Monday, December 31, 2012

new years song for the broken-hearted

december 31st, 2012
by mark andrew alward

for those whose situation does not yield for a cup of kindness here.
for those who will still wonder where their next meal will come from in 2013.

for those who have long given up on 2014 and 2015,
and the years beyond long long ago when you were deeply hurt.

for those who lost their jobs in 2012 and are tired of all the paperwork to complete
in order to receive benefits that are pathetically shrinking.

for the disabled, either short term or long-term,
mentally, physically, or both.

for those for whom holidays lost their meaning long long ago,
perhaps since childhood,
instead they shine a light on a shattered innocence and faded laughter and dreams.

for all of you, I have been to many of your desolate places.

i wish you a spark of hope, some warmth for your heart,
and a silent prayer that despite all appearances,
you will simply know that you are loved and lovable.

a sincere happy new year 2013 my brothers and sisters.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Clinging To Security

He who clutches desperately to security,
To every day habits, work, organization, friends, family,
Closed off,
No longer lives:
More than security, life needs
Dynamic activity,
Presence To Others

~Jean Vanier, 1970.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Our Longing To Be Loved

"One of the deepest longings in the human heart is the desire to be loved for yourself alone. This longing awakens you completely. When you are touched by love, it reaches down into your deepest fibre. It is difficult to realize actually how desperately we need love. You inhabit your life, you seem to be in control. You live within an independent physical body. From the outside, you seem to be managing very well. Because you present this face to the world, no-one suspects that you have a different 'inner body' called the heart which can do nothing for itself if it is not loved. If our hearts were our outside bodies, we would see crippled bodies transform into ballet dancers under the gaze, and in the embrace, of love. It is difficult to love yourself, if you are not first loved. When you are loved, your heart rushes forth in the joy of the dance of life. Like someone who has been lost for years in a forgotten place, you rejoice in being found. When you are discovered, you then discover yourself. This infuses your whole life with new vigour and light. People notice a difference in you. It is nice to be around you. Love somehow transfigures the sad gravity of life. The gloom lifts and your soul is young and free. Love awakens the youthfulness of the heart. You discover your creative force. It is quite touching to see love bring someone home so swiftly to themselves. The Connemara poet Caitlin Maude writes:
"This little beak
 Under his wing
The thrush of our love"
Even without the outside lover, you can become the beloved. When you awaken in appreciation and love for your self, springtime awakens in your heart. Your soul longs to draw you into love for your self. When you enter your soul's affection the torment ceases in your life. St. Bonaventure says in The Journey of the Mind to God: 'Enter into yourself, therefore, and observe that  your soul loves itself most fervently.'
~ John O'Donohue, Eternal Echoes: Exploring Our Hunger To Belong 

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Mentally Ill Person Responds To The National Rifle Association

Please share with family and friends as you see fit. Thank you.

Mark Andrew

Monday, December 17, 2012

Dumb*ss Huckabee: God Allowed Killings To Punish Non-Christian Actions

Former Republican Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee and current FOX News host Mike Huckabee on the Newtown shooting. Perhaps he's just trying to out-dumbass Pat Robertson, but here is his reaction: 

Here's a quote if that went by too quickly: "To get to where we have to abandon bedrock moral truths, well then we’re asked ‘Where was God?’ And I respond “We’ve escorted him right out of our culture, marched him off the public square, and then we express our surprise that a culture without him actually reflects what it’s become.”

That's not all. Huckabee also adds the following to his list of why mass shootings like this happen:

  • People sue a city so that there is no manger or Christmas carol;
  • Churches and Christians are told to surrender their values so that tax-funded abortion pills are available;
  • Things are no longer considered sinful, but instead are called disorders or normal (he doesn't provide specifics here at all).
People like Mike Huckabee make me ashamed that I ever aligned myself with the Christian right whatsoever. To essentially say that (through us) God wiped out 20 small children for any reason at all is beyond the pale. I thought we were over this when the New Testament kicked in and Christians eventually saw the vengeful, hateful God who slaughtered untold millions of women and babies was eventually toned down or embarrassingly forgotten. But no, here we have a buffoon saying that the massacre at Newtown was basically our fault and God was the one pulling the trigger of those assault rifles. This begs all sorts of questions:
  • Why did God choose Newtown? Does he favour Oldtowns with old values?
  • Why did God choose to murder them 11 days before Christmas? Was it because of our materialism this time of year?
  • Why didn't God choose an inner-city school, where he could have killed more African-Americans or immigrants who may have more of a propensity toward gun violence?
  • Why did he choose kids that were so young? If he chose, say, a grade 5 or 6 class, he could have sat them all down in an assembly, explain the decay of America, and then slaughter them.
In my opinion, all sane-minded religious people need to pray that we will decry pseudo-religious garbage like what Mike Huckabee said and instead take the time to comfort, mourn, and try to understand in his or her own way. 

Mark Andrew Alward

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Somewhere In Connecticut 20 Trees Stand Unlit


Perhaps we shouldn't be shocked anymore.

But 20.

We've grown accustomed to "Breaking News" of another mass shooting in America, and we hang our heads. But 20.

20 Children.

20 Children who will never grow up to be the doctors and firefighters, writers and veterinarians that only this morning they woke up wanting to be. This world will not know what they could have accomplished.

Bullets whizzed past kindergartners as teachers tried to shield their eyes from their classmates who had already been shot by a barely-at-20 a man with 3 guns at his disposal, all legally purchased by his mother, a teacher at the Newtown school who was also killed.

Tonight parents and other community members overflowed churches holding services for those lost, trying to make sense of it all, asking "Why? Why? Why?" There are no easy answers. They do not come.

Tonight 20 sets of parents will walk back into their homes without turning on their Christmas tree lights and they'll be met by deafening silence.

11 Days until Christmas, when we are reminded by clergy of the greatest gift that we could ever receive. The Lord giveth, and today a 20 year old taketh away.

This is not Virginia Tech.

This is not a movie theatre in Colorado.

This is not Columbine.

20 Children.

Mark Andrew Alward

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Blessed Are Those Who Don't Give A Damn

“When we are not afraid to confess our own poverty, we will be able to be with other people in theirs. The Christ who lives in our own poverty recognizes the Christ who lives in other people's. Just as we are inclined to ignore our own poverty, we are inclined to ignore others'. We prefer not to see people who are destitute, we do not like to look at people who are deformed or disabled, we avoid talking about people's pains and sorrows, we stay away from brokenness, helplessness, and neediness. 
By this avoidance we might lose touch with the people through whom God is manifested to us. But when we have discovered God in our own poverty, we will lose our fear of the poor and go to them to meet God.” ~ Henri J.M. Nouwen
I don't know about you, but often I am still at the place where I try to avoid "the poor" at all costs.  If I see that there is a homeless person coming up on my side of the street, I'll deftly cross the street to avoid them. If I know that the woman in front of me is going to ask for money or a cigarette, I create a wide berth between myself and them.  Of course, there are other forms of poverty as well that aren't always noticeable. A person can be lacking in physical or mental wholeness as well; I'd rather avoid them too.

There's just one thing. I am one of them, I am poor too. Though thankfully I have a roof over my head, I am often broken mentally or emotionally, and I use soup kitchens for my meals.  Here, Nouwen says that the way forward is not by avoiding each other's poverty, but by embracing it and looking at it straight in the eye. By ignoring poverty we may "lose touch with the people through whom God is manifested to us." We can truly learn through our mutual poverty that it is not the material things in life that truly matter.

Blessed are the poor in spirit and for those who don't give a damn.

Mark Andrew Alward

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Good Music, Good Coffee, Good Painkillers = A Pretty Good Night

Coffee Culture - Kitchener, Ontario

I feel as if it is 8 or 9 pm and I'm semi-floating in a haze of Tylenol 3's and other pills to keep my back pain at bay. The soundtrack of my evening has been Larry Norman and Randy Stonehill, two of the pioneers of contemporary Christian music. Stuff from the late 60's onward.  I didn't quite make it to church this morning because of the comfy stupour I was in from the previous night's pills.

I'm looking forward to the change in place and surrounding; I'll be going to my mother's place for a couple of weeks soon, where I'll spend time reading, writing, and playing with my Mom's cat, Oliver. That and drinking egg nog. The other day I drank a whole litre of it in the mall food court, and also in the library in the study carols. I suppose it could have been called the Carols of the Belch. It's interesting feeling this way; that not only am I not supposed to be busy, but I can't be busy. My mind is just temporarily dulled.  I look forward when I end up back in school or pursuing another career, but for now I'll still concentrate on spiritual growth and learning to listen more and talk less.


Mark Andrew

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Graceful Moments & Christmas 2012

Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012 - Fairview Park Mall, Kitchener, Ontario

It has been quite a good, and relatively pain-free day; I'm thankful for it. I did something to my back about a month ago and it has got progressively worse so I had it checked out at a clinic yesterday and am now taking some pretty strong pain medication and will check back in in a week. But until then this medication is allowing me to complete some last minute tasks before going home for Christmas. Today I went to the mall to pick up some pills, and they were super cheap, so of course I picked up another litre of eggnog, which I'm drinking in a study carol here at the library. I ran into this woman who I don't know very well but who is always a real beacon of light and positivity; sometimes that's just darn annoying, but today I appreciated it. It was nice to see The Salvation Army band playing in the mall as well. Then I went to ValuVillage and found some jeans that fit me for a great price, which brings me here to the library. 


Each year I write some thoughts down as to what Christmas means to me and what I believe about what is presented as the "true Christmas story" by many Christians. I don't think I'll say too much about it this year. I do think that it is important to realize that just because something is a myth does not make it any less true or real than if it happened historically. For me, and for many others, there are just way too many similarities between the Jesus story and early Egyptian and other mythical stories for the Jesus story of the Bible to be literally true.  This shouldn't threaten our faith, but enhance and enrich our journey as we then can ask the question, "What is truly behind this Christ-journey if many of the events never even happened?"  For me, this year it is simple. Christmas mostly means time with family, watching Christmas classics and listening to Christmas songs, but also realizing the Christ-power or divine power within myself and within everyone around me. There are accurate stories of the meanings behind the Christmas tree and holly and ivy and gift-giving, and theologically speaking there are parallels between Jesus and other figures such as Mithras and Horus. But for now, it's mostly about tried and true traditions and Christ-power or Christ-potential in each person. I would also add that forcing someone for whom the nativity story has no connection with to believe in the far-fetched miracles is disappointing. Why not take the opportunity to share stories and learn from each other instead? For instance, there is a live animal pageant happening at a church just down the street from me that draws thousands to it every year; I will not attend, because it no longer makes sense to me.

Wherever you are today, I hope your holiday preparations are going well,

Mark Andrew Alward