Posts Tagged ‘Great Commandments’


It could be a rant, but truly at this point it is an earnest question. Born, raised and continue living in Alberta seen and read about many social conservatives (out of Christendom and other religions) politicians and governments within my province, and the base rock for Federal. Yet at this time of C-tine, the question is in my mind, how is it possible (even with some rust on the buckle), that Canada’s bible belt equivalent province struggles so much with love thy neigbour?

34 But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

-Gospel of Matthew 22:34-40 (New King James Version)

To love our neighbour as we love ourselves and love God. I have written many times unpacking this passage in different ways, so I am not going to deep on that now. Yet, here we are as a province with pandering to anti-mask/anti-vax/anti-science bases, over-dramatized to downright untrue stories from our governance around issues, and basically a sentiment began from our Premier and shared by many that those who are dying (now 500+) are past their best before date or had co-morbidities so it is all good (those of low human capital, a favourite term of our current provincial government).

Which raises many questions on the humanity of the religious who claim freedoms in our province? For it was not the call to the individual, but to the communal freedom, love and belonging.

Let’s re-humanize our statistics, have the releases signed not to share age, region, gender and they had co-morbidities, but rather, age, region and name. I mean, how many even know what co-morbidity is? They believe it is a death sentence to begin with, no these are two or more occurring chronic (ongoing) conditions? Do you know someone with two conditions? Mental, physical or neurological health? High blood pressure? Depression? Anxiety? Cystic Fibrosis? MS (that we lead Canada in)? Cancer? How about those covid 20 that you can’t shake? Epilepsy? PTSD? OCD? Substance Abuse/use disorder? Carpal Tunnel? The list goes on an on…

The term coupled with age, is used to de-humanize the disease and reduce severity so the base is appeased. It is like the 1991 Star Trek The Next Generation episode, “Half-Life” (S.4,Ep.22) that created an ethical discussion at the time in my school, but also with parents. The crux is Timicin (played wonderfully by David Ogden Stiers), whose species at age 65 end their own lives as “their time is up” or “they are past their best before date”. In the episode this becomes a debate as he develops an intimate relationship with Betazed Ambassador, Lwaxana Troi (mother of Ship Counsellor Deanna Troi), and it ensues about quality of life, purpose and belonging. I encourage you to have a virtual watch party with friends outside your household, and watch within your household to discuss the key points of this with our current situation. As this can create a different lens to look at how we view life and death, and what matters. But this is not the only challenge facing us, in those hard conversations we need to have around the dinner (or communion) table.

The other, with current restrictions announced due to lack of concern for anyone outside your own skin (Alberta’s public health emergency restrictions can be found here) in an attempt to bend the curve back down, find out trackable data (as we have 85%+ cases on traceable) over the next three weeks. Has led to much llama dramas on line. Some throwing shade about religious organizations allowed to stay open at 1/3 capacity, and why on businesses, most being about big box vs small businesses closing open (conflating restrictions of other provinces with our own). Are these restrictions perfect? No, but even though I do not support that the UCP has the moral or ethical right to governance (ongoing criminal investigations), I will follow through for care for my family and neighbour.

What is saddening and maddening is the many religious sharing posts about Alberta being 70 years rat free so don’t become one on your neighbours now, or don’t snitch. Like the stereotypical “snitches get stitches” . Seriously, when did we as grown ass adults begin acting like pre-adolescents enamoured with faux hip hop culture?

Or as I shared on Facebook today:

“It’s not about not “snitching” on your neighbours at the holidays for the social gathering, that is being gaslit like in an abusive relationship. Seriously, it is about our neighbours having enough care and respect to follow the rules so we do not have to call 311 to have a healthy AHS that can respond to our current pandemic, epidemic, emerging epidemic, and outbreak. But hey, let’s continue giving those that can’t follow rules a pass.”

And as one friend pointed out, how easily we compartmentalize and pick and choose what we will call in our neighbour on. Noise complaints? Speeding? Parking? Loud or at large animals? Not shovelling snow? Think about what happens to our society, if we do not hold one another accountable?

This doesn’t even go deep into the neighbourhood watch to prevent crime, which if my neighbours do not have discernment and care with these how can I trust them if my car is being stolen or house being prowled? Starting to see how the “not my problem” begins to flow?

This is not even with jumping on the not mandatory vaccine discussion the Premier opened up to pander to his slipping away base. Which, I am sure my stance on that will lose even more “Facebook friends” but for those able to take the vaccine (any vaccine) it is a care of neighbour, why my kids both got the HPV one.

As I sit, having wrestled with the new restrictions, and lowering our house into more of a shut down (my one kids cohort with her best friend has come to an end, I miss their giggles and joy and it has only been one day), we are here because of a provincial quorums of adults that refused to adult. As I watch the video feed of the 200 person “freedom march” -anti-mask rally in Calgary this morning, I do hope that they are all levied the $1000 fines to send a strong message. Reading in the paper that due to lack of corporate care at CF Chinook yesterday in limiting to 25% capacity city police had to be used to evacuate people and I know these restrictions are supposed to be re-looked at on Dec. 15.

Where I am at now?

Christmas is different this year. Looking like my household, as we find new joys, way to share love, and know we are doing this, because many may not see us as “believers” or “Christian enough”, but I can honestly tell you it is about following through on love of neighbour.

The question for our “Bible Belt” is do you get it?

Because I am tired of your Pharisee ways.


Missio Dei should be our response to Imageo Dei. Dei being Latin for God, with Imageo being Image (hence, what we are created in) and Missio being mission, that is what we are to do as God-bearers. Lately one would assume the mission is to be an asshat. Sadly, when one’s core values/beliefs are judged by actions in the media, in regards to the Religious Right, the apologetics (another Christian term, for defense of the faith) around USA President Donald Trump, and some of the actions of the recently elected UCP government in the province of Alberta, that description may be apt. Another could be pedophile or rapist or genocider with the stories out of the Residential Schools, Roman Catholicism, Southern Baptists, Bill Hybels’ Willow Creek mega-Church, Jehovah Witness’, Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints, truly one can insert any denomination or Christian movement and scratch the surface to find atrocities. Such actors need to be exposed, ex-communicated and turned over to the authorities.

But that is not the Missio Dei, see that is what the political power we have been handed, financial power, and power over others has corrupted in us. Paul of Tarsus (St. Paul to many) warned of the love of money being the root of evil, Shakespeare in Hamlet I believe, stated that power corrupts, and Green Arrow in Zero Hour stated of his friend Hal Jordan who had become the evil Parallax, absolute power corrupts absolutely. It is time to regain our soul.

To that the church, and each who professes the faith needs to actually ensure is that we are listening to the mightily still quiet voice of the Holy Spirit. For, as we were chasing plug and play programs, looking to corporate North America for strategic ways to do church, planning our next stewardship or giving financial campaign…well…the Missio came to our doorsteps.

In the positive within Canada, we have the opportunity to sponsor refugee families and aid them in coming to our country, supporting them to grow new homes. Not only from Syria, but there is the Annuyak tribe from Ethiopia that has been displaced into camps in Kenya (and I am sure in our mutli-cultural churches many family stories of those we can help). Our leaders can aid in support of immigration efforts for family members, and of securing permanent residence and/or citizenship as well.

Locally, sadly, due to economics and over reliance on one stream of financial income for our province, we have many families and neighbours in need. Whether it is aid with the still unknown school and busing fees, school supplies, aid in paying rent/mortgage, utilities, finding securing work, getting to and from appointments or food banks… Know where this is going? A familiar passage I have shared in my speaking, writing and teaching, the Great Commandments:

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

-Matthew 22:36-40 (New International Version)

It may be big things as listed above, or simply being with a person and listening over a cuppa. Yet as we look further into the political in our lives, we are also needing to look at local action.

It is churches having youth programs, not just for church members but open to youth of the community. Creating a safe space for kids to be, especially as many cities think short term to save money and cut the things that are free for kids. The ripple effect is that then the more nefarious places of belonging find recruiting grounds. It can simply be stopped, I have been a part of many amazing things like this in the past. If only the old guard in church concerned with monies, could get out of their own way and allow love and hope to grow in the blessed buildings they are so concerned about preserving. Amazing how investment within others, and showing they matter, helping them become who they are created to be, makes our communities better, or as Jesus stated:

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

-Matthew 28:16-20 (NIV)

Nope, this isn’t about sinner prayers or conversion. This is about aiding someone as noted above, investing in them, so they can become who they are meant to be. Being with them in the ups and the downs, the celebrations and the mourning. Walking with them in love, and helping them find the hope. For some youth, it was the early morning traditional old English service at a church, not because they could give a flip about the old school Liturgy, or the home made biscuits or tea at the end… it was the seniors (elders) they finally had grandparents that spent time with them, listening to them about their week, their dreams.

Imagine… actual care… and time to simply be, not overly programmed.

What about hungry kids?

School nutrition programs-breakfast, snacks and lunch. Some are privately sponsored, some are government sponsored. The official Opposition says these are on the chopping block with the UCP driven “austerity”, the UCP Government states they will be funded from 2019-2020, yet there is no budget yet to prove this to be a fact. The floated balloon showed the ignorance of many around this program in that they blamed parents for having kids.

Yet, there is something more needed than simply the food. I would say it is not meant to just single out the students in need, rather it should be these three meals provided at each school across the province. Why? Simple, let our kids all eat together, the older serving the younger, discovering care for one another, equality, and that it is important to care for neighbour.
The unknown becomes an opportunity for the church. Whether individual congregations or working together. Figure out how to financially sponsor a meal program for a local school for the school year, in fact, remove the burden of lunch room fees from the parents and provide the volunteers to provide the meals. See it is about investing in our kids, not just with the food, but with those who can give the time to be present in the children’s lives in positive ways. That invested time goes a long way.

I would take the challenge a step further, and then have a network of churches in a community work to provide rotating nightly community meals- work with the community association if needed, so that there is always a social place to go and break bread. For those who celebrate Communion (Eucharist) we speak of the mysticism within the elements, yet it is the gathering and seeking to understand and care for one another.

Generations being together.

Nations being together.

Simply starting as neighbours, then becoming friends, and possibly, over time, the family we choose.

As you discuss where God is calling, simply look to your neighbourhood, and ask, why here and now God?

Quite a few times, it is already on our door step and we are simply blinded by ourselves to see it.


This week winds the road of discovery, and renewal of Spirit. It acknowledges our holistic self, that is what the Medicine Wheel teaches of the mind, body, soul and spirit. Let’s be honest, to often we get sucked into the idea of puffing ourselves up. Collecting awards, growing our bank accounts, or more that gives us status and prestige in life. In the midst of it all though we forget who we are, and why we are here. It is an easy path to veer off of.

The Christian Testament readings brings us into the Epistles (fancy word for letters) to early gatherings. It is a letter written between 49-55 CE, by Paul. Galatia was a territory in Asia minor, populated by Celtic settlers. An intriguing backdrop as if it has a later writing then Paul is in the midst of the Corinthian conflicts, and just before he wrote to the gathering in Rome. This is a letter used in the 16th Century during the Protestant Reformation debates around faith and justification as Reformers, being used by local monarchs for Empire building, argued with Roman Catholic Clerics the vestige of elder Empire building.

Yet these words are used today, as we come with our own stories and eyes to speak to us. And what is within? The lectionary lays out 5:1, 13-26.

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

-Galatians 5:1 (New Revised Standard Version)

Paul levels the opening of this chapter with a huge issue in the ancient world. The role of slavery. Now we like to pretend this has been put to rest, but slavery still exists within our capitalistic globalization in places that do not pay living wages, or more horrendously within human trafficking. What Paul is reminding folks is not to let the divisions that had existed before carry into the gathering.

That is that in Christ, there is no labels of separation. He is reminding folks not to surrender to the old. What are ways that we leave our path? We chase what we assume will make us the next “it” thing. Whether it is technology, fashion, faux body image, the list can go on for what we assume are positive, yet there is also negative labels that we throw down to create separation and keep people divided. Think along the lines of the arguments about are you “insert group here” one of us? That’s our money? the hoops one has to jump through to qualify for aid. The idea the value of the person rests on ability, sobriety, gender identity or economics.

This leads us into later in the chapter with ancient echoes:

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters;[c] only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence,[d] but through love become slaves to one another. 14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

16 Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21 envy,[e] drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

-Galatians 5:13-21 (NRSV)

Slaves to one another… does that mean no boundaries? No, it is an ancient metaphor on loving self and neighbour as Paul points out the summation of everything in Love. He directly uses the outcast label, the non-person label as a stark and strong reminder that we are all images of the holy. It invalidates that label. Paul then uses Greek Platonic philosophy to illustrate the false separation of body and spirit. He points out that because we are in the Spirit we are different. The things laid out were the ways that the Empire used to de-value, control and oppress the masses. It was also was the controllers used to suppress their own traumas of what they had survived to rise to power.

It is the seeking of power to the setting aside of the value of love and the image of God.

Let’s hear that again: It is the seeking of power to the setting aside of the value of love and image of God.

Truly, you have made everyone around you nothing more than numbers, labels or functions for your own fulfillment. It is what the current religious right use in our society to point to loss of “God” in our world. Yet what is lost, is God being used to cover up what Paul wrote here of, the separation of the children of God, the abuse, and misuse to build power. Things that should be set aside. The label making remnant of Eugenics in a world where you must prove yourself human enough and worthy enough to exist in society. That is the “flesh” fallacies Paul was writing of, but he did not end there.

While Paul, leads you out of Empire living, into the heart of the Great Commandment Brother Jesus laid out. What happens when we enter into that healthy Love circle:

22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.

-Galatians 5:22-26 (NRSV)

It is moving beyond black and white, moving beyond labels and coding. To seeing the person before us, and authentically living in the gray of life. A gray that allows the circle of inclusion to be drawn wide, and within the width, authentic belonging becomes the norm.

As the Kingdom is near… will we be the tipping point?

Image result for galatians 5


 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

 


Prayer of faith. Pretty strong words are coming from James. Yet prayer is something that his brother spoke about quite a bit before he was lynched. Brother Jesus spoke out against showy-falsity and being authentic in the mystic aspect of our lives. Why? Because it allows us to break through the world imposed soundtrack of our lives, to the one at our true core…the core fashioned and resonating within the Holy Mystery.

That is James’ first step when someone is suffering, afflicted, ill or troubled even. Take time to centre our very being into our true nature. Yet even James understands there are times when this can be an impossibility, so this spills from his scribes’ quill:

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.[a] 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

-Epistle of James 5:13-20 (English Standard Version)

Notice the words first before we jump into the role of Elders. The words of centering in life regardless of what is thrown at us. In Franciscan Charism it is called “Daily Examin”; not a time of counting the F’up list, but rather honestly looking at your day for times of growth, opportunity, regret, fulfillment, reconciliation and blessing. Truly turning your day into a Psalm, just like James counsels here, to be in contemplation constantly.

Yet he also touches on those moments when we cannot see who we are. When we are lost in the woods, or have veered off the path illuminated by the light, when we are Peter walking on water and look down and fall. Those moments of doubt when the soundtrack of the world sucks us into believing we are only good enough based on bank account, societal ladder labels, power amassing or material goods. Those are the moments when we seek out the Elders. Today the term may be prayer counsellor; mentor; life coach; spiritual director; those people that can see through the B.S. we are drowning in and bring us back to our core.

This is the authentic you. The you others within the Holy Mystery see you as, and when we journey together we see the love that made us, and the intrinsic value within us.

The Epistle of James is a prayer of faith to the early church and the church now. It is the little brother’s reminder that structures, fancy words, worldly power, or money or great shows do not matter. If it is all upon the surface it is for nought. The transformation for integrity and authenticity goes deep to our core, by burning away the muck of our souls to be who we are truly meant to be in community.

It was termed the Epistle of Straw and derided throughout history for that very reason. It is the words like those of Jesus of Nazareth in the original gospel, challenging the status quo. Challenging through a very simple concept, that would be recorded in the Gospel of Matthew (and the text that got me to attend church at 19 years old):

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

-Gospel of Matthew 22:34- 40 (ESV)

And the simple task put before us, was to simply go and do like wise in L-O-V-E (no qualifiers).


As we continue into the words of wisdom put to parchment by James, we enter what later Biblical editors termed chapter 2. The chapter and verse system of course was an outcome of the lectionary system. The lectionary is a reading guide for services that some (not all) churches employ. I enjoy using it when I preached/taught because in a 2 or 3 year cycle dependent on the lectionary over a course of Sundays you would touch upon/read all of the Hebrew Bible and Christian Testament. For a teacher/preacher it forces one out of their comfort zones and into some of the other corners of the written word.

farmin

My son and I walking at Countess Country Museum

But enough technical mumbo-jumbo, the second chapter continues the subversive teaching James’ elder brother, Jesus of Nazareth, had on his earthly travels. For he tackles the concept of “partiality” or within the world of Jerusalem during the revolution, the re-assertion strongly that one’s state in life had to do with blessings from God. That is that if one was rich they were beloved, if they were poor they did something. Much like some of the later canonical gospel stories would write about one with a disability– who sinned to cause this?

 My brothers,[a] show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,”have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 

But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

-Epistle of James 2:1-13 (English Standard Version)

free reign

My son, daughter and their wonder pup walking at Countess Country Museum. No partiality or grief of the world, just kids.

Now, one could easily use this to go on a diatribe about the economic and social stratification of society. Yet there is a stronger message here for the reader. In our world, we still hold to this grief concept. The idea that if we are not the “same” as the other, then we must live in grief. We must constantly be comparing, and as such know that we are “less than”. It is poppy cock. It is the concept that is foisted on individuals and parents of individuals who are differently abled (or super heroes as my son terms him and his friends).

It is within these words, once again coming to the simple teaching we are who we are created to be. Within the beautiful diversity of our world the image of Love that is the Holy Mystery is reflected. How our world interdependently connects, cares for one another, and lives is the actualization of the holy breath of the Holy Spirit at creation.

At different points in life, different labels are put upon us to show differences and keep us separated. What is missed, is the core that is the same. The cosmic dust, the spark of life.

It is about creating a life beyond labels. Not just lip service, but actually rooting out the Gremlim-saboteur that breaks you down as “not being good enough” or “never will” to be replaced with the resounding voice within. The true affirmation of who you are, what you can do, and to repeat: WHO YOU ARE as you live out of the greatest gifts we have:

L-O-V-E.