My Birthday Surprise

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In the past week, I have been very nicely surprised by having not one, but three little birthday parties.  The first with my immediate family, with all the trimmings: food, cake, streamers, balloons, cards and presents.  The second with two close couple friends for tea and some good laughs.  Then on my actual birthday, our family of five was together again, so hey, let’s have pizza, pop and a movie.  Yippee!!

But my real surprise for turning 50 happened six weeks ago.  Jill and I had finished our month-long mission work of doing the consultant checking on the book of Matthew, and we had arranged our airline tickets in such a way that we could spend a day and a half in Cairns, Australia.  We had saved some money and had talked previously about doing something special for my 50th while we were Down Under.

On the day we arrived, I immediately took a rest when we got to the hotel, which left time for Jill to stroll along the Esplanade of the Cairns downtown harbor.  I thought she was just sight-seeing.  Little did I know what she had up her sleeve.  So when she came back to the hotel, she gave me her first surprise by telling me she had booked a catamaran cruise out to the Great Barrier Reef.  We had talked about this, but the deal and the adventure she found was even better than I had hoped for.

The ride out to the Reef was an adventure itself.  It took an hour and a half just to get out there.  And when we got to the open ocean, the captain opened up the throttle and raised the bow right off the water.  Meanwhile, I had just changed into my swimming trunks at the stern, and when I tried to go uphill to get back to our seats, there was no way I could make it.  I just leaned uphill and held on to my pole.  But thanks to a willing staff member who basically put me on his back, I did get back to Jill.

Once we arrived, the catamaran docked alongside their permanent floating pontoon platform, and all kinds of aquatic activities began.  Now just as an aside, I am well known for NOT being able to swim, and in fact I am famous for sinking to the bottom of any pool or body of water.  But we both decided we would try a snorkel led tour of the reef to try to see the beauty of the marine life.

It was simply unbelievable how clear the coral looked that day.  And so many varieties and colors, it was breathtaking.  And one staff member told us, the Great Barrier Reef is over 1,000 miles long.

We were able to see many kinds and colors of fish as well, but by the time you got your camera ready, they darted back into the coral again.  So to help the “tourists”, the staff would throw food pellets into the water to bring schools of fish back.

Well, praise God, the instructor lent (at no charge) wet suits so I could glide better, and since numbers were down, we got a private tour for 30 minutes of the Coral Reef.  And to help me, the newbie of snorkeling, he gave me simple instructions: make an “O” with your lips, bite lightly but firmly on your mouthpiece, place your head down at a 45 degree angle, stretch out your arms and hold on to the life ring, and gently move your legs to swim.  I did pretty good.  I followed all the instruction, up till the last one.  I have always been afraid of water, and my legs don’t work very well anyways now, so I hung on for dear life, and the instructor towed me for the full half hour.  My outstretched arms hurt like the dickens later, but boy was it all worth it.

After a brief rest, and half a lunch plate later, they announced that the glass bottom boat was ready to go.  So we quickly boarded that vessel and saw more of the reef.  Very cool to look straight down and see the fish and the reef.  But better than that, they had finally just fixed some problem so that when we got back to the pontoon, the semi-submersible ship was ready and we hopped over and down into it for another ride to the reef.  Super cool!  It felt like we really were in a submarine.

You would think my day was done, but Jill had her greatest surprise left to give me.  There was one last adventure to have to mark my 50th birthday.  By this point, I had been on the water, in the water, and under the water.   The last thing to do was to go over the water.  And so I did.  Jill arranged for me to go up in helicopter ride to circle around the Reef at 500 feet.  Now is that pretty special or what?

I have always wanted to go up in a helicopter.  And in 1999 I almost did, as I was scheduled to go to a remote village to do some language surveying.  But a sudden trip home to see my father for the last time cancelled that flight.  So certainly for the past 11 years I have thought about going up in a helicopter.  Well, how can I tell you how amazing it was to see the Great Barrier Reef from the air.  The shapes, the shades, the colors.  They were all truly amazing as you can see.

I must say, this adventure that we had Down Under will be very hard to beat.  I think I can say that this was truly an adventure of a lifetime.  And considering all the places I have been in the world, that’s saying something.  But most of all, I must say “Thank you!” to my wife Jill, who went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure I had a wonderful 50th birthday.

Thank you Honey!

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I Turned 50

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Today I mark my 50th Birthday.

A lot has happened in recent days, and I would like to share this with you, both in words and in pictures.  Two years ago (plus 5 days) I received the official report that I have a degenerative muscle disease.  Another personal crisis hit me within days of this announcement, and I truly felt my life was over.  Then over the last year, I have had a bit of an identity crisis and I wondered after all my globe-trotting, whether I really had any personal friends of not.  But these past few weeks have reminded me of all that I do have, and who are my friends.

In recent months, I have learned to appreciate my family and have been more in touch by phone, by email and Facebook, and personal visits.  Considering how many families are truly messed up, where members will not speak to each other for months, or even years, I am glad I have a mother and two brothers who stay in touch.

And speaking of Facebook, I recently made the leap into the great world of “Social Networking”.  I currently have 325 Friends (not bad for a new User), and I am finding more and more friends from years gone by through this program.  And I have been thrilled by all the people who have wished me a Happy Birthday today.  If a “score” is equal to 20, then I literally have had “scores and scores” of people sending me their well wishing.  Let me say in return to all these friends of mine, “Thank You!”

Of all those whom I consider special, I have to mention just how much I love my immediate family.  God has blessed me with my loving wife, Jill, and two absolutely fantastic sons, who have grown up into wonderful young men of God.  We think of Glen as our “gentle giant” who is so good with people and loves his Lord Jesus.  And we are all so pleased that Eric has found a beautiful Christian wife in Esther.  So whether it is for my birthday, or for just any old reason, we love to get together and have a party.  (Usually pizza, pop and a movie.  Yum yum!)

But of all my friends, my closest and best friend is Jesus.  For 38 years now I have had a daily relationship with Jesus.  There have been many deep and dark valleys that I have walked through in my 50 years, but I know without a doubt that Jesus has always been with me by my side, guiding me, comforting me, encouraging me, strengthening me.  My prayer for all my readers, is that each of you too may know how deep, how long and how wide is my Saviour’s love.  Be blessed my friends.

Caught by the Police

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It was a long time ago when I learned an important lesson, “Thou shalt not steal!”

I was in Grade Six, and I was wanting so bad to feel like I belonged somewhere.  That was my big mistake.  Instead of turning to my family or to the friends I did have, I wanted to belong to the “Cool Dudes”.  I found out that the Cool Dudes had formed some kind of club, and so I approached one of the guys in my class and asked if I could join them.  He told me that to belong to their “Cool Club” I would have to steal something from a store to show how brave and tough I was.

The next day, after hastily grabbing a comic book from my corner store, and then meeting with the others, I was provisionally allowed to join the “Cool Club”.  The next step up was to go back and steal a dozen eggs so we could go out and egg some cars that night.  I suddenly had serious misgivings about where this was headed, but because I wanted to be on the “in” group, I agreed to go steal again.

It just so happened that the little corner store I went back to did not carry eggs.  Well, I could not go back to the gang empty-handed, so I stuffed some big bags of candy up my coat.  But before I could get out the door, the manager stopped me and asked me to unzip my coat.  Slowly I opened my coat, and out fell the candy bags.  All I could say was, “Oops!!”

The next thing I knew, I was in the back of the store and the manager had called the police.  I was scared spitless.  And when the policemen came, they looked like 10 foot giants to me, armed to the teeth, and definitely had no smiles on their faces.  I slunk into the back seat of the police cruiser.  I looked around, over, down, anywhere but at the policemen.  Then my day brightened.  I saw some newspaper comic strips so I picked them up to read.

Instantly my mood improved.  But then just as fast, the one policeman snatched the comics away and put his face about 2 inches from my face and snarled, “This aint funny kid!”  I thought I was going to die.  Then he said, “We are going to take you to your parents, and have a long talk with them!”  Now I was hoping I would die before we got there.  First the police!!  Then my parents!!  Yikes!!!

I sat in the cruiser outside our house for a long time.  The policemen came out and gave me a long lecture about the seriousness of stealing and to never do it again.  Very quickly I agreed.  What great wisdom they had shared with me.  But then I had to face my parents.  Now they were good parents, who used time-outs, good lectures, and a few spoon whacks on the bottom when it came to disciplining us.  But I knew I had crossed way over the line on this one.

My father was so angry, he felt it best if he left the house, rather than lay a hand on me.  Wise man.  Then I faced my mother.  She sat me down and gave me an eyeball to eyeball talk about the things that are right, and the things that are wrong.  And then she told me that it was time for her hairbrush to meet my bottom.  It was not anger speaking, it was the voice of loving discipline.

I seem to recall that it was a little hard to sit down for a day or two.  But my bottom did not hurt as much as my sense of guilt over wrong doing, and my sense of letting my parents down.  I was taught a valuable lesson that day.  And I came to appreciate it more as time went on.  The police came to rescue me from going down a path of crime and self-destruction.  And my parents loved me enough to not “beat” me into obedience, but to “educate” me into the right path for living.

I believe the following Scriptures to be very true and still relevant to today:

Proverbs 13:24  “He who spares the rod hates his son,but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.”

Hebrews 12:11  “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

The best part of this story is that I truly did learn my lesson that day.  From that day until now, I have never (consciously) stolen anything from anyone.  In fact, when they give me too much money back at McDonald’s, I turn around and give them the correct change back.

Thank you God for teaching me honesty, self-respect and obedience.

God Spoke Through People

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How I Became a Missionary – Part 1

Many times I have been asked the question, “How do you know God’s will?”  This is so broad of a question it is hard to answer.  And in fact, what people are often asking is, “What would God want me to do with my life?”  The most important decision a person needs to make is to accept Jesus as their personal Saviour and Lord.  The next two most important questions for most people then revolve around, “Who should I marry?” and “What career will I pursue in my life?”

The beginning of my journey to become a Christian was shared in an earlier blog, “For My Tears, Jesus Died.” The interesting and hilarious details of how I chose Jill to be my wife will be in future blog entries.  But the third question regarding the choosing of a career, and in my case a missionary career, I think is a fascinating story and will probably take many blog entries to give you the full story.

On this post, I want to share about how God used people and spoke through people to help guide me on this quest of what I should do with my life.  I’m sure I could name many people who influenced my life, such as my parents, key friends, teachers, pastors, etc.  But as I look back at my life, I can see very clearly how four individuals very specifically impacted me, although they themselves did not know at that time the impact of what they said.

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The first person to impact my life, was a lady from Wycliffe Bible Translators.  I did not know her personally, but she was a member of my church and had been overseas working for Wycliffe.  She was giving a slide presentation on her work, and on the work of Bible translation in general.  I was 14 at the time.  I had been a Christian for only two years.  But when as I watched her presentation, a chord within me resonated, and the germ of an idea, or should I say. the germ of a vision was planted.

The second person, actually couple, were also Bible translators, living in the highlands of Peru and working to get the Scriptures into a Quechua language.  I was 16 at this time, and was also in the Canadian Navy.  (But that story will have to wait for another time.)  I got special permission from our ship’s captain to have a 3 day leave so that I could visit these people who were also supported by my church back in Canada.  During those three days, I became absolutely fascinated with what I saw and heard about Bible translation.  The seed had sprouted and began to take root in my heart.

The third person was also a Bible translator, and I met her at a fundraising banquet for Wycliffe.  I was 18 and she was probably in her 60’s or older.  (My thought at first was, “Oh great, I get stuck next to an old lady!”)  But God spoke through this saint to me.  She told me story after story about Bible translation work, and I was quickly enraptured by her stories.  Then suddenly she asked an odd question.  She said, “Are you very good at math?”  I replied, “Yes, I get 90s and 95s all the time.  I love math.”  Then she replied to me, “Then you would make an excellent Bible translator.”  Wow!  Was this a prophetic word?  And the interest within became a burning desire from that time on.

Now jumping over many years, and without going into details of the many years and places that our wandering lives and various ministries took us, finally in 1993, while living in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island (PEI), we got talking to an old college friend of mine.  I had been worn down and beaten through some tough ministry experiences and did not have a drive or a passion left in me.  And this shocked my friend, who then said, “I thought you always wanted to be a missionary!”  And that statement woke me up and rekindled the fire within to pursue a missionary career.

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What value does this story have for you and I today?  First, we all need to realize that God places people in our lives at strategic moments.  And in these moments, God will send us a message, one intended just for you or me.  God wants to speak through these people and help guide us into the things God would have us do.

Secondly, this story tells us that we must keep our spiritual eyes and ears open to be able to catch the messages God is trying to send us.  Are we listening?  Thirdly, we may never realize that we are the ones who might be impacting others with a word of wisdom or the planting of a vision.  So keep on sharing from your heart whatever God lays on your heart and leave it in God’s hand to bless what you say to the benefit of someone else.

But most important of all for me, is the spiritual truth that God often will plant a dream, a vision, a deep yearning for something in our heart, and if we will remain faithful to Him, and be honestly seeking to hear His voice, then these desires of our hearts are in fact also God’s desires and He will in every way strive to see these passions of our hearts come to pass.

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Scripture itself says it this way:

Psalm 20:4    “May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.”

Psalm 37:4     “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

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Jesus – Our High Priest Forever

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The basic facts of the Gospel are pretty easy to sum up, I think.  Jesus was, and still is God.  He became human and died a terrible death.  It was because of sin which broke the relationship between God and mankind that he died.  Jesus took our place as a human and paid the penalty of sin when he died on the cross.  Jesus rose from the dead proving he had conquered death.  When we put our trust in him, God does not see the sin, it has been done away with.  And so after we die here and have our bodies raised, we too who are saved from eternal death will live with God forever.

This all sounds so nice and intellectual.  But as I was working on Hebrews chapter 7, I was struck with a profound truth.  In verse 25, it says that “And so Jesus, now and always, is able to save those who come to God through him.”  The concept that Jesus is able to save people throughout time is huge.  But it is the verse above that really gave me a thrill.

Unfortunately, the English does not do this verse justice as one version puts it. “Because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood.”  This puts emphasis on his office, not on his work as a priest.  Biblically speaking, a priest’s job is to offer sacrifices to God on behalf of men and women so that sin is dealt with and God and mankind can be united again.

It was as I looked at the back translation (translated from a village language back into a form of English) of verse 24 that I was hit with a huge spiritual “Ah Ha!”.  This back translation basically says, “Jesus is always existing.  He was doing and will never stop doing the work of giving offerings.  He will be doing this work forever.” These words, “always exists”, “never stop”, “forever”, these all spoke to me of how much Jesus loves people, now and always.

From before the beginning of time up until the crucifixion and resurrection, the plan to rescue people from sin existed, and ever since then up until the last day, Jesus is in the business of presenting the offering to God (his sacrifice on the cross) which can take away sin.  And the end of verse 25 tells us that not only does Jesus have this power to save people, he is continually speaking to the Father, interceding on their behalf, reminding the Father that he paid for people’s sin.  And it is because of Jesus’ faithful and continual acting as our Mediator that we are able today, and every day, to stand in a living, loving, and forgiving relationship with the God of the universe.

Thank you Jesus!!!!

For My Tears, Jesus Died

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One of the categories I am going to use on my blog that I am excited about is going to be called “I Remember”. There will be lots of things I can share under this category – funny things, sad moments, unusual events that occurred.  Above all though, there is one thing that I want to remember well, and share with any who will read this blog.  Namely, to remember the many times that God has been good to me, and the times that He has been close to me.  And even as I thought of this new category, it caused me to remember the very first time that God was really “real” to me.

I was attending my first youth conference in Northern Alberta.  It was in October of 1972, and I was only 11 years old.  I was thrilled to be out on the highway on my own so to speak.  (Actually we traveled as a Youth Group and filled a big yellow school bus.)  I thought it was so neat to go on a weekend trip where over 500 young people would gather to have fun.

Now this conference was sponsored by our churches of Western Canada and some northwestern States.  I knew there would be Christian “stuff” happening as part of the weekend.  But I was just going to have a good time.  And that’s exactly what I did, not caring much about anyone or anything until the evening banquet on Saturday.  I hadn’t listened to any of the preaching or teaching up till this point, but God found a way to still reach this stubborn heart of mine.

It was a song.  But not just any song.  The lights in the auditorium went down, only candles on each table gave out a little light, and then the girl stepped up to the microphone and sang her special solo.  I will always remember what happened next.  Something broke within me and my stubborn heart which refused to hear God’s strong voice began to melt as I heard His voice in the beautiful quietness of that song.  And I silently wept as God spoke to me through that song.   The song that night was “For Those Tears I Died”.

I still know those words today, and they still speak the same message to me.  I was a sinner, and yet Jesus died for me.  I tried to ignore Him, but He was there, inviting me to drink deeply of his love and saving grace.  I knew for the first time that Jesus was real, and as I wept tears of repentance for my ignorance and rebellion against God, I heard the message – that for my tears He died.

“Saviour, I give you my heart and my soul.                                                                                                        I know that without you, I’d never be whole.                                                                                                Saviour, you’ve opened all the right doors.                                                                                                    And I thank you, and praise you, from earth’s humble shores,                                                                  Take me I’m yours.”

“And Jesus said, ‘Come to the water, stand by my side.                                                                                  I know you are thirsty, you won’t be denied.                                                                                                    I felt every teardrop, when in darkness you cried.                                                                                       And I strove to remind you, that for those tears I died.’ ”

A Little Snow

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Last night it snowed!  We knew it was coming.  And yet, were we really ready?  For most, probably not.  For us here in Canada, not having snow on the ground any day after October 15th is a good day.  Now we did get a touch of winter in October with a couple of days where it would powder the ground white and pretty for an hour or two, but by mid-afternoon, the snow would be gone and the grass would be just a bit more green for another day.

But now I’m talking about a full-blown snow day here today.  I would guess that we have had at least 5 inches of snow already, and I’m sure we will get more.  Cars are moving slowly, people are bundled up tight in multiple layers of clothes and hunched down as they walk into the wind.  The sky is a dull white overcast.  No doubt about it, Winter has arrived.

And now we really have something to complain about, right?  I mean, during the Summer we might have complained a little like, “I just washed my car, and then what happens….it decides to rain.  Go figure eh?”  Or in the Fall, while some are enjoying the first crispness of a strong autumn breeze, others are grumping about having to go out and rake more leaves in their yard.  But with Winter, just about everyone finds extreme cold difficult, drivers take their lives in their hands, and sometimes just getting out the front door of your house to face the world can be exhausting even before the day has really started.

But do you know what thought went through my mind as I looked out at a white world this morning?  The verse that came to me was, “This is the day which the Lord has made.  I will be glad and rejoice in it.”  And that’s all it took to help me get into a positive frame of mind for today.  Sure, I still have to wear three layers of clothes and use a heat dish in my living room floor to stay warm.  And the cold makes me hurt more.  But even these senses which send impulses to my brain are telling me one thing at least….I am alive! And for that God, I give you thanks.  Now Lord, help me to use this day wisely, and to look for things that are positive….even if it is a Snow Day!

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