The Blog of Pastor Mike Wilkins
"The long run" referred to in the title of this blog is, in the first place, the many years Mike Wilkins served as West London's solo pastor, and then its Senior Pastor, since he and his wife Deb moved to London (and this church) in 1984.
In these past few years (beginning November 2011,) Mike's various health challenges, particularly a serious and ongoing case of cancer, has added another layer to the "long run" metaphor, and lots to blog about. Mike is currently on an extended Sick Leave, but generally worships with the church family on Sunday mornings.
With the publication of a book he wrote in 2016 entitled "Glory in the Face" (now available electronically and in paperback from Amazon.ca, and other online venders), Mike has just launched a new website, which will serve as a sort of scrapbook for readers of the book, with relevant background photos, for example, of That Last Final Solo Canoe Trip in May, 2011, as well as additional information about the book, and--coming soon--a new set of blog posts, mostly about the peace of God and the joy of the Lord and the face of Christ and the strength to face anything. You'll find the new website now at www.gloryintheface.com.
Nov13FriNovember 13, 2015
If I were you, that is, if I were one of the people I know to be keeping up with me and my significant health challenges by means of this blog, I would be wondering about the Wilkins family with Christmas coming and with me again on chemotherapy (to be continued biweekly for as long as the trimonthly CT-scans indicate that the friendly poisons are doing more good than harm.) Doctors tell me that this stuff might keep my health stable for six to eight months. If I were you, what I would be wondering is how we are planning to do Christmas this year with one of us more-or-less dying. (Not that we are the only family bearing a significant sadness at “the most wonderful time of the year” — but we are one of them.) To me, the question is a good one, because from the day I joined the Cancer Club, I have tried to take a stand against living in denial.
Last week, I came across something written by one of my current Five Dead Men (the one who died at the age of 62, I note with interest) on the subject of celebrating Christmas and other feasts and festivals and celebrations that occur in the Winter. “The whole point of winter pleasure,” wrote G.K. Chesterton, “is that it is a defiant pleasure, a pleasure armed and at bay.” I liked what he wrote when I first read it, and now, a week later, I like it all the more. Once again, the mind of the “Prince of Paradoxes,” filled to overflowing as it was with “wisdom, wit and wonder,” enlightens me.
So if you are wondering about me and my family and this coming Christmas, I am happy to report that we are planning to put our whole hearts into it "defiantly." With all our hearts, we will celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. We will buy and decorate a really tall Christmas tree, and also our house, inside and out. We will listen to Christmas carols and we will drink eggnog and other fancy drinks, and we will eat shortbread cookies and other Christmas goodies. We will watch Christmas movies and we will work away on a 1000-piece Christmas jigsaw puzzle. We will attend a Christmas Eve Carol Service (I already have one particular church in mind), and we will listen to Christmas readings and a Christmas sermon and we will sing Christmas songs about the tidings of comfort and joy that Christ by his birth brought into the world. And we will sit down together to eat a great big turkey dinner and there will be Christmas pudding (with hot caramel sauce!) for dessert. And we will, at least for a good few minutes, wear brightly-coloured paper hats. Less certainly but quite possibly, everyone will agree to let me read them George MacDonald’s “The Gifts of the Child Christ,” — fully aware that, this year more than ever (because of my many prescription drugs), there’s not a hope that I will get through the reading without some degree of uncontrolled sobbing. And everyone will laugh at me because up until these days I never really have been much of a weeper. And all things considered, a good and joyful Christmas will be had by us all.
Our plan is to just go ahead and really enjoy Christmas 2015, with our eyes and our ears open wide to the beauty and the mystery and the splendour of it all, and with our minds not closed to the hard truths of what is almost certainly going to happen to me in the months to come.
On a related note, putting our whole hearts into Christmas 2015 will be good practice for us, because there is now a big celebration on our 2016 calendar. As some of you know, the plot of the story that our family is telling has been recently thickened by plans for a wedding on April 23. (My daughter Joanna’s, to a fine young man that we all like named Andre Vanderlaan.) I am happy to report that auditions went well and I did land the role of Father of the Bride, which adds a certain zip to the doctors’ words about me and the upcoming six to eight months. That’s just about the number of months that I will need to remain this healthy in order to be able to walk down a certain aisle with a certain Lady-in-White and to answer a certain question about this woman being given to that man.
So this December and next April, we have some celebrating planned and we mean to get to it with genuine joy, with authentic smiles, with real laughter and with appropriate feasting, not denying anything that we know to be true, but deliberately defying all the Disturbers of the Peace and the Devourers of the Joy that even now are trying to stare us down. Our God is the great King over all the earth, and Jesus is Lord. So "defiantly," we will embrace the pleasures of Christmas and a wedding. Although held "at bay" by the chilling realities of my nasty case of terminal cancer, we are "armed" with the peace of God that guards the hearts of those who trust in him, and with the Spirit of God who strengthens us in our faith.
Obviously, we don’t know the details of the things to come. Only God does. Obviously, any number of things might happen to change our plans. But “I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and in all the deep places.” (Psalm 135:5-6 ESV). If by the grace of God, he is pleased to see us all the way into and all the way through these two big festivities, we will thank him with great thanks. And if he is pleased to tell our story another way, we’ll look to him for the grace to play our parts. Either way, our hearts and our minds will be guarded by his peace. Either way, his joy will be our strength. “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17 ESV)