"All words are symbols that represent unspeakable realities. Which is also why words are magical." (Donald Miller tweet)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

my friend karl

My friend Karl passed away this week, a year and a day after he was told he had cancer.

I've been his pastor for the last 10 years, ever since God "kicked his ass" (his words), told him to go to church, and changed his life. He said that Jesus miraculously freed him from his long addiction to alcohol and drugs, overnight - never experienced a craving again. He led our addiction recovery group for years. There are people in my church who are certainly functional, and possibly alive, because of him.

He was a bachelor, a Grizzly-Adams type who chopped his own wood and shot his own food, loved the country, hated the city. And yet - he was part of our church, right downtown. Every Sunday morning, he would sit in the last row of the balcony, back corner. As soon as the music began, he would stand, raise his hands high in the air, throw his head back, and sing with all his might.

I officiated at his funeral today, an odd mix of city people and a city pastor, who all found our way to the little church in the country near his home, mingling with the people with whom he had grown up, and to whom he had delivered mail for years.

Some of them chuckled and raised their eyebrows
at my description of the Karl I knew. 
They knew him before God kicked him you-know-where.

When the service ended, we all walked together up the country road to the cemetery where we said our final goodbyes. It was a perfect fall day. The pastor of the country church described to me the history and people of the farms and old homes as we walked past each one - generations of stories.

Lunch was provided on small china plates by the women of the country church. We laughed about the world of difference between downtown city and rural village, only 20 minutes apart. The matriarch of the Jerseyville church informed us with a shudder that she never, ever goes to the city; meanwhile, my crew wondered how to navigate out of the bewildering country roads and back to the highway.

My friend Karl passed away this week. 

My faith tells me I will see him again,
this stubborn, humble, kind man
with an irreverent sense of humour.

Sadly missed.

Dearly loved.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

at the playground

Monday this week was different from most Mondays. Most Mondays I'm off. I do school work at home. I may or may not interact with anyone. Or put makeup on.

But this Monday was different. I had pastoral duties to do, so I spent the afternoon in pastoral-looking clothes, complete with solemn pastoral heels and a black dress jacket, doing what I could to bring comfort where it was needed. From there, I went to City Hall to sign the book of condolences for Cpl. Nathan Cirillo. So ... a rather more sombre afternoon than most Mondays are.

And then this happened.

Oh ... well, what HAPPENED was, last January I learned we had some funding to hire a part-time Assistant Pastor. So I looked and I looked and I looked, o'er hill and dale.

And then last June, an intern came, for a few weeks. She was fantastic. A perfect fit. We snapped her up.

So in September, she moved here. And brought THIS guy with her.

He's pretty great too. He's my new favourite six-year-old. We shared some stale two-bite brownies one day and became firm friends.

He and I got to hang out for a few hours Monday evening, unexpectedly. But as I said, I was in solemn, pastoral clothes. Heels, long black jacket.

He didn't see that as a problem at all.

"Pastor PATTI, come and GET me!!!"

So if you saw an oddly dignified-looking pastoral-type female in heels racing around a woodchip playground and swinging off monkey bars Monday night - tag - you're it.

Monday, October 27, 2014

i've never asked before

OK, here's the thing.

You know I love Ukraine, right? Like unreasonably-bananas-head-over-heels for this nation and its people?

You know this has been a brutal year for Ukraine, right? Invasion of their borders by Russia, for one thing. Countless people fleeing from the east to the centre and the west.

And now ... winter is beginning. Winter there is every bit as cold as it is here. Heat is questionable (dependent on gas, which is at least partially dependent on Russia - that can't go well); food is expensive. Refugees have nothing.

Ed Dickson has been a good, personal friend of mine for ... oh ... 15 years. He is genuinely one of the people I trust most in the world. He helps orphans and widows and seniors and the very poor in Ukraine. And now... well I'll let you see what he posted on Friday. That's him, on the left.

"I have been in Ukraine, helping orphan children and special needs people, for 18 years. I have never sent out a 'warning' before, but I am sending one today.

We all need to do everything we can right now to ensure that the situation here doesn't turn into a horrible disaster.

We found Natalia (pictured with me) unconscious in a cold room because of lack of food and desperately needed medicine. She fled eastern Ukraine with nothing and now has less. She's one in a million.

I don't want to sound like the negative missionary, you know me, I'm extremely thankful that we are here right now and have already been able to help hundreds of families and children! But this is serious. And WOW winter is settling in with watery-eyed blast today.

Thank you for whispering an extra prayer for the people of Ukraine today and for continuing to believe in miracles with me."

So here's what I want you to know. 

  • Ed will be speaking at my church on November 9.
  • We will be taking a special offering to send back with him, to help hungry, cold people there. 
  • He helps without discrimination and with the highest of integrity.
  • Every dollar given goes to the need - no admin fees.
  • My church will give you a charitable receipt at the end of the year for your income tax.

I don't think I've ever asked before in this space. But I would welcome any help you would like to give. My extended family is together giving to this specific need by foregoing Christmas gifts to each other (the adults) this year.

If you would like to come on November 9 - please do. If you can't, but would like to help - contact me.  "patti [dot] crossfire [at] cogeco [dot] net"

And thanks for letting me ask.

Don't get all awkward on me now, OK?

Friday, October 24, 2014

cheering for chocolate

This summer, a day program for adults with developmental challenges moved into our lower level at the church where I pastor. I was thrilled because it helps our church budget to have some rental income. They were thrilled because the space was perfect for them.

But I had no idea how great it would be, all around.

Most days I come into work, and hear a cheerful "Good morning Pastor Patti" hollered up the stairs.

If I go down, there are multiple waves and big smiles and "Hi, my name is..." greetings. From time to time at my desk, I can hear the faint sounds of music and laughter from the gym. On cooking class day, yummy platefuls are delivered to my office.

But the best of all was last week when I went down to get a Snickers from the vending machine. One of the participants in the program watched me intently, and when I turned to go, she asked conspiratorially, "Did you get yourself a candy bar?"

"Yup," I said.

"YAH!" she cheered with a fist pump. Clearly a major triumph, in her mind.

With people like that cheering me on, how could I NOT love my job??

Happy Outrage-Free Friday to you.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

thank God

Yesterday, this happened.

My country.

The soldier killed was based in my city.


Someone in my Twitter feed dared to "thank God" that more weren't killed, and was immediately lambasted.

How DARE they thank "God"?

They should thank the MAN who stopped the gunman, not "God".

And the gunman probably ACTED in the name of their "God".

And if "God" was to be thanked, it should only be if NO ONE AT ALL had been killed yesterday.
(I found myself doubting that that particular tweet-er "thanked God" on the days that no one was killed.)

"God" isn't real anyway, and anyone of substance would NEVER utter such a thing.

It was as if they had uttered some hateful, deeply offensive slur, simply by saying "thank God".


Later I had a conversation around the oh-so-commonly-referenced myth of "all-wars-are-caused-by-religion".


No. They aren't.

Some are.

Not all.

Not even close.


My country. I am so thankful to have been born in this nation, so glorious and free. We aren't perfect. But "Canadian" is a moniker I bear with a great deal of pride.

My city. I am so grateful to be a north-ender, a city pastor, a proud Hamiltonian. We aren't perfect. But we love our city. We defend it passionately to those who wrinkle their noses and say, "Hamilton? Really?" Yes, really. It's gritty and honest and strong and beautiful.

My God. I am deeply, profoundly grateful to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. We aren't perfect. But my faith teaches me that God cares and is involved in the world.

(Some believe that if that were true, God would stop all evil - or what is defined by them as "evil" - thus overriding the free will of specific people who are, by extension, defined by them as "evil".
You might conclude, as I do, that this belief becomes untenable fairly quickly.)

My faith also teaches me that I, with all my imperfections, carry God's presence in the part of the world I am in. I am responsible to represent Jesus well. Jesus' life demonstrated care for the poor, the sick, the oppressed. He honoured women, shouted against religious hypocrisy and recognized even our enemies as humans, broken indeed. He believed justice doesn't have to include hatred, even while it is being exercised.



That happened yesterday.

And as a terribly proud and passionate Canadian, Hamiltonian, and Christian - I wholeheartedly thank God that what was a dark day was not much, much darker; and at the same time, I wholeheartedly utter the prayer embedded in our national anthem.

God keep our land.

Monday, October 20, 2014

*medical terms may not be accurate

Remember this moment of dignity and grace in my life? The colossal wipe-out, blew the knee out of my pants, twisted my ankle, on university campus, yada, yada, yada?

I iced my right ankle that night, elevated it. Wore a tensor wrap for a couple of days and it started to feel better, so I stopped.

And then, it wasn't feeling better anymore. And then shots of pain above my left knee signified that my right ankle was making me walk all twisty-like. And then little electric currents of warning through my neck suggested that I was about to move into that rare-but-never-forgotten moment of searing pain if you so much as turn your head a fraction of an inch.

So I went to my chiropractor last Thursday and showed him my owie. "Yes," he said calmly. "It's your tirbyelaratis* bone." He looked at me as if it was obvious. "It has to be always moving forward. Yours is flat."

"Because I wiped out?"

"Yes. You fell in this direction, didn't you?" He gestured. "So it's not ... it should be ...."

He sighed at my obvious oblivion as he pushed and pulled and moved it around. "Ok, you have your briatic* joint here on this side, and your crylondiar* joint on the other side. The tirbyelaratis* runs between them, and yours is ... well it has to be moving forward."

He worked some more, then looked to see if I understood.

I asked, "And it's not? Moving forward?"

"No," he said, and gave a mighty pull. I gasped slightly.

"Is it now? Moving forward?" I asked.

"Yup," he said.

"Is that why my knee and neck were freaking out last night too?" I asked.

"Of course," he said. "You'll be fine by the weekend. Oh! And I have a couple of jigsaw puzzles for you. Last time you were here, you said you like jigsaw puzzles but only if the scenes are interesting. These ones are interesting. They're  ... well ... they're definitely interesting. I left them at home, but I'll bring them in and you can have them."

And once again, this is why I love my chiropractor.

*medical terms may not be accurate, and in fact are entirely made up, since I have no idea what he said.

Friday, October 17, 2014

filler, with a hint of sarcasm

Sometimes, when I'm writing a paper, I use filler, just to get myself going.

This most recent one included the sentence, "This paper will argue something profound, with an impressive array of vocabulary."

Then I prayed intensely that I would remember to change that sentence into something ... else.

(Hmm, I wonder if I did?)


By the way, I saw this article the other day ... I liked it. And there was one sentence that I particularly  liked. It was this:


(Hello, are you ready? ... Yes?)

(Ok then.) 

Here it is. 

"Maybe we need to buy less stuff,
so we have more (money) to give."

Well, isn't THAT just a ridiculous thought, CRAZY talk is what THAT is. "Buy less stuff...." .... What does that even MEAN? I mean, who DOES that?

(You can hear that I'm being mildly sarcastic right? You heard that?)

We (in Canada) just finished saying how thankful and blessed and contented we all are, as we stuffed ourselves with turkey and apple pie. Christmas is coming, that season when we all spend ourselves into oblivion. Apparently we aren't sooooo very thankful that we couldn't do with a liiiiiiiittle more stuff. 

(Again with the sarcasm.)

Anyway. It's just a thought, mostly self-directed. Happy Outrage-Free Friday. 


"In this space, I will bring this post to an end with something witty that ties the whole thing together."