HOW FAR WILL YOU GO?

The recent news about forest fires in the north has brought back a lot of memories of the years we lived in Fort Chipewyan in northern Alberta. We were there to share the message of salvation and that meant getting to know the people. So my husband, Dick, went to Hinton, Alberta, and trained to fight forest fires. During fire season the men in town were recruited to fight the fires and Dick volunteered. It was hot, hard, gruelling work and he would come home with huge carbuncle’s on his neck from the dirt and ash. But it was a small price to pay for the privilege of being with the men.

I have always been impressed with the story I heard of a Chinese Christian who stated that pastor’s in China did not cringe away from prison. They found it a place to commune with the Lord and also a place to tell other prisoners what Christ did for them.

It is easy to carry on with our everyday lives and hope that an opportunity will someday drop into our lap. But how far would you go to make it happen? One of the most moving accounts I ever heard is the story of a young couple we knew. Their church took on a new ministry and started a class for children with Down Syndrome. The response was amazing but this young wife realized there was another opportunity that went along with it. She started a Bible class for the mother’s who brought their children to the class and waited to take them home again.

It wasn’t long before she came up against a problem. “You don’t have a child with Down Syndrome, so you don’t understand our needs,” was what she constantly heard. She took that problem to the Lord. “Lord, open a way for me to reach these mothers,” was her prayer. Not much later she became pregnant. When their baby was born and the pediatrician came to her bedside regretfully telling her that her baby had Down Syndrome, her reply was, “It’s Ok.” The Lord had answered her prayer.

She went back to teaching the mother’s and they were ready to listen to what she had to say. Extreme? Maybe, but how far are you or I willing to go to reach someone with the gospel? That couple even went one step further. They adopted another baby with Down Syndrome.

We sing songs of worship telling the Lord that we give Him our heart, our soul and that we want every breath we take to glorify Him. But how far are we willing to go to make that happen? Christ gave His all to provide salvation for us. How much are we willing to do to for Him?

Our answer should be, “Whatever it takes, Lord, whatever it takes.”

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LOU GEHRIG REMEMBERED

Seventy -five years ago, Lou Gehrig was diagnosed with ALS. He was a quiet, dignified, Yankee baseball player who followed Babe Ruth in the batting order. Ruth and Gehrig were both left handed, but where Babe Ruth loved the spotlight, Lou Gehrig was a very private person.

In 1938 Lou began showing symptoms of ALS. One of his fellow players said, “his muscles were melting away, game by game,” and yet in that baseball season his batting average was .295 with 29 home runs and 114 runs batted in. That was his final season as a baseball player.

On July 4th 1939, seventy-five years ago this month, he announced to the world that he was stepping down because of his battle with ALS. It was an amazing speech. His second sentence was, “Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.” Gehrig did not use his illness as a means to take it easy; he retired from baseball and went to work in a prison.

He died June 2, 1941, just weeks before his 38th birthday. He is remembered not only for the great baseball player he was, but also for the graceful way he dealt with a terminal illness. Pride of the Yankees, the film about Gehrig is still available at Amazon and e-Bay.

Gehrig occupies a prominent place in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium along with Yogi Berra, Joe DrMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Reggie Jackson and Babe Ruth.

Curt Schilling, Yankee pitcher, won the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award in 1995. He later became a broadcaster and has raised millions for ALS research through Curt’s Pitch for ALS

In 1989 the US Postal Service commemorated Gehrig with a stamp and in 1999 Fans everywhere were asked to vote for their favorite all-time players. Lou Gehrig received more votes than any other player in baseball history.

I was born the year Lou Gehrig was diagnosed and now seventy-five years later I am the one living with ALS and there still has not been a great breakthrough in ALS research. Lou Gehrig was the first Major League Baseball player whose uniform number (4) was retired. They retired Gehrig’s number, now let’s retire his disease.

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WELCOME BABY SPRING

Spring was very elusive this year. The definition of spring in the Gage Canadian Dictionary is: the season after winter (in North America, March, April, May) when plants begin to grow.

Wikipedia states that the March equinox (varying between March 19 and 21) is taken to mark the first day of spring. HOWEVER: just as a person can stick his or her nose out the door and contradict what the TV weather man is reporting for the day, so too, those of us, who have our feet on the ground in Saskatchewan, stepped outside and declared, SPRING IS NOT HERE.

Yes, we saw spring’s first birth contractions and quickly pulled out the gardening gloves and maybe even prepared our gifts for baby spring: tiny fragile bedding plants, only to realize that it was only a few twinges of premature labour.

We had to allow nature to take its course. So, we rejoiced with the ups and downs of day and night temperatures and watched the accumulation of winter snow slowly disappear. Then! Every sign indicated that spring would burst forth but it was only those confusing Braxton Hicks contractions and then it snowed again.

We saw the occasional robin scrounging for bits of string and straw to build a nest. We anticipated catching a glimpse of blue speckled eggs and then waited with bated breath to see the open mouths, wobbling above the edge of the nest, crying for mother robin to fill their stomachs. We even had joyful dreams of one day watching those little ones float awkwardly to the ground, take their first steps and eventually find their wings.

But the labour pains, needed to birth newborn spring, were still weak and irregular. Mother Goose had already had a hot flash and demanded a cooler abode. The honking chatter of geese flying high overhead indicated that they too were wondering why spring hadn’t arrived on her due date. The geese staked out their nests in the reeds along Moose Jaw Creek but then, they were even more confused, while we were eagerly waiting to see the kite-tail string of baby geese swimming in a straggling line behind their parents.

Then the water broke; it rained and rained and rained and we knew the birth of spring was imminent, yet here we sat, in the ornithological maternity ward, anxious, helpless and pacing. The temperature kept rising and falling. Baby spring was overdue but we knew spring WOULD be born.

So today I invite everyone to a baby shower for the newborn infant named Spring. Everyone is encouraged to celebrate.

SPRING HAS ARRIVED.

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June 20, 2014 · 9:06 pm

ABSENCE OF PRAISE

Let everything that breaths sing praises to the Lord. Psalm 150:6

Praising the Lord is not an option but what can we do when praise does not come easy? During William Cowper’s lifetime he had at least four profound times of deep depression, once so intense that he attempted suicide four times in one day. One of the first hymns Cowper wrote after that attack was, There is a fountain filled with blood.

David Brainerd, missionary to northern Canada struggled often with depression. In spite of that, God used him mightily to bring hundreds of people to Christ.

When Jehovah told Abraham to sacrifice his son, Abraham took his son and went up the mountain. Abraham built an altar, laid the wood on it, tied up his promised son (born when Abraham was one-hundred years old and his wife, Sarah, was ninety-years-old) and laid him on the altar. Abraham had his knife raised, ready to make that sacrifice when God stopped him and revealed a ram caught in the bushes. God provided an animal for Abraham to sacrifice.

God’s people were plunged into despair and felt they had no reason to praise the Lord (Jeremiah 32:26 – 33:11). When they turned to the Lord He provided for their needs. In return, they brought the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord.

When we feel that the Lord has asked too much of us, when we find it difficult to praise Him, we need to look around and see what God has provided. Sacrifice means ‘giving something up for the sake of something else’ (Webster’s). Christ gave His very life, the ultimate sacrifice, once for all, a sacrifice for our sins. There is nothing we can give back to Him except what He has already given to us. The Lord is our provider just as He was for Abraham. Jehovah-jireh, my provider has already provided.

Lord teach me to bring the sacrifice of praise to you for what You have done for me.

Help me to say the words even when my soul is troubled.

   

 

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PRAISE DURING PAIN

I am in the process of writing a book about my journey with ALS but first I feel a blog is in order. I am on an amazing spiritual journey. 

God spoke to me when I first started having symptoms, not audibly, but He spoke into my heart and I listened. He told me He was calling me to the disciplined life of an Olympic athlete. I am not an athlete so I knew it meant a life of challenges and commitment.

I thought a lot about the challenges ahead, life span of 3-5 years and progressive muscle loss until not even my eye muscles would work, Over the next few weeks and months I began to lose my ability to speak and some of my swallowing ability. I struggled with breathing problems and was on a Nebulizer a couple times but strangely the muscles in my limbs were not being affected.

Subconsciously, I was thinking the only way God could receive glory for ALS was by healing so I began to seek out prayer for healing. I am a strong believer in spiritual healing so I went to the church elders, to a Christian couple who balance the body’s electrolytes, to the Prayer Ministry at St. Aiden’s church, reviewed many healing seminars I had attended in the past and finally went to the AirPort Church in Toronto. While others were there seeking God’s presence I was seeking healing and many people graciously prayed for me.

I was surprised a few weeks later to have my ALS doctor in Saskatoon say, “This is benign.” I’d only heard term applied to cancer. I do not have breathing problems anymore, no more jumping muscles, no weight loss, still living on my own, driving and walking.

So here I am into my eighth year and still can’t speak, I can eat soft foods but have a feeding tube for liquids. In the light of my benign ALS I wonder now how long I will live? Will it run it’s course? Will I be totally incapacitated some day?

I have read the book, Disappointment With God, by Phillip Yancy and I loved the analogy he used regarding the conversation between Satan and God. In a nutshell – Satan said the only reason Job praised God was because of all the blessings he got. God replied that Job would still praise him even without the blessings. Yancy calls this the great wager. Satan bets Job won’t, God bets Job will. We all know the end of the story. Job continues to praise God in spite of all his afflictions.

What Yancy says next is lodged in my heart. His premise is that whenever we, like Job, praise the Lord in difficulties, God wins again. So I realize, yes, God can receive glory from my ALS even if I am not completely healed. As long as I praise Him in the midst of my afflictions, God is glorified so I will continue to praise the Lord day and night.   

At the same time I am making preparations for the future. Many ALS patients decide, after months and years of living with the disease, that they want to end their lives now! And they want to pull other human beings into the process. ALS eventually destroys all the muscles in the body, except for heart, lungs, bowels, sight and sound. IT DOES NOT AFFECT THE MIND. So when a person is incapacitated, they still hear, see and understand what is going on. I like to be prepared.

Here is my plan. The Lord has given me a vibrant prayer ministry. I do not just ask the Lord to bless people or to be with them, He has already promised those things. I pray for my own family, my church family and also for people who do not have family members to pray for them; for people in high places, like Suzuki and Hawking; for prodigals and reprobates, I bind them to the Lord and loose the enemy’s influence over them and I will continue to pray after all my muscles have crashed. Hopefully, people will continue to give me prayer requests.

I learned from a 99 year old lady, to draw up an alphabetical list of scripture verses to focus on. I have done this also with attributes of God: Almighty, Beloved, Creator; Deliverer, Father, etc. It can also be done with hymns. I’m sure the Lord will give me even more ideas to keep my mind and spirit active and vibrant after my body has given out. It has been and will continue to be a remarkable spiritual experience.

Are you living with the threat of death hanging over you? Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness for sin, so Jesus, who was without sin, took your sin to the cross and shed His blood in place of yours. Then He rose from the dead and conquered death. Accept that gift and begin to praise Him today. Be prepared.

 

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DEEP THOUGHTS

Over the past couple of weeks I have watched documentaries on the lives of both David Suzuki and Stephan Hawking, men who are highly esteemed around the world for their knowledge and we have to thank them for proving what the Scriptures say. But I don’t believe they are rightly interpreting what they have learned.

David Suzuki tells us that everything happening in our climate can be laid at the feet of human greed but today we were greeted with this spectacular news. In Mexico, in a water filled cave, the skeleton of a young woman, and several prehistoric animals were found. They date back to the end of the first ice age.

What was that statement again? DATING BACK TO THE END OF THE FIRST ICE AGE. I would like Suzuki to explain to me what caused the end of that ice age, since it was before the industrial revolution, before human kind was drilling for oil and polluting the planet with carbon. Global warming? Whatever his answer, our planet has been in transition for a long time.

I highly respect Stephen Hawking as a person who has been living with ALS since he was twenty and still maintains a pleasant attitude. He has made discoveries about the basic building blocks of the universe and discovered how it was possible, he thinks, for creation to come about without the existence of a ‘god’ figure. He discovered that a black hole (in the universe), when it expands too much, folds in on itself and disappears. Since I am not a scientist I don’t understand that. 

What I do understand is that everyone knows there is evidence of that first ice age. God knew about it and it was part of God’s plan from the beginning. Don’t you think that the black hole folding in on itself sounds a lot like Isaiah 34:4 and Revelation 6:14 that say: “the sky was rolled up like a scroll…”   

II Peter 3:10 states “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” Suzuki and Hawking spent their lives finding out what Bible readers already knew. Their great discoveries were recorded in God’s history before those men were even born.
I wonder, though, if those brilliant men have missed out on the most important knowledge known to man. God loved us all so much that He sent His Son, the creator of it all, to redeem those who put their trust in Him. In the final end, this environment that Suzuki devoted his life to and the sun, moon and stars that Hawking spent his life exploring, will be gone. That’s when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. There will be no one and nothing else left to worship. Until then, I will pray that those two men will discover even greater truths.  

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IDENTITY

I have been following with interest the huge debate over the proposed changes to the election act. Years ago when we lived in the north we knew lots of people who could neither read nor write. They signed their name with an X and for most of them their X was identifiable, it was their unique signature but still someone else signed to vouch for them. In this day and age, no one should need to be vouched for. The thirty-nine available pieces of identity cover every problem imaginable.

I found the list of thirty-nine items that can be used for voting identity on-line: everything from your driver’s licence to your hunting or fishing license, Student ID card, library card, hospital bracelet (for long-term care facilities) even your Parolee identification Card. Pretty well anything that has your name and address on it can also be used: utility bills, government cheque or even a letter of Stay, Admission Form or Statement of Benefits from a shelter, soup kitchen, senior residence, long term facility or student residence. A lot of people don’t know that you can obtain a picture ID card from your motor vehicle branch even if you don’t drive. So all the stories of the home-less or students not having the proper ID means they haven’t checked out what can be used.

I question is why this list isn’t being shown on every news channel, written in every newspaper and posted on every public bulletin board in the nation. Why is there so much controversy when the truth is available?

It’s scary to not have any identification.  I’ve had my wallet stolen, twice and it’s a pain to replace all those pieces of identity. Every time I drive by the scene of the latest fire in downtown Moose Jaw, I think of the former residents of those buildings whose entire identity is  buried in that pile of rubble and no way to access it but there is still time for everyone to make sure they have two of those thirty-nine pieces of identity before the election.

I guess this is front and center of my mind since our last adult Bible study class when we talked about our identity in Christ. Our spiritual identity is so much more important than our physical identity. People who doubt their eternal salvation need to do some searching to discover the truth. Isaiah 49:16 says, ‘I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.’ Yes, if you put your trust in Christ for eternal life, your name is embedded in the wounds of the nails that crucified Him. He also has the hairs of your head numbered, your DNA, and it is yours alone. He calls you by name, He knew you when you were being formed in the womb. Every person on earth can know their spiritual identity which gives them the right to stand before God, the great judge, and be accepted.

That list of thirty-nine pieces of identity for voting is available on-line: but I warn you that the list is buried somewhere in the rubble of all the on-line chatter of those who are against this change. If you want to find out more about your spiritual ID, start with reading John 3:16 and then read the entire Gospel of John. It’s not that long and can provide you with the spiritual ID you need for eternal life.

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IDITAROD

Today the 2014 Iditarod begins in Anchorage, Alaska, a dogsled race that covers 975 miles of Alaska wilderness from Anchorage to Nome. It is a test of strength and endurance for both dogs and their mushers. There are check points along the way where their time is recorded because they do not all start together. The fastest time ever achieved in the race was 8 days, 22 hours, 46 minutes and 2 seconds. This race is not for the faint of heart. The slowest time was 20 days, 15 hours, 2 minutes and 7 seconds. Your starting or finishing position in the race doesn’t matter. Just taking part in a race like that is a great achievement. Many people, like me, will be keeping track of the daily standings via the internet.

The reason this interests me is because, when we lived in the north years ago, we had a dog team of eight Siberian Huskies. They are beautiful dogs and easy to train. Every one of them had their own personality and that was the deciding factor in what position in the team they had.

I read a book about the Iditarod and I was amazed at the detail that goes into that race, boots for the dogs, medicine and food. There are veterinarians available in case of illness or injury. The clothing the mushers wear is crucial for their survival. If you lose a mitt it can mean your life, so mitts are kept safe on a musher’s harness. Every aspect of team and equipment is impeccably cared for.

We bought an entire litter of eight pups so all their training was up to us. Well, up to my husband, Dick, actually, and at time, His life depended on how well he taught them and how well they learned to obey. In the winter they were fed warm mash with a pound of lard thrown in for heat. The coldest trip they made was -52f.

A team consists of a lead dog, the most important one because their ability to obey your ‘gee’ or ‘haw’ command is vital. The wheel dog might be the last one in line but has the task of loosening the sled from the frozen ground when you start out by jumping side to side. The rest of the team harnessed together made a strong pulling force.

My best memory is from when our team was learning to work in harness. Dick ran ahead of them to get them going but when he turned to jump onto the sled, the dogs all followed him into the sled. What a jumbled mess of legs and harness. Eventually they learned how to pull at his command.

I can’t help relating this to our relationship with the Lord. He is patiently teaching us how to live, how to work as a team, how to obey Him and, in the end, someone’s eternal life may depend on how we respond to Him.

We have to learn to hear His voice and obey when He tells us to turn to the left or the right. We need to obey immediately when He says, “Stop!” We even have to wait patiently when He tells us we need to rest.

The teams involved in the Iditarod today have not entered the race on a whim. The dogs and their musher know and trust each other because they have spent a lot of time together. The musher looks after their team, physically and emotionally so the team can do its job. And that is to get to the end of the race no matter how grueling it my be. (It may be grueling this year because Alaska is having unusually warm weather.)

Each of us needs to keep a close check on our relationship with the Lord. Are we hearing His voice? Do we obey Him immediately? Do we partake of the spiritual food He provides for us? Do we allow Him to bind up our wounds or stop and patiently rest when He sees us getting weary? It’s not important to be first in line, only that we are where He wants us to be.

All of us on the Lord’s team have jobs related to our abilities. A lead dog, no matter how well trained and wise, would not make a good wheel dog, nor would a wheel dog make a good lead dog. The important thing is to be content where the Lord has placed us and finish well. Hebrews 12:1b: “Let us run with patience the race God has set before us. vs.2: And we do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.”

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TO GLORIFY GOD IN DEATH

We were studying the last chapter in the book of John. Jesus was having a conversation with Peter and part of it centered on Peter’s death. We know from history that Peter outlived most, if not all, of the other disciples. The majority of them died as martyrs. What a wonderful, glorious way to die – as a martyr.

Jesus tells Peter “When you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.”
I think most of us do not want to face a long drawn out illness, the type of ending Jesus knew was ahead for Peter.

I worked for my years as a caregiver in nursing homes and found it interesting that some people who didn’t even know who they were, or where they were anymore, could still quote scripture
along with me and sing every verse of an old hymn.

It was the next thing Jesus said, John 21:19 that made me stop and think. “Jesus said this to let him (Peter) know by what kind of death he would glorify God.” There is little doubt that most caregivers glorify God, by their acts of kindness, their loyalty. Didn’t Jesus once mention giving a glass of water in His name? But this is the first time I thought about the one being cared for glorifying God in their situation. How can we do that?

As I live with a terminal illness (ALS) I can’t help but speculate on what lies ahead for me. I have read many books written by people who died as a result of ALS.

Susan Spencer-Wendel wrote most of her book, UNTIL I SAY GOOD-BYE, on her iPhone, using her right thumb, the last finger still working. Evelyn Bell wrote much of her book, CRIES OF THE SILENT, one word at a time with a laser pointer. She talked about how painful a wrinkle in the sheet could be. How difficult it was when, because of weak neck muscles, her head flopped forward but no one noticed and lifted it for her. The frustration of not being able to wipe your own runny nose, or brush away a hair that’s tickling your face.

Jesus indicated that Peter would be in that type of situation, having to depend on others for every movement. How does one glorify God when you can’t move and can’t speak?

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul. And worship His holy name.” That song says nothing about speaking our praise, lifting our hands, or dancing for joy. Even though right now I can dress and feed myself, drive my car and go about my business, I don’t know what the end of my life will be. But…the last verse of that song says: “And on that day when my strength is failing, The end draws near and my time has come. Still my SOUL will sing Your praise unending, Ten thousand years and then forevermore.”

It takes discipline to not allow anger and bitterness to take over. But yes, like Peter, we can glorify God no matter by what kind of death we exit this life; even without words or actions. BLESS THE LORD, O MY SOUL, O MY SOUL, WORSHIP HIS HOLY NAME.

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TOGETHER WITH ALL THE SAINTS

When I was growing up the emphasis in the church was on being rooted and grounded in the Word of God. We do need to meditate on the Word, let the Word of God dwell in us richly but the term rooted and grounded is used only once in Scripture, in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and he wasn’t talking about the Word. He’s talking about something that is so important in the Body of Christ but often gets overlooked.

In Ephesians 3:17-19 Paul prays, That Christ my dwell in your hearts by faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height; and to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

The first thing he mentions is the need to have Christ dwelling on our hearts by faith and that is followed by the astonishing statement that you may be rooted and grounded in love. .What does that mean and how does that happen? God is love. As we allow Him access to more of our lives, our activities and even our thoughts, it will result in more of His love flowing through us. God lives within us in order that His love will be lived out in our lives. Love must be our ultimate goal.

The next part of Paul’s prayer is even more intense. That you might have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and how long and high and deep… is the love of Christ. Does that mean I have to love the saints in order to completely comprehend the width, length, depth and height (which are all immeasurable) of the love of Christ? One thing builds upon another in our spiritual lives and if one part is missing, like love, the other parts are not as effective as they should be. I Corinthians teaches us that without love all our learning and doing is worthless. 

The world was astonished, several years ago, during on Olympic cross-country ski event when a skier broke a pole. One of her competitors lost seconds off her own time to replace the pole. What a great example of love. Do we rush ahead with our own agenda ignoring others who have needs?

The Lord spoke to me very strongly about this a few years ago. We were praying fervently that the Lord would bless the spiritual agenda being planned and into my mind the Lord dropped the faces of fellow Christians who were struggling with love and acceptance. Then He said to me, together with all the saints. ‘No one left behind’ is a phase heard in the military and even in the Scouting program. Paul is saying that needs to happen in the church too.  

The last part of Paul’s prayer should make us catch our breath. That you my be filled with all the fullness of God. Does that mean that the fullness of God in my life is in direct relation to the love of Christ being lived out in my life? That sounds a lot like forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

What an amazing concept. We build up the Body of Christ by loving one another, by building up one another. Lord, overwhelm all of us with your love!

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