Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Did You See That?

As most of you know, I've been a fan of baseball for a long time, but yesterday's game against St. Louis was the most entertaining I've ever watched.  Not only did Russell Martin start at third base, not only did Marcus Stroman hit a double (and score the winning run), but Chris Coghlan stole the show!!  Who is Chis Coghlan?  Chris currently has a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays, and was assigned to the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons.  He was called up by the Blue Jays on April 14 in response to the increasing number of players on the Disabled List.  Born in Maryland and having played high school baseball in Florida, he has previously played for the Miami Marlins, Chicago Cubs and Oakland Athletics. Coghlan was the National League Rookie of the Year in 2009.

Check out his acrobatics in this video!!

Thursday, January 28, 2016


I had the blessed opportunity today to take part in a Clergy Day in the Diocese of British Columbia.  I was blessed to have been invited by Bishop Logan to attend.  I was blessed by Padres Dave Donevan and Mike Gibbons to have permission to be excused from my regular duties in order to be there.  I was blessed by all those who gathered in Colwood today at the Church of the Advent as we shared who we are and how God is ‘nudging’ us today.

I have maintained since my first posting in Halifax that no chaplain can be authentic without being continually grounded and formed in one’s own tradition.  The more I am able to identify with what it means to be ‘Anglican,’ the better equipped I am to live out this often challenging, but extremely rewarding ministry.  As an Anglican, I find this grounding in community.  All the other tenants particular to Anglicanism - common prayer, the liturgical standard of Holy Communion, the concept, “Lex orandi, lex credendi” (loosely translated, “the law of praying is the law of believing”), episcopacy, and the never-ending drive to maintain ‘decency and order’ in all things – all these only find their expression in community.

As Anglicans, we undergoing a very public struggle with what it means to be ‘community,’ arising most recently from the much-publicized gathering of Primates and Archbishops.  I don’t believe anyone with ears to hear or eyes to see could not have predicted that this day would come, but none of us ever wanted it to happen. I have heard the many interpretations of the sanctioning of the ECUSA, ranging from ‘putting them in a corner’ to ‘walking together in a different way.’  Honestly, I believe the truth is found in all these expressions, depending on where you find yourself.  My personal interpretation is that the ECUSA, by opening its arms to LGBT persons, is now sharing in the gentle-loving-exclusion that these persons have lived through for years.  My personal response in this is to pray for and walk beside my ECUSA sisters and brothers in every way I can to let them know that they are not alone.

Today was a reminder to me of ‘Christ in the midst of us’ – salvation is not a personal event – it is lived out, painfully at times, in community.  We may not be ‘one’ in many ways, but the will to form community, despite our differences, is a gift and the grace of God.

So thank-you to the clergy who shared their stories and struggles today – I was reminded that I am not alone.  Thank-you to those who came up to ask who I was and what kind of uniform I was wearing – I felt welcomed.  Thank-you to those with whom I am sure I will disagree with over various and sundry topics from time to time – God has put us in each other’s lives for our mutual enrichment.  Thank-you to Bishop Logan for his gentle, but firm, guiding hand throughout the day – I felt the Spirit moving.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


At this time of year, most mainline Christian denominations are moving through the season of Advent and into the season of….Incarnation.  You thought I was going to say Christmas, didn’t you?  Well, ‘Christmas’ more effectively describes the commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ, while it is ‘Incarnation’ that is the whole point.  Children are born all the time but, for Christians, God became ‘incarnate’ only once.  As we move into this season then, I am forced to reflect upon recent events in our country and how themes of incarnation have arisen again and again.

On October 22, Cpl Nathan Cirillo was fatally shot at our National War Memorial.  A little over two weeks later, the Chaplain General to the Canadian Armed Forces, BGen Padre John Fletcher, spoke these words at that same memorial on Remembrance Day.

Faithful and gracious God, we gather, today, with our emotions still raw: from the shocking attacks so recently witnessed in St. Jean, and in our nation's capital; from the violence that transformed this national memorial to military sacrifice into a place of military sacrifice; …a place where an unknown soldier, and a soldier now-known to us all, lay side-by-side, in death, having each accepted, to bravely stand on guard for our nation, and for its values, rights, and freedoms.

On October 22, the place meant to remind us of the sacrifice of all who are called to serve, became a place of sacrifice.  This is the essence of incarnation.

In its rawest definition, ‘incarnation’ is the act of ‘in-fleshing’ or ‘fleshing out’ of an idea, a spirit, or an ideal.  Another closely related word is ‘investing’ which is derived from the ancient practice of adorning one’s clothing with symbols of one’s office, authority, or the sources of one’s wealth.  A ruler is invested with a crown, symbolizing their leadership of a nation/people.  Doctors, lawyers, and police throughout the ages have invested in uniforms as a sign of their profession and authority.  There is, in this investing, an incarnation of powers, authorities, and ideals.

Soon after the tragic events of October, members of our Canadian Armed Forces were ordered to lower their public visibility by reducing the places where we could wear our uniforms.  The purpose of this order was clear and its intent a good one – public safety.  Unfortunately, the timing could not have been more…painful.  In the weeks leading up to Remembrance Day, during a year when we are commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the First World War, and after the murder of two of our own on Canadian soil, as poppies bloomed around the country in record numbers, those of us who wear “the uniform” felt a keen desire to show our ‘vestments’ more proudly than ever.

But it is not about us, it never is – it is not supposed to be.

We serve, not ourselves, but our country, by the grace of God.  Regardless of our religious stripe, we wear our uniforms as symbols of that call to serve.  We may be flawed and imperfect, but the ideals we stand for are not.  We make these ideals incarnate.  At this time of year, when Christians celebrate the perfect incarnation of God in Christ, we are also called to remember that each of us, regardless of our ‘vestments,’ is meant to flesh out the ideals which we hold most dear.

On the Mystery of the Incarnation

It’s when we face for a moment
the worst our kind can do, and shudder to know
the taint in our own selves, that awe
cracks the mind’s shell and enters the heart:
not to a flower, not to a dolphin,
to no innocent form
but to this creature vainly sure
it and no other is god-like, God
(out of compassion for our ugly
failure to evolve) entrusts,
as guest, as brother,
the Word.
-          Denise Levertov

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Spiritual Resiliency: Nothing New Here

The ball is starting to roll on the development of a 'new' capacity in the Chaplain Branch of Canadian Forces: Spiritual Resilience Training.  We are talking about it, researching it, and trying to build a viable plan to deliver this training to our members.

What is it? Very simply put, spiritual resiliency describes how one's spiritual life (however that is defined) helps a person to rebound and grow in the face of stress, whether it be daily stress or as a result of some traumatic experience.  A person's ability to rebound and grow is a consequence of a number or different factors.  'Resiliency factors' include mental resiliency, physical resiliency, and emotional resiliency, to name a few.  As in the case of other such resiliency factors, they can be more or less effective in light of one's overall 'fitness.'  To use physical resiliency as an easy example, the more robust one's physical fitness plan, generally the more resilient one will be, not only physically, but overall.  Spiritual resiliency is one aspect of this spectrum of overall fitness.

Why is it necessary?  Regardless of how one might define their spirituality, it is a central part of the entire resiliency spectrum.  A person's spirituality answers questions about the meaning, hope and value of life.  Whether one answers these questions from a religious perspective or more secular one, these answers are vital, especially in times of crises.  If one loses hope, other resiliency factors become a moot point.

How will it help?  Encouraging people to examine the fitness of their spiritual lives leads them to an exploration of their core values and understanding of the meaning of their lives.  As a result of this self-exploration, people can more effectively intergrate and align their personal beliefs with the requirements and ethos of military service.  Most personal crises that members go through are neither 'ethical' or 'psychological' - they are crises of meaning and value - in short, spiritual crises.  Engaging people in spiritual reflection after trauma is generally too late.  Without the spiritual resilience factor as a backbone, emotional and psychological damage has likely already occured and must often be addressed before bringing in questions of spirituality.

What contributes to spiritual fitness, and resiliency?  Although descriptions of spirituality tend to be vague and hard to nail down, tools for building spiritual resilience are more concrete and specific.  Connection with a faith/vaule-based community,  prayer/meditation practices, and regular participation in rituals/actions which exemplify one's spirituality/values are just a few of these.

Nothing new here.  At the end of the day, this is old news to Chaplains.  It's been our bread and butter since the beginning of chaplaincy.  It's what we do, day in and day out.  The only difference is that in current Canadian society, and thus military society, we are shifting away from a secularization of religion to an appreciation of the great value which spirituality (religious or not) plays in the lives of individuals and our country.  Rather than slipping spirituality 'under the rug,' or downplaying its role, the CAF is taking a leadership role in acknowledging that core spiritual values are vital to our identity, resilience and well-being.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Geneology of a Song

I love music.  No, really.  I don't just enjoy it.  It is the food of my soul.

When I first became conscious of God in my life - that is, the presence of the other, the holy, the numinous - I was about 8 or 9 years old.  Sure, I knew about God through Church: mom dragged me there week after week.  At that point in my life, however, I became aware that something was there...  I'll be honest, it took me a few more years to connect the 'God of Church' to 'the wonderful-other-presnce.'

Anyway, what I'm trying to get at is that from that first moment of the awareness of God, my natural response has been to sing, and by extension, when I listen to music, it often awakes in me that great awareness again.  So I love music - it draws me into the presence of God.

This is not necessarily connected to the 'quality' of the music, though I am a great lover of 'classical' music from all periods and cultures.  Even some of the most vacuous pop can touch me if even one element 'connects.'

After becoming a musician myself I also became engrossed in the geneology of songs.  Where did they come from?  Why?  What is at the heart of this song?

So, before you read any further, I want you to set aside some time to journey with me through the geneology of a song.  It will take a while because I want you to watch some YouTube videos.  It should take about 20 minutes.  Come back later if you don't have the time now.

(Disclaimer: Please note that this is NOT a complete geneology and there are good arguments that another song is also woven into the the latest versions....but that's just being picky.  Also, please feel free to skip the Ads that start the later videos.)

The Carter Family, on 10 May 1928 recorded "Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone" at Trinity Baptist Church, Camden, New Jersy.

Later, in 1937, Mainers Mountaineers renamed the song, "Miss Me When I'm Gone" and added some verses and changes of their own.

Flash ahead to 2009 and "You're Gonna Miss Me" is recorded by Lulu and the Lampshades.

The song finally finds its most popularized version - now simply called "Cups" -  by Anna Kendrick in the 2012 movie, Pitch Perfect.

Sooooo, after all that, I wanted you to hear my favourite 'take' on a song that's been around almost 100 years.  And, yes, it touched my soul.  Enjoy.

29 August 2013 - Reflection

29 August 2013

"I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations"
(Isaiah 42:6b).

"You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation" (1 Peter

Wow! That feels like a lot of responsibility to place on our shoulders.
The Isaiah reading even goes on to list our activities, such as setting
and captives free and giving sight to the blind.  Really?!  Some days I
find it hard to get out of bed in the morning and here Isaiah and Peter
are claiming that God has chosen me to change the world?

Part of the problem is in forgetting that the 'you' in both quotes is
plural.  It refers to 'all you' who walk in the ways of the Lord.  I am
not alone in this; you are not alone in this; we are all in this
together.  The second part of the problem is on forgetting that change
only ever happens one person at a time, starting with ourselves,
radiating out into our families and then into the circles of people we
encounter each day.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens
can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
                                - Margaret Mead

Eh...she might have something there.

Friday, August 30, 2013

28 August 2013 Reflection

28 August 2013

"May the Lord....defend you; send you help...and strengthen you" (Psalm 20:1).

"Seek the Lord while he may be found,
   call upon him while he is near" (Isaiah 55:6).

I tried to run 6 kms this morning.  Sadly, I've allowed by PT regime deteriorate to the point where, though I made it to the end, I was unable to maintain a jogging pace the whole time.

At another point in my life this would have crushed my morale and the internal self-condemnation would have followed me right through the day...and into the days to come.  Not any more.  I can say that a big part of the reason for this change is found in the uniform I wear.  As I struggled not to get too far behind I was blessed by the words and fellowship of another soldier who was also struggling.  In our conversation I felt encouragement and strength.  Then, near the end (and it couldn't come soon enough), another soldier ran back to also encourage us on - no one left behind.

I joked before the run about how it would be my 'morning prayers' as I (correctly) assumed  I would be uttering words from time to time best left for the sanctuary steps....

All joking aside, at my 'lowest' moments along the run, I was sent help and strength - God was there.