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.
Nov21MonNovember 21, 2011
NOTE: The following is a written version of what I explained to the West London church family in the course of the Sunday morning sermon of November 20, 2011. An audio recording of that (and a lot of other sermons) is on this website.
Just about a year ago I went shopping for a new pair of glasses and learned from my optometrist that my peripheral vision was only impressive in a bad way. Two trips to an eye specialist established that my eyes were not suffering from either of the diseases that the optometrist helpfully first suspected. That good news got me an appointment at a second specialist who confirmed that the problem was not with my eyes but with my optic nerves, and that it was enough of a problem that I might not be legally able to drive. That very morning, I took a test and (narrowly) retained my license. Further tests and an MRI confirmed that the problem is not the optic nerves but rather what is pressing up against the optic nerves, and so the truth was out: my pituitary gland has grown a tumour, as it turns out, a tumour of unusual size, which does make it sound like something from "The Princess Bride," and which, yes, to me seemed inconceivable. The next specialist I visited explained that the surgery required to save my vision (and my driver's license) would likely be the newish sort of high-tech surgery in which the tumour is approached and then removed through the nose rather than the old-fashioned sort of surgery in which the tumour is arrived at through the forehead. Almost instantly I became a fan of the new high-tech technology. The next specialist I met stated his opinion that, because of the unusual size of the tumour, both surgeries would be required, with a six month healing period in between. I am presently waiting to hear (from the next specialist) which of the two surgeries I start with, and when, but it might be in the next few weeks. [I gotta say that I am glad that I don't get to decide which of the two surgeries is first. Up the nose? Through the forehead? How does a guy decide?]
So there it is. A strong indication of the gnarly things that for me are soon to come. And what's to be made of it? That is the question. It has seemed to me and Deb from the start, and increasingly so as the plot thickens, that what this is all about is an opportunity to do a little practicing of what I have been preaching at West London for a long time. The church family that heard this news yesterday includes a great number of people who have been called to walk through darker valleys than the one that I am now staring at. In a lot of cases, I have been the pastor at their side, trying to help by assuring them that our great God has glorious purposes for everything he calls his people through --- and that there is such a thing as having your mind and heart guarded by the peace of God that surpasses comprehension, and that there is such a thing as being strengthened by the joy of the Lord, and that there is such a thing as being so filled with joy and peace in believing that an otherwise normal person can "abound in hope." [Romans 15:13] All the years I have been assuring people of this, I have continued to believe it. What has intensified my belief over the years is my ongoing personal acquaintance with many remarkable people, most of them West Londoners, who have found it all, and demonstrated it all, to be true.
And now it's my turn. From where I am just now standing, I can see the wisdom of what is said in the Bible, "It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn God's statutes." [Psalm 119:71] I distinctly recall one man, lying in his hospital bed in some discomfort, looking up at me sceptically as I pitched to him the idea of trusting in God entirely and then asking me, with a pained smile, "Have YOU ever had a catheter, Mike?" I had to admit that I hadn't, but I could see from the look on his face that my presentation would have been much more convincing to him if I had.
The well-known Canadian philosopher Red Green has said, "Nothing good happens after a man says, `Watch this!`" I really hope Mr. Green is wrong about that. It's clear to me that the first qualification for church leadership, and the first business of a church leader, is to be an example of the sort of life we are called to teach people to live. So yesterday, on what would have otherwise been a normal Sunday morning, I stood in front of the church family that I have come to love and admire with a great big grateful heart, explaining what I have to look forward to in the months to come, knowing that my work includes setting an example of how to experience with grace and faith, and with peace and joy and hope, a few of the thrills and chills of life as a follower of Christ. Essentially, I was saying to them, "Watch this!"
I know they will --- and I believe them when they tell me that they will be praying for me.