“Our once great western Christian civilization is dying. If this matters to followers of Jesus Christ, then we must set aside our denominational differences and work together to strengthen the things that remain and reclaim what has been lost. Evangelicals and Catholics must stand together to re-establish that former Christian culture and moral consensus. We have the numbers and the organization but the question is this: Do we have the will to win this present spiritual battle for Jesus Christ against secularism? Will we prayerfully and cooperatively work toward a new Christian spiritual revival ― or will we choose to hunker down in our churches and denominationalisms and watch everything sink into the spiritual and moral abyss of a New Dark Age?” - Mark Davis Pickup

Sunday, January 6, 2019

MARRIAGE AND A LIFETIME OF MEMORIES

Our 1st dance on
our wedding day
1973
My wife, LaRee, and I were lying in bed talking. We started to reminisce about our life together spanning nearly 50 years. There are so many beautiful, intimate memories—happy tender moments only we know. There were sorrows when all we had was each other, ecstatic joys we shared when our children and grandchildren were born. The reminiscing continued into the night; there is a long, deep river of shared mutual and exclusive memories. We held each other in that deep soul-bond only time can build.

At one point, LaRee wondered why couples separate and divorce after decades together? There was no judgment, only curious sadness. (We're both are sadly aware of tragic marital situations involving abuse, addictions and infidelity. She's very understanding in those circumstances. Our early years of marriage did involve alcoholism.)

After long-term marriages end, where do their histories go? Who do they share their exclusive and most intimate memories with that were accumulated over many years? If their love for each other has cooled or died ... isn't it worth trying to revive?

Somebody might say that I don't understand their circumstances. They are right. All I have to go on is my own experience of a love affair with LaRee that began when we were teenagers. If she was to leave
me now, she would take away the very heart of me (to borrow a line of Peter Cetera's song "If You Leave Me Now").

When you meet someone what has been left (either by divorce or death) be tender and kind. Their heart has been broken at some point and their dreams of a previous time were dashed and died. They need your love and understanding.


Thursday, January 3, 2019

I'M WALKING!

I have had multiple sclerosis (MS) for thirty-five years. It’s a horrible disease. Multiple sclerosis has dragged me through many frightening disabilities (each one terrifying). It hasn’t been just me who has lived through terrifying symptoms of a serious neurological disease, my family was dragged along too. My wife once said, “It is harder to watch than to be” — and perhaps she is correct. To watch a loved-one suffer can be worse than being the one suffering.  To think of things being turned around is too difficult for me to contemplate. My mind simply refuses to think of my wife bound to a wheelchair, sinking more with each attack of MS.  We have lived through a long and painful journey spanning decades!

My grandson comforting me
during a low point
Things got so serious at one point in time, I was threatened with the prospect of quadriplegia. I needed help getting dressed and even tying my shoes. Someone else had to cut my meat at mealtime. I went into a full electric wheelchair equipped with side-braces to keep me from sagging sideways, and tying my legs to the leg rests to keep my feet from falling off the footrests. I couldn’t hold a pencil and write my own name. My bedroom was outfitted with a hoist to get me out of bed. Plans were being made to put a hoist in my bathroom to lift me into the bathtub.  We drove a wheelchair accessible van. We built a barrier-free house to accommodate my disability.  I am now at what is considered end-stage MS.  The expected course is steady deterioration, a nursing home, or round-the-clock home care. That’s how bad things get, or at least that's how things are expected to go.

A few years ago, I began to notice subtle changes. At first, they were so small (almost indiscernible) I did not mention them. Sometimes I thought wishful thinking might have merely created a perception of change. Then one night I woke from a deep sleep. He was there and He made me aware. But aware of what? I was told (not in words) to try to make my thumb touch my little finger. It had been years since I had the use of my right hand.

I did it! I could make my thumb touch my pinky finger! It stunned me. It was not fleeting like so many neurological improvements. It stayed.  Eventually, I could hold a spoon, a pencil, a cup, and use my right index finger to type on my computer keyboard. (For years, I typed with just my left hand's thumb, index and third finger.) It was as though my plaque-ridden brain was beginning to find new signal pathways. I could write again with my right hand! (I hadn't been able to do that for twenty years!) I showed this to my wife but she was cautious; she had become excited so many times throughout the years only to have her hopes dashed as new MS attacks stripped more physical function from me and the slightest improvement was lost.

One morning when I awoke from sleep I was able to struggle to sit up without using the hoist above my bed.  I did it and continued to do it, refusing to use the hoist. I used this window of opportunity for exercise to strengthen my trunk muscles. Eventually, we took the hoist down from above my bed.   

My mother-in-law died at the end of 2013 at the age of 82, after a long time in a nursing home.  My wife brought her walker home after the funeral. One morning in the winter of 2014 I was sitting in my electric wheelchair at the kitchen table having morning coffee. The walker was folded in a corner of the kitchen. He spoke to me again: “Get out of your wheelchair and walk with the walker.” What? I hadn’t walked in years!  But the message was emphatic and clear. Shaky and tentative, I stood and slowly, fearfully took my first steps in over a decade.  My legs were atrophied and weak but I took about five unsteady steps, ... then ten ... then I walked slowly with the walker down a hallway.  It exhausted me but I did it! My wife and I were ecstatic! After I rested she taped me doing it. Sadly, the improvement was short-lived and I lost the ability to walk again—but it returned in 2016.  I could walk short distances with a walker or two canes. 

This time the ability seemed to hold and I showed my doctor. She was incredulous. As I walked for her I remember her exclaiming “No! It’s not possible!” And she was right. People with late-stage MS don’t improve, they sink. It was so incredible that another doctor came out of his office with his jaw on his chest to see for himself.

I was sent to my neurologist for an explanation.  He didn’t have one.

By late 2018, I was using a walker for extended periods around the house—only using my wheelchair at the end of the day when I was tired or lazy.  As we begin 2019, I am hopeful — perhaps too hopeful.  My New Year’s resolution is to get in as good a shape as possible, continue to strengthen my legs, trunk and back with a goal to walk with one cane by the end of the year.  Will it happen? I don’t know. Multiple sclerosis is a cruel teasing disease.  It often returns function and raises hopes only to take it away.


I have to accept whatever happens and rest in the providence of God, trusting there is a reason for this unexpected but thrilling development. If I can walk I will use it as part of my Christian witness. 

If I lose the ability to walk and return to my wheelchair, I will use the experience as part of my Christian witness. Either way, I will praise God. He has been with me, and sustained me, throughout this long 35-year journey.

But today, I think I'll saunter down the hallway again.

Friday, December 28, 2018

CHOOSING LIFE AND THE HUMAN FAMILY

Close to 20 years ago, I wrote and narrated a documentary called "To be, or not to be -- the Human Family." My creative and talented daughter, Ronaele, and the late David Mainse co-produced it. The documentary was aired across North America. Later, Ronaele and I were being interviewed by the Canadian Christian talk show 100 Huntley Street. Unbeknownst to me, they preceded the interview with the music video "Choose Life" by the band Big Tent Revival (I did not know the song). 


My daughter Ronaele
(we're two peas in a pod)
At the end of the music video, I had a lump in my throat the size of a grapefruit. I was not sure I could get through the interview. Happily, my daughter knows her dad and took the lead. Click video image below.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

AFFIRMING BOYS' DEVELOPMENT

An essential part of a boy is damaged when his masculinity (or perceived lack of it) is questioned or ridiculed. An underlying sorrow begins to corrode his self-image and spirit. Your sons need affirmation, guidance and unconditional love in this time of gender confusion and sexual politics. Protect them from the sexual madness pervading our culture.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A THOUGHT ABOUT DAYDREAMS AND PRAYERS

As a child, I was a daydreamer (to a fault). It was considered a frivilous waste of time. As a man, it became a great asset. I imagined how things could be. The sicker I became the more beautiful my daydreams became. I imagined a world where every child is welcome and no child's birth is betrayed. I imagined a place where the disabled are included and not helped to kill themselves. I imagined a place where marriage is honoured and divorce is rare. I imagined a nation that honours God in its laws and behaviour. I imagined daydreams becoming prayers. Prayers often become reality.



Sunday, December 9, 2018

"IAN": A SHORT FILM ABOUT DISABILITY AND THE STRUGGLE FOR INCLUSION

I want you to see the excellent award winning animated short film below about disability inclusion. It is simply called Ian. Include all children. 


Monday, December 3, 2018

MOVIE REVIEW: "BECAUSE OF GRACIA" (and some comments about anti-Christian prejudice in education)



By Valerie Flokstra

Because of Gracia is a film that makes me laugh and cry.  That effect never diminishes though I’ve watched it multiple times.  I think it’s because I relate to the characters in so many ways. Like Gracia, I’ve been pulled into debate. Like Chase, I’ve kept silent and regretted it. Like Bobbi, I’ve been ready to give up.  Like all of them, God is the only one who can give me hope.

Let me take you back in time a year, behind the closed door of my professor’s office. “Valerie, I need you to tell me that you will set your Christian identity aside,” my professor said. Fear and shock battled for precedence in my mind. This kind of thing only happened in movies like God’s Not Dead.  Yet there I was, faced with a choice: deny my God or deny my professor. 

I was in a competitive entry teacher education program at the University of the Fraser Valley. Failing one course meant failing the entire thing.  The fear and shock diminished, replaced by confidence and peace.  Denying God wasn’t an option.  I explained to my professor that God is more important to me than anything else.  The first commandment says that we can’t have anything else above him.  So I can’t set my Christian identity aside.  

I hoped my professor would understand, but she didn’t.  She was angry.  I started to cry because the whole situation was so bizarre.  In an email to my professor, I assured her my Christian identity would not hinder me from being a good and caring teacher for all students.  I asked her to explain what I’d done that was “too Christian” and what she expected of me in her class in the future.  She did not specify what she meant, nor what she expected.  She was sure I could figure it out on my own.  That lack of specific directions left me feeling like I was walking on eggshells for the rest of the program.  

Later, my professor said, “Christianity needs to get brought down, and if it ends up below other religions for a while that’s okay.”  The fear was strong.  I said nothing. Sitting in class for hours every day hearing things that didn’t make sense, and things that shot arrows at the religion that was the foundation of my life was almost unbearable at times.  God heard my prayers and answered. 

I realized how powerful and effective prayer is.  I can’t remember what I said at the Show and Tell assignment when I brought a Bible, but I know the words were definitely the right ones.  They were much better than whatever I had planned to say the night before.  To me, it was a miracle. A week later another miracle happened. In spite of everything I actually passed the course!

The program wasn’t over though. A few months later I was summoned to another meeting with a different professor.  It was regarding me using a medical statistic that my professor said created a toxic environment in the classroom. I felt like Bobbi Ryan, I didn’t know where to turn.  Life seemed to be an option between bad and worse.  I shared almost nothing in class for the rest of the year.  My professors congratulated me for my excellent participation.  By the time I graduated I was nothing like the eager, inquisitive girl I was going into the program.  It took time, but God is good, and He is the ultimate healer.  

This September, an acquaintance of mine wanted me to share some of my experiences that were covered by several news sites, and even the National Post. There were hundreds of supportive comments. 

The first time I watched Because of Gracia, I loved every moment of it. There was a bittersweet feeling at the end though.  Gracia in the movie got a victory.  Everything worked out for her.  There was a happily ever after, a chance to shine a big light.  I didn’t really have that — just memories of a scary university program.

The second time I watched it  I marvelled at how God can change things, how He can change me, how He can turn something dark into an opportunity to shine a light. 

I was inspired during a dark time because of Gracia.  I think I’ll laugh and cry while I watch it no matter what my life looks like in the moment.  

It’s a film I recommend to all my friends because it’s amazing. Film is a powerful tool for telling stories, and I am so glad that films like Because of Gracia are out there to be a lesson, an encouragement, and a light.