This blog deals with issues pertaining to natural dignity and worth that all humanity deserves under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. You will find articles about Life issues pertinent to Christian living and faith.
“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
While I have been prepared to approach Canada's Immigration Minister to appeal to Sudan to allow Meriam to come to Canada with her children, her husband is an American citizen. Daniel Wani (27) is a biochemist who lives in Manchester, New Hampshire. Rightfully, it should be the U.S. government doing this for his
family. If the Obama government will not find the wherewith all to forcefully defend the wife and children of one of its citizens -- who faces torture and death for the dastardly crime of refusing to renounce her Christian faith -- who will they defend internationally?!
I call on the thousands of American readers of this blog to lobby their Members of Congress to have America intervene in this despicable situation and demand release of Meriam Ibrahim immediately from the Sudanese jail. Bring her and the children to America to be with her American husband before the Sudanese torture and execute Meriam Ibrahim in the name of Islam. Mark
I want to report that Miriam Ibrahim gave birth to a baby girl in prison today. The
online news source LifeNews.com reported:
Ibrahim, the pregnant Christian woman sentenced to death for refusing to accept Islam, has
given birth to a baby girl.
sentenced to death in Sudan for her Christian faith gave birth to a baby girl in
prison today, the Daily Mail reported in an exclusive. Meriam , who has spent
four months shackled to the floor of a cell, delivered the baby five days early,
Miriam’s small son is also with her in prison. There are concerns about his health because of the squalid conditions in the prison.
IT IS ABSOLUTELY IMPERATIVE THAT YOU GO TO THE LINK
BELOW, SIGN THE PETITION TO RELEASE MIRIAM FROM THE SUDANESE JAIL. WRITE
TO YOUR FEDERAL POLITICIANS TO LOBBY SUDAN TO RELEASE IBRAHIM AND NOT CARRY OUT
THE SENTENCE TO TORTURE AND EXECUTE HER AS PLANNED.
http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/release-meriam-ibrahim-dont-punish-her-for-her-faith.html I received an urgent request from LifeNews.com to sign a petition to Sudan to spare the life of Christian convert Meriam Ibraham. The details are below and a link to sign a petition is above. Will it influence the Sudanese government? I don't know, but we must try. She is our sister in Christ and is about to be tortured and killed for her Christian faith. Are we prepared to die for our Christian faith? I ask that you sign the petition above, ask your friends, co-workers, neighbors, family and members of your church to sign it. DO IT QUICKLY! MERIAM'S LIFE AND THAT OF HER UNBORN CHILD HANG IN THE BALANCE. (Her 20 month old son is also jailed with her and sick from prison conditions.) Mark
Meriam Ibrahim is 8-months pregnant
and is a Christian woman sentenced to hang to death in Sudan for rejecting
Islam. She is being shackled by Sudanese officials despite the fact she is
eight-months pregnant and there are grave concerns for her health and the health
of her unborn baby.
Meriam will be tortured - beaten with 100 lashes for
marrying an American Christian. Then she will be hung for being a Christian.
Meanwhile, her son, a 20-month-old boy and American citizen, is also jailed with
her and is sick from the prison conditions. Ibrahim’s husband, U.S. citizen
Daniel Wani, said lawyers representing her told Amnesty International that
religious clerics in court had asked her if she would recant her faith, but she
told them: “I am a Christian.”The death sentence issued to a woman who refused to renounce Christianity for Islam in Sudan is an “egregious
violation of basic human rights,” Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of
the House congressional panel that oversees U.S. policy in Africa, said
previously. “This is an affront to religious
freedom everywhere,” Smith said. “The refusal of the government of Sudan to
allow religious freedom was one of the reasons for Sudan’s long civil war. The
U.S. and the rest of the international community must demand Sudan reverse this
sentence immediately.” WE NEED YOUR HELP TODAY:Please
sign the LifeNews petition to support Meriam Ibrahim and raise awareness
about her and her unborn child. Join with us to tell the world that this is an
affront to religious freedom, the right to life, and human rights. Join LifeNews
to call on the government of Sudan to reverse this sentence and release Meriam
Ibrahim immediately so she and her unborn baby can get the medical care and
attention they desperately need. Over
2,500 people have already signed the petition to support Meriam, will you
take 60 seconds to join them?
Before I begin this post, I want to clarify that I am not a member of, or loyal to, any political party. If someone was to ask me where I stand of various issues, they would find me to be very conservative on social and life issues and slightly left of center on economic issues and the environment. My loyalties rest entirely with Christ, the sanctity of human life and the Common Good of society.
I know most readers of this blog are American, yet this post is geared toward a Canadian audience because of the gravity of recent developments in Canada. American readers please view these developments as a warning about the darker side of human nature and corruption of democracy and free thought. Yesterday morning I received a startling but not unexpected email from Canada's Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. In part, it read: "This morning the Québec government re-introduced its euthanasia
bill in the
identical form as Bill 52 before the Québec election. The Québec Premier
forced the Liberal members to support the introduction of the euthanasia bill.
Since there was no opposition to the re-introduction of the bill, it has
returned to the stage it was at before the election (second reading
Vivre dans la Dignité and the Physicians Alliance have announced that they
will legally challenge the euthanasia bill as unconstitutional, if passed."
I suspect the basis for their challenge will be that euthanasia and assisted suicide are federal justice matters covered under Canada's Criminal Code, whereas Québec unilaterally and arbitrarily decided they are health matters which is provincial jurisdiction.
Let me be clear: this should not come as a surprise. The Liberal
behavior of forcing its members to support this action is not unique nor democratic nor does it acknowledge personal conscience. This past February the federal Liberal Party -- counterpart of the provincial Liberals -- adopted a resolution to decriminalize assisted suicide if re-elected to Parliament.
The current federal Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau recently said that all federal party candidates for Parliament must be pro-choice! (The Official Opposition, the socialist New Democratic Party holds a similar position.) This will, in effect, eliminate practicing Catholics and devout evangelical Christians from running for Parliament as Liberals or NDP.
Catholic and evangelical Christians must not tolerate this! Pastors speak out from your pulpits about this assault against Christians participating freely in the political life of Canada. Regarding the Québec euthanasia bill write to your MPs (CC: the Prime Minister and Minister of Justice) demanding a federal appeal against this assault on the sanctity of human life. Write letters to the editor of newspapers, make blog and twitter protests about Québec's euthanasia bill. Expose the federal Liberal resolution to strike down Canada's law against assisted suicide. Protest Trudeau's announcement that all Liberal candidates must be pro-choice to kill unwanted or inconvenient unborn children. Now their provincial counterparts are about to attack the sick and disabled!
The Liberal Party is not only assaulting vulnerable human life but the foundations of free thought and open democracy.
Mark Davis Pickup
 This is the same federal Liberal Party that unanimously supported in Parliament the idea of a national suicide prevention strategy. What's the difference? A national suicide prevention strategy would work to protect healthy, able-bodied suicidal Canadians while decriminalizing assisted suicide would kill the dying, sick and disabled.
 We must remember that it was the Liberal Party, under Justin's father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, that brought abortion to Canada in 1969, resulting in the death of millions of unborn babies.
In the great treasury of music, I keep finding myself coming back again and again to Beethoven. You may think it's because he was one of the greatest composers who ever lived despite his deafness. That is true, everybody loves great music and everybody loves an over-comer. But there's something more that keeps drawing me back to Beethoven. Until recently I found it difficult to identify what that 'something' was until I saw a certain documentary about his life. (Warning: the documentary can be found at the end of this post and is nearly an hour long.)
At the end of the program I heard a number of people make comments that came close. One said, "The reason he is the greatest composer is that he's prepared to share his life with you more than any other composer." Another person said this about Beethoven's music: "In sadness there is hope, where it's hopeful it's sad." Still another commented, "A great piece of music is like a mirror. Everyone sees himself."
Instruments Beethoven used
to try and hear
In Beethoven's music I see his struggle with his deafness, despairing then hopeful, quiet beauty then explosive defiant energy. I hear his stark anguish and celebration, despair and victory, beauty and pain. He knows the struggle against disability yet still rises to ability. And I think to myself, "That's the unstated message: The human spirit can triumph against adversity, it can find possibilities in impossibilities. The human spirit seeks ability even in disability."
Beethoven's music is like a mirror that demands the listener to enter those emotional and spiritual aspects that make us human. Beethoven put his humanity at the center of his music. He shows the listener open and emotionally naked vulnerability. In Beethoven's vulnerability we are reminded of our own.
The last person to comment in the documentary below captures the essence of Beethoven best for me:
"The thing about Beethoven that impresses me the most is his remarkable generosity in his music. This man who had a stormy and difficult life, a lot of conflict in it, returns again and again to the most important piece to the most telling moments, to a kind of deep, grateful, hymn-like utterance -- as if to say life is good, it's all worth it."
That's it! That is why I find myself continually coming back to the music of Beethoven. It is a declaration that despite tragedy and trials, life is worth while.*
At the end of my struggle I will say it was worth it because God was with me throughout it all. At the darkest moments Christ has been my light. When bitterness threatened to take away my joy the sweetness of His Word restored me. Years of chronic illness and disability sometimes took me into an abyss of sorrow and despair; God made a way for me to emerge back into the sunlit valley of His love. He has been the constant of my life's journey. God will be the same for you if you let Him. [Click on image below or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zo3fJYtS-o, for hymn God Will Make a Way.]
Once again, the annual MS fundraising walk is about to occur. On May 25th my daughter and grandchildren will be walking in Calgary (Canada) to raise funds for research and supports. Her Facebook page says, "MS WALK IS NEXT WEEKEND & those of you watching my father's miracle unfold, please consider supporting our efforts in Calgary on MAY 25. DONATIONS CAN BE GIVEN HERE ONLINE (paypal, credit card), mailed to me, or for those in Edmonton/Beaumont, dropped off at my parents house. All cheques made payable to: MS SOCIETY-MS WALK. THANK YOU. ONLINE DONATIONS HERE: https://secure3.convio.net/mssoc/site/Donation2?idb=934797185&df_id=1822&FR_ID=3004&PROXY_ID=1692136&1822.donation=form1&PROXY_TYPE=20 "
I encourage readers of this to support MS society in Canada and America. Major advances in treatment are being made. As we learn more about the genome and auto-immune systems, a cure is likely for this disease that cripples hundreds of thousands of people in North America. This terrible disease is usually diagnosed in young people 20-40 years. Multiple sclerosis is a horrible disease, I have had MS for over 30 years so I know it first-hand. Support your local MS fundraising efforts. Click on image below or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7O78LvrNSQ to see a segment about MS on the hit TV show The Doctors.
Those people who read my last blog post will know that this week I briefly walked after more than a decade in an electric wheelchair. Jean Echlin, Adjunct Associate Professor of Nursing at the University of Windsor, responded to the post by sending me an email that said "To see you stand and walk is the most remarkable event that I have ever witnessed in over 60 years of nursing."
Indeed what happened was remarkable and I have been struck by various emotions and fears. Is this neurological window that cracked open a moment of temporary fresh breeze that will disappear, the window close, leaving me once again tied to my wheelchair? Dare I hope the window will stay open and get my hopes up again? In earlier years the multiple sclerosis was
exacerbating/remitting; attacks would come then relent. I would go to bed at night not knowing what function I'd wake up with or without. It was terrible. Remissions would come and lost function would partially return. So many times, my wife and I would tell each other we were not going to get our hopes up -- but we did. Attacks would come and break our hearts again, again and again.
As the years with MS progressed, the course of the disease turned to what the medical profession calls secondary progressive. The roller coaster of dramatic symptoms moderated into a slide downhill. At the 30 year point, my brain and brain stem are riddled with plagues, my body so unresponsive and weak, we had long ago given up hoping for a remission. The raucous years were over but so were dreams of something different. We accepted our lot in life. When I walked last Tuesday for the first time in years, I initially didn't want to say anything for fear it was a temporary anomaly and would disappear. My wife said, "So what if it doesn't last. Share your joy even if it is only for a day. It may never come again." We decided to send a video to my daughter who promptly put it on Facebook! Word was out. Dare I dream and risk waking up to find my legs are half-dead again? You may say Yes. But life is so often more than merely picking up the pieces of one's life and walking. The state of my heart is more important than the state of my body.
What was the point of all these years that ticked away convalescing and waiting on the Lord? The answer is not coming in a thunderclap of excitement, cheers and celebration, rather a gentle breeze of spiritual peace coming through that slightly opened neurological window. What is God saying to me? (Shhh, listen Mark.) Humbly pray for understanding more than recovery. Perhaps my understanding will not come somewhere in time and circumstance rather in transcending time and circumstance. He is whispering to me. As usual, music expresses my heart where words fail. Click below or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIYEkLZQ10Yfor Somewhere In Time by John Barry.
Today starts a new week. What can you do in your day tomorrow to reflect God's will being done on earth as it is in Heaven? We've prayed those words countless times. Ask God to make you an instrument of His will and peace, in accordance with His Word. [Click on image below or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3fNWrlCl4Q, Lord, Make Me an Instrument Of Your Peace, John Rutter.]
Make a difference today. Commit your life to something Godly and worthy. Be a Biblical Christian. Show your Christianity and let Christ use your hand's to show His love and care in the world. His hands were pierced for us. Remember it was the hand of God who made you and me. Make a difference today. Do you have a passion for the sacredness of human life? Then speak up for life, all life, at every state and stage. Do it because God loves humanity. Remember that all humanity bears the indelible image of God and deserves our respect, care and protection.
Do you have a passion for the environment? Plant a tree, pick up garbage, write a letter to an elected official to enact laws that respect the land, the water, the air we breath. We are stewards of God's creation. Our actions today will impact the world of tomorrow. We have a responsibility to the present and the future.
Is your passion for justice? Get involved with a ministry that cares for the homeless in your community, or the unborn, the disabled or the elderly. Make a difference today, tomorrow and the tomorrows yet to come. Leave the world a better place than you found it. You can make a difference.
There is a saying: "All for one and one for all." It within interdependent community that me becomes we. That's human interdependence. I came across a wonderful video illustrating that a single life can make a difference. It's called The Power of One and is dedicated to the memory and legacy of Tyler Blain Genneken who died of cancer at the age of 14 years.He made a difference in his short life.
One life can make a difference for good in our world. Make that one life your life and shake the world. God created you for a purpose. Mark [Click image below or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8I7Wk14VWK4 For The Power of One.]
I suppose readers of this blog (well over 280,000 hits now) might think it extravagant of me to feature my family in a blog about Christian perspectives on suffering. (See previous posting.) You're right, it is extravagant. Forgive me.
My family brings me such joy. My legs are crippled but my heart soars. It thrills me to see my children and grandchildren reaching toward their potential. My wife of 40 years and our family are my earthly heritage: My heavenly heritage waits for me.
"I my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with we that you may be where I am." -- Jesus (John 14.2-3)
After more than thirty years of chronic illness, I am now convinced that love (human and divine) is all that matters. Health and wealth, position and status will all disappear, only love and the soul will cross the grave's threshold. As a husband, father and grandfather, my role is to nurture and encourage my family to be their best under the Lordship and leadership of Jesus Christ. It is in these roles that I feel most at home. Next as a citizen, I must help nurture and encourage a community of concern and nurture in which every human being is helped to reach their full potential and blossom in the love of God.
We must reject the fashionable thinking of independent personal autonomy. It is diametrically opposed to the ideal of interdependent community -- which has its roots in the family. It is in the family where we are first introduced, as small children, to interdependence. When it works well, a family serves as a microcosm, a model of functioning, nurturing, interdependent community in miniature. And the glue of a family should be love. The glue of community is interdependence and loving kindness. I have been given so much love in this life (both human and divine). Under such love human beings can soar -- even with legs that are crippled like mine. [Click on image or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nQy-aP_Koo, for Brandon Heath's "Love Never Fails".
Grand piano at center stage of
the Eleanor Pickup Arts Centre
I have mentioned in previous blogs that my life is surrounded by creative people. There is a Canadian small town arts centre named after my mother who taught music for more than 60 years. The arts have made my life so rich despite my disability. I enjoy Rod Stewart. Recently I came across a YouTube video of him performing the classic "What a Difference a Day Makes". Unexpectedly part way through the song a beautiful blonde woman (Karen Straw) stepped forward with a trumpet solo.
She made me think of my lovely blonde daughter. In the 1990s, she also enchanted audiences with her trumpet. She worked her way up to be 1st trumpet for the Edmonton Youth Orchestra. I have a tender memory of her playing with the orchestra at the Convocation Hall at the University of Alberta, with her adoring family in the audience. Her grandparents and great-grandparents (all gone now) were in attendance too. Thank you Mr. Stewart and Ms. Straw for reminding me of my beautiful blonde daughter and her trumpet.
[Click on image below or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YugDdRFiSPE For Rod Stewart performing "What a Difference a Day Makes" on the Alan Titchmarch Show.]
 Edmonton is the capital city for the Canadian province of Alberta
I keep a bust of Ludwig van Beethoven on the fireplace mantle in my home. (It's behind me in the photograph at the top of this blog). It reminds me of the human capacity to overcome adversity to achieve great things. When I doubt myself in my own acquired disability of multiple sclerosis, I listen to Beethoven -- particularly his 9th symphony -- written in total deafness but at the peak of his creative prowess.
In his 9th symphony I
detect a triumph of human spirit over adversity, sustained by a spark of God’s
love in a silent world. Although Beethoven used Schiller’s Ode to Joy, there is a spirituality or mystical quality to Beethoven’s
9thSymphony. It carries a note of authentic life experience; it
contains great energy yet a peace and acceptance won by strife, and a wisdom
only suffering can teach. To me, it illustrates how our loving God can reach
into the silent world of a deaf genius and touch us even 190 years later.
Most people are
aware that Beethoven was deaf when he wrote his 9th Symphony. It was
his crowning achievement. But I want to bring your attention to the fact
that Beethoven was going deaf when he wrote his 1st symphony. It was
detectable when he began composing it in 1798, and when it was completed in
1800, Beethoven’s had become quite anxious about his malady. By his own words,
Beethoven had noticed his hearing loss beginning in 1796 at the age of 26. By
1801 his physicians began various therapies, to no avail. His deafness
increased to become near total, yet his creative prowess never faltered.
All 9 symphonies
were composed with some level of deafness! His mind was so muscular. How could
it be that the standard bearer of the Romantic era was a deaf composer? Despite
this, Beethoven rose above his predicament to reach unequalled human
achievement. His beloved Moon Light Sonata was composed in serious deafness.
The same is true for his opera Fidelio, and Creatures of Prometheus. It is doubtful he heard much of his 5th
Symphony, his concerto for violin and orchestra or his Masses.
life story, we read about his inner and outer grief, his disappointment with
life, his isolation and emptiness brought on by his disability.
addressed this isolation himself in a letter he wrote to his brother Karl in
“[F]orgive me when you see me draw back....for me
there is no relaxation with my fellow man, no refined conversations, no mutual
exchange of ideas. I must live almost alone, like one who has been banished.
...But what a humiliation for me when someone standing next to me heard a flute
in the distance and I heard nothing, or someone standing next to me heard a
shepherd singing and again I heard nothing. Such incidents drove me almost to
despair; a little more of that and I would have ended my life – it was only my
art that held me back.”
In that same letter, Beethoven prayed, “O Divine One, thou seest my inmost soul
thou knowest that therein dwells the love of mankind and a desire to do
good.” At the end of his letter to
Karl he wrote in his despair, “Farewell
and do not wholly forget me when I am dead.”
These words were written at a crisis point for
Beethoven about his increasing disability. Happily for us, his crisis passed
and the great man rose above his deafness to eventually write his 9th
and final symphony at his height of creative power.
than 30 years with degenerative MS, I have observed and studied grief – both my
own and others. It is my experience that grief is diverse yet distinct. People
grieve in various ways. They grieve visually, in sound and abstract ways.
Perhaps grief rises at the sight of a lake, a flower or a certain café that
reminds the griever of happier days before sickness or disability. A particular
song may transport the griever to another time or place.
Grief is distinct
in that it is focused on an object. Grief is often dynamic because it still
interacts to its surroundings and stimulus. Healthy grieving is expressive.
Grief can express a multitude of emotions through music, writing, drama or even
dance. This is good. It indicates grief that is fluid and moving. As long as
grief is moving and expressive the griever is likely to emerge spiritually
matured.If it ceases to
move, it may stagnate and settle into depression. (Depression tends to turns in
on itself focusing of the darkness of the griever’s soul.)
Grief will come to
every life. Surrender your anguish to God’s love to use as a vehicle for
spiritual growth. The 17th Century Christian Poet, John Donne, wrote: “No man
hath affliction enough that is not matured, and ripened by it, and made fit for
God by that affliction.” Having said this, Donne also recognized that some
people may suffer and their suffering be no use to them.
Which will you be
when grief comes? -- Mark
[Click on image below or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDViACDYxnQ -Beethoven's 9th Symphony in D minor, Opus 125, 4th movement, performed by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Bernstein. Vienna is the place of Beethoven's death on March 26th 1827.]
Today's blog post is short and contradictory. By posting it I encourage the very thing the message discourages. Having acknowledged my own hypocrisy, I want you to go to the link below. It will take you to a web-page under the title "This Is One of The Most Vital Messages Gen Y Needs to Hear (Video)." Click on the image of three girls leaning against a rail. Share it with people you know. http://elitedaily.com/news/world/this-is-one-of-the-most-vital-messages-gen-y-needs-to-hear-video/