Monday, May 19, 2008
She also told of one particular store that caters to transvestites. It appeared to be rather successful, and she started praying over it -- praying for God to take control. A while back, she actually laid hands on the store as she was praying.
Now, she reports, the store has gone out of business and has been replaced by a furniture store.
She also reported that a strip club on Davie Street, over which a lot of people had been praying, had its lease cancelled "randomly" (her word).
This girl's prayer has accomplished more than a million protests or a million petitions with a million signatures. Such actions may satisfy one's fleshly desire to react when one is offended, but all that does is make people think we're attacking or judging them personally, and that never wins anyone to the Kingdom. We are not called to attack or judge anyone, but to show that the Way of Jesus is so wonn derfully bright and filled with hope that there is no other way to go. We need to trust that people will love Jesus enough to keep His commandments (John 14:15; 15:10) and remember how we, ourselves, were convicted of our own sins and repented when we came into the presence of His incomprehensible love.
Friday, May 16, 2008
- Today's NY Times has a story from Texas, about a plague of tiny ants that defy pesticides.
- The "discussion" over "global warming" (or whatever) is pitting urban-dwellers in Vancouver against those who live in the 'burbs as never before. A letter to the editor over the weekend had some jerk who lives in Downtown Vancouver saying that the people who complain about high gas prices because they have to commute longer differences and it's creating financial hardship are finally paying the price for their own "short-sightedness" -- i.e. moving to the 'burbs because they wanted to own a home and didn't want to pay the prices in Vancouver (or live in high-rise million-dollar condos that make mink farms look like the Waldorf-Astoria.
- 5-figure fatality count in the earthquake in China
- 6-figure fatality count in the cyclone in Myanmar
- massive outpouring of grief over the killing of a spider monkey at the Greater Vancouver Zoo
- Oprah becomes a "JW" -- not Jehovah's Witness, but "Jesus (Without)" -- i.e. Jesus without religion, accountability, conviction ... or, by extension, repentance and redemption.
Who wants to play a game of "count the signs that Jesus foretold"?
Points 2 & 5 qualify as "the love of many shall wax cold".
Point 6 qualifies as "many shall come, saying, 'I am Christ' ..."
It all means we Christians have to get busy, restore our own relationship with God and help bring others into the Kingdom, because when He returns, we don't want them left behind ... and we don't want to have to tell the Big Sir that we could see this coming and didn't do what we were supposed to.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
The action started just as I was arriving: some guy coming out of the alley, obviously angry at something, unleashing a string of profanity towards me. I replied, "God bless you" ... "WHAT???" ... "God bless you" ... and he looked like he was about to lunge at me, and then thought better of it.
(I remember Barry's description of the times he's been cold-cocked on the DTES, simply for preaching the Word; and has simply blessed his attacker. That would be my model.)
Danilo was waiting for me and stepped in, almost escalating the situation by not letting the guy walk away without getting an earful. That's uncharacteristic for Danilo -- or actually, for the Danilo I've known for the past year or so. When I first met him -- at Rainbow Mission -- he had a hot temper, and on a couple of occasions looked ready to take on someone who was giving me lip. But as he's grown closer to the Lord, that part of him has come into captivity, and he's been much different.
Pastor Reggie in New York told me that some of the "regulars" at the Bowery are quite protective of him (not that I count Danilo as "regular"). On one occasion, a newcomer got mouthy, and one of the regulars turned on him and said, "you don't talk to Pastor Reggie like that!", then took him outside. Reggie went after them to explain that "that's not how we handle things" ... but admitted that he did wait a couple of minutes first.
But I digress ...
Something I've learned about the people on the DTES is that they do respond to a firm voice. Amelia was telling our home group last night, how she has her "Amelia" voice and also her "mom" voice; I can't wait to hear her use her "mom" voice on Ladies' Night! One of the guys who's visited the Lord's Rain before -- a fellow called Horndog -- came in for the shower, and was switching in and out of different personalities like some people change lanes on the LA Freeway. At one time, he'd be calm and rational; then as if on a hair-trigger, become foul-mouthed and belligerent.
He started getting mouthy with Danilo, which is not a good proposition; and finally I stepped in and pointed out the "no swearing / abusive / violent behaviour" rule -- and told him I wouldn't want to have him barred for 30 days (another piece of policy lifted from Pastor Reggie's handbook!) -- and he settled right down.
Danilo says it's because so many of the people on the DTES have been institutionalized and are used to getting orders. I suspect it's a little like Roger Jamison at Anchor House in Brooklyn: people who haven't had discipline and a firm but loving voice to keep them in line, respond when they finally get one.
We've talked about the "soft evangelism" represented by The Lord's Rain: the fact that we don't do any overt Preaching, but just let people feel the love and fellowship of Christ while a basic need is met. Sometimes, that need is just coffee, a warm place to sit, and a chance to chat. Certainly, Horndog gets that when he's there (which is why I'm loath to give him the honor of being the first to be barred from the place), and we get to meet some interesting people who we wouldn't ordinarily meet, upstairs in our coccoon.
Tim -- the first-ever shower "customer" -- turns out to be an ironworker, as in one of the guys stomping around on the skeletons of skyscrapers. (He mentioned having family back east, so I wonder if he's Mohawk -- descended from the guys who built New York City's skyscrapers a century ago, noted for having no fear of heights?) Anyway, he'll be starting work soon, helping install the elevators at Shangri-La, the 62-story landmark being built on West Georgia.
The value of the facility also became evident when Shelley, the "doorway duchess" I've mentioned before, arrived just as we were about to close up, with a man leaning on her. At first, I thought he was stoned, because he could barely walk, but his affliction was much more mundane than that: he had a serious back injury.
(Shelley gives every impression of being a street-hardened homeless addict, doing deals and smoking up from her "home" in a doorway in the building next to ours. She's been on the streets for about six years, she told me. But I also sense a lot of love in her heart, and I know the Lord wants her bad. So we need to keep her in prayer for miracles and revelations and for her to draw closer to God -- not just for her sake, but for the sake of those who hang around her: I get the feeling that if she were to renounce the life she's in now and come to the Kingdom, others will follow.)
We managed to get Dave into a chair, and, for want of any chiropractic knowhow, we started praying over him and laying on hands. He relaxed somewhat, so we could find out what had happened: he had fallen down 40 stairs early in the morning. We called the ambulance and they got him to the hospital. Another fellow -- presumably a street worker -- helped get information and comfort him and then went to the hospital with him.
All of which demonstrates the purpose of The Lord's Rain. It's not "just" about showers for street people. It was a place that was open at an hour that others aren't, and welcoming: and a place that Shelley knew would be able to help Dave.
That's why so many people who have contributed in the ways they've contributed -- and continue to do so -- are caught up with the idea: a way of reaching people many might think are unreachable, coming in through the side door to their souls.
And that's what "soft evangelism" is all about.
It's also a probable reason why it's time to get a cat, because we're still running a battle with the rats.
The little brutes manage to chew through practically every barrier we've put up -- concrete, foil, whatever. You don't need to be Rick Joyner to figure out what's going on!
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
A blurb I sent out recently about A Very Convenient Truth caught the attention of talk-show host Frank Pastore at KKLA Los Angeles, and I did a brief interview with him yesterday (May 12). Among other things, the interview served to remind me of a basic – and at times, inconvenient – truth: people – Christians – have a hard time grasping the concept that the Word of God is supposed to trump whatever the world thinks.
It may have been to elicit that response from me, but Frank kept moving the discussion into the political arena. That's understandable: it's an election year, and Sen. McCain is now bringing climate change to the forefront in his campaign. In fact, McCain has been concerned about global warming for many years, and has been criticized in the past for pro-green "bias".
So in the interview, Frank said on more than one occasion, “but this is a secular country: how does that (the premise of the book) translate into policy?” And I kept trying to explain that it has nothing to do with politics: that the premise of the book is that the current environmental trauma is less about GHGs and CACs and all about our personal relationship with God. Clear that up, and – just as in all other areas of life – He takes care of the worldly stuff. Get a whole bunch of Believers together, committing to follow the Word of God in every area, including environmental issues, and not buying into the world’s solutions (like making motor fuel out of the grain God intended for food), and you start to see results. Sometimes, the Word of God seems to have nothing to do with the “immediate” problem, but didn’t someone say that if we seek Him first, everything else will be taken care of?
Granted, it was only a 9-minute interview, and that’s a very hard message to get out. Thor Tolo gave me a full two hours, and we still didn’t cover everything. Frank had a very good point: politicians want to be seen to be Active And Engaged on important issues, and the concept of “seeking the Lord” gives every impression of someone who just wants to hide in his prayer closet until the problem goes away or someone else deals with it. But anyone who has ever had to rely on God to provide solutions knows that prayer – “Be still, and know that I am God” – is the most effective tool we have.
It all comes down to the hard-crunchy question for a Christian: Do you believe the Bible or don’t you?
I’ve preached this message on more than one occasion: the difference between believing in God and believing God. Believing in God means you accept that He exists; believing God means you read His Word and accept that it applies in everyday life, regardless of the physical situation.
Believing God is what faith is all about, and (to put it rather crudely) if you take faith out of your Christian walk, the Bible is reduced to a manifesto for the self-righteous. And then we’re no better than the pagans and Jesus-despisers in the environmental movement.
Our world is in a state of environmental trauma, and if we refuse to turn to the Creator for the solutions at this time – if we refuse to believe that Jesus died and rose again to give us the direct connection we need to the Lord in all things – then we’re like Peter in Gethsemane. We declare fervently that we’ll defend Jesus at all times, but when the soldiers of the world show up, we just swing our sword (the Word of God) wildly, hack off someone’s ear, and then run away to leave Jesus hanging on the Cross.
Monday, May 12, 2008
"Welcome to the Next Level," the Lord says. I know He never gives us anything we can't handle, so obviously He figures we at Gospel Mission can handle what He's about to throw at us.
Janet has already remarked that she's never really had a window on the street before. It's easy to feel like you're in a cocoon on the second floor, but that's OK, because if any of us had been dropped, like Mr Bean, into the middle of the DTES without the gradual "pressurization" -- the experience of dealing with people who have long since stopped trusting others and the time spent gaining a reputation as people who walk in Love and not judgment -- we'd have been discouraged from the start. Now, praise God, we know that He is strengthening us in this task, lifting us up and will not leave us unattended. He's already decreed that, but, as with many other things we face, the trick is to convince ourselves of that truth. Now, we're ready.
The other Word that keeps coming to me as I watch people do their drugs and make their deals and generally stomp around the place with those convulsive movements that mark someone who's strung out on crack or crystal meth is, "these are somebody's children". A young woman -- heck: a girl -- came up to us a couple of weeks ago as we were leaving from the Saturday night service. We had some cookies left over, and she saw them and asked for one. Amelia gave them to her, and after she left, I said, "she's just a girl. She could be my daughter!" "Keep praying that it won't be," Amelia replied, "and pray that if ever it is, there'll be someone to give her a cookie."
(Don't Get Me Started Dep't: the BC Nurses Union is demanding more funding for the safe injection site. One nurse says her heroin-addicted sister might be alive today if she'd had a "safe place to shoot up". Indeed? Let's not blame the lack of a "safe place" for that wasted life: the responsibility lies with the people who introduced her to heroin in the first place, and before that, those who created the situation leading to her even wanting to try it. People have kicked the habit in the past. People need encouragement to get off the drug and the hope that there's a reason for doing it. Handing someone a needle and saying, "here's a 'safe place': go ahead and shoot", simply tells them they're always going to be a drug addict so they might as well give up hope. But of course, the best hope is in Christ, and a lot of people don't want to tell anyone that.)
Back to the showers ... People are coming in for a coffee and some stick around to chat and some actually have a shower. In five openings so far, we've served 17 people. Some might call that a slow start: I look at it as being exactly what God wants for the place. K-Mack said it perfectly last Saturday night: imagine what it will look like in a couple of years!
Painting day: Kathy (a/k/a The Towel Lady) and Sean putting Coat One on the Lord's Rain
Ladies' Night got underway this past Friday. Janet is ready to do manicures, and the others -- Amelia, K-Mack and Sandy -- were there to greet whomever wanted to come in. One woman came in for the shower, but K-Mack (K-Mack = Kathy McPhillips who is, among other things, Worship leader on Saturday nights; this differentiates her from Kathy Kinahan, a/k/a The Towel Lady) was the only one who got a manicure. Janet drew a neat little flower on one fingernail. Unfortunately, in order to show it to me, K-Mack had to make a rude gesture, and I hold Janet fully responsible for that!
In terms of numbers, these are humble beginnings. But in terms of outreach, we're already doing our job. We weren't going to do any overt preaching -- Barry calls it "soft evangelism" -- but there's no doubt that the showers project is the work of a Christian organization, motivated by a touch from God to provide a basic human need to people. It's getting us onto street level, giving us a better view of the world we serve -- and giving people in that world a better view of us -- and, we pray, of Jesus.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Indeed, it's amazing how fast those signs have manifested, because they were only faint shadows of doubt as recently as the time that the last draft of A Very Convenient Truth went to the printers, and now they've become a true monster. An article in the Regina Leader-Post describes how farm communities are being "revitalized" by this new source of income. It paints the picture of struggling farmers now able to pay the bills and keep the family business afloat, thanks to the market for feedstock for biofuels.
It's been sad to watch family farms go under in North America, especially watching them getting gobbled up by large conglomerates with an eye more on the profit margin than on the integral part farms play in the prairie economy. I won't go into my observations on that here, except to say that the impact of a farm's being taken over by one of these conglomerates has a lengthy ripple effect on communities and the psyche of the area. One would think that anything that could keep the farmers in business would be welcome and a blessing, and that biofuel is that blessing.
But is it? There are a couple of Biblical reasons why not: producing fuel is not what farmers are called to do, and if we step away from our calling, the end cannot be blessed.
Proverbs 20:21 comes to mind: An inheritance may be gotten hastily at the beginning, but the end thereof shall not be blessed.
Scripture tells us that we run into serious problems when we step away from God's Promise for the sake of expediency. In Genesis, for example, we follow Abraham (Abram, as he was at first), who's first been told to pick up and leave his home and go to a different place -- the Promised Land. Then, when famine hits, Abraham heads into Egypt because he's heard things are better there. Finally, he leaves Egypt, bringing with him huge "substance" -- cattle and gold and menservants and maidservants and a load of other fine possessions. Guess who's among those maidservants? Hagar, his wife's personal assistant, with whom Abraham later has a son, Ishmael.
Ishmael has been referred to as the "child of impatience", and God foretold that his seed would be constantly at war with others: and that has been true of Ishmael's seed even today.
That condenses several chapters in order to get to the point. Abraham left the Promised Land -- stepped out of the place God had sent him -- because of the famine, but also because he stepped out of faith that the Lord would provide. (Interesting that it's Abraham who, when confronted with the possibility of sacrificing his own son, Isaac, states, "The Lord will provide".) He went after the short-cut, worldly solution, rather than stick it out in the famine and turn to God for the solution. He probably thought the chance to go to Egypt was God's solution.
But Abraham was blessed of God to begin with, and others around him knew it. Why would God call him into Egypt when He'd already told him this was the land He'd given him? Now look what Abraham got for his sojourn in Egypt: he came back with a load of baggage, which all seemed to be good and a blessing, but there was at least one "calf in the carload", namely Hagar, who turned out to represent grief for Abraham and succeeding generations.
In other words, when we step out of the will of God in the interests of short-term gain, we acquire "baggage" that appears to be truly good, but eventually comes back to bite us. Farmers have a calling of God on their lives: to produce food. Using food for any other purpose than food goes against the Will of God. Genesis 1:29 states, And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
It does not say that those "herbs" are to be used for fuel. Clearly, biofuel, when derived from food like canola, soy or anything else initially intended for food, is against the Will of God. It is not, nor cannot come to, good.
Farmers, don't do it! Stay within God's Will, and don't succumb to the fear-mongering and political and business opportunism associated with the rush to producing biofuel. If your bottom line is suffering right now, hold onto the Promise. God honors those who are "willing to be willing" and if you commit to hang in there, even with biofuel producers offering substantially higher prices for the biofuel market, that blessing will come sooner, rather than later.
Remember: God provides solutions; the devil provides shortcuts.
Monday, May 5, 2008
Well ... note "Positively Jim"'s comment below, re "They Must Be Smoking Something" ... it proves my point, which is rather sad.
But I do love him, and will pray for his eyes to be opened and God's truth revealed.
Sunday, May 4, 2008
"We smoke pot! We smoke pot!"
That was the chant from a rally on Saturday in Vancouver: something which a news report described as commemorating the "Million Marijuana March", whatever the heck that was. It was, simply put (so that even those smoking something can understand it), another demonstration demanding the "right" to smoke marijuana without being "hassled" by "pigs".
To begin with, giving the demonstration a name that echoes of the "Million Man March" is an affront to the sacrifices of Martin Luther King, Medgar Evars and all the others who laid down their lives for the cause of civil rights. Comparing their struggle with someone wanting the "right" to smoke dope indicates the total self-absorption of a bunch of privileged children who've been denied one more cookie.
But even more striking was the contrast between this event, and something that was going on just a few blocks away.
First, some words about the marijuana advocates.
The inane chanting was one thing (probably all they could get out of their mouths when stoned), but a careful analysis of the sound bite from one of their spokespeople shows the kind of convoluted, distorted thinking that you find when people demand the "right" to do something that is patently not right. They'll say anything to make their point, and remarks like "prohibition only encourages organized crime" is the sort of inside-out thinking that would have made Orwell proud.
Rather than prohibition, organized crime has received carte blanche from the multiple-message attitude our society has promoted. We tell kids not to do drugs, yet our media make heroes out of the likes of Mark Emery, who's been fighting extradition to the United States to face drug-related charges. Anyone who suggests that marijuana is an entree to other, stronger drugs is immediately vilified as a stick-in-the-mud.
Well, at least you know where a stick-in-the-mud stands. Besides, it doesn't take a psych major to know that if someone gets a "wonderful feeling" from something, they'll want to take the experience deeper. It's human nature. And we know that marijuana grown these days is more potent than it was in the 60s, when Cheech and Chong were making it seem oh-so-romantic and exciting. Evidently, the demand for a bigger "high" is already there, even without switching to other substances.
Now, about that contrast: at the same time that the rally was being organized, a group of us had opened the doors on Day 2 of The Lord's Rain -- the showers project at Gospel Mission. Outside, there was the usual array of drug dealers and users, plying their trade openly in the street: Shelly, the street duchess, who's set up camp in the doorway of a disused building next to ours, had her group coming and going, dealing and using; others were handing out their little white nuggets (crack cocaine) in the alley or next door in Pigeon Park.
Inside The Lord's Rain, there was a girl, barely out of her teens, passed out on a makeshift bed of chairs. She had come in crying and shaking and shivering: it was wet and raining outside, and she was wearing nothing but a tank top, jeans and runners without laces, with a wet, dirty blanket around her shoulders. We finally got her lying down and she fell asleep.
As I prayed over her, I asked God to send me a solution -- someplace she could go, someone to take care of her. What do we do with such people? We're giving showers and coffee to people -- we wish we could also feed and clothe and provide homes for them all ... and jobs ... and health ... the showers and coffee are a start -- the seeds to be planted that someone does care and that they are all worthy as God's children. But how do we deal with the immediate need -- like a place for this girl to go?
The fact that the girl looks barely older than my own daughter is all the more upsetting.
She was showing the effects of heroin and cocaine. Isn't heroin and cocaine a "speedball" -- the very thing that killed John Belushi? Belushi's world -- Hollywood and stardom and fame and money -- is so far removed from the Downtown East Side, and yet here is this child, destroyed by the same thing.
God answered my prayer, for someone to come and help: about an hour and a half later, a middle-aged woman walked in and said, "What's my daughter doing here?"
The mother stayed with us and made a few phone calls, and as we were closing up, helped her get dressed in dry clothes we found for her. We loaded the girl into the back of my car and drove around, eventually winding up at Triage, where they let her sleep on a couch while waiting for a place to take her.
(There's some question as to whether the "mother" is actually a blood relative, or is actually a "street mother", who watches over these kids. Regardless, the girl called her "mom", so there was some kind of mother-daughter relationship there: likely a relationship lacking in the girl's biological family.)
Would someone like to tell me that this girl did not begin her life on drugs by smoking marijuana, graduating to things that will give her more of a "good" feeling? Do we seriously believe that she went directly from being absolutely clean to Heroin Hotel, with a brief stopover at the Coke Cafe? Do kids with their raging sores and tempers to match, caused by crystal meth, begin with crystal meth, or were they not given a foot in the door with that "harmless recreational smoke"? (It has been shown that a lot of joints are now being laced with crystal meth, to give first-timers a taste for it.)
Is one not excused for wanting to drive a cement mixer through the Million Marijuana March?
No, Lord, one is not excused for succumbing to the flesh like that. Rather, all one can do is hand this to You: and I pray that You will reveal Yourself to the people in that march, their supporters, and the media who paint this in such sympathetic colours, and that their eyes will be opened to Your Truth; and I also pray that Your love will cover these people on the Downtown East Side -- and anywhere else where they have turned into walking, breathing corpses because of drugs; and that You will forgive us all, for the mixed messages we have permitted, allowing things to come to this point.
And help us to keep seeking You, Lord, even at such a time as this.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
And so, George has been taking videos of the efforts, as he's been able to.
(This is reminiscent of my childhood and teen years, when dad produced "Klahanie" on CBC: he always packed his 16mm camera in the car, and whenever he'd see something in nature -- seagulls swooping over stormy surf, a dew-encrusted spider web in the morning sun -- he'd pull out the camera and "presto!": more stock footage for the show.)
CTV sent a cameraman, too, and Janet Dirks showed up later to do an interview.
As for the main purpose of this, it's apparent that this will do what it's supposed to: connect with The Street. A number of people, whom I'd never seen before and who probably wouldn't set foot in the church per se, looked in to see what was going on. They'd have a coffee (including one person who used so much sugar, I wanted to tell him we'd just received a call from Manitoba, saying they were running out of beets*) and chat and make a mental note that if they wanted a shower, this was the place to go.
Finally, around 8:15, we got our first showering customer, one Tim Lexator (there'll be questions on this later), who came in with his wife, Christina, found out what we were about, and decided on the spot to be bold and try it out.
Around 8:50 came our next client, a young woman named Dee, and then it was closing time.
So we'll open up again on Saturday morning at 7. After that, Kathy the Towel Lady (she has a last name: Kinahan) and her son Sean will be hosting a painting party of some young people organized from Westpointe Christian Centre, and Barry will lay down the tile. We'll be back open on Wednesday morning, and probably have the first Ladies' Night -- overseen by Kathy McPhillips, Sandy Benn, Janet Klassen and Amelia Shaw (and anyone else who wants to help with towels, soap, shampoo and such) next Friday, May 9.