December 31, 2011

Blessed New Year

“Happy New Year” is something that we say to each other at the end of one year and at the beginning of a new year. However, to be truly happy, we need God’s blessing and guidance in all that we hope to do and accomplish. In August of this year, as I was thinking ahead about my life, I told my family that I was hoping to be able to make Christmas and the New Year. And here I am, on December 31, 2011, writing this blog post.

This past year has been one of many, many changes for us. In January we traded in our 7 passenger SUV and downsized to a 5 passenger vehicle. In February, we sold the double home we have lived in with my parents for 25 years and downsized into a much smaller 2-bedroom bungalow in Dundas. My parents moved to a Christian retirement home in Hamilton where several other families of our church live, including my mother-in law. During the months of March-April, I was being tested for ALS, and was diagnosed in May. Lena took two months of vacation/leave in July and August so that we could spend time at our trailer on Pigeon Lake near Peterborough. In August, I resigned from my position as Principal at the school where I have served for 33 years, and I withdrew from active duty as an elder in my church. In September we renovated our ensuite bathroom to make it wheel-chair accessible. In October/November, Lena took a two month compassion leave from her work and is now into a six-month leave of absence. Thankfully, her supervisor was able to keep her job open for her so that she can return to work after I am gone. In November, our minister and friend for the past 22 years accepted a call to a congregation in the Netherlands. We spent 2 relaxing weeks in Florida, in November, with our close friends, using a wheel-chair accessible van which we purchased with the help of another dear friend. In December, we have begun physical therapy, occupational therapy, and respiratory therapy to make life more comfortable. Thank-you for the many calls, emails, cards, visits and loving support received in the past year.

Despite all of these major, traumatic, life changing events in our lives, God has been good to Lena and I in 2011. We have been surrounded and carried by the love and prayers of our family, friends, and members of our church and school community. God has graciously given us a rich measure of His abiding presence and peace in our hearts, enabling us to cope day by day. We know that the year 2012 will be difficult for our family, but God promises "I will never leave you nor forsake you", and we hold on to that promise. We are living one day at a time, in dependence on Him.

December 28, 2011

The Blessedness of Heaven – by J. C. Ryle

The cares of this world, the necessary duties of life, the demands of our families, the work of our various stations and callings — all these things appear to eat up our days, and to make it impossible to have long quiet times of communion with God's people.

But, blessed be God, it shall not always be so. The hour comes, and shall soon be here, when "good-bye" and "farewell" shall be words that are laid aside and buried forever! When we meet in a world where the former things
have passed away, where there is . . .
no more sin,
no more sorrow,
no more poverty,
no more work of body or work of brains,
no more need of anxiety for families,
no more sickness,
no more pain,
no more old age,
no more death,
no more change
when we meet in that endless state of being, calm, and restful, and unhurried — who can tell what the bliss and blessedness will be?

December 27, 2011

A Striking Example of Faith – by J.C. Ryle

The conduct of the wise men is a striking example of faith. They believed in Christ when they had never seen Him – but that was not all. They believed in Him when the Scribes and Pharisees were unbelieving – but that again was not all. They believed in Him when they saw Him a little infant on Mary’s knee, and worshiped Him as a king. This was the crowning point of their faith. They saw no miracles to convince them. They heard no teaching to persuade them. They saw no signs of divinity and greatness to overawe them. They saw nothing but a new-born infant, helpless and weak, and needing a mother’s care like any one of ourselves. And yet when they saw that infant, they believed that they saw the divine Savior of the world. ‘They fell down and worshiped Him.’

We read of no greater faith than this in the whole volume of the Bible. It is a faith that deserves to be placed side by side with that of the penitent thief. The thief saw one dying the death of a criminal, and yet prayed to Him and ‘called Him Lord.’ The wise men saw a new-born babe on the lap of a poor woman, and yet worshiped Him and confessed that He was Christ. Blessed indeed are those that can believe in this fashion!

December 26, 2011

Family Portraits

Christmas is the time when we spend a lot of time with our family, eating, visiting and very often it's also the time for the inevitable family photo. This was especially my desire this year as it will most likely be our last Christmas together as a complete family with our beloved patriarch still with us.
We had agreed to meet on the 24th for the photo shoot.
Willem bought Joni a remote control for her camera so that we did not need to bring in another photographer. Joni set up her tripod on the driveway and the arranging and repositioning of the families began. Finally she had it to her liking and she remotely clicked away. After about 200 clicks she decided that she would probably have a few good ones in there, so she took apart the tripod and put her camera away. By this time we were all pretty chilled and we headed into the house for a nice cup of hot coffee.
Here is the final product.
but wait..........WHERE'S WALDO???
We walked into the house and sure enough, there was little Jack sitting on the couch with his nose buried in an Archie comic!!
Oh no..... "you mean you were here all the time? You're not in any of the pictures? ".  " I didn't know we were going to take a picture" he replied and then we all began to rib Joni about not knowing how many children she has, and "you know you have too many children when......." etc.
Well, we had a good laugh about it when we realized that none of us had missed him and when Opa started saying "Where's Waldo??" that really got us all laughing.
We all went outside again and repeated the whole process. ( And of course the first ones were the best!)
Here is the final picture with the whole family.

December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Dear Family and Friends,

We pray that you and your loved ones will experience the true meaning of Christmas as you celebrate the birth of the Saviour.

We sincerely thank you all for your prayers, cards and tokens of love shown to us. God is God and God is good.

Jack and Lena

December 21, 2011

Update From Lena

Last Friday we went to our ALS clinic appointment to see Dr.Turnbull and the team there. We had missed our November appointment because we were in Florida, so it was high time we saw the doctor again. Our biggest complaint for the doctor was not being able to sleep. Jack can't seem to get comfortable, numb, tingling feet, leg spasms, breathing problems, etc. He adjusted the medications and wants to see Jack in 2 months again. After seeing the doctor, we met with the social worker who will be sending off referrals to CCAC for OT and PT assessments. Once Jack has a case manager then if, in the future we need more help, this case manager would arrange it. After seeing the social worker, we met with two people from the TAC team, (Technical Access Center). They are here to help us with anything involving communications. They have gadgets and aids and computer programs to assist with communication problems. They suggested that Jack start "voice banking". He is to start storing up phrases and words that he would commonly use during the course of the day and then burn them onto a disc and save the disc. If the time comes that he is not able to speak anymore, then they will provide us with a computer that speaks out what you type and then instead of a digital voice, it will be his own voice that comes out of the machine. We should have started this a few months ago because his voice is now already affected and not what it used to be. We are very thankful for all the technology that is available these days to aid in daily activities.
Jack's smile is especially bright today! Karen Kiely is a registered dental hygienist who has her own business, specializing in bedside long-term/palliative care and she came to our house and cleaned and scaled his teeth. She was so kind and gentle and professional. Jack warned her that he is a gagger and she managed to get through it all gag free! We've known Karen for over twenty years and highly recommend her services to anyone who is shut-in, in a nursing home, retirement home or disabled and unable to get out to see a dentist. Please do check out her website

This evening a friend of ours took us out again to a Chinese restaurant and we enjoyed a delicious dinner and fellowship with him. Jack used his new utensil strap that he received as a gift from Goran and Sarah. It's a nylon strap with a velcro closure that you wrap around your hand. It has a little pocket in it that you can slide your spoon or fork into, alleviating the need to hold it yourself. It works great.
On the way home Jack said that he thinks our going out to eat in a restaurant days are over. It's just too difficult to maneuver his walker and sit at a table with his electric wheelchair and it's getting embarassing for him to eat in front of people, drinking coffee and soup with a straw, keeping food on his fork, spilling on himself, etc. I said that was fine, we wouldn't do it anymore. No more Friday morning breakfasts with the guys. He said, "it's just another thing that I can't do anymore. It's kind of depressing".  Slowly but surely we're getting more house bound. Another tent peg being pulled out......

Our Relationship With Christ Never Ends – by J.C. Ryle

The closest relation on earth—the marriage bond—has an end. Marriage is only "until death us do part." But the relation between Christ and the sinner who trusts in him, never ends. It lives when the body dies. It lives when flesh and heart fail. Once begun, it never withers. It is only made brighter and stronger by the grave. 

"I am persuaded," says Paul, "that neither life, nor death, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature—shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord!" (Romans 8:38, 39).

December 19, 2011

An Approaching Journey

Soon I must go down that road from which I will never return!
by William Schenck, "Nearing Home; Comforts and Counsels for the Aged" 1868

"Soon I must go down that road from which I will never return!" Job 16:22 

An approaching journey lies before me. I have to pass from time--to eternity; from this world--to the next. And the time of my departure, although to me uncertain, cannot be very far distant. A few years--perhaps a few days--will close my stay on earth!

It is an unavoidable journey. I must go. There is no choice. Willing or unwilling, when God's summons for me arrives--I shall have to set off.

It is an unknown journey, I have never taken it before. I have no practical acquaintance with the road, the mode of transit, the dangers or the discomforts which await me. And there is no one who can clearly explain them to me. Those of my friends who have traveled that way, have never come back to relate their experience.

It is a solitary journey. I must accomplish it alone. The most beloved of my present companions cannot accompany me. They may think of me, feel for me, pray for me--but they cannot be with me. We must separate; they to remain behind--and I go forward.

It is a momentous journey. For at its termination, I enter upon my everlasting destiny! It will convey me either to the mansions of happiness--or to the abodes of misery! The narrow boundary between the present and the future state once crossed--there will be no possibility of change. "He who is unjust--let him be unjust still; and he who is righteous--let him be righteous still." Revelation 22:11

It is a final journey. "Soon I must go down that road from which I will never return." My pilgrimage will be forever ended. It will be my last journey. And if I am a Christian, how welcome is this fact! I shall be done forever with sin and sorrow. Eternal felicity will be mine--perfect holiness, and perfect happiness. This journey leads me . . .
to my eternal home,
to my Father's house,
to my everlasting rest!

Then I will not shrink from its approach, nor complain of its accompaniments. It may be linked with much that is painful and unpleasant--but it is my way home; and therefore, although life has many ties and many joys, I feel an earnest desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better than being here. "For this is not my resting place, because it is polluted, it is ruined, beyond all remedy!" Micah 2:10 

Death is a solemn journey--but it is a safe journey to Christ's people; for He will not only receive and welcome them at its close--but He will be them as they are passing through it. Oh, it will not be lonely with Him! And He is a guide who is well acquainted with the way, for He has trodden it Himself. He went for the purpose of smoothing its difficulties, clearing its dangers, dispersing its terrors--and He fully accomplished His purpose. Therefore when I walk through the dark valley, I will fear no evil; for you, O Jesus, will be with me, and Your rod and your staff shall comfort me!

December 16, 2011

The Nevers’ of the Gospel

taken from The Valley of Vision, edited by Arthur Bennett

O Lord,
May I never fail to come to the knowledge of the truth,
never rest in a system of doctrine, however scriptural,
that does not bring or further salvation,
or teach me to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts,
or help me to live soberly, righteously, godly;
never rely on my own convictions and resolutions,
but be strong in thee and in thy might;
never cease to find thy grace sufficient
in all my duties, trials, and conflicts;
never forget to repair to thee
in all my spiritual distresses and outward troubles,
in all the dissatisfaction experienced in creature comforts;
never fail to retreat to him who is full of grace and truth,
the friend that loveth at all times,
who is touched with feelings of my infirmities,
and can do exceeding abundantly for me;
never confine my religion to extraordinary occasions,
but acknowledge thee in all my ways;
never limit my devotions to particular seasons
but be in thy fear all the day long;
never be godly only on the sabbath or in thy house,
but on every day abroad and at home;
never make piety a dress but a habit,
not only a habit but a nature,
not only a nature but a life.
Do good to me by all thy dispensations,
by all means of grace,
by worship, prayers, praises,
And at last let me enter that world where is no temple,
but only thy glory
and the Lamb’s.

December 15, 2011

Teaching Your Child to Love Others – by J. C. Ryle

Teach love to others. Press it continually on your children. Tell them the great duty of kindness, helpfulness, and considerateness, one for another. Remind them constantly that kindness, good nature, and good temper, are among the first evidences which Christ requires in children. If they cannot know much, or explain doctrines--they can understand love. A child's religion is worth very little if it only consists in repeating texts and hymns. As useful as they are, they are often . . .
learned without thought,
remembered without feeling,
repeated without consideration of their meaning,
and forgotten when childhood is gone!
By all means let children be taught texts and hymns; but let not such teaching be made everything in their religion. Teach them to keep their tempers, to be kind one to another, to be unselfish, good-natured, obliging, patient, gentle, forgiving.

December 13, 2011

Announcing a new scholarship for Rehoboth Christian School students

Jack Westerink has always been an enthusiastic advocate for Christian Education – from a child’s earliest years and on into adult life.  As a Principal and Elder, Jack has also recognized that post-secondary Christian Education equips a person with a more broadly applied Christian world view that is particularly helpful for Christian educators.

After consulting with Jack and his family, we are introducing The Jack Westerink Scholarship for Christian Studies. The scholarship is being established as a tribute to Jack’s outstanding service to Rehoboth Christian School and to assist and motivate students to choose a Christian degree granting institution for their post-secondary years.  
Students who qualify for the Jack Westerink Scholarship for Christian Studies will receive $2500 per year of study at a qualifying institution.

Qualifying Criteria:

·   The student must have attended RCS for a minimum of his/her last 2 years (4 semesters)
·   The student has been accepted at a Canadian Christian institution in a 4 year undergraduate or a 5 year B. Ed. Program (the institution must offer a B. Ed degree)
·   The student has the highest overall average in the top six 4U or 4M courses with an overall average mark of at least 75%
·   The student must show proof of full time enrollment and successful completion of each year to receive subsequent annual scholarships

The qualifying student will receive $2500 per year, for up to 4 years for an undergraduate degree and 5 years for a B. Ed degree.

To fund this scholarship, we are asking interested people to support this scholarship by committing funds either as a lump sum or over a number of years.  If you (or your business) are interested in donating to this fund, please call Bill Droogendyk at 519.647.2855 for further details.

December 11, 2011


It was 5:58 on a Friday evening when the phone rang. It was our doctor, under whose care our family has been for more than 33 years. He called to tell me that he was thinking about me a lot, and that he has been praying for me. I was very pleasantly surprised to get his call, out of the blue like that. He told me that he is of the old school of doctors, who are still willing to make house calls. He said that if I had any problems needing the help of a doctor, and had difficulty getting out, that I could call him any time and he would come over. I told him that this sounded like ‘Little House on the Prairie’, and thanked him for his kind consideration. He wished Lena and I a blessed celebration of Christmas, and invited us to come to the office to see him in the New Year.

The same week we received a card in the mail from a family friend, going back about 30 years. She is a dental hygienist who visits people in their homes or long term care facility when they can no longer get out to the dentist. Some of the the patients she has cared for have also suffered from ALS, so my condition is not new to her experience. She offered to come over to clean my teeth any time, for the price of a cup of coffee and a smile. I gladly accepted the offer and we have arranged for a visit.

We have had contact with several nurses from our community, who have offered nursing care for me or advice to Lena, if needed. As my condition slowly but steadily deteriorates, Lena will be needing support and training.

We both have also registered to be organ donors. One donor can save up to eight lives and can enhance the lives of up to 75 others. Fewer than 20% of adult Ontarians have registered. Every three days, one person in Ontario dies while waiting for an organ transplant. You can easily register online at This might be something you want to consider.

December 8, 2011

Worth the Wait!

Getting out of the house with my parents takes a bit longer these days.  First my dad has to get into his coat, walk with his walker to the garage, then go down the lift, get into his electric wheelchair, get buckled in, then drive the wheelchair up the ramp into the van, then buckle the wheelchair inside the van.  And we're off like a herd of turtles!  
All buckled up inside!  Ethan and Maya's first trip in the "new" van! Off to the store we go...
It was all worth the wait because after shopping, while Oma was waiting in line to pay for her items, Ethan and Opa were in the parking lot doing this.....
Worth the wait?  Absolutely.  With my dad, it is always worth it because when he's around, something fun will happen.  Seriously though, dying of ALS and he has a smile on his face, and is doing "burnouts" in a parking lot, in December, with his 5 year old grandson.  Unbelievable.

And as our boy whipped past me today, on the lap of his Opa, just beaming and yelling "Woohoo!!" I was struck by his obvious love for his Opa.  I was also struck by the brutal reality that one day it will not be just us adults who will grieve a loss, and how much our children will miss their Opa.  I wish I could shield our children from any pain but I can't.  Yet, our children, who often say it in the most simplest but truest of ways, are quick to inform me "Yes, but if Opa dies, he is going to heaven and if we love Jesus we will go to heaven too, and we will get to see Jesus and Opa someday again, so we won't be sad!".  

Today we don't have to imagine life without him, though. Today we can still do burnouts with Opa in his wheelchair.  Today we can still laugh with him and love him.  And for this we are thankful. 

I was struck again by the changes my dear mom has had to face in the past few months. She truly does so much. She takes each change and just "rolls" with it. She is a strong woman and we all love her dearly. I know that some days (or nights) are tougher than others, but the manner in which my mom has dealt with it all amazes me.  

I was there today, and she was smiling, putting up a few festive touches around the house, chatting, making coffee, all the while helping my dad with whatever he needed.  Ethan was playing in the living room and randomly commented (while my mom was taking my dad to the washroom) "Oma has to do everything now right? She does a lot of stuff!".  He is correct!  And she is doing it all as God wants her to, with love in her heart and with joy in her eyes.  She truly is doing what we all promised to do when we get married... to be faithful in all things, even "in sickness and in health...till death do us long as we both shall live".  

Today, my mom showed me, by her actions, that through tough times she has chosen to accept God's way, to continue to live each day with happiness, and to walk on this path with joy.  Today, my dad chose an everyday moment and made a memory out of it for our 5 year old.  These moments are precious little gifts and we're going to take every single memory we can get. 


Persevere in Your Calling – by J.C. Ryle

Persevere in your Christian calling, if you are a child of God, and press forward more and more. Be careful to lay aside every weight, and the sin which most easily besets you. Keep your eyes steadily fixed on Jesus. Abide in Him. Remember that without Him you can do nothing, and with Him you can do all things. Watch and pray daily. Be steadfast, unmoveable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord. Settle it down in your heart, that not a cup of cold water given in the name of a disciple, shall lose its reward, and that every year you are so much nearer home.

December 7, 2011

The Need for a Discriminating Ministry

The Merriam Webster online dictionary defines the word discrimination as: 
Able to recognize or draw fine distinctions; separating 
into distinct parts or components. 
When you study the New Testament ministry of John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah, the ministry of Christ Jesus Himself, and the ministry of the Apostles, then you will find a common discriminating thread in their preaching and teaching. The sermons they preached and the parables they taught divided their hearers into two camps: the saved and the lost, the converted and the unconverted, those on the narrow way and those on the broad way, those who were cold and those who were hot, people serving God and those serving Satan. There was never a third comfortable category. The parables of Jesus describe the Kingdom of heaven (or church) as being composed of: wheat and chaff, wheat and tares, sheep and goats, five wise and five foolish virgins, both good fish and bad caught in the net, the two edged sword, etc. To be positioned in the middle, on the knife edge between these two extremes, is a difficult place to be. There is always tension between the ditch of dead orthodoxy and hyper-Calvinism on the one side, and the ditch of presumptive easy-believism and hyper-covenantalism on the other side. Jesus experienced this tension as well when He challenged the Pharisees who were in bondage to their hardened unbelief, trusting in their self-righteous law-keeping, and presuming upon their Jewish heritage. They responded to His discriminating preaching with 
“We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?”(John 8:33) 
The response of the crowds to His preaching was: 
As he spake these words, many believed on him”. (John 8:30) 
”But there are some of you that believe not.” (John 6:64) 
“So there was a division among the people because of 
him.” (John 7:43) 
That is what the gospel message does; it divides, it discriminates. If you remove this tension and fail to make the distinction of discriminating between these two positions, you lose the power of the gospel.

- Jack.

December 5, 2011

Diligence + Time = Excellence

© David Murray for HeadHeartHand Blog, 2011.  
I was listening to Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership podcast yesterday, when he said something that struck me as profoundly true: Diligence is excellence over timeOr to put it mathematically: Diligence + time = Excellence. Some might take that as a discouragement. You mean no quick fixes? No shortcuts? No magic formula? No silver bullet? That’s right.
However, I think it’s actually a huge encouragement and motivation to faithful and consistent daily living in our callings. And it looks like God wants me to hear that message because today I also came across Seth Godin’s post, Preparing for the breakthrough. Products and services succeed one person at a time, as the word slowly spreads….Doors open, sure, but not all at once. One at a time. One at a time is a little anticlimactic and difficult to get in a froth over, but one at a time is how we win and how we lose.
In a world that falsely promises instant results, “one at a time” is such a needed message. Pastors and church planters need to hear it. Parents and teachers need to hear it. Businesses need to hear it. I need to hear it. One sermon at a time. One lecture at a time. One blog at a time. One video at a time. One soul at a time. Diligence. Diligence. Diligence. And maybe one day…excellence.

December 2, 2011

Gone Fishing? Fishing gone.

Our daughter Sarah posted this on her blog a few days ago.  

* * * * * * *
October 2007.  My dad doing what he loves loved to

I love these pictures.  I wish my dad could still do this.  I know that he's okay with giving up things like fishing...but I'm not sure I'm okay with him having to give it up.

I despise ALS.

December 1, 2011

Valley of Vision

Banner of Truth Trust has produced a new edition of the book The Valley of Vision, edited by Arthur Bennett. First published in 1975, it is a collection of prayers and devotions written by various Puritan writers. It Includes the prayers of Richard Baxter, John Bunyan, Isaac Watts, Charles Spurgeon, and others,  It is a helpful book to stimulate your own prayers and meditations upon the Lord. Meditations are 2 pages long and are collected into 10 major themes or chapters. Someone recently gave me a gift copy of this book, and I would like to share with you a sample prayer, to whet your appetite.

The Convicting Spirit
Thou blessed Spirit, author of all grace and comfort,
Come, work repentance in my soul;
Represent sin to me in its odious colours that I may hate it;
Melt my heart by the majesty and mercy of God;
Show me my ruined self and the help there is in him;
Teach me to behold my Creator,
    his ability to save,
    his arms outstretched,
    his heart big for me.
May I confide in his power and love,
    commit my soul to him without reserve,
    bear his image, observe his laws,
    pursue his service,
    and be through time and eternity
    a monument to the efficacy of his grace,
    a trophy of his victory.
Make me willing to be saved in his way,
    perceiving nothing in myself, but all in Jesus:
Help me not only to receive him but
    to walk in him,
    depend upon him,
    commune with him,
    be comforted to him,
    follow him,
    imperfect, but still pressing forward,
    not complaining of labour, but valuing rest,
    not murmuring under trials, but thankful for my state.
Give me that faith which is the means of salvation,
    and the principle and medium of all godliness;
May I be saved by grace through faith,
    live by faith,
    feel the joy of faith,
do the work of faith
Perceiving nothing in myself, may I find in Christ
    wisdom, righteousness, sanctification,

November 30, 2011

Know the Truth About Carrying the Cross

Christ would have all who profess and call themselves Christians reminded that they must carry the cross. They must lay their account to be despised, afflicted and tried, like their Master. He would have no person enlisted on false pretenses. He would have it distinctly understood that there is a battle to be fought, and a race to be run - a work to be done, and many hard things to be endured - if we propose to follow Him. Salvation He is ready to bestow, without money and without price. Grace by the way, and glory in the end, shall be given to every sinner who comes to Him. But He would not have us ignorant that we shall have deadly enemies - the world, the flesh, and the devil - and that many will hate us, slander us, and persecute us, if we become His disciples. He does not wish to discourage us, but He does wish us to know the truth.

- J.C. Ryle

November 26, 2011

To Florida and Back

We spent one day travelling to Florida by car, thirteen days in Florida, and one day travelling home from Florida by car. We were away from home and on vacation with our best friends for a total of 15 days. Ryk drove both ways in one stretch, saving us motel costs. Instead, our wives elected to spend the money on new outfits.
There is an old Dutch saying that a guest and a fish both stay fresh for three days, after that, the fish begins to smell. I must say that after 15 days with our friends, we are still best friends. We are so much alike in the way we think and live, that there is no room for irritations or differences. The Christian friendship and family history that we share is a wonderful gift that we value very highly for over 35 years now.
In the above picture we were enjoying a haddock fish dinner at Alfie’s Restaurant, overlooking the seashore.  

Thank-you Ryk and Anke for driving, holding open doors for me, lifting up and down the wheel chair ramp, and helping me stand up from my chair on numerous occasions.  We spent a lot of time reading, talking, drinking coffee, shopping, puzzling and even quiet times together. It was a peaceful, restful  vacation.

November 25, 2011

The Benefit of Storms

Your trials may be many and great. Your cross may be very heavy. But the business of your soul is all conducted according to an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure. All things are working together for your good. Your sorrows are only purifying your soul for glory; your bereavements are only fashioning you as a polished stone for the temple above, made without hands. From whatever quarter the storms blow, they only drive you nearer to heaven! Whatever weather you may go through it is only ripening you for the garner of God. Your best things are quite safe.

- J.C. Ryle

November 24, 2011

Fernando Ortega at a Revive Our Hearts Conference

The first weekend in November I (Joni) was privileged to attend a Revive our Hearts conference in Indianapolis.  Nancy Leigh DeMoss and her team at ROH lead a ministry to women, encouraging the pursuit of Biblical Womanhood.  Fernando Ortega was the worship leader for the weekend and led us in praising our King - it was incredible!  I met Fernando before the concert and told him a little bit about my Dad's story - I gave him a bracelet which he wore for the concert.  It was very emotional for me to see his hands up on the jumbo screen in the conference centre, wearing the "Grace is Sufficient" bracelet and playing - the first song he sat down and played was Amazing Grace!  The conference photographer (Katie Bollinger) graciously agreed to take a few close ups for me and sent them to me today. 

If you want to hear some of Fernando's music - check out the following link, or search him on Youtube - Hymns and Meditations is one of my favourite albums of all time.

November 21, 2011

Fleas and Deep Fried Ice Cream

We visited the flea market in Daytona Beach (three complete miles of corrugated metal covered booths). One could not help wonder why they call it a “flea” market. Some of the vendors were missing a few teeth here and there, and looked a bit scruffy, but I never encountered any fleas. It is rated to be among the top 5 flea markets in America. There were endless stalls eager to sell sunglasses, perfume, jewellery, luggage, shoes, cell phone covers, you name it. All the colours, sounds and smells you can imagine. Samples of kettle corn, oranges and grapefruit were handed out to entice you to buy. After a while, you started seeing the same things over and over, at different prices. The only thing that really caught my eye were these giant smoked turkey legs. I saw a guy eating one, cave-man style, but I did not indulge. Lena purchased little gifts for the grandchildren, so we did not leave empty handed.
Afterwards, we went out for a dinner of fresh haddock in a restaurant overlooking the ocean. Nothing like eating fresh fish close to where it is caught. For desert we indulged deep fried ice cream (see picture below). Don’t worry, Lena shared it with the four of us.

I find that the fine motor ability in both my hands and legs have decreased considerably in the last week. It is becoming a challenge to eat, and I use a straw to drink everything, even coffee. Walking with a walker is very shaky and tippy. Although sitting in an electric wheelchair gives me a lot more freedom and independence, it does hurt your butt after 10-12 hours of sitting in one place some days. Letting go of material things has not been that difficult for me, but losing my physical ability has not been as easy. It is who you are as a person. Breathing is becoming difficult when lying in bed, and sleeping at night is quite interrupted. If I lay still and keep calm, trying not to panic, and think about other things, it is doable. It helps me to think about the sufferings of the Lord Jesus, and knowing that He can be “touched with the feelings of our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15). He was thirsty, tired, wept, groaned in His spirit, spent hours awake at night in prayer just as we can do. But in addition to this, He was mocked, buffeted, spit upon, suffered shame and was rejected by man and God. These are things I do not have to endure. What a high priest we have in heaven, Who intercedes on our behalf. He never slumbers and never sleeps (Psalm 121:3,4) but keeps watch over His people.

November 19, 2011

Good Reading Material

When you go on vacation, the danger is that you can easily fall into the temptation of eating too much, sleeping too much, spending too much money and wasting too much time. However, when it comes to the reading of good literature, the phrase “too much” need not apply. Reading good Christian literature can bless your soul, focus your mind, and encourage your spirit. Since I am limited in what I am able to do physically due to my illness, I had to resort to spending most of my time reading and catching a bit of sun. Three good books I read this week and would like to recommend to you are:
Coming Home to God, by O. Palmer Robertson
Evangelical Press, 2003, 76 pages.
This book is a simple summary of the gospel as illustrated in the parable of the prodigal son. It follows the chain of guilt, grace and gratitude in the life of a sinner who comes to see his sin, repents, is forgiven and saved. This book can easily be read through on a quiet Sunday afternoon, and can be used as a wonderful evangelistic tool to hand out to someone with little Bible knowledge.
John MacArthur: Servant of the Word and Flock, by Iain H. Murray
Banner of Truth Books, 2011, 240 pages.
This interesting biography of the extremely popular evangelical preacher, John MacArthur, by Iain Murray is a delightfully surprising read. Iain Murray has written wonderful biographies on great preachers of the past in the Puritan tradition: Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, and Jonathan Edwards. MacArthur is still alive, and preaching three times per week at Grace Community Church in California (6,000 members) and is heard on daily Grace To You radio broadcasts in more than 35 countries. Murray shows how MacArthur has developed from being a preacher of the fundamentalist stripe into a respected Bible expositor who unashamedly highlights the reformed doctrines of grace. This book is an easy read in the classic well documented style of Iain Murray. The book honestly points out two areas of MacArthur with which conservative Calvinists differ: music used in worship, and dispensational tendencies. Highly recommended!
The Sympathy of Christ, by Octavius Winslow, D.D.
Sprinkle Publications, reprinted in 1994, 426 pages.
This meaty work by Octavius Winslow, unpacks from scripture the sanctified emotions of Jesus Christ, as the compassionate high priest for His people. Chapters such as:The Sigh of Christ, The Tears of Christ, The Love of Christ, The Sensitiveness of Christ, The Shame of Christ, The Joy of Christ, The Temptation of Christ, and others, give much incentive and encouragement to bring all our trials and tribulations to the feet of Christ. It is true balm for a wounded soul. This book is not an easy read for the beginner, but once you get used to his style of writing, you will mine comforting nuggets of gold in exchange for your efforts.

November 17, 2011

The Charity of Clarity

This is a post from HeadHeartHand (posted from link:

* * * * * * * * *

No one likes to be confused. If a doctor or a mechanic or a teacher bamboozle and befuddle us, we get annoyed, frustrated, and even angry. We demand clarity: “Look, can you please explain that again, this time in plain English.” No one likes to be confused – with one exception – and that’s in the most important matter of all – our eternal destiny. Let a salesman confuse us about a car and we get angry. But let a preacher confuse us about salvation and we’re quite happy. When a lawyer clearly explains two possible options, we compliment him. When a preacher clearly explains the only two options – heaven or hell – we criticize him. Why is clarity in every area of life to be commended, but clarity in the greatest issues of life and death to be condemned as “uncharitable”?

Well we could never accuse Jesus of a lack of clarity or charity. Rather,  it was His charity that produced His clarity. In fact, wherever there is charity in a heart, there will be clarity in the mouth! A compassion for souls will produce clear sermons, clear pastoral counsel, and clear parental instruction. How can we say that charity produces clarity?

Consider Jesus first sermon, the Sermon on the Mount. He packed a lot into that first sermon, so much that we are still unpacking it 2000 years later. But as he concluded it, he returns to the basics: there are only two gates, two roads, two types of traveler and two destinations. It’s as if he says, “Whatever else you take away from my sermon, take this: “There are only two options.”

A Third Way?
From the Garden of Eden onwards humanity has been on a desperate search for a third option, a third way to be saved. We realize there is a wrong way, and we don’t want to be on it – I mean who wants to be with Hitler, and BinLaden, and Kim Jong-il? But we don’t like the only other way – bit too narrow, bit too demanding, bit too unpopular. So let’s make up a third way.

And many preachers cooperate with this desired confusion. By neglect, by design, by fear, or by whatever, they leave people in sufficient fog to give them some hope that there may well be a third option. And such preachers are often admired and praised: “So compassionate! So kind! So warm!”

Jesus hurricanes this deadly mist away: “Two gates, two roads, two travelers, two destinations, two trees, two fruits, two foundations, two houses…two, two, two. Never, ever three.” There is no third option for “nice” people. There is no third option for “covenant children.” There is no third option for “church attenders.” We are either dead or alive, dead in sin or born again, asleep or awake, darkness or light, against Christ or for Christ, a Pharisee or a Publican, a child of the devil or child of the living God. There is no “in-between” category, there is no “miscellaneous,” there is no “and all the rest of us.” There is no third gate, no third road, no third kind of traveler, and no third destination.

And it’s not love to suggest there might be. Not in sermons, not at funerals, not in counseling, not in books, not anywhere. The more we clarify these matters, the more the hearts of lost sinners will be exposed, the more they will see the broad gate they have entered, the broad road they are on, and the deadly destination they are heading to. And the more angry they will get – at least initially. Because, for some weird reason, confusion is comfortable and usually preferred in spiritual matters. “Keep your clarity. Give me the fog!” But clarity also, eventually, provokes passionate prayer, earnest seeking, and fervent calling on the name of the Lord for ourselves and for our loved ones.

In these foggy and confusing days, may God  give all of us far more of this compassionate Christ-like clarity in our hearts and minds, and in our words and in our walk.

November 15, 2011

Gone South!

So here we are in beautiful warm Florida thanks to the kind generosity of a dear Christian couple who offered us their condo. We could not turn down such a wonderful opportunity to spend some quality time together. We asked our close friends, Ryk and Anke, to accompany us and they willingly dropped everything to join us. It was just too daunting and stressful for me to attempt it alone. The plan was to do the trip in two days. Jack was doing the count down, while Ryk drove, "3 hours done, 15 hours to go!", "9 hours done, we're half way" then it became, "you know, we've done 12 hours, if we just drove 6 more, we'd be there at 3 in the morning." Not too subtle is he! Well, we all said, "it's up to Ryk, he's the driver" and a coffee and a dozen candies later and we arrived here at  3:30 in the morning. The weather is beautiful and seemed even more beautiful when we heard from our daughter that it was snowing back home:)  Jack tolerated the trip very well, sitting in the passenger seat, keeping Ryk awake. The condo is gorgeous and the surroundings very tranquil. It should not be too difficult to relax here:)

Saturday, after a delicious breakfast, we decided to drive to old St.Augustine and do the tourist thing. We saved ten dollars on parking because handicapped people don't have to pay for parking. Didn't know that but we'll take it:)

There was a full moon Friday night so we thought that it would be great to go to the ocean and get some pictures of the moon rising up over the horizon. We drove the 5 minutes to the ocean and Ryk set up the camera and we waited.Jack tried taking the electric wheelchair down the ramp to the beach but got stuck in the sand and had to settle for watching with us from the top of the ramp. We waited and waited, but I guess what's true of the watched pot is also true of the shy moon, because it would not come out for us. It was still a beautiful balmy evening and we enjoyed listening to the waves. We watched and waited with the old fisherman who was on the shore with his two lines in the water, trying to catch some whiting. We finally got tired of waiting and returned to the condo for a nice cup of dulce de leche coffee and some caramel, macadamia ice cream. It wasn't long and the moon finally did come out.

Sunday morning we attended church at St.Andrew's Church in Sanford, the home church of R.C.Sproul. It was quite an experience to be called to worship by the carillon and walking into the beautiful new gothic style cathedral. The liturgy, the processionals, chancel choir and sinfonia are not what we are accustomed to but the preaching of the word was central to the worship service and it was good to hear that familiar voice, which we have heard so often before, on tapes, CDs and at conferences, preaching the word.

On the way home from church we stopped by a park to see a two thousand year old oak tree! It truly is magnificent to see and awe inspiring to think that this tree was alive during the time that Christ Jesus was walking on this earth! We tried to capture the grandeur of it but the picture does not do it justice but here it is anyway.

The nights are always the most difficult for Jack. It's such an effort to roll over and breathing is getting increasingly more difficult in most positions. Last night he agreed that from now on he'll have to use the bipap machine, something that he's been putting off for as long as possible because he finds it very claustrophobic and annoying. He only uses the walker in the house and now that we have our van, he uses the electric wheelchair when going out. His arms and neck muscles are getting weaker. Friday night he laid awake for hours as the stark reality of his increasing dependence on me was sinking in. He is such an active person, he can never sit still and always sees something that needs to be done, and now he has no choice but to sit still and wait. This is very difficult for him.

P.S. The blogs may not come as frequently; we're very busy relaxing after all :)

November 14, 2011

The Pastor's Son

Every Sunday afternoon, after the morning service at the church, the Pastor and his eleven year old son would go out into their town and hand out Gospel Tracts.

This particular Sunday afternoon, as it came time for the Pastor and his son to go to the streets with their tracts, it was very cold outside, as well as pouring down rain. The boy bundled up in his warmest and driest clothes and said, ''OK, dad, I’m ready. His Pastor dad asked, ''Ready for what?" ''Dad, it's time we gather our tracts together and go out." Dad responds, ''Son, it's very cold outside and it's pouring down rain." The boy gives his dad a surprised look, asking, ''But Dad, aren't people still going to Hell, even though it's raining?'' Dad answers, ''Son, I am not going out in this weather." Despondently, the boy asks! ''Dad, can I go? Please?" His father hesitated for a moment then said, ''Son, you can go. Here are the tracts, be careful son." "Thanks Dad!" And with that, he was off and out into the rain.

This eleven year old boy walked the streets of the town going door to door and handing everybody he met in the street a Gospel Tract.  After two hours of walking in the rain, he was soaking, bone-chilled wet and down to his very last tract, He stopped on a corner and looked for someone to hand a tract to, but the streets were totally deserted. Then he turned toward the first home he saw and started up the sidewalk to the front door and rang the door bell.. He rang the bell, but nobody answered. He rang it again and again, but still no one answered. He waited but still no answer. Finally, this eleven year old trooper turned to leave, but something stopped him.....

At last, he turned to the door and rang the bell and knocked loudly on the door with his fist. He waited! Something holding him there on the front porch. He rang again and this time the door slowly opened. Standing in the doorway was a very sad-looking elderly lady. She softly asked, ''What can I do for you, son?" With radiant eyes and a smile that lit up her world, this little boy said, Ma'am, I'm sorry if I disturbed you, but I just want to tell you that Jesus really does love you! and I came to give you my very last Gospel Tract which will tell you all about Jesus and His great love." With that, he handed her his last tract and turned to leave. She called to him as he departed. ''Thank you, son!  And God Bless You!'' 

Well, the following Sunday morning in church Pastor Dad was in the pulpit.   As the service began, he asked, ''Does anybody have a testimony or want to say anything?   Slowly, in the back row of the church, an elderly lady stood to her feet. As she began to speak, a look of glorious radiance came from her face, ''No one in this church knows me. I’ve never been here before. You see, before last Sunday I was not Christian. My husband passed on some time ago, leaving me totally alone in this world. Last Sunday, being a particularly cold and rainy day, it was even more so in my head that I came to the end of the line where I no longer had any hope or will to live. So I took a rope and a chair and ascended the stairway into the attic of my home.... I fastened the rope securely to a rafter in the roof, then stood on the chair and fastened the other end of the rope around my neck. Standing on that chair, so lonely and broken-hearted I was about to leap off, when suddenly the loud ringing of my doorbell downstairs startled me. I thought, "I'll wait a minute, and whoever it is will go away." I waited and waited, but the ringing doorbell seemed to get louder and more insistent, and then the person ringing also started knocking loudly, I thought to myself again, ''Who on earth could this be? Nobody ever rings my bell or comes to see me." I loosened the rope from my neck and staggered for the front door, all the while the bell rang louder and louder. When I opened the door and looked I could hardly believe my eyes, for there on my front porch was the most radiant and angelic little boy I had ever seen in my life. His SMILE, oh, I could never describe it to you! The words that came from his mouth caused my head that had long been dead, to leap to life as he exclaimed with a cherub-like voice, Ma'am, I just came to tell you that Jesus really does love you.'' Then he gave me this Gospel Tract that I now hold in my hand.

As the boy disappeared back out into the cold and rain, I closed my door and read slowly every word of this Gospel Tract. Then I went up to my attic to get my rope and chair. I wouldn't be needing them any more. You see---I am now a Happy Child of the King. Since the address of your church was on the back of this Gospel Tract, I have come here to personally say Thank-you to the boy who came just in the nick of time and by so doing, spared my soul from an eternity in hell."

There was not a dry eye in the church. And as shouts of praise and honour to THE KING resounded off the very rafters of the building, Pastor Dad descended from the pulpit to the front pew where his son was seated. He took his son in his arms and sobbed uncontrollably. Probably no church has had a more glorious moment, and probably this universe has never seen a Papa that was more filled with love & honour for his son...

Except for One. Our heavenly Father also allowed His Son to go out into a cold and dark world. He received His Son back with joy unspeakable, and as all of heaven shouted praises and honour to The King, the Father sat His beloved Son on a throne far above all principality and power and every name that is named. ''Whoever acknowledges Me before men, I will acknowledge him before My Father in heaven. But whoever disowns Me before men, I will disown him before My Father in heaven." (Matthew 10:32)