Bridge #2: Class

It has been quite awhile since I blogged “Bridge #1”! I live a busy life: what can I say?!!!

I am on holidays this week, sitting in a fancy hotel in downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico! What a life! Santa Fe is absolutely, stunningly beautiful! While I have travelled through the state of New Mexico numerous times in my life, I had never been to or through Santa Fe. What a blessing my life has been. I have experienced so many things, have been to so many places, know people in many places, and in various walks of life.

This contributes to the view of me being a bridge between classes. I grew up in a working-class family. My father was a farmer, then turned to welding as an occupation. He then became a maintenance foreman, later a maintenance electrician. He could fix anything. He had an appliance repair business for awhile. I relied heavily on him to fix things around our house whenever he would come to visit. But he never finished high-school, at least not until later in life. And I grew up with a strong identification with working-class people. People who wore hardhats, carried lunchpails to work, were often found in dirty coveralls and with dirty hands.

I myself have dabbled in various trades. I operated machines in a book-binding shop. I worked for awhile as a mechanic’s helper, doing light mechanical work. (I have done a couple motor overhauls, which is a bit above “light” mechanical, but overhauling was never a huge part of any job I had.) I helped erect a metal farm shed; I have worked at several locations in construction, helping frame houses, pour concrete, etc. I have painted houses as a job. I have driven truck for periods of time. One summer I spent on a wheat-harvest crew, driving truck and combine from southern Oklahoma to northern Montana.

And I have gone on to obtain a Master’s degree. I have worked in several professions, including assistant nurse in a hospital, residential treatment facilities, church leadership including pastoring/preaching, suicide prevention coordinator giving educational presentations to schools and various professional and corporate agencies, chaplaincy in both hospital and correctional settings.

And currently I am a city bus driver, very much a “blue-collar” job. I have been doing this for nearly twenty years, and love it!!

I especially love driving in industrial areas of the city, taking people to their jobs, then home in dirty clothes, smelling of hard labour. I can easily talk to them about the travails of working for a living, finding a job, dealing with bosses, balancing family life with work, you name it. I’ve done most of that, and can relate readily.

But I can also mix easily with professional people. Because of my education, because of my experience in various professions, I can talk to professional people on their level. Not, of course on a technical level, but at a collegial level.

What all of this past experience in various levels of working class and professional circles means to me, I am not sure!! But it has been an incredibly interesting life; I have seldom been bored!

Having jumped around at various occupations and jobs, means I have never followed one career track for very long. Which means I have not advanced nearly to the level of many of my peers. It is tempting sometimes to look at my life as not very successful. But I don’t. I have very few, if any, regrets about my past. I made decisions at stages of my life using the best knowledge I had at the time. Sure, as we can all say, if I had it to do over again I’d make different decisions. But that sort of attitude usually results in thinking that if knew then what I know now. . . Which, in the end, is futile thinking. I did not know then what I know now. But I trust that back whenever, when I was making a certain decision, I had the knowledge to make the best decision I could at the time.

So this week I am in New Mexico, mixing with colleagues of my wife, all of whom have degrees, most of them with graduate degrees, some, like my wife, with post-graduate training and education. They are all attending an academic conference of Jungian psychology. And I feel completely comfortable rubbing shoulders with them. I don’t feel inadequate or less-than. I know that whatever level in life a person achieves, whether academic, financial, occupational, etc., everyone has similar struggles. I guess that is one advantage my very varied life has given me: a perspective to view life from different angles, from different strata if you will. For while western civilization likes to pride itself on being relatively class-less, there still exist class distinctions, like it or not.

I have experience in different classes within our society. I have experienced life at various socio-economic levels. And it is all good. There is no one class which is “better” than another. Earlier today, at a lecture at the psychology conference which brought us to Santa Fe, the speaker talked about material “success” not necessarily bringing happiness and satisfaction with life. I have the latter; I don’t necessarily have the former! And I am totally okay with that!

Bridge #1: Chronology

In posts the last two months I mentioned receiving a revelation about being a bridge. This bridging has occurred in my life in several ways. Today I want to talk about how I see myself as a bridge in time, or between time periods.

I was born on a farm in southern Manitoba. In the early fifties, when I lived there, we had no indoor plumbing. We had an outhouse in the summer. In the winter we had a portable toilet in the basement. We would huddle under some of the asbestos covered heating ducts from the furnace (which in my memory were like octopus arms, weaving here, there, and everywhere!).

The house was heated with coal. A room in the basement was to store the coal. This was fed through a chute from the outside. Coal would be hauled in by truck, and then dumped into the basement. The furnace was then fed by shovelling coal into it.

We had a cistern in the basement, basically one concrete room, with no door, but open at the top. I remember peering into it a few times. It was always very dark and looked quite sinister. We as children were often warned not to play near there, and certainly were never to climb into it!! During the winter my father would drive his pickup to a lake about ten miles away where workers were busy sawing (by hand!) huge blocks of ice out of Morden Lake. These were then loaded onto wagons or trucks. My father would dump this block of ice into the cistern to slowly melt and supply us with water. During the summer my mother would walk across the yard to the barn where our well was. We would hand-pump water into pails and haul it back to the house.

In fact, this feature of our farm likely saved my life! I am not sure exactly how old I was, but quite young. I was playing in the barn, around the ladder which went up into the hayloft. This ladder was just boards nailed across two vertical studs in the outside wall. Because bales of hay were often thrown from the hayloft down to the main floor through this hole where the ladder was, a lot of loose hay would build up around this area. Somehow, climbing and playing around this ladder, I had gotten myself turned upside down and wedged between the ladder and the wall. My head was down in loose hay and my nose and mouth were getting filled with dust and hay. My mother came to the well to get water and heard my feeble cries and came to rescue me. If not for the timing of this, I probably would’ve suffocated.

When it was time for our weekly bathing, we had a tin tub which was placed in the middle of the kitchen. My mother would have water heating in the kettle on the stove. Mixing this boiling water with cooler until the temperature was right, us boys got to bathe first, oft-times more than one in the tub at a time! Then my father would bathe, adding hot water as needed. Then the tub was emptied, and my mother would bathe with fresh water.

We had a phone in the house, like you now see only in museums, mounted on the wall, with an earpiece on a cord, a mouthpiece mounted on the wood box of the phone. There was a crank on the side of this box. I am not sure exactly what this crank did, but was probably linked somehow to the power needed to operate the phone. We were on a party line of course. And I remember at least once when my parents went to the neighbours a mile down the road, leaving me home (around age eight or nine) with my two younger brothers. They left the earpiece hanging by its cord. This way I guess the party line stayed open and they could periodically listen to see if all was quiet in our house. We were supposed to be in bed, sleeping!

I grew up in the 1950’s and we always had motorized transportation of course. But I can also boast of going to school by horse-and-buggy or horse-and-sleigh! Our road was a dirt road. When rain made it impassible our neighbour would hitch up his horses and, coming by our house, I would climb aboard and ride with him as he took his daughters to the one-room country school a mile and a half from our house. In winter when snow drifts closed the road, he would come by with horse-and-sleigh. I remember wrapping up in thick blanket or robes.  In the buggy I was fascinated watching little balls of mud being flung high into the air and come dropping down beside the buggy.

While performing my current job of driving city bus people sometimes ask me how long I’ve been driving. I mischievously answer, “60 years!” I began driving truck and tractor on the farm around age eight. My father would proudly tell the stories of my helping with harvest. I would sit in the 3/4 ton pickup at the edge of the field and watch as my father pulled the combine slowly around the field. When the combine hopper filled up, my father would wave, I would put the truck into low gear and slowly drive across the field. I would pull the truck right up beside the combine and could judge very well exactly where to stop so my father could empty the grain into the truck. When the truck was full, my father and I would switch positions, he driving the truck six miles to the elevator, and I driving the tractor, pulling the combine around the field. My father told of returning to the field and seeing me up at the hopper, moving grain around with my hands to the empty corners in order to be able to keep on going until the truck returned to empty the hopper.

Another driving story: My father had left the pickup a half mile from our yard, out at the highway, with a tank of water (I guess drinking water). The dirt road was muddy and he feared getting stuck. One morning he said he was going to walk down and get the truck. I replied that I wanted to go get it! My mother did not like the idea but my father allowed me to do this. So I walked the half-mile down to the highway, started the truck up, and slowly drove it up the slight grade to our farm. I don’t think I drove fast enough to shift gears, likely just idling it slowly along. At the turn into our driveway, my father said he was watching me approach. I was going too fast for the turn and he was afraid his trust in me was misplaced. He thought I would crash into the ditch. But I wrestled that truck around the corner and into the driveway. My father said it leaned over quite severely but I was able to keep it under control. I didn’t know what all the fuss was about later!! Between my mother and father!!

Sundays we would drive the ten miles into town for church services. Often we would visit my maternal grandparents after church, and often with other cousins present. My Grandpa Janzen had a television! This was really special in those days. Sometime during Sunday afternoon the TV set would be tuned to one of only two or three channels, to receive “Lassie”. In grainy, often snowy, black-and-white we watched enraptured each week’s episode.

So, my beginnings were fairly primitive by today’s standards. But I have so many fond memories of that farm and my foundation in life. I was nine years old when we moved off the farm and into a small town. Which also was a good experience. But I am always proud to identify myself as a Manitoba farm boy!!!

Now, of course, in the span of my life, I am blogging, on an iMac with a 27″ screen. I have an iPhone. I built, owned and flew my own airplane. I travel by airlines to numerous parts of the world to visit. The world has changed drastically during my nearly-seventy years. But I can remember my simpler early years. I can understand an older generation when they talk about the “hard times”. And I can also enjoy the relatively easier lifestyle I now live. I have bridged the times from hard-scrabble Canadian prairie life to life in a modern city.

Blocked, part the second

Before getting into the four areas of being the connecting link which my life has been, I want to add a couple insights.

I am married to a Jungian psychoanalyst. As she has entered and navigated this world of Jungian psychology I have learned hugely! Attending a Jungian lecture the other day I was struck by some psychological insights which shed light on where I view myself today.

Carl Jung himself, of course, coined the term “Individuation” to describe the process or state of reaching relative maturity. This is when a person has reached a place of having separated from parents, from culture, from society’s norms. They have become their own person, in their own right. They have individuated. They are competent and comfortable in who they are. They feel accepting of the stage of life they find themselves in. And all this as they continue to grow and expand their horizons, as they continue to learn new understandings. This is not a stagnant stage, but a dynamic, evolving stage of life.

Other psychologists have added their own insights to this stage of life, most often occurring in the latter stages of life. Maslow has his famous hierarchy of needs. His understandings conclude that all humans go through various stages of life, meeting certain needs. One stage of needs must be met before a person can fully enter the next stage. The final stage of life, when all other needs in their life have been met, is the stage he called “Self-Actualization”. From a limited understanding of Maslow I believe he was describing a state somewhat similar to Carl Jung’s “Individuation”.

Erik Erikson became famous for describing the development of the individual through various stages of life. These stages are most obvious when describing the stages children go through as they enter life and grow up. But Erikson said that development does not stop with the end of childhood. Humans continue to develop throughout life. His final stage, Stage 8, he labelled “Wisdom, Ego Integrity vs Despair”. Wikipedia describes this stage: “It is during this time that we contemplate our accomplishments and are able to develop integrity if we see ourselves as leading a successful life. If we see our life as unproductive, or feel that we did not accomplish our life goals, we become dissatisfied with life and develop despair, often leading to depression and hopelessness. The final developmental task is retrospection.”

All three of these giants of psychology contribute to my own understanding of where I find myself today, in my late 60’s. I think these various descriptions of this stage of life all help me understand myself, understand what I am experiencing, what I am going through today. I am experiencing “ego integrity”, “individuation”, and “self-actualization”. And all of this is leading me to more wisdom and insight as I look back on my life so far. I wanted to add these insights before expanding them into my own “wisdom” about my life. What I am experiencing is not in a vacuum. I am totally in line with what other, wiser observers of life have described.


I usually find it fairly easy to reach a state of “meditation”. This has been especially true since my out-of-body experience a few years ago. I can “meditate” in bed in the middle of the night, upon awakening, just before going to sleep. Or I can “meditate” while walking to the Metro, during a lay-over of a few minutes, while a passenger on public transport, many places.

I place the word, “meditate”, in quotes because of course I don’t always know what others mean by the term. I only know what I myself experience. For me it means getting in touch with something deeper in me than what my senses are telling me. It means listening to the still small voice inside. I liken it to what, in my church days, I called “prayer”. I am not always “talking” when I “meditate”. Maybe it’s about 50-50; I do “talk”. But quite often I am actively listening. It usually takes me some effort to maintain a state of “meditation”. I have to work at it.

But I can almost always achieve some level of it. Therefore, when I went several weeks of being unsuccessful at achieving at least some level of “meditation” I was quite dismayed. What had happened? What was going on? What was I doing “wrong”? Where was the Spirit realm when I needed it? Was the euphoria of my soul regression sessions fading? Was I losing it? Was it permanent? Or would it come back?

Then one morning a couple weeks ago, it came back! I awoke early (a common experience) and just lay quietly in bed, going through some relaxation exercises, seeking for some revelation. Quite suddenly it came. I saw a picture of my life’s purpose: I am a bridge! A connection. A link, from one thing to another.

I saw this in four ways: 1) from a relatively old-fashioned way of life, to modern civilization; 2) from a working class perspective, to a professional context; 3) from North American culture, to embracing cultures from other continents; 4) from Church, to seeing life from a more spiritual perspective.

I want to deal with each of these in separate blogs. But enough for this introduction.

And, I do want to say, that it was very heartening to be able to regain the eyes of the heart once again. I rode this high for quite a new days!


Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens, by John E. Mack, M. D., proved to be an interesting read! I admit, I did not read the entire large volume, but rather picked and chose what I sensed were essential chapters. The first two introduced the subject, the last summed up. In between were 13 case studies at great depth and detail of people who had experienced abductions. I did not read all of these, but enough to understand Dr. Mack’s methods of using hypnosis to help his clients recall their experiences.

The main thing I learned from this quick read-through is the surprising (to me) correlation of abductee’s experiences being very similar to other out-of-body experiences. I have commented elsewhere on the uniformity and consistency of lessons learned through various types of experiences. The abductee experience is one more in this list. Abductees experience the love and care which other-worldly creatures have for us humans. Experiencers sense the peacefulness of the spirit realm, many to the extent of not wanting to return to their human lives on earth. They learn of heaven’s concern with the state of the earth’s climate, both physical and political. And they come away from these experiences with a sense that they are to play a role in ameliorating earth’s troublesome condition.

It is true that many abductees have negative reactions, especially at the beginning. But most have had many experiences, and as they gradually become accustomed to them, they begin to accept and adapt, learning the lessons.

There will be more to come on this topic, as a book which arrived while I was still into Mack’s book, also deals with the topic of abduction. I would also refer the reader to an earlier book I read, Suzy Hansen‘s experience.

Later, The Urban Monk.


I never planned to write a review of the video, Amy, but after watching it last evening and finding myself incredibly moved, I felt I should share a bit of my reactions. This video sheds light on the life of Amy Winehouse. She was a singer/songwriter from London, known most strongly for her jazz and soul singing. Her musical career, from age 18 to when she died at age 27, was phenomenal. She was compared and on stage with other greats, most notably Tony Bennet, Beyonce, and others. Her voice belied her youth. She sounded like a truly soulful 50 or 60 year old, interpreting songs and emotions with great maturity.

Her life, however, was a total mess. She seemed to know this, but was unable to get ahold of stability. Her parents separated when she was 11, the beginning of her pain and trouble. Her mother stated at one point in the video that she was never able to say “No” to her daughter. Later in her life, a bodyguard said that all she really needed was for someone to say “No” to her.

She managed to pull herself together for periods of time, but inevitably would once again descend into substance abuse to the extreme. She was also severely bulimic, a condition which doctors deem to have contributed to her death. Her body was just too severely compromised to be able to withstand the abuse she put it through, and she finally succumbed.

David Joseph, CEO of Universal Music UK said this, “About two years ago we decided to make a movie about her—her career and her life. It’s a very complicated and tender movie. It tackles lots of things about family and media, fame, addiction, but most importantly, it captures the very heart of what she was about, which is an amazing person and a true musical genius.”

Such a talented soul, such a bright and loving person, but what a tragic life, overall.

Judyth Vary Baker 2

Judyth Vary Baker has written a second book about the JFK assassination and the people involved in it. Her first was about her relationship with Lee Harvey Oswald, called, Me and Lee. This book, titled, David Ferrie, is about a very enigmatic character who was part of the circle of people Judyth came in contact with in New Orleans during the summer of 1963. This is the first book to really focus specifically on this mysterious man.

David Ferrie was truly an enigma. A fantastically gifted person, but also quite a scumbag! A homosexual in a time when this was a crime, continually on the edge of the law. He would work for the CIA, for the mafia, wherever he could get paid.

He got involved in the plot to develop a lethal mixture of cancer cells which the CIA hoped to inject into Fidel Castro. The cancer research was what had brought the author to New Orleans in the first place.

The Castro plan unravelled at the last minute. Lee Harvey Oswald was involved in this plot for the main reason that he thought this would save President Kennedy’s life.

The book, David Ferrie, is a fascinating look into the inner workings of one part of the assassination scenario of 1963. It is also an intriguing look into the life of this somewhat pathetic man.

In Ferrie’s last phone conversation with Judyth Vary Baker, shortly after the assassination, he told her she had to keep her head down, stay under the radar, in order to remain alive. Judyth succeeded in doing this, still alive to this day. Just about all the other players in the assassination drama have been killed, most within a short time. David Ferrie himself died suspiciously (like all the others) within five years. Judyth’s name and her involvement with Oswald was, when even acknowledged, totally disparaged as a rather unreliable and flakey witness. Nobody took her story seriously.

Judyth lives in exile, for her own safety. She appears occasionally for interviews. These two books, published in the last five years, have brought her name to greater public awareness. In her seventies now, she wants the truth known. She promised David Ferrie in that last phone call, that she had to remain alive in order to tell Oswald’s two children the truth about their father.

This book, as a follow-up to Me and Lee, is yet another fascinating look at the New Orleans group who ultimately became involved in the assassination plot. Certainly worth a read. But read Me and Lee first, to give a fuller context to David Ferrie.

E. Howard Hunt

Bond of Secrecy, written by his son, Saint John Hunt, is an account of the last few years of E. Howard Hunt’s life, and some of the confessions he made in his last years and days.

E. Howard Hunt, of course, is best known for his involvement in the Watergate break in, which ended up bringing down the presidency of Richard Nixon. But E. Howard was also involved in the JFK assassination. He was a CIA Spy, and apparently quite high up in the ranks.

Hunt did not spill everything about his involvements to his son, but he did disclose a lot. It seemed he wanted to get things off his chest, so to speak. He never expressed remorse, believing till the end that JFK needed to be eliminated, etc.

There is much in this book which sheds light on the sinister activities of the CIA in these two events. For example, Hunt leads the chain of command for the JFK assassination directly up to Lyndon Johnson. No one wants to believe that a vice president, who subsequently became president for five plus years, was fairly directly involved in the assassination of a sitting President of the USA. But there it is. From someone who was certainly in the know. The hand-written note he gave his son had LBJ at the top, with an arrow pointing down to Cord Meyer, another arrow down to David Morales and then down to “French Gunman, Grassy Knoll”. One box off to the side of this sequence of four boxes was an arrow going sideways from Cord Meyer to Bill Harvey.

I think it’s essential to refocus on what this information, that I’ve been providing you–and you alone by the way, consists of. What is important in the story is that we backtrack the chain of command up through Cord Meyer and laying the doings at the doorstep of LBJ.


He in my opinion, had an almost maniacal urge to become President. He regarded JFK, as–as he was in fact, an obstacle to achieving that.


So that would have put LBJ at the head of a long list of people who were waiting for some change in the Executive Branch.

This quote is on page 132 of the book, and is taken from a recording made in January 2004. E. Howard Hunt regarded LBJ as completely unethical, a thug and bully, who obviously would stop at nothing to achieve his ends.

I want to include one more quote from the book. This is taken from a lengthy reciting of an interview with CIA agent Marita Lorenz:

Later Lorenz, prompted by Dunne’s questions, explained that when Sturgis sought to recruit her for yet another CIA project, he told her that she had “missed the really big one” in Dallas. He explained, she said, “We killed the President that day. You could have been a part of it–you know, part of history. You should have stayed. It was safe. Everything was covered in advance. No arrests, no real newspaper investigation. It was all covered. Very professional. (p 159)

Pretty strong evidence to confirm many, many peoples’ convictions that the CIA was behind the assassination. I myself no longer have any doubts whatsoever.

Dual Soul Connection

The Dual Soul Connection: The Alien Agenda For Human Advancement, by Suzy Hansen. This is one of those books which can be quite perturbing. “Perturbation”, defined as: “anxiety; mental uneasiness; a deviation of a system, moving object, or process from its regular or normal state of path, caused by an outside influence”.

It certainly caused some “mental uneasiness”, in the sense that I don’t quite know what to do with this story and the information it contains. It is definitely worth reading, if that is what you as the reader of this review is wondering! Just be prepared to encounter ideas which will cause some “deviation . . . from [your] normal state of path . . . !”

Suzy Hansen is an experiencer. She began as an abductee, then a contactee, but as an adult, became an experiencer. That is, she experiences alien ET’s, and interacts with them, learning from them.

The first part of the book outlines a growing awareness of her experience with aliens. She does a good job of gradually revealing things as she herself became aware. At the beginning she has these encounters with UFO’s, not understanding them, or why she seems to have a fairly large number of them. These encounters often have an unsettling influence on her life, as friends and partners cannot understand or accept these events.

Spoiler Alert!!! If you would like to experience the gradual revelations of Suzy’s life as she presents them in the book, read no further in this review!!!

Only later in life does Suzy begin sessions with a regression therapist and is able to recover many memories which had previously been hidden from her consciousness. The second part of the book, the majority of it, outlines what she had learned from aliens in previous encounters. When the encounters occurred her memory would be wiped clean when she returned to her human life. This was done, not in any sinister sense, but out of compassion for her. Her memories were always there, but remained hidden until she was at a place where she could handle and understand them. And when the world was more ready to receive her experiences and the information she was being taught.

This is where my own perturbation comes in. The things Suzy experiences are very much akin to what others have experienced through NDE’s, OBE’s, and other spiritual journeys. Only, in Suzy’s case, her experiences of overwhelming love and peace, come to her via alien ET’s, not through “angels”, at least not as I have thought of angels up till now.

I cannot go into great detail on all of Suzy’s experiences and the knowledge she gained. There is a tremendous amount of it in this book, 300 plus pages in fact!

One thing she discusses at some length, an issue that she encountered at various stages of her own growing awareness, is the issue of disclosure. When will the alien races reveal their agenda to the world at large? Why is so much of their work done in secret, to only a few?  As best I could tell from Suzy’s story is that there is tremendous care being taken on the part of the ET’s to prevent calamity on earth. Human society is not presently in a state to be able to handle the information of alien interactions with this planet. There is definitely interest being taken by aliens in what happens on earth; there is a great deal of concern that things develop as planned. They want us to grow, to increase in consciousness, to join the wider body of universal inhabitants. But until we as a race are prepared to accept their involvement and interest in us, they will remain hidden.

They reveal themselves to only a select few, whom they have slowly trained and prepared to accept this contact. As more and more humans experience interactions of this sort, disclosure will gradually occur. But they won’t reveal themselves until we are ready for it.

So many abductees have reported their experiences in a negative light that reading Suzy’s story is extremely refreshing and encouraging. Apparently there are a considerable number of humans who have been undergoing training of the sort that Suzy has. In fact, Suzy discovered as her memories grew in detail, that she herself is a “hybrid” of some sort, having both a human and an alien component. She is a “dual-soul”. One of her two sons is also a dual soul, but her other is not. There is much about all this which I do not understand, but I am encouraged that there is much, much care being taken by entities not originally from this planet (“extra-terrestrials”) toward us as a human race living on planet Earth.

Among some of the many things Suzy has learned from these ET’s is that Earth will enter a stage of disruption as we go through a transition toward taking our place in the universe. This will not be a pleasant time. There will be much hardship. “The thing to remember is that you will eventually reach the destination. Patience is necessary.” (p 313)

The book ends with these words:

A powerful longing is stirring in people: a desire for change.

We are not alone. We have never been alone. Look up at the sky on a brilliant starry night and ask yourself, how could we be?

Without a doubt, a commitment to positive transformation is building momentum on our planet, and beyond, and it is up to each of us to make the choice to become a part of it, and eventually, take our place in a wider cosmic community, in a universe teeming with life. (p 315)

If these words speak to you, read this book. “It is a masterpiece”, (as Dr. Rudy Schild, an astrophysicist who supplies scientific comments about Suzy’s experiences, says). This book is not for everyone. There will be many who discount it, scoff at it, disbelieve it in many ways, but for a select few, this book will speak volumes.

A Mennonite rebel?

Years ago my father made the comment to me that I had always been somewhat of a rebel. I took that mostly as an affirmation; I am not sure he intended it as such! I like to think that in some ways I lived on the cutting edge of things, but I’ve never thought of myself as a true rebel. My “rebelliousness” has always been on the quiet side. I do things because I view them as the right thing to do, as living according to the truth as I see it. I have never been a “crusader”, trying to get others to change the way they do things, trying to get others to do things the way I do them.

A lot of what I do happens only in my own life, lived quietly, sometimes lonely. Yes, living this way is often a lonely existence. I can remember even in my teen years thinking that I was living more maturely than most of my peers. While I did a lot of things, escaping a lot of adventures relatively unscathed, I seldom participated in the high-jinks of my fellow students. While there were high schoolers from Lincoln, Nebraska (where I grew up) who would go down to Kansas, an hour-and-a-half drive to buy booze (because of lower age limits) and have late night parties around campfires in the countryside, I stayed away. Sure, there were times when I sort of yearned to be part of that sort of camaraderie, but I mostly kept to myself and a few close friends.

Part of that reluctance to party with my peers was my strict religious upbringing. But even in this area (my religion) I was often “ahead” of my community of fellow believers. Beginning in my early twenties I began searching for a more genuine expression of faith than I could see in the churches I participated in. This search led to some very intense experiences which were formative and life-changing. (For more detail about this, see the section of this blog titled, “Out of Winkler”.)

Several weeks ago I was part of a conversation which helped me put all this into greater perspective. At a choir social event, I found myself in a bar-booth, part of a group of five. As we were becoming acquainted we discovered that four of the five were from Mennonite Brethren background! This started a sharing of how these roots had shaped us, what steps we had taken to deal with this aspect of our beginnings, and so on.

Sure, we played the “Mennonite game” of talking about Mennonite names, connections, relations, Mennonite communities we had lived in and so on. For example, I discovered that one of the participants, whom I had known only vaguely as having Mennonite roots, was a cousin of some very close friends of ours.

But following this evening of very interesting talk, I reflected on this conversation at some length. One of the results on this reflection was that my family-of-origin contained several “rebels” within the faith community. My two great-grandfathers on my father’s side of the family, plus my grandfather, were all very highly esteemed leaders in the Mennonite Brethren Church. For example, my great-grandfather Voth was instrumental in establishing the very first Mennonite Brethren Church in Canada (the Winkler Mennonite Brethren Church) in 1888. One of this church’s early leaders was my Grandfather Warkentin (whose daughter became my Grandma Voth!). My Grandfather Voth was one of the top leaders of the Mennonite Brethren conference in North America for fifty years, the entire first half of the twentieth century.

What I began to see in my reflections was that all three of these highly esteemed men was that in their own way, each one had been trail blazers, had been known to do things not always accepted by more orthodox members of their churches. Great-grandfather Voth, for example, blazed a huge path by leaving his Minnesota home and travelling to Manitoba to preach among the “Old-Colony Mennonites”. He was criticized and persecuted for doing this. Then, in his last years, he loaded farm equipment onto train cars and moved to Vanderhoof, British Columbia, to be a leader/shepherd to a group of Mennonites seeking to homestead there.

My great-grandfather Warkentin left his own previous home community of “Old-Colony Mennonites” and established a new life among more progressive Mennonites, along with new understandings of the message of the Bible. His children were very inquisitive and often searched out wisdom not in keeping with their conservative Mennonite roots. Although I don’t know all the stories real well from this side of my family, I know that at least one of his sons became a university professor in the Maritimes. I also am aware that my father’s older brothers (and likely his sisters as well!) loved to visit with these Warkentin uncles and engage in stimulating discussions.

Even my Grandfather Voth, understandably more conservative as a second-generation offspring to these “giants” in the Church community, was known for doing things which garnered criticism from his peers. For example, I am aware of one story where my grandfather agreed to marry a couple when other Mennonite pastors refused to. I think the groom was from a military background, something quite seriously anathema to the Mennonites of that era.

So, as a result of this seemingly random conversation, quite unsought after, and certainly entirely unexpected, I was able to see that my “rebelliousness” has honest roots!!! For anyone, seeing themselves in this light is very helpful in self-acceptance. It helped me see my own place in the progression of family history. It helped me see my own task on this earth with new light. I owe no apologies to anyone for who I am, whom I have become.

So, thank you to my friends who were part of this conversation on a recent Saturday evening in Calgary!!!