October 31, 2011

Desire Holiness? Start with Christ

Would you be holy? Would you become a new creature? Then
begin with Christ! You will do nothing, until you feel your sin and weakness—and flee to Him! He is the beginning of all holiness. He is not only wisdom and righteousness to His people—but sanctification also. People sometimes try to make themselves holy first—and sad work they make of it! They toil, labour, and turn over many new leaves, and make many changes—and yet they feel nothing bettered, but rather worse. They run in vain and labor in vain! Little wonder, for they are beginning at the wrong end! They are building up a wall of sand; their work runs down as fast as they throw it up. They are baling water out of a leaky vessel. The leak gains on them, not they on the leak. Other foundation of holiness, can no person lay, than that which Paul laid, even Christ Jesus. Without Christ, we can do nothing.   ~ J.C. Ryle

October 28, 2011

Grandchildren's Questions

Our grandchildren are slowly learning to deal with the reality of death and almost every time after they've been visiting with us, inevitably, coming from the back seat, will come the questions for their parents. "Opa's going to die soon, right mom?" or "Why does Oma have to help Opa when he goes to the bathroom? I'm 3 and I can do it all by myself!"

Joni told us, Ella and I were baking in the kitchen together. As I added ingredients to the bowl she stood on a chair beside me and said "Opa is dying right Mommy?" Yes he is, I said. She looked up at me and said, "But God is going to catch him when he dies right Mommy, and take him up to heaven!" You are right, I said. "And you and me are dying too, right Mommy? But God will catch us too, and take us to Heaven too, right Mom? " I said, "Yep, if you love Jesus you can be in heaven too some day! "I love Jesus Mommy! Can I have my own pile of chocolate chips now?"

When our son and his wife ask their 4 yr old son Benjamin to pray, the first thing he says in every prayer is, "Dear God, heal Opa to make him feel better and thank you that Opa can go to heaven."

The other day my daughter Sarah was running some errands and Ethan our 5 year old grandson was staying with us. I was downstairs hanging up some laundry and he was riding the tricycle in circles near me. Out of the blue he said to me, "When Opa dies, you're going to have to do all the work all by yourself!". I said, "Yes, but I have kids that love me and they will help me if I need help". With eyes wide open he replied, "Do you have kids!" (of course picturing 3 or 4 yr olds of mine that he didn't know about :) So I said, "Yes, I do, your mom and dad, Auntie Joni and Uncle Willem, Aunt Sarah and Uncle Gerrit". Then he realized what I meant and he quickly piped up, "And me too, when I get big I'm going to help you too...." but was quick to add, "but I don't think I want to help you with the laundry!" I told him not to worry, that I quite liked doing laundry all by myself. A short while later after doing a few more laps on his trike, he said, " Opa's giving all his stuff away isn't he," I said, "Yes, he is". Ethan asked, "Why is he doing that? Doesn't he want to take it with him to heaven?" I said, " No, you can't take anything with you to heaven". "Why not?" he replied. I said, "You wouldn't want to because everything in heaven is far better than any of your stuff here on earth." That was probably not the best answer I could give but you have to think quickly because you don't get any advanced warning when these questions are going to come.

 I think it's God's mercy that Jack is gradually dying and not suddenly snatched away from us, also for this reason; our grand children are slowly dealing with the impending death of their beloved Opa and have lots of time to think about it and ask questions and get a bit prepared, if that is possible, for that inevitable day when we will have to bring his body to the graveyard. What a lot of questions they will have then!

Is it possible to wean them off of their Opa? There is no better way than to point them to a better "Abba", a Father in heaven who will never leave them nor forsake them, and to the Lord Jesus who promises to be a "friend that sticks closer than a brother" and to the Holy Spirit who will be their "comforter" forever.

October 26, 2011

Cultivating a Sense of the Eternal

I just finished reading a book by Randy Alcorn titled: In light of Eternity. This book has many helpful quotes from various authors that direct our thoughts heavenward and that I would like to share with you. It may help to increase our thinking and living from an eternal perspective.

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“It is since Christians have ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this one.” (C.S. Lewis)
“If there be so certain and glorious a rest for the saints, why is there no more industrious seeking after it? One would think, if a man did but once hear of such unspeakable glory to be obtained, and believed what he heard to be true, he should be transported with the vehemency of his desire after it, and should almost forget to eat and drink, and should care for nothing else, and speak of and inquire after nothing else, but how to get this treasure. And yet people who hear of it daily, and profess to believe it as a fundamental article of their faith, do as little mind it, or labor for it, as if they had never heard of any such thing, or did not believe one word they hear.” (Richard Baxter, 1649, The Saints Everlasting Rest)
“Let temporal things serve your use, but the eternal be the object of your desire.” (Thomas a Kempis)
“I judge all things only by the price they shall gain in eternity.” (John Wesley)
John D. Rockefeller was one of the wealthiest men who ever lived. After he died his accountant was asked, “How much money did John D leave?” His reply was classic: “He left...all of it.”
“You’ll never see a hearse pulling a U-haul.”
“Any temporal possession can be turned into everlasting wealth. Whatever is given to Christ is immediately touched with immortality.” (A.W. Tozer)
“I have held many things in my hands and I have lost them all. But whatever I have placed in God’s hands , that I still possess.” (Martin Luther)
On his deathbed D.L. Moody said, “Soon you will read in the newspaper that I am dead. don’t believe it for a moment. I will be more alive than ever before.”
“Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.” (C.S. Lewis)
“There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven, but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else... Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you and you alone, because you were made for it stitch by stitch as a glove is made for a hand.” (C.S. Lewis)
“The church is constantly being tempted to accept this world as her home...but if she is wise she will consider that she stands in the valley between the mountain peaks of eternity past and eternity to come. The past is gone forever and the present is passing as swift as the shadow on the sundial of Ahaz. Even if the earth should continue a million years not one of us could stay to enjoy it. We do well to think of the long tomorrow.” (A.W. Tozer)
John Wesley was shown around a vast plantation by a proud landowner. They rode their horses all day and saw only a fraction of the estate. When they sat down to dinner the man said eagerly, “Well, Wesley, what do you think?” Wesley pondered the question, then replied, “I think you’re going to have a hard time leaving all this.”
“Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.” (Sir Thomas Moore)
“If you’re a Christian suffering with great pains and losses, take cheer (John 16:33). The new house is almost ready for you. Moving day’s coming. The dark winter is about to be magically transformed into spring. Soon you will be home.” (Randy Alcorn, In Light of Eternity, p.163)
“I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.” (C.S. Lewis)

October 24, 2011

Volleyball Tournament for ALS Research

Nicole, a grade 12 student from Rehoboth Christian School, organized a volleyball tournament this past Saturday to raise funds for the ALS Research conducted by Dr. John Turnbull of McMaster University Hospital.  Nine teams of at least six players showed up to play, have fun and fellowship, and eat pizza. Approximately $1,000 was raised by the tournament. Thank-you Nicole for all your kind, considerate effort and energy you put into organizing this event on my behalf.
Nicole (The organizer of the tournament!)
It's hard to read the sign but it says Fundraiser Volleyball Tournament for Mr. Westerink!


The Westerink Family cheering section!

ALS Research: Dr. Turnbull reported at the 2nd Annual Amethyst Dinner for ALS Research that experimental studies had been done at the cellular level, and was now moving up to the level of testing on mice. Dr. Turnbull believes that ALS will be a treatable disease in the future. At first, treatments will be found to slow the progress of this cruel neurological disease. Then, perhaps, a cure will be found.

When asked how much money it would take to pay for the research of a cure, Dr. Turnbull said about $5 billion. Developing a drug, and bringing it to market, costs hundreds of millions of dollars. When I told Dr. Turnbull about the tournament, he smiled. He said that every bit helps, and the enthusiasm and awareness is worth a lot. The Amethyst Awareness dinner raised about $50,000 toward the cause.

October 22, 2011

The Right Doors Open – Max Lucado

You try one door after another, yet no one responds to your résumé. No university accepts your application. No doctor has a solution for your illness. No buyers look at your house. Obstacles pack your path. Road, barricaded. Doorway, padlocked. Do you know the frustration of a blocked door? God uses closed doors to advance his cause. He closed the womb of a young Sarah so he could display his power to the elderly one. He shut the palace door on Moses the prince so he could open shackles through Moses the liberator. He marched Daniel out of Jerusalem so he could use Daniel in Babylon. And Jesus. Yes, even Jesus knew the challenge of a blocked door. When he requested a path that bypassed the cross, God said no. He said no to Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane so he could say yes to us at the gates of heaven.

It’s not that our plans are bad but that God’s plans are better. “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isa. 55:8–9 NLT) Your blocked door doesn’t mean God doesn’t love you. Quite the opposite. It’s proof that he does.

October 21, 2011

Skim Board and a Brooch

The two boys on the photo below, Sam and Joshua, are representatives of the grade 8 Woodworking class of Rehoboth Christian School. They came to visit me to make a presentation on behalf of their class: a painted and signed skim board. For those of you who don’t know (sigh), a skim board is something you throw into the surf at the ocean, you run and jump on it, and then skim along the sea foam of an incoming wave. This particular skim board is painted with the RCS lighthouse and has the “Grace is Sufficient” text from II Corinthians 12:9 at the top. On the back are the signatures of all the students in the Woodworking class with little messages to me below each signature. I don’t think I will be using it to skim with, it is far too nice for that! I think I’ll put a hook at the back and hang it in the house somewhere so I can see it every day. It’s a great piece of art work. Thanks for the great visit boys!
The Brooch
On a previous blog I wrote that we attended a dinner to raise money for ALS Research. We were there with 10 people (5 couples) from our school community, one of whom was Sam and his mom. Throughout the evening, Sam kept leaving the table every 10 minutes. I was wondering why but when I asked him, he told me that he was bidding on a brooch at the silent auction. We left the dinner before we heard the final outcome on the auction. Well, today we found out that Sam ended up being the highest bidder on the brooch. All along he was trying to make sure that he could buy the brooch for my wife Lena. Today, he made the presentation (along with the skim board). As you can see from the picture, Lena is proudly wearing the brooch on her neck scarf.
Thank-you Sam. You are a wonderful, determined, thoughtful young man. God bless you. 

October 20, 2011


I am often asked the question whether or not I have any pain. Each time I have to answer “No.” The only discomfort I experience is at night. Sometimes I have difficulty with muscle cramps in my feet, legs, and hands. The Doctor has pescribed a drug called Baclofen, which is a muscle relaxant. It helps reduce the cramping and muscle tightness. I don’t really like to take this medicine because it has the side effect of making me feel weak and tired the next day, thus interfering with my plans. Which is better: enduring the cramps and having a good day, or relief from the cramps and feeling tired? So, if at all possible, I avoid taking the pill.
The most painful thing for me is saying goodbye or farewell to friends and family you know you will never see again. Last week we spent a wonderful week with two “cousins”, Hanneke and Amanda from Holland. They gave us so much love and care, and we laughed and cried together. Today I had to say farewell to another two visitors from the Netherlands who spent 6 days with us: Rev. J. Westerink and his son Marnix from Urk. Rev. Westerink is a retired minister from the CGK denomination in Holland, currently living in Urk, where he last served as their minister. His son Marnix is an elder from the same church, and he works for a company that buys and sells fish to customers worldwide.
We enjoyed ‘sitting at the feet’ of Rev. Westerink so to speak, as he told stories and experiences from his 45 years of ministry. In a very gentle, fatherly way, he ministered to us from the word of God and in prayer. Marnix did the same. It was painful to say goodbye. I almost don’t want to say ‘hello’ because of the inevitable ‘goodbye’. But as Alfred Lord Tennyson said in his poem In Memoriam:27, 1850:
I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

October 15, 2011

Drowning in love....

As you know, our bathroom was renovated in late August to accommodate my handicap. The bulk of the work on this project was done by our son Gerrit, who works for a custom home builder, and it has turned out beautifully. That was about 6 weeks ago, and I have not seen a bill yet, until this afternoon. The total amount for the project was not displayed, but the work done was listed in detail. Across the bill was written: Paid in full. October 14th, 2011.  This is a clear example of how Christians demonstrate their love to God by taking what God has richly blessed them with and sharing with others.  They are laying up treasures in heaven. God is so very good.

Last Sunday the St. George youth group gave each of our children a box of mixed baked goods, as a way to show their love and appreciation to our family. Other people have showed up at our door with a casserole, lasagna, cookies, cake, freshly picked tomatoes and green beans, you name it. Everyone wants to help in whatever way they can and are able.  God's blessings keep raining upon us as a family.  We are drowning in the love.  God is so good.

This week four members of the Student Council of Rehoboth Christian School, where I have worked for 33 years, paid me a visit. They brought along signed blue ribbons from all of the students in grades 7-12.

They also raised funds for my wife and I to attend the Amethyst Fundraising dinner for the McMaster ALS clinic and Dr. John Turnbull’s research. At $125 per person, this was a very generous offering. There were 4 other couples from the school community at this dinner, and one of them was a grade 8 student who escorted his mom. He was bidding on a broach at the silent auction, getting up every 10 minutes to make sure he was still the highest bidder. The students have organized a volleyball tournament at the school next week Saturday, dedicated to raising funds for Dr. Turnbull’s research.

The other day my daughter Sarah (who manages this blog for us) wrote me this message after their Thanksgiving Day service. “Pastor Schoeman read 3 questions from the Heidelberg Catechism. It is easy to think, oh yes, I know what that says, heard it many times before.  But when you read them again and think about them in light of Dad's ALS, it brings out so much more meaning, so much more comfort! Sermons, family, even catechism questions have a new and deeper meaning! We have no idea how precious they are!”

Question 26. What believest thou when thou sayest, "I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth"?
Answer: That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (who of nothing made heaven and earth, with all that is in them; who likewise upholds and governs the same by His eternal counsel and providence) is for the sake of Christ His Son, my God and my Father; on whom I rely so entirely, that I have no doubt, but He will provide me with all things necessary for soul and body and further, that He will make whatever evils He sends upon me, in this valley of tears turn out to my advantage; for He is able to do it, being Almighty God, and willing, being a faithful Father.

Question 27. What dost thou mean by the providence of God?
Answer: The almighty and everywhere present power of God; whereby, as it were by His hand, He upholds and governs heaven, earth, and all creatures; so that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, and all things come, not by chance, but be His fatherly hand.

Question 28. What advantage is it to us to know that God has created, and by His providence does still uphold all things?
Answer: That we may be patient in adversity; thankful in prosperity; and that in all things, which may hereafter befall us, we place our firm trust in our faithful God and Father, that nothing shall separate us from His love; since all creatures are so in His hand, that without His will they cannot so much as move.

October 13, 2011

Being Physically Challenged

For the first time in my life I am beginning to really understand what it feels like to be a ‘Handicapped’ person. There are probably many books and videos on the topic, and I imagine that personal care givers take courses on it. But as for me, I am officially enrolled in the Co-op program. On the dashboard of our vehicle we now have a card with a blue Handicapped Parking permit. I am now legally allowed to park in these extra wide spots nice and close to the entranceway. The last time we were shopping at Walmart, I saw a parking officer issuing a ticket to someone without a permit. For the first time I felt ‘vindicated’ instead of sorry for the hurried shopper. At our church and school, I noticed that the power push buttons to operate the door were not functional, and it bothered me for the first time. They may have been broken for some time, but I never noticed it before because it wasn’t important to me. Kids sometimes play with these buttons when their parents aren’t watching.

I need help showering and getting dressed in the morning because of the loss of fine motor movement in my hands. I cannot do belt buckles, buttons, or zippers anymore, so I am dependent on my wife to do that for me. Combing my hair, scratching the back of my head, cleaning my glasses is now a luxury of the past. I have noticed that handicapped people sometimes have hairs and dandruff on their shoulders, and food stains on their clothing. To my dismay, I see that I have it too at times, because I am not able to brush it off with my clawed hand. Sometimes I put my arm over the stain to cover it up. The other day someone shook my hand in a friendly greeting while I was holding a cup of coffee in the other hand. He shook it so hard that the coffee spilled all over my clean white shirt, tie, and dress pants. I felt like all that I had left of my dignity was my neat appearance, and now that was gone too! It was an honest mistake, but this was the first time I felt anger, not at God not at that man who shook my hand, but just grrrrr! It all boils down to pride, something I need to learn to let go of.

Another thing I notice is that some people bend over and talk louder to you than they did before, using a patronizing tone. Just because you cannot walk anymore, does not mean you are now hard of hearing or now have difficulty understanding. Having a separate handicapped accessible bathroom in a public building sure is nice if you need assistance. A handicapped stall in the men’s room doesn’t cut it when your wife needs to help you! I refuse to use the handicapped stall in the women’s bathroom, so I just grit my teeth and bear it until I get home. (Just a little hint for those who are building new churches.) I don’t mean to sound like a whiner, but maybe when you read these things it may make you realize, what a privilege it is to be independent and to be able to do things yourself. It is important for a handicapped person to be treated with dignity, respect, and to make provisions for them to have maximum independence. I hope it helps you to work with the handicapped in your community.

Living Like a Pilgrim – J.C. Ryle

We must beware of thinking too much about our meals, our furniture, our houses, and all those many things which concern the life of the body. We must strive to live like people whose first thoughts are about the immortal soul. We must endeavour to pass through the world like people who are not yet at home, and are not so troubled about the fare they meet with on the road and at the inn. Blessed are they who feel like pilgrims and strangers in this life, and whose best things are all to come!

October 12, 2011

A Rhetorical Question

We began our Thanksgiving Day church service with a rhetorical question: What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me? (Psalm 116:12) According to Wikipedia, “a rhetorical question is a figure of speech in the form of a question posed for its persuasive effect without the expectation of a reply. Rhetorical questions encourage the listener to think about what the (often obvious) answer to the question must be.” Well, on Thanksgiving Day 2011, what is the obvious answer to the question asked in Psalm 116:12? The answer is not really obvious to the person who is blinded by sin: nothing. God has given us so many temporal and spiritual blessings in the past year, that there is really nothing that we can give to Him in return that would carry any weight in the balance. And yet, our response should be different. Out of gratitude to God for what He has done for us, we should desire with all of our heart to dedicate all that we are and all that we have to Him.
At our traditional family Thanksgiving meal, I noticed that our daughter had created a ‘Thanksgiving tree’ on the wall in the dining room. On that tree were taped papers with the words that my grandchildren said they were thankful for. At the base of the tree was the name ‘Jesus’. I was happy to see that. On the branches were other words like: Church, Daddy, School, Opa and Oma, frogs, lions, food, etc. What a great idea. I wondered how those words would change as these youngsters would grow up. I hope and pray that ‘Jesus’ will always be found at the base of their tree.
Another tradition we have as a family (perhaps you do it too), is that after the main course of turkey and ‘all the trimmings’, and just before dessert (apple, pecan, or lemon meringue pie), we all have to tell one thing (and only one thing) that we were especially thankful for in this past year. That is of course very difficult to do. Not because we cannot think of anything to say, but because we have to limit it to only one thing. I started the round off by saying that I was thankful that my wife Lena was granted a leave of absence to stay home to take care of me. My son-in-law was thankful for this blog and the number of people it has been able to impact. My oldest grandchild expressed thankfulness for “the hard times, because it makes us more thankful for the good times”. (Deep stuff for a 12 year old!) My four year old grandson said “Opa!” Another was thankful for his Pastor, and the faithful preaching he tried his best to bring forward each Lord’s Day. Not an easy task. My dear wife said something I did not expect. “The Bible says to give thanks in all circumstances", so we must be thankful also in our ALS circumstance. What? you may say. Yes, it is true. God has used ALS to bring our family closer to Him, closer to each other, and closer to our church and school community and for that we "give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good because His mercy endures forever".

October 7, 2011

Visitors, Apple and Coke

This week we were privileged to have two 'cousins' from Holland visiting with us for 8 days. Our great-grandfathers were cousins, originating from the fishing village of Elburg. We have formed a strong bond of friendship and spiritual unity with Hanneke and Amanda over the years, as we visited back and forth with their families. Ever since it was known that I was diagnosed with ALS, they have been following my journey via Facebook, email, and our blog. "We just had to come to cry with you", they said. And we did. They are 'kindred spirits'.

We have been touring Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Falls, St. Jacobs Farmers Market, Cora's, The Mandarin, etc. I call them my 'equipment managers', getting my walker and wheelchair in and out of the car. They have helped me make the transition from walker to wheelchair with loving support, dignity and grace. "Are you OK with that?", they asked. "Yeah, I'm OK with that", I replied. It's another step on the journey - step by step. Family and friends are a huge encouragement helping me on the way, but I know that eventually the path will become single file. Then we need to walk alone with the Master, or more accurately be carried by Him. (Psalm 77:19)

Steven Jobs, the creator of the Apple iPod, iPhone, iPad, and the MacBook, died this week from pancreatic cancer. Jobs has exchanged time for eternity. He was a genius, a very successful businessman, had an almost cultic following, and was a practicing Buddhist. Apple is worth about $350 billion on Wall Street, and is the most known brand name on the globe, even surpassing Coca-Cola. Jobs talked about how a sense of his mortality was a major driver behind the vision of producing an excellent product that the world wanted to buy. “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life,” Jobs said during a Stanford commencement ceremony in 2005. “Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

There is a lot of truth and value in what Jobs said about focussing on what is important in life, and that his impending death helped him to make the 'big choices'. But Jobs erred in 'following his heart' rather than following God and His holy Word. He tried to obtain peace in his heart through self-denial and self-improvement, but we know from experience that true peace can only come from being reconciled to a holy, righteous God through faith in His Son. Spending quality time with family, friends, and Church folk is a priority in life, but to be washed in the blood of the Lamb is the number one priority. "How much money is enough?" someone asked billionaire John D.Rockefeller one day. "Just a little bit more", was his famous answer. Success, fame and fortune can never fill the God-sized hole we all have in our heart. It can only be filled by Him, and then it overflows with love to others.

Let us remember this as we look forward to the days yet to come: We know not what our days may be - bright or dark, many or few - but we know that we are in the hands of Him who does all things well.  He will not err in any of His dealings with us. He will take away and give - He will move and He will settle - with perfect wisdom, at the right time, in the right way.  The great Shepherd of the sheep makes no mistakes.  He leads every lamb of His flock by the right way to the city of habitation.  ~ J.C. Ryle

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Wherefore hast Thou afflicted Thy servant? (Numbers 11:11)
Our heavenly Father sends us frequent troubles to try our faith. If our faith be worth anything, it will stand the test. Guilt is afraid of fire, but gold is not: the paste gem dreads to be touched by the diamond, but the true jewel fears no test. It is a poor faith which can only trust God when friends are true, the body full of health, and the business profitable; but that is true faith which holds by the Lord's faithfulness when friends are gone, when the body is sick, when spirits are depressed, and the light of our Father's countenance is hidden. A faith which can say, in the direst trouble, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him," is heaven-born faith. The Lord afflicts His servants to glorify Himself, for He is greatly glorified in the graces of His people, which are His own handiwork. When "tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope," the Lord is honoured by these growing virtues. We should never know the music of the harp if the strings were left untouched; nor enjoy the juice of the grape if it were not trodden in the winepress; nor discover the sweet perfume of cinnamon if it were not pressed and beaten; nor feel the warmth of fire if the coals were not utterly consumed. The wisdom and power of the great Workman are discovered by the trials through which His vessels of mercy are permitted to pass. Present afflictions tend also to heighten future joy. There must be shades in the picture to bring out the beauty of the lights. Could we be so supremely blessed in heaven, if we had not known the curse of sin and the sorrow of earth? Will not peace be sweeter after conflict, and rest more welcome after toil? Will not the recollection of past sufferings enhance the bliss of the glorified? There are many other comfortable answers to the question with which we opened our brief meditation, let us muse upon it all day long.  ~ C.H. Spurgeon

October 5, 2011

A Letter From A Little Sister..

Big brothers are special...and I am blessed to have two of them!  They provide strength, support, encouragement, advice, protection and always lots of love.

Jack is my big brother and has always provided the best for me.  I remember growing up with him by my side and always sticking up for me :). Now my brother is dying of ALS and a part of me is dying with him.  

I am truly blessed and honored to say he is a beacon of hope and an example of brotherly love not only to me but to my children and all of those who know and love him.  

When I look at my daughter Madison and how she looks to her brothers for love, support and guidance I hope and pray that my boys can provide for her what my brother does and has done for me.

My brother may be dying but his brotherly love and faithfulness will live forever in my heart.  Romans 12:10.

I love you Jack,
Your little sis
~ Joanne

October 3, 2011

Thoughts and Pictures from Joni

This Saturday we were able to share a fried turkey dinner with the whole family.  Getting a deep fryer for a turkey (as my Dad already wrote about) is one of the many spontaneous and creative ideas that my Dad is famous for.  He is always coming up with fun things that we should do, places to visit, things to try... and he doesn't just talk about them, he makes it happen!  We gathered for an afternoon of relaxed family time at my sisters beautiful property and enjoyed a typical Saturday afternoon - and yet since the ALS diagnosis, not so typical anymore. 

Life is different now.  It has taken on new meaning, and family gatherings have a new significance.  I usually take pictures (a lot of pictures!) of our family times, but of the 500 or so I usually take, I normally delete many of them.  I can't do that anymore!  Looking through pictures of my dad with the family, even blurry ones or ones that didnt turn out quite right, I just can't get rid of them! I want to hold on to these memories forever. 

I know that looking back on the slides (does that date me???) and the pictures of our childhood, we remember the things we have a photo of.  I want our children, especially the young ones, to remember times with Opa.  What's hard is to capture a natural interaction between our children and Dad...the fact that he is dying, is always right there in the forefront of our minds.

We have been blessed with wonderful parents. We have a Mom and a Dad that love the Lord, love each other and love us.  We didnt need Disney vacations or fancy clothes or dinners at restaurants - we had a home full of love and fun; we had security and safety and grew up knowing who we were, why we were here on this earth and where we were going.  This is the most precious gift you could ever give your children.  Garage sale clothes, vacations in a borrowed pop up trailer, and lots of laughter and loving - what more could we ask for!

My Dad is so interesting to be around - taking a nature hike becomes a lesson in God's amazing design in creation, an impromptu visit becomes a chance to slice up some cheese and pull out the best wine - no saving anything for later - that day's visit is reason enough for celebration to him.

Here is a peek into our Saturday get together...

Ten grandchildren!

Still able to laugh... nice 'stache Dad!

We were able to get a picture of Mom and Dad with each of their grandchildren. A picture I think each of them will cherish years down the road.

Lena (12)

Titus (10)

Elijah (8)

Jack (7)

Ethan (5)

Benjamin (4)

Maya (3)

Aliya (3)

Ella (3)

and Roman! (1)

I love how Maya's holding on to Dad's hands here.   

Benjamin has always had a special relationship with his Opa.  All the grandkids love their Opa so much, but Benjamin turns to Opa as easily as he turns to his own Dad.  On Saturday he got hurt on the trampoline and made a beeline to Opa for comfort...the fact that Opa uses a walker, makes no difference to him; his hugs are still the same.

The love that our church and school community has showered on my Dad and also on all of the rest of the family, has been such a blessing.  It's an amazing feeling to know that your Dad, who you love and esteem so highly, is also valued by so many other people.  I love hearing the stories people tell of fun times with my Dad or ways in which he has touched their lives in a meaningful way.  Thank you for your love and support.  Thank you for sending meals and visits to my parents.  Thank you for talking to us kids at church and at school and saying that you are thinking and praying for us too!  We have amazing friends and a solid church family that is wrapping us up in prayers and love and it is making this journey so much easier for us all.  This is how the world can know that we love Christ - that we show love for one another - what a powerful witness!  (John 13:35)

Love you dad,