Posts Tagged ‘God’


Days usually begin for me with checking social media, and the memories feed of Facebook brings back recollections. Today’s feed shared this thought from 1 year ago:

192 is not simply a number. It is my brain rebooting properly. It is my wife and kids having 192 days of the almost old me back, no fear of Dad dropping and not getting back up. In 2016 I had a series of micro-strokes that shattered my mind palace, and the slow decline began from May-October 2016 to my b-day in 2017, during that time overnight terrors, weird flu like symptoms ongoing and unknown at the time overnight seizures… on my B-day 2017 the daily massive almost constant seizure activity started that took me out of work by October, and had the experts asking how I was still working or why I was not dead yet? A year of the unknown and heavy dosage for epilepsy would follow before I would finally be diagnosed with Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures…then by February (and in between 3 bad drop seizures) when treatment would start, it would be added to with Complex and A-Typical PTSD, and a Conversion disorder. Two psychologists at the PhD level later– #roadtohalloween… I write this so maybe, someone who needs to get help knows, it is worth it. No matter what you are feeling, seek the help for your physical,mental, neurological or spiritual health (or all of the 4)–get that tune-up (check-up, physical); just book in with a counsellor or do the drop in at East Calgary to ensure all is well… if something is found, work with the team, do the homework, and get to the new you…its not always easy, and the new you may not be the same…but its YOU. So yeah, 192 DAYS SEIZURE FREE! #PTSD#PNES#Recovery

For those that have read my works Soul Ripples and this long running site, know what this is in reference too. My struggle back from the brink, the loving support of my (then purged) personal circles of support, and accessing the professional circles of support in recovery. Through love and support, I was able to dive deeper between treatments than I probably would have if I had been alone.

Steps in faith, answering the still small voice of the Holy Mystery, had led me in recovery to test the waters of my ability to think and engage, attending a leadership conference at Alberta Bible College (and then a summer intensive course I would audit). As an alumni a healthy reconnection, where I would meet a pastor from a small town church, and as my family and my healing were at a cross roads to maybe not walk away from the faith, definitely the church– reignited our passion for community (that readers will know of in my work and writings).

Unfortunately this cross roads also led us to a socio-economic reason for not being able to continue with our faith family there (gas and travel takes its toll when living on a disability stipend at that moment). We began to explore in the same network of churches…and would find a place to rest in Calgary.

Why this opening? As it takes me through the re-connection of that time of my life. Rummaging deep and spending time in the stories that mattered to me. Connecting again with scripture deeper, and my faith. Having confusion of relationships clarified with those that remain with you in crisis. It also reminded me as my mind rebooted and I became me again, the importance of story. How it raises questions, discussions, and aids in building community. True stories or fiction. Over the last few days thanks to Dollarama I have enjoyed reading the Justice League Darkseid Wars, which explores the concepts of good and evil, life and death, and what happens to one if they are given the powers of a god? What choices are made? Does absolute power corrupt absolutely?

See in the lens I bring to story, it is what can be discussed? Why does it matter? How does it aid us in understanding where we are at this point in history?

It was my way back out of the darkness of my own life, reconnecting with stories. At that time it was re-igniting my interest in Star Trek, and who knew the catalyst Vulcan, AB (Pastor Dave, and Vulcan Church of Christ) would play in the journey forward to 192.

Now 365 days later, 4 months away from another transition after an epilogue to one story, and beginning another. I continue the daily rummaging. Within the scope many say it was miraculous what happened in my life. Yes, as the path was laid out, community and family came around me, some things are still unknowable– but in the moment what I reflect on is that in those moments, those tears, those struggles in the darkness to find the light– there was the Holy Mystery.

Was it a proud my prayers were answered when so many were not?

No.

It truly was asking in the moment, and each step of the way what is happening? Why and how?

That is what brings me into the next reflection point, from Keith Allan Shields (2020) Supernatural. A scientist and a pastor I knew, and had discussed my engagement with scripture as story at different conferences, personally in our new emergent into a church in Calgary, he would take time with my son each Sunday.

But aside, a book like this illustrates why fiction and non-fiction is so important within our world. In certain moments, when we come to it where we are in our journey informs how we read and what we take away. In this work, in this moment it is reflecting on the understanding of the supernatural.

Do we take it as a atheistic-deistic view of impossible or coincidence? Do we enter into a hyper-super naturalistic view where everything is a manifestation of God’s intervention in our lives? Or is it somewhere in between?

As Shields’ shares personal stories of what could be seen as miracles, reflections of himself and others on where the church is at, and how things have developed. These are all pieces, yet for our own spiritual growth and practice there are two things that are take away (and I do encourage you to buy and read the book):

  1. Science and Religion are not at odds. Science explains the how questions while religion explains the why. They inform one another (much like many aspects of our lives). Take time to reflect.
  2. When a miracle happens or something that may be coincidental, it is not about simply celebrating that it happened. Really, take time to be in the moment, and reflect on what is happening with the Holy Mystery (for me I add within and through you).

This rummaging and reflection continued on this morning, as we awoke during c-tine, with my son being in the highest risk category, we have opted to continue attending church online. So our home (much like when it was the Rainbow Chapel) is a church once more. This morning we entered into service not knowing what to expect with the second part of the series, Closer.

Dr. Stan Helton, President of Alberta Bible College (the course I wrote about taking, was on Strategic Leadership was taught by Stan and there are reflections on the site tied to those as well) was the speaker today. His sermon was centered on, why scripture is part of our spiritual practice, and how to enter into a different way to read or re-read (ties back into that idea around story in general I was sharing that each time we come to the story depending on where we are in space and time speaks to us differently). The practice that was illuminated this morning comes from early Church Father Origen.

The key pieces are the 3 ways that scripture is to be read, as Origen tied it into the 3 ways the person was viewed in his time period. That is body, soul and spirit. The scripture was from St. Paul, 2 Corinthians 3: 1-6 (there is also an example from Hebrews, for the full talk (and yes it is worthwhile) go to the whole service here).

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. -2 Corinthians 3:1-6.

This lays out the 3 fold way of viewing.

  1. Body is the information reading point, as Joe Friday on the ol’ Dragnet show would say, “just the facts”.
  2. Soul is the transformation point as it lays out for the believer how to live (a moral lens and practice of life)
  3. Spirit is the contemplation (the rummaging phase if you will). This is the reading point where the mysticism enters into the energy that comes from God.

The full scope purpose, is that entering into the story is an experience of the Holy Mystery (and just as I have shared Ignatian practices and Franciscan practices around reading, I will also share the guiding questions Stan shared). For each of the 3 points, there is a question to contemplate:

  1. Body- how does this text invite us into God’s story?

2. Soul- how does this text invite us to become more like Christ?

3. Spirit- how does this text invite us to experience God’s spirit?

Take time, and enter into the service, and Stan’s sermon (here), then take a moment and enter into Communion (practice as it is part of the service) but then take this re-reading tool, and be in the text:

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

18 He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.

20 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21 And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”

23 Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”

Jesus answered, “You have said so.”

26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the[a] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

-Gospel of Matthew 26:17-29 (New International Version)

When you rummage, where is the Holy Mystery in your journey?


The Jonah Effect is an earlier post reflecting on the minor prophet Jonah, and his story. Not just re-sharing that shows to one that you can come back to sacred stories and more than one reflection can grow out of it, as well depending on the time and moment in your life they can speak differently. Same is said of Jonah, and anomaly in that it is a nouwen quotestory of a snap shot in the life of the prophet. A prophet called by God to go to the enemy Assyria’s capital city of Nineveh, and offer them not destruction but a chance to change direction. The same choice that Israel kept getting through the prophetic voices of the 12.

Jonah’s life becomes the prophetic message of transformation and hope. Of not getting lost in one’s own anger and denial, but in hearing clearly what God is whispering to screaming into our heart. Where Nineveh brings up the communal trauma, anger and hatred that the nation lived (1:2); it was Jonah’s refusal to see beyond his own anger and fear (hearing anything, about our own communal and institutional transformations? Changes? Personal and corporate callings?).

He charted a boat to escape, and as noted in the Jonah Effect, the storm so scared the sailors, they cast him over to which:

[a] And the Lord appointed[b] a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying,

“I called out to the Lord, out of my distress,
    and he answered me;
out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
    and you heard my voice.

-Jonah 1:17-2:2 (English Standard Version)

Jonah wasn’t getting the hint. The change afoot. God saved him from Sheol, the warehouse of the souls that have gone before regardless of being righteous or unrighteous, simply a place of darkness. Out of this Jonah says God hears him. Out of the darkness of Jonah’s own soul, out of the hatred, fear, anger and denial in his grief cycle-change cycle of his own life? The life of his nation? Understanding more deeply, the Shema?

This time in the belly of the beast is an allegory used for the death time of Jesus in the tomb in the Christian testament. It is a time of rebirth and resurrection, not simply a retreat. The kernels of new life were laid, for the communal understanding. Not just  one man in a fish. Vomited freshly onto dry land.

jonah

And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land.-Jonah 2:10 (ESV)

But even on dry land he was still struggling with his anger, and change. Jonah was outside the city gates with the tree, and a worm was sent to whither it to get Jonah back on track. Continuing to strip away what Jonah understood as blessing in the new world changing before him. Jonah’s anger has so consumed him again when he let it so consume him that, well…

When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” 10 And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

-Jonah 4:8-11 (ESV)

Think beyond yourself. Think beyond your anger. The bush became a metaphor for what the anger was doing to Jonah’s soul, given time to resurrect, and still he let it consume him. How hard, once released, is it to exorcise the cancer of anger from our souls? The writer, like with good fantasy and science fiction, uses hyperbole, brings elements of the world and creation (political and environmental) into play to create the interior conflict within the lead character, so that by the end, in good rabbi tradition, the transformation is left to the reader to experience with the deep Star Trekkian question, where should our pity lie?

Or to flip it,

Where should our love and hope root and grow?

Are we ready for the journey from fish to heart of the sacred?


Malachi is another look in the mirror challenge to the people. Let’s be honest though, at the hub all the prophetic books are that way, as it is about justice and what the society is failing to do–to care for one another. That crumbling of the Hear O’ Israel Prayer (The Shema) of love of God, Neighbour and Self. The cessation of one or more pieces of the three and society crumbles. This is the resonating message, what does it mean today though within our increasingly secular society? Can it speak to us still?

And the answer is yes. See, Malachi, shows what happens when we are so far down the rabbit hole of our own self-interest that many in our society are suffering, when a bully culture has become predominant…what happens with the people of Israel? Do they accept the challenge to be better?

“I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have you loved us?” 

-Malachi 1:2 (English Standard Version)

Note the counter questioning to the statement. Some will have palpitations and say, it is people wounded of course they cannot see God in their story, but there is something deeper. They are looking for someone to blame for how they are, and the change their society is going through. It reminds me in history of how we got the Comics Code, because a crazed psychologist thought comics were the root of juvenile delinquency; or McCarthy’s trials of faux communist agents, Salem, or modern day Alberta. A province that refuses to diversify our economy, and accept economic change so our government launches a private corporation “war room”; a bunch of old MAGA hat wearing folks stalk Greta Thunberg and counter-protest our current and future leaders in a climate strike, and some incel wanna be blogger working for Rebel Media, stalks the 16 year old girl to her hotel, and then dox’s her. Our Government MLA’s challenge Opposition MLA’s to a fist fight in the midst of a legislative sitting, and harrass them to (illegally) disclose their vote, because in their rabid minds a vote for anyone other than a Conservative in Alberta is treason.

as 1:6 reads:

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’

How do these instances tie into Malachi? Simple, the people questioned how God loved them? As care takers for creation (when we were cast out of the Garden), the conversation is just that, on ecology, care and responsibility. Yet, we want to blame everyone else under the sun for our current economic circumstance. We are like the priests blaming God, not looking at our own practice, ethics and morals for the state we are in.

For a starker contrast in the religious and political world, we blame the victim of the rape, instead of the burning down the institutional pieces that need to go. We do not want to admit that it is our inability to love ourselves, or one another. We have sold out ourselves and neighbour for a love of money, and now we are here…and are looking for someone to blame, like an ancient scape goat that would have the sins of the village placed on it and then released into the wild.

But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts,

-Malachi 2:8 (ESV)

We are desperately seeking a scape goat in society, as Israel was. We as a society communally no longer have God to blame, so we seek out other things that strip away humanity, and corrupt the societal social covenant. We call it debt, deficits, tax payer rights– it leads to austerity– it leads to infrastructure crumbling, hospital closures, and public schools under funded. It creates conditions for critical thinking and wholeness to fail, so that we are nothing more than commodities to be bought and sold by private enterprise, where the worst of business practices, can become predatory, and we accept it as ethical, where governments make decisions in their donors and corporate share holders best interests, not in the interests of the citizen.

And sadly, this ethic has moved into the church rapidly. It is not about the missio dei, or honouring and embracing the beautiful diversity of the imageo dei… it is about money, and numbers…

What changes if we get back centered. What changes if we answer 3:17 “Where is the God of Justice?” with, right here. That is in us, working through us, to transform our world for the better, to become a healthy soul, that challenges and exorcise those that use God’s name to further corrupt political agendas that dehumanize and harass, that leave those in most need behind.

Politics is the modern allegory for Malachi’s marriage parable. Where it was pointed out that there was a bride of the youth, for us in Canada that is our Just Society, yet then Israel sought out a new bride, like a bad performance of Marilyn Monroe’s The Seven Year Itch or a stereo-typical philanderer’s mid-life crisis trophy bride swap (in those times it was inter-marriage with those outside of Israel–note the above illustration from the Alberta Government).

Now, some may say you’re just a liberal-socialist bashing conservatives and using scripture. Nope, I am calling on all politicians to do better. We used to have a core value set in Canada that all parties discussed openly, and the debates were centered around thoughts to ensure delivery and growth of things like our health care, care for seniors and persons with disabilities, those in need, and education…not the screaming bully matches we currently have seeking scape goats and gotcha moments.

Malachi is God speaking about those in worship engaging and holding their leaders, priests, neighbours and self accountable. That is what we need in our world now. Healthy accountability. Not a world where we have to re-assert simple things such as vaccines save lives, Nazis bad, and science true.

Check your own heart and soul, and ask– what is driving my life currently?

 


The false question extremists on either side of the religious spectrum want us to believe. See, it is either all about what science says and God is pushed out (extreme left) or science is all witchcraft (extreme right)…yet, neither is right (and yes these are rather blunt analogies).

See, science is wonderful, so is religion. Science explains how things work, and faith/religion give us the why (other why’s of life can be found in whatever philosophy fills that intrinsic mystery within). On Sept. 18, 2019 at Ambrose University’s Pop Up Theology I was able to find a new resource in the complimentary conversation.

The Canadian Scientific and Christian Affiliation (found in social media at fb.com/csca.ca; csca.ca/youtube; twitter: @CanSciChr and Instagram at @CSSCA_73) presented “God through a Scientist’s Eyes”. It was the culmination, no rather a wrong word, the continuing conversation between the two books of faith: The Holy Scriptures and the Book of Creation. The two books of science and faith. Pastor John Van Sloten was our guide for this conversation. He is a Calgary pastor that may sound familiar to readers as he is also the author of The Day Metallica Came to ChurchA bonus was the discussion was free, so there was no barriers to this primer, and that a sponsor also provided a free copy of his book, Every Job a Parable.

Van Sloten had used the Templeton scholarships (monies available for pastors to preach science, by taking time to connect with actual scientists and discover the book of creation through those trained to read it). It was enjoyable for the level of conversation, understanding and unpacking. He also pointed out that too often church clerics will bastardize science with trite things like a using a fact about a 3 in 1 in nature to preach on the Trinity, or saying you can find God because an amoeba has a cross image on it. This is about unpacking the miracles that happen with understanding how to cure cancer, microscopic surgery, astrophysics.

The term Climatological Sin in regards to climate change. A reminder to the church corporate that we had failed in being care takers and stewards of Creation, as the vocation was given to humanity in Genesis 3. Why does climate change matter to a Christian, it is a deeper issue of faith, care and reconciliation.

Like I said this was a good primer as it was a pastor communicating science to us. The next step for those who were attending, or maybe just curious about dispelling this false dichotomy is at St. Mary’s University Conversation Series on October 2, 2019 at 7p.m at McGiveny Hall where Father Adam Hincks, SJ, PhD (in Astrophysics) will discuss does the Big Bang and God conflict? (spoiler as they said last night at the presentation, it does not).

It is part of unpacking our world, understanding perspectives to seek out other ways of seeing the world and entering into a deep listening to learn, and then if necessary raise questions.


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):

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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?


It is said Canada is a secular state. What does this mean? It probably began during the Quiet Revolution in Quebec in the early to mid-20th Century which was the assertion of the end of Christendom. What is Christendom? The one force of political religion. That is politics being draped in religious language, much like what Marx wrote out against. It brought Christianity from being a movement of those on the margins of society to the throne of the Empire, when Constantine won the throne under the cross. It held through the schism that created Orthodox and Roman Catholicism, and then the Protestant Reformation where monarchs took the power of the church for themselves from the Pope.

The Quiet Revolution in Quebec stripped political power from the church. During this time, movements like Social Credit grew out of fundamentalist Christendom, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation was birthed out of progressive fundamentalists and activists…and by the 1960’s with the rise of Trudeaumania, a moderate-Jesuit style Catholicism was back on the scene with Pierre Trudeau as Justice Minister modernizing our laws, then as Prime Minister working towards repatriating the Constitution and moving the Bill of Rights to something governments could play with to enshrining them in the Constitution as a Charter of Rights and Freedoms (he also wanted a Social Charter that the Alberta Government killed in the need for signatories, the social charter would’ve dealt with many of the issues we are facing today). The final authority for the Charter and Constitution was no longer the Monarch, but rather the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Charter was fleshed out in consultations with churches, stake holders, citizens, First Nations and Metis. Trudeau in his philosophical ways, understood there was something intangible that bound us all, and as such this is the opening line:

Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law:

Guarantee of Rights and Freedoms

Our neighbours to the South have an enshrined separation of Church and State. In Canada we have no such thing, our social safety net more often than not begun in a church hall over coffee or tea whether it was suffrage movements, labour rights, government entitlements, public education or public health care (and remember it was a devout Roman Catholic Prime Minister, Paul Martin, who led his government to legalize marriage equality). Yes, there is atrocities within the church that came from the Christendom style movement such atrocities as Conversion Therapy; Residential Schools, by proxy the MMWIG; Lack of Women’s rights (yes, both came from the same source, but different understandings).

Yet, in the death throes of Christendom, we got the Constitution Act, 1982

Recently, the leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition gave a speech listing his values due to the Supremacy of God, and watch the Twitter eruption of how dare he. I have not heard the whole speech, many know my feeling on the corruption within the Conservative Party of Canada that goes back to the anti-members wishes merger under McKay-Harper, but moving on.

What does this mean?

If one has authentic religious beliefs, they drive and shape their life. They cannot compartmentalize them, and nor should they. We have a history in our nation of those across the religious and political spectrum working for the best for the people of Canada. It comes from a community understanding, that our individual rights come with corporate responsibility.  All on the political spectrum are guilty or religious demonetization.

One should understand where one’s values come from. In 2006 when I ran at the Candidate’s debate we were squarely asked about our religious-philosophical beliefs and how it related to the social issues of the time- marriage equality was the big one. To be cleared to be a candidate to run for the NDP I was asked to explain my standing on abortion, and explained why I was pro-choice, and what society’s responsibility was around that. The party did not like the well thought out explanation and had a hard time signing off, yet it was the answer that tied in well with my faith and politics.

Too often discourse publicly or personally of politics and religion are shunned. We want to yell our beliefs in a vacuum. We want pithy answers when asked why. We have lost the ability to debate, to craft healthy arguments and philosophical or legal discourse around issues that arise. We prefer social media yelling matches, and holier than thou stances for and against the way people come to their decisions. We also stand on this idea, that if you default to I believe this because of x,y, or z religious stance then I cannot be challenged. That too is wrong. If you raise it as a point of support, it is debatable, but we need to enter these conversations civilly. We also need to enter these conversations with the understanding the religious are grieving.

What? They are, they are in the anger and denial phase of grieving not willing to let go of the past and understanding that their voice is still valid. It is part of the same choir that has already existed, what has changed is that there is no forced vocabulary because due to social and economic pressure not everyone is in a pew. This is what creates the reactionary anger, and then allows for those to hide within their own echo chambers. Instead of reacting to the language, look what is being spoke of and if the value supported lines up.

Guess what that creates? Collaboration, which then one can say we have this core value as a nation regardless of how you came to the journey to come there. We honour our neighbours completely.

The example that this type of approach can be used with is in Alberta where the Alberta Government has stopped land acknowledgments. This comes most probably out of the heretical Doctrine of Discovery from the era of Christendom. Instead of being able to point out this is a Confession. It is pointing out we all share the land, but we know who our first neighbours were and are working towards reconciliation and a common future. The strong words there resonate with a Christian vocabulary- Confession, Reconciliation. These are concepts that are understood. It shows community.

Is Canada a secular state? Why do we need to label it. We are a multi-cultural mosaic. That includes religious beliefs. The beauty of where we are as a nation, is that religious beliefs, like any beliefs, are not static. They evolve and change over time. We help our neighbour through their anger and grief, we can get to healthier future. We answer anger with anger, hate with hate, it is like fighting a house fire with fire. It does not work. First you provide safety for the affected, then begin the suppression of the blaze. That is creating space for healthy discussion on shared values, and what brought each of us to that point.

Honouring that, and moving forward.

It is the roots of the grand tree that is Canada.

We just need to prune out the dead wood.

Yes this came out of a question I responded to on Twitter as to where all the moderate Christians are, and I pointed out tired of being yelled at by secularists and extremists, when interviewed by media not allowed voice because it is not infotainment enough.

 


Captain Jonathan Archer These people you’re fighting – what makes them heretics?

Yarrick We believe the Makers created the Chosen Realm in nine days. They believe it took ten.

Captain Jonathan Archer [scoffs]  For that you’ve been at war for over a century?

 -(Star Trek Enterprise “Broken Realm” Episode, 2004)

It is funny, not ha ha, but sad irony that the Christianities have spent so many centuries rooting out heretics and executing them. I state this from the obvious, even with what was kept in “canon” is the story of a movement that included many who did not belong, and had different views expressed within (tax collectors; cortezans; labourers; zealots; persons with disabilities; Samaritans—in the ancient world quite a motley crew). The crew brought their own understanding, language and beliefs into the movement of transfigurement.

Even that moment had Jesus inner circle upon seeing Moses and Elijah respond with making shrines, not seeing what should have been seen in the moment. Falling back upon the familiar. From Jesus’ execution, to the grand nu-uh to the Imperial-religious powers, to the breathe that shattered false barriers to bring belonging…a new wave had begun. One that for its first almost 300 years was quite diverse in understandings, in what was brought into, and in standing its ground when religious authorities made the call to cast them out of the Synagogues. That is when two monotheist religions stared at each other, and one was told to conform to what was “traditionally acceptable” and what was not. How did the early adopters respond? Some thought of giving in, but truly they realized what was at stake, the ability to grow, change and adapt to what they experienced.

Thomas Cranmer almost 1200 years after Constantine brought the same idea forward during the Reformation, and the creation of the Book of Common Prayer. It was the Reformation that brought the stories of God and her people to the language of the people, but also brought creation where both the cleric and people’s words of worship could now be known by all. His intent was not for a static unmoving, unchanging liturgy (Latin for work of the people) but a dynamic creation that would shift and change with the communities and people, and how they came to understand the Holy Mystery that had created. The teachings of Brother Jesus, and the cosmic love that bound it all together.

Now some may say this sounds highly Catholic or Anglican. Yet, I challenge you, does your spiritual gathering have a rhythm for prayer or service? That is a liturgy. Plain and simple. From the Reformation until the early 21st century struggles around this happened through many movements, as the traditionalist/fundamentalist wanted to keep it static because of tradition and that God did not change; while the progressive/fundamentalist (a fundamentalist can understand things both ways depending where they place the emphasis) pushed boundaries, let movement in, different music, open up of prayers, social movements, challenging powers and principalities, and language- how beautiful and transformative was the language changes as structures were broken down and we began to understand what our genesis was from.

It was a reminder of the Indigenous groups under the Roman Empire that had converted either by force, or shrewdness (the Norse Chieftains understanding the control that could be given to them under monotheism) …also a reconciliation work for the damage done of further exploration and passive/active genocides.

What also was celebrated was a full encompassing of the stories of God. Understanding the Gospels were not only the four in the canonical bible, but were more, and each person was crafting their own through the life lived out of their beliefs. Also, though a deeper understanding of the words used for understanding the Holy Mystery. Yes, Trinitarian language (Father/Son/Holy Spirit) existed within the Hebrew Bible and Christian Testaments, but it was a belief structure pulled from an allusion to this plausibility. What also existed within the texts was poetic, metaphorical, anthropological, historical, animist, psychological, sociological and many other forms of understanding the Holy.

Language was changing. Liturgies were experimenting. There was a revival happening.

The powers to be were not happy and attempted to clamp down. Sadly, some took the “threats” seriously, and like those in the Christian Testament stories when challenged folded under the pressure. Some took their lumps and spun out continuing growth, and some continue to exist under the guise of language and linguistic gymnastics.

Yet here we are celebrating a Sunday. A liturgical moment. Created by the people, as part of the work of the people. Part of community building. For some, it holds significance, for others being there and saying the words is a hypocrisy. Yet both claim the spirituality of Brother Jesus, and live a life for the better out of their heart held beliefs. The challenge before us is one of true authenticity. Moving beyond the entrapment of language as the beating stick, or as the opening quote reminds us—how much blood has been shed over 9 or 10 days?

In the Christianities how much blood has been shed over who holds the power to speak the right words/proof texts of the Creator?

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[f] you did it to me.’

-Matthew 25:31-40 (English Standard Bible)

When actions transcend words, and are what shapes our lives, then what does the Liturgy become? Does 9 or 10 matter? Or the words used to express our relationships of love with Creator, teacher and neighbour?

When love reigns… how are you and your community transfigured?

 

 


Ancient wisdom tradition has the teacher who wrote Ecclesiastes being Solomon. Solomon born out of the forced marriage of David and Bathsheba. The one allowed to build the Temple that God stopped David from due to blood on his hands. Many will read blood on his hands as due to the wars he fought. Yet what is truly blood on your hands? The shattering of the commandments. The use of office power to forcefully rape a woman, plot the murder of her husband through unneeded risk to your own army, then. The image I always loved as the ultimate outcome. The child conceived, in Kyle Baker’s graphic novel about the story of David, shows that the child di not simply not survive birth, rather in the continued rage of power corrupting his soul, David killed the child. Thus, trapping Bathsheba in the ultimate abuse cycle for a woman in a time with no rights.

It is a story played out sadly many times regardless of gender repeatedly throughout the generations. Yet it was Joseph in the line of David that Jesus came through. But think of the Nativity story. Joseph was attempting to be “holy” in his contemplation, much like his line had been about the time. But God was at work to show how things should be in relations between humans. God asked Mary for her consent, her yes for the plan. He then went to Joseph to see if he would be willing to do what is just even though it contravened his societal rules.

This is at the core of the poetry in Ecclesiastes. It is about showing how extremes can strip all of their vocation and voice, leaving us reduced to commodities. Solomon’s empire collapsed because he allowed ideology to take root that was too expansive seeking power, glory and fortune; his father lost his blessing because his took root in black and white.

We missed the brutal warning against misogyny, gentrification and dehumanization milleniums ago. We missed the challenge to embrace a new path 2000 years ago in a Nazareth’s girl yes. Will we continue to miss opportunities to create the world that was breathed into being were all were one and all were equal?

And we are here with the words from 3:1-11, that show the balance of life (and the Birds turned it into a hit song):

1There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:

2-8A right time for birth and another for death,

A right time to plant and another to reap,

A right time to kill and another to heal,

A right time to destroy and another to construct,

A right time to cry and another to laugh,

A right time to lament and another to cheer,

A right time to make love and another to abstain,

A right time to embrace and another to part,

A right time to search and another to count your losses,

A right time to hold on and another to let go,

A right time to rip out and another to mend,

A right time to shut up and another to speak up,

A right time to love and another to hate,

A right time to wage war and another to make peace.

9-13 But in the end, does it really make a difference what anyone does? I’ve had a good look at what God has given us to do—busywork, mostly. True, God made everything beautiful in itself and in its time—but he’s left us in the dark, so we can never know what God is up to, whether he’s coming or going. I’ve decided that there’s nothing better to do than go ahead and have a good time and get the most we can out of life. That’s it—eat, drink, and make the most of your job. It’s God’s gift.

The Message, 3:1-13

 Something we have lost if one simply looks at the political landscape, and the life landscape. David’s are finally being exposed by their Bathsheba’s yet we are losing the voices of other victims. We are not seeing the full scope, because we are taking a pendulum swing to the extreme. The church swings to include LGBTTQ2+ but ignores those whom are differently abled…they may embrace women at certain points of clergy or at all points…yet then stumbles on some other sacramental non-sense. Society says all are welcome, then beats their drum for war saying they do not know how to stop radicalization yet the cure is in belonging same as any fringe group from cults to gangs that take in the one left outside.

magi1

There is a time for healing. Our world struggles with catastrophe of addictions and as lives are lost we argue harm reduction versus abstinence, not realizing the answer resonates in the person and can be both.

We yearn for home. But create barriers for belonging for all. Use our religious texts to lie about poverty being a result of sin or falling short, and not realizing it, like addiction, is a symptom of the roots being shallow and dying.

We love our labels for it can make us feel superior, for we are not them or the other. Yet simply by creating the liberal wherever you say you exist on the spectrum of left-right you have created an us-them paradigm that leads to destruction.

For in each of us a season exists. And where the season leads that is the gift is to the one where the only label that exists is part of the family. For we are, each of us, human. Born of humans. The simplest message God tried to get through the darkness wreaked over generations from David to Joseph with Mary’s simple decision. She upset the world of her tiny village and made the bravest choice possible knowing she could lose all.

Yet her Y-E-S is the season we are in that encompasses the pendulum swings. For it is the eternal gift found in ancient poetry represented by one simple word in English- AND. We abide in the AND by joining Mary’s yes in allowing seasons to exist and realizing communally and individually the answers are not always definitive, but when we are interdependent and without labels our world is better.

magi2

            As we journey as the Magi in this Christmas Season (12 days) what gifts are you bringing to the creche? What season are you bridging and choosing to be in the AND? What YES awaits in your heart?


Anyone who has lived in North America throughout their whole lives, and taken any subtle interest in the social safety nets can attest to one thing over the past 30 years. That one thing: The rise of the narrative of deserving/undeserving poor. It was seen most sharply in Canada during the Ontario Harris’ years and Klein years’ here in Alberta where social services (i.e. welfare, disability support; etc) were designed to be exclusionary, not inclusionary for those needing the services.

Why does this matter?

Simple, it becomes a narrative of understanding when those who are on the lower end of the socio-economic scale vote for wealthy elites who do not hold their voters interest or care at the forefront? In simple terms, why do those who would be seen by the outside as poor vote for the billionaires who only care about supporting their wealthy friends and dismantling the safety net designed to aid them?

Because in the narrative of deserving/undeserving we create a falsity–a lie (of the kind that would get one’s mouth washed out with soap when I was a youngster) that people choose their economic class. That if they just worked harder they could have a better life. That in true independence it is up to each person to always be healthy, never be injured, addiction and disability are a choice; living in shelters or social housing-choice…getting the vibe yet? That’s right, if you are seeking aid of the state then it is because of poor choices on your part, not because of intangibles in life. As such, you should be happy with what ever form and rules the hand out takes, no matter how dehumanizing it can be (think the drug tests for welfare) or to qualify in some cases for social services all assets have to be liquidated so that you can qualify for a below the poverty line monthly amount, in essence the system not being a hand up or a bridge to sustain while the next opportunity comes, but a what can be a punitive measure to create a poverty cycle.

Why does this system issue matter? If you cannot see the simple ethics, for my preponderance today it is how many of these “fiscal conservative” policies (sorry folks, Tommy Douglas was a socialist, and kept balanced books and built a social safety net that included public health care, but I digress) come from a social conservative value set. Not saying it is right or wrong, but with this “Religious Right” they may have missed the point of another narrative.

Now before I take this path and people just set me aside as another non-religious progressive, what I want to point out is both my B.A. and M.A. that equipped me in theology come from conservative bible based schools, and y’know what I learned there?

Much what Ecclesiastes wrote:

What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.

(Ecclesiastes 1:9, New International Version)

For what has been seen, and supported by a certain meta-narrative, has missed the point of the cultural narrative/value set that is clung to in Judeo-Christianity. It is the story of the rise and fall of the Davidic-Solomic Kingdom. Where wealth and greed corrupt the monarchy…that split the kingdom, caused the exile. In fact for real Biblical geeks it is the driving force behind the stories of the Judges— people on track in a just society taking care of all–sin/ego/greed (insert your term here) disrupts causing catasrophe and lack of community-judge inserts gets community back on track. In the prophetic books, it is not about the future, it is messengers bringing this focus of community and justice back to the people, so that crass independence does not supplant communal care.

So…the lie of deserving/undeserving poor is nothing new, back in the day it was much more spiritualized as those blessed/cursed by God…and time and again it was shown that was not the case rather it was a false system designed for the power of a 1%…that is the story of the Hebrew Bible (and taken further in the Christian Testament, but that is a post for another time).

So dear readers, for those of you that espouse the biblical story being a staple of your life, truly embrace what it means to be in loving community with one another, and speak out to end this lie…for all deserve the simple things in life: home, food, belonging, purpose, good health, education…and we as a society can make the choice for that to be our reality.

Which story do you choose? The lie or the one of love and belonging–the one of community?


Ian Rankin (2016) Rather be the Devil was the latest delight of the Calgary Public Library hold shelf at their Village Square Location (and yes I have been around this community long enough that I remember the original library van when I was a kid). But why does this percolate a post even before I have cracked the cover on the newest Inspector John Rebus mystery. The roustabout musicphile of Scotland who is no longer an inspector in the last few outings.

You read that right, he was retired a few novels ago but brought back in a consulting role. Whether or not this was Rankin’s intent with a character he created back during his doctoral days or not is truly not the point of this reflection. For it is something that tickled my mind, coupled with a lasting image from a few nights ago when we popped over by the Community of Temple Fire Hall (okay it was the 7-11 for slurpees as a family, but still).

Next to the Fire Hall used to stand an Anglican Church, St. George’s, a parish that has roots going back almost 50 years in this area as well, but it did not start out as a building. It started out as a parish without walls in local Catholic School gymnasiums. How do I know that? I was the fist babe Christened on the baptismal roles in said gynnasium (even down to the pic with the priest and shamrock backboard behind the head).

Now it is simply an empty field (though the Altar Guild at my farewell gave me a banner of the Saint and Dragon as a reminder that still is displayed in my home), the building had become condemned, the amphitheater I used to host outside concerts and road hockey tourneys for the community just over a decade ago back filled in. The sign with pithy sayings to attract new comers–gone. Just the wild grass taking hold and rumours of one day it being the site of seniors housing, but so far no sign of ground breaking.

It was my last paid post in ministry, there was two other church postings to follow that were tent making for myself as I was paid to be apart of another. But it was that baptism in a school gym that shaped my spiritual DNA of the irrelevancy of labels, walls and barriers we tend to create in the world. Anglicans and Catholics working together. Then in pre-school, at an Alliance Church with the diversity that makes up NE Calgary (loved singing those kids hymns with my Sikh and Hindu neighbours), and a Presbyterian Vacation Bible School (that my own daughter still attends).

I am not going to get into my spiritual journey in Junior and Senior high school, or shaping in Indigenous, Pagan, Mystery or Eastern Traditions or digress into evangelical theological formation in Bible College and Seminary; while serving and practicing in mainline churches, or monastic formation with Anglican, Catholic and Ecumenical Franciscans. Some would say, that I have removed myself from the Progressive Christendom voice by act of, well, leaving the physical church buildings and to be honest becoming tired with the mundanity that Christianity has created for itself in its fear of becoming irrelevant.

Yet.

As I look upon this character who in retirement from his life passion is still pursuing truth and justice, and I look at the reclaiming by nature of the former site of the parish that sparked my journey.

I no longer wonder, I know.

A voice is only not relevant when it is not used.

An act of kindness is only not relevant when it is left undone.

A kingdom act is only not a kingdom act when the source is not the love that opens one soul to the Cosmic Christ, and out of that soul lives in unity with all that is.

The question is not whether or not I am Christian, Progressive, New Thought, Science of Mind, New Age (and yes the litany of the pieces that feed my spiritual piece of the medicine wheel, and by proxy my whole self can go on and on)…the question is whether or not is founded and lived out of Love?

And the name for this love for me is the Cosmic Christ, whose example is the Master Teacher, Brother Jesus, and that flowed from the Loving Creator.

So…all that remains to ask as a life is lived is simply:

What Would Love Do?