Tag Archives: Healing

“The Great Migration”: more love

Churches should be school of love. Love. This is the premise of Brian D. McLaren’s book The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to be Christian. In the book, McLaren goes into some dark days of religion: colonization, slavery, oppression. Broken relationships with Indigenous groups around the world, slave and sex trades in the name of God, and oppressing people of colour and different sexual orientations. It’s not a great past. It’s ugly and evil. But the saddest part, that McLaren points out, is the Christian religion hasn’t really changed that much from their violent and wretched past: Christianity is still about exclusion and who believe the right thing, and those how are outside that need saving. In this book, he argues that there is a better way. And there is: LOVE!

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Source: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/250879/the-great-spiritual-migration-by-brian-d-mclaren/9781601427922/

The last few years, I have found that I don’t fit into the Church I grew up in. I don’t hold as tight to the beliefs and rules that I grew up believing were the only way to follow Jesus . I find myself in a spot where I just want to love more and seek out opportunities to find challenges to be more forgiving, loving, and compassionate. I’m done with organizations that exclude people, and I’m more about organizations that include and welcome all people. This has been a long, tough journey, but I feel more freedom, which is the whole point of Christianity in the first place: freedom to love others. In his book, McLaren writes more about American churches, yet Canadian churches are just as complicit in evil (look at Indian Residential Schools for starters). He writes that “if our [church] prime contribution to humanity can be shifted from teaching correct beliefs to practicing the way of love as Jesus taught, then our whole understanding and experience of the church could be transformed. That’s why I’d like us to take a fresh look at the church as a school of love”(His emphasis, Pg 48).

McLaren shows the dangers of believing that Christianity is they only way, and excluding other faith traditions: “When we better come together as Christians, we can better join with parallel movements from other faith traditions, because ultimately, the problems we face are not just Christian problems, they are human problems. We are all human, and we need to see each other that way and work together to love each other. Just because you were raised in a certain faith tradition, that does not give you superiority and the ability to take control of what humanity should look like. That has failed miserably. Just look at Central America’s history with Christianity as one of many examples. If the goal in life to is learn how to love supernaturally, then we need to work together as humans to make that happen. It is this idea that had me nodding my head and whispering a joyful YES! as I read this book. Together is better. It’s not necessarily easy, but it is the only way.

Toward the end of the book, McLaren talks about how we can make this spiritual migration to love (instead of beliefs and rules) a reality. He quotes Richard Roh, a man also dedicated to spreading the message of love: “Richard Rohr says, ‘Pain that isn’t processed is passed on,’ or ‘Pain that isn’t transformed is transmitted.'” (Pg 187). There is a lot of healing that needs to take place in the world, healing that is required as a result of so-called christian actions. Decolonization, feminism, LGBTQ rights, civil rights: all of these movements are an act of healing, and Christians should be involved in these movements toward more love. Enough with the creeds and rules, more with the love and healing. As Shad would say, “What we all want, should look a little more like love.”

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‘How to Stop Time”: healing first

I follow lots of authors on Twitter, but one of my favourites is Matt Haig. He writes a lot about living with anxiety. I find his tweets so encouraging. I first found Matt Haig when a friend gave me the book The Boy Named Christmas. A great book. So I was curious about his book How to Stop Time. A lot of people on Twitter were talking about the book. I was delighted to find the book at Costco one Saturday afternoon while accompanying my parents on a shopping trip (I’ll be in the book section, Mom.). For a while now I’ve been thinking about the subtle differences between healing and recovering. I appreciate now that there is a difference ,and I loved that my new thoughts coincided with Matt Haig’s novel.

time

Source: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/563682/how-to-stop-time-by-matt-haig/9780525522874/

From bits and pieces of podcasts, books, conversations, tweets, and I’m sure countless other sources, I’ve really been contemplating the idea that healing is something more internal, spiritual. Recovering is something more external, physical. I remember being extremely uncomfortable when people prayed that my dying Grandma would be healed. Now, I think that I am grateful for those prayers. I knew that my Grandma would never recover, so why were these people praying for that. But perhaps, they were praying that she would find healing in her soul. I truly hope that she did find healing in her illness, even though she didn’t recover. In Haig’s novel, he writes about a man, and an entire society of people actually, who has a rare condition: he ages slowly, so looks to be in the thirties at the age of three-hundred-something years old. Throughout the novel he struggles with the lonely life his condition creates and realizes that he lives in fear of discovery, so never allows himself to become fully human.

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Source: https://www.facebook.com/matthaigislost/photos/a.278747858829204.58384.119627424741249/1418502831520362/?type=3

I loved this book for a few reasons, but one was the presence of music. Tom, the main character, learns to play the lute, the guitar, the piano, and several other instruments. But it is Haig’s descriptions of him playing the piano and getting lost in the emotion of playing that resonated with me. Something magical happens when I sit down at the piano and play. Time stretches, or doesn’t exist. I get carried away and I love it. I really like Haig’s description of music on Page 99: “And, yes, it [seeing Tchaikovsky conduct an orchestra] did nothing at first. But then, somehow, it got in. No. Not got it. That’s the wrong way of putting it. Music doesn’t get in. Music is already in. Music simply uncovers what is there, makes you feel emotions that you didn’t necessarily know you had inside you, and runs around waking them all up. A rebirth of sorts.” This! This is healing. Music is such a major part of my life, and when I read these words, I knew that Haig had put words to what I experience when I listen or play music: healing.

music

Source (and really nifty looking t-shirts!!): https://shop.spreadshirt.com/djbalogh/music?q=T231348

Without giving away too much, Tom finds healing in the book: he comes to terms with his fears and starts to live. Healing comes slowly, yet changes everything for him. I so appreciated this book. It was interesting, funny, sad, engaging, and infuriating at times. Yet I think it was the right book at the right time. There is a difference between healing and recovering. I believe now that healing is essential and might lead, in some cases, to recovery.

How to stop time: kiss.
How to travel in time: read.
How to escape time: music.
How to feel time: write.
How to release time: breathe.

(From Reasons to Stay Alive, Matt Haig)

 

“The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen”: healing with literature

Susin Nielsen is a genius. She writes for teens, but she had me hooked. Her novel The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen had me fighting with my students over the school copy of the book. This book is about Henry and his journal that his counsselor makes him write after his brother’s death. The entire book is a glimpse into the world of teens living with trauma and trying their best to survive.

henry

Source: https://www.amazon.ca/Reluctant-Journal-Henry-K-Larsen/dp/1770496548

My teenage self connected with Henry is several ways:

  • I loved wrestling growing up, and I loved watching it with my family.
  • I love trivia and watching Jeopardy and would have loved to join a quiz team in high school
  • I was also hassled and bullied during school and dreaded encounters with certain groups of boys
  • I had amazing friends in junior high and high school who liked me for me, weirdness and all.

As a teacher, this book was hard to read because most of the negative interactions happened in the halls and stairwells, locker rooms and cafeteria. There isn’t much power teachers have in helping kids survive the horrors of being bullied 100% of the time. As much as teachers long for a safe school and a group of empathetic kids, that’s not always the case. Power struggles are real and this books was a reminder, a funny reminder at times, yet a reminder that being a teenager is so hard.

teens

Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/493636809126860552/

Today in my Gr 8 Health class, we were talking about emotions and healthy ways to share and express emotions. Kids know what happens when they bottle up emotions. We watched Inside Out and talked about what happens when we get to that place where we don’t feel anything at all. We looked up websites and centres where teens could go to get help. I sincerely hope that parents are having these same conversations at home, yet I know that’s not always the case. It’s easy to fall into the trap of “real boys don’t cry” and “good girls smile more.” It’s easy to default to societal norms, yet that’s what bogs down teens: they don’t know what is normal, what is weird, what is healthy, what is unhealthy, and who to talk to about all of this. So I am grateful to the arts for once again allowing us an opportunity to have these important conversations.

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen is a book that encourages teens with a broken family to have hope. Life might suck, yet there are always people around and those people make life worth living. Henry’s mother is in Ontario in a mental illness hospital, his dad works long hours at a construction job, and his older brother is is a box under his dad’s mattress. That’s rough. Yet the neighbours in their Vancouver apartment building become family. Through his journal and through his conversations with his school friends and his neighbours, Henry starts to heal and start to live life again. Neilsen doesn’t sugar-coat life, instead she shows true depth of feeling and pain in the midst of a truly horrible situation. Life never turns out how we want or plan, yet that doesn’t stop Henry from losing all hope. What an amazing story of resiliency for teens to read.

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Source: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/resilience-quotes/

Teens reading about teens in well-written books that include humour is an amazing way to engage reluctant readers and to help teens see positive ways of expressing their emotions. I think of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian and Susin Neilsen’s other book We Are All Molecules. These books use humour as a way in for teens to see that they are not alone. What a powerful message.  So thank you Susin Neilsen and other YA authors who are tackling really hard topics and doing it with respect, humour, and depth.

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Source: http://blog.book-pal.com/education/25-teachers-who-have-seen-books-change-lives

“The Opposite of Loneliness”: positivity is real strength

A friend at work lent me Marina Keegan’s The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories and I devoured it! I found Keegan’s writing entertaining and at times she actually had me feeling feelings.

keegan

Source: https://www.amazon.com/Opposite-Loneliness-Essays-Stories/dp/147675361X

The essay about Keegan’s mom obsessing over Keegan’s Celiac disease, baking and calling manufacturers, actually made me cry. My Mom does everything she can to make sure that I’m not sick. And often, she’ll talk about the past and make comments that she was poisoning me. I can’t imagine what she feels that she would beat herself up for not knowing better. She didn’t know and I wouldn’t ever think of holding her accountable for my childhood illnesses. We didn’t know. That’s why I cried reading Keegan’s essay “Against the Grain.” I know that my mom does everything possible to help me, even when I don’t ask for the help. That level of love is something I’ve never experienced. Thanks, Mom.

I think this is why I devoured Keegan’s writing; I connected with her voice and with her subject matter. It was a voice similar to my own. I can’t find the passage again, yet I think in one of her fiction pieces she describes a woman feeling almost helpless in her anxiety, not wanting to leave her bed or wander in the mall with her mom. I get that. I also really enjoyed her essay “Why We Care About Whales.” In this piece she asks the question of why humans got to such extremes to save animals, yet we don’t save each other. That’s a heavy question and one worth digging into deeper.

humans

Source: http://wwf.panda.org/?229330/Peoples-Climate-March-to-put-leaders-on-notice

When my friend lent me this book, she said that her Mom, how is also a writer, didn’t like Keegan’s writing. I suppose I can see that. Keegan’s voice is unique and I think a little young, yet with clarity into some dark sides of humanity. I suppose I liked her writing because part of me still holds on to my idealism, some days more passionately and fiercely than others. In all honesty, I hope that I am as honest and hopeful as Keegan: she doesn’t candy-coat life, yet she has the energy and the newness to not give in to pessimism and doubt. Fresh and ideal, yet willing to take on life’s hard questions.

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Source: http://quoteaddicts.com/topic/idealism-and-realism-quote/

We all know that it is easier to be negative and see the mistakes and the failures. Yet it takes someone who is strong and hopeful to see the negative and make the choice to think, see, act, and talk in the positive. I’ve been learning a lot about growth mindset this year at work and I can see how it helps students grow beyond what they, and others, thought was possible.

How do we hold onto our hope and positive thinking when life is hard and people are mean and cruel and the reality of the earth dying overwhelms us. I believe that positive people are not unaware; they know full well how the world truly is because they see it. The strength of the positive person is that they are able to muster up positivity and light and they are willing to share that with others. That takes real strength. And I find that the people who have had a hard life and are still positive are the people who have healed.

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Source: http://www.azquotes.com/quotes/topics/scar.html

So thank you to my friend, and a big thank you to Marina Keegan and her family and friends who published her work.

 

“Milk and Honey”: loving yourself

I love that a book of poetry is a best seller.  I love that a book of poetry that is so empowering to women is a best seller.  Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur is the best birthday gifts I got this year.  For a moment at my family birthday party it got a bit awkward because my two-year-old nephew kept flipping through the pages.  He liked that it had pictures and black pages (too funny!).  I’m grateful that no one else really tried to flip through it because sometimes there’s a time and a place for conversations about sexuality.

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Source: https://www.amazon.ca/Milk-Honey-rupi-kaur/dp/1502784270

I quickly realized that Kaur’s collection was not a one-time read; I knew that I would need to read this a few times in order to let the honesty and the power of the words sink in.  I applaud Rupi Kaur for her bravery and honesty, yet I also understand her compulsion to write the collection, as written in her foreword:

my heart woke me crying last night

how can i help i begged

my heart said

write the book

This foreword set the tone for the entire collection.  It’s about revealing and healing from past hurt.  It’s about finding and regaining control and power over heart and body.  It is a journey of realization and surviving.  Mostly, it is about healing.

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Source: http://femmagazine.com/2015/02/24/rupi-kaur-the-poetess-behind-milk-honey/

One of the things I loved most about this poetry collection is her overall positive message about being women.  Women are constantly being stripped of power and dignity through media and through patriarchal systems, yet she reminds her readers that women are strong and resilient:  “collectively, we’ve seen the worst of humankind and lived.  we have a piece of god in us… we are soft even when the roughness comes and breaks our skin–we live.  we fall and get up and keep living. we live through it all.  so every part of us is worth celebrating.” (From “Rupi Kaur: The Poetess Behind Milk & Honey” by Sabrina Estrella from “UCLA Feminist Magazine“)  I love that line, “every part of us is worth celebrating,” because it is one thing to say this/ write this, but is an entirely different to believe it and honour it.

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Source: https://thebookwars.wordpress.com/2015/05/15/review-milk-and-honey-by-rupi-kaur/

Having just broken up with my boyfriend, I think that my sister, who gifted me this book, knew that I needed it.  I needed to see my relationship as a gift, as moments to treasure and moments to learn from.  I needed to feel confident in myself again, to love myself first.  I do see my past relationship as a gift, and I always did.  Yet now I needed a reminder that I am enough.  I needed to remember that I am beautiful the way I am.  I needed to remember that I am a whole person and I don’t need someone to complete me.  I can find a partner, yet if I can’t love myself I will never be truly happy.

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Source: http://rebloggy.com/post/relationships-poetry-poem-living-relatable-milk-and-honey-rupi-kaur-woc-writers/138170724635

Ever since my grade 13 English class, I have known that poetry is powerful.  Poetry can heal.  I am so grateful for Rupi Kaur for writing Milk and Honey and the healing it has allowed me to find.

rupi kaur

Source: http://www.hercampus.com/school/cincinnati/book-changed-my-life

“if you were born with /  the weakness to fall / you were born with / the strength to rise” (Kaur, Pg 156)

“So God created humans in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)

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Source: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/10-rupi-kaur-quotes-girl-read

“Searching for Sunday”: what is church?

This ‘book’ really ties the room together. My neighbours are probably wondering what book I’ve been reading on my patio because at some points I’ve laughed or chuckled out loud while reading Rachel Held Evan’s book Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church (usually because of references to The Dude). I know I audibly sighed in agreement and in anger. And I know for sure that at one point I had to put the book down to run inside to grab some Kleenex because I was weeping. And that right there is the church! Joy. Connection. Frustration. Sorrow. Suffering. Yet the church is also full of healing, and that is Held Evan’s message to her reader: the church does (and should) offer healing. It’s not a short-term numbers game driven by fear, but instead it’s playing the long game of loving others.

sunday
Source: http://rachelheldevans.com/searching-for-sunday/

In her book, Rachel Held Evans offers her own personal experiences with church. She starts off by writing this:
“Millennials aren’t looking for a hipper Christianity, I said. We’re looking for a truer Christianity, a more authentic Christianity. Like every generation before ours and every generation after, we’re looking for Jesus—the same Jesus who can be found in the strange places he’s always been found in: in bread, in wine, in baptism, in the Word, in suffering, in community, and among the least of these.” (Pg xiv)

It is always interesting to hear someone else’s stories and experiences and try to see yourself somewhere to find a similar experience. The need to tell stories and to be heard is essential to healing, which Held Evan’s realizes and she does not shy away from sharing triumphs and epic failures for all to read. I truly appreciated her reflection both about her own thoughts and feelings about church and the reflections of others she has listened to along the way. She seeks to find a place where people are ok to talk about failures, sorrow, pain, grief, and then to help each other, not with quoting Scripture verses by memory or offering advice,but by being present and open. She is looking for genuine community, just like in the early church and with Jesus and his disciples and followers.

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Source: http://rachelkingbatson.com/tag/rachel-held-evans/

One of my favourite sections of the book is Held Evans talking about her faith and her struggle to keep going. She uses the image of the labyrinth, which is something that has become important in my own faith practice. She says this:
“It has become cliché to talk about faith as a journey, and yet the metaphor holds. Scripture doesn’t speak of people who found God. Scripture speaks of people who walked with God. This is a keep-moving, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other, who-knows-what’s-next deal, and you never exactly arrive…I believe the journey is more labyrinth than maze. No step taken in faith is wasted, not by a God who makes all things new.” (Pg 180)

No step is wasted. I like that she is strong enough to see her mistakes and distance from God as a step. Just like a labyrinth, there is only one path that guides us, even though it feels and looks like we are lost. Further on, she writes, “The church doesn’t offer a cure. It doesn’t offer a quick fix. The church offers death and resurrection. The church offers the messy, inconvenient, gut-wrenching, never-ending work of healing and reconciliation. The church offers grace. Anything else we try to peddle is snake oil. It’s not the real thing.” (Pg 209)

Her comparison to an ‘authentic’ church and a recovery group was wonderfully accurate: “At its best, the church functions much like a recovery group, a safe place where a bunch of struggling, imperfect people come together to speak difficult truths to one another.” (Pg 67) In my own personal experience, it has been gathering to Communion/The Lord’s Table/Eucharist that has always been the most profound to me: all kinds of people going through all kinds of things come together to share in eating the same bread and drinking the same wine. Community and the hope of resurrection and God’s Kingdom come. I like my church full of imperfect people: a transgendered man, a gay couple, an elderly widow, children, a homeless man, a woman and her mother, a single father. I like that on Sunday mornings I am reminded that God is present everywhere and in everyone, even, and especially, when we aren’t perfect.

communion
Source: https://twitter.com/StStephenYYC/media

“It’s strange that Christians so rarely talk about failure when we claim to follow a guy whose three-year ministry was cut short by his crucifixion…There is a difference, after all, between preaching success and preaching resurrection. Our path is the muddier one.” (Pg 112)

“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” (John 7:37)

welcome
Source: http://www.ladera.org/beliefs/openAffirming.html

“The Outside Circle”: hope for healing

Two items came across my Facebook creeping this week. Both are timely and important.

The first: a video of Wab Kinew talking about common stereotypes Canadians have about Aboriginal people.

The second: an article from the Toronto Star by Noah Richler called “The hard, important truths of Indigenous literature: The “truth” in Truth and Reconciliation is not a surprise to readers of Canadian and First Nations stories.”

Maybe I am more aware of these videos and articles because I have chosen to be aware, or maybe all of Canada is becoming more aware. Reconciliation. That is a heavy word and it requires action, not just reports and acknowledgement. Even in Calgary, there is talk about renaming the Langevin Bridge (Langevin was one of the men who spearheaded the residential schools). Action and awareness.

Perry Bellegarde, Murray Sinclair
Source: http://www.macleans.ca/politics/for-the-record-political-leaders-on-residential-schools/

I have had the graphic novel The Outside Circle sitting on my ‘to-read’ pile for a while. Wow. What a powerful, emotional, important story!

circle
Source: http://houseofanansi.com/products/the-outside-circle

The Outside Circle tells the story of an Aboriginal man in Alberta who goes through stages of healing after a rough beginning. Issues of residential schools, the 60s Scoop (where children were put into foster care), disturbing stats on Aboriginal youth in Alberta and Canada, number of Aboriginal people in prisons, and also the power of walking the Red Road (a conscious decision to live the right path of life).

This is a novel I hope every Canadian reads. It truly gives some perspective into the pain, anger, and shame some Aboriginal people feel and the effects these emotions have on their lives, their families, and their communities. Throughout the novel, the images by Kelly Mellings are powerful and staggering.

For more information on the graphic novel, here is a great interview with Patti LaBoucane-Benson (author of the graphic novel) and a woman who has beat the odds and is a graduate of the Spirit of the Warrior Program, run by Native Counselling Services of Alberta.

In the interview, Patti LaBoucane-Benson states that today’s First Nations people are bleeding colonial history. There is a direct connection and is a historic trauma response. She also says that this generation needs to learn: we need education on who our first people are and the relationship we have.

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Source: http://thewalrus.ca/a-hard-road-to-walk/

Although fictional, this graphic novel, the story of Peter Carver, is a similar story for hundreds of First Nations people in Canada. This novel also shows the importance of programming within the prison system and especially before people end up in prison. There is a potential for change in Canada. I hope that there is a change in how Canadians see Aboriginal people and how Aboriginal people see themselves. Our entire country needs healing.

“My goal in this book was to tell the truth, whether it was an ex-gang member that picked it up or someone from the government who’s in charge of policy.” (Patti LaBoucane-Benson)

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)

healing
Source: http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/first-nations-take-their-last-march-canada-s-dystopian-tar-sands