Christus natus est…

Quintus
I like times like this. Nobody around.
Quiet.
I can pound on the keyboard
fight with that recalcitrant piece of code
or turn the music up as loud as I want.
Hmmm? Computer says that the runs are done.
Wierd. I’ve never seen curves like that before…
oh c’mon… that doesn’t make sense!…
Gotta check this. Gotta check this data.
Who could make sense of this?
Rightrightrightright… Malc and Cas.
They’ll know what to do.
And they’ll keep their mouths shut.
f it’s garbage, we can’t let anybody know!
If it’s true… my god.
If it’s true…
the world is going to…
my god.

Quartus
I don’t understand why they are so upset!
We don’t have the money to pay for the doctors.
(That’s why the hospital emergency rooms are closing.)
We don’t have the money to pay for the books.
(That’s why the schools need to be amalgamated.
We can’t afford to look at each person as an individual.
(That’s why we practice “zero tolerance” welfare programmes.)
The feds won’t give us more money.
The municipalities won’t give us more money.
The people won’t give us give us more money.
“We don’t have any choice.”
It’s only “common sense”.
If we don’t have the money, then something has to go.
The things our critics are saying will never happen.
If people just worked harder, they wouldn’t need welfare.
If teachers just stopped with their demands, the schools would be fine.
If everyone would quit opposing privatized health care,
there would be services enough for all.
Babies born in bus shelters? Bah! It would never happen here.
Never.
I won’t allow it.

Tertius
The only one on duty.
Everybody else is sleeping, playing cards, or drinking day old coffee.
But I’m here, watching the monitors.
The light flickering, monotonously, as I look from screen
to screen…
to screen.
When I begin to see –
no – to hear
no! – to feel –
hundreds of wings flapping around me,
the movement of the air battering my body.
And we begin to see –
no – to hear –
no! – to feel –
thousands of eyes watching our movements.
A schizophrenic’s nightmare of voices filling our minds…
trying to tell us something important.
The awe in those voices, those eyes, those wings, nearly burning
away our flesh with their intensity.
Suddenly…
slience.
“Be not afraid, for I bring you good news of great joy!”
We leave behind the flickering, the bunks, the cards, the coffee…
and move towards the angels’ song.

Secundus
She’s fourteen years old… and looks it.
Nine months pregnant,
with a face that says that she’s more than ready to “have this baby now!”
The man beside her, the one with the huge hands…
the one who’s old enough to be her father…
the one who has hitchiked with her, walked beside her, protected her…
has no idea what to do.
Nowhere to go.
No ambulance on its way.
No one to offer support or warmth or love
No one but each other.
Here…
in a bus shelter.

Primus
Close your eyes, imagine the stars… and listen.

(I wrote this a few years ago. Haven’t quite figured out what I’d like to do with it, yet.)

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I got asked this morning…

what “radical change” I would wish for the people with whom I serve.

Here it is.

I wish that each of us could:
– enter into a daily practice of being in conversation with God,
– enter into a daily practice of being in conversation with scripture,
– enter into a regular practice of worshiping God with others,
– enter into a lifestyle of serving others, through the practice of living Christ’s justice and hope,
– enter into relationships that support and encourage and challenge each other’s relationship with the Divine,
– recognize that all that we have is a gift of God, and that we use and share these gifts according to God’s love and Christ’s call.

It doesn’t matter where we are on the theological spectrum at St. Andrew’s Haney UC.
It doesn’t matter how young or old.
It doesn’t matter where we’re coming from, or where we’re heading.

I believe that these practices – honestly lived – would radically transform us, as individuals, as a community, and as citizens of the world.

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My response to Dan Savage’s column…

Which can be found here.

Hi, Dan…

I’m the minister at St. Andrew’s Haney United Church – the guy who posted the sign at the top of your article. This morning, I had a chance to read your response to LR and then your post here, to JLGAHF.

I’d love to get into a debate with you about this.
I’d love to be able to argue that you’re wrong.
I’d love to lay out my proofs that the majority of Christians around the world are working our collective asses off to support and celebrate gays and lesbians and folk who are bi and transgendered…
but I can’t.

Because you’re right.

That isn’t to take away from the individuals, groups, congregations and denominations who do stand up – both in the world and with our “co-religionists” – and scream, “SIT DOWN, SHUT UP AND LISTEN, there is nothing wrong – nothing sinful – about being lesbian, gay, transgendered or bi.” It isn’t to take away from the Christians (like the United Church of Canada) who argued in front of the Supreme Court of Canada in favour of Same-Sex Marriage. It isn’t to take away from Christians (of what ever sexuality) who are doing all they can to create places that are NOT simply tolerant, but celebratory. Because there are. And they are working their asses off, and putting their money and their life into that fight.

Sadly, I believe that a majority of Christians world-wide, here in Canada, and in your own country either tacitly or overtly support homophobia.

It hurts to recognize that. It hurts even more to know that our voice is always going to be drowned out by the majority of our Christian siblings. Because we don’t have the numbers or the money to build the “moderate and ‘welcoming’ Christian groups that are just as big, well-funded, aggressive, and loud as the conservative Christian organizations…” And, yeah, it hurts that people are going to be pissed off because we’re not doing enough and others are going to be pissed off because we’re doing anything at all.

But it’s not going to stop us from doing what we can. Shouting where we can. Protesting where we can. Challenging – with love, but also with justice and strength – the messages of homophobic hate. Helping our children to see the inherent value of all people. Working (hopefully with you) to get the “it gets better” message and the “there are safe places” message and the “please, let us help” message to LGBT children and youth, and the message to everyone that the bullying will stop *NOW*.

Why? Because it’s right and necessary and just and loving.
And because the guy who said, “Love one another as I have loved you,” would demand it of us.

Christ’s peace – Richard

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The Mess.

It started a little while ago –
the mess, I mean.
Just
one
piece of paper that
morphed
into two.

Which became a pile
that migrated across,
no…
that m i g r a t e d a c r o s s the desk,
onto the floor
and began
to absorb the
chair.

And the side table.

And
the
cat. (mrrwarr!)

I really didn’t mean for it
to be so…
be so…
so…

oh, excuse me.

I have a bit of a problem.

The mess, which started on the desk
as just a piece of paper,
which moved onto the floor,
as a happy little pile,
which came upon the cat,
with a satisfied little *burp*
has just
covered

me.

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“Hey, faggot…

I’ve got something you want.”

There are a lot of things I remember from elementary and high school.

Not all of those memories are good.

I remember being called gay.
I remember being called “you fuckin’ faggot.”
I remember being hung on a coat hook in a bathroom stall.
I remember having my head flushed in a toilet.

I remember trying to stand up for myself.
Quick-witted lines like, “Don’t worry. You aren’t my type. I prefer people who are actually good looking,” got my face slammed harder into the brick wall of good ol’ MHS. My fists flying out blindly, because I had no concept of how to fight – just knowing I wanted to hurt someone who was hurting me.

I remember being 12-freakin’-years-old, and two guys in grade 8 lifting me up in the air, then jamming me down on a trailer ball hitch – holding me there. “Say you like it. Fags like it up the ass.” Pushing down harder, “Say you like it and we’ll let you go.” What do you do except scream, “I like it,” both desperately hoping and desperately terrified that someone – some adult – some responsible human being – will hear. Hoping, because they might makethepainSTOP… terrified that they… wouldn’t.

I remember being grabbed from behind, held in a headlock, an arm over my eyes blinding me, and hearing a muffled voice say, “I’ve got something I bet you want, gayboy…” and a zipper being pulled down. I still wonder what would have happened if one of my female friends hadn’t banged on the bathroom door, yelling, “Hurry up, Rick! They’re waiting for us at the Plaza!”

You know what’s weird? Throughout high-school, I was pretty certain I was straight. Though I would be a virgin until I was in my 20s, it was women to whom I felt attracted. It was women about whom I wondered and dreamed and fantasized. I could then, and can now, see the attractiveness of men who were my acquaintance, but didn’t really have any desire to make love with them.

I wonder. If I had had to live through all of that crap and abuse – being taught by many of my peers that being gay was abnormal, sick, disgusting, less-than-human, and wrong – and had been in a more ambiguous place about my sexuality, or had been attracted to guys… what would I have come to believe about myself? And, if I had come to believe that I was “abnormal, sick, disgusting, less-than-human, and wrong” – or come to believe that the pain would never stop, that I’d never get away, never be safe – what might I have done then?

Tyler Clementi, Asher Brown, Seth Walsh, Justin Aaberg, Eric Mohat, Meredith Rezak, Raymond Chase and Billy Lucas.
Eight faces and names that, I believe, are a visible presence of an invisible tragedy.

The tragedy? Not that they were, or might have been, gay.
No, the tragedy is that they will never really have the chance to find out who they are.
Others’ irrational fear and unthinking hatred killed took that away.
Others’ irrational fear and unthinking abuse killed them, by making them believe that there was no way to live.

Tyler. Asher. Seth. Justin. Eric. Meredith. Raymond. Billy. Everyone who loves them.

Ripped apart.

Requiescat in pace. May God’s grace, Christ’s peace, and the Spirit’s fire heal us all.

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192 days

That’s what I’ve got left until my sabbatical begins.

I’m going to be away from the congregation for five months. Some of it holidays, the bulk of it sabbatical.

I’m still working on what I’m going to be working on. So far, however, my plans look something like:
. sleep;
. complete a few courses in my Adult Education diploma at UBC;
. put together – and “market” – the “Walking a Disciple’s Path” exploration series;
. sleep;
. have a conversation or two with God about where my life is going;
. have a conversation or two with God – and with some of my colleagues – about a direction I seem to be being tugged towards;
. sleep;
. write and reflect.

The Church Board is on-board. A colleague who knows the congregation well has volunteered to be the Pastoral Charge Supervisor. Other colleagues in the Lougheed Corridor have volunteered to be present for emergencies. The Worship & Sacraments Division has decided that the congregation will take on the responsibility for worship leadership for the time I’m away, and are meeting on Sunday to get the schedule laid out. The Board is working with me to name and prepare people for other leadership while I’m away.

There’s a lot that’s going to happen between now and then.

Exciting, isn’t it?

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liberal.

I am a liberal Christian. (Note the small ‘l’.)

The Oxford Online Dictionary says this about “liberal”:

Pronunciation:/?l?b(?)r(?)l/
adjective
1 willing to respect or accept behaviour or opinions different from one’s own; open to new ideas;

favourable to or respectful of individual rights and freedoms;
(in a political context) favouring individual liberty, free trade, and moderate political and social reform;
(Liberal)relating to Liberals or a Liberal Party, especially (in the UK) relating to the Liberal Democrat party;
Theology – regarding many traditional beliefs as dispensable, invalidated by modern thought, or liable to change
2 [attributive] (of education) concerned with broadening a person’s general knowledge and experience, rather than with technical or professional training
3 (especially of an interpretation of a law) broadly construed or understood; not strictly literal;
4 given , used , or occurring in generous amounts;
(of a person) giving generously;
I am open – both to ‘new’ ideas and to ‘old’ ideas. I am open to the possibility that the Spirit might be calling me back to the ‘touchstones’ of faith, and calling me onward into new places of exploration.

I am open – to being challenged, to struggle, to questions and answers, to being wrong, to wondering, to disagreement, to hope.

I am open – to the voices of tradition, to the voices of orthodoxy, to the voices that say, “Don’t forget!”

I am open – to the voices that say, “If tradition doesn’t have meaning now then should it carry on?”

My openness is based on my understanding of Christian scripture.
My openness is based on my understanding of my Call.
My openness is based on my being a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth, the one I call Christ.
My openness is based on my being loved by God, and seeing God’s love lived out in people of my faith, of other faiths, and of no faith.

I am a liberal Christian.

And that’s ok.

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John Milton, “On His Blindness”

E’re half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide,
Lodg’d with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, least he returning chide,
Doth God exact day-labour, light deny’d,
I fondly ask; But patience to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts, who best
Bear his milde yoak, they serve him best, his State
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’re Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and waite.

Just felt fitting, tonight.

“They also serve who only stand and waite.”

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It’s been one of those weeks…

where I’m not sure if I’m coming or going.

Saturday was a good day at the office. I got a couple of worship services put together, and made sure that the final touches on the first “Walking a Disciple’s Path” book was done.

Sunday – that’s today, of course – was all right. Finished up the slides for this morning’s service, facilitated worship with St. Andrew’s, headed to the Lougheed Corridor United Church picnic, then started working on another service.

Monday, well, it looks like Monday is going to be a people day. Meet with a colleague. Meet with another colleague. Meet with a couple. Meet with a member of the community. Head to Karate.

Tuesday… that’s going to be family day this week! We’re off to the PNE – until the evening, ’cause then I meet with the Christian Nurture Division of the congregation. Let’s get chatting about the fall.

Wednesday – meet with a musician for a wedding, meet with the church’s minister of music, meet with two members of the congregation, meet with my colleagues, make sure that the church sign is changed over and the service is finalized for Sunday… then… Karate!

Head into Thursday – when I get to do an oral examination en français, before I start my newest project – getting my French-language skills back. The rest of the day, Happy Child and I will get to wander around the great city of Vancouver. (I’m thinking, a camera for her, a camera for me – let’s see what we can find!)

Friday, my brain settles down and…

Saturday we start anew!

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My mouth hurts

That’s probably because I just finished a session with my dentist.

Don’t get me wrong – both he and the Assistant were great. But having my mouth wide open for just under an hour took its toll.

Made me think (as I listened to the various clicks, whirs, whines and grinds) about how much time I spend with my mouth open every day.

Flapping my jaw. Vibrating my vocal chords. Gracing the world with my erudite thoughts and words.

Or, perhaps, being a perfect example of “…a tale. Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Perhaps I need to listen more. Speak less. Be.

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What do you do…

When life isn’t – quite – making sense?

You know. Those days when you feel like you’re out-of-sync with everyone around you. The times when you wonder if you’ve stepped into an alternate plane of existence (or at least a ‘universe-without-a-J’). The times when you just want to tell everyone and everything to go jump off the nearest cliff, because everything feels like nails down a chalkboard, or someone tuning the highest notes of the 2′ flute stop on a pipe organ.

Do you tell people to leave you alone, until you can get your balance back?
Do you dive in to their presence, and re-balance by spending an inordinate amount of time with them?

What do you do?

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I’m 42.

Thus, I have reached my ‘middle age’.

Thus, it is time for a middle-aged-male-crisis.

So. I think for my mid-age-crisis, I’ll do something very guy-ish.

I’m going to do something completely outside of my skill set, relying on the wisdom of people who have gone before me (many of whom are in my congregation).

I’m going to restore an old car – anywhere from my birth year to 1980. And it’s going to be a convertible.

Yep. Totally outside of my skill set (and I promise that I’ll get someone who knows what they’re doing to a) help me find the car; b) deal with the breaks and chassis.) I’ll ask for help. I’ll get my hands dirty. I’ll scrape skin off my hands. I’ll learn the difference between… ok… first I’ll learn what I need to learn the difference between.

I wonder if I can be done by the time I’m 43?

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It’s not that my office isn’t clean…

it’s just untidy.

My desk is covered in books and papers. I have an additional stack of books on the floor beside me.

The problem is, I’m not disorganized. I know where everything is. I can find it easily.

But no one else can.

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Blogging from…

my phone.

Actually. I’m blogging from my Android-OS Google developed Nexus 1.

I’m not really an ‘early adopter’… although, when Rogers started selling an Android -based HTC, I get it the first day it was out!

Maybe it’s just that I’m a Linux lover. I’ve played with Blackberries, and with iPhones… but I wouldn’t give this one up!

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Discipleship. The United Church of Canada.

Some of you who know me also know that I’ve been trying to work with the “six marks of discipleship” in a United Church of Canada context.

About four years ago, I worked the six marks into an acronym based on United:
Uplifted through daily prayer.
Nourished in weekly worship.
Informed through daily conversation with scripture.
Taking God’s love to others through service.
Engaged in spiritual friendship
Donating back God’s gifts of time, talent and treasure.

Well, I’m kind of excited, because, with the help of the Rev. Shannon Tennant and the Rev. Jan Bihl, I’ve been working on a practical programme to help UCCan folks explore and deepen their discipleship practices. When completed, “Walking a Disciple’s Path” will be made up of 15 booklets: two starter booklets (“First Steps” and “Second Steps”), a booklet for every month of one year (“Journey Notes”), and a booklet designed to help someone who has walked through the process to make some decisions about what they find most helpful in their discipleship practices (“Waypoint”). Over the course of the year, participants will be introduced to various parts of scripture (as well as being introduced to five translations). They will have had the chance to experience fourteen different prayer practices, will have explored where living as a steward, offering service and worship fits in their lives. As well, they will have been guided into at least one intentional spiritual friendship… and have gathered with a “Path Group” for support and accountability at least twenty-eight times.

The first of the booklets is completed, with the second well on its way. As well, the content of the booklets will be offered in .MP3 format (18 to 20 minute segments), so that participants can take the practice with them “on the go”.

It also looks like we’re going to have the package translated into French… and we’re working on other languages as well.

A huge project – but one that’s really, really, really exciting!

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I’m Exercising. Again.

Yep. Exercising. In an intentional way.

I’m walking most of the time, riding my bicycle when it’s too far to walk, and only taking the car when I’m heading out of town. Add to that the 15km-a-day on the elliptical and the twice-a-week at karate, and I can honestly say that I’m exercising more than I ever have in my life.

The thing is – the habit seems to be sticking, this time. One full month and, until yesterday, I kept to my practice. Yesterday; however, I ran out of time.

And I missed it. My calves missed it. My head missed it. My sleep patterns missed it.

At least its a healthy addiction, right?

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Why ‘richardbott.com’?

When I first set up this domain, it was to post the writing that I was doing. As I created resources for worship or for congregational use, I would post them here. I think I’ll keep on posting the worship resources, but as blog posts. The congregational resources, I’ve moved to a new project: http://ucc-resources.ca

If you’re looking for congregational resources, posted by ministry personnel and United Church of Canada congregations from right across the denomination, check it out.

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