Posts Tagged ‘Centennial Presbyterian Church’


July 14, 2019

Order of Service

10:30 a.m. Centennial Presbyterian Church (Thank you to Presbyterian Church in Canada for the Liturgical pieces, Children’s time and Sermon are my own)

 

Entry of the Word

Welcome and Announcements

 

Call To Worship

Leader: Let us turn to God with confidence and expectation.

All: In you, O God, we place our trust.

Leader: Let us ask God to show us the road to follow.

All: Lead us, O God, in your truth and teach us your way.

Leader:  Let us seek hope in the Lord who is our salvation.

All: All day long we will put our hope in the God who saves us.

 Time of Praise:

He is Mighty To Save

Fruits of all creation

Open the Eyes of My Heart

 Prayers:

Prayers of Adoration

God of all beginnings, we come before you to praise and adore you.

We stand in awe of all you have created;

the vast expanse of the universe and the tiny beauty of a raindrop

together reflect your glory.

You have blessed creation with life and meaning.

As we marvel at your works,

we praise you for all you do in the world around us.

All praise and glory belong to you, Almighty God.

Prayer of Confession:

God of loving kindness,

Christ called us to love you above all else

and to love our neighbour as ourselves.

Yet so often we forget you

and fail to act in loving ways toward those around us.

We are distracted by our own needs, forgetful of the needs of others.

We lose sight of you in the busyness with which we fill our lives.

Slow us down and center us in you.

Create in us new hearts

so that we can love and live as faithful disciples of Jesus. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon:

Hear the good news! Christ entered the world to free us from all sin.

Through the love of God and the grace of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven!

God calls us to reflect more fully the life of Christ,

So let us forgive one another and be at peace. Amen.

 The Lord’s Prayer

Children’s Time

-Walk with a mirror around for them to look into, and ask, who do you see?

-Ask them to look out at the congregation and ask who do you see?

 Do you want to know a secret? Each and every one of you is an image of God. Jesus wants you to love yourself for the blessed way you are created, just the way you are. Each and every person out there is a blessed creation of God, and Jesus wants us to love them with the same love as ourselves, as a blessed creation just the way they are… and the coolest part of the secret…by doing that…we are loving God with our everything…

Let’s pray…

Hymns

BP 229 – Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love

BP-674There’s a Spirit in the Air

Scripture:

Luke 10:25-37

 Sermon: What’s a Samaritan?

It is a question that has shaped the last 21 years of my ministry, and even before I knew the story and the questions set out in this passage my life. Who is my neighbour? A deeper question to be asked then from this parable is the question of what is a Samaritan, as that is the example Jesus gives.

While reflecting on what to share this morning, the Spirit reminded me of a story from my formation as a monastic, the simple story of Clare of Assisi. It is an ancient story from Easter time around 1228. See, Clare was a formerly wealthy lady who gave up everything to follow a life in Jesus. She had founded an order, the Poor Clares, what we would know as Nuns. As was the custom, Nuns were to stay cloistered, that is within their convent to only do prayer and chores, never to venture into the outside world, and observe rotations of holy silence. Yet, Clare had some issues with that. See, her sisters and her loved the poor. They would go out and ensure they had food, clothing and shelter even if it meant giving whatever they had in the convent, or the local parishes. They loved to sing and dance, spreading joy wherever they went. They got in trouble a lot for not being “Christian” enough. In fact, for those church history buffs, this battle on not being “Christian enough” for Clare and her sisters last 3 popes. That’s the big guy in charge of the church back then. Finally, the third one was at his wit’s end of how dare these women behave in such a manner feeding the poor, singing, dancing, caring for whomever they came across, or knocked upon their door…what a scandalous thing.

He sent out a group of old “holy men” to go upon the convent, and finally end this nonsense and ensure that they either stayed put praying, or were severed from the church forever. These old men knocked upon the door around supper time and were welcomed in by the sisters, who had just returned from doing those things they shant. The sisters apologized for such a sparse larder, but offered a thin soup and some fresh bread to refresh the holy men after their journey. They already started in on the sisters of their foolishness, and unwise use of food and money, and how they should not be going out and putting themselves in danger, don’t they know the uncleanness of “THOSE” people. Clare made some mumblings, when the bread came out of the oven the lead holy man challenged her… “You say the blessing and let’s see what the false God you follow has to say”…

Clare said grace. A light breeze flowed through the room, the old men felt their aches, and pains fade away. On the buns rose crosses that startled them, as a faint voice said, this is Clare and her sisters, my beloved family.

When the old holy men returned to the Pope, he demanded to know if the sisters were properly Christian. The response was simple, they are with Jesus.

This story echoes in my heart when I think of the parable here Jesus has brought us to. For it challenges what is conventionally church.

Luke had a purpose in recording it. The Gospel of Luke is the third gospel in the Christian Testament. Luke, by trade was a physician, he had been disciple in the faith by Paul, who was not an original follower of Jesus in fact the guy liked to kill us before he too heard that voice calling him beloved. Paul worked to form the early church and deal with the hypocrisies, the struggles of the old having to give way to the new for the Holy Spirit to continue flowing, and the pettiness. Luke knew of this all, and was in the midst when he set out to write his Gospel, and its sequel, Acts, to lay out an orderly history of the church. The term Gospel means political statement. The Emperor had one, so Luke, and the early church by choosing that term for the story was laying out what life on this earth was meant to be. Jesus’ followers were disciples, not because he was mentoring and teaching, that was part of it, but they were doing life together in all the good, bad and ugly that means.

Which brings us into this dusty old market place, where the tradesman turned Rabbi, is teaching. It is not traditional classroom learning towards the test, rather it is discussion, debate, questioning and seeing what emerges. It is creating, and discovery. This is after Jesus had just sent out 72 of his disciples two by two, to live out this new way of life in their communities, they had returned sharing the challenges and joys of the mission.

This is where Jesus is challenged:

25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

Fairly straight forward. Jesus lays out the summation of the Hebrew Bible, the holy texts of Israel, what we call our Old Testament. This circle of love of God-Neighbour-Self. Why? A simple Latin term, Imageo Dei, the image of God. Just like our kids taught us, a few minutes ago.

Yet, here was a lawyer who did not get it, for he follows up with a deeper theological question:

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

See, the lawyer, the learned religious guy here wanted the safe “holy answer”. Our neighbour is the one that is like us. The one that acts, lives, probably looks like and worships as we do. The safe answer for Jesus to give. Instead Jesus walks through this story:

30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

We have a chap in distress here. Probably bleeding out. Now we can rationalize this behaviour away through historical context, religious observance, choose the rationalization you want with these two holy people. They were not permitted to interact with non-religious, and they were not supposed to touch those unclean-which means in medical distress, mental health distress, addiction, or dead… so they were being their “HOLY” selves. Jesus is talking to his folks, but he is also reaching forward 2,000 years and speaking to us…what does our “HOLY” selves allow us to rationalize away in behaviours? It may not be a man bleeding out, but we have all heard the turn of phrases “I always sit here” “that’s not how we do it” “the kids are too noisy” “You need to learn our way”; or my personal favourite after 20 years in ministry, “that’s just how the church is deal with it.”

This was Jesus’ response to the tried and true rationalizations, a man in a life and death situation with the religious just being holy.

33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.35 And the next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’

What is a Samaritan? We have done a good thing by making an icon of the Good Samaritan for his compassion and care. Stepping outside the holy, to be present and neighborly. The Samaritans were seen as other, unholy, and even traitorous to the nation of Israel. Samaritans were part of intermarriage during the exile of Israel so they never returned, in fact they made their own nation, and way to Worship and Celebrate God. This person was seen as other, as Non-religious. All those rationalizations we can come up with as church to ensure we still feel righteous; well this was the person they were directed to. In our ancient fable, the Samaritan was Clare. In our current world it can be other denominations, religions, cultures, persons with disabilities, mental health issues, addictions, those not part of our socio-economic class, or or or I am sure the list can go on and on…for we use the rationalizations to prove our holiness to exclude others.

Jesus uses the Samaritan in this story as a philosophical heart challenge:

36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

The lawyer couldn’t name the other, but he still had to point to the act of mercy. The gathered heard that the religious had failed to love the Imageo Dei before them, and it was that they had always been taught was other, had stepped in and lived the Love Commandment.

This is not a passage with easy answers for our own spiritual journey or communal journey. It is designed to remind us of needing to love ourselves, and not let the negative soundtrack life or others try to place on us to bring us down. It reminds us, to not put that on someone else. It also challenges us that what we think is religious and holy, if founded in exclusion is not the Gospel of Jesus that pushed boundaries to draw the circle wide. Found ways to make God accessible, God’s family inclusive, and through the Holy Spirit a courageous safe place for belonging.

As we go forward this week to contemplate this story, take these questions:

  1. When are you or have you been the “Holy Men”?
  2. When are you or have you been “The untouchable”?
  3. When are you or have you been blessed to be “The Samaritan?”

And, how can we be like the one that showed God’s love in its completeness as church?

Offering

Dedication of Offering:

God of Love, Hear our Prayer

Prayers of the People

I am going to open up, and then leave a space for you to silently or verbally say your prayers of celebration, petition, or whatever you feel that you want lifted at this moment…

(a few minutes of silence)…

Closing…

Hymn

BP 373 Jesus Loves Me

Benediction and Choral Commissioning:

Go Now and Pass it on

 

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Image may contain: textBefore we dive in, just a reminder if you are in Calgary on July 12 and looking for something to do…discover the journey of PTSD-PNES at Dalhousie Community Church 6:30-9:00 p.m. contact Kelly at Restore Counselling.

Oh, and YouTube videos will return shortly… But today we are taken to a passage that has more than likely been misused in its time in the Lectionary of Christendom. Christendom for those who don’t know is the term of the Empire Church established by Constantine in 325 CE after conversion and making Christianity the official religion of the Empire, up until the early 1990’s I would say. There has been gasps ala the Quiet Revolution in Quebec to remove Christianity from political power and control, and as we are now 1/5th into the 21st Century the life support is coming off and this heresy is dying. It leaves many questioning what is the point of church? Why bother? It also leaves some who are used to absolute authority to have to wrestle through the new-old normal. That is that church needs to show (not tell, the old writer’s adage) the relevancy of God’s love in the here and now of our community. There is no silver bullet or plug and play program for this, it is authentic relationships, and being like Jesus, and being okay with rejection and moving on in our Missio Dei. 

The Gospel reading from the Lectionary on June 30, 2019, which in Canada was the Sunday we celebrated Canada Day , for my family it was a beautiful road trip out to a small town church where hospitality was felt. This ol’ Dad used to fighting for his son’s right to worship, was, well it was dust in my eyes honest (nope it was tears when I was told it’s okay he is worshiping God his way let him)…So if you are in Vulcan on a Sunday, I encourage you to take in worship at the Church of Christ, oh and the Trek Station (yes the Trekkie in me is strong).

But I digress…let us begin to unpack Luke 9:51-62:

51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. 53 But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”[a] 55 But he turned and rebuked them.[b] 56 And they went on to another village.

-Luke 9:51-56 (English Standard Version)

The Samaritans are the whipping posts of Ancient Israel (for more on Samaritans come out to Centennial Presbyterian July 14 for my sermon, or check out the upload at 9 p.m. that day). They are a people of mixed heritage, from the ancient Israelites’ in exile from the Hebrew Bible prophets who intermarried with the captors and created a new nation. They worship differently, they understand their relationship to God as the same, but different. Jerusalem is not the centre of their story, rather it is Mount Gerizim. In Jesus’ journey of discipling his followers he had to ensure they had been exposed to the expansive religious practices of God’s children and to be equipped as to what to do with rejection.

See, this resonates a little with me on this journey I am currently on. It is showing, he does not bring wrath, he rebukes the refusal of hospitality. The refusal of greeting the Imageo Dei of one another and living out of the Great Commandments. It had nothing to do with how they had chosen to worship. We can create divisions easily in our world, and now with the onset of Social Media and search engine algorithms it has become increasingly easier to avoid any dissenting or different opinions on matters. It is a system that allows for fear and anxiety to grow.

What happens though when we authentically listen to understand rather that to be understood or to respond? When we hear another’s pain, and acknowledge it? We let that be held in the Holy Silence. What happens when we look beyond the labels and the coding put on one another, so that what is seen is that beautiful image we are crafted in? For me it is sad these passages hit the lectionary in the summer months, the time traditionally in Canada when churches shut down their mission, how many will hear these words? Wrestle with this understanding of inclusion and belonging? That it is okay to be different and be together?

Breaking down of labels, conservative or progressive, what about Gospel? Let us jointly call out the hate and bastardization of our faith by others and show the message as it truly is.

 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 And Jesus[c] said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

-Luke 9:57-62 (ESV)

Don’t look back. It is a weird conundrum of the Christendom walk when we speak of testimonies. The story of our faith. We usually focus on the come to Jesus moment, yet here is an allegory reminding us not to fixate upon the past, but to embrace the present and live in the love. The testimony can be a psychological trap never to move out of, but really what it should be is a re-write of this has happened, but then there was a course correction of actualization, realization, and renewal in which I attuned to the Holy Spirit within that breathed life into me.

Love comes alive.

Are we willing to live in the glory of our diversity in our unity? Or like those in the stories today, are we going to allow “difference” and “yearning for the past” to keep us apart?

What is your choice?

________________________________

A stone skipping across a pond leaves ripples with each impact.

The joys and life of traumas are the like the skipping stone through the generations.

Soul Ripples

What happens when the helper needs help?

For over 20 years Ty Ragan served his neighbour from the rough camps to the shelters to home and every where’s in-between. The simple life lesson of Jesus of Nazareth to love your neighbour as yourself was the centre question to be answered in his life. In May 2016 his life would begin to change drastically through unknown seizures and strokes.

Enter into the ripples that brought him to 2016, the transformational power of love of family and friends as he seeks new ripples in hope for his soul. Buy e-book or Trade Paperback from Amazon.ca here.


There comes a time in personal reflection, where you share in gratitude things that happen seripitously. The summer of 2018 was one of those moments, and the time since then. My words from the Presbyterian Connection Summer 2019 edition, go to page 34

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, text

 


 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

 


Presbyterian Connection is the quarterly newspaper of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, that took the place of the defunct Presbyterian Record magazine. As some know, I am a firm believer community does not take a lot of money, what it does take is time PCC_RGB_BurningBushand talents of those who want to make a difference. Multiple generations have been positively impacted in our community by the simple act of a Vacation Bible School from this small congregation. This summer I was able to attend my daughter’s celebration (she has been at everyone since it was revitalized a few years ago) and it struck me that it was time to see if I could remind churches of this simplicity of giving and growing. I sent in a short piece with a picture of my daughter, and it was published in this quarter’s paper (on page 23).

It is simple encouragement, enjoy here: PC_Winter18


It was the flashbacks I truly did not want to relive. A week from hell for me emotionally, mentally and spiritually as the last vestige of healing scar tissue was torn away through neuro events. But it is the struggle to reclaim what is good in the memory, to re-heal. Not just succumb to the darkness of loss. Yet it is hard when you realize how drastically a system failed her, a system that sees nothing wrong in their actions, a system that blamed her child for not bringing her out of the mental illness they calcified in her soul. Her battle with cancer was long with many ups and downs that saw her transition living facilities many times throughout the years. From homestead to lodge to hospital to long-term care. The unfortunate piece of our health care system is no acknowledging the need for holistic care of the individual for cancer is not just physiological—it strips a person emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Therefore, we see defeat, anger, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression and Anxiety. But the system is not designed to continually engage people at appropriate levels, I saw events planned that would hold no interest for anyone regardless of their capacity or health yet the system pushed these out as “social events” to build resiliency. A system where an ill-trained palliative person told my Mum she was dying. That night on the phone was one of the few times I heard my Mum swear with her “No shit Sherlock” comment…but it was the beginning of the downward, for it had made real that which her faith had been fighting against in our many phone talks multiple times a day, or when my family would visit her as often as we could.

But the time she heard the nurse yell at me in the hallway:

“You’re her son, get her to chipper up she’s only dying and has become a depressing person. That’s your job to make her happy and fix it.”

-The Nurse

                The nurse did not appreciate my retort and it is a family blog. But I saw pain in my Mum’s eyes for now she believed she was a burden.

It took a lot to get through the hassles and hoops of institutions from health to religion to get an Anglican priest to spend time with her. After she was broken spiritually and had given up her phone to speak to the outside world. The time of reconciliation when I spoke with her after the visit brought her soul piece. It proves to me that when talk of being palliative happens with patients there needs to be acknowledgement of their spiritual cultural roots and individuals from those roots should be involved in bringing the news, and reading the situation (and many who have known me know that I have been the one to sit and walk during this time). I do believe her outcome may not have changed, but the path there would have been immensely different.

Her last weekend, though, my old life loving Mum resurged, and she had time to play a little, joke and sing a little with her grandkids. Her Leland, had become her pal of comfort on family times and events ensuring his Nana was taken care of by sitting next to her and even with his cerebral palsy getting her things she needed. Her little Princess, was all about the songs and dancing and fancy Nancy times (My Mum would always chuckle how she skinned her chicken nuggets when we would go to McDonald’s). My kids were born after my Mum was diagnosed, but this weekend, this day I know it was the simpler joy of being family that mattered.

Sadly, a few days later my Mum’s journey would transition her to as my daughter always believes, the “great tea party” in Heaven being simply love.  Centennial Presbyterian Church would continue being apart of the life journey of our family (both myself and my daughter are VBS kids, we as a family had been members for a time).

It was the last place my Mum would publicly hear me preach.

“We could always come to your Mum if our family needed food and she had this pantry”

-Neighbour at her Celebration of Life Tea

It is the spiritual place that opened their building to our family. A place I celebrated her life, and yes even in the whispers I heard the hecklers stating I dishonoured, but allowed the majority of those that saw her light shine through drown out. For I knew I had shared everything she told me she wanted in a simple service, before high tea.

“Everything I have heard today makes me wish I could have known this quirky amazing loving lady who was a neighbour and Mum to many”

-Rev. Smith (from Centennial) attending to support my family.

And months later, it would be the last public sermon I would give in 2014 doing pulpit supply. I stood in the pulpit I had celebrated my Mum’s life, next to the altar that had bore her ashes. Knowing she would never be able to hear me again. Sit in the pew with that smile.

Do I miss preaching?

Yes. I have had opportunities to speak, but no pulpits have called since…perhaps one day one will again.

“One day a church will be brave enough to call you. When that happens, I will join and be there every Sunday to support you and your family.”

My Mum, on the many trials of churches I had traveled through

Playlist:

Paul Brandt’s Jesus Loves Me

Brad Paisley’s Me and Jesus

Paul Brandt’s Amazing Grace

End Notes:

  • I want to acknowledge and honour her family (blood and chosen (close friends)) that continued the journey with her, my Dad who was the hardest working, and loving husband and Dad during this time.
  • My Mum gave me an old King James Bible when I returned to church at 19 years old and began teaching Sunday School. She also bought me the bible I took with me and wore out in my years at Bible College. Growing up each summer until we aged out, she would register me for the Vacation Bible School at Centennial Presbyterian Church, she would always encourage a simple belief in God is love, and to do good things.
  • I did attempt to file complaints and advocate for better mental health care in rural Alberta at the time, but AHS and the Health Ministry under our previous government would not respond.
  • There was nothing nefarious on the timing of my last pulpit supply, I have been booked for speaking, teaching, and life celebrations since, but no pulpits have opened.
  • Mum memorial 

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

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

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

3) St. Mark’s Roman Catholic Church

2) Centennial Presbyterian Church

1) Robert McClure United Church

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