Thursday, December 24, 2009

That's It.... I'm calling Santa....

Barb and I went to Walmart last night.  It was everything you might expect it to be on Dec 23.  Apart from a few elbows and eye pokes, we escaped relatively unscathed...

As we were leaving, a little boy was having a bit of a melt down outside the front door.  His mom was exasparated.  His mom,  trying to gain control of the situation, pulled out her cell phone and said 'That's it... I'm calling Santa...' As you can imagine, the added stress for the little guy, put him over the brink and he completely lost it.  What had been a mild disturbance became a full blown scene that caused heads to turn...

The little guy began to scream 'NO!!!!' at the top of his lungs. Mom's only response was... 'Okay, Okay ... I'm putting away the phone, I'm putting away the phone....' 

Sometimes things don't turn out the way you plannned, but they give people great blogging ideas.  This is one of those times....  I've been thinking about Santa ever since then and have come to the conclusion that he's really a rather fickle fellow.  Think about it.  Santa is entirely performance based.  If you're good, you're on his list.  If you're not good, you get dropped like a hot potato.  Sometimes he just doesn't show up, other times, he adds insult to injury and gives you a lump of coal in your stocking.  Sound kind of mean if you stop and think about it.

I think that the worst thing about Santa is that he's a poser.  He's worked very hard to position himself as the central character of Christmas, but everything he represents is contrary to what Christmas is really all about.
Without getting preachy, here's something for you to think about...

1.  Santa appears once a year.  Jesus is with us every day.
2.  Santa only shows up when you meet his criteria.  Jesus does not treat us as we deserve.
3.  Santa comes into your chimney.  Jesus changes your life.
4.  Santa says 'Ho, Ho, Ho' Merry Christmas.  Jesus says 'I am the way. The truth and the Life'
4.  Threatening to call Santa on a cell phone freaks kids out.  Telling your kids that you are going to talk to Jesus calms the down.  AND.... .  You can talk to Jesus for free!

Have a great Christmas everyone!!

Friday, December 18, 2009

2009 in Review

It’s not hard to tell it’s Christmas which means it’s time to recount our journey over the past 12 months. Last January we attended MissionsFest in Vancouver as Exhibitors. It was a great opportunity for us to meet partners and expand our ministry network.

Our goal was to solicit support for our Prayer Initiative during the Provincial Election. We gave away hundreds of PrayBC mugs and gained many email addresses that helped us build the largest prayer network in BC. By the time we were done, we had over 2000 people committed to participate with us. 

In February the Legislature was recalled for the Spring Session. Election Fever was in the air and it spiked most afternoons during Question Period. We also held our annual MLA Prayer Breakfast in February with an excellent response from MLA’s. Our speaker was Mark Buchanan from Duncan. He did an excellent job for us.

March included some travel time and generally just getting ready for the election campaign that would happen through April and early May.

The election was called in early April and PrayBC kicked into high gear. For every day of the campaign we sent out a daily email to all of our prayer partners. On most days, over 2000 people opened our email and prayed along with us. Through the election, we held provincial conference calls that were also very well supported. We believe that in the last year PrayBC has become the largest Prayer Network in British Columbia. PrayBC continues to be a vital part of what we do by providing prayer support for MLA’s on a rotating basis.  You can join our prayer network by clicking here.

In June, Tim attended the swearing in of the Cabinet and was able to connect with many of the newly appointed ministers. It was an important day for the ministry.

July and most of August was spent in ministry travel. On August 25th we celebrated another significant ministry first by leading a prayer gathering on the lawn of the Legislature during the Throne Speech. Mixed in with the protestors were many prayer walkers who had come to seek God’s blessing on the new government and the new session. You can see a video presentation of the event on YouTube by searching PrayBC. It was a powerful day!

The August start date resulted in the longest fall session in recent memory. During this session, we met many of the new MLA’s and reconnected with those who were re-elected. It has been an exciting privilege to pray with Ministers and members in their offices and to connect with staff and others as well.

We held our first ever 'Nation Builder' Fundraising Breakfast in October.  It was a great success and we are already making plans for our next event in April of 2010.

Our most exciting news out of the current session is that we’ve begun a regular weekly prayer time for MLA’s. We are thrilled to have established this weekly group and look forward to many more joining us as we continue to move forward.

We are so grateful to God and our partners for their faithfulness.  Two years ago we had many hopes and dreams.  By God's grace and your generosity we have seen some of those hopes and dreams become reality! Our vision continues to be large and we look forward to what God has in store for us in 2010.  Thank you for standing with us and believing in us!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Living Out The Real Meaning Of Christmas

Some say you pick your friends but are stuck with your relatives.  I am so proud to count Ken and Evie and their family as relatives that I would gladly choose as friends.

Thirty-four years ago, in the Christmas of the year they had their first child, Ken and Evie Hauser had the idea to leave their home in the suburbs and go downtown for the weekend. They would have dinner, spend the night in a hotel and, while they were there, hand out a few things to the needy.

For Ken, the visit downtown harkened to his past. When he was a boy, his father would take him to the Downtown Eastside every Wednesday night to the Gospel Mission, where they would help out. Ken's charitable impulse had been bred into him early.

"So we bundled up the baby that first year," Ken said, "and took the bus downtown. It was so long ago, I can't even remember what we gave out."

The years passed. The Hauser family grew. There was a second child, and a third child and a fourth.

And as the family grew, so did the annual Christmas trip. Each child meant another conscript for the weekend outing, and each was incorporated into it in his or her turn. And as Ken's father had taught him the worth of giving, so he and Evie taught their children. They took to the streets as a family, and the things they carried with them and gave away grew as they did.

"We'd make up some sandwiches and take those down," Ken said, "and we'd hand out things like gloves and socks and good warm coats. Most of the clothing was our own used clothing, but they were never throwaways. We always made sure that it was clothing that was in good shape and that we could still wear it."

There were lean years. Ken worked in a construction firm, and in the recession of the early 1980s, his firm declared bankruptcy.

"We knew charity then ourselves," Ken said. "There would be the knock on the door at night, and the boxes of food left on the front porch, because we would have trouble feeding our own kids.

"But I had a wife who loved and supported me, and my children, and my faith, and even though we were going through bankruptcy I found out that money is not all that it is supposed to be. Yes, you need it and yes, it puts food on the table. But we found out that our wealth was in other things."

The Hausers kept up the annual Christmas trip downtown even then. His kids especially enjoyed it, he said, and looked forward to it.

"There was this older couple I remember, and they would dress up as Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus, and they had a dog named Radar. They were needy, I suppose, but the kids loved them, and while other kids would be in the department stores waiting to sit on Santa's knee, our kids would be looking forward to seeing this couple out on the street."

As the years passed, Ken and Evie's kids grew up and got married, and they had kids of their own. Now, Ken and Evie have six grandchildren, and they, too, have joined the annual Christmas trip downtown.

Of all of this -- the annual trip, the charitable acts, the kids' and grandkids' involvement -- I learned none of it from Ken. He appears to be the kind of man who curdles at self-aggrandizement and whose personal code of conduct dictates that charitable acts are done and not seen.

But those charitable acts were seen by a friend of the Hausers last weekend, when the family did their annual trip. In an e-mail to me, the friend wrote:

"Last Saturday my husband and I were having breakfast (downtown) when all of a sudden we spied the whole Hauser family laden down with bags full of goodies, bundled up with grandkids in tow heading down the street to find the homeless. The smiles and energy radiating from them was noticeable from far away."

She suggested I talk to this "remarkable family" and do a story on them, but when I phoned Ken, he was reluctant to talk.

"It's not a huge thing," he said, of the annual trip, "and we don't like to think of it as a huge thing. It's just something we like to do as a family."

But his grandkids had come to love it, too, he said, and they were learning, as his own children had, the charitable impulse that he had learned as a boy. They looked forward to the weekend all year, he said, and the older grandkids had started volunteering in the soup kitchens at their churches.

"I think we try to teach them that Christmas is more than just about getting gifts; it's about giving, too. But listen," he said, "if you're going to write this, I don't want this to be about us. If somebody through this can be inspired to go down and help out, that'll be enough."

This last weekend went well, he said. He and the family spent some of Friday night on the streets, and all of Saturday, and some of Sunday morning. Almost always, he said, the people he meets and talks to are appreciative. This year, they gave out things like Tim Horton's gift cards, and bags of chips, and mandarin oranges, and clothes. In the tougher areas of the Downtown Eastside, like dark alleyways, only he and his boys would venture down them, but even there, he said, they never ran into trouble. He had given out shoes to men who were barefoot, and socks to a man wearing nothing but plastic bags on his feet and gloves to men whose hands were raw with cold.

"And there was this young girl last year who really affected me. She was sitting on the sidewalk in the cold, and I asked her if she was okay, and if she had a home to go to, and she said, 'I can't go home.' And I asked her why, and she said because her father abused her."

At this point in our conversation, Ken started to cry as he told this, and he excused himself.

"I'm sorry," he said, "but as a father, it just tears me apart."

This year, he said, he and Evie had talked about not doing the trip, because the recession had been tough on the construction business. And treating the whole family to dinner out and putting them up for a weekend at the Wall Centre was a big bill -- although the hotel, in its own act of kindness, had been discounting their rooms since they found out why the Hausers were staying downtown. ( "I think we must be the only guests that arrive at the Wall Centre with plastic garbage bags filled with stuff," Ken said.)

But they decided to bite the bullet, Ken said, because money spent on the family and on helping those who needed it was money better spent than on any financial investment.

I asked him what it cost him to do it all, and he told me, and I said that he must be fairly well off.

"I am," he said, and then he said he was talking about the riches his family and faith brought him, not his bank account.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

It Never Snows In Victoria, Except When It Does, Every Year

From today's Times Colonist.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

By Jack Knox, Times ColonistDecember 15, 2009

Two o'clock yesterday afternoon. I approach the editor, clear my throat: "After much soul-searching, I have decided to take an indefinite break from professional newspapering. I need to focus my attention on being a better husband, father and person."

"Pardon?" she says.

"Like Tiger Woods, I am leaving work to save my family. I apologize for my indiscretions."


I nodded my head vigorously. "Got 'em stacked up like cordwood. One affair she might have forgiven. Two, three, four, I'm still good. But once you hit double digits, some women get testy. I better go."

"So what you're saying," says the boss, "is you're going home early to beat the snow."

Well, yes, now that you mention it, it would be nice to get off the roads before the flakes start falling faster than Tiger's reputation.

This is how Victorians react to even the slightest threat of snow: Bolt for home in time for Oprah/the early game on TSN. Just a hint of white in the sky, and the entire city goes to voicemail. By 4 p.m. the Malahat looks like France in 1940, the highway choked with ox carts and refugees fleeing the advancing horror. The Q dumps classic rock, just plays the theme music to Exodus, over and over.

Thankfully, it never snows in Victoria, except when it does, every single winter, much to the amusement of the rest of the country. The rest of Canada enjoys a West Coast snowfall the way the Brits enjoy watching Princess Anne fall off a horse.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Chaplaincy Cutbacks in Fraser Health Authority

I received an email today regarding the chaplain and social worker cutbacks in the FHA today.  According to the article that I read in the AbbyNews , 12 hospital based chaplains and 15 social worker positions will be cut.  I'd like to address the cuts to chaplaincy services. 

I am a believer in the value of pastoral/chaplaincy ministry in hospital situations.  There's no doubt that good spiritual/emotional support in this setting contributes to the health and recovery of patients who are open to receive it.  I am also a realist and recognize that given the choice between a chaplain's position or an ER or Surgical nurse, the vast majority of the population will choose nurses.  We live in challenging economic times and while I would prefer something different, in this case I understand why this decision has to be made.

Some of the most creative and successful approaches have arisen during some of the most difficult seasons.  I see an opportunity for faith based groups and individuals who are concerned about these particular cuts to become proactive and provide a creative solution to the situation.  Several years ago, the IHA made similar cuts to chaplaincy positions in Kamloops.  In that particular situation, a local MLA took leadership and raised the necessary resources to provide for chaplaincy services at RIH. 

The region served by the FHA is home to BC's largest churches and because of population alone, has more church groups than anywhere else in the province.  While it's not fair to look at the largest churches alone and expect them to shoulder the financial burden, it is realistic to look to the church community as a whole to consider finding a way to creatively fund this important area of ministry.  We, more than anyone else should be committed to seeing these positions continue and if necessary, find the ways and means to properly resource them through our own efforts.  I realize this a departure from expecting government and health authorities to fund this through tax dollars, but perhaps this is also a way for the church to provide leadership within our communities and to be a blessing to caregivers and patients alike.

I'm calling on denominational leaders, pastors and churches to give serious consideration to finding a creative way to serve the people of the FHA through ensuring the continuation of these services.  It's time to put our faith to work and ensure that chaplaincy services continue within the FHA.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Ordinary People. Extraordinary God

I love what God does in the midst of our ordinary moments!

I can’t help but think about how God invades the ordinary in the lives of the key characters in the Christmas story. Mary was just a young woman in love with a carpenter named Joseph. She was busy making wedding plans when her ordinary routine was interrupted by an angel. Joseph’s ordinary sleep was interrupted by what he thought was a dream. The magi’s study of the stars was interrupted by strange sign. Zechariah’s priestly routine was interrupted by an appearance by Gabriel, Simeon and Anna were faithful saints who were interrupted by the appearance of the Messiah.

God is the perfect Interrupter. He is a master at interrupting our ordinary so that we can be a part of the extraordinary thing that He is doing.

I’ve come to believe two things.

1. God is constantly working on fulfilling His perfect plan.

We know that He is constantly working out everything for our highest good. It’s what He promises He will do. He’s also doing the same thing for everyone else who loves him and is called according to his purpose.

2. He wants you and me to be a part of that plan.

I heard someone pray something like this today. ‘God we know we can do nothing without you and that You do nothing without us.’ I think that’s a profound spiritual truth. Christmas would not have happened unless ordinary people said yes to an extraordinary God and His outrageous plan.

I’m convinced that God interrupts our lives more often than we realize. They key for you and me is to shift our thinking from expecting angelic announcements and to simply learn to read the signals. His interruptions come in spontaneous thoughts, in unusual circumstances and through ‘God moments’ when He puts people in our path who are ready to receive His love and grace. Watch for them and enjoy the interruptions!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Clutter Busting....

I've been helping a church where I served as Youth Pastor 20 years ago.  Their pastor has resigned and they needed someone to help them through this transitional period and I was both interested and available so we are going on a journey together.  It's been an interesting experience.  A lot has changed over 20 years for everyone.  The church is smaller and older than it was 20 years ago.  I am larger than I was 20 years ago... but like everyone else, I'm also 20 years older which puts me in a very different place than the last time I was there.

We did something today that I think was very symbolic.  We threw away 20 years of accumulated 'stuff'.  Some would say 'junk'....  5 or 6 truckloads left the building today.   It was exciting.  20 people spent the morning working, laughing and just chucking stuff out.  Never have so many been so happy to throw away so many things!

While that's exciting, especially if you are a 'clutter buster', what's more exciting in my mind is the very significant break from the past.  Without exaggeration, I threw away things that were saved from when I was on staff there!!  We laughed more than a few times about what we were finding as we worked our way through shelves, boxes and closets.

I don't know how it is for you, but there are times, (like now) when I look at my life and see the definite need for some serious 'clutter busting' to take place.  I don't intentionally set out for things to get complicated or to pack needless baggage along the way.  It just happens, and it happens for a lot of reasons, some of which are more valid than others. 

There are some huge temptations in clutter busting.  The biggest is to want to clear the clutter in someone else's life.  The best way to handle that just might be to remember the words of Jesus when he told us to take the beam out of our own eye before worrying about the speck in our brothers eye.  He's right (again...)  Simply put, it's not your business to be messing with someone else's clutter.  Get your own stuff in order and keep it that way.  At least that's the lesson I'll be working on over the next few weeks....

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Getting the church ready for Richard Dawkins

I got an email today asking me if my church was ready for Richard Dawkins. This caught my attention, mostly because I don't pastor a church. The email really made me laugh....

Dawkins is an evolutionary fundamentalist. He is as extreme and narrow minded about evolution as some of our more 'narrow' Christian brothers. In my mind that takes a lot more faith (albeit misguided...) than what it takes to embrace a Creationist view of the beginning. (If this statement sparks the desire to debate the origins of the earth, feel free to do it with someone else, I don't have the time...)

The email said that churches should be ready to teach against the evils of evolution because Dawkins was going on a tour to mark the 150th anniversary of Darwin's death and that he would be promoting Darwin's theory of evolution. For what it's worth, my first thought is that Darwin knew the truth about evolution and Genesis within a nanosecond of his death. It's too bad we can't get his thoughts on evolution after 150 years of experiencing wherever he finds himself spending eternity. I'm confident that Richard Dawkins would be abandoning evolutionary fundamentalism in a heartbeat if he was able to hear what Darwin had to say today.

My other thought, was 'Richard Dawkins is coming to church?' Wow! That's really amazing! I hope he visits a life giving church where he can encounter God's presence, love and power.  It would be a good thing for him!

I've come to a place in my life where nothing is impossible for God. If he wants to move on the heart of an unbelieving Richard Dawkins and bring him to church on Sunday, my expectation is that Dawkins will leave a believer in the ONE who spoke creation into existence in microseconds. Now that would really shake things up wouldn't it?

I continue to be puzzled by the way we respond to people who disagree with our faith. Why would we warn people about Dawkins and his teaching when the bible tells us that our battle isn't against flesh and blood. Wouldn't it make more sense just to pray that God would do something very Sovereign and powerful that would result in something very profound happening in Dawkins life? That might prove to be far more faith based than whatever it is I'm supposed to do because 'he's coming'.

I hope Dawkins makes it to your church and that when he gets there, he encounters the power and wonder of the living God!! Sort of like Saul on the road to Damascus.... Wouldn't that be interesting???

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Knock, Knock...

I had the funniest thing happen to me at the Legislature today. I was visiting with a new member. We've been talking about connecting for some time, so I was looking forward to getting together. I arrived a few minutes early, he took me too his office and we started to get to know each other. About 15 minutes into our visit, there was a knock at the door. When he opened his office door, two special constables were standing there, accompanied by two very nervous looking staff members. They announced that they had an alarm coming from the office and wanted to be let inside.  The member responded that he hadn't pushed an alarm button and wasn't in any danger.  It turns out that the 'laptop lock' that he thought he was playing with actually sent an alarm call down to the security office. So... after a quick lesson on how to use the security button, the constables left and we were able to return to our visit.

After they left we had a good laugh and then prayed together.  When I went back to the office to turn in my security pass, the constable who visited the office met my rather sheepish look with a big grin and chuckle! 

Every day at the Legislature is an adventure....

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Protests, Petitions and the Need for Good Government

I'm beginning to see something very interesting in the current political climate. It's safe to say that it's a very different world at the Legislature than what it's been for the past 2 years.  The atmosphere is completely different than what I expected.  I assumed the rhetoric would die down and things would 'simmer' rather than boil.  I was very wrong....

The Government has been forced to make some difficult and extremely unpopular decisions due to the current economic situation.  The Opposition has no end of material for Question Period, the ensuing media scrums and the radio talk shows.  I don't necessarily think this is a bad thing.  In fact, if you can see past the bluster, desk thumping and heckling (all part of our political system....) this may well be the best thing that can happen in our province.

A strong and effective opposition is the key to good government.  While it's true that the Government has a majority and will likely vote according to policy and platform, the awareness of unhappy and dissatisfied voters will undoubtedly give them cause for sober reflection, especially if the Opposition is successful in providing effective resistance on key initiatives. 

 During the election, we prayed that God would give us leaders of His choosing who would provide good and effective government for us.  While the government's decisions have been somewhat surprising and unexpected, I'm starting to see that God is using a host of circumstances to provide exactly what we asked for.  We need a strong Opposition who will ensure that the effect of Government decisions and actions is in the public eye. 

In the midst of this new political atmosphere, we have a responsibility before God for those who have been elected to lead.  It would be easy to be caught up in the anger that is being directed at the government, but it is neither becoming nor fruitful. Disagree if you choose, but understand that our greatest effectiveness comes as we make petitions rather than signing them.  

The fact is that our leaders on both sides of the Legislature need someone praying for them and encouraging them NOW more than ever.  We need to rise to the occasion as never before to stand in the gap on behalf of those making the most significant decisions in our province in a generation.  Call your MLA and tell him/her that you are praying for them.  I promise you, they will be grateful!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Roll Away The Stone...

Picture this for a moment.  Someone you love dies unexpectedly.  Your best friend shows up 4 days later having missed final goodbye's and the funeral.  You take him to the grave side where he begins to weep and then...  He says .... 'Dig him up'

A bit taken aback, you turn and say 'Seriously?  You know he's been dead for 4 days and it's not going to be pretty...'

'Dig him up!' your Friend replies, 'I want to show you something...'

If you didn't know that it really happened with Jesus, you would be just as likely to be repulsed at the brash and crude request.  Most of us would have walked away in shock and disgust.

I've been thinking about the story of Lazarus recently and I'm seeing something that I've never seen before.  I am seeing Lazarus as a metaphor.  Lazarus represents something that is common to all of us.  He represents the disappointment of his sisters.  They weren't disappointed in Lazarus, but in Jesus, in his passing and in his lost future.  Lazarus represents embarassment.  How could they face their friends who all knew that they had expected Jesus to help only to experience something different. They believed, but  Jesus was absent when they needed him most.  Lazarus could even represent their despair.  It's reasonable to assume that since they were both unmarried that the three of them lived together and Lazarus was taking responsiblity to care for his sisters.  Now suddenly and unexpectedly, their future was at stake as well.

What do you do with your disappointments, embarassments and fear?  Mary and Martha wrapped theirs up in grave clothes and spices, placed them in a tomb and rolled a large stone in front of it.  I think we do the same...  We take our disappointments, despair, pain and embarassments and hide them deep inside a cave somewhere in the recesses of our lives, cover them over with a rock and move on with our lives desperately hoping that we can leave them behind.

Every so often, on His timetable rather than ours, Jesus shows up at the places where we've buried our 'stuff' and asks us to roll away the stone.  I think He comes often and with intent because what's buried behind the stone holds incredible potential and possibility.  God sees value in what we've buried behind the rock and He wants to redeem it in our lives.  That can only happen when we respond in trust and obedience.  Rolling the stone away is the first step in experiencing God's work in our lives. 

Stop and listen today.  Perhaps Jesus is whispering 'Roll away the stone...'

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Getting Ready for The Fall Session

Getting ready for the Fall Session

The government has anounced that the Legislature will resume on August 25 with a Speech From the Throne, followed by a Budget Speech on September 1. This is an unusually early start to the session and will undoubtedly be a very challenging one as the government seeks to address the current economic situation.

The new session is also an exciting one for us as a ministry as this is the first time that we have been in place when a new Parlaiment has come together.  We've been successful in laying a stable ministry foundation over the last two years and are able to move forward with some exciting ministry plans.  

We are currently preparing to launch a regularly scheduled devotional meeting for members at their request.  In general this will simply be a gathering for those who would like to receive spiritual encouragement and pray together on an ongoing basis.  As with everything we do, it will be non-partisan and designed to be supportive and encouraging for those who will come.  This comes at the request of several members and represents a major step forward for us. 

Our second initiative is in it's infancy but also represents some exciting steps forward.  Several members of our core prayer team have developed what we are calling a 'Prayer Tour' of the Legislative Precinct.  The vision is to use the points of interest as catalysts to prayer along specific themes.  I'm very excited about what they have put together and think it will pay tremendous dividends as we begin to use the ministry tool.  Soon, we will be able to invite teams to Victoria to visit the Legislature, go on a prayer tour and spend a day or two with us.  Our plans are still in development, but we wanted you to know about what we are doing so that you can make plans to join us at some point in the future.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

NB Paper Apologizes to PM

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the PM taking communion at Romeo Leblanc's funeral.  It turns out that the story originally published by the Saint John Telegraph Journal was inaccurate.  Here's the story on the apology from the same paper in today's Victoria Times Colonist.  Hopefully the apologies will reach the same level of zeal as those who were telling the story the first time around.

A New Brunswick daily newspaper issued a front-page apology Tuesday for a July 8 story that claimed the prime minister pocketed a communion wafer during the state funeral for former governor general Romeo LeBlanc.
The Saint John Telegraph-Journal apologized to Prime Minister Stephen Harper for the story which the newspaper said “was inaccurate and should not have been published.”
The story created a national controversy that lasted for several days while Harper was attending a G8 gathering in Italy and preparing to meet the Pope.
“There was no credible support for these statements of fact at the time this article was published, nor is the Telegraph-Journal aware of any credible support for these statements now,” said the apology. “The Telegraph-Journal sincerely apologizes to the prime minister for the harm that this inaccurate story has caused.”
The newspaper also apologized to the two reporters whose bylines appeared above the story.
“Our reporters Rob Linke and Adam Huras, who wrote the story reporting on the funeral, did not include these statements in the version of the story that they wrote. In the editing process, these statements were added without the knowledge of the reporters and without any credible support for them,” said the apology.
The story said that a senior Roman Catholic priest had demanded that Harper's office explain what happened to the communion wafer which was handed to the prime minister during the state funeral. The story also described video footage that showed the prime minister taking the wafer, but cut away before Harper was seen consuming it.
A Telegraph-Journal newsroom employee who answered the phone said “no one will be talking” about the issue.
An aide to publisher Jamie Irving said there would be “no comment.”

Monday, July 27, 2009

Responding to the Giants - Part 4

David was unique to everyone else in all of Israel, even though most people didn't recognize it.  David was the anointed successor to the throne of Israel.  He was the person God had chosen to serve, lead and deliver Israel.  The interesting thing is that unlike Saul, David walked in humility.  The anointing had not gone to his head and so it remained on his life.  Because he had been anointed king, David was the only person with the authority and responsibility to deal with Goliath.  While he had yet to take his place on the throne, David knew WHO he was and WHAT God had called him to do.  It was this confidence in his anointing and subsequent identity that caused him to respond the way he did.  David knew that the destiny of the nation was at stake and that God would use him to defeat Goliath.

We can only deal effectively with the giants in our lives, our homes, cities and nation when we are confident in our identity, mission and and anointing.  When we are unsure of who we are in Christ and where we stand we become subject to the taunting and intimidation of the giants.

I love David's question to the army and his brothers.  "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of God?"  David is not being cocky or arrogant.  He is speaking with a clear understanding of his identity and his role.  His question came from a place of authority.  It's no different than what you might say if you came home and found an intruder in your house.

What happens next is fascinating.  David is quickly taken to Saul where he makes the same statement.  Saul, who is desperate for a soldier does his best to convince his only willing candidate to avoid going to battle.  David's response is very revealing.  Your servant has been caring for his father's sheep ...  It seems to me that the little things are always very important in God's eyes.  Doing a good job as a shepherd qualifies you for giant killing.  It's because God uses the small things to prepare us for big things. 

David's second statement is equally interesting.  'Whenever a lion or bear steals one of the lambs, I go after it with a club, grab it by the jaw and kill it.  The Lord has protected me from the lion and the bear and He will help me defeat this uncircumcised Philistine.  (paraphrase mine...)  David had confidence in God's ability to help him and protect him.  Again, God uses the little things to teach us about the big things.

Think about what David said about the lion and the bear.  'I go after it with a club.'  I think it's interesting that he doesn't use a sling, spear or bow and arrow. The club requires close contact.  After he hits it and rescues the lamb he proceeds to grab the lion or bear by the jaw.  For those of you who live in bear country, my advice is 'DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME!' Yet, this is part of what qualified him to defeat Goliath.  He learned to go to the most vulnerable place of the predator and defeat him there.  I think there's a powerful lesson of faith here.  The most dangerous place for us is also the most vulnerable place for the enemy because it's where our faith is put to work.  I'm convinced that God is more interested in our daring steps in response to His promises than He is in our multiple safety nets designed to ensure that our assets are always protected.  It might be that we don't know how to slay giants because we aren't very good at going after the lion and the bear.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Responding to the Giants - 3

The third person in the scenario is Saul.  Saul is the person who should have gone to confront Goliath. He was tallest in the kingdom, he had weapons and armour and in theory should have been a skilled warrior by that time. 

Saul in fact had become 'Mr. Dithers'.  When the nation needed leadership Saul was nowhere to be found.  His only plan to defeat Goliath was to offer his daughter and tax free living to the family of the man who would defeat Goliath.  Creative on the one hand, tremendously disappointing on the other.  This could have been Saul's greatest moment but Saul had lost 'it' and so it became his undoing.

If you were to flip back a few chapters, you would see the moment Saul lost 'it'.  Saul's life is a study in leadership gone wrong.  It's a picture of a man called to the top but lacking the character and discipline to stay there.  What should have been the begining of a dynasty became a one throne disaster.  Saul's problem was pride and independence.  Saul would not follow God's instructions or meet his expectations.  He did not understand roles and responsibilities.  He couldn't figure out where he should be and where he shouldn't be.  At the end of the day it cost him the kingdom (position) and more importantly God's presence and power (ore the anointing) in his life. 

Saul was anointed as the king of Israel but the anoiniting went to his head and resulted in a train wreck.  It's not uncommon today either.  When the anointing moves from your heart to your head, a disaster always follows.  When the anointing goes to your head, your perspectives change and you begin to function from the place of entitlement and privilege rather than from the place of a servant. 

Lost anointing leads to indecisiveness and incompotence and eventually it catches up to you.  Saul was so lost in himself that even after 6 weeks of daily challenge from Goliath, he couldn't figure out what to do next.

Pride and independence make it impossible to rise to the challenge of the giants.  I've finally begun to understand that the reason God hates our pride and independence is because it comes between Him and us.  It also causes us to live at a level far lower than what God intended for us.  Jesus said that apart from Him, we can do nothing.  I'm not sure how it works for out for you, but I know that every time I do it my way when I know I could do it God's way, a mess always results.

Saul's pride cost him everything.  What does yours cost you?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Responding to the Giants - 2

Any parent will tell you that even though children are raised by the same parents in the same household, they all turn our different. You might want to think that they should all be the same, but they are all unique. There's a great example of that when you consider David and his brothers.

The only reason that David was at the battle front was because his father had sent him to deliver food and supplies for his brothers. Upon his arrival, Goliath is in full roar and David hears the taunt for the first time. David is indignant. He's also stunned at what's happening. He starts to ask questions and find out what's going on. It's at that point that you get a snapshot of the family dynamics at Jesse's house. Eliab is the eldest, David is the youngest. Sibling rivalry is in full swing. Eliab passes judgment on David's motives. "You're just a kid... a pest and 'punk'. Go home and leave this for the men....

That might make sense except for one tiny detail that I have never noticed before...

If you remember back to when Samuel (the prophet) went to Jesse's house to anoint a new king, Eliab was the first one he saw. Samuel thought he must be the guy. He's tall, good looking and strong and yet God said that he had rejected him. It's the familiar verse where God says that man looks on the outside, but God looks on the heart. God had seem something in Eliab that caused him to reject him as a potential king. Maybe it was jealousy, a sharp tongue or a quick temper. Maybe it was something else.... The point is that Eliab would not be king because he had disqualified himself.

There are times that the giants intimidate and have their way with us because we have disqualified ourselves from the right to rid ourselves of them. Maybe it's our sin, our attitudes, our judgements or assumptions. Whatever the case, we disqualify ourselves from the promise of victory and deliverance. And so when the giants roar, we retreat to our tents and nothing ever changes.

Qualifying for giant slaying isn't difficult and yet it often remains undone. Qualifying requires repentance that leads to transformation. While we certainly need to repent for the sin that so easily entangles, we also need to repent for our attitudes, perspectives and assumptions about God, ourselves and others. Genuine repentance always leads to transformation. You won't kill the giant before your heart is changed.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Responding To The Giants - Part 1

When I think about David and Goliath, I'm usually thinking about David's faith, the battle, the takedown and the ulitmate victory.  I love the way the story plays out and it never fails to inspire me to live and dream largely.  That said, I've been thinking about something very different lately.  I'm convinced that while we don't have literal 10 foot giants challenging us to fight on a daily basis, we all face giants in our lives.  They appear as problems, challenges, threats and obstacles in our lives.  Sometimes they are financial, physical, emotional or psychological.  Like Goliath, they roar and bellow, daring us to engage them in a life and death struggle.  

There are 4 different kinds of people in the story of David and Goliath.  Each one responded very differently.  Consider the army  with me.  David refers to them as the Armies of God.  These were people with a shared heritage, history and tradition.  God was central to their culture and society but when faced with a threat, they retreated to their tents in fear.  For 40 days the same scene repeated itself.  They ran and hid in their tents when Goliath challenged them.  You have to wonder why....

I believe that their fear was based on a lack of the knowledge of God.  It's not that they were ignorant of their history as much as that they were unaffected by it.  God was a part of their past but absent in their present.  In the midst of their crisis, they had no confidence in the only One who could save them and were left trusting in their own resources and abilities.  It's no wonder that they ran....

I confess that there are times that I run from the giants.  Sometimes they intimidate me tremendously.  It's in those times that I remind myself that God needs to be in my present as much as He has been in my past.  When I take time to remember, when I take time to remind myself, when I take time to feed my spirit with His Word, my faith is rekindled and I am able to face the giants without fear.  So can you!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The PM and The Communion Wafer

There are times when no matter what you do, you do the wrong thing.  That's exactly what happened to Prime Minister Harper last weekend.  You've really got to feel sorry for the Prime Minister.  As you probably know, he attended the funeral for former Govenor General Romeo LeBlanc last weekend.  The service was in a Catholic Church and he was appropriately sitting on the front row.

Part of a Catholic funeral includes communion.  Normally, people who want to receive communion in a Catholic service get up from their seats and move to the altar area where the host and the wine are administered by the priest.  In this particular case, the priest chose to approach the front row and offer communion to those seated there.  I think it was a classy way of handling things and applaud the priest's decision.

Here's where things get sticky.... The PM is a protestant which means that he really doesn't qualify to take communion in a Catholic service.  His options are as follows:

1.  He can cross his arms to indicate that he is not a Catholic and ask for a blessing instead.  I've been ordained for almost 25 years and I didn't know that was the appropriate response.  It's hardly fair to expect the PM to know that's what he should do.  I can only wonder how the theological giants in the media would have reported that response.... PM REFUSES COMMUNION AT FORMER GG's FUNERAL. 

2.  He can put the wafer in his pocket.  It's certainly a better option than crossing his arms, except for the fact that Catholics believe that the host (the wafer) actually becomes the body of Jesus during the service, which makes it holy.  Having Jesus close by on a daily basis is something evangelicals believe in, but putting the wafer in your pocket is a bad idea, just in case the Catholics are right on this one....

3.  He can take communion.  It's probably the best option and the one that he followed, BUT.... only Catholics truly qualify to receive communion in a Catholic setting.  The priest who served said that it's probably okay if you do it once in a while, but that it shouldn't become a regular practice. I say that it's lucky for the PM that he's visiting with Pope in a few weeks where he can either confess and get it sorted out or the Pope can set him straight on what the best response might be.  Note to His Holiness... if you want to have a bit of fun with our PM, offer him communion and see what he does....

Here's the part of this story that I find really strange.  I've done a few funerals over the years and I've never seen anyone video tape the participants to see what they are doing.  I guess it's one thing if the funeral is for Michael Jackson (although I confess I couldn't help but think of the hypocrisy of the media and the masses who a week earlier would have mocked him relentlessly...) but we are talking about a State Funeral for the Governor General.  This isn't cousin Sally's wedding where you want a shot of the bride's mother smiling, crying, glaring or glowing.  Who in their right mind would video tape the serving of communion anyway?  More importantly, who would think this was a viable news story that Canadians really wanted to hear about? 

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Happy Canada Day

Happy Canada Day!

I know it's belated and it's not as though I had forgotten, but I wasn't sure what I would write today until the fireworks show at the Inner Harbour last night.  We enjoyed an amazing Canada Day.  We used the day to complete some house projects and then enjoyed a wonderful Canada Day dinner party with friends from Africa and Austrailia.  It was absolutely incredible.  After dinner we went downtown to watch the fireworks with our new friends from Austrailia. 

Fireworks are always impressive and last night was no exception.  Just as the fireworks were ending the crowd began to sing 'O Canada'.  I've never watched the fireworks from that particular spot, so maybe it happens every year, but just to hear people sing our anthem without anyone telling them to do it was tremendously inspiring. 

As we sang it together, I just couldn't help but feel a tremendous sense of pride in being a Canadian.  We live in an incredible nation.  We are a diverse and magnificent people with a strong spirit and quiet confidence.  We are the the True North, Strong and Free. 

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What a Week!

I am constantly amazed at the way God is working through Leading Influence Ministries and the doors that He continues to open. I’m tempted to say that this is perhaps the most exciting week of ministry that we had since coming to Victoria, but it’s so hard to say that because of the many other things we’ve seen God do through the ministry. I do think it’s safe to say that this week marks a significant coming of age for the ministry and that we are moving into some new and exciting territory.

Monday marked the return of MLA’s to the Legislature for the Swearing in Ceremony for both caucuses. I was privileged to be a guest at both events. It was exciting to see the many that have become friends take the oath of office and begin a 4 year term of service as an MLA. I attended the receptions following each event and found myself being greeted with warm hugs and handshakes and being introduced to new MLA’s as ‘Tim, our chaplain.’ I also met new MLA’s who are already Christians. One told me that when he took the oath, he held his father’s bible. His father was a pastor. I met another member who is a former Youth Pastor and is passionate about his faith. I’m thrilled that God has sent us believers to serve our Province as they serve Him on both sides of the Legislature.

Yesterday, I was invited to attend the Swearing In ceremony for the new Cabinet and Exectutive Council.  It was so exciting to see people that we have prayed for and have encouraged in a variety of ways being named to serve in a leadership capacity in our province.  Those who have been named will work hard and sacrifice many hours on behalf of the many people who are affected by the ministries they lead.  We believe that God has prepared each minister and the staff that surround them to be effective as they serve together.  Our role must be to continue to pray for them as they assume new responsibilities. 

While I didn't participate or expect that I would, I was reminded again that God has always been interested in leaders.  Leaders shape the agenda, direct the nation and set a course for the future.  That's why historically, God has surrounded leaders with those who carry His presence to be a source of encouragement and blessing to them.  While many strive for political agendas and action, I'm convinced that what matters more is to see our political leaders experience a spiritual transformation that is based on God's love and grace for them.   

This was also my first visit to Government House.  If you come to Victoria, you really should visit the grounds that are always open to the public.  It's a beautiful and peaceful spot.  If you ever get the chance to be invited to Government House for a function, you should go.  You won't be disappointed.

Thanks for praying for us.  You are making a difference as we move forward!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

I Can Do All Things ...

One day, a son asks his dad "Daddy, would you like to run a marathon with me?". The father says "yes". And they run their first marathon together.

Another time, the son asks his dad again "Daddy, would you like to run a marathon with me?".  The father says "yes son".

One day, the son asks his father " Daddy, would you run the Ironman with me?  " The Ironman is the most difficult triathlon ever (4 kms swimming, 180 kms bikin, 42 km running?)

And the dad says "yes".  The story looks simple until you watch the following clip. Just amazing…

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Ringing The Bell

My office is in the oldest church building in Victoria.  It is a beautiful heritiage building complete with a pipe organ, stained glass, steeple and ... a bell.  The bell is orginal to the building.  That said, the neighbourhood around the church has changed considerably since the bell was installed.  What used to be open spaces, farming and later bus parking lots has become densely populated.  In the two years since I've been here 3 condo developments have been completed with 50 M of the building and that doesn't include the 2 more that are only a few years older. 

When I arrived this morning, the bell was ringing as a reminder and invitation to those in the area that the mid week morning prayer and communion service was about to begin.  The bell is effective, but it is not necessarily melodious. It's sound is not nearly is melodious as the Carillon around the corner or the ferry horn that sounds on entrance to the harbour. 

The sound of the bell bounces of the newly constructed building to create something of an 'alarm clock' resonnance.  As I gathered my things from the car, I couldn't help but wonder what the people in new condos thought of the ringing bell.  As that thought went through my mind, something occurred to me that I think is profound.  The first is obvious.  This church has been standing for 135 years.  When it was built, there wasn't much else here.  The Empress, the Crystal Garden and the Legislature didn't even exist on paper when it was established.  Emily Carr and her family attended here as did many other Victoria pioneers.  In my mind, the church and it's ringing bell have the benefit of being here first and so the bell should continue to ring as often as necessary.

My second thought is that this church serves as a metaphor for our changing world.  So much has changed in our world and yet the message and values of the church must remain constant and the ringing of the bell, melodious or otherwise must continue to be heard.  The ringing must be an invitation to the discovery or re-discovery of spiritual foundations that never falter or fail, to hope that is eternal and to the promises of love, joy and grace.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Right Place at the Right Time

Just before the last session ended I met an MLA at the bottom of the stairs. He apologized that he wasn’t able to attend our prayer breakfast and then shared that his father had recently passed away. Combined with the normal hectic pace for MLA’s, plus preparing for an election campaign, it wasn’t hard to see that he was tired and in need of some rest and strength. We chatted for a few minutes and I was able to pray for him in the hallway. It was all about being at the right place at the right time.

The recent election has created a new chapter for us as a ministry. We’ve spent the last two years laying a foundation, building relationships, establishing credibility and gaining trust.

Most MLA’s know who we are and have received regular invitations to our events. The daily PrayBC blog posts have caught the attention of support staff on both sides of the House as well.

The security staff understand that they need not be concerned about the devout loiterer in the rotunda or gallery and some have shared their own prayer needs and burdens which I consider a real privilege.

I believe that we are really in the right place at the right time in terms of being able to expand the ministry in some very significant ways. With the next election 4 years away, the atmosphere will be somewhat less partisan than it has been in the last year which will make it easier to bring people together.

Another exciting development is that we are at a place where our relationships are strong enough (particularly after our ministry to candidates during the campaign) that we will be able to move into more ’normal’ types of ministry with small groups, etc, which is something I’m really looking forward to doing.

Can I ask you to pray for us as we move forward. We are charting new territory and every day is an adventure as we move forward towards the fulfillment of what God has put in our hearts.

Thanks for remembering us!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Some Political Humour

My mom called me over the weekend to say that it was time to update my blog.  I've been pretty busy with PrayBC, but she's right, it's way past time for an update.  So.... here's a joke that someone sent me.  If your skin is thin, take it with a grain of salt ...

While walking down the street one day a "Member of Parliament" is tragically hit by a truck and dies.

His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.

'Welcome to heaven,' says St. Peter. 'Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we're not sure what to do with you.'

'No problem, just let me in,' says the man.

'Well, I'd like to, but I have orders from higher up. What we'll do is have you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity.'

'Really, I've made up my mind. I want to be in heaven,' says the MP.

'I'm sorry, but we have our rules.'

And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him.

Everyone is very happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of the people.

They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and champagne.

Also present is the devil, who really is a very friendly & nice guy who has a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a good time that before he realizes it, it is time to go.

Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises...

The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens on heaven where St. Peter is waiting for him.

'Now it's time to visit heaven.'

So, 24 hours pass with the MP joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns.

'Well, then, you've spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now choose your eternity.'

The MP reflects for a minute, then he answers: 'Well, I would never have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in hell.'

So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell.

Now the doors of the elevator open and he's in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage.

He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags as more trash falls from above.

The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulder. 'I don't understand,' stammers the MP. 'Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now there's just a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable.

What happened?'

The devil looks at him, smiles and says, 'Yesterday we were campaigning.. ..  Today you voted.'

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Skeletons in the Closet...

The election campaign is showing some interesting signs.  On Monday, NDP candidate Ray Lam withdrew from the race after some online racy photos appeared on Facebook.  Yesterday, Solicitor General John van Dongen had to surrender his drivers license because of too many speeding tickets and it was discovered that a third candidate, Liberal Jesse McClinton was charged with some serious traffic offenses several years ago.

Depending on your perspective, the indiscretions that have caused this attention for the candidates may be relatively minor and almost 'incidental' or these could be matters that you find beyond the realm of acceptable conduct for candidates for public office.  The Opposition is calling for Mr. van Dongen's resignation as Solicitor General this afternoon.  It will be interesting to see what happens.

I confess that the temptation to offer my thoughts on what should happen is nearly overwhelming and I've hit the delete button multiple times as I've written this post, but here's what I'd really like to say.

I think we are fascinated by the misdeeds of others. I think that knowing that others have fallen and made poor choices along the way somehow satisfies our own sense of guilt and regret.  When their sins are deemed worse than how we may see ours, we are empowered with a sense of self-righteousness that allows us to pass judgement and demand resignation, pennance or withdrawal.  It's usually only when our sins are caught in the spotlight that we are driven by a desire for mercy over justice.

I'm reminded of the words of Jesus when he was confronted with the woman caught in adultery.  'Let him who is without sin cast the first stone...'  I think it was probably one of those moments where the silence that followed thundered so loudly that it surpassed the normal chatter of everyday life.  It had the intended effect and soon it was just Jesus and the woman standing alone on the street.  His response to her was one of grace and direction.  'I don't condemn you either.  Go and sin no more.'

I wonder what Jesus might say to the three men who have had their sins exposed to British Columbians over the past week?  I wonder what response He might require of them and I wonder what He requires of us. 

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Prime Minister's Easter Greeting

ListenUp TV received a call from the Prime Minister asking if he could share an Easter Greeting with Canadians.  They willingly obliged and I've uploaded it for you here.  Many thanks to Richard Long and our friends at the National House of Prayer (NHOP) for this information.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ready, Set ....

After a session that went longer than some expected that it would, the Legislature recessed today.  The Premier will call the election on April 14 and British Columbians will go to the polls on May 12.  While every election is important, in light of the current global economic challenges, this election is more important than most. 

For most of the past 6 months, we have been working hard to develop a province wide prayer network that we've called PrayBC.  The vision is to simply ask God to use the election to accomplish His purposes for our province.  We know that prayer is the key that releases God's power on the earth.  We also know that as the Church assumes it's appropriate priestly role within our society, God is always eager to respond. 

Here's what it looks like and how you can be a part of this exciting opportunity to shape the future of our province:

1.  Join our email network.  For each day of the campaign, we will send an email to each member of the PrayBC network.  The email will contain a specific prayer focus, scripture verse and written prayer.  The email will be scheduled to come to your inbox by about 10 AM, or about the same time that most people get a coffee break.  You'll be able to pray along with us right at work or wherever you might be.  You can join our network by clicking here.  For more information on PrayBC watch our promo video.

2.  Participate in an event.  We have scheduled 4 prayer events for this campaign. 

     April 14 - Election Campaign Kick Off Prayer Meeting
                     Sidney Pentecostal Assembly - 7 PM

    April 15 - Province Wide Conference Call  7 PM PST
                    click here to register for this call.  Please use 'April 15' in the subject line.
    May 3 - Victoria Election Prayer Rally - 7 PM
                 Church of Our Lord - 626 Blanshard St, Victoria, BC

    May 6 - Day Of Prayer and Fasting for the Election - Watch for an outline that will be posted here.
                 Province Wide Conference Call - 7 PM PST
                 Click here to register for this call.  Please use 'May 6' in the subject line.

3.  Share this with as many people as possible.  Our goal is for 10,000 people to join our network before the campaign concludes.  We need your help to get there.  Can we count on you?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Where is the Church Led Economic Recovery?

Click here for original article
March 20, 2009
By Lorna Dueck CBC News

There was a time when Canadian churches knew how to help you face the worst that economic storms could wreak. In the Great Depression, for example, there were pockets of faith-based activists who launched social change on such a scale that much of it is still with us today.

The 1930s was a period — like today? — when the public expected religious groups to both provide for desperate people and encourage their spirit.  At the peak of the Depression, 27 per cent of Canadians and 25 per cent of Americans were out of work.

The strongest example of this probably came out of Atlantic Canada, which was hit hard early in the Depression. The dire poverty, unjust "cod lords," and rock-bottom prices for fish, wood and farm products brought the Catholic church thundering to the rescue with what would become the co-operative movement and the genesis of credit union banking.

Today at the Coady International Institute at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., you will discover the words of its late founder, Rev. Moses Coady still branding its website with his motivational style: "You are poor enough to want it and smart enough to do it."

This social entrepreneurship, however, wasn't what most expected from clergy at the time, allows Mary Coyle, the current director of the Coady Institute. But it grew out of the Catholic board of governors at St FX who asked Coady to establish an Extension Department fuelled by clerical thoughts on work and the dignity of people.

Birth of a movement

"His idea was to bring people together in schools, study clubs and kitchen meetings and let's do two things: help people understand what's going on and mobilize people to do what they want to do practically," said Coyle.

"There was a study club to start up your own credit union, your own co-operative canning factory for your lobster, how to establish a dairy co-operative, a housing co-operative. Today we'd call them social entrepreneurs."

Coady's visionary book, Masters of Their Own Destiny, summed up his approach: people in poverty have the capacity to be masters of their own lives if they are supported through education and expertise.  He leveraged that vision with a little economic help from on high when American industrialist Andrew Carnegie became one of the earliest funders of the study groups.  The project is still known as the Antigonish Movement and still trains leaders from around the world on a people-based approach with deep theological underpinnings.

Prairie fire

In Western Canada, Protestants had their own social gospel study groups launched by Alberta's evangelical radio preacher, William "Bible Bill" Aberhart, and his assistant, Ernest Manning.  Saskatchwan premier and former Baptist minister T.C. Douglas, the pioneer of medicare. Aberhart's Prophetic Bible Institute found that its soup kitchens needed more nourishment than just a refillable bowl. Their study groups began organizing for political office.

By 1935, preacher Aberhart had become a reluctant premier swept into power with his new Social Credit Party. It would hold office for the next 36 years, one of the astounding feats of Canadian political life.

Meanwhile, next door in Saskatchewan, Baptist preacher Tommy Douglas was taking Christianity into a different form of frenetic activism.  He described the church in the early thirties as "dumb as an oyster to the poverty and misery all around" and pushed for fresh interpretations of old faith that organized the unemployed, created job agencies to shovel snow and shipped B.C.'s excess fruit and Ontario's leftover clothes to those in need.

He also launched study groups to train new leaders and inspire hope. And he fought against the tendency of preachers to "get back to nice generalities" so that, eventually, ministers — not of politics but of the cloth — tackled tariffs, grain trading and railway rates.

Douglas would have to resign the pastorate to become Saskatchewan premier and then the first federal leader of the NDP.

Good neighbours

Today in Canada we seem to have built high walls around faith in public life.  Canada has secularized social activism and the church is in a long recovery for past sins. Problems at residential schools and sex abuse by small but not insignificant numbers of clergy will likely take a century or so to heal.

Religious fundamentalism is undergoing massive revision at the moment and yet we still we have large numbers of people going to church.  In fact, there's anecdotal evidence to suggest there is an increase in the number of Canadians attending church each week, which brings us to wonder how our ubiquitous places of worship may be of help in this economic downtown?

Nationally, church groups are well organized and sophisticated in their approach to asking governments to deal with such important issues as poverty reduction. In May, the Canadian Council of Churches will hold an Ottawa forum on "Faith and a Sustainable Economy."  Part of its ongoing concern is the estimated 750,000 children in this country who are "limited by conditions of poverty."

Every preacher I know has brought the issues of this economic meltdown into Sunday sermons but it is not clear at all at this juncture if these spiritual teachings — or the national organizations — are making a difference.

Former Reform Party leader Preston Manning (the son of Ernest, Aberhart's successor as Alberta premier) wonders if faith leadership is not caught up in a bad 2009 rewrite of the Good Samaritan story.

"Today, they leave the guy lying on the road because they're going to a government meeting to find out what to do with improving the Jericho road conditions when in fact the state can't be the good neighbour on social services. People have to do this for themselves. Look after themselves," says Manning, whose life bridges past and present church activism.

He challenges today's church to use spiritual truth to teach that "man will not live by bread, oil or auto parts alone in this economy," but with a resurgence in the relationship with God that will sustain and instruct, particularly when it comes to how-to.