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.
Aug14WedAugust 14, 2013
Today is Day 14 of the Six-Week "Chilling Period" that follows my Six-Week Chemo/Rads Experience and the two Infamous Bonus Weeks which came complete with a complimentary Three-Day All-Expense Paid Stay on the Luxurious 7th Floor of London's Victoria Hospital. As weeks of chilling go, I think I am feeling better, and so more chill, day by day.
But where exactly am I in the grand scheme of things? Today, I'll say it this way: I am walking along a highway, and that is my life. I wasn't listening to commercial radio in 1991 when Tom Cochrane's "Life Is a Highway" became his greatest hit single, and I didn't have any very young children asking me to take them to a movie in 2006 when the Pixar movie "Cars" featured the same song (covered by Rascal Flatts), but I have recently read Psalm 84 again, and so recently read again these great words of the Sons of Korah.
Psalm 84:5-7 ESV
Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion... They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.
"In whose heart are the highways to Zion." I love those words. They tell me that each of us, living day by day, are travelling, more-or-less successfully, in the direction that our hearts are longing to go, towards the place that our hearts are longing to get. And they tell us that there is such a thing as a man whose heart longs to get to "Zion," that is, to the New Jerusalem, that is, to the City of God, that is, into the actual presence of the Lord.
With these words, the Sons of Korah raise a question in my mind, for me a very good question to be asking myself four weeks before the beginning of the Next Big Thing (which is, ahem, Rectal Surgery. Eeesh.) The question is "Where am I really hoping this series of Big Cancer-Related Things will get me?" In other words, what in fact IS my desired destination? Is my whole hope simply to return to good health and to the life that I was very happily living before I was accepted into the Cancer Club (One of those clubs that no one ever volunteers to join)? Or is there in my heart at least some real desire for a greater destination, a destination of more lasting value than the life I was not-so-long-ago living?
I don't know much about these Sons of Korah, but plainly in writing Psalm 84, they have a greater destination in mind. And they have in mind a man who trusts so deeply in the Lord that his heart is on fire with a desire to actually see God, that is, to actually arrive in the presence of God. This is made plain by the psalm's opening words.
Psalm 84:1-4 ESV
How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God… Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise!
I don't mean any of this to be understood as a death wish (as last week's post [August 7, 2013] definitely sort of was!) This is not a death-wish. It's a God-wish, which isn't the same thing at all. To desire to be in "Zion", to be in "God's dwelling place", in the "courts", in the "house" of God, is to desire God himself, and by the glorious fact of his omnipresence, that can mean spatially being anywhere. I am happily clear on the truth that I can experience the presence of God through the miracle of a complete healing from cancer and the living out of another few decades on earth. Fighting this good fight and praying for that very miracle IS one of the two things I am thoroughly committed to (If that's confusing, please see my May 31st post "Two Things At The Same Time".)
The big question is why? Why am I fighting to get back my physical health and my prospect of living to old age? The Sons of Korah provide me with the best answer, which would be that as much as I am fighting and praying for my physical life, I am fighting and praying to experience more of the real presence of God as a living, breathing, cancer-free person, living for perhaps many more years a worthwhile and faithful life in this world and in the family and in the church that God has brought me to.
But whether I live more years of this earthly life of mine in the daily presence of God or whether instead I find myself flying away to Zion is not my decision to make. It is God's to make and mine to discover. Either way, if my heart is right with God, my real desire will be to experience his presence, how and where he chooses. And if my heart is right in this way, it's because in my heart are the highways to Zion. So say the Sons of Korah, to whom I give the last words.
Psalm 84:11,12 ESV
For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!