Sunday, May 31, 2009

What is a Christian?

This is a synopsis of the messages given by Steve West at the Sovereign Grace Youth Retreat last weekend. He preached from the book of Ephesians. Of course, he had many illustrations to flesh this out, but hopefully you'll get the idea.

What is a Christian?
Often to define something we need to define what it is NOT.
A Christian is not just someone who is raised in a Christian home.
A Christian is not just someone who feels bad about wrong things they've done--that just means you have a conscience.
A Christian is not just someone who is afraid of hell.
A Christian is someone who knows that, if not for Jesus, he would have no hope.
A Christian has repented of his sin and has faith in Jesus Christ.
Faith is not "hope so", or believing in something you don't believe to be true, or believing something in spite of evidence to the contrary.
Faith includes believing the right things about God and ourselves, and trusting (resting) in the finished work of Christ. He was our Substitute.
We recognize that God will never punish us for our sin, which we deserve, because He has punished Christ.
We have moved from death to life.

Prayer Life
Some words to describe your prayer life: inconsistent, humbling, selfish, strong.
If you wanted to learn to pray, go to Scripture. Model prayers in John 17, the Lord's Prayer, the book of Acts.
Paul tells the Ephesians how he prays for them.
Distractions and Daydreams during prayer: try talking out loud. It's not common to carry on a sustained monologue. Also keep your eyes open, have a passage open before you.
He gives thanks for the Ephesians faith in God and love for each other.
He prays regularly and consistently that they may know God better.
He prays that they'll understand how precious the church is to God. It is the inheritance of Jesus.
Churches this side of glory are not perfect.
Paul's prayer-life was radically "other-centred".
Do you pray like that for anyone other than yourself?
Do you only pray for God to make your life more comfortable?

The Old Life vs. The New Life
In the first century, you were either a Jew or a Gentile.
Gentile was a non-Jew, and a pagan.
Paul commands them not to live as they used to live.
"In the futility of their thinking." All self-centred thinking that rejects God is futile.
You are missing all the facts that make it all make sense--Who God is, who you are--You miss the main point of the whole universe.
"The ignorance in them"--culpable for their sin.
Hard hearts.
Lost sensitivity--the idea of calloused skin.
When you don't feel your need of Jesus, it proves you do need Him.
Leprosy is a picture of sin. In leprosy you lose your sensitivity to things.
Put on the new self, created to be like God.
We are moved from death to life.
Paul gives specifics of what that life looks like:
Put off lying. That includes leaving things out, making excuses and spinning the story.
Lying can start out small.
Don't stay angry--find a forgiving spirit.
Not controlling your anger gives Satan an avenue into your life.
Stop stealing. Instead, work honestly, share with those in need.
Old self--it hurts you to get what I want.
New self--I'll work hard to help you if you need it.
A radical change.
No unwholesome talk: cursing, blasphemy, gossip, slander, boasting, criticizing.
Rather, build others up with your words.
Do not grieve the Spirit--related to your words.
The Spirit speaks to build up the church. He lives in you--He doesn't want to hear your lives and slander.
Forgive, as you've been forgiven. They can't do anything to you that compares with what you've done to God.

Sexual immorality should be far removed from the church.
Our society has changed so that what was formerly wrong, is right, or at least, morally neutral.
Sexual immorality is self-centred.
50% of engagements are broken off, so the idea that "we're going to be married" is not valid.
Such a person has no inheritance in the kingdom of God.
People will trade their souls for foolish things.
Let no one deceive you with vain words. Don't be partners with them. If you are partners in the act, you'll be partners in the wrath.
Expose these things to the light.
Pay attention to how you live.
Don't entertain yourself to death.
Make the most of the short life you have.
Don't be foolish, but discerning.
Don't be drunk. Rather, thanksgiving, control by God's Spirit.
Your life should be characterized as worship to God.
God takes great interest in our singing.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Retreats and Reality

May 29,2009

Outside my window...the day started out foggy and cool, turned sunny and warm, and now is rainy.
I am thinking...that it was very rude and low class that those comments were made in jest in Canada about assassinating Obama, but I wonder where those same people were when a movie was made about assassinating George Bush. Seems like a double standard happening here.
I am thankful for...a good weekend at the youth retreat. Steve West preached from Ephesians, the food was good, the weather was great, the games were fun, and there were no significant problems.
From the kitchen...fresh Atlantic salmon, potato salad, corn on the cob, strawberries and mangoes. Yummmmmm.
I am wearing...jeans and a new black and white print sleeveless top.
I am reading...The Longing Season by Christine Schaub about the love story between John Newton and Mary Catlett.
I am hoping...that they find little Tory Stafford's body. What a tragic end to that kidnapping.
I am hearing...a movie about diving for buried treasure. It's pretty lame.
Around the house...I shopped with my eldest today, and bought her a jacket and a waffle iron.
One of my favourite things...a clean house.
A few plans for the week...I'm planning to go to the Science Centre tomorrow morning, with my daughters. It's featuring the Science of Spying, and I'm hoping to learn some new things that I can use in my stories.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ten Things I Love About My Husband's Character

1. He is level-headed and makes wise decisions. I trust him. I tend to make decisions based on emotions.
2. He works hard. He could probably find an easier job, but he keeps it to provide well for our family.
3. He is kind to everyone in our family. He wins over everyone who meets him. He has been this way consistently for 25 years.
4. He is a good counsellor. I'm not the only one who turns to him for advice.
5. He is good with small talk and sets people at ease. That was one of the first things that attracted me to him.
6. He is a good spiritual leader, at home and at church. Whenever he teaches or preaches, I learn something, even though I think I've heard his opinions on everything. That surprises me, even though it shouldn't. I like his preaching style.
7. He is faithful to stay with something for the long haul, like being a deacon or youth leader, or Sunday School teacher, or doing Carey Admin., or working at a stressful job, or being married to someone like me. That's rare, nowadays.
8. He is selfless and kind. He will do without something for himself, in order for one of us to have it, i.e. new clothes or the opportunity to take a course.
9. He believes in me. He seems to see some hidden potential there. He thinks I can do things I'm sure I can't, and then he ends up being right. Like when our church needed a Treasurer, I said, "No way, no how. Can't do it." He convinced me to try, I did it for five years, and learned and grew by the experience. How does he do that?
10. He treats me like a princess. That's not necessarily a good thing, but I'm not really complaining. For example, he gives me massages a few times a week, but only gets a few a year, himself. He buys me roses every Friday. He will watch anything I want to on T.V. You get the idea. He's more than I deserve. See why I love him!

Home is in the Little Things

I've felt most welcome in a home where, after a few visits, they put me up against the door jamb to measure my height, marked it and wrote my name and the date. As a teenager who was longing to feel love, that one gesture made me feel like I was part of the family.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Fifty Million Dollars

So this week, thirteen people won almost $50,000,000.00 in a lottery. I'm glad it was a group at least, instead of an individual. That would be an obscene amount of money for one person. The Lottery Corporation should break up those big jackpots. They could easily make 50 people millionaires instead. That's enough of a life changing experience.
I don't buy lottery tickets, but something like this always gets me wondering what I would do with a jackpot like that. At my workplace, they buy a ticket each week. I suppose if they win, I'll be the only one left working...
But to consider winning such a vast sum, even for a few moments, is staggering. You would begin getting calls from strangers, since your name is made public. Everyone would offer to be your financial advisor. Friends and family who never gave you the time of day would come out of the woodwork, expecting a handout, telling you a dollar amount that they think is reasonable, and cursing you if you refuse them.
You'd have to worry about security for your kids, and sleep would not come as easily, as you would have a whole new set of worries, like sheltering your money from taxes, and making it grow. Because if you gave away one million, then you'd only have 49 million, and who could live on that?!
Unfortunately, you can be selfish and greedy whether you're rich or poor. Proverbs says, "The sleep of a labouring man is sweet." I think that's true. If you work hard, can pay your bills and provide for your family, know that you've earned your money honestly, you don't have as many worries keeping you awake at night. One thing I love about my job is that, even though I work hard while I'm there, I don't have to bring it home with me. I have no "homework" or stresses that keep me from sleeping. My sleep is sweet.
I have to laugh whenever I hear a mega-lottery winner say they'll keep working. It's absurd. They must have no clue about how much money they've actually won. (You could buy a small island.) I love my job, but I would leave it in a moment. If I found out at work, I'd finish my shift, since I wouldn't want to be charged with abandoning my patients, but I wouldn't feel obligated to give two weeks' notice. Do they give you two weeks' notice when they lay you off?
But to ponder such an event is an interesting exercise, because how you spend your time and money reveals things about what's important to you. I know I would have a hard time giving lottery winnings to a charity, because they may have ethical issues about it. So let's assume instead, a large inheritance from the proverbial rich uncle who considered you their favourite niece or nephew. Here's what I would do; not necessarily in this order.
Take a vacation and think and pray about it and make some decisions.
Quit work.
Consult a lawyer, accountant, financial planner. Update wills, etc.
Pay off mortgage and other outstanding debts.
Buy a vehicle for everyone in our immediate family.
Make some goals/review my bucket list.
Keep our house, renovate and refurnish it. Make it available for missionary
families on furlough to use.
Give money to my local church to fix up our church to prepare to sell it, and purchase land to build a new one.
Research Christian organizations that I would like to support and arrange to
support projects or people.
Consult an architect and begin to plan to build our dream house.
Plan four trips per year.
Invest the money so it grows.
Give money to relatives.
Have a big celebration.
Buy houses for my children.
Set up trust funds for my children.
Take courses.
Write full time.

Then what? You'd still have over 30 million dollars left. See, most people have no clue. It's way too much money to spend on yourself. You'd have to become a professional philanthropist and look for things to spend it on. It's a big, needy world out there, and it's not all about you, or me.
So, since I DON'T have a rich uncle who will leave me a vast sum of money, I'll try to keep working hard, and practice contentment and thankfulness, because "Godliness with contentment is great gain," and "What do you have that has not been given to you?" and "We brought nothing into this world, it is CERTAIN we will bring nothing out," and "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, yet lose his own soul?"
I may only have a bungalow in Toronto, but I have a mansion in the skies. My sins are forgiven and I'm saved from hell. Those are true riches.

Monday, May 18, 2009


May 18, 2009

Outside my window...a sunny, but cool day. We got a lot of yard work done today.
I am thinking...that no one is more surprised than me that the on-line registrations for Carey Conference are going so smoothly. I was very skeptical and I'm amazed at how all the info I need gets bumped into the appropriate lists. Also, many of the people who are usually last-minute registrants are now the first. I'm sorry I was so obstinate. It really is an improvement, and whoever takes over from us will have it so much easier.
I am thankful for...our delayed Mother's Day dinner at Memories of Japan. It's one of my favourite restaurants. They cook at your table, the price is reasonable, and the food is tasty and fresh.
From the kitchen...homemade burgers from the BBQ.
I am wearing...beige capris and a brown and white top.
I am reading...Consent to Kill by Vince Flynn. It's a political thriller about a CIA assassin whose family gets caught in the crossfire.
I am hoping...this is a true end to the civil war in Sri Lanka.
I am hearing...the Bachelorette. It's mindless I know, and I'll probably only see this first episode where they introduce the 25 men. This time the Bachelorette is a Canadian.
Around the oldest daughter tried to do a temporary hair colour and it turned purplish instead. Surprise! Last time it was greenish. I guess she'll learn after the third attempt.
One of my favourite things...a live soccer game. We've only been able to secure one set of tickets to a TFC game this summer. They're more popular than expected, and sell out right away. They should have built a bigger stadium.
A few plans for the three nights, go to the Sovereign Grace youth retreat next weekend.We're bringing nine from our church, which I think is a record. I'll be renting a car. We're also bringing along a potential replacement for ourselves. We've been youth leaders for 25 years, since we were dating, and we're getting too old for this. The thing I'm looking forward to, other than the excellent preaching of Steve West, is seeing our friends again, who are youth leaders from Trinity Baptist Church.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

San Antonio, Texas

Remembering the Alamo

Our trip to Texas for the ONS Oncology Nursing Conference was great. I like Texas even better than Florida. The city of San Antonio is very clean and nice. It is roughly the size of Toronto (>2 million people). The thing I liked best about it was the Riverwalk, which is a man-made canal, built one story below street level. It meanders through nine city blocks in a circuit, and offers barge tour cruises and a cobblestone walkway along both sides. Along a large stretch of it, there are restaurants with outdoor patios. We ate outside for almost every meal. I can’t say there’s as much variety of restaurants along the Riverwalk as in Toronto, or in the rest of San Antonio, probably, but there is enough variety for a few days. We had Mexican food, real Texas BBQ, Italian, steak and seafood. The portions are huge. Everything’s bigger in Texas. Our cabbie told us that San Antonio has the largest number of overweight Americans in the country. I ordered an APPETIZER portion of ribs and could barely finish it. Imagine the all-you-can-eat size.


We travelled by Southwest Airlines from Buffalo, with a layover in Baltimore, Maryland. We had a long drive to Buffalo. My daughter wanted to prove to me that she could drive safely on the 401 so she drove to the border. She did a good job. Then Kathy drove to the Buffalo airport since she’d been there before. On the way back, Kathy drove the whole way back. Southwest Airlines doesn’t have a lot of extras, like meals, or music or movies, or convenient ways to buy things. The flight attendants are very casual, but they are known for their sense of humour. Apparently, during their interviews, they are asked how they used humour to make a bad situation better. As we were landing, in place of the usually landing announcements, the pilot broke out in song, saying something like, “Thank you for flying Southwest, We’re the best. Ladies, if you marry me, you can fly for free.” Then he added, “Applications now being accepted, pending a background check.” It was totally unexpected.


The conference itself was good, although I didn’t attend as many classes as last year since my Mom and oldest daughter were along for the trip. I took long lunches and lounged by the pool. I did catch a few interesting classes though, on Pancreatic cancer, Sarcoma, and Humour in Oncology, which explored the appropriate uses of humour with patients who use it to cope. The speaker for our class on sexuality and cancer was very funny, as was the keynote speaker, who authored a book called, “Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy.” Overall, I got a good chunk of my yearly required continuing education hours, to keep my Oncology Nursing Certification. I need 100 hours in 5 years, or 20 per year. Otherwise, I’d have to rewrite the national exam, and once was enough. I studied for four months, after taking the required courses.
There was also an international processional on the first morning. About 10-12 “foreign” countries were represented. We were all given little flags and paraded up the aisle to our choice seats. It felt like we were in the Olympics. The Dutch nurses all wore orange t-shirts and were quite rowdy. I guess if you’re not Dutch, you’re not much.


Our hotel was not one of the recommended hotels, but we got a good deal. It was called the St. Anthony, and was an historic, 100 year old building. They have upgraded the rooms to include air conditioning and more outlets. Mine and Kathy’s room looked like it had formerly been two rooms and they removed the centre wall. It had two queen sized four poster beds (so I felt like I was at home), two washrooms, and two closets. There was an outdoor pool on one of the floors and the water was very warm, too warm in fact, but it was a nice place to sit out in the sun and tan or read. The only complaint I would have about the hotel was that for the morning of my birthday I had ordered room service and planned my schedule around it. It never arrived because they failed to pick up the order form from the doorknob. When I informed them, they apologized and said they’d tell the Manager, but nothing was ever done to make up for it. Am I being too princessy?

Playing Tourist

For touristy things, we took a barge cruise. The canal is filled with very dirty water and is narrower than a city street. They said, “If you end up in the water…just stand up, and walk to the edge. It’s only three feet deep.” We shopped, but I didn’t find much, other than a few tacky souvenirs which my daughter asked for. I drew the line at Davey Crockett coon skin hats. It’s like Goofy hats at Disney or Mariachi hats in Mexico: they seem like a good idea at the time. We also went to the Alamo, took pictures, and heard the re-telling of the great battle. I had always heard, “Remember the Alamo”, but since I had no idea what it was, any lessons were lost on me. I learned that it was actually a battle that the Texans lost. They were fighting against Santa Ana and his Mexican troops. The Texans were outnumbered 50:1. They were waiting for reinforcements that came too late. There were only 200 soldiers, and women and children in the fort. Santa Ana stormed the fort, and the Texans succeeded in holding them back for a time and even causing losses for the Mexicans. On the third attempt the Alamo was breached and the men killed, including Bowie, Travis and Davey Crockett. They don’t let you take pictures inside the Alamo, since that was where the men died, and it is hallowed ground. Although Santa Ana swore he’d give no quarter, he did allow the women and children to go free. They went from city to city, telling the story of the battle of the Alamo, and building up an army of volunteers who then returned, defeated Santa Ana, and retook the Alamo. I like military history, so I enjoyed that a lot.
We also went to the Texas Ranger Museum, which was just a block from our hotel. The Texas Rangers (not the baseball team) were the original law men of Texas who sought to bring order to the Wild West. The museum featured an old Texas town with a saloon and a jail. I found myself on the wrong side of the bars. There were examples of chairs made out of all sizes of horns, and saddles made with beautifully intricate leather work. They also had about 1000 stuffed animals. By stuffed, I mean, by a taxidermist. The animals were from all over the world, unless elephants, giraffes, and woolly mammoths once roamed the Texas range. We took a few silly pictures there.


On Sunday, we took a long cab ride to church. We thought we’d just hail a cab after breakfast, not realizing that 6,000 nurses were finished their conference and needed to get to the airport. We missed the singing, but arrived in time for the preaching. We went to Oak Hills Church to hear Max Lucado. The only other famous preacher in San Antonio was John Hegee, and I’m not about to listen to a man who said that Jesus never claimed to be the Messiah or that Jews would be saved another way. Anyway, this church has two services on Saturday night and three on Sunday morning, all exactly the same message, but no evening service. They have several pastors and so many people, but can’t manage an evening service? They have to clear out as soon as he’s finished preaching to make room for the next group. The surprising thing is that even after the final service, which we attended, no one seemed to stay around to chat. In our church, we’re there almost an hour after the lengthy sermon. Also, the sermon was okay, comparing popular Nero, with an obscure Paul, and showing who ultimately turned the world upside down. But I think we have more substantial and powerful preaching at Faith Baptist Church from Pastor Brian Robinson. (That was just a word from our sponsor. Now back to our story).
Afterwards, we waited for our cabbie to return for us. We visited their bookstore and I bought 5 books. I was surprised that none of his books was autographed, since the author was in-house. I’ve never bought any of his books before and came all the way to buy them from the source. Well, that’s what I would have done anyway. I bought, “He Chose the Nails.” I also bought “The Story”, which was what they were preaching through. It is the Bible, written chronologically, and excerpted to read like a novel. It also has sections in italics to summarize or fill in what happened between books. I’ve read the Bible as a Novel before. It was called, The Book of God, and has some merit, although I wouldn’t recommend it for study purposes.
The building was modern and impressive and everything ran smoothly, but even my Mom, who is unsaved, said she preferred our small church because everyone knew each other, the pastor knows who he’s preaching to, and he talks to you. Max Lucado disappeared as soon as he was done preaching.
One other interesting thing that happened there was that they did the Lord’s Supper, but since this was Texas in the middle of a swine flu scare, they used a disposable communion set. I don’t know where they purchased them, but the top of it said, “The body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Transubstantiation?) It got my Protestant blood up. They also just told everyone to do it on their own. You peeled back the first layer to get a little wafer, and then peeled back the next layer to get the juice. It took away from the corporate feel of Communion and also from the solemnity of it, since they came around almost right away to collect the garbage. I know you can sometimes get set in your own ways of doing things, but I think some of my concerns were legitimate. I never realized that I liked how things were done in our church until I was exposed to something different.
Anyway, it was good to be back at my home church, even though our Pastor was away in a different part of Texas visiting his son’s family. We had great preaching by Mark Hudson and Dr. Michael Haykin. You can hear their sermons on our church website,
Texans are very friendly and welcoming. The people of San Antonio love their city, and with good reason. One thing I thought was truly Texan was the sign on the door of McDonalds, telling you not to bring your guns inside. Only in Texas. There were also people who wore real cowboy hats. You could also get a ride in a horse drawn carriage.
I loved Texas, and would like to see more of it. I would definitely go back, if given the opportunity.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Back At It

May 8, 2009

Outside my window...a beautiful, spring day.
I am thinking...we went on-line with the Carey Conference registrations. So it begins for our final year of admin. I hope it goes smoothly. I'm a little nervous about it.
I am thankful for...the opportunity I had to go to San Antonio. We had a great trip. I'll write about it separately.
From the kitchen...Filipino take out; noodles, pork BBQ on a stick, spring rolls, and vegies and dip. It is Friday, after all, and we usually eat out or order in.
I am wearing...white capris, a brown and white top.
I am reading...Blinded by Travis Thrasher.
I am mother-in-law's cardiac procedure has long lasting effects.
I am hearing...Flashpoint.
Around the oldest daughter has been learning to cook, since she won't have a meal plan when she goes back to university in the fall. My husband is stressed, over-worked and not feeling well. Both girls are at church events tonight.
One of my favourite things...eating outside. When we were in Texas, we ate most of our meals on the Riverwalk.
A few plans for the week....the usual weekend stuff. We're going out for Mother's Day next weekend instead, to avoid the crowds. Then I have to work four nights. I'd like to find time to purchase the things we need for our bathroom renovation, but we'll see if that happens.