“It’s Not My Fault!”


Hard Road Journey – Part 2

“It’s Not My Fault!”

This is the second part of a series that summarizes the key points in Mark Atteberry’s book “Walking With God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel.”  As I wrote in Part 1, we want to try to avoid looking so much at the “why” of how we got here, and focus more on the “how do we get through” these difficult times.  But before we can, we need to briefly consider the question of whose “fault” it might be, and the answer to this may surprise us and even help us to get through the difficult times.

Atteberry suggests that we may want to carefully, and as much as possible objectively, answer the question of whether it is my fault or someone else’s fault or perhaps even no one’s fault that we are in the mess that we are in.  I would suggest that as Christians, that no matter which one of these three options might be the answer, we might even point some blame at God in our anger since we can say within ourselves, “Why did God cause / allow this to happen to me?”  I will try to address that too.

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It’s No One’s Fault: I want to start with the third option and go backwards.  I think this can be easier for some, but harder for others to accept that some things just happen.  One of the toughest situations that deeply affected our family is that our first-born son, Eric, had leukemia.  We had to leave Papua New Guinea where we were doing mission work to get him diagnosed in Australia.  Once the diagnosis was confirmed, he immediately started treatment, and then as soon as we could we headed back to Canada for 2 1/2 more years of chemotherapy.

Eric’s cancer didn’t just pull us out of the village where we worked, but it caused us to have to abandon our work there.  Since we came back to Canada in February 2002, none of us have ever been back to our PNG village.  Some of our belongings were shipped back to us, but many things have been lost forever.  Was it Eric’s fault that this happened?  Of course not.  Did this hurt us emotionally, psychologically, materially and financially?  It most certainly did.  But it still was nobody’s fault.

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It’s Someone Else’s Fault: There is no question that there are bad people out there in the world who do bad things to us.  We can be cheated, abused, ridiculed and harmed by others.  We cannot always avoid these things from happening, though sometimes we do have the choice to avoid places and times where bad things are more apt to happen.

I remember a situation where I was fired from my job and how devastating that event was to me.  I was only 16 and my manager called me into the back of the store where I saw a woman crying.  She had told the manager that I had insulted her baby the day before and she wanted me to be fired.

The truth is that I had made a comment spoken out of compassion, but also out of ignorance.  Her baby had a large purple area on the side of the face, and I had thought it was either from a burn, or some baby illness.  So I had said something like, “I hope your baby feels better soon. ”  Little did I know it was a permanent birth mark.  But there was no way to explain myself, and the manager chose siding with the customer rather than let me speak.  I had the choice then to be bitter, or learn to be more careful in comments I made.  I chose the latter.

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It’s My Fault: There are the times where we must take responsibility for our own actions and decisions, and we may be surprised at how many times in whole or in part it is our own fault for the mess we find ourselves in.  This is true for me when Jill and I left Texas after living one year there to return to Canada.

We had good reasons to come back, seeing as we had lost one pregnancy at 29 weeks while we were in Texas, and now with Jill pregnant with Eric, we felt we needed the extra support of the Canadian health system to make sure we could handle this pregnancy.  The problem wasn’t coming home, it was the way I decided as to where we lived next.

I thought living in Toronto in 1988 was a smart move, since the “hottest” economy was there.  But rents were so high, we had to live in such a crummy place that I ended up getting so sick (and reacted to medicine) that I nearly died there.  And whose fault was that?  It was mine, because I don’t remember ever seeking God’s help on this decision.  I just made a decision that was “right in my own eyes”.

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It’s God’s Fault: If we can’t explain it any other way, then we may be tempted to say it is God’s fault since He either caused it to happen or at least allowed it to happen.  But let me close by giving a quote from Atteberry’s book as he reflects on Jeremiah 29:11 where God says, “I know the plans I have for you, … plans for good and not disaster, to give you a future and a hope”.  Atteberry then says on page 12:

That verse, along with countless others, simply will not allow me to picture God as a temperamental bully who beats His children.  I cannot imagine Him toying with us, inflicting pain and suffering just because He can.  Yes, I know that He occasionally disciplines His children and that His disciplinary actions can be very painful. ….But even when He takes such measures, His motivation is love and His desire is to make a better future for His people.

(See Hebrews 12:7-11)

Pray For Our Trip


Here We Go!!!

It’s January 27, 2011.  Today is the day!  By the time you read this I will be on my way, or already arrived in Los Angeles.  This will be the first of four legs of my journey to the mission center I am heading to in Papua New Guinea.  I will go on the midday flight to LA and then rest for about five hours in a hotel before boarding the 14 hour fight to Brisbane, Australia.

I arrive in Brisbane on their Saturday morning around 8 a.m. and head straight to a small motel where I will rest for a day before flying out early on Sunday to go to Port Moresby, the capital of PNG.  When I arrive there, I will go to a mission Guest House and rest for another day.  On Monday, I will board a small mission plane (which will hold about 8 passengers and cargo) and fly up to the mission center in the highlands of PNG.

I will travel by myself to get over there, and then Jill will follow a few days behind me.  We have done this a few times now, and we have seen that every airline has done a great job of helping me with wheelchair assistance.  And the concierge and managers at the hotel, motel and Guest House know me very well by now, and they too take great care of me.  For this I am very thankful, and give thanks to God that I am still able even with my muscle disease to be able to travel around the world.

So this answers the question that some people have asked us about whether or not it would be better to have Jill travel with me and help me at the airports.  What we have seen sometimes is that it is actually harder to travel together.  They see that Jill is with me and so they think, “Oh, he has a wife.  She can take care of him then.”  And they leave her to try to push me and lug or push all of our luggage at the same time.  How smart is that?  Duh!!!!

So this trip will take me four days to get to my destination.  But because I have taken rest stops all along the way there, by the time I do arrive I am fairly rested and in good shape.  And by sleeping during the three nights leading up to my arrival there, my body has had a chance to adjust to all the time zone changes and I don’t have too much difficulty with jet lag.

Jill on the other hand always opts for the fastest route to or from PNG.  Partly this is because she likes to get there and not make stops along the way, but also with her nursing job back in Calgary, she has to try to not waste her time off with overnight stops or long layovers.  I am so thankful that she is able to come and be with me to help me with my needs while I am working in PNG, but I do get concerned for her with her pushing herself hard for about 34 hours before she can rest at the Guest House.  She will sleep there one night, and then fly up the next day to join me in the highland center.

This trip will be the longest one I have taken in almost four years.  Usually my trips to PNG have been five to six weeks long, but this one will be nine weeks long, just over two months.  Each time we have traveled to PNG for me to do this Bible translation consultant work, we have learned something more about how to make the trip and the work easier and more comfortable for me to be able to do it.

But even if I were to say that we have become “smarter” about how to do these trips, I always recognize that it is God ultimately who gives me the strength to be able to do this work.  I think that Solomon said it well in Proverbs 3:7-8

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.                                 This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your  bones.

In addition to thanking God for His sustaining hand, and thanking Jill for being my help-mate, I want to thank all the people who hold us up in prayer to God.  I am thoroughly convinced that the prayers of God’s people make a difference in the real world we live in.  So please accept our thanks to all of you who do pray for us, and please do not stop praying for us.

Given what I just said, we ask you to pray for us in the following way:

  • safe traveling and good rests for me from January 27 until I arrive on the 31st
  • strength, energy and minimal pain for me throughout the journey
  • for Jill not to worry about me as I travel  : )
  • safe traveling and smooth transfers for Jill from February 1 – 4
  • that all the team will be ready there to start the checking of Ephesians when I get there

There are certainly more things we could ask you to pray for us, but these are the most important items for us.  While we are in PNG, I would like to keep you updated on how our Scripture checking is going, and so I will use my Thursday postings to tell you of our progress.  I will also try to share interesting stories that arise in our checking sessions.

I pray that you all will be blessed by these stories I write, but in all things I pray that God would get the honor and the glory.

To Boldly Go…

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“To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before….”

Most people today would recognize these words as those spoken during the opening credits of Star Trek, the original series.  As you may know, one of my heroes in life (even if he is a fictional character) is Captain James T. Kirk.  You can read about that in my earlier article here.

In this posting I want to tie two events together and relate it to what most people call “The Great Commission”.  Matthew 28:19-20 says:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Now let me relate the first of the two events that were very significant moments for me.  It happened quite by accident really.  I was on the bus going home after finishing the day at my high school.  I was talking with a casual friend of mine and at some point he asked me, “So what do you want to do after you graduate from high school?”  I very quickly replied, “I want to be a missionary.”

This seemed to really surprise my friend and he asked me a lot of questions as to why I would want to do that.  So I explained to him my understanding at that time, that God wanted the message about Jesus to be proclaimed even to people at “the ends of the earth”.

He listened politely for quite a while, but then he said this, “So you want to go to these primitive tribal groups and tell them that if they believe in Jesus, they will go to Heaven.  But if they don’t believe in Jesus, they will go to Hell.  Don’t you think it would be better to leave them alone, so that God will judge them based on their good works and their limited knowledge of God, then to go and condemn them to Hell?”

Needless to say, as a 16-year-old still young in the faith, it was quite a challenge to me to consider his question.  And in fact, this is a very good question: Will God punish those who have never heard about Jesus?  I wrestled with this, and I will spend an entire article later to deal with this question.  But my conclusion then, and still is today, is that we do need to go to people everywhere and give them the opportunity to hear about Jesus.

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And this leads me to the second event that had quite an impact on me, an event that occurred to me in Papua New Guinea in 1999.  I had heard rumors and reports from some of our national friends where we lived in the jungle that there was a small collection of hamlets to the southeast of our village where they spoke a dialect of our village language.  This was definitely something to check into.

We checked with our mission office in town, and there was no clear data for this area of PNG and so we had no idea of who lived up in the hills there or what to expect when we got there.  So we prepared all our supplies and together with our national guides, we began our 10 hour hike through very rough terrain to find these “hidden” people.

So what did we find?  About a dozen little hamlets with anywhere from 20 to 40 people living in each hamlet.  After doing some simple linguistic testing, we did in fact find that they spoke a closely related dialect to our language.  And that was an exciting thing to find out, but there is something else that I found even more amazing which I want to share with you.

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For about two months before we went on this hike, we sent word of mouth down the jungle trail to let them know we were coming to investigate their area.  So we knew the people would be expecting us, but we didn’t know what kind of reception we would get.  And when we approached the first village, we were told to stop, and wait till we were invited to come into the village.  What did that mean?

Then they said it was okay to come into the village.  And do you know what happened?  The people had decorated the pathway, had put on all of their traditional tribal face paint and wore all their colorful native decorations.  But more fascinating than this was the fact that they sang a song to welcome us into the village.  They sang a song in their language which reflected their joy that we would come to learn their language and bring the Bible to them in their language.

It was at that moment that I wished my friend was there with me.  Rather than living in ignorance of the Living God, and hoping that He will be merciful, I still believe that most people in the world would like to hear the message about God’s love.  Even if some will not receive the message, those who do make it all worth while.  And so it is still my heart’s desire to take the Gospel to “the ends of the earth.”

PS.  The next most fascinating thing I heard in those hamlets was, “You are the first white person to have ever visited our villages.”  Mission work certainly has its interesting and exciting moments.

“Help Me See Jesus!”

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Read Mark 8:22-26

Right in the very center of the Gospel of Mark, we encounter perhaps the most unique episode recorded of the life and ministry of Jesus.  At first, this miracle story may appear to look similar to many other miracles that Jesus performed.  We see Jesus entering into the town of Bethsaida.  The people bring to Jesus someone who needs healing, specifically a man who is blind.  Jesus heals him and tells him not to go into town (probably like other miracle stories, Jesus does not want to draw attention to himself yet).

But this miracle event is uniquely different in two ways.  First of all, this story is only recorded for us in Mark’s gospel, and not in the other three.  That in itself should cause us to wonder what was Mark’s motivation for choosing to include this event of Jesus’ life.  And secondly, this is the only miracle that Jesus performed in two steps.  He touched the man’s eyes once and he could see things dimly.  So Jesus touches his eyes a second time and then he is healed completely.  Hmmm….what is going on here.

It should never be supposed that Jesus was unable to heal the man, or perhaps He was just having a bad day.  No, we know that part of Jesus’ mandate while on earth was to help the blind to see, the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, the lepers to be cleansed and the Good News to be preached (Matthew 11:4-6).  There is no question that in this story it was Jesus’ intention from the beginning to heal the blind man.

So then perhaps we should turn our attention on to the blind man himself.  Perhaps he did not have enough faith to be healed.  In many instances, Jesus asked the person beforehand if they believed that Jesus was able to heal them.  And yet, in this miracle story, the question of whether the man had faith or not is never brought up.  There has to be another reason for this two-step miracle.

Looking around within this story, there do not seem to be any other clues to help us figure this out.  So then we should follow an important principle in the study of Scripture.  After you have first looked within the text to discover the meaning, then the next important principle is to look within the surrounding context to see if that helps you out.  And lo and behold, we do discover something very important.

After the section detailing the death of John the Baptist, there are five major miracle stories, either of someone being healed, or of the multitudes being fed.  Then we get the dialog between Jesus and his disciples in the boat discussing “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Herod.”  We now know today Jesus was talking figuratively and saying they should watch out with regards to the teachings of the Pharisees and Herod.  The disciples though were a little dense and didn’t get this, and so we hear Jesus finish this section by saying, “Do you still not understand!”

Then if we look immediately after the story of the blind man being healed, we see the crucial question of Jesus being asked, “Who do people say that I am?”  And it was apparent that many did not know who He was, since some said John the Baptist come back, some said Elijah, and some said a prophet.  But when he made it personal and asked Peter, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter responded, “You are the Christ!” which meant that Peter recognized that Jesus was the man whom God had appointed to save His people Israel and for whom they had waited for thousands of years.

It would appear that the persons, other than Jesus, who are in focus in these chapters of Mark are really the disciples.  They lived with Jesus, listened to Jesus, and watched all the miracles that Jesus performed, but in the end, they still did not really understand who Jesus was.  Because even after Peter’s great declaration of Jesus being the Christ, when Jesus said that He came to suffer and die, Peter was the one who rebuked Jesus.  And Jesus in turn had to rebuke Peter.

To think that the disciples could be so close to Jesus but not really see him at all is the very point of the two-step miracle.  I can just imagine that when Jesus first touched the man’s eyes and asked him if he saw anything, that Jesus looked over at the disciples while he said this.  And when the man said he saw things dimly, I can see Jesus still looking at the disciples and shaking his head.

Then Jesus touches the man’s eyes a second time and he is able to see everything clearly.  This man needed a second touch from Jesus, but the real lesson was for the disciples.  They needed to see more clearly who Jesus was.  And Peter was pretty close when he said Jesus was the Christ.  But he thought that meant He was coming as the conquering hero who would free them from the domination of the Romans.  Peter had boxed up Jesus with his preconceived ideas.

So here’s my question for all of us today whoever might be reading this story.  Do you have faith in Jesus and understand well who He is, that He is Lord and we are called to serve Him, but you need a healing touch like this man did?  Then you can say like him, “Help me SEE, Jesus.”

Or are you like the disciples who thought they knew who Jesus was, but were trying to box Him up to be someone who would do what they wanted, thus asking Him to serve them?  I would suggest that you may need to say this in a prayerful way, “Help me see JESUS.”

Remember, it’s all about Him, it’s not about us!  May God bless you in the same measure that you bless and worship Him.

My Grandfather’s Legacy


Who Am I?  Pt 2

My full name is Norman Craig Weatherhead.  In my last article about “Who Am I?”, I related how it was by God’s hand of providence that I was even born at all.  I also told the story of how I used to be called Craig as my primary given name, but due to some interesting sleight of hand, my given name of Craig got slipped into the middle of my name on the official documents that were signed at the hospital.  So that explains my middle name.  Now how about my first name of Norman.  Well, it has a story too.

Norman was the name of my Grandfather on my Mother’s side.  He was in the British military and right after World War 1, he joined the British Customs Services and was posted to China in 1921.  He had been living there for some time when a slight, attractive woman, who was quiet of speech but strong in will, caught his eye and in 1927 they were married in China.  An interesting piece of history here and a claim to fame is that Eric Liddel, the famous long distance runner in “The Chariot’s of Fire”, was the best man for my Grandfather in their wedding in China.

This marriage of Norman Knight to Violet Baty had an immense impact upon his life.  You see, my Grandmother was a missionary from Canada who worked for the United Church of Canada’s North China Mission in Tianjin, and when she married Norman, he quickly found himself employed by the mission to be the Business Manager and Director of the mission’s hospital further inland.  There is no doubt that his experience working as a Customs Officer prepared the way for him to serve well in this mission in this capacity.

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But to say that Norman Knight was just a Business Manager would greatly understate the valuable services that he provided for the Chinese people themselves.  When the Japanese forces invaded China in 1937 and up through 1941, for most of that time Norman was the liaison between the mission members and the compound as a whole, and the Japanese garrison leaders.  As he used delaying tactics, the staff would hide some of the local Chinese guerrilla fighters.

It was truly by the grace of God that Norman and his family made it out of China as Japan tightened more of their control over the country.  Unfortunately, after Pearl Harbor, the same cannot be said for Eric Liddel, who had become such a great friend to my grandparents.  Eric, for whom our son is named after, was interned by the Japanese and suffered malnutrition and terrible physical conditions in the Japanese POW camps.  Eric died just a few months before China was liberated in 1945.

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Back to Norman Knight, who returned alone to China after the war, was again recalled to Canada just before the complete takeover of the Communists in 1949.  Following his China years as a missionary, Norman was ordained by the United Church of Canada, and asked to minister to some small rural churches in Alberta.  And even though he had no formal theological training, his mission experience and skill sets were more than enough to help him be a good minister to a number of rural Albertan churches.

Now fast-forward a number of years until you come to 1960.  My mother was now pregnant with me and they had not made any firm choices on potential names for this fourth child of theirs.  But on September 27th, exactly two months before I was born, my grandfather Norman Knight died.  This motivated my parents to then give me his name of Norman, both as a memorial to him, and an inheritance for me.

Now jump forward again about 15 years.  Up until my middle teen years, I had always been known as Craig as I mentioned earlier.  But two things happened in the next two years that caused me to change that and go by my first name, Norman.

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The first thing that happened was that my names caused great confusion for the Navy of Canada.  (I bet that surprised you.)  You see, I had been part of the Sea Cadets for three years (ages 13-15) and in the summer of my 15th year, I attended a rigorous Navy Boot Camp.  And when it was over and I was back in Calgary, two packets came to me from the Navy Headquarters.

In one packet was the certificate of completion, the group picture of my squid mates, and my awards that I had won from some of the competitions.  These were all given to Able Seaman Norman Weatherhead.  But in the other packet, there was a certificate of completion of Boot Camp, but no group picture and no awards given.  This packet was sent to Able Seaman Craig Weatherhead.  : )  So Norman was outstanding, but Craig was missing.  This is the funny story about my two names.

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On the more serious side, I was wrestling with my own self-identity, and one aspect of that was trying to decide what I wanted to do in life.  The Navy really attracted me, and I will tell you a further Navy story in the next “Who Am I?” article.  But after accepting Christ as my Savior in 1972, then sensing in 1974 that God wanted me to be a servant-worker for him, and in 1976, being able to see Bible translation being done in the mountain town of Cuzco, Peru, I knew that God was calling me to be a missionary.

And that caused me to think about my grandfather, Norman Knight.  It would seem to me, that not only did I receive my grandfather’s name as an inheritance, I believe that I also received his vocation as part of that inheritance.  This thought has gone through my mind and my mother’s mind, and even my grandmother’s mind while she was still alive, that in some divine way, there was a connection between me and my grandfather.  And we have wondered, if it is possible, that during the two months since he passed away and before I was born, perhaps he and I had some very interesting conversations together in the spirit realm.  Maybe I’ll get to find out if this is true when it is my turn to graduate to heaven.

Whatever the case, thank you Granddad for your namesake and your legacy passed on to me.

“Come, Follow Me!”


“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”

Matthew 4:19

Last Sunday, we had the privilege to go to another church where Steve, a friend of mine, is the preacher.  He based his sermon off of the verse above.  He is doing a series of messages that includes looking intently into this verse.  He mentioned how last week as he was working through the topic of “Grace”, that he only covered one word: “Come”.  But he said he would do better this week, he would cover two words: “Follow me!”  That caused a ripple of laughter.

I was amazed though at how deep and broad of a message he was able to deliver from just studying these two words of Jesus.  I will not attempt to reproduce his sermon here, but rather, since I felt it was such a good message, I want to write down the key points that I remember.  I pray this would be a challenge and an encouragement for you.

To introduce the sermon, Steve reflected on the idea of what it meant to be a Christian.  He said that he, like many people, would answer the question of “So what religion are you?” with the answer, “I’m a Christian.”  But that does not say a whole lot, except to say that we have been identified into a specific category of humanity.  A much better answer, he said, would be to reply, “I’m a follower of Jesus”.  That says a lot more about how we life our lives, or as least ought to.

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Steve’s message had three main points to it.  When we follow Jesus, we will have real freedom, we will experience a great adventure, and we will live in a true relationship of trust.  Each one of these points were powerful reminders of what real Christianity ought to look like, and they pointed to the idea that these are realities that all people are seeking, but for the most part are finding their answers in the wrong places.

Take the first point: following Jesus gives real freedom.  Steve hit the nail right on the head when he said that all people are controlled by something, it’s just a question of what that is.  For example, if a person is worried about bills and debt, then he is controlled by money.  If a woman “flies” off the handle at every remark, then she is controlled by rage, and possibly by insecurity.

But when we let Jesus truly be our Lord, He then becomes our Master, but in reality He frees us from so many other things that would seek to enslave us.  We don’t have to worry about basic necessities of life, for He says, “Seek first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these [other] things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)  And if we don’t know what to do when life gets hard, but in faith asks God for wisdom, He will grant it.  (James 1:5)  And so much more will be ours when we give the control of our lives over to God, for we are even now seated spiritually in heaven and its riches and blessings are ours when we are united with Christ.  (Ephesians 1:3-14 & 2:4-10)

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The second point of Steve’s message was that when we follow Jesus, we will live a life of adventure like we had never dreamed possible before.  That is certainly been true for me and Jill, as we have literally traveled around the world a few times as we followed His leading.  But even if a person who is a believer in Christ has never traveled much outside the region of the country they live in, living a life of faith is an adventure, since we are trusting God to meet us at our point of real need and to take care of us from day to day.

And that leads into Steve’s third point: following Jesus is possible to do because He is trustworthy.  Many people have let us down, whether intentionally or unintentionally.  But we can never doubt Jesus’ love for us, seeing as He willingly went to the cross to die for us.  So when He promises that He will send a Counselor to help us (John 14:15-31), and that He will never leave us, but will be with us always, (Matthew 28:20b), we know we can trust Him.

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And so the question is put out there for all of us to consider.  We who call ourselves “Christian”, are we actually following Jesus, allowing Him to be the Master of our lives, or are we “Christian” in name only?  In this great adventure of life that we are all in, are we placing our lives into the hands of the One and only Person who is truly trustworthy, or not?

If you don’t know, then ask this question: what does you heart and mind focus in upon more than any other thing?  When things go well, do you give thanks to God, or do you reason that it was your hard work or maybe even just good luck that brought about the positive situation?  And when things get tough, do you work to find a solution, do you turn to pleasures of this life to ease the pain, or do you trust God and believe He is still in control and will bring good out of the situation? (Romans 8:28)

You know, in its very essence, being a follower of Jesus is quite simple.  He says himself that what is really important is simply this:  love God with all that is you, and love your neighbor as you would love yourself.  (Matthew 22:37-38)  That is what I would call an “active faith”.  That is what has been called “Basic Christianity”.  So what would you say?  Are you a “follower of Jesus”?

(Thank you Steve for an excellent sermon.)

A Hard Road Journey


Part One

Life is tough, there is no doubt about it.  Ask anybody, and they will be able to tell you stories of heartaches and difficulties of life that they have had to go through.  And how about you?  Has there been a death, or a divorce in your family recently?  Has the downturn in the economy hit you square in the face and knocked you down?  How is your health?  Are you fighting a battle against a disease like I am, or have had a serious accident or injury?  Is there relational turmoil and war going on between you and a loved one?  Have you been betrayed by a friend or a colleague?

Any one of these areas that may be hitting you negatively can cause you to feel like God is not listening to your prayers, that He has abandoned you, and you are left alone in a wilderness from which it seems that you can find no way out.  Well, believe me, I can empathize with you as I too have been through, and am still going through my own desert experiences in life.

In today’s article though, I do not want to focus in on these difficulties.  Often, that can be counter productive as it can make a person more depressed than before, rather than be of any great help.  And I also do not want to talk for any length of time about the “why” that many people ask as to how we got into this terrible place.  No, I want to explore much more about the “how”, or what can we do, to get through this wilderness experience.

Mark Atteberry, author of “Walking with God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel”, has done an excellent job of providing a road map to help guide us through and out of our difficult experiences of life.  He shares in his Introduction of the book about a time when he didn’t know what to say to someone whose wife had just died.  And much later he realized what he could have done differently.  He says:

I now realize that I was making a simple but common mistake.  I was looking for a way to explain why such terrible things were happening to him, when I should have simply offered a few ideas on how he could face the future.  You see, the whys of life are often out of our reach.  I’m convinced that only eternity will unlock all of their mysteries.  But the hows are a different story.  The Bible is chock-full of hows.    (pg. xiii)

I just recently finished reading this book and it has been a tremendous blessing to me.  I would recommend to any person who is going through a difficult time to get a copy of this book and see how the strategies that Atteberry lays out in his thirteen chapters could very well unlock the answers that person has been seeking for as to how to deal with the current crisis he or she is experiencing.

In fact, I have been so impressed by this book, that I am planning to write a short article every second week here in The Listening Post to summarize a few key points from each chapter.  Mr. Atteberry has been so kind to grant me permission to quote from his book, and in his own words he said to me, “I am happy for you to use the book in whatever way you think might be helpful to people.  I would never want to put any limitations on what God might be trying to do.”

So thank you Mark, for being used by God to write encouraging words to all of us who are walking a hard-road journey.  And thank you for allowing me to share your insights with my audience of readers.  I hope to weave part of my life story around the principles you lay out for us in your book.  Perhaps my readers will take these articles and pass them on to others who need encouragement, and so together, your words and mine will be just what someone needed to hear for that day.

So folks, be watching for new articles every second Saturday that I pray will give you hope as you walk along on your road of difficult times.  But please know this, you are never, ever really alone.  God is there, whether you can see Him or not.  And now, with these articles, you have a fellow hard-road traveler with whom you can identify and share your experiences with.  (Please do feel free to reply back to me on the bottom of this or any other article.)

May God bless you richly through Christ Jesus our Lord.

God’s Little Salesman!

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I can still remember my first experience of trying to present something of value to another person and hoping that the person would want what I was offering.  I was very young at the time, probably only about eight or nine years old.  And thankfully I was not alone in this endeavor, as I was out with my older brother at that time and we were doing this together.

Now you are probably asking by this point, “What in the world was Norm doing?”  So I will tell you.  My brother and I were out trying to sell raffle tickets at a bowling lane.  I don’t remember what the prize was, but for about a dollar per ticket, people had a chance to win some nice item and also help the Youth Bowling Association.  You see, all the guys in our family were bowlers – my father, my two brothers and myself.  And selling raffles tickets was one way we raised money for the youth programs and to go on special outings in western Canada.

So there we were, my brother and I, going from lane to lane asking people if they would like to buy a ticket.  On the first time we went out, to my recollection, my brother sold about five tickets after going down the twenty or so lanes of bowlers, while I had sold about five books of tickets totaling about fifty tickets.  This seemed to work so well that we came back a few more nights and found the same thing happen, where I would sell five to ten times as many tickets as my brother.

Now an interesting fact about this story is that there was to be a special award given out to the top youth sellers of these tickets.  The prize was to go on a Greyhound trip to Banff.  So guess what happened?  Yes, you guessed it.  I was one of the top sellers of tickets, if not the number one seller.  But when it was time to turn in all the proceeds and the ticket book sales, it turned out that there was an age restriction for the youth that could go on the trip.  And I was too young.  So my brother was credited with all the sales and got to go on the trip instead of me.  Oh double darn and rats!  : )

But the question was asked later, “Why was Norm able to sell so many tickets, especially after his brother had just gone down the row of lanes and asked the same question to the bowlers, but who had not bought a ticket?”  Well, what can I say.  I was a cute kid.  : )  But I think there was another answer.

As I have been involved in church and mission ministry over the years, many people have commented to me that I have a real passion when I am presenting something that I really believe in.  There is a fire and a deep conviction within me that what I have to offer is something that you would also want to have.

I think that if I had chosen a business vocation, that I could have been a great salesman.  (Anyone want to buy a prime piece of swampland?  No worries about traffic congestion or problems with your neighbors.)  But God has always had something else in mind for me.  I was not to be focusing upon presenting an excellent product to other people, but rather I was to be single-minded in presenting a unique and excellent Person to other people.

Ever since I met Jesus when I was 12 years old, I have whole-heartedly believed in the Person of Jesus and what He has to offer to the world.  Namely, our redemption (paying the price for our sins), and forgiveness of those sins (He has removed them as far as the West is from the East), and our adoption (we have become children of the Living God and heirs to the riches of Heaven).

Now that is something to get excited about.  And whenever I get the chance to share about God’s mission to bring the world back to Himself, I get really fired up with a zeal and a passion that has attracted many people to what I have to say.  For they can tell that this is not just a casual interest in Christ that I have, but a true and living relationship with the Everlasting God.  And that is something worth talking about and offering to the world.

“When I came to you brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.  For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.  My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.           1 Corinthians 2:1-5

My Pain vs. Serving God


Recently, I had a friend of mine express concern over how much Tylenol I have been taking to be able to keep my daily level of pain under control.  I agreed that this is serious, and I outlined what I have been doing to keep my pain manageable.  Thanks be to God that we may have found another answer which we hope will help me.

Back in 2008 when the symptoms of this muscle disease became severe, I was taking around 3000 mg of Tylenol per day, but that was way above the toxic level.  So in 2009, I tried to keep it to 2600 mg by using T3 sometimes (lower Tylenol, but added codeine/caffeine) instead of always using extra strength Tylenol. This year I have tried to keep it to 2400 mg or lower if possible, and just live with more pain.  So none of these choices were still very good.

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But this changed about two weeks ago.  Two months ago, I finally was able to enter into the Chronic Pain Clinic program offered here in Calgary.  I had been waiting for over a year and a half to get into this program.  One of my visits was with a doctor who quickly saw how much pain I was in and he had an idea he wanted to try with me.

Instead of taking oral pain killers, he was recommending to me that I try a medicinal patch which I would wear for a week before changing it for another one.  This patch would have a timed-release narcotic drug which would allow 5 micrograms per hour to be absorbed into my body.  Over a week, it would add up to be 5 grams of a drug called Buprenorphine, which is actually stronger than morphine.

When I went back to see the doctor two weeks ago, I told him that the patch did not do much to change my pain.  He actually was not surprised, and he told me that he was mainly wanting to see if I would have a reaction to the drug.  So I went up to 10 micrograms per hour two weeks ago, doubling the dosage of the drug.

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The real test for this was the trip I just took to California, since most trips wear me down so much and as the fatigue increases, so does the pain.  I am happy to report that last week went very well, I was able to teach all my class sessions at the mission training class, and my pain was quite minimal, the best I can remember for a week of low pain since this all started almost 3 years ago.

Now for the first time, with this narcotic patch, I feel there is hope to significantly reduce the Tylenol, and at the same time reduce my daily pain.  So far, I have not really seen any side effect of the narcotic.  I do know that if I use it long-term, there is the possibility that I will become addicted to the drug.

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But here are the choices I see in front of me at this time:  1) Ingest high levels of Tylenol which will give me lower pain, more life activity, but there is a high chance of liver damage over time;  2) Ingest low levels of Tylenol which will result in higher pain, restricted life activities, but save the liver (hopefully); or 3) Use the narcotic patch which will reduce or maybe even eliminate my need for Tylenol, and which will give me minimal pain, more freedom for life activities, but possibly result in an addiction to the drug.

Given those three choices, I will choose number 3.  I believe God still has much for me to do, and it is hard to serve Him when I am battling daily pain that will severely restrict my activities in life.  Now there is still option number 4.  Namely, that God will heal me of this disease.  And of course I want that most of all.

So I do still pray for God to heal me, and I invite you to be praying daily for me for this too.  But until that day comes, I will not let this disease stop me from doing His work.  And the work that He continues to give me is to do Bible translation consultant checking.

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That is what I will be doing for two months (Jan. 27 – March 28) leaving in 2 1/2 weeks to go to Papua New Guinea.  Please pray that I will be prepared with my consultant notes by then.  Pray I will have the strength and stamina for such a long trip.  Pray that my pain will continue to be lower, and that the narcotics will not dull my mind as I need to be sharp in what I hear, what questions I ask, and what suggestions I give so they can have the best possible translation.

I want to thank my friend for asking about my health and showing concern over the drug regiment I was on for so long.  I felt that I needed to share all this with my larger audience of those who follow “The Listening Post” and I do ask that you keep me in your prayers.

In all things, I give myself and my service to God, in order that He would       receive the glory, and the Kingdom of God would advance here on earth.  May His will be done.


Discover Your Passion

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For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.   Ephesians 2:10

A question that many people may have asked you is, “So what did you do to celebrate the beginning of a new year?”  And I would love to hear what your answer is to that question.  Right now, I would like to share with you a wonderful experience that I was able to have over this past week.

On January 2nd, I flew in to Los Angeles, California where I was met by Steve & Linda Whitmer and driven about 40 miles to Fullerton, to the campus of Hope International University.  There I met up with my three other colleagues from Pioneer Bible Translators.  For the next five days, we would introduce ten students from Hope into the principles and foundational materials that are essential for anyone who is interested in the ministry of bringing God’s Word to the Bibleless peoples of the world.

Many of these students have already had a short-term experience in overseas mission ministry.  But for a number of them, Bible translation and its support ministries was relatively new.  As the week went on, you could see the growing interest in the students, and the questions they asked and the interaction of them with all the teachers showed that they were tracking with us very well and were capturing the vision and the passion that we have for this ministry.  (There were still many moments of simply having fun together, whether it was sharing 3 foot pizzas, or posing for a camera shot.)

There were so many important topics that we touched upon, (such as linguistics, anthropology, spiritual disciplines, regional area overviews, literacy, community development, and more), that it is just about impossible for me to sum up the whole experience into a few paragraphs.

Some of the things that I specifically taught to the students were as follows:

Phonetics & Phonology:  was that a velar fricative or a bilabial click sound?  : )

Translation Process:  starting with a rough draft of a translated text, you then check it exegetically to ensure the true meaning is preserved, and follow that with many levels of checking before you can finally publish the material.

Language Learning:  I eat part of a banana and ask in my Nend language, “What am I doing?” and Richard answers in his African language.  I repeat what he said and write down what I hear.  Ta Dah!!  That’s how to learn a language.  What fun we have!

Anthropology:  the best way to understand and change behavior in any culture is to first find out what their worldview is and address beliefs at that level.

Now when I was first asked to come and help teach this week-long missions course, I eagerly accepted the opportunity to teach about Bible translation work.  As many of you know, I have had a passion for mission work and especially the ministry of Bible translation for most of my life.  I had discovered what my passion was at a very early age, and even though there have been some detours and side trails in my life, this passion has always stayed with me.

One of the questions though for me and Jill, was whether or not I would have the physical energy to handle the demands of teaching this course.  Thankfully, we had an excellent team of teachers who would take turns covering material that was presented, according to the strengths and experiences that each person brought with them.  (And by the way, if you are reading this: Nathan, Marsha and Richard, you all did a great job.)

I was also blessed in many other ways which made it possible for me to make it through the week without becoming overwhelmed by fatigue or pain.  Regarding pain, the latest tactic of battling it seems to be working, namely the narcotic patch that I wear that gives me a small release of an opiate drug 24/7 over a seven-day period and then I put on a new patch.  Praise God, my pain has been minimal this week.

The other blessings came from the school and their staff.  I was allowed to stay in a Guest Suite on campus that was quite large and allowed me the ability to get at least one extra nap in each day.  And thanks to Steve & Linda, I was able to literally put my feet up and relax in comfort between sessions when I was not teaching.  They moved a recliner love seat into the room just for me.  : )

So how do I sum up such a great week as this past one.  Well, I believe that the four of us who taught the class came in with a real passion to share our “stories” about what God is doing in the world through the work of Bible translation and its supporting ministries.  And as we taught, and shared our field experiences, we were constantly challenging the students to “Discover Your Passion”.  In other words, we encouraged them to find out what it was that God was calling them to do for the Lord, to find out how God had created them to do His good works in the world.  And maybe, just maybe, working with Pioneer Bible Translators will be what He wants them to do.

As for me, I am on my way back to Canada.  It seems I am always on the go somewhere.  In fact, I will be heading to Papua New Guinea in 19 days from now (with Jill to follow) on a 9 week trip to do the consultant check on multiple books of the New Testament (Hebrews in one language, Eph./Phil./Col./Philemon & Jude in a second language, and finishing up Matthew in a third language.)  I may not move very fast any more, but it seems I am constantly on the move.  It’s because God placed that passion in my heart and I know I must follow where He leads me.  I would appreciate your prayers for the work of the next two months.

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