Do we all need a gift-economy network?

More than once Richard Heinberg’s book The End of Growth left me feeling like the sky is falling.  However, any survey of markets over the last four years seems to show the trend of no or little growth.  He argues that sustainable networks of economic interaction will have to be built on something other than debt and raiding of natural and human wealth.

I keep finding myself returning to his “economic history in ten minutes” and his reflections on the transition from gift economies to trade economies.

“With more and more of our daily human interactions based on exchange rather than gifting, we have developed polite ways of being around each other on a daily basis while maintaining an exchange-mediated social distance.  This is particularly the case in large cities, where anonymity is fostered also by the practical formalities and psychological impacts that go along with the need to interact with large numbers of strangers, day in and day out.  In the best instances, we still take care of one another–often through government programs and private charities.  We still enjoy some of the benefits of the old gift economy in our families and churches.  But increasingly, the market rules our lives.  Our apparent destination in this relentless trajectory toward expansion of trade is a world in which everything is for sale, and all human activities are measured by and for their monetary value.

Humanity has benefited in many obvious ways from this economic evolution:  the gift economy really only worked when we lived in small bands and had almost no possessions to speak of.  So letting go of the gift economy was a trade-off for houses, cities, cars, iPhones, and all the rest.  Still, saying goodbye to community-as-family was painful, and there have been various attempts throughout history to try to revisit it.”   The End of Growth, p. 29-30.

Do we all need a gift-economy network?  I think so.  We’ve renamed it social capital.  But there’s still a rub even there.  Relationships won’t last under the weight of what people take from them.  Vibrant and resilient relationships are build on what we willingly give to them.

Vancouver is abuzz with the longing for the community-as-family life.  (See the Vancouver Foundations most recent study.)  However, its our conditioning in the trade-economy that keeps us from the generosity and sacrificial approach required to include others in our circle of friends of family.

We all need a gift-economy network.  Perhaps the best way to get one… is to start giving.

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Clean Fatherhood

Two enjoyments:  a family walk along the seawall at Stanley Park and a good story.

One of the stories I most appreciate in Pauline Johnson’s collection of coastal First Nations’ stories is associated with the Siwash Rock in Stanley Park.  In the story told by a local chief over a hundred years ago, a young-chief-father-to-be makes and persists in the pursuit of purity that will be imputed to his child; he persists in a decision that will benefit his child and make a future for the child.  He continues even when confronted by power and personalities who believe he is in their way.

Johnson records the tillicum’s account:

“Do you dare disobey us,” they cried–”we, the men of the Sagalie Tyee? We can turn you into a fish, or a tree, or a stone for this; do you dare disobey the Great Tyee?”

“I dare anything for the cleanliness and purity of my coming child. I dare even the Sagalie Tyee Himself, but my child must be born to a spotless life.”

The four men were astounded. They consulted together, lighted their pipes, and sat in council. Never had they, the men of the Sagalie Tyee, been defied before. Now, for the sake of a little unborn child, they were ignored, disobeyed, almost despised. The lithe young copper-coloured body still disported itself in the cool waters; superstition held that should their canoe, or even their paddle-blades, touch a human being, their marvellous power would be lost. The handsome young chief swam directly in their course. They dared not run him down; if so, they would become as other men. While they yet counselled what to do, there floated from out the forest a faint, strange, compelling sound. They listened, and the young chief ceased his stroke as he listened also. The faint sound drifted out across the waters once more. It was the cry of a little, little child. Then one of the four men, he that steered the canoe, the strongest and tallest of them all, arose, and, standing erect, stretched out his arms towards the rising sun and chanted, not a curse on the young chief’s disobedience, but a promise of everlasting days and freedom from death.

“Because you have defied all things that come in your path we promise this to you,” he chanted: “you have defied what interferes with your child’s chance for a clean life, you have lived as you wish your son to live, you have defied us when we would have stopped your swimming and hampered your child’s future. You have placed that child’s future before all things, and for this the Sagalie Tyee commands us to make you for ever a pattern for your tribe. You shall never die, but you shall stand through all the thousands of years to come, where all eyes can see you. You shall live, live, live as an indestructible monument to Clean Fatherhood.”

The four men lifted their paddles and the handsome young chief swam inshore; as his feet touched the line where sea and land met he was transformed into stone.

Then the four men said, “His wife and child must ever be near him; they shall not die, but live also.” And they, too, were turned into stone. If you penetrate the hollows in the woods near Siwash Rock you will find a large rock and a smaller one beside it. They are the shy little bride-wife from the north, with her hour-old baby beside her. And from the uttermost parts of the world vessels come daily throbbing and sailing up the Narrows. From far trans-Pacific ports, from the frozen North, from the lands of the Southern Cross, they pass and repass the living rock that was there before their hulls were shaped, that will be there when their very names are forgotten, when their crews and their captains have taken their long last voyage,  when their merchandise has rotted, and their owners are known no more. But the tall, grey column of stone will still be there–a monument to one man’s fidelity to a generation yet unborn–and will endure from everlasting to everlasting.

Read the whole story here.

The majesty and beauty of the story has grown on me and is one that I read out loud to my family at least once a year.  But more than that, every time I see the Siwash rock I have had to hear again in my heart what I believe is God’s call to “clean fatherhood.”  I could choose to live only for myself, but the most challenging and noble way to live is to persist in a way of life that creates opportunity for the generation coming behind me.

I wish every resident of Vancouver and every walker along the Stanley Park seawall knew the story of Siwash Rock.  The stone and its history calls out to us as individuals and as a society to conduct ourselves in ways that value purity, perseverance, and self-sacrifice for the benefit of others.

Harness the power of art for Vancouver kids

It’s time to vote and spread the word.  Let’s work together to help the staff of Admiral Seymour Elementary and the kids of our inner-city.

The kids of Admiral Seymour Elementary are semi-finalists in the Aviva Community Fund Competition.  The school has proposed to equip a space and enlist an Expresive Art Therapist.

“Our goal is to set up and provide our students with a well equipped therapeutic art room where an Expressive Art Therapist (EXAT) can counsel our emotionally fragile students. EXATs are trained in child centered therapy through the use of drawing, painting, music, dance/movement, storytelling, journaling, sculpting, play, drama etc. We would use the funding to successfully create an inviting, resource filled Therapeutic art room. Any remaining money would be used to top up our Art therapist’s time so that we would have a full time therapist from January 2012 until June 2013. ”

Read more here and vote.

local missional story in process now!

Pete McMartin has served up a beautiful story of a family working out their faith in Jesus in the Downtown Eastside.  The progressive integration of the Gospel into the spaces where we live-work-play is what we have been talking about Cityview.  I’m so glad to have another story of someone doing it!  As we each listen and respond to Jesus our lives won’t necessary look like Kathryn Walker’s, but I do think there are some common missional aspects that can be.  Before I lay them out let’s get some engagement on this question:  What do you think should be true of all followers of Jesus Christ?

wow we were on the road 16 years ago…

Sixteen years ago Ellen and I were still two and half days away from Vancouver.   We were driving across the continent to plant our lives here because of a vision of people transformed by Jesus Christ loving this city and the world.  We were excited, hopeful, and probably a bit proud–even over confident.  But, we were warmly welcomed by our new friends in the core of Gladstone, which became Cityview Baptist Church.  Over the years I have looked back often at the picture I have of one of our first Sundays together and I have treasured the faith we all had that God was going to do something!  I am astonished with the trust they give us as young 25 year old hopefuls!

And God has done something.  I rejoice now in the hundreds of people we have been able to share the Gospel and life with in this City.  I have been blessed with neighbours and friends who have immensely enriched my life.  One of the things that has remained true of Cityview is that we are a people willing to risk and try new things.  Confidence is helpful.  Trust is essential.  And listening to Jesus and discerning His direction is the way.  I have always sought for us to individually and corporately wrestle with discerning Jesus’ voice.  He is Lord…not me!

This year the Strategic Leadership Team at Cityview has taken another big step in our vision of creating communities of devoted followers in Vancouver and around the world.  They have given me time to invest in people in the UBC Campus Community.  We are convinced that God loves the students and people who live, work, and play there.  And we have heard God’s call to join with other faithful people like Rich Carruthers, Suzanne Perry, and the students in Born for More to plant the Gospel in the diverse communities that together form UBC.

Our vision  is to see a network of house churches or simple churches meeting in homes, coffee shops, and community gathering places because of the transforming work of Jesus and His Gospel of grace in our lives.  Currently I am spending two and half days a week in the UBC Campus Community getting to know people, their patterns of life, their hopes and dreams, and their spiritual journey stories.  As well, I am sharing the Gospel and including people in our community of faith.

This week I was so encouraged by a text from a friend.  “Hey Craig…you still making trips out to UBC?  I want to encourage you – I think that’s the coolest thing!  Reminds me of soldiers that go into foreign area to do recon…”  So my response was thanks…and you should come out with me!  Now I know that you all can’t come out with me, but do pray for us.  Pray the Luke 10:2b prayer…that the Lord of the Harvest will raise up workers for the Harvest.  We have seen the Lord answer this and we are looking for new disciples of Jesus who will grow in faith and become part of the team.

After 16 years I have had to ask myself, why do I have to keep complicating my life?  I have often done “two things” the whole time we have been here.  It’s just the way the Lord has wired me and my family up and the way Jesus has invited me to be a part of what He is doing.  I have said all along that our call to Vancouver has really been a call to follow Jesus.  I wish that kind of life for every one of you.

“I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”  Acts 20:24