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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
- Marc Heinrich

His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
- Rose Cole

[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
- C-Train

This post contains nothing that is of any use to me. What were you thinking? Anyway, it's probably the best I've read all day.
- David Kjos

Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
- Jonathan Moorhead

There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
- Carla Rolfe
 
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Friday, September 30, 2005
Humility.
I admire a couple of Franks - no not Frenchmen, but Frank one and Frank two). These two fellows have been discussing contraception and the Christian family on their blogs lately, and rather than post voluminous opinions in their space, I thought I would lay out my own thoughts here.

I lay forth beforehand this caveat - I believe that Christianity is simple to understand, but that we make it complex when by our own carnal efforts we seek to avoid certain requirements of our faith that we currently do not want to deal with.

That is a generalization, but I will use it as the baseline philosophy that will drive my examination of these issues.

Most of us have only a superficial understanding of humility. We know that it means to humble yourself before God, but we don't mine it too deeply because we don't want to deal with the nuggets that come up. In particular we don't want to identify sin in our life, because we believe that as long as we don't identify it, we are not responsible for dealing with it. It is a sad and beggarly thing that we do - but we all do it. I do it, and if you are genuine in your faith and willing to be honest - you do it too.

I define humility thus: a willingness to obey God.

I define pride thus: a willingness to disobey God.

I use the word willingness with purpose. It is more than just a desire. I might desire the drink the water, but if it costs $10.00 a bottle, I am not willing to drink it. Willingness is the key word when discussing humility or pride - and really, humility is really just the absence of pride isn't it?

Humility defines what it means to be crucified with Christ, that is what it means to set your own ambitions, goals, and pleasures aside and embrace instead the cross of Jesus Christ.

Leonard Ravenhill makes a wonderful point about the cross - once you were nailed to it, you were no longer in control - and that is the heart of humility.

It is because most Christians are not humble, and don't even know what humble really looks like - that they have no true witness of the Spirit; they have no present and tangible sense of God's presence. Instead, knowing that something should be there, they look to the shadows God casts in their lives, and deduce that God is there, whether or not he really is.

When I gave my life to God to do with as He would - I remember standing on the gulf between total surrender and wanting to control my own life - and as I leapt off that precipice of self control, yielding my entire being to His utter and eternal control - His Holy Spirit came into me in such a profound and tangible way that I was reeling from the effect. No one told me something would happen, and it wasn't some emotional trip, nor was it some logical conclusion I drew - God filled me and an undeniable sense of His holiness choked out everything else in my universe - an experience I can not deny, and can barely explain except to say what it wasn't. God was in me and I knew it. I could testify to the reality of His presence because I was a living witness to what had happened in my own life when I utterly surrendered it to God.

I testify to my own shame that these few hours when I was in communion with God in such a profound and living way - represents the only time in my entire twenty or so years of Christianity when I was truly and utter genuine in my own humility.

The experience lastet right up until I sinned, and the moment desire conceived in my heart He was gone. I felt so ashamed and guilty before God that I ran as far from Him as I could. Twelve years later my faith was restored, but the presence of the Lord was not restored. I knew (because scripture said so) that the Holy Spirit was indwelling me - but it wasn't an experiential truth - I had no fellowship with God in any real sense. I had what everyone else had - a head knowledge.

At first I thought that perhaps I hadn't really been saved the first time - you know, the seed that fell one of the bad soils - I believed for a time, but then fell away - or perhaps I was one of those who "went out from us, because they were not of us" - but I only believed that because it was easier than dealing with the notion that I once had sweet fellowship with God's Spirit, but now, because of my subtle unwillingness to yield everything to God, I was experiencing only an intellectual, second-hand sort of Christianity.

Lately I prayed a prayer I had been too afraid to pray - "Lord, show me what I must do to fellowship with you again in truth" - and the answer came later in the form of conviction of sin. Not one sin, but pride, unbelief, and irreverance all rolled up into one. I no longer had the fear of God, I knew I was going to heaven, and so I have been slack in my obedience.

I only as much as is convenient for me. I decide where and when the line is drawn - this far Lord and no further for now. This is not a willingness to obey, but a willingness to obey only those things that I can deal with. That isn't really a willingness to obey at all now is it?

My problem then is one of obedience - of willingness to obey. And that willingness to obey will only come when I once again hold God in my esteem as more important than everything - even myself and the things I want to do. This is called "fearing the Lord" - not the "afraid" kind of fear, but the awe-filled respect kind.

Looking therefore at contraception, I can say, God opens and closes the womb and not us. Who are we to play God? Do I trust God to give me as many children as He sees fit, or do I usurp His right and plan my own family? Do I play God, or do I let God be God?

If I play God, well, that is fine - but it comes at a cost. The only sort of fellowship I will have with God will be the common beggarly sort that is only popular amongst those who have never known fellowship on any higher level. God doesn't fellowship with sinners. He saves them, yes, he loves them yes, but fellowship is reserved for the humble. Imputed righteousness does not win one fellowship this side of the grave, and anyone who wants to have God's Spirit to come in and sup with Him had better understand that that only happens to the obedient children. And with God, the moment your heart is compromised, you can kiss that good-bye. Your still saved and all - but your experience becomes second hand.

So when I think about things such as contraception - I filter them through the big picture, if I am not willing to trust God to manage every detail of my life - that is, if I trust myself to do a better job than God - and in fact reject His will for my life - I can do it, but I am shooting myself in the foot spiritually speaking.

A word about the Pill etc.

Many Christians do not fully understand how "the Pill" works. The pill can act as a barrier mechanism to prevent sperm from entering the cervix by causing the body to thicken the mucus plug at the opening of the cervix. The other way pregnancy is avoided, and this is the main way btw, is to prevent ovulation altogether. However, ovulation sometimes takes place and eggs do find their way down. The third thing the pill does is harden the lining of the womb, preventing implantation of a fertilized egg. That means that newly conceived children in their first week of life are flushed out in a "micro-abortion" because the pill prevents that child from grafting to his or her mother.

Many Christians, when they learn that this form of "contraception" includes the possibility of silently killing one or more of their children, well, they just stop using it.

This information is readily available of course, but most people don't know it.

IUDs also affect the uterine lining and can prevent the implantation of a newly conceived child.

posted by Daniel @ 12:54 PM   4 comment(s)
The Cheers Effect.
Do you remember that old television situtational comedy series called Cheers?

I don't know what it was about it, but even after it had been out a few seasons, I couldn't watch an whole episode. I just found it sort of "blah."

This went on for a few years, but eventually, more because nothing else was on during that time slot that interested me, I began to sit through an episode or two - just to while away the time waiting for something decent to come on.

But as I began to see the quirks of each of the characters, the show began to take on a richness that wasn't evident through casual watching. It wasn't that the episodes were better written or anything like that - but as I began to know the characters of the show, the jokes began to be funny on a deeper plane.

In short, the show remained boring until I began to know the characters.

I call this the "Cheers" effect - because it can happen when meeting other people. You might get a "blah" vibe as your introduced and the conversation remains puddle deep and sorry. You could be inclined to write off the person quickly as "not your type" - as we all have our preferences about the sort of people we imagine we are going to like.

Yet I have found that just as boring sitcoms become interesting the moment you invest yourself in them - so too do people. That special needs person that you don't want to talk to because they make you uncomfortable might be the very jewel of joy in your life if you give them a chance.

Food for thought certainly.

Yet there is a Web log equivalent to this as well. What is true of Cheers, is true of Blogs. There are some blogs that you read that just bore you the moment you see them. The colors are wrong, the layout is pedestrian, and the font is annoying. The content is fluffy, and the blog seems to have no direction or driving purpose.

Yet the blog is, or can be a window into the life of its author, and as such, over time - as you get to know the characters - even what seemed a boring and poorly thought out blog can become quite entertaining.
posted by Daniel @ 8:41 AM   4 comment(s)
Thursday, September 29, 2005
Dances With Fire.
First I apologize for the length of this post. I was just reading Dan’s blog entry about camping – and thought it might be edifying to share one of my most memorable camping experiences. It is memorable not because it was so great, but because it happened before I came to Christ and is a testimony to where my life was heading.

The Abattoir

My story begins in grade four. I was attending a French school in a small provincial community. My father had just purchased an abattoir (slaughter house), and the house in which we lived was on the same property as the business. It was a wonderful life, sort of.

Not many eight year olds have been to a killing floor, let alone become so acclimatized to the smell of death that they take it for granted. To be sure, the smell of death is really just the smell of rotting blood – and it usually takes a lot of blood to generate such a smell. To this day I get nostalgic when I smell a slaughterhouse. We used to go skating in the winter time on the slue.

The slue, by the way, was the place where anything that went down the killing floor drain was pumped into. After butchering a cow, you would hose down all the blood and gore down the drain, and the pump would send it out back to the slue. The ice was always brown.

Seriously though, the property was otherwise great – there was a large garden, a colorful orchard, and plenty of green grass and even large climbable trees. These things, however beautiful to my minds eye today, were pretty much inconsequential to the mind of an eight year old boy however. I wanted a bike, or perhaps some cool toys. I played in the house more than outside, so when Christmas came and the pile of treasure beneath the tree threatened to bury the tree – I was enthused. Really, that image of the tree practically buried under the presents stood in my memory as the measure of all other Christmases since.

I mention the Christmas tree by way of introduction. My father’s business was doing quite well, and the treasure hoard beneath the Christmas tree was just an expression of our sudden prosperity.

My father has always been ‘gifted’ as an entrepreneur – or maybe he was just so brash that he could do anything he put his heart to. Whatever the case, after working a number of years in someone else’s slaughterhouse, he seized upon an unlikely opportunity and ended up buying the slaughterhouse previously mentioned. The sales deal is the stuff that legends are made of – he bought the business with $10.00 down (it was a quarter million dollar deal back when a quarter of a million would buy you a whole city block), and the business was worth twice what he paid for it.

It was just outside a rural town which was practically owned by one local family. The patriarch of this family had started the abattoir and built it into a thriving business. From there he expanded into many other capital ventures in that community – and really the town more or less grew up around his businesses. He was not only wealthy, but had a sort of power that comes when you have your finger in everyone’s pie. One of his sons had joined the RCMP and was stationed in town. They don’t do that any more (Station a constable in his home town), but at the time it was pretty common.

This patriarch, in his generosity, determined to bequeath his inheritance into the hands of his sons while he was still alive to see it. In this bequeathing, the abattoir was the crown jewel – the slaughterhouse that had made him who he was. He bequeathed it to his eldest son who promptly sold it to the very first person to make him an offer – my dad. My Father’s offer was almost a joke – it was so low, but the guy had dollar signs for eyes, and a quarter of a million bucks in your hands means you don’t have to go to work in a slaughterhouse just to please dad.

Well, as much as that grieved the father, it was more grievous I suppose that my father was immediately turning a rich profit. My dad had connections inside the Canadian National Railway, and on account of some wonderful personal innovation on his part, my father managed to augment the local income from the slaughtering business with a lucrative processing contract as well.

In a word, as successful as the business had been in the past, my father had in the first six months tripled or even quadrupled it’s return. The business projections suggested that within only a couple of years my father would have the business entirely paid off, while turning out enough profit each year to live quite comfortably. So it was no surprise when the patriarch of this family came to my dad came one day and made him a -generous- offer to buy back the business.

I don’t know if my father understood that it was one of those “or else” kind of offers, but my father refused to sell, and this is where the story twists.

Threats were made, followed by ‘accidents’. Our dog was shot to death on our front steps (which angered my father – whom, if you will remember had been the primary cause of many a dog death in our family). Shots were also fired into the yard at night, even causing my father to stay out with a rifle one night and have a real western shootout with someone (my dad shot the guy in the leg!). When things got too hot, my father moved the family off the premises and onto my grandparents farm. There we lived until the abattoir blew up.

Huh? Blew up you say? Yup. One day in the early hours of the morning, after all the meat processing equipment in the building was removed, the huge propane tank that stood beside the main building curiously/spontaneously exploded. The explosion leveled the business and house at the same time.

Needless to say, my father didn’t have insurance for sabotage, and lost his shirt – even having a nervous breakdown. We moved back to the city after that, but my father was a different man after that. Cold, bitter, and angry – where once he was even cheerful, from that time on my memories of my father are quite dark indeed. It changed him for the worse, but that is another story.

After a time my dad got a day job working with his father as a school janitor. In the strength of that income he rented the cheapest house he could to rear his five children, and it happened that the only community wherein such a thing was possible on his modest income, was not one of the cozy parts of town. Yet it was there – in the armpit of our city, that I met a friend who would eventually be a pivotal (though unwitting) player in the Lord drawing me to himself - Russell.

Russell

We were in grade five together, and became fast friends. We were the kind of friends that naturally fuse together in that sort of urban crucible. Russell and I were both small for our age, and both of us had just moved into the neighborhood from a better tax bracket. I never really learned the full story about his family, but it is enough to say that he didn’t fit in with the typical riff-raff of the area, and to some degree I too was outside my comfort zone in these new settings. We bonded almost immediately.

How I would love to regale you with some of the wacky things we did as kids – but time does not permit. It is enough to say that in the space of 18 months Russell’s family moved away. They moved during summer holidays, and because of his bizarre family situation, I was not allowed to have his home phone number. Shortly after we moved, my father got our number unlisted and changed, so that Russell couldn’t get a hold of me. Our friendship, had been a profound thing in both of our lives, and perhaps because of the way it ended, we both independently determined that one day we would find each other and resume our friendship.

It was a curious and bizarre chain of events that brought Russell momentarily back into my life. The nature of this connection however is so bizarre that I feel obligated to explain it.

Phone Madness

In Winnipeg, during my teen years a telephone system anomaly allowed hormonally charged teenagers to call one another. It worked like this: when you dialed a busy line, you could hear anyone else in the city who dialed a busy line from the same telephone exchange. That is, if you were to dial 774-xxxx and it was busy, and someone else dialed 774-yyyy and it was busy for them – you could hear one another talk over the sound of the busy signal. I don’t know how the thing came to be known – but my cousin one day introduced me into this culture – and it was perhaps the single most morally devastating thing to ever happen to me.

I worked like this, and I sigh at how pathetic this is, never the less I go one. I would call a number that was typically busy from that exchange –radio stations were good, or really busy businesses. There was no call waiting back then. Upon getting the busy signal I would speak in between the beeps/buzzes. Into that audio hollow I would scream my telephone number or listen for girls yelling out their telephone number - in the hopes that someone likeminded of the opposite sex was listening.

The pattern would be, call a busy line.

Listen.

BUZZ…BUZZ…BUZZ

Yell whatever you were going to say (some voices came through loud, some faint, so you always yelled:
BUZZ… Are there …BUZZ… any girls …BUZZ… out there? …BUZZ

Wait.

The reply you were looking for was a feminine voice in equal strain yelling out across the line, “…BUZZ… What’s …BUZZ… your …BUZZ… number? …BUZZ…”

At that point you always entered into a bidding war with other frantic and desperate young men who wanted to have a conversation with this young lady. Some of them, having worn out their own voices long ago, were no longer shouting out their numbers, but sat patiently waiting and listening –eventually some lady would give them a number, all they had to do was wait. I called these guys skimmers - parasites really. But only slightly lower on the pathetic scale than the rest of us.

When a girl decided that she wanted your number, or any number really, every able guy on the line began to shriek out their own phone number. You always entered into this shouting frenzy as one of many – a cross city competition with anywhere from three to twenty other losers who were trying to shout their phone number over you shouting yours.

“…BUZZ… Six …BUZZ… Six …BUZZ… Seven …BUZZ… Four… …BUZZ… etc.”

You would repeat the process until they would give the much anticipated seal of approval, “…BUZZ… hang up …BUZZ… …BUZZ… …BUZZ… and I will …BUZZ… call …BUZZ… you. …BUZZ…”

At that point you hung up the phone and hoped that you were the person the girl was talking to. Sometimes a guy would call.

Ick!

If the phone didn’t ring in a minute or two, you would call back and continue the process. Sometimes it took hours to get a girl, and usually you had to weed through a few weirdo’s to get there.

Did I mention you never did this when your parents were home? When I began to use this “service” I would get phone calls at all hours of the night. People would write down your number, and try and phone – it would be busy, and so they would try again another time. It must have seemed like I had overnight popularity to my parents when suddenly I was getting all manner of phone calls all the time.

After going through this ritual - someone would eventually phone you and the next phase of the process could ensue.

“What is your eye color, hair color, weight and height? How old are you? On a scale of one to ten, how attractive are you? Do you look like anyone famous?” These may seem almost calloused, but the culture around this particular line was geared heavily towards hormonally active teenagers, and the sort of people who prey on them. Before finding out about this phone thing my dating life was pretty tame. I had never kissed a girl, and was more or less a “frustrated” young man.

This phone thing seemed great. Suddenly I was talking to girls, even naughty girls, and even meeting some.

It is enough to say that I was young and unsaved. This phone thing catered to that, and would eventually became the source of much regret in my later life.

Coincidence

It was through this phone thing however that I began speaking with a young lady who thought my voice sounded familiar. She wanted to know if my name was Russell.

I hadn’t seen Russell in ten years, but apparently we sounded alike. Her brother, as it turned out was a close friend of Russell’s and through her I got in touch once again with Russell.

Now, as I mentioned elsewhere, I was an avid Role Player. And as it turned out, so was Russell! So it was the most natural thing in the world to invite me into his Role Playing circle. I was well liked in that group.

Daniel: The History of a Jerk

I should mention that I entered into a relationship with that young lady that lasted a least a year. She was a liar and manipulative, and as it turned out, much younger than she at first claimed to be. When she tried to end the relationship I turned into a jealous freak. I was still young and naïve, and this relationship had cost me – and that produced a nasty sort of jealousy in me. I was being more than a little needy – calling every five minutes – you know the typical jealous freak. I had never been in a relationship before, and when my neurosis become more than she was willing to put up with she dumped me. In fact, it was through the ending of our relationship that I came to the Lord.

When she dumped me, she did it in a marvelously wicked way. She called me, and began to tell me how it was over and whatnot, so I tried to weep and plead my way into keeping the relationship going. When that became too pathetic, I moved it up a notch.

I recall bumping into her shortly thereafter downtown. She was with another fellow who was clearly not her boyfriend. I wanted to talk, and she wanted to get out of there – and the guy was totally uncomfortable. I should mention that I had a certain “look” about me that I nurtured while growing up. I looked like someone who wanted to start a fight – I had long hair, wore a black leather jacket (that was a mean thing to do in my day) and I carried myself with the air of someone who was dangerous. Of course I wasn’t any of that – but I wanted people to think I was. I call it the Napoleon complex. I made up for my rather smallish stature (5’8”) by pretending to be tough.

So this guy who was with her, dressed in a long fancy coat – complete with grey leather gloves – was making every effort possible to let me know (without talking) that he was -NOT- romantically involved with my “ex.” I came upon them in a bus shelter, and I recall asking the fellow if he wouldn’t mind leaving to give us some privacy. He looked at her as if to ask whether she would be alright – and when he took his eyes off of my I smashed my fist into the window of the shelter – making a large noise, and returning his attention to me. I was such a jerk. Anyway, that settled it for him – he went out side mild as a kitten, and I tried again to woo my old girlfriend.

I mention this to paint the picture right – I was a total idiot, and pretty much unstable.

When all my efforts weren’t working I became desperate and called one night. I was angry and jealous, and because life hadn’t yet taught me how stupid it was – I was even threatening and down right abusive.

Her mother was employed as a child social worker, and unbeknownst to me, was listening in to my rant on another line. She silently endured every derogatory and abusive thing that came out of my mouth directed at her daughter, and when I had completely shamed myself – only then did she tear into me. She told me in no uncertain terms that my behavior was unacceptable, not only as someone who ostensibly was trying to win back the affection of her daughter, but more importantly as a person. To her credit she was business like and even polite about it, but it was merciless nevertheless, and I deserved every ounce of it.

Of course, I was mortified to have anyone witness the kind of threats and abuse I had poured out on my ex that night – and more so that it the witness happened to be her own mother. If I had any hope for that relationship, that conversation removed it.

I am thankful however that her mother not only heard me make a fool of myself, but also that she waited until I had done a full job of it. Had she entered into the conversation sooner, I might have been able to save face, or tell myself I was really a okay guy. But she waited till the right moment and that old bird put me in my place it had a profound effect. I sometimes wish I could thank her for that scolding – it was almost parental, and I needed to hear it all.

At the end of that conversation my ex-girlfriend suggested that I “grow up and get a life” – she even suggested I become a missionary somewhere far away in order to get over her.

I Think I Should Be a Missionary!


Her suggestion struck me as interesting. I was living on social assistance at the time, and really one of the reasons our relationship ended is because it was obvious I had no future. Until she dumped me I hadn’t really looked at my life as other people might see it, and the picture it painted was pretty sad. Perhaps being a missionary would be a good thing to do! I wouldn’t have to get a job, I could see the world, and be a nice charitable guy at the same time - perhaps she would take me back if I demonstrated what a great guy I was by taking her advice? (sigh, what a loser I was.)

That same week I checked the yellow pages and found a nearby church was advertising their sponsorship of missionaries. I had absolutely no concept of how missions worked, so I arranged to have an interview with the pastor. I expected I would tell him where I wanted to go, he would set me up with a sweet deal, and butta-bing butta-boom, I would soon be sipping wine on some exotic seashore far away, perhaps building churches or something on the weekends.

When I went in to see the pastor he sat me down and asked me all about myself. I gave him what I thought were the pertinent details, and then I asked about the “missions” thing. Did I get to choose where they sent me? What sort of stuff would I be doing? Etc. He explained that they were an evangelical church and that they generally sent people out on evangelical missions. I wasn’t really sure what that was, so he patiently explained that it was the spreading of the gospel. When I still looked clueless, he simplified it - telling other people about how Jesus Christ can save them. He sort of unsettled me a bit by suggesting that it would be best for me to be a missionary here in town for a couple of years. I almost got up and left. I assured him that I was only interested in being a foreign missionary. He then began to ask me about my own salvation – and I assured him that I had already been baptized as a baby. He seemed to be of the opinion that I was not a Christian – though he didn’t say so. I was filled with indignation nevertheless – how dare he!

When I realized what was going on I told him to his face that he needn’t worry about whether I was a Christian, I was a Roman Catholic – you don’t get more Christian than that. All my life I had checked the “Christian” box on any survey or form that asked my religion – I was most certainly a Christian.

So he asked me if I would be going to heaven when I died. I said I wasn’t sure – that in fact no one could be sure. He then asked me how I planned to get there if I do – and I explained that God was merciful and good, and that if I lived a good life, God would judge me and eventually I would get to heaven.

I could tell though from his questions that he saw right through my façade. You see, I was trying to sound all spiritual and religious so that he could send me to some tropical resort, and my little play was falling apart. Yet somewhere in the conversation I began to have serious questions about my religion - especially when he started talking about sin.

Had I ever sinned? Yes, of course I had sinned – why ask such a question? Did I believe that Jesus was God? Yes, yes, yes. Is the bible true? Of course it is – God wrote it didn’t he? Do I know what the bible says about sin? Well I think I know – I haven’t actually sat down and studied it – but I have a pretty good idea what it says. Do I want to see what it says? Sure.

In a few verses, my world fell out from under me. I came under profound conviction that I was not only a sinner, but that I was a sinner who most certainly was bound for hell. All doubt was removed – I read it with my own eyes – the penalty for sin is death…, all liars will be in cast into the lake of fire… you all know the verses. For the first time in my life I understood something from scripture – and all I understood was that God had every right to damn me – and that I was most certainly damned already. If I should trip off the curb on the way home, hit my head and die – Zoom! Straight to hell, no doubt in my mind.

That understanding made me dreadfully fearful for my soul. Like the men in Jerusalem who heard Peter’s sermon I too croaked out the words – what can I do then? Is there no hope for me?

Then and only then did the gospel come to me – There is hope. God knew you would sin so He sent His Son Jesus who didn’t sin, to die in your place – if you are willing to give up your old life and put on a new life – if you are willing to accept Christ’s sacrifice as sufficient for your soul – if you will trust that God is not lying in making you this offer – you can pray and God will answer your prayer and save you from his wrath.

I did. I gave my entirely self to God – and a feeling of utter holiness washed over me – I tremble to think about it.

I could write a hundred pages on that day, but it is really a tangent to the story I am getting to, so I will leave it there- it is enough to say that my girlfriend dumping me was used by the Lord to bring this sinner to the throne of grace.

The Camping Story At Last!

Now while I was still dating this girl, I was asked to go camping with her brother, my friend Russell, and a number of the other “gamers” from their group. One fellow -Tim- was in the armed forces, and he was a real gung-ho survivalist… and crazy too, but in a nice way. It was Tim who one day decided that all of us gamers should go camping together.

There was a boy scout camp miles out of town, and being late in the autumn the camp had closed for the season. We showed up with our gaming stuff, and some camping stuff. I wasn’t saved yet, so some of this isn’t going to sound all that great. I am pretty sure that I was in an altered state of consciousness due to my taking drugs or alcohol, or more than likely, a mixture of both - I really don’t remember.

Tim got the idea that because it was so cold out (it was late in the autumn) we should build a fire. We were all foolish enough to partake of drugs and/or alcohol so the idea of making the biggest bonfire ever seemed tame and reasonable. So Tim gets out his hatchet and with the unyielding focus of an intoxicated buffoon, he starts cutting down trees. I don’t know how many he gave up on half way – but because trees are difficult to cut down with a hatchet, he only actually fully cut down –one- tree. Later he butchered another tree half way, but I will get to that in a bit. The tree that he did cut down, he dragged to our campsite and soaking it in gasoline he started a pretty big fire. The fire wasn’t big enough for him however (I wonder if he was a pyromaniac!), so finding some of those huge round bails of hay in an adjacent field, he, along with a bunch of us, went and rolled a bail or two into the fire.

The flames were now leaping well above our heads - Tim nevertheless decided this particular fire required another tree, so he started chopping one down that was nearby. As I think about it, he might even have even started chopping it down because of its proximity to our fire – that is, it might have caught fire before he started chopping it down. Either way, he didn’t really get it chopped down before it was already on fire. Hacking away at this thing madly, he managed to get it to crack, and with a bunch of us pulling on this burning tree we pulled it into the other fire as well – broken in half and still connected to the stump. Eventually it either burned off, or was chopped off I don’t remember really.

The next part seemed at the time to be the most natural thing in the world for a bunch of intoxicated morons freezing in the cold November air (November in Canada is already cold enough to kill people) to do.

We began to leap over the bonfire. It was warm, and manly – and as soon as Tim did it, we all had to do it.

Tim ran at the blaze from a good pace back – and having set a stump in front to spring off, he leapt over the bulk of the wood, and straight into the glowing flames. They still shot thirty feet above his head – but he landed on the other side on his hands, and rolled out of it. We all thought that was pretty cool. To be fair, Tim didn’t actually clear all of the fire – but landed in a softer burning part and sort of rolled out more or less unharmed.

It became both a challenge to our collective manhood to be the first person to clear the fire.

You had to run at it full steam, then stepping up onto the stump for height, you could leap forward like a springing leopard, landing on the other side, counting on your momentum to carry you out of the fire should any mishap befall you.

I don’t know how many times we leapt over that stupid fire, but it apparently kept us amused for some time.

When we decided to go to sleep, we threw a mountain of dirt on the fire, and when it seemed to be in its death throes we rolled out our sleeping bags, crawled in and lay dead until morning.

I woke up -and without a word of exaggeration- both my ankles were sprained, and one wrist. I couldn’t even crawl to the bush to relieve myself. The morning dew (actually it was frost) mixed in my lungs and throat with all the smoke from the night before to form a thick sediment that started on my tongue and coated my mouth, throat, and surely my lungs as well. All the spastic coughing in the world didn’t seem to be doing much to loosen.

I determined that day, as I lie there shivering in melted frost, drenched and shivering – staring up into a grey belly of cloud that looked to pour freezing rain onto us at any moment – I decided as I grit my teeth against the pain in my wrist and ankles - I prefer to sleep in a tent. I can take the bugs, and the cold, and whatnot – but the morning frost really sucked.
posted by Daniel @ 1:38 PM   3 comment(s)
Growth...

There was an episode of "Lost in Space" that aired in my childhood called, "Trip through the Robot."

In this episode the bumbling doctor pushes a wrong button which damages the electrical system of the ship (now that is what I call a design flaw!)

As is typical of Doctor Smith, he is in neglect of his duties - one of which is that he is to recharge the robot. In the episode Smith has neglected to recharge the robot for several weeks at the time he makes his button pushing blunder. With the ship's electrical system all haywire, recharging the robot would further damage the ship putting everyone in danger.

Recall that the robot is zealously (some might say, even in an over the top sort of way) preoccupied with protecting the Robinson family, ready to pronounce "DANGER! DANGER!" at a moments notice, but otherwise a doting nanny for Will Robinson. Given his character, we are not surprized to learn that he has deemed it appropriate to wander off into the wilderness to die (so as to prevent the Robinsons from trying to save his live by recharging him.) It is the typical selfless sacrificial gesture that owes more than a nod to Jesus Christ and what he did on the cross - though at the time I wouldn't have understood how the love and sacrifice of our Lord was being plagerized for the sake of entertainment - but that is another thing altogether.

So the robot wanders off to die alone. Will Robinson (the kid) and the Doctor realizing what he is trying to leave the ship and try to track him down so that they can find some novel solution solution to their problem. Since this is a sci-fi show, something weird has to happen to bring the plot home.

In this case the robot has wandered into a "dangerous area" and eventually falls over backwards (face up) from lack of power (apparently, it requires energy just to stand up - who engineered this thing??). In the area where he has 'collapsed' is one of those wonderful plot devices that one could only get away with in the genre - "inorganic growth gas" - which causes the imobile robot to grow to the size of a submarine. Apparently it doesn't affect anything but robots - the stones and even the mineral rich rocks in the area are all normal sized - but that is TV.

Will and the doctor find the robot and decide that since the robot is so big, they can go inside him and "reverse the ions" which of course will shrink the robot back to normal size. Nothing is ever simple in a sci-fi serial, so as would be expected, the interior of the robot seems to be designed to kill anything that comes inside it - is veritable lethal obstacle course. Though Will, the doctor, Don and John have taken the robot entirely apart and put him back together at least twice by this time in the series - still they fail to anticipate or recognize much of the coming danger.

They go in side of course, through a panel that is normally at the bottom of his "feet" - screwing off the giant size screws, then entering in and finding the place where they can reverse the ionic flow they do so, then race like crazy to get out of the now shrinking robot.

They just make it out in time - squeezing through the foot panel - once a gaping maw, now a grated square so small it is a wonder they make it through at all. The moment they are out the shrinkage goes exponential of course - and the robot in a matter of seconds is back to normal - and apparently charged up too.

I don't remember how they fixed the ship or if they did - I was just a kid - but that episode stands out in my memory. I should rent the DVD some day.
posted by Daniel @ 9:41 AM   2 comment(s)
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Free Book Giveaway!
That is right - if you click here you can enter to win a free bible and a book from Tim Challies website through monergism books. Why not try and win a bible? You can always use it!
posted by Daniel @ 4:37 PM   0 comment(s)
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Dead to sin.

The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, and in particular chapter six has been a grand study of mine since I began my walk with Christ.

I would spend a few word discussing what I have come to understand in my walk with the Lord, and perhaps there are some readers who may be blessed because of it.

There are many ways in which we approach this text - the most common being the careful exegetical approach al. A "pedantic protestant" (see his continuing series on Romans). This is typically the path most of us take - we read the text, are left with a pregnant spiritual truth - that is, we know there is something more to the text than we are currently mining out of it - and though we labour in birth to ferret out the fullest meaning - yet the pregnant truth remains unborn in our understanding. Not that we are without understanding - rather, this is a multiple pregnancy - there are many truths in the womb of this passage, and while we grasp the surface truths with some level of ease, yet we do not deny a greater, more complete understanding is just beneath the surface.

It is for this reason that we mine the grammar of the text. We hover over it for years, coming back to it again and again to dig and prod and see if haven't missed something. Surely this has much to do with the subject matter at hand - how the Christian relates to sin.

I am a first generation Christian - that is, I was saved from sin as an adult. This isn't necessarily better or worse than being saved as a child - but it gives perspective to attitude towards sin, since I can clearly recall what it was like prior to being justified by grace.

I grew up with just enough knowledge of God, Christ, and the bible to mess up all the facts - this is likely because much of what I believed came from cultural rather than biblical sources. In the end I had the attitude that as long as I was more good than bad I would go to heaven when I died. Like most people I sort of pictured a great scale where all my good deeds would be on the one side, and all my evil deeds would be on the other - and so long as the good outweighed the bad, I was in. Notwithstanding, my concept of what was good or bad was entirely worldly. Bad deeds were defined by how mean it seemed to do them - rape and murder were very bad, but stealing to feed your family, or lying to save a Jew's life - these only seemed bad, but the case could be made that they were really (in fact) good.

When I received the truth of the gospel, I gave up on trying to earn heaven by being good (of course) but the unconscious theology that produced my first error remained with me - and this is important - since it has flavoured the way in which I was inclined to view God.

Even though I knew and believed the orthodox line - "not my righteousness but Christ's" I was nevertheless finding myself from time to time locked in the classic Galatians struggle whereby I try to perfect myself by resisting sin instead of living for God.

Really that is the heart of Romans Six - the relationship that the believer has with sin. Paul explains the ramifications inherent in being saved but not yet freed from our unredeemed flesh.

Paul anticipates that the Jews will confuse grace with antinomianism[1], and for that reason he goes out of his way to say that a right understanding of grace will not provoke antinomianism. That is how this thing starts rolling at least - grace cannot lead to antinomianism because there is a spiritual reality taking place behind the physical demonstration.

The spiritual reality that Paul is referring to is our immersion into the body of Christ. When Paul asks, "how shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" the implication is that all true believers have already died to sin - a point he begins to elaborate on in the third verse. John the Baptist heralded Christ as the one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit - that is, Christ Himself immerses every believer into his own "body" (the church) by sending the Holy Spirit to indwell them at the very moment they are justified. It was certainly determined before the world began, but the reality of it comes into being at a point in time - and it is at this point in time that was move out of the unregenerate camp and into the regenerate camp. This "baptism" is entirely spiritual and is often forensic - that is, there is no attendant phenomenon to punctuate that it has taken place.

While our identification with Christ may seem esoteric or even mystical to some, Paul treats it as a practical reality and lays out the implications of this union in answer to the anticipated charge of antinomianism. Paul's argument is that because Christ took you into Himself, and because you were with Him when he was murdered, buried, and raised by God, that you too were also murdered, buried, and raised. He peels these truths off unapologetically - not dwelling to explain the mechanisms involved - but instead deals with the practical implications of that union.

The first practical implication of our death in Christ is that our body of sin is made powerless and because it is powerless we become free from our former bondage to sin.

Not that our flesh is free from sin's bondage - but that we are free from sin's bondage. That is a critical distinction we ought to make before we go on. Too often we are inclined to think of dying to sin as something we are commanded to do rather than something we are told is already true of us. Paul is saying, if you're a genuine believer, you're already dead to sin.

Paul doesn't say this in a vacuum - that is, we have to remember that Paul is making this point in order to explain why grace doesn't lead to antinomianism. He mentions this truth because the implications of this truth prove his point regarding antinomianism.

I hate to arrest my momentum again, but it is important that we understand exactly what is meant by dead to sin.

What Paul is saying is so simple I think people often miss it because they are expecting something more profound. Paul is saying that when you died in Christ your sin debt was paid. The sting of sin is death, but because you have already died sin no longer can claim your life - you are free from sin's debt.

Terms like bondage and slavery when used in concert with the term sin evoke a rather skewed image of what Paul is trying to say. We hear "slave of sin" and we immediately picture sin as a dictating master whom we are powerless to refuse. We regard the term "slave" only with respect to servitude. But the aspect of slavery Paul was capitalizing on wasn't so much the servitude as the ownership.

The penalty for sin is death, or as Paul states elsewhere, the strength of sin is death. Every sinner has forfeited his or her life - that is the power that sin has over us - we owe a debt and the debt is our life. Paul is saying that when we died with Christ the debt was paid, and sin no longer has a claim on us. Paul continues the slave metaphor - since we are no longer slaves to sin, we are free from the hold it had on us.

Now here is where some honesty really helps. We must recognize that we are have not been set free from the desire to sin. Surely you need not be convinced of that - but the distinction is important later on. When we admit that we are not free from sin's desire, we understand that the bondage Paul is talking about is not our propensity to sin. We see in chapter seven that the propensity to sin is actually tied to our unredeemed flesh - and it never goes away.

Why is that important?

It is important because when Paul says "For he who has died has been freed from sin," many people imagine that Paul is in some way implying that one becomes free from the desire to sin through a form of self-denial characterized as dying to self.

Paul is not saying that. What Paul is saying is that sin can only condemn you until you die, and once you're dead sin no longer has a claim on you. The sin problem has been dealt with. That is what Paul is saying - but he isn't saying it just to make the point - he is saying it because it needs to be understood if one is going to understand why the charge of antinomianism is inappropriate, and in verse eight, Paul begins to swing that boat around.

He has shown the outcome of our union with Christ in death - that our union in death means we are freed from our bondage to sin. Now Paul deals with the implications of our union with Christ in being raised from the dead - our sanctification.

Question: How do we feel if we don't really believe that we are free from sin's penalty?
Answer: Afraid.

Fear is a powerful motivator - and many Christians are obedient to the law because they are afraid that if they are not obedient it will mean that they are not saved. This is not so much an articulated thought - but if we plumb the depths of their motives, we see that fear rather than love motivates them.

Paul describes these believers are being still "under the law" - that is not understanding or failing to believe the grace in which they stand, they set about trying to ensure their righteous standing with God through their own righteous efforts. These are the Galatians who have fallen from grace, and are setting about trying to establish their own righteousness in order that they might be pleasing to God.


NOTE: When scripture refers to falling from grace it is talking about a mindset that abandons trusting in the imputed righteousness of Christ to satisfy God (grace) and embraces trusting in one's own righteous acts to satisfy God (law). This "fall" can last a moment or days or even the rest of our life on earth. It doesn't mean that one has lost their salvation - it means that one has lost their assurance - their peace, they no longer are at rest in Christ, but have instead began again to look to works of the law to appease God.


So when Paul describes how Christ now lives to God and associates our walk with Christ's life, he is saying that our sanctification does not come about by keeping the law - it comes about by our living for God.

That is a mega-concept, and our enemy knows it. The last thing Satan wants is for you to understand that sanctification happens not when you are "trying not to sin" - but when you are presenting yourself to God - alive from the dead. The bible describes the inward obsession with trying not to sin as - (gasp!) - the carnal mind - a mindset that demonstrates a hatred of God.

No you say? That isn't true? Trying not to sin is the very definition of loving God? Uh-uh. That isn't how it works. No matter what you tell yourself , your motive in trying not to sin is always self. Did you get that? You might tell yourself that your focus on trying not to sin is God's glory or something silly like that - but deep down you know I am right. The truth is quite ugly, we truly are --that-- deceived. If you find yourself disagreeing with my I imagine you are always a bit confused by the last line in chapter seven - "So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin." Paul understood that his flesh would always serve sin - so instead of trying to beat it down under the law - (the impossible path of the Jew) he instead accepted that he was a sinner, and set his eyes forward (on Christ) rather than inward on self. Not that he gave himself over to sin - God forbid! But that the very path to freedom is found in trusting Christ to deliver us from sin rather than setting about to make sure we don't sin.

I know, it's all topsy-turvy - up is down; dogs and cats living in harmony together - whacky sounding, and nigh nonsensical - yet it is the truth.

For some readers the idea that your sanctification does not rest in your ability to keep the law, but instead in Jesus who is really going to sanctify you must be jarring. You are the slave of the one whom you obey - that is, if you are Christ's slave you will obey Him, not that you become Christ's slave -by- obeying Him - it is a subtlety. The idea is that the genuine believer has presented himself or herself to Christ - Christ now owns them, and -this- is Paul's answer to antinomianism - grace doesn't lead to sin because you will not continue in sin when Jesus Christ owns you (you are His slave). Everyone who names the name of Christ departs from sin - that is not an imperative (command), it is a statement of fact. Paul's answer is that grace, when understood properly results in sanctification and not sin.

This doctrine is perhaps the most commonly messed up one I know of - people trying to die to themselves all over the place - hoping to be free from sin so that the burning desire in them to be pleasing to God might be slaked. But the reality is that we are dead already, and because of this we need not try and make ourselves holy - we can't do it - the best we can do is generate a personal righteousness that God considers a filthy rag (Isaiah 64:6).

Alternately, if we are a little less intellectually honest, we can play games with ourselves - and even though we keep ourselves from sin in our own power, and do all our good deeds in our own strength - we tell ourselves that God is "giving us the ability" to do it - and so give God credit for what we ourselves have done. Not unlike the other world religions...

Truly, if your Christianity means that you are doing everything but calling it God's power - you are going to burn out eventually.

When we comprehend that God really does it all - everything - then we see that our sinfulness, as wretched as it is, is the qualifier for God's grace. Where sin abounds, grace abounds much more. We look upon our utter bankruptcy and only when we are truly poor do we understand God's rich love that he extends towards us. We can begin to thank God when we come to him in confession - thank him that he loves us in spite of this sin, and that He hates it more than we do - and that he is sanctifying us.

That is not to say (however) that we are inactive in this part - that we sin all we want and wait for Jesus to zombify us into obedience - rather it is to say that our focus must be on living honestly with God, trusting that we are acceptable to God in Christ - even when we are being rebellious in our heart - and because this is true we can come to the throne of grace to find help in our time of need. We can go to God in mid-treason, and declare our sin, and our own love of it, and inability to be free from it, and cry out the cry of a child to a Father - deliver me Father, for I am content in my wickedness unless you change my heart.

I could go on, but it is time to ask: what do we do with this? What is the bottom line?

The bottom line is simple. Give yourself to Christ body, mind and soul. Be honest with God about the whole thing - let Him know you want to be free from sin because you are terrified that maybe you messed up your faith or something - let Him know that you are haven't really be trusting Christ alone, but slip back into trusting your own efforts - and accept with all your understanding that God alone is going to sanctify you. Determine in your heart not to be motivated by fear, but instead by a genuine love of God. It may be that God's love towards you doesn't seem like motive enough - tell God if that is the case - you need to understand how much God loves you - otherwise what is driving your faith??

[1] Antinomianism: the belief that because salvation is by grace through faith alone, the believer is not morally obligated to obey God once they are saved.
posted by Daniel @ 11:27 AM   3 comment(s)
Monday, September 26, 2005
Great quote
Sunday night at the Sutera meetings currently being held at Church of the Living Hope in Winnipeg, Ralph Sutera made some very good points, and I would love to spend lots of time discussing them, but I have only a few minutes before my lunch ends, so I have to be brief.

He asked, "Are you enjoying God, or just enduring Him?"

He might not have used the exact grammar I did - I don't have the meeting recorded so I am running this back through my memory of the events.

The question was diagnostic - how is your relationship with Christ. Most Christians wouldn't dare answer anything other than "enjoying" - because that is what we are supposed to answer. We all know the rules - of course we enjoy God.

It was a deep probing question - one that opens the door to the reality of whether we are really engaged in fellowship with the Lord or if we are saved and out of fellowship. More on this later.
posted by Daniel @ 1:07 PM   2 comment(s)
Sunday, September 25, 2005
Sutera Update!

UPDATE 2008.

From time to time I get hits on this post from people looking for information about the Sutera Twins. This post was written three years ago when they came to Winnipeg for revival meetings.

Some context: In the early 1970s our former Pastor (Bill Mcleod) was pastoring at a church in Saskatoon, that invited the Sutera Twins to come and hold meetings. A genuine revival broke out - literally thousands were coming to Christ "for real" - repentence -real repentance- was happening everywhere, and each night the meetings were bigger and larger until eventually the church was no longer big enough, then the church they moved the meetings to was no longer big enough - eventually they were meeting in a convention centre. During this time there was a genuine outpouring of God's Spirit, and our old pastor looks back to those twelve weeks or so as the highlight of his life and ministry.

Notwithstanding, a lot of preperatory work took place beforehand. Prayer - begging God to bring revival for years, preceded those meetings, so that they were a culmination of an on-going deep intercessory work that began long before the Sutera Twins showed up.

After our 2005 "revival meetings" in which the Suteras ministered to us, our old pastor commented that it was nothing like the revival meetings of '72 in Saskatoon. There was a spiritual rawness in those early meetings, and none of this emphasis on selling books, no typed out and binder bound "agendas" given out before hand, and less stress on "giving." He was, in my opinion, ashamed and disappointed at having supported them, for in his opinion they were not ministering as they had when revival broke out.

Yet I say this, when they were here, their message was accurate - even polished. They hit sin hard, as we ought, and there was some lasting reconciliation that came about from a message that Lou preached at a local church on the side, though that church has since collapsed. The meetings produced no lasting affect in our church, but again, we had been hearing revival messages from our own pastor for years, so there wasn't much "new" that they could add - except for all the book and tape pushing.

All in all, I think if people haven't heard a good series of messages on sin, or the pastor is scared to preach about sin, these guys can do that well, but if they are continuing in the vein they were when they came to Winnipeg, you will have to take each ministry along side the built in sales pitch for the various spiritual "help" books which they not only endorse, but bring along and tell you to buy if you want to have a revival.

I got..., and this is just one man's opinion, and that seasoned by time and therefore (I hope) even handed, but I say, I got the impression that they were unwittingly reducing revival into a formula, and that they had planned and organized the Holy Spirit right out of His ministry. If I have the opportunity to see the Sutera's again, I will probably pass. Not that I do not desire personal and corporate revival, I do - but rather that I don't think these men carry around revival in their pocket, and their particular ministry, at least for us at that time, was far too convoluted by the pressure to support the ministry financially. There was a palpable and consisten pressure to support their ministry financially that didn't sit right with me then, and remains the one thing I remember most about their time here.

Other than a couple of instances of temporal reconciliation - there has been no lasting imprint of their ministry. I wish them grace in their ministry, and hope that our experience was an isolated one. They are engaging speakers, and fine musicians, and if you have the opportunity to hear them for the first time, you ought to take it. I mention these things just to flesh out my post for those who continue to scour the internet looking for info on the Suteras.

When we invited them to speak in Winnipeg, they sent us a package back about all the stuff we would have to do in order to have them come - a list so detailed it even told us what we ought to feed them for each meal while they were there, and how far away they should be from the church etc. A grand binder full of program, program, program - scheduling etc. An administrative gift gone wild.

Either way, that's my update. Take it for what it is worth, I hope it helps.



Yesterday (Saturday) we had an all day session (9:00 a.m. until 5:10 p.m.).


All I can say is wow.

Ralph and Lou have a unique iterant ministry that over the course of fifty years has brought them into many churches that are on the verge of schism. Compiled into one prolonged teaching, we went over the main reasons why people inside the church tend to argue, fuss, and eventually divide. It was extremely good stuff to hear.

While 50+ years of experience dealing with this sort of stuff is nigh impossible to trim down into a one day lesson - it is even more difficult to trim it down into one post as I run out the door to tonight's meeting. It is enough to say that there is wisdom in that proverb about the house that is neglected. In this case, the neglect is people neglecting to invest themselves prayerfully in others and in the church, in essense, they neglect God's glory.

I will certainly write more on this as I am able, and as the magnitude of it begins to settle into my understanding.
posted by Daniel @ 5:03 PM   2 comment(s)
Saturday, September 24, 2005
I am a Flippery Fish!
Recall that it was a fish that swallowed Jonah.

It is nice to evolve - it makes me feel ... good. Like my time spent writing about the inane things in my history or experience have some interest to those who are whiling a way a few moments. I like to enrich others when and if I can ;)

I think the thing I appreciate most about bumping up and down on the evolutionary scale is the joy of trying to find a fun image to go with the evolutionary jump.

For those of you who are not really sure what that is all about, on the lower right hand side of this page is a 'rating' on the TTLB ecosystem. TTLB is an acronym for "The Truth Laid Bear" and a visit there will answer all your questions about who they are and what they do - you can click the link over in that column and see for yourself. I think it is fun.
posted by Daniel @ 7:34 PM   2 comment(s)
Friday, September 23, 2005
RE: Extension of Term Appointment
I was hired in 2001 by the Government of Manitoba as a term employee. It was explained at that time that it was simply easier to hire term employees because you didn't need treasury board approval to hire them. The unspoken expectation was that you stayed a term until a staff year opened up, then you were hired on full time. There was the added advantage on their part that if you ever proved to be slack in your employ, they were under no obligation to renew your term.

So for the last four and a half years I have been working in three month increments (on paper at least) in the same position as a maintenance programmer (PowerBuilder/Sybase/Oracle) doing some Java and web stuff on the side.


There are three of us who have been term employees here for three or more years, and each time the terms are up we receive a new one no questions asked - there is far more work than there are employees.

So as our term ended this week we were expecting a new three month term, but instead each of us term employees was called into the bosses office.

Now, whenever you are called into the bosses office the first thing you do is steady yourself - have I been performing well enough? Is there a problem with something I said or did? You get ready for the worse, so when it comes you can take it with dignity. In my own heart I know that I haven't been working to the best of my ability lately, and so I thanked the Lord for any rebuke that was coming my way. I determined to accept it with humility and sincere repentance.

But my boss sat me down with that "I hate to be the one who has to tell you this" face, and explained that due to the ICT Restructuring initiative (a cost cutting amalgamation) that our department in six months time is going to be insolvent - that is, it will be swallowed up by the ICT branch as it swells its ranks by dissolving some 20 governmental branches. My boss explained that they had managed to get us a six month term instead of a three month term, but that was it - after that it was out of their hands. In other words, don't expect to have your term renewed after this one.

It came with the standard extension letter, modified somewhat to underline the closure of the term:

September 22, 2005

Daniel van de laar
System and Technology Services Branch
307-1181 Portage Avenue

Dear Mr. Van de Laar

RE: Extension of Term Appointment

Please be advised that your term appointment has been extended to Mark 31, 2006.

Due to the current ICT Restructuring Initiative, the Department is unable to commit itself to further employment beyond the above mentioned date of expiry.

We wish you continued success in your position. If you have any questions, please do not hsitate to call.

Sincerely,

J_____ R______
Human Resource Consultant
Human Resource Services

(copy)
J. F________
Payroll

I noticed that they capitalized department for some reason; perhaps they are referring to the department as a proper noun by virtue of its expected and impending bloatedness?

Likewise my body wondered upon reading it, how they could wish me continued success in my position since the position was ending...

The one fellow, Chris - he is a believer at least, his wife is pregnant with their first child, and they just bought the biggest house they could afford (sigh!). He went home after lunch to digest it. The other fellow, Doug, he is single and has no kids - it is a "bummer" for him, but he is glad that the only person his termination is going to affect is himself.

In my own situation, I trust the Lord to provide what He will, and that gives me strength. I prayed before I got this job that the Lord would lead me where he wanted me - and this is where I ended up - and I certainly cannot fret if the door closes. God's will be done! Yet I can't pretend that I am not a little bit anxious. These things are wonderful for testing our faith, but that doesn't mean they are pleasant!

Anyway - keep me in your prayers - not that I find a new job just as good or anything silly like that - pray that I would follow the Lord wherever He leads.
posted by Daniel @ 12:48 PM   5 comment(s)

I would like to say a word or two about the freedom I experienced from a sin that was so entrenched into my being I didn’t even know it could be removed – having no frame of reference I did not even have the capacity to imagine an existence where it didn’t exist - since I had no idea it could be separated from who I was.


The story begins in Holland during World War II.

I can’t be certain, but if I am correct my grandfather came from a poor urban family. In his early childhood he was something of a wizard with snares. He snared birds, rabbits, foxes, and even mice and rats. What could be sold for food he sold, and if not, he would skin it and sell its hide. In this way he helped to support his family even from a young age (he was one of seven children I believe).

I am not sure if it was because the Germans began to occupy Holland, but during the war food was rationed. You couldn’t go and by butter or bread – you were given a certain amount of food tickets and you went and stood in line all day to get a tub of butter, etc. I am not sure how my grandfather came to be involved in black market smuggling – but he became quite wealthy from it. He would go over the border and buy powdered eggs or something in exchange for tobacco or whatever, and bring it back and sell it etc. He wasn’t entirely a mercenary about it – he has a few stories about some of the families he helped out and what not – but really, he was making out like a bandit. The Dutch people couldn’t just buy food – everything was being rationed out. So if your family needed bread you went and stood in line all day, and if the line moved fast enough – you might get some bread that day. It wasn’t a good system, so my grandfather, through the barter system and over-the-border smuggling, did quite well.

When the Germans came into Holland – they lined up the city officials and executed them. From that point on the Germans ran the city. One of the things the Germans did was enlist (less than willing) Dutch men into the German army. They would go into a bar, round up all the men (young and old alike) and take them away to be soldiers. My grandfather escaped one such “recruitment drive” by jumping out a restroom window and running all the way to the next town to escape it. He stopped in at a pub there to hide out for a while (where else could he go?) and the Germans came to that pub and gathered up all the men there too. They lined them up outside and began to march them.

My grandfather however didn’t look like your typical working class stiff however. The war made detergent and whatnot scarce, so most of the people were dressed in dirty or patch-worked clothes, while my grandfather was in a pristine and clean long coat and stylish hat. So when everyone turned right at one turn, my grandfather kept on walking straight. It would have been suicide to do so, since shooting someone who doesn’t listen is a great way to make everyone else listen – but my grandfather threw his shoulders back and walked as though he was not affiliated with this group. A couple of german soldiers saw him and came to attention – assuming him to be an officer, or perhaps a nazi. He stood still while the men marched by, and looked to be inspecting them or something – then continued his unhurried walk until he was out of sight – and ran like the dickens.

It was during the smuggling years that my grandfather met my grandmother – she was a smuggler too, and they were wed and had children.

Prior to the war my grandfather found employment in the Phillips plant working on an assembly line making parts for radios. He was a bright and industrious fellow and soon was introduced all sorts of ways to increase his production. Eventually he was made the floor “hand” – the guy who looks after everyone – and because he excelled in this, he was noticed and selected as a foreman trainee. Over the course of a few years he went to school in the evenings and when all was said and done he was a tool and dye engineer and foreman. By the time my grandparents left Holland (about a decade after the war had ended) my grandfather had become a foreman authority over all the plants in three countries.

One day my grandfather’s superiors at Phillips came to him with a light bulb filament that a Japanese manufacturing company had sent to Phillips to “woo” them to purchase Japanese technology. The idea being that the Japanese manufacturer was saying, “Do you not see how sophisticated our technology is? Surely you will want to use our technology in your technical efforts!” They brought this filament to my grandfather for his appraisal – it was an impossibly fragile, thin sliver of metal. My grandfather took it, and with his own tools (that is tools he made himself) drilled a hole through it lengthwise – effectively turning it into a little straw. They sent it back to the Japanese manufacturer with a “thanks but no thanks” note. I mention it not just because it is a cool true story, but to give you an appreciation for where my grandfather was at in his career at Phillips when they decided to move to the US.

The decision to move to the US came in the mid 1950’s when it seemed to my grandparents that a third world war would break out. By this time my grandparents had had three children – Marius, Franciscus, and Robertus. Marius would soon have to go into the army (it was mandatory in Holland at the time) so my grandparents sold everything they had, and boarded a boat to the US.

They arrived in New York after an uneventful sea crossing, but when they got there the US had already met its quota for Dutch immigrants – meaning they would have to go back to Holland. Since they had sold practically everything, this was not a great option. The Canadian embassy was right there, and because Canada was still accepting Dutch immigrants, they determined to stay in Canada until the end of the year and then try the US again when the quotas were reset.

It was during their first week in Canada that my grandfather’s tools were stolen.

A word about tool and dye making: no one sell tools for this trade – you make your own. An apprentice uses his master’s tools to fashion his own tools, until he has enough tools to manufacture the other tools he will need. The tools are pretty proprietary from there on in, differing according to the training and style of the smith. In short, they were not only irreplaceable; they were the very bread and butter of my grandfather’s trade. You cannot get a job as a tool and dye smith without your own tools.

My grandfather therefore became a Janitor, and much of what they did bring with them was sold to keep them alive during the first few years. These were the formative years into which my father grew up. They moved to Winnipeg, and lived in the lawless parts of town. You know, where the people who can’t afford to live anywhere else live. For two years straight my father’s diet was rice and molasses. It was all they could afford.

I suppose this made my grandfather somewhat miserable – I mean he was no saint to begin with, but this downturn in life may have influenced his character as a father. He was a strict authoritarian, and a harsh disciplinarian, and because of the abuse my father suffered at the hand of my grandfather, my father was allowed to move out at 15 and become a “ward of the court” – that is, he quite school in grade eleven, got a job, and supported himself.

My father met my mother when he was sixteen and she was fifteen, and after dating for a while she became pregnant with my older sister. They were married at the ripe old age of seventeen and sixteen – and in the space of seven years had five kids. To put that into perspective, I am going to be forty next year, and my dad isn’t even sixty yet.

I mention all this so that when I say my father was not the best father in the world, you (the reader) might appreciate that there were mitigating circumstances surrounding his parenting. He was just a kid himself when he started his own family, his own history contained much abuse – both physical and emotional – and my mother, bless her heart, had a very meek and submissive personality.

So it was that from my earliest memories my father was a terror to us all. He was an expert in exaggeration (what you might call a pathological liar), and a great promoter of his own interest (perhaps you might use the term “braggart”). What he lacked in integrity and kindness he made up for with charm and wit. The man on the outside was not the man on the inside, and only those who lived with him knew the man on the inside.

My purpose is not to bring disrespect upon my father however. It is enough to say that he had problems and his parenting reflected that. We were not corrected as children so much as we were punished – and punishment came in direct proportion to my father’s anger. If dad came home angry, snarky, bitter, or otherwise “not cheery” you could expect to be punished if you interacted with him for any length of time. You never knew what would set him off – and so when he came home angry or something the whole house tip toed around him to avoid being the vent of his frustration with life.

My brother and my sisters and I endured his parenting – and all five of us moved out as soon as it was legally permissible. We all “escaped” however we could. All of us used drugs. All of us had serious intimacy issue - my sisters were either prostitutes or strippers (though they are neither today), and my brother became couldn’t hold down a job to save his life (though he is now both employed and employable). None of us sank as far as we could have, but we all sank somewhere - and that is where my story about freedom really begins.

As I grew I began to hate my dad. I mean I loved him of course, but I couldn’t stand being around him. I guess all my siblings and I had a love/hate/fear relationship with our father. But when I moved out, I found my life was a mess and I could trace every ounce of it back to my upbringing, and my father became the target that I drew my hate arrows against.

For years I nurtured this hatred. I blamed everything that was wrong in my life on my father, and developed a rather dark disposition. I would say things like, “I will be happy when…” and fill in the blank with whatever I momentarily imagined would make me happy.

Truly, I was in a dark place when the Lord came back into my life.

I had given myself to the Lord at 18 or 19, but having come from a twisted sort of atheist (father) / catholic (mother) background, the first sin I committed after giving my life to Christ made me believe that I had blown the whole deal – that I had somehow messed up the prayer or something since I was clearly not sinless and perfect as I expected I should be. In that ignorance I walked for years, was married, and had my first child before the Lord brought another true believer into my life. When I learned the truth, I was on fire – and beauty began to replace the ashes in my life.

This is where the “freedom” comes in.

Immediately as I understood who I was in Christ, that is, once I began to read and study scripture, I found that I stopped cursing and blaspheming without having to exert any effort in doing so – frankly, the idea of cussing, even words that used to seem harmless – now it made my mouth feel dirty to say them, and made me feel icky just hearing or thinking them.

This was a freedom that I had never expected or planned it just happened immediately.

I have been freed from other sins in a similar fashion, but the freedom that I began to write about however came one day when I was pondering forgiveness. I realized that I hadn’t forgiven my father. It wasn’t that I was nursing a grudge or anything, I hadn’t really thought of my father much since I came back to Christ, but as I began to meditate on forgiveness I realized that I hadn’t forgiven my father for all that I imagined he had done. So without much else, I simply forgave him in my heart. I thanked the Lord that I was able to and that would have been the end of it, but the next day when I woke up, I was an entirely different person.

I can’t explain it – but I woke up that morning and the world was brighter. Something was different and wonderful, but I couldn’t articulate it for a few moments – then I turned to my wife who was lying in bed beside me and said, “Something is different – I don’t hate my father…”

Now I have mentioned to you before hand that I hated my dad – but truth be told I didn’t realize that I hated him. I was clueless – utterly clueless. I would have told you that I could care less about my dad, but I would have told you that I loved him as much as he was lovable. But that morning I woke and a dark cloud that had always oppressed me all my life was utterly gone – it was freaky. Even now I can hardly remember it, but I used to be constantly in a gloom – there was no joy in the moment – joy was something that could only be achieved by doing something, and it was something that I longed to have, but knew I didn’t. That morning, I had it, and I knew it. It is not as if I made some choice to be filled with joy, and or some choice to not be filled with gloom – I didn’t even understand that I –was- filled with gloom until it was suddenly, inexplicably, gone!

It is not that I couldn’t hate my father again if I wanted to – I suppose I could work myself into a regular frenzy if I had a heart for it – but that is it, I no longer have a heart for it. It used to consume me, and now in the place of that ever present desire to hate and blame – there is only forgiveness and joy. The Lord in His grace and goodness took this thing entirely away that day and when I noticed it I felt like an entirely different person. I was barely able to contain the joy that was in me. My wife recalls the events of that day as clearly as I do – since it so stood out in my life. I woke with tremendous peace and joy! If someone had told me that fruit follows the plow, I would have not understood it, but having lived it, I know now how it works – or at least how it worked in me.

I truly gave it up to the Lord, in sincerity and from the earnestness of my heart, but it was not an emotional thing – just a settled rational understanding – my father was a sinner just like I was, and there was no point in expecting him to be anything other than he was. I forgave him entirely, and experienced nothing profound in that moment, nor did I anticipate anything. When I awoke the next morning, delivered from a gloom I didn’t even know existed until I was free from it – it came as the most pleasant surprise in my life.


posted by Daniel @ 12:10 PM   3 comment(s)
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Slimy Mollusc!
I have made an evolutionary leap! Springing far beyond the crusty crustacean - leap frogging as it were over the formerly desirable lowly insect - all the way into Slimy Mollusc fame!

I would like to thank all the people who made it possible - you know who you are, take a bow. Eventually I hope to evolve into something with a backbone. :-)
posted by Daniel @ 1:17 PM   0 comment(s)
Cycling to work..
For those of you who do not know already, I began commuting to work this spring via a new mountain bike.

As I have mentioned in other posts throughout the history of this blog, in April I had my first appointment with a new doctor.

To be sure the doctor wasn't new to my family, she has been my wife's doctor for ten or fifteen years - and has been the doctor for each of our three children.

The "new" really is applied to my relationship with this doctor.

She practices out of a small building with a group of other professionals - dentists, lawyers, etc. You know the set it, you seem them in strip malls all over North America. To be certain, I was previously a patient of another doctor in that office, and it was likely for this reason that my wife's doctor refused me as a patient.

You see, I sort of had a falling out with this other doctor over the way he handled a debilitating malady that suddenly struck me some eight years ago. I felt that I was not receiving the care I needed, and I moved on to another doctor. In doing so I had to have all my files forwarded and perhaps this was why when I left that new doctor my wife's doctor was a little gun-shy about taking me on. I suppose shopping for the best doctor makes a patient look like an ingrate, or worse.

Anyway, I suppose I ought to give some reason for my leaving my first doctor.

Prior to the birth of our first child, I was saved, but seriously backslidden - I mean very backslidden. My wife wasn't saved, and our marriage was a joke. We were both faithful to one another - but we had become room-mates. By this time we had silently given ourselves over to the notion that it wasn't going to get any better, so my wife decided that we ought to start a family (perhaps that would fix things?).

Now my wife was working with special needs kids (I think it is politically correct to call them retarded again - I am not sure, but whatever the correct nomenclature happens to be - my wife worked with these kids). Not the high functioning variety, but the severely low functioning - kids with severe autism or cerebral palsy etc. Many of the kids had more than one condition and label. It is the sort of work that only certain people can really do, and my wife was one of them. I think that is how she managed to stay married to me - she was used to loving and getting nothing in return.

I mention my wife's job because in this job she met like minded people all the time, and it was one of these people I supposed that suggested the best way to see what kind of father I would make would be to get a pet (such as a cat) and see how attentive I was to the thing. So my wife went one day (unbeknownst to me) to the animal shelter and found the biggest, fattest, cat on death row she could find, and brought it home.

When we were growing up, my mother was a decided "dog" person, having grown up on the farm her entirely childhood was blanketed in sweet and fond memories of the family dog. My father however was abused as a child, and having grown up in poverty, used to tie rats tails together then hang them over a clothes line and watch them fight to death. I mention this so that this part of my history makes some sense.

My dad was the sort of person who would do good things just for show - that is, if my mother wanted a dog, my father would go and get her a dog - even though he hated it. He wanted to seem like a good and loving fellow. The moment the dog broke a cardinal rule however, my father would put the thing down - personally.

Now, I will paint of picture of my father that might disturb some readers, so if you are easily disturbed, you might want to skip ahead. My dad has since come to the Lord, and the description I am about to paint does not do justice to the man he has become - nevertheless I will paint it because it is true.

There really wasn't a list of cardinal rules - if the dog did something that inconvenienced my father in any way - that was tantamount to a death sentence. My father had spent much time on the killing floor of a local slaughterhouse that is, he was the "axe" man - he personally slaughtered perhaps thousands of animals. I suppose one deals with this by distancing one self from the life that one is taking, and so it was quite easy for my father to personally put down many of our family pets.


The earliest memory I have of this was when I was very young. My grandparents lived on a farm 80 miles from our city, and we would travel out there for the weekends. It was the Christmas weekend, and the snow was falling in those large, sticky-silent, bunches of flakes. Our dog, I don't remember his name, but he was a black and white short haired dog with floppy ears, had chewed one of my mother's slippers - which meant that my dad was going to have to buy my mom new slippers -which apparently was an offense worth killing a dog over. To be fair, I think my dad was angry at my mother for "allowing" her slippers to be chewed in the first place - but his solution was always the same.

On that Christmas eve we piled into our car, the dog in the back seat with us kids. We pulled over somewhere in the night, the snow falling down so silent and beautiful, and my mom and dad were having a fight about something. Dad opened the car door and let the dog out, then went to the trunk to take out the claw hammer.

I don't need to paint the whole picture - but when my dad came back the whole car was in tears.

My father personally killed perhaps four of five of our dogs.

Now, I know, I know - you are thinking, what a cold and selfish person! Bingo. That was my dad. Two of my sisters became prostitutes, one was a stripper (though today they have overcome these things), and most of us were drug addicts in our adult years - I will have to give you my testimony some day, it is enough to say that I had a rough childhood.

But the point for this story is that I didn't grow up with cats - since my dad hated them even more than he hated dogs.

So when my wife brought the cat home I wasn't all that "loving" towards it. I didn't hate it or anything, but I had no interest in it either. At least for the first couple of days. After that she and I were great pals.

I don't know why it is, but cats like me - I mean they REALLY like me. They come and jump on my shoulders and caress my ears etc. We named the cat in French "minute" (pronounced "Min -new") but my wife insisted on calling her "kitty" such that after a year or so the cat was answering to kitty rather than to minute. The cat used to sleep on my head at night, and I didn't mind one bit. In fact, when I got home I used to play with her as soon as I got in the door - I was the only one who could. I could scratch her belly and she would love it, if anyone else came close to her she would scratch their eyes out.

I suppose I passed the test because my wife and I talked about trying to have a child after that, and so within a couple of months we were pregnant.

Now I hadn't really noticed it, but I was actually morbidly allergic to this cat. I say I hadn't noticed it because allergies show up in three different ways - the sneezy/runny nose/watery eyes kind of thing, the rash or swelling, or the chest congestion. The way the cat affected me, was in my lungs - that is, I had a histamine reaction in my lungs causing my bronchioles to shrink and my chest to feel heavy all the time.

When my wife announced her pregnancy, I became the cat litter cleaner guy. There is a parasite found in cat feces that causes a disease known as toxoplasmosis - a disease that could harm a developing fetus if it is passed on from the mother to the fetus. Nuff said - I was cleaning the cat litter from then on. But if my allergy was affecting me prior to my cat litter cleaning duties - it made a quantum leap immediately following.

Around this time, my wife purchased the cheapest "humidifier" money could buy. Our wood frame home was dry in the winter, and my wife has always been prone to chapped lips etc. So she began to run this thing at night. It didn't actually humidify the air but being a "cool mist" humidifier, it just spit water into the air. Picture someone holding a windex spray bottle (filled with water of course) and pumping it till it was dry, then filling it again and pumping it till it was dry.

I went to bed one night, and my wife brought "the spitter" as I had come to call it (I hated the miserable thing) into the bedroom with us. I woke at perhaps five in the morning, unable to breath. I was coughing the worst sort of coughs imaginable, and was certain that something was terribly wrong. The walls were literally dripping - nothing in our room was dry, it was worse than sleeping outside and waking up slick with dew.

I went to a walk in clinic, and the doctor there diagnosed me with double pneumonia. He gave me "much" penicillin and told me to come back in two weeks. Two weeks later I was worse than I was before. I crawled into his office and he examined me again a little perplexed. He decided to try something - he gave me a rescue inhaler - the kind used by asthmatics - and asked me to try it and see if things improved. I gave it a puff - and like magic, I could breath again a little more freely.

He diagnosed me with adult onset asthma, and prescribed two inhalers - one that was sort of a long term thing, and the other a rescue inhaler.

You might be saying - what does this have to do with cyling? My apologies. I am on a tangent, I will tie up the loose ends soon.

Well, that little rescue puffer kept me alive after that - I used it ten times a day. I didn't want to, the warnings were pretty severe - the one side effect that really troubled me was that apparently, over time, it reduces the elasticity of your lungs - that sounded ... Unpleasant.

So our first born child came, and I determined to change my life - I began teaching at a college at night - and took up a martial art. Surely my son would be able to look up to his dad - the professor with the black belt - and not be ashamed (I had some issues in my own relationship with my dad - perhaps I was over compensating?)

In the first couple of months that my child was born, I began a new career, and the pay was very good. It would have been a time of great joy and blessing, except that I was, as I said, unrepentantly backslidden in my faith - so far gone that I wasn't even sure I was saved. My son's arrival was not the healing balm that would save my marriage, and as much as I wanted to be a good father, I was as selfish as a man could be - the dark shadow of my own upbringing was already forming ruts in our lives - we could already see the way it was going to be, and it was not the sort of thing that brought my wife any joy.

So it was that one day we went out for supper, my wife and I, and two of my role playing friends (I was an avid role player). We were at "Boston Pizza" when it happened.

The incident!

I was eating, as I recall, a baked tortellini in white sauce. Did I mention that I was 200 lbs and only five foot eight? I had been having chest pains (because of my undiagnosed allergy) for some time and my chest always felt heavy. I associated the heaviness and lack of energy with my weight - that is, I knew I wasn't in shape, and I knew I had put on more weight than a man my size ought to have on - so I assumed that the heaviness in my chest, the shortness of breath all the time etc., was a weight related thing. I began to feel guilty every time I ate a ridiculously high calorie, high fat meal - which was pretty much every day - I was somewhat worried that my diet was not good for my health - but not worried enough to do anything about it.

So as I chomped down on a yummy cheese laden tortellini, I noticed that something was wrong with my state of consciousness. My heart was thumping like a machine gun, and I had the most frighteningly unpleasant sensation - like brain nausea. We all know what it feels like to drive fast over hills so that as you plummet down the next hill your belly is full of butterflies - that sickening "wrongness" that makes you wonder if you will throw up or not. Well, I was feeling that same sort of "wrongness" in my head - not the "I am going to throw up" sort of feeling, but the bizarre "something is really wrong with how I am momentarily perceiving reality" feeling.

It lasted only a minute, and the other diners with me hadn't noticed how my face became blank and confused as the conversation going on around me plummeted out of interest - replaced by an intense internal focus - what was going on with me.

I think women experience that inward focus during childbirth - I really do. The intenseness of it - being unable to escape the reality of a moment - for a woman it is the pain that cannot be ignored or talked through or shared - it is so entirely personal it consumes you utterly, and while you are experiencing it, there is no other reality. As I sat there in mid-chew, everything else in life had no meaning - I was a bug nailed to this moment by some insurmountable pin driven through my psyche - and nothing in all the world was important except what I was experiencing - it was as if I were dying and knew it.

So when it was over I said something like, "...That was weird...!"

I wasn't sure what had happened, but I was certain it had something to do with the food I was eating - perhaps my body had finally had enough cheese? Clearly I was not about to eat fatty foods for a while. I drove everyone home, and by the next day I had forgotten about it.

Two days later however I was on my coffee break at work, and it happened again - WHAM. I was walking to a store, and suddenly I was in full freak out mode. If felt like my brain was being painlessly turned inside out. It lasted only for a minute or so, but this time I couldn't shake it off as some weird, never to be repeated phenomenon.

I mentioned it to my wife, and she suggested I go get checked out. I refused of course.

The next day I went for lunch with a friend from work - and as we were eating - KABLAM - again, worse this time than the other two. I tried to explain to my friend that I didn't know what was going on, but it was the most unsettling sensation imaginable. It lasted only a few moments, and when it was done I was gripping the table like a madman and sweating profusely. My friend suggested that I might want to get checked out. I laughed it off - but was shaken.

The following day, I remember this well, I was with the same friend again for lunch - we went to burger king - I was having a whopper with cheese combo. And as we were talking Niagara falls began to descend upon me. I was experiencing the intellectual equivalent of a black hole imploding on itself. Only this time it didn't last a minute - but went on, and on. My friend managed to get me to a walk in clinic, where I gripped the counter like a wide eyed stallion, and barked to the receptionist with more fervor and volume than is generally allotted anyone on the "sane" side of the fence - "GET ME A DOCTOR NOW. I AM DYING!"

At first the receptionists were non-plussed. Apparently people come and die right before their eyes on a daily basis. The other denizens of the doctor's office however were not so accepting of my apparent breach in sanity.

I mean we all do it. You sit on the bus or stand at the paperstand or what have you and the crazy person begins to ramble - and you want to get out of there as soon as you can. You make it look like you had always planned to suddenly exit the area, but you exit nonetheless. People are not comfortable around raving lunatics - that is just the society we live in.

So here I am, I can't even keep my head up, my heart is pounding like a jungle drum against my rib cage, and I am sweating like a beast, and my "patience factor" is through the floor. I get to that place that women get to in child birth - where the whole world can come in and watch them give birth and they couldn't care less - the pain is all that matters and everything else in all of reality is inconsequential. So it was for me - but I wasn't feeling pain, I was in panic - sheer fear, and in that fear I found great boldness - I was far more afraid of expiring right there and then than I was afraid of upsetting the social culture of the doctor's office.

In what can only be described as a shrieking cackle, I demanded that I see a doctor immediately, or ELSE!

Now, I am sure I just looked like your typical downtown drug fiend experiencing mid-trip freak-out, but there must have been something pitiful about me, because they shuffled me off away from the waiting room (I was having a bit of a negative effect in there), onto a chair outside one of the examination rooms.

There I sat with my head in my hands waiting to die. I had already resigned myself to my fate. I was so backslidden that I didn't even turn to God, I was too afraid. I had heard the gospel and believed, but I had never studied the bible, hadn't come from a Christian home, and more or less expected that I had, through my return to a life of sin, caused God to forsake me. I won't get into that now - but suffice to say I waited there maybe ten long minutes before a doctor saw me.

In the mean time the receptionist came and asked for my health card. That is quite a picture. Me with my head between my knees waiting to die - then digging into my wallet and pulling out my health card for the receptionist, then hanging my head once again waiting to die.

By the time the doctor saw me the "attack" had passed.

I went in shivering - literally shaking in fear. The doctor asked me a few questions, and promptly decided that I was having a panic attack.

I was sober the moment it registered in my ear.

Panic Attack?

To me, that meant that the doctor was saying that I was making it up - that this was just in my head. Fear was suddenly replaced with righteous indignation - panic attack? What quack school did you graduate from?? Panic attack? Thanks for nothing.

He wrote me a prescription for a tranquilizer, and I took it home and showed my wife. How dare he? His suggestion was that stress was causing me to have these attacks - but there was no stress in my life - sure there was a new job, new baby, a marriage about to break up, but stress? Hardly.

I refused treatment, and the attacks continued. Eventually I had to leave my job, and for about eight months I more or less laid around each day waiting to die. I decided to give up on walk in clinics and found a doctor at my wife's clinic (you see the tie in now eh?) - He was a General Practitioner, but had minored in endochrinology - human internal medicine - surely this guy would be able to help me figure out what was wrong.

At first he listened to my explanation of the events, and in good faith sent me off to specialists - all the tests came back negative, and in a short order, he had decided that it was all in my head. He got me an appointment with a psychiatrist, and in the mean time told me to come in every two weeks. Invariably I would drag myself down to his office, collapse in the waiting room for two hours, drag myself to his examination room, flop there for half an hour waiting - at which point he would come in and say, "anything new?" - No. "okay, see you in two weeks." It was the most humiliating and degrading thing.

In the meantime, I had a friend who was in school becoming a doctor. I asked him for his advice and he referred me to a professor of ethics who worked out of the teaching office for GPs. You went and saw an intern GP, and they asked you a bunch of questions, the GP then came in and together they checked to see if the GP was right. You got to see two doctors for the price of one, and unlike a regular office, this wasn't pay-per-visit, these guys were on salary from the hospital, so you weren't in and out in five minutes - you got good quality time with the doctor.

The first time I saw the doctor we had a two hour conversation about my health history, my family health history, and significantly, what I thought might be wrong. The doctor wanted to make sure that I understood that he didn't want to leave me grasping at straws on this. One thing I noticed, my chest thing hadn't gone away, and he suggested it might be an allergy, so he arranged for an allergy test.

When I did go to the allergy test, it turns out I was miserably allergic to my cat, and to dust mites. This is why I wasn't getting any better with the breathing thing. I had suspected it for months now, and knowing this made it much easier.

Our house was all carpets, so we sold it, bought a new house with all hard wood floors, and put the cat out at a friends place in the farm.

Within two weeks I didn't need the puffer anymore - and within a month I stopped wheezing altogether. In fact, in about two months I was fully recovered.

It turns out that one of the side effects of the rescue puffer (it is a corticosteroid) is "anxiety attacks" - which explained much.

The psychiatrist saw me when I was already on the rebound. At that time we hadn't pieced it all together yet - so all I knew was that I was getting better. He said he had no idea what I had had in the past - but whatever it was, the aftermath was that I had become depressed (apparently dying slowly for months on end makes you depressed!) and he prescribed a six month stint of prozak.

Now, back to my wife's doctor - my medical records must tell quite a story - words like "gibbering" and "maniacal" no doubt colouring it here and there - I suppose I had the unspoken but obvious "don't touch this with a ten foot stick" stigma attached to my name, such that my wife's doctor was quite reluctant to take me on. It was years before she finally did, and even then I had to make an appointment 14 months in advance.

So here I was in April of this year. Since my "near death" escapade I had come back to the Lord for real - I had been reading the bible daily for years, and I was alive spiritually - a brand new man. My marriage had done an about face, and I had three wonderful children who loved me and of whom I thought the world. None of which my wife failed to mention to her doctor - which is likely how I was eventually allowed to become her patient.

I was at this point however, once again overweight - she weighed me in at 205, and told me to lose weight or else.

So, since I had been planning on buying a bike anyway (here is the bike tie in), I talked to my wife about it, and using some of our savings I purchased an entry level mountain bike. I put 1427 kilometers on it between May 10 and July 14 (the day it was stolen).

The day it was stolen, I realized that I hadn't even written down the serial number. I phoned my insurance people and they said the deductible would be about the same as the bike - so I didn't even bother reporting it stolen - I just went out and bought another one. (after phoning my wife of course).

Since then I have put another 1500 km on the new bike. I hope to get to 3204 kilometers before the season is done - that is 2000 miles for all you 'mericans.

Much of my weight loss this summer (about 37 lbs) can be traced to riding 20 miles each day - but most of the weight lost actually came from changing my diet.

So this summer I lost 37 lbs, got a bike stolen, bought a new bike, was hit by a van on the new bike (and survived more or less unscathed), and had my bike speedometer stolen. All in all - it was a great summer.
posted by Daniel @ 9:09 AM   7 comment(s)
 
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