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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.”
http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7362328n

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.

One of Our Heroes – Mandi Schwartz (1988 – 2011)

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This morning (April 3rd) we prayed for Mandi Schwartz, as we have many times before at NP. Mandi has faced cancer – leukemia to be exact – since 2008. At 10:35AM our time today Mandi passed away.  She was only 23. She was a student athlete at Yale, a womens hockey player from Wilcox, Sask. We first heard about her through Jen Matichuk, a Yale teammate from North Pointe. Jen tried to help Mandi by initiating a drive to sign people up for bone marrow donations. Mandi and her family are well known in the hockey world – one brother was drafted by St Louis, a Canadian Junior Player and the other brother playing NCAA hockey in Colorado. Mandi was a believer and a battler. She never lost hope that she could be healed and if not, would go to heaven. She was undeterred in her courageous battle. So we prayed and believed along witb her and her family.

Mandi has left a lasting impact. It’s in the thousands of folks who organized or contributed to bone marrow registration drives. It’s in the Web pages and Facebook groups created in her honor, the fundraisers, bake sales,  bike rides, walks, suppers and prayer chains in her name. There was something about Mandi. Something that made people want to come to her aid. Our family kept a picture of #17 on our kitchen table at Thanksgiving.  We prayed often for her.   We loved her spirit.  At one point, Mandi had been in and out of chemotherapy treatments for 20 months.  She still managed to return to Yale in January 2010 when the leukemia went in remission. She practiced with her team, but the cancer returned.  Some 1,600 people were tested to be possible bone marrow donors, about 1,300 more than the population of Mandi’s hometown. Finally it was discovered that the umbilical-cord blood of an 18-month-old girl was enough of a match. Mandi was elated. The complicated process was completed in Seattle in the fall. In December, just before Christmas, Mandi underwent another biopsy. Three days later the biopsy results came back, confirming the worst: the cancer had returned, more vicious than ever. The Schwartz family broke down, and typical Mandi, she apologized to her father for not getting better. She spent the last days of her life with her family and friends.  Mandi never won a championship at Yale but she was a champion.  Mandi, you’re our hero.
Our most heartfelt condolences go out to Mandi’s family and friends at this time.

Undetoured

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April 4th. Not April 1st.  This is the day the 167 Ave detour begins, and its no April Fools joke.   For 7 months a route that sees over 17,000 cars a day drive by NP will be shutdown. Over the past 5 years, dozens of families and hundreds of people have been able to connect with NP because of their familiarity with our facility and sign. The shutdown is a short-term pain.  A new 167 Ave will be built, along with a new sub-division.  In the next 2 years it is anticipated that 3,000 residences will be built and over 10,000 people will become our “next door neighbours.”  So, what can you do with a detour?  Take the detour and move forward “undetoured.”  When you face life’s challenges its the best option.  During April we will be focusing on being “undetoured in reaching the world,” “undetoured in facing your greatest challenge,” “undetoured in rebuilding lives,” and “undetoured in facing the cross.”  Our prayer is that this real life detour can become memorable for more than just an inconvenience.  It can serve as an illustration of God’s providence in caring for us when facing challenges.  Come November 2011, the detour will be in our past.  Will God’s provision be in your heart?

Spiritual Gifts

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“Goodbye England’s rose
May you ever grow in our hearts
You were the grace that placed itself
Where lives were torn apart.”

These were the words Elton John used to immortalize the late Princess Dianna. Dianna was known to have placed herself in the midst of causes such as AIDS or the removal of landmines, which graced the lives of people in need.

I can think of no better descriptor of the spiritual gifts spoken of in the New Testament than “grace that places itself where lives are torn apart.” Whenever a gift of the Holy Spirit is observed, its because someone’s need is being met, supernaturally.

“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit (charism – “gift of grace”) is given for the common good.” 1 Cor. 12:7(NIV)

Every believer has received the gift of the Holy Spirit. That means every believer is “gifted.” The Holy Spirit brings with himself manifestations that are for the common good. Spiritual gifts include teaching, giving, serving, administering, prophecy, leading, wisdom, knowledge, healing, discerning of spirits, speaking in other tongues, faith amongst others. You can find them listed in Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4.

Perhaps you can recall a time when you were served by someone using one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. If so, you not only know how beneficial that was, but must feel inspired to discover your own gifts, so as to use them in your own ministry.

Reach Up and Out – Yoga Style

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My first class had me standing as straight as I possibly could stand while reaching my clasped hands as high into the air as was physically possible. At first I thought, “This is yoga? I can so do this.” Until I learned that THIS was the entire class. Nothing else. Just reaching up. Straight up, as in, straighter than a wall sorta straight. Just up. FOR ONE WHOLE HOUR!!! Up. And I should mention here that a. I am so not flexible and b. I am so not graceful – so you can imagine how quickly I was eating my, ‘yoga-is-a-piece-of-cake’ words, as my friend looked on in amusement smirking from ear to ear.

Our instructor, taking cue from our/MY pained expressions, kept reassuring the class that it was perfectly normal to stumble, it was totally okay to feel like a fish out of water, that grunting and groaning and sweating and shaking were all part of the growth process, but to continue with the effort cause overtime our muscles would strengthen and relax and the movements would become like second nature – we just had to keep practicing. And I would have believed him had he not been looking right at me every time he said, “fish out of water.” Ugg, the class felt like it was never going to end. But, I was determined to be all yoga-y and so class 2, class 3 and class 4 followed in exactly the same manner: painfully slow and completely humbling.

Class 5 brought our instructor bouncing through the door ecstatically frantic about the fact that we were ready to move onto the next movement. We had graduated. We were going to learn something new. YES!!!!! I was pumped. I may have flopped the first movement, but I was determined to make movement 2 look like a frolicking gazelle (whatever that looked like). So with my eyes fixated on a gold medal like an Olympic hopeful, I began to slowly follow every little move he made. I stood as straight as a board, I breathed a deep inhale/exhale, folded my hands in front of me, did a slight bow arching my back like a cat as I reached my fingers down to the floor, deep stretch, then I slowly released my breath as I stood to watch him simultaneously stretch both arms out. Not up. Out! And then he said, “Can you see the difference? Can you feel the difference?”

WHAT !?!?!?!?!
ARE YOU KIDDING ME !?!?!?!?
THIS WAS MOVEMENT TWO !?!?!?!?!

I looked at my friend in desperate bewilderment and let out a huge sigh of frustration right as 3 different people hushed me and I realize my little outburst was a tad too loud for the room titled “Pin Drop.” So with smoke whistling from my ears, and beads of sweat rolling down my bright red forehead, I did go on to finish the class, but I made the mental decision right then and there that I was SO done with yoga!

“But why are up and out the only seemingly important movements?” I asked my instructor after the class had emptied.

“Well because, all other movements stem from the core muscles that are used to stabilize the body through these movements. You’ll find yoga to be super easy once you master these 2 basic moves. Without them, you will have no core control, no back support and no strengthened posture to perform the right technique used in the more complex movements. I know you probably want to give up. It’s hard at first, but trust me, it gets easier overtime.”

Enter epiphany.

Is this not a lot like our spiritual fitness?

We live in a pedal to the metal, survival of the fittest society where dog eats dog, speed is the name of the game and he who can get there first, wins. Who wants to be doing slow moving yoga moves when you can run full speed ahead, throw caution to the wind and create dust for other people to eat? This is how I approached yoga. But only upon deeper reflection did I realize and appreciate that slow and steady consistency built my strength. Those seemingly unimportant but ever so subtle movements were my ticket to success. Reaching up gave my back muscles the proper elongation they needed just as reaching out gave me a greater ability to support my body mass during those ‘slower-than-cold-molasses’ positions.

It’s funny how us humans have a tendency to treat our faith and our witness the same way.

In the same way I thought I could master yoga in one class, we tend to think we can develop a deep relationship with God after 1 devotional time, or 1 Sunday service, or 1 Bible Study series, or 1 altar experience, or, or, or. The same goes for our witness. We don’t leave an impression on someone with 1 simple wave. It usually takes a lot of ‘slower-than-cold-molasses’ movements and conversations, or driveway shoveling, or gentle phone calls, or consistent prayer to make a little head-way with that friend, or spouse, or neighbor, or teacher, or, or, or. And when it doesn’t happen quickly, we want to give up. But reaching up and out in our faith is about steady, committed posture. It’s about positioning our lives in just the right way that nothing could make us teeter. The longer we stay in God’s presence and practice that devoted focus on him, the stronger we become in body, mind and spirit. It’s here where we learn the true heart of God’s style of yoga and it’s here and only here, where we can ever graduate onto movements/years 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 20, with confidence, patience, discernment, understanding, compassion, love, kindness, gentleness and the list goes on. Nothing else can build strength into our lives and give us clearer focus then when our eyes are reaching up to him and our arms are reaching out for him. And it’s only in the ‘up,’ where we discover God’s heart for ‘out.’

Is this hard to do? Yes! Why? Well, a. us humans are not all that flexible, are we? And b. we’re most certainly not all that graceful. It’s only by God’s grace that we could EVER graduate beyond class 5. But as my yoga instructor gently reassured our group in class 1….let me also reassure you in that: it’s perfectly normal to stumble, it’s totally okay to feel like a fish out of water, that grunting and groaning and sweating and shaking are all part of your faith’s growth process, but to continue with the effort cause overtime your muscles will strengthen and relax and those seemingly unimportant movements/efforts will become like second nature – you just have to keep practicing.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.
For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
-2 Corinthians 4:18 –

My prayer today is that you were encouraged in your ‘reaching up & out’ journey.

Lots of love,
-The Frolicking Gazelle
(ha ha ha, not so much)
-The Yoga Guru
(not in a million years)
-The normal girl just trying to live out her faith
(yip – that sounds more like it)

☺ Cindy

Cindy Keating – The Blog