. Like today, where a trial copy of Faith Today with their ½ price subscription offer to alumni and free trial magazine. Now the Evangelical Fellowship is not my theological cup of tea (I know it must shock long time readers), yet the issue contained a 2-page article on inclusion of those with disability within the church community. It started to open a conversation I have been banging away at for decades…church is a place where all are to belong. It is not about creating a “program” or a “ministry for” it is about doing life together and with, it is about valuing the individual for who they are and have been created to be not seeing anyone as less than or in need of healing to fit our schema of wholeness (holiness).

It goes deeper than the functionality of the building. Although physical accessibility is a bonus within a building structure, that is nuts and bolts that can be fixed/adapted. What is harder is changing the heart of the community to full inclusion and acceptance of the wonders that will be opened through the different perspectives that exist across the spectrum of ability.

It was a good article because it was from the perspective of parents who have journeyed like we have as a family, so I thought a little good news in my mail box deserved some good news in cyberspace. For those in Calgary here are 3 spiritual homes we have found that are more the later than the former when it comes to inclusion:

3) St. Mark’s Roman Catholic Church

2) Centennial Presbyterian Church

1) Robert McClure United Church

Remember when we are called to love neighbour as ourselves…it is because we all exist within the Holy Mystery and the Holy Mystery exists within us…and no mistakes were made but perfect as we are meant to be.


First off, I am thankful to be able to put these thoughts together. Scheduler allowed thoughts throughout the 12 days of Christmas season (in traditional liturgical churches the only time Christmas carols are sung), which was rather chaotic with neuro-events and flashbacks. So today even though we did not make it out to celebrate Epiphany Sunday in the west or Christmas in the East, I did want to pass on a few thoughts.

As you read the main Gospel reading (the other 3 readings are after the post ends, so you can bring all four together to tease out themes if you want). Take time to bring different lens than the normal western church. As noted our house will begin hosting an exploration of the Qur’an.  While doing some reading (another blessing after about 4 days of not being able to focus to read) I was reminded of how that sacred text can be misunderstood because we do not read it in the light of the contrast style of writing.

Perhaps this is one way to approach the Epiphany for new discovery for your own journey. Read the text through the lens of contrast what new insights come through.

Matthew 2:1-12
2:1 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 

2:2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 

2:3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 

2:4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 

2:5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 

2:6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'” 

2:7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 

2:8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 

2:9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 

2:10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 

2:11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 

2:12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

The other, is the way of Eastern Orthodox theological dialogue I discovered when serving in Anglicanism. It is the trinity dialogue, where you enter discussion on a topic with a party, but it is written to that party about the dialogue held with another. Taking this lens, with the understanding that the term Gospel in the time of the Roman Empire was a political statement. Read into the text the dialogue of the Magi and Herod about those in poverty, and realize it is with the believer decades removed, or the Empire overseeing. What message is being sent to both parties. Reflect on these messages.

As you spend time reflecting on this Epiphany discourse, what epiphany has come into your journey?

What is your epiphany for your life journey in 2018?

 

-Make your own little corner of the world a better place-

Dream no little dreams.

-Pastor Tommy Douglas

Rest of Lectionary for today:

Isaiah 60:1-6
60:1 Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.

60:2 For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you.

60:3 Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

60:4 Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms.

60:5 Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you.

60:6 A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the LORD.

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
72:1 Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son.

72:2 May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.

72:3 May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness.

72:4 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.

72:5 May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.

72:6 May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth.

72:7 In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more.

72:10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute, may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts.

72:11 May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service.

72:12 For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper.

72:13 He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.

72:14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight.

Ephesians 3:1-12
3:1 This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles–

3:2 for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you,

3:3 and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words,

3:4 a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ.

3:5 In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit:

3:6 that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

3:7 Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power.

3:8 Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ,

3:9 and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things;

3:10 so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

3:11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord,

3:12 in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him

From: https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=106