Wednesday, April 25, 2007

How do we follow God in the 21st century? Ask your dog

On Wednesday, my parents left for a short holiday leaving Sally, our American Cocker spaniel and I home alone. Home alone together, to enjoy the sometimes beautiful and sometimes torrential, weather of the Pacific Northwest. Sally would hope that her master would take her on a few walks around the neighborhood, or at least throw the ball so that she could exercise her increasingly creaking, aging legs. I was enjoying the rest, the first round of the NHL playoffs, and hoped to spend some time at the gym so my legs do not become creaky as well.

Soon after my parents left, the Internet and e-mail connection, the lifeline to the outside world, crashed. Therefore, instead of walking Sally around the neighborhood, she followed very close behind me as I practiced the ‘stair master’, running between my computer and my Dad’s office upstairs, trying to fix the internet connection. Three days of hopeful yet pessimistic prodding of computer wiring resulted in nothing.

The one consistency I noticed as I ran up and down the stairs was this, Sally never ceased running the staircase with me, always only several inches behind me, always anticipating that I would answer her prayer for a walk, and always wearing a panting smile on her face. I often became perplexed, even frustrated by her persistent and joyful devotion to her master. Why won’t she just go lie down, why does she have to risk being accidentally kicked in the jaw by a wayward heal?

When I leave for work in the morning, I always lock Sally behind a baby-gate in the family room. Her forced obedience speaks volumes as she slowly turns around to face me, sitting and shaking. Her two, huge black eyes watch me in expected anguish, as I leave and she begins to burst into tears. Whether it is several hours or ten minutes, her squeals of excitement, which sound more like a dog’s cry for help, are an inevitable greeting when I arrive home, or as my mom prefers, ‘have risen from the dead.’ When I finally open the door, her squeals continue until i take down the baby-gate that keeps her imprisoned in the kitchen, and she can smell the scent of her rescuer. Only at this time, will she eat the food I have left for her because her self-inflicted hunger strike can finally end, and she can enjoy the fruits of her labor, which are, as it is written on the side of her doggie dish; to eat, sleep, and play.

As I have watched Sally’s excited expectation and anticipation of her master’s next move, she has taught me a great deal, about how Christians should act towards God. The Psalms are full of questions and statements, showing the psalmist’s desire to spend time with God, to receive something from Him and a desire to do things for Him to quicken His return to them.

Animal activists have often reminded us that animals share and understand more of our heartfelt emotions than we give them credit for. As I read the Psalms, it is obvious that the psalmist is talking to God, whose ways are greater than his are. In the same way, the thoughts and actions of humans are greater than those of their pets. However, it does not mean that we cannot learn a lesson or two about the Bible, from our furry friends. After all, God created them too.

For instance, Psalm 37:4 says “Take delight in the Lord and He will give you your Heart’s desires.” It is easy to see the delight that a dog takes in his master. Whether I take Sally on a walk, throw the ball for her off the deck, or allow her to follow me as I run up and down the stairs trying to fix my internet connection, Sally’s panting smile remains glued to her face and there is nothing I can do to change it.

A few psalms later, is a song that Christians worldwide sing regularly. “As the dear pants for streams of water, so I long for you, O God.” (Psalm 42:1) As I sit here, writing at my computer, or Dad prepares a sermon on his laptop, Sally can often be found guarding the doorway, always at the service of her master, ready to jump to her feet just in case he calls her name.

Because of actions like these, I would contend that the greatest characteristic dogs are known for is their devotion to their masters. Psalm 86:12 talks about the devotion that David offers to the Lord. “With all my heart I will praise you, Oh Lord, my God. I will give glory to your name forever.”

Sally’s devotion to her master often amazes me. Her deep desire to please him, to hear that she is a “Good dog,” or hear him answer her prayers for a walk are always first on her mind. Do we humans want to please our Heavenly master as much as dogs want to please theirs? Is it our first desire to hear God say, “Well Done, good and faithful servant”? We humans should follow the example of our pets as we work to devote ourselves to our true Master, the Lord Jesus Christ.

“As the deer pants for the water, so my soul pants for you, O God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.

When can I go and meet with God?

My tears have become my food day and night,

while men say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’

These things I remember as I pour out my soul:

How I used to go with the multitude,

leading the procession to the house of God

with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng.

Why are you downcast, O my soul?

Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my savior and my God.’

Psalm 42:1-5

Monday, April 9, 2007

Special Education Advocacy

In my job as a Special Education Assistant, I think about the people who have advocated on my behalf over the years, and would like to think of myself as someone who will do the same. Therefore, I like to call myself, and hope that I will become, a Special Education Advocate instead. It is this hope that brings several questions to mind. Most importantly, ‘What does it mean to be an advocate anyway?’ The dictionary defines an advocate as “a person who speaks, writes, or even pleads in support or defense of another person, cause, etc.” A person who does this can also be referred to as an intercessor. In this entry, I want to talk about a few advocates who have been a blessing and encouragement to me, on my way to becoming an advocate for others.

The first advocates I had were the first advocates everybody has. They are unpaid yet exceptional advocates known as parents. In addition to all the repetitive and expected acts that she did and does for me, mom made countless phone calls with teachers, doctors and others who help, placing her beloved son in the right hands. Since my birth, Dad has written hundreds of letters, made many phone calls and has driven hundreds of miles for his son. He has also argued with doctors, teachers, and even university professors to get the best for me. This was advocacy.

Mrs. Gleave was my S.E.A. during elementary school. As I spent grade 2 wearing my first pear of glasses, later ran for the cross country team several years in a row (always finishing near the back of the pack), and finally graduating in grade 6 winning the music award, Mrs. Gleave was there. She was a constant encouragement to me, raising my spirits with her laugh, which sounded like a bicycle, and being just as much a friend to me as to my classmates.

When I had my stroke in grade 9, I often used Mrs. Jackson (an S.E.A. for several students in my middle school), as a support as I walked down the halls, hoping to regain my balance as soon as possible. In front of my peers and classmates, I would walk with my arm around her shoulders. This was not cool in middle school. Nevertheless, what she did was certainly advocacy.

Years later, Mrs. Gleave gave me the greatest assistance of any S.E.A. while I, a university graduate in Psychology, wondered what new road, I should take. I had thought that the only option was to apply for a master’s program of some sort, and continue writing dreaded essays and exams for at least three more years. However, Mrs. Gleave said, “David would be a great S.E.A.” That was all I needed to hear. I began the two-year program that fall and the rest is history. This was advocacy.

In spite of the work that all of these people did, my Greatest Advocate is none of the previous. If it were not for the work of my Greatest Advocate, the many hours my parents, doctors and S.E.A.'s labored on my behalf would have been for not. My greatest advocate is God because I believe that from the first day, he has been leading my every step. First John tells Christians “we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 John 2:1) And it is because of His acting, speaking and working on my behalf that I hope to do the same for others.

"See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. What do you think?"

Matthew 18:10-11

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Hide & Seek . . . Seek & Find?

Today, as I took the bus home, a one year old boy began playing a game of hide and seek with me. He had a contagious smile on his face and a giggle that made my anxious heart glad. Playing hide and seek on a bus is difficult because once you are found; there is no way to run and hide again.
Jesus Christ is an excellent player of Hide and Seek. Yet, like playing it on a bus, if we read the Bible, Jesus makes it easy for himself to be found. Several times in the gospels, Jesus tells his disciples beforehand where he will be hiding.
John 14 is the hiding place for many of these verses.
“I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:2-4).
Yet, in spite of His hints, the disciples don’t understand.
“Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:5-6).
On Easter Sunday, Christians celebrate the end to the greatest game of hide and seek the world has ever seen. Luke 24 tells the story of two women named Mary who intend on finding and morning for their dead King, who was crucified two days previous. But instead the game continues. Verses 5-8, say:
”[The angels said to them] ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.' Then they remembered his words.’” (Luke 24: 5-8)
Only at this time did they understand. For the two Marys, the game ended and their faith in Jesus Christ began.
People often say that Jesus does not exist because he does not make himself known. If you do not read about Him in the Bible, I can understand why you believe this. But if you read the Bible, Jesus can be one of the easiest people to find, because he wants to be discovered. Have you found him?

Wednesday, April 4, 2007


In May 2006, I had the privilege of traveling to Bufukhula, Uganda with seven members of my church community. This entry covers some of the highlights I experienced while out of my comfort zone, and away from all that seemed normal to me. The results were fantastic, expanding my mind, teaching me new things, and giving me a second ‘home’ thousands of miles away.

Mulembé (Hello)

Receiving African name - I was greatly looking foreword to this traditional event. A time when the community would gather and talk about each team member, and give them a name that felt appropriate. On the first Sunday in Bufukhula, I had shared my testimony of how God had twice rescued me from certain death. Therefore they gave me the name ‘WHOLYO’ which means ‘survivor’ or ‘back from the dead.’

Receiving African name - I was greatly looking foreword to this traditional event. A time when the community would gather and talk about each team member, and give him or her a name that felt appropriate. On the first Sunday in Bufukhula, I had shared my testimony of how God had twice rescued me from certain death. Therefore, they gave me the name ‘WHOLYO’ which means ‘survivor’ or ‘back from the dead.’

Gathering bricks with kids to build new school building - One of the few pre-determined goals we had in Bufukhula was to help build a second block of classrooms beside the first building (below), which last year’s CapChurch team built and in which we slept and ate our meals. When we arrived, the community had dug boundaries and had made a large pile of hand made bricks. We joined them in transferring the bricks from the pile to the work site, a distance of 30-40 yards. As we started moving bricks, I learned that the ground was not level and I began to trip over broken bricks, hills, and valleys I could not see. When the kids noticed this, they created an ‘assembly line’ handing me bricks so that I would not have to attempt climbing over discarded bricks. I owe a big Wanyala-nabi (thank you very much) to these kids.

Linn Block / CapChurch Block – Soon after arriving in Bufukhula, we had our first and only accident. As she made her way to her sleeping quarters in the school Linn (a team member) tripped over a large step, hitting her head on an open, steel door, which I had almost run into only seconds before. After being examined by Nurse Angela (another team member), she was driven to a hospital to be given stitches. The only problem was a power outage that occurred just before Lynne was to be admitted. So, the stitches were administered via a flashlight and candle. Upon her return, she received a round of applause from the community, who had already begun to revere the fact that she had ‘shed blood in Bufukhula.’ Therefore, they named the school block where she had fallen ‘Block Linn.’ Later on, because of the hard work of the team, the community named the second block, “Cap Church’ block!

Staff members hold my hand – The ways that people in Bufukhula view and act towards disabilities is quite remarkable. Whether I walked along unleveled ground in the village, along railroad tracks, or down a slight embankment, F.H.I. staff members like Moses, Andrew, or Livingstone would grasp my hand without any actions or requests on my part, because they saw that I simply needed assistance that they could offer. They would often remind me of the level places and they would walk on the unleveled ground so I would not fall. One day when Moses did this, he slipped into a small ditch. Even though he was dressed up, that did not bother him because I was all right.

Testify! - At church on the first Sunday in Bufukhula, I shared my testimony with an enthusiastic community. Clapping and cheering interrupted my ‘rhythm’ and of course, time had to be given for translation. Sporadic cheers from the congregation made this a truly wonderful and unique experience. On another day, after finishing a morning devotional, a woman stood up and danced, singing “Singolo, Singolo!” (Joy, Joy). Near the end of our time in Bufukhula, we had a community prayer meeting for the needs the community felt needed to be addressed.

Conversion – A few days after I shared at the church in Bufukhula, we paid a visit to one of my sister’s sponsor children. Christine (my sister) and Brent (her husband) sat beside their sponsor child as members of the family and F.H.I. staff talked about the impact Christine and Brent were making in the life of this family and the child. My mother (who came to Bufukhula last year) had told me about the impact that prayer and sharing your heart with the people can make on them. However, the fact that I had done this just a couple of days before could not have prepared me for what happened at this house. The father, viewed as the head and leader of the household became a Christian because of what I had shared just a few days before! Praying for him to accept Jesus Christ into his life was and always will be a memory of Bufukhula I will cherish.

Music in Bufukhula – Going to Africa is a musicians dream. It is different than other music cities like Nashville or New Orleans, but then again it is a different type of music. Though these cities may be known for their talent, Bufukulans may not be talented, but they sing, dance or beat their drums with fervour, excellence and no fear of singing the wrong note. The fact that most of these songs are Christian, make them a beautiful song of praise to the Lord. We were able to participate in these songs in different ways as we led dances, accompanied friends on the drum or simply sang as we walked along the road or railroad tracks. Keep Singing Bufukhula!

A different psychology – One evening after we had finished dinner, the team, together with Andrew (F.H.I. staff) played a game called: “I have never”. Each person held up five fingers and we started talking about things that we had never done. If you had done those things you would lower a finger. When it was Andrew’s turn, he said “I have never felt discouraged.” Of course we all put one finger down as anxiety is just a part of the North American psyche. I need to be more like Bufukhula.

Wanyala, (Thank You) & lindé (Good Bye)

One of the members’ of this team was so inspired by what she experienced, she has decided to spend 3 years in Uganda to work with these wonderful people. Kristee Watson leaves on Tuesday September 11th, 2007. We love you Kristee!