Monday, March 26, 2012

It's Purple Day! (National Epilepsy Awareness Day)

In the early fall of 2004, our youngest son crawled into bed with my wife and I in the middle of the night.  It wasn't an every night occurence, but it also wasn't a huge surprise to us. Shortly after he settled down, he began to make some strange noises.  Within 30 seconds we realized something was very wrong as he began to have a grand mal seizure.  You have to remember it was dark, we were only half awake and the 2 minute event felt like it went on for an hour.  Neither Barb or I had any context for what was happening.  When he stopped convulsing, we weren't sure what to do next.  His eyes closed, his body relaxed and after a few minutes everything seemed normal.  I'm not sure that either one of us slept after that.  He went to school and apart from being a bit tired, seemed fine.  By the time we got to the doctor that afternoon, there was no indication that anything had happened.  Our doctor assured us that a night seizure was not uncommon and that it was quite likely a once in a lifetime event.  We appreciated his insight and proceeded as though it was behind us.

After several more events, we decided that we needed to take further action and so we visited our doctor again and he ordered some tests.  The diagnosis was that our son had a form of childhood epilepsy.  The good news was that as long as his seizures were limited to the night that he would most likely outgrow when he came into adolescence. His condition wasn't serious enough that he required medication, it was more just a matter of being attentive of the length and severity of the seizures.  If they increased in their intensity or extended beyond several minutes, we were to call for medical assistance. We were fortunate that he shared a room with his older brother and that he was very good at letting us know if his younger brother was having a seizure.

It was scary and nerve wracking time for us.  There were times that he was aware that 'something' had happened.  There were other times when he just awoke after it was over and was tired and lethargic. Perhaps the most difficult time was when he had seizured in our bed during a night time visit at around 6 AM.  He slept for about 30 minutes after it was over.  When he awoke, we visited and chatted as everything seemed 'normal'.  He announced he had to go to the bathroom and jumped off our bed to use the ensuite.  When he wobbled and stumbled, Barb picked him up, got him to the bathroom and then brought him back to bed.  He was a bit embarassed that he had fallen but we visited and talked together for a few minutes longer.  He announced he was going back to his room and bounced out of our bed again.  I will never forget his look of fear and confusion as he looked back after wobbling and falling again.  I don't know that I've ever felt so powerless and helpless.

For almost 3 years to the day, we watched our son suffer grand mal seizures every couple of months. During that time, he played sports and remained a healthy and active boy.  There were times when we thought we had an idea what caused the seizures and then other times where we were completely taken by surprise. What we ultimately learned is that you can't really predict when a seizure is going to happen.

Today is National Epilepsy Awareness Day or 'Purple Day'.  I regret that I didn't realize that it was 'Purple Day' until it was too late to participate.  Our son had his last seizure Thanksgiving weekend 2007.  He is a healthy, athletic young man who is an A student. He is a student athlete and plays AAA baseball. We are very grateful for God's kindness to him and to us in this. We fully recognize that there are many parents, children and individuals who have not been as fortunate as we have been with this condition.  Our experience has taught us that people with epilepsy are not fragile or disabled in some way.  They are normal, bright, intelligent people who live with a condition that requires great courage and grace.  Some suffer in ways that are largely unseen.  Others experience seizures in very public ways. The temptation is to either stare or run.  Try to avoid both.  The person experiencing difficulty needs your help. Click here for more information on how to help someone experiencing a seizure.

MLA John va Dongen (Abbotsford South) Joins BC Conservative Party

I've been attending Question Period for over 5 years. In that time, I've seen a lot of things. Some that make you laugh, some that make you shake your head and some that just make your wonder. After a while it's a bit of the same old, same old theatre that we call Question Period. I saw something new today....

At the end of Question Period MLA John van Dongen (Abbotsford South) stood up to make a personal statement. That's a bit unusual because statements usually happen before Question Period. It became more unusual as he began to speak. I was aware that he was unhappy with what was happening in his party and wasn't entirely surprised that he would choose to  resign from the BC Liberals. 

I was probably as surprised most other people when he announced he would be sitting as a member of the BC Conservative Party.   It would be safe to say that heads swivelled and eyes grew wide as he made his announcement. 

The expression 'crossing the floor' has always left me with the impression that the person actually crosses the floor.  I can tell you that it doesn't really happen until the next day.  In Mr. van Dongen's case, he won't really cross the floor at all, although he will sit with the independent members in the Legislature. 

This marks the first time in a very long time that the BC Conservatives will have a member in the Legislature.

Change of this magnitude is never easy. This has been a difficult decision for Mr.van Dongen.  We wish him well in his continued service to his constituents of Abbotsford South and encourage you to pray for him in the days to come.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Please .... Just DO it!!

I've spent the entire almost 50 years of my life connected to the church.( I wasn't born in a church, but I'm pretty sure I was taken there within hour of my arrival.)  That doesn't make me perfect, but it does mean that I've seen and heard a few things along the way. As one of my former pastors used to say, 'I've been around the track more than once.'

I attended a prayer meeting recently.  As sometimes happens in prayer meetings, people began to share certain things that they believed God wanted them to share with the group.  That might sound unusual to some of you, but I believe that God does speak to people and that there are times when what He says should be shared with others who are there.  In this particular meeting, the general theme of what was being shared was something like this:

'God is calling us to wake up because He is getting ready to do something.'
 'He is about to give us the tools to do what He is asking us to do.' 

Before you read further, let me say that you may not necessarily like what follows. I'm not saying it to be offensive or disrespectful. I just think that it needs to be said.

Imagine if you will, that the finalists for the 100M Olympic Gold Medal Final are on the track before the big race.  The announcement goes out that the race is about to start and the athletes continue to mill about visiting with each other about how great the race is going to be.  The announcement goes out again, and again, and again... and the athletes continue to mill about discussing how great the race is going to be.  The announcement keeps repeating, the crowd keeps waiting and the athletes keep telling each other how great the race is going to be. 

Kind of absurd don't you think?  And yet I think I'm seeing it happen in the church.  (If you are looking for the place where this gets edgy, here's the first spot...)  Perhaps the church is so overexposed to the 'God is about to do the BIG thing' message that no one is stepping up to participate in the race.  

Imagine with me again.... this time the athletes have responded to the announcement, they are all in the starting blocks, focused on the lane before them.  They hear the starter say 'Ready.... Set .......' and again 'Ready...... Set ...... ' and again 'Ready...... Set......' and on and on it goes.... At some point one of the runners stands up and steps away from the blocks, others follow because they rightly conclude that the starter is never going to say 'GO'.  (If you are still reading, here's the 2nd spot....) At some point those who were ready to run conclude that the race is never going to happen and walk away from the starting line.  I've met enough disillusioned Christians who no longer believe that God is willing or able to do much of anything to know that the race that never starts has taken it's toll on the team.

There are at least 3 things that I know to be true:

1)  God is ALWAYS doing a BIG thing. It's not as though He stops and starts depending on His mood.  God's plans, purposes and thoughts are enormous!  He has more in mind than what you and I can even begin to comprehend AND He is ALWAYS working to see those things come to pass. God is unstoppable  We just don't always see it.  Henry Blackaby (Experiencing God) says this:  'If you want to be a part of what God is doing, look around at what God is doing and join Him.'  That is life changing insight if you put it into practice.

2) We have been given EVERYTHING we need to do ANYTHING that God is asking us to do. 

Check this out: 

Luke 10:19 - I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and overcome all the power of enemy.  Nothing will harm you. (Jesus)

Eph 1:3 - Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

Acts 1:8 - You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you... (Jesus)

Are you seeing a pattern?  have given past tense, overcome all complete domination,  every spiritual blessing (the full meal deal....)  There are many more, but there's not enough time today.

A few years ago, I was given a motorcycle. It was completely unexpected and very appreciated. I love to ride it! When it arrived, the ownership papers were in my name. The keys were there and it was ready to ride. If I had parked it in the garage and went into the house hoping that some day I would have a motorcycle that was mine, anyone who knew the story would be concerned for my state of mind. The giver would have been disappointed that I had not chosen to enjoy what he had generously provided for me. My friends would have wondered why I had never put the key in the ignition and taken it for a ride. Even my wife, who was a bit nervous about it would have encouraged me to go for a ride.

It's bad theology to sit around waiting to receive that which is already given to us.  It makes us look foolish.  It also leaves us tremendously under-resourced.  Our unwillingness to lay hold of what has been given to us has incapacitated us and rendered us ineffective when it comes to participating in God's BIG Thing.

3) Nike has a fantastic marketing slogan.  'Just Do It' has inspired people all around the world to get active, train, compete and just enjoy a healthy lifestyle all while wearing Nike gear.  Deep inside of me, I think the single most important message that God has for the church is:
 'Just DO IT!' 

We've talked enough, trained enough, dreamed enough, even prayed enough.  Now it's just time to get it done! Game On!!

Friday, March 16, 2012

reVision Conference Comes To Victoria

God goes to work Monday to Friday! God's interest in the marketplace isn't something new.  The real action in the Early Church happened in the marketplace.Within a few years, the Early Church had filled Jerusalem, a multicultural, metropolitan city, with the good news of Jesus! Within 300 years of the birth of the Christ, the Roman Empire officially converted to Christianity. 

Most of us want to make the exploits of the early church about spiritual 'superheroes' who were more gifted, more talented and more 'spiritual' than we are.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  Transforming the marketplace is a key part of God's plan for your city.  He is at work in the marketplace today through people just like you!

reVision has been designed with three specific goals in mind. 

1)  We want you to see what God is doing in our city and region in Social Services, Business, Government and the Church.  We want to give you the opportunity to reVision (see again) what God is doing around you.

2)  We want you to see how you can be a part of the change that is taking place all around you.  God is up to something in our city and we want to inspire you to be a part of it!

3) We want to help connect you to with other believers who are just as interested as you are in seeing God do something amazing in our city.  There are other Christians in your sphere of influence that you will meet at reVision.  Click the logo to learn more!

Building Great Churches.... or not.....

'If building great churches was going to change the world, it would have happened by now.'  The comment was slipped into a humourous and fast paced message designed to relax the largely pastoral crowd so that the speaker could make his very important point.  His point?  The key to the future for the Church is to see and think bigger than the church.  I realize that sounds like a bit of a contradiction, but it's really not.

I believe in the Church.  (The greek word is 'ecclessia' and means 'those who are called out.')  I also believe in the local church.  (A community of believers that fellowship together.)  It's just that sometimes the local church can get it's priorities mixed up.  I know this because I worked in the local church for 25 years.  Pastors, leaders and 'the people' all contribute to our periodic loss of focus.  We fall into the place where we forget that our greatest priority isn't us!  It's easy to get focused on other things.  We don't like the music. (I always do because my wife is the worship director at our church.) We don't like the preaching.  We don't like the programs, we don't like... well you can fill in the blanks.   The church isn't perfect because it's made up of imperfect people and imperfect leaders. All of that said, the local church is the best place to learn, grow, give and stay accountable.

Our greatest challenge is the belief that we are most likely to change the world through our weekend gatherings.  We've got some great weekend gatherings, but I've learned something in the past 5 years.  Here it is:  There's some really great stuff that happens on Sunday morning that has nothing to do with church.  Shocking I know...

I've also learned that some of the people who are most open to what the church has to offer have no interest in attending church because Sunday is their only down day or family day. A better church service isn't going to draw people from the ball park, soccer pitch, jogging trail, boat launch, ski hill or  arena for Sunday morning church. 

This leaves us with one of two choices.  We either abandon the many who aren't going to darken our doors OR we release the church to be the Church outside of the church.  I think that God does His best work outside the walls of the church, in fact I KNOW that He does.   That's not to minimize what happens inside the church, it just means that there's a greater need outside the walls and He's committed to reaching people there.  Here's the most outrageous part... He plans to do it without the 'professionals'.  He wants to do it through you and people just like you.

Now I know that might sound a bit intimidating, but it's not that hard.  It's really just about building relationships with people and letting your faith be a normal part of your everyday life.  Listen for opportunities to commit to pray for them.  Watch for ways to serve, support and just generally love your neighbour.  It won't be long until the person you are reaching out to starts asking you questions and embarks on a journey of faith where you'll have a front row seat.  Don't miss the opportunity!  It's the adventure of a life time!

Thursday, March 01, 2012

'If the Lord Is With Us, WHY????'

I love the unrefined 'rawness' of the Bible.  It shows people as they really were and how they responded in the moment.  Gideon is one of my favourite bible characters.  Here's a guy with no expectation, no hope for the future and no desire to do anything more than find a way to care for his family.  In the midst of a midnight threshing session, an angels appears and delivers a startling and contextually (at least for anyone on this planet) absurd message. 

God is with you!  You are a mighty warrior.  He will use you to deliver your people from their oppressors.  The message is grandiose, large and in the natural, COMPLETELY IMPOSSIBLE. Gideon has no track record of greatness, no leadership record, no military experience and no desire or interest in being a deliverer.  God is looking for a deliverer.  Gideon just wants to feed his family.  It doesn't look like a good fit.  All indicators point to a disaster in the making. 

Gideon's first response is telling.  'If the Lord is with us why are all these things happening to us?'  Gideon went on to ask about miracles, signs, wonders and moments of divine intervention all through the history of his people.  From the outside looking in, it appeared that God had forgotten Gideon and his people.  Nothing big had happened for a long time, but God was doing more than Gideon thought He was.

Gideon isn't alone in thinking small about what God is or isn't doing.  Many of us fall prey to thinking that God isn't doing much because we don't see it happening on the surface.  We look at our relationships, finances, health issues, churches, communities, etc, etc and we are sometimes baited into believing that God isn't at work and that He isn't interested in working on our behalf.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Both are lies designed to convince you that you no longer matter in God's grand plan. In spite of what you may see or not see as you look around you, God has not stopped working and he certainly hasn't given up on you!

Here's what I've learned to be true again, just over the last few weeks: God is ALWAYS doing more than we think He is.  In this month alone, on both a personal and ministry level, I have been astounded by what He has been doing behind the scenes when it appeared that nothing was happening in places where I really wanted it to.  In this week alone, I have been astounded at how busy God has been behind the scenes in the lives of MLA's in ways that were completely unknown to me.  It's remarkable and exciting.  At times it's overwhelming to see just how much He is doing.  I've learned that a member has for the first time in his life, decided to read the bible.  That's always a good thing!  Another shared some deeply personal things with me and I had the opportunity to pray with him. 

I don't know what you are facing in your life today.  It may be that you've begun to believe that God has moved on to other people and other challenges and has left you alone and forgotten.  God is doing more than you think He is today.  Romans tells us that He is working out all things together for our good!  Believe it!  Expect it!  Don't settle for anything else!

God is ALWAYS doing more than you THINK He is!