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Category Archives: Life unfolding

Summer Employment

Phase “next” in my journey has opened up. Oh how I love (misguidedly) to try figure out what God is doing with me! I really don’t know, but I am called to trust and travel the journey opened up for me.

So now I will be the camp chaplain at MooreCroft Camp starting June 15th. See Moorecroft.net for a bit of an idea of what the camp is about. The pictures do not give you the full sense of the place. You have to come see!  The buildings are authentic heritage camp habitations! The natural setting is amazing, with a sheltered-from-the ocean bay so the campers can swim and kayak, and some not so far away Islands for the more skilled to venture out to and explore. From the shoreline I could hear sea-lions barking the first time I visited! The pond has beavers! Deer are abundant… and so on. I’ll insert a few pictures I took here and then continue the post:

(if you click on the picture you get a bigger version)

My role is, as far as I understand at this time, to be a spiritual support for campers and staff, to provide morning devotionals that mesh with the theme of the particular camp edition happening that week. Beyond that I don’t know exactly how the position has traction yet, but I’m eager to learn and connect with the obviously energetic and eager and enthusiastic staff.

I’ll be living in the camp, in a house on the property. I’ll eat there as well. Handy! Sunday afternoon, when I went to meet the board there, a youth group was cooking steak, and gave me one! It was simply meat flavoured butter with some spices! Awesome.

The position runs to the end of August. Beyond then I’m hoping for something to have worked out from all the networking I did with churches who do not have a pastor. My aim is to get some kind of interim position. Of course, God may have other plans! I just cast my bread on the waters that make sense to me, and somehow, as in both last positions, God provides something out of the perifery to employ me in Kindgom work and grow me at the same time.

 

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Layoff

Well, I’m going to have some time to put things up here again. The addiction treatment facility I was working at the past 8 months has been affected by the economy and had to lay off a number of employees, myself included.

 

New Job!!!

I might have to change the name of my blog to Chaplain Pete’s or Spiritual Director Pete’s blog, since on Tuesday Aug 5 I start a new job at an addiction treatment center on Vancouver Island as part of the Chaplain/spiritual director’s team. I am very happy and privileged to have been invited to join that team. Not only that, but excited at the opportunity to learn and to minister so directly. It definitely feels like a God directed destiny destination after a necessary wilderness time.

I am reluctant to name the actual organization on my blog, because I’m not sure of some of their privacy and confidentiality guidelines, and primarily because I know my blog comes up high in the results if you search “Pastor Pete” and I don’t want my blog showing up when people search for the organization by name.

I have done my best to inform people directly about this development in my career/calling, but thought I’d quickly post here for anyone I missed who may be tracking things through the blog.

I have written more about this but need to edit it a bit before posting it here. Internet access is also an infrequent thing for me these days, until I get settled again.

Pete

 

Hope-filled developments

First, some quick catching up.

My job search techniques were not getting results, so in June I took a government sponsored course in writing a professional resume, cover letters, and all things job search related, such as doing interviews.

In July I went to work applying that new learning.

I had produced a professional looking, focused set of resumes and cover letter styles and 10 target employers I would like to work for and where my skills should transfer well. For instance, the Salvation Army’s halfway houses and addction recovery facilities were one of those targets (#3).

The good news!? I have been invited to an informal and then formal interview on Thursday July 24th with the place that was at the top of my list! The resume and cover letter and other efforts, including prayer and stretched patience have done their work. Last Friday I had a surprise phone interview–which we had been warned could happen and so I was somewhat prepared–and the longer I talked with the person, the more enthused I became, and I was already pretty excited about the option. 2 hrs after that the lady called me to invite me for the visiting interview.

The position is called Chaplain/Spiritual Director, and the place is an Addiction treatment facility on Vancouver Island. They take a 12-step, holistic, systems, individual responsibility approach. That means there are doctors, psychologists, counselors and chaplains on the team that deals with the person from detox to release and afterward, which treats the family system as well, all the while expecting the individual to take increasing responsibility. I am extremely pleased to have gotten this far in the process (the place intimidates me a bit, it is high-end, or, as my recovering addict buddy said when I asked him of he knew of it “Oh, the Country Club.”) and I would be thrilled to be invited to join the team and try my gifts, experience and knowledge in that setting. We shall see.

I am also talking with the Salvation Army about working at one of their halfway houses, so I feel I have a fallback option.

That’s as brief as I could make this update.

Here are some links to pages where I reflect on other things that happened in the job search itself or in the group:

Community forming around common need.

Doctrine of Election an advantage in the job interview?

I have a few other thoughts that I hope to put in other postings here in the next little while.

 

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Late May Late Update

Life’s been weird.

For instance, I’ve been employed only in job searching since the end of February. You’d think that would make for lots of blog posting, but no. I, like many people – I presume – always had along list of things to do on a rainy day when I ‘had time.’ Things like scan pictures into the computer, edit video collected over the years, journal, reflect, sort out my thinking, sort my books, transfer cassette tapes into digital format, write, travel, climb a mountain… you get the picture. But the disorientation and destabilization and uncertainty of my current situation have robbed me of the incentive for doing most of those things. It’s odd.

So here’s the best humorous way of summing up my situation right now: The way it still looks today as I write, at the end of May I will be unemployed and homeless to boot. The most likely solution on my horizon is prison. Yes, I have an application in to be a prison chaplain in the Canadian Federal Corrections System. They were going to start processing the applications on May 12th. I don’t know when I’ll hear if I made any short lists. The application process is huge, in the sense that I had to do paperwork for both the Chaplaincy department of my denomination (who hold the contract if I am offered a position and so need to decide if they want to support my doing this) and for CSC (Corrections Services Canada’s Chaplain division). If I get offered an interview and am likely to be offered a job, I need to quickly find a church to call me to that ministry near where the prisons are (Matsqui and Kent).

So I don’t really know if I should move out to Abottsford/Aggassi on a chance I’ll get one of those jobs, or should stay near Vancouver in case one of the other resume’s put out there gets a bite. I’ve applied for everything from “Responsible Gambling Information Officer” to “Staff Writer” to “Employment Services Coordinator” and various others. Anything which seems a good place to put my skills experience and interests to good use. The Chaplaincy still holds the most hope and continuity as it is work in ministry that I believe I’m equipped to do effectively.

I’ve made temporary arrangements to bunk at my son’s house for June, hoping and determined that by the end of that month I’ll have employment that I can use as a geographic base from which to find a place to live.

Now you are just a little more up to date.

Further Reflections:

In this time I have been rereading the story of Jacob and particularly of Job, as stories of people who’s lives seemed to have collapsed but who found God still with them despite it all, and even had it work out to the greater good in the end. I have also done a lot of thinking about not only what went wrong in general, but what I could have done differently – what I did wrong – in my last charge. It feels and sounds really arrogant to think, say or write, but although there are a few identifiable things, I really still feel I was by-en-large on track with why God called me where I was. So you can then understand how I like to read of Job’s insistence — in the face of so-called friends who insist he MUST have done something to deserve God treating him this way and he better admit it soon or it will continue — how Job declares his basic innocence of wrongdoing. Last night, as God tapped me on the shoulder (figuratively) at 3:30 am and reminded me I had not talked things over in my mind with him listening in for a while, after pondering life for a bit, I read the next piece I was at in Job. It was chapter 23, and these words of Job in response to his insistent advisers reassured me: “But God knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” The next few verses flesh that out more. That phrase brought not only comfort, but memories, memories which weave together and help make sense of things. See, the first sermon I ever wrote as a Seminarian was on 1 Peter 1:6-9 and for it I researched the process of the refining of gold through heating so the impurities could be skimmed off. I don’t at all equate my struggles with those spoken of in 1 Peter, but it is still somehow comforting to know that I am likely in a refining process. Another thing that came to mind – and has often as an accurate yet simple statement of my life – are what my father spoke at my ordination service. He said “There are two words that describe Pete: Testing and Tested” and he went on to describe how I have a need to test everything and because of that I get tested a lot.

Isn’t it amazing how your life-walk can accumulate memories that can cumulatively trigger on a phrase like “But God knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold“?!!!

Thatsallfornow

 

Back from a time away

I took a few days away to grapple with some things. As seems to be typical, I gained more peripheral clarity than central. I came to three statements that seem to be relevant:

Hold your head up.

Let it come to you. (or “it will come to you”)

You know what you have to do. (the hard thing)

They have meaning for me (does not mean I like them!), and each came in response to a specific seeking. The first was a general “What now?” The second about a more specific “What do I do next (employment-wise)?” The last came when contemplating what has been asked of me by my denomination. I’m not done sorting it all yet.

I wrote a few things recently, and will be slowly posting them. I’ve added a new page to the home page. I’ve called it “Ideas and Dreams.” To reduce clutter I’ve moved the JH Ranch stuff to be a sub-page of the LifeLessons page. Hopefully that did not wreck any links.

I took one book along on my retreat, one a friend had lent me because he felt it might fit my life circumstance. It does. But it is in a writing style that is tough slogging for me as a visual yet cerebral person. It shares some deep and valid and fascinating insight about individual and communal spiritual discernment, and about the role of head and heart in that discernment, but does it without stories, or word pictures, or illustrations, hence my brain tread does not get good traction unless I reread or really really focus. The book is called “The Voice of Jesus: Discernment, Prayer, and the Witness of the Spirit” by Gordon Smith. His distilling of commonalities between Ignatius, Wesley and Edwards was very interesting. I’m still only halfway but will finish it because — although hard reading for me — it is very relevant and has much to teach me. It’s sort of like being near Yoda as he is softly whispering the secrets of the force –you know it’s weighty, but you have to strain to catch it.

But while at my place of retreat I picked up a laying-around book called “Catch the Wind; The shape of the church to come-and our place in it” by Charles Ringma. That one really grabbed me and resonated, and I read the whole thing in two sittings. It is quite radical, yet rings true in terms of the questions I’m grappling with — and have for some time — regarding the shape of how we do church, and how to change forms. Here are a few distilled sips:

 

“Change is never only about truth. It is not simply about what is best. It is far more complex than that. It also has to do with politics. And church politics is about power, privilege, status and continuity.

We cannot afford to be naive about the way in which change takes place or is resisted in church. Change should be a matter of moving ourselves and others to live more authentically as God’s people in our world. Instead, it is often a power game, where tradition wins over relevance and where present structures block new possibilities.

“… … … human institutions frequently lose their way. Over time they develop a self-perpetuating life and culture of their own. They develop powerful traditions, hierarchies, experts, resources and legitimacies that are hard to resist and change. More seriously, institutions frequently fail to live out their own stated goals and purposes and fail to serve the very people they were meant to serve. And most disconcertingly, institutions can propagandize their clientèle, controlling their lives at the point of their vulnerability, and thus create dependence.” — 40

 

 

“… An institutional dependence … guarantees immaturity. If I am well socialized into the ethos of the church, this does not necessarily prepare me well for my participation in the world… And, as I believe spirituality is the co-joining of my inner and outer world, it is imperative that my spirituality is formed in both the church as well as in the the world outside the church.” 66 – 67

I hope that gives you an idea of it. I had to leave the book there and did not type many notes. His big themes as alternative directions for church were that individuals need to take more responsibility for their spiritual growth, and that such growth happens in daily living, but he also was very big on church being community more than a place ‘just’ for sacred ceremonies. I hope to get a copy of my own to read more reflectively. He has republished it recently with a more emergent focus, so I’ll get that version. The two books were actually a good blend.

 

Border crossing stories

In getting ‘legal’ for my work in Washington state, I and some people from the church did a lot of research about what category of work permit I would need.

For instance, after several phone calls to 1-900 government numbers (which took some ‘splainin’ when I phoned a deacon to ask why the church phone would not work for those numbers, which produced some learnin’ for me when the person carefully asked “Um, Pete, why are you trying to call 1-900 numbers?” leading to me finding out they are usually sex lines. OK, that explains it!). When we thought we had it figured out, we filled in and sent in an 18 page form as an application, and it turned out to be wrong and was sent back to us.

Eventually we learned that I needed a letter from the church describing the work I would be doing, and a letter from Classis saying I was qualified.

While this was going on I became pretty good at being honest but vague at the border booths.

Where are you going?

Quincy, Washington.

What are you going to do there?

Visit some people.

What kind of people?

It’s a church group. … … …

And it would go from there, but sometimes that would be enough. I got more bold and direct when I had my letters in hand. I would hand the letters over with my passport and immediately say “I’m going to Quincy to work in a church.”  The first time it worked like a charm. The person perused the letters a moment and sent me on my way. The second time, the same thing happened, but a bit more. He asked “What does this church group call themselves? I replied “Quincy Christian Reformed Church.”  His face changed visibly when I said that, with a kind of tilting the head and squinching the eyes and pausing in an exaggeratedly puzzled fashion. I started freezing up in my gut. Then a twinkle came to his eyes as he pondered out loud while handing me my papers “You mean you are Christian Reformed and you are NOT heading for Lynden?!!!” He sent me on my way with both of us laughing. (My apologies to anyone reading this that is not a CRC insider, just smile and read on for the next story)

The third time I crossed with the letters the person at the booth said I should go inside and have the correctness of this all verified. So I did. I got in line in an intimidating huge space, with mainly burly men in uniform walking around–you know, the kind of guys whose arms are so muscular they would have trouble pressing their palms firmly to their sides if they wanted to and besides, their guns are in the way. Us lineup people were waiting, uncertain of our destiny and if we would be permitted to go on to our destinations or detained as detrimental. I was standing there, waiting my turn, rehearsing all the steps I had taken to try to be legal, so that I could give an understandable history of how hard I had tried to do it right.

Finally I was beckoned to the next open wicket. I walked past an Arabic looking person who was on my side of the wall, explaining his situation to an African American border guard who had a deep friendly voice but an intimidating physique, reminding me of the giant guy from Green Mile or Bubba from Forrest Gump (same actor I think). Perched on his head was a black toque. I came face to face with an older white guy, whose hair may have been red at one point, but the whiting of age had given it a chiffonish hue. He fussed for a few minutes finding a mobile chair that suited him. When he settled, I said “Hello,” and handed him my passport and the letters, aiming for answering questions once he had seen them, rather than my natural tendency to want to gush my story to him right off the bat. I waited. No more than five seconds had elapsed when he looked up from the documents and began to ask me a question. I was ready. I thought. He said, with a kind of expectant look on his face “Do you love a man that follows the Buddha?”

I was taken completely aback–for a second or two. I scanned his face for what was showing there. What could he mean by such a question? Was such a question appropriate? What wrath would come on him if he was asking the Arabic guy beside me that question? His face looked like he was expecting condemnation from me. Suddenly I realized that he was expecting a Christian Pastor to tell him he was going to hell if he followed the Buddha.  “Absolutely I love a man who follows the Buddha!” I responded, with an inner haste of mental gears grinding from one mode to another but keeping a mental foot near the clutch so I could easily switch back to legalities if needed.

His next statement was “Would you agree with me that if everyone followed Abraham and Jesus my job would not be necessary?”

How do you respond to that? I did not want to be telling a border guard his job was not necessary, for fear of riling him somehow. But after a moment I cautiously played along and stumblingly said something like, “Yes, if everyone followed Jesus there would be a less need for law enforcement and borders.” He was looking things up on his computer as the bizarre conversation continued, so it was not always easy to ‘read’ his face.  I felt I was  being ‘toyed’ with one moment, and then convinced he was serious the next.

Suddenly he stood up and reached across the front of me and next to me to touch and warmly greet the young woman who had come to the wicket next to me after the Arabic guy left. She was not necessarily meeting his warmth, in my opinion. So I began a whole other range of thought. Was the man about to ‘go postal’ in a ‘border’ way? Had he lost his mind and/or social graces from having dealt with too many evasive potential terrorists or smugglers?

He settled back onto his chair, only to get up again to go looking for a copy of the rulebook. During this search he told me he was just weeks from retirement and had lost his book and they had to pay for them now, whereas when he started at this job they were free, but he did not feel like buying a new one for just a few weeks of use.

When he got it and came back to work at the computer, he asked me “Would Jesus need a passport?” I didn’t know what to say, and told him so. I told him I found it interesting to get a theological exam to cross the border when I was prepared for more a more legal conversation.

Then he quickly stood up and in a gesture that first looked like clutching the chest with an imminent heart attack but which turned out to be reaching inside his shirts for something, he pulled out an ornament at the end of his gold necklace and held it a few inches from my nose, saying “What do you suppose this says?” It was a three quarter inch circle, the outside of which was made to look like rope and inside the circle there was some kind of Chinese looking letter. I said “I don’t know.” He said “It’s the most important word in any language” and so I immediately said “Love” which earned me a high five across the counter. Which was kinda fun, but then the big black guy said “You’re really weirding me out here” which made me a bit cautious again but reassured me that was I was experiencing was not normal procedure.

Well, after finishing his research, the man stapled a card in my Passport that validated my legally working status, even as the theological banter continued. I played along as best I could, holding hope this was some kind of a Grace sharing opportunity, yet also wondering if the man was merely funnin’ with me to make his day interesting, or if he belonged in a room bordered by padding and securely guarded.

When he was finished, the possibly most ironic moment of the most unusual crossing-the-border conversation happened. He said “There’s just one more thing” – I held my breath – “that’ll be a $6 fee for processing.” Relieved that was all – on several levels – I dug out my wallet and started pulling out some money upon which my new Buddhist friend jumped back from the counter, sending his mobile chair skittering (no wonder he has to go find it again with each new person) and, while pointing at the video cameras which had been unobtrusively and soundlessly documenting our entire exchange, said “Whoa! If those see me take money from you they’re gonna think it’s a bribe and I will lose my pension!” Suddenly he was all about the rules again.

I  went to the indicated teller’s wicket, and an extremely bored and boring person took my money and receipted me. On the way out I wished my buddy a happy retirement.

From that day on, crossing the border has held no anxiety for me, and getting through with his little card in my passport has been a breeze. Each time I tell the story, I pray for him–the Borderman next to Bubba who follows the Buddha.

 

Re-Activating my blog soon

My stint at the church in Washington State is coming to an end soon. That will give me time to post here more frequently again. If God does not provide another gig in a church for me right away, I will begin doing the “Visiting a church” reports again.I need to say that I am in a deep struggle within myself about what ministry direction to pursue. I am very disillusioned with church-as-we-know it, and, when one of my children challenged me that he had never heard me so cynical or negative about church before, I found myself admitting to him that I had strong doubts that Churchianity was the best way to do Christianity.Once I have things wrapped up in Washington, I hope to think some of that through here.

Meanwhile, I’ve posted a writeup I was invited to do about the Institute for Christian Studies “Worldview Conference.” 

Below is a summary of the gist of it. For the full article, follow this link: ICS The Wall

Today’s generation-gap in the church seems to be between an authentic relationship seeking generation, and one that is used to — if not comfortable with – less-relational institutional church. That was the under-arching theme of the Institute for Christian Studies Worldview conference in Langley February 2 (see ICS Worldview Conf.  for other dates and locations). Keynote Bob Sweetman, Historian of Philosophy at the Institute helped attendees understand how we’ve come to where we are today beginning with the Middle ages, and how the cultural difference is expressed in a song by the ageing contemporary Rock group Pink Floyd in “The Wall” (you can read the full lyrics of the album at Pink Floyd Lyrics)

The issues were dealt with by a mix of lecture, panelists expressing their thoughts and audience dialogue, making for a stimulating day. Sweetman showed how an institutional ideological mindset became normative, and hinted at how the church-as-we-know-it today has been shaped by that history. We were also shown by personal sharing and by the testimony of middle aged parents about their children’s perspective of that church-as-we-know-it, that youth and the unchurched are drawn to participation in church life most effectively by authentic relationship, and not by it having it’s ducks in a line. The things those who grew up in the 50’s learned to value: learning doctrine or getting scriptural truth right and vigorously defending it; having answers for everything; needing to earn membership; working hard; and so on, are – as expressed in the Pink Floyd song– bricks in a wall of less authentically relational existence. The questions asked in this worldview conference are extremely pertinent to the church’s future, and deserve humble-bold consideration and even a willingness to at the least arrange the bricks more loosely, and maybe remove bricks that prove indeed to be blocking relationship with Father, Son and Spirit.

Again, for the full article, follow this link: ICS The Wall

 

To be three years sober and God-guided

I write this reflection as a tribute to a God who gave me privilege and the blessing of getting on the rollercoaser thrill ride with someone on a journey out of active addiction and into a new life led by a power outside himself. Monday night (the 19th) I got to attend the 12 step meeting where he was awarded his “three year cake” and a medalion and a necklace, and many words of admiration.

It will be too long for a post, so I made it a page, which you can read by following this link: Swallow your pride and reach out for help, and you end up proud of how God lets you reach out to help others.

 

The road ahead

This past week at our regional meeting my process was moved forward with permission given to me by the regional body to be working as an Interim pastor in Quincy Washington. The next step is to meet with an evaluation committee to assess readiness to be officially declared available for a call. I’m relieved to have been provided this bridging opportunity, as considering an official call would be a difficult decision for me to make right now. It would also be difficult to not be employed in ministry of some sort, though I could do it if needed. All those years of preparation and practice and enjoying connecting God and people would be hard to step out of.

The Quincy church and I have been working hard to get the administrative ducks lined up (most of you know how I love bureaucratic hoops) and we have an application in to the US immigration department. Once that is approved I can settle a bit more.

I still plan to apply at one or two larger churches to test the advice I’ve received that my abilities (and shortcomings) suit a larger church better than a small one. I will do that even as the church I’m serving continues to seek a pastor to call.

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2007 in Future, Life unfolding, report on event, update