Sunday, November 29, 2015

Pivot 613: Not Your Typical Church

While I don't go to church every Sunday, I did start going to Pivot 613 ( this past summer because of an invitation from my "cousin" Ella here in Ottawa. Pivot is not your typical church. It is free of judgement and guilt. You can go in jeans and no one will hound you if you don't show up for a while or guilt trip you into tithing. That's not what church should be about anyway. As Paulo Mugarura (the pastor) says every Sunday, Pivot is all about "grace, mercy, and love." His emphasis is on Jesus not the shoulds, woulds, and coulds of typical churches. It's not about hell, fire, brim stone, and condemnation. It's not about show but about being real and honest. It's a small congregation, one you don't feel lost in. While the demographic largely consists of fellow Gen Xers, there are also some children, millennials (a big emphasis will be made to attract millennials as they are the most disillusioned with church and religion), and older people as well as the different races and cultures. I appreciate this - not necessarily being the oldest or youngest in the bunch. Paulo (he's from Uganda and has a great accent and awesome dreads!) started the church in Feb. 2014 that used to meet in Kanata. It now meets in Ecclesiax Church in the Glebe on Sundays at 3 p.m. Due to personal struggles and disappointing life experiences (and a lot of disillusionment, anger, disappointment, doubts, and apathy), I haven't paid attention to my spiritual life for years. In fact, I've been royally turned off from it all. It hasn't really been Jesus who I've had an issue with but with Christians and religion. I grew up in the church where I did experience love but also hypocrisy, judgement, guilt, and various degrees of fundamentalism. It was less about being real and more about show. When Ella told me that Pivot (it falls under the Free Methodist umbrella) was laid back and not your typical church, I thought I'd give it a try. Like me, she was disillusioned by the Pentacostal denomination she had been brought up in and how church had become. She was fed up and wanted a change. She needed a change. Today's service was very raw and honest. After the praise and worship time (the song "Risen" has been in my head for a good chunk of the afternoon), Paulo really shared from his heart about his vision for the church and past struggles of faith, doubt, and health issues that have affected him for the past while. He apologized for not being the leader he should be. His humility and honesty really resonated with me. That's what a leader should be. Honest. Humble. Full of integrity, strength, and love. Willing to admit he (or she) may be wrong at times but also determined and driven to move forward and do what needs to be done. There will be big changes at Pivot in the coming months, and Paulo admitted he can't do it on his own. Connectedness and community are two things that are part of his vision. Not once did I feel guilt about what we as a congregation should do. Rather I felt an invitation to be a part of something exciting. Thank Paulo for truly exemplifying who Jesus is. You're real and honest. Approachable. A refreshing change. I enjoy our talks over hot chocolate and tea. I appreciate your prayers, friendship, encouragement, leadership, and love. Pivot may kind of be restoring my faith. It's not about being a Bible thumper but trying to connect more with Jesus and living a life of love. After all, like the great Christian artist Keith Green said, "Going to church doesn't make you any more Christian than going to McDonald's makes you a hamburger." L-R: Ella, Dahlia, Paulo, and Ayesha

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Dying With Dignity: It's Your Right

I applaud the new Liberal government on their endeavor to craft "quick and expedited" legislation on doctor-assisted death ( and respect the rights of Canadians to choose if they want to die with dignity. On Feb. 6, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously voted to strike down the ban on physician-assisted dying because it violated Canadians' charter rights. The federal and provincial governments then had a year to prepare for the decision to come into effect. Swift action is a "top priority" for the Grits as the Feb. 6, 2016 deadline looms, but they have not confirmed yet if they will seek an extension. Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said it is important for the government to collaborate the provinces, territories, stakeholders, and the public as it deals with the extremely complex social policy. She added that it is both important to "respect the personal beliefs and autonomy of families and individuals and to protect those who could be vulnerable." Always daring to be different, Quebec is moving ahead with its own legislation that is scheduled to take effect Dec. 10th. There is some opposition though: an outstanding request for an injunction from a doctors' group. It is unclear if the feds will try to will make a formal bid to prevent the legislation from coming into effect. I believe it should until all the provinces are prepared to adhere to the same legislation. While I support euthanasia and dying with dignity, I believe Quebec should not be an exception to the rule. They do belong to the country after all and should wait until such legislation is officially passed. Wanda Morris, CEO of Dying with Dignity Canada, believes an extension is unnecessary because regulatory bodies and existing provincial health legislation can guide euthanasia in the interim. She says making people who are in grave suffering wait another six months is too much. I agree. I also believe that doctor-assisted death is as much of a right as a woman's right to have an abortion. No government has the right to dictate and prohibit one's medical rights and decisions pertaining to health and quality of life. Individuals should be able to decide how to live or not live their final days. Furthermore, I think people who suffer from chronic and debilitating depression should be able to decide whether they want a doctor to help ease their pain permanently. They are of much more sound mind than paranoid schizophrenics who would be in no position to make a similar decision. Mental illness is an extremely difficult illness to live with, something not everyone realizes unless they have personally experienced it. Thank goodness Canada is getting on track with giving Canadians back their power to choose.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Vanessa Carlton: A Sweet Voice with a Touch of Piano

Last night I saw Vanessa Carlton perform at Maverick's - an experience that helped me appreciate her voice and piano skills (she is a trained classical pianist). While I've never been a huge fan of the 35-year-old Pennsylvania native's, I must admit that she has talent. Sipping red wine from a mug, she performed songs from her fifth album Liberman (her real name actually) that she released on Oct. 23rd and earlier fan favourites "White Houses" and her biggest hit "A Thousand Miles," which she wrote when she was 16 and released in 2002. She talked a lot about her younger brother Edmund (he was quite scarred by "White Houses" for a period in his life) and a bit about her Dachshund Victor (Stevie Nicks told her that getting a dog is a must have when someone is on tour) who has always accompanied her on tour until now - enter 10-month-old daughter Sidney. Vanessa's show was by far one of the most quietest shows I've ever been to. I actually felt relaxed at the end of the night. It was simply her on keyboards and her violinist (he played a bit of guitar too) in his striped socks. Canadian folk Christian artist Joshua Hyslop opened for her and had a good voice in his own right. All in all, I had a good time. Rock on, Vanessa.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Paris and the Need to Fight Terrorism

Given the horror that occurred in Paris last Friday, it would be foolish to willingly choose to be blind to the reality of Islamic terrorism. It threatens human freedom, rights, and lives. It's easy to think that what happened in Paris can't happen in Canada, but it will. It's just a matter of time. Personally, I don't think Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is the most capable of leaders to deal with such a calamity. While I didn't agree with everything Stephen Harper did, I believe he handled the terror attack on Oct. 22, 2014 well. The incident also reminds us that a larger scale attack is not so unforeseen. We must be vigilant and I don't believe pulling troops from the fight against ISIS is the key. Canada is a player on the world stage and must do its part not cower from its responsibilities. I also agree with Regina woman Kerri Bozsik who was one of 35,000 people to sign the petition named "Stop Resettling 25,000 Syrian Refugees in Canada" out of concern that proper security checks be completed before the refugees be brought over by Dec. 31. It's extremely important to know who is coming into the country and who might have terrorist leanings or ISIS sympathies ( It is vital to protect Canadians first above everything else. Trudeau failed to consult Canadians on whether the majority of them are okay with accepting so many refugees. Sure, he may have won a majority government but that doesn't mean voters agreed with everything he promised to do. In fact, one of the terrorists was Ahmad Al Mohammad, a 25-year-old Syrian national ( Not to say that all Syrians are terrorists, but again, proper security checks are paramount in determining what kind of people are entering our beautiful "home and native land." This is not about being racist. This is about being smart and safe. May we all say a prayer for the poor people in Paris. Je me souviens.