Posts Tagged ‘Life’

The First 175

Posted: September 7, 2020 by Ty in Spirituality
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Humans are very peculiar. I often find them unfathomable, but an interesting psychological study.”
-Spock

175 days. On March 17 I will admit I did not foresee us having to be socially/physically distanced much beyond the end of the school year. Some would say, yeah but schools have reopened and Alberta is in Phase II. Yet daily numbers continue to climb, and currently 16 schools have had positive tests for Covid-19. Now I can spend this time ranting about the ineffectiveness of the current provincial government who has chosen this time to perpetuate failed American policy of funding following students, to defund public schools and a government actively picking fights with our health care providers, not to mention the parallel opioid epidemic happening during this pandemic.

Yet, that is not the purpose of this post. I think just last year at this time I was in the midst of treatment for my own conversion disorder/PNES/PTSD and now here I am in the midst of a pandemic, shifting gears in a career path to working from home. The current underlying anxiety of life. There has been ups and downs, making hard decisions within a life where my son is in highest risk of the worst case scenarios is he was to contract Covid-19. It brings a different lens to life, a heart lens, a heaviness that shifts life experiences during this time.

A Challenge lifted with the faux choice presented around back to school, where our other child could online hub, for the supports necessary for my son to continue to grow and thrive, he needed to be back in school. Even with his school providing one of the safest options, still many moving parts. Some will never know the amount of trust our medically complex community extends to be part of basic Constitutional rights as Canadians.

During this past 175 days we have learned, we have grown. We have continued to connect as a family unit. Shifted gears into what was safe to do- walks, drives (ah before the parks opened and you could get amazing wildlife pictures from the vehicle as they were so chill), checking out how things were set up for safety (Thank you Vulcan Trek Station). Oh and a fun Wynonna Earp tour of Didsbury (seriously Didsbury, think of Earper days).

Our kids mourning the summer shift away from the parade circuits, small town fun and doing some fund raising to help others. As thrift stores re-open being able to donate to at least continue our pattern of helping. Not being able to be around Countess as much as usual for the varied reasons of the c-tine.

Screen fatigue sets in as everything feels like it is online. A few close friends who get it, we can set up visits with. But the smack of heart/soul pain when you believed one got it, only to realize in the moment that they did not and the extra layer of fear it brought. But thankful for the screens, and the online communities that were able to build connection-summer camp for the kiddos, youth group, and church each week, thank you for the heart your brought to your passions.

Focusing on interests, exploring some new. Realizing that costs rise as you step away and lose the way you used to do things (ah Public Libraries). A summer spent reading, and another child discovering and refining their cosplay passion.

A fun summer of variety of RuPaul’s drag races (though what was up with that mask? on the Zoom finally!). Bosch, Star Trek Lower Decks (okay Trek in general), warped and weird comic book team ups brought to my bookshelf by curbside pick ups from Words & Pictures, Doctor Who…and the list goes on…so many new release movies bought and watched shared through my Facebook as our Ragan Chateau Cinema (and finally Good Omens!).

Empathizing for each family that has lost someone to Covid, for the outbreaks in our shelters, and for those who my son has lost in his life this summer. The haunting conversations with him during this time. Asking in a night of tears if I loved him and would do his funeral. Fear as he did not react in anger at loss of his classmates, but rather, just slumped over like one beaten by grief. As I told him, no it’s not how the universe works he needed to get through Bible College like he dreamed to do mine because parents don’t bury their kids.

His answer…

Silly Daddy.

While others look to starting back to life as close to normal as possible. We do have to double check and triple check, second guess…for the heavy heart of a Dad, I do not want to be the one that made the misstep that costs my son his life. Moments over the last 175 where I thought of breaking my tea totaller ways, but what a risk of loss for myself, for a sip of alcohol. Not worth it.

Enjoying and living the journey of discovery of my other kid as they come into their authentic self. Pride is the only word that comes to mind, with their passion and love and care for life and others.

Hope to find a new addition to our fam jam, a wonderful new rescue Mumma dog to love as day 176 dawns in the morning, and head back to work.

In the still quiet silence, trying to connect to calm the constant state of anxiety. Listening for the vocational call…that can shift back around to a renewal of the soul of the work February 20th…just need to take the step of risk and inquiry.

One can begin to reshape the landscape with a single flower.
-Spock

I talked with my wife, Shawna, about whether I stopped counting the days because the boi was back in class. I decided against it, because our life had not shifted gears back to fully belonging and inclusive in community once more. That will take some time. Just like reminding myself, that the compassion and kindness I try to bring to others during this time, I need to bring to myself.

For, I had set the intention for a post a day during this time, and some days (several back to back), after logging off from work finding the energy is just not there to even journal. I need to be kind to me, and move forward. Each day is a new day. And yes I still work to find my centre, and peace. Most days are good, had some dark days in the first 175, and that okay.

For each day can be reshaped, just like a landscape, by adding one thing. Take time each day to note at least one thing you are thankful for. It begins to make a whole new soul scape.

As tomorrow brings a new day, a new bus ride, a new log on…and the cycle continues where it leads…


IDW’s 2017 collection Star Trek: Waypoint is a collection of one and done short comic stories in the tradition of the Star Trek shows, it was part of the 50th anniversary celebration. Long time readers will remember I have drawn upon these short stories for other reflections.

For this time on the Holy Week Pilgrimage, it was appropriate to once again tap this resource, as the ancient friends of Jesus’ journeyed into darkness latching on to hope to decolonize their own whole beings, throw off the colonizers (the Empire) and create something new, so to are we at a crossroads in Canada, and the world from the Inter-generation traumas of this cycle of conquering, dominance, dehumanization, and genocide in its variety of forms. A time where truth needs to be spoken, intrinsic worth and being reclaimed, and moving forward in reconciliation in a new way. Which brings us to the Mother’s Walk story in this collection. Set in the world of Deep Space Nine. The former Cardassian space station being reclaimed by the Bajoran government, and United Federation of Planets.

See the quick version of the back story is the Cardassians conquered Bajor, enslaving the population, strip mining it for resources, and doing what ever they could to destroy the populace’s spirit. Sound familiar from our history books? It is within this emergent new reality that Major Kiera Nerys shares the story of a revelation to Commander Dax now that she is in space and can see the stars. The story of the Mother’s Walk–Shar-D’an. An ancient Bajoran ritual for the women, that was shared in the value of women working together, tied to a sacred story of family. It was a time of the year when the women would gather, embroider names of those they were connected to, walk in and with the Sacred.

It was seen as a point of power, a world of matriarchy, the Cardassians saw it as dangerous. As such, for those caught living their faith and doing this ceremony their embroidered sashes were used to hang them from as an execution warning. See something familiar in the use of Crucifixion in the Easter Story? In the use of violence in colonization across the nations and suppression of religious-spiritual practice? Forcing change on how a society functions stripping away the matriarchy to impose a hierarchy?

Kiera shared her truth with Dax, and that she had no family to do this with now that she could. As this truth spread on the station, those that new and cared for Kiera reached out to do the ceremony with her- O’Brien and his wife Keiko, who Kiera had carried their child by surrogacy, Dax, Quark, Bashir, Odo, Sisko (The Emissary for Bajor’s religion), all had reached out and been denied by Kiera for not being her “family”.

Yet, think of what happened?

The growth in the short story towards, Kiera’s realization of whom her new family had become. For family is not just blood, it is those that come to care, support, see the inherent being of another, connection, belonging, sharing life together, willingness and openness to be a part of the life cycle of another, and the benchmark’s of the sacred.

Who are your family?

Those that share the sacred journey with you.


It has always been a weird situation when folks try to make out you’re some kind of super hero or special person for being a parent of an exceptional child. Really? I think all parents that engage with their kids to support them in becoming who they are meant to be are quite amazing regardless of the labels society places on the child. See, the only real trash parent I see are the ones that decide a coping or discipline method is to beat a child or spouse or sexually, emotionally and mentally abuse them (which is why I cheer the Canadian Government’s $7.5 million investment in kid’s help phone during this time of social distancing, perhaps silence will break and we can rescue more from the darkness, but I digress).

I’m a parent of a 14 year old and a 12 year old. Any labels through medical or societal are not their to define my children, rather they are their for communities and society to know what my child needs to thrive, discover, belong and be the most awesome them, they can be. Full stop. Being a parent is hard. Each of us has our own strengths, areas of growth, challenges, and then we are given mini-mes that become a ramped up mirror of our best and worst traits (hey, I knew I was a sarcastic so-so, but trust me when my kids riff on me its really obvious lol). So why do we need to sub-divide?

Within the exceptional child community, why do we sub-divide further? With comments such as, you can’t possibly know because your child can do x-y-z-… we are conditioned to constantly be in apology mode for a spasm, a sound, a spasticity, a stem or a tick…yet…

The world around us, can be as assertively a-holey (to borrow on of my daughter’s favourites of skirting swearing) it wants towards us. Religious can say we did something so our child is being punished for sin, that they need prayer for healing. In religious settings many have heard of our family’s journeys where the elders, long timers, and money givers feel it is their right to make an issue of the “different”, not understanding truly what an imageo dei is an how a diverse mosaic our Holy truly is in human form… yet it is left to us to take the slings and arrows, and to make apologies, up to us to mea culpa, and share the medical history to “educate”. Yet at no point does someone hold the bullier accountable, and threaten to cast them out, instead the surface issues are touched upon, and one does not want to deep dive to the “isms” below the surface. Truly live healing and reconciliation at a community level as the gospel teaches, so instead we leave. Before the social distancing began I was sharing ideas with some non-profits to offer up this spiritual space for families seeking it an not yet ready to traverse the choppy waters. Also knowing that the last 2 places my family has been and is, are safe zones, some may say courageously, but rather I would use the term they came to meet my son with Jesus’ heart.

But I digress. For the fight before these moments was cemented in something deeper. As alluded to. You fight against the passive systematic eugenics for your child to be allowed life. Then you battle the assertive systematic eugenics for them to keep their life. You lift the life up to the Holy Mystery thankful for the love and blessing of parenthood for however long they will be with you, knowing that it truly is a blessing.

Yet as noted, different groups you try to be apart of use “tradition” or “money” as reasons they cannot alter physical spaces for accessibility (making a physical space able to be used by all). Never mind if they are willing to even extend the interpersonal space to allow the different to exist (noting any similarities with any other marginalized group). To the challenge of belonging- this is being known by many, missed when not their, supported in finding and fulfilling purpose– it challenges the concept of the abled, the idea that disability is catching, or that the wrong thing may be said, or what do you do when the child dies? So many things race through minds to create barriers, instead of simply meeting the person before you as… a person.

The other challenge is fighting with other systems that tell you, like the CBE, that you chose to have it, and should be happy with the scraps thrown your way. Our current education minister that believes scrapping aides is a cost saver for the rest of the school year that will be done by home, not understanding the roles fulfilled. The governmental policy not seeing the child as a full person, just as a nuisance that can be spun as the rationale for why other students can’t have things (and yes has been done many times). When tragedy strikes, knowing your child will not receive the same level of support as other children would, because it is too costly to figure out how to aid them in grieving.

To a disability community fractured because everyone chases the funding needed for our children to excel, so instead of exceptional kids and adults, we hear about specific disabilities, and others are left outside. Sadly, as I noted earlier, some families’ take this approach in trying to support one another in the idea of-well your child can– so you don’t get it (or in the struggles to keep plastic straws). A selfish inability to see beyond our own situation, and to understand that we can advocate for something beneficial to other families’ even if it is not directly beneficial to our child because it’s the right thing to do.

The system, politics,  communities, religion, try to beat down upon you that your child or loved one is not a full person. That you should mourn because they may never (fill in the `traditional’ coming of age mile stone) and as such you are missing out.

And ya know what my pastoral response is to it all?

BULLOCKS!!!

Being a parent, uncle, aunt, grandparent, god parent, is a pretty awesome thing. The child before you, that is now in your life regardless of diagnosis or labels is– a friggin’ blessing folks and is looking to us to love them, mentor them, and support them into becoming the most awesome them they can be.

What does that mean? It means celebrating when things happen that are awesome, crying when things change or loss happens, chatting and sharing with the child like you would any child. Doing life together as a family, and standing your ground as a strong advocate when something is unjust, or educate when necessary, but also, regardless of time affiliated with a group, person or family member, when they don’t get it and it becomes detrimental to your mental health or that of your child- END IT!

See my son is 14 years old. 14 amazing years of having a son. Some say how did you raise a son with___. Honestly, I raised a son, this is my son, and truly the only one I know how to raise.  We have had many laughs, tickles, wrestles, experiments, times in hospital, tears when little buddies and grandparents went to the tea party in heaven, his heart convinced me a non-dog person to get a dog…and we cried when our mumma house hippo joined the Jesus Tea Party. Waiting for the next blessing. He has ministered with me, cheered in hockey games, been out in multiple parades collecting donations to help other kids, the first to hug a new friend that he just met, and deeply feel rejection from those that should know better. He chose to be baptized in pre-school, we celebrated his elementary school graduation, and are looking forward to high school. Do we know what the future holds?

No.

But he’s a kid. Kids discover, learn, and define who they are in life. Parents help them cultivate that so that they can become the who they are meant to be.

That is what we are doing. We live each day with gratitude, even those days he’s a weiner because he’s a 14 year old boy and does what 14 year old boys do, and those days when he shows wisdom and compassion through the simplest actions beyond his years.

Society tells you to grieve. I thought it was important to share, that grieving is about making society feel better for their innate fear and hatred of that which does not conform to their “ideals”. The labels and diagnosis are there not to define your child’s boundaries of life, but rather to state what the world needs to do to ensure they belong, grow and thrive into the citizen they are becoming.

Rather live in celebration, push the envelope, learn, discover, laugh, cry, and be the parent you were meant to be with the kids you have.

Shift from grieving to gratitude.

Practice each day, writing out 3 things you are grateful for. Plan your own family milestone celebrations that fit the family you are and are becoming due to who your child is.

Be in the moment. Let hope grow, and love abound.


One of the blessings of discerning new vocation, is the opportunities that arise. This was speaking notes from a quick teaching presentation I was asked to make. It is best as a full hour, but this was put forward for 8-10 minutes. It was fun.

Today we continue our series of applying the skills with the practitioner and the client. One of the greatest stumbling blocks ourselves, and our clients, will face in holistic health is resistance. We have already explored and practiced the POP strategy, Inclusion Lens, Rolling with Resistance and Powerful Questions to name but a few. Today we look at gremlins.

This is not about the cute critters that got wet or fed after midnight, but is an allegory from the myth of gremlins that would interrupt the performance of machines, in World War II mechanics would blame the Gremlins when they were asked to fix something that was unexplainable, or once brought to them the machine was no longer doing. But for us, what are gremlins?

It is the inner piece of us that holds us back. Now the gremlin is not just a negative soundtrack, it can be that, it is also the things that sound like safe gate keepers: my experience says this can happen; I need more data, what ifs? Anything else that rolls around that can make you hesitant or lead you to stop something that is beneficial?

Hold those voices/statements and feelings. The gremlin work arises when in conversation in the moment, or over time you note the same hesitancies or phrases arising from the client or in self-awareness yourself. It brings a full mind-heart approach as it is creative in how we root this out. Ensure you have a blank piece of paper, and a pen or pencil:

  • Centre yourself; take some deep breaths slowly counting up to 5, and then back down to 0.
  • On the paper in front of you, we are going to take 1 minute to quickly scribble out an image of what your gremlin looks like. This gives us a visual, around the visual write some of the things said from the voice of the gremlin.
  • Name your gremlin. They are a part of you, and as such should be given the honour of a name.
  • Now, take the time you need to contemplate if you are ready to move beyond the gremlin, or to let it remain. Some you work with may be ready right away, some may still struggle.

See the gremlin has kept us safe, even if unhealthy, and gotten us to this point in our lives.  If you are ready to say good-bye, and then thank your gremlin for the work it has done for you, but acknowledge it is time to be whole. I would suggest a destruction ritual of tearing up and the garbage, or burning. This does not mean the gremlin is gone forever, it may resurface, but you have named it, and now can tell it to go away when it surfaces again. If you are not ready, that is okay, share about your gremlin with a confidant, and set a specific time and place to revisit. Accountability is the key with doing this type of work.

When doing gremlin work, it may take longer than this short in-service, most likely will even for you, but it is healthy. Take the beginnings away with you. As you work your self-care journal which we already know is done in words and images not structured essay, spend time unpacking your gremlins, which one or ones are you wanting to challenge and confront. Do the imaging, scribbling and writing, make a connection with a trusted coach or mentor to sit with for accountability and process if you want to move beyond the gremlin. If so, discard, note in your journal what it felt like in the release.

We shall continue to revisit the impact of external and internal resistance for the practitioner and client on the healing and stability journey of addictions.

Any questions?


The bluster of winter trying to interrupt fall (or autumnal weather as some wanker has dubbed it). It is made worse by the deluge of media attempting to create stories from non-stories, and not actually doing their job as journalists and challenging the off setting narrative that oil and profits mean more than the planet and people. Some would say we live in a regressive province, but then they would be right. Melanie Moon, fastened the cincture around her purple and gray academic robe denoting her Master of Social Work. St. Jude’s was in the alternative Anglo-catholic tradition (usually seen as anti-many human rights, St. Jude’s established and flourished by embracing the beautiful Imageo Dei that other traditions refused to), and did like the smells and bells vestments. She pulled the diaconal stole (a diagonal stole, sewed at the bottom, bright red) denoting her ministerial office of education, social work and care.

Retired-Constable Sean James stepped into the Sacristry to check on the associate pastor of St. Jude’s. “Ready, Mel?” Melanie Moon, retired-MLA, last Social Credit of Alberta MLA. She had shared her journey in Alberta, to run and win was the impossible task to then lose the party she served under to become an Anti-Abortion group that could have names on the ballot sickened her. She was a believer, but was not sucked into the fog and entrenchment issues. That being things like anti-LGBTTQ+, passive to active ableism through “healing prayers”; and anti-abortion.

“Ready, Sean. But seriously as a deacon I’m pretty sure I am not supposed to be serving the Eucharist.”

Sean laughed, “what about St. Jude’s screams we follow typical convention? The Eucharist is about hope, about family together, all those that Jesus’ society said were not worthy, or less than, being there and being worthy, and the beloved image that we were created in and called very good and blessed.” Mel stared blankly at Sean. “Lee figured you may want to freeze up on your first solo show he gave me a cue card.” Sean holds up the lined piece of card board.

Mel laughed. Yes, Lee, was a former journalist turned priest. St. Jude’s took the risk to take her on as an associate after she chose not to run again in what was probably the dirtiest and most corrupt Alberta election on record. She spent time discussing with Lee the writings of Nouwen, Day, Fox, Spong, Ragan, Aberhart, Borg, to name but a few and it was through this he asked her to take a risk.

Mel did. The MLA’s in Alberta may not have a platinum pension like other provinces or the Federal or Civic elected, but there was a nice severance package that would float her while St. Jude’s trusted to raise the funds for her role. Sean checked his smart phone and chuckled. “Lee checking in to make sure you’re doing okay.”

Mel laughed, “isn’t he supposed to be chaperoning Beth’s school camp trip?” Ah band camp, they needed parent-guardian volunteers, Sean, Mel and Lee drew straws, long one went. Beth Venus, the most powerful magical hero in the world, The Bionic Knight, was also a fifteen year old high schooler. Since they had issues with the government chronic under-funding of public schools and forcing parents to work Casinos, Bingo’s and rely on the Lotto Fund (which the latest Alberta Budget revoked) for funds… it was preying on vice, and addiction…an addiction that had no outwards signs until complete devastation of the person if they could not get help ala a small T financial trustee, or worst case, suicide after losing all connecting points in society.

The words flowed through Moon from the altar, using a Franciscan Eucharist. Some state that a Eucharist is rote prayers and creeds that have no meaning, these are those that engage out of tradition, and this is just what we do on Sunday mornings, with no ripple effect into the other 6 days and 22 hours of life. But for those that it had the effect on, it was a frame work, like a coat hanger to hang your coat of life on.

Mel opened up her sermon from the opening words of Mark, “the Kingdom is near. It is the thin space our Celtic Ancestors spoke of, that our Indigenous Brothers and Sisters know, and each of us pick up on the moment by moment breaths of miraculous life that is by no ways structured, catechized, or templated for us…” she continued, as the words of wisdom spilled from her lips.

The words of the Gospel, the political statement of personal and communal life change to bring the Kingdom here…not a seeking after political power, or entrenching us versus them mentality that some saw in extremist groups like the dying Dominionist Movement, or other religious extremes…extremes that draw in all shades of Christians James knew, because you just got tired of being unwelcome, bashed, and battered…and these groups provided an ease of welcome and acceptance that centrists, progressives and pragmatists could learn from. Sadly it is easier to stay silent on that which you disagree with to actually belong, see belonging closes the space in the thin space.

“It is up to us if we create belonging in hate, power and love of money… so the Sacred Holy is closed to us for ever…or the thin space is closer and closing because it is found in hope, mystery, joy, peace… and Love…”

“Let us come to the table…”

Lee looked down at the text in with the picture of Mel serving the Eucharist from the altar at St. Jude’s. A smile crept over his lips.

Beth’s rainbow pixie popped out of the cabin. “Hey old man…did you get the text?”

“Of Mel?”

Beth cleared the twenty feet from the cabin to fire pit quickly. “No, from the BBC.” Tsunami in bound to a pacific island.

Lee laughed. “Be quick.”

“Always.” She ducked into the trees, as two words escaped her lips with a flash of white lightning…

“Bionics On!”

A new era launches…


There are non-negotiables in anyone’s life. Values, and core beliefs that are immutable. This we know for the species we are as human beings. The challenge is over the past 10 years, we have lost the concept of societal non-negotiables and core values. This is not a “God in public School” thing, this is the concept that as a society we were always working towards something better, for collective care, prosperity, and discovery (yes you can see that Star Trek has influenced my thoughts on the future). One only has to look to the current USA primaries, or the Canadian Federal Election currently underway to see that the concept of a core value for our society is now a moving target, and it is not a discussion about how to make this a reality–care for veterans, seniors, multi-culturalism, public health care, societal infrastructure, etc–the stones of the culture built on the Constitutional cornerstones in Canada of Peace, Order, and Good Governance. What exists in its place is headline grabbing gotcha that would make the National Enquirer blush.

I am also old enough to remember when being a member provincially-federally of a party by de facto was an anomaly that the New Democratic Party held (and the Greens would come into as well).  Rather citizens understood the division of provincial and federal powers and would look at the party that worked best for that level, in essence it would mean some held different memberships and different levels or even, gasp, voting patterns. Now it is expected that you not only hold same memberships and both levels, but that you viciously hold to 100% of the policy book unequivocally or you are a hypocrite (perhaps with more questioning the Green Party of Canada would realize that the feds have no control over Minimum Wage, that is a provincial power). The concept of the thinking candidate, voter, citizen is completely removed for you cannot challenge within your own echo-chamber. And so the silencing not only of critical thought, but our Charter Right of Freedom of Expression.  What it leaves us with is the current state of the Federal election.

I would hazard to put out though that the vast majority do not hold these entrenched views. In fact, I would say the silence they parlay into a false sense of belonging. I state false, because they may be a part of a party, but it is a lonely belonging. For they have created dissonance within themselves to belong, and as a result have taken in the loneliness that makes our society less. It creates a communal level of anxiety and paranoia that can easily be tapped into for fear and hate. That tapping into of fear and hate, leaves the ability for courageous safe spaces off the map. See a safe space is not a place where your views will not be challenged, it is not a space where a feeling may be hurt. It is a safe space because everyone is recognized as a person (Imageo Dei) and not dehumanized, which is a state of either side of the entrenchment.

In 2004, to earn my Bachelor of Arts in Leadership & Ministry we had a capstone project. My professor at the time discredited my proposal around Public Health Care being the Christian response, through using sources released during the term from the Frasier Institute (don’t get me started on understanding bias), but what came out of that discourse was a new idea– how to equip the church in understanding and coming to communal answer on policy questions that they then could use in voting or discussion within their own parties.

Key thing to note, at this time there was no “Christian” party. Yes, I had heard this or that in my time ala if you are a Christian it is Christian Heritage, Canadian Alliance (pre-cursor to the Conservative Party). I had heard the false choices, the C.A. is the Evangelical Church at Prayer, the NDP is the United Church at worship, etc. But my experience through-out the different forms showed that each branch had a mosaic of political beliefs, and these discussions could be divisive, yet the hard conversations needed to happen to be able to get people to a deeper spiritual discipline: Holy Listening for Holy Conversations.

I am working on a new version of this 2004 project I used for many times in discussions. It has led to reading some good resources, that I thought I would share around this idea. Brian Jennings’ 2018’s Dancing in No Man’s Land uses the metaphor of war for where the political discourse is in his home country of the USA currently, but can be seen elsewhere. Jennings’ is a pastor at a Restoration Church in America, and has noted the entrenchment. He tosses out the idea that the Christian is called to be in the No Man’s Land. This is a World War I term, where each side would entrench and not get into the area for fear of machine guns, and that due to this entrenchment then the insidious chemical weapons were developed.

His book is conversational, lays out questions and scriptures. What I like is that it percolates discussion, puts the issue up, and then challenges the reader to seek out the understanding within their faith, scripture, and the FACTS. Going deeper, being able to hold space and a conversation with others. That laying out of ground rules in life that used to be enjoyed where hard topics could be discussed, and dissenting views could be put forward and unpacked. His metaphor extends to the idea of the different sides leaving their bunkers, touching on gifts of gentleness and courage, shrewdness and grace, conviction, and discernment. The goal is moving into the path of peace, knowing that it is going to be rocky, but that it is possible through humbleness to leave bunkers, and put down the implements of war– social media, bullying, gotcha, right fighting, etc. and to truly look to the core.

What does it mean for our community? Society? Country to belong?

Belonging should not be lonely. Brene Brown (2017) Braving the Wilderness takes the reader on an unpacking of belonging. It is an excellent read on its own, but also a powerful compliment to Jennings’ book. See Brown takes one through the ways of belonging in self, and community. Explores what happens through dehumanization and how it allows for a false belonging. Yes, the false belonging many can have politically. So in their bunker that in the group all is great (hence, the huge overlooks of unapologetic moral failures). That the root of true belonging is not feeling alone. One can be alone, and it can and is a powerful spiritual practice, but the lonely feeling even when you are with people is not what belonging is about.

What happens when we extend this out to politics?

Simple, there is good people in all parties. In one to one moments they can admit this or that they may not support. Good conversations can happen, yet they do not want to “lose face” in any other venue and as such will fight tooth and nail even if they do not believe. Just look at Conservative Party Andrew Scheer’s comments about same-sex marriages and dogs, unapologetic. The Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau in brown/black face from 19+ more years ago, though multiple times which he was apologetic about. The false dichotomy is that many still look at it as a two party choice in a country that has over 10 registered parties. Perhaps it is time to look in the mirror and ask what happens when we begin to question not only from without (picking the spec in your neighbour’s eye with the lumber in your own if you will), but also from within.

Do we choose from a place of fear and paranoia? Scuttle butt is Scheer was the compromise candidate for his party on the 13th ballot to stop Bernier, who now leads the fascist People Party of Canada, what if it wasn’t about stopping, but the party actually looking at the field and choosing one that could’ve inspired and made their party better?

In regards to Trudeau, lets use it to actually open up the courageous safe space in our nation in regards to racism and prejudice and what it means for our nation today and moving forward. Questioning from outside, but also from within.

Unpacking for ourselves what it means to become comfortable in our own skin. It is never an all or nothing debate as Brown (2017) points out when discussing the gun issue in America. You can enjoy hunting and not think the NRA is right that everyone needs handguns and assault weapons, yet the discourse does not allow for that. Federally in Canada we have put up apologetic blackface to unapologetic LGBTQ2+-hate and created a false choice.

Our politicians only do better, when we demand better. Our politics is only better, when we question from within the bunkers, and are willing to leave the bunkers to create working groups, discussions groups, movie groups, book groups, churches, coffee klatches, that are across ideological lines where people are open to actual discovery and learning. Listening to understand, not zoning to create your response. The scary part of these groups for our world though is not the listening piece. It is the silence piece. If we listen to understand, then there will be silence not filled by something, and what may emerge in that silence is the scariest thought for many.

For in the silence, good happens.

Belonging is authenticated.


Oh crap! It’s gone. Damn it! Just a few of my thoughts that went through my throbbing head I had just bounced off the bottom of a balcony while emptying out a hoarding situation in an apartment building. My Superman shield marriage band my kids had gotten me had flown into a dumpster and was lost amongst many unmentionable waste items. It was like a piece of my soul had been shredded.

It would be a few days after this occurrence that I would have my second Emergency Room visit, this time with a mysterious 2 plus hour memory loss that has never returned. During this time as well I would lose my Celtic knot work pinky ring my wife gifted me with many years ago, this was within our bedroom or somewhere in the house but lost still the same.

2016 was not shaping up to be a friend for the out word symbols of my love for my wife.

How Many Times did you hit your head?

Now, I admit I entered this world of medical wonder 3 years after my Mum had transitioned to Paradise, but it still shocked me that there is someone out there in the world that knows how many times they have hit their head. Was there a meeting at some point when I was out sick that noted the necessity of tracking this?

Each doctor and neurologist I dealt with asked the question as if the answer should be known. They did not appreciate my jovial “well I was a boy so it may be easier to count the days I have not smacked my head.” Truly, I do not know. I have had some minor concussions in my life, and maybe a few non-minors. I do not recollect ever losing consciousness, but then I would need others around me to note that.

I put this as one of the three major questions I faced because it created a level of frustration. My Dad and I pieced together my family’s health history as best we could, but still were left flummoxed by this query.

It is a query that would persist from May 2016 up until my intake into the week long observation In September 2017. Although the questions around that intake did finally get professionals to look closely at my work and life experience to begin to unpack that it may not simply be Epilepsy.

How are you still alive?

A small piece of dark humour for this question to arise in my 40th year of life, as during my childhood I had a recurring nightmare that I would die before I turned 19 years old; now here was the question before me 21 years past my best before date if you will.

As my diagnosis finally sunk in that it was an a-typical form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and a Conversion Disorder that manifested as Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures (PNES). Through all the studies, and the fact the medication at such a high dose was not helping… it became clear that I was a pure experience of PNES.

From November 2017 until February 2018 when I would begin treatment I would also experience two falls as a result of seizures as my body continued to attempt to protect myself. The first was on Sunday December 23, 2017 when I would fall off the ramp we have for my son’s wheel chair and bounce my head off our front step breaking my glasses. The second would be on the last Saturday in January 2018 where I would take a multiple seizure and fall on top of my wife while getting ready for our church’s Men’s Prayer Breakfast (suffice it to say I did not attend that morning).

Both left my family shaken having experienced this, and even knowing that it was not Epilepsy and the dangers that come with that diagnosis, that we are far too familiar with as it is one my son has. This PNES was just as dangerous. Yet that was not the full source of the question “How are you still alive?”

The full source, was sharing some of my experiences on the front lines and within management within ministry, politics and the homeless serving sector of Canada.  Some of these experiences were covered in my previous book and writings, but they include and are not limited to: assaults, being shot at, death threats, interrupting suicide attempts, being stalked, being bit, dealing with infestations, being at ground zero of outbreaks, cycles of drug crisis (meth, crack, fentanyl), rescuing children from being trafficked to name but a few occurrences. Not to mention standing up to hate and having many threaten me with my stance of support of being pro-choice and for marriage equality.

The question of how I am still alive speaks to the 6 weeks I continued attempting to serve after my 40-60 seizures a day settled in as the norm. My body and mind telling me, STOP!

These instances left me with the lingering negative soundtrack of “you have not made a difference” and “you have failed” along much other iteration.  As I would work through my first round of therapeutic treatment directed at the PNES, it would be coming to a point of engagement where I could come back with the simple affirmation finally, “I did make a difference” to being more specific to the situation, to even stating “I did what was possible”.

Learned Helplessness

 

Continually encountering averse or negative situations where one is left feeling alone, or abandoned. That is nothing will change the situation so there is no escape.

 

Did they believe you were Superman?

This is a question that came up, and was affirmed in my PNES therapy, while working through the safe memories that came to the surface. Safe flashbacks, it is such a unique statement to be making. My flashbacks would be kept behind a concrete wall in my brain. I had so numbed my emotional responses in life at this point that I would make a Vulcan proud. For the non-Trekkie, Vulcans are an alien species on Star Trek that made First Contact with humanity and set in motion the events that would lead to the United Federation of Planets. They were a species that have suppressed emotions through the logical and rational teachings of their Prophet-Teacher Surak.

My flashbacks would be in the form of day or night terrors that I would not remember. In fact, my seizures were my body’s defense mechanism against these persistent traumas. My body shut down completely. When I would see the flashbacks, it was almost a mosaic of stain glass flashes through my brain. This may sound weird, but I am the guy that has dreamed my whole life in 1930’s Technicolor animation, so it works with my brain’s wiring.

The concept of Superman came up as I would share about working on clearing buildings of Bed Bug infestations. These are insidious insects that there really is no way outside of dumb luck to not bring them back to your home. Yeah for dumb luck, but it created a constant state in my system of fight in the flight, fight or freeze response (the seizures would be the freeze). Other things throughout my career like sword affidavits to deal with criminal elements within shelters and buildings that put my full name and contact information out there. To the times of having to be the advocate for the community and the person when organizations attempted to “kill with kindness” by not knowing what to do with former staff/volunteers/donors who had become clients as my moral compass dictated to work with the person before me regardless of the political or institutional backlash.

The other side of the coin being the lynch mobs that would form in circles of ministries I served in as I was not “Christian” in their definition. It created a storm when I would advocate for harm reduction, or trauma informed care, use of actual debriefing techniques for staff, volunteers and community that was not simply go to church and pray more. The idea that these were needed stipulated to some a weak faith, and that was enough for them to come after me. The other pieces being I am a child of a multi-cultural country, and as such I seek to create spaces of diversity and belonging.

As I would work through these challenges, constantly doing more with less, more and more responsibility I would take on. Ensuring the staff team as a whole (upper management, teammates, volunteers and students) were cared for and held together (more than once I was described as the glue that held things together). For me it was relationship, and seeing the person not their label or coding, those were things that stipulated supports for success. A way to create accessibility (removal of physical barriers) and inclusion (having a space) but it was the relationship that created belonging. The messiness of life, where when they were gone they would be missed—613 deaths I was present for, 613 missing persons. That is not dealing with the times when we had to transition to higher level of care, or evict because no matter what happened the individual just did not want to have a home.

That does not even touch upon church ministry within the mainline church. The do more with less was the rallying cry. In fact, it was what was sought after within the United Church of Canada Calgary Presbytery. They did not want qualified individuals building youth ministries, for they cost too much. If they paid it was set at barely enough to cover the wages for the youth nights, never mind prep work or all the meetings they wanted you to attend. There was a trickle down of ill health and burn out for the one working to orchestrate was within their own struggles, even though their soul and heart were good they were in need of Sabbath, and that was impossible. It took its toll on the young leaders.

So too did a church mourning and grieving the loss of Christendom, and that the way things were done in the 1950’s were never coming back. It created predatory congregations who were out to exert this pain on targets, and sadly those targets became the youth leaders, like me, and the youth who had their own struggles looking for belonging.

It was within this concept as I worked through my PNES healing that the concept of Learned Helplessness came through. Knowing that even though I had an assertive voice (sometimes it would go full aggressive; I am human and err as well).

Looking at what was safe to come through. The amount of times my job was threatened and I was written up for caring for others as I stepped outside imaginary lines of protocol it added more rips to the soul. I was hemorrhaging my compassion. Not necessarily for others, though I was becoming numb to feeling, but I had definitely ejected compassion for myself. That is I had broken the circle of Holy Love. I could say I loved the Holy Mystery and loved my neighbour, but by failing to love myself the other two were false statements.

Add into this the response of the City of Calgary to removing spaces where people can simply be. That is my routing of morning meditation, writing and coffee before work had no space, and the practice was interrupted. My day was no longer centered.

Yet…

The work of care continued.

Without care from the institution for staff, without being able to slow down as always needing to accomplish more with less whether it was staff, volunteers, students, resources… the list would go on and on.

Was I Superman?

Often throughout the past two and bit decades I was asked to do that thing I do, pull of another miracle.

Finally, my own brain and body needed to stop the hemorrhaging of my soul. I needed to end the learned helplessness. I needed out.

May 2016 after a mysterious mini-stroke, my way out pathway would begin to be laid.

 


It appears to be an emerging conversation within some of the Christianities around a Liturgical Life. That is the rhythm of the service into the rhythm of life. It is once more discovering what the monastics and mystics already knew.

Here are some of my thoughts from the mystic-monastic life.

Watch here.


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

Dedicated to

My best friend & soul mate,

Shawna,

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

Leland & Justina

Hear, O Israel

Hear, O Israel,

the Lord our God, the Lord is one.

Love the Lord your God

with all your heart,

with all your soul,

with all your mind,

and with all your strength.

This is the first and the great commandment.

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

There is no commandment greater than these


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

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

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

Soul Ripples

What happens when the helper needs help?

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

Enter into the ripples that brought him to 2016, the transformational power of love of family and friends as he seeks new ripples in hope for his soul.

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

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

centennial coffee