Another Year – “Praise God!”

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My Birthday Reflections

Two days ago, it was my birthday.  I was not able to share this day with my family here in Dallas since they are all back in Canada.  But I’m really okay with that.  Of course it would have been nice to celebrate with them.  But what I did instead was to go out with a friend after church down here and we had a great time just talking and sharing stories about our mission work and interests.

Back to my family, they all sent me a card and either called me or emailed me to wish me a Happy Birthday.  That was nice.  I didn’t need the calls to be reminded that they love me, but it was still so nice to hear their voices and to see their messages.  It means that I was important enough to them to take the time to give me a call, and I am so grateful to God that I have a wonderful family.

    

As I went through the day though, I came to realize once again that I am actually part of another family, the Family of God.  Of course I don’t know everyone in this special Family, since there are millions of Christians in countries all around the world.  But there are a good number who do know me, either from growing up together, or through my mission work.  And now I have a number of new friends made through the ministry and fellowship we can have by means of the Internet.

Take Facebook for example. There are many hundreds of people whom I can call “Friend” on my personal home page of Facebook.  And the FB Page which is also entitled The Listening Post, has more than 750 people who are following it.  So by the end of the day on Sunday, because of the way I get notifications into my email Inbox, there were more than a hundred greetings from these various friends to wish me well and to pray for me to have another good year of serving the Lord.

    

But let me tell you another very big reason for celebrating my birthday, besides having a great family and lots of contacts on my FB account saying “Hi!”  I thank God for the life He has given me, (even taking into consideration my physical handicap).    Actually, because of my muscle disease, I have come to appreciate life more, and I often wake up and say, “Thank you God for giving me one more day that I can live for You here.”  And so having one more birthday means I have beaten this disease for another year.

You see, just about 3 years ago, I had been devastated by the diagnosis of my health condition.  And on top of that, things had not gone well with my mission organization back in Canada.   They had to freeze the financial books and some mission activity for a short while so they could deal with some governmental paperwork to keep the mission running.  I thought I saw all my dreams and hopes for life and ministry coming to an end.

There was about a month back then where my symptoms kept getting worse and I didn’t know if or when I would level out with my condition.  And I felt quite distraught about what was happening with our Canadian mission.  I felt so overwhelmed by circumstances out of my control that during that time, my pain increased to the point that I felt it was crushing my chest and I really thought I might actually die.

    

But God was watching over me and provided me with just the right kind of professional help that I needed to get through that rough period.  I was able to see a Physiotherapist who helped me to set some realistic goals on exercises and short distance walking.  And when I found myself becoming overwhelmed emotionally, there was a Social Worker within the same clinic who took it upon herself to meet with me for four weeks in a row and let me talk out about my emotional and physical pain.

It was truly amazing the transformation that happened within me after meeting with these two ladies for those four joint sessions.  As I spoke out about my discouragements and fears, the Social Worker listened empathetically, while the Physiotherapist made sure the pain remained under control and that I was not in any physical danger.  And through that process, God brought about some real healing to both my emotional heart and to my physical body.

    

What made the difference for me in these sessions was my steadfast belief that God was still in control.  I told these ladies of how I had served the Lord in either pastoral ministry or overseas mission work for many year, and I poured out my heart about how much I wanted to continue to do just that.  And as I talked about how faithful my God had been to see me through some tough periods in my past, I realized that God had not changed, and I could look to Him to carry me through the current crisis to future days of ministry for Him yet.

So I have been marking November in my mind now for more than just stating, “It’s my birthday.”  I have realized that each year I do have a birthday, it is a victory day to mark how God has been faithful to carry me through and on into another year of life.  And so, this is now Year 3 of my new life: life with Christ AND life with my disease.  Lord willing, (if He doesn’t return soon), I will be able to have many more years of service for God, and each time I have another birthday I will say, “Thank you Lord for another year.”


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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!

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.