Archive for the ‘Belonging Pyramid’ Category


A fun lead in that I was reminded of this week, while reading Peter Mansbridge’s latest memoir Off the Record, with reminiscents of his life new to Canada from Britain to being discovered as a baggage handler to entering the world of media through CBC and journalism to becoming the anchor of the National. It shared some different thoughts. The intrigue that may be forgotten of the 1980’s Federal election where the story was broken of a Chretien faction attempting to unseat then Liberal Leader John Turner mid-election. Which led to the ponderance of through machinations that Jason Kenney gets the 50% +1 vote during the Leadership Review April 9 in Red Deer, AB– could this be a plan B of scorched earth to walk away and still look like he has done nothing to cause the carnage? Especially tracking the current exchanges of UCP MLA’s (or their comms staff running the accounts) online.

Aside from that, it was also a reminder, that there was a time in history, when some talent could lead to opportunity and on the job learning, mentoring and equipping for a talent-passion and purpose. It also cultivated loyalty, as Mansbridge would touch on a few times, outisde offers made and turned down that were more lucrative. The thing here is the path into vocation may have shifted, with more formal education necessary. What should not have been lost though, is still seeing the employee as a person, investing in them, and their life long learning, equipping and mentorship to continue to cultivate the talent-passion and purpose into loyalty. An employee should have opportunity to thrive, and be cared for that more organizations are seeing life long careers at one agency, and not multiplicity of organization hopping for opportuniteis or growth.

Which takes us from this idea of purpose, into where that understanding grows. Disney-Pixar’s latest has been getting some press. Some ludicrous rooted in the emergent from under the rock white nationalist culture that a coming of age story within the culture of an Asian family in Toronto is not relatable, really missed the mark of story telling that connects. Which Turning Red does. The other is the “parent choice” religious right anti-menstration league that are having the vapours as the movie deals with puberty, changes in the body, and the period. This fear and anger is rooted in patriachal structures, acted through misogyny, and more than likely, asserted in the weirdness of the oppressive complimentarianism (for more on that fallacy of that theology, Barr’s The Making of Biblical Womanhood is a must read). Yet in all these “red flags’ that try to shame folks within those cultural control groups to turn away, there is a wonderful, honest, age appropriate story the family can engage in:

What is missed in all the obstufucation? That at its core is a story of belonging. Discovering who we are, and the important natural supports (personal circles of support) that aid us in discovering that about ourselves. Belonging in ourselves. For the life coaches out there as well, the removal of the individual and communal gremlins to thrive into who you authentically are. Enjoy the ride! Watch it with multi-generations, and engage in the discussion afterwards of what you do with your “Red Panda”.

The movements of art this week, brought us into the mid-week service at Marda Loop Church, a space trying to engage the faith walk a little differently. As well, as continuing to leverage technology for connection (which as a medically complex family, we are glad to still be able to connect on those days we cannot physically be there). This past Thursday, church was Visio Divinia. Like the practice of Lectio it is rooted in the story, but here after hearing the story, you have 2-3 minutes with an image from the story that an artist has crafted. The beauty of a complete service being shaped in some of the stories from Genesis, is the conversation and discussion connecting points. Those moments noted in the Gospel of sharing, questioning and growing what it means to live the faith, is in the moment. For spirituality, living the gospel life is not a head knowledge game, it intersects our holistic person, and is meant to be experienced and discovered together in community and taken forward. An aside, one of the reasons I resonate with Franciscanism, where learning a biblical teaching is more than memorization of chapter and verses or knowledge, it is the internalized living out. Also, it is always affirming to hear another pastor assert the truth of David-Bathsheba and the sexual assault.

Stories shared and the etchings follow, click on the story title for the scripture in English Standard Version to read, I encourage this to happen within community (more than 1) for discussion, as well, I encourge between generations, we had, as always, our kiddos and it brings different noticings (though my neurodivergence every so often would fixate on the dog, much like why I love the story of Tobit).

Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac:

Abraham casts out Hagar and Ishmael

http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/373061

Joseph tells his dream (remember Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat? Joseph is the centre here):

What was given as homework, is the story of Purim, that is the book of Esther in the Hebrew Bible, and this etching of The Triumph of Mordecai:

Thank you for indulging the length of this post. Anyone who has been involved in my work, teaching, or many moons ago when I was involved with the ELCIC as a Lay Professional Leader and had a contemplative mid-week service, know how I do enjoy the spiritual practice as part of the spiritual formation. Also through the flow, there is the reminiscient of my own vocational story of making the connections with the Holy and life, the conversations I have had with many clergy and laity that the “canon” of scripture goes beyond the 66 books of the Protestant Bible (first notice is of course Orthodox, Coptix and Roman Catholic Bibles). We also have to take into account the creation we have been called into as caretakers of, the ongoing revelation through the arts, science and other learnings for if the Holy Mystery is in everything and everything is in the Holy Mystery revelation continues second by second.

And let us not forget the beautiful diversity that is the Imageo Dei (the image we are created in), for me, it resonates fo much with the Star Trek ideal of IDIC– Infinite Diveristy in Infinite Combinations. Which brings us to an article I just want to draw your attention to dear reader, around how story and fandoms can aid us in our own discoveries and health as Jay Stobie shares on Star Trek, Lt. Barclay and Mental health here.

Just a final PSA throwback to when Ecclectica used to be an e-mail based Canadian and Alberta political round up: April 9 Premier Jason Kenney is undergroing a leadership review as leader of the United Conservative Party. Where most leaders ahve a 70% threshold to stay on, he has stated, much like the Clairty Act, of it being 50% + 1 vote. I have noted many progressives defaulting to the old Alberta practice of buying PC party memberships to vote in the review to oust Mr. Kenney, and then by proxy vote in the leadership contest for the new “premier” it became engrained in the 40+ years of PC rule.

What I want to note as missing though, is this practice continued to push forward a party that many stated they were unhappy with in power. So why do we want to repeat the cycle? Aside from giving the monetary boost of membership sales. If being involved in other parties one sees a Mr. Kenney led UCP as beatable in 2023 (which polling is bearing out), why give the opportunity for a new leader and snap election?

Change begins by first knowing and naming what needs to change. Then fear, will lead us into repeating the cycle that affirms what has always been. True courage is in breaking the old cycle habits, many outside the UCP continue to say they see the change needed, lets take the courageous steps to break the Alberta cylce of affirming we’re okay with a party, and it’s only one person that has shaped the culture ebing imposed. Parties, like communities, are made up of many that create the culture.

As we flow through this ecclectica, take time to do a check in within your world, and begin to cultivate optimism and some resilience by journalling these 3 questions each day for at least a week:

  1. What are three things you are grateful for and why?
  2. Something new you have learned today?
  3. One thing you will do for self-care (to renew yourself) today?

Oh and after you have watched Turning Red, take time to draw your red panda and ask, is it being a part of me who I am or does it need to leave?

-30-


Taking time to reflect at another crossroads for Christendom in its death throes. A crossroads during c-tine, as in Alberta at least, we are deciding to follow the ill-fated Denmark plan (we actually have quite the history of continuing to blindly follow that which does not aid citizens–look at your utility bills following deregulation; seniors Blue Cross are but two conversations we can have), but I do not want to digress. It comes as a belonging challenge for church.

I realize, that there are many that have allowed fear-hate to make them lightining rods for the White Nationalist Supremacy Church that is currently flexing its minority pick-up truck pectorals in our nation. Those are not the ones I am reflecting on. There are those that are choosing to remain online, which I do applaud as it shows care for congregation–mostly using Zoom or Google Meets, the challenge in that being a bit of privilige for devices, computer literarcy, but the biggest in accessibility being large enough screens for families to share together (it is an economic accessibility). Though I do cheer the universal design worship has discovered within the use of technology during c-tine and connection.

Though it does create a challenge in care, as now churches can move away from distancing measures, and in a few weeks masking. There is a population being left out in the celebratory home coming. As you re-gather in sanctuaries across Alberta in this homecoming take a time to look around.

Who is not there?

Which pews/chairs are empty?

This is the risk of authentic belonging. What happens in our cycle when the space the person was in is empty? As now, at the sacred community level, one needs to process interdependently why they are not there?

  1. Are they immuno-compromised (or another vulerable population) and it is still currently not safe? What does this mean for connection as many have moved away from online after service gatherings to connect for their mental health?

2. Has their transportation been impacted? Those that drive, or public transit (yes in Calgary various routes are on rotating cancellation).

3. Are they in hospital? ICU?

4. Have they died during c-tine and has it gone unnoticed? Death due to covid. Death due to being unable to access medical services due to pandemic, or sadly, during the current white supremacist flex, succumbed to an opioid poisoning or other drug misuse poisoning, or taken their own life.

It is not simply, tape off, pews open, welcome home.

There is a need to acknowledge those who cannot come home, and be with members for any amount of reasons, and an authentic answer to the old evangelical trope is needed at this time in history:

What Would Jesus Do?

Sunday Thought

Posted: February 13, 2022 by Ty in Belonging Pyramid
Tags: , ,

When I share reforming thoughts/challenges to the church, some had given feedback “yeah but it’s the current church you’re in” and the answer is NO! I have been blessed in the journey to be in ministry leadership in churches/ministries from charistmatic-fundamentalist-evangelical-Roman Catholic-Conservative Mainline-Neutral Mainline-Progressive Mainline-Universalist-Metaphysical and then the Monastic outside, these thoughts come from the accumulated experience, and like Irshad Manji’s book, The Trouble with Islam (that I challenge Christians to read, and replace Islam with Christianity), these thoughts/questions/challenges are universally applied. To borrow from `80’s Saturday Mornings PSA’s It’s one to grow on…

Some writers to engage with dialogue with your existence to grow a new church in the collapse (yeah) of Christnedom- John Shelby Spong, Desmond Tutu, Dorothy Day, John Michael Talbot, Leonardo Boff, Matthew Fox, John Paul II, Pope Francis, Murray Bodo, Nikos Kazantzakis, Leo Tolstoy, FyodorDostoevsky, C.S. Lewis, Phyllis Tickle, Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, Thomas Merton, Napoleon Hill, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Eric Butterworth; Henri Nouwen, Diana Butler Bass, Rachel Held Evans, Jay Bakker.

Topics to engage with from the social sciences and belief systesm: Homelessness; Gencoide; Holocaust; Critical Race Theory; Addictions; Social Work; Disabilities; Mental Health; sexuality and gender; feminism; political science; ecology; Truth and Reconciliation

These blocks, and as you explore other writers, thinkers and researchers will open up to you. The dialogue individually, interdependently, communally, and in between communities will create the connections needed for reformation in 2022 and beyond…and yes…it will mean a dissolution of the current denominational segregations…

Are you willing to answer the call for the dialogue?


Writer’s Note:

What you are about to begin is the culmination of a point in time of a journey of helping. This was learned and crafted while doing the work and being in discussion with others-experts, colleagues, and clients. If you wish to know more about my work I direct you to my 2019 memoir, Soul Ripples. It will take you through what it means to be neighbour, what belonging looks like both in yourself and community, have in-services (which is a human services term for learning opportunities) to grow your tool kit to help yourself and others. Oh, and some theology, because there is that intrinsic piece of our existence that we cannot always put into words but when it is experienced it renews us and our world.

Enjoy the journey before you.

Copy Right 2022 Calgary, AB, Canada.

Watch for it….


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!