Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category

The following link is to a very interesting article (By the same name as this post) on the growth of the Christian church in China published in the English version of Aljazeera (yes, that Aljazeera).

There are two things in this article that really stand out for me.

First of all, there are the lines being drawn between the gov’t sponsored churches and the house churches. Aparently the Chinese gov’t is pulling the same stunt Rome did centuries ago, embracing Christianity as a means to maintain control of the population. Home churches are resisting.

The second thing that strikes me is the belief among Chinese Christians that the current economic woes in the West are a direct result of the decline in church involvement.

Follow the link to read the article for yourself and pray for our brothers and sisters in China.  Could Chinese missionaries soon be the best bet for North America?

Christianity: China’s best bet? – Features – Al Jazeera English.


My Bus.

My bus ride home. Not my bike though.

With my bike in the shop for a couple of days for a tune-up and new tires I’m riding the bus once again. Now, this is not a new experience, I ride the bus daily about 5 months a year; however, every time I ride the bus during cycling season I’m struck by how different everything looks.

When I’m on my bike my focus is, of course, on the traffic. I’m watching for where the cars are every minute because, for the most part, they aren’t looking for me. With one eye on traffic, the other eye is on the pavement ahead of me watching for potholes, sewer grates, broken glass etc. My Hardcase® tires are tough, but they aren’t impenetrable; they take a hit once in a while. As a result there isn’t a lot of time for taking in the surroundings when I’m rolling through traffic on my way to work.

On the bus however, it’s a different matter. With someone else doing the driving, I’m free to put on my headphones, call up a playlist on my phone and take in the world around me for 40 minutes. (Yeah, it takes that long. Longer than it takes me to cycle actually. But that’s another post. Back to the bus ride…)

This morning I noticed the new porch on the house on the corner where I broke my collarbone when I was 10 years old. I noticed the French announcement of the end of the school year at Paisley Road School where I went as a kid.  I noticed what a great soundtrack for the bus ride Jon Buller’s Hum Along makes. (BTW.. If you’re listening to headphones/ear buds while cycling you are asking to get hit by the traffic you can’t hear. Don’t do it!)  And I noticed that the Universe is continuing to taunt me unmercifully.

Why do I say that? Well, my doctor tells me part of the solution for my GI issues is to lay off the coffee! I know, it’s a painful change, but I must admit the pain in my gut has all but disappeared since I stopped drinking my favorite organic suspension. And what does the Universe do in response to this difficult transition in my life? It opens a new Planet Bean® right on my way to work!!  – (Thou know’st, the first time that we smell the air we wawl and cry. King Lear Act 4, scene 6) I’m truly convinced that from time to time the Universe does indeed have it in for me.

I noticed a lot of other things too; people, buildings, situations that would have otherwise stayed out of my line of sight had I been riding my bicycle. It was refreshing to look at the world I passed through every day from a different perspective.  Oh, and I noticed one more thing as well;  my opportunity to gain this new perspective was totally due to the fact I was no longer in control.

You see, when I’m riding I’m in the driver’s seat. I have things to do, details to manage; my focus is entirely on the destination, the route and the obstacles. But on the bus, those details are no longer my concern. Someone else is sweating the route, the traffic and the potholes affording me the opportunity to look around and enjoy the ride. And as this all unfolded around me I realized – you can’t gain a new perspective while your attention is focused on doing what you’ve always done.

I found myself wondering how many areas our lives is letting go of the reins a part of gaining a new perspective. Does a parent gain new insights into how their child thinks and functions when they step back and let the hockey coach do the interacting? Will letting a co-worker head the task force give an office manager a chance to see the bigger picture? How much more could we learn about who we are and what we do if we allowed others to take the lead?

I had a similar experience at Guelph Little Theatre this past month. Instead of getting down to the nitty-gritty of picking out all the sounds and music etc. for the One Acts Festival my role this time was more of a mentoring one. A very talented young woman named Amanda was in the trenches; my job was to familiarize her with the systems we employ and then let her do the job, stepping in only when she entered unfamiliar territory. I’ll admit it was hard to keep my hands out of things because doing the work is what I really enjoy. But that would have taught Amanda next to nothing. So I forced myself to step back and let her take the reins, stepping in only when she encountered something for which she had no experience.

The result was a chance to get a renewed perspective on how sound fits into the bigger picture. There were no new startling revelations, but there was a chance to reaquaint myself with aspects of the job that often get taken for granted and as a result sometimes get overlooked or short-changed. I was grateful for the experience and consider it one of the more rewarding things I’ve done at GLT.

I think the same holds true for our spiritual lives as well. Consider Psalm 55:22, “Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”

Many of us are so tied up in trying to manage the details of our lives we never yield control long enough to look at things from God’s perspective. We ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?”, but is that really what we need to be asking? Is it possible that what we need to do is let go of the handlebars, let God drive and look at the world from the back of the bus? As long as we are focusing on trying to figure out what to do, our minds are too occupied to be able to gain any other perspective, especially God’s.

A good example is what I’ve been going through at my home church these past few months. Many of us prayed that the introduction of a new minister would be an opportunity for God to do something new at KPC. We coined the term Kortright 3.0 and looked forward to a new chapter in the life of the church. When Alex first showed up not much changed as he was still getting the lay of the land, but recently he has started to steer us in new directions. They are not great changes but they are different in many ways from what we are used to. And a predictable-but strange none the less-thing happened. We resisted!

Well, some of us anyway. Even though we had been praying for God to do something new, some of us still felt our skin crawl when the changes began to take place. It seems that we are resistant to change even when we ask for it! Why?

I think I know why.  Though some of us probably won’t admit it, the reason is because we aren’t really resisting the idea of change; what we are resisting is loss of control. We don’t want to let go because we aren’t all that comfortable letting someone else drive. But if we are to embrace what God is doing in our lives we need to let go and let someone else, namely Him, drive. Once we do then we can sit back, look at the situation without the burden of command, and gain a new perspective on things and eventually learn to enjoy the ride.

And when the time comes that God’s perspective has becomes ours, we’ll probably find He’s content to let us take the wheel once again.

Until next time… Shalom.

Let me begin by saying that for many years I was not a reader of Christian fiction. I usually found it incredibly bland with predictable plots, two dimensional charcters, and storylines that all ended with exactly the same result – bad/unsaved guy/girl gives his/her life to the Lord. I stayed away from it like the lactose intolerant avoid Dairy Queen.

Authors like Mike Duran are changing that. Smart, imaginative plots, characters and storylines with unpredictable endings. Problem is for some people they aren’t “Christian enough”. Mike is also a great blogger and the following article touches on the two camps he’s observed in Christian fiction. Check it out and then come back.

Why Christians Can’t Agree About Christian Fiction.

As someone who reads a fair bit and has even written about fiction here, I’m curious; which camp do you fall into? Holiness or Honesty? Or do you percive a third camp? Do you read Christian fiction at all?

Answer in the comments.

The vision statement of my home church is “Jesus’ Kingdom Made Real- Every Person, Every Nation.” For this reason the following article by Tony Campolo really caught my attention.

Red Letter Christians » Actualizing the Kingdom on Earth.

As you have likely heard, the world will end this coming Saturday at 6pm. My Facebook countdown is ticking away the seconds. I’m trying not to get all goosebumpy.

Now, I’m not going to tell you why Mr. Camping’s assertions should be taken with multitudinous grains of salt. My much more studied fellow blogger Dr. Claude Mariottini does a much better job of that than I could in an article you’ll find here.  But I do want to comment on a thought that occurs to me every time I read a prediction such as the one laid out for this weekend.

Am I ready for the end of the world?

Seriously! If we, as Christians, truly believe what we claim to believe then we must face the fact that one day it will happen; Armageddon, the Rapture, Christ’s return, the Tribulation (Pre-, Mid-, Post-, whatever), it will be the end of the world as we know it! Some fine day one of the self-made sooth-sayers will say the sooth and get it right and the only thing that will matter when that happens is ‘Am I truly ready to meet my Maker?

Many of us are pretty good at preparing for calamity. We have the first-aid kit on top of the fridge or in the glove compartment (does anybody actually keep gloves in there?).  Some of us have the 72 hours of food, water and batteries tucked away in accordance with provincial guidelines. Most of us at the very least have some level of life, car and home insurance. But how many of us consciously think about preparing for what some may consider the ultimate catastrophe? If I may paraphrase, what does it profit an individual if they survive the nuclear holocaust but lose their soul?

And I don’t think I’m prone to contradiction when I say that it’s not just about salvation. There is more to it than simple belief. Are we truly ready to stand before our Lord and our God and account for how we have spent the life He has given us? I must confess that I find the prospect of actually standing before Jesus at one and the same time both thrilling beyond belief and and daunting beyond imagining. I want to see Him, desperately; but I know I have much to answer for. Praise God for His grace and mercy.

So I leave you with this suggestion. While it is tempting, and probably even justified, to ignore the likes of Harold Camping, let us not forget the inevitability of what believers such as he seek to predict. Let us use such discourse as a reminder to keep a close watch, not just on the skies, but on our hearts, minds and souls as well. Because one day, it will come to pass. I pray we’ll all be ready.

Till next time… Shalom.

Yesterday I went down to the Juravinski Cancer Centre for the first check-up since the end of my radiation treatments. My radiation oncologist Dr. Wright and his resident poked, prodded, peered and perused every corner of my throat, inside and out. The tissues are healing nicely, slightly ahead of the average curve apparently, there’s no swelling anywhere there shouldn’t be, and everything is returning to a colour vaguely resembling the colour it was before it all began. The conclusion: he is willing to go out on the proverbial limb and declare me to be 100% cancer free – with 95% certainty.  The 5% is reserved until after I have a high-contrast CT scan performed in the next few weeks in case it reveals something completely unexpected. Failing that though, I’m done. To quote the good doctor, “Just keep doing what you’re doing and we’ll see you in six weeks”. In two weeks we’ll see if my surgeon is willing to make the same bold declaration.

If he does, it’s a declaration that has me facing some previously unexplored territory – the future.

Let me explain…

I was 14 in 1967 when my Dad decided to explore the family genealogy as part of the whole ‘Centennial Year’ thing. What we discovered was that the males in the Gray family are pretty short-lived. On average we tend to kick off in the mid-Fifties, with the overall average being a ripe old 56. In the dozen or so generations he was able to track down nobody survived past the age of 60. My father did not buck the trend, passing away from colon cancer at that very same Gray family average.

So over the next few years I thought about that from time to time and by the time I reached my twenties I had pretty much resigned myself to the idea that 55-60 years was the best I could hope for. Planning for retirement was pretty much set aside and I started living life with little more than your basic 5-year plan.

But now, it looks like I have to re-jig my thinking. It would seem that there is a new paradigm on the horizon; for the first time in my life I have to seriously consider the prospect of growing old!

I know, to you it sounds strange, but the reality is that I truly had fully resigned myself to dying of cancer sometime in my Fifties. In fact, in some respects I was actually looking forward to it; you know, seeing Jesus and all. When Dr. Wellman revealed that cancer had been found in my cyst back in November there was no shock, no dismay, no fear, because I had been expecting it all along. The diagnosis arrived exactly on schedule just as it did with my father. There were no surprises at all.

However, one thing has changed – medical science. Unlike all the preceding generations, when the inevitable struck me, no one was saying, “This is it I’m afraid. You have x months to live.”  No, instead, there was a very confident team of specialists saying, “Here’s how we’re going to get you out of this.” They laid out a very convincing plan of action and all that they planned has gone exactly as planned, maybe even a little bit better.

There was another difference as well. While my family has always been of the church going variety, faith in God to change the future was never a part of the religious dynamic. Faith was something that carried you through the hard times and gave you the strength to face certain doom with the traditional British stiff upper lip. Disease, misfortune and death were not things to pray your way out of, they were part of God’s mysterious ways and no one seriously expected anything to change.

I however, have been blessed to be part of a praying and more importantly believing faith community. Dozens of people have contacted me to tell me they are praying for my successful recovery; there have been dinners brought to the door, rides to treatment offered and a variety of other expressions of love and support that have, quite frankly, left Roberta and I feeling slightly over-whelmed. And it would seem that all that prayerful support have borne fruit. The cancer has come and gone and I’m still here. Praise God!

Now, before I get a minor flood of emails taking exception to my crediting God in this I will answer your objection right now. I have absolutely no idea why everyone who is prayed for as I was doesn’t get healed. I have no doctorate in theology, no inside track on the details of God’s plans for the Universe, and no pretensions for being anything other than the simple believer that I am. However, I am a believer, and I believe that the prayers of my friends at Kortright and elsewhere have had just as much a bearing on this outcome as the ministrations of the doctors, nurses and technicians at the Juravinski and St. Joseph’s in Hamilton.

And I am immensely grateful to each and every one of those who prayed, cooked, drove, hugged, filled in for, and gave of their time and resources to support Roberta and I over the last 5 months.  You people are amazing!  God bless each and every one of you!

However, that still leaves me facing a future I never thought I’d face.  And though the prospect is actually a little scary, I’m looking forward to it. I now have to actually ponder what I might do with my twilight years. Any suggestions?

Till next time… Shalom.

What’s Up Doc?

Posted: January 11, 2011 in Faith, Personal
Tags: , ,

Monday was the first of 5 Review Clinic sessions I’ll have with Dr. James Wright, my radiation oncologist. Every Monday for the next 5 weeks (the last 5 weeks of my treatment cycle) I’ll meet with the good doctor and one of the nurses in the Review Clinic to take a look at how my regimen is progressing.

We started off yesterday with a look the CT pictures they took as part of the planing session. They are a series of cross sections of my head inside the mask used in the linear accelerator. Imposed on this in a number of colours, are bands that define which areas of my head will receive what levels of radiation exposure.

The hot zone, not surprisingly, is the location of my former right tonsil, where they found the tumour. They did cut the tumour out when they took my tonsil, but there are an unknown number of microscopic “roots” that are left behind and need to be destroyed by the radiation. This area of my anatomy is a bright yellow colour in all the various scans.

In the red and blue zones are the various lymph nodes located in and around my throat; down each side of the neck, along the upper edge of the clavicle. Since the cyst that disclosed the presence of P16 was in a lymph node, radiating the lymph system makes sense and gets the next highest does based on distance from “ground zero.”

There’s a green line (I think – I have colour blindness issues) that delineates the outer most reach of the treatment. No radiation above the level of my nostrils. Don’t want to irradiate the grey cells at this point. But then in my case, every cell is a Gray cell! lol… (All right. I’ll be good.)

The clavicle forms the lower border. No radiation below that level. Everything in the middle will receive one of about 11 varying degrees of exposure that were detailed on the CT scans.  I was impressed that they could discern all the exposure levels in such detail. Gives you a real feeling that they truly knew what they were doing. That is, until Dr. James Robert Wright made this encouraging, and inspirational statement.

“Yeah…    So…  there it is.  We’ll keep fartin’ around like this for the next five weeks and when it’s all over hopefully we’ll get the results we were looking for.”

Excuse me! You describe this supposedly high-tech, targeted procedure on which I am betting my continued future existence as “farting around” ?? Nice choice of vernacular Doc!

Flatulence references aside however, the good doctor is mostly correct in his assessment. The fact remains that as far as we have come and as much as survival rates have increased, cancer therapy still remains, to varying degrees, something of a crap shoot.

They can take a guy like me, mid-fifties, slightly over-weight, average health, clean removal of the tumour, a ‘species’ of cancer that has the best response rate there is to radiation therapy, and 8 or 9 times everything will work well and you get the results you were hoping for. Then there’s the 10 or 11th guy in the list; all the same parameters, all the same drugs and treatments, and for reasons you and your $100 million cancer clinic have yet to work out, it all goes to hell, the cancer remains firmly entrenched, and the guy dies.

I don’t know if Jim Wright had one of those days last week or not (I was his first appointment on Monday), but I can imagine that after a man like him, who has invested his life in this work, has a case go sour on him it can feel like all he’s doing is “farting around.” We are all prone to feeling ‘useless’ when we do everything right and it still doesn’t work.

However, focusing on the 10th or 11th guy isn’t going to help any unless you’re a research pathologist. For the rest of us we… I need to focus on the other 8 or 9 guys who make it. It’s like Paul says in Philippians:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

So we continue on. Supported by Dr. Wright (whom I still have complete confidence in) and his amazing medical staff and volunteers at the Juravinski Centre, and by the many of you who are out there praying for Roberta and I. If you are inclined to do so add Dr. James  Robert Wright and his staff to your prayers; they work hard, care much, and need all the support they can get. Besides, he gave me these lovely lorazepam tables that make sleeping through this a hundred times easier.

I know, but before all you amateur pharmacists (and professionals for that matter – Joan) start emailing me the Wikipedia entries, telling me how highly addictive a drug it is, and regale me with all the side effects associated with benzodiazepines (I can Google it too), I am taking it under my doctor’s care and I’m real good at following instructions. So Chill!

But pondering the doctor’s choice of words aside, I seem to be in good shape; tat is, the treatments seem to be progressing as expected. The sore throat, treated with liquid pain killers, the sleeping aids, the general lack of energy and loss of appetite are all textbook symptoms and appear to be right on schedule. So I am hopeful.

Actually today, I am more concerned for my friend Darby than for me. At 10am today (Wed. Dec. 12) she goes in for a hysterectomy to remove a large fibroid she’s been carrying around for some time now. If you’re praying for me, pray for her too, please!

Till next time … Shalom.