Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Career Change and Work in Calgary

Some Context...

Ewa and I knew that I would not be in the printing business the rest of my life.  The job at Webco in Leduc, Alberta was shift work, dangerous (lots of pinch points and heavy lifting) and many times I came home with my lunch uneaten because we worked straight through the day.  I was quite skinny and both Ewa and my Mom didn't like the way I looked.

But how to do a career change with two dependents and a house mortgage?  I didn't know the answer to that question until my brother did a career change himself.  He always wanted to be a policeman and got a degree in criminology, but still wasn't hireable (at least at that time) because his eyesight wasn't good enough.  He decided to look for opportunities in a different career and discovered that he could transition to software development with a school in Calgary in 9 months.  When I saw the job offers he received when he finishing that school, you could've knocked me over with a feather.  I spoke to Ewa about it.  We prayed, and decided that I'd apply to the school and we'd see how things went.

God's Help

One of the minimum requirements of the school was a university/college degree in something, which I didn't have.  I was told I could alternatively write an essay to justify my case for applying without a degree to have that requirement waved.  With God's help, I accomplished that successfully. 

Then there was an exam requirement, which had to be written in person.  Again, with God's help I successfully got over that hurdle with apparently one of the highest scores they'd ever seen.

We sold our house in Edmonton and moved to Calgary so I could start school, using what we made on the house towards school tuition.  

I immensely enjoyed this new education, and worked hard to learn everything I could.  Unfortunately, two thirds of the way through the course, the school itself went bankrupt!  E&Y, the company that handled the bankruptcy, kept 3 of the 9 schools across Canada open and running so all the existing students could finish their schooling so long as they temporarily moved to those cities which still had schools open.  So I ended up wrapping up my schooling in Vancouver that fall and, with God's help, was awarded the 'School Spirit' award for my class.

Career change to software developer


Finding Work - God's Provision

 My schooling wrapped up in the fall of 2001, which was in the middle of the first major 'dot bomb' of the tech market.  No one wanted to invest money in software and technology after Nortel and other large .coms had gone belly-up that year.  Unlike my brother's easy road to work after school, I was did not find a full-time software job until 10 months later.  

Those were the longest 10 months of my life, with a 3 year old and a pregnant wife depending on me.  I questioned God, sometimes bitterly, during that time.  I struggled in my relationship with Him, my expectations of how He would/should provide, and issues I had with entitlement during that time.  It took me years to get over some of the feelings of abandonment and hurt I experienced.  That said, 10 months later, when it seemed there were no software jobs out there for unexperienced junior software developers, I got a phone call and an interview with a large software consulting firm in Calgary called CGI.  Here's an excerpt from my journal some time later...

Aug. 20, 2002

As of Aug. 12, I have been working with my new employer – CGI.  Again, it was totally a God thing how I got that job.  The human resources manager, Cara, saw my resume on workopolis.com where there are thousands of resumes.  She gave me a call in late June I think, and I had a ‘pre-interview’ with her about a week later.  ‘Pre-interview’ because she didn’t have a job position that she could hire me for at that point and time.  

She called back with the opportunity of a real interview for a real job.  Of all the crazy things, I misunderstood the directions for the location of the interview, and thought the office was downtown.  The interview was at 2:00 and at 1:53, I realized I was 60 blocks too far south.  So I called her and left a message to say that I would be late.  Twenty minutes later, I show up.  She appreciated that I left a message and the interview went well, except that I felt unorganized – I didn’t have my documentation that I thought I had, and I forgot to give her the references that I brought with me. 

Anyway, God gave me favour with her, because she kept my resume on the top of her Java pile, and around the end of July (I had already started working framing houses with Steve Sutherland by this time) she called me up to arrange a technical interview.  I made the arrangements talking on the cell phone in the roofing trusses of a house.  I found out I had the job soon after the technical interview and boy was I elated. 

Ewa thought it was interesting that I got this job pretty much the same way I got the job with Webco – they found me and called me, I didn’t call them.  It was a God thing.  I’m using totally the technologies and methodologies that I was hoping for. 

God's provision for us!   

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus
Philippians 4:19

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Friday, September 2, 2022

David - A Man After God's Heart - Aug 2022 Journal Entry

Our church is doing a Summer sermon series where different members share about 'This Verse Changed My Life.'  After the very first sermon, I considered which verse that might be for me, and immediately my mind went to 2 Samuel 6:14.  "...and David danced before the Lord with all his might..."  In fact, I've previously written a blog post (click here to read it) about why that verse impacts me so much.

The week after the first sermon in this series was shared, I couldn't get the idea of sharing about my own verse out of my head.  I texted the pastor to see if there would be a possibility of fitting me in the summer schedule.  It turned out that the schedule was full, but when the pastors found out which verse I wanted to share about, they wanted to squeeze me in.  I was pretty excited to be given 5-10 minutes to share in a service.  My shorter talk required me having to 'edit out' several interesting thoughts I had about David's relationship with God and God's heart for us.  I'll share those things in two blog posts - this one below, and another coming soon.

lamb, looking like he's ready to be a rascal and get lost

A Man After God's Heart

This whole thought process below stemmed from the question: 'What would motivate David to dance before the Lord with all his might?'  

Before David is introduced in the Bible, we find the prophet Samuel telling King Saul that God intends to have another person outside of Saul's family succeed him as the next king of Israel - a 'man after God's heart'.  1 Samuel 13:14.  

Samuel later finds David, overlooked by his family, watching the family's flock of sheep.  He anoints David as the next king and then leaves, and David drops back into obscurity until Goliath shows up.  At that point, something interesting happens.  We see David giving his 'battle resume' to King Saul, trying to convince the King to let him fight the giant. 

'But David said to Saul, "Your servant used to keep his father's sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God."' (1 Samuel 17:34-36)

Growing up in British Columbia I was taught from an early age to avoid bears and lions (we had mountain lions).  And to never, never get between them and their food if you could help it.  What David talks about here with King Saul is a suicide mission.  He didn't use his slingshot to kill these predators - he used his hands!  Why would he take leave of good sense and save these lambs?  They weren't full grown and I'm sure there those weren't the only lambs in the flock - who would miss them?  Why does David care so much about a lamb, on more than one occasion?  

I think David loved his sheep.  Consider the 23rd Psalm - 'The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want...'  A person doesn't pen a poem like that without first hand knowledge, experience, and a love for his own sheep.  Love motivates people to do crazy things.  I believe David loved those little lambs and went after them because they were special to him.  They were his companions out on those fields, dear to him.

And God saw this!  I can see God saying 'Hey, look at this young fellow!  He's putting his life on the line going after that lion/bear to save his lamb!  Let's give him a little helping hand... he has a heart like mine.'  And when the dust and adrenaline had settled, David finds himself and his lamb still alive, and the lion/bear dead at his feet.  Time to celebrate!

'For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.'  2 Chronicles 16:9a

What was it that God recognized in David's heart?  Jesus said, 'Greater love has no man than this, than he lay down his life for his friends.'   Another time Jesus told three separate stories trying to help the pharisees see the heart of God:  

  1. The story of the shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to find and save the lost sheep,
  2. The story of the widow and her lost coin, and 
  3. The story of the prodigal son.  
In each of these stories something precious was lost, subsequently found and restored to its place, and rejoicing followed...

And David Danced...

So what would make a fellow dance before the Lord with all his might.  Doing a little be of research I discovered that several Bible commentators think that men didn't traditionally dance in public in Israel at that time.  It wasn't done.  So what would make David do this? 

I don't think the story of David dancing before the Lord with all his might was David's first time dancing.  I believe he was comfortable dancing with all his might in public because he'd danced with all his might before, at least twice, privately, over the body of a carnivore that had to tried to steal his special, dear lambs.  I know if I had put my life on the line to rescue something so meaningful to me from a ferocious adversary and somehow claimed victory, I would definitely be celebrating!

And the same goes for the return of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.  It was getting restored to its rightful place, close to David's house.  It had also been lost/stolen (by the Philistines) and also lost its place as Israel's spiritual centre, but David, with God's help, was bringing it back.  Being a man after God's heart, he rejoiced to see it coming back to its rightful place.

What Does This Mean to Me?

How do I apply what I learned here about both David, God, and their relationship to my life?  I think first and foremost, as I understand more of the heart of God and what He is like, my perspective of everything else changes.  This blog post by a friend (What is God Like by Phil Aud) talks about how important and foundational our understanding of what God is like is.  I'd like to believe that as God reveals Himself to me in meditations like the one above, I change - or rather, He changes me.  My heart softens and the desire grows inside me to emulate Him and His desires: Seek those who are lost, with Gods help find them and help them be restored, and rejoice along with them in their freedom!


Monday, June 13, 2022

Fractured Femur!

For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in his dwelling;
He will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.
Psalm 27:5

The Accident

The first Friday in May 2013, Kornelia was high-jumping in gym class at school.  She missed the mat on the landing of her jump and came down very hard on her left knee.  15 year old teenage girls can be drama queens at times, and consequently it can be hard to discern how bad an injury is.  Kornelia could not put weight on her leg or walk following this fall in the gym and so she called Ewa to come pick her up.  Ewa had to drive to the gym door and help her into the truck.  

Upon seeing how Kornelia was feeling, Ewa decided to take her to the Children's hospital here in the city to get the knee looked at.  The nurse in triage looked at Kornelia in the wheel chair and had her wait... and wait.  Finally, after a couple of hours(!), Kornelia was taken in for an x-ray and... Surprise!  They found this:

Original x-ray

The nurses apologized profusely for not taking Kornelia's pain concerns more seriously and making her wait so long.  Kornelia ended up staying in the hospital over the weekend as an operation was required to put pins in the bone to stabilize it for healing.  Here's the femur after that surgery with the pins in it.


It took a while for everything to settle after that eventful weekend.  Kornelia ended up finishing school from home that year.  There were many follow up appointments and physio sessions and she had a modified Physical Education class in school the following year.  Eventually another surgery was required to 'shave' the pins as they were protruding from the bone and tearing her ligaments when she walked.  

I went for a short hike recently with Kornelia and she casually mentioned how grateful she was that we had that second surgery done.  Those protruding pins had made extended walking painful, and now with them shaved down she doesn't even think about it anymore!

God's Protection

During the recovery period, Ewa was sharing this whole story with some friends.  One of them had previously served as a paramedic in the US military, and another currently serves as a paramedic with the local health system.  When they heard what had transpired between the accident at school and the final diagnosis at the hospital they were amazed that nothing worse had happened.  They told us that having sharp bone edges moving close to major leg arteries is a recipe for disaster - sever one of those arteries and one can quickly die of blood loss. 

We were thankful for God's protection over Kornelia on her way to the hospital - getting from the gym into the vehicle without a stretcher, then out of the truck and into the hospital safely as well.  We're also grateful for God's provision of good doctors, and good, free healthcare!

On the way home after surgery

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Erik's Birth and Health Concerns

Let God have all your worries and cares,
for he is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you. 
1 Peter 5:7

Our son Erik was an answer to prayer the day he was born.  He also had a couple health issues as an infant and a toddler that had us concerned for a while, but God was in control.  Here's my journal entries about these experiences:

Erik is Born!

May 11, 2002
We prayed that Ewa’s labour would be on a day that I was off work, so that we could easily get Kornelia over to our friend, Mandy, who would look after her.  We also asked God to arrange it so that it would be during the morning, quick, and natural (as Ewa had a c-section with Kornelia). God totally answered these prayers.  Ewa’s water broke at 10 am on Saturday April 27, and by 11am we were on the way to the hospital and Kornelia was at Mandy’s.  Erik was born at 2:20 that afternoon.  A natural childbirth with 3 and a half hours of labour, and relatively easy.  Ewa felt really good about it.  We took Erik home on Sunday.  God answers prayer!
Later that week he started having ‘episodes’ which turned out to be from low blood-sugar.  We took him to emergency at the children’s hospital on Thursday morning.  They just about let us go saying they couldn't find anything wrong and then Erik had another episode right in front of the doc.  They immediately rushed him into a special room and discovered his blood sugar was less than 1!  They admitted him and he stayed on an IV until Sunday morning. They released us on Monday evening.  Erik was much better and hasn’t had an ‘episode’ since.  Pretty scary though.


Three Years Later...

April 2005
Erik gave us another health scare at the beginning of April.  He had a low blood sugar level and spent some time in the hospital.  He was actually born with low blood sugar, but he hasn't had any problems

with it up to this point.  He spent the better part of a week in and out of the hospital at the beginning of this month.  Fortunately, Calgary has a great children's hospital, and a great staff.  Erik has fully recovered now, and we'll find out tomorrow what the specialists think is up with his blood sugar.  A number of tests were done while he was in the hospital.  We know he doesn't have diabetes, and the doctors were pretty sure there isn't a hormone imbalance.  God is in control.


The Prognosis

The doctors never did nail down exactly what the problem with Erik was.  They believed it was related to his body having troubles metabolizing ketones - basically we couldn't let him go without food too long, otherwise his blood sugar would drop dangerously low.  So we ensured he had snacks as soon as he got up, before he went to bed, and that he never got too hungry during the day.

The doctors felt he'd probably grow out of it, which is seems he did.  He's now a strapping 6'2'' lad, outweighing me by 20 pounds or so.  God is faithful and He hears our prayers.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Airline Ticket Scam

Our Dream

Ewa and I had a belated honeymoon once she landed in Canada with 'landed immigrant' status in early May, 1996.  I picked her up at the Calgary airport and we drove through British Columbia to Vancouver Island.  During the drive and on the island, we thought how fun and wonderful it would be to one day invite Ewa parents - who had never travelled outside of Poland - to visit us, and show them the mountains and the sea.

Once we moved to Edmonton, it looked like that dream would come to fruition.  We had a small house with extra room for them to stay, and a significant tax return to pay for their tickets.  We purchased some tickets through a Polish travel agent in Edmonton, and waited for Ewa's parents to receive them.  Here's some excerpts from my journals that document what happened next...

AirLine Ticket Scam

May 21, 1997
I have lots of questions.
I got laid off from work today.  Hired April 29 - laid off May 21.  We moved to Edmonton banking everything on this job.  Ewa’s parents are coming in 9 days from Poland.  And I thought the weekend was bad.

May 23, 1997
This evening we found out that the fellow we bought airplane tickets from for Ewa's parents trip isn’t exactly trustworthy.  They haven’t received the tickets yet, and it is a week before they fly. The fellow hadn’t even sent the money.  He said he would send it over a month ago.

June 1, 1997

Ewa' parents in front of the
Alberta Legislature
in Edmonton
God has been good to us.  Apparently, last week Saturday was the last day we could have done anything about the tickets for Mom and Dad.  God got ahold of us just in time as it might have been too late a day later.  Seats became available in economy class which was really a miracle because there was a line up for people to have a seat on the plane and it didn’t seem like the fellow we bought the tickets from was going to pay Mom and Dad’s way up to business class.  He was just leaving the phone off the hook at the store.  So, Mom and Dad are here now.... The travel agent has flown the coop.  The store is closed and he has left the city.  The story made local news.

July 12, 1997
Last weekend, we certainly saw God's faithfulness and Father heart as we went on a weekend trip to Calgary, Canmore, Banff, and the Rockies.  We had a great time and it couldn’t have worked out better.  The weather was fantastic.  Our trip itinerary filled up nicely and we saw lots of wildlife.  2 bears, a moose, mountain goats, sheep, a couple deer and lots of elk.  It was a great experience for Ewa's parents. 


Ewa and her Mom in the
Christmas store in Banff


God's Protection and Provision

God protected and provided for us.  We didn't lose the flight tickets - Ewa's parents arrived and returned safely. 

Even through that crazy summer with no job (see this post), no steady income, and other disheartening experiences, we were able to take them for a weekend to see Calgary, Banff, Jasper, and the Ice-field Parkway. 

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  Phillipians 4:19

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Monday, April 11, 2022

Employment in Edmonton

Full Circle With God

There are some Biblical accounts where God does what I'd call 'a circle of completion.'  He gives a person a dream, a starting place, or a 'state of being', then a whole bunch of activities and changes take place, and in the end the people involved find themselves returning full-circle.  Some examples I can think of are Jacob and Bethel, Joseph and his dreams, Job and his story, Joshua and Jericho.  There are some situations in Ewa's and my life where we've seen this, too.  Landing full-time employment once we'd moved from Slave Lake to Edmonton is one of those stories for us.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6

Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  1 Peter 5:7

On The Move

Living and working in Slave Lake served two purposes for us:  

  1. Through my employment at the OSB plant there it allowed me to sponsor Ewa's immigration to Canada, and 
  2. We hoped it would serve as a springboard for me to start a more meaningful career and move us to a larger, more connected city.
While there, I tried taking a correspondence course in Accounting from the University of Athabasca, but I found learning something entirely new, by myself, while working shift work, was very challenging.  I also applied to become an air-traffic controller, and made it through a couple rounds of interviews, before ultimately falling short there as well.  I was finally successful in landing a good paying position in Edmonton at a large plant the printed milk cartons.  Around the same time we bought a small house in Edmonton and moved.

A Crazy Summer

We were so excited about this new employment and new house!  Additionally, our tax return came back for the previous year and we had some extra money so we invited Ewa's parents to visit us for the summer.  Unfortunately, events after that didn't quite go as expected.  Take a look at excerpts from my journals that summer:

May 21, 1997
I have lots of questions.
I got laid off from work today.  Hired April 29 - laid off May 21.  We moved to Edmonton banking everything on this job.  Ewa’s parents are coming in 9 days from Poland.  And I thought the weekend was bad.
On the weekend, Ewa and I realized that we would be pretty short with funds while her parents would be here for the summer (after paying for their flights).  I got paid more and put in more hours at the OSB plant in Slave Lake.  I tried to encourage myself with the song ‘God will make a way, where there seems to be no way…’  The song goes on to say  ‘... and He will do something new today…’ 
This certainly is something new.  Please understand - I don’t mean that sarcastically.  I know God has something better in store.  This route, however, kind of took me off guard.

So.... I have lots of questions.  I’m always kind of excited when I get into a situation like this because I know something has to happen.  Will I have a job a week from now?  God can do amazing things.  Who knows where I’ll be working?  I wonder how I’ll look back on this situation a year from now.

Ewa and I were talking over supper, thinking wistfully that maybe we had missed God in the opportunity with the milk-carton printing company and this move to Edmonton.  I do not believe that.  We had prayed that God would either open or shut the doors for this job opportunity, as well as this move.  God opened the doors and now here we find ourselves.  I believe that this is all part of God’s plan.  Now we just have to continue to seek Him and His direction for the next step.

May 23, 1997
God, we look to You for provision.  There is not much hope given to us by the milk-carton printing company as far as any kind of extended severance agreement or the opportunity for a choice to work somewhere else within the company.  I talked with P.K. - head human relations man in Memphis - and he at least sympathized with me and agreed that we had a raw deal here. Later I had a meeting with management here and signed the severance package we were originally given.
Saw a job in the paper last night and another on the computer in the library today.  Applied for them both.  This is all I can do besides pray.
Come and save us God...
I see lots of big bills on the horizon.  At this point, there is only money to pay into the first week of June.

June 29, 1997
Well, I have been working as a vacuum cleaner salesman for the last two and a half weeks. It has sure been a challenge.  I find that I am too concerned about what people think to do my job properly.  A salesman is supposed to sell things. Not just educate people on their product.  I am too polite.  I need to develop urgency and need in my presentation.  There are a couple of jobs as printing estimators in the paper that I am going to apply for this week.  I will continue selling vacuums until one of two things happens: 

  1. I start to sell vacuums in volume - then I won’t look for another job.
  2. I get hired at one of these jobs that I’m applying for.  
God has really been with us through this time.  The milk-carton printing company gave us an extension of severance pay to the end of June.  So as of Wednesday I am not receiving pay any more.  God knows what will happen then.  We plan to go to Canmore for 2 nights next weekend, taking Ewa's Mom and Dad with us. 

July 12, 1997
God, You are our only strength and hope.  Friday turned out to be quite a day.  We miscarried our first baby early in the morning.  I took Ewa to the hospital. She was there until 3 in the afternoon.  She had to have a DnC done.  I left the hospital at about 1 to go home, have a shower, and then I had to get insurance for the car.  That turned out to be a little surprise when I found out that we would have to pay $400 more per year for our insurance because we live in the city now.  Just what we need in the financial situation we are already in.  I don’t have any vacuum cleaner sales yet... 

Aug. 4, 1997
Lots of Old Testament stories seem very applicable to our lives this summer.  It certainly hasn’t been an easy one.  We have completely depleted our RRSP money and have had to borrow more from Mom and Dad to make it through August.  Ewa has been really struggling with her hormones and the whole situation.  We both had a different picture of how her parents would spend the summer here.  The job with the vacuum sales company doesn’t seem to be working out.  They are not completely honest in all their dealings with customers as well as with dealers.  

Aug. 14, 1997
Oh, God!!  I need Your help.  Today I gave all the vacuum cleaner sales stuff back to the office.  I am now completely unemployed.  I struggle to know what You want me to do.  Sometimes life seems really complicated.  Ewa’s Mom and Dad leave for Poland in less than 2 weeks.  God, my only hope is You.  Please show me if there is something I am doing wrong.  I can’t walk in the dark very long.  

Sept. 30, 1997

A printing press similar to the one I
worked on in Leduc
Well, I have a job now.  In fact, this is the 2nd week I’ve been working.  I’m working for a newspaper printing place in Leduc.  I’m sure learning a lot. I have been hired as a second pressman.  They are paying me $14/hour.

God's Full Circle

So where is God's circle of completion in all of this?  I had forgotten about it myself, until I read this journal entry I wrote several years later....

April 11, 2001
I was reminded of something interesting that happened before I left the newspaper printing place in Leduc.
My manager was looking to hire someone to fill my position when I left.  We were working days and he brought in a prospect, and believe it or not (my mouth sure dropped) he was showing around a fellow that had interviewed me at the milk-carton printing company

I talked to my boss later, and apparently a year after they laid us off, the whole milk-carton printing plant in Edmonton folded.  To see the hand of God on that whole situation from that perspective makes that whole rough, jobless summer a lot less of a bad memory.  This fellow had been looking for a job for a year already!  Wow!!  Thank you, God, for your direction there, even though it seemed like I was taking the only available job opportunity at the time.  

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Sunday, April 3, 2022

Car Fire!

God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done.  2 Corinthians 9:8

When we moved to Edmonton in 1997 we had a 1991 Olds Cutlass Sierra for driving around.  It had a lot of mileage on it and was beginning to require expensive maintenance.  We were concerned about this as it was our only form of transportation and I needed a means to get to work and back (a 25km drive, one way), so we asked God for help.

Sometimes God's help arrives in round-about, unexpected ways.  Here's an excerpt from journal entry from Jan. 9, 1998:

We have had quite the experience this past week.  Monday evening, our car burned in our garage.  Today we received news that the insurance company is going to write it off.  Looks like we’ll be getting a new car. 

Here's what happened...  Arriving home from work that day, I had parked the car in our townhouse's attached garage.  Sitting down to supper, I heard some weird noises from the garage, so I asked Ewa "What's that popping sound in the garage?"  I went to look and the garage was full of fire and smoke (mostly smoke).  I immediately shut the door and called the fire department.  They came and put the fire out.  

Fortunately, there was no major structural damage to the garage - mostly smoke damage.  However the car was totalled.  The fire investigator said they'd seen this before and the fire was caused from static-electric shot somewhere around the gas tank.  

We asked God for help in finding a newer used car for us - something that would last longer and be a bit more reliable.  God answered!  Here's another journal excerpt from Jan. 31 1997:

God has really been our provider in this whole car situation.  A week ago Thursday we were torn as to what to do with buying a car.  We didn’t feel totally at peace with the red Honda Accord here in Millwoods that we had looked at.  Then we went to look at a 91 Accord at a Ford dealership way up north Edmonton.  It turned out to be the one that God was providing for us.  It had only 127,000 km as opposed to the red Accord which had 195,000 km.  Not only that, but they offered us a great deal - no trade in - and we were able to buy a 40,000 km/2 year warranty along with it. 
THEN, we had agreed with our car insurance company that we would get $5900. for the Olds minus $500. deductible.  When we went to pick up the cheque yesterday, it was for $6313.  God’s provision!  It turned out that with a fire, we didn’t have to pay deductible, AND they added GST to the $5900.  We are truly blessed.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2022

God Winks in Slave Lake - Part 2

 After Ewa and I got married, we lived in Warsaw, Poland.  After almost a year, we went to the Canadian embassy to ask them if, in the event we had children, they could obtain dual citizenship.  We got that answer, but at the same time the embassy told us that immigration law in Canada had changed and if we ever wanted to move back to Canada the ONLY way they would allow Ewa into the country was if she officially immigrated.  

We didn't want to be in a situation where Ewa was not free to travel to Canada, so we decided to change our plan to live in Poland.  We quit our work contract in Warsaw and I went to Canada alone so I could find a job and sponsor Ewa's immigration.  I left Poland in Sept. 1994 and God provided immediate employment for me in Slave Lake, Alberta.

Read Part 1 of God Winks in Slave Lake here

Moose!

There is a lot of wilderness and wildlife in northern Alberta surrounding Slave Lake.  In fact, the highways there have a swath of extra forest cleared on each side so drivers can see wildlife approaching the road more clearly - it a safety issue!  Moose are particularly numerous and dangerous because they are dark, quite large, an have a high centre of gravity.  My Dad had a work colleague lose her life in a car accident with a moose as she was returning to Slave Lake from a trip.

This is nearly what happened to me as well.  Early one morning after a night shift at the OSB plant, I was driving home from work struggling to stay awake.  It was still dark out (the shift ended at 6am).  Suddenly on the passenger side of my car a large bull moose appeared, preparing to trot across the highway.  I was doing the speed limit and I had no time to react.  Fortunately, I was just ahead of him as I passed him.  If I had been a couple seconds later, I would have taken his legs out and he would have come through my windshield.  God's protection and timing!

That’s right—he rescues you from hidden traps, shields you from deadly hazards.
His huge outstretched arms protect you—under them you’re perfectly safe; his arms fend off all harm.
Fear nothing—not wild wolves in the night, not flying arrows in the day...  
Psalm 91:3-5

The Dream of the Lost Gloves

Journal entry from May 29, 1999
Before I forget, I made a mental note to write this story in the Journal before I forgot it again.  Ewa reminded me of it one night when we were having small group and talking about things that God had done for us...

Ewa had bought me some nice leather gloves in Poland.  I had them with me when I came to Canada in the fall of 1994.  Used them that winter (of 94-95) in Slave Lake and then put them 'away' until next winter.  Ewa immigrated to Canada that spring in May.  Eventually next winter came and I couldn't find the gloves anywhere.  I looked for them high and low and came up empty handed (haha, nice pun), so I made a mental prayer to God asking Him to help me find them.  Later the next day, I took a nap and I dreamt of precisely where they were.  They were in the garage in one of the old, large, pool chlorine buckets.  I woke up and went immediately to that old chlorine bucket in the garage.  Sure enough, thats exactly where they were.  

God's direction in a dream!

Click here for more true stories of God working in my life

Monday, February 28, 2022

God Winks in Slave Lake - Part 1

After Ewa and I got married, we lived in Warsaw, Poland.  After almost a year, we went to the Canadian embassy to ask them if, in the event we had children, they could obtain dual citizenship.  We got that answer, but at the same time the embassy told us that immigration law in Canada had changed and if we ever wanted to move back to Canada the ONLY way they would allow Ewa into the country was if she officially immigrated.  

We didn't want to be in a situation where Ewa was not free to travel to Canada, so we decided to change our plans.  We quit our work contract in Warsaw and I went to Canada alone so I could find a job and sponsor Ewa's immigration.  I left Poland in Sept. 1994 and God provided immediate employment for me in Slave Lake, Alberta.

Working at the OSB Plant

While in Slave Lake, I worked at an Oriented Strand-board Plant that made plywood from wood wafers.  I worked 4 12-hour days, had 3 and a half days off and then worked 4 12-hour nights followed by 4 days off.  Some of those shift transitions could be brutal - particularly the first night shift.  

Oriented Strand Board

My initial responsibility there was clean up.  Conveyers carrying bark and other wood waste to the burner never caught everything, or sometimes got plugged or overflowed.  I got to cleanup the messes.  It was heavy, hard work shovelling wet wood waste back into the convey which was sometimes higher than my head.  Late one dark, very cold evening I was taking a short break from this labour when I noticed some very large icicles hanging down the side of the structure.  Considering their size (over 3 feet long) I thought they could be a danger to someone, so I decided to knock them down.  In my tired state, I didn't properly factor how they might fall once I broke them with my shovel.  When they fell, a large piece hit my hardhat, knocked it off and then hit my face.  I needed stitches, but I was told that I was fortunate the injury wasn't worse given the size and weight of the icicle.  God's Protection!

Waferizer
After a couple months doing cleanup, I got informally moved up to the 'Green-End' crew. We were responsible for ensuring the mill had a consistent flow of wood wafers to make the boards.  This involved running machines that debarked the logs coming into the mill, trimming these logs into 2 foot lengths and ensuring those 2 foot lengths were oriented correctly as they were fed into 'waferizers' which turned the logs into wafers.  The debarking and log trimming was mostly an automated process, but making sure the log sections were oriented properly going into the waferizers was manually done, and these logs could be heavy.  We used tools called pickaroons to help move these logs into position.

Pickaroon

Food processors are loud.  Waferizers scream past them in decibels.  One could get very mentally and physically exhausted from the noise and the work in the wee hours of the morning.  I had to be very conscious of the moves, pulls, and yanks I made orienting the wood so I didn't hurt myself.  

One evening I pulled a muscle in my back, but convinced myself I could work through it.  By the time the shift was over, I was hurting in a big way.  This was concerning because the mill tried very hard to avoid lost time injuries and my back felt like it was going to require some time off to heal.  

After arriving home, I was getting ready for bed and found my back pain was so overwhelming that I was struggling to breathe!  I called my Mom for help.  She came and I told her my back was hurting and I couldn't breathe.  She prayed for me right there, and within 30 seconds the pain was entirely gone.  It was amazing!  God healed me!

"The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all"  Psalm 34:19
"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble."  Psalm 46:1

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Stamp Collecting and God?

Found - My Old Stamp Collection!

My Mom passed away recently, and as my Dad was cleaning things up in their house, he discovered my old stamp collection - from 40 years ago!  I brought it home and went through it and was rather surprised
at some of the stamps I found.  I'd forgotten that Mom had casually helped me by occasionally purchasing mint stamps at the post office when she went there.  I'd also forgotten that I'd purchased some older stamps myself.  I decided to do some research and see their value now, and the cost and effort it would take to get started at collecting again.

Learning About Stamps

Philately (the study of stamps), as I discovered at the local stamp store, is pretty involved.  Stamps can be: 

  • Printed on different types of paper.  Did you know that some stamp paper is UV tagged and fluorescent when see under a Ultra-Violet light?
  • Created with different adhesive types.  Older stamps used gum (glue), most newer stamps are self-adhesive, like stickers
  • Separated by:
    • a manual process (like scissors) These are generally very old stamps.
    • perforations (the lines of holes you rip to separate a stamp).  Because there are different types of perforations, there are actually special rulers to determine which type a stamp has.
    • machine cut - with self-adhesive stamps
  • Mint or Used - generally mint stamps are worth more, but there are a bunch of factors that can come into play, like:
    • their 'face value' (the original cost of the stamp) 
    • a used stamp's cancellation mark - some people actually collect these!
    • was there an error in the printing? Scratched plates, missing ink, ink scum, hickies, mis-aligned or missing perforations can cause a stamp's value to skyrocket
  • Older or newer, obviously.  Older stamps were printed using a different type of printing process
    (gravure). This print process meant that older stamps didn't have many colours, and the stamp's design could often be seen embossed through the paper on the gum side of the stamp.  I was surprised to discover I could buy older mint stamps relatively cheaply.  I enjoy the history and nostalgia of the older stamps.  I was shocked to discover in my recent e-bay purchase that the seller had gratuitously included an 1863 Queen Victoria stamp from Nova Scotia and a 1943 Newfoundland airmail stamp - before they were provinces of Canada!
  • Given a 'Scott' number.  This essentially a code that uniquely identifies the stamp in its country of origin and can also make users aware if its an anomalous stamp in some way, depending on the code any predicates it might have.
 All of these classifications for stamps probably shouldn't have surprised me - I'd spent almost a decade of my life as a printing pressman.  Having that printing experience accelerated my interest in collecting again and motivated me to learn more.

Stamps and... God?

How does God figure into stamp collecting?  I got to thinking about this last night and realized there a bunch of interesting parallels.  I'll just highlight a few of the main ones here:

We are all unique and precious in God's sight. 

"Look, I’ve written your names on the backs of my hands...."  Isaiah 49:16a
"Why even the very hairs on your heads are numbered."  Luke 12:6b
Each stamp is unique.  Its place on the printed sheet is actually given a code.  Individual stamps have a personal history for a stamp collector.  Used stamps will have unique cancellation marks that can make them special to collectors.  Similarly, we are all unique and precious in God's sight.  God knows our personal history from before we were born (Psalm 139:13-16).  God has a special purpose for each of us, just like stamps are printed, cancelled, and used for mail delivery all over the world.  The exact same two stamps printed beside each other on a sheet could end up with completely different cancellation marks on opposite sides of the world!

God uses our imperfections to make us better.

"I’ll refine them as silver is refined, test them for purity as gold is tested." Zechariah 13:9
"You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book." Psalm 56:8
In many cases, stamp imperfections increase the value of the stamp. Missed UV tagging, print plate scratches, ink colour inconsistencies, and mis-placed perforations are all examples of 'mistakes' that end up making a stamp 'better' in the eyes of collectors.  God also uses our foibles, mishaps, issues, and errors, to transform us into something precious and valuable in His eyes.  

Value

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life"  John 3:16
Stamp value attribution can be rather complex.  Whole catalogues are published annually that attempt to gauge the value of stamps.  Just one stamp in these catalogues can have a plethora of prices depending on different conditions and ways it could be collected - some of these I've mentioned above.  Essentially though, an individual stamp's true value comes down to one simple thing - how much a buyer is willing to pay for that particular stamp.

Our value with God could be judged the same way.  Its not hard compare ourselves to others and estimate our worth to God based on what we've accomplished for him, or how perfect we think we are.  But our real value to God comes down to one thing:  What price was He willing to pay for us?  

The Bible says that our sin separated us from God, and the price for that sin is death.  But it also says that God gave His only Son to 'pay' that price for us and put us back in right standing with Him.  God gave the most valuable thing He had for us!  We must be highly esteemed and valuable in His eyes!!  

"So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger?"  Roman 8:31-34

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Living in Europe

Full Circle With God

It seems to me there are some Biblical accounts where God does what I'd call 'a circle of completion.'  He gives a person a dream, a starting place, or a 'state of being', then a whole bunch of activities and change happen, and in the end the people involved find themselves returning full-circle.  Some examples I can think of are Jacob and Bethel, Joseph and his dreams, Job and his life, Joshua and Jericho.  There are some situations in Ewa's and my life where we've seen this, too.  Here's one of them...

After Ewa and I got married, we lived in Warsaw, Poland for a year.  We worked for the Polish Baptist Union Publishing House during that time.  Part of the employment agreement with them was they would provide us a place to live.  That place ended up being a new, rather large apartment at their seminary in a suburb of Warsaw called Radosc (radosc means 'joy' in Polish).  Living there for that year was something of a 'full circle moment' for Ewa.  Here's why:

Building a Seminary

Previous to us getting married, Ewa had worked as a liaison between the North Carolina Southern Baptists and the Polish Baptist Union on a project.  That project involved building that seminary!  When she was originally asked to become the liaison, she was very concerned about how involved she might become with the project and wondered if taking the position was the right thing for her to do.  As the day of the decision loomed, she had a dream on night that two ministers she was acquainted with from the States had arrived in Warsaw on the train specifically to visit her with a message.  She woke up struck at the clarity of this dream and curious because she thought they were back Stateside at the time.  Later that day, out of the blue a phone call came from this pair of ministers saying they were at the Warsaw train station!  They asked if Ewa could come and meet with them as they had a message for her.  The message was to encourage her with taking this opportunity - God would support her in it.

Ewa worked on the project for a gruelling 3.5 years.  The work involved travelling to North Carolina in the winters to recruit and prepare construction teams that would come over to Poland in the warmer months.  When these teams came to Poland, she worked as their translator and guide.  The weekdays were spent working with the teams on the Seminary construction.  On the weekends she took the teams to see various churches and cities around Poland.  She had considerable time and effort (literally blood, sweat, and tears) invested in that Seminary construction partnership and project.

Even the land the seminary was built on had an interesting story.  Before WWII the land had been owned by a Jewish family.  During the war they had been protected and hidden by Polish Baptist Christians.  After the war, they gifted this land to the Polish Baptist Union as a token of appreciation.  However, the Union couldn't possess the land until after communism fell in Poland, which was why construction didn't start on the seminary until the early 1990s.   

Living at the Seminary

Our first year of marriage living at the seminary was poignant for us.  Ewa got to enjoy some of the 'fruit of her labour' in living there.  Because our apartment was so large, we were able to host lots of guests. I had Polish language lessons in the evenings there, learning better Polish grammar.  Ewa blew an electrical fuse in the complex installing a light fixture (220 volt system over there).  We bought our first clothes washer, our first piece of furniture, and our first TV in that apartment. We had a 2km one way walk through a forest to the bus stop for work each day.  I carried that new TV from that bus stop all the way back to the apartment the evening we bought it - what a workout!  God had provided our first living space for us in a special way.  It was a provision that closed a circle in completing a busy, fulfilling chapter in Ewa's life.

90s Europe Trip - The Bad Passport
90s Europe Trip - The Engagement Ring
90s Europe Trip - Vienna

Career Change and Work in Calgary

Some Context... Ewa and I knew that I would not be in the printing business the rest of my life.  The job at Webco in Leduc, Alberta was shi...