What Happened To Norm?

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I’m wondering if this is a question that has been in anyone’s mind recently.  Although I should qualify this question.  I know my family all know where I am.  And many of my friends know what I am doing.  But for those who are not in the category of “Norm’s family” or “Norm’s friends”, for those who have been visiting The Listening Post or are subscribers to the blog, this question may have come up.

Why would I raise  this question?  Well, for all those who are following me on this devotional blog site, it should have been noticed that the frequency of articles coming out has been declining over the past year.  Back in 2011 and 2012, I was writing three articles every week: to share about all the missionary experiences I have had over a lifetime, to walk through a Christian book chapter by chapter, and to do a Bible study on the Gospel of John.

But since the beginning of 2013, I was only able to write two articles a week for about half a year, and then it became only one article a week.  And then suddenly there were no articles for the past few weeks.  Oh no!!  Did that horrible monster called “Writer’s Block” come up and attack Norm!  Or did the “fount of knowledge” simply run dry for him.

    

Nah!!  Nothing so ordinary as that.  The simple truth is that God has been so good to allow me to be more active for Him in ministry over here in Papua New Guinea, that there really is so much to say, but so little time to sit down and write about it.  There is an interesting universal law at work here I think, which goes something like “The universe cannot stand having a void.”  The idea is that when there is extra space, something will fill it up.

We see this in normal day living.  When a family lives in a small house, the rooms, cupboards and storage spaces all get filled up.  Now what happens when this same family is able to move into a much larger house?  In almost every case, within less than a year, you will still find all the rooms, cupboards and storage space are still all filled up.  How is that possible?  Simply this: we like to fill up our space.

    

Now consider with me this universal law from a Christian perspective.  What happens when a Christian gives freely of their time, their talents and their treasures (money or material possessions).  It is said that a person “can never out give the Lord”.  And this is very true.  When we give some of our money or material possessions away in order to help others or to advance the work of God, it is so often true that God will turn some situation around and bring back an awesome material or financial blessing in return.

Now don’t get me wrong here.  We should never give with the sole purpose or intention of getting something from God.  God does not operate this way.  For Scripture tells us that “God loves a cheerful giver.”  (2 Corinthians 9:7)  But the Bible also says that when we give, it will be given back to us by God in “good measure, pressed down and running over”.  (Luke 6:38)  When we give of what we have (in any form) then God will fill back up our emptiness with the abundance of His overflowing blessings.

    

So what has all this to do with my question at the beginning  of “What happened to Norm?”  Well, when the muscle disease first hit me back in 2008, I suddenly found my world shrank down to place very tight boundaries on what I could do in life.  In many ways, my space of existence during the day was not much more than the easy chair recliner in my living room.  But thankfully, I could still do some of my mission work on my computer, and the Internet became my doorway through which I could go to access the rest of the world.

Slowly over the past two years, Jill and I have together been challenging those boundaries by faith, and we made longer and longer trips over to Papua New Guinea so that I could sit in another reclining chair and do the consultant checking of translated Scriptures that is happening among many Papuan languages.  So as we challenged and expanded those boundaries, God filled up the space with more ministry activity.

This expansion of my space and physical abilities (in spite of what the doctors have been telling me) has been an exciting journey of faith.  And it culminated in January 2013 when I was chosen and elected by the Members of our mission group here in PNG to become their Director over all the Language Programs.  Wow, isn’t God amazing.

    

So for the past 8 months, I have been on quite a steep learning curve to know how to fulfill my role as the Language Director, overseeing 13 translation and literacy projects within our Madang Province.  Pretty much every little corner of free space I had before has become full of very exciting ministry work among the peoples of PNG.  And it is because of this that I have reduced down to writing only one blog story each week.  And I do hope that they are meeting some need in your life.  I pray that my articles can be used by God to fill you and to bring healing and joy to you as well.

But to answer the last question as to why I have not written a story for almost a month now is mostly due to a much simpler reason.  Jill still works back in Canada as a nurse, and her income helps us to live on two continents.  Well, Jill was able to use her vacation time to come over for three weeks.  And what great three weeks they were.  After not seeing Jill for nearly two months, you can understand and forgive me that I did not write a new article for you.  Besides the “urgent” aspects of my job, all my eyes could see was my fair maiden Jill.  But starting yesterday, she flew back to Canada again.  So I hope I will not disappoint you  now to get at least one new article posted every week…..(at least until my darling Jill shows up again in February.)  😀

My Life Testimony & Being a Missionary

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When I was very young, going to church every Sunday was the normal thing for our family to do.  I should qualify this by saying that it was my mother who would bring the kids with her to church.  My father wanted nothing to do with religion.  By the time I was in Grade 6, my older brothers were in High School and we were not really serious about God.  Only my sister seemed to like going to a Youth Group at another church.

My sister invited me the next year when I was old enough, and I started to see that not all Christians were boring.  In that Fall of 1972, our Youth Group went to a Youth Conference in northern Alberta, and I was surprised to find hundreds of young people getting “excited about Jesus”.  It was at the banquet night, when a girl sang the song “For Those Tears He Died”, that I suddenly found that I too was crying, for Someone was starting to melt my toughened little heart.

    

I started to attend this church in Calgary with keen interest and I would listen to the messages each week.  Afterwards, I would go up to the preacher and ask lots of deep questions.  I also started to read through the Bible to see if the same answers could be found within this Book.  For six months I searched for the Truth, and by the Spring of 1973, I was ready to give my life over to Jesus.  I was baptized then at age 12, and I committed to making Jesus the Lord of my life.

Within two years, I felt the strings of my heart being tugged by the Holy Spirit as He began to call out to me to walk toward the path of becoming a missionary.  I would go to many evening services at church and listen to the missionary stories and I knew that someday I would also be a missionary.

The next step forward in my life happened when I was just 16, serving a year in the Canadian Naval Reserve.  The ship that I was stationed on had traveled from Victoria, Canada to Lima, Peru.  While docked there, I was given permission to go up to the mountains of Cuzco and visit a family that I had heard about.  They were missionaries which our church supported, and they were doing Bible translation work.  After spending a few days with them, I knew in my heart that this was the kind of ministry that I would want to give my life for.

    

Over the next four years, while finishing High School and entering University, I sought out mission groups and was able to do some short-term mission work with Teen Missions Int’l.  I enjoyed that so much that I actually stayed past the summer mission and became part of the staff of TMI, allowing me experiences in Brazil, Honduras, Scotland and doing mission presentations across America.

I became convicted though that my zeal for the Lord did not match my understanding of the Scriptures. In 1981, I entered into Bible College and worked diligently at learning the Bible and being involved in church life and ministry.  I found preaching hard at first, but as my love for God and my knowledge of Scripture increased, I found that 30 minutes was often not enough time to express the truths of God.

I still hungered to go work in overseas missions, but it seemed that so few people around me had any concept of what that was all about.  There was one person though with whom I would spend long hours into the night talking about the things each of us would like to do for the Lord in missions.  We developed a great friendship, even having good arguments too about how life ought to be lived.  But our friendship prevailed, and our passion for missions led us to become husband and wife one week after I graduated from Bible College.

Wedding Pic

Jill and I both felt strongly about being well prepared to serve overseas, so I pursued a Master’s degree in missions, while at the same time, Jill pursued one of her heart’s desires, to become a nurse.  We felt like we would make a great team together for the Lord.

Married life and education bring with it financial responsibilities, and so we found that God led us through a winding path of nursing jobs for Jill and church preaching experience for me.  And we also started a family in this time with God blessing us with two wonderful sons.

Always the mission field beckoned though.  And after some good advice from a friend, I returned to do a little more study of Greek and Hebrew at a Seminary in Illinois, and that is when we found out about Pioneer Bible Translators.

    

The moment I met some of their leaders in Dallas, I knew this was the mission group we were looking for.  In 1994, we moved to Texas to get the linguistic training I would need.  And then in 1997, our family stepped off the plane over in Papua New Guinea and began our five year ministry among a tribal people group there.

In that time, after learning the language and culture, a team of national men and I were able to translate the book of Mark for the people.  That is the beginning of what is now almost 20 years of ministry with PBT, first in PNG, then across Canada while our son underwent some cancer treatment, then to East Africa for 18 months, and now for five years of travel back and forth to PNG to do Bible translation consultant work.

This adventure of serving the Lord began 40 years ago, and I find that it is still just as exciting to me today as it was the first time that I stepped out of North America and into a different culture group.  I look forward to what the next 20 years will hold.

25th Anniversary Pic

God Promises All Things Work For Good – Pt. 2

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 18

At the end of Max Lucado’s book, “GOD’S STORY, your story“, there are study questions and activities to consider that relate to each chapter.  I invite you to read the book, and look over the entire question and application section.  In my articles, I will usually only pick up on two or three questions and relate them to my own experiences.

                                          

Chapter 9: When God’s Story Becomes Yours….
ALL THINGS WORK FOR GOOD

Question #1: In what kind of circumstances is it difficult for people to see “all things” as working together for the good of those who love him?  (See Romans 8:28)

There is no doubt that it is difficult for any person to see good in an event that we would classify as “tragic” or where great suffering is involved.  There is a quote that still haunts me from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy movies.  When King Theoden mourns at the side of his son’s grave, he says to Gandalf, “No parent should have to bury their child.”  I can truly empathize with Theoden as my wife and I buried our stillborn daughter (29 weeks in).  And then we feared for the life of our 12 year-old son who battled leukemia.

It can be very easy, and trite, for someone to say, “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.  Blessed be the Name of the Lord.”  Even though this old religious saying is ultimately true, it does little to comfort those who have lost a loved one.  And this is especially true, the younger the age of the one who has died.  So it is quite natural for people to feel anger towards God when they see no good reason for that death.

And yet I have seen in our life, and in the lives of others, what a tremendous impact it has on people when we rise up in these moments of despair and still hold on to the promises of the Bible that God is a good and loving God.  One verse that has meant so much to me is Hebrews 11:6, “But without faith no one can please God. We must believe that God is real and that he rewards everyone who searches for him.”  I believe that one day I will see my daughter again, and because all my children have a strong faith in Jesus, I know we will all live with God forever in a world where there will never be any more pain or sorrow.  (See Revelation 21:4)

Question #3: Which of your life experiences of privileges is God using, as He did with Paul, to His advantage?  How are you uniquely able to do what others may not be able to do?

Paul talked about having a “thorn in his flesh”.  Some say that was a spiritual temptation that he could not overcome.  But most believe that it was some physical ailment or condition that he sought healing for, but God chose not to heal him.  No matter what it was, God was still able to use Paul in great ways to advance the work of God and tell others about Christ.

Now I know that I cannot be compared to Paul, but I can empathize with him with regards to having a physical limitation.  For four years now I have lived with the challenge of the genetic muscle disease that has limited my mobility and causes me great pain.  (By faith though, I am believing that God is in the process of healing me, and I have seen some great positive progress in the past few months since some churches prayed with me and over me for healing.)

But these four years have not been easy.  And yet, I have seen God work through me to bless others in ways that I do not think would have been possible if I had been healthy.  When I travel over to Papua New Guinea to do the Bible translation consulting work, people are amazed at what gets accomplished on these trips.  I tell everyone that is is by the grace and strength of God that I can do what I do.

And then when I started this devotional blog site two years ago in November 2010, I had no idea that so many people would come to the site and read the stories.  In 22 months, there have been over 22,000 visits to this site.  Praise God!!  And I love how my wife Jill describes this work that I do propped up in my easy chair with my  laptop in front of me.  She calls this my “Armchair Ministry” to the world.  And for that, I am very grateful to God.

Question #4: How would you like God to sift and stir the difficult situations you see around you into a well-prepared ending to the story?  Describe the preferred future you would like to see in these situations.

This is a hard one.  I really am reluctant to paint a picture that I then turn around and expect God to fulfill it for me.  I have learned so much in these last four years to simply take one day, one week, and one month at a time.  In many ways, that has released me from worrying about the future.

But there is still part of me that is quite human, and I do have a couple of things that I talk to God about from time to time.  I do pray for my own healing and believe He is in the process of doing that.  I would have to say that I yearn at times to be able to walk and run like I used to.

But even if that doesn’t completely happen here, I know I will be running again when I get to heaven.  The other thing that Jill and I talk about frequently is the idea of being able to return to living overseas in Papua New Guinea again full-time.  This one too is possible, but we leave this also in God’s hands.

* [God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

God Opens Doors and God Closes Doors – Pt. 2

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 16

At the end of Max Lucado’s book, “GOD’S STORY, your story“, there are study questions and activities to consider that relate to each chapter.  I invite you to read the book, and look over the entire question and application section.  In my articles, I will usually only pick up on two or three questions and relate them to my own experiences.

                                          

Chapter 8: When God’s Story Becomes Yours….
THE RIGHT DOORS OPEN

Question #1: What blocked doors have you encountered in your life?  As you look back on them, how might God have been protecting you by blocking your path?

I have no doubt that God was watching over me to help place before me the right woman to marry.  There had been three other women I had given serious thought to about marrying, but a number of circumstances and differences in personalities were revealed to me to stop me from making a poor decision.  The funny thing is that Jill had been in front of me all along.

You see, while I was away from home doing mission work, my parents had taken Jill in as a room-and-board person.  When I came home from the mission field, I ended up in our dusty downstairs bedroom.  (We still laugh about that.)  I tried and failed to date these other young women, until Jill asked me one day, “I thought you were interested in me once.”  With our passion for missions, and then focused interest in each other, it wasn’t long before we became husband and wife.

The other event that certainly had to be from God, was how Jill and I ended up being with our current mission Pioneer Bible Translators.  After attending a month long recruitment retreat led by Wycliffe Bible translators, it was clear we were not ready to go overseas yet.  Two years later when we had our finances and other issues taken care of, we applied again, but heard no answer.

God led us next to Illinois so I could do further work on Greek and Hebrew.  That is where we first learned about PBT.  We saw this as God’s direction, so we wrote to Wycliffe to have our personnel file sent from them to PBT.  The women we had worked with said yes she could do that, but asked why we had not accepted their invitation from Wycliffe.  Somehow that letter never found us as we moved.  We were approved by both missions, but God had wanted us to be with PBT.

Question #2: On the other hand, has God opened a door in your life?  Explain what happened and how you could see his hand at work.

Twice, while I was with Teen Missions, I saw God’s hand move and do the impossible for me.  To go on my first TMI team (to build a church in Dominican Republic), I had to have all my support of about $1,400.  But by the beginning of May I was still quite short and it was getting close to the deadline for the final payment.

I looked to the Lord and pleaded with Him to allow me to go to Brazil and serve Him there.  Incredibly, a final check came in for me and it was almost the exact amount of money I would need to pay for the whole summer, and even lasted into the Fall.  I knew that I was called by God to serve Him that year in Brazil.

The second event with Teen Missions happened less than a year later.  I had received a letter from their mission office asking me to join a newly formed Staff Travel Team to minister to churches and advertise in churches about Teen Missions in hopes of recruiting some more young people to come on a summer mission trip.

When I got to the airport, the Customs Officer came to the conclusion that I must be hiding the truth and that once I was let into the United States, I would try to work for pay, which is not allowed   Two supervisors argued about me and I tried to calmly reassure them that I would not be taking a job while in the States.

The supervisors finally left and the Officer wondered what to do with me.  Finally, he said he couldn’t see that I would be a threat, and even though it was going against his supervisors’ opinions, he still decided to approve my US entry visa.  I ran to the plane as they were literally shutting the door.  It was a “God-thing” for sure, and it was a reminder to me all year long that I knew I was where God wanted me.

Questions #5: What blocked doors are you facing right now?  Pray for one another that God would blast them open in his perfect timing.

A door that has been closed to us for many years, but still is within our hearts to do is to actually make the move over to PNG and live back there again.  We have not heard God say “Yes” to us, but He also has not said “NO” either.  It has been assumed by others, and by us I think, that it would be too difficult for us to live in this under-developed country with the health needs that I have.

But I think we need to look at this carefully and consider which is more powerful: the discouragement and sense of defeat which Satan can throw at us because my health has been seriously compromised with this muscle disease, or the power of God and the stripes that Jesus took on our behalf to free us from spiritual death and the diseases of this world.

We leave this decision in God’s hands, but we ask you all to pray for us to have wisdom in this matter.

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My Life Testimony – Pt. 6

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My Online Christian Magazine Interview – Pt. 6

Recently, I was interviewed by a Christian magazine regarding my life in Christ and the translation work that I have been involved with for over 17 years now. In this sixth article that includes a portion of the questionnaire, I talk about the challenges that Jill and I have faced in light of the muscle disease which showed up in 2008.  My prayer is that what I wrote will be a blessing to you, and be a testimony to the greatness of God who has empowered me to do His work.

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Q12: The muscle disease seems to be your next big challenge out of the blue. It is simply amazing that you keep going on despite the hindrance. Were you not tempted to take on a less challenging task in Canada? How do you focus on the work when the pain comes? How does your family cope and how do they help you with the task?

When the muscle disease flared up for me in March 2008, I literally went from globe-trotting and running through the airports in February to not being able to walk across my living room floor six weeks later.  I felt like I had changed into an old man overnight.  I had to cancel a teaching trip to Africa, and I didn’t know if I would be able to go on another mission trip again.  But Jill and I went anyways for about 3 ½ weeks in the Fall of ’08 to PNG for me to check on a translation project.  It went very poorly and I was in a great deal of pain on that trip. 

At the same time that this happened to me, there was an administration problem of some missing documentation that caused our mission in Canada to be put on hold for a few months with the government.  Suddenly I found that I was unable to do anything with my mission back home or overseas.  In the coming winter months I truly was in a deep depression and a state of great despair. 

As part of my initial therapy, I was seeing a physiotherapist and a social worker to help me deal with the physical and emotional pain and loss of purpose.  God gave me two wonderful professional women who worked with me and to whom I could share the deep burdens of my heart.  I found that as I cried and spoke of my great desire to still be used by God in mission service, God came and lifted the emotional pain from me and I gained a confidence that God would still use me in spite of my physical limitations.

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So Jill and I went forward by faith, believing that God had given me all this training and these experiences for a reason.  In the next two years, Jill and I kept coming back to PNG so that I could do the consultant checking of Scripture for various language groups.  We found that as long as I requested wheelchair assistance, the airlines took good care of me all the way from Canada to PNG. 

My strength could no longer do this on one long haul, so I would take rest stops along the way as I traveled to PNG.  It now takes me about five days in either direction to get me to and from Canada over to PNG.  But I now have an LA hotel, a Brisbane motel, and a PNG Guesthouse who know me very well and help me whenever I arrive there.

It is also important to tell you how much Jill has helped me to continue to do this ministry work.  She has been working as a nurse in Calgary for many years since we left PNG in 2002.  We both knew that I would not be able to manage on my own over in PNG with my muscle disease.  So what Jill has done now for the last four years has been to save up her vacation time and bank ahead her overtime hours into the future so that she could come for a month or more on these trips with me.

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When I am doing the checking sessions in PNG, we sit and examine the translation verse-by-verse from 8:30-12:00 and then 1:30-4:30.  This is both mentally and physically very exhausting work for me.  Every day I do checking sessions, I must sleep for one hour during the lunch break, and then again at the end of the afternoon before supper. 

There are many days that I am so exhausted at noon that I do not even have the energy to make myself a peanut butter and jam sandwich.  Jill and I laugh about the idea that she has come half way around the world, just so she can make me a peanut butter and jam sandwich.

This sense of “God is not finished with me yet” that I had in 2009 kept growing as Jill and I continued to take trips over to PNG.  Each trip seems to get longer and longer as I find more ways to adapt my environment and work within my limitations.  One doctor has prescribed a “medicine patch” which helps to lower my daily level of pain, but has not eliminated it. 

I have also found that if I get a 2-hour massage session on my legs and arms every 2 to 3 weeks, then the painful knotted muscles get loosened up and I can continue to function in my life and work.  It is not easy to live with so much pain, but I know that the ministry of giving God’s Word to others in their heart language is worth it all.

 

Love, Sex and Romance

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What Does The Bible Say About This?

I think it is time for me to write about this subject that is so misunderstood.  I believe that people without faith in God have it wrong, mostly because they have no higher standard than themselves to guide their thinking and their actions.  I believe that many Christians have it wrong, either because their church traditions placed a taboo on this topic long ago, or because they are being too influenced by the thinking of the world around them.

For the most part, Western culture has placed way too much significance and emphasis on the physical aspect of love, and has neglected to nurture the emotional and spiritual side of relationships between a man and a woman.  As portrayed in Hollywood, a quick physical/emotional response when meeting someone (which they call “being in love”) leads just as quickly to sexual intercourse (as a means to demonstrate their “love”), and the longer road of relationship building is barely mentioned.

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Today is Valentine’s Day, a highly commercialized day, but still a good day to remind us to demonstrate our affections towards our friend/partner/mate.  Jill and I have been married for 27 years now, and we are going to celebrate Valentine’s Day in a very special way this year.  Jill is flying internationally from Canada, bouncing off of Los Angeles, Brisbane (Australia) and Port Moresby (PNG) to arrive midday on Feb. 14th in Madang, Papua New Guinea.  On this same day, I am coming down from the highlands of PNG to arrive just before Jill in Madang.

Over the past six months, for health and ministry reasons, Jill and I have only had 27 days together.  Now we will be reunited on Valentine’s Day for six weeks, halfway around the world from our home in Canada.  Is that romantic, or what?  There is no doubt that being away from each other has been difficult for both of us.  But we have a bond that keeps us strong in our marriage that is bigger than just the two of us.  We are both strongly united to God by our faith and that helps keep us strongly united to each other.

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So what does the Bible say about love, sex and romance.  Let’s talk about love first so that we can set the stage properly for understanding sex and romance.  It is not uncommon for most people to adopt the proverb “Love your friends but hate your enemies,” as Jesus mentions in Matthew 5:43.  But then he turns this proverb on its head by saying, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”

These are not empty words that Jesus spoke, for the Bible describes us (who all sin against a holy God) as his enemies, and yet Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Jesus also said in John 15:12, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” God has shown us clearly that love, real love for another, is not just an emotion.  It is a deep commitment to want the very best for the other and is demonstrated through our actions.

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Now don’t misunderstand me.  Even though real love is an act of the will, there is a component of emotional response that is also real.  There is no doubt that there is a certain “chemistry” or attraction that will happen between a man and a woman.  Nurtured and matured properly, it will fulfill what God intended from the beginning, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)

What we must come to accept once again is that the sexual joining of a man and a woman is to take place within the God-ordained limits of the marriage commitment of husband and wife.  Paul says it well in 1 Corinthians 7:8 – 9, “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am.  But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

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Paul recognizes that sex is a passionate drive within all of us.  God designed us this way.  And He approves of it, as long as it stays within the context of a husband and his wife.  If you don’t believe that God approves the act of passionate sex, then you need to read the “Song of Solomon” (also called “Song of Songs”).  Read especially chapter 7 and see how passionate biblical love likes like.

But lest we read the Song of Songs in the wrong way, study it more closely and you will see that the book is full of praise for each other.  There is a winning and a wooing of each other’s affections.  This is true romance.  And what we are reminded of by good family counsellors, yet fail to follow very often, is that this kind of romance should be an ongoing part of a marriage.  The best way to hasten the end of a marriage is to take one’s mate totally for granted and think that there is no need to be romantic any more.

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I hope my thoughts have been helpful.  We are bombarded with so much garbage and misinformation in all the movies and magazines that are not just “out there” but are in most of our homes today.  I really look forward to my reunion with my wife and the time we will spend together over the next month and a half.  I’m looking forward to holding hands again, sitting and watching a movie together, going out to a nice restaurant.  I look forward to romancing my wife once more.

My Wife: My Best Friend

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He who finds a wife finds what is good
and receives favor from the LORD.
Proverbs 18:22

This is going to be a great week. I am going to go on a holiday with my best friend, my wife. Jill and I have been married now for 27 years. In all these years, I can only remember having 2 one-week holidays alone together with her. Many months ago, we gave in to a good telemarketer and bought one of those fancy resort hotel packages. That, plus using some air miles, will allow us to take this one-week holiday of fun.

This does not mean that Jill and I have not had many great adventures together. And I suppose the word ‘holiday’ can be defined in different ways by different people. In our years together, Jill and I have traveled to Mexico, Dominican Republic, Britain, Papua New Guinea, Australia, East Africa, the main 48 continental states of the US, and every province of Canada except Newfoundland.

In almost all of these cases though, our travel experiences to and through these many countries have been necessary moves due to my schooling or our jobs or the missionary work that we have done either with Teen Missions or Pioneer Bible Translators. So we have definitely seen a lot of the world, but it has mostly been rushing to get from point A to point B.

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Although we have faced many challenges and difficulties over all these years, and the constant traveling seems to move us back to square one again financially, I have few regrets about all that we have done. The stories about how Jill and I met and then years later became married will have to wait until a future article, but there are a few interesting things that I would like to highlight here now.

As any normal guy, I had some experiences of dating other girls when I was a teenager and in my early 20’s. Some relationships I took quite seriously, and some were just for fun. But like the proverb quoted above, I felt that finding a good woman to be my wife and partner in ministry was something to be very careful and sure about. Being born in 1960, my famous saying regarding marriage was, “24 in ’84 and not before.”

And I almost made it. Jill and I did get married in 1984. But due to a number of factors, we got married on my grandmother’s birthday of May 11th, instead of waiting until November when my birthday was. Actually, I seem to recall that we talked mostly about being married in the summer. What I do remember clearly is that when I proposed to Jill, I told her that I would probably never be rich monetarily, but besides my love for her I could give her two things: my name and lots of adventure.

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And considering what little I could promise to Jill, it does say a lot about her by the very fact that she did say yes when I asked her to marry me. We had actually known each other for three years by that time. Jill had even lived at my parents’ home on and off over those three years, and because of the many late night conversations that we had, especially about missionary work, we had grown to become good friends before we dated and then became married.

And it has been like that for all these years. We have always been each other’s best friend, traveling together, talking together, and just doing things together. It seems like we have always been there for each other, and that is why being apart from each other these few months while I am in Dallas helping PBT is not as easy as we are making it look. It reminds me of a cute story about an elderly man whose wife had just passed away.

The elderly man was taking a road test to validate his driver’s license for another year. At the end of the test, the instructor reluctantly failed the man and said to him, “You did very well on most of the road test, but every time you had to turn left at an intersection you failed to look to the right to see if there was any traffic coming.” The elderly man replied to the instructor, “That’s because for over 60 years my wife would say to me, ‘All clear on the right dear.’ ”

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That is kind of how it is for Jill and me. We have now both been married for longer then we were ever single. It is just so comfortable and natural for us to want to talk to each other every day. And so I am very thankful for our modern technology like e-mail and Skype which allows us to be in touch with each other so much.

But there is a deeper level at which we connect. We pray for each other. And this is not just the basic mealtime prayer of “Dear God: please bless Jill and Eric and Glen and our friends and our church, and thank you for the food. Amen.” For me, and I’m sure for Jill too, we value our relationship with God and our relationship with each other much more than this superficial religious prayer.

No, when I pray, I really put some thought into what Jill is doing that day and that week (and I also do this for our boys).  I believe that God is a very loving and personal God, and so I talk to Him about all the things that are most important to me.  Like my family.  Like my wife.  I believe that God really does want the very best for those whom I love.  And so do I.  And why wouldn’t I.  Jill is not only my wife, she is also my very best friend.

God’s Immediate Plans For Us

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Greetings to all our friends,

We have turned our calendar page to August which marks the start of the second month of summer for most people.  Of course that is relative according to where you live, for many American States have been suffering under oppressive heat for quite some time now, while some towns in Canada have finally had a reprieve from continual spring showers and flooding and are finally enjoying sunshine and blue skies.

We are marking July and August for reasons other than just weather in our family as many important events and transitions have occurred or will soon take place, and we want to update you all on what is happening for us.  You will see that weather does play into our decision-making, but more important is the work that each of us in the family are seeking to do.

Each of our children is in transition with regards to work.  Our older son, Eric, is close (we hope) to getting hired (at least part-time) in a job that relates to the Graphic Art Design Diploma which he received in June, and his wife was able to make a switch to another job just recently.  Meanwhile, Glen had his interview with the military last month and passed the medical with flying colors and is just waiting for the final call from the Army to start his training with them.  Please pray that each will find the work that they feel called to do and that they will have excellent experiences in each of those workplaces.

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The home front has changed for us in some important ways as well.  In June, Jill started a Master’s of Public Health Degree, with a specialization in International Health.  She just finished her first online module a few days ago.  It is quite intense (8 weeks), requires a lot of research and online postings of that research plus response postings to classmates almost daily, with a final paper carrying a weight of 50% of the course.  Please pray that her paper was received well, and that she will end up with a good mark.  She starts her next module this week.

There are two other significant changes at home for us.  Along with her studies, Jill started a full-time line position at her hospital on July 1st.  Up until now, she had been around a 3/4 time nurse and then picked up extra shifts when she could.  This will help us out financially.  On the other hand, we had listed our other condo for over two months, and finally decided to accept a low offer given to us.  We could not continue to hold on to it, and as someone told us, a larger one-time loss may be the better choice over a long slow loss.  The important thing is that Jill will not need to carry nor worry about this responsibility by herself while I am gone.

This brings me to the most significant change that is front of us right now.  On August 9, I will be flying to Dallas, Texas.  I will be there until about a week before Christmas.  The tentative plans are that I will be home at Christmas time for about 3 weeks, and then I will help teach a mission class for one week in North Carolina, and then keep on flying to head over to Papua New Guinea for mid-January through to mid-April or so.

Two words can sum up why I will be doing this: weather and ministry.  (I told you I’d get back to the weather).  During this past winter, Jill and I found out that cold weather is definitely bad for my muscles.  The colder it gets, the more my muscles tighten and get knotted up, and then the more pain that I am in.  This winter was especially cold and was very brutal on my body, to the point that I was just about crippled up in my own living room.

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With this in mind, we began to pray and ask God to help us make decisions about how and where I ought to live if living in Calgary would be so difficult for me.  This immediately caused us to think of Dallas, which is warm to hot most of the year compared to Canada, and where the international office was located for our mission, Pioneer Bible Translators.

I spoke with the leaders in the Dallas office and asked if I came to live for a while in Dallas if there was any work I could help with while down there.  Within a week I was phoned back and told that at least two departments were “fighting” over me and thought it would be great if I were able to help with some tasks down there.  I mention some of this in a previous article, “Holy Spirit Enabled Missionary“.

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It will certainly be hard to be away from Jill and the family for this long period.  (We will be together in October for 10 days though, and we will be able to phone or computer talk to each other for free every day.)  We will plan to have a wonderful Christmas together, and then I will head to PNG.  We are praying that Jill will also be able to join me over there for some of that time like we have done in the past.

But what a wonderful God I serve.  I see Him carefully putting the pieces in place to take care of each of us in my family.  We don’t quite see it all yet, but I am believing all will turn out well vocationally and financially for us.  But for myself, I am so thankful that He is working it all out so that not only will I be able to live and move so much better in these more hot and humid climates, but He has given me tasks of training the next generation of Bible translation missionaries, and continues to allow me to serve Him in overseas projects.  Thank you God, that your plans for me are for good, and not for harm.  (Jeremiah 29:11)

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God Supplies Our Needs

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Who Am I?  Part 14

In the last article that I wrote out part of our life journey, I ended on the point that people can and do treat us unfairly in life, but that we need to be able to move past the pain and be able to forgive those who hurt us.  (Read the story here.)  Having to leave the church was a very difficult experience.  And when it first happened, my immediate thought was “What do I do now?”

It is exactly at this point that our faith must be strong and we remind ourselves of some very basic, but important biblical truths.  It is best if we have already memorized Scripture verses so that we can pull them up in these difficult moments.  But even if we can’t quite remember or even know what the Bible promises are, we have many good tools like concordances or Bible software which can help us pull up meaningful and relevant verses that help us to face the difficult trials of life.

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For example, consider some of these Bible promises:

  • “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Deut. 31:6  (I believe the promise God gave to Moses and the children of Israel would apply just as well today to God’s people, the church.)
  • “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matt. 28:20  (I believe Jesus’ last words to His disciples in this Gospel apply to us as believers today.)
  • “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”   Phil. 4:19  (Taken in context, Paul is telling the Philippians that with the same kind of generosity that they had shown, God would supply their basic needs in life.  So I believe by extension, that as we faithfully serve our God, He in turn will graciously supply our basic needs in life.
  • “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  Matt. 6:33  (And this confirms what I believe, that all our basic needs, such as food, shelter and clothing, will be met by God.)
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So while I served out the last weeks of my time at the one church, Jill and I prayed that God would supply us with a clear direction and a job opportunity that I would be able to move into quickly.  And that is exactly what God did.  Through word-of-mouth, I heard of another church that was looking for a minister.  I had a weekend without responsibilities in the first church and so we were free to fly to the city of the other church where I preached on Sunday and met with the search committee.

It was only a matter of days before the second church called back and offered me the position of their Pastor.  And so Jill and I and 18 month old Eric were able to pack up and leave one city and know already where we would be living and working next.  We did take one month out to attend a month long mission orientation course to evaluate our readiness for the mission field, but they said we should stabilize our family, take care of our debt load, and work on some basic communication skills to strengthen our marriage.  That may be a story for another day.

Oh and Jill was pregnant again.  This was now the third pregnancy where we ended up on the road to a new location while Jill was pregnant.  We have lots of funny stories that start with, “We were pulling a U-haul trailer with all our stuff and Jill was pregnant, and then….”  It really is unbelievable all the places we have traveled to and set up a home and started life and ministry over again.

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The city we headed to this time was Portage La Praire, a small sized city to the west of Winnipeg.  God watched over us as we traveled across western Canada with our U-haul in the middle of winter.  We stayed in one woman’s home to house sit it, and it was during this month that Glen was born.  Jill gave birth to him on January 15th, 1991.  The nurses were on strike and the Gulf War had just started.  Not a very auspicious beginning to say the least.

Meanwhile, the small congregation worked to fix up the little apartment that they had constructed years earlier in place of the upper balcony of the church.  Our living cost of rent was covered then by the church, but even with the salary they offered we found that I would have to work a second job.  Later on, when Jill was able, she worked at a part-time home care job.

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You can probably picture that this was a very challenging time for us.  And what did we learn in this time?  One thing for sure we learned is that to be able to eat, you must work hard.  Paul suggests that there is a direct correlation between our “daily bread” and hard work (2 Thessalonians 3:6-13).  While working as a pastor, I also worked the night shift at a retail department store doing the restocking of shelves.

I didn’t mind the hard work.  And I didn’t mind too much the guys who like to poke fun at me.  Actually, I thought it a compliment when the guys would say, “Hey Rev., come over here.”  My Christian faith was evident to all, and sometimes that meant the dirtier jobs were given to me.  But it provided an income for my family.

And so the second important thing I reaffirmed was that God would make sure that our basic needs were always met.  Sure it was hard.  God has never promised us an easy life.  But by trusting in Him to direct us and supply us our daily bread, along with a willing spirit to work hard, we found that in the end, our family of four, tucked away in the church balcony, had all we needed, and that was enough.

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God’s 100 Blessings

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Last Thursday marked my 100th article published on this devotional blog site.  Who would’ve thought it was possible.  As in many aspects of daily life, it is truly by the grace of God that I am able to do the things that I do.  And so I pause for a moment in my writings and I lift up my voice (and keystrokes) to give praise to my God who has given me strength over this last year, and to thank some important people.

One of the purposes of The Listening Post has been to “tell my story” of all the adventures I’ve had over a lifetime of faith and Christian experiences.  But really, it is much more about trying to tell God’s story as I reflect on what He has done in me and through me, and to remember all the incredible people who have touched and influenced my life.

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My gratitude goes first to my immediate family who gave me a home and a place to explore faith as a child.  For many years, my mother took all us kids to church and Sunday School and some seeds of the Gospel were planted.  My sister, who went to be with the Lord in 1992, brought me to Youth Group and helped me to see that church was more than just “Religion”.  My Grandmother’s missionary life and her firm faith were an anchor for me.  My brother’s salvation story as an adult showed me God’s incredible grace.

Leaders in the Christian faith held out a lifeline for me as I wrestled with faith and an unfriendly world.  The caring of Youth Group sponsors, the deep exposition and teaching of God’s Truth by powerful preachers, and the wisdom and knowledge of Scripture of my many Bible College & Seminary teachers grounded me in my faith that has lasted a lifetime.

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And then there all the many Christians I have met around the world in my travels.  In Central America, I’m thankful for a small church gathering in Panama that looked after me while my shipmates wasted themselves and wanted me to join in their sin.  In Honduras, and Dominican Republic and also in Brazil and Mexico, I saw the tireless efforts of career missionaries, and it strengthened my resolve to follow in their steps.

In Scotland, Tanzania, South Africa and Vanuatu I met simple everyday Christians who exuded the joy of the Lord, and I knew that my faith was not some North American ornament or oddity, but a deep down real life experience of a relationship between a humble human being and the God of the Universe.  Every time I have shared a meal together, prayed with or met in worship with one of these precious saints, I knew that I was part of a much bigger picture, the universal body of Christ.

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Above all, I have had the privilege to live and visit some very remote parts of Papua New Guinea where one feels like he has truly gone to the “ends of the earth”.  God took a Canadian mountain boy and placed him into the hot sticky jungle lowlands to learn how to live with very little and teach him how to love his tribal neighbors.  I had the opportunity to speak the Words of God to a people group who truly “hunger and thirst” for divine truth and forgiveness from God.  How I thank God for all the years He has allowed me to live out my faith in that remote location.

And even these past three years of living with a muscle disease has been a time of drawing me closer to God.  I have had to learn to depend on Him more than ever before, to truly “walk by faith”.  I have seen now how God has used me to bless others these past few years in ways that I never could have imagined possible before.  And so I thank God for allowing me to have a voice and a message and a continuing ministry in Bible translation, in spite of this illness.

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Of all the blessings of people and events that I hold dear, there remains one tremendous constant in my life for which I am thankful, and is a big reason for having this devotional blog ministry.  It is being married to Jill, my life partner and cheerleader who continues to let me dream big dreams and who encourages me to keep on pursuing the ministries I am involved with.

Jill has been by my side now for 27 years now.  She knows the joys and the heartaches I have experienced in ministry over three decades.  And she saw the pain and darkness I was falling into when this disease hit me.  I believe God led Jill to encourage me to write so that I might remember all that God has done in me and through me, and to speak from my heart.

And so for eight months now I have had this wonderful outlet whereby in telling my story I get to tell His story.  Many people have written to me to say what a blessing it has been to read these articles.  I am thankful for that, but I want to say that this blog ministry has been medicine for my own soul and a healing for my own body.

It could be so easy in a situation like mine to just waste away in this living room recliner and let this disease take my life.  But God has been gracious to let me remember so many blessings that He has given me throughout my life, that I eagerly come back time after time each week, ready to tell you another adventure and let you see God and His goodness through my life story.

So for those who have touched my life, I say “Thank you!”  For those who say that I am touching their lives, I say “Isn’t God good!”  And to God I say, “Thank you Lord for letting me count my blessings, one article at a time.”

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