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We pray for all those whose lives have been disrupted by the wildfires raging throughout our province. We pray for those on the move, and for those still in their homes, cutoff from electric power–their bags packed, with their cell phones batteries quickly depleting, and waiting for the evacuation order.

We pray for those who are fighting the fires with their shovels and hoses, for those who pilot the aircraft dumping water on the fires, those who give directions and escort people to safety, and those who water roofs and save houses.

We pray for those who have lost homes and photographs, treasures and pets.

We pray for those who do not know if their houses remain, and those who wait without hearing any news at all.

May your courage be with those fighting the fire…may your comfort be with all those who are hurting…

Amen.

adapted from“Service of Worship During the Firestorm,” by Rev. Mark Wiley 

(photo in public domain)

 

We live in world where where the most powerful nation on earth elected a man who succeeded and rose to the top at the expense of others…who deplores and despises the very people  Christians are called upon to give special place and favor.

To show just how anti-Christian Donald Trump is, Michael Stark juxtaposes Jesus’ beatitudes and real quotes from Donald Trump.

Jesus said, Blessed are the meek…                                                                                                              

Trump said “My life has been about winning.  When people wrong you, go after those people, because it is a good feeling. I always get even. My life has not been about losing.”

Jesus said, Blessed are those who are persecuted, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.              

Trump said,  “I’m putting the people on notice that are coming here from Syria as part of this mass migration, that if I win..they’re going back.” And he made good on his promise by signing an executive order banning all refugees from that war ravaged land.

But the focus of Jesus’ ministry is not not the King Herods of this world…

God chooses to be on the side of the weak, the forgotten, the despised, and the justice seekers pleading their case–like the “Lawyer flash mobs” at airports trying to get the unknown number of visa and green-card holders being unlawfully detained at airports released.

 

I like to imagine that if Jesus were to update his Sermon on the Mount with  Some Modern Beatitudes, he would say…

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 

….blessed are the volunteer lawyers who are working pro-bono preparing habeas corpus petitions for detainees at American airports and the thousands of men and women who inspired by their  better angels got in their cars  or hopped on a train and rallied and stood outside and shouted “Let them in!” Blessed are the journalists who search for the truth and write it and help the public separate fact from fiction. Blessed are the artists and poets and actors throughout the world who are arrested and jailed for speaking truth to power.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.

You can follow the volunteer airport lawyers on twitter by subscribing to this list . You can search for the hashtag #helpthelawyers .

Also, you can read a lovely first person account, “My Day Volunteering with @OrdLawyersHQ” 

And then there are the refugee detainees right here in our own city…

Blessed are the forgotten ones hungering and thirsting for justice…the asylum seekers held in detention in the basement of the Vancouver Airport–where neither visitors or lawyers are permitted entry…which immigration lawyer Phil Rankin called “the most isolated place in Canada.”

 

 

img_0024December 6th marks a tragic day in Canadian history. Fourteen young women were murdered in Montreal on this day 26 years ago. We take time today to remember women and girls who have lost their lives through violence and who suffer from abuse in their lives right now. We can take action by speaking up about violence and by encouraging people who commit violence to get help.

 

 

God of Life, today we stop and remember women and girls who are suffering from harm and abuse. We pray for open hearts and minds to support women and girls. Help us to offer hope to one another and to act to end violence against women. Help us to bring about a world where women and men – boys and girls are able to love and to be loved. AMEN

Source: Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association – http://www.oectawaterloo.on.ca/news/article/10-NationalDayofRemembrance.pdf

I am very, very troubled by the turn the world has taken. On top of the Trump election, Interpol has elected China’s Hongwei Meng, Vice Minister of Public Security as its President. This is extraordinarily worrying given China’s longstanding practice of trying to use Interpol to arrest dissidents and refugees abroad. I don’t know how Canada voted, but can’t believe that the int’l community could be this ignorant.

As Sam Zarifi, of the International Commission of Jurists tweeted:

And as Christians, if we want to gain our souls and not lose them  in some Faustian bargain,

“Our calling now and always is not to sugarcoat the gospel as entertaining diversion from a writhing world but as the power from God for sharing in its convulsions as people of indestructible hope.”

 

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Photo credit: Al Jaugelis, Sculpture by Rubén Martinez in Museo de Arte de El Salvador 

And as Sarah Kendzior in her prescient piece in the Globe, “A Fascist’s Win, America’s Moral loss”  exhorted us, that if we care about human rights the days are upon us that we will need to count the cost if we are serious about fighting for the rights of others and accept that our lives will be at risk. We will need to:

“Find strength in fighting for the rights of others. [because] It is better to go out fighting than to have nothing worth fighting for at all.”

A Prayer for Thanksgiving Sunday that begs for our response, especially in light of the devastation in Haiti wrought by Hurricane Matthew.

Voices from the Field

clwr weekly prayer place fillerA prayer from CLWR for the week of Thanksgiving Sunday:

Mighty and merciful God, you are indeed a God worthy of our thanks and praise, for you have healed the brokenhearted and set the captives free. Remind us daily of all that you have done in our lives and in the lives around us, that we may always see your face in the good of the world, singing your praises through our words and deeds, through Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Written by Pastor Nathan Fong of Grace Lutheran Church, Burnaby, BC.

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I almost didn’t see him. I was on a mission to bring home some souvenirs and my field of vision was saturated with color—the cheery red, blue, green and yellows of the handpainted wood crafts—jewelry boxes, dollhouse furniture, and crosses filling every nook and cranny and wall of the small kiosk. And then out of the corner of my eye, I noticed him. A young boy about 10 years old sitting at a small table to one side, an artist’s paintbrush in one hand and a carved plain wood letter of the alphabet in the other waiting for the young artist to transform it from naked wood to a playful folk art piece.

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It was Day 5 of our trip to El Salvador last October and our hosts had arranged for a day trip to the town of La Palma for some sightseeing and souvenir shopping. As our van wound its way through the narrow streets of this village nestled in the pine-forested mountains near the Honduran border our eyes feasted on the murals painted in the distinctive La Palma style. Scenes from the everyday life of the campesinos (farmers)—brightly coloured birds, rabbits, flowers, and village scenes covered every spare wall, park bench and bus stop in the village.

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La Palma is known for its characteristic decorative art style used on the exterior of buildings, on handicrafts, and souvenirs.

Decorated concrete park benches in the central park square of La Palma.

Decorated concrete park benches in the town square of La Palma.

It was El Salvador’s iconic artist Fernando Llort who taught the people of La Palma to draw and paint following his technique and designs. His desire to share his God-given talents and skills with others blossomed into an artisanal movement creating handicrafts using his motifs and led to the creation of a cooperative called La Semilla de Dios, or “God’s Seed”. Today there are dozens of cooperatives and workshops in La Palma where campesinos learn about art, gain marketable skills and find sources of income other than field work to provide for their families.DSC_8124_ICC_Change.JPG

I presumed that the young boy’s family probably belonged to one of these cooperatives. I wanted to learn more but I did not have time to engage him in conversation as our hosts were anxious for us to move on to our next destination. As I was being pulled away I did not even have time to learn his name—I will call him Fernando—but his demeanour and circumstances struck me and I wanted to take his picture to remember him by. I couldn’t help drawing a comparison with the children in North America who spend hours being passively entertained by virtual games, movies, and apps while here was a young boy actively engaged in a serious pursuit—creating art in order to contribute to his family’s very real need for income.

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When Llort moved to La Palma in 1972 he had a dream to lift people out of grinding poverty and through art created by their own hands to gain a self-respect for themselves and discover their dignity as children of God reflecting the divine image. It was this dignity that I saw on young Fernando’s face. When I asked his permission to photograph him, he seemed surprised at first that anyone would take notice of him. But his modesty quickly turned to pleasure as he straightened himself, pride beaming from his face that he and his artwork were being recognized and recorded in this way. He seemed surprised again at the monetary token of my appreciation I offered him for posing for the picture, but it was the least I could do because he had given me much more than just a photographic souvenir to take home with me.

The hope, pride, and dignity shining from his face gave me a window into the hopes and dreams of all of El Salvador’s children—to be seen and heard and have their gifts recognized and affirmed, to be able go to school and have enough to eat, to be able to wander freely exploring the countryside and their neighbourhood without fear of violence…and most of all to live and grow up in peace.

Thank-you,  Fernando for your grace and hospitality. I pray you and your artwork continues to flourish and contribute to the realization of your dreams.

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Photo credit: La Semilla de Dios. All other photos taken by Al Jaugelis

 

Merciful Father, we commend to your loving keeping all who work to bring rescue and relief especially the firefighter, police, paramedics, medical personnel, and volunteers, all who are helping, Give them courage in danger, skill in difficulty, and compassion in service. Sustain them with bodily strength and calmness of mind that they may perform their work to the well-being of those in need so that lives may be saved and communities restored. Amen. (Lutheran Disaster Response)

I’ve made a donation to the Red Cross, but because I am a Christian…I also need to pray. I don’t know if it will help my fellow Canadians in Fort McMurray 1500 km away–I certainly hope it will–but it helps alleviate my sense of helplessness and softens and opens my heart to the plight of my brothers and sisters.

…and so this morning, at the midweek worship service at St. David’s Anglican Church in Tsawwassen we sang this Taize chant in English and prayed for the people of Fort McMurray, “Come and fill their hearts with your peace…for you alone, O Lord are holy.”

 

 

In order to help the gathered congregation pray in a meaningful way so that our prayers could be more than just so many words abstracted from reality I shared the images that have stayed with me as I have followed the news on Twitter. I hoped that by sharing these images the people sitting in the pews would feel a greater sense of connection with the people in Fort McMurray.

I encouraged them this way:

“…I want you to remember the mother who in the thirty minutes she had to pack up and leave grabbed her daughter’s prom dress…hoping that she would still be able to graduate from the local high school…I want you to remember the woman fleeing the city not in car but on horseback holding the reigns of two other horses behind her as she leads and guides them out of the city to safer ground…I want you to hold in your mind three firefighters leaning against the back of their firetruck taking a few moments of respite after battling the flames all day and evening…I want you to remember the man who stayed behind monitoring the water sprinklers he had set up to try to save his house against all hope as fire consumed his neighbourhood and this mother (in the video below) who tried to comfort her three children as they drove out of town with smoke and flames all around them.

Loving God, we are joined with the trials and sufferings of all. Be with those who endure the effects of the disastrous fires raging in Fort McMurray and surrounding communities. Protect those in the path of danger. Open the pathway of evacuation. Help loved ones to find one another in the chaos. Provide assistance to those who need help. Ease the fears of all and make your presence known in the stillness of your peace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.  (Adapted from Lutheran Disaster Response, Upstate, NY).

 

 

The magnolia in full bloom in my neighbour’s yard would be perfect for my Twitter Easter header photo. Although I am a ordained pastor–or perhaps because I am–I was glad to cast off the sackcloth and ashes of Lent, a season emphasizing penitence and spiritual disciplines, and could hardly wait to Skitch “Happy Easter” across the glorious blooms, and splash my joy to the world.

And then this–

Merton speaks:

Every moment and every event of every life on earth plants something in [your] soul.

The magnolias still remain as testament–but without my gay pronouncement.

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The BC government shows no signs of re-instating $45/year subsidized bus pass for people with disabilities. Nevertheless, InclusionBC , TAPS  and other advocacy groups are continuing their campaign to let everyone receiving PWD benefits keep the $77/month increase regardless of whether they need a bus pass, and raise the PWD benefit rate to $1200 per month. They are meeting with Michelle Stilwell, Minister for Social Development and Innovation in late March where they will demand that the government not only reverse its decision to claw back the bus pass, but that it also comes up with a serious plan to raise people out of poverty and increase and index the PWD rates to reflect the rising cost of living.

The issue has been brought to the attention of British Columbians not only through mainstream and social media, but has also appeared in local community papers–like this excellent letter in the Delta Optimist published in my “hometown,” followed by my own contribution in the next issue.

Minister's Minute - March 2016.jpg(Btw, the fish in the story are the male of the species.)

In my column I refer to a blogger from the disability community who asks the question:

A. “Do you think that I have a right to exist?”

Using deductive logic…she takes the reader through a series of premises….

if you answered, “yes”, then you believe that:

B. “My right to exist is thus predicated on the possibility of my being able to acquire what I need to exist.”

and then she hits our government between the eyes:

C. “By not providing the funds necessary to safely house and feed and care for oneself, the BC government is, in effect, denying people their right to exist.”

It was her post that hit me between the eyes, too and inspired me to speak out. For if we allow our government’s inhumane decisions to go unchallenged, we ourselves are complicit and diminished.

Here’s mssinenomine’s hard-hitting  post, BC Budget & Disability Benefits: The Raise Up That Was Just Another Let Down

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