Friday, June 29, 2012

Not a day goes by ...

Not a day goes by that doesn't have me wondering what kind of a man my father would have been had he not perished in an On Duty accident while serving with the Ontario Provincial Police 44 years ago this morning.

Dad would be 84 this fall ... and I have no doubt he would have been a thoroughly involved and entertaining and supportive grandfather to his grand kids. And I wonder if there would have been more than just my three ... I have always wondered if Scott's life would have taken a very different trajectory than it did, and I'd like to think he would have married, had children and been the wonderful father, and friend that lingered deep within his warm and caring heart ... Scottie would have in time made a rockin' Grandfather too!!

Not a day goes by that doesn't have me wondering what life would have been like had that horrible accident never happened ... I have no doubt many things would have turned out very differently.

Alas, one can not undo the past, and one could easily become caught up in the swirl of the 'woulda, shoulda, coulda's' that leave you living too much in the frets of the past, and not enough in the potential of the present.

Forty Four years ago today, my father OPP Constable #3000 Samuel E. Ankenmann died in an accident just outside of Stratford at the 'Little Lakes curves' while on duty with the OPP.

Forty Four years ago today, we lost a big piece of our family, and I don't think we ever really recovered.

Forty Four years ago today, our life as a family changed, and from what I have learned in the last year and a half since Mom's death, she went through hell just to ensure that Scott and I had some level of support following Dad's death. She had to fight hard for every penny the various levels of Government, the assorted agencies and ultimately the OPP gave us. And at the end of the day it was truly pennies that they gave us.

Our support was limited and meagre. The burden of raising her boys fell entirely on mom's shoulders. There was no golden pension, no support for our post-secondary schooling, and beyond the annual visit from the detachment commander, the invitation to the annual memorial service and a lovely plaque that now sits in my dining room, there was little else offered to mom in the way of support.

The most insulting letter I read in the last year was the letter from the Ontario Government that acknowledges the forwarding of a cheque for a little over $2200 to mom a year after Dad's death. The letter ends with the emphatic statement that the powers that be had determined the enclosed amount was all we were entitled to.

Dad's life was determined to be worth 20 weeks of his salary and not a penny more.

Today I wonder what life might have been like for Scott and I and for Mom, if we were given the kind of support offered to the families of fallen officers who die in the line of duty today.

Today I wonder how differently our lives might have been if Mom had been given support and assistance instead of being forgotten and shuffled aside after Dad's death ... personally, I believe my father's life was worth more than a meagre $2200 ... but 44 years ago today, that's the price they placed on his sacrifice.

Today I wonder ... and I weep for what might have been ...

My DAD, remains a hero in life not death!!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

They should arrive soon !!!!!

The order has been placed.
The money has been sent.
The box has been mailed.

NOW, it is a matter of waiting for the t-shirts to arrive !!!!!

I tracked down a source for the above pictured tee-shirts, and have ordered a box of various colours in L and XL that will be available through our Fair Trade Booth at the local Farmers' Markets, or via our Congregations!!! The price will likely be about $20 per shirt, and we will have them in black, grey, maroon and blue ... though not all colours are available in all sizes.

When they arrive I'll let folks know - in the mean time, I'm taking orders and have a 1/3 of them spoken for already!!!!

Some days I JUST ABSOLUTELY love my job!!!!!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

And Jesus said:

This was TOO good to NOT share!!!

There was no asterix in Jesus' teaching "love thy neighbour" - just a straight out call to LOVE them no matter who they are and no matter how we pigeon hole them!!!

This is awesome and should be on backs of ALL who claim to be followers of Christ!!!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

If only ...

I did a bit of redecorating in the living room today ... I hauled the oil lamps that Mom and Dad long ago coverted into electric lights up from the basement. The lamp graced Mom's living room for years ... the dangling glass ornaments were endlessly fascinating to me when I was a kid, and I remember carefully removing them from the lamp and playing with them on the floor ... I don't remember what my inevitable punishment was, I only remember Mom coming into the living room and gasping "OH MY GOD!!!"

My best guess, based on experience was that I got a spanking ... that was pretty much status quo ... and I got quite a few over the years!

Today though as I unpacked the delicate glass lamps and set them out in the living room, I was awash in memories ... more of Mom's house has moved and been incorporated into our house, and with the bits and pieces and furniture comes a host of memories and recollections ... but what I realized today is how much has been lost along the way.

One of the lamps has a loose bulb in the base, and for the life of me, I can't figure out how to get in there to tighten or replace the bulb. I poked around for awhile trying to reveal the secret ... I was even tempted to say "Open Sesame!" But instead I offered the prayer - "Isabell, it would have been helpful for your to show us the secret ..."

Alas, over and over I find myself trying to remember snippets of the many stories associated with furniture, collectibles and other items that have come out of Mom's house. The brown wooden rocking chair belonged to SOMEONE in our extended family tree, but no one can recall which of our long ago ancestors once sat in the ancient chair ... it came from Chesley, but the rest of the story was in Mom's memory and may be gone for ever ... fortunately, along the way some snippets have been preserved and have revealed other bits and pieces of my history.

My one regret is that I didn't listen a little better when Mom was running through her litany of memories and stories. I had heard some of the stories SO MANY TIMES, that I stopped listening and just wanted Mom to get to the end so we could talk about something else, or I could go and do ANYTHING else. Today, I really would love to sit at the kitchen table and ask her about the rocking chair, the lamps, the photos, or any number of other items I've gathered and moved and pondered ... Like the many boxes and bins that crowd my basement and porches, Mom's stories crowded her memory and overwhelmed the rest of us ...

I guess the task ahead is for us to reclaim the tatters of Mom's old memories and use them to inform the memories and the stories that will be part of our future as a family ... the objects and furniture will be the touchstones that Noahkila, Ms H, and Beetle use to remember Grandma Izzy, Uncle Scott, the stories of Grandpa Sam, Terrific Grandma and the other members of the family who helped create the clan we are now proudly part of ... today, two beautiful antique lamps remind us that life is to be lived forward, but the touchstones remind us of where we've come from.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Reflections on Father's Day ...

It was given to me on Father's Day in 1997 ... Aubery had his cousin sew the blanket, and he painted it ... he gave it to me as a way of remembering my time and my friends amongst the Nuxalkmc, and he gave it to me as a Father's Day present in the waning days of my time in Bella Coola ... I still remember his words: "Wear it on the Holy Days and at special events, and remember us ..."

I've worn it with pride many times since.

It was one of the items I was desperate to get out of my office as fire consumed the rest of the building in February of 2005.

It is something I like to wear on High Holy Days and on days when I need to remember the circle of care and faith I was part of while living in Bella Coola almost 2 decades ago.

Yesterday my reflection at worship here in Flesherton looked back on an afternoon that happened a few weeks before Aubery gave me his gift, and left me awash in memories and recollections of people and a place that remains important to my faith journey. I didn't wear my blanket, but I could have and I really should have. The main reason I didn't was the heat and the humidity ...

But I carried the memories with me ...

The blanket and the stole that came with it make me smile every time I wear it, and every time I see it hanging in my office closet ... I have good memories of Bella Coola and the people I ministered among while I was there ... and those memories have profoundly touched my faith, my being, my view of the world, and my way of living and ministering ... not ALL the memories are good ones, but even those that make me wince in embarrassment and discomfort have taught me lessons and helped me become the person and the minister I am today.

As I look back on my life journey, I wonder how many of those uncomfortable moments may have been avoided had my dad lived into my teenaged or adult years ... I wonder how many of the lessons I had to learn the hard way are things he could have helped provide wise counsel about avoiding rather than blundering headlong in to? I wonder how differently things would have been had Dad not died that summer morning so long ago ...

Yet, overarching all of this, is the simple realization that I am the person I am today because of all the events and happenings that have marked my journey over the last 44 years. I've made horrendous and humiliating mistakes, I have achieved much more than I've expected at times, and I really have very few regrets over the path I've trod ... I carry the good and the bad with me, and they inform my present and continue to shape my future.

My one hope is that my life journey will help my children, and my circle of family and friends in positive and affirming ways ... and that what I've experienced, endured, learned and been privy to, will help others in their personal journeys ...

Thursday, June 07, 2012

One of Life's Holy Moments ...

He is truly one of my heroes - David Northcott, the Executive Director of Winnipeg Harvest is a man I have admired for the last decade as I've worked in Manitoba, and been part of the circle of people who are struggling to address the myriad of issues associated with poverty and homelessness.

I feel privileged and blessed to have David intersect with my journey from time to time when I have met him in Brandon at Samaritan House Ministries, at Food Banks Canada meetings in Toronto, and now tonight when David, Marla (the exec director of Samaritan House) and myself were able to share a meal together with Marla's daughters and my son Noahkila.

It was a fitting ending to a day that began with me reading some material on the Sacrament of Communion while preparing the Communion liturgy for Sunday's Service ... Communion - the simple action of sitting at table with one another and breaking bread and sharing the cup, is one of the holiest actions we have as a Church and a people of faith, and it is something we actually re-enact daily. Communion is not meant to be separated from our day to day lives, but to affirm the Holy Presence WITHIN our day to day lives.

Today, as the six of us broke bread (figuratively speaking) at a Chinese Food Buffet in Kitchener, we celebrated and enacted the Holy Presence in our fellowship around the table ... we laughed, we reminisced, we shared life's highs and lows, and we affirmed the importance and the value of the work David and Marla and others do every day in addressing the violence of poverty in our society.

There was more than a little silliness ... laughter that brought looks of disdain from other tables ... and along the way I suggested that we go to those tables and apologize by introducing David ... "Oh we're sorry we've been so loud ... this is David Northcott, the executive Director of Winnipeg Harvest Food Bank, and a recent recipient of the Order of Canada!!" I think the reactions would be priceless!!!

Yes, David - a friend, a hero and a helluva guy - was recently awarded the Order of Canada for his 30 plus years battling hunger in Manitoba and across Canada ... in the truck on the way to the restaurant as I congratulated him on his wonderful achievement he expressed his typical humility by acknowledging that it is NOT his Order of Canada, but it is the Order of Canada for the work of Winnipeg Harvest and all the staff and volunteers and donors who struggle day to day to counter the poverty and hunger that has become a familiar part of the landscape.

I started today in a very cynical and grumpy place ... but thanks to my esteemed colleague and friend Doyle, and thanks to David Northcott O.C., Marla and the others, I end my day hopeful that our struggles to address poverty, and to enact Social Justice in our world are NOT in vain ... one day, the Kingdom we envision and are working for, will not only be revealed - we will savour being a citizen ...

Thanks for sharing your evening with us David ... and thank you for your commitment and dedication to the people lingering on the margins of our communities and our society. Enjoy the Order of Canada - you have earned it, and you continue to inspire others!!

Today, we broke bread together and shared a communion of laughter, food, fellowship and most importantly FRIENDSHIP - and for that we are very blessed !!!!

Dayenu !!!!! Dayenu!!!!!

An A-Ha Moment !!!

I was feeling very very very cynical today as I read the news sites I visit each morning and getting caught up on the United Church chatter on various websites ...

Then our minister emeritus Rev. Doyle stopped by and we had a chat ... along the way Doyle offered an off handed observation that not only resonated with me, it summarized nicely much of what I've been feeling lately.

Doyle noted that when things like Medicare were brought into being in our country, the politicians and the leaders of the day had a sense of the Common Good that motivated them. We talked about Trudeau and Douglas and even folks like Diefenbaker and Stanfield and noted they were NOT motivated by greed and profit, but by making the Society better for EVERYONE not just the select few.

While we lamented the current state of things, we noted that there are some glimmerings of the common good out there if we look hard enough.

But what I realized today, or rather was reminded of, was that the problem is not in me - the problem is in the incredibly selfish approach our society has taken. We no longer look for the common good or for the welfare of others, but have instead embraced and embodied the foolish values of the "Me Generation" that looks out only for one's self.

Fortunately, there are those glimmering people and places that keep alive the flame of the Common Good, and in time those sparks will reignite and bring us back to what's important ... the Social Gospel may been down, but it is definitely NOT out!!!!

I'm proud to be Evangelical United Brethren (EUB)!!!

I'm proud to be from the lineage in the United Church of Canada that comes from the Evangelical United Brethren Church of Canada.

In 1968, the EUB joined with the United Church of Canada and became part of the tent, in which we all reside.

Along the way though, the UCC seemed to forget that we came, and it definitely forgot the promises that were made ... we're still waiting to see the shaking hands (above) on the UCC crest. And now, as I've noted previously, the UCC is getting ready to once again revisit and revise the Crest of the United Church, and it has forgotten (again) to include us.

This saddens me for two reasons. One is because a promise is still left unfulfilled, and those who were part of the joining of these two demoninations back in 1968 are becoming fewer and fewer in number. But the bigger reason this saddens me is because it is a constant reminder of the disconnect between the words we speak as a Church (Denomination) about inclusion and welcome, and the utter failure to really live those words in a meaningful way.

I look back on my experience in Theology College and remember with sadness the chapel service we led drawn from the Blue Hymn Book of the United Church, and resources in the 1969 Service Book ... we were immediately condemned for being "exclusionary and sexist" for our choices. Yet, one of our classmates - an older woman was feeling excluded by the gender-neutral and feminization of God, and the lack of traditional Hymns and prayers in our weekly chapel services ... thankfully the Rev. Dr Bob Bater encouraged and defended us in our choice. But the damage was done ... my sense of who the United Church was was in that experience forever tinged with a deep cynicism that has only been re-enforced in the 20 years since ...

Over and over, the Church has, in its zealousness to be open, welcoming, liberal and progressive forgotten its core roots and its core values ... we are A CHURCH. We are the body of Christ incarnate in the world. We are the very children of God called to care for ALL, not just a select few who make us comfortable and who stroke our ego.

As a fine and very wise EUB preacher once said to me - "We are NOT a warm pink fuzzy social club called to give people hugs and tell them it's okay ... we are the BODY of CHRIST Risen and Incarnate in the world. We are called to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable and to LIVE the Gospel."

I wonder if that's why the EUB remains the forgotten Fourth Partner of Church Union in the UCC??

We were too Germanic in our outlook, and too upfront in our insistence that faith is best live, not spoken ...

I wonder ...