September 30, 2011

Compassion Leave

Today was my last day at work. It's time to stay home and take care of Jack full time. I am officially on leave of absence as of Monday. It was such a relief once the decision was made and I know it was the right one. Knowing it was my last day, I tried to get as much done as possible before I left, feeling guilty that I was leaving them short staffed and always so much work to do. I sent off an email to my co-workers explaining that I would be leaving for an indefinite amount of time. At the end of the day, I put my "out of office" message on my work email and changed my voice mail message. I cleaned out my cupboards, took home two pairs of extra shoes, tea bags, almonds, hand lotions, wow you sure can accumulate a lot of things in your desk over the years! Carrying all my stuff and the two bottles of wine that my boss and his wife gave me for a good bye gift, I wondered how to say goodbye. "Goodbye, see you after my husband dies"? It sounds cold, so awful, but that's exactly the way it is. I just said "good-bye".

I came home to find Willem and Joni and the children at our house. They had been spending time with Opa. Willem, handyman that he is, had been fine tuning the electric wheelchair and it runs like a charm now. Titus, our oldest grandson, had just finished cutting the front and back lawns and was asking what else he could do to help. All our children have been so wonderful, so loving and helpful, bringing meals and baked goods, cleaning the house, doing errands, picking Jack up, helping out our elderly parents, and so much more. What a blessing it is to have children who love the Lord and who honour their parents. God has been so good to us. We are so undeserving of his rich blessings. I'm looking forward to watching Jack spend the rest of his life enjoying our family and friends. May we glorify God while doing it.

September 28, 2011

Taking Comfort in Christ’s Cross

Quote from J.C. Ryle:  Are you a distressed believer? Is your heart pressed down with sickness, tried with disappointments, overburdened with cares? To you I say this day, "Behold the cross of Christ." Think whose hand it is that chastens you; think whose hand is measuring to you the cup of bitterness which you are now drinking. It is the hand of Him who was crucified! It is the same hand which, in love to your soul, was nailed to the accursed tree. Surely that thought should comfort and hearten you. Surely you should say to yourself, "A crucified Savior will never lay upon me anything that is not for my good. There is a needs be. It must be well."

September 27, 2011

You Don't Know What You've Got Til Its Gone.....

Last week I had another regular appointment with the neurologist, Dr. Turnbull. After checking me out carefully as he usually does, he gently suggested that I give up driving. I told him “You’re the boss, what ever you say, I will do. I won’t fight you over it.” He laughed because he doesn’t get called “the boss” too often these days. I did not drive home from the hospital, but was picked up by my daughter Sarah. When I got home, I called our auto insurance company to take me off the policy. The agent said that I would be saving some money, to which I replied that I could take my wife out for a couple of nice dinners for that amount. “Don’t forget to buy her flowers too” she said. So, there is a silver lining to every situation.  Some days you have to look a little harder to see it.  Last Thursday was the last day I will ever drive a car again.  But that's okay.  Another tent peg has been pulled, but God has made it easy to take.

On Saturday morning I vacuumed my car and wiped down the inside. It was slow, clumsy, and difficult to do for me, but the car definitely looked better after I was done!  As we drove to do some shopping (in the clean car), I told Lena how much I always enjoyed doing the regular Saturday activities: cutting grass, washing/vacuuming the car, sweeping the garage, etc. Man was created to work, even before the fall into sin. An unemployed man, or a man who cannot do the things he feels called to do, is not the way we were meant to be. My advice is to enjoy doing these chores while you can, it could be taken away.  This was the last time I will be washing and vacuuming the car.  Yet another tent peg has been pulled and that's okay.  

We got the Canadian tire flyer in the mail this week, and I noticed that turkey fryers were on sale. I have recently been thinking about trying this with our family.  It is a kit that has a 36 liter pot with a burner that you attach to your barbecue tank. You immerse the turkey into the hot oil very slowly with the included lifter, and it comes out crispy golden brown in 3 minutes per pound. A 12 pound turkey is done in 36 minutes. We practiced with a couple of 5 pound chickens, and they turned out amazing. ‘Finger lickin’ good! A highly recommended red neck activity for thanksgiving dinner.  The reason I'm telling you this is because even though I am dying I am going to keep on living!  Life is still beautiful and I am still enjoying God's good gifts of food, drink, laughter and family.  

September 26, 2011

ALS Awareness Week

The student council of RCS decided to have an ALS Awareness week last week so we asked them to report on the activites that took place by writing a post for our blog. This is written from the perspective of two high school students and we hope you enjoy reading it.


From Ashlynne Stryker:
Ever since our first day of school at RCS, Mr. Westerink has been the principal. Every morning we heard him over the PA system with the announcements, saw him in his office, ready and willing to fix students broken glasses or handing out small birthday gifts. If we saw him in the hallways, he offered a happy hello – but not this year. It's different around RCS; there's a new voice on the morning announcements, a new person overseeing the students in the lunch detainment, a new grade 9 religion teacher, and an empty office. We all miss him greatly, but we know and he has told us, that God has closed this chapter in his life.

The RCS student council raised awareness for ALS the week of September 19th. On monday, student council president, Ashley De Jong prepared a short, informative presentation on ALS and Mr. Westerink came up and shared his story for grades 7-12.

It was hard seeing him like that; the ALS taking over his body, him walking slowly to the front with his walker. As we listened to his story, I don't think there were too many dry eyes. Hearing about his faith and trust in God was amazing. ALS is taking his physical abilities away, but strengthening him spiritually.  

It is evident that God is at work in the chapter of Mr. Westerinks life and there is a great purpose behind his sickness. His story is reaching out to so many people and others can see how peaceful he is with everything. It is amazing to see how God has provided so far with everything from his medication to the equipment.

As a follow up on the ALS presentation, Tuesday blue paper ribbons (blue being the colour for ALS) were given to grades 7-12 to sign and are going to be given to Mr. Westerink to show that we are thinking and praying for him. Also, Wednesday was “blue day”. Most high school students showed support by wearing the blue uniform and blue accessories.

It was a small thing that we could do for him. Even though it may not have big results, it was our way to show Mr. Westerink that we are thinking about him and miss him a lot.  


From Evalyn Boekestein:
I was sitting in church on a Sunday afternoon. My minister, Pastor Schoeman was giving a sermon based on 2 Corinthians 12:9, how God's grace is sufficient. It was really encouraging for me to hear this. It reminded me that no matter what the circumstance is, God's grace is sufficient and His strength is made perfect in our weakness. Pastor Schoeman related this sermon to the struggles and difficulties that Mr. Westerink and his family are going through. It was an emotional, but yet comforting sermon to hear and it came at the right time. For some time, I wanted to make these support bracelets for Mr. Westerink, but I wasn't sure what to write on them. This sermon confirmed it. I knew then that that is what I wanted to write on the bracelets. A few weeks later, I told my friend, Ashlynne Stryker about my idea. She loved the idea and was willing to help out. On a Saturday night, my family and a few other families, were at Ashlynne's house for a barbeque. It was that night that we (Ashlynne, Ashley De Jong and I) went online and ordered the bracelets. A week or so later, they arrived in the mail. I called Mr. Westerink to tell him about them, and he loved the idea! I was so excited to hand the bracelets out; to get the message out: “GRACE IS SUFFICIENT!” It is my hope that whenever people look down at their wrists and see the bright blue band, that they will think of the Westerinks and pray for them. For patience and strength through this hard time.

A few weeks later, I went to visit Mr. and Mrs. Westerink with my parents. It was heart breaking to see Mr. Westerink struggle with his walking and his talking. I hadn't seen him in a while, so it hit me pretty hard when I saw how much worse he had gotten. Although it was a sad visit, it was also somewhat of an encouraging visit. It was amazing to hear them talk about how God is helping them through everything and how God is their rock of strength and courage. Even though I was encouraged by all of this, I still feel a sense of sadness. I already miss him at school and so do all of the other students. I will never forget how easy it was to talk to Mr. Westerink. If a teacher made a decision that we didn't quite agree with or what we thought was an “unfair” detainment, we would run to Mr. Westerink and he would calmly listen and either let us “off the hook” or tell us in a kind and understanding way that we would just have to serve the detainment this once. I also remember his beaming smile every morning when I would pass him in the hallway and he would say good morning to me. I never realized how much those two simple words meant to me until he was no longer there to say them. When I walk past the office that used to be his, I need to fight back the tears that threaten to fall. I miss seeing him in there, typing away with his two pointing fingers, which was a skill that only he could master. I guess the absence of Mr. Westerink is something we will all have to get used to.

I really don't understand how he and his wife do it, but they are so at peace. They put all their trust, all their cares, all their worries, and all their struggles in the Lord. I went to their house with a heavy heart, filled with sadness. Even anger. I wondered why God would let such a terrible thing happen to such an amazing man. A man who was so important in so many lives, whether it be at school, at church, or in his family. I wondered why God had let this happen to a man that I really looked up to. A man that meant so much to me. By the time I left his house though, I no longer had that sadness in my heart. I felt uplifted. I almost felt jealous. Jealous that he was so calm. Jealous that he is going to meet our Heavenly Father. I realized it was so wrong of me to be angry. I realized then why God decided to place this sickness in Mr. Westerink. He had a plan. A plan to change lives. A plan to change my life. He knew that through this sickness, sinners like you and I would come to know the love, comfort, grace and forgiveness that Christ offers to His children. A Bible verse that really seemed to help me through this time is Revelation 21:4: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” It is so encouraging to hear that one day, we won't have to shed anymore tears; we won't have to suffer anymore pain or sicknesses. God is so good to give us this hope and promise!

A few weeks ago, I took some time to look through the blog. As I was reading it, a new idea for a song popped in my head. My dad wanted me to go and watch a Gaither Gospel Homecoming DVD with him. As I went to go downstairs, I stopped and told my dad that I would be back in a few minutes. He asked what I was doing and I told him that I had an idea for a song. Twenty minutes later it was done. I felt that God gave me the words. They all just came to me right away. Its like I didn't even have to think about it. I really wanted to share this song with Mr. Westerink and his wife. When I went to visit them and I brought along my guitar. I played the song for them after I was done, Mr. Westerink told me that the song displayed his true feelings and his exact thoughts. It really hit me that God inspired the words of this song when Mr. Westerink said this. I thanked God for helping me and inspiring me to write this song. He asked me if I would write down the lyrics of the song to share with the people reading the blog. 

Coming Home by Evalyn Boekestein
Vs. 1
All these struggles
All this pain
Will only last a little while
I won't cry
I'll be strong
Cause I'm coming Home, coming Home!
Coming Home, I'm coming Home!
Oh thank God, I'm coming Home!
I won't be sad.
I'll be glad,
Cause I'm coming Home, coming Home!
Vs. 2
Earthly treasures
Are all thrown away.
I don't need them anymore.
Where I'm headed,
They aren't needed.
I'm going Home, going Home.
Coming Home, I'm coming Home!
Oh thank God, I'm coming Home!
I won't be sad.
I'll be glad,
Cause I'm coming Home, coming Home!
So don't cry for me
Cause you know where I'll be.
Home – with my Jesus.
Coming Home, I'm coming Home!
Oh thank God, I'm coming Home!
I won't be sad.
I'll be glad,
Cause I'm coming Home, coming Home!

**Evalyn has taped the song for us to hear!  You may want to pause the music player at the very bottom of the blog before you play the song**


A special thank you to Evalyn, Ashlynne and Ashley for doing this.  It is so touching to see the love other people have for our dad.  This whole week, with the bracelets, the song, the stories and the pictures shows not only my dad how much he is loved, but shows us how special a dad we have!!  Thank you!  SB.

September 23, 2011

Sickness Viewed as a Blessing
I venture to say that the greatest earthly blessing that God can give to any of us is health, with the exception of sickness. Sickness has frequently been of more use to the saints of God than health has… A sick wife, a newly-made grave, poverty, slander, sinking of spirit, might teach us lessons nowhere else to be learned so well. Trials drive us to the realities of religion. In the matter of faith-healing, health is set before us as if it were the great thing to be desired above all other things. Is it so?    
~ Charles Haddon Spurgeon - Autobiography (1976), Volume 2. p. 414

Christ's Pruning Knife and the Believer
How would the great work of sanctification go on in a person if they had no trial? Trouble is often the only fire which will burn away the dross that clings to our hearts.  Trouble is the pruning-knife which Christ employs in order to make us fruitful in good works.  The harvest of the Lord's field is seldom ripened by sunshine only.  It must go through its days of wind and rain and storm.
~ J.C. Ryle

September 21, 2011

Appreciate the Simple Things

This morning I woke Jack up and told him it was time to get out of bed. He said, "Oh I just want to stay in bed. When I lay still and don't move, I feel like I don't have ALS". Then he moves, and brutal reality hits! I'd love to let him sleep in but I still have to go to work for a little while longer and he needs my help now to get showered and dressed.

We've been empty nesters now for quite a few years and just love doing everything together. We have our morning routine, breakfast together, he drives me to work and we take our coffee mugs with us in the car. He puts on 680 news as I take out the dentusticks and we proceed to floss our teeth, I tell him to "slow down, it's 50 here" and he pulls up in front of the hospital and I kiss him goodbye. We go grocery shopping , go to the bank, visit our children and are always together.  I don't think we took it for granted because we often said to each other, "Isn't this fun just being together and doing everyday errands makes us happy". 

This morning I drove to work alone. I was half way there and the tears began to flow as the realization sank in; this is going to be my routine now. 

At work I have to "hit the road running" because the patients are already standing at the door at 0800 even though their appointment isn't until 0830. I like being busy at work, time flies when you're busy.  I enjoy my job and the people I work with and the patients. It's a part of my life that does not include Jack so there are no reminders of him there and because I'm busy I  forget about what's going on in our lives, kind of like what Jack said this morning, "I feel like I don't have ALS".  Then we see a 40 year old man with symptoms of ALS who has to be referred to Dr.J.Turnbull, and another man comes in on an electric wheelchair that looks just like the one standing in the corner of our dining room, and brutal reality hits.

It's so beautiful outside. We sit on the patio and Jack tells me about his day; about Ryk who has once again spent the day working in our garden, about Barb who has once again given us more equipment and about Frank and Marion who have once again delivered it for us. Then our daughter-in-law comes over bringing another meal for us and home-made baked goods and our son hangs a mirror to finish off our bathroom. It has been another day overflowing with kindness and love. God is so good to us!

September 19, 2011

Amazing Grace

On Friday mornings @ 7:00 a.m. an odd group of men meet for breakfast at the Egg and I in Ancaster. A black Ford pickup truck pulled into my driveway @ 6:45 a.m. A dear brother in Christ helped me into his vehicle and brought me to the breakfast. I have been invited many times, but this week was my first time. What do we do there? Well, we eat unhealthy food of course (bacon, eggs, pancakes), we trade teases and insults, and we talk about the goodness of the Lord our God. One of the brothers there, is my hero and inspiration, Ray.

Ray's heart stopped for about 20 minutes last year, but the nurses who love him so much did not give up, and got his heart going again. Ray drives about 1 hour to get to his dialysis appointment at St. Joseph’s hospital, goes on dialysis for 3 hours, and then drives another hour to get home again. Five hours a day, six days a week, the dialysis removes 2 – 2.5 litres of fluid every day. Ray suffers from an auto-immune disease that produces proteins in his bloodstream, and these proteins gum up his vital organs. Ray’s kidney’s shut down 18 months ago, so he gets rid of the fluid via dialysis.

Ray is a walking, talking testimony to God’s amazing grace for him. He will never complain, but his big smile, happy disposition, and thankful life is a sight for sore eyes. Every Friday morning, Ray is late for dialysis, gets bawled out by the nurses, and now you know why. Come join us sometime, if you think you can take the heat. By the way, if they ask you to pray for breakfast, take a pass. Reason why, I’ve been told, is that if you pray you also pay!

Our pastor has been preaching through a series of sermons from the book of Exodus. As we follow along, it is astounding to realize what a stubborn, difficult, obstinate, sinful people those murmuring Israelites were. Three days after their amazing deliverance through the Red Sea, they began complaining about the bitter water and the delicacies of Egypt that they were missing. Moses was willing to stand in the gap between this people and a holy, righteous, angry God. God patiently withholds His judgements and gives them time and opportunity to repent. They are His elect, covenant people as a nation.

This is my picture. I am a sinner, guilty before God. I have no faith or goodness of my own to offer to God. I am bankrupt in myself. And yet, He patiently comes with His Word and Spirit and shows me His unconditional love. Why is this? I don’t understand it. The only answer to this question can be found in the nail pierced hand of His Son. In the palm of that hand are tattooed the names of His blood bought people. My name is there too. He came to me already in my baptism as an infant in 1954, and He confirmed it in my life in 1974 when I did Confession of Faith at 20 years of age. God doesn’t need us, in fact He is more than complete without us. We would only mess up His holiness if we tried to add to it. But God loves his Son. When He sees those blood bought names, then His wrath is satisfied and He loves them too. Amazing grace.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

T'was Grace that taught...
my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear...
the hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares...
we have already come.
T'was Grace that brought us safe thus far...
and Grace will lead us home.

The Lord has promised good to me...
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be...
as long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
and mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
a life of joy and peace.
When we've been here ten thousand years...
bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise...
then when we've first begun.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see

September 15, 2011

A Post from Sarah's Blog

Yesterday, our daughter Sarah posted the following piece on her blog (  Some of you may have read it already but for those who have not, we wanted to post it here as well. 


A few months ago we were at the library when a little girl came up, in a wheelchair and started playing with the train table.  As expected, our kids stared, fascinated with the wheelchair, and no longer interested in the trains!  On our way home there were lots of questions about why she was in the chair and what she can/cannot do.  I really wanted them to understand that she was still a little girl, just like Maya, except she's in a special chair! 

I want our kids to be able to see past the wheelchair, walker, prosthetic leg or seeing eye dog.  Talking about it with them is one thing, but one-on-one experience with someone special is proving to be the best teacher!  

My dad is currently using a walker, and is almost ready for the wheelchair full time.  The wheelchair has been in their house for a few weeks now, and at first it terrified the kids.  And to tell you the truth, it terrified me!  Everything is changing so fast...too fast.  Walkers, wheelchairs, bars, handles, wheelchair lifts, lazy-boys that lift you up out of your seat, chairs for in the shower, special pillows, all this equipment is so foreign.  Is this really my parents house? Is this really happening?

It is and I can honestly say that our kids are already changing their fear at all this "stuff" as they see their much loved Opa now uses it sometimes.  And I just love that!  I love how my dad casually takes them for rides, makes them laugh, and makes it all FUN!  Not only does it help them but it helps all of us slowly get used to seeing him in all this equipment, and having it become a part of their house and their everyday lives.

The other day we had a great visit with my dad, and Maya was even driving the wheelchair herself!  Motorized items and kids are a big hit!! Roman is still a little intimidated, but he'll get there. 

(Maya driving the wheelchair... and then it gets even better - hitching a ride with Opa!!)

The wheelchair that originally was intimidating is suddenly becoming "okay".  I see it as one of the small positives in all of the negativeness that ALS brings.  It is a wretched disease and as much as I despise the disease it makes me happy to look for positives, even small ones, from everything that has happened.

Small things, like perhaps my children will be more accepting and loving towards a person with a disability because even though it may seem different they know that their Opa has one and he is still the same Opa, he still loves them to bits and still gives them treats and makes them laugh, even from his wheelchair!

And for me, it's like balm on a wound seeing my dad interacting with them and making them laugh and still being the same Opa as always!  He may have a few extra pieces of equipment around, he may be a little slower at doing things, but he's still the same dad as always and it makes my heart happy and my eyes tear with joy to see.  I feel a small sense of peace watching it all, and knowing that for today, things are still okay.  Today he can still laugh at their antics, he can still hug them and ruffle their hair.  Today I can still hear his voice and see his smile, listen to his wisdom and laugh at his jokes.  And for today, that's enough for me!

He is such a big part of our children's lives and is currently teaching them perhaps the biggest lessons of their life!  We have talked more about illnesses, our time here on earth, enjoying each day, how important it is to love Jesus, about dying and how amazing heaven is more in the last few months than we ever have with our children. 

This is a huge change for them.  Our family is so close and my parents are weekly involved with our children.  Opa and Oma play a huge part in their lives, and they are realizing that their Opa, their Mommy's daddy, is very sick.  The questions and opportunities to talk come at different times - at night before bed, driving in the van, or after a recent Opa/Oma visit.  But slowly, they are taking it all in.  And, like kids usually do, they are accepting the change and just go on with the new "normal", surprisingly okay with it all.  Children are much more resilient then we give them credit for!

 And like everything my dad does, he is doing a wonderful job of helping our children transition.  He is such an example to them of how a true Christian deals with pain, sickness and death.  When he talks to them its the perfect mix of love, laughter and most of all pointing to Christ.  Even in this final chapter of his life, and even though he may not know it, he is leaving his children and grand-children with the most practical example of how to live our lives for God, no matter the circumstance, trusting and relying on God alone! 

And I think this may be the greatest gift he could ever leave us all. 

September 14, 2011

Sanctified Suffering

Suffering is a part of the process by which the children of God are sanctified. They are chastened to wean them from the world, and make them partakers of God's holiness. The Captain of their salvation was made perfect through sufferings, and so are they. There never yet was a great saint who had not either great afflictions or great corruptions.  Philip Melancthon said it well: "Where there are no cares, there will generally be no prayers."
~ J.C. Ryle

September 13, 2011

Update from Lena

Last week we were surprised to find in our mailbox, a letter from my employer, offering me a retirement package. I had already received 3 of these in the past but it was not part of our plan to accept them at that time as we were both hoping to retire at 60. Well, as we found out, our ways are not always God's ways. What do I do now? My desire is to stay home and care for my husband and it is becoming more and more evident that he needs me now already. Is this God's answer? But if I accept the package, I will not have my job waiting for me after Jack is gone, and I will need to support myself and this is a such a good job and I love my work and I need the benefits..... these were the thoughts that started rolling through my mind over and over. The other option would be to take a leave of absence which would ensure that my job would be waiting for me. Even if I accept the package,it does not necessarily mean that it will be approved. What should we do? So we decided to do both, accept the package and request a leave of absence, and we will leave it up to God to decide which one is best for me.
Aaaahhh all these changes in my life in a matter of a few months! We moved out of the house we lived in for 25 years, my husband of 35 years is dying, I'm losing the job I've had for 22 years....... and then Sunday morning in church, I heard that we will now be losing our dearly beloved pastor of 22 years as he has accepted the call to a church in the Netherlands. What a shock! My initial response was self pity, "How could he do that to us, just now when we need him so much. What about his visits with Jack? He has to do the funeral...." and the tears flowed and flowed.
But this faithful pastor, who so obviously loves his congregation, proceeded to do what faithful pastors do, he pointed us to the Great Shepherd of his flock, who will never leave us who says to us, "Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock:" Ex.33:21 and that rock is Jesus "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth" Ex.34:6.
When the Master calls, we must obey and that is what our pastor is doing. We are not going to be left alone, Jesus, the head of his church will not leave our congregation and He will not leave me.
"The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord" Job 1:21

September 12, 2011

School Opening Program

For the first time in 33 years, I was sitting as a spectator (and grandparent) in the audience as the school year was opened. On one knee was Maya, my grand-daughter. On the other knee was Aliya, another grand-daughter, eagerly watching. On my wife’s lap was a third grand-daughter, Ella, observing four of her siblings walking in with their classes. Beside us were our two daughters and daughter in law. Two grandsons were there for the first time as Kindergarten students, nervous, but excited too. What a riches! What a blessing! I did not have time to think much about not being in charge at the front. Someone asked Lena, “Was it hard for Jack to be sitting in the audience?” Lena’s answer was quick, and very insightful: “Not as hard as it would be to be up there.” How true. Not only physically, but also emotionally, I am weak and fragile. This chapter in my life is now closed, and I am OK with that.

It was an honour and a privilege to be present at this special event. Don’t forget to pray for the teachers, bus drivers, office staff, and custodian of your local Christian school. They are a powerful team with the task of influencing and shaping the next generation.
Mr. DenHollander, the elementary Vice-Principal, read a beautiful hymn translated from Dutch for me.

Lord What E’er the Future’s Bringing
(Dutch hymn ‘Wat de toekomst brengen moge’)

Lord what e’re future’s bringing,
I am guided by Thy hand.
And I lift my eyes while singing,
To the unknown promised land.
Help me follow uncomplaining;
Father, what Thou dost is right.
Guide me in the time remaining,
Give me courage for the fight.

Lord, I’ll praise Thy name forever
Though my soul can’t understand;
Blessed are they, who doubt Thee never,
But who trust Thy guiding hand.
Though the way seems dark and lonely,
Keep me Lord, from asking “Why?”
Oft I’ll get the answer only,
When I get to heaven on high.

Don’t let me decide, my Father,
What the future ought to bring;
I would make mistakes, or rather,
I would mess up everything.
As a child, Lord, wilt Thou feed me,
Wilt Thou guide me by Thy Hand;
I would lose the way, please lead me,
Lead me to the promised land.

September 9, 2011

Quote from Ryle and Bridges

One thing we may be sure of, however: for the believer all pain has meaning; all adversity is profitable. There is no question that adversity is difficult. It usually takes us by surprise and seems to strike where we are most vulnerable.  To us it often appears completely senseless and irrational, but to God none of it is either senseless or irrational. He has a purpose in every pain He brings or allows in our lives. We can be sure that in some way He intends it for our profit and His glory.
- Jerry Bridges (Trusting God)


I want you to beware of letting good thoughts and godly convictions slip away, if you have them. Cherish them and nourish them, lest you lose them for ever. Make the most of them, lest they take to themselves wings and flee away. Have you an inclination to begin praying? Put it in practice at once. Have you an idea of beginning really to serve Christ? Set about it at once. Are you enjoying any spiritual light? See that you live up to your light. Trifle not with opportunities, lest the day come when you will want to use them, and not be able. Linger not, lest you become wise too late.   
~ J.C. Ryle

September 8, 2011

Thoughts from Son-In-Law Willem Bouma

My father-in-law is dying.  That thought is with me, it seems, every waking moment of every single day.  I wake up thinking about it.  I fall asleep thinking about it.  It wakes me up in the middle of the night sometimes.  I'd like to think that this profound sense of melancholy is well managed but I've learned it is not far beneath the surface and that it comes out sometimes.  I must say that I've wept like I've never wept before in my life over the past few months.  But I don't think that's wrong.  I'm not railing against God.  I don't think my father-in-law's dying is against God's will.  I don't even question God's will.  I still pray for a miracle and teach my kids to do the same.  Let's face it, the God who with a word put the stars in the sky could easily take this specter of "amyotrophic lateral sclerosis" away.  But, I see great things happening in peoples lives because of what Jack's experiencing right now.  I'm just going to miss him ... until I see him again.  The Ephesian Elders wept over Paul to the point that he said they were going to break his heart.  It is difficult to say good bye.  It is difficult to face life without someone who has had such a dramatic impact on who I am and how I think.

I met Jack in April of 1997 to ask him if I could date his daughter.  He was working out back.  (He always works.  He doesn’t sit still.  I don't think he can.  I think that's the hardest part of this disease for him.  It's learning to not do things because he can't.  He's learning to "be still and know that I am God".)  He was cleaning up his yard burning brush at the back of the property.  We had a few minutes alone.  I asked him if I could "see" his daughter.  His response was a story about a car - if he had a valuable car and some stranger walked up asking if he could borrow it he'd have reservations understandably and the point was that he valued his daughter much more than any car.  I had to laugh as I'd heard that from another father a while before.  That broke the ice and started our relationship.  It was a great weekend.  What made it great was God's presence in the home.  I'd never been in a house before where God and Christ and being saved and needing to be saved and trusting in God were just a part of life and regular conversation.  Jack said later that when Joni told them she was going to Grand Rapids, Michigan to see some guy he prayed about it and he said he knew, he just knew that that guy was going to be his son-in-law.  I never heard anyone talk like that before.  I grew up in a much more private Christian home.  I almost thought they were putting it on.  But they weren't.  I found myself desperately wanting to live in a home like that.  I'm trying to build one.

That's the essence of my father-in-law.  He strives to be obedient to the upward call of Christ Jesus and to show it to others.  I was talking about that with a friend the other day.  He was just at a conference where one of the talks was from a gentleman who wanted to be remembered for obedience.  He didn't want to be remembered as a great orator, or pastor, or teacher, or husband or father.  He wanted to be remembered for obedience.  Obedience to God and to His Word.

Jack is the ultimate teacher.  He is always trying to point out a better way.  He never quit teaching when he left the classroom.  He is always taking young men under his wing and directing them to Christ.  I remember the first time that my name was up for church council as a deacon.  The next time I saw him, he immediately started counseling me on what the best way was to handle different cases of needful people in the church.

It seems that I'm losing all the fathers in my life.  My own dad passed away eight years ago in an accident on the farm.  I've left others who have mentored me by moving back to Ontario from Michigan.  I remember Joel.  He was an optometrist I worked with when I first got out of school.  An excellent Christian and a loving mentor.  He considered me his son in the faith.  I remember Stan.  I worked for Stan for four years and he really stood in the gap when my father was killed.  But five years after moving back to Ontario the phone calls become less frequent.  We have our own lives.  Behind them all has been Joni's dad since I've met him.  He taught me in many ways to love my own father.

Fathers and sons.  Our relationship can be so complicated.  My wife says that that's because a father feels responsible to make a man out of his son.  It's his job.  That's true.  Once we are fathers we don't have a choice anymore about being one or not.  Our only choice is whether or not we are going to be a good one or not.  That drive to make our sons men makes our relationship with them complicated.  That's what makes a good father-in-law so important and such a blessing.  They can talk to us in one-on-one ways that our own dads can't and make us see the things our fathers were trying to accomplish in our lives that we misunderstood and made us angry.  Up until recently, I'd only ever seen my dad-in-law cry once.  That was at my dad's funeral when I thanked him for teaching me how to love my father.  I think that Jack's emotions are closer to the surface now.  It's another one of those tent pegs being pulled out that's he's talked about previously.

I was sitting up too late talking to a friend of mine a few days ago and we were mourning the passing of mentors in our lives.  God brings them into our lives and He takes them out again when He deems it's His time.  We were talking about how much we would like other younger men to talk about us that way some day.

I think the key is obedience.  We have to obey God and His Word.  And, when God puts people in our lives who model Him for us I think we can feel free to imitate them even as they imitate Christ.

I hope this doesn't sound like a eulogy.  I want it to be an encouragement.  Thinking through some of these things has put some of this in perspective and given me direction.  Think about what it would be like to be greeted in heaven with the words, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant.  Come, enter into the Joy of your Lord."

September 6, 2011

Labour Day Weekend

Lena and I spent the Labour Day weekend at our trailer on Pigeon Lake, near Peterborough, together with our son and his family. We enjoyed very hot, humid weather with lots of sunshine on Friday and Saturday, and we saw an incredible thunderstorm with multiple displays of lightning on Saturday evening. We had quite a bit of rain on Saturday evening and on Sunday, which drastically cooled things off for Monday. The drumming sound of pelting rain on the rubber roof of the trailer, and the popping popcorn sound of rain on the vinyl roof of the sunroom, made for a very cozy feeling inside, with hot coffee, candles, and the grandchildren on the floor having a “chip party”. God’s power and handiwork in nature is a wonder to behold.

I have always enjoyed fishing, and we did some of that this weekend too! We caught, filleted, and ate fresh fish from the lake. Fried in butter, with a little lemon juice, it is quite a treat. The time has now come though, to give up my fishing hobby. Progressive weakness in my hands, arms and legs is making fishing a challenge and a bit dangerous due to a lack of balance while in the boat. Over the last few weeks I have given out to my grandsons and sons most of my fishing tackle. “Christmas in July” I call it. I still have to hand out my half-dozen or so fishing rods, but that will be next. I remember back 25 years ago, taking my son out fishing, helping him into the boat, baiting his hook and untangling his reel. Now my son helps me into the boat, and untangles my reel, in a quiet kind way that leaves me with my dignity. The son has become the father. I am very thankful for the wonderful experiences I have had, and I am OK with letting it go now. I had a great summer on the lakes this year and am glad for the memories of God’s goodness to me. God is making the transition and letting go easy for me.

3 Generations of Westerink Fishermen!

There are also a few personal things I have given away in the last few weeks: my silver pocket watch, engraved pocketknife, my coin collection, my antique lure collection, and some of my books. It makes for memorable events, both for me and my grand sons, and it will make it easier on my wife not to have to do this later when I am gone. I am finding that a loosening of these material things can be quite liberating actually, and I harbour no bitterness or regrets. I have had a good, rich and full life.

We always try to be faithful in attending our home church on the Lord’s Day, but twice this summer we were privileged to worship with God’s people at Braidwood Bible Chapel in Peterborough. Most of the members there that we have met have discovered the doctrines of Grace, as found in the scriptures, in the last 10 years or so. They were Arminians before, but have been born again by God's Spirit and become Reformed Calvinists. We heard two instructive and encouraging messages. A young elder preached an expository message on Jonah 2 in the morning, and a more experienced elder delivered a message on Psalm 73: 25,26 in the evening. The theme was to show how God is working through the difficult circumstances in life. It took those difficult circumstances to teach these valuable lessons to men like Abraham, Job, David, Jonah, and Paul. “God does not take away Himself when He takes away outward comforts’” (Stephen Charnock) The sermons three points were: 1) Hold on to what you cannot lose, 2. Hold loosely to those things you cannot keep, and 3. Realize that God works through the circumstances of life. He also quoted from the well known hymn: “I know not why..., I know not how..., I know not when..., but I know Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able...” Lena and I realized that God was clearly speaking words of encouragement to us through these Godly lay preachers.

I also share with you a quote from J.C. Ryle sent to us by our daughter.

No Regrets on Your Death Bed
We should endeavour, like John the Baptist, to provide for the future spiritual welfare of those we leave behind when we die. We should often remind those who we cannot always be with . We should often urge them to beware of the broad way, when we are taken from them, and they are left alone in the world. We should spare no pains to make all, who in any way look up to us, acquainted with Christ. Happy are those ministers and parents, whose consciences can testify on their death-beds, that they have told their hearers and children to go to Jesus and follow Him!

September 1, 2011

The Fellowship of Believers

Any Christian who has experienced a trial, tragedy, difficulty, sickness or disappointment will be able to testify to the wonderful blessing of the fellowship of believers (II Corinthians 8:4). Care givers who work in hospitals or senior residences will also tell you of the stark contrast between the care and support provided by the Christian community to those who are members of a church compared to those who are not. The love for Christ by believers is clearly manifested in a sacrificial, self-denying love for one another (I John 3).
In our journey through ALS we have received much love, care, and support from the broader Christian school and church community. We are overwhelmed by phone calls, emails, cards, and visits. Yesterday, a former teacher colleague, and now a 25 year veteran in the ministry of the Word from Canton, Michigan, spent the whole day visiting me. We talked about old times, about how things are now, and he greatly encouraged me with Biblical counsel, helpful quotes from Godly writers, encouraging words and practical wisdom. He is a busy pastor, but he took the time out of his packed schedule to drive 4 hours (one way) to visit me. While we were visiting, another dear brother in the Lord was in my yard cutting the lawn, weeding, trimming and sweeping up so that I could rest and spend time with my visitor inside. My own pastor has visited and spoken with me on numerous occasions, as well as the deacons and fellow elders of our church. Friends have gone fishing with me, taken me for a boys day out for ribs and a “cold one”, and for a drive in the country checking out the progress of the wheat, corn, and soybean fields. Others talk and pray with me on the phone. Lonely? Neglected? Not a chance! What they are doing is they are unconsciously and unwarily (Matthew 25:31-46) heaping up treasures in heaven and building their “heavenly portfolios”. (Matthew 6:19-21)
Christians are not meant to be alone and live as individuals for themselves. They are part of a body of believers, each having different gifts and abilities. They are one with Christ, and one with another. Every body part is needed in order to be able to function well. (I Corinthians 12:15) That is why Christians need to belong to a church, and need to become active participants in the ministry of the church.