Thursday, October 30, 2008

Don't Look There...

My mom is pretty fussy when it comes to keeping a clean house so when I was growing up there were some pretty high expectations about the cleanliness of my room. Like most boys, my standards were considerably lower as there were often more important things to do. Every so often things came to a head and I couldn't do my 'important' things until my room was cleaned. When that happened, the priority was to get the job done as quickly as possible so dirty clothes went under the bed, in the closet and were stuffed into drawers.

My mom is also pretty smart. When I would come out of my room 10 minutes after she had told me to get it cleaned, she knew something was 'up' and came down the hall for inspection. She would begin by opening my closet. If there was no mess there, she would check the drawers and if there was no mess there she would look under the bed. This was my default place to throw stuff when I wanted to 'clean' in a hurry. Sometimes she wouldn't look, other times she did. Most times it was a matter hoping she wouldn't look there... When she did (and she did more times than not...) I had no choice except to clean the mess under my bed and it generally meant that the clean standard in my room just went up a notch which required more time than if I had just done what I was supposed to.

I participate in a weekly prayer meeting with pastors from across Victoria. I arrived late this morning due to a couple of earlier appointments that went long. When I got there, they were singing 'Heart of Worship' by Tim Hughes and were lingering on 'You're looking into my heart'...

As we sang that, I became very aware of my humanity and unworthiness. It was almost like I was saying 'God, please don't look too closely or deeply and PLEASE don't look under the bed...'
I'm glad God is full of grace and compassion. He doesn't condemn us or treat us according to what we deserve. On the other hand He is slow to anger and rich in love. When He sees my 'junk and stuff' He helps me clean it up and get things together.

Gotta go... one of the kids is cleaning up their room....

Monday, October 27, 2008

(PUSH) Praying Until Something Happens

I heard the term 'microburst' for the first time about 12 years ago. I can still say it the way the speaker did. (MIcro BURst, but you have hold your throat like you are about to cough, and then push hard with your voice... If your throat tickles after you've said it, you've got it just right....)
I'd probably heard the word before then, but about 2 years ago, the town I grew up in in Nothern Ontario actually experienced a microburst. Without warning a powerful windstorm uprooted trees, destroyed buildings and damaged many others. Here are some pictures to give you a sense of the power of the storm.

This was called the 'sand dome'. It's where they stored sand to spread on the roads in winter.

That's the 'sand dome' in the background. The trees looked they were mowed down.

This is the Natural Resources building. Remarkably no one was killed or injured in the storm.

Today was day 13 in the Civic Election Prayer Campaign that we are leading through PrayBC. I've been reflecting on what can happen as we stand together on this. I know that God responds to unity, and I know that God responds to His people when they pray. It seems to me that the combination of Unity and Prevailing Prayer set up the right conditions for a 'Prayer Storm' that could have a tremendous effect in every community in BC.

I'm certainly not in favor of disaster and damage taking place in the natural realm, but at the same time, I am longing to see something spectacular happen as a result of what has become hundreds of people praying all across BC that God would use this Civic Election for His purpose in every village, town and city across our magnificent Province.

Keep praying... something very amazing is going to happen...

Life... Unplugged...

The screen on my Blackberry is blank with nothing but a 'reset' button. When I highlight it and push the button, the screen goes black, the red light comes on, the screen flickers and then nothing but a blank screen. It happens again and again and again and again... My phone is the victim of a JVM error.

I am approaching 24 hours without the use of my phone. Every so often my leg senses the vibration of an incoming email, but it's really just a phantom vibration, there is no email, there is no phone... I had a spare phone set aside for moments like these. A phone that I could use in times of trouble, but when I went to the special place I put it, it wasn't there...

So here I am, unplugged in a wired world. This is probably more of an opportunity than I realize and while I'll need to wait for a new phone, there's this possibility that I may find 'rest' for my soul. It may even be that I might come to enjoy the quiet that comes from being unplugged.

My friends who have known me for some time will know that I may begin to exhibit 'withdrawal' symptoms, but that too may be good for me as I find freedom from my 'crackberry'.

If you don't hear from me for a few days, it's because I may have gone completely cold turkey. I'll be back.... I'm sure of it, but hopefully in a better more balanced kind of way. In the meantime, pray for me that the email spiders don't start crawling all over me....

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Morning After...

I watched the election results until I couldn't stay awake any longer. My hope was to see our own riding decided by the time I went to bed, but with a 76 vote difference it sounds like we are headed for a recount. Both candidates here are good people and will serve us well.

Most people today are consumed with who won last night. That's certainly understandable, but I want to take note of those who didn't win. Being willing to put your name on the ballot takes courage and the odds of winning are about 1 in 4 or 5. There are more second, third or 4th place finishers than there are winners on the political landscape in our country today. I want to applaud and honor every candidate that was willing to put their name forward. You stood up for what you believed in and were willing to let the rest of us decide if we thought you were the right fit. I honour your courage and commitement to your values and principles. Thanks for being a part of making the political process work in our country.

At this point the campaign is over and the real work begins. Today, Prime Minister Harper will start the work of building a cabinet to lead our great nation forward. He (and those who work with him) will need wisdom, discernment, insight and tremendous courage.

We also need a fresh spirit of cooperation in Ottawa. As much as the fireworks of Question Period are entertaining, we are at a point in our history where we need the best and brightest leaders in our nation to work together in a cooperative effort to lead our country effectively. This is a time for a commitment to doing what is best for Canada. My hope is that every MP will make that focus their top priority.

Generally speaking, our ministry focus is provincial in nature, but today I want to urge you to give yourself to praying for Prime Minister Harper, every MP who was elected last night and for their families and those who serve them.

Monday, October 13, 2008

How To Vote in The Federal Election - 6

Today is Election Day. Today you have the opportunity to exercise your democratic right to mark a ballot. Someone from our church posted on Facebook today that you can do all the praying you want before the election, but if you don't go and actually vote, it doesn't mean anything. I think it aligns perfectly with what James had to say. Faith WITHOUT WORKS is DEAD! (Sorry, I'm not really shouting, just trying to make a visual point!)

So... if you still haven't made up your mind, PRAY A LOT on your way to your polling station and do the best you can.

Talk to you tomorrow, there will be lots to watch on TV tonight...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

What could happen if...?

What could happen if the Church in BC actively prayed through the civic election campaign? I believe that God would use this election to fulfill His purposes for our communities and school boards if we just asked Him too.

We want to find out, so we're launching a prayer initiative for the Civic Election in BC. Our goal is to build a network of people who will take 5 minutes a day to pray with us that God would use this election to accomplish His plans and purposes for the 189 municipalities in our province.

Most of you are busy people, so we want to make this as easy for you as possible. We've put together a 33 day email campaign that will start on October 15. Each email will contain a daily prayer focus, a scripture verse and a written prayer. It's designed to take less than 5 minutes a day. We believe that by mobilizing the church to pray through this campaign, we can shape the outcome on our knees. Here's the key, this is an opt-in list. You'll only receive the emails if you sign up. We won't use this list for anything other than this campaign and the provincial election campaign in the spring.

To join our list, go to and click on register.

Be a part of the miracle!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

How To Vote In The Federal Election - 5

I think it's very interesting that what began as perhaps the dullest election campaign on record has become perhaps one of our most important elections in light of the current financial crisis. It's been interesting to watch the polls slip, slide and climb for the various parties and I'm guessing that these must be the most stressful days of the entire campaign for leaders and candidates in general.

I was asked earlier today about how I was going to vote. I'm officially non-partisan and while I do exercise my right to vote, I follow the example of my father who always says 'it's a secret ballot and I'm going to keep the secret.' I'm still undecided. I'm hoping someone will say something that will resonate with me before election day. I know what I ENVISION for our nation and I know what VALUES I'm looking for in the lives of those who serve us politically. I also know that sometimes there's a difference between what I want and what's available.

I also wrestle with the whole idea of voting for my local candidate who is actually going to serve my needs and voting for the leader even though most people will never interact with them. I'm leaning towards voting for the local candidate who is most like a servant. On the one hand I want to know their vision, plans and platform, but I also remember that it's my money and the money of my kids that they are promising to spend so I'm not quickly sold on the promises of tax cuts. Historically, people who are servants find ways to serve and they don't do it just before elections. It's a pattern in their lives.

I want a servant to represent my interests in Ottawa not just someone who is looking for a job with some great perks. I hope you do to!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

How To Vote In The Federal Election - Part 4

I just got back from our local all candidates forum. It was an interesting evening with some excellent questions. As I listened I came away with the distinct impression that the main candidates all had some good ideas. I also came away with the distinct awareness that there are no easy answers to the challenges that exist in our nation. With the recent meltdown on Wall Street it's just a matter of time until America's financial woes begin to affect our economic health in Canada.

The bottom line is that those who will win this election will need a measure of wisdom beyond themselves. At the end of the day, I want people of wisdom working on Parlaiment Hill on my behalf and I think you do to. I want people who understand the economic implications of tax cuts, tax increases, I want people who are able to navigate changes to social policy and also have a sense of how to address environmental issues. What I really want is someone who has the humility to recognize that there is a SOURCE of WISDOM outside of themselves and will have the courage to seek it out.

Every morning that Parlaiment is in session, the day begins with prayers. My hope is that the primary request of the person I vote for is 'God grant us your wisdom as we lead this great nation.'

Proverbs tell us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. My prayer is that every candidate will seek the wisdom that only God can give and that as they find it, they will apply it to the challenges in our nation.

Sarah Palin a Disgrace to Women - Bridget Bardot...

I just read an article on where Bridget Bardot calls Sarah Palin a disgrace to women. Here's part of the article for your viewing before I make my comments.

PARIS - French film icon turned activist Brigitte Bardot took a swipe at Sarah Palin on Tuesday, saying the U.S. vice-presidential candidate was a disgrace to women.

"I hope you lose these elections because that would be a victory for the world," Bardot wrote in an open letter to Republican John McCain's running mate in the November vote.

"By denying the responsibility of man in global warming, by advocating gun rights and making statements that are disconcertingly stupid, you are a disgrace to women and you alone represent a terrible threat, a true environmental catastrophe," wrote Bardot.

Let me get this right... A FRENCH actress is criticizing an AMERICAN politician. She can't even vote in the election because she's not an American citizen but feels well within her right to attack another woman simply because she disagrees with her politics. If the shoe was on the other foot, the media would be crying foul because a white, middle class American 'hockey mom' was berating a foreign national. Her actual comments don't actually rate discussion because they are rude and completely inappropriate.

I'm not American, but this really bugs me. I think what bugs me more is the constant skewering of anything that appears conservative or on the 'right' by the media in general. It seems to me that the idea of an objective presentation of issues, ideas and ideology has been lost by this relatively small group of people who have access to ink, websites, the airwaves and pod casts. The idea of the Hollywood elite declaring who is best to lead the country is almost laughable.

That being said, I do want to applaud Rex Murphy from CBC Radio. A few weeks ago he was hosting his weekly 'Cross Canada Checkup' call in show and took a call from a woman who was warning about the dangers of right wing fundamentalism in our country. He took issue with her statement and noted that there is an equally dangerous 'left wing fundamentalism' running rampant in our country that should be checked as well. I think it's the first time I've ever heard it said by anyone. Way to go Rex! Any thoughts on Sarah Palin?

How To Vote In The Federal Election - Part 3

As I spend time with politicians there’s at least one thing that always stands out to me. These are people of courage. They willingly put themselves, their ideas and their policies on the line every day. They are criticized, mocked, despised, scorned and rarely applauded. I’ve been a pastor for over 25 years and my worst days as a pastor are pretty tame compared to what elected officials endure. This is not a career for the faint of heart or those whose feelings are easily hurt. Political life is a popularity contest at election time, the rest of the time it’s more like a shark tank where only the strong survive.

In my mind, anyone who is willing to sign candidate papers and be willing to have their name printed on a ballot has already shown a measure of courage. There’s only one winner in every race and so just willing to say yes means you are willing to risk the chance that you have a 1 in 4 chance of actually winning. In light of a 4 or 5 year tenure in office, the initial step of courage pales in comparison to the journey before the candidate.

Finding a candidate with courage is harder than you might think. It’s not likely that you’ll see displays of courage at all candidates’ forums. It’s more likely that you’ll see it in the voting patterns of incumbents or candidates with previous political experience. You might want to ask candidates if they’ve ever voted against party lines and/or public pressure. The candidate will most likely tell you that they always want to listen to their constituents (that’s a good thing...) but the reality is that political leaders are required to make decisions based on the information in front of them and not simply on a sampling of the polls. There’s a difference between being a maverick and a person of courage. I don’t think that our nation needs political loose cannons in positions of power and influence. At the same time, I don’t think we need rows of ‘yes’ men and women who base their decision on the winds of public opinion. We need leaders who have the wisdom to act with courage in spite of public opinion and pressure.

I’ve had the privilege of meeting men and women like that. They have voted against party pressure and public opinion knowing that it may cost them everything. What’s interesting is that they survived what appeared to be a no-win scenario and have been re-elected, in some cases promoted but almost always respected because of their courage.

God sent an angel to Joshua when he commissioned him to give leadership to Israel and told him to Be strong and very courageous. Joshua needed it as he led the people across the Jordan, around Jericho and into the conquest of the Promised Land. He needed it and so do our leaders today!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

How To Vote In The Federal Election - Part 2

Someone said that those who fail to learn from history are destined to repeat it. I think that’s especially true as we choose who we will vote for. While I’m a great believer in a fresh start and in what Jack Layton likes to refer to as ‘Damascus Road’ experiences, barring a genuine transformational moment, it’s pretty safe to say that our past decisions and practices are a fairly accurate indicator of how we will conduct themselves in the future.

As I’m getting ready to cast my ballot on Oct 14, one of the questions I’m asking myself is what are the convictions of those who are running for office? To be able to understand the convictions of the candidate or leader you really have to learn to see beyond the chest thumping and podium pounding and seek to discover the convictions of the individual. What are the things that they are absolutely convinced are right and true? I don’t think that you can really find that out by asking the standard questions. Generally speaking, candidates are provided with talking points for all candidate forums and doorstep conversations by their respective parties so you aren’t likely to discover their convictions there.
The real answers are more likely found in asking questions about the candidate’s past actions and activities. Questions about previous involvement with community groups, associations, activities, etc will help you discover something of their history. I think a simple ‘why did you get involved there?’ follow up question will give you a much better grasp on their convictions and will help you see if their campaign rhetoric really aligns with who they are as a person. I’d suggest that if their party platform doesn’t align with their personal background, you might not be speaking with a person who is true to their convictions.
I admire politicians who are willing to take a stand sometimes at the risk of their careers, opportunities and the chance of re-election because of their convictions. I may not always agree with their decisions or actions but at least I know that they are true to who they are, where they have been and what they believe. They’ve chosen to stand and I admire that!

Friday, October 03, 2008

How To Vote In The Federal Election - Part 1

I was interviewed by a reporter last week who asked my thoughts on how Christians should vote in the upcoming federal election. I think it's a great question and one that I'm glad he asked. The financial crisis in the USA combined with their election in November means that our election is even more important than usual.

There are several characteristics that I think need to be considered before casting our ballot. The first is the integrity of the candidate. Integrity speaks of wholeness and internal strength. It's actually an construction term that describes the ability of the structure to withstand the pressure it will be exposed to.

If I've learned anything in the last year, it's that politicians live with incredible pressure and demands. There are certainly the political expectations that come along with the job, but there are also demands that come from family, constituents, schedules and their leaders and colleagues. Politics is a challenging and difficult environment and succeeding requires an extra measure of integrity.

The challenge with integrity is that you can't measure it during the election campaign. You might hear a lot about it, but integrity can only be measured through an examination of the candidates track record over time. Here are some questions you may want to consider asking as you prepare to vote? If you don't know, ask someone who does, or better yet, ask the candidate themselves? You might be surprised at their response.

1. How have they conducted themselves?

2. Have they demonstrated stability and strength over the long haul?

3. How have they handled difficult situations in the past?

4. When they have made mistakes, how have they responded?

5. Has adversity caused them to crumble or to be renewed?

6. What lessons have they learned through hardship and how does that understanding affect their world view?

Next time, we'll talk about wisdom.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Pay Attention to the Signs

I saw the most interesting thing yesterday morning at the Regina Airport. I was waiting for my flight to Toronto and my seat was almost right beside the Men's washroom. While I was sitting there, I watched a woman get up and walk directly in the Men's washroom. She exited about 5 seconds later somewhat embarrassed and talking to herself as she quickly walked away. One minute later, another woman did exactly the same thing EXCEPT that she tried to explain herself and her mistake to the gentlemen who were already in the room.

Now... I have my own 'right idea, wrong room' experience so I'm not making fun of these ladies at all. As it happened, I couldn't help but notice that the room was well marked as the MEN's room and I wondered, why don't you just pay attention to the signs? That thought led to this...

Signs surround us. There are warning signs, opportunity signs, caution signs and of course 'for sale' signs. Our body gives us signs regarding our health and our clothing gives us signs about our bodies. (Those jeans used to be much baggier than they are now...)

The question is... how well do I pay attention to the signs around me. I'm in Toronto so I'm paying a lot of attention to the street and highway signs, but I wonder how attentive I am to some of the other signs around me. Sometimes, we miss the obvious because of the pace at which we seek to live.

Slowing down, taking a breath and a good look around can avoid a lot of awkward moments in our lives, not the least of which is finding yourself in the wrong bathroom.