Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Of Snow, and Snow and Removal thereof...

Thus far this winter it has been fairly safe to say that if it is a day ending in Y then you will need to go out and shovel....
This pile has had its top knocked off 2x this year

I first started thinking about this post 2 weeks ago when this story came out (for those readers who still think in feet and inches, 30cm=1 foot, 100cm=39 inches).

In Canadian cities (and I assume many other places) there are two favoured winter past-times.  Complaining about snow plowing/removal and complaining about property taxes.  Lots of times they get combined -- such as "for the insane amount of taxes we pay the streets should be plowed as soon as it snows".

This winter has been no exception.  But it HAS been an exceptional winter.  As the link above states, a seasonal average snowfall is 154cm.  Up to two weeks ago we already had 132.  Twice the average in November and 3x the average for December by the middle of the month (note today I found this story which shows we have had another 35 or so centimeters in the last 2 weeks -- much of it in the last week, as the snow pile beside our fence shows).  A week before Christmas I heard someone who was born and raised here say that the snow piles looked normal--for March.
This pile had been completely cleared on Saturday afternoon (and does not include last night's dump of 4 inches or so)
So in an area that averages 154cm of snow in a winter we have now had about 177cm in two months.  Would anybody care to guess what people's opinions on snow plowing are?

Well I am sure there are a lot of people being realistic and fair....

I KNOW there are a lot of people whose expectations are, well, unrealistic.  Yes snow removal is not happening nearly as fast as anyone (including the city) would like.  But when it never stops coming what can you do?

THe city has a fairly logical plan that they do Priority 1 and 2 roads (arterials, bus routes that sort of thing) first and then start working their way through the residential streets.  And in a normal year they hope to get to all residential streets 3 times (they even post the rotation so folks can see what order neighbourhoods are being done in and where they are at in the cycle).  Makes perfect sense to me.  Of course the job is not made easier by the large number of people who (for whatever reason) park on the street, even when signage says not to to allow for snow clearing or by the fact that in most of the city the sidewalk is right on the street so all the snow needs to be piled into windrows and trucked away, or piled on the sidewalk (which has a whole set of other problems) rather than being piled on a boulevard.  And of course when it never seems to stop snowing then you never get past Priority 1 or 2 roadways anyway (and Priority 2 roads, which are No Parking as snow routes Nov-May still seem to have lots of cars on them)

But there seem to be a whole bunch of people who expect residential streets to be done within 48 hours of a snowfall.  And so as December rolled on and some places had not seen a plow at all after 132 cm of snow there was a lot of flak.  So the city instituted a temporary solution.  To get streets passable they would do a quick plow, with the goal to get the surface flat not go down to pavement, and leave piles on sidewalks and driveways for residents to clear.  And while some people applauded that emergency measures were being taken (and I for one would argue that they could/should have made that decision a week earlier) it just gave some people something else to whine about.

But hear is the thing.  No matter how much snow falls there are only so many plowing hours available.  Drivers need days off.  You can only clear so much roadway an hour.  and the equipment and wages that are used for snow removal are paid by taxes.  So you can not logically complain about needing more service and ask to pay less taxes in the same sentence.  Right?

And well I do believe there is a time for debate the snow removal plan and discuss whether it is adequate, no plan would match a year like this. I would suggest that the city is too reliant on contractors in an average year as it is, which means that in a year like this you have already tapped the resources that are available, so it is hard to ramp up even more.  So yes, maybe there is a discussion to be held -- though at the same time I have seen an improvement in snow removal each of the last two years.  But despite what some people seem to want, it is not responsible to plan so that in the exceptional year you can provide the same level of service as an average* year--then in a normal or sub-average year you have massive investments sitting idle.  And imagine the tax complaints when that happened.  I would suggest the best plan is to have a structure to deal with a "heavy average" year, with a level of resources that leaves some untapped ones in the plan to call forth in a heavier year.

In the meantime let's be thankful that we have snow plows. And that snow is not like an ice storm that throws thousands into a blackout.  And maybe someone can turn off the tap on the snow machine for a few weeks?  Please?

*I also have to mention that average is a hard thing to use in these discussions.  I assume when they say average the mean the mean which is calculated by adding however many years worth of data they are using and dividing.  I would suggest a more helpful metric would be the mode which is the most common value in the data set.  Of course if patterns are consistent both those values should be fairly close together.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Book 10 of 2013-- The Underground Church

When I read a teaser of this book, I knew that I just had to buy it...

One of my passions in ministry is the question "Who is God calling us to be?" (I believe we have to ask this both as individuals and as a collective community).  It is my fondest hope that by the time I retire I have a clue how to answer that question.  But this book helps in the search for an answer.

And I know that I have at least one sermon that will be very directly influenced
by having read this book.  A sermon on the idea that we are called to be contaminants/contagion in the world (based on the parable of the yeast in Matthew).  A sermon that is scheduled for the week that Presbytery will be present for worship.

I am not at all sure I agree with all of Meyers' points.  But I find most of what he has to say well worth a read.  In fact I am thinking that this could be a valuable resource for a book study. Hmmm, maybe that will happen....

I encourage folk to read this book.  At least those who wonder where God might be calling us to go...

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Newspaper Column for December 27

What's It All About Anyway???

Here we are on the third day of Christmas. Did your French Hens arrive this morning? Mine neither. Just as well, I have no room for them anyway.

By now the wrapping paper has been bagged and tossed, the Turkey leftovers are stuffed in the fridge, many of us have eaten more chocolate than we really should (but can you ever eat too much chocolate?), and maybe we have time to sit and reflect a bit. One of my favourite moments in Christmas television is Charlie Brown screaming “Can ANYBODY tell me what this is all about?”, partly because I don't think we talk about that question enough. Maybe now we can pause and ask ourselves what all the hustle and bustle and noise of the last month has been all about.

The Grinch had it all figured out, or so he thought. Christmas was all about presents and toys and food and noise. But he was wrong.

Scrooge had it all figured out too. Christmas was a poor excuse to pick a man's pocket every year. It was a waste of time and money. But he was wrong.

Some in the church have it all figured out. Christmas is about insisting that the story is all important and factual and fighting against Santa or “Happy Holidays” or anything that draws attention from the baby born to a virgin and lying in a manger. Turns out they may be wrong too.

And so I come back to the question Charlie Brown asks; “Can anyone tell me what Christmas is all about?”. Is it the gifts? The holiday? Family? The story?

In the end Christmas is sort of about all those things and yet more than that. It is about the giving of tokens of love and affection to each other. It is about taking time away from being “productive” to spend with those who are important in our lives. It is about a story, a mixture of myth and legend and faith, told in words and songs and pictures of a special baby. But, for me, none of these quite answer Charlie Brown's question.

What is my answer? What does Christmas mean for me? Christmas is about birth. Christmas is about God breaking into our lives. That is the story we tell. That is the reason for our praise. We aren't celebrating the birth of a child over 2000 years ago. We celebrate the fact that here, now, as 2013 turns into 2014, something new is being born.

We don't find the meaning in Christmas by complaining about commercialism. Nor do we find it in the crowds of the pre- or post-Christmas sales. We don't find it in arguments about what “really happened” when Jesus of Nazareth was born. We don't find it in songs about silent nights or songs about bells jingling on a one horse sleigh.

We might find it in the grin on the face of a loved one opening a gift. We might find it in the peace we feel as we gather with friends and family to hear again the story of God being with us in a new way. We might find it in a surprising way, when suddenly we see a glimmer of hope, a spark of light, in a place where once there was only darkness and despair.

The great promise and hope of Christmas is that in the midst of our crises and troubles we hear of God breaking into our world and our lives. We are reminded that there is a light that no shadow can overcome. We listen for the song that brings “good news for all people”. The birth we celebrate may come in a way and place we don't expect, but our story reminds us that God rarely does the expected. Still there is light, there is hope, there is joy.

What is being born this Christmas? Where do we hear angel song? What hope is being awoken? And how will we react?

Now that the hustle and bustle are over the work of living Christmas hope begins. How will you carry Christmas hope, Christmas promise, Christmas light into the New Year?

God Bless US, Every One. Merry Christmas, and a Blessed New Year.

Friday, November 08, 2013

What Defines Christian????

Some of you may have heard of Gretta Vosper. She is a United Church of Canada minister and author of a couple of books. She also appears to many to be an atheist (and sort of claims that for herself). She is also a bit of a pole around whom controversy swirls, because some (many?) of us are not sure that she has moved beyond Christianity and if she has we wonder if she is a good fit for a member of the Order of Ministry in a Christian denomination.

Anyway, as a result of a number of recent discussions about Gretta (as she has not entered into them) on various FB pages I made the following post in the United Church of Canada FB group:
Key to all the discussions sparked by Gretta Vosper's musings has been a simple, yet very complex, question. And it is one that I think we need to lay open for discussion so we can then talk about where the boundaries of the community are...

What does it mean to be Christian????

THe United Church of Canada is a Christian denomination. Therefore to belong to the UCCan is to be a Christian (with the only membership boundaries being those laid out in the New Testament, not signing on to any other creedal statement). THere are a wide range of opinions on the details of what it the term "Christian" means but I believe that there is a common kernel.

What is that common kernel? What is the least you can believe/say to be a member of the Christian community?

As the one who posted the question(s) I think it is incumbent on me to try and provide my own answer....

To be a Christian is, at a base starting point, using the example of the New Testament community, to be one who proclaims "Jesus is Lord" (the earliest creedal statement).

Again using the witness of the New Testament as the base, to be a Christian is to be one who proclaims a crucified and resurrected Jesus/Christ.

To be a Christian is to be one who affirms the reality of God and that God is (somehow) active in the world.

To be a Christian is to be a follower of The Way, one who strives to live out love of God, neighbour, and self.

To be a Christian is to affirm that the life of faith needs to be lived out in community.

To be a Christian is to affirm a future hope, that which we call eschatology, for a world where the life of the Kingdom/Reign of God is made fully real in our presence.

To be a Christian is to affirm that in the writings and experiences of those who have gone before, especially the books we call Scripture, we can learn about God, about God's hope/plan for the world, and about how others have struggled with questions similar to ours, therefore we continue to read Scripture and ask where/how it intersects with our lives today.

I think that to go beyond that is to go beyond the base ground, the common denominator.

Edit to Add:   While cleaning the bathrooms (because insights hit us at the oddest moments) I realized I had forgotten two statements:
To be a Christian is to proclaim that somehow in the "Christ event" (the life death and resurrection) God was doing something to bring God's creation to a state of "at-one-ness" with God in a way that had not happened before.

To be a Christian is to announce that God was revealed in the life, ministry, death and resurrection of the man we know as Jesus of Nazareth, who with the eyes of faith we also call the Christ, the Anointed One of God.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

What is Your First Memory of a God-moment?

Earlier this week this discussion prompt was posted in a Facebook Group:
First memory of Jesus being a companion along your life's journey. GO!

It being my sincere conviction that one of the things that is missing in many of our churches is a practice of giving testimony, and also being sure that if testimony is going to happen those of us in leadership (paid and unpaid) need to step up and model that behaviour I knew I had to follow that prompt with this blogpost...

Now my theology (both theoretical and experiential) is much more Pneumocentric [Spirit-centered] than Christocentric [Christ Centered].  It always has been I realize in retrospect.  So I don't really think in terms of Jesus being a companion on my life's journey.  That is not my experience or understanding of God.  But I do have a really clear memory of the first time I remember feeling God's presence in my life.

Palm Sunday 1984.

For a number of years it was the habit in my home congregation to have confirmation services on Palm Sunday.  In the case of our confirmation class we prepared for the event with a closing retreat at a clubhouse facility in St. Albert.  On the Saturday we gathered, had some program (of which I recall almost nothing except for a meal of nations that we did not only there but also at a number of Youth Group events in later years) and then "slept".  I say it that way because once the leader was asleep the rest of us sat up and talked until he woke up and chased us back to bed -- after all we were all in our mid-teens.

For most of my life I have been an early waker.  And so it was that Sunday.  I woke before anybody else and went outside to wander around the attached playground.  This playground consisted of a number of large concrete tunnels and structures.  It was a misty morning and the mist around the structures in the early dawn light had a really eerie quality (potentially made more notable with 30 years of memory attached).  As I wandered around the playground I sang a bit and I prayed a bit.  Not formal prayers, just free-form vocal meanderings.  As a young adult I would find that this was my preferred method of personal prayer.

Something special was there that morning, in the mist and the dawning light.  Looking back I can safely say that the 1983-84 school year was one of the worst years of my life to this point in time (and I have no desire to have a worse one thank you very much). Every day at school was an experience in suffering (again possibly made worse with 30 years of memory).  But there were 2 places I had as refuge.  The church was one of those.  Every Thursday evening that year we met for Confirmation discussions, and it was a safe place.  That morning as I wandered and sang and prayed I knew that I was in the presence of the Holy One.  And it felt good and right.  I remember feeling a sense of peace that was very unusual for me in my then 15 years.

I have had that feeling many other times in the intervening years.  But that was the first.  And first times always stick in our memory.

What is your memory of your first time?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The E Word....

Currently there is happening in the United Church of Canada the Comprehensive Review to help us as a denomination find a way forward as we face massive economic-driven downsizing and the need to restructure, to "do church" in a different way.  Officially under the review process guidelines "everything is on the table".  Some of the more cynical among us have a suspicion that the report is half written before information gathering is done and that there were a few things that were pre-determined/assumed as the process began.

Anyway, the task group has been issuing regular updates on their work.  Earlier today I was reading this month's update.  I came upon this section:
We spent some time at our meeting exploring evangelism, a term with which many United Church people are uncomfortable because of its association with conservative theologies and styles of worship. What if, instead, we thought of evangelism as going out to where the people are with a message of love, justice, and hope? What if we thought of evangelism as going confidently and joyfully into the world and inviting people to take their faith journeys in community with us, instead of waiting for them to walk through the doors?
That conversation led to a continued discussion of our vision for the church. Words emerged like: courageous, justice, Christ, community, open, united, commitment, faith, love, hope, church, vibrant. We believe the purpose of structure should be to enable communities of faith to take that vision into places of need in the wider world.
We don't "do" evangelism in the United Church.  Or at least we don't do it well.  Some of us would argue we don't even like to use the word (despite the fact that our antecedent denominations were openly evangelistic).   And yet I have to agree we NEED, not want, not it would be nice, NEED to learn how to share our faith story, our hope with those around us.  It is the only way forward that makes sense.

So I am happy the CRTG is talking about it.  I also know it is meaningless for the CRTG to talk about it.  The people that need to talk about it, to do something about it, to make it happen, are not at that table (or conference call as the case may be).  They are in churches large and small, new and old, "conservative, "liberal" and "progressive" from Atlantic to Pacific to Arctic.  We have to rediscover the tools of sharing that we are part of a church, part of a specific church and be able to share WHY.  Why do we take part in that community?  Why is it important to us?  What do we find there?  What is the story we share?  What is the hope we have to share?

And to do that we have to be honest about why we have this extreme discomfort (a discomfort that I would maintain has been around for multiple generations).  Why do we practically run from being evangelistic?  I think there are a number of reasons.  But the big one is we are not really sure WHAT we have to share.

What is our story?  What hope do we have to offer to the world?  What Good News do we bring?

Until we can articulate that, can we become evangelistic?

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Pictures and Baptism....

The RevGalBlogPals have recently moved to a new site.  As a part of the set up of that site they asked for pictures of women in ministry in action.  And so I submitted this picture:

Of course there is always a story behind a picture.  And now they are asking for those stories for the Wednesday Festival this week.

When you are clergy and you have children who baptizes them?  I am not their Pastor, I am their father.  So for Princess and Scalliwag we had colleagues come out to Atikokan for the baptism--colleagues who were at those times retained without appointment.  On both those occasions all of their grandparents (and for Scalliwag also her great-grandfather) were able to be present.

Then came Monkey.  There was someone we really wanted to officiate at her baptism (because said person was unable to officiate at our wedding as Beloved sorta kinda hoped).  However said colleague was also in full-time ministry, which makes it more difficult for her to come to Atikokan.  At the same time it was becoming more and more difficult for Beloved's mother to make that trip.  So we came up with a rather unique solution.

Have the baptism at a Presbytery meeting.

We suggested this to some of the key people in Presbytery in the fall and there was great excitement.  As the chair that year noted, as Protestants we recognize 2 sacraments but in our Presbytery meetings we are only able (generally speaking) to celebrate one of them.  So we made plans.  The Board in Atikokan agreed that Monkey could be baptized on their behalf at the February Presbytery meeting.  Wonderful friend and colleague agreed (with very little pleading) to officiate, we planned the service and it was done.  I led most of the service and wonderful friend and colleague did the baptism.  Thanks again!!!!!

Oh and I was told by wonderful friend and colleague to include this piece:
Gord, be sure to mention that it is a highlight of my ministry. One of those Spirit-filled moments that always brings a smile.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Tax REform....

At lunch time yesterday I heard this story.  IT is a proposal to introduce a Provincial goods and service tax to Alberta in the name of reducing corporate and personal income taxes.

Now I am not opposed to consumption taxes.  I think they have a role in the tax system.  But this proposal is not the right solution for Alberta at this time.  In fact this proposal would COST people at the lower end of the spectrum, the people currently not paying income tax at all money.  It would, in fact RAISE their taxes.  And I can almost guarantee that the proposed tax credit would be less than the amount people would pay out over the year.

The better cure for the Alberta tax system is to dump the (very bad, benefits the high income earners) flat tax and return to a graduated tax system.  And then maybe you can legitimately raise the personal exemption so more Albertans are not paying income tax (although I would question raising it as high as they are suggesting).

But in the end it is pretty much political suicide in Alberta to try and introduce a consumption tax.  So I suspect this will go on a shelf somewhere and collect dust.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Letter to the Editor on Wealth Redistribution

September 17, 2013

RE: “Robin Hood” Editorial of September 16.

I need to begin by saying that we live in a society of , generally, caring people. But I also believe we can do SO SO much better in order to actually be a caring society. And reading this editorial yesterday morning pushed many of my buttons.

Full disclosure. I am a Social Democrat/Democratic Socialist. I fully believe the role of society, through its elected government is to create a more equitable distribution of wealth. My faith requires nothing less. And the measure of whether that is being done well enough is not in the measures listed in the editorial (which I assume came from outside Alberta since it references an progressive tax system that we sadly did away with under the reign of Ralph Klein and Stockwell Day). The measure of how well we are redistributing wealth is in a basic question.

Does everybody have their basic needs to food, shelter, clothing, education and medical care met?

Now I ask you can you honestly say that is true of Canadian society? No, most certainly not. And so we have to do better.

But instead the editorial complains that we are “robbing” the rich and then suggests that not only are we giving those at the bottom end too much but that it is their own fault that they are poor. I quote: “That's still a shame. Not just because everyone else is shelling out for this. But because these people clearly aren't living up to their potential.”

Frankly the top earners in any country, particularly when they make several hundred times more than the lowest earners should pay the majority of the tax bill. If you earn over 500 000 and pay 66% as a practical tax rate (which I am sure NOBODY does) you are still taking home more than a whole slew of Canadians. Isn't that enough to do to ensure that you neighbours don't have to choose between food and rent?

I agree, let us try and grow, sustainably, the economy. But lets also let our neighbours live in dignity while we do it. In then end, it will make growing the economy easier if more people have money to spend.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Book 9 of 2013 -- Switch

Last summer I read this book.  And I found it worthwhile enough that I bought another by the same authors--but apparently took a while to get around to reading it.  This summer I worked my way toward Switch

Switch is about managing change.  I actually was at a con-ed event in the spring where the presenter referred to the book in his talks.  The Heath brothers use the metaphor of a elephant rider and break change down into three things:  Direct the Rider, Motivate the Elephant, and Shape the Path.

This book is full of helpful insights.  For example the directing of the Rider is an act of will.  But it is also tiring to always be directing the rider, so that leads to the importance of motivating the elephant.  Much less tiring than always steering it against its will. 

The Heaths routinely include stories and anecdotes to illustrate their points.  The writing is accessible and easy to follow.  All of us who work with change management (which at some point of time is ALL of us) would be well served by reading this book.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Happy Anniversary!

August 31, 2002 was also a Saturday, as it happens that is the last time August 31 was a Saturday, what with the vagaries of leap years and all.

ANd that day happened to be our wedding day.  Well wedding evening technically since the ceremony was at 7 in the evening.  We did pictures first  (because who wants to do wedding pictures at 8 in the evening) at a park in Thunder Bay.  It was somewhat windy (blowing a gale as I remember) up on the hill. which make pictures a challenge when one of you is wearing a veil.  It needs to be held down somehow...
personal veil weight at your service

And then when you start pictures at 5 and aren't having anything except sandwiches and squares after the wedding you need a bit of a snack in between...
yes that IS an apron being worn as a bib

This actually wasn't the picture we were looking for last night.  Our memory was one of Patty leaning over to avoid dripping on herself (which would be a very common event) and in mid-bite, this seems to have been taken right after that.  SO we think our memories are a little bit hazy as to when pictures were taken.

And one more picture...from the cutting of the cake...

11 years and still putting up with me?

Friday, August 30, 2013

Five Firsts

As the RGBP site prepares to migrate to a new home, I thought I would play teh Friday 5 (while trying to set up a "new" desktop in the den).  This week is about firsts...
Your first "place" - whether it was an apartment, dorm room, or home with a new spouse, the first place where you really felt like a grown-up:  Well it wasn't the first place I paid rent at but I think it feels like my first "real" place because it was the first place I went apart from a temporary residence for the school year.  A bachelor apartment just a few blocks from where I was working at the time.  And as it happens, I was going through old pictures last night and found some pictures of it:

Your first time away from home. Construe this any way you want. College? Girl Scout Camp? Study Abroad? As with many of us there are several of these.  I think I will go with my first year in Seminary, 1992-93.  Lived in a dark basement suite and really did not like it.  (In hindsight there was other stuff happening in my psyche that may have been augmented by teh darkness of the basement suite).

Your first job in your field of endeavor (so, not babysitting, unless you are A Professional Babysitter today): How does one define the first job in ministry?  My first charge?  My first internship? My work at Kids Kottage (which would match the apartment answer above)?  All possibles but I am going with my work at Camp Maskepetoon.  My first summer on staff there was 1989.  And arguably without going there I would not be here now.

Your first time hosting. Again, construed broadly, this could be a dinner for the in-laws, your first time to have guests for a holiday meal, etc. During my first year at seminary our class developed a pattern of taking turns hosting class gatherings.  There were 3 of us who lived in basemen suites that had no space for hosting such a gathering.  And so we compromised.  We "borrowed" the home of one classmate and we provided the wine and cheese for the gathering as the official hosts.

Your first love.That can be a person or something else!!  I am going with not my first love but my first crush.  I was in grade 4, her name was Evelyn, we had been classmates since grade 1.  And I thought she was great.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Down TIme

This is a Newspaper Column for the end of September...

I made a mistake this summer. OK, to be honest I probably made many mistakes this summer. But there is one I made, one I constantly make, that I really know I shouldn't.

I checked my e-mail.

More specifically, while I was on holidays I repeatedly checked my work e-mail (sometimes everyday). Even though I know that there is no real need to do so (and very good reasons to NOT do so), I routinely check my work e-mail when I am on study leave or vacation. And I have to stop it. Because Down Time is mandatory for my health, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you...Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day. (Deuteronomy 5:12-15)

There it is, right in the “Big 10”, the commandment to take down time. Because we aren't slaves and we can choose, we are to take down time. In the words I skipped to conserve space we are also told to ensure that those around us have the chance to take it as well. Down Time is important. So why don't we take it?

 I am sure I am not the only person in town who has trouble fully separating from the workplace on my day off or on my vacation time. It is just so EASY to say “well I'll just quickly check my e-mail” (or voice mail), or “swing by” on the way to something else. The gift of modern communication is that we can always be in touch. The curse of modern technology is that we can always be in touch. Are we becoming enslaved by the ease of having work with us whenever we want?

The problem, for me, with those little contact points is that I never fully find myself “off”. I check e-mail on vacation and I make myself think about work. So I don't get the break that is intended and I don't get the refreshment I need. And who suffers?

Well without that down time, without that break for refreshment, my energy level sinks lower. I may feel it physically. I may become more short-tempered (just ask my family). I may not be able to focus well. I may start to feel drained, that the reserves are gone. I may start, unconsciously, to feel resentful. And how can I perform well at my tasks (whatever those tasks may be) if I am exhausted?

This is not what God wants for us. God wants us to live balanced lives. Which, I believe, is why God commands that there be down time in the rhythm of our lives. Not for God's benefit. For ours. Jewish thought is clear that the commandments in Torah are a gift from God. The commandment to rest is a gift from God.

When the people of Israel were slaves they could not choose whether to rest or not. Are we slaves or can we choose?

Can we choose to shut off the cell phones, to not click on the webmail link,to not check the voice mail? Can we choose that for a day or a week or longer we will not work, not talk about work, not think about work (admittedly for some of us that last one is REALLY hard)? Can we choose to take down time? Well yes, we can. Maybe the real question is will we? Maybe the choice is not so much if we have the option (as any moral employer will ensure we have the option of taking down time – and the really good ones will encourage us to do so) but actually letting/making ourselves do it.

God knows that we are not meant to be “on” all the time, so God instructs us to take down time. Somehow it has become a status symbol in come circles to brag about working all the time, about always keeping in touch with the workplace. Somehow we have bought into the idea that we always have to be productive or else we are “wasting” time.

God knows that to truly be productive we have to have time where we are not being productive. God knows that few of us are so important or irreplaceable or wise that our workplace will sink if we are gone for a while. God knows that we need a break. God wants us to be physically, mentally emotionally, and spiritually healthy. Taking Sabbath Time, or Down Time is a big part of how we care for our health.

Do we have the wisdom to listen to God's call for Sabbath?

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Sacred Places.......

 What makes a place Sacred?  What makes it holy?  Why does it get set apart?

Every continent has sacred places.  Every major religion has sacred places.  This link has a selection of images, this one is divided by country.  In the case of Christianity, I work on the presumption that many Christian sacred places (particularly in Europe) were sacred places for the old religions and then got "baptized" as Christianity took over -- Glastonbury comes to mind as an example. 

Sometimes Sacred Places have buildings on them, or the sacred place is in fact the building.  Sometimes they are natural spaces that have never had anything built on them.  Sometimes there is no building but humans have put a marker of some sort (Stonehenge or Native American Medicine wheels for example).  But there is something about a sacred place.

My Celtic ancestors used to talk about the thin place, which I understand as another way to describe a sacred place.  They are places where the Divine just feels more present than other places.  When enough people feel that a place is "thin" then it becomes more widely known and described as such.

But I think sacred places go far beyond the ones that have been culturally recognized.  I believe that we all have our sacred places.  We share some of them with others and for some they are only special to us, a closely guarded secret we hold in our hearts.

I visited three of my sacred places this summer.  As it happens two are on the same lake.

One is Rundle's Mission, a place that has had special meaning for me for approximately 40 years now.  As I was growing up we had congregational camp weekends at that place once or twice a year.  Over the years it became a very homey place to go.  When I am there, when I have time to wander around, I find peace, I know that I am with the Divine One.  I can't define it, but it is a thin place for me.
I have introduced the girls to it.  I know it will likely never be as special to them as it is to me.  They just don't have the history.  But I can tell them the stories.

Another is Camp Maskepetoon.  Just down the lake from Rundle's, a nice walk takes you from one place to another (indeed sometimes we would walk down to Rundle's from Camp--one year we took the whole camp down the road for a picnic).  I went there 3 times as a camper (1978, 1980, 1981).  But it really became special to me as a young adult.  I applied to be summer staff at the end of my 2nd year of university, got the job, and caught the bug.  Over the next 10 years I would end up being on staff for 5 summers and spend 3 years on the board (during those 3 summers I spent most of my days off out at the lake).  A holy and special place indeed.  It was there that I first felt what became known to me as the call to ministry.  It was there that I started to develop my adult spiritual self.  Without that place I would not be the person I am today.  When I go there I feel God.
And this one the girls, at least the older two who have gone as campers, have started to share with me.

The third is the church of my childhood.  Well technically now it is the sanctuary of my teens and young adult years, the sanctuary of my childhood has long since been redone, changed into the Friendship Hall as part of the 1983/4 expansion--and I have no picture of it as it once was.  This is the congregation that nurtured me, that helped/watched me grow.  We started attending there when I was 2.  There I started teaching Sunday School, there I learned what it meant to be church (both positive and negative).

When I am there for worship, as I do most times I am in town on a Sunday (or a Wednesday in the summer) I feel at home.  Yes the congregation has changed much in the 20 years since I was an active part of its life.  But still I am home.  And God is there with me.

Of course there are many other places.  Cemeteries (pretty much ANY cemetery) are a thin place for me.  I can spend hours wandering around looking at headstones and drinking in the ambiance.  And the odd thing is that some places can be "thin" one day and not the next.  So it is sometimes hard to know what makes it thin. 

What are your sacred places?  Why are they holy?  What makes them special?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Book 8 of 2013: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars

"Friends, rebels, starfighters...."  "Once more into the trench dear friends..."

Now admit it, who could resist a book with a title like that?!?  Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (or, as most of us originally came to know and love it, Star Wars) as a Shakespearean play.  I mean it just cries out to be read!

It was a chance find, the sort one sometimes happens upon when browsing.  And I needed at least one light "nothing" book to read while on vacation.  So I bought this one.  It works out to about an average length Shakespearean play, according to the afterword and is a delightful way to spend part of a day (if you enjoy iambic pentameter and the Star Wars universe that is, so there may be a bit of a limited target audience).  And, as the author says there is in fact some academic/philosophical/theoretical rationale to the project.

One who knows the works of Shakespeare would likely find passages (like the two cited above) that echo specific scenes and passages.  And because of the Shakespearean structure we have monologues!  We see inside Luke and Han and Vader and Kenobi--and also C3PO and R2D2, we hear their thougths and feelings.

Btu lets be honest, I didn't get it for any academic value (which it does have).  I got it because it looked like fun--and indeed it was.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Book 7 of 2013 -- The Definitive-ish Guide for Using Social Media in the Church

For a while I contemplated going back to school to do a D.Min.  I have since realized that I have not the time nor the money to do that (nor, apparently, the burning desire).  But if I did it was with the intent to do focused work of Social Media and the church, well computerization and the church generally but a specific focus on Social Media.  Why?  Because I think that topic area is one of the growing edges for the church both in understanding and utilization.  While I have pretty much laid aside the D.Min idea it may become a Sabbatical topic in a couple of years (I am eligible for a sabbatical in 2015 but likely wouldn't take it until 2016 due to the fact that I will be Presbytery chair in 2015--and that is NOT a sabbatical task).

So when I first heard about this book I knew I was going to buy it eventually.  Eventually happened to be this summer.

This book is a good start on the topic.  A very good start in fact but still only a start.  And I strongly suspect the author would agree with that statement.  Social media is such a new topic and much of the church is still getting its feet wet in it that a start is all we can have at present.

But this is also a book that church leaders (lay and ordered, local parish/pastoral charge and judicatory) need to read as we make decisions on how we will be the church in a world where social media is the norm.  It is a book I will need to go back to and review again in bits and pieces.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Letter to the Editor

To all those running in this fall's municipal elections:

I have some requests.

First, please read, re-read, and commit to memory Fred Rinne's column in this newspaper from July 11. It is not often that I read an opinion column in this paper and agree with everything it says. But this time Fred was right on the money.

Second, while certainly name recognition is an important part of an election process, please avoid the temptation to plaster your signs all over the city. In my opinion this is not only unsightly but is a waste of your money. If you have a lot of signs, convince private landowners to let you put them up. That tells me a lot more than seeing a whole line of them cluttering public property. And if you do put them up, please monitor their condition and clean them up when they become torn or broken.

Third, and most important in my mind, is tell us your vision for the city. I don't want to hear about taxes or snow removal or how to deal with the Park hotel (which needs to be dealt with sooner rather than later). After all you all the councillors and the mayor each have only one vote. None of you can make something happen by yourselves. But I am a person who believes strongly in the need for vision. Tell me your dreams about what Grande Prairie could be in its second century. And if you can convince enough of us to share that dream then that tells me you can also share your vision, your dream with the rest of the folks around the council table.

Certainly decisions get made about details, but the details need to be in support of a vision. Show us your vision, tell us why your vision is the one we should support into the next 4 years.

Monday, July 08, 2013

25 Years, Where are we now?

Last week a colleague of mine in the US wrote this post.  And in reading it I was reminded that 25 years ago this summer the 32nd General Council meeting of the United Church of Canada dealt with what many in the church now simply refer to as "the issue". 

More specifically, the Council voted to receive and adopt a report titled Ministry Membership and Human Sexuality (MMHS for short), which stated that sexual orientation was irrelevant where full membership in the United Church was concerned -- and with full membership comes the right to be considered for membership in the Order of Ministry.

And then all hell broke loose.

By the time of the next meeting of General Council in 1990 hundreds of petitions had been written calling on the church to reconsider this decision.  The grounds of opposition were based on tradition and on interpretations of Scripture.  (As it happens one of the results of this process was a church-wide study on the Authority and Interpretation of Scripture as the debate leading up to and following from MMHS had amply proven that there were a variety of approaches to Scripture in the UCCan -- though really we knew that already).  The church of my childhood and the church where I am currently in ministry were among those who expressed their disagreement [although it was not well publicized in my childhood congregation that this was being done by the Board.  People were sent to the meeting with strict instructions to "fix" the horrible mistake that had been made.  Congregations were threatening to leave the UCCan (and sue so they could take their buildings and property with them), some congregations had a mass exodus of members [and some people came to the church precisely because of MMHS], there was a fear that the church would be split asunder over the issue.  A vocal protest movement from the "conservative" side of the church sprung up calling itself the National Alliance of Covenanting Congregations (NACC).

And where are we now?

In 1992 one of the issues that was discussed at General Council was same-gender marriage.  But there was no great appetite for carrying that issue forward at that point in time.  However by a decade later there were folk in the UCCan who were loudly calling for both church and state to recognize such unions.  There were [and are] also UCCan folk loudly objecting to such unions.  Because of the way our polity works, each congregation needs to make their own decision on that issue.  Nationally the UCCan made statements urging the federal government to change the law, but each congregation decides what weddings happen in their midst.

So where are we now?

We are still somewhat split on this issue of human sexuality (meaning not only orientation but also abortion and sexual activity outside of legal marriage).  But there have been changes.

The NACC has largely gone away as a force.  There are still congregations who were members and whose congregational theology has not truly changed.  I know of one who in their Joint Needs Assessment report proclaimed proudly their traditional marriage policy and then a couple pages later said there was no reason that any clergy, regardless of orientation, would not feel welcome in their midst -- and were totally unaware of how these were mutually exclusive statements (I did not apply to that place).  But there is not the same level of antagonism.  And some churches have made a complete turn around.  There are congregations that protested in 1989 where now "the issue" is no longer an issue but have now called married gay clergy.

But there is still work to do.  Gay and lesbian clergy still (last I heard) have more chance of having trouble getting a call, particularly in certain areas of the country.  There are still people who do not want to touch these discussions with a ten foot pole for fear of reawakening old arguments.  I remember when my last pastoral charge was reviewing marriage policy and I asked if they wanted to discuss same-gender marriage -- the answer was that they were not sure the congregation was ready (the congregation WAS ready, and it would not have been an issue in my opinion) largely because there was a memory of how people had reacted in 1988-89.

So there is still work to do.  There are still conversations to be had.  And given that hetero-sexism is still rampant in our society as a whole (and plausibly in many of our pews) in both open and hidden forms we who believe that God calls all people good need to push for the conversations to happen.  If our beliefs mean anything they need to be lived out.  It has always been tempting to let people for whom the question is more pressing take the lead.  Or try to not talk about it until we have no choice.  And to be honest I believe that has been how the church has approached many issues (race, human sexuality, interfaith dialogue) over the generations.  And that is not enough. 

May we have the courage as a church to admit that the questions are not all behind us.  May we have the wisdom to see that we are not in the same place we were 25 years ago.  And may we have the faith to hear God calling us to name what we believe openly.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Book 6 of 2013 -- Speaking Christian

I first saw this book in a book display at a Presbytery meeting.  And thinking of all the times over the years I had said that there were words we needed to reclaim as part of our heritage and identity I was intrigued.  But I had a good number of books waiting to be read and so I did not buy it at that time.  But one day this year I was browsing through the Kobo list and saw that it was available as an e-book and decided it was time to grab it.

For those of us who have read Borg's other work, the theological bias in this book will hardly be a surprise.  (And I would suggest that for those of us who continue to read Borg's work the bias is one we more or less share).  What I like is that Borg encourages us to look beyond the assumed meaning of the words/terms and ask what else they could have meant to the communion of saints.

I think this book would be an excellent discussion starter in a Christian Education/Christian Development/Discipleship program.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

RevGal Carnival -- Galship

Teri laid out this challenge over at RevGalBlogPals:
This week's blog carnival topic is: What does Galship mean to you? The phrase was originally coined to refer to RevGal Fellowship--all the ways we build community, share our lives, support each other, and have fun. So blog about Galship--have you had an experience of galship in person or online? Has galshipping changed your life or ministry? what's your favorite part of our galship? Or whatever way you understand the question--there are no wrong answers! What does Galship mean to you? Ready, set, write!

And well here is my response.....

As it happens this is a fitting time for this post.  Because my 8th Blogiversary is this coming Friday, and my link to the RevGals goes back pretty much the entire time I have been blogging.

One of the reasons I started blogging was reading the blog of my friend and colleague at Inner Dorothy.  And through her blog I followed a few links to "meet" folks named Songbird  or Will Smama at Preacher, Blogger, Procrastinator (admittedly that one I grabbed to read because I am an unrepentant procrastinator) or St. Casserole or purechristianithink or the Peripatetic Polar Bear or NotShyChiRev and many many others.  I watched as some of these people formed a group that called themselves the RevGalBlogPals.  I was intrigued but as an onlooker as I saw it a group primarily for the "Gal" part of the title.

Then in this post from late September 2005 (when RGBP was just over 2 months old) I was invited to join the ring [mind you now that I re-read the invitation there was a bit of an instructional tone to the invitation).  Which I did.

I remember the first book, ordering it, ordering extra copies for some people in my congregation, getting even more extra copies because the printer screwed up the cover in the first run.  Then I remember the second, BIG book (Ordinary Time is a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG season) in which I took part.  I read about the various Big Events and other blogger meet-ups with a touch of jealousy, because I knew the chance of my being able to make those travels was pretty small.  Mind you, I am strongly thinking of going to the Festival of Homiletics next year so maybe a meet-up with some of these virtual friends will in fact happen....

One of the grand debates in the world of on-line communities is if they are true communities.  It is my experience as a member of the RGBP community that they are.  There are times when (in blog posts or in the RGBP FB group) the community supports each other, rants together, celebrates together.  When I shared concerns about early birth as we went through the last month of our third pregnancy there were prayers abounding from the community.  And when we we got back home after her birth I found this post and this post as the community celebrated with us.

Over the years I have enjoyed being a member of RGBP.  Yes there are lots of blogs in the ring now I have not read.  But there are the ones I happen upon in reading the posts at the home blog and check out.  And for the last year or so I have even been a contributor.  An easy task (as long as I remember what month it is) to write a weekly post for the Tuesday Lectionary Leanings each month.

One last note.  For the Friday 5 meme when the blogring was a year old we were invited to reflect on the community.  Here is what I wrote then. I still stand by all of it.

PS: this post took an incredibly long time to write given its length and content.  Why?  Because I got lost in reading old posts.  Always a dangerous thing.  But I was downright well written in those early months and years.  Now I hardly blog at all....

Monday, July 01, 2013

Monday, June 24, 2013

On Poverty Reduction...

So I was called a hippie today.... (by someone who is just as much a hippie as I am--and a fellow clergy person) but more on that later.

I was invited to spend this afternoon and tomorrow morning at a meeting to discuss poverty reduction within this community.  And, seeing this as a valuable way to spend my time (although there are lots of other ways to spend that time), I chose to go.

Our first task in this strategic planning process was to define poverty.  Which really is harder to do than it sounds.  I mean in some ways poverty is one of those "I can't define it but I know it when I see it" types of things (although the reality is that often we don't see it when it is right in front of us).  And certainly poverty definitions have a sense of context and perception about them.  What are basic needs and rights when it comes to shelter?  What is a secure food supply?  What makes a safe place?

Then we identified our stakeholders in the discussion.  And in addition to the homeless, and seniors, and those of set/fixed incomes (such as disability), and the working poor, and those who go through episodic poverty (one of the realities of this community is seasonal shut-downs that sometime last for months), we started to realize that all of the community has a stake in reducing poverty.  I suggested it is because of the reality that when the least of us is healthier then we are all heathier (which is the first time I was called a hippy).

We continued to work on vision and mission statements.  And tomorrow we get closer to brass tacks.  In the end the committee that is being formed will not do this work.  The committee will help created a framework for the community to do the work.  Because we need a transformed society to actually do something meaningful about poverty.  And because there are a lot of myths out there (eg: well people just need to pull themselves together and work harder, if people could manage better/work harder they could solve things themselves, it really isn't my problem/doesn't impact me, that everybody has equal chances to succeed).  If we don't engage the community and challenge the myths then we will get nowhere.

One of the interesting things about the day was something really only mentioned in passing.  The committee that has been working on these issues thus far has done some work on determining what a Living Wage would be here.  For a two parent, dual income, family with 2 children that number is both parents working full time at $15.55/hr (in conjunction with federal and provincial tax credits that they would be eligible for).  And then 60% of their income would go to shelter food and child care.  Just for fun I did the math.  That wage, assuming working 40 hours a week for 52 weeks a year--no vacation time--comes to a gross family income (before tax credits are added in and statutory deductions are taken off) of $64 688.  Which means no frills.

But here is the kicker.  My gross income for this year will be roughly $67 200 (although a third of that is tax free due to the Clergy Residence Deduction which makes a "real" income of closer to $73 000).  Which means we are not all that far above that no frills line.  And if you asked I would not say we were only just above that Living Wage line.  I am still pondering what that means...

So what do you mean when you say poverty?  What is the path to making a difference in your mind and context?  How do you transform your community so that all families within it can thrive?

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Trust as a Community....

This week the Psalm reading in the lectionary was Psalm 146.  When I first read it I was seized by verses 3 and 5 which end up reminding us that we can/should trust in God.  Trust, I realized, is a key issue not only in the life of faith but also in life as part of a community.  And so I worked with the sermon title Whom Shall We Trust?

From the beginning of the week I knew that there were at least two possible sermons with that question.  Do we take it from a personal/individual basis or from a communal basis?  For a while I thought about doing both in one sermon but that was not a helpful path to follow.  I went with the individual basis.  For Children's Time I drew on my Camp experience and thought I would do some trust falls.  That "fell" flat when Scalliwag daughter was unable to just fall backward and let me catch her.  Then the sermon turned out to be this.

But still there is a part of me wanting to preach the communal side of the question.  As a community of faith do we choose to trust in God as we look to our future directions?  OR do we trust in marketing advice or demographic/sociological studies, or our own ideas?  Given what weekend this is it would have been a perfectly valid approach to take.

A Picture from the Inauguration of the United Church of Canada
Today is Anniversary Sunday in the United Church of Canada.  Tomorrow, June 10, marks our 88th anniversary as a denomination (and how stereotypically Canadian that we were birthed in a hockey arena?).  At present there is a Comprehensive Review Task Group working within the United Church to determine how best to be the church given our current challenges and our outlook into the future.

Theoretically "everything is on the table" with this review.  Major changes are in the air we are told.  Some of us hope these two statements to be true.  Some of us are also a little bit cynical and skeptical about what will come about.  Will it be truly transformative or will it be a fancy way of shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic?  Too often in the past we have been promised transformative stuff and have gotten deck chair shuffling.  Why is that????

I think there are two reasons.  And both are related to trust.  First, there is an alarming (though not really surprising) lack of trust within the church.  So when something major is suggested the lack of trust kicks in and submarines it.  Change rarely has a real chance because people are unwilling to take the risky step into the unknown and/or because they do not trust that the proposed changes are worth it.

At the same time, I am convinced that sometimes the changes are based not on trusting God and listening for a truly transformative answer but rather on institutional preservation.  Again not surprising.  The first thing institutions do is try to preserve themselves.  A normal human reaction.  But this is the church.   This is the body which regularly reminds ourselves that we are not here for ourselves.  This is the body that is called to die to new life, to be a resurrection people.  And so we get tweaking for survival rather than risk true transformation.  But God calls us to transformation.  Do we trust God?

Do we trust that maybe God is calling us to rethink who and how we are?  Do we trust that if we truly put "everything on the table" God can take those random ingredients and turn them into something wholly new?  Do we trust that God is at work in the church today?  OR are we relying on our own intelligence and understandings to find a way to survive?  I am hopeful enough to suggest that it is at best a combination of the two.  On my more cynical days I think that human intelligence and understandings trump trusting in God every day.  And that way we end up avoiding transformation--we end up not being the community God would have us be.

It is tempting to trust in ourselves and our own understandings.  WE can even (in fact we are quite good at it) convince ourselves that we are trusting and listening to God as we do it.  But that is not what Scripture calls us to do.  Admittedly it is hard to listen when we are in crisis, but we have also shown an inability to listen before the crisis.  I just hope we are able to get to the point of living on faith and trust.  If God wants this faith community to continue, if God wants us to truly be resurrection people, we need to do more than shuffle deck chairs.  We need to trust, we need to risk, we need to go beyond who we are.

May God help us to do so.


Tuesday, June 04, 2013

It Comes To Us All.... (Newspaper Submission)

“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return”
“None of us gets out of this alive”
“We all have a one way ticket out of here”
“To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven...a time to be born and a time to die”

2 proverbs, a line from the traditional liturgy for an Ash Wednesday service, and a line from Ecclesiastes. All about the same topic. All pointing out a truth we sometimes would rather not admit. Some day all of us who live will die. So why do we spend so much energy trying to avoid talking about that?

I know, talking about and preparing for death seems a little bit on the morbid side. And it is certainly more than a little bit depressing. The logical question is why would we want to talk about it at all?

I agree. We don't want to talk about it. But sometimes, as the song says, you can't always get what you want...you get what you need. I believe that we NEED to talk about it. Only that way can we face the reality of death in a way that keeps us emotionally and spiritually and mentally (and even physically) healthy. It may not be comfortable but it is good for you.

I remember a number of years ago I went to the hospital to visit someone. I could see through the window in the door that the patient and the patient's son were talking with the doctor. So of course I waited in the hallway, so as not to intrude. However the Dr. saw me in the hall and came to the door and called me in, saying “you could be really helpful in this discussion”. They were talking about at what point did the patient want medical interventions to stop, at what point was extending life no longer the best option. A hard discussion to be sure. A discussion that not all doctors are comfortable having. But it is a discussion that, in the end, many patients and families prefer to have so that all the cards are on the table.

When we deny the reality and inevitability of death it changes us. And not always for the better. When we are isolated from the reality of death we never learn how to deal with it when all of a sudden it slaps us in the face. This is one reason I suggest that children need to attend family funerals – it helps start the learning process of dealing with death and grief. When we try to deny the reality of death we rob ourselves and our loved ones of the chance to say goodbye when the time comes, or the freedom to name that they are ready to go. When we try to pretend we are immortal then a sudden serious medical diagnosis can leave us babbling in a corner. On the other hand, when we accept the reality of mortality I believe we develop better tools for dealing with the crisis when it comes (although we may still spend some time babbling in the corner).

For many of us, part how we to talk about death and dying involves talking about spiritual questions. Questions about the meaning of life, about what life is, questions which often start with the word WHY. If I can let you in on a secret...some of those questions really don't have answers. We ask questions about what lies beyond death...and end up saying we can't really know until we are there. But it is my belief that deep spiritual questions are not always (if ever) asked to get a concrete answer. They are asked to open discussion. And as a person of faith I believe that we never have that discussion alone. We never stand in the face of life and death and “WHY?” alone.

We have no choice but to face the reality of death eventually. Some day we will be faced with the death of a loved one, or we will be sitting in a medical office and get told that we are dying. We can try to run away from these things if we want. Some people get pretty good at it in fact. But eventually it catches up to us. I encourage all of us to stop running, to stand in the discomfort, and be willing to talk about those realities with our loved ones. We start to talk about it as children and continue till we are old. And we will be healthier for it.

And remember that we never face the hard questions of life alone. In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

ChairLeaders photos (that I couldn't upload yesterday)

looks like I was closer to making it than I was

she wanted to push daddy....

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Day in a Chair

Yesterday was the annual ChairLeaders event here in town.  And I took part.  Which means I spent the day in a wheelchair to see what I learned.  I would post pictures but for some reason they will not upload at the moment. (readers with whom I am FB friends can find some pictures there)

We gathered first thing in the morning to get our chairs and do an obstacle course to get a feel for them.  Said course included trying to make a basketball shot--I was about as successful at that sitting down as I usually am standing up.  Then the disabled transit bus arrived so we could learn what it is like to get loaded up in same.  Next step was to head off to the mall for lunch and the rest of the day.

The afternoon was spent exploring the mall, seeing how easy it is to maneuver in stores, noting what you can and can not see from that perspective.  Then the day ended with a victory lap down the main corridor and back up the hil to the bus stop to go back to where we began.

What did I learn?  One that keeping the chair in a straight-ish line was really hard on my left (non-dominant) arm and shoulder -- the chair kept wanting to drift left, requiring more push on that wheel to keep straight.  Another was how important it is to have a properly fitting chair.  The one I was in was not right (although with a seat cushion it would have been better) and my legs kept cramping up.  Also, one is unaware how uncomfortable it is to stay in one position for that long.  I did not realize how often I must change position on a regular day until I wasn't doing so.  As far as the shopping, the difficulties in maneuvering around in stores were not news to me, shopping with a stroller has the same challenges (if not more because a stroller is longer than a wheelchair and does not turn as well).  And of course stock is not placed well when you are seated.  It is placed for standing adults to see.  On the other hand, it gave a handy place to sit while trying on shoes.

I also know that we got off easy.  Last year's group was taken downtown and sent out on the sidewalks and streets.  Being indoors meant we had essentially flat surfaces to deal with (although you could sure tell when you hit a slight slope in the floor).  We did not have curb cuts or gravel or broken pavement to deal with.

There were also some interesting reactions.  I actually started this process on Sunday, leading worship from a wheelchair.  There were some on Sunday who were convinced I was going to roll off the chancel platform.  There were also those who had a slight panic when I wheeled in to the sanctuary, wondering what had happened.  Same reaction from one person I ran into at the mall.  I had been working with her at the church garage sale last Thursday and she was worried about what had happened to me in the intervening 4 days. (side note: my Sunday experience showed that if the church were to have a regular worship leader in a chair, or using a walker, the chancel area would need some reorganizing, and plausibly some work on ramps.  still it is better than some chancels I have been on--at least there is a ramp on one side where most only have steps)

It was a good way to spend the day.  Part of the time I was carrying a child on my lap.  And we have a picture of the (almost) three-year-old "pushing" daddy in his wheel chair.  But as an awareness exercise it is a great idea.  Maybe I'll do it again next year?????

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mental Health Week

Apparently this past week has been Canadian Mental Health week.  And I was totally unaware of it until I saw a poster on the bulletin board at the church this morning.  Which pretty much sums up the attitude towards mental health in our society doesn't it?

I mean if it were national Breast Cancer week there would be fundraising activities and stories in the newspaper and everyone would know of it.  Same with any number of other issues.  But mental health week can come and go with barely a mention.  Why is that??

I would suggest it is because mental health is not a comfortable topic with many people.  I would suggest that mental health (and its' counterpart mental illness) is still seen as something that is not to be talked about.  Which leads directly to the stigma that comes with mental illness.

But let us be honest.  Each of us deals with mental health issues.  Each of us needs to take care of our mental health just as we have to take care of our physical health.  And to be equally honest, sometimes we do just as "good" a job at it.  And how many people know someone who lives with depression, or bi-polar disorder, or some other mental illness?

I think it is time to lift mental health out of the role of second-class brother to physical health.  I think it is time to give it equal treatment to the rest of our health care issues.  Yes that means funding it properly.  Yes that means being willing to talk about it.  Yes that means reducing the stigma that comes with admitting one's struggles.  But in the end we will ALL be healthier for it.

So tell me, what did you do this week to support your mental health?  What will you do next week?