Sunday, February 11, 2024

A Prayer - For Friends and Family Who Don't Know God

 Dear God,

Thank You, that its Your kindness that leads us to repentance. 
Thank You, that You are the Good Shepherd who leaves the flock to save the one missing sheep.
Thank You, that You are willing that none should perish, but all should come to eternal life with You.

A Prayer for Family and Friends who don't Know God

God, I pray for my close family who don't know You,
For my extended family that doesn't know You,
For the people that I work with that don't know You,
And for the people I happen to bump into today that don't know You...

Help them all to:

  • Have open eyes to look and see Your kindness in their lives, past and present.  To see Your grace and love are greater than any bad thing that they have done, or will do.  
  • Have open ears to listen and hear Your works of kindness encouraging, calling, beckoning, and guiding them.
  • Have open hearts and understanding to grasp and embrace Your kindness, Your heart for them, how big You are, and everything You've done for them, past and present.  May they acknowledge in their life here that every good thing they've received and have is from You and Your kindness.  

Praying outside by a lake for people who don't know God
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

God, please bring people across their path who know You, who are filled with Your grace and love.  May those people point my family and friends to You and Your kindness in their lives.  Help me to also be someone like that.

Saturday, December 16, 2023

The Names of God - Jehovah Rapha

 God Our Healer

Why am I writing about the names of God? 
This name of God came about days after God parted the Red Sea for Moses and the Israelites.  Three days march inland they came to a place with water, but it was bitter.  God had Moses throw a stick in the water and the water became 'sweet.'  God then spoke to Moses saying (Exodus 15:26):

"If you listen, listen obediently to how God tells you to live in his presence, obeying his commandments and keeping all his laws, then I won’t strike you with all the diseases that I inflicted on the Egyptians;
I am God your healer."

In My Life...

Looking back, I can quickly think of several instances of God's healing work in my life.  Sometimes it was in conjunction with doctors.  Other times it was unexplainable naturally.  I've already written blog posts about a couple of these situations.  Here's the links to them:

My Second Bike Accident

See this link for a story on my first bad bike accident. 
I really enjoy mountain/trail riding with my bike in the summer.  Late July last summer (2022) I set out after work to do some trail riding in a large city park close to our house (Nose Hill Park).  The grass on the sides of the path had grown tall by this time, and the trails themselves where wore into the soil a ways from all the bike traffic - like one large rut.  

A trail in Nose Hill Park
I was tired, and going fast because I 'knew the trail well.'  Going around a left corner, I cut it short brushing against the tall grass and my front tire got caught up on the rutted side of the path.  I couldn't compensate my balance fast enough and fell off to the side, with my left hip taking the full force of the fall against a large rock embedded in the ground.  

The force of that stop almost knocked the wind out of me - certainly the pain in my hip took my breath away.  I fought through a minute or two of medical shock, and then walked around.  My while left leg was burning like my arm does when I hit my funny bone really badly.  After recovering for about 5 minutes, I abandoned the rest of my ride and slowly rode back home - fortunately it was downhill all the way.  I was in pain.

After a week, I still could not sleep on my left side and it was still somewhat painful to walk.  Sitting for work everyday was a chore - I did a lot of standup working during that time.  I decided to go see the doctor because things didn't seem to be healing as fast as I'd hoped, and my wife and I were planning to fly to Europe to see her family at the end of August.  I didn't see how that flight was going to work with the way my hip/leg was feeling.

The doctor had me take some x-rays, and then said they'd call if there was something further to be done.  I didn't hear from them for almost three weeks and THEN they called and said 'Oh, there's something with your x-ray that doesn't look right - like you may have fractured you pelvis.  Can we have you take another one?'  Great.  OK.  Did another round of x-rays and everything on them looked fine.  Good thing too, because we were leaving in a week, and the bone(s) already had weeks to heal.  

I was still very concerned about the flight as sitting for longer than an hour was uncomfortable.  Nine hours with minimal ability to move sounded a bit scary.  I prayed and asked God for help.  On the flight out, I had to use special pillows and sometimes get up and stand a while.   The very cool thing though, was on the flight home, I didn't feel the pain AT ALL!  I didn't have to use my special pillows or anything.  God healed my hip!

Cancer Healed!

Not long after we flew home, Ewa's mom was diagnosed with skin cancer on her forehead.  Unfortunately, it had been left for some time, so by the time it was treated with radiation (early spring 2023), a significant wound was left to heal.  While that was healing, she noticed some swelling on her neck around her ear.  She didn't think much of this at the time, but a couple of months later it had swelled quite large and was very painful.  After finally seeing the doctor about that, it was also diagnosed as cancer.

The doctors wouldn't prescribe chemo-therapy because they said it would basically kill Ewa's Mom, given her advanced age.  As a result, 5 rounds of radiation were prescribed again to try and deal with this new scourge.  After several weeks of relief following the final round of radiation for this new set of tumors,  swelling and pain started again.  Ewa's mom was so exhausted of all of this, she said she wasn't interested in more radiation or treatment going forward.  She had a visit with the doctor scheduled for Dec. 5 to see what the prognosis would be.

The Saturday before Dec. 5, we spoke with Ewa's Mom on the phone and things didn't sound good.  Getting off the phone, Ewa and I prayed believing the verses:

“...If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask,
my Father in heaven will do it for you."  Matt 18:19


and

"....Pray for one another so that you might be healed. The prayer of a godly person is powerful. Things happen because of it."  James 5:16

Dec. 5 came, and Ewa's brother called with a report about the doctor visit.  Everything went fine, no further radiation is required at this point, Mom looks and feels well.

What?  Ewa was confused, and immediately phoned her Mom.  Her Mom said on Saturday night she went to bed and she could hardly sleep because of the pain, but in the end she fell asleep... and slept better than she'd slept in weeks.  Waking up, she discovered that the swelling and the pain were gone, and the wound by her ear had closed up and was dry.  She had slept fine every night since.  At the doctor's office, the doctor hardly recognized Ewa's Mom because she had no dressing on the wound and she looked normal and healthy.  The doctor said, "You look like a new woman!"  God is good and He still heals!

Ewa with her parents in 2019

Other Names of God and My Experiences...

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Dream - God's Way

Dreaming

I used to enjoy listening to public speakers, pastors, and motivational gurus expound on 'Dream large!' and 'Follow your dream!' etc.  I love future thinking.  In fact, its one of my strongest strengths.  Dreaming large for me was easy.  When I considered the actual execution of those dreams and mixing that with ambition, practical living, and immediate responsibilities... some dreams stayed dreams, or only got half done.  As it turns out, Responsibility is my strongest strength, and I wasn't going to let my dreams take precedence over family life.  Hearing talks about dreaming started to get discouraging.

A Different Perspective

One day as I was reflecting on this (and perhaps wondering at the purpose of my life a little bit), I realized something:  God had been faithful to the 'dreams' in our hearts which we hadn't even entirely verbalized or prayed - dreams that were more meaningful and foundational than career pinnacles or bucket lists.  Let me explain further..

Years ago while Ewa and I were on our honeymoon here in Canada, we mused 'Wouldn't it be nice if we could bring Ewa's parents from Poland here to Canada and let them see what its like here.'  Her parents had never been outside Poland, and the beauty of the areas we were honeymooning was impossible to convey in a letter or a phone call. 

For me there was an additional unspoken, wishful thought of 'as our children grow up, what would be the ideal frequency of family visits given Ewa's side of the family lives in Poland?'  I never seriously considered what the 'right' answer would be - there was only the desire that the kids would be exposed to both sides of their family heritage and culture. 

We did not have resources to accomplish these 'dreams' at the time.  But God knew.  Over the years, He provided for means and resources to bring Ewa's parents here to Canada several times for extended stays, and for us to take our children to Poland several times as well.  Every visit had great memories and experiences for our kids and Ewa's family.  

As I considered this from the vantage point of grown children and completed trips and visits, I realized God had a different, better dream for us all along - one that included families, cultures, countries, and languages.  I was moved and filled with gratitude, realizing what God had brought about.

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

Dreams Come True

Some great memories:

Ewa's parents with us in the Canadian Rockies on their 
first trip to Canada in July 1997

Ewa's parents 2nd trip to Canada in Summer 1999
Here Kornelia is enjoying playing with Ewa's
Mom in Slave Lake, Alberta


Ewa's parents 3rd trip to Canada in 2006.
Here we're all playing on a playground in Radium, BC

This was also taken on Ewa's parents 3rd trip to
Canada.  Here they're enjoying a walk along Long
Beach on Vancouver Island.  This was one place in
particular we 'dreamed' about taking them


 Christmas/New Years 2007/2008
We were able to go to Poland and celebrate the
holidays as well as Ewa's parents 50th wedding
anniversary.


This is from that same Christmas trip.  On the return
flight home we were upgraded to business class on
the flight over the Atlantic Ocean. 
A real treat for all of us!


Ewa's parents last trip to Canada in 2009.
Here we're having a BBQ/picnic at a local park in 
Calgary with my parents

In 2013, Ewa's brother and his family were able to join us
for 3 weeks in the Summer.  Here we're enjoying a visit and
a laugh in our living room with my parents and brother.

We were able to visit Ewa's family in Summer, 2019
Ewa is with our kids, standing in front of Florian's
Gate in old town, Krakow










Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Peter - A Strong Statement and Grace (June 2023 Journal Entry)

A Strong Statement

I was reading a devotional this week and it mentioned Peter denying Christ with some other thoughts, and it got me thinking...

Both Matthew and Luke record Jesus saying "But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven." - a pretty hard-core, black and white statement that I'm sure Peter heard.  I certainly heard it in Sunday School and church growing up.  

Here's what struck me this week, after years of growing up with church teaching:

  • Peter must've been present and heard Jesus say "..deny me before men, and I'll deny you before my Father..." at some point while he was a disciple.
  • Most of the Gospels record Peter committing to following Jesus to death during the last supper, and Jesus responding with "Truly, I tell you, this very night you will deny me three times..."  Jesus knew Peter would deny him.  Jesus' words about 'deny me and I'll deny you before my Father' ring loudly in my ears!
  • Peter denied Jesus 3 times, just as Jesus said he would. Peter wept bitterly after he realized what he'd done.
  • Following Jesus' resurrection, Jesus forgave Peter and commissioned him for ministry and building/leading the church. 
God's grace, greater than all our sin - Jesus was full of grace and truth
Photo by Jackson David on Unsplash

Grace

So...  the behaviour of Jesus towards Peter when they met after the resurrection makes me think Jesus won't deny Peter before the Father in heaven.  'But, but, but....  Jesus said...'   My mind worked overtime trying to reconcile Jesus' strong statement with this behaviour.  

My conclusion?  I need a new, deeper understanding of God's grace.  A hymn and a verse quickly came to mind:
  • Grace Greater Than All Our Sin
        Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
        Freely bestowed on all who believe!
        You that are longing to see His face,
        Will you this moment His grace receive?
            Refrain:
            Grace, grace, God’s grace,
            Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
            Grace, grace, God’s grace,
            Grace that is greater than all our sin!

  • John 1:14
    The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth

Monday, June 12, 2023

Jacob - Stuck to God

Stuck

"We're going to Bethel.  I'm going to build an altar there to the God who answered me when I was in trouble and has stuck with me everywhere I've gone since".  Genesis 35:3 - The Message

Gum stuck on shoe - God stuck with Jacob Gen 35:3

Ever had gum stuck on your shoe on a warm day?  You can see it, feel it sticking to the pavement, hear it clicking as you step...  

I was talking with my wife about the verse above - how Jacob saw the blessing of God in his kids and his flocks, heard it every time he called Leah's kids' names and heard his flocks, and felt it wrestling God and limping afterwards.  My wife exclaimed, "That's just like gum stuck on a shoe!  I can see it, hear it, and feel it!"  I haven't been able to get that picture out of my head since.  God's blessing being hard to ignore.

Stubborn Persistence to...

Isn't it additionally interesting that Jacob sees God 'sticking with him', and Jacob's name means 'heal'?  He got that name because he was holding onto (stuck to) his twin brother's heal when he was born.  Then he wrestled with God and wouldn't let God go - stuck to him as well, until God changed his name and blessed him.  

Have you tried to get gum off of your shoe once its there?  Its not so easy.  Jacob was stubbornly persistent in pursuing a blessing.  What he didn't realize at first is that God would also be stubbornly persistent with him, pursuing him.  Reminds me of Psalms 23:6, "Surely Goodness and Mercy will follow me all the days of my life..."  

..A Smile, and a Blessing.

People may disagree with me here, but please give me a little wiggle room.  

As I was reading over Jacob's 'stuck' story, I noticed something else.  Jacob and Esau had a pretty tumultuous relationship as brothers, and later as nations, with the exception of the day that Jacob returns to Canaan.  Upon his return, he says to Esau, 

'...When I saw your face, it was as the face of God smiling on me...' 
Genesis 33:10b  The Message.

How is Jacob making this comparison?  How does he know what God's face looks like?  It turns out he actually saw God face to face (his words, not mine) just the evening before.  I can just picture Jacob hanging onto God with all he's got, and God smiling at him saying 'Let me go!'  Jacob replying 'Not until you bless me!' and God laughing at him - not in a mean way - and blessing him.  Genesis 32:29.

I love it.

Saturday, April 15, 2023

The Names of God - Emmanuel

God with Us

Why am I writing about the names of God? 
Another important name of God in the Bible that was given to Jesus (prophesied by Isaiah, attributed to Jesus by Matthew) is Emmanuel - God with Us.  

While I don't have a specific experience that stands out where I could say that makes this name of God significant to me, I take a lot of comfort from all the verses in the Bible that tell me God is with me.  I need this comfort and encouragement because believing that He is with me is a faith journey a lot of the time.  I will admit, I'm sometimes a bit jealous that the people of Jesus' time actually got to see him, hear him, touch him.

Bible verses that I often remember in my prayers when I thank God for his presence with me are:

  • He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother - Proverbs 18:24
  • He is an ever-present help in time of need - Psalm 46:1
  • Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He is with me - Psalm 23:4
  • I will be with you always, even unto the end of the age - Matthew 28:20
  • They will call his name Emmanuel, God with us - Matthew 1:23

God with Me

When I was growing up, I made more than one announcement to my parents that I wanted to be a hermit, live in the woods along, and work my own trap line.  After I left home, the idea of being a hermit didn't last long.  While I do enjoy my solitude, I also enjoy companionship.  Walks with my wife lately are a cherished activity.  

One of the first things God said in Genesis after he created Adam was 'It is not good for many to be alone.'  Sometimes even my wife can't understand the things I struggle with - a work issue, or something else - and I can feel very 'alone' in a problem.  The comfort of knowing that God is 'an ever-present help in time of need' is paramount.  He promised to be with me, listen to me, and walk through this with me.  The catch? I have to believe these promises.

There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother
Photo by Jan Canty on Unsplash

Other Names of God Significant to me..

Saturday, March 25, 2023

God's Provision With Work

God is Our Provider - Jehovah Jireh

In the post linked here I talk about how Abraham gave God the name of Jehovah Jireh because he had a profound circumstance in his life where he saw God providing for him.  In that post I include a couple of examples of how God reached down into my life and provided for me and us as a family.  In this post I'll share a couple more short stories of how God has provided for us.

In many cultures around the world, men are seen as the 'providers' of the household.  It was no different for me growing up, and so when I had a family I felt that same responsibility.  So it means a lot when God helps me and aligns my career so that I can stay working and provide for my family.  I see that as God's provision for us.  Here's a couple examples of that...

Career Change!

After working in the print/publishing industry through most of the 1990's, I could see that it was not a growth industry, and there were other career choices that I was more suited to and afforded more hope to make a decent living.  Background context for this career change can be found at this link.    In short, I quit my job as a printing pressman, and we moved our family to Calgary so I could get educated as a software developer.  We strongly believed God was in this decision to move and transition.

I started IT school in January 2001 and that spring saw the beginnings of the 'dot.bomb' era in the stock market.  Up to this point, investors had been bullish (enthusiastic) about investing in IT companies.  However several large IT companies had posted questionable numbers that spring (Nortel being the main Canadian example) and the dot.com bubble burst causing stocks to slide.  As a result many IT companies went into receivership...  including the IT school I was going to.  While our school was closed, the receiver kept the Vancouver school open.  They gave us a living allowance and had us finish school there.  Because of all this I knew the IT job market was going to be tough to get into for a 'newbie' like me.  I consequently tried to get a certification in Java programming while I was still in school.... and I failed that test.  I resolved to write the test again after school was done (and I had more time to study for it).  Upon finishing school, I studied for two weeks, wrote the test and passed.   God helped me press in and finish that goal.

Returning back home, I spent most of the next 10 months looking for work.  I called every software company in the yellow pages listings one by one, and asked for a job.  When I was turned down, I learned to ask if they knew of any other companies that were hiring.  I got a 2 month contract this way, but I completed it with no further opportunities.  We had been living off of our student credit line and in the end I had to take a job framing houses with a friend to make ends meet.  This felt terrible, kind of like a surrender.  However, after 4 weeks of framing houses, I got a call from a large IT consulting company who was interested in hiring me because of the Java certification I had persisted in obtaining after school. 

As badly as I wanted that java developer position, I managed to get lost driving to the interview.  (This was before the days of Google Maps)  Realizing I was going to be late, I phoned to let them know I was lost and confirmed the directions to the office.  Fortunately, I did well on the interview and they offered me the job.  God provided a great first job as a software developer for me when the industry was not hiring junior developers, and in spite of my fumbling tardiness to the first interview.  This opportunity was entirely God's favour and provision for us!

A Promise Kept

Having worked in the software industry for about 15 years, I had not had the opportunity to work at a software Start Up.  In 2016, that opportunity came across my path with some former co-workers.  I signed on as a contractor, and then 6 months later was encouraged to become an employee.   I would get paid substantially less as an employee, but I'd get stock.  I made a deal (really, a promise) with my wife that if and/or when our savings ran out in this employee situation, I would look for a contract position again.  

A couple years later, that's exactly what happened.  Our savings were nearly depleted as we'd supplemented our income from the start-up to keep paying all the bills.  It just so happened that within a week or two of our savings getting to a critical level, a fellow from a previous company I'd worked at contacted me with a well paid contract position.

I was a bit torn.  I really enjoyed working at the startup with my team, but I'd made a promise to my wife.  I asked God what to do, and He gave me a verse:  "You’ll go back to your old work of planting vineyards on the Samaritan hillsides, and sit back and enjoy the fruit—oh, how you’ll enjoy those harvests!" Jeremiah 31:5. Your old work?!  God didn't need to tell me anything else.  I realized then and there that this was His provision and direction for me.

software work - computer keyboard
Transitioning into that new position, I also realized that knowing God wanted me to make that move was crucial, as it was the encouragement I needed to stay there and persist in what we were doing.  I was part of a very small team with the responsibility to help set up a new discipline/department, and there were lots of challenges and things to learn.


Wednesday, March 8, 2023

The Names of God - Jehovah Jireh

Jehovah Jireh - God Is My Provider

Why am I writing about the names of God? 
Jehovah Jireh (God is my Provider) was a name given to God by Abraham.  I'll be honest right now and say that I don't think I fully understand all of the idiosyncrasies behind the story of Abraham getting this revelation of God as his provider.  A simple perspective:  Abraham was a rich man, blessed by God.  But God wanted to test Abraham, and in that test He asked Abraham to give up - relinquish - the most valuable thing in his life.  Abraham obediently complied.  Right at the moment when God knew Abraham was going to be completely obedient and faithful, God stopped him and provided a replacement.  In that provision, Abraham saw God as Jehovah Jireh. I believe this sequence of events meant more to both of them than I'll ever know.

In My Life...

In my life, my perspective on God's provision has been the source of some of my greatest challenges and victories.  God's timing and method of provision didn't always line up to my expectations.  In one specific instance, that turned into a bitter disappointment for me which you can read about here.  Many other times, He provided for me ahead of time, before I knew what was coming or what to ask for.  You can read about many of these stories on the links on this page.  I'll chronicle some additional ones below.

Teaching at SAIT

After various experiences with piano teachers growing up, I always thought I'd make a good teacher.  However, I never had the opportunity to get a degree.  After a decade of working on printing presses, God directed my wife and I to make a major career change, and that offered broader opportunities that surprised me.  

A couple of years after this career change, I was riding public transit to work and saw an advert for a software development course at the local technical college.  On a whim (God's direction, no doubt), I thought I'd email them and see if they needed any instructors.  That email got forwarded to the coordinator for the department who ended up being a software teacher of mine from the past.  He offered me an opportunity on the spot, and I ended up teaching at the Southern Alberta Institue of Technology for 14 years and I loved it!  God's provision in my career!

Southern Alberta Institute of Technology
Heritage Hall

A Missed Flight

In September 2022 my wife and I flew to Poland for a short holiday and family trip (my wife grew up in Poland).  It was our first time travelling after the Covid lockdowns, and airports and airlines still had Covid protocol that everyone was required to follow.  On our return trip, some passengers didn't want to follow protocol and made our flight from Krakow to Frankfurt late.  We ran through the Frankfurt airport to catch our connecting flight back home, and saw it still at the gate.  However the airline had cancelled our boarding passes because they knew our baggage wouldn't make the flight.  It was pretty disheartening to see the plane we were supposed to be seated on leaving the gate without us.  

God, however, provided through the airline for us to stay overnight in Frankfurt for on the airline's dime.  And we had enough time to take a taxi into downtown and actually be tourists there for several hours - a city both of us had never previously explored.  It was a great surprise mini-adventure for us at the end of our time away, and we took full advantage of God's provision there.

Selfies in downtown Frankfurt

For he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.  Proverbs 2:8

Other Names of God Significant to me..

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Finding Your Roots - My Story

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
    dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:3-4

Finding Your Roots

We enjoy watching 'Finding Your Roots' on PBS with Henry Louis Gates Jr.  We quickly get engrossed in the family histories and intrigue that accompanies different celebrities as they discover their ancestry.  I find it easy to wish I had an opportunity to discover my family history with the help of a bunch of experts like Dr. Gates has.  And then I remember, we had something like an episode of Finding Your Roots happen with us more than once!  Here's part 1....

Paul's Birth

My brother and I are Irish twins - 355 days apart - so I remember nothing about his birth.  My parents tell a story though, that when he was born, my Dad's foster Mom looked at him and told my Dad he should really investigate his ancestry.  Why?  My Dad was a foster child.  He became a ward of the government when he was 5 and his mother was no longer considered fit to care for him.  His father wasn't in the picture.  So why would my brother's birth suddenly bring this up?  It seemed my brother looked completely different than me when he was born.  I was fair and blue eyed.  He apparently had almost black hair and dark brown eyes.  Where would this come from?

40 Years Later...

Fast forward 40 years later.  My wife and our kids were visiting my parents, and my Mom asked our daughter what she was learning in school.  Our daughter answered that she was learning about the first nations people of Canada and was keenly interested in them.  She was so engrossed in learning about them that she told my Mom that she wished she could've been born into a first nation.  My Mom smiled and replied, 'Well, you know...' and launched into the story of my brother's birth, what we knew of my Dad's history, and the outside chance that there may be first nations blood in our family line on my Dad's side.  Kornelia was beside herself learning about this, and couldn't stop thinking about it for the rest of the day.

That evening when I was tucking her into bed she brought it all up again.  'Do you think we have some first nations blood in us, Daddy?' she asked.  'That would be so cool if we did...'  I agreed and helped her say her goodnight prayers.  Leaving her room, I wondered if perhaps, with so much information available on the internet, there might be a chance to find some clue or thread of my Dad's family history.  I decided to give a couple searches a whirl....

Knowing my Dad's full name, his birthdate, and the town in which he was born turned out to be the keys to a successful search.  I think a major God wink had something to do with it was well.  :-)  Within an hour, I had unmistakably discovered my Dad in a family tree line (from his real parents) stretching back to the mid-1700's - with several first nations grandmas!  I was beside myself with excitement and couldn't wait to share this news with my kids and my Dad.

Alex McKenzie

The most colourful character discovered in my Dad's history was a fellow named Alex McKenzie.  He is said to possibly be a relative of the explorer Sir Alexander MacKenzie, but there is no proof of that.  Born near Trios-Rivieres, Quebec, Alex was orphaned at 3 years old and sent back to Scotland to be educated and nurtured by his paternal relatives.  Later, back in Canada, Alex snowshoed across northern Alberta by himself, ending up in Peace River.  He worked there for the Hudsons Bay Company as a fur trader for 27 years.  Retiring from fur trading in 1888, he began farming in the area, and was well known for his stories of adventures and escapades as a fur trader in the north.  He died in 1919 from the Spanish flu at 76 years old.

Alex McKenzie - wearing his traditional fur trader outfit

The history I found even included a picture of Alex McKenzie!  Here he's wearing the typical coureur-de-bois outfit, formerly worn by all Hudson’s Bay Company employees and natives in the northern Alberta country – a blue blanket cloth mackinaw with cream blanket cloth cape and red trimmings, a turban cap to match and black pants with trimmings of Indian design.

Its About Identity

We all seem to have an innate desire that surfaces some time in our lives to understand where and whom we come from.  It can help give direction and confirmation to our own sense of purpose, destiny, and self-worth.  My daughter was ecstatic when she learned more about our family history and our roots here in North America.  She wanted to know as much as possible and find out if our first nations relations were close enough to get us any benefits (they weren't).  When I told my Dad about what I'd found of his family history, he was very reserved.  Understandably so, considering his life experience.  It took him a long time to warm up to the idea that he has a genuine family history with real blood relatives still living in the province.  

God knew that many people would struggle with their personal heritage and ancestry.  Wars, divorce, diseases, and other disasters are brutally efficient in wiping out traces of our histories.  In other situations, we'd prefer to forget what we know about those who preceded us.  For each of us, no matter the background situation, God offers a new life and a new heritage.  He says:

I can give you a new name if you will accept the gift of my Son.
Along with that is a fantastic, eternal inheritance I've prepared for you.
You will have a place at my table, and a room in my house.
You can call me 'Daddy'

(see John 3:16, John 14:3, Psalms 23, Revelation 2:17, Galatians 4:6)

Want to know more?  Contact me at netfocusconsulting@gmail.com

Click here for more true stories of God's protection and work in my life

Monday, January 30, 2023

The Names of God - El Shomri

God is my protector

Why am I writing about the names of God?   El Shomri, another name for God, means God is my protector.  While there is no specific instance of a person in the Bible calling God this name directly, it is used several times in the Psalms..

Psalm 31:20:  'In the shelter of your presence you hide them from all human intrigues;  you keep them safe in your dwelling from accusing tongues.'

Psalm 121:5-6:  'The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.'

So how have I seen God as my protector?

Experience #1: The Landslide

In the early spring of 1990, the Vancouver coast got a lot of rain - notably more than it usually gets.  I was a freshman, majoring in music at a college close to Abbotsford at this time.  The college was located up a hill in the small town of Clayburn, BC.  It poured so much one cold weekend that the road up to the college washed out.  There had been a significant landslide, and it was within walking distance of our dorm.  

Road Washout in Clayburn, BC
Road Washout at WPBC in Clayburn, BC

That afternoon couple of sophomores came up to the dorm, muddy all over.  They said there was some incredible mud - almost like quicksand - at the bottom of the landslide and it was 'pretty cool' to mess around it.  Being relatively young and inexperienced, I thought this sounded like a bunch of fun.  I changed into some throw-away cloths and headed down with them to the slide.  Sure enough, it was quite muddy down there and the mud was deep.  One could easily sink dangerously low if not careful.  We spent the better part of 45 minutes down there exploring the slide.  

S.A. and G.D playing with me in the mudslide
S.A and G.D playing with me in the mudslide

What I didn't think about until decades later was what a dangerous position we put ourselves in playing in the mud at the bottom of the slide.  Very often (particularly if the rain keeps up) a secondary slide can happen.  We would've been directly in its path and would've stood no chance in getting to safety.  Maneuvering in that mud was slow and painstaking work.  God protected us in our youthful ignorance there that day.

Experience #2: Kamikaze Deer

Fast-forward 15 years to 2005.  Our family was on a trip from Calgary to Edmonton to celebrate a new business contract I had just signed.  We always prayed for God's protection before we left on longer driving trips like this, and on this trip was saw Him answer quite tangibly.

After praying, the kids settled in the backseat of our Honda Accord and we left.  The speed limit on that freeway between Calgary and Edmonton is 110km/hr and we were going at least that fast.  :-)  We had just crested a long hill and had a beautiful view as we continued north.  This particular day, the view happened to include a herd of deer sprinting from the west side of the highway, intent on crossing the highway and making their way east.  

I noticed them from a long way off and continued speeding north, confident that they would pass some distance in front of us, which they did.  Unseen until too late was a straggler to their group.  This deer's life mission was to catch up to its buddies.  I didn't expect the deer to be so single-minded, so I kept moving.  Our trajectories met - the deer realizing this before me, jumped and managed to mostly hurtle the car.  The car grazed its legs as it flew over our roof.  This caused the deer to fall when it landed.  It quickly got up and followed its friends east.  I continued north with a good shot of adrenaline and a lot of questioning from my wife.  The car had a hardly noticeable bump on the roof and an absent radio antenna after that.  God really protected us there.

Experience #3: Post-Covid Flying

In the last 5 months, I've done a bunch of flying - some personal and some business.  I've logged close to 20,000 miles on 12 flights through/to 7 airports in 6 countries.  There have been lots of Covid strains in the air during that time, many of them 'more virulent and contagious'  than before.  To my chagrin, I've sat beside people who have coughed halfway across the continent.  We've prayed for God's protection as we've travelled and we haven't gotten sick.  I genuinely see that as God's protection as the planes, airports, and security lines are always crowded with few people wearing masks.

My wife and I flying to Poland in Sept 2022 - God's Protection
My wife and I flying to Poland in Sept 2022

Sunday, January 29, 2023

A Wasted Life? Journal Entry Jan 2023

Growing up, I was keenly aware that my life should mean something.   Multiple sources encouraged me to avoid 'wasting time' and 'wasting money' etc.  Days were busy - school, basketball, volleyball, concert band, stage band, piano lessons and practice, part-time jobs...  I had a litany of activities to ensure my time and my resources weren't wasted.  

As an adult, the acute desire to avoid wasting my life hasn't dwindled.  But marital, career, and family responsibilities easily obfuscate (or at the very least, add complexity) to what it means to avoid 'wasting my life.'  What makes a life meaningful?  Whose definition of 'a meaningful life' should we follow to ensure that our life isn't wasted and holds value?

This train of thought and line of questioning came to the fore this week when our worship band decided to read a five day devotional together (online) called 'Don't Waste Your Life.'  We were doing this together through The Bible App.  Its formatted so you can read the devotion along with some scripture, and then comment together on it online.  

To say I struggled with the prose in this set of devotions would be putting things mildly.  The phrasing of the thoughts comes across very strong and decisive.  I actually found when I finished reading a devotion, my own thoughts and feelings were in complete turmoil and upheaval.  I frankly felt like I didn't measure up and my life wasn't good enough.  The devotions had sentences like: 

'The wasted life is the life without passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples.' 

'The opposite of wasting your life is to live by a single soul-satisfying passion for the supremacy of God in all things.'

'If our single, all-embracing passion is to make much of Christ in life and death, and if the life that magnifies him most is the life of costly love, then life is risk, and risk is right.  To run from it is to waste your life.' 

I believe the turmoil and upheaval I felt was not positive. If the author intentionally wrote this way to challenge believers to action (to avoid wasting their lives) he/she was quite successful.  I would argue that the author took their 'writing license' too far.  How can I live like this, in this day in age, in a 'secular' IT job the demands my attention and careful thought most of the day?  Never mind the familial demands on my attention and time when I am done work for the day.

The author tried to speak to this in the last devotion, saying things like: 'Secular work is not a waste when we make much of Christ from 8-5' and 'Through his scattered saints he spreads a passion for his supremacy in all things for the joy of all peoples.'  I just couldn't get over everything else that was said, and the voice it was written in.  So absolute, confident, and binding.  I wouldn't be able to live up to this author's expectations without feeling condemned all the time.

Photo by Molnár Bálint on Unsplash

I'm tired of having to sift through devotions like this after trying to live my life for God.  How does this author live?  Does their life line up to these broad, sweeping, absolute, theological statements?  Have they ever worked in a secular job?  Does their spouse think the author's life aligns with what their writing?  How do I know?  If I don't feel joyful, do I have to manufacture or synthesize joy or risk living a wasted life for the day?  Bottom line - I find it challenging (read irritating) to submit my heart to strong teaching like this when I can't see it lived out in front of me.

Of course I don't want to waste my life.  I want to live for God, and seek him first.  I want to 'do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly' with him, 'making it my ambition to live a simple life' and 'give thanks in all things, for this is God's will for me.'  My understanding is that the fruits of the spirit (love, joy peace, patience, etc.) should be natural by-products of a healthy relationship with God, not a compulsion based on some strongly worded paragraphs.  I don't want to be so heavenly minded that I'm no earthly good.  I want to be able to act and communicate with people without them thinking I'm a weirdo.  

Matthew 9:36 'When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.'

Matthew 11:28-30. 'Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.'


A Prayer - For Friends and Family Who Don't Know God

 Dear God, Thank You, that its Your kindness that leads us to repentance.  Thank You, that You are the Good Shepherd who leaves the flock to...