Archive for the ‘Belonging Pyramid’ Category


There can be many reasons to slip into despair in our world. Or look to a situation we are in and not connect. Now I am not talking about truly abusive or risky situations, this is speaking more to the day to day life we lead. We can have a choice to always be looking backwards (and usually to a past that never truly was, rather an idealized mythology that never existed in the way we have framed it) or forward to a future, as we want to constantly think this is simply a step in our journey or an interim placement. It can fuel an underlying anxiety, disconnect or even, be a root in the anger many cannot put into words. Many questions swirl as to why this is our current state, and many rationales, conspiracies and stories are shared. But still…

The question arising as we live like this is, simply:

Do we set ourselves up to not have connection?

Sit with that a moment. Wherever you are in life. Have you set yourself up not to have connection due to letting past experiences shape your present understanding? Letting your own assumptions become a confirmation bias by the way you choose to engage with your present communities? Present workplaces? Present (insert reality here). It can be hard to traverse through change, there is grieving involved. There can be loss involved. One may not have the words to communicate what is happening. This is where the more creative outlets of colouring prayer or painting prayer can get the emotions out to connect with the root cause, the root reason that one is having the challenge of letting go of that which has tethered them to experience the new (and yes many times blessings) through the soul shaped prism of past experience. As the ligth shines through the now, still allows them to hide it under a bushel.

It may be weird to have this children’s hymn pop up as we discuss moving into the presence, but it is true. For it is pointing out a simple practice of gratitude. We have light. We have love. It may be small things to celebrate, but celebrate them none the less. It is why it is important, wherever we are, as we struggle with old paradigms that come into play to interpret current situations. It is important to cultivate that which is going well, that which is to celebrate. These are the instances, that when we look back (especially when we right them down to reflect on in times of despair or struggle) aid us in building our resilience, or letting our light shine.

How often, do we miss out on what is right in front of us, simply because we are focused on not being present?

Choosing to disconnect?

This simply can be by the picks of nit. Not where I see myself, not the job I wanted, not the church that fits my (insert label here), what other nits can you pick with your reality? What happens if we pause, breathe deeply, be in the moment, and right down what does fit. What does work?

Instead of rationalizing distance, we take steps in connection?

How does your reality change? Where are you connecting? How do you know you have belonging there? What is going well? Where is your gratitude? What are you thankful for? Why?

As we continue in Step 2 of easing restrictions in Alberta, what are you thankful for in the here and now with your story of life?

Is the frustration or anger beginning to alleviate?


It was a simple tweet last night, but one that really did sum up where our family is after almost four years of a rolled back existence (yes I know covid has only been 370 days– but there was health complexities that slowed our roll and disrupted our normal before that). Simply putting out there, that our home is quieter than it has ever been. We miss the open door, we miss the shared table, the discussions, the tears, the laughter shared by our family (yes biological and those that belong with us). Yet, even as we, as my wife phrases it, are getting tired of each others’ faces it speaks to something that Covid has laid bare in our world, society, communities and chueches. This goes beyond the polarized view in our Christianities or presented in the media. From beyond the local congregation struggles to understand and implement restrictions, or pretend faux surprise when they outright refuse to comply that there is consequences for their actions. Truly that has been the surprise twist in the story of covid, so many discovering that rights are shaped in communal responsibilitiy, and it is not a cancel culture but an accountability.

But I digress, for it is also seeing the challenge of our driven highly strutctured and booked world that came crashing down in covid. How do we actually connect with one another? The reality being that we had a busy world, where it was easy to trip into small talk with another, but were we connected? What does connection look like? What does it mean? As restrictions ease in Alberta, many churches are shifting to multiple services to cultivate connection again as we have missed gathering.

Is it connection? Or simply proximity?

My experience is porximity. We have cultivated a cultural dissonance, that being around people means we are connected. Taking the concept of not being physically alone, alleviates loneliness, which is not always true. It is the concept that to be together in community, means mass (or restricted gatherings), but if interaction is not there, is it truly connection? Some will remember my writings and teachings around the belonging pyramid, and the inverted structure supported by Agape. I think this is what is happening as we struggle with our disconnect from busyness, and our lived dissonance of what we believed belonging was. The light has shone into the darkness, and confused it. This is the soul fog we are existing in, and beginning to emerge from. The question though is our desire to return to normal, going to silence and sideline what can (re) emerge in our religious communities?

Will true belonging emerge?

What is being put out there is that simple accessibility is connection and belonging. No, being in the building together (and if a building is up to code being able to enter the building) is not connection. Having a space for the person is not connection (it is rudimentary inclusion). This is what passed for connection and belonging in our hyper-programmed/hyper-business cultivated Christendom in the before times. In the before times where we expected our spiritual leaders to be experts in all things strategic, knowing how to grow numerically, financially, online, and have the key plug and play programs to bring sucess. It cultivated an experience where we sainted the busy, where access and connection happened due to where you were plugged in and giving (experienced this many times in Urban churches, where what level of tithing equated to level of faux belonging, not always treasure/money but also time/talent). Yet, there was no belonging, because you are not valued for your intrinsic worht in the Imageo Dei only for what you can give. In other words, we mock politicians and business leaders that speak of human capital for driving worth, yet as Christians, we have exaclty cloned that belief system into action within our own communities (for some intriguing contemplative thoughts on the history of church, I have been enjoying Dr. Stan Helton’s Caravan series on the blog of my Alma Mater, Alberta Bible College. Read here.).

Belonging takes effort. Belonging takes risk. Belonging takes bringing our Boards/Elders/Pastors back to Christian Testament community. It is scary. It is challenging. It is affirming. It removes polarization/dualism.

It destroys the community sin of Us versus Them.

Which can be scary for it makes community fluid. Responsive to those who are there. It challenges both big and small T traditions. The key question is “why do we do this?” and if it comes down to “it is the way we always have done this” but removes belonging, should it remain? The greatest challenge in the shift, is that it blows wide open our concepts of the image of God, and what the table for Communion/Eucahrist means in bringing together the Family of God?

This mullings have come from rasing a diverse family in Churchdom. Knowing the blessings of being a part of many church families, my kids in pre-school choosing to be baptized a year a part on Palm Sunday because they knew the love of Jesus their Granny taught them to sing about in Jesus, Loves Me, and their Nana shared with them. That they felt in the church families, but also the pain and hate brought to bear upon them in various communities not accepting who they are in the Image of God, because it challenged the big and small T traditions. Also, as I reflect back in some communities, my worth only tied to that which I could give, and in instances where I had nothing more to give no longer being seen as worthwhile within the church (and yes this was experienced by all members of my family).

It is also a challenge, for with the program lens, it can be simply, if you do not fit somewhere, you will not have any social connection. Look at the church coffee or pot/grace lukck times. Is there interactions with many? Do you stay within the scope of the comfortable? It can be challenging when we look at belonging those steps beyond inclusion, those steps that blow accessibility out of the water. This is not a polarized idea stating one type of Christianities is better than another. I have journeyed through the spectrum. Over c-tine, I have witnessed the rise of upperclass privilige within progressive church circles that overlap into the Q-Anon cult, and lower socio-economic challenges in fundamentalism that have overlapped at the same point of the Q-cult that has shone a dark shadown out there that only certain folks matter in the family of God, and many are exependable.

And sadly, the refrain is not Jesus loves me, but boldy from the pulpit, if you die I’m okay for my rights mean more than your life.

It is a struggle within to understand if the still quiet voice being heard within and communally is the Holy Mystery, or our own ego run amuck. For even good can come out of darkness, and that is the hardest challenge.

Yet, I sit here and continue to mull, for I know my family’s journey of joy and sorrow, has shaped us. How we entered c-tine has shaped us. Sadly, entering into a new relationship with church having to be reaching out for benevolent aid so you do not lose everything shapes your reprehension in reaching out to connect. Coupled with it being the same week picking up food hampers for survival from a former parish you were a leader in, humbling, but shaping the wall of protection more. It is something many givers and program makers forget. Especially in church, the socio-economic lens, shapes how connection happens. We are thankful to have cultivated a healthy summer camp relationship with our daughter, but there was another that could have been cultivated by the institution was locked into their socio-economic lens and myth story that broke the relationship. Now, is needing aid breaking a relationship? No, I raise the example, for the shaping then is always the wondering if you are to reach out again will it shape the interaction? Good intents can also be, unfortunately, shaped in the receiving. When the only personalized connection from a church family is in regards to aid, and not simply being. Yes, it is good to reach out to help, but it does shape in the receiver an understanding of relationship dynamics (true or false). How to shift, I am simply raising the contemplation at this juncture.

For part of the risk of belonging, is that sharing the space together- cyber, phone, or physical. The scent in the film Lars and the Real Girl, when the ladies group from the church comes to be, nothing more. Always brings up the concept, that appears to be lost in our busyness cycle of urban church. The fear when we talk about going back to normal, was normal truly that functional for belonging? Or was it functional for celebrating behaviour addictions that did not risk connection, for with connection (belonging) comes the risk of emotion?

What I have learned from c-tine, is confirmation of where I have existed. What I mourn in c-tine, is facing into the cup, and seeing revealed the dissonance we accepted to simply have a butt in a pew. What I pray emerges truly out of c-tine, is not how church was in the before times. I truly pray, communities of belonging are cultivated, with all the beaufitul risks that come with it.

My scariest moment, is my family standing with me, to take the step forward to risk belonging, and answering the call fully.

Amen.

Some intriguing reads for Lenten contemplation as we head towards Palm Sunday, the day Kingdom of God (belonging) met Empire Parade of Power, Money and Careers: Your Addiction to Outrage is Ruining Your Life | by Pete Ross | The Bad Influence | Medium


It has always been a weird situation when folks try to make out you’re some kind of super hero or special person for being a parent of an exceptional child. Really? I think all parents that engage with their kids to support them in becoming who they are meant to be are quite amazing regardless of the labels society places on the child. See, the only real trash parent I see are the ones that decide a coping or discipline method is to beat a child or spouse or sexually, emotionally and mentally abuse them (which is why I cheer the Canadian Government’s $7.5 million investment in kid’s help phone during this time of social distancing, perhaps silence will break and we can rescue more from the darkness, but I digress).

I’m a parent of a 14 year old and a 12 year old. Any labels through medical or societal are not their to define my children, rather they are their for communities and society to know what my child needs to thrive, discover, belong and be the most awesome them, they can be. Full stop. Being a parent is hard. Each of us has our own strengths, areas of growth, challenges, and then we are given mini-mes that become a ramped up mirror of our best and worst traits (hey, I knew I was a sarcastic so-so, but trust me when my kids riff on me its really obvious lol). So why do we need to sub-divide?

Within the exceptional child community, why do we sub-divide further? With comments such as, you can’t possibly know because your child can do x-y-z-… we are conditioned to constantly be in apology mode for a spasm, a sound, a spasticity, a stem or a tick…yet…

The world around us, can be as assertively a-holey (to borrow on of my daughter’s favourites of skirting swearing) it wants towards us. Religious can say we did something so our child is being punished for sin, that they need prayer for healing. In religious settings many have heard of our family’s journeys where the elders, long timers, and money givers feel it is their right to make an issue of the “different”, not understanding truly what an imageo dei is an how a diverse mosaic our Holy truly is in human form… yet it is left to us to take the slings and arrows, and to make apologies, up to us to mea culpa, and share the medical history to “educate”. Yet at no point does someone hold the bullier accountable, and threaten to cast them out, instead the surface issues are touched upon, and one does not want to deep dive to the “isms” below the surface. Truly live healing and reconciliation at a community level as the gospel teaches, so instead we leave. Before the social distancing began I was sharing ideas with some non-profits to offer up this spiritual space for families seeking it an not yet ready to traverse the choppy waters. Also knowing that the last 2 places my family has been and is, are safe zones, some may say courageously, but rather I would use the term they came to meet my son with Jesus’ heart.

But I digress. For the fight before these moments was cemented in something deeper. As alluded to. You fight against the passive systematic eugenics for your child to be allowed life. Then you battle the assertive systematic eugenics for them to keep their life. You lift the life up to the Holy Mystery thankful for the love and blessing of parenthood for however long they will be with you, knowing that it truly is a blessing.

Yet as noted, different groups you try to be apart of use “tradition” or “money” as reasons they cannot alter physical spaces for accessibility (making a physical space able to be used by all). Never mind if they are willing to even extend the interpersonal space to allow the different to exist (noting any similarities with any other marginalized group). To the challenge of belonging- this is being known by many, missed when not their, supported in finding and fulfilling purpose– it challenges the concept of the abled, the idea that disability is catching, or that the wrong thing may be said, or what do you do when the child dies? So many things race through minds to create barriers, instead of simply meeting the person before you as… a person.

The other challenge is fighting with other systems that tell you, like the CBE, that you chose to have it, and should be happy with the scraps thrown your way. Our current education minister that believes scrapping aides is a cost saver for the rest of the school year that will be done by home, not understanding the roles fulfilled. The governmental policy not seeing the child as a full person, just as a nuisance that can be spun as the rationale for why other students can’t have things (and yes has been done many times). When tragedy strikes, knowing your child will not receive the same level of support as other children would, because it is too costly to figure out how to aid them in grieving.

To a disability community fractured because everyone chases the funding needed for our children to excel, so instead of exceptional kids and adults, we hear about specific disabilities, and others are left outside. Sadly, as I noted earlier, some families’ take this approach in trying to support one another in the idea of-well your child can– so you don’t get it (or in the struggles to keep plastic straws). A selfish inability to see beyond our own situation, and to understand that we can advocate for something beneficial to other families’ even if it is not directly beneficial to our child because it’s the right thing to do.

The system, politics,  communities, religion, try to beat down upon you that your child or loved one is not a full person. That you should mourn because they may never (fill in the `traditional’ coming of age mile stone) and as such you are missing out.

And ya know what my pastoral response is to it all?

BULLOCKS!!!

Being a parent, uncle, aunt, grandparent, god parent, is a pretty awesome thing. The child before you, that is now in your life regardless of diagnosis or labels is– a friggin’ blessing folks and is looking to us to love them, mentor them, and support them into becoming the most awesome them they can be.

What does that mean? It means celebrating when things happen that are awesome, crying when things change or loss happens, chatting and sharing with the child like you would any child. Doing life together as a family, and standing your ground as a strong advocate when something is unjust, or educate when necessary, but also, regardless of time affiliated with a group, person or family member, when they don’t get it and it becomes detrimental to your mental health or that of your child- END IT!

See my son is 14 years old. 14 amazing years of having a son. Some say how did you raise a son with___. Honestly, I raised a son, this is my son, and truly the only one I know how to raise.  We have had many laughs, tickles, wrestles, experiments, times in hospital, tears when little buddies and grandparents went to the tea party in heaven, his heart convinced me a non-dog person to get a dog…and we cried when our mumma house hippo joined the Jesus Tea Party. Waiting for the next blessing. He has ministered with me, cheered in hockey games, been out in multiple parades collecting donations to help other kids, the first to hug a new friend that he just met, and deeply feel rejection from those that should know better. He chose to be baptized in pre-school, we celebrated his elementary school graduation, and are looking forward to high school. Do we know what the future holds?

No.

But he’s a kid. Kids discover, learn, and define who they are in life. Parents help them cultivate that so that they can become the who they are meant to be.

That is what we are doing. We live each day with gratitude, even those days he’s a weiner because he’s a 14 year old boy and does what 14 year old boys do, and those days when he shows wisdom and compassion through the simplest actions beyond his years.

Society tells you to grieve. I thought it was important to share, that grieving is about making society feel better for their innate fear and hatred of that which does not conform to their “ideals”. The labels and diagnosis are there not to define your child’s boundaries of life, but rather to state what the world needs to do to ensure they belong, grow and thrive into the citizen they are becoming.

Rather live in celebration, push the envelope, learn, discover, laugh, cry, and be the parent you were meant to be with the kids you have.

Shift from grieving to gratitude.

Practice each day, writing out 3 things you are grateful for. Plan your own family milestone celebrations that fit the family you are and are becoming due to who your child is.

Be in the moment. Let hope grow, and love abound.


My family has been reading through the Gospel of Luke this Advent season. It is a great way to engage with the Jesus story, lots comes at you each night in the one chapter to unpack, and work with our kids so they renew or come to new understanding of passages with where they are at in life. Who are the outcasts of our world that Jesus would have come to? Who would the ones being challenged by John the Baptist and Jesus be today?

How would you feel as Mary, taking all your you and saying “YES” to God? Would you? Was it a step of faith? Hope?  Was Elizabeth wrapped in joy with her late term pregnancy? What implications did this have on the drive of John the Baptist? Could he have been one with Asperger’s (which is now fully wrapped into the Autism Spectrum)? Was Jesus married? Does it increase or decrease your faith if he was?

And the parables. The wonderful stories of what it means to be the light, the sower. That is where our light shines and our seeds fall, how are we to love our friends, family, community, neighbours? How do we shine our light when our friends are locked into a negative thought cycle? How do we love when a friend gets disowned? What does it mean to have a home that lives the core values of Advent? That is a sacred safe space for all?

These are the stories that come to mind. Then you hit on belonging, and Luke provides.

17 One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and religion teachers were sitting around. They had come from nearly every village in Galilee and Judea, even as far away as Jerusalem, to be there. The healing power of God was on him.

18-20 Some men arrived carrying a paraplegic on a stretcher. They were looking for a way to get into the house and set him before Jesus. When they couldn’t find a way in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof, removed some tiles, and let him down in the middle of everyone, right in front of Jesus. Impressed by their bold belief, he said, “Friend, I forgive your sins.”

21 That set the religion scholars and Pharisees buzzing. “Who does he think he is? That’s blasphemous talk! God and only God can forgive sins.”

22-26 Jesus knew exactly what they were thinking and said, “Why all this gossipy whispering? Which is simpler: to say ‘I forgive your sins,’ or to say ‘Get up and start walking’? Well, just so it’s clear that I’m the Son of Man and authorized to do either, or both. . . .” He now spoke directly to the paraplegic: “Get up. Take your bedroll and go home.” Without a moment’s hesitation, he did it—got up, took his blanket, and left for home, giving glory to God all the way. The people rubbed their eyes, incredulous—and then also gave glory to God. Awestruck, they said, “We’ve never seen anything like that!”

-Luke 5:17-26 (The Message)

Many hear this story as a passion for these gents to get their friend healed, and what they were willing for that to happen. But that is a superficial, ablest read of the passage. Much like what we bring to many of the disability passages within the Gospels. See, the world of the time, as sadly today, saw folks with disabilities as less than, those to be hidden away, not engaged with, gawked at, the question being what did they or their parents do to be cursed like this.

But that is never how Jesus ends. Jesus challenges assumptions, yet this story starts even before Jesus. He is doing his thing, in a local home, many are going, crowds are growing. These guys hear what is going down, and want to be a part of it. But one of them is missing, the proverbial shut in, or institutionalized or child with disability whose family does not want to deal with the headache and hurt of being in a church. They know it will not be the same without their friend.

Belonging- he is known, he is acknowledged, he is wanted, and he is missed when not there.

They go back and get him, and bring him along.

Yet, as with many holy sites, the house and crowd were not accessible. Folks were unwilling to give up their space to let their friend through. Ever had the– but this is where we sit conversation? Or this is where we park? Or any claiming of sacred space as proprietary? This is what they were hit with.

But they persevered. They took accessibility into their own hands. Could you imagine being there as these gents built their own lift to get their friend to the Holy? Love drove them.

Jesus did not heal first off. First off he affirmed the divinity of the person. He did this by pointing out like everyone else, he had done good and ill (one cannot have sin without the dichotomy), but then said he was cleansed. The shock, was the shock against the religious caste system that tried to place deficiency, and non-personhood upon this man to make themselves, “HOLY”. Jesus was the nullifier of this unholy religiousity. Who are those we try to place non-personhood upon now to make ourselves feel HOLY?

To abate their shock, Jesus heals.

Why?

So the love his friends had for him, could be extended into the whole community.

Today, we do not need this.

We need to get the message of the love of the divine. That all are in the divine image. The Imageo Dei.

The challenge is letting go of the fear of change, the grieving of loss. For what have we lost with belonging?

What has been healed in belonging?

The Holy, Beloved, and Blessed Image of God that each one of us is created in.

What is healed, is the false rifts, separations and castes our fragile human ego (sin) have placed within our world.


It is interesting in the world of business and non-profits (religious included) we float the idea of “Core Values”, yet how often do they just end up as brochure buried on a shelf or bulletin board? How often have we heard, we value all being welcome with dignity– yet accessibility projects are deferred for things such as security systems (or whom holds the power decrees is more important)?

It can be challenging during this time of year not to fall victim to the chimera created by the religious right of the war on Christmas…I have yet to meet anyone who vehemently hates Santa, or the idea of generosity. What is challenging is the man-made hate monger created image of Jesus is challenged–for these are not the core values he professed. It was never about exclusion, in fact most of the challenging teachings were directed at the religious of Jesus’ day for missing the mark– the mark? We can quote Matthew 25 around care for the poor, sick, elderly, widows, the ones society felt were toss away, but we are in the Holy Season of Advent for Christians, and it distills the core values fairly clearly:

Hope*Faith*Joy*Peace*Love

These are the core that come from the common truth, that goes back to the Creation story, and that the Prophet Isaiah reminds us of:

Image result for house of prayer for all nationsA phrase many religious gathering in the faiths of Abraham use. This idea of inclusive, but flexed for exclusion for not fully unpacking the full story:

 “And as for the outsiders who now follow me,

working for me, loving my name,

and wanting to be my servants—

All who keep Sabbath and don’t defile it,

holding fast to my covenant—

I’ll bring them to my holy mountain

and give them joy in my house of prayer.

They’ll be welcome to worship the same as the ‘insiders,’

to bring burnt offerings and sacrifices to my altar.

Oh yes, my house of worship

will be known as a house of prayer for all people. (The Message, Isaiah 56:6-7)

It is laying out clearly, that all are welcome, not only welcome, but are a divine image (Imageo Dei) and authentically belong as one of God’s children blessedly created.

One cannot claim a divine-holy presence, if their presence is not open to all of the divine image, and love of God-Self-Neighbour (the Covenant– the Law & The Prophets summarized and lived out).

What is lost in belonging? What is lost is the bondage of fear, prejudice, bigotry, conflict, hate, constant grieving and greed.

What is gained?

Hope, Peace, Faith, Joy and Love.

Further resources on Inclusion/Belonging:

There was a powerful video shared about this congregation at Shelly Christensen’s speaking at the International Day of Persons with Disabilities at the JCC Calgary today, unfortunately I was unable to track down the specific link, here are some others though to provoke conversation and thought.

Bet Shalom Congregation: https://disabilitiesinclusion.org/exemplar-congregations/bet-shalom-congregation/

Apirl 2, 2009 Inclusion Video: https://youtu.be/D72NKCZlNNA

Inclusion Innovations: http://inclusioninnovations.com

 


It is a question that gets asked of me quite a bit. Why Church? In this era when most of my generation has checked out, and as frequent readers know over the years the headaches we have had with church (for some of those fun anecdotes I direct you to my memoir Soul Ripples ), everything from a pastor trying to break up my family to another stalking me from church to church to being fired in an AGM as the church did not want a youth group made up of children with disabilities…sigh….

Anyone can write the litany of why the hell not to bother with church. I mean this past Sunday I sent in a prayer request to our Calgary congregation because due to some douches (it is a very holy word I promise) bullying in the pew my son does not feel safe in worship. We are working with my son to re-discover the love of the Holy Trinity that has it his life from when he was never to leave a hospital bed to being the awesome fun loving teen ager he is today. Church was also part of that love.

See that’s the crux of it. Where many point to abuses (and yes those who abuse should be tossed, no questions asked, and turned over to appropriate authorities); or to the worship of money (go to an AGM and you will discover what your local church holds to be true about money, for more structured church services where they place things speak of its value–that is the closer to the end the higher the value). In regards to money, we visited a mentor’s church of mine this past Sunday, and offering was after the few opening worship songs, my wife had heard me pontificate about the idea of Liturgical structure, but the freedom this created in the person not to worry about money during service struck home, simple placement.

But I digress.

Do I attend with my wife and kids, as others we know speak of going- tradition, habit, and-or fear of going to the warm place with the pokey things? NO

So why the hell do I bother with church?

Simple, we attend because we believe. We believe in Love as lived by Jesus, we believe in the community birthed by the Holy Spirit, and the creation we have been given care of by the Creator.

I have seen the good of church. In my own life, it was a place to heal after a storm. I saw my kids eyes light up with wonder when they chose to be baptized.

I have seen the church as a whole activated to care for those in need, the literal homeless, ill, caring for elders, and those with dementia. Creating space for celebration of birthdays and weddings and life victories. Journeying with those in love, who are in transition or mourning.

Standing in loving justice that all are blessedly the same but gloriously different.

My Nan told stories of the church in England during the war, the place of comfort and meeting. How the Salvation Army ensured all were fed.

The children of her neighbourhood told stories no matter who they were, the Mays was always a safe place and Granddad and Nan were their second parents.

My Grandma wrote in her journals of the blessed belonging different churches created for her and my Dad and Uncle during their years.

Small groups caring for neighbours…generational homes being spaces always open for those that needed a port in a storm.

Note what is missing? Politics. Love of Money. Deciding who is Holy.

What is present, is a simple response to the Image of God before you with love and belonging.

Why do I bother, because it is in my soul– the HOPE that should and will be there with church when the Spirit moves…

The Pilgrimage continues…

Early September 2019 through the Presbyterian Church in Canada is an awesome resource coming that I was blessed to be a part of on being a church that visitors will want to call home. Watch for it!

 


 What follows below is my speaking notes from this morning, the pdf is just below for the power point slides noted in the bolded brackets throughout.

Men’s Prayer Breakfast, Centennial Presbyterian Church January 26, 2019 

mens prayer breakfast january 2019

Good Morning. We are exploring some aspects this morning of mental health and belonging, as was advertised it is a personal and professional faith journey. In our time this morning we are by no means going to touch upon the entire spectrum of mental health concerns, diagnosis, disorders and spectrums out there. I am going to share a bit about my journey, and the ones that have touched upon me the most. Now I am sure you are probably asking well who is this guy? 

That’s a good question, short answer in my name is Ty, and I have lived in Rundle my whole life, my goal in life is simple to make my own corner of the world a better place. I am currently travelling through the echoes of a life spent fighting back the darkness of our world, and creating safe courageous space for all to belong, but more on that piece later. I am a pilgrim, the ad described me as a monastic-psychologist. It is true, I hold a Doctor of Psychology, I sought it out because I needed to skills to aid folks in healing. I have a Bachelor of Arts from Alberta Bible College, and my Master or Arts is from Canadian Theological Seminary now Ambrose Seminary. Each degree earned with classes that aided me in my goal of making the world a bit better, not for any other reason. I am monastic, because at the core of my journey is a formation in the Franciscan Charism. St. Francis of Assisi founded an order about 800 years ago of the open hand, those that embraced justice, simplicity, and living out the gospel message of love. Many believe it is an anti-educational-intellectual order because of a teaching of Francis that you first must learn the first scripture before going to the next. He was not counselling us to be the frozen chosen, but rather to so live into the scripture that we are living it without even thinking about it, it simply becomes part of our DNA. 

For me, the journey of learning has been centered on the scripture that brought me into organized church and ministry, at 19 years old I was contemplating my 6th attempt at suicide. I had gone through a horrendous time for that time of my life where my then fiancée had decided to abort our child, and re-enter the sex trade to feed her addiction. I was at home, quietly putting things in order, giving/selling things. When I stumbled across the little red Gideon’s New Testament they used to give out in grade 5. It was in the bottom of my closet and the spine was broken open, and these little red letters spoke to me: 

(slide of Great Commandment) 

Something shifted in my depression, and I decided to go see my Nan that weekend, and try out this church thing, and the tumultuous seasons of my ministerial life would begin, as I started to be like the lawyer. 

(slide of Good Samaritan). 

This led me to a life journey involved in many aspects of church ministry, continuing an active writing and activism career that was already in place, building ministries, writing curriculums, entering into service in the homeless sector during the darkest times of our province, as austerity measures created a humanitarian crisis in Calgary where threat to human life was imminent each winter. I would also serve during my time as a chaplain to those with dementia, childrens and youth pastors, pulpit supply, college and university instructor from bachelor to post-graduate courses in a variety of topics, practicum supervisors, mentor for at risk youth and re-integration mentor for youth re-entering society from the young offender’s centre. I would do outreach in many of the cities in Canada for those in need, aiding those camping rough to find safety, and if they could not the next morning aiding authorities in identifying the bodies. Publish a few books. Oh and in the midst, I would find time to run for office and shape many policies for parties at both the Federal and Provincial level, but hey a man needs a hobby. 

Throughout this I began to shape a concept of belonging. That it is about aiding folks in understanding who they truly are, how the experience the world, and how we as community can aid them in achieving wholeness. 

(slide on mental health) 

In my teens and early 20’s like many Albertans I struggled with alcohol. It would not be until later that I would find out about my family’s predilection to alcoholism. But I made a hard decision at that time, after my one birthday where I woke up sore and alone at home, alcohol was not a good thing for me, it made me violent, it needed to end: 

(slide of Dix) 

Addiction comes in many forms.  

(addiction slide)  

It is a form of self-medicating, a numbing agent, a replacement for authentic belonging and authentic self. The challenge in our world, is that so many things that become addictive can be seen as societally acceptable: gambling we use to fundraise for our schools and hospitals and other non-profits, alcohol you are seen as abnormal if you do not drink in social settings- try being politically active and sober? Or a writer; work or fitness or religion- all things that are acceptable, but can also so overtake our lives that we can no longer function. 

(Opioid crisis slide) 

Today we are in a crisis in Canada as a result of our triage and siloed method of dealing with people in health care. We are in what the media and health care have termed an opioid crisis, it is due to the prevalence of Fentanyl. A drug originally designed for end of life pain allevement. Now opioids, when used for pain relief within medicine are not bad, that is the all or nothing view of our world. What is wrong, is those using them to self-medicate their own personal pain. Pain caused by our own inhumanity towards one another. What would change with the crisis if we moved out of isolation and fear mongering, into authentic community? A courageous safe space where we understand pain, we understand the journey of healing, and we are willing to believe and help at a deeper level. We are willing to allow belonging, knowing that the greatest fear in belonging is that when the person is no longer there, we shall mourn.  

That is why we avoid belonging. Whether it is belonging in our own skin (Love yourself) or opening space for belonging for neighbour (love your neighbour as yourself). 

(won’t you be my neighbour slide) 

I have already touched on a bit of my own struggle with depression. Depression is a normal reaction in the grief process of loss, it can also be more than short term however, and that is okay. It is how some experience life 

(Depression Slides) 

It is ironic, as a child I had convulsions, they were so severe in my toddler years I am told there was multiple times I stopped breathing and was blue. In the late 70’s early 80’s the treatment for such a thing was an anti-psychotic- Phenobarbitrol. It is a harsh long-term treatment, but it saved my life and my brain. Many children who were put on it, lost their lives to suicide or addiction in adolescence, or dropped out of life. It is still used in short term cases for stabilization before another anti-epileptic or anti-convulsant will be prescribed. I was on it from roughly age 2 to 9 years old, my convulsions left my brain scarred, and unbeknownst to us at the time, the medication had rewired things significantly. 

As my Mum entered into the journey of Breast Cancer that would eventually take her life; I was the Director of Youth and Children’s Ministries at a church; teaching and writing; working as a vocational coach for persons with disabilities; working on my Master’s oh and just for fun running for office while editing a political journal provincially, and a spiritual journal internationally is when the repercussions of what saved my life would hit. 

(I don’t wanna slide) 

Panic attacks. Tears or anger for no reason. Medication as my brain chemistry was out of balance. 

I was always and still am open about my own journey, if those who seek to facilitate healing cannot be open, how do we expect those seeking help to be open. There was a backlash, churches skittered away from me, as I transitioned back into a leadership role in the homeless sector I was abruptly informed that I was a weak leader for sharing my mental health with my team. That self-care and mental health care were not up to leaders to mentor staff in, it was their job to deal with the challenges of the job. 

Stigma. 

But through medication, self-care, what I termed soul work through spiritual direction and life coaching I emerged through that time on medication for a few years and things had improved.  It was also during this time that I lost my ordination by taking a stand that yes children with disabilities belong in God’s kingdom (but our journey of that is a tale for another time). 

As Shawna, my wife, is always proud to say, I taught many how to care for themselves, while caring for neighbour. Soul care, ensuring you can love yourself and are being the true you, while helping others become the true them. We did not expect what was to begin in 2016, but there are 4 scary letters out there that we need to remove the fear from: 

(PTSD Slides) 

Whether personally or professionally we as a family had created safe spaces for belonging, whether they found me through work, or showed up on our door step. Literally meals can be added to, coffee or tea can go on, kids can play, and life can happen as we just are: 

(Quote slide) 

I am going to share with you an article I wrote about what is happening in the now, it is the outcome of years of journeying in the darkness as the light, and taking a beating for views of belonging. A lifetime, as we spoke of before in a Franciscan way of learning how to live out the Great Commandments, and answer the question, Who is my neighbour? 

(PTSD-PNES Slide) 

613 is my number, what is yours? 

It is amazing the conversations one has as a parent, and then the journey it causes you to reflect upon. Before May 2016 sitting in an ER I never thought I would be here. See, growing up and throughout my life I admit to being socially awkward (to be kind), but there was something that always was wonderful, my mind. When it came to numbers it was something like Charlie on Numbers that the solution would come to me, but has no real idea what took me from problem to solution. My everyday mind would be able to focus on 3 or 4 tasks in front of me, while crunching solutions and dreams/plans for multitudes of other things (one of the main reasons I never took up this thing called driving). 

It is the blessing of this mind, with my heart for changing the world that allowed the drive in school (and the multiple degrees earned and given honourary); building programs; running for office; editing and writing; book publishing; teaching; outreach work; mentoring; life coaching; spiritual direction; public speaking; pulpit supply; and the list can go on in my short life I had packed in multiple life times. Standing in the darkness and walking with those in the midst so they could come into their light. Discover who they truly were; teaching and facilitating others in discovering their passions and ways to make a living at it. I believe my life showed that you can chase dreams, and still hold true to your core values, not having to surrender who you are to make a difference in this world. At one point I looked back on my time in ministry and realized I had the opportunity to speak into nearly 1,000 young lives for the better. 

But it started to shift in May and then October 2016 in the ER with weird brain activity, memory loss, chest pains and left-hand tremors. But I was told I was normal and fine, so carry on at discharge, after a day or two at home back at it. Back at the work of walking with folks to create home and community. 

In the later part of 2017 as summer approached, professional and personal griefs/stressors were there. Waying on one’s spirit. I felt tired, and my brain was foggy. Like I had taught so many though, back to the daily practice, self-care, seeking out those who can aid you in debrief and carry forward, keep yourself healthy. And why wouldn’t I be tired? It was a phase, been there done that. My vocabulary, and understanding of some basic concepts began to fail me. Again, I looked back on what was happening with those in personal and professional life passing away, assumed it was a grief cycle (my son’s friends were passing away, always hard). 

But then my birthday hit and the game changed. 

Seizures (Grand Mal and absent), multiple in rapid succession. Lost memory and time. Not only in the now, but lost memories, I could not recall things. It kept happening, I became the ER’s daily flier if you will…and oh so cold, my body had gone hypothermic, in retrospect to protect my heart. Medical science couldn’t answer the question. Weird things being vomited out. Tests were toss ups. 

But when the seizures hit, and I would come back so would the pain. The life of being a light in the darkness, but only the darkness would come back. Decades of being in the pain, looking back and having my mind lie to me saying that I was a failure, had not made a difference. My memories that would reboot, it was like an old DOS computer with dust on the floppy, the self-care wouldn’t come with it. My healing and growing of scar tissue were gone, it was rapid succession of the pain that cut to the very core of who I was. I tried to work through, my agency was wonderful in their support. 

But I was not me. My beautiful gift, my mind, was failing. Things that I knew by rote, and was simple neurological muscle memory were gone, fog was constant, stabbing pains, tremoring arm, in ability to sleep, hypothermic and I won’t share how when I went down finally for health reasons the days of weird chemicals I had been exposed to expelling from my body (oh and the constant daily seizures, at one point almost 40 a day). Tests of the blood, body and brain, but the flashbacks persisted. 

It wasn’t something that was expected. I had learned to take care of myself, to rely on supports, to keep healthy, to use vacation time and to chase passions. This was against the narrative. But it persisted. Advancing from basic neurology to complex, in hospital observational stays, and all the epileptoligists/neurologists looking at my brain scans and medical files to reach a decision on what was happening. Finally, in the last month or two having confirmed diagnosis, PTSD-PNES, and now due to the Third Way boondoggle that was Klein’s legacy, I wait for the aid to cure and move forward. In the mean time the seizures are not epileptic but bring all the fears of those types of seizures with them everything from falls to sudden death, with no medications that can be prescribed to control them. 

With each seizure my number reminds me of where I have walked. 613 that is 613 in my life of family, friends, children, parishners, and clients I was unable to do more than journey with to the final transition to the next life. Most I was present for last rites or the passing or performed the celebration of life, if not all of it. In the travels I continue to use that which some may say is fruitless. Yet I persist. I pay the price for the persistence to keep going, I am not as good as I used to be, not even close…but I keep trying, working on myself while I wait. 

This time I feel like Alice having stepped through the looking glass, or Kirk into the Mirror Universe. I have seen what the darkness unchecked has done to my soul. I know what the light is. I struggle to believe in myself once more for with each reboot I still have to work through the lies my heart tells me that I am a failure, for even if it is a simple spark I need to hold to it…that I make a difference simply by being. 

What is your number? 

 (Authentic you slide) 

The Great Commandment lays out a challenge for us. It is about realizing that we are created in God’s image. As such we cannot say we love God with our everything, if we do not love ourselves. To love ourselves speaks of belonging in our own skin, having our purpose, it is not about jobs, it is about knowing why we are here and having a means to live it out. It is also understanding we need to love our neighbour who is also the image of God. Creating the courageous safe space for belonging so they can discover themselves. Within that space journeying with one another in the same vein. 

People constantly ask me what’s next? I honestly do not know, step one is to get the healing work done, then look at a return to work. What will that look like? I do not know. In the mean time I have purpose, I write, I teach when I can, I do some research and writing for my Dad and his wife’s project, Countess Country Musuem. I am beginning to work on a family memoir on the topic of mental health and belonging to remove the stigma. Most importantly though in this time of healing, I am a husband and a Dad in an amazing loving family. 

I leave you with a question to mull, 

What’s next for you? 

(Christian Counsellors slide) 

mens prayer breakfast ad

 


One of the greatest lies we tell ourselves is that normal is a universal precept. It is not. Each and every one of us is normal for our journey of life. We each have experiences, positive and negative, glorious and disastrous, and sometimes awesome or monstrous…yet that is normal for our life journey.

Be perfect therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect.

-Matthew 5:28

bookAs Martella-Whitsett aptly points out in her 2011 How to Pray without Talking to God, the word perfect in the original language is teleios, which is more aptly translated as wholeness (p.129). That is Brother Jesus is pointing out that we are already whole, living in the Divine Life is we choose to accept and live into it. Or we can accept the negative, and not realize that there is something beyond. That is continue to live within the “what ifs” or “what won’t happen” or “woe is me” narrative that becomes so much easier to exist within thus we create the false teaching within the Law of Attraction that you have brought this upon yourself (or in Biblical times, who sinned to create this condition?).

A something wrong consciousness is not a reality but a limited perception. A consciousness of separation is not a truth but a choice. Consciousness is pivotal.

(Martella-Whitsett p. 135)

Image may contain: textConsciousness is what we do with challenges and successes. It is not advocating for the slippery slope in some fundamentalist healing sects/meta-physics that our minds can cure everything or Spirit/God can by using the right incantation of words of “Truth”.

It is standing in your wholeness. Some would call it the image bearer of the divine, others in unity with the divine. Yet that is wholeness, affirming that spark of divinity that is within you, and you are just as you are meant to be.

This has been an important re-affirmation for my family. We have found sometimes within the disabilities community families can be so wrapped in grief for loss of what they believe normal is… they do not experience the beauty, wonder and wholeness that is with them or is them.

Or in Martella-Whitsett’s words (p.137):

Healing is the activity of recovery, repair and restoration, correcting a consciousness that had veered away from wholeness. In other words, we heal ourselves by cultivating a consciousness of wholeness.

How do you do that?

Martella-Whitsett outlines a practice that is all too familiar. Words may change, but the practice/disciplines are essentially the same. Sacred reading. Time in communion (prayer/meditation); Self-examin (affirmation/denial); community of spirituality; and journalling (words or images)…

Because it is in the moments of pausing from the busyness and noise of life that we can draw deeper into the Holy Mystery. We resonate with the Holy Breath that was breathed into us at creation, and the star dust within activates.

Or as bluntly as the reverend puts it in her book (p. 137):

God does not heal! God is wholeness.

And we re-encounter and renew that wholeness by time spent.

What is your steps into wholeness this week?


Thank you for inviting me to discuss belonging. This is a lifetime way of life for my family and me, that has left its physical, emotional and spiritual scars upon me. I was not designed for typical church. I was formed in the teachings of St. Francis and Clare of Assisi as a Franciscan, but was mentored by Basillians and Jesuits, and those that were of the social gospel, and sprung from the social gospel. The monastics, like Francis, Clare, Basil and Ignatius…they were of those that cared radically for their neighbour. Serving and learning in those communities, I was able to be apart of the radical love of neighbour that acted in such movements as the social gospel that sprung workers rights, women’s rights, that liberation theology would come from, that would have seeds in the fall of the Berlin Wall as John Paul II pushed for it, and Desmond Tutu in the end of Apartheid. The radical love I got to see in Calgary outside of the shelter system was at the community level. I speak of church families, where they realized families were staying in their church, and it struck the Holy Spirit within them…how do these neighbours shower? it struck on a Saturday, and on a Sunday the plumbers were in building the showers, and the priest was speaking as collection was to pay the plumber currently constructing…or realizing that they could not have all members of the community participate due to lack of a lift…or the food cupboard was empty…and well, let’s say collection for the church budget or the need of neighbour was a living breathing spirit.

But like the social gospel, these orders also had a strain of theology that was offensive. It was quite blatant in the late 19th and early 20th century, in Alberta as late as the 1990’s; and that being eugenics. The active belief those not seen “as typical” by society are deficient and everything has to be actively worked towards to eliminate them, or exclude them.  There is still strong pockets of this from secular and spiritual movements, most notably seen this past summer, with the United Church Observer’s supported work to ban the plastic straw, a device specifically designed for persons with certain disabilities, and without its accessibility would mean death. Most often we just see its more passive, and prejudicial form, of Ableism, most blatantly on display this past General Council with Moderator Nominee Colin Phillips, who with his form of CP uses a wheelchair and speaking aid. He stated in his column after it was a council of awkwardness, and people not engaging-my heart hears, to engage means we have to change, and adapt.

There is beauty in our heritage, but bad theology around the healings of Brother Jesus of Nazareth, has allowed Ableism and eugenics to flourish within the church by oppression or omission of the full Image of God, Imageo Dei in the Latin. And by that omission, we are missing out on the time, talent, treasures and blessings that come with the full Imageo dei. It is from reading the healing stories from the perspective of needing to be healed to belong, not realizing they are about belonging because of the beautiful rainbow of God’s creation to paraphrase Archbishop Tutu. To paraphrase Tutu again, if persons with disabilities, mental health concerns, cognitive issues, on a spectrum ala Cerebral Palsy or Autism, etc. are not in the Kingdom, then it is a kingdom I want nothing to do with.

Image may contain: one or more people and people on stage

Affirming Sunday Oct. 1, 2017 Leland putting up his colour

For the work of the Kingdom to continue in the beautiful tradition of My Neighbour, as J.S. Woodsworth wrote it, the sin of eugenics needed an exorcism. This is the work I have undertaken, in thought, word and deed. It led me through My Neighbour, to what today is being presented as the Spirituality of Belonging. Before we step into that, i just want to take a moment to thank Robert McClure Untied Church for including my family in your community for the past 18 months. We will remember C. coming and talking to Leland directly about Wonderkids, Justina teaching how Advent and Sacred Aboriginal Teachings go together, the Christmas Play, Leland’s moment at the affirming service to step out of the ableism of Christianity with his proud declaration of rainbow colour, “I won Nana”; and B’s wonderful Easter egg hunt balloons so all children could be apart of the fun. Today, you will be a part of my last teaching given in a United Church, as I stated at the beginning to get to this point has taken its toll, and the activeness of ableism and prejudices, have left me today going against my medical support teams wishes and

Image may contain: one or more people

“I won Nana”-Leland

presenting. As I opened with, a lifetime of working to build places of belonging for all Image Bearers has taken its toll on my system, let’s just say it has been messy and the worst humanity has to offer I have witnessed. But that is why this work if so important. For this is the next step after the exorcism. This is the spirituality of belonging as the church titled my presentation which has a nice resonance. Belonging is the ickiness of life and the scariest word you will hear today.

It is the next step. But we don’t get to belonging easily, for that carries too much. I designed a simple culmination, the Belonging Pyramid.

It is inverted. The first layer being Accessibility which is the removal of physical barriers. This is the crafting or re-crafting of space so individuals can enter and use. This is the piece where community partnerships matter, money flows, Thanksgiving offerings work, and  government grants can be used.

The next step is the wonderful word most communities stop on. “Inclusion”  it is such a warm and fuzzy buzz word. But it means we got space for you.

The hardest piece, and the smallest that can create tipping and allow for the exorcism to be reversed, is belonging. it is that authentic space where you love your neighbour as yourself and the Holy. It is that space where the ickiness exists, because, you need to look at all angles before making decisions, all ripple effects, you may have to take stands for your neighbour that take your out of comfort, or safety. It is also the space where you heart recognize that one day that space will be empty…

But we do not do it alone, for the Holy Spirit of love was breathed into us at creation, and we live out of it…and the pyramid itself is balanced in Agape.

So great lecture, now let’s do the work…I encourage you to get comfortable for we are going to do liturgy…thats latin for “work of the people” via theology….

Take a moment, centre yourself. Close your eyes. Breathe in deeply, exhale releasing the burdens of the day. When you feel you have breathed all the breath out, keep going, let the joys of the day out.

Enter into this space. Breathe in and exhale deeply twice more.

You are travelling to just outside the church. At the entrance to the parking lot.

Accessibility: Read John 9: 1.

A person with blindness. You are that differently abled person. Perhaps you require a mobility device-cane, scooter, wheel chair, walker; perhaps you experience the world through the lens of mental health: anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, PTSD, and on the list can go; perhaps a global delay, or you are on one of the diagnosis spectrums ala Autism or Cerebral Palsy; perhaps it is deafness or blindness. Here you are, complete and at the gates of a new community.

You have heard there is a farmer’s market. You cannot reach it. The hill has no access for your device, so you turn away home. Or you are able to enjoy the market but need the washroom. Someone has parked a truck blocking main doors. You are directed to a curb to step over to uneven ground to a small dark door. Your left side is weak and you know you cannot lift your leg up or you are in a wheel chair. You have a choice- soil yourself to stay or go home?

You are new to the neighbourhood using a good day of energy to explore, your spouse can drive but requires accessible permit parking. You have heard good things about this church, off a Sunday you see that they use their accessible permit spots to park bobcats. Obviously, there would be no guarantee on a Sunday they would not be used likewise, time to keep looking.

There’s a community garden, you have saved money to rent a spot, but you cannot get up onto the field where the plots are or easily maneuver to your plot? Not worth the hassle, just won’t be this year.

You stir up the courage to come to church one Sunday, only to reach the door and realize that you cannot reach the door handle to enter, and no one is around. You turn around.

Some would say this is not accessibility, but it is through the eyes of the codes, for everything up to that point as not seen as “illegal”, much the way the man with blindness experienced his world.

Inclusion: Read John 9:2.

The world of labels and diagnosis was designed so we could become inclusive. In the best environment it simply shows what is necessary for someone to be brought into the circle. In the worst, it allows for different barriers to be erected under the guise of “inclusion”.

That is the question being asked by the disciples; what is wrong with this guy? What caused it?

You arrive on a Sunday, and someone opens the door for you. Obviously, you can see where the sanctuary is, but how do you know where anything else is in the church? You are non-verbal, possibly use pics or words to know directions but nothing is labelled. No directional signs to the office; or rooms; or Sunday School or youth group, does this church have a library? You heard something in the announcements about the library having an event this week?

It is soup after church. No tables, your wheel chair does not have a tray, how do you balance? Or perhaps you have weakness in your hands? Seeing the heavy table to be brought out you don’t want to be a bother to ask.

Sadly during service you had an accident and now the fabric chair is ruined, but you don’t want to be yelled at again.

You or a parent/caregiver have been overstimulated due to the noise level of service or something else. You seek a quite space. Can’t use the nursery not a baby, and too much stimulation going by the Wonder Kids. Try any doors to find them all locked. Can’t calm yourself in the lobby. Time to go home, as usual even the tools you have you cannot use because locked doors are more important, but you are included as the building let you be “included”.

Communion Sunday, a holy time when all are to come forward and partake of the “Lord’s Supper”. But you cannot eat. You are not part of the Lord’s Supper or the family table, at least you are included.

People come to talk to you, nope, they are talking to those with you about you because… there is something different, or as disciples said, what is wrong with that person? What label can be put on them?

You decide to reach out and be included in small groups. Some do not understand that not everyone in your house drives so always doing things the way you have always done them means exclusion. You struggle one winter night to come out to learning circle, it is a rough night for your physical self. Church is low lit and you almost trip over the chair blocking the hallway with the “silence sign” on it. Or you can’t get around it with your wheel chair—so you go home.

Membership classes are offered…nothing on ages for membership. Nothing on child care. Your family can then not join together as one would have to come one year and the other next, for financially it is not there to afford child care for the weekend. But you have a seat in a sanctuary on Sunday morning.

A service on different prayer practices. Stations set up, cannot maneuvor a mobility device around to get to each, so sit silently and hope no one notices you.

Feedback on sound system that can trigger convulsive brain activity or flashbacks from trauma.

Exceptionally loud music compared to speaking that can overstimulate a mind that is not neuro-typical.

There’s a youth group. Nothing about ages or when it is or who to connect with. You may fit but are afraid of rejection because so many churches before have told you you do not belong.

But like the blind man of the story, or women of the time, you are allowed to come hear about the Holy, just not be in the whole presence of. But you are included.

Belonging: Read John 9: 3

There are those that have shared the journey, that share grieving, and celebrate life together. There is a rhythm on the “way things have always been done” so if you have always been here, much like the disciples, you got the norms of the place and time. Jesus looks at you and does not see the labels, the diagnosis, the worldly prognosis; or whatever other b.s. (belief system or the farm term if you prefer) the world puts on you.

Jesus flips it to the heart of the matter. You are here to shine through the glory of God.

Genesis 1:27-28 (read it) the Holy Breath is within you. You are created just the way you are meant to be, in a perfect reflection of God.

It was Jesus pointing to the world and going, YOU BELONG because YOU ARE. Any healing done after that was because of how dull the hearers were and the risk they were placing a child of God’s life at due to their ignorance.

But as you rhythmically breathe back into the now of your community. Breathe in the Command Jesus gave us. Love. Breathe it in deeply, breathe it out deeply.

Do this three times, and rest in the presence of Love. Or Agape as it was termed.

Rest in that Agape, and when you are ready come back.

(Once all are back).

It is fairly simple, we can discuss accessibility, we can discuss inclusion. Those things already happen, I took you through the eyes of the one experiencing what is. The physical building can be as pretty as one wants it to be. Universally designed as much as we want it to be and is able for a 30ish year old property. We can have someone open the door or prop it open so everyone can come claim their seat on a Sunday. We can attain everything up to code and function so the circle is drawn wide for inclusion.

BUT, and this is a big but. If we are still the disciples pointing and asking the question, or not making eye contact…we are having adventures in missing the point. The point is belonging. Authentic longing, based on the love Jesus showed in this story. The scary thing of belonging especially within the differently-abled/persons with disabilities/mental health/medically complex (let them pick their descriptor) is that there may be no warning and suddenly…

Their spot is empty. That is why we create barriers and labels. You have now experienced different perspective, the thoughts on building agape belonging is upon you or remain in the status quo.

 

Within your groups take a moment to pause and reflect:

 

  1. What did your heart hear in this experience?
  1. Where does that feeling reveal you to be within the pyramid?

 

Accountability: 

Consider, what you can do to create a spirituality of belonging this week. One little step within your own community. Share with your group, and come back and share next week with them how it went.

Children’s Time

You Are, You Belong

Image result for Brad Meltzer's I am Helen KellerOur stories start with a beautiful poem of Great Creator making all. It speaks to us that when each of us was created it was in their image, and breathed into with blessing. Today, I am going to let you meet one of Creator’s images and blessings.

Start with the last page: I am Helen Keller, I won’t let anything stop me.

Helen was born both deaf and blind, if you cover your ears and close your eyes, that was how she knew her world. Her own relatives believed her to be a monster. Yet she didn’t stop wanting to let the world know the love she had inside. Her family, her tutor helped her discover how to communicate in her own way. She would go on to shatter her world’s old way of seeing things.

What are ways your family or friends have helped you?

Helen learned to communicate through signs, by being shown through touch.

She realized people needed help. She fed the hungry, grew schools to help those who were told they couldn’t to learn.

What is one thing you can do to make your school or home or church more welcoming?

Read the last few pages…

Closing prayer: Thank you Creator for the wonderfulness of difference, that each of us is lovingly blessed to be who we are meant and created to be. Amen.

When I Smudge…

Posted: September 13, 2018 by Ty in Belonging Pyramid, Spirituality
Tags: , , , ,

Today’s guest column is a proud Daddy moment. When folks always wondered why I believe in doing things inter-generationally- why our book groups, bible study, movie nights, political events are always all ages… it is for the discipleship by osmosis that happens. My daughter is a storyteller growing into her own Wisdom Keeper, and lover of Mother Earth. She will have the opportunity to share her wisdom later this month vocally, but I share it here, for as the younger generations learn from us, so we learn from them:

By Justina

Smudge 1

“I smudge my heart so I can feel good things”

Smudge 2

“I feel connected in my heart to the spirits that are visiting me, when I smudge”

Smudge3

“I smudge for the people I love and care about…”

People have asked what I mean when I say do the Soul Work… well when my daughter Smudge’s and reflects… Soul Work.