Posts Tagged ‘Belonging’


It is time for Albertans to take a long hard look in the mirror and ask if we like the soul that is being reflected back at us during this campaign of hate and power grabs. The stories of vandalized candidate signs covered in misogyny, death threats, white supremacist b.s. and swastikas is but an outward sign of what we have allowed to be moved into the light as acceptable. At the least this is vandalism of property, at the most it is hate crimes and the miscreants need to be found and tried as such.

Then there is Kenney-gate’s Kamikazee candidate taking in such things as fraud, identity theft and the possibility of money laundering. Add to that the candidates going down to being revealed as anti-semites, or alt-righters. A pastor running in Calgary Mountain View, and no it is not his horrible exegesis of the passages on wives that is the issue but his support of the barbarity of conversion therapy, and another stating that wives need to give their husbands sex full stop (wtf which year are we in?)…and don’t get me started on the minimum wage arguments put forward by the party citing those with lower social capital should be paid a lower minimum wage (youth, persons with disabilities) or their virulent hate towards outing students. Or wait…veiled stand your ground laws being brought into Alberta. There are a few folks running for the United Conservative Party I know, but cannot endorse them due to the banner they are running under to them contravening the highway act and changing a safety road sign for truck clearance so it did not read 6.9. For the UCP Platform read here.

Yet there is hope Alberta. There is debate of actual things that help us coming forward. There is the Day Care funding debate, NDP stating $25/day and the Alberta Party with a well costed and thought out (oh and what I have always advocated, tax incentives for families with stay at home caregivers/parents) Read here.

For the rest of the Alberta Party platform read here.  They also have 87/87 candidates nominated and out working for support of constituents. They have strong candidates, Lana Bentley in Calgary Acadia who has been working to make the world better, and Gar Gar in Calgary East who is working to give a future to our youth, and engages them to discover how best to build community and grow hope (just ask my daughter, Justina).

If Rachel Notley has been dubbed the Lougheed Legacy, I would put the Alberta Liberals as the inheritors of the Woodsworth-Douglas legacy for amazing progressive support for citizens back stopped by sound fiscal details: Electoral Reform, Proper support for Universal Health Care; Proper support for Public Education, Gender pay equity; Read Platform here.  Oh and they have strong representation from across Alberta’s communities, including this amazing living the experience advocate Leah McRorie (read here). As well, their Leader David Khan is a man with a servant heart, wisdom and compassion. As I had tweeted earlier, I still remember him at a candidates forum showing up early, answering questions, spending time, helping with the lunch and clean up (yes, Calgary Mountain View, keep your riding Liberal!)

The Green Party of Alberta is a Red Tory-Red Grit party to use old time vernacular for you policy wonks. Following suit from encouragement from the PEI Greens they are expanding the discussion beyond just Environmental platform planks, and are well worth a look for other ideas. They are also the first party out of the gates to raise the idea of Universal Basic Income in Alberta. Read their platform here.

To the far left there is five Community Party of Alberta candidates. Here is there platform (or as they call it Program).

For those who say they staunchly are Conservative (big or small C) and will not support anything from the centre governing party New Democrats (their platform here), here are the other parties in the Provincial election and their platforms (just click on platform for the link if there is one).

Progressive Conservative Party- Still registered, but ran by UCP. No platform.

Wildrose Party-Still registered, but ran by UCP. No platform.

Alberta Advantage Party (Members of Wildrose who did not join UCP) platform

Alberta Independence Party Platform.

Freedom Conservative Party of Alberta (they were renamed from the pre-existing Western Freedom Party on April 23, 2018) Platform.

Pro-Life Political Association (Renamed from the Social Credit Party May 3, 2017). . . No platform.

Reform Party of Alberta Platform.

For all candidates running for all parties, and as independents, as well as for everything you need to know for April 16, 2019 vote day check out Alberta Elections.

It is 2019. Nazism and hate has seen a strong resurgence in our Province. Divisiveness, and mudslinging is what some are attempting to make the new norm. But there is hope. It is not a two horse race, a choice between NDP and UCP as both our governing and opposition party want you to believe. As you can see there is many choices. Many folks running to represent their neighbours in the Legislature in our capital city, Edmonton.

Take time to get to know the parties, figure out which parties resonate or independents. Then get to know the candidates. Go to the forums/debates. For me, if someone doesn’t turn up that says they want to represent me, it sends the strong message of how they will be in government– more of a lackey for the fearless leader, not a voice for the citizens. Even if they were on my list, they are not there, they are struck off.

Get a real feel if they are a person that has convictions in their beliefs, will they take a stand. I may not truck with Derek Fildebrandt’s political beliefs, but during the bubble zone debates while our official opposition was en-masse running out of the Legislature, he stuck around and spoke out for what his thoughts and amendments were. He earned some respect from me that day, for he did the job he was elected to do. Same as when Robyn Luff left the governing party and cited bullying concerns, and the 2 MLAs in her party found guilty of sexual inappropriateness but were never named. It took guts.

It takes guts to run for office, your life becomes an open book.

This election has become too ugly. We need to move out of the gutter, and back to the soap box.

What are the ideas? Why do you think you should represent us? How will you bring Peace, Order and Good Governance for ALL CITIZENS. It is time to pull the power plug on the resurgent hate. It is time to not hold our noses and vote for “the lesser of evils”. No, end that nonsense. It is time to stop accepting management in place of leadership.

It is time to vote HOPE. VOTE vision. Vote Leadership.

Vote for who you believe the best person is for your representative.

Oh and did I mention…Vote on April 16, 2019.

The only split vote, or vote not counted is…

the one not cast.

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 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

 


What is Corinth? It is a renewed Greek city as a Roman Colony that was colonized by Roman Citizens made up of Freedman and Veterans. Around 51-52 CE Paul and company visited, and a gathering of the Way grew. By somewhere between 53-57 CE Paul had received some letters asking for guidance from the local leaders, and some of the gossip of what was going down had reached him.

Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

-Epistle of 1 Corinthians 1:1-3 (English Standard Version)

 Corinth’s gathering, like any one of the era did not happen in isolation. It was a mega-economy for the Empire, the big money maker. It also had worship communities around the Roman Pantheons (which were essentially the Emperor plus any other gods). The three main gods of worship were Poseidon, Corinth’s Patron God (obviously as a coastal city); Demeter, goddess of earth fertility and the harvest, her daughter Persephone is a wee bit more famous due to the kidnapping and marriage to Hades that kicked off the seasons. Finally, Aphrodite, the goddess of love, her spiraling temple could be seen from the coast, rumour had it there was always a 1000 “priestess’” within to service the faithful (yes you read that right). Aphrodite worship was akin to ancient Babylonian/Assyrian temple worship that created the sexual laws of Leviticus upon the return from Exile for the Jews. For the unknown reader, the practice of salvation/communion/prayer is essentially showing up and intercourse with whomever is there (in the short hand). One Bible college prof made the joke that is why Corinthian Leather is used for such, he did not like a smart mouthed Bible College student-pastor (me) asking how such a “pure professor” knew of such things in sex shops.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

-Epistle of 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 (English Standard Version)

Remember the shift to the Way was not simple act. Where Judaism had a history, and the religious authorities and the Herod family had created a false-harmony of existence within the Emperor Cult, and they were an old enough religion to be accepted, the Way was new. It was still apart of synagogues, but you needed synagogues to attach to in this time (pre-85 CE expulsion). Otherwise it was a seditious belief system that was the antithesis of the Empire. A religion founded on hope, faith, joy, peace and love of neighbour, not exactly a war mongering power hungry bunch. Then there was rumours about cannibalism around Communion, and the complete loss of aiding those who had less and treating them as equals. Creating distrusts economically that sidelined many in businesses, and dependent on the family structures shaming.

I appeal to you, brothers,[a] by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

-Epistle of 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 (English Standard Version)

My way of religion is better than yours. We used the right magic words. An age old debate that goes back to ancient times of war, whose god is more powerful or today on the playground- my parent can beat up your parent. Or into the realm of denominations in a multiplicity of religions- focusing on the minute that separates rather than the core that unites all. Paul calls the gathering out, they are all each have in this situation and as such need to focus on what unites. Yes, there is beauty in the diversity of the body of Christ. It needs to be diverse, time, talent and treasures of each person and each denomination brings forth something new. It is knowing where you rest, knowing what you believe, and knowing why you move forward.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach[b] to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards,[c] not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being[d] might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him[e] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

-Epistle of 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (English Standard Version)

What a reminder. You were the cast aways, the one the world looked down upon. You found home and love here. Why are you taking that feeling of belonging away from others?

It is about that.

Belonging.

That is where the root of the Corinthian correspondence begins. Paul is writing to get a gathering back on track so it can be the courageous safe place for that society deems not valid.

Do you remember a time when you lost a place of belonging?

What caused it?

What would have corrected it?

 

 

 


Much of my soul work throughout my life has been exorcising an abhorrent SIN from the amazing work of the gospel found in the Monastic Orders (Franciscan, Basillian, Jesuit) and Social Gospels that have formed me. That unnamed SIN (that is denigration of the Creator’s image, and Holy Breath of life in each of us) is EUGENICS. I wrote a response letter to the national magazine of the United Church of Canada. First hand I have witnessed, and taken the brunt of the active ableism and passive eugenics thought still existing in the institution. This has what was published (and they could not even spell my name right) and following is what was submitted…you can judge if the essence was captured or something missed:

Published September 2018:

IMG_2599

IMG_2600

 

Submitted June 2018 via e-mail:
I must say that Rev. Cantwell is right, the UCC (and Christianities in general) have a lot more listening to do. well it is admirable to touch on the much needed work of reconciliation through TRC and affirming ministries there is still a piece of our history we allow to passively exist.
EUGENICS.
More colloquially known in its form today as “Ableism”. It is the belief that Persons with Disabilities (speical needs, differently abled, let the person let you know how they identify) are “less than human”. It is the dark shadow side of the Social Gospel movement that spurred such good societal change such as suffrage, human rights, labour rights, etc. It is the idea because we view them as less than it is okay to hide our neighbour away in institutions, remain silent on their #metoo, do not allow health sexuality to be discussed, in our very recent history in Canada still forcibly sterilized, and encourage aborting. It is also why there is an undercurrent within congregations where they feel it is okay to passively inform families you do not belong here, we do not want you here, we cannot handle your care.
We want to hold onto the justice roots of our historic social gospel, yet we fail to realize to do that means truth about our eugenics history, exorcising our continued ableism (see the call for ending plastic straws not knowing you are calling for ending some with disabilities- ability to drink), and reconciling to move forward as ONE children of God in the blessed rainbow (to paraphrase Desmond Tutu).
it means bringing a new lens to the old, old story. It is not reading a healing miracle as showing a “less than” ableist frame. It is seeing the miracle for the only way belonging could happen: removing of the barriers of society’s imposed cast system. It is what we need to do now. We need to look to the friends in Mark that found a way- even it meant tearing out the roof, so their friend could belong. We must look to what authentic and true belonging looks like. What needs to happen physically is simply one step. Token inclusion does not solve it. it is engaging in conversation, learning, and authentic apologizing.
It is truly understanding Brother Jesus’ statement about the person with disability being there for the glory of God, that is the one pointing the finger going “what is wrong with him?” being pointed out as the one with the issue, for they hate the image of God. The image the holy breath was breathed into on Day 6 and called Holy…in all forms.
So yes it is time to do deeper listening, but also to act to burn down the house of exclusion and fear. To fully admit the atrocity of our past, and to  become the ally for our neighbour we are called to be. It is time to truly understand that we are all different, and all holy. Is your congregation ready to shatter the barriers/traditions that continue the idea any child of God is less than?
Shalom & Namaste,

Dr. Ty Ragan
(Ended discernment for ministry almost 8 yrs ago over ableism in church)

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Azeem and child discussing diversity.  Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

It was my summer of Writerific, I was 12 years old and with other young writers discovering our voices, strengthening our ability to tell stories…and yes part of that was moving into areas that some would deem controversial. It was also the summer I first picked up A Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. It was the summer as well, with Robin Hood, and this great exchange between Azeem, a Moor from the Holy Land who stood with Robin Hood, and a child, who simply asks about that which she had never seen. It is a simple scene, some may never remember it, yet it is one that teaches so much about dignity and respect in a world of belonging. It teaches, curiosity is never wrong. Conversation is never wrong. Oh, and when one has a question, ask as politely as you can to the one you have the question of.

This is our mission this year (and every year) to raise the level of discourse and dignity within the community of super heroes my son is apart of. The most offensive thing (well maybe not the most, but on the royally ticking off scale) is being out and about, and a parent shuffling their child by saying don’t stare. Let your kid come up and chat with my son, he will be his loving self… Oh and adults…you have questions…don’t bypass my son and speak to us, start talking to him first.

Other pro-tips for the professional and non-professional out there to bring better dignity to our world:

  1. It is “What’s wrong with him?” rather it is, what does he use a wheel chair? What does that gesture mean? or like the child, why did God sculpt him this way?
  2. Anyone with a pulse knows (or should by now) that the R-word is as atrocious as any racial slur…regardless of how you try to use it and needs to cease. The challenge is many do not understand the root of “handicap”. Much legislation and language needs to be updated to speak of accessibility or universal design/barrier free instead of this word. Historically it was the term for those with disabilities, as they were on the lower socio-economic spectrum (poverty class) and would come cap in hand for alms. So much like in the Franciscan tradition when the term Mendicant was tossed at those monastics as a slur, so handicaps root is such…it means beggar, less than, outcast. Words matter in reclaiming dignity and belonging.
  3. Ableism is what happens without dignity (at its worst is Eugenics). The plastic straw ban is ableist, and how the religious and spiritual jumped on board to support shows their lack of understanding around the issue (please see other posts on this topic)… not only the life giving of the plastic straw for some with disabilities, but when the United Church Observer online finally after months of debating their editors changes from “plastic straws evil” to “plastic straws should be available for anyone via a fee” finally a strong stance, but one that does not understand the socio-economic history of persons with disabilities, and goes back to a misreading of the gospel from a spectrum of theology that sees less than, not full belonging (we shall see if they print my challenge to them this coming September).
  4. Diapers!!! ARGH!!! The most indignity we present to persons who are differently abled. Unless you are a newborn or a toddler, it s not a diaper or a nappy. They are undergarments that happen to have incontinence protection. Underwear. (YES CBE AND MEDICAL COMMUNITY AND ALBERTA GOVERNMENT LOOKING AT YOU!!!), the simple things make life livable, do you go around telling people oh I am going to wipe my butt now? Or hey I just left skid marks in my boxers? NO. Why assume we can treat someone else that way.
  5. Grief. Yes it is a scary world for those our society deems “typical”. We like to code to prove cognition and whether or not someone comprehends “death and grieving” for if they qualify for “counselling”. Let’s keep it real (again Alberta Education and Alberta Health looking at you, but also the Church)… at any level any child or person knows when someone was in their life and gone. They cycle through missing them, whether or not they have the ability to vocalize or communicate it in such a way that we understand. It is not on them to enter our world to heal, it is on us as their neighbour to enter their world  This is where the church women’s group from the movie Lars and the Real Girl got it right, it is about just simply being, and yes sometimes it is in the silence.
  6. Do not live in the grief/shame or inflict it upon us. That is to the world in general, and to the family unit. We are given a narrative of what a child’s life is to be. Then when something changes that narrative we are put in this place where if we choose to move out of grief/shame or the “you’re a hero for doing this” or the “it takes a special kind of person” narrative then we are ungrateful. NO! We choose to stand in the beauty of the life before us. Yes, we truly believe this is part of the rainbow of life, the beautiful image of the Holy Mystery. Everyone is who they are meant to be, and they will achieve vocational life and wholeness because we come around as community in love and belonging. The grief/shame is perpetuated when our world stops at only accessibility or inclusion.
  7. yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

    1. -James 4:14 (English Standard Version)
    2. As the words of the brother of Jesus- James, Bishop of Jerusalem, the man who was because of the love of his Mother, Mary of Nazareth, says it directly. In our world we too often let the labels, the coding, the diagnosis become the prognosis or script for life. It is time to shatter the glass ceiling for everyone in our world, and to simply know that each and everyone of us belongs. That, and the life that appears and is lived is shaped within the community from those who are blood and chosen family to broader neighbours. Are we willing to live life with out barriers?
  8. Oh, and if we are not a service being paid for out of pocket by the government or ourselves, it is not something “FOR”… if you are an elective community group (community association, church, sports leagues, etc), you are doing things “with” the person. For they are a part of the community, and as such are a full member, who like any member just needs different things to belong. Hell, even if there is a pay… the activities better be WITH, as everyone’s communication (voice however it is found) and life has value and worth…as such, deserves dignity. (Special shout out to the Presbyterian Church in Canada for using “with” language in your justice documents for persons with disabilities, and acknowledging the poverty and socio-economic disparity that exists in the community)

These are but a few ways to show love to your neighbour, and yourself. These are but a few ways to understand the answer to the child’s question to Azeem.

Better yet, look at yourself in the mirror. And simply let the inner-child ask you the question:

Did God paint you?

How does your inner Azeem answer?

Now be with your world, as the child, and as the answer.


Star Trek Enterprise is an easily overlooked piece of the Trek-Mythos. It is the adventures of the NX-01 crew setting out in the first warp 5 ship to explore the galaxy. It begins with returning a Klingon home, has temporal cold wars, Xindi, Romulans, Orions, many new adventures and learning. It also sets the stage for the United Federation of Planets of Humans, Andorians, Tellarites and Vulcans to begin with (an atrocious series finale shared this scene, where a beloved main character’s life was tossed away in the dumbest way possible, Trip you deserved better).

“What’s the meaning of this delay, Jon? I’ve been patient. I’ve put up with your refusal to abandon this absurd proposal even after all the revelations. I agreed to go through the whole blasted debate one more time before the Council. I’m not going to stand for anymore delaying. . .” He (Shrand) trailed off, then took a step closer, studying Archer’s face. “Jon, what is it? You look like your best friend just died.”

Bennett (2017) Patterns of Interference p. 349-350.

It is the story of discovering how one belongs within the wider scope of the universe. First by discovering who you truly are, and what intrinsically is you. It is the quirky adventures of many streams of human (and a Vulcan and Denobulan) life coming together to live and learn together. At its core is the story of Captain Jonathan Archer as he learns who he is, and how to navigate the universe, and carry on his father’s legacy who was the driving force of the warp 5 project. As is shared in many shows, and novels, belonging is not about melting into another’s way of being, but respecting who they are, and their culture is and finding the intersections of connectedness for inclusion.

Which brings us to Christopher L. Bennett’s Rise of the Federation series under the Enterprise banner. A series of novels that share how the Federation grew from infancy, to where it is at the beginning of the original series. In Patterns of Interference (2017) we have the kernels of a great Star Trek story. Continuation of the journey of core characters; some drama; some mystery; first contact; intrigue and rooting out of possible evil (don’t want to give too much of the main plot away as I encourage you to read it). But in the sub-narrative there is a story of change, and grieving.

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Porthos, boldly went where no Beagle had gone before.

In the ancient story of Tobit there is a throw away line, and the dog went with. The NX-01 embraced this, as Archer’s puppy, Porthos, the fearless space adventuring beagle and lover of cheese went with (and was part of many first contacts). Fifteen years on Porthos is closing in on 18 years old (though with tech could live longer)… he is no longer able to enjoy his cheese. He enjoys his friend Jon, at the end of the day sitting with him, as the inevitable closes in.

The sub-plot is one of those meta-narratives for our Image result for Star Trek Enterprise Commander Shrantimes. For Archer, now Admiral Archer, struggles with the time he needs to spend with his longest companion at life’s end and the demand of the “work”. Especially at this time as the Council is debating his motion around non-interference. Where Shrand comes near the end. Shrand has been Archer’s frenemy for quite a while, having met and tortured him in a Vulcan-spy-monastery; and many adventures in between. Affectionately dubbing Archer, “Pink Skin”. A tough warrior, without much compassion, but lots of passion for striking first and asking questions later. The inverse of Archer, whose space faring has made him wanting to monitor and ask questions first before acting. Foils of debate.

Yet, as the quote above notes, Shrand, notes something is off with Jon when he tries to get him to the debate Archer wanted. Yet Archer had just received the news it was time for Porthos to pass. How could he rationalize to the Council not showing up at this time? How could he rationalize as some would say the life of a dog over this important matter?

What/who is important in your life?

Archer discloses this to Shrand. His inner struggle on the unfairness not to go through despite what is happening with Porthos. Shrand’s response on p. 251:

“To hell with the Council, Jon. And to hell with me. Go. Your companion beast should not leave this world alone.”

Archer attempts to protest and Shrand brings him up short again, with Archer’s own heart.

“The fate of the worlds can wait. You have a friend who needs you.”

Image result for Captain ArcherNot hyperbole from the Andorian Admiral, though, we sometimes overemphasize the task before us when emotional time is needed. When a friend is in need. We can have a million to do’s on our list, and easily rationalize not being there. That is when the voice of our true heart needs to ring through. That which we can tend to so easily close off, unless it is from a trusted source or, in this case a surprise source.

“Just go be with Porthos.” Walking with Archer towards the exit, he spoke again, hesitantly. “I don’t suppose. . . that is, I know how hard it can be to say goodbye. If you. . . need me to come with you, lend additional support. . .”

“That. . .would be very much appreciated,” Archer said with a bittersweet smile. “Thank you– my friend.” (p.352).

It is the closing scene of the book, but the one that is the most telling. Two people who have been at odds, worked together. Done things to aid one another. Never truly realizing what they were to one another, until a situation arose that pushed them out of their usual roles. A passing of a companion, made each realize what the world would be like without Porthos, but also at some level without the other.

Being missed. The piece of belonging. The piece of authentic friendship, being there in the dark, not just the light. In the quiet, not just the action. In the tears, not just the cheers.

We can hide from many things in our lives. Create layers of dissonance through keeping ourselves busy, so we never have to look at our true selves, or feel pain. This is true. I wish I could share the full 3 page scene with you, as my wife read it she teared a little at the power but also because as she said, who knew Shrand had a heart.

That is true. Who in life is your Shrand?

How do we know who our friends are?

How do we know what we value in life?

Who/what is important in your life? Does your choice of time use reflect this?

Beyond all labels and values- –

how do you know when you belong?

In your own heart, and the heart of others.

 

 

Awaiting Inspiration

Posted: August 18, 2018 by Ty in Belonging Pyramid
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Me: “no matter where you are in your lifespan, there is always a (re)new call (passion) awaiting your answer.” (From Facebook convo on my article Renewing the Life(span) 08/18/2016

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40th b-day gifts from wife & kids– awaiting inspiration.

Belonging is hard. It is like trying to figure out how to make friends when you no longer have the diversified/randomized table groupings of elementary school– before the cliques of higher grades take over. Cliques that continue into adulthood whether we want to acknowledge them or not. Just look at most of your social groupings whether religious, community or other are very homogeneous because moving outside of the comfortable norm leaves us in the discomfort of not knowing.

I am an abnormality in my world. I am raising my children in the home I was brought home to as a baby. My daughter, attends the Vacation Bible School I attended in grade school. Our neighbours who are still around who would watch out for the Ragan boys, still have a Ragan boy in my son to keep their eyes out for. Many look at me weird when they hear I am from North East Calgary. I am blessed to be apart of this mosaic. We are the most diverse communities in the Properties culturally, ethnically, gender-sexual identity, abilities, religiously and economically most likely in Alberta and one of them within Canada. Yes, the beauty that is Canada, our welcoming and Just Society, is just outside my doors. My kids get to live the world within a few blocks and I wouldn’t have it any other way (heck our Canada Day BBQ is thrown by the largest Mosque in North America, I was blessed to be there when the foundation stone was laid).

What does this have to do with belonging you ask? It is a good question. Accessibility of life is about physicality of space. Inclusion is just simply we are allowed to exist. Authentic belonging, well that is hard. It is, simply put, knowing who you are, who your neighbour is… and not letting it be a barrier (and authentically missing that neighbour when they are gone).

Within scope of my ministry work some examples this was seen in the church/non-church member; those with disabilities or mental health concerns. Within my non-profit work it was experienced in some instances as aiding those leaving sexual exploitation/trafficking as a child, stepping out of addiction in to healing, our Veterans, refugees, temporary foreign workers, those case out from their families, those who could not make ends meet or are escaping violence in all its forms. Better understood as simply becoming who one is meant to be. In some instances of community building it was helping residents of buildings move beyond concept of affordable vs. market rent payers to be simply, neighbours. Many self created barriers on many levels to keep us separated. The barrier is comfort. The clique is stability.

Too often that is what happens. We travel in the same circles, even in the mosaic. Not realizing that there are intersections, where we are neighbour. Where each of us can learn and discover from one another. Where we can laugh, share life, extend our hands in welcome. Where diversity is our strength, because we do not see it as a barrier, but as many ways to ensure everyone is brought along on the journey.

One could say I dislike change by sharing the story of where I live. This may be, or perhaps it is simply where we are meant to be for this season until the next move. What the quote in the conversation above was tying into from a rather convoluted article before. It is about realizing within our life and life circumstances there is always something awaiting for us to answer.

As I challenged previously about responding to your passion.

Today I ask: What does it take to create belonging within your community?

Are you willing to risk belonging?

A P.S. on simplicity and belonging from the Washington Post (as well as answering one’s call in different seasons of life). Read here.