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Monday, November 29, 2010

Magnetic Resonance Imaging

At 1:00 A.M. on Sunday morning, I had the pleasure of having an MRI. Magnetic resonance imaging does not use radiation like an x-ray, but powerful magnetic fields interacting somehow with radio frequencies to create an image of the area being scanned. We are most fortunate to have such modern technology in our regional hospital. I actually went to bed early Saturday evening and my eldest son kindly appeared out of the country darkness (despite my assertions that I could drive myself into the city) to drive me into our local regional hospital in time for the midnight admitting done through the Emergency Department. Midnight on a Saturday night at the emergency ward could inspire yet another blog. I was somewhat amazed by the number of persons in need at that particular hour.

I had experienced an MRI four years ago. I had forgotten just how “interesting” the process can be. On Sunday morning, I had the added pleasure of having my head cradled and strapped into an apparatus that prevented any movement. I could see the technician through the distant window by way of a strange mirror in front of my eyes. All metal jewellery and glasses removed and noise muffling headphones in place, I was moved into a very tight tubular space with the cryptic request that I not move for the next twenty-five minutes. In my right hand I clutched the panic bulb that I was to squeeze if I could simply not take any more. As I was moved into position, I comforted myself with the consolation of being able to pray undisturbed for the next twenty-five minutes. What an opportunity! Unfortunately, I had forgotten the loud irregular noises and periodic bone shaking vibrations that made up the next nearly one half of an hour. The machine literally cracks, pounds, rattles, thumps, shakes, contorts and whirrs for the whole time you are in it. I was completely and utterly unable to intelligibly pray. I just held my elbows painfully at my side and stared straight into the mirror waiting for the endless session to be over. “Help me Jesus” was about as far as I could get with my prayer session. The distractions of the machine are just too great. I made it through the session without moving and was soon back on the dark winter road to home no worse for the wear.

In many ways, I realize today that the MRI machine is very much like the modern world in which we live. We are all surrounded by constant distractions that keep up us from our communication with God. We are bombarded with media noise and worldly temptations. Amidst the noise, we are often taken further away from our Lord. I find solace in the actual words of Jesus in Matthew 6: 5-8.

5 ¶ "And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.

6 "But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

7 "And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.

8 "Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.

I am greatly comforted by verse 8. My Father knew very well my needs and indeed supplied those needs within my Sunday morning MRI machine. I was completely unable to articulate, but He had no need of my words at that point. “Help me Jesus” were the only words required.

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Accepting His Will

Dear Regular Reader,

There are several realities that I have had to accept in the last little of them being that I am currently having difficulty publishing blogs every two days. I hope to be able to contribute to this site at least on an intermittent basis. I pray that someday soon I might be able to add significantly to the 166 messages written in the last year and some months.

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." Psalm 23: 1

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Decision

Finally, it had happened. We had a conflict. Jeremy’s hockey game and his music lesson were almost at the same time. Missing the hockey game was unthinkable to our nine year old son and missing the piano lesson was equally unthinkable to his serious and professional music teacher. The solution, it seemed at the time, was for Jeremy to attend his piano lesson wearing his equipment, less the helmet, skates and gloves of course. When his lesson was over, I was to whisk him away to a “just in time” hockey game at the arena. We thought it was a good plan at the time.

The piano teacher lived just down the street and Jeremy was able to walk to the lesson. I assured him that I would be ready to drive him to the game as soon as he returned. He left and in very few minutes had returned and announced that now we could go to the game. Confused, we questioned him as to why he was so early. Jeremy told us that when he arrived and sat down on the piano bench, the teacher, who was rather passionate about the study of music, told him he had to make a decision. Since he wasn’t volunteering the nature of the decision, we had to ask him about the choice he had to make. His kindly but serious teacher had told him, no doubt in her delightful eastern European accent, that he must decide between playing hockey and studying music. We are fairly certain that she meant that eventually the two would conflict and that then he would have to make a decision. To the nine year old literal mind, he heard that he was to make a decision right here and now and indeed he did. Apparently, as she later confirmed, he assured her immediately that he had decided to pursue hockey and leave behind his music career. Then he simply put on his boots, left the house and came home very relieved that he did not have to return to music. Indeed, he never did.

We are certain that Jeremy would not have continued much longer to take piano lessons. It was patently obvious that he did not enjoy the exercise. I have often thought of the hastiness of the proposed decision as expressed by the piano teacher. Giving a nine year old boy dressed for a hockey game what sounded to him to be an ultimatum could have only one result. He made the decision and she lost a student. Verse 5 in Chapter 21 of the Book of Proverbs reinforces my initial theory.

5 The Thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness, but everyone who is impatient and hasty hastens only to want. (Amplified Bible)

On the other hand, perhaps she had assessed his future enthusiasm and success in piano studies and very purposefully and kindly allowed him a way to get out of what he did not enjoy.

21 ¶ The wise in heart will be called prudent, And sweetness of the lips increases learning. (Proverbs 16:21)

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

New Every Morning

I am a morning person. As I age at what appears to me to be an exponential rate in relation to my peers, the “morning effect” as contrasted with the “sundown effect” is multiplied and very welcome. Today we awoke to the first significant snowfall of the year. As I went outside in order to shovel some snow, I started to think of other mornings so prominent in my memory.

When I was six or seven years old, my father actually took me to the hardware store to buy me a snow scraper. He finally grew tired of me asking for one so that I could shovel the walk and driveway. He found the lightest one, which in those days was not an easy feat. Snow shovels were all made of steel. Plastic or child sized snow shovels simply did not exist. The first thing I did each and every winter morning was to check the amount of snowfall. I was outside sometimes before breakfast enjoying the chilled early morning air and the task of clearing the snow. I have maintained that excitement for early morning snow shovelling. Unfortunately, the physical part of completing the job is not nearly as much fun as I remember as a boy. Today as I struggled to open up a trail to the garage, I was honoured with the sighting of a large magnificent eagle literally rising up in the gusty winds over the shore of the mostly frozen lake. Suddenly I felt the reality of the words, “But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles” (Isaiah 40: 31). As my eagle was mounting up in the wind, my strength was renewed.

When I was ten or eleven years old, I delighted in climbing out my bedroom window at dawn in order to go fishing on spring mornings. The sun shining off the clear water as I cast my line from my plywood boat is as real to me this morning as it was on those mornings so long ago. It occurs to me now that I did not need to climb out the window in order to heighten the adventure. I am positive, after long experience as a parent and grandparent, that my mother and father were very aware of my early morning fishing expeditions.

In adulthood, I experienced another joyful morning experience. I was more of an observer, but I still enjoyed the utter delight that Lozanne felt and demonstrated during the years that our children were babies. She simply could not wait to greet the babies and toddlers in their cribs. No matter how tired she was from lack of sleep during the night, the slightest sound, whether it be crying, laughing or baby talk, would bring her joyously talking and laughing with each of our four children even before she reached their room. They were lifted immediately from their crib and another day of continual attention and love would start anew each and every day. I don’t doubt it for a second when Lozanne tells me that the years spent raising our babies were the happiest days of her life. I observed the joy renewed each and every morning.

The LORD does the same for us each and every morning. We read of His faithfulness and compassion in Lamentations 3: 19-24.

19 Remember my affliction and roaming, The wormwood and the gall.

20 My soul still remembers And sinks within me.

21 ¶ This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope.

22 Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not.

23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.

24 "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I hope in Him!"

Each and every morning, even as life becomes more difficult, my hope is renewed. I am assured that His mercies will follow me all day long. I will not be consumed by the troubles of the day. His compassion will always be there for me. Great is His faithfulness that is renewed each and every morning. No wonder I continue to be a morning person.

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Far from God

Last evening Lozanne and I watched episodes 25 and 26 of the television mini-series entitled The Forsyte Saga. Over the past month, we have rented and watched all of the 1967 BBC adaptation of the series of novels written by John Galsworthy. To my knowledge, the twenty-six black and white one hour episodes have never been rebroadcast in Canada since the summer and fall of 1970. Although it was not the first mini-series made for television, it is certainly the first I can remember. It had a very dramatic, but believable soap opera quality to it that actually emptied pubs and churches when it aired on Sunday nights in Great Britain. The effect was similar when it was broadcast by the CBC following the Ed Sullivan Show at nine o'clock on Sunday evenings in 1970. Families gathered around television sets to catch up on the multi-generational series starting in Victorian England and ending in the third decade of the twentieth century.

Watching the series forty years later has drawn Lozanne and I back to my parents’ living room as we made sure to be present for the weekly instalment to be broadcast on the twenty-one inch Admiral television with the rabbit ears set in the perfect position for the best possible reception. We were staying with my parents in the summer of 1970 for six weeks so that I could attend summer university courses. We spent many summers in various locations for the same purpose. It is good to be reminded of our parents who were so good to us. At the time, I thought of them as old. Now as I look back, I am shocked with how youthful they were at the time. How we enjoyed those Sunday evenings seated on the low backed green fabric couch with a rounded cushion on one end. The baby was in her crib, hopefully asleep, and Soames, Jolyon, Irenie and Fleur were bound to entertain us with their family intrigues that were destined to lead ultimately to further scandals.

Lozanne and I have been pleasantly surprised that this early attempt at a television mini-series has withstood the test of time. It is still believable and entertaining after forty years of more modern competition. I am not sure that our children and grandchildren would enjoy such unsophisticated entertainment, but we have. Forgiveness is a central theme throughout the twenty-six episodes. The lawyer, Soames Forsyte, who is a pivotal character throughout every episode, was played very convincingly by Eric Porter who had the challenge of initially playing a twenty something year old and then finally at the end of the story, a man in his seventies. He and Irenie, played by Nyree Dawn Porter, endured a very sad marriage of about twelve years in the early episodes. Both contributed to the absolute misery that was their marriage. Several times through the years, Soames attempts to forgive and let bygones be bygones by offering a hand of reconciliation. Irenie, who actually loathed her former husband, is unable to reciprocate on every occasion. In the last episode, just hours before the untimely death of Soames, Irenie actually extends her hand in forgiveness. The audience is absolutely shocked when he then refuses to accept her long awaited attempt at reconciliation. He strides out of the room literally to his accidental death later in the day. I am sure that the importance of this scene escaped me in my youth. I was very disturbed by it last evening. Soames went to his death unable ultimately to forgive. What a tragedy. The words of Matthew 6: 14-15 came to me as I tried to get to sleep last evening.

14 "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

15 "But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses

As a mature Christian, I readily understand that the forgiveness of our sins is granted to us unconditionally through our belief in Jesus Christ. Even if we die as a believer before forgiving another, we are, through the grace of God, granted entry into heaven. William MacDonald in his “Believer’s Bible Commentary” tells us what we risk by not forgiving others is our relationship with the Lord. If we want to feel close to God here on earth, we must indeed offer our forgiveness to others just as He has forgiven us. The irony of Soames not accepting what he had initiated on several occasions throughout his life is a very powerful example of the lesson being taught in today’s two Bible verses. Had Soames been a real person living a real life, by refusing to forgive, he would have most certainly felt very far from God for what was to be his last day on this earth.

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Hand of God

There they stood at my apartment door. I use the word apartment generously to describe my sub-leased second floor rooms on Mountjoy Street South. I knew one of the three young women from a recent date that was not to be repeated, but two had come along to meet the new guy in town. As I invited them in on that beautiful warm spring evening in 1968, I had no idea of what God had orchestrated just for two of us in that room. My eyes and my interest immediately rested on only one of them. She was the most talkative and animated of the three and with the exception of her good looks, I could not logically understand at the time why she was so very appealing. She was dressed in shorts and indeed her feet were bare despite the fact that she was the driver who had transported my guests in her father’s early sixties Valiant. There was what could be best described as an aura around her. I could not look away. She infuriated me and my careful and cautious ways even as she began to capture my heart.

Stupidly, I chided her for driving without shoes. I was, at least in my own mind, a mature twenty year old who thought he could correct the behaviour of this seventeen year old beauty. My protestations that driving without shoes was unlawful and dangerous seemed to have little effect upon her. I have no idea why I started what was to become a lifelong relationship with a correction. I suspect that I just didn’t know what else to say given her profound effect on me. As I was soon to learn, our personalities were about as diametrically opposed as is possible. The adage that opposites attract became a sizable understatement in our future relationship. Even as I upbraided her, I was drawn to her lively good humour and ability to ignore my uptight nonsense when required.

The next night the same three visitors appeared at my door. Since they were on foot, I offered to drive the threesome home as it became dark. I consciously made sure that the formerly bare foot young lady was my last stop. I was to learn later that she had me drop her off at the wrong house down the street, because her parents would not have approved of a university student who owned a car as a prospective boyfriend. Indeed, I did ask her out to see the movie “The Graduate” the next night and of course the young woman who was soon to become my wife and the mother of my four children said yes. I still to this day remember the blue dress with white trim she wore that night.

We have spent a lifetime of being different. We complement each other. Her strengths prop up my weaknesses and my strengths, I hope, do the same for her. The aura that surrounded her in May of 1968 is there to this day. I have written before about my firm belief that the hand of God is always upon those who are destined to believe later in their lives. I came to town to work at the Kamiskotia Mine for only a few months as a summer job that was elusive anywhere else that summer. Except for leaving to attend school, I have never left since, nor have I left her side. The words of Psalm 139:1-5 make it all so clear. The LORD laid his hand on us both. Lozanne and Mark were predetermined long before the spring of 1968.

1 ¶ For the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. O LORD, You have searched me and known me.

2 You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off.

3 You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways.

4 For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.

5 You have hedged me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me.

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)