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Category Archives: Life unfolding

I am not good at not wielding power!

I currently feed myself by being the caretaker in a summer Camp run by a church. I was the chaplain last summer and am biding my time until that role kicks in for 2010 again.

Recently, delegated regional leaders from the various congregations met and decided to put the Camp up for sale, hoping they can find a buyer who will commit to protecting the increasingly rare environmental treasure the camp is, and who will let Christian camp ministry continue. If both are accomplished there is no doubt God will have had to be active.

I was witness to this process as an employee. I was not an active delegate, not an appointed clergy person, I was merely an employee of the camp witnessing others undertaking the process of making a choice. It was agony! Being powerless to the point even of being voiceless pushed many of my buried inner buttons. And in that there was a lot of hard learning for me.

I need to admit that I failed to remain powerless. I “used” my knowledge with words and process and cashed in on my awareness that I had some respect – some ‘trust equity’ in the room – to finagle a chance to address the decision making body. So I failed to accept my powerlessness and clutched and grabbed for power anyway. I largely knew what I was doing. I didn’t strategize to accomplish it, but when little opportunities presented themselves, I instinctively leveraged them, I pried them bigger, so I could have a voice and feel empowered. Others did not have the opportunity. They were kept powerless. How frustrating that must be.

I didn’t know until this series of events how much I need to have power and voice. Alternatively also, I became freshly aware how much as a clergy person I was used having extra power and was accustomed to ‘managing’ such processes. In the past I “presumed” it was my responsibility to maneuver every step of things in a certain direction. If I were up on the podium, I would believe I was “doing my job” in that manipulation. So I was not angry so much at the leaders. I was astounded at how it felt to be on the receiving end of that kind of treatment, and astonished at how badly I needed to be the one dishing it out rather than receiving it. I don’t believe these words I’m typing can adequately share how frightening that is and how afraid of my sick need for power makes me. It does.

 

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Twist of faith

The last Saturday of November started out as one of those kinda aimless days. I had a bit of work-work to do and I had some house work also. Deep down I was an unhappy camper for reasons I can’t always get at. I just know what I feel, not why.

Earlier, I had come to the awareness I am content with my work situation, but I am not fulfilled in it.

In conversing with God about this the way I do, I made pretty clear I was discouraged, and I desperately needed something to strengthen my confidence and hope for the future. And just in case the wireless heaven-line was busy that first time, I repeated it. “Hello: I need a new sign of hope.” It was said in various ways with various levels of lament or gate-of-heaven smashing defiance. A few requests found the happy humbler middle.

I went about my day, tugging my proverbial bootstraps as if by moving the boots I was motivating me.

It worked. I got busy and my request for new hope – for a sign from God – became a vague darkness in the back of my mind and depths of my heart. I remained alert for signals, looking for them to come in ways I expected: an email from a church inquiring further about hiring me; or a phone call from the bank saying there’d been an error in calculations for all my life and they had $10,000 for me… that kind of thing. Nada. None of that happened. I was watching carefully, remember!

During the week I had written a report to the board in of the camp I live and work in, a report in which among the good things I had to share I had mentioned two things I was dissatisfied with, two things that frustrated me in my work. One was an extremely slow desk computer, the other was a lack of a reversible drill, either corded or cordless to make some of my repair tasks more efficient. Numerous times I had done repetitive screw turning by hand. Reporting these irritants was more about venting and getting things known. It was done without serious expectation of change. Maybe it was even a precursor to the glum feelings Saturday morning. It likely had some self-pity in it. I’m good at that (He said with insecurity-covering-ego-pride, another thing he’s good at).

Well, I need to tell you that it wasn’t until this morning, the day of writing this, Sunday, when I picked something up from where I had set it down yesterday that I realized very unusual, non-coincidental, sign-like things had happened, and I missed them completely, even though I was part of it. I made no connection in the moment.

Saturday a lady came to the camp to do some cleaning as a volunteer. As I went over to check if there was anything she needed and to describe what I’d done to prepare for her arrival, she opened her trunk and said “could you use a cordless drill? And I have a cordless screwdriver here too. Here, take them. I don’t have a use for them.” And so I picked them up, duly thanked her dully and started walking toward the camp workshop to put them away. She said: “No no no, keep them in your house, use them for yourself” and so, my steps a little lighter with a load that was now mine, I dropped them off in my back room and went back out into the dull weather to do some things.

Later, the two guys from the camp board who do the property work came. They said “We’re here to see if we can speed up your computer with new memory chips and a cleanup, and Pete, we brought you a cordless drill” to which I replied “I already got one” and I fetched it and enjoyed seeing their tool envy. I can’t remember ever having others envy tools I had. But still, I was nonchalant in the bigger picture sense of things. No lights were going on for me.

Nothing registered until Sunday, when I pulled the cordless drill out of it’s neatly compartmentalized box with bits and attachments each with their own cubby, and I realized it had two batteries with the charger, it was a 14.4 volt Mastercraft (newer units, I knew, had voltages in the teens, older ones were below 10), a nice darker blue colour that I like with bright yellow buttons, it had an adjustable clutch for if you were either drilling or driving screws, it was not only reversible but had two speeds and, most significant, it looked like it had probably been used once on a Sunday afternoon it was so clean and unscathed. And I held it in my hand, and felt the heft and balance of it and imagined the torque and whine of it, and the ability to reverse and to adjust the clutch… and I realized something unique had indeed happened the day before.

For this lady to show up with a drill, particularly not knowing anything of my whine in my report, and then for those guys to arrive ready to address my concerns when I didn’t expect it, well I had to admit it was notable or remarkable at the very least, and worth a silent restrained-Reformed “thank you Lord” (Hallelujahs are too charismatic in such situations, as is Holy Celebration Dance). And for it all to happen that same day, within hours of my lament! Quite something. I’m not sure how to interpret the sign though. I’m reluctant to give it too much meaning. I’m watching my email still, and waiting for the bank to call…

Somewhere in me I know my problem is that I’m missing the billboard message. I’m missing it because I’m not liking it. It doesn’t fit my plan, my agenda, my hopes and aspirations. God seems, at least at the time of writing, to be reinforcing me where I am with hope signals on request. My problem is my agenda is not the same as Gods.
Who’s going to change agenda’s first?
Stay tuned. The batteries are charging. Will a green light go on for Pete, or will it stay red?

 

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Would Jesus paintball?

That thought came up in the context of church-related youth activity planning. Personally, I don’t think he would. But it’s no fun to just state that and shut a door to a exploratory learning opportunity. And just because I believe Jesus might not, does not mean it should be forbidden.

Playing Paintball (which I have not done myself, my childhood was in the Cowboys-and-Indians days – I played Indian – and before capture the flag, which I have done once) is basically combat play, like checkers, chess, cards, and many video games and lots of activities in between. Paintball, from what I understand from my own offspring who are well versed on it and many virtual combat methods, is about as close as you can get to actual warfare without death or propelled-metal-projectile injury. As such, it is a game in which one can feel very alive. There is nothing like the nearness of immanent death to make you feel vividly the living moment you are in now. The thrill of the danger, the excitement of coming so close to having the power of death over “the enemy” or the enemy having it over you makes it all very very exciting. It remains fun because the kills are not “real.” However, be aware that the feelings, the passions, are real. And those feelings, and the desperation they bring out, and the things that desperation get you to do in order to win, or to “live” on in the game are the teachable moment of the contest.

Where Jesus once said something like “look at the flowers and birds, they don’t fret or compete, they just exist, appreciating the Creator’s care for them” if he were talking with paintballers I can readily imagine him saying to them, after they come out all splattered with near-death experiences “Why do you find such a thrill in playing at killing? What does that thrill do to you? Where does it take you? Does it make you more human and humane, or something else? Would you have played differently if the power of death was real?” And I imagine much more, and I imagine what I would ask, and what I would point out. The fact is — and this was proven in experiments done long ago which would be unethical now — that most people, given slight but consistent encouragement, would in fact “take it to the limit” much quicker than they believe they would. I might talk about how the thrill is part of “the flesh” and how Jesus was all about getting us to see how it is the passions of the flesh, exercised in this way, that take us to committing acts of inter-human destruction, whether they be flesh wounds or heart wounds.

Jesus knows. He’s seen it happen. Up close and personal! Ordinary people who considered themselves properly religious were incited to call for a death by infuriated and threatened religious leadership. And it happened.

Which is why it was so striking, that in the conversation about Paintball I was privy to, another story came up, a story about an ordinary man who was deeply moved when he was simply constructing a cross to be put up as a symbol in a Christian camp, and he had chills to think that someone in Jesus’ time had actually done that, and now he was repeating it. And he felt he was contributing to a death all over again. Wow! He had learned to pay attention!

All of this is to say that by all means let Christian youth paintball! But then let them explore what they’ve learned about themselves afterward. To simply go to black-and-white, right/wrong thinking and forbid it would be to lose a chance to learn about the real power of the latent desire to win and kill and survive. This is the power Jesus gave up for us, so we could learn something about ourselves.  And reflecting on that part of Painball, or video gaming, they can begin to recognize how we tick, and how our natural way is likely not the way of Jesus.

 

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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