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Category Archives: report on event

This is for reports on events I was part of, or involved in, more directly than the category of “Event Report”

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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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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Drama and symbolism in church

So today, in an internet discussion group, the above mentioned subject came up. And the discussion prompted a memory for me, and since I’m in the mood to explore my writing, I wrote up a memory I have about an event that happened in church when I was a child, an event which was part of what shaped my views of what should happen in church.

It’s called “Getting wound up about superficial symbolism” If you’d like to read it you can click on the title, or cut and paste the link below into your browser, or find it in the list of pages to the right.

https://pastorpete.wordpress.com/lifelessons/getting-wound-up-about-superficial-symbolism/

 

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.

 

Would you buy a car from Pyramid Auto sales? I did!

It was back in 1994/5. It was an interesting life-lesson.

Here’s part one of the story: https://pastorpete.wordpress.com/lifelessons/prayer-story-for-alah-abda/

 

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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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Moved

The word “moved” is true of my situation at several levels.

First, there is obvious application to the fact that I am now physically moved out of the parsonage. That has been not only a physically challenging thing in terms of the work of reducing a household (geared for two parents and their five children and what the future normally brings) to a mobile housing situation for one, but the emotional challenge of finding things representing memories and deciding what to do with them was another level of “movement.” I have seen again that I am not good at those choices (tending to favour keeping things “to help tell the story” or “in case” instead of getting rid of them, so I often turned piles over to family members to make the decisions for me, hoping the stories and meaning would remain without the things that prompt the memories) and having to acknowledge that I am not at all efficient at that kind of work.

Then there is the moving-along-in-life aspect of this change realistically-or-possibly representing several different “endings” and it is no wonder I am tired. In all this I have no doubt and in fact a hard to describe inner sense – confirmed by discerning people who ‘follow’ my life – that God is in this whirlwind. That sense allows my foundation to remain firm and safe, and believe me, it is good to have something feel stable in such a moving time.

On Tuesday I was informed by email that I did not make the short list for the prison chaplain’s position. The reason was that I do not have the required supervised Clinical Pastoral Education training component on my resume.

So today — the first day in a month that I did not pack or move stuff — has been a good break. I am moved, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I plan to take the weekend off, so to speak, and rest and regroup and on Monday begin afresh with renewed energy.

I will preach for the first time in a few months this coming Sunday, and I hope I’m not too “rusty” (that’s not likely).

thatsallfornow

Pete

 

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.