Friday, February 27, 2009

Political Class ...

Maybe the nasty immaturity that has marked much of politicking at National levels is finally starting to ebb away ... With the wise and articulate Barack Obama in d'House in the US, and happenings in Britain this week, perhaps we're seeing a return to civility and sensibility on the part of our elected officials ...

This week the death of the six year old son of Conservative Party Leader David Cameron, brought Parliament to a silent and respectful pause to honour the life of young Ivan who had struggled with numerous challenges in his short life. The gracious best wishes offered by Prime Minister to the Cameron family ring true and speak of a respect that transcends political boundaries:

"Every child is precious and irreplaceable and the death of a child is an unbearable sorrow that no parent should ever have to endure. Politics can sometimes divide us, but there is a common human bond that unites us in sympathy and compassion at times of trial and in support for each other at times of grief."

Events lately have been showing Politicians to be respectful, considerate and even wise ... gives me hope in the future.

To read the whole story from - click here ... and in the meantime - thoughts and prayers for the Cameron family ...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Blogging ...

I feel I should say -"Sorry."

I haven't been able to blog much lately.

I've been busy trying to change the world ...

... okay, I'm trying to change people's thinking by giving them access to ideas and concepts that are new to this community. But if the seeds being sown find even a tiny whisp of fertile ground, Brandon will NEVER be the same ...

Stay tuned ...

Monday, February 23, 2009

What the Hell are We Afraid of ???

It's not my story - but I remember it because I was blessed by the privilege of being there as Faith was lived and a prophetic truth was walked ...

She took his hands and said - "It's not you, it's the alcohol. Get help."

She wept at the senselessness of what had happened, and she begged him to get help.

She held his hands, and stared into his eyes and said "Get help."

Weeks later she sat across the room from him. She stared directly at him and kept saying, "You did this. You know you did this. Just get help ..."

With tears in her eyes, she said those words over and over until he stood up and asked the Judge to change his plea from "not guilty" to "guilty."

"I did it," he said avoiding her gaze, "I did it, and I need help ..."

There was no satisfaction in that moment, only the utterance of truth ...

She had lost a daughter to a murder that remains unsolved, and she couldn't bear to the loss of her son to a murder that was so senseless. She wanted him to get help. He was her family too. He was better than this.

She took held his hands through the bars of his cell the day we buried her son. She offered him forgiveness, but demanded that he get help to be free of the alcohol that had fueled his crime.

In the courtroom that day she, as a grieving mother and elder, stared at him and begged him to own the truth and get help ... she made no excuses for his behaviour, and she forgave him because her faith told her that it was the only way ...

That day she taught many of us, especially me, about the power of faith ...

Her motivation came the day we visited the house where her son died and we found hanging on the wall over the spot his body a plaque with the simple words: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do ..."

On the fridge in the kitchen was a tattered Bible tract with the words, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do ..."

On top of the tv sat her son's Bible, long unused and unread. It was open and face down. It had rested that way for a long time. She picked it up and turned it over. Circled on the open page were the words: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do ..."

"We have to forgive him for this ..." she whispered through her tears.

As we left the house that day, an Eagle landed in the tree branch not 3 metres from her. She greeted it in her language. It cocked its head and chittered in reply. She smiled, tears still streaming down her cheeks and continued to speak to the magnificent Bald Eagle sitting, staring at her.

"It's him," she announced as the eagle flew away, "he came to tell us he's okay, and that we need to forgive ..."

She lived her faith ... two children had been murdered ... untold suffering had been visited on her family over the years ... and yet she held true to her faith ... She told her sons - each one of them carriers of powerful warrior spirits - we have to forgive ... her words ran counter to their desire for revenge ... but they listened. As hard as it was for them. They listened to her ... They saw the signs too ...

Today I thought of her as I walked home ... I was listening to an old pop song with the words - "he could preach the Bible like a preacher. Full of ecstasy and fire ..." and I wondered why we want to nice-ify the Bible and make it warm, pink, fuzzy and insipid ... where is the fire and the passion?? where is the prophetic presence that dares to say through the bars of a cell - I forgive you, when the victim is our own beloved child????

I got home and read from Walter Brueggemann:

The re-experiencing of the prophetic tradition - that is the rehearing and re- speaking of the texts with fresh contemporaneity - does not depend primarily upon critical and technical interpretative matters, but upon a capacity for imagination and intuition, coupled with courage, which dares to assert these texts, concretely located and specifically addressed, can now be and must be concretely relocated and specifically readdressed as illuminating and revelatory in contemporary contexts. Those who are able to make this stunning interpretive maneuver are those who can give themselves over to the text and its startling, enigmatic quality without encumbrance. One cannot anticipate the emergence of such voices when they are nurtured and evoked in the community of the text, but only recognize and receive them with gratitude when they emerge. They are the ones who permit the explosions of text whereby the world is transformed.

We are afraid to let the texts speak fully to us ...

They challenge us to move outside our comfort zones, and to critically examine even our most deeply held and cherished belief ...

We prefer the comfort of the known to the discomfort of texts that challenge us to see ourselves, not as the one who is marginalized and outcast, but rather as the one who is in need of God's love and forgiveness ...

But to experience forgiveness when the prophetic message explodes upon us, we must commit to repentance ... and repentance demands owning our sins and misdeeds ... and in the Modern Church we prefer to maintain the illusion that we're okay ...

She took his hands and looked into the eyes of the one who had killed her child ... and said the words we ALL dread to hear - "you know YOU did this ... just get HELP !!!"

Few voices in the Church dare to speak such words - EVER.

I'm glad I heard her say them ... it helps me remember that those eight simple words are the heart of the Gospel ... and they should be the heart of the Church too ...

Maybe one day we'll grasp that and the real work of being the Church will finally begin ...

One can always hope !!

Boxes, Boxes and more damned Boxes ...

This is a cardboard box ... a simple, versatile, quite ubiquitous cardboard box ... it comes in handy to store stuff ... to carry stuff ... and to move stuff ... All of us have, at some point in our lives used cardboard boxes.

Boxes are good ... they give us limits and boundaries, and they help us stay organized and neat in our lives.

But sometimes we are challenged to think outside the box ... sometimes we have things that simply won't fit inside the box ... sometimes the box is simply inadequate.

Yet we cling to the box ... we defend the box ... we will simply NOT abandon the box ...

Bureaucracies of ALL forms LOVE the box and do everything they can to maintain and perpetuate our dependence on the box ...

And then we have a reading like the story of the transfiguration that has Peter responding to the moment where Jesus is joined on the mountain top by Elijah and Moses by wanting to build a shelter for each of them ... Peter wants to enclose them inside a box ...

But the Holy will never be contained inside a box ... The Holy will always thwart our attempts at imposing limits and boundaries ... The Holy will break our dependence on the box ... and if we of the Church can't figure THAT out no one can ...

Thank God for Prophets and Dreamers who persist in reminding us that God's ways are not our ways and sometimes even the most well intentioned are simply and utterly and breath-takingly WRONG ...

It's time to not only think, but also LIVE outside the box ...

My colleague and friend Gord notes that even the Moderator of the United Church of Canada understands this ... too bad many of those front line people in that denomination are more interested in preserving their crumbling boxes rather than letting the Holy Spirit fly FREE ...

Click here to see what Gord and David G have to say ... then click here to read my sermon from yesterday where I offer a reflection on living present to the Holy Wow that exists in this moment ...

In the meantime, there is something to be said for chucking those tired old cardboard boxes in the recycling and clearing up the clutter they truly represent ... but even THAT is thinking outside the box, and such notions are anathema to many in the system ...

Come Holy Spirit Come !!! (the sooner the better)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

YUMMY !!!!

I just read what was on the menu for the lunch between Prime Minister Harper and President Obama ... it sure beats a soup and sandwich combo from Tim's or a burger and fries from the local fast food joint:

- Pacific Coast tuna with a chilli and citrus vinaigrette

- Maple and miso cured Nunavut Arctic char

- Lightly pickled vegetables and an organic beet relish

- Applewood smoked plains bison

- Winter root vegetables and local mushrooms

- Cauliflower and rosemary puree

- Juniper and Niagara red wine jus

- Saugeen yogurt pot de creme with a lemon and lavender syrup

- Wild blueberry and partridgeberry compote

- Acadian buckwheat honey and sumac tuile

Kind of says it all ...

Been reading more Bill Hicks and found the following quotation from his LAST stand up routine before his untimely death at 32 ... he definitely speaks a truth here:

... it's supposed to be where your ego dissovles and you realize the true nature of our reality, which is mind, and that we literally are one and there's no such thing as death and our bodies are an illusion, and God's eternal love is unconditional and we've never left it, other than the dream of the Fall from Grace, which is JUST AN ILLUSIONARY DREAM, and never has God been unloving to us, and we can wake up and remeber God's eternal, unconditional love. ...

and then like an exclamation on his profession of faith:

"I guess I have to do the only think I can do: acceptance and forgiveness. It's the only tools that you've got left."

Too bad the Leadership of the Church is so worried about maintaining control of power, wealth and what they preceive as prestige, that they dare not listen to voices like Hicks and the TRUTH they speak ... maintain the status quo is the priority in Churches today, when by faith we are called to share the Good News, which by its nature is unconditional ...

Maybe one day we'll see ...

Hey Mr. President!!!

Just wanted to say
President Obama,
who arrives in Ottawa soon.
I hope he comes back for
another visit and sees more than
just our nations' capital.
It's a GREAT Country Mr Obama,
come on back and visit it again.


Wise words from a HILARIOUS Prophet ...

I've been listening to A LOT of Bill Hicks lately and reading a collection of his writings, interviews and routines ... I even bought a dvd of his stand up routines ... The man is FRICKIN' Brilliant.

His views on politics remain scathingly accurate ... his commentary on economics and security are frightfully prophetic in the post 9/11 world ... and his take on RELIGION is smack on.

I find Bill Hicks to be a breath of prophetic fresh air in a world that too often is stifled and repressed ... the unfortunate thing is that for MOST people the wisdom that lies in his humour will be lost by the false prudishness that comes with self-righteousness ...

If, as a Church, we want to reach out to the world we need to listen to the modern prophets ... people like Robin Williams, Kevin Smith, Bill Hicks and others who through their humour hold up a mirror and show us what we're really like ... AND, if we dared to preach the Good News as we find it in our Prophet-Comics, the world would not only listen, we'd be preaching it with credibility ...

There is little to argue with in the following quotation from the incomparable Bill Hicks:

This is the reason Christians are so meddlesome. And annoying. And ... well, unchristian.
They don't believe in God, but they do believe int he devil.
They don't believe in Heaven, but they do believe in Hell.
They don't believe in Salvation, but they do believe in Sin.
They don't believe in Forgiveness, but they do believe in Condemnation.

It never occurs to Christians they might need God's word a little more than other people. Or, that they may be among the last on Earth to GET IT!!!

They're like an annoying child from grade school who, after learning basic math, goes up to a physicist and tried to convince him how much he's missing from his life from not realizing two plus two equals four.

So, that's what I think if the Wicked Christians. And if you don't believe me, just listen to the words of Jesus himself in Luke, chapter 5, verse 32:

'I come not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.'

God, I pray Christians get the message soon ...

AND so do I - thanks Bill !!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A revisit ...

Tonight I came home from an Induction service for the new Presbyterian Minister at First Presbyterian here in Brandon and popped on a favourite dvd - Meet the Robinsons ... the song below is fabulous:

And for my readers who unfortunately can't see the youtube videos I link to here ... here are the words to "Little Wonders" by Rob Thomas, from the soundtrack of Meet The Robinsons.

It's a beautiful song with a powerful message ...

"Little Wonders"
Let it go,
Let it roll right off your shoulder
Don't you know
The hardest part is over
Let it in,
Let your clarity define you
In the end
We will only just remember how it feels
Our lives are made
In these small hours
These little wonders,
These twists & turns of fate
Time falls away,
But these small hours,
These small hours still remain
Let it slide,
Let your troubles fall behind you
Let it shine
Until you feel it all around you
And I don't mind
If it's me you need to turn to
We'll get by,
It's the heart that really matters in the end
Our lives are made
In these small hours
These little wonders,
These twists & turns of fate
Time falls away,
But these small hours,
These small hours still remain
All of my regret
Will wash away some how
But I can not forget
The way I feel right now
In these small hours
These little wonders
These twists & turns of fate
These twists & turns of fate
Time falls away but these small hours
These small hours, still remain,
Still remainThese little wonders
These twists & turns of fate
Time falls away
But these small hours
These little wonders still remain

Monday, February 16, 2009

This one's for Katie ...

This morning, over at "at the Half Note," Katie posted a beautiful note about her father Roger Bowen who passed away 13 years ago today ... Katie notes that her missing of him has never gone away ...

Today as I moved through my day and thought about her eloquent posting I recalled a conversation I had long ago over a cup of tea in the back of a Church one Sunday night ... it altered my view of the world and of life and death and our place therein ...

It all began when over tea after worship the elders sat around the table and chatted about life and the universe ... somehow the conversation turned to life and death and then inevitably we began to talk about what lies beyond life ...

One of the elders said - "You white guys got it all wrong ..."

"What do you mean?" I ventured.

"Well," she said with a smile, but with seriousness in her eyes, "you tell us that when we die we go to heaven and become angels and sit around on clouds with wings and flowing gowns and playing harps ... I'm not interested in any of that stuff ..."

"How come?" I asked, wondering where this was going.

"I don't know how to play a harp," she said, her face stern but her eyes twinkling. Much to the delight of the other elders.

"You'll have lots of time to learn," I said laughing.

"Not interested," she said, "I want to go to the heaven my grandmothers told me about."

"What's it like?" I asked, now very intrigued by this conversation.

She went on to describe a place that is all around us ALL THE TIME. She described it as being "as far away as your next breath and as close as the wind on your cheek." She said in the Spirit World that her grandmothers told her of, you are surrounded by the family that has gone before you, and you can move among the family that are left behind.

"My heaven," she said, "will be watching over my family and being present with them while
I am in the Spirit World and they remain in this one ..."

She went on to describe her late husband as "still here," and noted that she talked with him every day. It was hard to argue with her version of heaven ... it did indeed seem heavenly ...

She spoke of KNOWING that the departed are around us, watching, loving, caring for us ... and that if we have eyes to see and a heart to feel, we'll see and feel them - "they are right here" ... in those moments when after the death of a loved one we think to ourselves - "we need to tell ..." they are there ... when we walk into a familiar place and think we see them - they are there. In those moments, according to the elders the veil between the Spirit World and our world has thinned and WE are very aware of the presence of the Spirit World and the very presence of those we love ...

Later I read more about the Spirit World among other First peoples, and as I reflected on the vision shared by the elder that night I felt the pull of this idea and realized the validity and truth of it ... I take comfort in the thought that those I've loved and who have passed on to whatever lies beyond this life are NOT sitting on a cloud, playing a harp with their flowing gowns and feathery wings, but instead they are somewhere very near - as far away as our next breath and as close as the wind across our cheeks ... and today I have no doubt that Roger Bowen is somewhere very near the life of his daughter and grand daughter ...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

... and for dessert!!

Yesterday for Valentine's Day Ms H. baked 18 wonderful cupcakes, then iced them with chocolate icing and topped each one with a Hershey's Kiss or a Hug ... Beetle, Ms. H and I each enjoyed ONE, I think Ms H had a second at bed time ... and when I called it a night sometime after midnight there were no less than 12 cupcakes sitting safely on the kitchen table ...
When I got up at 6:30 this morning there were only FOUR cupcakes left ... The icing smear by the front door would suggest that the culprit was neither Noahkila or Beetle ... but was none other than Miss Flute ... who no doubt devoured with great relish her early morning find ... I suppose it WAS quite kind of her to leave four for the rest of us !!
Then later in the morning, she trashed the box of kleenex in the van when she was left alone for about 15 minutes ...
Her dedication to destruction is truly breath-taking !!!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy V Day ...

It' s been a busy life for our resident Pippy Longstocking ... since we last visited her ever growing list of destruction (click here) Flute has, in addition to her media appearances, been busily adding to the list of things she has chewed up:
- one pair of slippers (mine)
- one pair of sandals (mine)
- one package of butter tarts
- one package of AA batteries
- one package of whole wheat dinner buns
- one package of pistachios
- one coffee scoop
- one 1 lb bag of fair trade coffee
- one package of vacuum cleaner belts
- one plastic whale
- three containers of hand cream
- one unsuccessful attempt to open a Danish cookie tin full of date squares
(the tin bears its wounds with pride - the date squares were reduced to crumbs)
- an assortment of Play-mobile toys
- one zip loc bag FULL of craft gems (my stairs were LOVELY that day!!)
- multiple visit to the recycle bin to remove and chew on empty milk jugs, empty tins, newpapers, plastic clamshells and other assorted items that we so conveniently spread ALL OVER the kitchen and the living room
- one pre-empted chew of a pair of gloves (I came home JUST IN TIME!!)
- and in honour of the day - ONE PACKAGE OF VALENTINES!!!! (Beetle's)

No wonder she's SOOOOOOOO tired !!!!!

Are we there yet ?

Last night we decided to hit one of the local coffee shoppes for a round of steamers. (Steamed milk with flavouring)

Arrving at the shoppe we found the parking lot full (not the shop itself though), and no available spots any where near by on the street either. So, we used the drive thru to order our drinks.

I pulled up, placed our order and we waited in the van watching traffic pass by on the street while the Barista prepared our steamers ...

Ms H. suddenly asked - "Did you tell her we wanted them to go?"

"Um ..." was my awestruck reply.

She then proceeded to beat Beetle and I for our peals of laughter.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Breaking News ... The Power of Change ...

Iain De Jong, the manager of the City of Toronto's Streets to Homes Programme that seeks to eradicate homelessness in Toronto cited this poster as one of the underlying principles that guides his life and work when he spoke in Winnipeg last fall ...

In a couple of week's Iain is coming to Brandon to share his insight, wisdom and humour with an ever growing audience of folks who want to address in tangible ways, the deepening housing crisis that Brandon and Westman is experiencing.

This week two promos have hit the presses so too speak ... one in the Thursday February 12th Community News Edition of the Brandon Sun, complete with a photo of Flute ... the other is the monthly column I contribute to the Wheat City Journal.

To read my column on Housing as a fundamental Human Right click here. Then mark your calendar with February 24th, and plan on attending the events centred around Iain's visit to Brandon - this may be BIG !!!

Moral responsibility in the face of Injustice ...

On April 12th 1963, a group of well intentioned, and no doubt capable and competent Clergy people in Birmingham Alabama wrote an open letter to those in thier community who were engaging in acts of civil disobedience. The authors of the letter maintained the rightness of their stance, and insisted that the status quo was just fine ... Thankfully in the fullness of time a young preacher by the name of Martin Luther King Jr replied, and the rest as they say - "IS HISTORY."

From St. Augustine thru Gandhi to King, Tutu, Mandela, Wallis and others the message is CLEAR - crystal clear - 'an unjust law is no law at all'.

Just because the majority says it is thus, doesn't mean justice is served.

Just because the rules and regulations are being followed doesn't mean justice is being served.

Just because the process has ground away at an issue doesn't mean a just solution has been reached.

Checks and balances exist for a reason.

Systems, processes and people are corruptable and often mis-informed and simply WRONG.

Civil disobedience, even within institutions like Churches is a necessary part of maintaining the never ending quest for justice.

There are those who would sooner quiet the voices like mine that will not cease in pointing at injustices (even minor ones) and challenging ALL to seek a better way.

Thus far, the better way has been denied in the United Church of Canada not just in my life, but in the lives of others ... the list grows by the day ... the drive for unionizing clergy is a clear indication of the need for a better way ... the dramatic increase in 363 Reviews (which are utterly devestating to those experiencing them) is a clear indication of the need for a better way ... the insistence that I "move on" while ignoring the reality that my experience in not one, but two Pastoral Charges was not unique but was shared by OTHERS who experienced the SAME things from the same people and families is a very very very clear indication that a better way must be sought ... (I had behaviours that needed addressing - and that in the fullness of time has happened - but there are others who are in need of having their own behaviour addressed too - and justice is NOT served by pretending this can not, should not, or won't happen!!)

We can hide our heads in the sand, or we can be faithful and seek that better way ...

In 1963, from a Jail cell The Rev. Martin Luther King jr penned his reply to the Clergy who no doubt wanted him to move on and let go. They likely also felt that his incarceration was fully justified and RIGHT.

Sometimes the majority is simply, utterly wrong ... and the letter written on April 12th 1963 lays that reality bare:

A Call for Unity

We the undersigned clergymen are among those who, in January, issued "an appeal for law and order and common sense," in dealing with racial problems in Alabama. We expressed understanding that honest convictions in racial matters could properly be pursued in the courts, but urged that decisions of those courts should in the meantime be peacefully obeyed.

Since that time there had been some evidence of increased forbearance and a willingness to face facts. Responsible citizens have undertaken to work on various problems which cause racial friction and unrest. In Birmingham, recent public events have given indication that we all have opportunity for a new constructive and realistic approach to racial problems.

However, we are now confronted by a series of demonstrations by some of our Negro citizens, directed and led in part by outsiders. We recognize the natural impatience of people who feel that their hopes are slow in being realized. But we are convinced that these demonstrations are unwise and untimely.

We agree rather with certain local Negro leadership which has called for honest and open negotiation of racial issues in our area. And we believe this kind of facing of issues can best be accomplished by citizens of our own metropolitan area, white and Negro, meeting with their knowledge and experience of the local situation. All of us need to face that responsibility and find proper channels for its accomplishment.

Just as we formerly pointed out that "hatred and violence have no sanction in our religious and political traditions," we also point out that such actions as incite to hatred and violence, however technically peaceful those actions may be, have not contributed to the resolution of our local problems. We do not believe that these days of new hope are days when extreme measures are justified in Birmingham.

We commend the community as a whole, and the local news media and law enforcement officials in particular, on the calm manner in which these demonstrations have been handled. We urge the public to continue to show restraint should the demonstrations continue, and the law enforcement officials to remain calm and continue to protect our city from violence.

We further strongly urge our own Negro community to withdraw support from these demonstrations, and to unite locally in working peacefully for a better Birmingham. When rights are consistently denied, a cause should be pressed in the courts and in negotiations among local leaders, and not in the streets. We appeal to both our white and Negro citizenry to observe the principles of law and order and common sense.

C. C. J. Carpenter, D.D., LL.D., Bishop of Alabama
Joseph A. Durick, D.D., Auxiliary Bishop, Diocese of Mobile, Birmingham
Rabbi Milton L. Grafman, Temple Emanu-El, Birmingham, Alabama
Bishop Paul Hardin, Bishop of the Alabama-West Florida Conference
Bishop Nolan B. Harmon, Bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the Methodist Church
George M. Murray, D.D., LL.D., Bishop Coadjutor, Episcopal Diocese of Alabama
Edward V. Ramage, Moderator, Synod of the Alabama Presbyterian Church in the United States
Earl Stallings, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Editorial Comments by Flute!!

This morning at the office we were greeted with the photo of the beloved Flute wearing her Raising the Roof toque, along with a picture of the staff I work with, on the cover of the Brandon Sun Community News edition for today ... I featured the photo that was later submitted to the Sun previously - click here to revisit it.

I came home at lunch time to be greeted by the remains of the Dog Training book I bought the weekend Flute arrived in our lives ... Clearly she's offering an editorial on the canine pointers contained within ... couple this with her urination on Noahkila's boots last week, and you have a very opinionated pooch !!!

In case you're wondering - the pee on the boots incident went something like this:

Me: Did you take Flute out recently??
(Flute gets very very very hyper when she needs to go outside and was at that point!!)
Noahkila: Yeah.
Me: Did she do anything?
Noahkila: No.
Me: Were you out with her for a while? Or did you go out quickly?
Noahkila: A while.
Me: Did she do anything?
Noahkila: NO!!
Me: Do you think she may need to go out again?
Noahkila: I dunno ...

AND as he is speaking, Flute walks over to HIS boots, she proceeds to squat and void her bladder ALL OVER THEM !!! to the accompanying shrieks of "FLUTE!!!!" from Noahkila ...

I have to confess that is was hard NOT to howl with laughter ...

The upside is that when I ask Noahkila to take Flute outside - HE DOES, and he takes time to ensure she does her biz before bringing her back in ...

She's a smart dog.

Want to Change the Wind???


When you're done, you'll see the world in a NEW way, and you'll understand why I insist on staying in the Church, and why I believe that not only is Change possible - it is VITAL, and NECESSARY.
The Word needs the prophetic voices of people like Wallis, Hicks and Obama ... and we dare NOT listen ...

Three years on ...

Happy Anniversary Minnedosa ... three years ago this morning a cherished, beloved and familiar old friend vanished through an act of arson ...

Three years later, the vacant lot remains, and according to the Minutes of Assiniboine Presbytery, everything is dealt with and the Board of the Church is to be congratulated on their "quality work" done since then through the 333/363 and so on ...

I have been told repeatedly - "move on" - "let it go" and now I am being counselled by strangers to find a "happy life" (not exactly like it was said - but it is the implication I draw from it).

I find it amazing how people can visit this Blog and ASSUME they know me, and from my postings here ASSUME they understand the circumstances and outcome of Minnedosa, and by their comments (usually anonymous) know the TRUTH of what has transpired. I find it mind boggling ...

I wonder if any of those who have posted have ever given half of their life to something, through training, and practise, only to be told - NOT officially, but by the action and inaction of others - that you are no longer welcome.

I have been in Ministry for 16 years as an ordained Minister, that was preceded by 3 years of Theological Training and 4 years of Undergraduate studies - and NOW, I am no longer welcomed in the United Church ... oh, on paper I am simply retained on the roll ... but with the total and complete destruction of my reputation and the loss of my call in Minnedosa the welcome mat has been rolled up and I've been beaten with it ... AND over and over I encounter the "OH!!! YOU were THAT Minister in Minnedosa ..." and the reaction of the person is CLEAR ...

Let it go ???
Oh, I've let it go ... but I will NOT let go my desire and commitment for JUSTICE.

I was held accountable for MY actions. The former staff of the Church, and members of the Board and Choir who conspired, whether intentionally or unintentionally, to have me removed from Ministry in Minnedosa because I engaged in a foolish conflict with a local business in a misguided and utterly stupid attempt to help a family with alcohol issues; have NEVER been called to task for their actions. I've read the 333/363 review and have identified the LIES spoken by members of the BOARD to exaggerate my actions and justify destroying my reputation. Then there is the WHOLE ISSUE of the lies and gossip and incompetence that marked the public exchange about me ... THAT'S a whole other rant ...

I've had my name "out there" for pulpit supply - an ability that has NEVER been doubted nor criticised - and I have yet to be called by any CHURCH within Assiniboine Presbytery ... oh, wait - it's ALL MY FAULT because I speak out here about what I've been through, and people don't want to call me to preach lest I reveal some of the truth about how I've been treated from the pulpit ... (silly me)

I've been told - ANONYMOUSLY - to move on ... I will when the Church - The United Church of Canada hold accountable for THEIR ACTIONS the Board, the Ministry and Personnell Committee, the Building Committee, and the Choir of Minnedosa United Church that was not in the best interests of the Pastoral Charge or the Pastoral Relationship. I've been held to task for my actions and behaviour - the 'CHURCH' was held accountable for structural problems while the report itself perpetuated and promoted the very behaviour that was problematic.

The bottomline is that Ministry personell are PEOPLE. Like Shakespeare's Shylock, we have feelings, we bleed, we hurt, we remain are affected by many things and often we are left in a very harsh and lonely place by the political machinations that mark small rural pastoral charges that are simply un-healthy.

The fire three years ago laid bare the deep divisions that exist in Minnedosa, both the Church and the Community. In the hours after the fire I contacted resources across North America who had experience in church fires, and they counselled me to prepare for, and equip the people for a fire storm of emotion that will do far more damage than the fire itself ... I tried IN VAIN to bring those resources into the community - even the books I bought AT MY PERSONAL EXPENSE (most of which were never returned) were largely ignored. The few people who borrowed and read them valued them and asked for more resources - but almost NONE of those who read the books were on the Board - the Board arrogantly assumed it had all the answers!!

Three years later the perpetuation of injustice remains ...

Oh, and the references I make to current events are not about comparing those events to the things I've experienced ... I use current events to illustrate the trends and machinations that are at work BEHIND the experiences I've been through ... THERE is a DIFFERENCE.

I cited the Bill Hicks' appearance on Letterman, not because I wanted an apology from Letterman, but because I LOVE HICKS' comedy, and discovering he had FINALLY made his last appearance on Letterman was notable.

My references to current events is part of Barth-ian preaching - the Word of God in one hand, and the Newspaper in the other ... in a context where the majority of preaching has fallen into an insipid, namsy-pansy, warm pink fuzzy justification for complacency and inaction - preaching from the WORD this is not only uncommon, it is also very uncomfortable. I don't really expect most of my colleagues, nor those active in the United Church to understand the difference, nor to comprehend the finer details of this ... but then again, I am not writing for those in the Church who can't see such things, I am writing for those who want to CHANGE the way things are and experience the transformation of the Spirit that is promised by our faith when we stop the small minded machinations ...

AND, for the record - I have a very happy life ... I've gotten free of the toxic cesspool of Minnedosa. Rampant teenaged drinking and recreational sex, "secret" affairs by prominent and supposedly "RESPECTED" community leaders, and horrendously hypocritical behaviours by those who will smile to your face but stab you in the back have no appeal to me ... I'm quite happy to live my life away from that - particularly when I know NOW that the active gossiping about me was a vain attempt to divert attention from the skeletons that threatened to fall out of many closets ... skeletons that are tumbling ALL OVER the floor for people who are suddenly learning that their excrement really does smell ...

Three years after the fire ... the wound remains un-healed ... I've moved on ... BUT I'll openly express my GRIEF that it has meant leaving a Church that I have loved since my childhood. A Church I have proudly and passionately served. A Church that could be so much more than it is, if only the toxic leadership was removed.

I love my life ... but I weep for my Church ... and I have ample reason, far beyond Minnedosa to have tears welling in my eyes ... as do others who care about their faith and their Church ...

Sunday, February 08, 2009

What if ...

This week I was trying to remember what I preached about three years ago back in February of 2006 ... mid-way through the Childrens' Time this morning I realized WHY I had no recollection of preaching three year ago in 2006 ...

The second Sunday in February of 2006 fell on February 12th ... and that day began for me in the darkness before 6am when Bob Mummery, then editor of the Minnedosa Tribune phone me and told me the Church was on fire ...

That day ended 18 hours later standing on Main Street at midnight looking at the gaping hole that had 24 hour earlier been a magnificent Century old building of worship and community ... The spiral that began that morning continues ... and sadly the powers that be have pronounced everything to be healthy and "fine." Yet, the vacant lot remains ... and resolution remains elusive ... but, for the community leaders in Minnedosa, they attained their goal of running me out of town and returning to the status quo ...

And oh, what a lovely status quo it is ... the skeletons that are falling out of the closet would make any day-time soap opera fan blush ... the sniping from the leadership of the community and the church leaves me scratching my head in bewilderment - if the comments they offer to me are reflective of the care, compassion and understanding they offer to others, we are well and truly screwed ... and a community remains broken and grieving while the elite few pat themselves on the back and offer high-fives for their "accomplishments" and their "faithfulness" while no one dares to name the reality that continues to unfold ...

I wonder how differently things could have turned out if boundaries had been properly observed, if backbones had been grown and instead of taking the easy route of casting out the troublesome outsider, the leadership from the Greater Church had taken seriously the call to action likened to the upcoming lectionary reading that had people carrying the paralytic man over their heads and lowering him to the feet of Jesus, and had responded in faith with justice as the goal rather than expedience and political necessity ...

We will never know ... the journey over the last three years has been on of loss upon loss, and when I speak of my experiences I'm accused of whining, bitching, not letting it go ... and countless other compassion and understanding accusations (curiously - most of which are misspelled !! - WHAT does THAT tell us about the anonymous commenters ??).

Looking back, I can't help but marvel at the goal of the three who set and started the fire - their perverse goal was lash out at the Church and hurt it ... in the days after the fire we took pride in the fact that they hadn't "hurt" the Church, they had only burned down a building ... sadly, the leadership - both lay and clergy that rushed in to help succeeded where the three arsonists failed ...

One day perhaps they will see ... and one day the healing can finally begin for more than just the chosen few who have imposed their will upon everyone else ...

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Bill Hicks on David Letterman - a long overdue apology!!

David Letterman has always been a class act.

On January 30th, he set right something that never should have happened ... On October 1st 1993, David deleted from his late night talk show Bill Hick's last of 12 appearences on Letterman's stage.

At the time, the routine was dubbed "too controvertial". In retrospect it was BRILLIANT, and typical of Bill's astounding Stand Up.

I've posted the three clips I found on Youtube tonight ... the first is of David acknowledging his mistake, and noting that because of Bill's premature death at the age of 32 a few short months after the erstwhile appearance, an apology could not be delivered to Bill directly.

The second clip that follows the first is David's candid conversation with Mary, Bill's mom. Mary doesn't really pull any punches, and with grace Letterman takes the hits and honours a man who should have been honoured on October 1st 1993 with one last appearance.

And the final clip is the previously un-seen routine that Letterman so foolishly dropped from his programme. Even Letterman notes at the end that it withstands the test of time ... Bill Hicks was THAT GOOD !!!

These three clips prove Letterman to be a class act ... Mary Hicks to be a gracious and wonderful woman ... and Bill Hicks to be a witty, astute, and prophetic voice that used comedy to teach ALL of us about REAL LIFE. (his bit on celebrating the Death and Resurrection of Jesus by telling our children that a Giant Bunny Rabbit left chocolate eggs in the night is hilarious ... the observation that "I've read the Bible. Can't find the word bunny or chocolate anywhere in the book ..." is icing on the cake.

Take time to enjoy on of Comedy's brightest lights ... you won't be disappointed !!!

Thanks Mr Letterman - you did good !!!!

Bill Hicks on Letterman - Part Two - Bill's Mom!!

Bill Hicks on Letterman - Part Three - the infamous routine !!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Hope is ...

Jim Wallis once said - Hope is believing inspite of the evidence, and watching the evidence change ...

Today Jim Wallis is one of those appointed by President Barack Obama to sit on an advisorary committee to oversee how Faith Based Organizations can help address some of the many challenges facing the US using Federal support and Federal Money. George Bush's idea has been morphed by the new administration into something broader, and more socially responsible than the narrow operating definition that had marked the previous few years ...

There are those who said Wallis and other activist were tilting at windmills ...

Maybe they were ...

But today we have an intelligent, articulate and outspoken ACTIVIST in the highest office in the United States of America who has not only embodied Hope, but is helping the evidence change ...

In his first two weeks in office, President Obama has set a very different course than his predecessor. His pronouncements on a wide range of topics show a man who is not only highly intelligent and highly aware, but who is willing to tilt at windmills that NEED TO BE KNOCKED DOWN.

Last night's denouncement of the Republicans who want "stimulus not spending" cuts through the hollow rhetoric and demands that they simply piss or get off the pot ...

Too bad we can't have that kind of leadership in the United Church of Canada ... instead we have our own Republicans who posture and pontificate and ultimately do nothing but protect their positions of privilege and power ... one day they will see ...

Until then, the prophetic voices that have echoed since the time of Amos and his kin continue to speak out and be marginalized and ignored ... rather than listening to the validity of their words, The Church continues to ignore and cast out those who do not fit the mould. Yet ironically, all the while the leaders of the Church fill their shelves with books like "The Audacity of Hope", "Faithworks" and "The Call to Conversion" because they erroneously and comfortably believe that the ideas contained within are somewhere "over there" and have no direct bearing on the day to day reality of The Church ...

Hmmm ... remember a guy named James Gareth Endicott???

The Church said he was wrong ... for years they condemned and reviled him ... and in time The Church apologized to him for being WRONG.

Just because the so-called "majority" says the sky is mauve, doesn't make it so ... The Prophetic voices are calling us to faithfulness, NOT tilting at windmills ... ignoring those voices, including mine, is a choice. But like those who shook their heads at Amos, Gandhi, King, Wallis and even Obama, you do so at your peril ...

The evidence is CHANGING ... we can be part of the change, or we can continue to oppose it ... but given that change is a gift from God, there is really only one response - and opposition ain't it!!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Action or inaction ...

Edmund Burke observed that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing ... In Mayerthorpe Alberta two men have learned that lesson the hard way ... They knew what their associate was going to do. They helped him return to his farm, and helped him obtain weapons ... and yet they did nothing.

When they were first charged the HOWLS of "entrapment" and "framed" and so on were loud and unending ... yet, when the trial happened, we learned that they indeed confessed, not just to being involved, but to inaction when THEY KNEW what the gunman was about to do.

Four Mounties - FOUR members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police would be alive today if those two men showed some backbone and did what was RIGHT, rather than acting in fear, and allowing a toxic neighbour to continued his reign of terror unfettered and unopposed.

Unfortunately, these two men who will now serve time in prison for both their action and inaction, are not unique. Small towns are filled with people JUST LIKE THEM, who will chose to do absolutely NOTHING rather than risk offending their neighbours, or rocking the proverbial boat. In my ministry experience such behaviour is found throughout our Churches as well ... my experiences in Minnedosa are exactly that - The "Good"Church people bought into the toxicity, and we were repeatedly enabled by each other and the Greater Church to keep the toxicity alive ...

In Vancouver we're hearing about the horrible night when a Polish-speaking traveller was tazered and died in the Vancouver Airport after having spent HOURS wandering around lost and confused ... now some of those who called 911, are wishing they hadn't ... the harshness of the outcome is leading intelligent, good hearted people to reconsider doing the right thing ...

As I look back over my journey, I wonder how different the outcome would have been if more had been done to stand up to the toxic, evil people who happily spread lies and gossip, and who callously engineered yet another ousting of a minister from their community ... this complicity stretched up the chain of Presbytery to my colleagues who lied and also did nothing as a system was manipulated and misused ...

And when I speak of such things ANONYMOUS comments are offered to ridicule and heckle me, and I am facetiously asked - "WHAT DO YOU WANT?"

Most frustrating for me, is seeing the parallels between those erroneous voices who responded to the charges against the two men complicit in the Mayerthorpe massacre by crying "frame" and "entrapment" and those who persist in dubbing me the guilty party in Minnedosa, and who will continue to deny the reality of that situation and attack me rather than DO WHAT IS RIGHT.

Justice DEMANDS Good People to ACT ... to speak out ... and to confront their neighbours ... if you doubt this, call up one of the families of the four fallen Mounties and tell them that the two men were innocent, and were framed ... Just because the LOUDEST voices speak out, doesn't make them RIGHT.

And in answer to the question - WHAT DO YOU WANT? that anonymous posters (I wonder why they are so damned reluctant to own their identity and to speak openly to me if I am so wrong about what transpired in Minnedosa??) keep tossing at me ... the answer is simple.

I want TRUTH to finally prevail.
I want my reputation to be untarnished by the BULLSHIT that was flung around Minnedosa.
AND I want those responsible for destroying my reputation, costing me my job, and forcing me out of town to be held accountable for THEIR actions and for their INACTION ...

MOST of all I want to be able to walk down the street and KNOW that the TRUTH has been told, my reputation has been restored, and the BULLSHIT that flowed from the "good church" people has been shovelled away ...

... I don't think THAT is too much to ask. But then again, in small town politicking, the outsider - be they a Mountie, a Clergy, or anyone else not from "here", is a threat, and it is a small step from doing nothing to stop malicious and hate-filled gossip, to giving a neighbour a ride back to his farm knowing full well the gun he carries is NOT for gopher shooting ... unfortunately, few have the courage to connect the dots and see the big picture ...

Guess I was fortunate it was my house and van that were shot at and not me ...

It's too bad we can't hold such people accountable for their actions and inactions ...

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Got Your Toque ????

Today - Tuesday February 3rd is Raising The Roof's Toque Tuesday, wherein they challenge Canadians for the 13th consecutive year to "wear your toque proudly ... to show you care about Canada's Homeless !!!"

Click here to visit Raising The Roof's Toque Campaign Website. Check out the public service announcement video on the side bar link too !!

And today wear your toque to show you care!!!

Flute's even getting in on it !!! She got her hat in Brandon at Home Depot ...

Read the press release on Toque Tuesday by clicking here.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Happy Groundhog Day - NOT!!!

The outside temp is hovering around -29C, with a windchill into the minus 40's ... the sun is shining and the sky is clear !!

That means Minnedosa Mildred, who we've visited before, and her chum, Brandon Bob have seen their shadows this morning. According to tradition, we're in for 6 more weeks of winter ...

I wonder if there current observations count though?

Mildred and Bob have called in their observations from a warm sunny beach somewhere in Mexico where they've escaped from the cold ... they promise to be back when winter is over, but for now are enjoying mojitos in the sun ...

Damned rodents !!

An interesting aside though, the last two Groundhog days have had almost IDENTICAL weather to today ... clear blue sky, biting cold and wicked wind chill ... it REALLY does raise the question - "why do people live here????"