Tween Jesus, Teen Selves, and the End of History Delusion

When I was in grade nine I was the student director of a musical called Merrily We Roll Along, one of the least successful musicals by one of the greatest composers, Stephen Sondheim. I would pace nervously across the back of the theatre, stressed about all sorts of details. Letting a ninth-grader direct the musical was rare in the high school hierarchy and I was driven to perfection insofar as I knew how to be. But there was Amanda the techie who would emerge from the shadows, all in black, and say, “Hand squeeze,” and we’d crush each other’s hands with all our strength. It was not the slightest bit romantic. It was pure drama nerd mutual psychological support. She’d squeeze out the rage of missing adapter plugs and burnt out bulbs and just the general rage of having an artistic vision well beyond our high school’s budget. I’d squeeze out the frustrations with adult supervision that was at once unsupportive and micromanagerial, upper classmen who were tone deaf but had paid their dues and “deserved” solos, and eventual parents who couldn’t comprehend plot devices in theatre their 14-year-olds grasped with ease. We squeezed silently, unlatched, and went about the business of making the greatest show we could. Continue reading »

Ok Google, Manage My Mental Health

I am distracted and distractable and often quite distracting. Clincally diagnosed so. Left to my own devices, I am a mess. My mind wonders and rushes and between idea to idea. Sometimes they rush by too quickly to ever be made manifest into meaningful communication. Sometimes they come like an attack, inescapable and unrelenting. A certain midnight blog post, for example. But distraction’s unrelenting power is a pragmatic hassle at best, and a life-, or at least making-a-living-, threatening risk at worst. Continue reading »

On being a Prayer Warrior with ADHD, or “Our Father, who art in… SQUIRREL!”

Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10a)

Be still? Oh God ask me of me anything, but not that. Ask me to stop my career, move to San Diego, and be a missionary. I would do that. Ask me to direct a camp in Idaho. I would do that. Ask me to change denominations. I would do that. Ask me to stay up all night at the youth lock-in. Ask me to lead a mission trip to Tennessee. Ask me to direct a Christmas pageant. Ask me to do it again and again. Ask me go to anywhere, to speak to anyone, to do anythingBut please, dear God, don’t ask me to be still.

God is faithful and will not let you be tempted beyond your ability. (excerpt from 1 Corinthians 10:13)

Oh really, God. Explain my left leg to me. My left leg is the common enemy of the quiet and reverent and focused who find themselves in my presence. Since childhood it has had a tendency to bounce if I am seated. A gentle but relentless bounce. It was during a grade nine English exam where I first noticed its automated persistence. A classmate, inconveniently a gorgeous classmate who loved French and cats and drama club, and thus who I had a crush on, snapped. “OH MY GOD, can you please sit still!” she exclaimed into the silent void of fourteen-year-olds suffering their Dickensian plight of analysing Dickensian plots. I would note that contrary to what I would have hoped at the start of that exam, she is not now my wife. I presume she has since made a quiet home with a quiet, still husband. The distracting, bouncing left leg has not matured into stillness in the intervening decades or degrees or professional experience. It earns me glares on airplanes. Mercifully, the Good Lord has seen fit to place me in a religious tradition where when I sit reverently in front of the entire congregation, I am usually in flowing robes, moderately hiding the persistent distracted irreverence. It is a biological mystery I cannot stop. No doctor has figured it out. Whether or not it has a biological link to my mental health, I do not presume to know, but it is sort of the outward sign of an invisible neuroatypicality. Continue reading »

For God’s Sake, Yes It Is Our Job

I was reading an otherwise very intelligent and poignant article in which the priest said, “I do want to help people, but I have always felt chiefly called to help them by offering the grace of the sacraments and getting out of the way. Someone else can hold hands and sing Kum Bah Yah.”
 
It reminded me of another time I read, in a book I otherwise enjoyed greatly and still constantly recommend, a pastor saying something like, “I didn’t go to seven years of college and seminary to run a pizza party in the church basement.”
 
And these sorts of comments make me cranky and very defensive. Because holding hands and singing at a campfire, or hosting a pizza party in the church basement is frankly *exactly* why I went to seminary and why I got ordained and got ordained and got ordained. Not all of why. But very much why, and not as a peripheral after thought.
 
And given the human impulse to be defensive and see oneself in the best light, these sorts of comments hurt those of us whose call come through or is centred on pastoral care and youth ministry and community building. They implicitly rank sacraments and scholarship as superior. I believe in sacraments and scholarship, and would argue if you don’t know how to bring them into conversation with holding hands or serving pizza, you’ve got a theological problem, because you are not in fact ever too smart of a liturgist or Bible scholar for them.
 
But given a bit more honest reflection, I am not above this genre of sin. I just have different targets. I am prone to think or say things like, “I want to hold hands and sing kum bah yah, darn it, and not waste my time looking up the proper preface for the Eucharistic prayer of this feast day and practicing chanting according to the pointing in our parish binder* or sorting through a dozen receipts categorising them by budget**.”
 
A minimum of two theological problems come up with these sorts of complaints.
 
1. Rather than saying, “I am particularly called to this thing, not this thing,” we risk–sometimes implicitly, often quite explicitly–ranking the validity or worth of gifts and callings, which helps nobody in the body of Christ. The fact we all have different strengths and passions is Good News, capitalisation intentional. If you are a liturgical priest with great organisational skills who doesn’t feel comfortable with kids, for example, you and I need to resist having smug feelings about who the real priest is and realise that “Oh thank God you work in the kingdom of God, too!” is the proper response.
 
2. We did in fact all sign up for everything. We signed up to follow Jesus. There may have been certain parts of what we saw following Jesus entailing that made saying yes appealing, but ultimately in our Christian lives–and this is about all Christians, not just clergy whining on the blogosphere, all Christians–we signed up to follow Jesus, and only He gets to pick where He’s asking us to go. Yea though I walk through the valley of youth group lock-ins or parish budget meetings (see how spoiled we are?), I will fear no evil…
 
* actual gripe today
** actual gripe yesterday.

A Black Clergy Shirt in a Rainbow Sea, a reflection on Montréal Pride Community Day

Walking around in a black clergy shirt and cross necklace in the midst of the rainbows flags of Montréal’s gay village raised a lot of questions today. Some people who apparently came to gawk at and condemn the deviants, unaware of the hypocrisy inherent in the very question, asking what a real Christian would be doing in such a place. Some people who have been hurt by religion, or who assume religion can only hurt, wondering how dare I be there.

Continue reading »