“Our once great western Christian civilization is dying. If this matters to followers of Jesus Christ, then we must set aside our denominational differences and work together to strengthen the things that remain and reclaim what has been lost. Evangelicals and Catholics must stand together to re-establish that former Christian culture and moral consensus. We have the numbers and the organization but the question is this: Do we have the will to win this present spiritual battle for Jesus Christ against secularism? Will we prayerfully and cooperatively work toward a new Christian spiritual revival ― or will we choose to hunker down in our churches and denominationalisms and watch everything sink into the spiritual and moral abyss of a New Dark Age?” - Mark Davis Pickup

Friday, April 23, 2021



She gazed out the kitchen window, not looking at anything in particular. LaRee was contemplating. “I wonder if we’ll ever get out from beneath COVID?” She turned to look at me: “Will life ever return to normal?” Who could blame her for being discouraged? The COVID pandemic has gone on longer than anyone thought. Too long. It’s been well over a year of lockdowns, ever shifting public health directives, and things seem to be getting worse not better, despite a mass vaccination campaign. COVID variants and mutations are out-pacing science. 


LaRee and I have been married for forty-eight years. I know her. Something new happened to pile on the daily bad news the media is so quick to tell us about. I asked a stupid question: “Why are you so gloomy? What’s up?” LaRee gave me a look as though I must have just climbed out from beneath a rock.  “Have you read the latest news? There’s new COVID variants every few days more transmissible that may be resistant to the vaccines. Two of our grandchildren are in quarantine from exposure to COVID at school. Our son and a granddaughter already have compromising lung conditions which put them at greater risk with COVID; and do I need to remind you that we haven’t been able to visit most of our family in over a year?!” All those things are true. Since the beginning of the pandemic, my wife and I have been diligently following distancing, masking, hand washing, and any other directions health authorities recommend. After all, we are seniors and I have two pre-existing health conditions that put me at higher risk: multiple sclerosis and hypertension. But social distancing can create social isolation.


Strangely, life with poor health is actual a strength. It was because of chronic illness, disease and disability that I slowly discovered lonely isolation can become gentle solitude. Solitude’s quietude allows people to tend to their inner development and interior spiritual life. 


Thirty-seven years with severe degenerative multiple sclerosis put me in an electric wheelchair. I often dreamt of better days despite desperate situations, regardless of whether I could enjoy them. I dared to dream of the unlikely or impossible because Christ was with me. Most of my dreams did not come true, but He was with me. And so, I looked up with hopes and dreams rather than down with sorrow or despair. When I didn’t think things could get physically worse, I had an unexpected mini-stroke, or as my neurologist affectionately called it, a ‘transient ischemic attack’ (TIA). (Don’t you love those highfalutin medical terms.) It put me a high risk of a subsequent major stroke, and yet an inexplicable peace descended upon me. He was there. Christ. 


Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”[1]


And God’s divine consolation intensified even more when I was diagnosed with cancer. As I was wheeled on a gurney into an operating room for surgery, Christ was with me with the sublime assurance: “Be Not Afraid. I AM with you.”[2] I went under anesthetic completely at peace with whatever was His will. I can not tell you how much that understanding meant to me. Regardless of what health crises befell me or how sick I became, … the presence of God was greater.


During it all, I have known Christ has been with me. At the most unexpected moments — and often my sickest moments — I was often engulfed by a fleeting sacred child-like joy completely at odds with my circumstances; I came to treasure them. My interior man is learning to be content regardless of the situation. 


For those who do not yet know Christ, seek Him. He is seeking you! Jesus said,Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”[3] In Him you will find joy and love, purpose and meaning to life.


Christians can use lockdowns of the pandemic to draw nearer to Christ. He will draw nearer to you. Times of crisis can open wonderful vistas for spiritual growth. 


This is my point: Christ is in charge! Nothing slips by Him. He is with us in this global covid pandemic. If we surrender our lives to Him, no pandemic, no disease, no isolation can separate us from the love of God. Saint Paul said:

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”[4]

Remember, he also assured us that all things work for good for those who love God.[5] I recommend that you read the entire 8th chapter of Romans. Contemplate and meditate on what it says. Let the Apostle’s words reassure you during this plague. 

Perhaps when this pandemic is over, you may look back at this time as a spiritually fruitful time in your life—a time when lonely isolation came become sweet solitude.  

Mark Davis Pickup

[1] Psalm 23.4.

[2] See John 14.27, cf. Revelation 1.17-18.

[3] Revelation 3.20. cf. Luke 12.36, John 14.23.

[4] Romans 8.38-39.

[5] Romans 8.28.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021


On Easter weekend, a Calgary pastor in Canada threw police out of his church. He was wild, screaming at the police to get out and calling them Nazis and Gestapo. My sympathies lay with both: I felt sorry for the police officers who were merely following orders:  Trying to ensure compliance with public health directives. I also felt for the pastor. 


He had an eastern European accent and is of an age when he he might well remember the oppression of a communist  country.  Seeing police come into the church service wearing guns, billyclubs, hand-cuffs, and tasers may have triggered memories of Stasi-like police intimidation, and jack-boot justice.  This would certainly explain such a severe and extreme response by the pastor. (He was wrong to go outside his church and hurl insults at the police as they walked back to their cars.) 


In retrospect, we must consider how these delicate, sensitive issues are approached. Tact and diplomacy are key.  Pastors and religious leaders who ignore the serious threat to human life that the pandemic presents are ignoring their responsibilities as citizens. This is an extraordinary time of public health crisis!  Their refusal to adhere to temporary policies put in place for the good of public health brings discredit to their Christian presence in their communities. Congregants who were unmasked and not obeying physical distancing will leave the church and enter the community. They may have been exposed to covid then take it—or one of the highly contagious and more dangerous variants—to their neighbours, people in the local grocery store or a pharmacy.    


Current public health regulations are not meant to violate people’s freedom of religion, association or peaceful assembly. In times of national emergency, we must understand there is (and must be) a hierarchy of rights, beginning with the right to life and security of the person. The right of peaceful assembly must give way in times of a lethal pandemic that spreads by air and close proximity of people. To obstinately refuse to acknowledge this is irresponsible and shows a blatant disregard for others (love of neighbour). 


I haven’t attended church in months. I don’t like it and miss it terribly. Online services and worship must suffice. I have underlying health conditions that put me at increased risk of contracting covid through public exposure. But it must be that way until the pandemic is over. 


I’ve spent most of my adult life espousing the value, worth and dignity of every human life, and the fundamental right to life and protection.  How could I now endanger others because of my lesser right of association and assembly? Churches have ways to connect with their members, and the community, through such things as Zoom, Facebook, FaceTime, Google Group Chat, email, or telephone conference calls. Granted they are grossly inferior to coming together in churches but It’s only for a while longer. 


The Calgary city police are not Nazis. They are not Gestapo. They were trying to ensure public health regulations are followed, not strip people of their rights. To call them such terribly inflammatory things was wrong.  The police officers were guilty of insensitivity, that’s all. They should have left their weapons, handcuffs and tasers in their cars to avoid any appearances of intimidation or bullying—especially when dealing with someone who may well have experienced real police thuggery in a communist country. They should not have interrupted a church service. They stepped into a hornet’s nest. 


I call on all pastors and churches to cooperate and obey covid health directives. Use technology and online tools at your disposal to collectively worship our Lord.  Granted, they are not the same as gathering as a church family, but it’s only for a short time longer until covid is under control and we can emerge into the sunlight again and resume our lives.  Don’t portray covid restrictions as persecution of Christians. That is not right and you know it. Obey public health regulations for the health and well-being of your communities, and us all.