Friday, 26 December 2014

Hallelujah, A Christmas Carol

Everyone seems to love the melody of Leonard Cohen's song, "Hallelujah."
I have taken the liberty of creating my own lyrics, in honour of our Saviours birth. This is me and some of Christ the King, Edmonton's musicians at our Christmas Eve service.

I hope you will forgive the quality of the recording. We hope to make a better one at some point.

See what you think.

Here are the lyrics:

HALLELUJAH (CHRISTMAS CAROL)

I heard there was a baby boy, was born this day to bring us joy
Salvation and the Holy Spirit to you
In Bethlehem this baby lay In a manger filled with hay
While angels sang a glorious Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

The shepherds came and saw that night, you, Jesus, of the world, the light
The Saviour of all who give their hearts to You
They left their fields, they came and saw the One who would fulfil the law
You, only worthy of our Hallelujah

Hallelujah, …

And wise men travelled from afar, with gold and frankincense and myrrh
Presented gifts and bowed in worship to You
And so to this day all who love the God who came down from above
Can join together in the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, …

And so Jesus, all praise to you. All glory, power and honour too
For salvation that can only come through You
We thank you for your humble birth that brought new hope to all the earth
We sing out, all together, “Hallelujah!”

Hallelujah, …

So on this day we celebrate, and You will come again some day
To earth to raise up all your children to You
And every knee will bow before our Saviour and our risen Lord
And every tongue will sing out “Hallelujah!”

Hallelujah, …

Music:  Leonard Cohen, ©1984 Sony/ATV Songs LLC

Original words: John Kivell ©2014

Blessings, and a somewhat belated Merry Christmas

John

Friday, 19 December 2014

Alpha Lookback 2014 (USA)

I thought this was worth sharing.
Best of 2014 - Alpha USA from Alpha USA on Vimeo.

Alberta is just one province in Canada, but we are not isolated. What is happening here is happening all over the world.

Blessings,

John

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Nothing But Encouragement

At the end of the first day of my two day tour of southwest central Alberta. I had a ten o'clock appointment at Crossfield Baptist. It was exactly 8:00 AM when I left my garage at home and exactly 10:00 when I turned off my ignition in the church parking lot, 219 km later. What timing!

As I indicated in the title of this post, my day was off to an encouraging start. Pastor Dave Wiebe has run Alpha in the past in BC, and plans to run it here in the spring. Youth Pastor Darrly Siemens ran Alpha for Youth here and was very enthused by it. He is planning to run it again this year, hoping to attract kids from outside the church. So, that is two Alpha's lined up for the coming year.

Next stop was Carstairs, at the Church of God there.  I was particularly looking forward to meeting Pastor Harry Hoehne there because he hails from Hamilton Ontario, my own home city, back in the day. He has only been in Alberta a few months, so has not yet had time to change his allegiance from the Tiger Cats to either the Eskimos or the Stampeders, whichever might be appropriate. Or, may I add, from the Maple Leafs (yuck!) to a suitable Alberta hockey team.

Carstairs Church of God has run Alpha extremely successfully in the past, but Pastor Harry, being new to his position, has never had any Alpha experience himself. However, he was familiar with it by reputation. In fact, as he told me enthusiastically what he had heard about Alpha, how it was such a wonderful  place for seekers to be introduced to the Christian faith in a relaxed and non-threatening environment, I thought I was listening to myself extolling its virtues. He was pleased (and somewhat amazed) to hear that Alpha is offered at no cost for download online.  Alpha will once again be run in Carstairs, Alberta.

Finally, for the day, I visited McDougal Chapel, east of Sundre. Once again, Pator Kent Janz had run Alpha in the past, but by the end of our conversation, was seriously considering running it again.  He was impressed by some of the new materials, and by the fact that we offer them free online. (I noticed the old original VHS tapes on his office shelf).  A glowing report by McDougal's Youth Pastor, Spencer Smith, was a highlight of my day. They ran alpha for Youth last fall and had about 50 guests (this in a rural, or at best, a small-town church), many from outside the church. Several kids invited Christ into their lives. Spencer could not say enough about how well it went for him.  Obviously, he will run it again.

Tomorrow I have 4 or5 appointments lined up in Olds, Didsbury, Eckville and Rimbey.  Lord willing, I will post again then.

Blessings,

John




Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Last Trip (?) of The Year.

On the road again early tomorrow morning. I have a 10:00 appointment in Crossfield. Altogether eight meetings arranged so far, in towns in western South Central Alberta - Crossfield, Carstairs, Didsbury, Olds, Sundre and Rimbey. I should be back late Thursday.

My friend Karl is going in for day surgery tomorrow on his heart. He is scheduled to be released tomorrow afternoon, but those who care for him are hoping, and will advocate, that they will keep him admitted at least overnight. So Karl and I prayed together that God would bring us both back home safely on Thursday.

Blessings,

John

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Too Many Words?

I was told today that my writing is too wordy, and I cannot disagree. In fact I do agree, and wholeheartedly so. I love words. I love writing them and I enjoy playing with them. I am reminded of the film,. "Amadeus," where Antonio Salieri, Mozart's rival composer, said of one of Mozart's new pieces, "Too many notes."

Well, not that I would ever have the audacity to compare myself to Mozart, but there is one thing we share; like him, I probably won't change my writing style because I'm told I use too many words.

I was told that Dr Seuss gave the writing advice, "Brevity, brevity, brevity!"

I wonder why he said it three times when one would have sufficed.

Blessings,

John 

Saturday, 6 December 2014

France? Who'da Thunk It?

Or, to translate the title of this post as accurately as I can, "quelle surprise!"

I have no explanation, but when I checked the stats this morning, the number one audience for my Alpha blog, by page view, and lots of them, is from France.

Dieu est bon... tout le temps

Merci beaucoup,

John

Friday, 5 December 2014

Hump Day in Cow Town

I arrived in Calgary Tuesday evening after an eventful and encouraging day in Lethbridge (see below).  I met my former pastor from Edson Baptist for coffee at a local Starbucks. He is now a teaching elder at Calvary Grace church. Terry is both a theological guy and a car guy, so we always have great conversations. I remember his kids from years ago, but now one of his daughters is driving and his son is married. Holy Moly! Everybody I know is sure getting older!

Wednesday morning I wanted to meet with Rob Martin of Eastside City Church on Abbeydale Drive in Calgary. I had spoken to Rob once on the phone, but had trouble reaching him again, so after leaving a number of messages I just decided I would drop in about 9:30 that morning and take my chances. He wasn't there at the moment, so I left a written note and my card with the administrator, who promised to place it directly into his hands the moment he arrived.

Back out in my car in the parking lot, I sat for a moment and thought, because the name, "Abbeydale" sounded familiar. "Yes," it came to me, "Abbeydale Christian Fellowship!" I had seen it somewhere in my records. "They're an Alpha church."

So, sitting there in my car, in the parking lot of Eastside City Church, I fiddled with my phone (a Blackberry) to find the address and a map to Abbeydale Christian Fellowship. As an aside, my older daughter (an iPhone user) tells me, every time I complain about my phone, "Dad! It's a Blackberry!"

So after Googling and mapping for a few minutes I finally had the location. Next door! Sure enough, I raised my head from my phone, turned it to the left, and there it was; the very next building. I drove out of one parking lot and into the other. They have just finished a very successful Alpha, and I had a good conversation with the interim pastor, Jim Houston, leaving some information on Alpha's Youth Film Series and Marriage and Parenting courses. 

As I was leaving the parking lot my phone rang. It was Rob from Eastside, hoping we could get together. "When can you get here?" he asked. "I'm here now," I said, pulling back into his lot. "Where's the nearest Tim's?" Rob came out and I followed him to the coffee shop.

It's such a small world when you're a Christian, don't you think? Eastside City is affiliated, through an organization called Ministers Fellowship International, and so is a sister church, so to speak, with my Sunday night fellowship, Christcity, in Edmonton, so he knew some of the people I know. We had a great conversation. Eastside is planning to run three Alpha's in the next few months, then invite all guests to a leadership course. Rob also told me of an Alpha being run on the streets of downtown by either a friend or cousin (I don't remember which) for addicts, prostitutes and the homeless, into one of which categories the course coordinator actually fell. I asked, somewhat tongue in cheek, if the course was registered. "Probably not," he said with a bit of a smile, but if he could get hold of him, he would see if he could get it done.

From there it was off to lunch at Denny's with Stephan who is going to run an Alpha on a First Nations reserve west of Calgary. He has been running a Bible study there that has been well-received, so we have high hopes for this Alpha course. I have had a real heart for Alpha among First Nations communities ever since I ran Alpha in the Fort Saskatchewan jail a few years back. I'm praying we can establish more of them. I have posted on some of my experiences there, here. Incidentally, if anyone who reads this blog wants to get involved, assist or participate, just get in touch with me.

After lunch it was back home, the end of a couple of quite eventful days on the road.

But then, as I have said, I have nothing better to do than to drive around Alberta and talk about Alpha.

Blessings,

John

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Small World Department

OK, so what do Lethbridge Alberta, the country of Rwanda, a city in central Mexico and a small town in Southern Ontario have in common? Let me explain.

I came down from my room in the Super 8 in Lethbridge for their free breakfast (one of the reasons I usually stay at Super 8 motels when I travel). I had my iPad with me to plan my day and map out the churches I planned to visit. There was one other person in the breakfast room, a young woman working at her laptop. she looked over and said, in heavily accented English.
"I see we are both working."
"Yes," I said.
"What do you do," she asked.
"I call on churches," I replied. This seemed to pique her interest, so I explained a bit about Alpha, how we introduce people to Jesus, and gave her my card. I asked if she knew Jesus or went to church. She confessed that she didn't go very often. Her name is Delhi, which most people would associate with either a city in India or a town in Southern Ontario, but she pronounces it to rhyme with "jelly."

Then I asked her where was her home.
"Mexico" she said. I asked her what in the world would bring her from Mexico to Alberta Canada in the middle of winter (the temperature was -13 and there were 10 cm of show on the ground.) She told me she was working on her doctorate at a Mexican university, but was visiting someone at the University of Lethbridge. I asked her what field her doctorate was in, and she replied, "Animal Sciences; working to improve breeds of cattle."

"Wow!" I replied, "I know someone in the same sort of field " So I was able to bring up this website on my iPad.

This is Rachael Spence, from our church in Edmonton. She is a veterinary doctor and has a mission to Rwanda, helping farmers care for and improve their own livestock. Here is a Youtube presentation of Rachael speaking to a group of Rwandan farmers, although I suspect you have to be a Rwandan farmer or a cow doctor to appreciate it fully.


Delhi was quite impressed. "She must be a very wonderful woman," she said.
"She is just serving the Lord with her gifts, " I said.

I didn't have much more time, as my first church appointment was coming up at 9:00, but I gave her a "Why Jesus?" booklet and a "
Question Everything" card, wished her well and checked out. I have her e-mail, so I will try to put her in touch with Rachael. It would be interesting if they could make a connection.

Just another day on the road for Alpha; just another of those coincidences that God seems to enjoy arranging.

Blessings,

John

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

OK, So God Arranges Things; What Else Is New?

Tuesday evening, 6:15. I'm in my hotel room in Calgary, just arrived from a full day in Lethbridge and a 2 1/2 hour drive. Had a wonderful and encouraging day there today, visiting 6 churches.

Westside Community Church is a PAOC church running Alpha for Youth, and having great results. Shaun, the youth pastor, pointed out one problem: many of his youth group come from outside the church, and some are Mormon, so some of Alpha is "new teaching being presented." and some of their parents don't like it, so they still bring their kids, but after the video. Made me smile.

At Immanuel Lutheran, they had registered for the Youth Film Series, but had not run it. However, by the end of our visit, Kathy there was, "on fire to run it," to use her very own words.

The whole trip here was based on a fleece I had laid regarding my next appointment, lunch with John Albiston of Victory Church. I may have mentioned this in a previous post. I had met John before, and had hoped to meet again, so had sent a few e-mails and left a few messages, all without hearing back. So I reached the point a week or so ago where I said, "Lord, if you want me to go down to Southern Alberta, let John get back to me.  That will be my sign." I then had three calls, in quick succession, from Calgary, one from a couple who wanted help running Alpha in RV courts in Arizona and California, where they go each winter. Another was from a fellow planning to run it on a reserve west of Calgary; a third from a church I had been trying to reach, who, I discovered on a recent phone conversation, runs three Alpha's a year, in succession. My fleece stood, however; if I didn't hear from John Albiston, I wouldn't make the trip.

Long story short (if it's not already too late), during my Alpha Monday conference call, I got an e-mail from John saying, "Lunch tomorrow would be fine."

So, off I went. I had to rent a car from a different organization than I usually do, but everything fell into place, I fired off e-mails to a number of  Lethbridge churches, and I was off by 1:00 for the 5 hour trip to Lethbridge. I ended up with five appointments in Lethbridge, every one of them made from the e-mails I sent on Monday morning and confirmed on my trip down. There's an advertising slogan here somewhere. If God tells you to do something, "Just Do It!"

Victory Church Lethbridge is almost worth a post of its own. They have an amazing facility and I hope someday they will put up a video tour online. They are the church that started the Miracle TV Channel. I had a suspicion that they ran Alpha, but were not registered with Alpha Canada as doing so, so this was one of my main reasons for wanting to visit them. What a surprise to discover that they run Alpha continuously, with a new course starting every 4 weeks! I last visited them in April of this year, so this has started since then.

They do it a little differently; rather than the usual model of people inviting people, they have as many as 5 - 10 responses to their altar calls every week, and every new believer is "run through" if I can use that crass term, Jamie Haith's Campus Alpha, as both an introduction to, and an explanation of, their new faith.

My next appointment was coffee with Rohan Crown of Amazing Grace PCA Church, a church with a very strong youth outreach and who are running the Youth Film Series. I have mentioned my connection to the PCA in my personal testimony, and Rohan was for a time the associate pastor at Crestwood in Edmonton, the very church that planted to congregation in which I came to faith over 20 years ago. Small world.

Both John and Rohan recommended I visit the River of Life church, so I went out of my way to make a cold call there and leave some Alpha material. No pastors were available, so I left the material and my card with the administrator, who knew of Alpha and its excellent reputation.

My final stop in Lethbridge was University Drive Alliance. They have run Alpha in the past, and are currently running the Parenting Course.

So, here I am in Calgary. I just texted my former pastor from Edson Baptist, now in Calgary, to see if we can get together for a coffee.

More on the rest of my trip on another post.

Blessings,

John

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Another One of Those "Little" Miracles

This almost slipped my mind, but it's just another example of how I'm convinced God orchestrates things while making them seem like coincidences.

I was on my way to my meeting at the Wold Creek Community Church in Lacombe last week. I had previously spoken with the administrator and arranged the date, time and space. On the highway on the way down I called the church and got the following message, "Our office hours are 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM, Tuesday to Friday."

Obviously, every time I had called must have been within these hours, but this was the first time I was aware of these hours - and I was planning to be there by 11:30 to set up for lunch. My heart sank. I was in trouble. I pictured having to wait, along with all my expected guests, outside a locked building until the administrator arrived at one o'clock. So, just like the last time, I shot up an arrow prayer that God would somehow redeem this disaster.

The rest of my drive was spent alternately cursing myself for my lack of thought and planning, and asking God to get me out of my predicament.

I stopped in to the local Subway to pick up my platter of subs, then proceeded to the church. Imagine my delight when, from a distance, I saw an old Nissan in the parking lot. The church door was open. I walked in and asked loudly if anyone was there. No one answered. I strolled around inside for a few minutes, when finally, someone appeared. It was a fellow named Bernie, who, "just happened to be there" to do a few things around the place. Bernie had no idea I was coming, or why, but when I explained, he showed me a room where I could get set up, then left, leaving me alone in the church. I must have looked trustworthy, I suppose. Long story short, I ended up having my meeting and had a very encouraging conversation with Pastor Leon Johnston of Wolf Creek Church.

Now, perhaps it was a coincidence that Bernie just happened to be there, outside of normal office hours. But I'm becoming more and more convinced that God saves me from these embarrassing predicaments, not for my sake, but  for His. One of my constant prayers is that I not embarrass God in anything I do.

Deep down, though, I'm torn as to whether it is His embarrassment or my own with which I'm concerned.

Blessings,

John

Thursday, 27 November 2014

My Week Last Week

Wanda, Elaine and I (I'm the one in the middle, lest there be any confusion)
 
It has taken me a while to get this post done. I posted here on my plans for last week. Things went approximately according to plan, but by the time Thursday rolled around, I was pretty well beat. I always tell people I love Alpha and I love driving, so I have the perfect job, but even I, I have realized, have limits.

The drive to Grande Prairie is about 5 hours. That was my wife and I with Elaine Young, Sunday afternoon after church. After a fitful sleep on a rather hard bed (my granddaughter lent me hers, as we saved a hotel bill by staying at my daughter's place in GP), we hosted a two-hour Relationship Central meeting at the Christian Fellowship Assembly on Monday morning. Numbers were a bit disappointing, as at least two churches who had committed to attending were not there, but the response from those who did attend was quite encouraging.

From there it was a two and a half hour drive to Whitecourt for another meeting, at the Family Worship Centre. Again, numbers were disappointingly low, but I believe we may see some fruit from our visit. I'm finding, when I try to include the Relationship Central courses in my discussions with churches, there is an increased interest arising from nothing more than an increased awareness that they exist.

Now, allow me to take time out to vent on a particular point of frustration. At one of our stops I said to the pastors who attended that I had hoped to see the pastor of another particular church in town in our meeting. One pastor present said, "O, I just spoke with him this morning," then proceeded to call him on his cell.  When he hung up, he said, "He didn't know anything about it, otherwise he would have been here."

Now, there had been at least three e-mails from Alpha Canada regarding this meeting, in the month or so leading up to it, plus one personal one of my own, and a voice mail message left by me the Friday before. The pastor called back and said, "I just checked my messages and found it, but unfortunately, I can't make it now."  This is not a criticism. I would not begin to judge the workload or the busyness of our pastors. It's just a point of frustration that messages don't always get through.

After the balance of the 5-hour drive back to Leduc, it was down to Lacombe the next morning. Another hour on the highway. On my way down I dialed the Alliance Church in Innisfail, which is about 35 or 40 minutes south of Lacombe, and lined up an appointment with the pastor there. Again, in Lacombe attendance was disappointing, but I had a wonderful and encouraging meeting with Pastor Leon Johnston of the Wolf Creek Community Church. So, down to Innisfail, then back home. Wednesday and Thursday were spent on the road around Edmonton meeting with Chinese churches with Wanda Ho, our National Chinese Alpha Director (more on that on another post).

All this to say that by the time Thursday night rolled around, I found myself perhaps more weary than I can ever remember feeling.

I guess I'm not as young as I used to be.

Blessings,
John

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Chinese Alpha

What a great encouragement it is to have Wanda Ho come to town. Wanda is our national Chinese Alpha Coordinator, and as much as I enjoy Wanda's company, that's not the only reason.

No; among other things, the reason I like her visits is that we get to visit with Chinese Churches. Last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were spent in a number of meetings in various areas of Edmonton, seeing and hearing what is happening in the Chinese community. There are a number of Chinese churches running Alpha in Edmonton (and elsewhere, of course) and a real growing interest in our Relationship Central materials, the Marriage Prep Course, Marriage Course, Parenting and Parenting Teenagers courses.

I am not a sociologist or whatever kind of ologist I would need to be to have my opinion carry any kind of professional weight, but there are some things I see in our Chinese communities. There are at least two communities, if you like, the Cantonese- and the Mandarin-speaking. Many Chinese churches have three congregations and hold three services; both the above as well as an English-speaking congregation.

Speaking very generally, the Cantonese are the ones made of up of immigrants from Hong Kong. Several pastors have told me that these congregations face at least one of the problems that some of our own western churches face - that of aging congregations. These are first-generation immigrants, and their grown children tend to gravitate toward the English-speaking services, even if it is in the same church. Mandarin-speakers, on the other hand, are mostly from Mainland China and consist of more recent immigrants and international students, here to attend our universities, so the problem of age has not yet caught up with them.

Many Chinese churches are concerned with, "the next generation," to use a term I heard over and over again, so Alpha's Youth Film Series is on special interest to many of them. So also, as I said above, are the Parenting courses, both for young children and for teenagers.

The Chinese churches are a pleasure to deal with. They are extremely courteous, extremely hospitable, and extremely concerned that they are doing Alpha right. Many of them go out of their way to ask, often several times, if they are doing things properly. And they are so pleased to show us how they are doing.

Hospitable? Every time we go to lunch I am treated (?) to a new food experience, not always sure what it is I'm eating. Every restaurant we go to seems to have only chopsticks around the table, but they have only to see me and are immediately concerned if I would like a knife and fork.

And we've been invited to join the Chinese Ministerial in Edmonton. Cool.

Blessings,

John



Friday, 21 November 2014

Alpha Makes the Harvard Business Review

From here...
This excerpt seems almost like another language, "pretentious businessese", to coin a term, but it is interesting that HBR references Alpha as a model of something new and effective.
Consider also an initiative that grew not out of Silicon Valley but out of a church in London. The Alpha Course is a template for introducing people to Christian beliefs. Anyone wishing to host a course can freely use its materials and basic format—10 meetings devoted to the central questions of life—with no need to gather in a church. Catalyzed by a model that empowers local leaders, the course has reached 24 million people in living rooms and cafés in almost every country in the world.
 What’s distinctive about these participatory behaviors is that they effectively “upload” power from a source that is diffuse but enormous—the passions and energies of the many. Technology underpins these models, but what drives them is a heightened sense of human agency.
All things to all men, I suppose, but any time Alpha is mentioned in a positive light, especially in a secular publication, I'm happy.

Blessings,

John

Saturday, 15 November 2014

My Week This Week

I picked up Elaine Young yesterday afternoon. She flew in from Halifax for a bit of a whirlwind tour.

We presented a training seminar this morning at Leduc Alliance Church on Alpha's Marriage, Marriage Prep and Parenting Courses. Registrations were not as high as we would have liked but the seminar went very well and every bit of feedback was very good.

Right after church tomorrow it's off to Grande Prairie for a meet & greet Monday morning at the Christian Fellowship Assembly, then a stop off at the Whitecourt Family Worship Centre on the way back at 3:00 PM.

Tuesday, I'm down to Lacombe for a Pastors' lunch, while Wanda Ho, our National Chinese and ESOL Alpha arrives, and will be visiting various Chinese churches in Edmonton on behalf of the Marriage and Parenting courses, chauffeured around town by Elaine. Elaine leaves for home Wednesday morning and I take over driving duties for Wanda and myself , visiting other Chinese churches on behalf of Alpha.  

I love the Chinese congregations. They are so detail oriented; so concerned that they are doing things right; questioning themselves, wanting to be perfect; pressing us for feedback even when they are doing things perfectly and could give the rest of us lessons.

Every day is a new day; every week a new week. Got to get one more trip down to Lethbridge and Calgary, either the following week or the one after.

Blessings

John


Friday, 7 November 2014

New Family, New Home



This is one of my favourite stories. It is about the heart of Alpha. It is about the power of Christ and his Spirit to transform lives. It is about the way God can make everything right.

The words to the old hymn by Fanny Crosby just popped into my head;
"For I know whate'er befall me Jesus doeth all things well." (from All the Way My Saviour Leads Me)
And again, from the prophet Isaiah
 "...[to] provide for those who grieve... ...to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair."
Indeed he does.

Blessings,

John

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Let Me Count The Ways

I'm writing this post for a reason. I intend to send it to as many churches in Alberta as I can. It's all about opportunities and needs. How many are there? How many ways and places are there to run Alpha? These are both needs and opportunities.
  1. First of all I think of the Youth Film Series and the many opportunities there are to run it in schools. We can't do it. By, 'we,' I mean adults, leaders, pastors. It has to be the kids. and it has to be a very special kind of kid. One who has a heart for it and the courage to approach their principal (with the backup support of a church, a Youth Pastor or a Christian teacher) with a proposal to run it in their school. It is being done. There are at least 20 Alpha's being run in high- and junior high schools in Edmonton alone. We now have a very committed and knowledgeable Youth coach for Alberta and there is lots of help to get things going.
  2. Campus Alpha. Do any of you churches out there have students in universities, community colleges or Technology Institutes. Let us help you help them get one going on their campus.
  3. Seniors Alpha. Several Alpha's have been run by and/or for seniors, in churches, seniors' centres, community halls or other venues. It's never too late for someone to come to a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ. One of my own Alpha stories is of the senior's table I led a year or so ago where two people in their '80's came to a new or renewed relationship with God.
  4. Prison Alpha or ex-offender aftercare. Here is a real need, a real opportunity to make a real difference, and it's not as intimidating as one might think. I ran Prison Alpha for 3 years and it can give an Prison Alpha team a real sense of making a difference where it counts.
  5. Alpha for English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). Here is a growing opportunity to communicate the Gospel to those whose first language is not English. We now have a team to help you in this area. Our National Chinese Alpha Director, Wanda Ho, has taken ESOL on in her portfolio, and we have an ESOL Alpha coach right here in Alberta. Between us, we can give you all the tools and advice you need.
  6. Alpha Marriage and Alpha Parenting courses. These come under the umbrella of Alpha's, "Relationship Central." They are not so outrightly evangelistic as Alpha itself, but for that reason they may actually be more attractive to those in the community outside the church. They may serve as a doorway into your church. You can actually advertise, for instance, a Marriage Prep Course, and find that young people planning a wedding will respond.
All this is not to ignore Alpha in the, 'normal' venues. There are lots of opportunities, lots of needs, and lots of help. Just like Home Depot,

"You can do it. We can help."

Blessings,

John

Today Was Another Good Day

PS: Today was another good day. I went to Wetaskiwin. Had another encouraging conversation with Pastor Greg at Wetaskiwin Full Gospel Fellowship, then called on Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

This is a Catholic parish I have been praying about and pursuing for some time. The first Tuesday of each month they have an evening service called, "Effusion," which I attend whenever I can. It is a praise and worship service with a great guitar player, albeit with some Catholic aspects with which I am not entirely familiar.

But Sacred Heart is a wonderful, Spirit-filled parish and will be the ideal Alpha church when (not if, because I'm praying) they discover, run and commit to Alpha.

Last night was a testimony by a young man whose wife, Cristy, has just taken the position of Youth Minister there. Cristy has just come from Miami (yes, Florida) to take on this position. We had a nice chat this morning, and I resisted the temptation to make any smart-alec comments about her move to Alberta and our weather. I'm sure she has had enough already.

In any case, Sacred Heart has been on my own heart for some time now. If you are a praying person, please join me in praying that, if it is the Lord's will, they become an enthusiastic and effective Alpha Parish.

Blessings,

John

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

God Knew I needed Encouragement So He Sent Me To Tofield

I was a little bit down Monday. I get that way sometimes. It's often because I wonder if I'm doing enough in my position with Alpha.

I remember that in my former position with Raven Truck Accessories, I composed the company training manual. My advice to store managers was this: either you should be doing something for the good of your store or you should be thinking of what you can be doing for the good of your store.

So that is also my attitude with Alpha. My constant prayer is that for the effectiveness of this ministry and my part in it. But sometimes I just get the feeling I'm spinning my wheels. So yesterday, God told me, almost out of nowhere, "Go to Tofield."

So I did, and called on one of my favourite places, Tofield Mennonite Church. I also called on three other churches, but Tofield Mennonite was just what I needed. Pastor Ken is a real Alpha fan. In fact, he was first introduced to Alpha when he was in Nicky Gumbel's own small group at Holy Trinity Brompton in the early '90's.

We had a great conversation and time of prayer together. When I first arrived, he introduced me to another gentleman who was in his office, a man in his '80's who was about to fly back to Ontario for a Christian Businessman's conference. It reminded me that a Christian should never really consider him or herself fully retired. There is always work to do; there are always areas to serve.

There. I feel better already.

Blessings,

John

Friday, 31 October 2014

From Dreams to Dust



The top picture I took a year ago on my way back from Bonnyville and Cold Lake, Alberta. It spoke to me of someone's shattered dream. The bottom I took the other day, of the same site. Now nothing is left. The destruction is complete. Any remnant of the plans and dreams of whoever L'il Dave is or was have been eradicated, at least as far as the physical premises of his business at this site are concerned.

I don't know why, but this touches my heart. I have always had a mentor's heart. Whether it has been in my own business or in a business in which I have served in management, I have always felt a fatherly concern for younger people just starting out in the working world. Even in my most recent, "retirement career" with Alpha I constantly keep my eyes open for people with potential to rise up through ranks, so to speak. One thing I have always tried to do is to find and train up my own replacement. As someone has said, "If you can't be replaced, you can't be promoted."

That's not my motivation here with Alpha. I have no ambition but to keep doing what I'm doing for as long as the Lord will allow me and enable me. But at some point I will have to pass the torch, and my duty to God and this ministry is to have someone ready to take it over when my time has come.

But I'm digressing from the point I originally began. This verse came to my mind.
Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 2:11)
Now, that may be cruel to post that, and it may indeed have nothing with the reality of these pictures, but another verse came to mind in the same regard:
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
Or this:
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 1: 13-15)
And finally:
 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11) 
I don't know if this all makes sense to anyone but me, but perhaps it's just a matter of connecting the dots. We humans make all sorts of plans, have all sorts of dreams for our futures, but for each one we should be lifting it up to God and asking if this is in His will. Sometimes, in the short term, if things don't work out the way we hope, we can be disappointed. Hey, I just thought of another verse:
Take delight in the Lordand he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)
I believe that is not to say He will give us everything we want, but He will implant new desires in our hearts; desires that align with His will and His plan.

God's plan is best. In fact it is perfect, and the closer we come to it, the better things will be.

Blessings,

John
 

Thursday, 30 October 2014

That Was No Miracle!

Or so some might say. I had an 11:00 appointment the other day. I was to meet a pastor (Greg) at a Second Cup in Edmonton. This appointment was not an easy one to make. We had been trying for the better part of a month to find a suitable time and place to meet.

I thought I would make the best use of my time, so I stopped first at another church on the south side and met the pastor. He gave me a tour of his new facility, explained enthusiastically how his church is growing and told me how they have a new Alpha coordinator ready to run Alpha in the new year. At 10:40 I looked at my watch and apologized for having to cut our visit short.

I walked out to my car searching my pockets for my keys. Not there. My heart sunk as, looking through the window, I saw them in the ignition. The doors were locked!

I called AMA for roadside assistance. By the time I had waited for 'the next available operator' and we had gone through all the details of my problem and location, it was 10:45. the operator told me they would have someone there in 35 to 45 minutes. So much for my long-awaited meeting!

I did two things. I shot up a short prayer that God would somehow redeem this predicament. I don't know what I expected. Would He somehow open the doors for me? Would I return to my car and find the doors no longer locked? Would I recheck my pockets and find my keys were there all along?

The second thing I did was call Pastor Greg's church to get his cell number. The receptionist gave it to me. It was now 10:50. I was in the middle of dialing his number when another call beeped in. I debated with myself whether or not to take it. I did.

It was a recorded message from AMA saying that assistance would be there within ten minutes.

I did call Pastor Greg and explained the situation. But to cut to the end of the story, I was able to make our appointment by about 11:03.

Was there a miracle here? Many might argue not. How did the 35-45 minutes become 10? Many might say it was just a fortunate coincidence.  All I can say is that I prayed and things worked out.

Would they have worked out the same if I hadn't prayed? Who knows?

Blessings,

John

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The Gospel; Exclusive, Inclusive or Both

I've been thinking about a couple of verses that, at first glance, may see, to present a bit of a paradox:
“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.(Luke 11:23)

 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:50)

Both these verses were given in passages connected with the driving out of demons. In the first, by Jesus, in the second one, by another man, an outsider.
 
As I started putting things down on paper I realized they touch on the same subjects as Pastor Brent Cantelon’s talk at our recent Alpha staff retreat – that the Gospel is , at once, exclusive, inclusive and urgent.
 
Jesus said that whoever is not with him is against him. In this sense the Gospel is exclusive. He said that he is the only way to the Father; that no one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6). Exactly what that means is a way bigger discussion. Just how much does one need to know to come to a relationship with God through Jesus Christ? Bottom line is that the only thing that made such a relationship possible is the atoning, sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. The world does not like this kind of exclusivity, but that doesn’t make it untrue.

In the second context, the disciples saw someone doing something in Jesus’ name and objected because he was not one of them – their circle, their denomination, their ministry. But Jesus corrected them, saying that whoever is not against them (and by extension, us) is for us.

In my travels with Alpha, I am finding that, as the world and its culture seems to be departing further and further from our Christian faith, there is a growing realization of the unity of the true Body of Christ. I am seeing a growing cooperation between various churches and denominations. The man in the second verse was ministering in Jesus’ name, even though he wasn’t one of their particular circle. So in that sense we are cautioned not to be exclusive. All who truly profess Christ as God the Son, Saviour and Lord are our allies.

Within Alpha, I love the servant attitude of our team. Any one of us is willing at any time to help any other of us. None of  our team is jealous of territory or protecting our particular turf. Nor is Alpha itself. Even Nicky Gumbel, who developed Alpha to its current level of excellence, says that if he were to find something more effective in presenting the Gospel than alpha, he would drop Alpha immediately.
 
And finally, because our message is both exclusive and inclusive, there is a urgency to our communicating this truth. There is no other way to a relationship with God than through Jesus Christ. It is a relationship that everyone needs, and one that everyone has available to them.
 
There is no neutrality. Anyone not for him is against him. But in our communicating this message to the world, anyone not against us is for us.
 
Blessings,
John

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

What Do CF-18's Have To Do With Alpha?

CF-18's take off yesterday from CFB Cold Lake, Alberta
I was invited to attend and briefly address a Pastors' appreciation lunch in Bonnyville Community Church yesterday. I actually went last year as well, and in spite of that Pastor Ken invited me back. It was attended by 26 guests representing 14 churches or ministries (15 including mine - Alpha).

One of the guests was a Padre at CFB Cold Lake (which is about 1/2 hour from Bonnyville), and he had just participated in the sending off of 6 CF-18's to Kuwait to help in the fight against ISIS. I was going to post a picture of him speaking, but in light of today's developments in Ottawa, and having been cautioned by news reports to use caution in posting public photos of members of the military, I chose not to.

Having said all that, it was a very encouraging meeting. The Padre himself expressed quite an interest in our 7-week (Campus) Alpha. The new Pentecostal pastor in Bonnyville, new after a two year search, and whose church I have been, "pursuing" for that same two years, expressed interest in both Campus and Youth. The Youth Pastor from Cold Lake Community Church gushed at how successful their own Alpha for Youth has been. I met the senior pastor from Bonnyville Baptist Church and hit it off well with him. They have been running Alpha since 2013 but I haven't been able to connect in a couple of tries with his associate pastor who runs Alpha there. I was beginning to think they were mad at me, but I was assured not. Pastor Claude from Lighthouse Ministries, a ministry to First Nations people in the Lakelands area of Alberta, took some information on Campus as well. The Anglican Priest in Cold Lake also hopes to run Alpha for Youth there.

I will be following up on all these opportunities, but I thank God for a safe trip (3 hours there, 3 back) and for doors He has opened for Alpha as a tool for reaching that area of Alberta.

Blessings,

John

Friday, 17 October 2014

Tailgating and Fundraising

I live in Leduc, Alberta, in a neighbourhood just off the old Highway 2A south. To get to Edmonton, I must merge from the old highway on to Highway 2 northbound. It is an awkward entrance; sharp and short, so one doesn't necessarily have a lot of time or distance to accelerate to highway speed.

This morning, as I drove this route, an SUV was right on my rear bumper as I accelerated on to the highway. I could almost see the colour of the driver's eyes. When we both entered the highway, it pulled out and passed me. A decal on the back window advertised Lia Sophia Jewellery.

Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to be critical of lia Sophia. But it sparked an idea in my mind. This organization sells jewellery at home parties, like Tupperware years ago (and maybe still, for all I know). I think my wife has bought some. So for some reason I thought, "I could do that to raise funds for my ministry with Alpha."

I wonder if it would work. Maybe I'll even put a decal in my back window.

Nah. Then I would have to watch my driving.

Blessings,

John

A Verse For The Rest Of Their Lives


Ben Woodman
Ben Woodman

Speaking on his recent cross-province tour, Alpha for Youth Director Ben Woodman mentioned Jeremiah 29:11 as the verse he always puts in yearbooks or graduation cards for young people who have been his, "Spiritual children."
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
It brought to mind the verse I wrote in my own daughters' graduating cards, and I suppose it reflects the difference between a father and a youth pastor. The verse the Lord brought to my mind at the time was Philippians 4: 8-9.
 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
This passage reflected, and still does, the true sense of how I wanted to send them out into the world. I pray that I was not only a good father, but also a worthy example, as far as I could have been in the weakness of my flesh, for them to embark on the rest of their lives, flying on their own, so to speak.

As I said, the difference, perhaps, between a father and a youth pastor.

Just my thoughts.

Blessings,

Jophn

Thursday, 16 October 2014

This Is Now, That Was Then

The last couple of days I have spent observing Ben Woodman of our Alpha Youth Film Series as he has held meetings around Alberta. Tuesday he was in Medicine Hat and Lethbridge. I joined him, along with our Youth Coach Amy in Calgary on Wednesday and then for a stop in Red Deer.
 
You may recognize the trusty sidekicks; Ben, on the left, and Jason Ballard on the right, in this scene from the Film Series. 

 
However, you may not recognize the Jason of Grade 10 at Terry Fox Secondary School in years gone by. This was one of the video's Ben showed at these meetings. As you will see, Jason comes by his passion for youth honestly
Check this out.
                    
Today's meeting was at Beulah Alliance in Edmonton. Both Jason and Ben were there, and the same kind of passion is apparent among students in this city. The young team at Edmonton's Celebration Church alone is coordinating student-led courses in 15 high and junior high schools in the area. And this being driven in large part, if I am not mistaken in this, by the passion of one 16-year-old girl who attends there.

How amazing and how encouraging!

Blessings,

John

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Growth Has Been Spectacular - But What Now?



This is a picture of the lodge at Loon Lake, BC, where we recently held our annual Alpha staff retreat. The setting is absolutely beautiful, although the cell phone coverage is non-existent and wifi is sporadic at best, but perhaps that is a good thing. It is wonderful to gather with the entire Alpha Canada team in such a such peaceful place, marvelling at God's creation, and basking in the presence of the Holy Spirit. I have had a long career in business, both as an employee, senior manager and business owner, and I must say that this team, under the leadership of our National Director Shaila Visser, is the best of which I have had the privilege of being a part.

Shail welcomed us with a message on the State of the Union in Alpha Canada. The highlight of her message, to me, focused on the difference between being successful and being faithful. Is success, in other words, always increasing in numbers, so that every year reflects greater numbers than the last? That may be an indication of success, but is it always an indication that we are being faithful? Not necessarily. We at Alpha Canada want to be, first of all, faithful. Then, God willing, success will follow. That is what we desire to be and believe we are; a faithful organization that is also successful.

The verse for this message came from Isaiah 54:
Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; (Isaiah 54: 2-3a)
This verse is in the context of God telling His people to prepare for future blessings; get ready for things to come. Alpha has enjoyed phenomenal growth over the past couple of years, More courses were run in Ontario alone this year than in the entire country a couple of years ago. Alberta went from 61 churches running Alpha in 2012 to over 300 in 2013. Every region of the country saw bountiful increases.

But what is God's will for the future? Is it just to keep growing at this exponential pace? We discerned not. Yes, we are planning for some growth, but at a more modest rate. Not because we, in our own wisdom, don't think such growth possible, but because we have a collective sense that God is preparing something; something we don't yet see, but which is stirring just beneath the surface, so to speak. We have a sense that God is getting ready to do something, and He is preparing Alpha to be a part of it.

So, and I hope I am not out of line in saying this, or that I don't get rebuked for disclosing some great secret, I believe this next year may be a year of maintenance, modest growth perhaps, but a year of readiness; of waiting on the Lord; waiting for Him to move in whatever way He has planned.

Because He already knows what He is going to do. And we are waiting to be surprised, delighted, challenged. But most of all, we pray we will be ready.

Come Holy Spirit.

Blessings,
John

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

7 Reasons to Run Alpha More Than Once a Year

GettyImages_158061669
 
In How to Run the Alpha Course, Nicky Gumbel instructs “It is of utmost importance, in order to maintain the momentum, to run at least three courses a year. When people complete Alpha, they very often want to invite their families and friends to the next course, and it is important that one is available.”
Here are a few more reasons why running Alpha more than once a year is beneficial:
1. It gets people talking about spirituality!  This includes ALL sorts of people – those with no religion, other religions, new believers, etc. - who can explore and experience solid Biblical teaching and authentic community in a safe, inviting environment.
2. It tells the community that the church has an open door.  Even if people don’t attend Alpha, they know there’s another course starting soon. When they’re ready to attend, they know Alpha will welcome them (at the church, or the pub, or on campus, or the boardroom, etc).
3. It keeps the church focused on outreach. Many programs are designed for church members, but Alpha is for the unchurched. When the pastor talks about Alpha in his/her sermons, and asks for volunteers and shares testimonies, the congregation’s passion for sharing hope & healing is rekindled.
4. It fosters unity in and among the church. As volunteers with diverse gifts rally together for one purpose, they learn about teamwork. Cooks, decorators, book table fans, small group leaders, and task force members join forces and serve together. Different denominations network together to serve the people in the community.
5. It encourages leadership development.  Alpha is a place for guests to become helpers, and for helpers to become leaders. It’s a place where people can develop their leadership skills, spiritual gifts, social skills, etc. As they are mentored, practice makes perfect (ok well almost) and they in turn will lead and mentor others. Running Alpha 3x a year or more provides this momentum.
6. It builds relationship with the community. There are no dividing walls at Alpha. Christians make friends with non-Christians and friendships are formed regardless of beliefs or stage of life. Alpha allows trust to be built over time.
7. It strengthens the faith of all. Although the Alpha course is an opportunity to help people discuss and discover a relationship with Jesus Christ, many who are already Christians find that they re-discover their love for Jesus. Many questioning doubters experience God in a fresh way that re-calibrates their faith and purpose in life.

I will be posting about our recent Alpha Staff Retreat, but for now I thought this entry from alpha is an important one for all churches to remember, for the reasons given.

Blessings,

John

Friday, 3 October 2014

Well... Who Knew?

I just watched an interesting program on PBS about MI6, the British Secret Service. In the program, I learned that a statue of St. Francis of Assisi on the grounds of Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB) was a favourite place for Soviet spies to use as a, "dead letter drop" during the cold war. A Soviet double agent would leave a microfilm, a cassette or message behind it to be picked up later by a 'handler' from the Soviet Embassy.

From here...
A little further away, literally just behind the oratory, the Holy Trinity Church is the site for another dead letter drop. As you approach the church from the Brompton Road, bear to your left and in the corner there is a small statue of St Francis of Assisi. Soviet agents reputedly left their files and microfilms on the ground at the base of the tree next to the wall.
Mind you, this was way before Alpha, and HTB was not implicated. It's just that its grounds were a secluded spot to leave clandestine messages.

I just found it interesting, that's all.

Small world.

Blessings,
John

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Pharisees vs Prostitutes

There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, "Son, go and work today in the vineyard."  "I will not," he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, "I will, sir," but he did not go. “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him. (Matthew 21: 28b-32)
Sometimes I will visit a church where I'm told, "We don't want Alpha." "We're happy the way we are."

Such a church may often be comprised of people 50 plus. They are happy coming together every Sunday, worshipping just the way their parents did, and they themselves have done ever since they were children. They don't want to change. They are happy with ancient Bible translations, traditional hymns only (not that there is anything wrong with them), traditional music only with traditional instrumentation only.  (Which leads me to reflect that what we today refer to as traditional hymns were, at one time, contemporary music.)

These churches often don't seem too enthusiastic to reach out to their communities in any active way. They are happy ministering to their own. They may say they would like to grow, but one gets the impression that any new person coming through their doors must squeeze themselves into the church's mold. Therefore, in many cases I fear, these newcomers may come once and never show themselves again.

I believe that Alpha can be very much a part of the answer to the question, "How can we reach those who need to hear the Gospel in a way that will hold their attention while they hear it?" Times have changed in the last generation or two. And to take a point from Romans 10:14, how can we tell them if we can't hold their attention. Evangelization is a process. Not everyone responds the first time they hear the Good News, even though it is the best news of all. Alpha, with a 7-week or a 10-week timespan, is an ideal vehicle for evangelism.

In the parable above, Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees. I have the definite sense that, at least in this passage, Jesus did not say that they would not enter the kingdom, but that others, more honest ones perhaps; more sincerely contrite; those who truly recognized their need, would enter before them.

I wonder if these of whom I spoke a couple of paragraphs above might  be in the same boat. They may get to Heaven, but I think they might get a pretty good talking to when they get there.

Just thinkin'

Blessings,

John

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

I wish I'd...

...said some things, done some things, differently.

Our fundraising event is now over. From a certain standpoint it was a success. That is;
  1. We had more guests than we thought we would - about 150.
  2. Most of them enjoyed the evening
However, our purpose in running the thing was not (primarily) so people could enjoy themselves. That was a wonderful side benefit, but the primary purpose was to raise funding for Steven Craig and myself. I have not heard what support came in for Steven, but, on the evening, I must say I was somewhat disappointed.

Now, that may seem like whining, or self-pity. For a short time it may have been, but not now. My thoughts are the same, but now they are a rational reflection on reality. And this being my diary, I get to express them, emphasizing once again that they are my own, not those of Alpha Ministries.

I made a 15 minute presentation on Alpha; what it is and how it changes lives and contributes to a better society. The presentation was well received, even receiving spontaneous applause in two or three places. But the response in returned giving envelopes was disappointing. Obviously, I do thank those who did give, those who support me regularly, and those who might still, as a result of the event. But at the end of the evening one of my friends who help plan and prepare the event gave me a short debriefing, mentioning what I might have done better, and I see now that he may have been correct.

Here are a couple of ways I believe I fell short;
  1. I didn't give enough specific time for people to fill out the donation slips at the tables. I was told afterwards that at the end of the evening I should have said something like, "Now take 5 or 10 minutes to fill out your donation slips and pass them to one person at the table. Frankly, this feels manipulative to me. Perhaps I'm naïve, but I felt (and really still do feel) that we should rely on God touching people's hearts to convict them to give. 
  2. I wasn't specific enough about the need. I felt I was fairly direct, emphasizing that our ministries depended on their giving, but perhaps I should have said something like, "Our salaries depend 100% on your givings, and if not enough people see the value on our ministries, and the parts we play in them, then you may next see us greeting at Wal-Mart."
  3. I snuck in a prayer showing how one might give their life to Christ. It was in the context of my relating how my friend Laurier prayed such a prayer with a young Native man in the Fort Saskatchewan Jail, when we ran Alpha there. I quoted the whole prayer for the benefit of non-Christians in the room but I think now I should have explained it just a bit more fully and emphasized that it is a prayer anyone could pray for themselves at any time.
Bottom line is this: I gave what I thought was my best shot at a presentation, but when it came down to the time to fill out the donation envelopes, not many did. That is what is frustrating to me; there were people there who I know have the financial resources to give but for some reason made the conscious choice not to. I'm not talking about people who were unable to. Nor am I really here to judge anyone else's ability to help. And perhaps there will be donations come in later, based on someone's attendance at the event. But I'm sure there were those there do have the means, yet, after having seen and heard the presentations, didn't. And it strikes me that they must, in some way, have thought to themselves, for one reason or another "This is not worthy, or worth my while, to support." Otherwise they would have. Which causes me to ask myself, "Did I not do a good job of convincing people of the value of Alpha as a ministry, or the value of my part in it?" I thought I did, but perhaps I am naïve.

Okay - so much for the self pity. The devotional on our Alpha Canada Monday conference was about faith, from Hebrews chapter 11. This is often known this as the, "Faith Hall of Fame," but the last two verses I found very convicting:
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
None of them received what God had promised immediately, but God had something better for them in the future. And here am I complaining that I didn't receive immediate gratification. I should be embarrassed at what I have written above, but to make the point I just tried to make, I will let it stand.
And maybe we'll see you at Wal-Mart if that is God's will.

Blessings,
John

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Stop The Sun!

Do you know the story of how God stopped the sun for Joshua? I don't know just how He did it. I don't know exactly what happened that day, but I have no doubt that the Creator of the entire universe can do exactly what He wants with it.

Sometimes I have days where God seems to do it for me too. There are times (and I must confess, recently) where, looking ahead, I have no idea how I'm going to accomplish everything that needs to get done. But I pray that God will somehow extend the hours, somehow expand the day, so I will get everything done.

And He does it. Now, I'm not saying He literally stops the sun in the sky, but as I run from project to project; from appointment to appointment; from place to place, at the end of the day, or even part way through it, I look at my watch and am amazed at how the time has not gone by as quickly as I thought it would.

So, in the face of a seemingly impossible schedule or a seemingly insurmountable list of tasks, rather than barging in and feeling you must get all this done in your own strength, take a pause for prayer. Ask God to stop the sun for you.

You may be amazed.

Blessings,
John

PS: I just got word that the daughter of someone who has been on my heart for a very long time is registered for Alpha Youth at Steele Heights Baptist Church.  Praise God!

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Still Time

To get tickets for the fundraising event in support of God's work through Alpha in Alberta and Inter Varsity at McGill University.

As posted previously, comedian Dan Taylor has been selected as one of Alberta's top comics in a Sirius XM contest and is opening for Russell Peters at Rexall Place. Then he is travelling to Toronto on the very day of our event to appear on Just For Laughs. I would not begrudge him all this success for anything.

Stepping up to the mic in his place is another Christian comic, David Rae. I have seen and enjoyed his act as well, and I consider myself a good judge of comedy. (For those who don't know, in my previous, BC [before Christ] life, I performed at Yuk Yuk's in Toronto and Yuk Yuk's and the old Sidetrack here in Edmonton, approaching a level fairly close to mediocrity in my act.)

You can message me for tickets or register online here.

The commercial is now over. Next post will be back to our regular programming.

Blessings,
John

A Couple of Updates

The woman on the right is Amy, our Alpha Youth coach for Alberta, newly on board but already on the road. With her is the chaplain of a high school, and the young girl I mentioned in this post. Looks like they got together and the wheels are rolling for another Alpha Youth Film Series in another Alberta school.

Speaking of which, in my travels yesterday, after making a cold call to the Salvation Army Edmonton Temple (an encouraging call and well-received, I might add) I popped in to Celebration Church and helped an amazing young woman, Sophie, register another 12 or 14 junior high and high school courses. What an AMAZING generation! We seniors need not fear for the future of the Church if these kids are any indication.

Then I received an e-mail from the Pastor of  New Life Victory Church in Lac La Biche, the church where I made the cold call last week,  mentioned in this post. He was asking for more information on Alpha, so I wrote back mentioning, among other things, other Victory churches running Alpha in Alberta, in St Albert, Calgary and Lethbridge, among others. Pray with me for further fruit from that visit.

I've been thinking recently about Proverbs 3:5-6:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
Four lines. My prayer is constantly that the first three apply to my life and activities. I have noticed that the fourth definitely does. Often I just seem to be in the right place when something comes up. Sometimes I just happen to take a certain route, at a certain time, and lo and behold, an opportunity appears; I pass a church and turn in; there just happens to be someone there; even (as in the case of my cold-call to the Salvation Army mentioned above) they were sort of thinking of Alpha.

God is good - all the time.

Blessings,
John

Friday, 19 September 2014

Calgary Chapter 2

OK, so now for my Wednesday in Calgary. I had started with 2 firm appointments, the first one at 2:00 in the afternoon.  But my phone calling Tuesday began to pay off. I arranged to visit Westbourne Baptist church at 9:30 in the morning. Not knowing how traffic would be I checked out of my hotel and hit the road at about 8:45. My route took me along 24th Ave, (hope that link works) where oncoming traffic was backed up about 2 km heading to the University. However, my direction was free and clear and I arrived about 25 minutes early. Pastor Bill Finch was very kind to let me in anyway and we spent a very nice 35 minutes or so in conversation and prayer.

Next stop was Southview Alliance in the southwest area of the city. I chose a route that took me along Canyon Meadows Drive. (There's a reason for all this - hold on.) As I was travelling along that road, getting closer to my destination, I got a call from a church back in North Calgary in a bit of a panic. They had run the first session of the Marriage Course the night before, and had way more guests than they expected. The pastor wondered where I could get about 30 more copies right away. Well, just as I hung up, I looked to my right and there was Bonavista Baptist (finally we get to the explanation of the picture on the previous post). They are a great Alpha church, so I turned into their parking lot, walked into their office and asked to use their wifi. I sent a fast e-mail to Elaine Young, our Relationship Central national Director. She put me in touch with a Marriage Course coach in south Calgary, who had a manual in his possession. I picked it up later and delivered it up to the church who needed it so they could copy what they needed.

Next Appointment was Southview Alliance, where Pastor Rob Penner informed me that they had purchased land for a new building. Their current building was going to be taken over by Southgate
Alliance, whose building in turn has been purchased by a growing Filipino congregation, now meeting in a school. I love it when churches need more room.

I had a lunch meeting with a loyal Alpha church whose Alpha coordinator (and a wonderful one) was stepping down and a new team stepping in. I'm praying for a smooth transition and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit for the new husband and wife team. Then a 2:00 meeting with another very solid Alpha church.

Finally, I was invited to St Andrew's Presbyterian for their actual Alpha introductory supper. Their Alpha torch is also being passed to a new team, so prayers for them as well. About 35 guests enjoyed a dinner of shepherd's pie, vegetables, a very tasty dessert, a few jokes and (I hope) a brief address by myself.

Then at about 8:30 headed out on my 2 1/2 hour drive home to LA.

But as I've said before, I love Alpha and I love driving, so I've got the perfect job.

Blessings,
John