Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’


Love No Qualifiers.

Watch here.

 

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June 9, 2019 was Pentecost Sunday. It is marked 50 days after the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, hence the term-Pente- meaning well, 50. But beyond that, and that the church decorations go to the bright red what is the big deal for this season we are entering? The story is told in Acts 2:1-47.  Some key-points on that reference- Acts, or Acts of the Apostles is the fifth book in the Christian Testament (colloquially called the New Testament of our Holy Bible). It is the sequel to Gospel of Luke, and written by the physician Luke to tell the history of the church as he knew it. In case you have never used a Bible, the numbers denote chapters and verses (the verses are sentences in the paragraphs). The number before the colon is the chapter (2) and the numbers after are the verses.

This is the Church’s birthday if you will. So how was it celebrated? Was it celebrated by creating rules on who was in and who was out? Which type of music was to be sung? How prayers were to be said? Wafers or bread at communion?

Nope.

In fact, as you note from the story. The colour red of today is to remind us of the flaming tongues that came down upon the Apostles. Yes, fire. The Holy Spirit. Or as some of the older creeds (what we believe) of the church will note, Holy Ghost. This is the breath of life of God that was breathed so creation, well formed after the big bang. The intrinsic divine piece in all of us. It is the piece we come into and that baptism in water is used as an allegory for.

The Spirit fully washed out on the early followers who were sharing the story of faith. They laid out the past, the exclusionary past and the pain could be remembered at what had happened. Showing where they had been in an exclusionary world, where labels and castes kept people separated in life, socio-economics, with human rights, and in ability to worship.

Then BANG! Jesus. This labourer out of a back water town upsetting the apple cart, laying the foundation of belonging for all. All were open to realize and actualize the gift of the Holy Spirit (it was breathed into us y’know) and suddenly the powers that be plotted his death, and it horribly went awry as the cosmos shouted a loud n’uh. Now his followers were here, and the Holy Spirit was a flame…and the final barrier to belonging was shattered. For the tongues of flame, allowed speaking in tongues…

That is, the languages that kept neighbour from understanding neighbour, was suddenly no longer a stumbling block. Speaking in tongues, was the Apostles speaking their own language, and through the love of listening to understand, the words were heard in the language of the hearers native lands. Thus undoing the ancient myth understanding of the Tower of Babel.

Babel was humanities attempt to seek power for power’s sake and build a tower to the heavens. It was shattered as you can read, and the people were left divided by language. As they gathered out of love of neighbour, self and God in the infinite circle, the Tower was erased, and once more the people were one…in Love.

What is Pentecost as its heart?

Not just a liturgical thing in the church year where colours change. Rather, it is the season of the church year where we focus on ensuring all belong.

What is one thing you can do this week, to create belonging for someone?


I had mused in the conclusion to my last series to take the scripture thoughts onto a YouTube channel. Well, it is live, so we shall see how this goes. The first video I am still sorting things out but let me know what you think: Finding Neighbour.

Soul Ripples

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where does the helper go when they need help? 

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


“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’

-Gospel of Luke 15: 4-5 (New International Version)

What is the role of a Shepherd? Brother Jesus shared how the Holy Mystery was with creation through parables, that is story. The imagery was for the time, and in the instance of the shepherd a lost sheep was lost revenue, and if the flock was not owned by the shepherd then punishment to come. The image of the Shepherd retrieving the lost sheep with it draped around his neck is seen as one of love, but truly it is a lamb that has been hobbled by the Shepherd’s staff so it can’t walk and re-learns to be with the flock.This parable has been used to create sheeple within pews, that is, it has created a sense of fear for the lost sheep has been cast as one who has descended into “sin” or “evil” and needs to be forcefully converted back.

A flip side of the coin for the parable is the way it was used in Star Trek Voyager’s Season 6 episode “Good Shepherd”.  Captain Janeway has three members of her crew brought to her attention that have not come into who they are truly meant to be: Mortimer an engineer who would rather be lost in centuries solved physic debates than achieve his own greatness, Celes who cannot even chase her passion because she has convinced herself she is incompetent, and Billy, who has created a wall of hypochondria to protect himself.

Yes, each thing may be seen as a barrier, or just laziness. But the story also illustrates the overcoming and naming of Gremlins by each crew member. The Gremlin, or saboteur, what others may suggest is a Shadow or soul sludge is that which protects us but also keeps us frozen in our here and now. We cannot move forward. It is the heart of the Good Shepherd story, not violence or forceful compliance. It is the journey of discovery for all involved.

First off, the Shepherd discovers the one(s) that has fallen between the cracks, that has let Gremlins take over. The conversation and actions open up to remove the Gremlin.

Secondly, the Sheep must be willing to identify and name the Gremlin, thank the Gremlin for the care it has provided, but still release it to oblivion.

Finally, if not, then the outcome of the Parable is the ultimate fear and that is loss of the Lamb to the wolf.

What it comes down to though for the journey of life is the answer to a simple question deep within our own souls:

Do you trust you to be you?

 


 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

 


Much of the conversion drive is using points of Romans to prove that it is necessary to convert as noted previously. What is missed though is Paul’s beautiful discourse that echoes in many ways the wisdom teacher of Ecclesiastes. He is writing to the gathering of Rome, a diverse community struggling to understand a way forward in unity. Each has their own understanding of culture, norms, law, prophets and yet here they all are together. What is one to do?

Paul moves into the second chapter (Romans 2) presenting a very young type of God with creation. That is one that is wrathful, but proxies the wrath though and the mercy dependent on how the individual carries their whole being. Do they carry these judgments, hatreds and doubts? If so what is being done to help them move forward healthily, and be complete. Paul points out that it is how we live our life is what we will reap, will we need to be purged completely to enter the afterlife, or sail seamlessly from this to the next?

Works grow out of faith. Many try to create the false dichotomy between Paul and James, but as Paul had pointed out in Corinth he was involved in Jerusalem. He was aware of the teachings and the living of the life. It is the life lived that had transformed Paul that allowed Paul into the leadership circle of the Way. It was not position, but character transfigured that shone through. This is a very Franciscan principle. Many view the Franciscans as anti-learning as it is not the major pursuit as say with the Jesuits. But what Francis of Assisi had stated was simple, once you are living the first lesson then move to the next.

It is as Paul was laying out, faith becomes second nature, there is times when we are first entering and growing into our new life where we may need to pause and practice but eventually it becomes second nature. Like remembering to take your medications or practicing mindfulness (or DBT/CBT) or other forms of Soul Work. It takes practice, but eventually they become a part of who you are (Romans 3). That is that you have awoke the holy love that created you, you are becoming and have become whole, this is where you are living out of now. Not out of fear, or out of desire to be acknowledged, but simply because it is the right heart to be in (Romans 4). Like Abraham and Sarah learned, the means justify the ends, and the ends need to be achieved through a moral way, not through things that tear down, but that build up.

In the darkness we knew hope. Think about that. Anyone that has ever stepped out of themselves and sought aid, whether a spiritual director, a mentor, a life coach, a therapist, a doctor, a friend…in that moment we acknowledge we cannot do it alone (Romans 5). In that moment a courageous safe space is created. We know the cycle we are on is destroying us. It can be literal or we just know we are in the wrong groove and need to shift paths. We may need to stop a destructive behaviour, or end a toxic relationship or employment. Perhaps it is something good dangling before us but our inner quiet voice is a saboteur, or as the ancients would say a demon? That voice that keeps us frozen to keep us in what we believe is safe. But safety also has a price to pay for we are truly not who we are meant to be.

This is the step of faith. The step of opening ourselves up in hope to connect with another’s love to carry us through into our own soul-self actualized. That is right, a true whole person. It is what Jesus spoke of in the Great Commandments, the Love Commandment, connecting self-neighbour-Holy Mystery.

The bedrock of true community.

Living out of faith,

In love.