Category Archives: General

A God of New Beginnings, Or a God of One Design?

Here’s a thought to dwell on:

What goes inside your head

When it’s time to start over?

What’s the part you tend to dread

And what’s the part you long for?

See,

There’s the “fresh start” side of things,

You get to try again.

And sometimes there’s the failure side,

That needs to be made right.

“Depends on the circumstance.”

“Depends on the season.”

“Depends on chance,” we muse.

“Depends on the reasons.”

By times we love a new, clean slate,

A chance to build again.

But other times we face the loss

Of all we’d worked to gain.

This is how the nature

Of a new beginning comes.

Some are bright and happy things,

While others weigh a ton.

Now bring the Bible into play.

Consider all it’s truth.

From the days of Noah

Saul and David, Ezra, Ruth.

Has God Himself begun anew,

Or tried a different plan?

Does God go back to drawing boards

To scheme, then try again?

Yes, He started fresh with cleansing floods

And Noah’s sons.

He hit the reset button

More than once in ancient times.

He told a generation

Who were stiff-necked, proud, and scared

That He would start again with all

Their children’s age instead.

He pulled the kingdom promise

From the line of Saul the proud,

And started over with a shepherd

with a heart of love.

But carefully I ponder all these

“Cleanings of the slate.”

In one sense, yes, He started fresh,

But does God make mistakes?

These “restarts” are all linked

To one great, grand design.

A plan that God will not abandon

Not for all of time.

So,

In that sense He never quits

Would never start again.

He promised us a Serpent Crushing

Seed to right our wrongs.

But,

He’s promised to restore all things

to Eden’s sinless rest,

So in another sense

The whole design is starting fresh.

But He didn’t fail, He can’t be blamed

Adam chose to sin.

And we, in Adam, fell away

From all His perfect plans.

All of scripture’s history

Can be described this way,

God, in mercy great is moving

To restore all things,

To start afresh,

To put things back,

A new beginning, free,

Which Christ secured for you and me

For all eternity.

So, as you stand upon the threshold

Of a New Year’s door,

this new beginning Christ has made

should drive your thoughts and goals.

clean_slate


A Gap Theory

Don’t worry; it’s not what you might think. I just enjoy grabbing your attention with a good title. There’s been a gap in my posting for quite some time now. And before I pick up again and move along, I’d like to explain a few things about how God has been working in my life since this past summer.


huge-waves

 

There was a period of time through Heather’s sickness and after her death where the public nature of the events – and of my life in general – felt like a good thing to me, most of the time. There were days when I felt like I was being swept away in a flash flood or a wave of circumstances. But the constant stream of supportive love and prayer from hundreds of friends and family was like a strong current flowing the opposite way and cancelling out the rush of water that was trying to knock me down. One force cancelled out the other and kept me standing. This wouldn’t have been the case had I not made the decision to live the events so publicly for everyone to see.

As some of the dust slowly started to settle, I too began to settle into a pattern of expressing what God was teaching me. It wasn’t the plan from the beginning. It just sort of took shape on its own. Keeping concerned prayer partners updated online gradually turned into sharing how God’s grace was ministering to me. But the feeling that I was being ‘followed’ by so many people started to get to me as time wore on and I just wanted to disappear sometimes. (Depression puts a weight around your neck, and that weight is trying to get you self-focused instead of thinking about serving others. I’ve never felt such a strong draw towards isolating myself as I have these past few months – especially from the local church, and that’s not a good thing).

 

Then things got more complicated.

Let me go back a little and then work my way forward again. God had been working in ways that I wasn’t even fully aware of leading up to Heather’s sickness. She and I both recognized that He had prepared us for the emotionally tricky topic of remarriage. In short: she pressed it; we talked repeatedly; and, God used her to settle my mind a great deal.

So after some time for prayer and for focusing on celebrating Heather’s life, I wrote a letter to the one God had put on both Heather’s mind and mine (independently I might add – which was really cool to discover).

Conventional? Nope.

Recommended? Nope (not unless God clearly leads as He has led me, but that’s up to Him).

But was it “right” for me, for my relationship with God, and for my two boys? Yes. And, as it turns out, it was also right for Anna who has embraced the situation wholeheartedly as being God’s design – another evidence of grace at work. And I can’t express enough how grateful I am for Anna’s attitude in all of this as I build a new relationship with her and celebrate Heather’s memory at the same time.

So what about the gap?

 

There’s been a lot going on in my heart over the past few months, and not all of it is easy for me to understand, let alone express. But my theory is that the gap in posting to this blog (trying to minister to people) came from a fear that people would see the unconventional path I’m taking and would make judgments about me and my walk with God. Transparency is easy when it brings a response of encouragement. It’s not so easy when it carries risk. My responses to opposition so far have ranged from pride, to feeling indignant, to getting discouraged, to worrying, to humbly leaving it with God. Not very consistent. In other words, in my insecurity, I was sensing a risk with bringing people along for the journey.

God has moved again in my life and it happened at Heart Conference (at Northland International University) two weeks ago. One word of encouragement came from an old friend I went to school with and one from a new friend. The new friend had followed our story through a mutual acquaintance and had been praying for us. He was glad to put a face to his prayers, and I was grateful to give an update. So while I was sharing, he could sense my insecurities when I arrived at the part about dating again and getting engaged so soon after my wife’s death. He said, “Brother, you don’t have to defend yourself. If God has designed it, then He has designed it.” He didn’t have the full picture of what I had been struggling with internally, but God used his words to challenge me about my self-focus in it all. I’ve been far too worried about what people think and not focused enough on what God thinks.

The second word of encouragement came from an old friend who had also been following our story (and this blog). He asked if I would be posting any more posts. So I sheepishly explained how I’ve been struggling with sharing out of a fear of people’s response to how God has led. I wasn’t sure if it was wise to express thoughts to others when I’m struggling. He mentioned how much the blog had been used of God to encourage him and how much he thought it would be helpful for people if I kept writing – even if I wasn’t always doing as well as I’d like. He might not have meant for them to, but his words carried heavy weight for me. I knew he was right. Thanks, Paul and John.

So here it goes. Blog 2.0. Round 2. Chapter 2. Call it what you will.

My goal is to share different things God has taught me and is still teaching me – same goal as before. As my life moves towards a second marriage in June, I want to be sensitive to those who are still deeply missing Heather, or find it hard to understand how someone could marry again so soon. But that being said, I don’t want to be so oversensitive that I don’t post anything at all. With God’s grace, I will find the right balance – and since my goal is ministry, that’s also my prayer. Please know that I am missing Heather too and will be for a long, long time. But, God has provided an incredible woman for me who does not feel threatened by the beauty of celebrating Heather. For her, it is securing to see the love I had for Heather, and it is reassuring that God will build something similar, but unique, for us. So as Anna, Judah, Levi and I begin to build a life together, we will be celebrating what we have and what we had with Heather at the same time. Come along for the journey, and we’ll boast about God and how His grace can do incredible things to move hearts for His glory.

Here’s a shameless “spiel” for an upcoming post that I’ve been mulling over. A theme that keeps resurfacing in the “struggle-thriving cycle” as I’ve been mourning is the idea of learning to live under the hand of a Sovereign God. He’s in charge and gets to call all of the shots. Obvious. But am I okay with that? And if not, how do I get okay with it? (Coming soon).


A Journey to be Shared

Welcome to Finding Out His Greatness.

I’d like to take a quick minute to introduce you to this blog and share a little bit about the purpose and vision behind it. Chances are, since you’re here reading, you or someone you know has heard at least some of the story of what God has been doing in my family over the last 10 months. Here’s the short version of what’s been happening – in case you’re not already aware.

On November 19th of 2011, after only 2 weeks of strong headaches, doctors in the emergency department at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton discovered a 3.5-inch wide tumor in my wife Heather’s brain. Within a few days, and after a major surgery, she was diagnosed with stage IV Glioblastoma Multiforme – brain cancer. Life was abundant, filled with the joy of two young boys aged 2 and 7 months old, and a wonderful, vibrant young church in which we were serving full time. But suddenly we found ourselves walking down a pathway that meant facing the most unexpected movement of God’s sovereign hand imaginable. In short, life was drastically altered overnight, and we didn’t see it coming. All of our training for full-time pastoral ministry together, all of our knowledge about truth, scripture, and God Himself were to be put to the test. After two additional surgeries and a growing realization that the aggression and speed of her cancer were far higher than the average, we became increasingly aware of what God’s will was for the outcome of our journey together as a couple. After the privilege of having weeks in which to say our goodbyes to one another in many different ways, on March 6, Heather took her last breath of this life and stepped into the immediate presence of her Saviour.

A journey of tears. A journey of joys. A journey of deep, intense heartache that defies description. But also, a journey of deep growth in dependence on Christ and the grace that is found in His hand. A journey that could best be described as a journey of finding out His greatness.

And that brings us to the purpose for this blog…

I vividly remember a favorite holiday of mine. Heather was several months pregnant with our first son, and we knew that romantic couple time together would soon be harder to find. We rented a cabin in British Columbia overlooking a valley where the mighty Fraser River wound past, working its way towards the Pacific. And at the end of this short valley stood Mt. Robson (Canada’s highest peak) with its huge, towering cliff faces down the north and west sides (see the picture from our cabin’s front porch above). I’ve always been an outdoor adventurer at heart and can’t resist a great hike. I was hoping to be able to do a bit of hiking during an afternoon sometime that week while Heather was resting. But I was disappointed to find out that the trail leading to the best views of Mt. Robson (where 3 different glaciers split off the mountain’s ice and flow down over steep cliffs into an icy lake) was 21km long (13 miles) one way! Obviously, an afternoon stroll was out of the question. So, out of necessity, I chose to be content with the view from the visitor center parking lot. Looking around the small lot I saw hikers just returning from their several-day-long excursion up to the small mountain lake. I had seen photos of this view online (like the one below), but I knew that the views the photographers had experienced in person could not be matched by a computer screen – not even Apple’s new Retina Display! The hikers that day looked tired, but satisfied and invigorated. Their faces seemed to reflect a small bit of the wonder they had seen on their journeys. And I wished there was some good way for them to share that experience with me.

Sometimes – as a result of God’s designs – you can only imagine what the view looks like from another person’s vantage point. I can’t tell you why He does it, but God chooses certain individuals to experience differing views of the majestic vista of His greatness. And He chooses very different ways to bring them to the places where they can see those views – and its not always a quick easy hike.

After all that I have been through – steep climbs, falls, heavy loads, scrapes, bruises, chilling ice, biting winds, slippery steps, cliff-hugging trails, and muscle aches, I can truly say the view was worth it! Just like there was no effective way for those returning hikers to give me the full experience of what they had seen, I don’t expect that I will be able to adequately communicate the full scope of what I’ve seen. But I feel compelled to try. And if I can in some small way lift your impression of this mighty, majestic mountain that is God’s greatness, then my goal is reached.

I’ve been encouraged by a couple of folks to write a book and share what I’ve learned, relate it to the truth of the gospel, and encourage others through it. But there are several factors that have led me to the conclusion that the blog format will be a far more effective medium for my goals. First, Im am now learning the ropes of single-dad-hood, and these two precious sons of mine need a closeness with their dad right now that a book writing project would not allow for. Second, I am not sure I’m ready for the weight, the challenge, and the load of such a large project both emotionally and spiritually.  Third, I am still walking the journey. A book lends itself far better to a more formal “looking back on a finished process” format, whereas a blog allows for the far more informal and desired “come along for the journey” format.

So, stay tuned. And if God blesses as I am hoping He will, His Spirit will use these thoughts and observations over the next months and years to strengthen you and get you more excited about finding out His greatness. Come along for the journey – its worth sharing.

“…so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the incomparable greatness of his power toward us who believe, as displayed in the exercise of his immense strength.” (Eph. 1:18-19, NET)