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!