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.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

27 August 2013 reflection

27 August 2013

"Nations shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
   and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
   neither shall they learn war any more." (Isaiah 2:4b).

"By the tender mercy of our God,
   the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
   to guide our feet into the way of peace." (Luke 1 78-79).

And there's the dichotomy in which I live as a Chaplain to Canadian Forces - a peace-loving warrior.

From the day I decided to pursue this career, right up to today, I constantly evaluate the virtue of war, the responsibilities of each nation to maintain a standing military (for self-defence at the least) and the prayers for peace I lift up every day.

How can I, a disciple of the Prince of Peace, support those whose 'profession of arms' calls them to use deadly force in the name of my country?

I never heard our role more eloquently described than I did this past spring at our Annual Chaplain's Retreat.  Padre John Fletcher, our incoming Chaplain General, referred to us as "the conscience behind the hand that holds the sword."  I can live with that....actually, that's a role I am proud to fulfill.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

26 August 2013 Reflection

26 August 2013

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Psalm 111:10a).

"Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid" (Isaiah 12:2).

Verses that speak of fear always grab my attention.  These two, from my daily devotions, speak directly to the heart of fear.  The only thing to be feared, i.e. "to stand in awe of," is the Lord...and this is a GOOD thing.  It helps to keep one grounded and humble and ready to 'receive' wisdom versus doling out.  The second quote is a remedy (albeit simplified) for fear.  Those who are able to allow themselves to be grounded in God (fearfully) and trust in God's love for them (salvation) will not be afraid.  Period.  Logically, if the greatest thing to be feared is ultimately "that which loves us unconditionally" then everything else is powerless.  But since my head seldom rules over my heart, my emotional understanding is that insomuch as my heart dwells in God (qua loving-kindness) I have little room left to give over to focus on fears, real or imagined.  At least that's the idea as I understand it.

In my ongoing studies today I found a quote from the writings of Baha'u'llah, the founder of the Baha'i faith which seemed to be a variant on Psalm 111:10a.

"The beginning of all things is the knowledge of God, and the end of all things is strict observance of whatsoever hath been sent down from the empyrean of the Divine Will that prevadeth all that is the heavens and all that is on the earth."

Okay...I had to look up 'empyrean.'  It is an ancient term which refers to the realm of Divine Fire/Light that lays beyond this mortal world.  In the picture below we see a traveller peering into the Empyrean beyond the dome of the sky.  Once one has seen true light, there remains no darkness.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

It's Time To Start Again

Every day for me is an opportunity to start again, to repent and return to just being the perfectly okay imperfect being that God has seen fit to make me. 
The first thing I need to repent is the title of my Blog.  I have loved using abbreviations and acronyms since I started writing.  My earliest attempts at poetry were always signed 'LC' - Love Conquers - the naive fulcrum of a personal theology I adopted after reading 1 John 4:7-12... 
7Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.  
I started writing poetry as a way to express thoughts and feelings that I was afraid to share with others.  'LC' wrote about fear of meaninglessness in/of life, the depths of anxiety, desperate loneliness, terrifying times of psychological dissociative episodes, hatred of a life where the constant and unending bullying of others made stepping out the front door the hardest part of every day, yes, and of love too... 
But only 'LC' could, by the grace of God, write such things. 
I lost faith in what God could accomplish, even through love, by the time I was 10 or 12.  I learned by that point that the world was a cruel and unjust place where the meek inherited nothing but cruelty and disdain from the powerful.  I made my peace with that.  I became more dedicated to my faith.  Jesus was beaten and crucified for being himself, why would I expect any different?  This devotion to BEING the suffering servant, destined to be crucified by everyone at all times gave me a sense of peace and I dedicated my life to God though a decision to enter the priesthood.  I watched priests (one in particular) being crucified by the churches they served and it seemed a good fit.   Yes, God still loved me, and I revealed by devotion through my scars, physical, emotional and psychological. 
Let me add a quick word here to clarify one thing.  None of this cruelty was at the hands of my family.  You of my kin who read this, have no doubt, you have been and always will be my family, no matter how far we may drift from one another. 
I started my first journal not long after starting university.  It's name?  Thoughts in Progress - a catchy title.  It allowed me to write what I wanted to write behind the relative safety of suggesting both that my words nothing more than 'thoughts' and that if they seemed to offend or if you disagreed, they were only 'in Progress.'  Indefinitely Under construction like early WWW pages that never found completion.  Thoughts In Progress - Tip: the name of my favourite family cat.  Tip used to watch me write poetry in my room.  She could keep secrets. 
So, this all to say, my thoughts are no longer in progress.  They are my own.  In the words of the great pragmatic philosopher, Popeye, "I am who I am." 
And that is why, over the past 5 years, my writing has almost completely ground to a halt.  I find it harder and harder to write behind acronyms and masks and deception (mostly self-deception). 
I am who I am. 
I am a Christian, unashamedly professing that Christ has revealed to me that God IS love and that God's mercy and grace are far greater than I ever imagined. 
I WAS a victim of physical bullying from ages 9-14 and intimidation until the end of high school - scarring me in ways that I still haven't been able to process. 
I have been clinically diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Agoraphobia, Social Phobia.  I have lived with panic attacks, dissociative spells and crippling fear of everyone outside my own door to the point that I have been a prisoner in my own room, especially in university.  I have been disappointed by prayer's inability to 'heal' me, as well as medication's untenable side-effects.  I have found cognitive therapy and adopting the mindfulness techniques of various branches of Buddhism to be my doorway to wholeness. 
I am husband to the most wonderful and beautiful of all women, Sandra - may the Great Sophia always shine through her. 
I am father to the greatest gifts of love that God has deemed to bless me with - William and Peter. 
I am who I am. 
My prayer is that you will find the grace to know, love and be yourself as well. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Reflecting on AMO Clericus - Day One

The military loves its acronyms.  Anglicans do too. And so the AMO - Anglican Military Ordinariate - is a natural product of that intersection.  This week I have the privilege, during the course of our annual CF Chaplain Retreat, of meeting with the AMO to share our stories, pains, joys and vision together.  Those present make up a comparatively large group - 35 priests, with over half of our number (mostly reservists) unable to attend. Over the course of two 'denominational days' within the larger CF Chaplain retreat, we each have the opportunity to touch base with the foundation of our faith which makes Chaplaincy possible - our specific faith communities and traditions. 
This is always a significant teaching-point for those inside and outside the military.  We are not non-denominational chaplains.  There is no such thing as a non-denominational chaplain.  We are chaplains.  Our role - serving those who serve - may be universal, but our individual faith traditions are vital to our identities.  In the same spirit that we seek to defend and facilitate the rights of each and every CF member to live their own spirituality to the fullest, we are each called to be who we are to the fullest, whether that be Anglican, Jewish, or Humanist. 
So today and tomorrow I am meeting with my Anglican colleagues, my Ordinariate Bishop, The Right Reverend Peter Coffin and invited guests to reflect, recharge and stand together as those who recognize that 'being Anglican' is a part of our identity.  We are a varied group, from many parts of Canada and the world, bearing 'subtitles' like 'High Church,' 'Low Church,' 'Liberal' and 'Conservative.'  We form a unity out of our great diversity - a sign of God's grace, in my humble opinion.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Don't Shoot The Messenger

My last blog highlighted the Jeremiah reading from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C, The First Sunday in Advent. This entry picks up the Old Testament Reading from Advent II - Malachi 3:1-4:

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?
For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

The prophecy contained in the Book of Malachi challenges Israel to faithfulness in every way - to offer pure sacrifices in both the temple and in daily living; to be faithful to our earthly and spiritual 'spouses' (read 'God' here); to speak truth and not dissemble.

As I get my mind around the reanimation of this blog, I promise that I will tell the truth - at least as I see it. I promise to be faithful and I promise offer pure words from the heart. This will not be easy. The truth often hurts and begs to be 'softened.' In being faithful to God's call and leading I must admit that I have found truths expressed in Buddhism and Islam which I will share from time to time. In offering pure words from the heart, I may open myself to reproach, challenge and even ridicule.

Yet this is the experience of those who stand before the messenger of The Lord. "Who can endure [the] refiner's fire and...fullers' soap?" The whole point of the refiner's fire and fullers' soap is to wash away the impurities - the lies and deceptions - to reveal what is really there. The point is to reveal whether we have lived with integrity.

Integrity has been the single greatest principle that has guided my journey with God, and integrity is why I must write, express, challenge and be challenged.

To paraphrase Malachi again in his description of Levi, the archtype of those who would be priests,

True instruction was in Levi's mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in integrity and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his or her mouth, for priests are the messengers of the Lord of hosts.

Now, if I may take this one step further, let me add the Lutheran/Protestant principle of 'the priesthood of all believers,' I would suggest that the call to 'integrity' is for all who would profess to be Christian...

Integrity is not easy. It involves matching our insides with our outsides. More than simply walking the talk and talking the walk, having integrity means being honest with ourselves about who we are and what we may be going through. If I am sad or angry with God, I should not be ashamed to say it out loud without fear of being labelled 'faithless' or 'weak.' Having integrity takes courage. Read through a handful of the Psalms if you want to find integrity of expression.

The Anglican Church of Canada itself has recently shown refreshing signs of integrity. In light of dwindling numbers all over, we need to take a look at how we do business as a National Church. The current call is for: "Less reliance on standing committees and more on task forces, a review of the size and function of General Synod, increased partnership with dioceses and other churches, an “overhaul” of the national church’s communications strategy and a review of the national stewardship initiative." -

This process will be painful, like the refiner's fire and the fullers' soap...but in the end, with all the excess washed away, we will be true, integral, and whole.

Look inside yourself and ask, am I being true?

If you don't like the answer, don't shoot the messenger.

The Call to Prophecy

I am playing “catch-up” already. My intent, since November, was to restart blogging on a weekly basis and to use, as a foundation, one of the lectionary readings for the upcoming Sunday. But that’s okay. We need to be gentle with ourselves. My overall plan is to write/blog my way through each reading, one reading a week, starting with the Hebrew Bible. That works out to be a 10-12 year commitment…eh, but I ENJOY it! Though my foundational text may be Scriptural, the topics will be, well….‘topical.’ Let me show you what I mean….

Let’s look at the Hebrew Bible reading for Advent I, Year C (Revised Common Lectionary) – Jeremiah 33:14-16:

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

I love Jeremiah. His prophecies always cut me to the core. Although this passage comes from one of the more hope-filled sections of the book, it contains a brutal clarity – a day IS coming when God’s promises will be fulfilled for us. These are words which can only be spoken to a people who are struggling through times of darkness and doubt. These are words we need to hear. These are words we need to cling to even when we doubt their very truth.

Jeremiah, like many of his predecessors, was a reluctant prophet, hoping that the mantle of prophetic responsibility would be passed to another. Yet we are never allowed to shirk from our call to be a prophetic people – speaking the truth, good or bad, popular or unpopular, to those who are eager to listen, to those who do not want to hear and, most frustratingly, to those who do not care.

Remember with me that prophecy is not predicting the future. It is telling the truth about what is happening here and now, pointing out what should be happening here and now. Warnings of disaster are meant to remind us of the consequences of not changing our ways. Visions of hope are meant to remind us that even in the darkest of times, God will not abandon us to our own destruction.

I am not apologizing for the late-ness of this first blog because truths (though conditional – a topic for later) are also timeless. It has taken me almost two months to realize that through this blog I am seeking a venue to speak truths that I believe people need to hear. Am I claiming to be a prophet? No more than I am calling you, dear follower, to your own prohetic role.