Delivering Happiness

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When you come for a visit to my office you get the impression I kinda like Coke.  My shelves are lined with cans, bottles and mementos from around the world.  People know I am a collector and bring items from their travels for my collection.  Each item becomes a conversation starter.  Coca-Cola is 125 years old this week.  There is a huge birthday celebration planned in Atlanta at Coca-Cola’s head office.  I like the vision they cast about their product – “delivering happiness.”  Sounds a bit grandiose but I like it.  Coca-Cola is in more countries than any other product, except the Bible.  It has the greatest brand recognition, except for the cross.  My collection reminds me each day that my task is to help deliver happiness.  The happiness that comes from knowing Jesus.  The happiness that Jesus promised in a “fullness of life” and a purpose in living, and a life beyond this life.  Don’t keep the faith…pass it on.

Happy Mother’s Day

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“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” Elizabeth Stone

Elizabeth’s words have echoed in my mind since I first read her quote. Moms are unique. Someone said, “We all want a God with clothes on. Since God couldn’t be everywhere at the same time, He made moms.” It takes a mom to know a mom. For Mother’s Day I have gratefully borrowed the thoughts of a mom about Moms.

“Before I was a Mom…I cleaned my house each day. I never tripped over toys or forgot words to a song. I didn’t worry whether or not my plants were poisonous. I never thought about immunizations.

Before I was a Mom…I had never been puked on – pooped on – spit on – chewed on, or peed on. I had complete control of my mind and my thoughts. I slept all night.

Before I was a Mom…I never held down a screaming child so that doctors could do tests…or give shots. I never looked into teary eyes and cried. I never got gloriously happy over a simple grin. I never sat up late hours at night watching a baby sleep.

Before I was a Mom…I didn’t know the feeling of having my heart outside my body.
I didn’t know how special it could feel to feed a hungry baby. I didn’t know that bond between a Mother and her child. I didn’t know that something so small could make me feel so important.

Before I was a Mom…I had never gotten up in the middle of the night every ten minutes to make sure all was okay. I had never known the warmth, the joy, the love, the heartache, the wonder or the satisfaction of being a Mom.

Before I was a Mom…I never held a sleeping baby just because I didn’t want to put it down. I never felt my heart break into a million pieces when I couldn’t stop the hurt. I never knew that something so small could affect my life so much. I never knew that I could love someone so much. I never knew I would love being a Mom.”

To every mom who reads this…God bless you.
To every child who reads this…tell, don’t text, your mom, your gratitude for her.
To every father…bless the mother of your children.
To everyone who grieves the loss of their own mother, like I do, peace be to you.

Happy Mother’s Day!

The Oprah of Afghanistan

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MacLean’s ran the story a few months ago.  I had never heard of Mozhdah Jamalzadah but now I can’t forget her.  She is the only female host of  an Afghan TV show.  And she’s Canadian.
Mozhdah, who like Beyoncé is known by her first name, and is mobbed whenever she leaves her Kabul home, has been labelled the Oprah of Afghanistan. The comparison is of course imperfect. Oprah doesn’t sleep with a gun. She doesn’t ride in bulletproof cars or travel with guards armed with AK-47s. Death threats don’t flood her inbox. Mozhdah, whose first thought on entering a new building is how she might escape, is gutsy in a way Oprah doesn’t need to be. Her black leather leggings, six-inch heels and silver hoop earrings wouldn’t get a second glance in Vancouver, where she’s spent all but five of her 26 years, but this is Afghanistan. Until a few years ago, the bare ankles alone could have earned her a public whipping.
Todd Babiak interviewed Mozhdah in Edmonton on April 15th.  She was in town prior to speaking at an event in Lacombe sponsored by the humanitarian organization, “A Better World.”  She said, “I am exporting Canadian values, the values I grew up with. I kept wondering what the girls of Afghanistan could accomplish if they had grown up with the freedoms I had.”
I thought about Canadian freedom.  The freedoms I have.  The freedoms we all have.  Mozhdah has seized her opportunity. What is God calling you to do?

God Moments

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Its two days after Easter Sunday and I still have a ringing in my ears. Over and over I hear, “Hope is alive! Hope is alive!” With the sound, I can also see the enthusiastic faces of the choir giving their all in proclaiming those words. Easter Sunday 2011 was an experience. It was a “God moment” for me and 100’s of others. People had encounters with the Lord. Some crossed the faith line. Some experienced a renewed hope. That’s what happens when people use their SHAPE to serve God.  Some of the choir sang together for the first time.  They found their “sweet spot.”  They ministered.  You can’t help but know Sean and Jan are in their “sweet spot” when they direct the choir.   The band created a live sound that rocked.  The technicians did their thing so well you didn’t know they were there.  God works through people like that.  He does spiritual work through spirited people.  We expect every Sunday at NP to have its own unique “God moments.”  They happen in our Childrens ministry and during worship and as we hear the Word of God.  This Sunday could be your Sunday for a “God moment.” You won’t know if you don’t show.

Soul Surfer

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Have you seen the movie “Soul Surfer?” I saw it (well most of it, some of it was blurred by tears).  It may not be in the theatres much longer, so carve out some time this weekend and get set to be inspired.    Its based on the true story of Bethany Hamilton, who at the age of thirteen, on October 31, 2003, was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark while surfing off Kauai’s North Shore. The attack left Bethany with a severed left arm. She lost over 60% of her blood, and made it through several surgeries without infection.
Miraculously, just one month after the attack, Bethany returned to the water to continue pursuing her goal to become a professional surfer. In January of 2004, Bethany made her return to surf competition; placing 5th in the Open Women’s division of that contest. With no intention of stopping, Bethany continued to enter and excel in competition. Just over a year after the attack she took 1st place in the Explorer Women’s division of the 2005 NSSA National Championships – winning her first National Title.
From a young age, Bethany’s parents instilled their faith in Jesus Christ; and at age 5, she made the decision to have a personal relationship with Him. Bethany’s foundation of faith has been her backbone; her source of truth, hope, and strength.
You can buy a copy of Bethany’ book, “Soul Surfer” at North Pointe this Good Friday or Easter Sunday and  I’ll be speaking about Bethany on May 1st to kick off a new series called, “What in the World is Going On?”

Star On And Off the Diamond

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In his first ten years in the Major Leagues, Albert Pujols has never hit below .300, he has never hit fewer than 30 home runs and he has never knocked in fewer than 100 runs. No one in the history of Major League Baseball has ever done that in their first ten seasons – not Babe Ruth, not Joe DiMaggio, not Ted Williams.
Pujols was largely overlooked as a high schooler in Kansas City, as he wasn’t drafted until the 13th round of the 1999 MLB Draft. Two years later, he won the NL Rookie of the Year on the strength of a season that saw him hit .329 with 37 home runs and 130 RBIs
Pujols, a native of the Dominican Republic, is now the idol in the baseball-crazy city of St. Louis. But what is most impressive about Pujols can’t be found between the lines of chalk on a baseball field.
In October 2010, St. Louis rolled out the red carpet for a gala. But the guest of honor was not Pujols. This was a night for teenagers with Down syndrome, there for an annual prom put on by the Pujols Family Foundation.
And when Pujols and his wife Deidre arrived, that’s when the party really began. Every kid wanted to dance with him, and he never said no. By the end of the evening, he looked like he had just finished a doubleheader in August.
Down syndrome is something that became part of Pujols’ life when he and Deirdre got married in 2000. Deirdre’s daughter, Isabella, was born with Down syndrome.
When Pujols is not crushing fastballs in the major leagues, there’s a good chance you’ll find him in the Dominican Republic, where he makes an effort to make a difference in just about any way possible, whether it be providing healthcare, mattresses, or of course, baseball diamonds.
He says his devotion comes right out of his religion. He is devout, and as straight-laced as they come in baseball. He doesn’t smoke or drink. When asked if he curses, he admitted, laughing, “Once in awhile.”
Baseball has lost some of its allure over the last decade because of steroids. And more than a few people look at Pujols and ask: can he be that good and totally clean?
But he’s never failed a drug test and has said he’s willing to be tested every day. He stands by that statement.
Check out the full story on “60 Minutes.”

True Blue

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Rick Mercer is one of the best known Canadian satirists. His comment on the next federal election is a clarion call to the unused freedoms of Canadian young adults – “If you are between the ages of 18 and 25, and you want to scare the hell out of the people that run this country, this time around do the unexpected. Take twenty minutes out of your day and do what young people all over the world are dying to do: vote.”
In a country where young adults are unmotivated to vote, its refreshing to find young politicians doing their best to get the vote out. Ryan Hastman is the Conservative candidate in Edmonton-Strathcona. I’ve known Ryan for over two decades. His ambition to be involved in politics has been formulating since he was a teenager. When his peers were tuning the electoral process out he was tuning it in. I was over at his campaign office recently and was impressed with the team he is developing. Lots of young adult men and women who are pounding the pavement to get the polls out in support of Ryan. He and his wife Lianne have been tirelessly putting in 15-hour days for the past 3 weeks, going door-to-door, talking to Edmontonians. Since he won the Conservative nomination 2 years ago, he has been around to most of the residences and businesses in his riding.  Ryan always has been a hard worker. It easy to see why people want to support him. He’ll be a hard worker for Edmonton-Strathcona and for all Canadians in Ottawa. In an era where the term “servant leadership” has been rediscovered, Ryan is humble example of what that is all about.  All I can give Ryan is an unsolicited vote of confidence.  He is worthy of that and much more.

Undetoured in Facing the Greatest Challenge of Life

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I first heard Zig Ziglar in 1997 in Edmonton. Zig is the kind of communicator who makes you wish that your first time hearing him won’t be your last. Zig has been one of the most admired communicators of our time. His positive attitude and energetic style has inspired millions worldwide. In 2007 he had a fall that resulted in a serious brain injury. He lost his short term memory and developed extreme positional vertigo. The “old Zig” was gone. He was facing his greatest challenge.  In 1997 I heard Zig say, “Getting knocked down in life is a given. Getting back up is a choice.” In 2008 the “new Zig,” “got back up.” Since then he has traveled with his daughter Julie communicating his time proven, life tested message in a new way. The Zig way.  He sits, she moves about the stage.  He speaks and she is his memory.   He inspires me. Are you facing your own challenge?  Zig recently wrote regarding life’s challenges, “It is generally the unknown that scares people into inaction, but it is the truth that sets them free. So, get the facts, face the facts, change what you can, accept what you can’t, and make sure you treasure and respect the relationships in your life…and make life count in ways you’d never even considered before your struggle began.”

Death Squad’s Visit Ends in Miracle

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Sometimes as Christians we are confronted with much tribulation in life. We believe that God allows this to happen to get us closer to Him. We understand that when we let Him work and we keep our faith, He will show us that everything will be all right.
I came to Canada in 1987 from El Salvador where there was a civil war. I was looking for a safe place to live where there is no persecution for your political beliefs or discrimination or prejudice for your race or religious belief.
In 1983, on an October day at dawn, the death squad army unit came to my house. I lived there with my wife and one-year-old daughter. They had strict order to kill me and 59 other civilians from the neighbourhood who opposed the government for the massacres and injustices they committed to our people.
They came to my room and tortured me in front of my wife and daughter, not caring for the pleadings and tears of my family. I knew that my life was about to end.
The soldiers left me in my room to search other places in the house. At that moment when you are trapped and about to be killed, you take time to reflect. I knelt beside my bed and, from the bottom of my heart, I had a conversation with God.
And I said, “Lord, I know that I have not served you, that even though I grew up in a Christian family and I should know better, I run away from you. But at this moment, knowing that I do not deserve anything, I ask you, Lord, if it is your will to save me.”
When I finished praying, I had a sensation that I was ready and in God’s grace and soon, in few minutes, I will be received with open arms by Him in heaven.
The death squad unit took me out of the room and put me against a brick wall. Three men with automatic rifles raised their weapons, aiming at me.
In that moment, where every second seemed an eternity, I looked at the end tips of their rifles and thought, “I hope those bullets hit my heart or my brain so it will be over soon.”
At that instant, from nowhere in the darkness, came a loud voice that spoke with authority: “Boys, stop, let’s go.”
It was the death squad commander. They left, and I was left there, alive in disbelief.
I had just witnessed the first miracle in my life.
Now 27 years later, I have become a pastor working in missions in Cuba and working for the City of Edmonton as a truck driver. I know God spared my life to touch others and encourage them to never give up.
Sometimes we face injustice and hard situations in life; it may be discrimination or persecution for your political or religious beliefs, sickness, emotional, financial or even drug problems.
When things look ugly and everything seems lost, if you put your trust in God from the bottom of your heart, He will be there to rescue you from whatever situation.
Daniel Menjivar

Oudetoured in Reaching the World

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It all began with a simple statement. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16(NIV)

Jesus made it very clear what our purpose is. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you . . . ” (Matthew 28:19–20)

For almost 2,000 years men and women have been undeterred in carrying out that commission while facing huge challenges – persecution, crucifixion, beheading, stoning, torture, imprisonment, cannibalism, or being burned at the stake. They have faced rejection, loneliness, isolation, sickness, disease, death of children and spouses. They have faced apathy, disinterest, disappointment, discouragement, depression and oppression.  Still, the message was delivered, in word and deed.  It is estimated that 2.1 billion people are Christians.  That leaves over 4 billion who still need Jesus.  The gospel has been preached for almost 2000 years.  This is our moment.  This is our time.  NP – undeterred in sharing the gospel with our neighbours and the world.