Monday, March 30, 2009


After several days of feeling increasingly weak (the stairs in this house are becoming mountains), I went to have my blood levels checked today and discovered that my hemoglobin was down to 65.  Hence, time for a transfusion again.  So, tomorrow morning, I will get another couple of units and then meet with Dr. Sauls for the first time in the afternoon.  He is involved in what is called "pain and symptom management" (also known as palliative care). It is hoped that he will be able to know how to best help me at this time as I seek to live as actively as I can in my circumstances.  "Palliative care"... I know that people often get this confused with hospice care and that such confusion is inaccurate (probably why they call it "pain and symptom management") but I really don't like admitting to needing. Funny how such phrases carry such baggage.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

When God seems to be silent

Perhaps when God seems to be silent, it is not because nobody is speaking; perhaps it is because we are unable or unwilling to hear what is being said.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Is Healing in the Atonement?

Given my present situation, it is common for people to seek to remind to me that "healing in the atonement,"  basing their belief mostly on Isaiah 53:3-4 which reads, 
    He was despised and rejected by men;
        a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
    and as one from whom men hide their faces
        he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
    Surely he has borne our griefs
        and carried our sorrows;
    yet we esteemed him stricken,
        smitten by God, and afflicted. (ESV)

But is this what these verses teach?

There are two New Testament passages that are often seen to be directly quoting Isaiah 53:4. The most obvious quote is, as we have already noted, Matthew 8:17 but in Matthew's context, as we shall see below, the issue seems to be the incarnation rather than the atonement. Many assume that 1 Peter 2:24 also quotes Isaiah 53:4, but as Erickson points out, this assumption is not as clear as some would believe.[1] Peter gives none of the typical indications that he is quoting an Old Testament passage. We do not find the words "as it is written" or any other similar formula or phrase. Rather, it seems likelier that he is referring to the whole of Isaiah 53, and particularly to verse 12.[2] How, then, are we to understand how Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 53:4? An in-depth investigation becomes essential at this point.

Isaiah 53:4 reads, "Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried."[3] The primary meaning of the first noun, chale is that of "physical sickness" or "disease,"[4] though the term can also mean spiritual sickness, as in Isaiah 1:5 and Hosea 5:13.[5] As the New American Standard translation reflects, the word is placed in the emphatic position in the sentence. The verb nasa' has basically three separate meanings: "to lift up"; "to bear, carry, support"; "to take, take away"[6], though the predominant meaning is "to lift (up)".[7] Many interpreters take nasa' in this context as meaning to "to bear" or "to carry" vicariously[8] and, indeed, this term can refer to vicarious bearing.[9] Erickson argues, however, that in the one hundred verses listed by Brown, Driver and Biggs in which the meaning is "to bear, carry," "only six have reference to a vicarious bearing of guilt".[10] Erickson contends that the more likely rendering in Isaiah 53:4 is "has taken".[11] The verb, itself, does not mean, "to bear the punishment of," as Stott points out. "We are obliged to translate it thus only when sin is its object.[12] Erickson adds: "It should also be noted that Isaiah did not put the verb in an emphatic position; it seems that what is really important is what the suffering servant has taken, not how he has taken it."[13]

The second noun in this passage mak'ov only appears sixteen times in the entire Old Testament, in which at least eleven occurrences refer to mental suffering.[14] Gesenius calls it "pain of soul."[15] Erickson says, "The basic idea conveyed by the word is mental pain, sorrow, or distress resulting from the toilsomeness of life, including its physical burdens."[16] The likeliest meaning here, then, would seem to be that which the New American Standard and New International Version have adopted, "sorrows" or perhaps distress, perhaps as a result of physical infirmities."[17] The second verb sabal means basically "to carry a heavy load."[18] The word appears nine times in the Old Testament. Lamentations 5:7 and Isaiah 53:11 (in particular) convey the idea of vicarious bearing. In the remaining instances, sabal merely means "'carrying a load'; there is no connotation of vicariousness."[19] While the verb in Isaiah 53:4 may hold the concept of vicarious bearing, as some believe,[20] there is no reason to demand that it must. As Erickson points out, "Here again, just as in the first clause, the emphasis is on what the suffering servant has carried rather than on how he has carried it."[21]

It must be admitted that there are various ways in which this verse may be taken. It does seem that Isaiah in verse 4 is speaking of actual physical and mental afflictions, though not necessarily to a vicarious bearing of them, and as Erickson states, "in Matthew's quotation of this passage, we find something very similar."[22] Matthew's rendering of Isaiah 53:4 is quite unusual because it follows neither the LXX or Targum, both of which spiritualize the Hebrew.[23] Carson holds that Matthew 8:17 is most likely Matthew's own translation of Isaiah 53:4, given the significant alterations from either the LXX or the Targum.[24] One significant difference between the LXX (which Matthew often quotes in his gospel) and his quotation of Isaiah is in his substitution of verbs in the first phrase of Isaiah's passage. In the LXX, the phrase used the verb phero, which could conceivably be translated as "bearing vicariously." Matthew, however, substitutes lambano for phero, a word nowhere used in connection with vicarious bearing of guilt or anything similar.[25] Lambano is merely an extraordinarily common word with little or no theological significance. In Matthew 8:17, it simply means "to take away" or "remove."[26]

The second verb bastazo is very close in meaning to sabal, meaning "to bear" or "to carry" but "in none of its usages does it signify ‘to bear vicariously.'"[27] Perhaps what it meant here is a sympathetic bearing such as we find in Galatians 6:2.[28] Robertson writes, "The passage as Mt. employs it, has no bearing on the doctrine of the atonement."[29] But, he adds, "Jesus does show his sympathy with us. Christ's sympathy with the sufferers was so intense that he really felt their weaknesses and pains. In our burdens Jesus steps under the load with us and helps us carry on."[30] Erickson concurs: "What we are suggesting here, then is that both Matthew and Isaiah are referring to actual physical sicknesses and mental distresses rather than sins."[31] Erickson continues, "It seems likelier that they are referring to a sympathetic bearing of the troubles of this life. If this is the proper interpretation, Jesus ‘took our infirmities and bore our diseases' by becoming incarnate rather than by offering atonement."[32]

R.T. France notes that for Matthew, it is important that Jesus be seen to fulfill the role of the Isaianic Servant of the Lord.[33] Yet, as France points out, "it is remarkable that neither of these passages (Matt. 8:17 or Isa. 53:4) refers to the distinctive role of redemptive suffering, either in the specific words cited or in the aspect of Jesus' ministry to which they are applied."[34] "It is in the totality of his life and ministry, not only in its redemptive aspect, that Matthew delights to trace Jesus' fulfillment of the scriptural pattern."[35]

We conclude by noting that this explanation of how Isaiah's prophecy was fulfilled answers the chronological difficulties of how the effects of the atonement could actually be said to be in effect before the atonement was even accomplished. If the atonement were in view in Matthew 8:17, it is hard to explain why Matthew quotes this verse in a context some time before Christ’s actual death. If, however, it is the incarnation that is in view here (and in Isaiah 53:4), and not the atonement, then there is no chronological difficulty at all. This view also best fits the context and syntax of each passage. We conclude, therefore, that the emphasis of Matthew 8:17 and Isaiah 53:4 is the incarnation rather than the atonement.

In summary, while Isaiah 53 (as a chapter) primarily emphasizes the sacrificial work of the Suffering Servant on behalf of mankind's sin, Matthew quotes these verses in 8:17 in reference to His ministry before He goes to the cross. In Matthew’s mind, he sees the prophecy of Isaiah 53:3-4 fulfilled in Jesus’ incarnation rather than the atonement, as He heals the sick (8:1-16).

Matthew 8:17 records that as a result of the healing ministry of Jesus (vv. 1-16), the prophecy of Isaiah 53:4 was fulfilled, "He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases."

In other words, by coming and living among us, Jesus took on all aspects of what it meant to live in a fallen world. As He saw the suffering of people, his sympathy was so intense that he actually felt their pain and weaknesses. He saw the burdens that many carried, and He stepped under the load with us and helped carry it.

In becoming a man, Jesus "took our infirmities and bore our diseases." By coming to earth, he entered into the very conditions that we find here, including sorrow, sickness, and suffering. Experiencing sickness and sorrow himself, and sympathizing as he did with human suffering, he was moved to alleviate the miseries of this life when He witnessed them.[36] Time and time again we see throughout the gospels that Jesus healed because He pitied.[37] By means of His deep sympathy or compassion, Jesus entered "fully and personally into the sorrows of those whom He came to rescue."[38] As Bredin puts it, "He enters into the fears and pain, the tears and the worries and the anxieties of people in order to transform them."[39] 

Hence, do I believe in healing?  Yes, but it comes through the mercy and grace of my Lord alone.


[1] Millard Erickson, Christian Theology. Baker Book House, 1985: 841

[2] Ibid.; D. Edmond Hiebert, First Peter. Moody Press, 1984: 176-180; E.G. Selwyn, The First Epistle of St. Peter. Macmillan & Co. Ltd., 1961: 180

[3] New American Standard Bible, The Lockman Foundation, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995

[4] As reflected in translations such as the New Revised Standard Version and New International Version

[5] Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, and Charles A. Biggs. Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament. Oxford University, 1955: 318; William Gesenius, Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament. trans. Samuel Prideaux Tregelles. Baker Book House, 1857 rpt. 1979: 279-280; Carl Philip Weber, hālâ in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament , Vol.1. ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, and Bruce K. Waltke. Moody Press, 1980: 286-287

[6] Walter C. Kaiser, nasa' in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Vol.2. ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, and Bruce K. Waltke. Moody Press, 1980: 600

[7] Erickson: 839; Gesenius: 567

[8] Kaiser, nasa': 601; Franz Delitzsch, Isaiah.William B. Eerdmans, rpt. 1983: 316-317; Derek Kidner, "Isaiah" in The New Bible Commentary: Revised . ed. D. Guthrie and J.A. Motyer. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970: 618

[9] e.g. Isaiah 53:12

[10] Erickson: 839

[11] As reflected in the New International Version

[12] Stott: 244

[13] Erickson: 839. Emphasis added

[14] John N. Oswalt, mak'ov in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Vol.1. ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, and Bruce K. Waltke. Moody Press, 1980: 425

[15] Gesenius: 471

[16] Erickson. p.839

[17] Ibid.

[18] Brown, Driver and Briggs: 687; R.D. Patterson, sabal in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Vol.2. ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, and Bruce K. Waltke. Moody Press, 1980: 616

[19] Erickson: 838-840

[20] Gesenius: 578; Patterson: 616

[21] Erickson: 840

[22] Ibid.

[23] D.A. Carson, Matthew. Expositor's Bible Commentary. Zondervan Publishing House, 1984: 205.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Erickson: 840. cf. Walter Bauer, W. F. Arndt, F. W. Gingrich, and F. W. Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the NT and Other Early Christian Literature. 2d ed. rev., University of Chicago, 1979: 464-465; Harold K. Moulton, The Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised . Zondervan Publishing House, 1978: 246

[26] Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich and Danker: 464; Louw and Nida: 270

[27] Erickson: 840

[28] Ibid.; A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament. Vol.1. Matthew and Mark. Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1930: 67; A.B. Bruce, Matthew. The Expositor's Greek Testament. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1900, rpt. 1980: 141; John MacArthur, Jr., Charismatic Chaos. Zondervan Publishing House, 1992: 104

[29] Robertson: 67

[30] Ibid.

[31] Erickson: 840

[32] Ibid.

[33] e.g. Matt. 3:15 - Isa. 53; Matt. 8:17 - Isa. 53:4; Matt. 12:15-21 - Isa. 42:1-4; Matt. 27:57 - Isa. 53:11

[34] R.T. France, "Servant of Yahweh" in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. ed. Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, I. Howard Marshall. InterVarsity Press, 1992: 746

[35] R.T. France, Matthew. William. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1985: 159. cf. France, "Servant of Yahweh": 746

[36] cf. Erickson: 840

[37] e.g. Matt. 9:36; 14:14; 20:34; Mark 1:41; 5:19; 6:14; Luke 7:13

[38] MacArthur: 104.

[39] Eamonn Bredin, Rediscovering Jesus. Twenty-third Publications, 1985: 99

Missing the conference

Today is the mission's Central Canada conference and I am sitting at home, unable to attend.  Even if I weren't concerned about catching something because of my immuno deficiency and lack of stamina, I wouldn't be able to go simply because I feel so poor this morning. I could barely make it up a flight of stairs or walk more than a few steps without panting like I had run a marathon. I decided to stay in my office because at least there is a washroom nearby that I don't need to navigate stairs to get to.

I recorded a short message for this conference and next week's in Edmonton (which I won't be able to make either).  It's disappointing, of course.  I always enjoyed these events, even if they were tiring.  I also wanted to hear Mr. Kim from North Korea share as well.  But I don't think that I will be able to hear him tomorrow either when he speaks at our church during the morning services (City Centre Baptist). However, as I mentioned in a text message to one of my colleagues today who is at a homeschool conference for the mission, this does give me time to pray for everyone.  And so, I find myself breathing a prayer from time to time for the speakers, asking God to use them in a great way today.  And that's a significant thing in and of itself, isn't it?

Friday, March 27, 2009

When resolution goes a little too far

arguing_cartoon Denita and I have tried throughout our married life not to go to bed angry with each other and to resolve any arguments before going to sleep.  I think that it is a sound and biblical approach (see Ephesians 4:26).  Personally, I hate it when I think that someone has anything against me, especially my wife.  And so I work hard at resolving any conflicts.

So the following story from Reuters caught my eye the other day and made me think that perhaps there may be times when one could possibly try a little too hard to resolve an argument.....

Woman arrested after shackling self to husband

Tue Mar 24, 2009 8:33pm EDT

HARTFORD, Connecticut (Reuters) - An American woman handcuffed herself to her sleeping husband in an apparent attempt to resolve an argument, but police ended up breaking into their home and charging her with assault and other crimes, authorities said on Tuesday.

Helen Sun, 37, handcuffed herself to Robert Drawbough as he slept in their Fairfield, Connecticut, home on Monday in an effort to reconcile their differences, police said.

But when Drawbough called police with his cell phone, Sun responded by biting him on the arms and torso, police said.

Police officers heard screams when they arrived at the home and forced their way in, said Chris Lyddy of the Fairfield Police Department. Sun had also changed the locks on their bedroom door.

Sun was charged with third-degree assault, disorderly conduct, reckless endangerment and unlawful restraint. She was released on a $400 bond.

"I can't say I've ever seen a scenario quite like this," said Lyddy.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Home but better

Today I am working from home not because I am not feeling well but because I have a home care nurse dropping by to take care of a couple of things.  Actually I feel pretty well, which is kind of normal; I seem to alternate between days of feeling good and days of feeling not so good.  But at least the contrast is less drastic than it was a few weeks ago. My highs don't seem to be so high and my lows don't seem so low.  I can live with this, just so low as my hemoglobin level cooperate and so far they seem to be doing better in the last two weeks. 

Meanwhile, living day by day by the grace of God.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

45 minutes and that's it

Woke up this morning feeling really quite fine. Went downstairs, read the paper, had a glass of grapefruit juice and a cup of coffee and decided that, yup, I could go to work today.  I was excited. I love being with the team at VOMC.

I called up Sherry, our office administrator who lives not that far from us and asked if she could pick me up (given my dry eyes, I don't drive much anymore) and then went off to get showered and shaved.  Somewhere about that time I lost something....

Even in the shower, I felt like some of my strength was ebbing away.  I dressed and got ready but noticed that I was breathing a lot harder than usual.  "I'll shake this off," I thought.  Sitting on the front stairs getting my shoes on, I thought to myself, "Maybe I shouldn't go."  But no, I was going to work.  Then Sherry showed up and I shuffled off, oxygen tank in hand, and off we went. 

But I had a hard time catching my breath in the car and I felt increasingly nauseous.  "Do you need to go back?" Sherry asked.  "No, it's okay," I answered.

It wasn't. I wasn't.  By the time I got to the office, I knew that I had made a mistake.  I stayed for our morning prayer time and then reluctantly called my wife at her regular Tuesday morning Bible study to please come and get me (I had forgotten my keys at home and so had no way to get into the house if someone else took me back).  I lasted a whole 45 minutes at work. What a waste of everyone's time and energy!

I also know Denita was disappointed; this study is a highlight of her week. I hate being such a burden to her so much of the time.  I know she accepts it as part of our life at this stage and I honour her for it but I am saddened that my illness has to be so front and centre of her life and that of others on the mission staff.  I never wanted this.  I certainly don't deserve the graciousness that they all show to me.  But I am so blessed to have such people in my life. I hope they realize just how much I love them. 

Friday, March 20, 2009

It's a small world after all

Yes, I am at home today.  I'm rather tired today and feeling a little unsteady on my feet. 

When one has limited mobility due to breathing difficulties or anemia, it is amazing just how small one's world becomes.  Simply walking to another room leaves one panting for breath and so you make sure that 1) you really need to go there, and 2) you have everything with you before you go or already at your destination.  And once you reach where you want to go, you make sure that everything is within arms length or, like in my home office, within distance of how far you can push the office chair across the floor (trying not to run over your oxygen line in the process).  When something is not within easy reach, you find yourself asking "Do I really need this?" or you wait until someone happens by whom you can ask for help without being too much of a bother.  You wait to go to the washroom because you know that you will be out of breath by the time you get there, so you clamp down and show amazing self-discipline... until it's almost too late and then you end up having to move faster than you should, making you realize that you're a bit of an idiot for not going when you could still walk to the washroom at a leisurely pace.  Your bladder is always going to win anyway!

Your life becomes a collection of things you will probably need; facial tissue, pens/pencils, pads or assorted pieces of paper that you jot things down on before you forget, cell phone, book, wallet... that's about it.  You leave them in the places you typically haunt or you carry them in your pockets.  You try to remember to clean out your pockets each night though because it bugs your wife when she washes your sweat pants with tissues still in the pockets... or cell phones!

My life at home is limited to about 50 feet from my oxygen machine.  That's how long the line goes.  It's been at least two months since I have been in the bottom two levels of my house; too many stairs, too far away, no need to go there.  Don't even really care what's down there now; might as well be another planet.  Think my brother-in-law is sleeping down there the last few days. Hope he is comfortable; not that I am going to check though, to be honest (am I sounding a bit like Dr. House??).

Having lived so much of my life on a larger scale, this new smaller life has taken a bit of time to get used to. My world is largely my office a day or two a week, the top three floors of my home, and the hospital.  It’s not all bad. I don’t have to complain about not being at home anymore and not being to spend time with my wife and family!

I am getting used to it and guess what?  I am finding that I can still make a difference in the larger world, thanks to Skype, email, blogs, and cell phones.  It's not the size of your world that really matters. It's the size of your influence.  By God's grace, I am going to keep trying to make a difference for Him for as long as I can.  No matter how large or how small my world gets.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

At the office today

Had a great sleep last night and feeling great. so I decided to come into the office today. Praise the Lord!  Now, not to overdo it.  But man, it feels good to be here, even though a lot of the staff are gone (either on assignment overseas or, in Adele's case, graduating from university this weekend).

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


It is somewhat inevitable when one looks back on one's life to have a few regrets. I don't share Sinatra's sentiment when he sang, "Regrets... I've had few. But then again, too few to mention."  Of course, some people are overcome with regrets, but I'm not at all like that.  I have had a pretty full and interesting life. It bothers me not to be able to look ahead too far now.  Is it worth buying that book now?  Should I really start that project?  Will I be able to complete it?  I have always been so future oriented.

Now, I find myself tending to look back more often in reflection (and also because people ask about my thoughts of the past). 

And yes, I have regrets. Of course, I do. 

I wish I had been there for my kids more when they were young.  I was so concerned with establishing a ministry and so in love with what I was doing at the mission that I know my kids felt like they got the leftovers, as I would often come home and collapse. I should have saved more of my energy for them.  Now I have so little energy and what a joy it is to have them come home to spend some time with me.  I don't deserve such great kids!

I wish I had been able to finish my doctorate.  Finally admitting that my health just wasn't going to allow me to pursue this and withdrawing from my program of study was one of the hardest things I ever did.  I would have like to have finished it; I really wanted to write my thesis on suffering for righteousness in the book of Psalms.  I wish I had pursued it earlier, but I wonder how I would have fit it in?

I wish that I had given my wife a more stable home life earlier in our marriage.  I wish I had not disappointed her so often and failed her so badly at times.  Her longsuffering has been and is amazing. I love her so much. I am not an easy man to live with.  But she still loves me and is my faithful companion. 

I wish that I had dealt with certain "people problems" differently which I struggled with, especially early on in my ministry years.  With some folks, I wish I had been more gracious.  With others, I should have been much more firm.  With a couple of individuals, I wish I had simply fired them when I knew I needed to. But you never fire someone too soon, do you?  In my case, I took their failure as my own and thought that by firing them I would be admitting that I could not lead them.  What a fool I was and such grief I brought upon my own life.  For most of my ministry leadership years, I struggled with really accepting the authority that I had been given. Hence, I failed to exercise it well for a long time. I wish that I had accepted my God-given role as a leader earlier in my life.

Of course, I can't go back and rewrite history.  I would like to think that I would do things differently if I could do them again.  Maybe I would. I certainly hope that I would not have made some of the mistakes that I have made over the years that caused me and others such pain and disappointment.  I suspect that some things, though, I would do all over again given my overactive, creative, goal-oriented personality.  But who is to know?  The fact is, everyone's life brings its share of joys, successes, failures, and regrets.  God has been so gracious to me.  Who am I to obsess over my regrets when I have seen His hand leading me, sometimes catching me, sometimes extended towards me when I thought that I could walk better without Him.  Thank you, Lord, for always being there, for loving me, for forgiving me.  Maybe that's why I can look back with some regret but without guilt.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Talking and listening

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
      and why are you in turmoil within me
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him
     my salvation and my God. (Psalm 42:11)

I wonder sometimes if many of our problems come from spending too much listening to ourselves and not enough time spent talking to ourselves. Facing troubles and difficulties in life, it is hard not to get discouraged and downcast. It is easy to start listening to those thoughts that tell you that things will never get better or that God cannot use your circumstances to mold you even more into the image of His Son. Forgetting that we serve a God who suffers with His people in their affliction, who uses suffering to accomplish His purposes and who redeemed us by the suffering and death of His Son, we convince ourselves that suffering is an intrusion in our life, an enemy, an outsider, something to be rejected and expelled as quickly as possible. We forget that it was through suffering that the Founder of our salvation was perfected (Hebrews 2:10) and so we hear our flesh telling us that glory is our birthright, not sorrow. Though Scripture always links suffering and glory, we seek to tear them asunder. We groan but it is not born of hope but of despair and sorrow. And when we do listen, we hear people who ask, “Where is your God? Why would God allow this to happen to you?"

The psalmist recognizes this pit towards he is being pulled. And twice in Psalm 42 (verses 5 and 11), he takes ahold of himself and speaks truth to himself. He reminds himself that there is hope, not in changed circumstances but in God. He reminds himself that there will be a day when praise will issue from his lips rather than groans. That his God is a God of salvation and deliverance, though that salvation may take him through the valley rather than around it. And he reminds himself that God is God and not himself; he is not the centre of the universe. Perhaps God has higher priorities than his own personal peace and comfort.

Don’t waste your suffering. You are where God wants you to be; right now.  So am I. Nothing has come into our life that does not pass first through His hands. Rest in that. And make sure that you talk to yourself more than you listen to yourself.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Want to know what's fun?  Stepping on your oxygen line while you are sitting down and then trying to stand up. The feeling of your ears being pulled down to your shoulders is really quite amusing!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday morning sunshine

Stayed completely off of the computer yesterday so my apologies to those of you who posted such warm and encouraging comments.   Thank you so much.  I am really blessed to have so many praying and caring.  By the way, yes, I do moderate them, just as I do all with all blogs that I am responsible for.  Not only does it cut back on  the crazies and the spammers but it protects me and VOMC from possible legal action since there is some movement to make blogs responsible for the content of the comments that they allow.  You have no idea just how hateful some people can be.  Thankfully, I don't usually get those on this blog.

But enough of that.  It's Sunday morning and the sunshine is shining nicely into my little office.  I'm not at church as it's just not that possible for me anymore with my immune system being what it is and needing to preserve my energy as much as I can.  Crowd and visitors do tend to wear me out, I am afraid.

I am feeling not too badly this morning, although morning was tough.  I rarely wake up feeling really rested.  Yesterday was not a great day but it was not a bad day.  I suspect that with my new regiment of prednisone (50 mg one day, 7.5 the next), that I won't have the highs and lows that I have been having in recent weeks.  We'll see.  I do suspect that I will need another transfusion this coming week though. I do have one scheduled for Tuesday and I would not be surprised if I need it.  I really have come to appreciate those who donate blood.  If you haven't and you can, why aren't you doing it?  You have no idea whose life you may be saving!

Friday, March 13, 2009

A good day

Yesterday was a great day.  I was able to attend the entire Religious Liberty Partnership meeting, then go back to office for about 3 hours to meet with friends, colleagues, and a former colleague whom I had not seen in 11 years.  All in all, it was nice having a day that one could really call normal.  And then I had a good sleep on top of everything else!

I am working from home today, just to slow down a bit and to keep me from getting too run down.  Have a couple of articles to write today and dozens of emails to sort through from the past couple of days.  Decided though that I am going to have to cancel or have someone else cover my speaking engagements from this point on.  Just can't count on my health to hold even from to day to day and it's not fair to let folks down the way that I have had to lately. 

Thank you to each of you who have been upholding me in prayer.   May I ask that you please pray for Denita.  She is really tired and I am very concerned about her.  She carries a big load as my wife and as the mother of our kids who are just venturing out into the world (with all of the stuff that comes with that)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A day of semi-normality

Today was a good day.  Received two units of blood and had my prednisone intake increased to 50 mg (every other day), so I had the energy to attend 3 hours of the Religious Liberty Partnership meetings this afternoon.  What a joy to see some of my colleagues from around the world.  I am hoping to sit in for most of the day tomorrow.  If you can, please pray that I can do this. I am even hoping to be able to give a short "devotional" on the biblical view of the Christian and government.

As I told the group this afternoon, I know that the Olympics don't like steroids and blood doping... but I sure do.  At least they allow me to function at some sort of level of normalcy. 

Monday, March 9, 2009

Sick today

Tried to go to work this morning and to spend some time with Christof Sauer, a colleague whom I respect much who is visiting from South Africa.  I had hoped to spend some time going through some of the reference material that I have compiled in my continuing research on the theology of persecution.  Unfortunately, I felt terrible and could only stay for about 90 minutes before being taken back home. I was sick to the stomach and terribly weak and tired.   Fortunately, Christof felt content to go through my library in my absence and I hope some benefit with come of it for future research.

Went to the hospital later in the day to get some blood work in case I need a transfusion tomorrow and found out that my hemoglobin had dropped to 69 again, which explains my fatigue, I guess.

The short of it is that I will probably be unable to contribute to the Religious Liberty Partnership meetings, as I had hoped.  This is very disheartening to me.

One of the biggest struggles I have is with a sense of incompleteness with my work. I wanted so much to finish revising my book but I feel that I will never get to do it.  If I had the chance, I think that I would like to be able to focus on three things:

  • my research
  • the mission's monthly newsletter
  • my blogging

These three things seem to be what I have the ability to do in these days when I have energy for little else.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Sudanese sunrise

Sunrise over New Sudan

It's early Saturday morning and I am sitting looking out of the window of my home office which faces towards the southeast.  The colour of the sky this morning reminds me of sunrises in southern Sudan.  A rawness and beauty that is hard to describe.  I have been thinking a lot about Sudan lately.  Reading Marc Nikkel's book of letters from Sudan has me thinking back to my early trips there in the late 1990's, of how I fell in love with the people of that part of the world and how so much of my early work with The Voice of the Martyrs focused on the plight of the Christians there.  The recent arrest warrant issued by the ICC against Present El Bashir has reminded me just how unfinished the work of bring peace and justice to this torn country.  And I am saddened because there is virtually no chance that I will ever go there again.  I am happy that we are continuing to invest in the lives of the Sudanese by supporting a school in Loka; so much better than just sending relief aid.  But I would like to see the work for myself.  And to see another Sudanese sunrise.

Today's sunrise reminds me of the past and of a future that is ever more certain and finite. 

The things I have witnessed, the life that God has given me.  What a gift.  How thankful I am for the memory of a Sudanese sunrise. 

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Back at home

Well, I'm back working at home.  I am slowly winding down again and so I thought I had better work out of the house again for a while, especially as I have Religious Liberty Partnership meetings next week here in Mississauga,  I really hope that I will have the energy to attend all of the meetings from Tuesday to Thursday.

Yesterday I had a hospital bed delivered too, so that hopefully I can sleep better.  Because of my breathing issues, I find it hard to sleep flat.  Last night was a bit better than the night before, so I'm hopeful that it will help once I get used to it.  Still, I hate not sleeping with Denita, even if we are still in the same room.  After more than 25 years of marriage, I've kinda gotten used to her. :-)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Working at the office

Praise God that I have been able to work at the office the last couple of weeks.  It is great to be able to rub shoulders with my favourite group of people in the world; my co-workers here at The Voice of the Martyrs.  I know that a big part of it is the increased prednisone and the oxygen, but I'll take it any way that I can get it.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Are "you" the reason for our present recession?

It's easy to try to find people to blame for the present recession that seems to have gripped the economies of the world.  Greedy bankers, CEOs with exorbitant salaries and bonuses, politicians who encouraged out of control debt.  The list could go on, and there is a degree of truth to all of it.  But the issue goes much deeper, as an insightful article in Macleans a few weeks ago, points out. The article suggests that, quite simply, the present debt crisis may have come about because we all came to believe that we deserved the very best whether we could afford it or not. 

As the article's authors point out, "advertising has always promised us a better life through stuff. But listen for it, and you’ll notice the pitch has changed.  The shift is subtle, but powerful."  There was a time when advertising encouraged aspirations to a better you, a better life, a rosier future.  "See this," the ad would suggest. "This could be you."  That changed in recent years and I saw it expressed around the world, even among developing world Christians.  People began to believe that they need not aspire to anything; they were already worthy of it, they deserved it, they were owed it, they should get it now.  The focus shifted from desire and aspiration to entitlement and affirmation. 

In the West, this affirmational approach (you are perfect just the way you are, you deserve this, it's all about you!) led to debt accumulation of a type never seen in history. Now the time has come to pay the piper and many are finding that their possessions are worth less than what they owe for them. In the rest of the world, it also led to debt but also to dependency on foreign generosity fed by Western guilt over the perceived financial inequalities between churches in the developed and developing world.  We contributed to this by convincing our brothers and sisters in the developing world that they should have all of the gadgets and perks that we have. Now. Why use your old computer that, though adequate, lacked certain features?  Your international partners will surely get you a new one.  Surely you can't be a church leader without a Blackberry?  After all, all of the foreigner missionaries have one.  Why worship in a home or a grass hut, which a fancier, cement and steel facility could be built, even if the ability to pay for and maintain such a building is impossible. Surely the foreigner, with his wealth, owes it to you!  Why wait, when you can be get it now?  Why save, when you can ask someone else to fund it?  And we in the West, with our good intentions and values increasingly influenced by values of entitlement and instant gratification created an environment where the passing on of such beliefs to our foreign partners was not only possible but inevitable.  We rewarded those who sought after things like we did! 

I wonder if this recession is really going to teach us anything about our sense of entitlement and inappropriate use of money and debt both here and around the world.  Our present attitudes created this mess but now we seem intend on insisting that our government spend their (our) way into oblivion in an attempt to get back to where we think we deserve to be.