Combobulation: Some reflections from the National Prayer Breakfast 2022

Combobulation.  No one speaks of combobulation. Yet we all need it, as people and as a country, and as a world.

We often hear of discombobulation: disorganization, brokenness, uncertainty and confusion. That combubulation isn't even recognized as a word on your spell check should tell just how hard it is for us to define, let alone experience. 

Combobulation was on my mind on a a recent trip to attend the National Prayer Breakfast in Ottawa, just a few blocks away from Parliament Hill.  The events included a Leadership Dinner on May 30 and a breakfast on May 31.  These events are spear-headed by a non-partisan group of MPs, representative of those who regularly meet together on Wednesday mornings, to support one another, pray for one another and for our nation.  

The Prime Minister spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast. The circulated news article said:

"Trudeau then offered up a short prayer in which he asked for collective guidance with moving forward 'on the sometimes difficult but necessary paths of reconciliation.' "

Those are important words of high ambition; necessary for our country, essential to restore the wounds of discombobulation, recent and historic. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

What the news article doesn't say is that theme verses for this year's event came from 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, which reads: 

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God."

If we are going to experience combobulation, then compassion, comfort and mutual care must be evident. 

What the news article doesn't say is that former MP, Joy Smith, spoke at the Leadership Dinner the night previous.  She and the foundation, in her name, continues its relentless work of education, justice and care in the fight against Human Trafficking in Canada.  With great fervour and inspiration she remindued us to: "Pray for the courage to confront the evil of our day, with the compassion that God gives us."

with Joy Smith and Janet Campbell (President and CEO of Joy Smith Foundation)

What the news article doesn't say is that Bill Adsit (a member of the Tahltan First Nation) shared his story of attending Residential School from age 5 to 15.  He affirmed that the truth of the stories of abuse and neglect and were his experience, but he chose not to delve into detail.. He did provide a small glimpse into the consequences of those years on his young adulthood and early marriage.  Moreover, in sharing his reality, he made clear that "I am not a residential school survivor; I am a residential school conqueror."  As he concluded he gave a simple explanation that can be be summarized by three letters: J.O.Y. 

Jesus - It was his prayer from a jail cell, calling out to God that changed the trajectory of his life. 

Others - It was the compassionate and positive influence of others, who helped him to become more than he thought or was told was possible.  

Yourself - "Because of the first two; I had opportunity," he said. 

Mr. Adsitt has used that opportunity to make a significant impact on his family, his friends and colleagues and in his work.You can watch/hear his story, recorded for the virtual National Prayer Breakfast in 2020:


Mr. Adsit, concluded his story with these words: "Compassion allows us to listen and learn to the journey of others."  His words and his story were fitting, given the theme of the occasion and also followed well the words of our Prime Minister. 

What the news article doesn’t say is that the Prime Minister spoke the words quoted in the article after reading the first few verses Luke 19. He read about an encounter, in a crowd, between Jesus and Zacchaeus. 

In a world of division, blame and identity politics- we would do well to follow the example of Jesus Christ, looking deeper and beyond the policy, promotion and propaganda - and recognize that there are people whom God has made in his image who need mercy. How many people gathered in the crowd that day, in Luke 19, would have thought Jesus was about to call out Zacchaeus, point out his flaws, his misdeeds and trespasses?  How many people would have shuffled themselves to prevent him from moving to the front of the crowd?  There was division, there was hatred, there was discombobulation. 

Yet Jesus, gives us an example of the possibility of reconciliation that comes as a result of compassion.  In this one exchange, read by our Prime Minister, we see a path to combobulation, between people and people groups.  We do well to remember these hallmarks of compassion (my conclusions, not necessarily his): 

1. We are beloved by God

2. God is merciful

3. We are to be merciful to others - even if we don’t like or don’t agree with how they present themselves externally.

The news article did say that The Prime Minister, then offered a prayer for those gathered and as an extension for our nation.  A prayer which concluded with these words: "Jesus came to give life and give it to the full."  Those are powerful words by which to end a prayer.  Those are words that quote Jesus directly and point toward His role in demonstrating compassion and mercy and care for those who respond to Him, as sheep look to a shepherd to lead and care for them.  Those are words of combobulation!

MP Candice Bergen, Interim Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada

What the news article doesn't say, is that the event was concluded by an impassioned plea from Interim Conservative Party Leader, Candice Bergen, whose message did well to effectively summarize the events this years National Prayer Breakfast. Her words are shared, with permission: 

Compassion, reconciliation, forgiveness and restoration - these are all words that speak of wholeness, healing and peace.  These are words of combobulation, and may God use the words, prayers and sentiments of all our leaders to bring it to pass, among people and people groups from sea to sea to sea.