Monday, June 29, 2009

Not feeling so great

I have not been feeling so great the past three days. It probably started when I wore myself out moving some books Friday night and Saturday morning as part of moving my library from my office to my home where I am setting up an office now. I intend to do more work from home now, especially writing and revising of my theology of persecution book.  I would appreciate your prayers.

I will also be doing an interview tomorrow here at home with 100 Huntley Street with Cheryl Weber.  I like Cheryl and I look forward to sharing how God is at work in my life, even though I am a bit concerned about recent developments at 100 Huntley Street itself.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Friday, June 26, 2009

For your enjoyment (or dismay)

For the technophile (like me) who embraces most technology….



Monday, June 22, 2009

Job 23:14

For he will complete what he appoints for me, 
and many such things are in his mind. 

Job 23:14 (ESV) 



I have been giving some thought to the kind of legacy that I would like to leave behind after I am gone.  Personally, the work that I am most proud of is my work on the theology of persecution and discipleship.  Theology is my passion and I am looking forward to spending more time writing on this in the days to come when I move my library from my office to my home. 

Recently, I was reading a church history book and saw this picture of the triumph of Thomas Aquinas.  Written above him are the words that the painter believed that the Lord would say to Thomas upon entering the Lord’s presence:


Translated from Latin, it reads "You have written well about me, Thomas".

I can think of fewer higher commendations for a theologians – to write well about their Lord.

My prayer is that the Lord might be able to say something like that to me at the end of my life: BENE SCPSISTI DE ME

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Health update

Not much new on the health front and so not much to report, to be honest.  I do seem to have hit a degree of stability over the past several weeks.  I still need meds and oxygen but I am able to maintain what I have.  I did have a transfusion yesterday but my counts were actually up from the week before (which is very positive).  The only new problem that I will be facing now that summer is here is the humidity.  It does make breathing that much more difficult.  Tomorrow will the first real big test as it is supposed to be quite warm and we have had rain the last few days so it should be quite humid too.  Hopefully this old man will be breathing for Father’s Day!

SAMSUNG DIGIMAX A503 Still, it is great to look out of my office window and see the flowers in the garden.  They really are gorgeous this year.  I had wondered this spring if I would see summer.  Now, I have hope to hang on for the end of the year at least.  One just doesn’t know.

Thanks to everyone who is praying for us.  We really do appreciate it.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Early Christians accepted medicine says OSU professor

I found the following article very interesting, in light of some of the advise I get from people who learn for the first time of my battle with cancer.

OSU professor: Early Christians accepted medicine

by Nancy Haught, The Oregonian

Thursday June 18, 2009, 7:09 AM

As an Oregon City couple stands trial next week in the faith-healing death of their daughter, a new book argues that early Christians used secular medicine and did not rely solely on prayer or divine intervention.

In "Medicine & Health Care in Early Christianity" (Johns Hopkins University Press, 264 pages, $35), Gary B. Ferngren, who teaches ancient history at Oregon State University, focuses on the first five centuries of Christianity.

"There is a widespread view that Christians rejected secular medicine, and it simply is not true," he says. "Most Christians understood that disease was caused by natural processes, not demons." The early church offered medical care to its own members and extended it to non-Christians, believing that Jesus, "the good physician," asked it of his followers, Ferngren says.

Carl and Raylene Worthington are members of the Followers of Christ Church, a Pentecostal sect that shuns some medical treatment. Their daughter, 15-month-old Ava, died March 2, 2008, of bronchial pneumonia and a blood infection. A state medical examiner concluded that both conditions could have been treated with antibiotics.

Ferngren has written several articles and books on the social history of medicine during his 39 years on the OSU faculty. In an interview, he talked about his research and findings. His answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Q: How do you research such a topic?


I study the status of doctors in ancient society, the kinds of healing they offered, what their patients sought in medical care, the environmental background of medicine. I read the New Testament, looking for biblical evidence for health and healing, and then I went to the church fathers, Christian intellectuals who began to defend Christianity in the second century.

Q: What did you find?


It has been argued that early Christians believed disease was caused by demons and that they employed religious healing and exorcism as the standard means of treating disease. I haven't found much evidence for that.

Christians were no different from the Greeks and the Romans. They used the methods of healing that their neighbors used. They accepted a naturalistic cause of disease. They employed medicine because of its cultural authority.

Q: What do you mean by "cultural authority"?


Greeks had a deep interest in medicine. It was regarded as something that an educated person should know about. In the Greek and Roman view, healing was an art -- a benign art. Ancient literature depicted the physician as a person of compassion who brought relief from suffering. The good physician became a metaphor for the good judge, the good legislator and the like.

Early Christians took over the metaphor of the good physician and applied it to Jesus as early as the second century. He was described as the healer of sin-sick souls.

Q: Did all Christians accept secular medicine?


In the second century, Origen wrote that most Christians would use physicians but that those who wanted to rely on God alone should seek healing by prayer and spiritual means. There have always been some Christians who did that.

Q: What did medicine look like in those early centuries?


The body had to be treated in a holistic fashion, based on the idea of prognosis -- that a physician could determine the course of a disease. A doctor would prescribe a regimen: diet, sleep, baths, rest, clean air, water that was pure. It sounds naturopathic today. The germ theory of disease was unknown. Most physicians didn't know a lot about internal organs. But the Romans developed surgery; they were especially good at removing cataracts. They could remove kidney stones very effectively. There was much that a physician could not do, and physicians realized that. Hence, they refused to treat diseases that they could not help.

Q: Did Christians contribute anything to the Greek and Roman ideas about medical care?


Their real contribution was to the origin of medical philanthropy. Early Christians practiced private charity to the poor and to those who were physically in need. Part of this was taking care of members who were ill. The model they often used was the good Samaritan, which fit in with the iconography of Jesus as the good physician, the healer of souls. The idea was to offer assistance to those in need, not in supernatural terms but by relieving suffering.

In the third century, during time of plague, Christians reached out to non-Christians. Operating through church deacons and deaconesses, Christians had been offering palliative care and support to their own members for three centuries before they founded the first hospitals at the end of the fourth century. They saw compassion as essential to medical care and a basic component of the gospel.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Llamas with Hats

And now, for something completely different....

Thanks to Rebecca for sharing this with me. I think we share the same kind of humour :)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Inspired by the Persecuted Church

I hope that Faith Today doesn’t mind but I thought that I might like to share with you an interview that they did with me earlier this year and which is published in their latest edition.  Karen Stiller did a very nice job and I am grateful for having had the opportunity to share a bit of what God has been doing in my life. While much of this isn’t really all that new to those of you who know me, it does reflect a lot of what I have been thinking of as I continue on this journey that God has set my feet on. 

Inspired by the Persecuted Church

A Faith Today Interview With Glenn Penner

May/June 2009: 30-32

Glenn Penner is chief executive officer of The Voice of the Martyrs Canada, a ministry to the persecuted church around the world, and the author of In the Shadow of the Cross: A Biblical Theology of Persecution and Discipleship (VOM Canada, 2007). He was diagnosed with cancer in 2002 and, recently, his doctors told him he has" months, not years" left. Glenn Penner is 47. He agreed to speak with Faith Today's Karen Stiller about living and about dying.

KS: Glenn, how are you approaching what appears to be the final home stretch in your battle with cancer? Where is your head at these days?

GP: I believe people are remembered for how they end the journey, not necessarily how they start it. When people have left this ministry [VOM] over the years, I have said to them, "Leave well," because that's how you'll be remembered. I've had a few years to think about this question of how I can finish well. It has sometimes actually become a bit of a preoccupation. I have to learn to relax about it and realize that we are finishing well. When I started with VOM, we were four people and a tiny budget. We're not huge now but we're doing quite a bit better. We have a bigger staff and a number of people doing the job I was doing, and doing it better.

KS: You work with a ministry that deals with hurting, suffering people around the world. How has that shaped your journey now?

GP: One of the things that has helped me through this has been working with a ministry that deals with suffering and death on a daily basis. It's a rare privilege. I've never struggled with anger, which may sound a bit weird or super- spiritual, but I haven't gone through a lot of the disappointment with God that many people do when facing their own mortality. I see it on a daily basis and, as I study the Word of God about suffering and persecution, I see that God has not promised us a break from these things. Suffering and death are normal things for anyone who is going to work for the purpose of God.

KS: So you have found a kind of inspiration from the persecuted church?

GP: When I was first diagnosed, it was a shock of course. And I remember lying in bed and thinking. My mind went back to some young women I had met a few years earlier in Ethiopia. I had helped start our work there and worked with women kicked out of their homes because of their faith. They were forced to beg on the streets and live in a hovel. And I asked them, "What does Jesus mean to you?"

They said: "He means everything to us. He gives us everything we need. He loves us. He's our Father." I looked around at what they had and I was amazed at their faith.

That night, as I was thinking about c these things, I said to the Lord: "If those people can stay faithful to You, so can I. Help me not to dishonour you through this." I've held on to that. One of the great joys for me is having people around the world who are being persecuted praying for me too. I've had the honour of meeting them. It's the fellowship of suffering.

KS: Sometimes, people who are suffering actually have to work to help others come to terms with it. Friends or acquaintances might ask: "How could God let this happen to you?" Have you faced that?

GP: I haven't had too many people come with that perspective. They know that in my mind, God doesn't protect us in many cases from the nastier things of life. He doesn't promise we'll live in a rose garden all the time. I think what I've had to struggle more with is everyone and their dog wanting me to try this diet or that supplement. And occasionally the person who doesn't know me very well who thinks he or she has a right to intrude and say things that are out of line -like I only need to accept Jesus as Saviour. Thanks, I never thought of that! Thankfully there hasn't been a lot of that. And I wouldn't have had the patience to put up with a lot of it.

KS: Have you felt supported by your community?

GP: I've felt tremendous support. And I think others have been encouraged that I have tried to exemplify trust. I've never had a sense that God is going to heal me. I let people pray for me if they want to. I've been anointed with oil a number of times and I welcomed that. But deep down in my heart, I never had a sense I would be healed. And I don't consider that a lack of faith. I felt it was the path God was calling me to - that I was to continue to glorify Him by living in an unchanging situation.

KS: How is your wife coping?

GP: She's tired. Sometimes I feel worse for the caregiver. She ends up having to take care of some mundane things for me. If I want a glass of water I have to ask her to get me one. That can happen a lot during the day. I do worry about her.

KS: Do you think about what heaven will be like?

GP: I've certainly thought about heaven a whole lot more than I would have ordinarily. There are times I think I'm not ready to go because I still have things to do. There are unfinished paths. One of my great passions in life is working on a theology of persecution. I wrote a book on that and so badly wanted to rework it. I feel I probably won't have the time or energy. There's a disappointment of things that are unfinished. There are times when I say "Lord, do I have to go now?" I'm not dreading heaven. I look forward to it. Some days I really do because it's really hard. I've always been a very purpose-driven person. I'm still struggling with the sense that I know heaven is not static - we're not going to be sitting there doing nothing.

KS: Are you thinking you might get bored?

GP: If heaven were only sitting around singing praise choruses, it wouldn't be my idea of heaven. I'm not the world's greatest singer.

KS: I see that you have kept your sense of humour. How important is that?

GP: Yes I have. It goes along in this ministry. You'd be surprised at how much humour there is, both with persecuted Christians and those who work alongside them. I always say I miss the old Soviet Union because they had the best jokes about Communists. If you study suffering Christians through history, you will find there is humour there as well. Maybe that is what Paul means when he talks about joy in suffering.

KS: What is the one message you would like to give to the Evangelical church in Canada?

GP: The fact of the reality of suffering Christians around the world. That suffering is normal for Christians. I was a pastor before I joined VOM. I don't understand how people can run away from God in the midst of suffering but they often do. When we need God the most, we often run away from Him. I have been so blessed, so honoured to work with our suffering brothers and sisters. They are so thankful when we come and serve them and show them we care. If the Canadian Church could see how impoverished we are because we've robbed ourselves of part of the Body of Christ ....

KS: We're not very good at suffering, are we?

GP: We see suffering as the worst thing that can happen whereas our brothers and sisters in the persecuted church see disobedience as the worst thing. I couldn't have gone through this time without having had my life enriched by them, by their faithfulness and trusting even when things don't get better. One of our problems is we expect God to protect us.

KS: And God's not going to do that?

GP: He has greater priorities in our life than keeping us from harm. His priority is to make us into the image of His Son. We serve a suffering God.

KS: Glenn, what do you wish you had done more of during your life?

GP: I wish I'd spent more time with my kids. I spent a lot of time on the road. But I'm not sure how it could have been done differently. I wish I could have touched base with my kids a little more. I wish I hadn't gotten caught up in things that actually weren't so important. I spent a lot of time on things that, in the grand scheme, probably didn't matter. There are not a lot of regrets. There are some. I've had some failures in my life and when I look back it saddens me. If anything I've learned to love God's grace. It's all there is. And this is grace, when people are able to suffer persecution and remain faithful.

KS: What gives you comfort and pleasure right now?

GP: Pleasure is something I'm struggling with right now. I'm struggling for breath a lot of the time. I'm not comfortable. I love to read when my eyes allow me to, but my eyes get very dry. Occasionally I listen to music. My iPod is my good buddy. There is some music that really does touch me.

KS: You have seen a lot of the world. You have written on your blog about being thankful for a Sudanese sunset. Are you glad you lived the life you lived?

GP: I'm thankful for the opportunities I've had to visit the places I've seen. It saddens me that I probably won't get back there. My favourite country on the planet is Sri Lanka. I love these places.

KS: It's been an extraordinary life.

GP: It hasn't been boring. I think my wife would have enjoyed a slightly more boring life sometimes. I'm feeling a little bit torn between here and there. Wanting to stay here but knowing that things will be better there.

KS: Are you afraid?

GP: The biggest fear I have - and that's not a bad thing to say - is not being able to breathe. That is troubling to me. Things will get worse here. I don't really know the path or how it's going to show itself. It takes a very different attitude to know that you've turned a corner you're probably not going to come back from. I'm getting to the point where I can't breathe. But we shall face that.

KS: What is the one message you want to leave your children?

GP: Live a life that matters. Live such a life that at the end of it someone will glorify God that you've been alive. That is something that has come to me so many times - that somebody somewhere is thanking God I'm alive and I've been willing to be used by Him. I think that is how we glorify God so people will say "Thank God this person was."

KS: It has been my privilege to talk to you. Thank you.

Update on health and life and all of the rest of it

We were pleased to learn on Thursday from the results of my latest blood tests that while my haemoglobin levels had fallen (75) and thus I required a transfusion on Friday, my platelets had actually increased over the past two weeks to 32.  This is very encouraging as it shows that my bone marrow is still producing and that I am not trending downwards as was feared a few weeks back. Hence, I am pretty stable.

All in all, life has taken on a semblance of normality which makes for boring blogs but a pretty good life.  I have not had to change my medication for weeks now and even go for a few hours without oxygen from time to time (mostly because I am sick of dragging that tube around like a bad habit). I was pretty tired toward the middle of the week (probably due to my need of a transfusion) and so I missed Joel’s graduation ceremony from college, but I am glad he understood. 

Here’s a picture of Joel and Rebecca following the ceremony.

Joel and Rebecca

While I am at it, here are a few recent pictures of the family, including one of me in my homeoffice.

Thanks to all of you who continue to uphold us in prayer.  Thank the Lord for this season of stability

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Might as well have fun while you… well, you know

One of the great things about being on social networks like Twitter is that occasionally you get an absolute gem (yes, you sometimes have to sort through a lot of gravel to get that gem). Today, one of my followers (that’s what they call people who receive your “tweets”) sent this picture of a sign hanging in a men’s washroom in Falls Creek, Pennsylvania.washroom pics

Denita’s comment: “Of course, it had to be put up with duct tape.” 

But of course!  Every man knows that duct tape is the solution for everything!

Friday, June 5, 2009

No transfusion this week

I was so glad that this week I didn’t need a transfusion!  My haemoglobin levels actually increased over last week and my platelets stayed where they were.  Very encouraging. It was nice only going to the hospital once this week, though, of course, even those few hours I felt were too long and I was impatient to get going.  I think I’ve just spent too much time sitting in waiting rooms.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

My staff before and after the weekend

Thought you’d like to see my staff as they leave work on Friday and then come back in on Monday.  This video was secretly taken last week. Love you guys!