March 29, 2012

Oh Death, Where is Your Sting? J.C.Ryle

The person who has Christ, has life. They can look around them on the temporary things and see change and decay on every side without dismay. They have got treasure in heaven, which neither rust nor moth can corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal. They can look forward to the things eternal and feel calm and composed. Their Savior has risen, and gone to prepare a place for them. When they leave this world they shall have a crown of glory, and be forever with their Lord. They can look down even into the grave, as the wisest Greeks and Romans could never do, and say, "Oh, death, where is your sting? Oh, grave, where is your victory?" (1 Cor. 15:55).

March 27, 2012

Technology Access Clinic

We recently went to Chedoke for a visit to the TAC (Technology Access Clinic) where we met with Steve and Gerry. They assessed Jack's communication needs and what type of technology would best assist him now and in the future. They arranged to come to our house and they brought with them two types of computers which have the capability of speaking what he types but also give him the ability to do his email, check his favourites websites, etc. They will even set it up so that Jack will be able to turn on our ipod so that he can listen to music and control it from his computer.  (You may need to scroll down to the bottom of the page and pause or adjust the volume of the music to be able to hear the videos.)

The computer will be able to be mounted on his wheelchair also. They thought it was a good idea for him to start using it now so that he can get used to it while he still has some voice left and then when he needs it exclusively, he'll be really familiar with it and faster at it.

Of course this causes mixed feelings in us. We are so thankful for the technology we have and yet saddened because of what the need of it means. I was hoping that Jack's experience would be similar to that of John's, our dear friend Barb's husband who died of ALS last year. He was able to speak right up until his death; but alas, this is not to be. Each ALS journey is so individual and we just have to accept that God is sovereign in this also and that He has a "specially designed for Jack" journey in mind, one that will purify him and one that will teach Lena patience, self denial and compassion. We will continue to trust and obey and expect all our help from God alone.

March 23, 2012

Having Perspective in Light of Eternity – J. C. Ryle

O Christian, what is our light affliction when compared to eternity? Shame on us if we murmur and complain and turn back - with heaven before our eyes! What can this vain and passing world give us better than this? This is the city of our God Himself, when He will dwell among us Himself. The glory of God shall enlighten it, and the Lamb is the light there. Truly we may say, as Mephibosheth did to David, "Let the world take all, since our Lord will come in peace." Such is the Bible heaven, there is none other; these sayings are faithful and true, not any of them shall fail. Surely, it is worth a little pain, a little laboring, a little toil, if only we may have the lowest place in the kingdom of God.  - J. C. Ryle

March 19, 2012

Two Sparrows for a Penny

There is nothing like that first glimpse of a red breasted robin to let you know that spring is here. I saw my first one last week and I felt elated! We grew up with many bird feeders - Opa Westerink loved his birds and faithfully fed them. I think growing up with a huge variety of birds in the backyard, lovingly fed and attended to, began a life long love in me for birds. Whenever my kids ask me what my favourite animal is I say "A bird!" . Lately I love birds more then ever and I want to share why that is. I watched an interview with Ed Dobson the other day (a pastor with ALS from Grand Rapids, MI that I have been following since my Dad was diagnosed). The interviewer, CNN's Gary Tuchman (click HERE for link), asked Ed why he liked birds and he said "Every time I see a bird I am reminded that God will take care of me." 

Photo Credit:  Ryk Naves.  This photo and more found HERE

This afternoon at our church, Pastor Schoeman preached an immensely comforting sermon on Matthew10 and Lords Day 10 (from the Heidelberg Catechism) on the doctrine of Providence. Before Jesus sent out his disciples he told them about some of the hard things they would encounter as they went out into the world telling people about the good news of salvation in Christ. The disciples must have been afraid after hearing that they are going to be "like sheep among wolves" and that they would be "brought before governors and kings" and "scourged in their synagogues". But then Jesus said these amazing words:  29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 

Of all the beautiful creatures God made, he turned to the humble sparrow. Nothing fancy or colourful just a simple, common bird that was sold 2 for a penny at the market. Simple and common like the group of poor, uneducated fishermen before Him, who surely felt afraid and unprepared for the task set before them. Jesus knew their fears and He reminded them that their heavenly Father knew about and cared about even the most common creatures, sparrows sold for next to nothing. How much more didn't He care about them - created in His own image! There is no such thing as luck or chance or happenstance. God is not a clockmaker that made the world, set it spinning and left us on our own to figure it all out. He controls everything. Everything! He knows how many hairs are on our head. He sends rain and sunshine, spring and winter time. He used the famine to bring Joseph to Egypt, he brought the fish to swallow Jonah, he used the death of Ruth's husband to bring her to Israel and make her a part of the line of Christ. Good things and bad, sickness and health, prosperity and joy … even ALS - nothing is outside of his control. Nothing slips past His hands. He holds us and controls everything in our life. And if we love Him - he uses it all for our good! What an amazing comfort this is. 

Photo Credit:  Ryk Naves

Sometimes I think we can feel that the doctrines outlining our faith are not important or helpful in our daily walk with the Lord, but today the doctrine of Gods Providence was such an encouragement to me. And I hope it can be an encouragement to you too Dad. I hope that like Ed Dobson, you can look out your window and see birds flying by and think every single time you see one, that God cares for that bird. How much more doesn't he care for me? Ed Dobson said " I see a lot of birds!" Dad, as you are more and more confined to your chair in your living room, I pray that God will send flocks of birds by your window. Every day. And that every day again this truth will carry you - that God, who made you and redeemed you, also cares about what you experience every single day. He is working all things for your good:    

Romans 8:38-39 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Titus had to do a wood project for his cadets group. He decided to make a birdhouse for his Opa's window. He designed the birdhouse to have 3 wooden sides, a roof, and a glass panel at the back. 

The view from inside - you can see the glass back of the birdhouse.
His idea is this: that the birdhouse, which is now mounted right outside of their living room window, will someday house a bird, who will make a nest in it, visible from Opa's recliner.

Wouldn't that be amazing! After being reminded by our Lord Jesus today to look at the birds and be reminded of our heavenly Father's love, I pray that these simple but beautiful birds will become a real comfort to you too Dad! And that one will nest right outside your window so you can never forget for a moment how much God cares for you.

Lots of love

March 18, 2012

A Letter From Madison

A letter our dear niece Madison wrote to her teacher.  

March 15, 2012

Thankful for What I Can Do

Last night I had quite a good sleep and woke up to an amazingly beautiful day. This morning I could enjoy a hot shower and then spent some time reading comforting promises and encouragements that I have highlighted in my online Bible reading program. I was able to read through the entire Bible (NT and Psalms twice) in 10 weeks, and I highlighted about 100 passages that spoke to me. Now I enjoy re-reading those bookmarks on my iPad.

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking about the things I can no longer do, but far better to be thankful about what I am able to do and enjoy. I enjoyed lots of sunshine on my driveway today watching the grandchildren play and ride their bikes in 21C temperature (who needs Florida in this weather?). We also went for a lovely walk along Hamilton harbor at Pier 4 Park while the grand kids cycled and even played in the sand. The grand kids say "hi Opa" when they see me, and then run off to play. I would love to be able to talk more with them besides "hi", "bye", and "love you", but they seem to understand that this is the new 'norm'. Three year old Aliya came running in one morning shouting "Hi Opa. Guess what? I prayed for you!" and then asked me if she could play on my iPad. That's how kids are.

I weighed myself this morning and I was 198 lbs, down from 220 lbs before my illness began. I suppose it's due to a reduced appetite, eating slower as well as the atrophy of the muscles. I cannot remember when I was under 200 (maybe 20 years ago). I can notice it on how my clothes fit. It makes it a little easier for Lena to move me around and get me dressed.

I do feel most secure and comfortable at home, but I am still thankfully able to attend church twice per Lord's Day, and I tag along on trips to the grocery store. The change in scenery is good, and the fellowship with God's people under the ministry of the Word is uplifting. Grace sufficient for each day, and the Hymn "I Need Thee Every Every Hour" have taken on new meaning for me.

March 12, 2012

This Earth is Not Our Rest - J.C. Ryle

There is such a place as heaven. No truth is more certain in the whole of Scripture than this - there remains a rest for the people of God. This earth is not our rest - it cannot be - there breathes not a man or woman who ever found it so. Go, build your happiness on earth, if you are so disposed; choose everything you can imagine would make life enjoyable - take money, house, and lands; take learning, health, and beauty; take honor, rank, respect, and many friends; take everything your mind can picture or your eyes desire. Take it all, and yet I dare to tell you, that even then you would not find rest. I know well that in a few short years, your heart's confession would be - "It is all hollow, empty, and unsatisfying! It is all weariness and disappointment! It is all vanity and frustration!" I well know that you would feel within a hungering and famine, a leanness and barrenness of soul; and ready indeed would you be to bear your testimony to the mighty truth, "This earth is not our rest!" ~ J.C. Ryle

March 9, 2012

Do Not Be Surprised at Trials and Afflictions – J. C. Ryle

If we know anything of growth in grace and desire to know more, let us not be surprised if we have to go through much trial and affliction in this world. I firmly believe it is the experience of nearly all the most eminent saints. Like their blessed Master, they have been men of sorrows, acquainted with grief, and perfected through sufferings (Isa. 53:3; Heb. 2:10). It is a striking saying of our Lord, “Every branch in Me that bears fruit [my Father] purges it, that it may bring forth more fruit” (John 15:2).

It is a melancholy fact, that constant temporal prosperity, as a general rule, is injurious to a believer’s soul. We cannot stand it. Sicknesses, losses, crosses, anxieties and disappointments seem absolutely needful to keep us humble, watchful and spiritual–minded. They are as needful as the pruning knife to the vine and the refiner’s furnace to the gold. They are not pleasant to flesh and blood. We do not like them and often do not see their meaning. “No chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12:11).

We shall find that all worked for our good when we reach heaven. Let these thoughts abide in our minds, if we love growth in grace. When days of darkness come upon us, let us not count it a strange thing. Rather let us remember that lessons are learned on such days, which would never have been learned in sunshine. Let us say to ourselves, “This also is for my profit, that I may be a partaker of God’s holiness. It is sent in love. I am in God’s best school. Correction is instruction. This is meant to make me grow.”

March 5, 2012

The Winter That Wasn't

Living in Ontario, we normally have 4 months of fairly severe winter. Snowstorms and below zero temperatures are the norm throughout the winter, however, this winter has been exceptionally mild and we've had very little snow. The teachers at the school where I was a principal gave me a gift of free snow shovelling all winter. They hired a few students to come to our house and shovel out our driveway but, unfortunately for the students, this only happened a few times and each time there was not very much snow. We are very thankful to God that we were spared severe conditions as this made it much easier to get out and travel with the electric wheelchair. Our gas and hydro bills were also quite reasonable this winter because of the above normal temperatures. God has been good to us, also in this.

My shoulders and hips are getting weaker, making it difficult to get around and get dressed. My voice is also getting softer and more garbled in the last few weeks. Older people have difficulty hearing and understanding me and I often have to repeat myself and try to speak louder, which is very tiring. I find this frustrating and my wife says I should be more patient with the old folks. I still have lots to learn. God is so patient with me. This week we have an appointment to meet with the Technology Access Clinic (TAC) team. They will be assessing my speech to determine my need for assistive communication devices. A few months ago, they recommended that we start voice banking, that is, recording various common phrases in my own voice and burning them onto a disc for future use. We actually found out about this too late as by then, my voice was already changing but we did do some. It sounds like we'll be putting this to use fairly soon.
Yesterday my father celebrated his 91st birthday. This also is an unexpected blessing for our family because he had his first heart attack 21 years ago and has had 3 bypass surgeries. 

My mother is 84 years old and together they live in a christian rest home. It is very difficult for these elderly parents to see their son getting weaker every week. My father says that he would gladly trade places with me, but of course, those decisions are not ours to make.