Posts Tagged ‘Faith’


What follows is an installment publishing (like old newspaper pulps) of the next steps of the journey began in Soul Ripples, upon completion of the journey these installments will be collected into a free e-book on the site. A companion volume to Soul Ripples. A pilgrimage of belonging and into the heart of the Sacred.

Dedicated to

My best friend & soul mate,

Shawna,

And our two blessings that are and will light this world on fire,

Leland & Justina

Hear, O Israel

Hear, O Israel,

the Lord our God, the Lord is one.

Love the Lord your God

with all your heart,

with all your soul,

with all your mind,

and with all your strength.

This is the first and the great commandment.

The second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself.

There is no commandment greater than these

Advertisements

As I was informed I am under consideration for an honourary Doctor of Letters for my writing, specifically my latest work Soul Ripples, I came to understand the need to share the story of what happens next. Before that, here is what came before (available through Amazon & Barnes and Noble):

coverA 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.

I began contemplating the real time sequel  I have been writing since my first volume ended with the entry of my first psychotherapists office on February 14. I encourage you to enter into Soul Ripples, and discover the holistic connecting points of life- ourselves, family, neighbours and history with our faith.

After riding those ripples, I am inspired to share the real time sequel here, bit by bit– once the healing is complete then the posts will be a compiled free e-book…so watch the category called Soul Ripples 2 for the story continues…

centennial coffee


It has been a journey, and tomorrow the answer comes,

What is a Samaritan?

Today though, I invite you to discover the journey up to the Valentine’s Day of 2019 that started the recovery…

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 from Amazon (e-book or trade paperback)

cover


The Labyrinth is an ancient path of walking prayer. It is a prayer that includes the whole self, yet the direction is known, and so to the destination. It is much like a pilgrimage, though in a pilgrimage there may be twists or turns let point A and point B are defined. This is the type of space I find my healing labyrinth, and recovery pilgrimage brings me to over the next week. On Sunday July 14, I am blessed to preach at Centennial Prebsyterian Church on “What’s a Samaritan?” a different look  at the Parable of the Good Samaritan and the Great Commandments. The Question that has been unpacked in my life of ministry— Who is my Neighbour?

Friday before that on July 12, I am blessed to be co-leaders, in a workshop with Kelly McGregor from Restore Counselling on PTSD-PNES (yes if you are in Calgary space is still available):

Image may contain: text

The Book, Soul Ripples, explores stories of my family, and my life that brought me to the brink. It is an explanation of the biographical, spiritual, psychological and physical life that shapes us all. It is a part of this journey piece. For the work does speak to the connecting point of Friday Night and Sunday Morning:

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 paperback or e-book from Amazon here.

 

This is the next few days as I combine the lectionary for July 7 & 14th to wind the path towards my preaching text– the Good Samaritan. Yet it is not asking who our neighbour is, or what it means to love God or self, rather my question I am posing is “What is a Samaritan?” (if you can’t make in on the 14th, the text and service will be up here by 9 p.m. MST).

Image result for 2 kings 5:1-14So today, we enter into the story of 2 Kings 5:1-14 as a bit of prologue. It is prologue to many things, as the stories of 1 & 2 Kings laid the foundation for the exiles of the Israelites. Their need for a second exodus.

It is  a story of healing. But it is also a text that takes one outside of the comfort zone of the righteous and the religious. For it produces the dichotomy we like to exist today. How many have seen the memes going around about free kits for drug addicts but not paying for diabetic supplies? It is a false dichotomy folks in power want to propagate for it keeps us chasing each other, and bickering about the “righteous to be helped” or the “deserving poor/sick/etc” instead of simply going, NOPE. We are all created in the Image of God (divinity) and as such we demand that it is a both-and solution.

It may appear weird to put this out for discussion. But this is the crux of the healing of King Naaman. A non-Israelite King, who did not even worship the God of Israel. He sought out Elisha due to his servant girl’s advice on healing the Leprosy he had been struck with. Yet, most would look at this as an easy– NOPE. He is the “other”, the “enemy”. In today’s world of America the “illegal” or in Canada “irregular border crosser”. The collective anger and hate being fixated upon the refugee, the Muslim, the non-Nationalistic Christendom Christian (that being Christians that don’t buy into the bullocks of Trump being the anointed of God). It is the dichotomy that allows for a us or them debate in simple things as Health Care, Public Education.

It is not something that Elisha was even entertaining. He laid out a solution to Namaan, go bath in the River Jordan and be healed. Namaan called Fake News on it. But then listened to the facts. He almost succumbed to anti-vaxxer rhetoric he had previously heard if you will. Think about it in this text he argues why can’t he simply use his own nation’s rivers, or for an anti-vaxxer the idea that measles, etc are just character builders, not willing to understand the science. Yet he did not, he listened to reason, and went to the Jordan to be healed.

An ancient story. Ancient wisdom. Cutting into the soul of our modern times.

Stepping beyond labels of the other. Trusting that which is put forward as true fact. Moving forward. It has been a hard journey for my family the last several years, but here I am currently 86 days seizure free from my Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures, it is my conversion disorder to deal with my a-typical PTSD (but truly read Soul Ripples I don’t have time here). It is astounding to my clinicians how quickly I have advanced since treatment started on Valentine’s Day of this year.

Why?

Simple. I was on a path, there was no hope. I sat with a clinician, gave some trust, it was explained what was going to need to be done. Then you know what? I didn’t argue, or complain I am not a text book or I will pray it away or whatever else someone uses to resist psychological treatment due to their own inbred stigmas. I DID. Yes, part of doing outside of the scope of the clinician included friends praying for me, and my own spiritual practice. But the seizures were focused on by the work laid out to be done.

Namaan could’ve chosen another river, but he’d still have Leprosy after. I could’ve chosen to not fully engage with my treatment.

Neither of us would’ve been pleased with the outcomes.

How is your own ego and/or fear keeping you from wholeness?

Soul Ripples

Posted: May 4, 2019 by Ty in Spirituality
Tags: , , , , ,

Narrative, story, what I have always told folks is important about writing our own Gospel. Much like the women at the Empty Tomb in the shorter end of the Gospel of Mark. I am on a journey of healing and recovery, the first phase is seeking to understand, that is my story in Soul Ripples (pre-order here).

The deeper question though is in this reflection on the book, from the higher plain:

coverThere were simple values passed down through the generations of the Ragan family. Basically, it was being neighbourly, whether it came from a religious or non-religious point of view. Throughout the generations’ decisions were made whether to suppress the bad, deal with it, or embrace love and the good. It was the stories shared, some hidden, and when unburied brought healing. 

It was in this life that the formal Christian Formation of Ty Ragan happened at his godparents’ church, Centennial Presbyterian, through their Vacation Bible School. These summers accentuated the already ingrained formation of loving your neighbour as yourself.  

Ty, spent a lifetime attempting to answer the question, as many formed in social gospel framework, “Who is my neighbour?” through journalism, teaching, church ministry, addictions work, outreaching to those being trafficked sexually, rough campers, those in homeless shelters, dementia wards, youth correction centres, affordable housing and everything in between. It was answering the question of who the neighbour is, and how to love them that drove his life’s vocation. 

Until May 2014 innocuous hand tremor led him to a doctor who told him to drink more water. By 2016 mysterious micro-strokes and seizures would occur. On his 39th birthday in 2017 a reign of mental destruction of high double-digit mystery seizures, failing memory, tremoring body and mystery vomiting would take him out of his vocation in October 2017, as he would simply weep “I can’t”. 

The journey would lead him to centre on a new question, the first part of the second love command, love yourself or more directly: 

Where does the helper go when they need help? 

Soul Ripples is his family’s story of laughter, love, tears, pain, loss, addiction, mental health, violence, community, friends, grieving and the steps towards healing. Learn a new way of experiencing life. That’s right, the faithful servant discovering what it means to experience life with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and the living into the Wilderness to find healing. It is a story for not only individuals but churches that shows we are not alone, we are not independent, we are truly an interdependent people. Created by the Holy on the 6th day poetically, called blessed and Very Good. Discover the Soul Ripples. 


In the course of reading/writing for progressive religious it is sometimes challenging realizing that there is few Canadian authors. Yes, I am aware of Gretta Vosper, but she has gone to the outliers of progressive into spiritual atheism, the question arises what if (or I still hold to be true in faith) a Holy Mystery? This is the background for a belated Christmas present from my daughter’s godfather to me (belated because I think he read it before, which is what happens with us and books).

Image result for j. steiner calgary authorJ.Gregory Steiner, SJ’s (2018, Archway) The Evolution of Belief: A Christian Perspective for the Future takes a look at the evolution of theology and doctrine within his home faith tradition (Catholicism, he was after all a Jesuit) and how science complements and expands upon this understanding. What it means moving forward. It is not an “AHA!” text for anyone who has read other progressives ala the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, or John Shelby Spong, but what it is, is another testimony (yes let’s reclaim that word) of a person sharing how their belief has been shaped by life. How they can see how things do not have to be at war or odds, but are interwoven in a tapestry, and how personal and corporate beliefs evolve and change over time.

I also have a partiality to the book as the writer is a fellow Calgarian, I encourage you to explore it. If you are a deeply read progressive, it is good to be encouraged through the stories of others, if you are just curious, it is an excellent way to begin to bring cohesion to your worlds. Breaking down barriers and allowing flow.

Buy the book here.

 


 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