Saturday, February 28, 2009

All for one person

The other day I finally had the opportunity to respond to an emergency with the volunteer fire department I am a member of. I've been a member for nearly a year but had yet to make it to a call either because we've been called off the scene before we've arrived or I've been out of town or busy working during the call. But this other day I made it!

I won't give any great details (because I'm not sure that I'm allowed to share them) but, needless to say, it was a motor vehicle accident involving a semi-truck. Off the road and off a bridge and into a creek. Having a high level of first aid I was on scene and at the victim's side for most of the time we were required to be there before he was extricated. What I found to be remarkable about the whole event was the level of care, dedication and work that went into saving and helping just one life. There were roughly 8 of us fire fighters, some police men, Search and Rescue people and ambulance paramedics. Probably close to 20 different people with all different skills assisting this one poor (and lucky) soul. We all worked hard for nearly 3 hours to get the driver safely out of the truck and the creek and into medical care. All that for one person!! I was unequivocally astounded by our standard for how greatly we value human life ... at least in emergency situations. That people will voluntarilly and with sincerety put their own lives on the line for another person. It just felt RIGHT to be a part of a team whose underpinning drive for responding is that all life is invaluably precious and worth fighting to save.
If only this care and sincerety could be translated to other circumstances.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Prayer, is a fascinating thing. This act (if it can simply be called an act) is our tangable bridge of relationship with God. The vehicle that often proves faith is evident and invokes the hand of God to salvation. Often it is the means by which we learn our true relation to the maker of all that is created. Prayer.

And yet, I have some difficulty with it. With, perhaps, how I have been taught prayer is used. What it is. How I have been taught to pray. The reason I have difficulty is this: (and I have only really been able to put words to it just recently) that how we understand how we relate to God/pray to Him, greatly affects our understanding of the kind of God He is - His characteristics, the truth of His views. This is true in any relationship. How you're told to communicate properly with certain individuals greatly changes what you think they're really like. If your parents tell you you can only call other adults Mr. & Mrs. so and so, and to do so is rude or whatever, how does this affect what you think of adults? Or society? Or what's acceptable or isn't?

This is troubling for me because how I have prayed/been taught to pray, has been limited. It, in the beginning at any rate, was mostly a formula. Kind of like coming before the audience chamber of a king. You don't just jump up to the throne and 'hang' with the king. There's protocol. You have to petition for an audience. Make sure your appeal is worthy to bring forth to the king. Follow the procedures in honouring Him when you enter the throne room. Only get so close; don't look at him for too long. Hope beyond hope that he has regard for your now seemingly insignificant request amongst the vast list of petitions he's already received, etc. But this is not prayer, far from it.
I used to have this magnet on my fridge. It said 'Pray, there is immeasurable power in it'. I hated that magnet. Not just because it had these cheesy pastel flowers on it, but because there is a small but incredibly subtle untruth in that statement. There is NOT immeasurable power in prayer. Meaning, there is not immeasurable power in WHAT I DO to affect what God can do. Only God has the claim and right to immeasurable power. That small phrase stinks of manipulation - of faith based on works. The works being: the harder I pray, the longer I pray, the more I pray, the earlier I pray, the more likely God will hear me, do something, listen, help me, change my circumstances, relieve my guilt, make me holier, more godly, spiritual and so on and so on. And is this not how and why we are taught to pray?? Even subtly? I remember being taught the old A.C.T.S. acronymn. That 4 step process to positive prayer: adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication. But they all formulas! How do you put a formula to a relationship? How to you formulize (I just made that word up) communication between friends? I have to laugh thinking that if I stepped up to my best friend and looked him in the eye and began reciting that acronymn and repeating the steps and voicing my structured thoughts to him how sick he'd become of my attempt to communicate with him. No matter how sincere my attempt, my own understanding of prayer would keep me at a distance from my friend that He never intended or wanted.
So ... what is prayer then? Well, first, I must say that all my life I have most sincerely sought to communicate with the Lord. And I felt that He has always been gracious to listen to me despite my misunderstandings. But my knowledge and understanding of Him is changing ... all the time. Because He is HUGE and beyond comprehension. And so my understanding of how I relate to Him changes ... all the time. I find that prayer is far larger and encompasses far more than we would probably like or feel comfortable admitting. To me, I think, prayer is every thing I do that affects my relationship with my creator. Which is really ... everything I do and say and think and experience. My whole life is prayer, everything about it, if I'm conscious to remember that God is at all times amongst me, listening, watching, working, caring. So, in my mind's eye, when I'm walking silently up the road to work in the morning on a crisp winter day with the sunlight falling through bare branches and the wind whistling over cold mountains, my God my friend walks with me beside me, enjoying the same crisp morning I am. And so I commune with my God. When my heart aches to hear of how a friend has lost someone he loves to death, my God aches with me! When in conversation about difficult and trying issues and circumstances with my wife, we are not only talking to each other by also sharing with our Lord. For He listens and acts and yearns with us. Most every, if not every, conversation I have with another person, is a prayer. It is communication with the Almighty - '... for whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' (Matt. 25:40) and '... men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.' Sobering thoughts for me. I am not trying to make excuses for my own failings, but I will certainly not choose to treat God as less than He is. As though I have power over His will. I don't think those great men and women of faith cause great things to happen because of how they pray. I think they have a deep understanding of God's character and are close to Him and we see that and we wish we could be like them, perhaps, and we wonder what must we DO! But it is not what we DO! It is perhaps simply BEING with God. It is knowing Him, being loved by Him and returning that love. Perhaps. I'm not sure. I'm still working through it all and likely always will be.

Monday, February 09, 2009


Recently I was chatting with a pastor friend of mine about "a great many things." The phenomenon of our current evangelical church was a part of the discussion and something of a revelation (pardon the pun) came to me.

I had asked this friend, retorically, what would happen if we decided to shut all the churches down in the town I live in (Hope) for, say, a month ... or a year. Believe it or not, there are a number of small churches here: Baptist, Church of the Nazarene, Pentecostal, Harvest, Two Anglicans (recently divorced), Catholic, United, etc.. By shut down, I mean close the buildings and keep the pastor/priest from performing his 'religious' duties. What would happen?? - well, I thought, you'd probably have a good number of people down right upset! Like, they'd probably think you were loony (if YOU were the one to shut them down). The really zealous ones might say something like: 'You're destroying the work of God!' or 'Satan has deceived you!' or some such thing. There would probably be a good many who would break into the church and do something like a 'service' anyway and think of themselves as clever christians who are persecuted for their faith. And, I bet there would be a few who might actually enjoy not having to go to church on the Sunday mornings.

I had thought that something else might also happen: it might be (if the buildings couldn't be entered) that people would meet to worship the Lord anyway, just not in a church building. They might just decide to keep the old system going as best as possible. And then again, maybe there would be a change in how we view this machine we call church. Like, it might actually start looking more like a living organic thing. One that is not segregated and categorized by walls or building structures; by doctrines and emphasies on particular statements of belief. One that does not set one person (usually a man) above the rest in the spiritual hierarchy of our so called evangelical churches (the pastor/priest). One where one person is not guaranteed a wage to support a growing unsupportable system of maintaining a spiritual worldview that is limited to the confines of a few buildings, programs and people who call themselves 'Baptist' or 'Nazarene' or whatever. Of course, denominations surely wouldn't go for it. We'd be dismantling the entire organization! Plus the financial system that keeps it afloat. And the means by which spiritual success is somehow measured [sic].

And then I got thinking about how I feel like God just isn't cooped up in a church building or even every church building. Like he's just too big for this. He's so much greater and vaster! He has such grander ideas! His ways are so far above ours. As if we can keep him confined to a particular structure. Wait a MINUTE! Isn't that what the Israelites did in the desert? They made this golden calf thingy, like RIGHT after Moses brings them out of slavery in Egypt, led by the Lord Almighty himself as a pillar of fire and cloud. They make this gold cow and start worshipping God as if he's inside this golden calf!! Or ... worshipping a god as if he's inside the cow. But what is an idol but a definable, limited manmade structure? An attempt at controlling that which we know we have no control over. It's, presumably, easy to worship a cow! We know exactly what a cow does, how it lives, what it lives for, what it eats, where it stands on the survival chain. It then gives definable and explanatory reasons for a god's or God's actions and thoughts and intents. But then, does not a church building and programs do that too?? Do not our own doctrines do that too?? That to say I'm Pentecostal means I believe that God is more interested in the act of giving spiritual gifts than he is in another equally important article of the faith I have? That God really only works to bring about his kingdom through his church ... and therefore through the people who believe ... well, believe like I do? People who go to THIS building and are a part of THIS denomination? Are our churches (the buildings and organizational institutions) not just giant gold cows!!!!

I guess I'm just redefining the term idolatry, in my own mind. It seems to me that we have often used the term 'put God in a box' a whole lot but never really considered just how ridiculous that thought is because of how un-puttable God is. His dimensions cannot be grasped and his thoughts cannot be measured and our religious gatherings in NO way are any where CLOSE to the summation of His intent and action. Oh how quick we are to deify even how we do what we do. I'm not suggesting that churches are evil or buildings are useless or programs are pointless. No, but if they become the focal point and the anchoring cement to how it is we choose to know who our Saviour is, we have completely lost the point. And God, then will only be as big as we see Him to be. But that's a scary place to be for some. Myself notwithstanding. Even our doctrines can become snares and traps that give us some false hope that our God has limited bounds that give us ease in thinking about who He is.

When I hear God say 'You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.' (Exodus 20:4) I hear him say 'You shall never control me nor shall you ever make yourselves slaves to your own ideas of who you think I am. I am uncontainable!'.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Conference and canoeing

Just this past few days I have attended the BCCA/FCC camping conference at Stillwood Camp and Conference Centre in Chilliwack, BC. It was a most rewarding time, enjoying the company of many other people (directors, camp cooks, maintenance folk, interns, administrators all others who make a camp run). The world of camping is expanding and growing and changing all the time. What was once considered a way to have fun in the summer is a burgeoning business and a ministry that meets an enormous variety of needs and serves people of all ages all year round. I continue to have a deepening respect for those I work alongside and I hope that you, too, will grow in such respect. The highlights for me are always the connecting and relating to others who are friends, or who, for the first time, become friends in this shared adventure and love I call Christian camping.

Also, very soon, I will again be paddling down the Fraser River to raise monies to support our young volunteers who come to counsel and care for children for the summer months. Please consider this an exciting invitation to support us in our efforts to reward these young people with a bursary for tuition after their months of service. Last year over $70, 000.00 were raised and we hope to continue the momentum! For me, I just enjoy being on the mighty Fraser and steering that large voyageur down that ancient waterway with a bunch of enthusiastic paddlers. If you'd like to donate for such a cause, contact camp Squeah: