Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What prayer for an old man?

My dad had a heart attack last week.

If you're going to have a heart attack, it's best to have it in Oak Bay, where you're just a 3-iron shot away from Royal Jubilee Hospital -- one of the best ticker wards in the country. In fact, it was because of mom's heart attack in 1988 -- which happened while they were house-sitting for a friend in Esquimalt -- that they made the decision to sell their condo in West Vancouver and buy a place in Oak Bay. But that's another story.

Dad had a "significant" heart attack, and it reached the point last Wednesday where the medical team -- three earnest young doctors and a cardiologist -- discussed the situation with dad, Amelia, me and dad's neighbour Gail, and told us flat-out that there was a very real possibility that dad could take a bad turn. Noting the "do not resuscitate" instruction on his Living Will, they wanted to confirm that that was, indeed, dad's wish. It was.

Today, I've been informed that dad would likely be released from hospital in about a week and allowed to go home. On Monday, the nurse told us that his signs were definitely improving: his heart rate was stabilizing (although he'd had an irregular rhythm during the night, so they added a blood thinner to his medication); his blood pressure, while still on the low side, was climbing again; his kidneys, which had been failing, were making a comeback. There was definite cause for optimism on our part, and the fact that he was being moved out of Coronary Care into a "general" ward suggests the doctors think so, too.

Through it all, people have been praying. My circle of friends is very steeped in faith -- the faith for healing and also the faith that leads one to seek God in all circumstances, regardless of whether they "look good" at the time or not. My son Aidan, for example, is very much a word-faith type: speak the positive and expect the positive -- your words frame your world. On Wednesday, after the medical team had given us The Talk, Aidan declared confidently, "it's not his time yet".

Back in Vancouver from spending time with dad in Victoria, I spent time with the Lord. I felt I had to pray something, but what? Really: what do you pray when an 87-year-old man has a heart attack? If you believe we're generally allotted 70 years, anything beyond that is gravy and grace, so what if this is his time? Do I pray for healing and complete recovery and basically set myself against God's will? I'm praying for my will, but that's not what we're supposed to be praying for.

Aha! I thought: dad's worst fear is that he won't be able to go home again (while in hospital, he's talked of little besides going home and being in his garden and tending to his bees) and that he'll have to go into a "home" -- or should I say, retirement centre for seniors with healthy, active lifestyles?

Right: I'll pray for that. After all, dad's been so fiercely independent all his life, that going into a "home" would kill him -- pun intended. And that's where the Lord stepped in. "How do you know that's not My will?" And then He left me to think it over.

Why would it be God's will for dad to go into a retirement home? Perhaps to give him the chance to allow others to care for him. Perhaps to let him know that fierce independence is highly over-rated -- and leads to broken hips and nervous neighbours (and family members). Perhaps to let him know that it's Quite All Right to rely on others.

Or maybe God has something else up His sleeve. I got to thinking about Hezekiah, whose near-death experience is written up no fewer than three times in the Bible: 2 Kings 20, 2 Chronicles 32 and Isaiah 38-39 (which tells me there's a pretty significant "take-away" here). Having heard a prophecy that he was about to die, Hezekiah prayed that he would go on living; God heard his prayer and gave him another 15 years.

But Scripture also tells us that Hezekiah did not "render according to the benefits he received" and that God's anger came on him. Moreover, in his pride, Hezekiah showed off his worldly goods and treasures to total strangers from Babylon, and Isaiah prophesied that all of those goods would be carried off to -- where else? -- Babylon.

So somewhere along the line, Hezekiah blew it. He had been walking according to God's ways, and spoke of that in his prayer to live longer. But once granted that prayer, his "heart was lifted up" (2 Chr. 32:25), which is an expression meaning he was overtaken by pride, and he did not do ..... something in keeping with the Grace God had shown him.

What Hezekiah was supposed to do isn't clear, but we can see that God was keeping Hezekiah around for a reason, and that reason was not because He liked Hezekiah's face.

God has His reasons for keeping us all around and for the Grace He grants us in other ways. Do we render according to that benefit, or do we, like Hezekiah, become prideful and take our eyes off Him?

This evening, as I was walking in the West End, I saw a young woman nearly buy the farm before my eyes. She was engrossed in a conversation on her cell phone, and stepped off the curb right into the path of a car. Perhaps the car was further away than it appeared from my angle, but it certainly looked close. The car stopped and she continued crossing, hardly missing a beat in her phone call.

Does she have any inkling, I wonder, of the grace she had just been given? Or would she simply think -- if she thought about it at all -- that she was "lucky", and keep on with whatever she had been doing? God grants us grace of additional years more often than we might think. Do we take advantage of that grace to serve Him better?

So what prayer for an 87-year-old man? That he would receive the grace of additional years of life and then, having received that, seek the Lord for the reasons why he should get that grace and pursue them.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


  • Jesus said to Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?" Peter answered, "Yes."

  • Jesus said to him, "then hunt down the lousy rats who did this to Me and make them pay for it!"
  • Then Jesus said to Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?" Peter said again, "Yes, Lord, I do."
  • "Then track down everyone who doesn't believe in Me now and shake a finger in their nose and say, 'Sinner! You are going to hell!'"
  • And a third time, Jesus said to Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?"
  • Peter was getting grieved to hear this question again, and said, "Lord, You know all things: You know I love You."
  • "Then seek out all things that you think offend God and march and protest and declare how much you HATE them in My Name!"

Of course, we know that's not what happened on the banks of Galilee after Jesus had returned from the grave. Jesus' instructions to Peter were, "feed My sheep". So why do some professing Christians act as though the scenario above were Jesus' instructions to us?

The latest perversion of the calling of Christ is found in an entry at a ministry called Dove World Outreach -- offering up 10 reasons to burn a Koran. A lovely response to that was posted by Christine Smith in the Bible Cafe for Women, pointing out that this notion does not further the Kingdom -- at least as far as bringing non-believers to Christ is concerned.

The sad thing is, so many Christians think the way to promote the faith is to declare fervently what they hate. I have a friend who's a very fervent believer and desperately wants to serve the Lord, but never misses a chance to forward emails with links to "Christian" websites that promote hatred -- hatred against abortion, gay marriage, Muslims, even President Obama (and are we not called to pray for our leaders, not disrespect them?).

We get so hung up in wanting to be like Jesus and kick over the tables in the temple that we forget a key question:

What did Jesus tell us to do?

He left us with one commandment: that we love one another.

He told us that people should see the glory of God through our works -- not through the things we don't like.

He told us to forgive our enemies, not try to bomb the living daylights out of them: otherwise, what makes us different from the Unsaved?

He told us not to call people names -- something I've previously written about.

He told us to offer the other cheek if someone hits us on the first one. He told us to give our coat to anyone who steals our sweater. He told us -- through the Proverbs -- to give our enemy food and water and so pour "coals of fire" upon their head: not to burn them with a guilt trip, but to release the Holy Spirit over the situation.

Look at it this way: people who offend God are condemned to Hell. We who have seen the Light are called to prevent that from happening. But can we do that if we talk and act just as hatefully as the people who oppose us? Our words, our actions, our very thinking, has to be so loving and bright and glorious that the darkness others walk in doesn't have a chance. Or put another way, we can't promote the Kingdom of Heaven if we keep making Hell look like a viable alternative?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hawking's hyperbole and the third option

Much has been made over the past couple of weeks of the statement by the astrophysicist, Stephen Hawking, that mankind must find new planets and environments in space and colonize them. If not, he says, our species will face extinction on this planet.

I don't know how the statement came up now: Hawking's been saying it for at least the past four years. He says that, with our intelligence, we have the ability to affect the environment for good or ill, but with the rate of population growth and resource depletion, plus human tendencies towards greed and aggressive behaviour, we have little choice but to work towards a propulsion system that approaches the speed of light and prepare to move out.

At first, I thought it was hyperbole: something to shake people up and spur them to action on issues affecting the Earth. But then, reading Prof. Hawking's interview, it appears he's serious and believes it is possible to build a propulsion system that can approach light speed and carry a whole lot of people to new frontiers.

How about that? A man-made Rapture -- an interesting variation on the false Christs Jesus warned us about. Mind you, all I saw in the interview was Prof. Hawking saying that mankind is capable of coming up with the technology to do it: I didn't see anything about how much money would this cost and who would pay for it -- heck: ever try to get a rapid-transit system built?

Nor did I see how six billion (the last I checked) people would be moved out. Maybe he's punting that question over to the ethicists for one of those delightful angels-dancing-on-the-head-of-a-pin discussions -- who would be allowed to colonize? who would be left behind on the scorching, uninhabitable planet?

(My answer: those with faith enough to see that this is not, nor cannot be, sanctioned by God.)

One observer on Twitter summed up what many environmentalists may be thinking: "or," he said, "clean up the mess we have".

Good retort -- which is why I thought maybe Prof. Hawking was trying to use a shock tactic. But there's a third option: get right with God.

Let's take a look at the current scorecard:

  • lethal heat wave in Russia
  • devastating flooding in Pakistan
  • largest landslide in BC history
  • earthquakes in Chile, Haiti, China, California
  • underwater oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico
  • a new "superbug" hitting Europe

and there's a lot more I can't think of, offhand.

Environmentalists look at these and claim that it's proof of global warming. But the last three in that list have little to do with global warming (although I read a couple of months ago that some scientists were looking to see if there was a link between earthquakes and climate change: the idea that, if glacial ice melts, then the glaciers become "lighter" and exert less pressure on the earth, thereby making it "easier" for earthquake action to take place; even one of the researchers says it's a MAJOR stretch to make that reasoning).

Remember: I'm not a climate change denier -- although I prefer to call the situation "global weirding". My issue is that we're using ineffectual tools to fight this battle -- we're looking in the wrong places for solutions, and for whatever reason, a lot of us don't want to acknowledge that the right place to look even exists.

See, God does not want His creation to be destroyed, and in fact, His word promises that it won't be. He loves the Earth and the Earth loves Him back (Psalms 96 and 98 make that clear). He's also stated that He plans to come and live here, and we have a job to do, taking care of the Earth and everything that's in it.

What's more, He promises that, if only we turn to Him and repent and go back to seeking Him, He will heal the land (2 Chr. 7:13-14). And if we've sinned and offended Him by the way we've treated the Earth -- using its resources beyond our ability to replenish them (Gen. 1:26, 28) -- Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross allows us to repent of those sins and move forward with a clean slate.

We need to stop obsessing on the environment. Yes, we've had a lot to do with the environmental trauma that appears to have escalated over the past few decades. But now we have to recognize that there's very little we, as a species, can do in our own power to fix it. We've already found that out: after 60 years of concerted, well-meaning, earnest action (I'm going back to the Cold War days, when efforts started to escalate to save mankind from himself), by all reports, things are getting worse.

We need a new paradigm and we need to admit that we can do nothing by ourselves -- not even Jesus could, don't forget (John 5:30). Praise God, that "new" paradigm is actually the oldest one around: His Word and His promises. And the bottom line is, we have to admit our powerlessness, place it all before God, and re-focus on what Jesus instructed us to do: "occupy till I return".

That means, love one another; love God above all; do good works so others can see God's glory; trust in the Lord and don't lean on your own understanding; do not judge. And when it comes to the environment, assert the authority God gave us back in Eden: be fruitful, multiply, replenish the Earth and subdue it. And that does not mean worship it.

And here's a challenge: if God leads you to do something and it appears to run against conventional environmentalist thinking ... go with God's leading and trust that He'll mitigate any environmental impact. He will not tell you to do something that damages His Work.

And remember those human tendencies towards greed and aggressive behaviour that make Prof. Hawking believe we can't survive on Earth? Yeah, like I want to be cooped up in a spacecraft for several years with greedy, aggressive people! But as we turn towards God and walk closer with Him, we bring those tendencies captive in Christ. I know: a lot of my own "human tendencies" came into captivity once I met Jesus.

Considering that Jesus warned us there'd be days like these -- filled with the signs He said would foretell His return -- there's a certain urgency to our re-focusing on Him and re-committing to The Great Commission.

And whether He comes back in 2030 -- 2000 years since He was crucified -- or before I finish writing this, we can't afford to roll over and play dead and wait for the Rapture (the real one, I mean): we have to get busy -- but get busy doing what God told us to do -- not what the world keeps telling us to do.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

If it ain't got the blessin', don't bother messin'!

CBC Radio is reporting this morning that Fraser Downs -- known for decades as Cloverdale Racetrack -- is in danger of losing its live horse racing events. (Pause while I suppress the urge to make a remark about dead horse racing ....... OK, that's passed ...)

It's been the home of the "wholesome trottin' race" for many, many years, and now it's owned by Great Canadian Casinos. A couple of years ago, Great Canadian installed slot machines at the track -- not satisfied with already having an enterprise where, as Bob Hope famously said, the windows clean the people -- and I seem to recall racing enthusiasts were solidly onside, saying the added attraction would "save" the industry.

I've written before both here and at "Rev. Downtown" about how I feel about gambling in general and the addiction to gaming revenue. I believe that, because it's an offence to God -- essentially, putting more trust in the random generation of numbers than in His provision; it also involves somebody losing, and I don't believe God would ordain something where someone loses -- money generated through that enterprise is not blessed. As I've pointed out elsewhere, charities and health-care systems receive a lot of money from gaming, and yet they're still crying poverty. With all the billions of dollars sucked into gaming coffers, wouldn't some of that poverty have been alleviated by now?

So it really shouldn't be a surprise that the horse racing industry is now worried that live racing at Fraser Downs is in danger, even with the installation of slot machines.

Interestingly, I recall the wailing and gnashing of teeth that occurred when tobacco companies were forbidden to sponsor sports events. The sports organizers were afraid that their events were going to die, and indeed, some of them did. Yet, a great many found new, less lethal, sponsors and are still going. The question is, do proponents of live horse racing have sufficient faith -- both in their sport and in God's willingness to bless it -- to wean themselves off gaming revenue?

One problem: the gaming company owns the track. This should be a cautionary note for anyone who enjoys thoroughbred racing at Hastings Park.

The other problem: any addiction is a genie that's incredibly hard to cram back into the bottle.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sarah and the morphologisms

Sarah Palin may have gone viral with her apparent malapropism on Twitter -- "refudiate" -- but she's also created what I (ahem) have dubbed a "morphologism".

That's based on a contest run by the Washington Post a few years ago, in which readers were invited to create new words from existing words using just one letter. You could add, delete or change a letter to make this new word. My favorites were:

  • karmageddon -- that's like, a really bad scene? where all the bad stuff that everyone's ever done comes back on them? and people get killed? and everything's destroyed? and it's, like, a real bummer? and
  • reintarnation -- the belief that when you die, you come back in the next life as a hillbilly

Another example is one the British humourist Denis Norden coined: tauntering. He described that as a "labour-saving word to describe one man tottering (carrying a load of stuff) while another was sauntering (and carrying nothing)". Of course, the fact that he had to expend so much labour on explaining what the word meant rather defeated the labour-saving intent, but there you go ...

Anyway, the Post didn't really have a name for this type of new word, so I came up with one: morphologism -- from a couple of Greek words meaning changing a word.

Alas, I don't think the Post ever re-ran the contest, which is personally disappointing because not only had I coined a term for these words, I'd started thinking of some of my own, to wit:

  • pestulence -- the state in which your home is overrun by teenage girls
  • decafitation -- in which, until you've had that first cup of coffee, you just can't get your head into things

And now comes the ex-gov., with refudiate. It may come across initially as a malapropism -- named after Mrs Malaprop, in Richard Sheridan's 1775 restoration comedy, The Rivals, who mangled the language with such remarks as "promise to forget this fellow - to illiterate him, I say, from your memory" and "Sure, if I reprehend any thing in this world it is the use of my oracular tongue, and a nice derangement of epitaphs!". (Other examples include the weasel character in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, who said that all his information had been "duly corrugated" and the sportscaster who commented on a contract dispute with a player that was settled when the club president stepped in: "xxxxx has a way of getting involved and exacerbating the situation".)

But refudiate actually makes some sense, AND it's a one-letter change in an existing word. The definition is a bit of a challenge, but that's not what's important right now. I'd like to have some fun with this and see what others come up with. Submit your suggestions as comments, and please make sure I know how to reach you. Might even find a prize to send to the best one -- although that's a little like tying a pork chop around my neck so my dog will play with me.

And I don't even have a dog.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The joy of conversation

One of the things I absolutely love about the Internet is the blogging and commenting and interchange of a variety of ideas from a variety of areas. This really hit home in the past week, when Ron Edmondson, pastor at Grace Community Church in Clarksville, Tennessee, ran a blog item about principles. In summary, he asked whether sometimes we tend to cling to a principle at the expense of following the Word of God. As he often does, he posed the question for response from his readers.

This touched on something that had bugged me: the question of what to do when a couple who's been living together decides they want to get married and want to be married in a church. Some pastors balk at this, or suggest strongly (if not make it a prerequisite) that they live apart for a while leading up to the wedding.

For various reasons, I've had a hard time with that, fearing that it might drive away a couple who are just overcoming the belief that Christianity is some kind of exclusive club. And frankly, I've not been able to find a Scriptural basis for this reluctance.

So I mentioned this to Ron in a comment on his blog, and he asked if I'd do a guest post -- which I've done.

Talk about poking an issue with a sharp stick! Read the comments and see for yourselves: there's a variety of positions, some Scriptural, some legalistic, all very well thought out. I don't agree with them all -- and nor should I, in a free exchange of ideas. It appears very much that this is an issue that God has left us to sort out in cooperation with the Holy Spirit: there's no definite "thou shalt not ..." commandment relating to this, but we definitely have to keep seeking Him and cannot rely on "going with our gut" or whatever "feels right".

So through this wondeful dialogue, I'm starting to develop a kind of clarity and -- as so often happens when you're seeking an answer from God -- it's nowhere near what I'd expected.