Sunday, August 7, 2016

Never Alone


 Today is my dad's 70th birthday. Doesn't look it does he? I will never love and respect any man more than I do my father. Here's a little story that shows why.

I remember the day my little boy brain bonded with my dad...permanently. I was at Foothills Camp in Alberta with my family for Camp Meeting. I must have been 8 or so. I don't remember having many friends as a kid. I've always been introverted and found it difficult making friends all the way up until high school. But this camp meeting I was hoping to make some new friends.

During the week they were having an exciting opportunity for this. They were taking a bus load of kids to a nearby lake to go water skiing and tubing. I was excited and nervous at the same time. 

When the time came, I grabbed my swimming trunks, my towel and my sunscreen and set off for the meeting area where the bus was going to pick us up. It took me a few minutes for my little legs to carry me there, my little heart pounding with anticipation and nervousness. 

However when I got there there was no bus. 
So I waited. 
And I waited. 
But I soon realized I had missed the bus. 

I'll never forget the total crushing of my spirit that I felt that day. It was more than the disappointment of missing out on the opportunity. I'd met a few kids who knew I was coming. But nobody told the bus driver to wait or came to grab me. Maybe not a realistic expectation, but it was another reminder of my loneliness. 

So trudged back to our camper. Mum was at a meeting, so through tears I explained what happened to my dad. He consoled me, but he did more than that. 

He didn't know where the bus had gone, but not far from Foothills there's a place called Red Lodge Provincial Park. So my dad told me to get my trunks, my towel and my sunscreen. We went and found a nice bit of beach along the river and I spent the afternoon playing in water and the sand. It wasn't the original plan, but I was no longer alone. I was with my dad. 

It was a profound experience for my little mind. I had gone from feeling abandoned to feeling accepted and "with" someone. 

To be with my dad when others "abandoned" me left me with a deep abiding sense of security in my Father's love. I realized that with his love in my life, I was never alone. He's been my most trusted counsellor and friend ever since. 

Jesus had an even deeper connection with His Father than I ever will have with my earthly Father. But there came a day where the Heavenly Father had to leave His Son alone, on the cross. And He did it, so that death could finally be conquered and all of us could claim with total confidence, that even if our earthly father can't be with us, because of Jesus, we will never be alone. God is always with us. 

Who's brought security to your life through their love? Thank them today. 😀


Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Root of Love

This is Mason my nephew. He's taught me so much about love. I remember the first time I held him. I'm not his dad, but even as an uncle I was overwhelmed by a pure sense of love, of devotion and care for this little life. I wanted to be a better man, for his sake. 
But why? What brings that out?
I didn't create him. He'd done nothing for me. But here I was finding new depths of desire to care for and mentor and protect this little life. 
Some of it I chalk up to him being simply born into my family. He's one of us now. But I think there's a deeper part connected to it. I believe we've been designed to love. And a child in our family brings it out in the strongest sense possible. I believe this because I see how God has treated me, His child. He did not directly create me. But I'm born into His family. And as I've gotten to know God and understand the terrible price Jesus paid so I could be saved from myself, I see the same love (in part) in my own heart for Mason. What parent or uncle wouldn't give up their life for their beloved? 

So I believe the love I have for Mason is a well spring that comes from God. I recognize it because I've received it. Maybe you will too!


““How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboyim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused.” - God anguished over diobedient, rebellious children. 
Hosea 11:8 NIV
http://bible.com/111/hos.11.8.niv

““Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” Jesus anguished over rejection by those He came to save. 
Matthew 23:37 NIV
http://bible.com/111/mat.23.37.niv

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 5:8 NIV
http://bible.com/111/rom.5.8.niv

Monday, January 27, 2014

Prism: Love


This Sabbath we're trying something new at my church. It's called Prism. It's based on the idea
the idea that as a prism refracts pure light into all the creative colours that lie within it, in the same way, God reveals his creativity when his pure light shines through the inspired artistry, experiences and writings of His creation. Prism is a “show & tell” time to share and receive inspiration from God.Sometimes we lose sight of the wonder of God and I hope this can be a time to reconnect with our amazing Creator.

We'll be looking at the theme of love this Sabbath. Here's some examples of God's love that inspired me today.

Image: A Hand of Love
I love this picture of Grama Letniak and my Dad. Love can be an abstract, elusive thing. But it becomes very tangible with a touch. I'll always remember Grama's touch and her loving kisses. She passed away this Christmas but left a very tangible legacy of love behind.




 
 

Song: His Eyes
The first Christian audio-cassette I owned was "Real Life Conversations" by Steven Curtis Chapman. I wore that tape out. I re-listened to this song today and was struck by the breadth and tangible beauty of descriptions of God's love in Steven's words.



Bible verse: Rom 5:8
I read Romans 5 today and verse 8 jumped out to me as it always does. "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us". Being a recovering perfectionist, it's easy to try and wait to "get good" before seeking God but this verse reminds of the tangible proof that it is God who is sacrificially seeking me. Love to meditate on.


Image and Verse: Poured out Love
I've always considered this one of the most beautiful waterfall pictures in the world (other's agree). The beautiful emerald water pouring out over the rocks reminds me of God's constant love pouring into us. "Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us". Romans 5:5








Monday, September 24, 2012

You Need a Friend like Scott

What fills your blank?

Traits of true friendship = ______________

What separates good friends from true friends? What bumps a friend to the top of the trust list?

I know.
You need to know Scott. Then you'd know too.
 
Scott
Scott probably considers himself a pretty ordinary guy. He's good with his hands, likes a good steak, spoils his three dogs and loves his beautiful wife. But I consider him extraordinary. A true friend.

It's because of light. Lasers to be specific.

Consider this metaphor. Communication, vital to any relationship, is like light. It can be clear and bright or diffuse and weak. It can clarify or create confusing shadows. It can blind you or show you the way.

I love communication. But sometimes I complicate it. Like beams of light, people's words, inflections, actions (and inactions) enter my brain and refract through my internal “analytical prism” into a spectrum of multiple possible meanings. I'll often attempt the impossible task of trying to address all possible meanings in the first shot with bloated “full spectrum” responses, so as not to offend, mislead or confuse...which ironically often confuses, sometimes misleads and occasionally offends.

Scott's not like that. If I sometimes communicate like a diffuse full spectrum light bulb, he's a focused laser. If he's confused, he zaps back with straightforward questions until he's clear. And once he's zeroed in, he'll give it to you straight. With Scot I'm never confused, seldom misled and often my pride is offended.

And that's why you and I need a friend like Scott.

I really believe that selfish pride is the root of all pain, suffering and evil. So anyone who's willing to help address it in your life is invaluable. In my pride, I like to maintain a certain perception of the type of person I am.

Conversations with Scott can be exhilarating sometimes for a “perception manager” like me. He says the things I'm thinking need to be said, but am afraid to say. He daily shows me that it's possible to be real, to say what's truly on your mind in an appropriate, honest way.

Sometimes honesty, like a laser...can burn or even cut deeply. But I find Scott's laser is more often like surgery; any cutting is focused on fixing and healing.

For me, Scott's a friend who represents Jesus' disarming (or sometimes alarming) straightforwardness, his concern for truth over perception (or even political correctness).

Jesus said he came to be a light to the world. He came to communicate clearly, to do heart surgery with words. Excruciating to the proud, revealing and healing to the humble.

I pray you each have a “Scott” in your life. If you don't, it's OK, you can start with Jesus.

Traits of True Friendship: #1 Loving honesty

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Blessing of Loss


Up until recently, I’d never experienced the death of someone very close to me. I often wondered how I’d react. Now I know. My Grampa, James Letniak, passed away at the age of 94 on August 15, 2012.

James Stephen Letniak was a character…with character. I wish I remembered him better.  In his later years, I saw him too little. What I remember always makes me smile though.


I’ll miss his hearty laugh, it was a wonderful laugh, full of life and earthiness.

I’ll miss the stories he loved to tell, the crooked index finger he’d use to emphasize his points. I’ll really miss those stories. They always reminded me of the tenacity and perseverance that pervaded his every waking day. When I think about the difficulty he faced in his life through the Great Depression and many other struggles that farmers face, I’m always encouraged by the strength and creativity he used to overcome each obstacle.

I learned what real intelligence was from Grampa. It’s not something you get at school. It’s how you live. It’s unrelenting curiosity. A mind fully and completely engaged with life.

I remember sitting in his living room listening to his mind work out loud, marveling at the intensity of his intellect. If he had an idea in his head, he was like a dog on a bone. He often said he couldn’t sleep because he couldn’t turn his mind off. I’m like that sometimes. Maybe that’s where it comes from.

I remember the pride and awe I felt when I first saw Grampa’s tractor-mounted post-pounder. I’d read about inventors like Thomas Edison. But now, I had one in my family. It wouldn’t win any industrial design awards, but in my little eyes, seeing fence-post heads submit to the weight of that hydraulic-powered guillotine as the old tractor bounced back and forth was a sight of beauty and grace.

Grampa was creative in the shop and on the farm but also in music. He was a guitar player and when I took up the guitar he immediately pled with me to avoid “tearing at the strings” like modern guitarists. Instead he suggested I learn the melodic picking-style of Wilf Carter his favourite guitar and yodeling virtuoso. I will Grampa, that’s a promise.

Grampa didn’t seem concerned with what others thought of him, but he was always concerned what his family was thinking and doing. I always knew that talking with Grampa wouldn’t be idle conversation. He would want to know what I was doing with my time and where it would take me. Those conversations weren’t always comfortable, but they were always valuable. I always knew he did it because he cared. He wanted the best for me and wanted me to make wise choices.

I’ll always remember his favourite question for me: “so….have you found yourself any two-legged deer?” I’d often respond that I was still looking and his smiling response was “Oh, well perhaps I need to get you some better binoculars to see with!” That whole conversation sums up much of what I love about Grampa. He was purposeful, he was creative and above all, he cared. He always wanted the best for me.

So how did I react to Grampa’s passing? Honestly, I was most emotional when I considered the joy of seeing him again. I’m a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, so that means when I think about death, it’s simply a sleep. And people who sleep, are at peace…which can only make me happy. Also, when I think about death, it’s temporary, to be overcome when Jesus returns to earth. 
And now it’s personal. 
At the funeral, the picture below was enlarged, framed and sat on a pedestal at the front of the church. As I stared at the image, it transformed. Grampa’s smile remained, but the skin smoothed, his back straightened, his muscles rippled, his arms flung wide as his long, strong legs ran towards me. My tears were real then, though it was an image. My tears will be just as real again when the image becomes reality.

 

Monday, January 31, 2011

To End All Wars (and Hopelessness)



Get it at Amazon!
  Despite my love of hope, I still have dark days. We all do. I had one a while back, had to spend half the day in bed recovering. I was looking for a story of hope and found it in the book To End All Wars. Ernest Gordon wrote his experiences in WWII in Japanese POW camps (Death Houses) in Thailand and Burma. (He helped build the "Bridge over the River Kwai"...you may have heard of the movie, it's based on his story).
Basically it's this amazing story of how despite brutal conditions, backbreaking work, constant debilitating sickness, and seemingly hopeless conditions, he and those around him were able to keep hope alive. And it came from a willingness to look beyond themselves and their current situation. Ernest is a Christian and was forced to come to terms with the evil surrounding him and his idea of a loving God. After reading the stories of Jesus in the Bible, he summed it up this way.

I see that the victory over the impersonal, destructive and enslaving forces at work in the world has been given to mankind because of what Jesus has done. This is the good news for man: God, in Christ, has shared his suffering; for that is what God is like. He has not shunned the responsibility of freedom. He shares in the saddest and most painful experiences of His children, even that experience which seems to defeat us all, namely, death. He comes into our Death House to lead us through it.
To read the stories of the little acts of hope (making a special meal for a prison-mate by blending lime juice with their rice ration) becoming entire industries of hope (they created an entire factory to make prosthetic limbs from scavenged tin, leather and bamboo for amputees). He was moved to several camps. In each one, it would feel hopeless, despondent. He would begin with kind, encouraging words and regular contact with people in need. Other men began to see the joy of serving others. One man who was the most despondent Ernest had ever met, ended his time in the prison by making it his daily duty to clean and collect the pus-and-maggot-infested, putrid-smelling dressings of men with major infection. He'd be seen whistling the day away, carrying his bucket of putrid purpose.

Ernest ends his book with words that were particularly striking for me, living in a privileged easy life in Canada.

Being forced to face life in the raw may help one to understand the nature of the Debate (between good & evil, health and suffering etc), but that isn't necessary. Every person who uses the talents God gave him so that he is not afraid to live as a sensitive human being among the impersonal forces at work in society is participating and will be conscious of its only possible conclusion.

So what is that only possible conclusion? He goes on to write about Jesus in the paragraph I quoted earlier. And I would summarize it with Paul's words: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Faith and hope to you all.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Hope
















I'm taking a graduate class called "Hope and the Helping Relationship". Fascinating to see how the academics look at hope and how much Jesus fits all their lofty wonderings ; )
After my initial readings, this verse just popped into mind

John 16:33
'These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

The entire Christian gospel is wonderfully, completely encased in this little pearl...
a) peace - we all want it, whether it's peace in the middle east or peace in our hearts: So Jesus addresses our greatest felt need
b) you will have tribulation - this is not an airy-fairy, Tony Robbins, one-sided positive message. It addresses reality: this world sucks, it's evil and you'll get hurt.
c) but be of good cheer - in my reading I've encountered a new phrase that encapsulates what Jesus is saying here "have hope as your orientation". Let hope be your compass.
d) i have overcome the world - Why should I choose hope when doubt makes oh so much more sense? Because Jesus has beat the evil, He's faced it before you, He's won and thus HE IS YOUR HOPE. He is your true north. He is your inspiration, and His loving arms are your final destination.