Wednesday, April 17, 2019


The pain of the Cross helped me find context for my own suffering. 
Below is an excerpt from my new book Touched By Eternity: A True Story of Heaven, Healing, and Angels

Happy Easter.

Chapter 32
“God chose the weak things of the world …” 1 Corinthians 1:27b (NIV).

 was never interested in the topic of pain until writing this book, and for the first time I asked the question: Why do I see Heaven when I’m weak, sick, and in pain? And a related question: Was Jesus sick like I was? 
Scripture uses the specific words of hungry, thirsty, and tired when speaking of Jesus, but does not state that He was sick. Yet the evidence is there. The night before the cross He sweated blood. On the cross He was tortured, experienced agony and unimaginable pain. He was battered, bruised, dehydrated, exhausted, and weak. His blood flowed and His flesh was ripped into an unrecognizable mass of tissue. That horror is unparalleled and makes my being “sick” a garden party. 
            Pain comes from the Greek word odin,1meaning birth pangs. My heavenly visits first started in 1998 when I was in a literal “birth” state, pregnant and afflicted with hyperemesis gravidarum. 
Paul says of pain in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “… for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (NIV). 
Weakness is a theme in my life and therefore is the perfect context for becoming strong in Christ. 
On Saturday, July 9th2017, the Lord had spoken to me with words coming up as if from my stomach and fastening themselves in my brain. “Do you prefer to be weak and see Heaven OR to be healthy and not see it?”
Oh, why must there be a choice? Why one or the other and not both? Self-absorbed me, daughter of the fallen—I wanted the health and the sightings of Eternity too. I knew my answer, the binary choice, but I could not bring myself to voice it. So instead I wrote to my friend, Helen, on Facebook. She, too, understands pain.
“I totally understand that thought and impression,” Helen wrote back. “When we are weak we experience God in a special way because we are so helpless and dependent on Him.” 
My 112-pound pain-plundered body makes me the paradoxical and contradictory “strong”. In odin the paradoxos takes on enlightenment. In odin I am nearing perfection. In the weak, frail state I see the celestial city; I sit on the grounds and watch children who worship before the throne.
My wealth is in ill-health. If I am healthy, I will focus my attention on outside things that take me away from God, but when I’m indoors literally confined to a bed, I find Him more and more. God is a jealous God, and He calls us to holiness by loosening the ties to this world—this world that worships the brilliant and the beautiful, the successful and the rich, the famous and the athletic. They are splashed on television and social media, larger-than-life in their extravagance. The world rushes to admire them, make them our heroes, emulate them. 
But the paradoxos calls from 1 Corinthians 1:26-28, “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are” (NIV).

An excerpt from Touched By Eternity: A True Story of Heaven, Healing, and Angels. Print copies available at and coming on May 1, 2019 to international distributors.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Moving toward Holy Week

Last evening my husband and I attended the final soup supper at our church for this season of Lent. It was well attended and the numbers have grown throughout the season. We've had good conversations, eaten delicious soups and desserts, and gotten to know more people at our new church.

Following supper, we went into the sanctuary for the service. We've made good use of Holden Evening Prayer, written in 1985-86 by Marty Haugen during a musical residency at Holden Village. After six weeks of the service we're finally mastering the round part, and that's it until next year. Hoping we use it again. I appreciate the prayerful music within it and Pastor Richard's voice carries it well. [Though the video has some echo, the music is soothing and melodic.]

Thus the six weeks of Lent brings us to Palm Sunday this weekend, a celebration of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem and the beginning of Holy Week, as the church calls it. I think of it more as more a hellish week for Jesus, given the betrayal and pain he endured.

This poem is one I wrote years ago, pondering the sacrifice foreshadowed on Palm Sunday. The poem was first published in Esprit (Spring 2006), a women's magazine of the Evangelical Lutheran Women I used to write for until its closure..


My borrowed beast
climbs the rocky path
treading cautiously over robes
that carpet dusty earth

by a canopy of palms
his body trembles amid shouts of


such a young colt
he does not hurry –
as if he knows what is to come

outside the city gates
the crowd thins and hosannas fade
a poor man empties his pocket
to buy a dove

my beast of burden can rest now
my time is coming

© 2006 Esprit Spring Edition, Carolyn Wilker

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

George Whitefield: Waking Up to the Fire of Christ -HIRD

George Whitefield: Waking up to the Fire of Christ
-an article previously published in the April 2019 Light Magazine

When is the last time that your pastor had to be hoisted, like George Whitefield, through a window into your crowded church building, because there was no other way in?  The Rev. George Whitefield took part in a Great Awakening that is still impacting many congregations today.  Charles Spurgeon called Whitefield “all life, fire, wing, force.”
After being ordained at age 21, Whitefield was accused of driving fifteen people mad in his first sermon.  His Gloucester Bishop Benson ironically said that he wished that the madness might not be forgotten before next Sunday.  The so-called madness was actually people waking up to the life-changing love of Christ.  In his 34 years of ordained ministry, Whitefield preached more than 18,000 sermons to around ten million people.  Dr. Thomas S Kidd holds that “perhaps he was the greatest evangelical preacher the world has ever known.” Because of his speaking gift, Whitefield’s nickname was the Seraph (type of angel).  He was once described by UK Prime Minister Lloyd George as the greatest popular orator ever produced by England.  David Hume, a famous agnostic commented that “Mr Whitfield is the most ingenious preacher I ever heard. It is worth going twenty miles to hear him.” The famous English actor David Garrick held that Whitefield could “make men weep and tremble by his varied utterances of the word ‘Mesopotamia’.” (the ancient land that Abraham came from)
While in Oxford, he became close friends with John and Charles Wesley who helped him in the spiritual disciplines. After reading the book The Life of God in the Soul of Man, Whitefield became convinced that good works would not earn him heaven: “God showed me that I must be born again....” Experiencing the new birth gave him a fresh love of the beauty of spring: “At other times, I would be so overpowered with a sense of God’s Infinite Majesty that I would be compelled to throw myself on the ground and offer my soul as a blank in his hands, to write on it what he pleased.” The new birth became the heart of an unprecedented evangelical revival. 
Whitefield accepted the Wesley’s invitation to join them as missionaries in Savannah, Georgia. He waited however for months to sail to Georgia with his patron General Oglethorpe.  During this delay in England, tens of thousands came to hear him preach about the new birth.  After passionately preaching outside to 10,000 miners in Kingswood near Bristol, he wrote: “The fire is kindled in the country; and, I know, all the devils in hell shall not be able to quench it.”  Whitefield became the Billy Graham of the 17th century, preaching that all people need to be born again.  He was very countercultural, doing the unthinkable thing of preaching in fields, without notes, to tens of thousands. In 17th century England, sermons were only supposed to be given inside church buildings. In 17th England, because of the fear of revolution, the worst thing you could be accused of was enthusiasm. Whitefield sought to reach the heart as well as the head, saying that many people “were unaffected by an unfelt, unknown Christ.”
On his way to Georgia, Whitefield had such a strong voice that when the two other ships travelling with them drew close, he was simultaneously able to preach to all the people on the three ships. At a time when travel was precarious, Whitefield had seven visits to America, fifteen to Scotland, and two to Ireland.  Whitefield was the best-known person to have travelled extensively in the thirteen American colonies.  By 1740, he had become the most famous man in both America and Britain, at least the most famous aside from King George II.  Reminiscent of the Beatles, he was the first ‘British sensation.’ 
Whitefield was radically generous even to a fault.  Wherever revival meetings took place, Whitefield received offerings, including from Benjamin Franklin, to help with the most famous orphanage in North America, Bethesda in Savannah, Georgia.  After Benjamin Franklin scientifically established that Whitefield was able to preach to 30,000 without a microphone, he became his publisher, and a close friend and ally. Between 1740 and 1742, Franklin printed forty-three books and pamphlets dealing with Whitefield and the evangelical movement.  He even built Whitefield a building for preaching that became the University of Pennsylvania.  That is why there are statues of both Franklin and Whitefield as co-founders of the University of Pennsylvania. Benjamin Franklin commented: “It was wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants. From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world was growing religious, so that one could not walk through the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families in every street.”

The Bishop’s Commissary (superintendent), Alexander Garden, in Charleston was offended by Whitefield’s article challenging slave owners over mistreatment of slaves, and by Whitefield’s preaching both in other parish areas and among other denominations. Garden declared that the slave owners were going to sue Whitefield for libel. During his sermon, Garden attacked Whitefield, and refused him communion.  Then he dragged Whitefield into an ecclesiastical court, trying to defrock him.  Jonathan Edwards of Northhampton, a co-leader in the Great Awakening, wrote: “Whitefield was reproached in the most scurrilous and scandalous manner...I question whether history affords any instance paralleled with this, as so much pains taken in writing to blacken a man’s character, and render him odious.” Whitefield did not let criticism stop him, saying “The more I am opposed, the more joy I feel.”  
On a Sunday morning in Philadelphia, Whitefield preached to perhaps 15,000 people.  Then, he attended an Anglican Communion service where Commissary Cummings publicly denounced him and his followers. Whitefield followed this right after with preaching a farewell sermon to an outdoor assembly of 20,000.  The relentless pace was brutal to Whitefield’s health. At another time in Boston, “Whitfield was running himself ragged and becoming extremely ill, violently vomiting between sermons. He was feverish, dehydrated, and sweating profusely.”
During his four years away from England, the Gentleman’s Magazine and other English newspapers listed George Whitefield as having died.  He changed so many lives that even the English upper classes began to give Whitefield a hearing.  Lord Bolingbroke, after hearing Whitefield at Lady Huntington’s place, wrote: “Mr Whitefield is the most extraordinary man of our times. He has the most commanding eloquence I ever heard in any person...” One Anglican minister claimed that Whitefield had set England on fire with the devil’s flames. Whitefield countered. “It is not a fire of the Devil’s kindling, but a holy fire that has proceeded from the Holy and blessed Spirit. Oh, that such a fire may not only be kindled, but blow up into a flame all England, and all the world over!”

Dying at 55, Whitefield had been used to set many people on fire with love for Christ.  He memorably prayed: “O that I could do more for Him! O that I was a flame of pure and holy fire, and had a thousand lives to spend in the dear Redeemer’s Service.” Whitefield was passionate about awakening to the new birth.  We in Canada also need to wake up to the fire of Christ. We too need to recapture the priority of the new birth. Have you, like Whitefield, awoken yet to the new birth?

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Your Phone Is Selling Your Secrets - Denyse O'Leary

(Originally published at Mind Matters (April 2, 2019))

If you visit an emergency room, you may create a wealth of data you had no idea of, even before you walk in the door. As one doctor explains:
As it is, there are companies with established digital geofencing around hospital perimeters who can capture entry of a mobile phone onto the premises. In so doing, they initiate a cascade of events that allows marketing agencies hired by personal injury law firms, for example, to solicit patients directly with ads to their phone (while still in the ER). Though these ads can be cast while in a clinic or other medical locale, the system is sparked by arrival to the emergency room.
Jamie Wells, M.D. , "Is Patient Privacy Already Passé?" at American Council on Science and Health
And it’s not just your phone. Other systems are talking about you to strangers too. A recent New York Times article revealed that many hospitals use public sources of data on their patients such as records of property owned and charitable or political donations. If you own anything, you might be hearing from a hospital VIP.

According to the Times, “Some hospitals train doctors and nurses to identify patients who have expressed gratitude for their care, and then put the patients in touch with staff fund-raisers.” That entirely innocent compliment could cost you… Even though your gratitude isn't digital, most of what happens afterward probably is. And it stays in the system.

Some jurisdictions are moving to make such practices illegal. But the main handicap reformers face is not public support; it’s what people don't know.

The tracking does not stop when you leave the hospital. In a digital environment, you slowly accumulate a “shadow health record” outside the medical system:
Every time you shuffle through a line at the pharmacy, every time you try to get comfortable in those awkward doctor’s office chairs, every time you scroll through the web while you’re put on hold with a question about your medical bill, take a second to think about the person ahead of you and behind you. 
Chances are, at least one of you is being monitored by a third party like data analytics giant Optum, which is owned by UnitedHealth Group, Inc. Since 1993, it’s captured medical data — lab results, diagnoses, prescriptions, and more — from 150 million Americans. That’s almost half of the U.S. population.
Jeanette Beebe, "What you don’t know about your health data will make you sick" at Fast Company
But this endless tracking is not just hospitals and pharmacies. Your shadow health record includes what you buy at health food stores and gyms and data from internet-connected medical devices, sleep monitors, and fitness trackers (and legal pot shops and vape shops). Your physician probably does not have all this data on a patient but a data broker building a list of potential customers for a client very well might. Once you are connected, you don’t own the results anymore.

A privacy lawyer told Beebe that even he cannot opt out of the brokers' right to collect data from his own health insurance contracts. And it is legal for healthcare providers to sell their data to any number of companies involved in pharmaceuticals, insurance, and highly targeted advertising.

Unfortunately, these days it is not evidence of paranoia to believe you are being watched and followed.

It is much easier than we might think, given enough “anonymous” data, to guess individual identities. (The technical term for that is “deanonymizing” data.”) Here’s an illustration: You may feel pretty anonymous. But suppose you are the only person in your neighborhood who shops at the Econo-Pet, pays bills to Merrywell Pet Hospital, drives a Ford Focus hatchback, and is a Bronze Level donor to a retired service dog foundation? A motivated group with digital data from those sources, however it was obtained, probably knows or can easily find your name, address, and phone number too. And the broker can likely get health and lifestyle information about your contacts, not just about you and your dogs, by using AI to follow trails.

Big tech companies have an ambiguous relationship with online invasions of privacy. As tech philosopher George Gilder points out in Life after Google: The Fall of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy, if you’re not paying the social media companies for all that service, it’s because you’re the product, not the customer. The companies may be able to make much more money selling information about you than you would pay them to use their medium.

Not too surprisingly, the last face-to-face meeting of the Do Not Track consortium, attempting to rein all this in, was held in 2013:
In October 2018, on its public mailing list, the W3C group discussed how to describe Do Not Track’s failure in a preface to its final piece of work. After some back and forth, the group agreed on the language that appears: 
"… there has not been sufficient deployment of these extensions (as defined) to justify further advancement, nor have there been indications of planned support among user agents, third parties, and the ecosystem at large. " 
It’s an artful self-own by the group’s participants, which included representatives from ad industry trade groups, large advertisers, and ad delivery platforms, as well as ones from privacy groups, governments, and browser makers. After a flurry of work from 2011 to 2013, the group hadn’t met face to face since 2013, according to its notes.
Glenn Fleishman, "How the tragic death of Do Not Track ruined the web for everyone" at Fast Company
Some put their faith in government to regulate the problem away, as with, for example, Europe’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). An adversarial, winner-take-all process driven by legislation will probably not work as well as stricter industry standards in a competitive environment. But if, as Gilder believes, the underlying model is unworkable, reforms will be patchwork, no matter who is sponsoring them.

Apple, sensing a competitive advantage, has become a “vocal supporter of privacy.” The CEO outlined the problem in a recent magazine essay:
One of the biggest challenges in protecting privacy is that many of the violations are invisible. For example, you might have bought a product from an online retailer — something most of us have done. But what the retailer doesn’t tell you is that it then turned around and sold or transferred information about your purchase to a “data broker” — a company that exists purely to collect your information, package it and sell it to yet another buyer. 
The trail disappears before you even know there is a trail. Right now, all of these secondary markets for your information exist in a shadow economy that’s largely unchecked—out of sight of consumers, regulators and lawmakers.
Tim Cook, "You Deserve Privacy Online. Here's How You Could Actually Get It" at Time Magazine
But Apple, like all big tech companies, is hampered by the fact that its wealth depends in part on data sales. He proposes an approach that enables the customer to find out what data has been harvested:
But Cook doesn’t only argue for legislation restricting data brokers from accessing your information from the shadows — he wants the Federal Trade Commission to establish a data broker database that would require all data brokers to register and provide tools that would allow anyone to do a simple search to find out who has their data and give the individual “the power to delete their data on demand, freely, easily, and online, once and for all.” Mark Sullivan, "Apple’s inconvenient truth: It’s part of the data surveillance economy" at Fast Company
Of course, if he got his wish, the data streams would be worth far less and social media companies would need other ways to turn a profit. Pay for service is bound to be unpopular but it would at least restore a normal marketplace, one where there is a clear distinction between the customer and the product.

The current situation puts one in mind of an old proverb: Three women and a goose make a market. That is, a minimal market is one seller, two potential buyers, and one product. But current social media skews the market: The two potential buyers are now the products, sold to unknown third parties (via their digitized lives).

Things haven’t changed as much as we might think. If information about us has any financial value, someone might want to buy it. And we have always had to pay for privacy, whether we have curtains, locks, sealed envelopes, or confidential advisers. It’s doubtful that any economic system, however high-tech, can overrule such perennial facts of nature.

See also: Your phone knows Your phone knows everything now. And it is talking.


The $60 billion-dollar medical data market is coming under scrutiny. As a patient, you do not own the data and are not as anonymous as you think

Saturday, April 06, 2019

News — Dread or of Relief? — The Wait! By Peter A. Black

Possibly, five hours had never felt so agonizing since the time Gail* was in post-op recovery after her kidney transplant surgery, more than twenty years previous. 
Similar gut-wrenching times of waiting for hopeful news would have coursed through their hearts when each member of this family – mother, father and both daughters – went through their respective cancer surgeries, and also when the mother suffered a near-fatal heart attack.

And now, Gail’s mom and dad and sister waited and wondered, hoping and praying. Her humanitarian work as a staff-member of a non-governmental organization (NGO) has taken her to many nations, flying with as many different airlines. On Sunday March 10th she was to fly by Ethiopian Airlines – her most favoured African airline – from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, Kenya.

I can scarce imagine the anxious, torturous thoughts her sister and parents, and her son and
Photo Credit:
nephew experienced during those hours after hearing news of the crash of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, killing all 157 on board. Gail was to fly this morning. Was she on board that plane? 
The family knew the flight number she was supposed to be on, but it was hours before the flight number of the crashed plane was announced in the media. Was that hers?

Breep! Breeb! The phone. Is this it? News of dread – or of relief? Of devastation – or of rejoicing?

The message went something like this: It’s Gail. I’m safe in Nairobi. My flight from Addis Ababa was scheduled to leave forty minutes after the one that crashed. But then the airport was shut down and we were stuck for nearly three hours on board before taking off. Indescribable relief. Pent-up emotions burst the banks, overflowing with tears of relief and joy and exclamations of thanksgiving!

The day following, my wife May and I met with my sister and her husband. They expressed how their tears of relief and joy were also mixed with sorrow for those families of the crash victims who received the dreaded news of their loved ones’ decease.

We do well to always be mindful of others and to pray comfort for those who mourn, even while rejoicing with those who have every legitimate reason to celebrate. That’s what the Scriptures teach: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). And, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

Credit: King of Kings
The period of Lent urges us to deepen our understanding of and appreciation for our Lord Jesus, who carried the sin-burden for us and all humanity in His devastating sufferings and death on the Cross of Calvary.

My wife and I rejoice with my sister and her family, and we pray comfort for those who received the awful news that their loved ones and colleagues perished in that disaster, while praying also that they will receive hope and healing from God, through Jesus, to find their way forward.

* Name changed to protect privacy.


Peter is a retired pastor  well, sort of retired – as he is currently engaged as an associate volunteer pastor. He lives in Southwestern Ontario with his wife, May, and writes a weekly inspirational newspaper column and occasional magazine articles. Peter is author of two books: "Parables from the Pond" (Word Alive Press) and "Raise Your Gaze . . . Mindful Musings of a Grateful Heart" (Angel Hope Publishing). He and May are also engaged in leading nursing home / residential chapel services, pulpit supply and music. ~+~

Monday, April 01, 2019

The Interrupted Life III – A Boy and a Bike by Eleanor Shepherd

         As we gathered in our small groups for morning prayer time, I listened to Kevin Grigsbey from Australia as he told us about some of the challenges that his son, Philip was facing. It was 1994, and I had the privilege of attending an international course for Salvation Army officers from around the world. It was a great opportunity to meet colleagues from many different countries. By coincidence Kevin and I also happened to  share the same birthday – the same date but a different year.

            Now there is something else that Kevin and I have in common. We both have a son with quadriplegia, although I had not yet become part of that elite group when I met Kevin. As we became acquainted in London, England I discovered that Kevin was a delightful individual who laughed easily, rarely revealing the pain that the interruption in his life had brought to him. 

            The event happened in 1980, October 14 to be exact. Philip, Kevin’s second child and older son was riding his bicycle with a school friend on the road near his home. The driver of a Toyota Campervan, blinded by the setting sun, did not see him and ran over both Philip and his bicycle. 

            His father, Kevin described the scene when he arrived. “Philip lay in a bloodied heap, suffering multiple injuries with most of his bones broken. He smashed his skull and shattered his collarbone, ribs, elbow, thigh, pelvis, shin and ankle and was unconscious.” 
Fortunately, an off duty nurse, who was one of the first people to arrive at the accident scene moved Philip to a position that allowed him to breathe. Otherwise he would have succumbed there on the road. 

            There was a district hospital in Whyalla, the town where the family were living and arriving there by ambulance, Philip was ushered into surgery for a three-hour operation on his comatose and shattered body. Late that night, Philip and his mother Lynne, accompanied by emergency medical personnel, were flown to the Adelaide Children’s Hospital 380 kilometers away. There, Philip spent the next eighteen months. 

            During the first six weeks, Philip hovered between life and death hooked up to life support in the Intensive Care Unit. On three occasions the family were called to his bedside with the anticipation that death was imminent, yet he rallied each time. This battle scarred little boy remained unconscious for three and a half months and then gradually emerged from the coma. As he did, he became aware of the pain that has been his constant companion ever since the accident.

            Early diagnosis of Philip’s possibility of recovery was not encouraging. His family was informed that he had suffered permanent brain damage that cost him the capacity to speak as well as mobility. He would never be normal again and the best thing would be to walk away and leave him in institutional care. This, his parents refused to do. 
            The Grigsbeys received support from their community. All over the town of Whyalla, people gathered regularly in churches and homes to pray for Philip and his recovery. Phillip’s parents and particularly his mother, Lynne who was spending her days with Philip in Adelaide, surrounded her son with her prayers and promises that she was constantly finding for him in the Bible. At the same time, she also set herself to learn skills that were required to help in Philip’s recovery, and training volunteers to help her in this task. 

            Almost two years after the accident, in April 1982 Philip was able to come home in his wheelchair for weekends and by September was discharged from the Adelaide Children’s Hospital. By now the family were living in Adelaide and they were able to arrange for further outpatient treatment for Philip at Regency Park Centre for young disabled people. His diagnosis was: Acquired Brain Injury and Quadriplegia.  

Philip was able to eventually complete his schooling and in 1989 was able to attend a secondary college to study. He earned the Victorian Certificate of Education and received a special award that cited: “ Philip Grigsbey who endeared himself to the school as a fine young man who was determined to overcome the challenges in front of him as an individual, and a very productive and popular member of the school population.” 
       As you can imagine, there are many other aspects to this story of interruption in the life of the Grigsbey family and you will be able to read about how they coped along with details of this and other stories I have been sharing in this blog when my book The Interrupted Life, comes out.  
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