Monday, 13 November 2017

Where is God In This?

I have been dealing with some health challenges for the last few weeks.  Not serious – al least I hope and pray.  I woke up about three weeks ago with my neck badly out of adjustment.  I was not able to get to the chiropractor until the following day and the result was my left shoulder that was very restricted in movement i.e. I couldn’t lift my shoulder above thirty degrees.  There was also a lot of discomfort and pain – especially at night which makes sleeping difficult. 
The time since has been a round of chiropractic adjustment three of four times (I am adjusted well if not well adjusted), a visit to emergency, physio twice including acupuncture, visit to the orthopedic surgeon, x-rays and an ultra sound scheduled.  O yes, and a massage for good measure, not to mention an exercise regime begun. 
There has been significant lessening of pain which I am very thankful for but not much improvement in the strength or movement of my arm. I’m sure I will recover if I am diligent in doing the exercises.  I am thankful it is my left arm as I am right handed.  So, there is much to be thankful for including all the health professionals I have been utilizing and the Canadian Health Care System (note: a single-payer system for my American friends).  One complaint is that I was not able to drive my new car, which I took delivery of last week, until yesterday; Lorna has had that pleasuretalk about adding insult to injury.
I give thanks to God for my life and health even when life throws me a curve if not a cure yet.  However, I must confess that I have not been very diligent and faithful in being open to God and seeking God in all this.  I am finding it a challenge to maintain my daily and nightly prayers and reflection and meditation.  So any neglect in that area has been on my part in all this and not God’s. 
Of course, it is not a cure that I can expect from God.  Rather, it is healing which is not what my ego wants.  My ego wants God or someone to kiss it and make it better and get back to my regular life post haste.  But healing is not the same as a cure.  Healing restores our relationship with God and perhaps even strengthens it.  That is what Jesus offers us and I give thanks for that.
Blessing on your journey whatever it may bring you,

Friday, 3 November 2017

Sermon, Dream Workshop

1 Corinthians 12: 1-11

Which Spiritual Gift have you been given?  We are told in the Epistle today that there are diversities of Spiritual gifts which are given to every man—and I would add every woman in today’s inclusive language. 

We are also told the form in which these gifts can take:  the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, healing, prophecy, discerning of spirits, divers kinds of tongues, and interpretation of tongues.  That is quite a list.  Do any of them resonate with you?  Surly you have one of them.  After all the scripture does say the Spirit is given to everyone.  You may be saying to yourself, well I certainly don’t think I have received any of those gifts despite what the scripture says. 

Here is what I believe.  I believe that each of us is given the gifts of the Spirit.  However, we have not been taught how to recognize them.  Let me tell you a secret.  I believe that we are given gifts of the Spirit every night.  We are given the gifts in our dreams.  You might say that I don’t dream.  Well, what if I told you that science has confirmed that we all dream every night and if we don’t dream, due to disruption of sleep patterns, for a while we will become mentally disturbed.   You could reply, well I don’t dream very often and anyway when I do, I they don’t seem to be about anything that makes sense.

That is true for many people but the problem is that our culture have for a long time not believed that dreams are important or meaningful and we have believed what our culture has taught us.  Here’s the thing, we often do not remember our dream because we do not believe they are important.  When we start to pay attention to them you will be surprized that you will remember many more of them.  And when we ever work with them by writing them down and considering them we remember even more. 

I believe that dreams are God’s forgotten language.  We have consequently never learned the language of dreams.  Friday night and Saturday some of us have been exploring how to begin to understand the language of dreams.  Dreams will usually occur in the native language of the dreamer—English for us.  Not always as in the case of King Nebuchadnezzar.  You may remember the story in the bible where he had a dream of a hand writing a message on the wall in the plaster; mene, mene, tekel, parsin.  Daniel was able to interpret the meaning for him—he translated the language of the dream:
Mene[e]: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.
27 Tekel[f]: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.
28 Peres[g]: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

With a few exceptions, dreams are usually in the language of the dreamer. However, that doesn’t mean that we will naturally understand them any more than King Nebuchadnezzar.  We need to learn how to interpret and understand what the message is in the dream.  Dreams speak to us in the language of symbols and we need to learn how to discern the meaning of symbols which is often not easy. 

Dreams can tell us if our lives are on the path that God intends for us or if we have gone astray.  In the same way I believe that God speaks to us in many different ways.  In addition to my work with dreams and in dream groups, I work as a Spiritual Director primarily with theological students at Huron University College in London.  My goal with my Directees is to help them identify how God is working in their lives—how God is speaking to them. 

In addition to dreams, here are a few other examples of how God speaks to us.   One way is through what we are naturally drawn to, for instance are there ways in which you feel connected to something bigger than yourself?  It may be when you are in nature, I must admit that is not a big one with me but I know many people that feel that connection.

God speaks to us in prayer.  I find it works better if it is a two-way conversation and not just talking to God; although that can also be effective. 

One way that I’m sure all of you are aware of is through scripture.  The regular reading of the bible is a way many people connect with how God is speaking to them.  There are ways in which it can be even more meaningful.  Reading a passage out loud is more effective that reading it silently.  Also, there are methods such as Lectio Divina (which is just a fancy of saying Holy Reading) which help us to find the meaning for us in our lives at the present moment.

I believe that we have generally forgotten how to understand the Language of God however, God speaks to us.  We need to learn and relearn how to listen to those many different ways and to learn how to understand them as we would a foreign language. 

I invite you to pay attention to where you find God connecting with you.  The most important first step is to be open to the possibility of God in any and all aspects of your life.  St. Paul tells us that the manifestations of the Spirit are given to all of us.  Try it out and see what happens.

I will close with the prayer that I use at the beginning of my dream groups. Let us pray:
Holy Dream Maker, Creator of All,
Be with us as we open our hearts and minds to the divine wisdom in our dreams.
We thank you and honour You.
As you guide us in the way to health and wholeness,
may we be open to the blessings of your message                      


Dreams, God's Forgotten language

For those of you who noticed and may be wondering why I did not send out an edition of the News and Views last week, there were a few things which got in my way.  The main one is that I was poorly adjusted―in a chiropractic sense of the meaning.  My I woke up one morning with a pain in the neck which progressively got worse before I could see my chiropractor.  I subsequently developed a frozen left shoulder which I am dealing with.  I will be seeing a physiotherapist today and see how it goes from there. 

Two weekends’ ago Lorna and I were leading a workshop at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Alliston.  The title of the workshop was Dream, God’s Forgotten Language.  The goal was to introduce the participants to an approach to working with dreams as a way that God is speaking to us today. The workshop was held on Friday night and Saturday and I preached at the Sunday worship services.  A copy of the sermon is attached.

 I was trained to facilitate dream groups through the Haden Institute and Lorna and I have led a number of workshops to introduce the approach to people.  We are currently involved in an ongoing dream group at Elmwood Presbyterian Church in London, Ontario which came out of a workshop we held there a few years ago.  We are also involved in a dream group that meets by Skype which has recently been joined by a member who is based in Abu Dhabi. 

The title of the workshop is based on a book by the same title written by John Sanford, an Episcopal priest.  As the title suggests we need to learn or relearn how God is speaking to us in our dreams.  As shown in the Bible, both Old and New Testament, the people of the bible understood very clearly that God spoke to them in dreams and they treated them that way.  However, for many reasons, today dreams are generally not understood as being from God or even having much significance in our post-modern culture.  The post-modern approach prejudices the scientific method which requires proof to be weighted and measured.  The approach we use draws on the work of Carl Jung which, along with Sigmund Freud, reclaimed the importance of dreams in the inner life of individuals.  This approach is enhanced by a theological understanding that dream help us to become the people that God intends us to be.

As a teaser on the process used let me give a brief description which I hope will give you some idea of how the process works:
·         One of the group members presents that he/she has had by reading it or reciting it from memory. 
·         The group members clarify the dream content to obtain as clear as possible a picture of the dream content.
·         The dreamer gives the dream to the group and withdraws from the activity but listens to the comments of the group members.
·         The group members give their associations to the dream content prefacing their remarks with the phrase, “if it were my dream” or “in my dream e.g. “if it were my dream the 12-year-old boy in the dream would represent something that happened to me 12 years ago.”
·         Once the associations are complete the dreamer is invited back into the group as given the opportunity to share their experience hearing the associations of the group.
·         The other group members are given the opportunity to comment on their experience working with the dream.

In the process, the dreamer will often, but not always, hear something which is relevant to their life and enhances the meaning of the dream for them.  This will often be experienced by an “aha” realization of the message in the dream for them.  It is a rule that only the dreamer can decide if anything said in the group is meaningful for them.
You may be saying to yourself, “well, that is very interesting, but what is that to do with God speaking to the dreamer”?  When you work with your dreams you will begin to understand that they are giving you information about where your life is on the path that God intends and where you have gone off course.  Above all, it reveals much of the person God created what you are not conscious of or have chosen not to acknowledge. 

I hope that this very brief introduction has given you a sense of how dreams can help you.  Indeed, one of the rules of this dream work is that all dreams are sent by God in aid of the health and wholeness of the dreamer. 

Blessings on you journey,

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Civic Duty and Christian Duty

Last Tuesday I had to report for jury selection at the court house in London, Ontario.  I had received a summons about six weeks earlier while we were at our cottage in P.E.I.  The timing was fortunate because we had planned to return to our home here in Parkhill on Thanksgiving weekend and the summons was to appear on the Tuesday after the Thanksgiving Monday―perhaps fate or the gods were at work in that. 

This was my first experience being called for jury duty and I had mixed feelings about it.  I am very aware that serving on a jury is very important in our civil system of justice.  So, I did not resent being called. However, it did cause some disruption because, as usual, I had scheduled a lot of appointments for the first weeks back.  The information I received advised that I could be involved for two weeks so I cancelled some things and rescheduled other.  It was an inconvenience but not a serious one.  It was not as if I had to serve on a jury and lose wages which some people could find to be a serious problem as it seems more and more people live paycheque to paycheque these day.  The compensation offered by the justice system is limited and no compensation is offered for the first 10 days and then a limited amount after that.

The process itself was quite interesting and enlightening.  When I arrived, and found parking near the court house―which wasn’t compensated for―I made my way to the designated court house.  I did receive mileage (kilometrage?) as I lived over 40 km away.  I sat in the court house with all the other prospective jurors and we had the opportunity to watch an informative video about the jury system and the importance of serving on a jury as a civic duty.  It was all very positive―rather too much so―with (presumably) actors playing people who had served and found it was the most significant experience in the lives.  It was also very informative about the process of jury selection.  After that we were given a live edition of how the system works by the court administrator followed by the judge who was quite informal and who actually had a sense of humor which went against my stereotype of judges. 

We went through a very formal taking of attendance by juror number, which was on the summons along with occupation―Anglican priest in my case.  We had to declare if we were retired or not.  I was somewhat undecided as clergy don’t ever truly retire―but as I decided I was receiving a pension from the Anglican Church I was officially retired.  The jury pool had 160 people and about 140 were in attendance.  As one other members of the pool said sotto voce, I wonder what’s going to happen to the ones who didn’t show.  I imagine there would be some follow up. 

We were then advised that there was only one trial scheduled that day―a civil trial which only requires six jurors―so the odds of being selected were quite small.  There were two jurors who were selected and were peremptorily dismissed without cause and one who tried to beg off for a what seemed to be a somewhat flimsy excuse.  The judge, to his credit, did not let him off without some hard questioning and then not until after the selection process was complete.   I was not selected in the lottery which used an actual bin with the juror numbers which was spun before each ticket was drawn.  I was not selected and had clarified earlier that if we were not selected on that day I did not have to return the next day.  It was unclear if I would be part of the pool for the two-week pteroid indicated.  However, that was not the case, so I and the others were set free.  I was tempted to break out into, “free at last, free at last, thank God I am free at last,” which, of course, would have been a drastic over reaction.  I felt somewhat ambivalent but, on balance, relieved I did not have to serve on the jury of the trial which involved the London Transit System being sued by an individual.  We were not made aware of any of the other details. We were told however, that we should declare if we knew personally any of the individuals involved in the case including the witnesses. 

The process raised for me the principle of what the duty of a Christian is to the civil system.  What do we owe to Caesar and what to God?  In this case there was no conflict of course.  However, that issue has arisen many times in the past and will in the future.   Where are we called to not render unto Caesar the duty of a citizen.  What is the role of the conscientious objector?  What do we do when our duty to God conflicts with our duty to the state?  Jesus was executed by the civil authorities who were administering Roman justice which was brutal an yet was very advanced for its time.  It was done with the cooperation of the Jewish authorities.  He submitted and did not call upon the armies of angels to defeat those authorities―but that is a whole other topic or many topics for another day. 
It was an interesting experience which I am glad I had.  I am not sure I would welcome a repeat with open arms but I perhaps I shall see.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Be Careful for Nothing

Saturday, we arrived home from our trip back from the cottage in P.E.I.  We arrived fairly late Saturday night but were able to make it to church at St. John’s by the Lake in Grand Bend (thanks be that it was not a 9:00 a.m. service).  The epistle appointed for the day was Philippians 4: 4-9 which begins “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, Rejoice.”  Whenever I hear that passage I cannot help but hear the beautiful aria from Handle’s Messiah play in my head.  I do restrain myself from breaking into an attempt to sing it out loud, at least in public.
One of the beautiful aspects of the Messiah is that the text is taken from the King James Version of the Bible.  In the NRSV the next verse is ‘Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God’.  The words that come to me however, are from the KJV, ‘Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God’.
For me, "Be careful for nothing" resonate much differently than “Do not worry about anything.”  Putting aside the beauty and poetry of the phase” Be careful for nothing”, the phrase has a deeper and more profound resonance and meaning.  It is interesting that Word prompted ‘be careful’ and suggested I might use ‘careful about’, or carful with, or careful of’.  None of those are appropriate which is not surprizing but then either is ‘do not worry about anything’. 
‘Be careful for nothing’ does not mean that I should not take care or be careless―even though I’m sure Lorna would agree, if asked, that I can be carless about some things at times.  I understand it to mean that I should not let anything interfere with my giving thanks to God in all things.  I do not say that I give thanks to God for all things.  I am not able to go that far but, rather, I try and give thanks to God in all things.  The trial and tribulation and slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that life presents to me are not necessarily sent by God in my theology.  They can be a challenge and sometimes overwhelming, but I give thanks that God is with me on my journey in the good times and the not so good times and even when times are downright bad. 
Therefore, on this (Canadian) Thanksgiving Monday, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”

Monday, 2 October 2017

Where's Your Home

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” T. S. Eliot

Tomorrow, we are heading back to our other home in Parkhill, Ontario.  I am not sure whether my home is in Parkhill or here at our cottage in Prince Edward Island.  It does seem that I do have a home in both places; a foot or a heart in both camps.  This has its advantages and its disadvantages of course.  To reflect on the statement by Eliot, it does give me a great deal in my ongoing exploration of myself and my discovering who God’s created me to be which will enable me to know the place where I started. 

Whenever I think of “home” I am reminded of my visit to L’Arche Daybreak in Newmarket one reading week while I was studying theology at Huron University College.  One of the residents met me and asked the question that, as I later found out, he asks everyone he meets, “where’s your home.”   This made me stop in my tracks, figuratively and literally.  Of course, asking someone where they are from or where they live is a common why of making conversation when you meet someone.  However, “where’s your home” is an entirely different matter. 

So where is my home?  My answer to this question contains a rather big dose of irony.  Perhaps that is to be expected because questions like this and others dealing with the soul seem to always have irony in the soul.  It seems that finding that place where we started, as Eliot proposes, is really the answer to where your true home is.  You started at your true home and your exploration will involve finding out where that place is.  Therefore, you will not know where your true home is until you reach it at the end of your journey.  You have to make that exploration and after all that, you discover that it was where you left.  Your true home is with God, or the divine, or whatever name you want to give it.

Looking at my exploration so far, it did not often seem that I was travelling on a journey of exploration that would lead to my true home.  There were times when it seemed that perhaps I was on a path that would lead me there.  However, other times I seemed to be completely lost and had no idea what my destination was or even that there was one.  It had more of a feeling of a maze with many dead ends and wrong turns than a labyrinth that had a definite path to follow.  Admittedly, walking the labyrinth seems to take you away from the centre just as you approach it.  But you always know where the centre is. 

Ironically, looking back I can see a definite path my life has taken although it has been anything but a straight and narrow journey.  I do seem to be getting closer to the place where I started and can see glimpses of my true home.  I am also beginning to know in my heart that I will see it again for the first time.  That is what sustains me in those days when it does seem as if the destination or my home is receding into the distance as it does on the labyrinth walk when you approach the centre and then turn a very sharp corner and travel away from it.  However, I am beginning to realize that this too is part of the exploration. 

Blessings on your journey,