I have been getting the “feeling” that I should be doing this for the last couple of months, so here goes....
I was brought up in a church going family, but found that the church was cold, unfriendly, and full of “Do nots...” It quickly lost any appeal for me. At the time I was to be going to Sunday school, I would hide a fishing rod at a friend’s house and play hooky from Sunday school. My mother caught on, but did not say anything.
School was a “breeze” for me, both public, and university. I did not really have to work for my degree. I spent 4 years downhill skiing almost every weekend and had a rather good time. My parents instilled a good work ethic in me by shipping me off to be a fishing guide at a fly in camp at age 14. The hours were from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm for a grand total of $12 per day. It taught me responsibility. When I got to university, I hired on at the local paper mill as a junior chemist in the summers. My mother was appalled that I started at $350 per month, more than what my dad had made after 25 years as a department head. I saved and was able to put myself through university except for $100 in my last year. I didn’t quite make it!
I think that I always believed in God, but could not find a way to relate to Him. When my father died , I was 19 and I got really angry at God, as my dad’s death was a slow and lingering one. When my mom passed on, it was the same thing. Alzheimer’s is not a pleasant way to go.
My wife, Elaine, was the pillar in our family when my mom passed on and when the boys were growing up. I was caught in the rat race of making a living. We lived well, avoided major debt, but still I was absent for a lot of my families growing up. She was the one that took the boys to Sunday school (the same church) and gave them the basic background of Christianity. Sadly, both boys walked away from the church in their teenage years. For this, I have to accept full responsibility as I was not the spiritual guide that I should have been.
During my career in the Pulp and Paper Industry, I found that I had a knack for doing things with the process that other people could not do. For example, when I was able to modify a sulphite process and gain 15 points of brightness, I was proud. A whole research department had worked on that problem for 10 years. I solved it in 9 months. There were other projects like that. However, not once did I thank the Lord for giving me the ability to do those things.
I finally hit rock bottom in 2003. My youngest son went through a very ugly separation when his wife left. My wife tried to take her own life. Fortunately, I found her in time. She went through three strokes and ended up unable to do much for herself for three years. I was semi retired at this point and was able to give her support. Many a time I questioned God as to why He allowed this to happen. Once again I was angry.
God started to work miracles at this point. My son’s boss introduced him to a fellow that was real good at listening. This person turned out to be the Pastor of The Family Worship Centre in Whitecourt. My son did not know he was a Pastor at this time. To shorten the story, Mike started attending the church and gave his life to the Lord. My wife started going to the church, mainly in support of my son. As I was at a low, I started to attend also. It was not comfortable! At this time, my wife announced that she had had enough of me and was leaving after 33 years of marriage. I was devastated!
At the end of my rope, I went and had a talk with the Pastor of the Family Worship Centre and asked if he would help us work the situation out. He did, and both Elaine and myself were baptised in water together on June 12, 2005!
Since that time we have missed only 1 or 2 days of church, been involved in 4 years of weekly Bible studies and are enjoying the Word of God! I wish that I had taken this walk earlier in my life! It’s all about the choices we choose to make. At the beginning of my walk, I was very sceptical about a few things that the church was claiming. God soon straightened me out! As a result of the strokes, Elaine’s leg was left shortened by 3 ½ inches and had a permanent bend in the knee. Physiotherapy had no effect. The prognosis by the medical profession was that she would be that way for life and could look forward to a wheelchair. There was a visiting Pastor by the name of Max Solbrecken that came to preach in Whitecourt. Elaine went up for the healing alter call and was prayed over. Nothing happened. Pastor Max came back six weeks later and prayed over Elaine. Again nothing happened! Until we got home and Elaine said,” Look at my leg”. I was awestruck. Her leg was straight and she was standing and walking normally. I watched two very large specialists in the Rehabilitation center try to straighten her leg with no success. God did it in an instant! Today, you would not know that anything had happened to her, except for the change in her mind, attitude and willingness to serve. At this point I was not so sceptical any more.
The following summer, Pastor Max was holding a tent revival outside of Edmonton, and as we had got to know him quite well, we decided to go. Elaine was invited to share her testimony on healing. She also wanted me to receive prayer for loss of hearing. I went up, but looked around and saw two people that I will never forget. They were elderly and in real need of healing. My thoughts went something like this.” How can I ask for my ears to be healed when these people were in so much greater need?” I started to pray for their healing and did not go to receive the laying on of hands. At this time, my back was pretty much useless and I was thinking that I could not go on working much longer as the pain was severe. On the way home, I felt a burning in my back which I did not think anything of. At home, when I got out of the car, I had no pain. God works in His own way, at His own time! At this point I was thinking “Wow” what just happened? I was also feeling very guilty because I kept thinking of the two people that really needed healing. I went to the Pastor as the feeling of guilt was very strong. His answer was that God has his own reasons, don’t question, just be grateful”. I was, and still am.
About six weeks after the healing a very good friend asked if I still would be grateful, thankful, if the pain came back tomorrow? My answer to him was, “I would be grateful and thankful for the six weeks of being pain free”. I still ask myself, “Why me”? Pastor said that maybe someday I will get the answer, in God’s time.
Do I still get pain in my back? Yes, when I overdo working on the acreage, or when a horse decides she is going to land on me. The difference is that those types of pain go away. The other did not!
The other thing that happened to me was an incident on my tractor that I should not have survived. I was preparing new ground for pasture by dragging a diamond harrow behind the tractor, working on a side hill. I had made several passes with no problem. The last pass, I was doing the normal speed, (dead slow), when a rear wheel slipped, then grabbed causing the tractor to roll. My unit had no roll bar. I remember looking at the high side and thinking that I couldn’t get clear and then saying “God, help me” and kicking off as hard as I could. I landed rolling about 15 feet from the roll over point and watching the tractor roll, almost in slow motion 1 ½ times. Several times I parked the tractor near there and mentally tried to get clear of the hoses and levers and land that far. My opinion is that it was not possible for me to do what had happened without help. The steering wheel ended up bent, the air intake and exhaust stack bent and me without a scrape, bruise or any injury.
I am not a sceptic anymore! God works in this day and age! For what reason He has helped me, I am not sure of, but I am very grateful.
Along the “Walk”, I have got to know people outside of my comfort zone. ‘Way outside! A winter’s stint supervising in the local homeless shelter has given me a strong feeling “there but for the Grace of God, go I”. Good people, hard times and habits, but all very grateful to have a warm place to sleep and a simple meal. Here it gets to -40C in the winter. Not a fun time to be tenting in the bush!
I have been doing simple things in the church to help out.
My parents were both dead set against tithing, so I kind of inherited that attitude. A fellow who I respect gave a talk on tithing at a men’s breakfast, with the result that Elaine and I decided to “give it a try”. At that point, our finances started to turn around. It seemed that the more we gave, the more blessings on us were given. We did not miss the 10% and up. In fact, working part time in a recession we found we were able to pay off a mortgage, a goal that both of us said was not possible!
God has blessed our family so much! The ripple effect of our son’s misfortune has brought most of the family back to God, where it should have been for a long, long time. It has also produced positive effects in our extended family, and as far as I can tell, the ripples are still going out! We pray regularly for those of our family that are not yet in God’s fold.
For a while, I was deeply offended by the attitude and behaviour of some of the church members towards our family situation to the point of saying to Elaine that a certain Sunday was going to be my last in the church. However, when I stepped into the Sanctuary, I felt such a great peace that I knew that I was not going to leave “my home”. At that point I took the attitude that their unwillingness to say good morning etc. was their choice, not mine, their loss, not mine and that I was in church to worship God.
I have long been a lover of the outdoors, and an admirer of God’s beautiful creation. Even at -40C when the water trough is near empty and the hose is frozen, I give thanks on a daily basis. It is a good life, even if it is a short life and I look forward to meeting the Creator someday and saying “Thank You , face to face“.