Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Room Next Door

We went to see Brian this afternoon. He had been moved out of ICU to a cheerful room on the third floor, with a view of the beautiful blue sky and the golden sun. He has a purple quilt on his bed and sweet peas on the window sill and his breathing is calmer.

When Dad and I arrived, Char and Rebecca told us the nurses had said that the room on one side of Brian's was a regular ward; Brian was in the room next door to the official palliative care area.

They had brought in a low trundle bed that tucks itself into the corner of the room for Char and Rebecca to sleep and rest, as well as a little love seat.

There is so much love in Brian's room.

His eyes open quite frequently and it seems he looks for her. "I'm right here, Honey," she reassures him. 

His friend Arnold is there too, with Arnold's wife Shirley. Arnold and Brian met in 1959. Fifty-three years of friendship. Arnold holds his face and calls him "Brother Brian." John and Faye are there. Bea and Murray have popped in earlier.

We sing, We are gathering together unto Him, and Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me, and You are my rock in times of trouble ... all through the storm Your love is the anchor; my hope is in You alone.

Dad speaks a word of hope and encouragement. Arnold prays. O my, he sighs a few times throughout his prayer. Groanings in place of words too deep to be uttered. Heal our friend, in the way You should choose, he entreats.

It is peaceful, considering how many of us are in such a small space. We are all connected, a family. I can't help but think that our Brian is in the room next door, just waiting his turn to be admitted into the presence of the One he loves above all else, waiting to see our Father face to face.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Life Sentence

Forever young, do you really want to live forever?
Glioma cancer, I know you are serious, but through God, I will beat you!
May 31, 2012
To all those friends who have been praying for me through this difficult time, Thank you SOOO much for your faithfulness in prayers and encouragements!! For I am CANCER FREE!!!!! Praise the LORD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What would you do if you had a death sentence commuted?

Meet my friend Naomi. She has one of the most remarkable stories I've heard in a long time and she has given me permission to share some of it because her life asks some of the Big Questions. All of those questions have an answer; but for some of them she doesn't know what it is yet.

Naomi's story starts back in Kenya. She never really knew her biological father - he left before she was old enough to have a chance; her mother married again when she was a tiny girl and three more children were added to the family through this union.

And then her mother left her too, dying when Naomi was seven years old.

Her stepfather said that as Naomi was not his child she had to leave the family home, the only home she had really known. She had to leave her little sister and brothers. 

She had just lost her mother.

She was sent to her grandmother's house to live. It was always understood that this was a temporary arrangement, however; she was going to have to be sent somewhere else for a permanent home.

As it happened, Naomi's uncle - her mother's brother - was attending college in Alberta and had struck up a close friendship with fellow-student Jonathan. He and his wife and tiny kids were in and out of Jonathan's parents' home. When the news came about his sister, he asked Jonathan's mother to adopt his little niece. "Teacher, you have to take this girl!" he begged. He couldn't take her himself, because he was on a student visa. "Sure!" said Shirley. "If we can arrange the paperwork and God allows her in, we'll take her." And Shirley started the paperwork.

For two years little Naomi lived in limbo with her grandmother as the grinding adoption process went through all its machinations.

And finally, just before she turned 10, she was adopted into her new family. Now she had new parents, a new sister and four new brothers who all loved her dearly, even before they knew her. She remembers arriving in the airport in Canada, a terrified little nine-year-old girl who had been put on a plane in Kenya and had flown all the way across the world by herself to her "new mom and dad." She remembers them all meeting her in the airport, these new parents and sister and brothers. They all surrounded her with hugs and kisses and love. "There was a lot of loving going around in the airport, I remember that!"

She also had a new country, a new culture, a new language and new confusions to contend with.

"HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I'm loving the purple soft velvety two piece
with the pink helmet that's a little big! I had quite the childhood!"

Language was the least of it. She came to Canada speaking Kikuyu, her mother tongue. At first her uncle and his family were around Three Hills, and she could speak with them. But she quickly caught on to English; and her uncle's family moved away, ultimately ending up in Edmonton.

That last connection she had felt to her mother was now gone. Shirley and Ken, her Canadian parents, loved her beyond a shadow of a doubt and their hearts ached for her to feel like she belonged. They watched her struggle to understand how this western society worked, why she couldn't see her other brothers and sister, although she was forging a real bond with her Canadian family. When Naomi hit junior high, Shirley even learnt how to braid hair the African way. "It would take Mum 16 hours," Naomi marvelled. "But she just didn't give up until it was done. She just loved me."
When Naomi was 12 she went back to Kenya for her first visit. She was overwhelmed. "It was good to be home but a lot of things had changed. You always think that everything's going to be the same from when you leave, but everything in the village had completely changed."

Kungu, Esther, Samuel
Seeing her siblings was very emotional for her because she had to go back to the step-dad's house for the visit. He lived on a big acreage farm with his father, who had two wives and many children; no one had left, including the step-dad. Seeing her siblings, who were still so little, and being in the house that her mom had lived in - memories came back to her like a tidal wave. It seemed like just yesterday she had seen her mom sitting by the fire in front of that very fire place when she collapsed and fainted, right in front of Naomi. A couple of days later she passed away in the hospital - most likely typhoid, or at least that was the cause of death given by the hospital ... 

Her little brothers and sister were painfully shy around her. She realized that they had lost any source of communication with each other because Naomi had lost her mother tongue Kikuyu and the kids didn't speak English. (Just recently her sister tracked her down on Facebook, "the most wonderful thing that's happened in a while," Naomi rejoiced.)
Then in grade 7, Naomi's Dad was offered a call to pastor a church in the little town of Maidstone, Saskatchewan. Junior high was pretty tough - new school; hardly anyone who looked like Naomi in Maidstone! She made a great friend there, though, her best friend to this day: Jillian, a girl originally from Slovenia and with all the pale colouring and blue eyes and light blonde hair that that entails. They were called Salt and Pepper at their school. They were inseparable.  

Naomi and her parents moved back to Three Hills for high school. When she came back she felt like she fit in more, like she was actually coming back home for the first time in a long time. 

But high school proved to be a bit worse than she thought it would be. Naomi still had a hard time understanding that on the surface she looked different to those around her. Her family was white so she self-identified as white and would get very mixed reactions from people who "saw only the outside" of her. She feels that she went into denial about being black around this time, and it was startling to her when people would ask her mother and her if they were together when they went to a restaurant. She was called "Oreo" - black on the outside and white on the inside. All this left her feeling a little lost, a little like she didn't really belong in the town she now gladly called home.

After her high school graduation Naomi went to Red Deer College for a couple of years. "Life-learning lessons, looking back ..." she mused. She learnt a lot about herself, and about other people ... "about who you could trust" ... She had thought she was a Christian, but she discovered that she wasn't displaying any of the characteristics of a Christ-follower. She had given her life to Jesus in an emotional moment when she was 12  but wasn't living like she had salvation, and had no assurance of salvation, until January 2012. 

With her Aunt Betty
Rewind a few months to August 2011. The C word made its presence felt in Naomi's head, in her brain. Glioblastoma. Stage IV brain tumour.

The medical profession's opinion was that there was no point proceeding with treatment, Naomi told me quietly. Her first oncologist "gave all the facts straightforward: 'No one has ever lived from this cancer ... you can try and fight it but it grows so quickly that we won't be able to do anything very soon.' " But her mother and father decided that if there was even the tiniest sliver of hope, they were going to pursue it. The extraordinary Shirley decided that they weren't going to give up; she rallied Naomi and got her on board.  "Even if there was a little bit of hope ... I didn't want to be one of those people who didn't even try ..." Surgery was scheduled for August 4, 2011, and chemo started at the beginning of September.

With her cancer diagnosis Naomi's eyes were opened as to what salvation really was about. There was no real reason or catalyst right then, apart from the cancer - "it just clicked," she said. She became more aware of where she was at personally: "It was God opening my eyes for me." She got baptized in April - her Dad himself was able to baptize her.
April 29, 2012 -
Naomi's Dad baptizing her
Then on May 29, 2012, exactly one month later, the word that you hope and wish and pray for but which you think will not actually happen to you: she got the diagnosis of cancer free. "The oncologist came in and was talking about it all. Talking about the MRI, about what was seen and what was not seen. The fact that there was no cancer there. The results were there. The fact that I had this terminal cancer and it had done nothing for six months. The cancer was supposed to be growing like crazy - between four and twelve months was my anticipated expiry date."

She said those last two words without a trace of irony, like she had long since accepted them as part of the vocabulary of her life story. 

She has to go back every four months for the next couple of years to make sure everything is on track.

What was your first reaction? I asked her. "The thing is," she said, "After the baptism thing, for the first two weeks I was out of it. Spiritual warfare, back and forth, back and forth. I wasn't really feeling much of anything. I had gone numb." 

So when the doctor said that she was cancer free, Naomi didn't even smile. "It was like it was someone else's news. I wondered, Did I hear her right?, as I sat in this place where I had never gotten good news." Most people would be joyous. Shirley was a lot more ecstatic than Naomi was. When the charge nurse, whom Naomi had always had - Molly - heard the news, she was so excited for her - "Oh my goodness Naomi, you should be dancing out of here! Show me some of those zumba moves!" Shirley was dancing and spinning around. "People in the waiting area were wondering what was going on!" 

Naomi was just numb.

As it slowly started to sink in that it was for real, Naomi started to feel profoundly sad about the time she had wasted on wrong priorities. She had wanted to be a high-profile lawyer but she hadn't focused on her studies. She had wanted to be popular and was more concerned about her social life than being kind. She hadn't thought of the cost of going to school - either financial, emotional or intellectual. Now, after the cancer and the diagnosis that she was cancer free, her brain felt like it was smothered in a way and she regretted how she wasted the time when she had been "sharp and bright and heedless."

"It's all so amazing ... fighting through the cancer I was happy, focused, positive. I thought I was going to die so I was living life to the fullest, fast-forwarding friendships and building memories. Zumba classes. Step classes. I went to aqua jog and swimming. So much energy. But I was not really joyful, though, until February when I knew that when I died I was really going to heaven."

Some of her friends in Three Hills admonished her. One said that Naomi "should be shouting [her] good news from the rooftops!" But now that Naomi had been given a second chance at life, she felt dead inside, "like I, me, had gone away."
Oddly enough, after the pronouncement that she was cancer free she lost her joy. She had been running on adrenalin, fighting this foreigner inside her. She had done what she needed to cope. Now she found herself "walking down a road of disgusting depression," which she had been told wouldn't let up until early fall. Although she didn't entirely give up, everything just seemed hopeless; the only hope she had for the future, in those dark days, was in eternity. "But it seems hard to have hope for the day when your mind is against you and you can't seem to control your thoughts at all." She would get up at 9, take her medicine, and then often found herself going back to bed. She felt like she had no strength, and she would ask herself why she didn't have strength now that she wasn't fighting cancer? 
She would lie in bed, trying to battle the waves of anxiety that threatened to overcome her and drown her. She cut herself off Facebook; she turned her phone off for most of the time. Most messages she wouldn't reply to - if she did reply, it would take two or three weeks.  "I cut out all social media and social ties because there seemed to be no point." 

"Is this what cancer-free feels like?" she despaired.

Then slowly, so slowly, things seemed to be getting slightly better. The anxiety, that she felt as a constant physical presence in the centre of her chest, like a weight that she had sitting on her chest, started to shift a tiny bit. Some days were still worse than others. There were more glimmers of light, though. 

She realized that she had seen herself through her friends' eyes when she was going through cancer treatment - "you're so brave, you're so strong, you can do it." But when the cancer was gone, coinciding with the summer starting and everyone's lives accelerating into high gear, she felt like all her friends had gone too, "like I'd had a falling out with everyone. Certain friends seemed to be there for me because I had cancer ... because they felt sort of bad for me ... but now that I was free, they were not there for me any more. They were also physically gone, I know, but oh well."
She started to feel a bit sorry for herself.

She felt the summer saw a lot of problems arising in her relationships because she often took what her friends said, even the most well-meaning, and interpreted it a different way, through the suffocating fog of her depression. She told herself that she needed to grow a thicker skin because she knew that people wanted her best. One friend said to her, "Naomi, I've been praying for you - and asking the Lord to give you wisdom." Just another joyful-advocate, Naomi thought dismissively.

And then something happened to her. In July she went camping in the mountains. Well, she went to help out at a camp, Higher Challenge, that her brother was leading for First Nations kids. Two weeks of work, play, seeing people worse off than herself.

Two weeks of focusing not on herself and her worries but on God and on helping disadvantaged kids.
Katrina, Naomi, Jung - camp counsellors together!
She came back with a new attitude. She came back with a new focus. She came back with no more depression.

She came back herself again.

But it seems to me that it's more than herself she's come back to. She had wanted to be a high-profile lawyer, and she still entertains the thought of becoming a lawyer but what is more important to her now is the people whose lives she will touch. She has enrolled in the local Bible college's one-year Encounter program, an intense immersion into the Bible and into service for others. She commented to me not long ago, "[If I don't become a lawyer],
that would be okay with me too now - I would NEVER have been telling you this a year ago! I've learnt that what you might want is not necessarily what God wants for you."

Kenya or Canada as the ultimate destination? I asked her once. Her response was pure Naomi. She doesn't know how she would react to everyone looking like her, being like her, if she was back in Kenya. She likes the distinction of being one of the few black people in her community! She is still not always comfortable being the only black person in her family; but when she goes to her birth uncle's and aunt's house in Edmonton, she feels uncomfortable because, first, she doesn't understand what they're saying all the time and, second, they are all black! She doesn't know quite where she truly belongs and feels she would be more comfortable at a party at her parents' house. "It goes back to that whole thinking that I'm a white person and not black. The Oreo."

A true third-culture kid.

As far as her family in Kenya is concerned, her grandmother is still alive. Now she's 68, slightly older than her Dad here in Canada. The uncle here bought the grandma some land in the northern part of Kenya and she built a little house. It's not insulated and can get really cold.  Naomi's birth mom's sister has been diagnosed with HIV, contracted from her husband. The last time her Edmonton uncle saw her he said she was doing well.

Her little sister has been accepted into medicine; her brother is studying journalism. Her youngest brother is now in grade 10. They are all super smart. Her Edmonton uncle is supporting the kids, his sister and his mother, Naomi's grandmother. "They're my family. I want to be able to help them too. But could I do more from Canada or from Kenya? I just don't know ..."

She has four elder brothers and a sister here in Canada "who are my fam now. Since I came to Canada. I couldn't have gotten through the cancer without them." She has nephews and nieces to whom she is devoted. She's told me she doesn't know where she'd be without the love and determination of her Mum and the love and support of her Dad.

She is aware that there's always the chance that the cancer could come back. She's sailing in uncharted waters, as no one who has contracted this type of cancer has not died very quickly.

"It's been quite the journey, Kenya to here. I can't wait to see where it ends ..." She paused, and then quickly corrected herself, "where life takes me ..."

And so today - August 29, this shining day! - I say Happy Birthday, beautiful girl! You are one of a kind, especially crafted by your Creator to glorify Him. All the different strands of your life are being woven together to make you the person you are, the person you are becoming. You truly are His workmanship ...

Sun is shining... Woke up to a nice view of the mountains... God is good. 

Happy Birthday, Naomi!

(Pictures from Naomi's FB page, used with permission, and from times we have hung out together.)

Sunday, August 26, 2012


I sat in his hospital room late this afternoon. There were eight of us in there besides him. Some were reminiscing, chattering about old times when he was a mentor / parent / friend to them. One grandson, tall and devastated, simply sat at his bedside, holding his hand and gazing at him wordlessly, a silent sentry guarding the gates.

Nothing could mask his stentorian breathing, each inhalation an invocation and each exhalation in the nature of a whispered thanksgiving - at least on the part of those of us anxiously monitoring the monitor flickering near his bed.

And just outside the room, merely one glass door away, the doctor talked earnestly to Char and to his daughter and son.

I recognized the posture, the involuntary anguish manifest on the faces immediately followed by a blank look.

When the doctor finished talking to them they came back into the room and the daughter came over to me.  

"It's his lungs," she whispered. The doctor has said we have to make some decisions. But I just can't - he's my Dad! Is it selfish to say pray that I won't have to?"

I drew her into my embrace and whispered back, "It's about the worst decision anyone can be asked to make ..."

And I promised to pray that she won't have to make that decision, to pray that it won't come to that.

Please uphold these three tired, torn people. Pray that the decision is taken out of their hands by the One who knows and loves our Brian far more than we could even imagine, and who loves them too with equal love and fervour.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Valley of the Shadow ...

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.


RTLers, pray for Brian. It looks like he is entering the valley of the shadow.

And pray for our beloved, beloved Char as she stands at the top of that slope leading into the valley and watches him walk away ...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

All Right, Ironside Women ...

Sent to me from the plane this morning ...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Prayer for Our Friend Brian

As I write this, our friend Brian is lying in ICU, each breath an effort. He has developed pneumonia. He is showing signs of progress, however, and they are hopeful that they will be able to get rid of his respirator tomorrow.

This morning Dad read Psalm number 20 to Brian as he lay with his eyes closed for the most part. One beautiful thing about this particular Psalm is that it is almost a benediction, literally a 'good word' addressed to a person. This is a very personal psalm, written by someone who knows what it is to suffer and who also knows what it is to have to rely utterly on God:

The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble;
the name of the God of Jacob defend thee; 
Send thee help from the sanctuary, and strengthen thee out of Zion;
Remember all thy offerings, and accept thy burnt sacrifice; Selah.
Grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfil all thy counsel.

We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God
we will set up our banners: the Lord fulfil all thy petitions.

Now know I that the Lord saveth his anointed; he will hear him
from his holy heaven with the saving strength of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots, and some in horses:
but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.
They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright.

Save, Lord: let the king hear us when we call.

I watched Brian as Dad read. And I was struck most particularly by the words of the fifth and seventh lines, above: "Grant thee according to thine own heart ... fulfil all thy counsel ... fulfil all thy petitions."

Right now, Brian can't speak out loud, but you can be sure that his heart and his mind are deep in conversation with God even as he lies there framed by tubes and monitors. We can't know everything he is thinking and praying; but we don't have to. God knows our beloved friend's heart. He hears Brian's silent petitions.

And He hears our dear Char's heart, too. He sees the weariness in her shoulders, the love running down her cheeks at times, and He says to her, "Underneath are My everlasting arms."

He knows; He cares; He understands.

Dear RtLers, please pray for our Char and Brian this evening. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

"Let's Get This Show on the Road ..."

My friend Brian is a fighter: after not being well for a couple of days he was rushed back to Red Deer emergency room, where he waited all day for a decision as to how they wanted to proceed with his treatment. 

Dad and I went up late this afternoon to see him in the ER ward. We joined a throng of admirers in Room Number 6: Lana and Richard, Arnold and Shirley (others, it turned out, spent some time in the waiting room).

And Char. Of course Char. Char is Brian's biggest fan, his staunchest supporter, his fiercest advocate. They have been married for 23 years now, and the feelings they had that day as she walked toward him down the aisle of the red carpet he borrowed from the Calgary Flames club for the occasion pale in comparison with the deep, rich wealth of abiding love they share today.

Char, who broke all speed limits getting across town this morning in order to follow the ambulance up to the hospital, was now standing at Brian's head as he lay in the hospital bed. She tenderly placed cool damp washcloths on the sides of his face and his forehead because he felt like he was overheating.

"Let's get this show on the road!" he told her on more than one occasion; she had to lean her head close to him, his lips almost pressed to her ear in order for her to hear him.

And now it was showtime.

The surgeon, with a jaunty New Orleans Saints scrub cap on his head, had done all that was in his power to get Brian ready for surgery. "I'm going to come get him in a few minutes," the cheerful nurse exclaimed. "The surgeon is ready for him!"

We all gathered round, linking hands and bowing our heads, and Arnold led us in prayer for the surgeon, for the surgical team, for wisdom and healing, for strength for Brian.

I was right at his hand level as we stood there, and I held his hand as we prayed. It was icy cold.

And then the nurse said we could follow him down to the doors of the operating room and take up occupancy in the tiny lounge next door. 

We talked and laughed and reminisced together as the TV clock ticked away the final moments of the London Olympic Games just above our heads. Most of us pulled out after about an hour, as Char said that she would be okay and that we needed to get back to Three Hills to be able to carry out our commitments for Sunday.

Just after Dad and I arrived back at the TH, I received a text saying that Brian had come through his surgery "fine." He will be in ICU for at least a day, but he is better already. 

In Brian's hospital room we had sung the verse of the chorus, "Be still and know that I am God." God was now singing back the second verse, "I am the Lord that healeth thee."

Please pray for my valiant friend, no matter what time zone you are in. And pray for rest and strength for his beautiful bride.

Brian, this show is on the road!

Monday, August 6, 2012


The marriage had been solemnized on July 13. But it had been in Winnipeg, where the groom hails from and where the bride was moving.

There had been friends from her home town who had been unable to make it to the wedding, and so she and he had decided that they would have a come-and-go reception in Three Hills. The little TH was so honoured that they chose to hold it here.

I had been working in Edmonton earlier in the week, and somehow I found time to stop at one of my very favourite haunts, the Old Strathcona Antique Mall, where I uncovered the china treasure which would list the afternoon's menu. I decided to use my Mum's old teapot for the occasion.

The happy couple arrived exactly at 3 o'clock last Friday, climbing out of the antique car lovingly chauffeured by her brother-in-law for the occasion. 
My faithful friends Brenda, Doreen and Norma once again rose to the occasion and did the lion's share of the work. Doreen decorated the whole dining room with ivory table cloths, the palest of white roses, and beautiful cards, one per table, of a different image from the wedding day itself. Brenda whipped up scones and mango mousse, arranged the vegetable platter and washed the stemware by hand at the end of the afternoon. Norma made perfect egg salad for sandwiches and chopped cheese, meat and pickles. She also kept up with the stream of dishes.
 It was all worth it to see her face as she came through the front door and was greeted by people who love her and are so happy for her and her love.

The big table was laden with food; in the centre was a wedding cake decorated with calla lilies, the flower of her bridal bouquet.

They hadn't had a wedding cake at the reception in Winnipeg, so we thought it would be fun to have one here, to get them to cut the cake:

As they cut the first piece, the sound of a persistent tapping of teacups started to fill the room. They looked at each other, laughed together, and obliged.
And then they fed each other the first morsels:


Two of the ladies who mean the most to our bride were there: her dear friend Rebekah, and her elder sister Doris ...

As the party started to wind down we packed up cake for the people who would be helping load her things for the move to Winnipeg. Icing is irresistible at any age!

When they got ready to leave, she pulled on her jacket - she had left her shawls behind in Winnipeg. The slightly unorthodox result was a snapshot of the way this woman can make everything beautiful as she weaves together the rough with the smooth, the everyday with the glamourous. She can pick out what is valuable and what should be cherished, and she does just that. She has learnt to stand up for herself and to make her voice heard. She has learnt to trust her instincts and to pursue that which is exceptional.

She brings to a close this chapter of her life and embarks on a new adventure. Like any adventure, there will be adjustments and a few little bumps on the road. But she goes armed with the love of a very good man, and secure in the knowledge that the One who loves her the most of all has brought the two of them together.

So we wave them off with words from a little book of prayers I gave her some time ago. This is the prayer for July 13, her wedding day:

O God, Who art the unsearchable abyss of peace, the ineffable sea of love, the fountain of blessings and the bestower of affection, Who sendest peace to those that receive it; open to us this day the sea of Thy love, and water us with plenteous streams from the riches of Thy grace. Make us children of quietness, and heirs of peace. Enkindle in us the fire of Thy love; strengthen our weakness by Thy power; bind us closely to Thee and to each other in one firm and indissoluble bond of unity - Amen.
(Syrian Clementine Liturgy, July 13,Great Souls at Prayer, Mrs Mary W. Tileston, ed)

The apron Dad just gave me sports a fitting
motto: "Life is short ... Eat dessert first!"

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Six Hundred Million People

Take the entire population of Canada.

Add the entire population of the United States.

Now throw in the entire population of Mexico.

Then add 100 million more people.

This is the approximate number of people to be directly affected by the power grid collapses in Northern India over the past couple of days..

There has never been a power outage of this magnitude. Ever. Anywhere.

Reports are stating that all power has now been restored.

Here is an excellent account from someone who was there.

Pray that the immediate needs will indeed be met. And pray that a long-term solution will make its way to the top of the rising rhetoric and finger pointing that is occurring at the higher levels of authority.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


He barely slept; he coughed his way through the night watches. As a result, this morning he was tired and a little bit pale.

And today was the day for cardio appointments.

How much can a heart take and still keep beating strong? In 1959 Dad said goodbye to his family and boarded a ship bound for Bombay. He would not see any of them for almost ten years.

He and Mum decided that she should live in the Nilgiris with us kids while he worked in Bangalore, coming to spend four or five days with us every few weeks, so that we didn't have to go into boarding school at such a young age. We would wave a sad goodbye to him on the Monday evening, straining our eyes to see his white handkerchief fluttering until it was swallowed up by the blue mountain mist from whence the Nilgiri region got its name. His heart felt like it was wrenched from his chest every single time he said goodbye.

And when it came time to put us into boarding school, his heart felt like it was torn from his body.

Even though he and Mum officially "retired" from the College in Bangalore in 1999, after 40 years of service, their hearts pulled them back year after year, where they continued to teach, preach, work with music, and coach and mentor both students and faculty.

His heart has ached for his children any time he has had to watch us go through our own difficulties, calamities, heartaches.

He has buried his father, his mother, a brother and a sister. He has buried his father-in-law and mother-in-law. He's buried too many friends to count on both sides of the ocean including Dr Jacob Chelli,who was president of the College for the years Dad was vice-president.

And, almost five years ago, he buried his beloved wife and partner of 46 years.

Nine years ago he had triple bypass surgery.

This afternoon as he walked through the doors for his stress test, still coughing, Deb and I sat a little closer to each other, bracing ourselves for the results.

It didn't seem too long before he appeared again. He was tired and a little breathless, but grinning, quite pleased with himself.

"I got through the whole thing!" he beamed. He had felt weak and shaky at the very end, but he made it through without much dip in his oxygen levels.

"The doctor said my heart is holding up," he commented.

"How did you do it?" we exclaimed.

"I told God - " he began.

"You what?" I almost shrieked.

He continued on as if I hadn't spoken, but with an understanding smile in his eyes.

"I told God that two things He had promised me from His word were that He would give me strength, and that my breath was in His hands. 'I need strength, and I need breath,' I said to Him. And God gave me both."

You might recall that a couple of years ago Dad was introduced at a conference as "a good friend to God."

What is even more important to Dad, though, is that God is a good friend to him.

Despite all the bruisings and batterings it's sustained over the years, Dad knows Who has his heart. Many years ago he responded to God's call to him, found in the book of Proverbs chapter 23, "My son, give me your heart." Because he did just that, he can now call upon God to protect and strengthen that heart, fully confident that He will do so until such time as He wants Dad and his heart with Him in heaven.