Tag Archives: family

Nuggets of Hope 8 – Adopted

The children in this photo are orphans. They live in a group home in East Asia, run by people who love Jesus and love children. In this group home they are cared for by volunteer house parents. Having lost their family of birth, they have found a home in a new family where they are chosen and wanted.

This is a picture of one part of the Biblical meaning of adoption. It’s a picture of children who, instead of being rejected and discarded, are loved and highly valued.

The other part of the Biblical picture of adoption speaks of inheritance. Paul says (Galatians 4:4-7 ESV)

But when the fullness of time had come,
God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,
to redeem those who were under the law,
so that we might receive adoption as sons.
And because you are sons,
God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,
crying, “Abba! Father!”
So you are no longer a slave, but a son,
and if a son, then an heir through God.

The reason for the gender-specific language here is that in that culture, it was sons who inherited. Daughters married into their husband’s inheritance. Paul uses the terminology of adoption as sons to underline the fact that as believers, we have come into a great inheritance. This is true for every believer, male or female – just as every believer is also Jesus’ bride. Whether you are God’s daughter or God’s son, you have an inheritance in Him.

There’s a third dimension of being adopted that is even more powerful. We can come to God as His beloved sons and daughters, and we can cry out to him as our Father, and he will listen.

Abba is not just the name of a famous Swedish pop band from the 1970s. It is the Hebrew word for Daddy or Papa. It conveys both tenderness and respect. This is the word that Jesus used when praying to His Father. He opened up for us a relationship of intimacy with our Father. Even though we deserve death and hell, we have been grafted into the family, given an inheritance, and given a relationship with a Father who loves us.

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, it’s easy to feel despairing, helpless and alone. In the face of these temptations, I want to remind you of these three powerful truths. If you have put your hope in Jesus, you are not alone. You are your Father’s son or daughter. You are chosen and loved by Him, and you have an eternal inheritance that nothing can take away from you. You are his forever, and you share all His glorious riches. We will receive the full inheritance in the Age to Come, but even now we have His Spirit in our hearts, giving us access to a foretaste of His blessings. So, in the midst of this crisis, we can pray, live and act with courage, boldness, confidence and hope – hope for the present and for the future.

God bless you.



Home Sweet Home

Twenty-one years ago I was in my mid forties and in the midst of a career change. I had been working as a pastor and church planter for over fifteen years and then had spent a year at business college. I was starting a new line of work in information technology while also attempting to plant a church. In May 1997 my family and I moved to a rural neighbourhood north of the village of Russell, south-east of Ottawa.

Ten years later, the ministry which was our original reason for moving to Russell had been destroyed, and Marion and I knew it was time to move on. Out of this painful ending, a new chapter was beginning.  We moved to Vanier, a historic neighbourhood in the heart of Ottawa.  The past eleven years have been full of blessing, with many new relationships and involvements, offering ample opportunity to enjoy God’s manifold goodness, serve others, and grow in love.

Still, despite the painful ending of our ministry in Russell, leaving was not easy for us. We had come to love the neighbourhood, the community life, and the family of God in the Russell area. Our four children had formed deep and strong connections there. Our three sons grew to adulthood during our Russell years, and our daughter grew from a little girl to a teenager. For her especially, Russell still feels like home.

Even so, Marion and I had never entertained any thoughts of moving back. Our life was in Ottawa now – or so we thought. When Bethany and Dunovan chose Russell United Church as the location for their wedding in 2015, I was glad to visit, but it very much felt like going back to a place we used to live. When Reuben and Jess bought a house in Russell in 2016, I was happy for them, but it didn’t really cause me to re-evaluate where Marion and I should be living. We had formed new networks, we were settled in new routines, we had become engaged in various productive and mostly satisfying pursuits.  We expected to stay in our little house in Vanier for the foreseeable future.

However, as I have learned many times by now, there is actually no such thing as the “foreseeable future”. Life is full of unexpected turns. When we think we have it all figured out, God has a chuckle at our expense.

And so it was, in the course of time, on a Sunday morning early in February, that our daughter had a dream, and told it to her mother.

Yesterday, Marion and I reached an agreement to purchase a house on Stanley Crescent, just around the corner from where we used to live. Today, Marion and I had photos taken to list our house in Vanier for sale. It will be on the market by Friday of this week, forty days after Bethany shared her dream with Marion.

Are we crazy? Maybe. But then, isn’t everyone who seeks to follow God’s leading a little crazy in the eyes of the world? I’d rather be a little crazy than live without vision.  Vision from God is like manna to my spirit and my soul. It gives fresh energy to these weary, ageing bones. And so, when Holy Spirit begins to show me fresh vision, I want to embrace what He is showing me, even if it disrupts my comfortable, settled routines.

I don’t know all the reasons for this move, but I do know that the Spirit has been speaking to me about a new season, with new priorities. I want to pursue those new priorities with all my heart. To me, that’s the only way to live. He’s also been speaking to me about redemption, restoration, and completion of things that had been abandoned and left unfinished – not so much in institutional ministry as in relationships. After all, it is relationships that are intended by God to be eternal. When all else fails, love remains.

New vision? New beginnings? Bring it on!




God’s strong-willed children

Our feisty, spirited and very cute granddaughter Alivia (Livie), not quite three years old, is learning the power of her own will. Although she clearly looks up to big sister Sophie, Livie also has a mind of her own and doesn’t hesitate to make her wishes known. She knows what she wants, and she expresses it clearly. Sometimes she can’t have what she wants, but her Mom and Dad are wise enough to curb her will without crushing it.

Sophie, now five years old, has been learning some of the ways of the Lord. She has a sensitive conscience, wants to please the Lord, and is usually quite good to her little sister. However, like Alivia, she too has desires, and sometimes this leads to conflict.

Yesterday Alivia wanted her tricycle back. Her big sister had taken it. Alivia complained, and her Dad intervened and told Sophie to give the tricycle back to Alivia. Justice was done, and Alivia was satisfied.

However, from Sophie’s perspective, this was not a perfect solution, because for Alivia to get her tricycle back, Sophie had to give up something that she wanted. It took a father’s wisdom, and a time out, but eventually peace was restored. Eventually Sophie was able to see things through her father’s eyes, and the sisters were friends again.

This classic conflict scenario illustrates several key truths.

First, our Father wants us to present our desires to Him. It is not wrong to ask him for things. Both girls presented their cases to their father, and he listened to them both with compassion as well as firmness.

Second, when we present our desires to our Father, we also need to recognize that He is God and we are not. For peace to be restored, both Sophie and Alivia needed to be willing to let their Dad settle the dispute.

Third, we need to stay engaged with God even when the answers are not immediate, or not what we had hoped for. Even though it took some time before Sophie could see things her Dad’s way, she trusted him enough to yield to his discipline, and eventually, she too was satisfied.

Sometimes we need to let God adjust our perspective before we can receive the blessings that He desires most to give us.  If we stay engaged, and keep talking to him and listening to him, eventually he gives us the desires of our heart, although sometimes He first has to awaken in us a desire for those things that lead to true peace and lasting satisfaction.

Like Sophie and Alivia, all God’s children are on a journey to maturity. The plans God has for us are far beyond what we can now see or imagine. If we want to come into all that He has for us, we need to learn how to deal with the strong desires that arise from our souls.

Desires can cause conflict, and they can be destructive. But unlike Buddhism, which teaches its adherents to extinguish all desires, the God of the Bible chooses instead to work with our desires and shape them for our good and for his glory. In this process, we do need to reject some desires and embrace others. But let’s not reject the whole concept of desire. It was God who gave us our wills, and God who placed in us the capacity for desire. When we come to him in faith, and allow Him to sort through our desires and respond according to His wisdom and love, he does not extinguish our wills or our desires. Instead, he shapes them to His purposes, and awakens in us a desire for His glory, so that He can bless us far beyond what we can imagine or conceive.

Thanks be to God for his amazing wisdom and goodness to us!


The wedding feast


Last Saturday my oldest son, Joe, married the love of his life, Carmen. For me this was cause for great joy.

I was delighted for Joe. He looked so thrilled as he waited for Carmen to walk down the aisle. He has married a good woman and he will be an excellent husband and father. He has waited a long time for this day, and his patience has been rewarded.

I have enjoyed getting to know Carmen and it was most satisfying to be able to welcome her into our family. She spoke her wedding vows with thoughtfulness and conviction. It was good to meet Carmen’s parents and her brothers, who evidently care so much about her.

I was so pleased for Marion. She and Joe have always had a special bond, and it was good to see the love and pride in her eyes as she watched her son get married and as she shared a special dance with him during the party that followed.

It was lots of fun to have Simeon, Heather and their girls staying in our home for the week leading up to the wedding. I loved playing with the girls, reading them stories, going to the park with them, watching “shows” with them, and talking with Sophie about the big picture of Jesus in our living room. Bethany and her boyfriend Dunovan also spent hours playing with the girls, much to their delight. I see the makings of a favourite aunt and uncle there (though there may be some competition for the title).

On the wedding day I was thrilled to see my two beautiful little granddaughters walking down the aisle in their pretty dresses, Sophie bearing the wedding rings, and Alivia carrying rose petals. Heather, despite feeling miserable due to a nasty cold, was a great sport and made sure the girls were up for their special role.

I was blessed to see again how many truly good friends Joe and Carmen have. Joe and his team worked long and hard to pull off a wedding on a farm under less than ideal circumstances (pouring rain). After having planned and hoped for an outdoor wedding, they adjusted admirably to the wet weather, spending several hours on the wedding day itself shovelling and raking crushed rock so that the rest of us would be dry (relatively speaking) inside the wedding tent. Others spent hours preparing and serving food. Carmen’s friends added to the joy of the day with their gifts of music, service and presence. Special mention goes to Caleb and Julie; Jon; Dave; Margaret, Maggie and Katrina; Nick and Alex; Patrick and Sarah.

At the reception, Joe’s brother Simeon, the best man, spoke with affection and pride of his respect for his big brother. Their younger brother, Reuben, took extra good care of Grandma and Grandpa with the help of his ever-supportive wife Jess, making sure that they were comfortable. Marion and I were so grateful for the help and support of Earl and Debbie Davidson who so generously made their house and property available. It was wonderful to reconnect with them as well as with other good friends from our Russell and City Church days.

All in all, my cup was full. My oldest son was seeing a dream of his heart fulfilled, my wife was happy, and my children and grandchildren were laughing together, serving each other and enjoying each other’s company in the presence of much-loved friends.

Yet during a week filled with such great joy, there were some troubling notes. In Barrhaven, an OC Transpo bus collided with a train, and several people were killed. In Washington DC, a number of people were shot by an assailant at the Navy Yard. In Nairobi, Kenya, Al-Shabaab terrorists attacked a mall, targetting non-Muslims and killing over sixty. On a more personal level, our good friend Lynne is facing chemotherapy in the wake of cancer surgery.

How can we make sense of all this? How do you enjoy a wedding and a family celebration in the face of such pain?

These are really questions of life and death. Why is there suffering? Why is there grief? Why is there death? Why is there evil? What is God’s answer?

Though these questions are not easy for our hearts, the Bible does have clear answers. I find it so helpful to be reminded that Jesus, who has suffered for us and with us, is the real Bridegroom, and the Marriage of the Lamb is the real Wedding Feast. He is alive, He lives and reigns now in the heavens, and soon he will return to claim his bride and rule openly as King. The joy of Joe and Carmen’s wedding points forward to the far greater joy of that great day when every tear will be wiped away.

During his earthly ministry He did many miracles to encourage our hearts, and similar miracles are still happening today. To cite just one example, my good friend Gola Tiruneh has seen many works of great power as he reaches out to Muslims in Indonesia with the good news that Jesus is Lord. These are signs of His Kingdom that is coming, and they are wonderful indeed. It is good to have reminders that ultimately the darkness will be defeated, and the Bridegroom will be acknowledged by all as King.

But in the meantime, even when the Holy Spirit is poured out and people are saved, healed and delivered, even when hearts are healed and relationships are restored, even when we enjoy wonderful times of celebration with family and friends, this does not mean that there will be no more trouble. Jesus told us that until His return He would always be near, but He also said that his followers should be prepared for sorrows as well as joys, and warned us not to be dismayed by the one or distracted by the other, but to stay alert and fix our hope on His coming Kingdom.

I am very happy for Joe and Carmen, and wish them many years of happiness and much growth in love. I’m similarly happy when any of my children – or anyone else that I love and care about – finds true joy in life. But my heart’s desire for my children, and for all those God has called me to serve and love and pray for, is that they would fix their eyes on Jesus, the crucified and risen One who is coming to reign. He is the one who can anchor our hearts so that we are not dismayed by the troubles that are part of living in a dying world. The good news is that He has a plan to restore the earth and bring everlasting joy to those who have put their hope in Him. Every wedding, rightly understood, points forward to that glorious day when the Messiah will claim His bride and the earth will be restored.

I want to end this post with a link to a beautiful song by Matt Gilman that expresses the cry in our hearts for that day when the Bride will marry the Lamb. Blessings.



Letting Jesus shine through the cracks

I grew up in a Dutch immigrant family.  When I was born, my family had been in Canada for only two years, and during the early years of my childhood, the Dutch identity was quite strong.  I grew up speaking Dutch, though by the time I went to school, English had become predominant in our home.  But the differences went deeper than language.  Not that I realized this at the time – young children don’t reflect on how their family operates, they just accept it as the way the world is – but looking back, I realize that even though we were light-skinned like all our neighbours, in many ways we were quite different from the other families around us.

One of the times of year when the differences were most evident was in the way we celebrated Advent and Christmas.  Although my family was not particularly devout, during December we had regular times of singing Christmas carols, using an Advent calendar as a worship centre.  The Advent calendar in our home had nothing to do with chocolate.  It was made of coloured cardboard (bristolboard) with a wax paper backing, and consisted of a Bethlehem scene, showing the shepherds on a hillside overlooking the town, with a dark blue sky full of stars.  The stars were cutouts, so that at the beginning of Advent there were no stars in the sky, and then on each day of Advent another cutout piece would be removed and another star would appear.  There were larger stars for the four Sundays of Advent, and the largest one of all – situated right over the stable in the Bethlehem scene – was reserved for Christmas Eve.  In the evenings, the family would gather around the Advent calendar, the youngest child would remove another star from the sky, an older child would light a candle behind the calendar, we would turn out most of the lights, and the light from the candle would shine through the wax paper backing in the places where the cutout stars had been removed.  We would then sing a few Christmas carols by candlelight.   We did this most evenings during Advent, culminating in a special family Christmas Eve service of readings and carols.

As a young child, I didn’t fully understand why we were doing this, but I used to find it tremendously exciting.  The beauty of this observance awakened a sense of wonder in me, and a simple understanding of the gospel message was planted in my heart through the Christmas carols – some in Dutch and some in English.  Of all the Christmas customs that I grew up with, this is one that I have been able to pass on to my children.  Marion and I have had an Advent calendar in our home for years, and when our children were growing up our family, too, used it as a focus for family worship every December.

This morning, the Advent calendar is in place in our home, ready for the annual ritual.  There are no stars showing yet in the night sky, and the cardboard scene is stiff and stands up easily.  As the cutout stars are removed day by day, one of the side effects is that the whole structure becomes more flexible because it is full of holes.  The star-shaped holes are what make it beautiful – they allow the light to shine through – but they also mean that the calendar has to be handled with care and a gentle touch.   At the beginning of the annual ritual, the whole structure is fairly strong and stable.  It can stand by itself with no problem.  By the time Christmas comes, and all the cutout stars have been removed, it is full of holes and therefore much weaker and more flexible.  But if the candles are lit and the light is allowed to shine through the cracks and holes, it is also far more beautiful than in its original state.

This morning it occurred to me that my life is like that Advent calendar.   If I want the light of Christ to shine through, I have to be willing to let the cracks and holes in my life be uncovered.  We all like to present the image of ourselves as strong, self-assured, in control, with our weaknesses well covered up.  But Jesus exalts those who humble themselves.  If I succeed in convincing those around me that I am capable, knowledgeable and in control, they may be impressed.  But if I humble myself and allow my cracks and weaknesses to show, without pretending to be more than I am, then the light of Christ can shine through my life in increasing measure, bringing glory to Jesus and hope to those around me who also have lots of cracks in their lives.

For Christ’s sake I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)



The power of hospitality

Most Christians, if asked to list five of the attributes of God, would probably come up with words like loving, powerful, forgiving,  just, holy, and so forth.

These are all important descriptors of God’s character as it is revealed to us in the Bible and supremely in Jesus Christ.  But today I am thinking of another word that powerfully sums up how God deals with sinful, weak, needy people.

The word is hospitality.  I was reminded of this attribute of God’s character by a recent post on Richard Long’s excellent blog at Together Canada.  Hospitality is a trait that I would normally associate with people, not with God.  Yet, when we understand Him as He is described in Scripture and portrayed by Jesus, we see that our God is amazingly hospitable.

Looking at the gospels, we see that in one of his parables, Jesus depicted God as a concerned father welcoming his runaway son home to his household and throwing a party for him.  Jesus tells us elsewhere that in his Father’s household there is room for all his children to find a home.  Jesus himself is depicted in Scripture as the coming Bridegroom who welcomes all who place their hope in Him to His wedding banquet.  Our God longs to welcome people in, that they may find their home in Him.

When we look at the qualifications for elders in the New Testament, we discover that the New Testament church placed high value on hospitality as a trait for leaders.   Evidently, the first century apostles understood that Jesus’ sheep need leaders who reflect His generous, hospitable heart.

Last night Marion and I watched Harvey, a movie from an earlier era of cinematography.  Harvey was originally filmed in 1950, and I found it interesting to see how movie making has changed in 60 years.  But beyond the technical aspects, what struck me most in this movie was the generous and hospitable nature of the film’s lead character, Elwood P. Dowd, played by Jimmy Stewart.  Dowd is portrayed as a middle-aged eccentric who has inherited a fortune and does not have to work for a living.   Rather than pursuing the business opportunities that would have been wide open to someone of his means, Dowd goes through life talking to an invisible 6 foot 3 inch rabbit.  He spends most of his time at the local bar (where his invisible friend is quite welcome), listening to people that no-one else except the bartender has time for, and frequently inviting them to his home for dinner.  This exasperates his sister and niece, who share his home.  To be truthful, almost any normal person would find it difficult to live with someone as impractical, unpredictable and eccentric as Elwood P.  Dowd.  That said, he is an uncommonly likeable character, who excels in kindness and generosity.

When I woke up this morning, I realized that God was speaking to me through this aspect of the film.  He showed me again the power of a hospitable life to communicate the good news of Jesus to people who are hungry for spiritual reality.

When we open our homes and our lives to people who are hungry and thirsty for true life, and become their friends, our understanding of what it means to share the gospel of Jesus undergoes a radical transformation.  Instead of being a project, evangelism truly becomes a way of life.  It is no longer just a matter of verbally communicating spiritual truth, or even praying with people for them to receive Jesus or for the Holy Spirit to touch their lives – although both of these aspects remain important.  When we open our homes and our hearts to people, trust is fostered in the people we befriend, and over time, God uses this atmosphere of acceptance and friendship to prepare their hearts for genuine conversion.  This, of course, requires that we be transparent with those we are reaching out to, so that they can see us as we really are.  That’s how disciples are made – through relationships of honesty and trust, in which the good news of Jesus is communicated on many levels.

Marion and I have been rediscovering the transforming power of hospitality over the past several weeks as the Holy Spirit has opened the door to a friendship with our next-door neighbours.  It all started this past summer when Orlando Suarez, a church-planter from Cuba, visited our life group on several occasions this past summer.  Orlando spoke to us of his passion for sharing the good news of Jesus with the people in his neighbourhood.  As I listened to him, I realized that the Spirit of God was speaking to me and telling me to become more active in reaching out to our neighbourhood.  Marion and I invited several people to our home to watch the Alpha videos and talk about the true meaning of life.  The couple next door accepted our invitation, and it has been a delightful experience getting to know them better.  We had already been on good terms before beginning this process.  But now, the relationship is changing from cordial to intimate.  As we talk about the Alpha videos and their growing realization that Jesus is alive, we are becoming spiritual friends.  In this atmosphere of friendship, lives are being changed.

This, it seems to me, is what happened over and over again in the ministry of Jesus and the Apostles.  I once did a survey of pivotal or life-changing events in the gospels and the Book of Acts, and discovered that a great many of them took place in someone’s home.   When Jesus dropped in to Zaccheus’ house for dinner, someone’s life was changed because Jesus took time to accept hospitality from a man that any self-respecting religious teacher wouldn’t go near.  Jesus knew Zaccheus needed to repent.  By inviting himself to Zaccheus’ home for a meal, Jesus honoured this man whom others rejected, and offered an atmosphere of acceptance that made it easy for Zaccheus to turn away from his self-focussed life and make things right with God.

So – how are you doing with hospitality?  It’s not really about how nice a home you have.  That doesn’t matter.  Your home doesn’t have to be spotless or elegant.  Hospitality is not entertainment.   And you don’t have to be limited to offering hospitality in your home.  You can also offer hospitality in a friend’s house or apartment, a restaurant, a bar, a hospital, a workplace, a prison, or even on a street corner.  It’s really about making time for relationship and having an open heart.

To be truthful, I’m not very good at this.  I’m still learning.  But Jesus is very good at it, and he is teaching me how to let my life be a vehicle for His ministry of hospitality.  It’s all about learning to rest in the Father’s goodness, and invite others to come into His household and discover His delightfully generous love.


Left Behind

When our son Reuben was a little boy, one of his first spoken sentences was “Can I come too?”.  He had two older brothers who often got to do things that he didn’t, and he didn’t like being left behind when they got to go to new and exciting places!

Tomorrow Bethany and I will be left behind as Marion jets to Minnesota to visit our son Simeon, his wife Heather and our 3 month old granddaughter Sophie, indisputably the cutest baby that ever lived.

Will I miss Marion?  Absolutely – but I am so glad she is going.  This is a big step for her – she hasn’t been on a airplane in 26 years – and I’m so proud of her for deciding to go in spite of her apprehensions of being lost forever in the bowels of the Chicago airport!  It was so important to her to have some time with her granddaughter, and now God is making a way for her and giving her the desire of her heart.

This morning Marion and I were lying in bed talking about her trip, and she asked me “Are you sad that you’re not going?”.    I was touched by her concern for me, but on reflection I realized that truthfully I hadn’t thought of it that way.  Of course I would love to be there – I loved being in Minnesota in March – but it wasn’t feasible for both of us to go at this time, and I knew it was more important (and more feasible) for Marion to make the trip this time than for me.  I am just so pleased for Marion that she can do this.

In the last chapter of the gospel of John there is a poignant and very significant exchange between the apostle Peter and Jesus, now risen from the dead.  They are having breakfast on the beach and Jesus has just finished asking Peter three times “Peter, do you love me?”.  He then tells Peter some things about his future, including a veiled hint about the way Peter will die.  Peter’s response is classic.  He looks over at the apostle John, and asks “Lord, what about him?”.  Jesus loses no time in putting an end to this game, telling Peter “What’s it to you?  Your job is to follow me”.  (John 21:22-23)

This is a perspective that we all need.   Years ago as a young believer at summer camp,  I was struck powerfully by the wise words of a pastor who said simply “We are called to contentment”.  For the disciple, contentment is not something that comes and goes with the wind, but rather a choice – a calling – something that is available to us and that we have full control over.   The apostle Paul, writing from a Roman prison cell, told his friends in Philippi that his ability to be content did not depend on his circumstances but on the power of the risen Christ living in Him (Philippians 4:11-13).

Discontentment is a trap.  Not that we should always passively accept things the way they are.  There are circumstances that we are called to resist with all our might, but even in the midst of fighting injustice and praying for transformation, we can be content in God who supplies all our needs and more.  The key to contentment is knowing where God has called you to be, and then planting your feet there and standing your ground – focussing not on your “hard luck” but on the goodness of God who knows you intimately and is able to meet all your needs according to his glorious riches.

Will I miss Marion?  Of course.  Do I wish I was going to Minnesota with her?  Not really, because that’s not where God has told me to be, and I want to stay in His blessing.  The blessing comes not when we complain and grumble, but when we obey with a willing heart.

Oh, by the way – I’ll probably forget this lesson at some point, so if any of you catches me grumbling about some circumstance or other, feel free to remind me of this post 🙂


Reflections from Minnesota – Day 1

Today was our first full day in Minnesota.   We arrived at about 5:30 pm local time yesterday – bleary-eyed, stiff and tired, but very thankful to have arrived safely.  The drive was long but in its own way a good bonding time.  I’m really glad that we took the Northern Route again (crossing into the USA at Sault Ste Marie – not Sarnia or Detroit).  Quieter, less traffic, and far more interesting than driving on freeways the whole way.  And we avoid Chicago!

We discovered a great little country diner along US Route 2 in Upper Michigan when we made this trip last year, and visited it again this year for breakfast after a night of driving.  Good coffee, great hash browns, tasty bacon and sausage, home made bread, even home-made strawberry jam!   Can’t beat it.  I think it will become a family tradition, since it seems likely we’ll be making this trip again.

Church this morning was powerful.  The worship was deep and intimate, hunger for God was evident, the message was probing and challenging.  Lately I have been sensing a real stirring of desire for God to do a fresh work in me – I felt it again today.  I want to see revival!  I love many things about my home church, but sometimes it seems to me that we have gotten to a point where we take God’s mercy for granted.  Sometimes we are so casual about God.  This morning was anything but casual.  Yes, God is kind, but He is also holy.  Yes, He draws us into His presence and is full of mercy, but He is also far above us.  This morning I was stirred up again to seek God with all my heart, and to live for His Kingdom.  I want to love Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.

Sophie was dedicated to the Lord today!  Afterwards we had a great brunch, courtesy of the Youngdale family (Heather’s parents, who live next door, and their children – 5 of the 8 still live with them).  Marion and I are so grateful that our son married a woman who comes from a godly family.   They are also a very hospitable family – very gracious and welcoming.

It is great to see Simeon serving the Lord with his gift of music, and growing both in technical skills and in faith as he serves at Bethany House of Prayer.   Although we don’t get to see Simeon, Heather and Sophie as often as we would like, we know they are where  God has called them to be, and it is exciting to see how God is stretching their faith as they face and meet new challenges.   Marion and I will have to find ways of grandparenting that suit the situation.  Probably we’ll find a place somewhere in Upper Michigan or Northern Ontario where we can have an annual Hartgerink family camping reunion.

It was a privilege to hold and pray for my granddaughter today.  It is good to see Marion holding and cuddling Sophie, and Bethany and Joe getting to know their niece – a new experience for them.  It is wonderful to see Sophie surrounded by the circle of love as her Youngdale aunts and uncles, and Grandma and Grandpa, take turns taking care of her.

It is also a great joy to be able to do things for my children.  My parents were incredibly kind to Marion and me when our children were small, and now we have the awesome privilege of blessing our son and daughter-in-law, and their children, in whatever ways God opens up to us.   We are so blessed.  Thank you, God – you are good.


Heading down the road

Tonight after I get home from work, Marion and I are heading down the road with our oldest son (Joe, 27) and our daughter (Bethany, 16).   We’re on our way to visit son #2 (Simeon, 24) who is married to Heather and living in Minnesota.  They recently had their first child, Sophie Grace – so she is the immediate reason for all the excitement.  Son #3 (Reuben, 21), who is studying at Ottawa U,  is staying at our place to look after the house and the dog.   Thanks, Reuben!  I know you miss your bro Simeon – hopefully you’ll get to make the trip soon too.

I love road trips!  Although I don’t have the stamina that I had in my twenties (that was a few years ago), I always find it exciting to head down the road.   I think that’s partly because when we go on a road trip, there is usually some reward at the end – something we are really looking forward to.   This time, the reward is that we get to see our new granddaughter – and her parents, of course.


In a way, this trip puts the cap on Simeon and Heather’s move to the USA.  So, we are bringing not only ourselves but quite a lot of personal items that Simeon and Heather had left in storage from the year they spent in Ottawa in 2007.    Joe, Marion, and Nick Fraser (one of our sons’ best friends – he used to be in the band Prefab with our 3 boys) went out to the storage place today to load up their stuff in a UHaul, and Marion listed it all for the border crossing people.

This trip has been a lot of work.  Besides the packing and planning, doing Sim’s taxes, and the various other details that go with making the transition from one country to another, lots of unusual things happened this week – like a laptop crash, to mention only one.   So it has been a bit of a crazy week.  But now we’re almost ready to head down the road – and the anticipation is building.

It will be a long drive – about 20 hours – and to leave ourselves more time to visit, we’re going to drive straight through, with only enough stopping time to make sure we stay awake.  But it will be an adventure – these are things you do for your kids, the things memories are made of.

At coffee time today, I mentioned my trip to some of my workmates and we got talking about road trips and how you can tell when you are in danger of falling asleep.   Last year, making the same trip, we came across a herd of deer in a snowsquall at 2 am – a bit unnerving at the time!  But I’m actually not worried at all about problems on the road.  Sure, I know they are a possibility – but we’ve placed our security in God’s hands, so I see no need to worry.  As long as He still has a purpose for our lives – and I believe He does – we’ll be fine.

Thanks to everyone who has asked about our trip, helped Sim and Heather by storing their stuff (thanks Nick and Paddy), told us how great grand-parenting is (helps me to get over feeling old), offered to pray for us, or offered various bits of advice and encouragement.   We appreciate you all !


Deeply moved

This post will be a bit different.   Yesterday I read the entire history of Brian Bloomfield’s fight with liver failure due to Hepatitis-C.   I don’t know Brian but I’ve met his son Josh through my son Joe – they are the same age and share a group of friends.  I’ve heard Josh lead worship (he’s a great worship leader) and got to know him a bit when he designed a great web site for a business that I was helping Joe to start.

Anyway, I knew Josh’s dad had been going through major health struggles but I had not followed the story in detail, having lots else on my plate like most of us.  Yesterday I had some time on my hands, and I had just noticed a link to Josh’s blog in an e-mail that I had received from him.   I read the entire blog and was amazed and deeply moved.   To make a long story short, Josh donated part of his liver to save his Dad.   The transplant was a success, and while his Dad is not out of the woods yet,  his Dad now has a chance at recovery and a normal life.

You can read the whole story here.   I’m including it here because I was so affected and inspired by this example of a son’s love for his father, a family’s commitment to each other during a challenging time, and a church’s support for one of their own.  Josh doesn’t gloss over the gory details, but through it all, the transforming power of faith in Jesus, and love for one another, shines through.   To Josh and the entire Bloomfield family – thanks for sharing your story.