Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category

Smell #Cold

Posted: February 17, 2019 by Ty in Spirituality

It has a smell,

many do not realize it

or feel it

whether dry or wet

cold has a smell.

Whether you are home,

or awaiting a mat in shelter

huddled under a bridge,

hoping someone will bring a blanket or a coffee

not to be rousted by the cops

There’s a smell

as you numb soul pain,

melting dumpster fines

records and polish

liqour pours off to drink

numbing becomes hallucinations

Cold no longer in mind

but the body freeze burns

Overdoses

seize

fight

hug

love

outreach worker’s loving hand

warm clothes

number called

safe standing room only in sanctuary

different smells of many seeking

LIFE

the smell of cold

left outside.

 

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The Spirituality of Starman

Posted: February 12, 2019 by Ty in Spirituality

What makes a hero? What makes a person? These are themes of two well thought out comic book series of the 1980’s and 1990’s. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman takes Dream of the Endless through a journey of freedom, endings, and new beginnings. Yet it is a legacy character of another stripe we are touching upon. It is a Gardener Fox creation, Starman. Originally the scientist, Ted Knight, it would go on to eventually become the mantle of his sons. In the in between time when the Justice Society of American would vanish into Limbo, there would be a short lived Starman of 1951, and then Mikaal Thomas, a blue alien of the disco scene. In the 1980’s a Will Payton would be given super-powers and become the Starman of the era, sacrificing his life to stop Eclipso from taking over the world. During his tenure, David Knight, eldest son of Ted, would take up the mantle while under the control of the Mist to attempt to wrest it back. All these characters would come to feature in the planned out story arc of the reluctant antiques dealer turned hero that James Robinson would weave.

Introduced in Zero Hour Crisis in Time, Jack would emerge as the hero in Starman #0. An assassin’s, bullet had taken his brother’s life on David’s first patrol. Making a deal with Ted, Jack agreed to do the hero thing when needed if Ted would pursue his science to better the world. A supporting cast that included circus misfits, fortune tellers, a family of cops, and a villain who may or may not now be on the side of angels in The Shade. Jack would defend Opal City against unique villains and have the hero’s journey as imagined for the reluctant hero.

Why do I call it a spiritual journey? A path was laid out with his name as a child, Jack, a hero’s name his Dad called it. Jack in his rebellion had re-written family history in that it was his brother that wanted to be the hero, but that was wrong. It was about coming into his own, living into his destiny, and discovering the balance of life. To a pilgrimage to the stars to discover that life can begin again, to new life, and old life falling away.

Jack transitioned from young adult hood to adult hood, embracing that which he loved, releasing that which no longer served him. It was not a pseudo-new beginning of the same old dance with new names and partners, rather Jack had struck a whole new dance with new partners, new ways and paths.

For is that not what the journey of life is about? Knowing when something new is to come into being, and fully entering into it when it is for the best?

Releasing that which no longer serves us, so that we have soul space for that which grows us.


If you are involved in the medical or scientific world there is always a question that must resonate with your work. How much of our knowledge has come from unethical practices? Human experimentation with thinks like Milgram’s prison experiment, or Nazi experiments on those the Third Reich viewed as deficient- persons with disabilities, LGBTTQ2+, mentally ill, multiple births (twins, triplets, etc, as it gave the experimenter a control subject).

This is the ethical dillema Star Trek: Voyager explored in their Season 5 episode, “Nothing Human“. A hazardous first contact as an errand of mercy creates a unique and dual life threatening situation. Rescuing a species they cannot understand the language of, that is injured, flies its vessels through secretions. The cytoplasmic life form in a panic to save its life in sick bay it attaches itself to Lt. B’Elanna Torres, integrating itself into her system. The Doctor is stumped on how to separate them. Working with Ensign Kim, he creates another emergency holograph medical officer, this one an expert in exo-biology, a Dr. Crell Moset. A Cardassian. Torres refuses treatment by this hologram as he is Cardassian, Ensign Tobin, a Bajoran when he realizes who it is points out that this man was not a hero saving lives during the occupation as Cardassia had celebrated the doctor. Rather, he performed torturous experiments on those he saw as deficient to save those he saw as worthy within the occupied.

The Doctor as chief medical office is left to decide to move forward with the live saving surgery for both B’Elanna and the new alien, or to follow through on B’Elanna’s wished and both will die?

What do you do with the information? The source is unethical, but it is needed in the now? Do you delete it and try to figure it out from scratch? Or do you build on what came through horrendous events so the deaths were not in vain?

That is the quandary the Doctor and Captain Janeway were left to move forward.

How would you decide? and why?


It is funny as my church’s minister starts a series on the Lord’s Prayer, and we celebrated new life in community through Communion that these thoughts tumble through my heart.

That’s life as the old song goes. It creates this idea around mental health to suck it up or buck up and carry on. Sometimes it works, sometimes it malingers and tears you down. In spiritual circles we shift to the pray/meditate about it. This idea that it only exists because we are somehow not holy enough or lack faith. It is the heresy of our times.

Life is a journey. We truly do not have much control over what happens to us, but we have control over response, and when we do not, as in the case of mental health, we have the decision to seek aid or not. The title of this post is a take off on two things that hit me this week, one was a Brad Paisley song, Noand the other was a find in the Red Deer Scott’s Parables. We had gone up to Red Deer for my son’s 13th b-day to the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame, and stopped by the shop for him to get some Veggie Tales, that he oh so loves. On the racks I found Kerri Rawson’s (daughter of the BTK Killer) memoir, A Serial Killer’s Daughter: My Sotry of Hope, Love and Overcoming. 

The song speaks of prayer. Whether you are one to mull, contemplate, meditate, pray in the traditional or the affirmative sense the song rings with truth. It is that all prayers are answered, even when it is no. It walks through a young man’s loss of his grandfather and other prayers that got the big N-O and what the outcome of that was. It is a reminder, that there are times when we have yet to grow into our journey. For any answer, is an answer in the journey of life.

This song wrung in my ears as I read Rawson’s memoir. Her prayer for her adult life was a calm normal life. Then on February 25, 2005 it all changed when the FBI arrived at her front door saying they had arrested her father, Dennis Rader for the BTK serial murders. BTK stands for Bind, Torture, Kill. The killer had terrorized and taunted Wichita, Kansas for over three decades, with her father’s confessions he was found guilty of 10 murders (8 adults, 2 children), 7 families of victims. The memoir is a journey through the 8th family of victims. His own. He was a eccentric, sometimes abusive in the home, but he was a loving and caring father. He was the president of their church, and a Scout Leader. The journey is Rawson’s of faith, and transformation as she understands what the No to the prayer of her life was bringing her into and through. The shedding of the old skin, the family life growing up her Dad had been quoted as calling social contacts and pawns in his game; into her new life as wife and mother, and healing(ed) daughter.

It is the journey of discovery and challenge for me in the last few years. No, my father was not a serial killer. But in the healing process it is the No answer to many methods and spiritual practices that I had used to keep myself healthy in the journey. In the work of helping. When Mr. Roger’s would say in the dark times look for those who are the helpers, and you will see hope. I had the honour of being one, and serving with many. That crashed down in 2017 after months of mystery from 2016.

It is a journey of discovering the new-true you on the other end. Shedding the old damaged skin, and knowing what lies ahead. Denying the No’s from prayer, because that was obviously not meant to be so why hold fast to it. Stepping into and affirming the maybe’s and the yes’s. It is about resting. Resting in the silence of the Holy Mystery’s love.

Sometimes, the hardest part is admitting one needs help. The second hardest will be the patience to wait for that help to materialize. It is a journey, there is a shimmer of light, now what one has to ask is simply,

what new book of life awaits?

 


Related imageThe Heroes in Crisis mini series has been excellent. Well paced with the super hero action, and the crime mystery noir feel of mystery to it. Who invaded Sanctuary? Who did the spree killing? Who removed the safe space for heroes to heal? These are the underlying questions.

But then the questions erupt even more as the mysterious Puddler has leaked the story to the media of Sanctuary. Lois Lane can only sit on the story for so long, and as issue 4 came to a close, it was revealed the story was going out.

This is the opening to issue 5. As Booster Gold and Harley Quinn, partnered with Blue Beetle and Bat-girl respectively seek out answers. Flash and Batman deep dive into this weird mystery.

Superman and Wonder Woman address the press. It is a timely tale within the week of Belle’s Let’s Talk, a social media initiative to remove stigma of mental health. It reveals that there is much more needed than simply social media awareness raising. It is a concerted effort by governments around the world to appropriately fund mental health care equally, and as part of universal health care. It is understanding what is happening, that it is shifting how one experiences the world. It takes courage to live differently, but it also takes courage to understand when one needs help, to seek that help out and to heal.

This is what Superman addresses to the world. The fear that they human citizens are feeling knowing that metas are struggling with trauma, and PTSD. The thoughts of someone that can level cities now being afflicted with what has been mistaken for violence trigger. It is a key piece of Superman’s press conference, and something everyone needs to understand with any first respondents, front line workers:

“The nightmares, the nightmares they will forever endure. Yes Sanctuary exists. It exists to help these heroes recover from this pain, to help them recognize themselves under these scars, to help them wake from these nightmares. But its existence, it should not scare you. On the contrary it should comfort you. This suffering, is needed for healing. It is not the mark of a madman. It is the wound of a warrior. It’s a sign. A sign of their love…”

-Superman, Heroes in Crisis #5

Will you live in fear of the unknown, or know that by someone opening up they will discover whey they are under the scars, and discover love of life once more.

 


 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) 

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