Gaining Insight Into Dreams

~Cheryl Perry

I was asked to share the titles of the books I mentioned in
Sunday’s reflection.

They are Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying by Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley (1997, Bantam Books) and
Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most, a memoir by Marcus J. Borg (2014, Harper Collins).

And I also thought I would share the following list of questions. One of the most effective ways of getting insight into dreams, particularly if the dream is difficult to interpret, is to work with a friend, or friends, who support us as we explore our own dreams.

We can often gain tremendous resources by taking the time to explore all facets of the dream. Those supporting the dreamer listen carefully while the dream is described and ask questions so they understand for themselves the imagery and feelings experienced. A good way to increase your ability to remember dreams is to value them.

One way to do that is to keep a dream journal. If you are interested in interpreting your dreams, or want to help another person explore theirs, these questions might help you as your think or journal about them.

  • How do you feel in the dream? What is the predominant feeling?
  • What is the main action/theme/activity of the dream? (It may help to give it a title, as if it were a painting or story or movie. Ask yourself: What single issue or insight brings the dream together? Where is the main energy?)
  • Who are you in this dream?
  • Who are the others in this dream? (Describe them and their relationship to you, qualities, contexts—as they may be ‘stand ins’ for others or for aspects of the dreamer’s own self.)
  • What are you doing and not doing in your dream? Are you active or passive in this dream, and why? Are you resisting or in tune with what the dream is doing?
  • What issues need resolving in this dream?
  • What new ways of understanding/new actions are presented in your dream?
  • Does the situation or issue in the dream feel familiar or relate to anything going on in your life right now?
  • What is similar in this dream to other dreams? Have you ever had a dream like this before?
  • Why do you need this dream now?

A Path to Empathy and Understanding

~Sharon Wilson

Last Thursday evening I was settled on the couch to watch Joe Biden’s acceptance speech but the most moving part of the evening was the speech given by 13-year-old Brayden Harrington.

If you have suffered from a speech impairment you will have watched this with a massively open heart and a deep well of memories. I held my breathe each time he paused, willing him to find the next word. I celebrated each complete sentence and paragraph. By the time he was finished I felt like fireworks should be exploding in the sky at this triumph of courage.

How do we walk in another’s shoes with empathy and understanding? How do we ascend beyond politeness? How can we really listen, share our experiences and, if we are very blessed, change another’s life?

Cheryl spoke of this in her Sunday reflections; about diving deep into the silences, waiting with openness for the formless words of dreams and visions. She invited us to think of the moments of holiness that we have known.

Often this means really listening to another. Being open to how real and powerful the encounter was. As that long list of caregivers, academics, theologians and ordinary folk Cheryl named attests, deep and holy moments are real and life-transforming.

The dream that captured Cheryl, and the courage that propelled Brayden, formed by empathy. They took flesh and flight because someone stopped and entered the world of another in an intimate and vulnerable way. They committed to learn and share an experience. They were prepared to go deep, to invest in the other.

The path to empathy and understanding wends its way through curiosity, patience, openness, and vulnerability. It involves stopping and listening. That means focusing of what is being said and on the speaker NOT on your pithy response!

It means getting off your own schedule and agenda and being willing to have your time disrupted. Mostly, empathy is honest and gracious. It reaches out to understand rather than to fix. When we are empathetic we position ourselves to be surprised, inspired and blessed with unexpected moments that can only, truly be of God.

A Poem

What a person desires in life
is a properly boiled egg.
This isn’t as easy as it seems.

There must be gas and a stove,
the gas requires pipelines, mastodon drills,
banks that dispense the lozenge of capital.

There must be a pot, the product of mines
and furnaces and factories,
of dim early mornings and night-owl shifts,
of women in kerchiefs and men with
sweat-soaked hair.

Then water, the stuff of clouds and skies
and God knows what causes it to happen.
There seems always too much or too little
of it and more pipelines, meters, pumping
stations, towers, tanks.

And salt – a miracle of the first order,
the ace in any argument for God.
Only God could have imagined from
nothingness the pang of salt.

Political peace too. It should be quiet
when one eats an egg. No political hoodlums
knocking down doors, no lieutenants who are
ticked off at their scheming girlfriends and
take it out on you, no dictators
posing as tribunes.

It should be quiet, so quiet you can hear
the chicken, a creature usually mocked as a type
of fool, a cluck chained to the chore of her body.
Listen, she is there, pecking at a bit of grain
that came from nowhere.

~Baron Wormser

Baron Wormser has been a librarian, teacher, and poet laureate in Maine, where he also lived with his family “off the grid” for a time. This poem is perfectly suited for an age of pandemic and “social distance” – partly because it exalts an ordinary, solitary act, and partly because it helps us see again that such acts connect us in all kinds of ways with all kinds of people. And the poem’s theology is a tour de force: “the pang of salt” is surely as powerful and persuasive an argument for God as any!

Prologue: Any Dream Will Do

~Cheryl Perry

This week we begin a 2-part saga of Joseph and his brothers. Although the lectionary breaks this into just two Sundays, it is a great long story that stretches some 13 chapters in Genesis.

If you are someone who likes to “read the book before seeing the movie,” the main part of the story is found in Genesis chapters 37-45. In preparation for Sunday, I encourage you to read it!

Over the last nine weeks we have been hearing the stories of Abraham and Sarah’s descendants. These are some of the most well-known characters and stories in the Hebrew Scriptures: Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Esau, Rachel and Leah.

Stories of sibling rivalry, jealousy and parental favouritism are themes in our own stories today. These famous names and faith-history shapers had the same banal, complicated relationships that play out in our own families—sometimes in very significant ways.

This week we pick up the thread of the story in Chapter 37. And what a thread! Indeed, if we know anything about this Joseph it is the story of his fancy jacket, immortalized by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber in their musical Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.

We hear that Joseph is the favoured son because he was born to Jacob “when he was old” and that because of Jacob’s outward displays of his greater love for Joseph, his brothers hated him and “would not speak to him in a friendly manner.”

In the wonderful Webber & Rice musical one of my favourite songs is “Joseph’s Dreams.” It tells the part of the story that this week’s lectionary passage leaves out—that describe Jacob’s sons’ real reason for despising their brother.

As the song goes:

“Joseph’s coat annoyed his brothers,
But what makes us mad
Are the things that Joseph tells us of the
Dreams he often had.”

(Here’s a link if you want to listen!)

I love this musical, and this song in particular, that ends with the lines: “But one thing we are sure about. The dreamer has to go!”

Joseph is a dreamer. Not a head-in-the-clouds daydreamer or an angle-spinning schemer like his dad Jacob. But rather, someone who paid close attention to his dreams and saw them as divinely sent—as a way God communicated.

When Joseph awoke from his dreams there was a sense of curiosity, it seems, to interpret them – to attach meaning to them – and figure out what they might be telling him about himself and the world around him. Joseph believed dreams provided such insights.

What do you think? Have you ever had a dream that helped you make a decision, clarified an issue, or warned of something?

Because Joseph was curious about the meaning of his own dreams, he also became someone who could help others interpret theirs. In fact, in next week’s lectionary story we learn that Joseph becomes sought after by Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, when Pharaoh has a series of puzzling dreams. But that’s getting ahead of myself!

Join us, this Sunday, as we begin exploring the story of Joseph the dreamer.

Response to Covid-19 in the Okanagan’s homelessness and support sector

~Shirley Piedt, Outreach committee

One of the challenges during COVID has been providing housing and programs for people who live outside. It goes without saying that preventing an outbreak of COVID-19 among those living outside is prevention for all of us.

You may recall that First United hosted a film called Us and Them over a year ago to help us understand how it is that folks become homeless, and the complexity of providing supportive housing.

The Journey Home Society became the backbone organization tasked with moving forward with strategic goals which were established after a lengthy consultation with many groups and citizens including churches, businesses, and people with lived experience of being homeless.

The following link provides background to the main report and strategic goals

As Cheryl has adapted Tuesday and Thursday Outreach services to accommodate safety and hygiene, so have other housing and outreach services pivoted to continue to meet the needs of folks living outside.

It has become even more obvious that all people are best served when they have housing especially as so many of the usual services were either closed or reduced with physical distancing requirements in place.

To better understand the challenges and successes to date with the response to COVID in the homeless and support sector, the following summary was completed by three researchers from UBCO; Dr. Jordan Barbando, Dr. John Graham, and Kyler Woodmass who comprise the Kelowna Homelessness Research Collaborative.

CHALLENGES FOR SERVICE PROVIDERS: • Building and maintaining close relationships with service users • Social distancing within existing spaces and between service users • General safety (for all), and violence against women • Delays in mobilizing infrastructure and technology areas that service providers found challenging are: • Building and maintaining close relationships with service users • Social distancing within existing spaces and between service users • General safety (for all), and violence against women • Delays in mobilizing infrastructure and technology

SUCCESSES: Local support and sector collaboration • Mobilizing housing and hotels • Remote channels for connectivity • Circulation of public health guidance • Implementing hygiene centre and plexiglass

OPPORTUNITIES TO SCALE UP: There was a long list of suggested practices and infrastructure that included: medication delivery systems, alcohol management program, mobile isolation trailers, increased access and supply of safe substances, tent and cart storage, providing teddy bears, information boards, and service user cellphone allocations. The focus areas for further collaboration revolved around access to food services, water and hygiene stations.

NEEDS FOR SUMMER/WINTER: One of our main goals was to identify priorities in sustaining the response into colder months and through a potential second wave: • Continued communication • Mental health supports for providers • PPE / sanitizer cost and availability • Maintaining and increasing housing • Funding for additional costs

What this summary illustrates is that needs for people living outside and service delivery is different in this time of pandemic. As a church involved with outreach to this vulnerable group, we continue to ponder what our role can be moving forward to fall and winter. If you have questions or are interested in being part of next steps contact Shirley at [email protected]

A Glimpse of God

~Cheryl Perry

I am so looking forward to seeing some of the children and families of the congregation out under the stars this week when we watch a movie in the Seethaler’s backyard at the top of Dilworth Mountain. Doing just about anything under the stars can be breathtaking.

Maybe some of you have seen the Perseids meteor shower this week that is visible from mid-July each year, with the peak in activity between August 9 and 14. While we were at the cottage in July we were able to spot the Neowise comet, which appeared at the bottom of the handle of the Big Dipper in the night sky, and won’t pass this way again for another 6,800 years. Sometimes we have to get away from the light pollution of the city to see such phenomena, but not always.

I remember sleeping under the stars at Lumsden Beach Camp in the Qu’Appelle Valley of Saskatchewan; listening to the sound of crickets, watching the northern lights and the sky filled with more stars than I could count, and feeling an all-encompassing sense of stillness and peace. At this time when we are living through a pandemic, when we are longing for that feeling, what a gift it is! And it’s free! It’s just outside your door—in your yard, from your deck.

I am reminded, when I look at the star-filled sky, of the stories we have been exploring this summer in worship—which began with the promise to Abraham and Sarah that their descendants would be more numerous than the stars or grains of sand.

I catch a glimpse of the truth that we are all connected—you and me—to those faith ancestors who lived long ago. And we are connected to everything—galaxies, comets, meteors, stars.

I hope you have had some moments of peaceful reflection this summer, wherever you are. I hope you have been captured by a sense of awe and wonder in nature at some point during these weeks of warm weather.

As the warmth of the summer turns
To the coolness of autumn,
And leaves turn from green to
Brilliant shades of crimson, gold, and orange,
May we know your presence, beloved Son of God.
As the planting of the summer turns
To the abundance of our harvest,
May our hearts turn with gratitude to you,
Creator of All. Amen.

(Prayer written by Susan Girard, Riverview United Church, Atikokan, Ont. Used by permission from Gathering magazine.)

The Power of Words

~Bob Wallace

Over the past few weeks we have been following the stories of the Matriarchs and Patriarchs of our faith – men and women who heard a promise spoken from beyond their everyday lives and who committed their futures to the fulfillment of that promise.

That promise has been transferred from generation to generation through what the text calls a “blessing” – words spoken, accompanied by specific actions, transferring the promise from one generation to the next. And once spoken, those words cannot be recalled. There is, then, a power in words … a power to shape and define, to create and destroy.

This year’s encounters with racism reminds us again of the power of words – words used to deny, to hurt, to enslave, to harm. The old adage: “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me!” is a lie! Words can hurt. Words can destroy, words can deny futures. Words are powerful.

In fact, from a biblical perspective, the power of words lies in the capacity to share (or deny) future. Such power lies in the spoken words and accompanying actions of blessing.

Walter Brueggemann writes of these stories we are reading:

(they) offer a fresh discernment of the nature of power. … (they) understand that power, the capacity to shape the future, lies not in weapons and arms, but in the use of language, gesture, and symbol.”

[Interpretation: Genesis, p. 228]

As we continue our journey through these stories, look for the way in which the stories talk about the power and use of words and the gestures that accompany those words. It is my belief that these stories, heard as promises not only to those who have gone before, but as continuing promises spoken to us, empower us to discover our new future, a future filled with promises of life in all its fullness rather than despair.

More than anything, then, these words empower us to believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that “God is with us. We are not alone.” And in that power, we are claimed once again as beloved children of our God.

And, from a world before we were concerned with gender issues in language, here’s a quote from Sigmund Freud.

Words have a magical power. They can bring either the greatest happiness or deepest despair; they can transfer knowledge from teacher to student; words enable the orator to sway his audience and dictate its decisions. Words are capable of arousing the strongest emotions and prompting all men’s actions.

Sigmund Freud

Remembering August 1: Abolition of Slavery in Canada

~The United Church of Canada E-ssentials

August 1, 1834 is the day the Slavery Abolition Act came into effect, ending slavery throughout most of the British Empire – including in the colonies that would become Canada. It is estimated that on that day, 800,000 enslaved Black peoples were freed, as it became illegal for anyone to be a slave in the British Empire.

There is a grassroots movement happening in the United Church and beyond to proclaim August 1 as one way to support the fair treatment of all humans and affirm that all persons are made in the image of God. The commemoration of August 1 reminds us that the fight against systemic and anti-Black racism is far from over, and that we need to continue the work for the creation of a more just society. It is one way to continue the work of becoming an anti-racist church.

Join with people across the church in remembering August 1 and use the day to further the honest dialogue about the deconstructing of racism in our country. You are invited to join in a “silent witness” activity by wearing a T-shirt commemorating the end of slavery in Canada on August 1. There are two T-shirt designs available on the United against Racism website that can be iron-transferred onto T-shirts. There are also a number of blog posts to read on the United Against Racism website.

Just Eat It

~Jocelyn Smith

The inside of Jocelyn’s fridge

I grew up in the golden age of the video game console. But in my house we had very little screen time and no video games. As a result, I am one of the only people my age who cannot pass the first level of a traditional Mario game. I always run Mario into a hole!

My parents decision to limit our screen time continued to impact my life after I moved out. In the 20 years since I lived at home, I have never owned a television. That’s not to say that I don’t watch shows and movies. But for two decades now, I’ve consumed my media via my computer. In the current era of Disney Plus, Netflixs and Youtube, that’s not too hard to imagine. But 10+ years ago, it was not easy to find good shows online from a legitimate source. Imagine my delight when I discovered Knowledge Network online. A whole repository of great viewing, all free.

I started watching shows on and became a knowledge partner. One day, an email arrived in my inbox. Knowledge inviting us to an advanced screening of an Agatha Christie Christmas mystery. I may or may not have whooped in excitement but I did immediately rsvp.

Several weeks later I sat in the Queen Elizabeth theatre and felt right at home. The audience members closest to us in age had at least three decades on us. It felt like attending Queens United. 🙂 I enjoyed the show and the whole experience.

Aside from Agatha Christie mysteries, Knowledge hosts an excellent selection of murder mysteries online. They also host a lot of great documentaries and feature many made in BC programs. Recently, I came across Just Eat It. I watched it and now I find myself looking in my fridge a bit askew.

Just Eat It follows one Vancouver couple as they eat only waste food for 6 months. The results are surprising and somewhat confronting. Have a watch.

And now please excuse me, I need to go. I’ve got some saggy parsnips and a browning apple in my fruit bowl that can’t go to waste.

Unforgettable and Inspiring

~Rev. Dr. Sharon Wilson

Most of us have had extra time for reflection these last months. I’ve shared with you some of the memorable books I’ve read and invited all of you to send in your picks. As I was out for a run with Molly today I found myself thinking about some of the people who have had a huge influence on me. Two people are always top of mind….and they could not have been more different!

Ruth McCuaig was my Sunday School teacher from ages twelve to fourteen. Her own daughters were grown by this time so she had no vested interest in the sustainability of the Sunday School at Melrose UC. Ruth, for whatever reason, chose to be with our group of about a dozen girls.

I remember little of the content of the curriculum but I have vivid memories of lengthy, thoughtful conversations. Any topic we came up with she deemed worthy of our time. She was a published writer, an art collector and world traveller and from this vantage point she encouraged us to dream without limits. No matter how wild our ideas, she listened respectfully and validated our emergence as capable young women of the congregation and the world.

On visits home while away at university she was one of the people I made a point of seeing. As life took me farther afield we turned to letter-writing and finally emails to keep in touch until her passing. Ruth was wise and gracious but she was no pushover. Over the years we tangled on a few topics but that only served to help me grow. She guided me to look deeper and more broadly at issues as diverse as faith, career, values, community service and politics. Our last emails were a blessed chance to offer gratitude for this friendship born in a Sunday School class that lasted until I was nearly fifty.

The other person of influence is a man whose name I no longer recall. I knew him only briefly when I was a summer student at DOFASCO, a steel company in Hamilton. During my undergraduate years I drove the mail truck through the plant. I was the first female student to work outside of the office in a traditional male position.

My summers were successful enough that the company began to hire females for many more of the factory positions. One of my stops on my twice-daily route was the labour office in the Foundry Division. This was where unskilled labourers would gather at the beginning of each shift to be assigned their work for the day. As such, it was a pretty quiet place for most of each shift.

The first time I dropped off the mail, the fellow who looked after labour office asked me if I played chess. He was a short, round man nearing retirement. I found out later he had escaped Hungary during the revolution in 1956. As a university student who’d played a fair amount of chess over the years, this looked like a bit of fun. How wrong I was.

The first game ended in almost instant humiliation for me. I was crushed but determined to do better. Over those many summers our games lasted longer and longer. With only two chances each day to make moves we had lots of time to pour over strategy. Sadly, I never beat him. It’s little wonder as he finally confessed that he was a chess master before his escape from Hungary.

It was, however, another episode that sealed him as a person who gifted me with a huge life lesson. At Christmas during my final year of university I attended the huge company Christmas party with my parents. As a manager my Dad was there to greet the thousands of employees and their families. Mom was dressed in her finest looking very much like she was at a garden party at Buckingham Palace!

My friend from the labour office came over to us, gave me a big hug and asked about my studies. We talked about my thesis research while my parents watched perplexed. Finally, he asked for my address so he could send me some things he thought might help. My mother was horrified as I gave my address to this stranger! She was picturing all sorts of misadventure that would come from this grave error of judgement.

What I got a few weeks later was a stuffed manila envelope of citations from obscure military history books and journals. Many were extraordinarily helpful to my paper and I was able to include them. This man taught me the wonder to be discovered when we are open to people. If I had stopped wanting to know him when I encountered him with his broom in hand, I’d have missed not only his genius at chess and encyclopedic knowledge of European history, I’d have missed his humanity.

While I must acknowledge the many flaws in my personality much of what is good about me has come from people like these. Their influence and wisdom may have been at least a little unexpected but, over a lifetime, I’ve come to accept that these are the very folks who shape the best part of who we are.

I’d like to invite you to think about the special people in your life and share your story in First Word. Who are your influences? How have they shaped you? How are you paying it forward?