Saturday, December 27, 2008

The bald truth

As Joel was packing up his things this week, he came across a picture that we had taken several years ago of him and me at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, standing beside the Stanley Cup.  I was shocked by what I saw.

I had hair back then!!  A nice wavy set of hair!  As I look at the mirror now, I note that each day the grass seems to be getting thinner of this old roof. What the heck happened here?

Okay, I know, I know....aging, chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant,  life and all of that other stuff.

But I just wasn't prepared for the shock of seeing myself looking so much younger. It seems like it was only yesterday.

Man, I'm starting to sound as old as I look.

Empty nesters

Well, as of today, my wife and I are empty nesters. Joel and Rebecca (my oldest two) moved out today into their own apartment closer to downtown Mississauga.  It will be a change, for sure.   It will nice to have the extra room (I am typing this from my new office in David's old room.  Our youngest moved out in October).  Denita will find it hard, I know.  She poured so much of herself into the kids.  For the past couple of days whenever I asked how she was feeling, she simply said (without rancour), "I don't want to talk about  it." 

Now, as I look around the house and see the remnants of the move, the finality of it has come home to me.  My kids are grownup. 

I think we did a good job.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Convert or else....

Well, here is an interesting little piece of video dated November 27 and broadcast on Al-Nas TV in Egypt.  In it, Egyptian cleric Hassan Abu Al-Ashbal calls on U.S. President-elect Obama to convert to Islam and threatens that, if he doesn't, "We have people who are eager for death."  Now, of course, for you conspiracy types who think that Obama is already as Muslim, the threats in this video are meaningless... right?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Thoughts from the ash heap redux

I have been going through some of my old blogs today back on the Persecuted Church Weblog and I came across one from July 2006 that I thought I would like to share again with some of you who are new to my blogs:

The past four years since I was diagnosed with CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia) have reinforced my long-held conviction that most western Christians do not know how to handle suffering from a biblical perspective. When fellow believers have learned that I have what is essentially an incurable disease, they have tended to respond in one or more of the following ways:

1. Hyper-faith: "Healing is always God's will. So don't accept what you have and claim God's promises."
2. Faithlessness: "How tragic! How can a good God allow such a thing! You must be angry with God, eh?"
3. Quick Fix: "I had a friend who went on this special diet and the cancer went away. You should try it!"
4. Denial: "Don't worry. Be happy! After all, the Bible says to rejoice in all things!"
5. Avoidance: "Let's not talk about this. I don't know what to say."
6. Resignation: "Well, I suppose your life and usefulness is winding down. Better start planning your legacy."

Now, I recognize that there are elements of truth in all of these responses. And I try hard not to get annoyed by the "friends of Job" that invariably arrive whenever one is going through trials. But lately, I am finding that I would rather sit on the ash heap (cf. Job 2:8) by myself. At least part of me does. Part of me would still like some company, but it is hard to find those who will sit and pray and accept that suffering often involves mystery that requires faith, not sight; trust, not explanations and solutions.

I am satisfied with the knowledge that God allows nothing to come into my life that does not first pass through his sovereign Hands. I trust that He is accomplishing His purposes in and through my life in a way today that He could not do if I were perfectly healthy. Living with a keener sense of mortality is not altogether a bad thing. It tends to bring an edge to your life than is often missing otherwise. You know that you have one shot at life in which to accomplish God's purposes and so you'd better make the best of it. Could this be why many Christians who live under the shadow of persecution are making a greater impact on the world today than those of us who live in relative freedom? We live with diminished sense of urgency.
Anyway, my biggest struggle right now is not retreating to the ash heap, seeking to escape the well-intentioned. I hope that someday they will join me, though, trying to listen to the voice in the whirlwind (Job 38:1).

Saturday, December 13, 2008

So, how am I feeling?

It's been a while since I gave any kind of update on my health. I am pretty much finished with the cold I caught back in November.  For a fairly minor cold, it sure hung on for a long time.

Apart from that, I am feeling better than I have for a while. It is nice being off of most of the drugs that I have been on for so long, especially those that fogged my mind.   Of course, I am then tempted to start traveling or doing some other stupid thing, but I have to admit that my days of travel are pretty much over. It really does change your perspective to realize that you probably will be worse in a year from now than you are today.  That is the reality I live with.  It really changes everything.  I am so used to living like whatever setback I am presently experiencing will eventually be overcome.  Not this, unless God miraculously intervenes and I have no promise from Him that He will.  Faith is not claiming what God has not promised; that's presumption and putting the Lord to the test.  That, I will not do.  Do I believe He can heal?  Of course.  Do I know He will.  No.   Do I think He will?  I don't think so.  I think He has called me to to testify to His faithfulness in the midst of the fire.  This is probably the harder miracle.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday, December 5, 2008

Maybe the Grinch was right

grinch1 As noted in an earlier blog, I am a big fan of The Grinch That Stole Christmas.  However, I hold some rather unconventional views on the main protagonist of the story.  It is simply this: I liked the Grinch better before he got "Who'd".  To my mind, he was a much more interesting character prior to his heart growing three sizes that day. And those Whos!!!  Am I the only one that really found them to be annoying with their constant smiling and insipid singing?  I say Amen to the Grinch's response, in the words of Dr. Suess:

And the more the Grinch thought of the Who-Christmas-Sing
The more the Grinch thought, "I must stop this whole thing!

In the debate over the real message of Christmas and whether Christmas has become too commercialized, it must be said that the Grinch had a point in his dislike of Christmas and all of its trappings.  The English Puritans certainly shared his desire to ban the whole thing. In 1647, the English parliament passed a law that made Christmas illegal. Oliver Cromwell considered all of the feasting and revelry on what was supposed to be a holy day quite immoral and anyone caught celebrating Christmas was arrested.  In the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the observance of Christmas was once banned for 22 years. Even after it was legalized, public disapproval of Christmas celebrations lasted several years longer.  Just this year, the government of Croatia has banned Christmas and New Year parties in the public sector because of the global financial crisis.

Ah, but you will say, the Grinch later witnessed how Christmas came, despite all his efforts:

"It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
"It came without packages, boxes or bags!"

And how, after he had puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! "Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store. "Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"

Perhaps, but what that "little bit more" is, is never said and his response is simple capitulation, as the Grinch actually becomes a Who. Indeed, he even carves the roast beast, something he earlier said, he couldn't stand in the least!

So, is this Suess story one of a life changed by singing?  Or it a tale of a lonely old man who gives up his convictions and a good part of what actually made him interesting in order to get a good meal and some company on Christmas?

In conclusion, let me ask you.  Did you like the Grinch better before his Who experience or after it?

<a href=";BB_id=135966">Do you like the Grinch pre-Who or post-Who experience?</a> | <a href="">BuzzDash polls</a>

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Taking Christ out of Christmas?

christ-christmas Today I had the most pleasant privilege of chatting with a friend in Winkler, Manitoba where I pastored for a few years over 15 years ago (has it really been that long??).  Peter Wiebe was one of those men whose gentle spirit tended to pull people together; you just hated to disagree with Peter because he was always a gentleman, regardless of how heated a discussion got.    I have been so happy that we have been able to maintain contact from time to time in the past few years.

In our conversation, he mentioned an article that he wrote last year for his church and which he was hoping to get published in a local paper this year. He asked if I would like to see it.  Of course, I said. And so he emailed it to me this afternoon.  I got his permission to post it and so I am going to.  I think that it is an excellent reminder as we enter the Christmas season:

Taking Christ out of Christmas?

“They are taking Christ out of Christmas.” “They don’t even allow their employees to wish their customers a Merry Christmas”. These are concerns I have heard every Christmas for the past ten years or so.

Before we get all worried about the market place and shopping malls taking Christ out of Christmas let’s set the record straight. The word Christmas literally comes from the early church celebrating of the Mass of Christ, the sacrament of communion on the day we celebrate His birthday. This term, Christ mass is a term used long before we had the division of Catholics and Protestants. Although we celebrate it differently Christmas is an important day for both of these groups. Both Catholics and Protestants make an attempt to remind people that Christmas by definition is remembering the death of Christ at the time we celebrate His birthday. The early church had it right, the birth of Christ is only meaningful when we consider His sacrifice.

Recently Verna and I were doing some “Christmas shopping” in one of our fine large urban malls. Verna entered the stores while I window shopped from the benches kindly supplied by mall owners for the men in the crowd. An elderly lady tired of the shopping sat down beside me. We exchanged pleasantries. When she was rested she got up to get back to shopping and I wished her a merry Christmas. She looked back at me with large eyes. I thought she was going to bite my head off, but she said, “Thank you, that is the first time in many years that anyone has said those words to me”. I looked around that day and if memory serves me correctly I did not find one store using the word Christmas it was all, “Happy Holidays”.

Should the church be concerned about the marketplace taking the word Christmas out of the stores? My answer to that is both yes and no. The removal of the word Christmas tells us that our nation is sliding away from its Christian heritage. It does tell us that a spiritual battle is going on. Of course the marketplace is totally oblivious to that. I would like to think that finally the secular world realized the hypocrisy of using Christ to sell their products. I would hope they quit using the word Christmas because they realized that the birth and sacrifice of Christ is more than just a sales gimmick. But alas they were not aware of the hypocrisy. The light came into the world and the world knew Him not. No, they took Christ out of Christmas because it affected the bottom line.

The push to remove Christmas from the malls comes from customers who know what Christmas truly stands for and they can’t stand it. These people object and protest strongly… they want no part of this, get it out of the marketplace they say. They are offended by the gospel of Christ.

So what is a Christian to do about this… there are many opinions. I heard one Christian brother say we should boycott the stores that no longer use the word Christmas. Poor store owners, the non believers boycott you if you use the word Christmas and Christians boycott you it you don’t.

No let us not boycott, but let us spread the good news to all the marketplace. Let us wish those who do not know Christ a Merry Christmas, using the whole meaning of the word. If a store does not use word Christmas let us not avoid them, rather give them an opportunity to know the true meaning of Christmas. On the other hand if a store uses the word Christmas, remind them what Christmas is really about.

So yes, we can be a little offended when the marketplace does not allow its Christian employees to wish us a merry Christmas. But, we should be more than just a little offended when the marketplace uses the birth and suffering of Christ to make a sale.

Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 53:4 & 5 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

That is what Christmas was and is and always will be! There is nothing the marketplace can do about that!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Dilbert widget gone

Sorry to the Dilbert fans, but I had to remove the Dilbert widget with its daily cartoon from the top of this webpage.  It hasn't been working right for about two weeks; you always have to refresh the page to get it operating.  And then it sometimes locks up your browser.  So, adios amigos.

If you're like you, and you still need your daily Dilbert fix, you can subscribe to the Dilbert Daily Strip RSS feed at

The Canadian version of the Axis of Evil

Not one of these guys has been given the mandate to run this country. And so they are trying to seize it, claiming that it is legal. Need we point out that both Lenin and Hitler also came to power constitutionally as leaders of minority parties? So that is hardly a valid argument. Just because something is legal, it does not make it ethical or right.

Monday, December 1, 2008

My song for the season

 Grinch I just love this song....