... with loaves and fishes thrown in
“Someone needs your skills,” a sister in Christ said to me a couple of months ago. I had been cashiered from the job I’d had for the previous seven years and was looking for new opportunities.
As the Israelites were about to cross the Jordan into the Promised Land, Moses gave them a recap of the previous 40 years. That’s what the book of Deuteronomy is: a review of what God had done for them, in order to keep their faith focused. They would need it for the events to come, when they would face the nations that were about to be evicted from that Promised Land after living there for 400 years.
And now, as I head into a new chapter, I have to review how God has led me through that last 10 years or so of my life. Let’s pick it up in 2003, when I lost my job, my family and my home in the space of about 2 weeks.
When I say I “lost my family”, I mean my marriage broke up and I was cut off from my kids. This is not to curry sympathy: I was paying the price for actions in my past, and God was putting me through an intensive de-construction and re-construction. At any rate, I had no place to go and lived in my car for two weeks until my dad found out and practically ordered me to move into my late mother’s room.
There I was, about $150K in debt with only a couple of paper routes to bring in any sort of income. I’d received a severance package from my previous job, but much of that had gone into paying off the most pressing bills. The industry where I had been working – broadcasting —demands youth and good looks and a recent demo reel. I had none of that. (Well, maybe the good looks ...)
But I had Jesus. I had been influenced heavily by “prosperity Gospel” and teaching that I believe is called “Word-faith”. Many Christians are down on that, but applied properly and with a correct heart before God, those teachings are incontrovertible. I clung to that.
I tithed assiduously, read the Bible voraciously and spent a lot of time in prayer. I confessed to God that I was not strong enough to deal with this situation on my own. Like the man in that homily, “Footprints”, God carried me – and He really hasn’t stopped.
Fall of 2003, He made me cross paths with my former radio boss. His son had been general manager at a Christian TV station in Surrey, and (guess what?) I had told my former TV boss that I wanted to be a Christian talk-show host. I talked at length with the son, who – I learned later – had been fired from that station in a rather dubious way, but had the grace to speak well of it and tell me whom I should contact.
That station had an opening for a public-affairs producer and they hired me for it.
Three days after my hiring was confirmed, the job market was suddenly flooded. My old TV station laid off 17 people and several more were blown out at its sister station in Vancouver.
Despite getting praise for my work from upper management at the new TV station, the general manager suddenly informed me that the shows I was producing were looking “worse” than before. A couple of days after that, I was let go, with NO severance pay. As with the previous job, the circumstances seemed so odd – in the initial flush, I thought they were unfair – it could only be a case of God At Work.
As I drove away from the station, the Lord said to me, “I need you in the mainstream: it is better to be a Christian in broadcasting than in Christian broadcasting.”
There followed about six more weeks of prayer, study, paper routes and reaching out to possibly employers.
My estranged wife served me with papers demanding child support – apparently unaware that I was unemployed. Two days before the court hearing, I was hired by CKNW and I was able to tell the judge that I was able to pay.
Because of my job at CKNW and the fact that I was commuting by public transit from Surrey, I came into contact with the panhandlers, addicts and other types who inhabited Granville Mall at the time – the foreshadowing of the people on the Downtown East Side. I never had any spare change to give them, and one day, when I was feeling guilty about it, the Lord said to me, “these people don’t need money; they don’t need programs: they need Me. They need My Son. And you’re going to tell them.”
Of course, I argued with God, saying, “but my testimony is too white-bread! I’ve never been a drug addict or an alcoholic or homeless ...”
And God said, “but what did happen to you nearly killed you, right?”
“And I got you out of it, right?”
“That’s your message.”
And that led to the odyssey that took me to the Downtown East Side.
In the meantime, God continued to carry me to places I could never have thought of. He led me to a tiny apartment in the 12th-and-Burrard area, from which I could walk to work and save money. He put me in contact with other people who knew of other jobs I could do on the side. I had prayed for extra work so I could increase my income and He provided that, as well – although there was a heavy price: it was a second part-time job (the CKNW gig was part-time, as well, but there were lots of hours), and sometimes I would work two or three shifts in a row. But when I started to burn out and I told God in a prayer that others my age and younger were working less and earning more, He said, “this is what you prayed for. Re-work your prayer and see what happens.”
So I prayed for a higher income – so I could pay the bills, support my children and still move forward – and He promptly got me fired from CKNW.
The circumstances of the firing were so bizarre, it could only have been God at work. It gave me an opportunity to testify to the station’s HR guy, who had flown in from Edmonton to wield the axe. He had asked me if I was “OK to go home”. “Sure,” I said, “I still have an hour left on my bus ticket!” “No,” he said. “I mean, are you ... OK?” “Look,” I said, “if I didn’t have Jesus Christ in my life, I’d be a basket case. He’s brought me through worse things than this, and He’ll do it again.”
This time, there was severance, which got me through the next few weeks; there followed a short gig that got me through Christmas and paid well, and during that time I got a phone call from TransLink that put me into a significantly higher-paying job, where I stayed for the next seven years.
And when I talk about a higher-paying job, that also means higher tithing, and additional money left over to pay for Ministry work on the Downtown East Side – like buying groceries for meals.
I look at all this and shake my head: there is nothing I have done to deserve the favor of God, and I often think of the Psalm that says He has not rewarded us according to our deeds (Psalm 103:10). If He did, I probably would have been vaporized by a lightning bolt long ago.
Oh, yes: God also got me a car, after over a year of being car-less. It was hammered home to me that I would need a vehicle to help others get around and to transport items for the Mission. So in a total “faith project”, He helped me determine what would be the “perfect car” (a Toyota Matrix) and I set my sights on that. Through a series of circumstances that were also nothing but God at work, the money for the down payment materialized and the deal went through.
My position at TransLink also gave me a greater public profile, which drew more attention to the Ministry; it also helped me make more media contacts, and they have often helped publicize the ministry or something on the DTES, which has helped bridge the gap between that area and the “nicer” parts of the city.
God also blessed me with a wonderful wife, who supports and encourages me; a church where I’m able to bring my gifts to serve Him; and a lovely home in one of the best parts of town. He also blessed us with a condo in Maui – and the way that deal went through was also God At Work – and many others have been similarly blessed by it, both by being able to rent it at a reasonable price and by our simply giving it to people who need the getaway. And when we need to get away, we have a place to go.
My relationship (or lack of) with my children is still a thorn in my side, but I believe that is there to remind me of where I’ve been and how God has worked in my life; God will remove that thorn when He’s good and ready.
In the past year, things started to change at work, and I sensed that my time there was running out. So once again, I put it in the hands of the Lord. Again, there was a severance package, time to reflect and time to see what direction He wants me to go in.
So that’s my “Deuteronomy”, and I need it with less than a month left in the severance. It’s good to remember what He did for me, because I’m again facing a situation where the financial obligations are larger than the income that I can see, so once again, I have to rely on God to carry me.
“Someone needs your skills,” my friend said. Indeed, that “someone” has come along (although I can’t name the “someone” just yet), eager to get my experience into their operation. The hourly rate they can offer is only about a third of what I was making at TransLink. But I don’t believe that’s the point anymore. Last Sunday, Jon Boyd at Westpointe Christian Church preached on the importance of service – placing yourself below others to serve them. In other words, I believe I need to change my mindset from “what can Company X do for me?” to “what can I do for Company X?”, and leave it to God to take care of the things of the world. He always has, and He always will.
Besides, who is paying the kind of money that I was making at TransLink? Not many, in this world, and if I held out for it -- even if I said I was “standing in faith” that that “perfect job” would come along – I’d be on Skid Row before I knew it. It’s not about ME, it’s about HIM, and what He wants me to do is be ready to serve the one who hires me.
And for my own situation, I think of something I remember Creflo Dollar, jr., saying at a conference many years ago: My paycheque is not my Source. My job is not my Source. God is my Source!
Consider the loaves and fishes. The disciples looked at the amount of money they had and said, “we can’t feed all these people with this little money”. And Andrew looked at the child’s lunch – five loaves and two small fishes – and said, “what are they among so many?”
But Jesus thanked God and started handing out the food, and the leftovers filled twelve baskets.
So I thank God that there has always been provision – exactly as and when we’ve needed it. God will take the loaves and fishes I see in front of me now and multiply it so that no one who’s looking to me (including creditors and ministries) will “go hungry”.
He is my Source.
He will supply all my needs according to His riches in glory.
He knows what I need even before I ask Him.
He did it before, and He’s not doing it again: He’s never stopped.