Sunday, May 19, 2024

Healing Love and Coffee - A Parable of Marriage

Start with Beans - A Cord of Three Strands

The Bible says in Galatians: 'A man reaps what he sows'.   Making good coffee is no different.  A man needs to start with good beans and a good roast.  Similar with marriage.  Begin rooted in God, and always turn to Him for help.

When Ewa and I got married, we chose a popular 'marriage verse' from proverbs as our promise from God, that He would help us in our union:  "A cord of three strands is not easily broken." Eccl. 12:3.  The meaning we took from this verse was Ewa and I each were a strand, God being the third strand.  As long as we remained close to God, He would help us stay together.

Photo by The Ian on Unsplash

The Grind - Life isn't Easy

You've got to grind those beans so the flavour comes out.  That's not really a peaceful, relaxing process.

The first five years of marriage for me were no cake-walk.  Ewa and I got married when I was 23 and she was 29 - so there was an age difference to content with.  Additionally, we grew up in different countries on different continents and had different mother tongues.  Ensuring our communication is effective and we genuinely understand each other in conversations is an ongoing challenge.  Vocal inflections, the use of imperative verbs, and how we tell stories can stimulate static in our relationship.

And then of course, life happens.  We lived in Poland together for a year after we got married, and then felt God telling us to move to Alberta (more details about that here).  We were geographically separated for 9 months while I worked in Canada and sponsored Ewa's immigration.  Our 'honeymoon vacation' didn't happen until she became a landed immigrant in Canada, nearly 2 years after we got married.  Soon afterwards we had to navigate employment issues and a career change, all the while trying to walk with God and believing he was with us.  I'd say the career change definitely 'nicked' that cord of three stands, even though we believed God was leading us that direction.

The Brew - Learn How to Truly Love

The 'love' that is espoused by this generation's media is like a coffee beverage made fast with syrup (I'm thinking of a Tim Horton's iced capp for you Canadians).  A good coffee brew takes time and hot water.  I think true love in a marriage grows over time and with persistence and patience.  

Around 2016-2018 I think both Ewa and myself found ourselves letting the busyness, worries, comparisons, anxieties, and frustrations of this life cause us to 'fall out of love' with each other.  While its easy to 'look for options', or escapes, or even use threatening ultimatums in those trying times, those aren't healthy paths to consider.

Getting to the 'end of my rope' (sorry, I know I'm mixing metaphors in the post a lot - I hope you can follow along), I asked God for help with our marriage.  I needed:

  1. A new perspective of who Ewa was - God's perspective.  
  2. To learn how to truly love her again.

God answered the my first request by helping me see Ewa as a little girl - something I had never seen or experienced, because I met Ewa when she was 29.  But she was still His little girl, so He knew how to make that happen. How did God help me see/experience that?

  • He told me to watch her when she slept/napped.  People let down their guard - all pretences fall away - when they sleep!  Its actually not hard to 'rewind time' and visualize a younger person when they are asleep - at least for me it seems.
  • He suggested I listen closer to her stories when she was a child and then helped me draw parallels to some of her current behaviours.  That helped my understand why she was afraid of some things, why her shopping habits were totally different than mine, and even why her personal communication and story-telling followed different patterns than I would expect (BTW, I still struggle with waiting for her to 'get to the point')
With the second request, I felt God was prompting me to 'do' something, to somehow show Ewa that I loved her in a meaningful and persistent way.  This came with two ideas:
  • Making her coffee every morning.  I don't drink coffee myself, but I am up earlier than Ewa for work every day.  So I learned how she makes her coffee and I made that my morning 'labour of love'.  The results of this actually surprised me.  I don't know what I was expecting, but clearly Ewa appreciates her morning coffee being brewed for her a lot more than I realized.  It went miles further in helping her feel I was loving and caring for her than I expected it would.  I still make her daily coffee to this day.
  • Calling her by her Polish diminutive name and other loving nicknames instead of her 'plain, legal' name.  She much prefers I call her 'Ewunia' or 'Baby-doll' or some other fun nick-names.  I honestly don't know how I missed this in our first 15-20 years of marriage, because it also made a huge difference for us.
This is THE coffee machine mentioned above.

Savour the Flavour

For all these steps and suggestions above to work, I had to persist in them, and I had to be patient to wait for the result.  I'd also say that I'm definitely not perfect, and there are times where Ewa has extended grace, mercy, and forgiveness to me when I was not so lovable.  It takes three cords to make that strong rope, and this post mostly focuses on two of those cords.  I'm sure Ewa has her own perspective on this marriage journey of ours and her own bean 'blend' and 'flavour' she savours.

I'm thankful to say that now the majority of our time together we can be silly, have fun with each other, and enjoy each other's company.  My wife and I are celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary this year!  

A Benediction

When I started writing this post, I made some notes on generic things that I thought helped put our relationship back together.  Those quick notes looked like this below:
  • Persist in:
    • an intentional relationship with God
    • being real and honest with God
    • loving mercy and walking in forgiveness
    • hope and faith in God - that He is a good Father and your safety is found in Him
What I thought was cool later when I reviewed them is they actually align with parts of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (the love chapter):

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Vacations and Volvos

God Cares

God cares about the little things.  More than once on a family vacation, He gave me a mini-parable of His tender mercy in providing safe, comfortable transportation for us to use.  This is important to me as a Dad and husband, and really means a lot to me.  As often as we rent cars on vacation (not very often), I couldn't help but notice that we ended up with a Volvo SUV on more than one occasion.  Volvos are a brand I never thought I'd drive because I considered them a luxury vehicle.  Here's those stories.

Volvo 1 

Up until 2012, I had never rented a vehicle.  That year we decided to do a 2 week trip to California and 'splurge' a bit on vacation.  We got a vacation rental in a nice coastal town and rented a Ford Explorer with all the bells and whistles, including a moon roof.  

We flew into L.A., and when we got the car rental agency, they said the Ford Explorer wasn't available.  I don't recall exactly why, but it was because of something out of their control.  I was quite disappointed, as I really wanted to experience (and have the kids experience) a moon roof.  Fortunately, before I got my knickers in knot about this, the agency offered to upgrade us to a Volvo XC90.  I wasn't expecting an upgrade, and it was a great surprise.  It felt like God was saying, 'Its ok, Perry - I got this.'  I definitely enjoyed driving that vehicle around southern California for the next two weeks.

Our Volvo XC90 in a hotel parking lot by Disneyland.

Volvo 2

Seven years later, we did another significant family trip - this time to see family in Poland.  We decided to rent a vehicle for the 2nd half of the trip as we'd be driving around southern Poland a fair bit, taking the kids to see where my wife grew up, doing some exploring into the Czech Republic, and visiting relatives.  When we booked this vehicle online, we didn't know exactly what make and model we'd get.  It was just a 'mid-size 5 seat SUV'

Lo and behold, when we got the rental agency at the airport, the only SUV they had left was a Volvo XC 40.  What a great vehicle for 'zipping around' on a European vacation - small enough to park anywhere easily and manoeuvre on some those skinny European roads, and it had all the features we needed, including GPS which was super helpful on the unfamiliar drives.

Again, it felt like God was saying 'Let me help you enjoy your family vacation.  Don't worry about the SUV, I've got that covered.'  

The XC40 parked in Ewa's brother's driveway in Poland

"And the very hairs on your head are all numbered.
So don't be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.
"
Luke 12:7

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

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Remembering The Kindness Of God in Raising Our Kids

Remembering God's Kindness

I regularly read devotions from the ministry 'Our Daily Bread.'  Recently this particular one hit home with me.  It references a couple verses in Isaiah that immediately made me think of a situation with each of our kids growing up, and how God's kindness to them (and to us as parents) really helped.  The verses go like this:

'I'll make a list of God's gracious dealings,
all the things God has done that need praising,
All the generous bounties of God,
His great goodness to the family of Israel - 
Compassion lavished, love extravagant'
.....
In all their troubles, he was troubled too.
He didn't send someone else to help them.
He did it himself, in person.
Out of His own love and pity he redeemed them.
He rescued them and carried them along for a long, long time.'
Isaiah 63:7, 9

Our Daughter and Anxiety

When our daughter was going into grade 7, our whole family agreed together that both kids would switch schools to a local Christian school.  It was really important that we engaged them in that decision because that first year in the new school for Kornelia wasn't easy.  She had a hard time making friends, and had an intense struggle with anxiety.  Sometime she found it hard to sit in class because of this, and large assemblies with the whole school were agony for her.

Her teacher, and particularly the assistant teacher for her class began to pressure us to get some professional help for her.  We weren't keen on jumping into this right away, and did a lot of praying and talking with Kornelia about it.  We were going to a small group at the time, and one of the ladies there was a counsellor.  When we informally ran our concerns about Kornelia by her, she agreed with us that trying to work with Kornelia personally and patiently was the best plan forward.  Gradually, over the course of the next couple of years, as Kornelia became more comfortable with the school, the teachers, and her classmates, God took the anxiety away.  

God's kindness in this entire experience was evident when, at graduation, Kornelia played her guitar and sang solo alone on stage in front of the entire assembly of graduates and their families.  Following the ceremony, her grade 7 teacher signed Kornelia's grad picture frame with 'God is good!  Look at how far you've come since grade 7, Kornelia!'  

The fam at Kornelia's Grad Ceremony
The fam at Kornelia's Grad Ceremony

Our Son and Community

The same school move had an impact on our son Erik as well.  He also had a difficult time finding friends, and was bullied during that first year after the move (yes, in a Christian school).  He's a sensitive guy and this troubled him for some time.  He would have a close friend for a while, but then that friend would find another interest (or friend), or move away, and Erik would feel alone again.  

This feeling was magnified for Erik when as a junior he was asked to play drums with the senior worship team.  He made good friends there, but they weren't in his grade and he lamented that fact on numerous occasions.  I don't think I understood just how important friends and community were for Erik at the time.  I'm not sure he knew how to articulate it, or if I missed a queue somewhere.  Its quite possible he did communicate his heart in this area to his Mom and I underestimated its importance.

Erik got older and this particular school had a tradition of taking its grade 11 classes on a missions/field trip to an orphanage in Guatemala.  It was a big deal for every student in grade 11, and the class prepared all year for the trip with fundraisers, training, and planning skits and work teams.  All the parents, including us, prayed that the trip would have a life changing impact on our kids.  In Erik's case it had a significant, lasting affect.

I don't know all the details of what happened, but apparently in one of the evening debriefs with the class, the lead chaperone pleaded to not leave what happened there behind.  This left an impact on Erik and he felt that God was prompting him to do something about it.  He made a promise to not remain passive anymore but to be active in building community.  And when they got home, he took the initiative to make that happen.

Since that time, continuing all the way to current day (6 years later!) he and a number of his friends from that class have been meeting as a small group - of their own accord - on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.  Its not always a spiritual discussion, and that's fine.  They keep each other accountable and look out for each other.  Its really been special to see how God has answered the cry of Erik's heart for friendship and community from when he was young.

A candid snapshot of Erik from the Guatemala trip

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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
  • He will be with me 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 man to be alone.'  While I do enjoy my wife's companionship and she is a fantastic helpmate in many problems, 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..

Healing Love and Coffee - A Parable of Marriage

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