Friday, July 11, 2014

Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow


Everyone knows that there's not much I enjoy more than planning a special occasion.

This is the one special occasion I never wanted to plan, the one invitation I never wanted to issue:

It is with a heavy heart that Nilgiris Tea House announces we will be closing weekend operations at the end of July. (We are still available for private functions and special events; email cleosriver@yahoo.ca.)

All our friends who care for and patronize the TH
are invited to a come-and-go farewell tea 
on Sunday, July 27, 3 - 6 pm


We thank you for your patronage, friendship and many kindnesses. We have loved serving the community that has developed in the TH over the past 11 years. We will miss you deeply.

The morning I finally came to the conclusion that this is the way God is leading me, I felt desolate. The sky was thundering, scowling at me as I peered out of my bedroom window overlooking the park.

I tearfully made my way down the 16 steps to the TH. After half an hour or so of busyness in the kitchen, I walked into the dining room. I opened the front door, and I was greeted with this:

  
A double rainbow - Mum's sign of God's promise and care - beamed over the park across from Nilgiris!

It was 6:15 in the morning.

God has plans for me, and He has plans for this little TH that we all have grown to love. We don't know what His plans are right now, but we do know that His wisdom is staggering in its depth, and His love has no limit.

Great is His faithfulness.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

My Heart Belongs to Daddy



"My son, give me your heart," entreated the wisest man in the world, "and let your eyes observe my ways."

I have been observing my Dad's ways for over five decades now. He knows the value of a child's heart and he has always done everything he could to build up the hearts of each of his children.

"Always seek to encourage those with whom you come into contact," he has said to us on many occasions. "Build up their hearts. The origin of the word itself has "heart" embedded in it ..."

I of course looked it up on dictionary.com:

noun
1.
the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain,
etc., without fearbravery.
2.
Obsolete the heart as the source of emotion.
Idioms
3.
have the courage of one's convictions, to act in accordance with one's beliefs, 
especially in spite of criticism.
Origin: 
1250–1300; Middle English corage  < Old French,  equivalent to cuer  heart 
(< Latin cor;  see heart) + -age -age






"When you discourage someone, you're hurting their heart," Dad observed.

When Dad had to discipline us as we grew up, we always knew - although he never uttered that platitude - that it did indeed hurt him more than it hurt us. It got to the point that when we might be debating whether or not we should do something, "It'll hurt Dad" was often enough to stave off the action.

"Honey, keep their hearts": you disclosed in a Wednesday Bible study that you would say this to Mum on occasion. You don't harp on the inconsequential, which might do not much more than cause resentment. Because of this, when you speak, we listen.

You have indeed kept our hearts - not only the hearts of your family, but the hearts of your extended family at the Bible College as well. 

Your own heart has taken a beating, both physically and emotionally; but it still beats strong and true, an example to all of us who love you and have a place in your enormous heart.

Yesterday afternoon - the day after Father's Day, when this entry would already have been late - you stopped by the TH and had tea with me. We sat in the cozy wing chairs and sipped that most comforting of all beverages, this day sweetened with condensed milk and served in simple, comfortable mugs. We talked about being just, about justice being served, about the Justifier who took our penalty and how it all comes together without incongruity: "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other," says the 85th Psalm, verse 10.

"I never realised until recently that this happens twice," marvelled Dad. "It happened when Jesus died on the cross; but it also happens in each person when he or she accepts the gift of salvation, when we give our hearts to God and ask Him to take control of our lives ..."

What a blessing it is to have a father who has our hearts, and whose own heart is held in the hand of his heavenly Father!

Although this is late, I can't let this Father's Day time slip away entirely without saying Thank you, Dad, for recognising the value of a heart - of each heart. You encourage me to encourage others and to love with all my being.

I heart you.



Friday, May 30, 2014

11 Years Ago Today


Eleven years ago today Dad was under the knife ... unexpected open heart surgery ... triple bypass the result. We read all of that this evening in Mum's Daily Light, where Mum used to note the events of each day in the margin and which Dad reads every day. It's a history of our family, along with the ever-present backdrop of God's faithfulness



This evening, Dad stood up to preach in the little Baptist church housed in the tiny old Orthodox building in Kindersley.

This evening is also notable because it is the first series of sermons he has been able to preach since we thought we were losing him in January.

Truly God has His hand on Dad!


 His text for the evening was from Isaiah chapter 44, verses 21 and 22:


Isaiah 44:21-22

King James Version (KJV)
21 Remember these, O Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art my servant: O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me.
22 I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.

He spoke of the five things this passage tells us to remember -
  • You are My servant
  • I have formed you
  • I will never forget you
  • I have blotted out all your sin, all your failings
  • I have redeemed you; indeed I paid the ultimate price for you.
And in exchange, there is one thing He asks us to do -
  • Return unto Me
It seems so little to ask in return, really. And, like the prophet Malachi, in chapter 3 and verse 7, states: " Return to Me and I will return to you." He is more than willing to meet us more than half-way.

This evening as we rested in our motel room - loving provided for us by the church - Dad read from the Psalms, as is his wont:


Psalm 116

King James Version (KJV)
116 I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications.
Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.
The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell got hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.
Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.
Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.
The Lord preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me.
Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.
For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.
I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.
10 I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted:
11 I said in my haste, All men are liars.
12 What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?
13 I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.
14 I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people.
15 Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.
16 Lord, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds.
17 I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord.
18 I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people.
19 In the courts of the Lord's house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye the Lord.

Dad is God's servant; God still is using Dad, whether it be praying for people, speaking one on one with someone, conducting his Bible studies on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, singing, writing.

Or whether it be preaching.

As the last verse says, Praise the Lord ...

Sunday, May 11, 2014

And His Mother's Name Was ...


Today's reading from the 2014 edition of the Choice Gleanings calendar, a daybook our family has read each morning for years, reminded me anew how much influence our mothers have on us:

In the seventh year of Jehu, Jehoash began to reign; and forty years reigned he in Jerusalem, and his mother’s name was Zibiah. And Jehoash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all his days, in which Jehoiada, the priest, instructed him. 
2 Kings 12:1-2

The little phrase “and his mother’s name was,” appears 23 times in the Old Testament. The significance seems to be the influence each mother had on her son. With the help of the priest of the Lord, Zibiah's son was properly instructed and he was enabled to carry out his responsibilities with God’s approval. A godly mother is a treasure and one for whom Mother’s Day should be celebrated!     —David McCulloch


I live in a world where men feature prominently these days, and I see firsthand the impact their mothers have had on their lives.

Just a couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of meeting my friend Derek's mom, Diana. This lovely lady, who until her recent retirement held positions of responsibility in the corporate world, nonetheless has ensured that her priority is her home and her son. I watched the easy interaction between the two of them, the way she could anticipate his words and actions, the way he would step in to help her in little ways around the kitchen table where we sat.

I've also seen the impact that the loss of a mother can mean. I remember a man close to me remarking that exactly one week after his mother passed away he "could feel the loss of her prayers."

I've never been privileged to have a child of my own; but I have had the privilege of working closely with numbers of young people over the years, particularly in the Tea House. This reading gave me pause. We women, do we consciously take the time to realise the importance our sway is in the lives of the impressionable children God has given us? Some of the 23 mothers listed in the Old Testament were not wise in their dealings with their children, causing detriment to the child as well as domino-like calamity to people and situations around that child.

Here, off the top of my head, is a list of 23 names of mothers who influence sons who have an impact in my life in some way. I'll start with Derek's:


  • And his mother's name was Diana Cleland
  • And his mother's name was Ruth Ironside
  • And his mother's name was Brenda Spilsbury
  • And his mother's name was Zeba Husain
  • And his mother's name was BA Ironside
  • And their mother's name was Angela Ironside
  • And their mother's name was Bronwyn Spilsbury
  • And his mother's name was Irene Walsh
  • And his mother's name was Katherine Creasser
  • And his mother's name was Darlene Johnson
  • And his mother's name was Alice Tateson
  • And his mother's name was Debbie Tateson
  • And his mother's name was Muriel Kirk
  • And his mother's name was Marion Warnock
  • And his mother's name was Jeanne Carlzon
  • And his mother's name was Eileen King
  • And his mother's name was Margaret Kremer
  • And his mother's name was Thankamma Cherian
  • And their mother's name was Salome Cherian
  • And his mother's name was Evelyn Ironside
  • And their mother's name was Merah Chelli
  • And their mother's name was Jacqueline Benavides
  • And his mother's name was Patricia O'Halloran Ironside 

You are your mothers' sons. And I am so thankful for each of them.


Monday, April 14, 2014

April 13, 2003


Eleven years ago on April 13, we opened the doors of Nilgiris Tea House.

Yesterday morning my Dad came over after church and cut up all my potatoes for the evening meal - the first time he's done that since October ...

Dad and Mum were with me when we first opened the doors at 7:00 a.m. on that fateful April 13, 2003. We were woefully unprepared and ludicrously naive as to how it would all work.

But by the grace of God and the kindness of Nilgiris' friends, the little TH perseveres still.




Yesterday evening Dad came  back with a box of cookies he had made that afternoon: sugar cookies, his mother's recipe.

Attached to the box was this note, summing up the last decade-plus-one as only Dad can:

My dearest Karyn,

[Eleven] years ago today the "Nilgiris Tea House Adventure" began.

There have been so many experiences and challenges. I want to congratulate you today, for under God, great blessing and life have proceeded from this mountain stream.

Congratulations for pressing on and touching many lives ... May [our Lord] continue to guide you as to the future, knowing His way is the best. There are no surprises or unexpected events with our Lord.

May our Heavenly Father bless and provide - as He will - for all the future holds.

My love and prayers,

Dad xxoo




Thanks to my artist sibling for infusing the present
with the past for the perfect cup of tea ...

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Holding the Ropes


The story is told of that great pioneer missionary to India, William Carey. A minister to a congregation in England, he was in a meeting discussing the spiritual needs of various places, and the secretary of the committee remarked, "There is a gold mine in India, but it seems almost as deep as the centre of the earth. Who will venture to explore it?"

"I will venture to go down," Carey responded, "but remember that you must hold the ropes." 

In April 1793, he sailed for India. Through his work and example, and with his oft-repeated challenge ringing in their ears ("Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God"), others like David Livingstone, Adoniram Judson, Hudson Taylor left their homelands to care for the physical and spiritual needs of others. Many years later, in 1959, Allan T. Ironside also followed God's call to India.

He and Mum officially "retired" in 1999; but the reality is that almost without fail they went back to India every year, trying to plan their trips so that they could participate in the graduation conferences.

This year, Dad will not be able to make it back for the graduation conferences at those beloved colleges in which he and Mum invested their lives. Although he's better, he is not strong and the travel would be too much for him. Our winter has been so long and the super bugs making their rounds throughout Alberta have been particularly merciless.

And so this year he will be holding the ropes all the way from Canada for the men who are scheduled to speak. 

Prayer time at the Manor: taken
two days before he became so ill ...

Deb and I also got a mild version of what Dad has been enduring, so we too will be doing our best to hold the ropes from this end as well.

As you know, every year Reading the Leaves and the Tea House work on a project for one of the children's homes associated with a college in India. This year, we discovered an urgent need for the children's home where our little buddy Chetan lives.

The Powers That Be have decreed that the Children's Home needs to have a vehicle with separate seats and seat belts for each child. Now, for anyone familiar with travel in India, we know that there is always room for one more person in any type of vehicle! However, we also know that the kids would be much safer if they had a reliable vehicle to transport them to school each day.

Ed and Sarah Chelli have spearheaded the research and the most economical, practical van with 15 passenger seats is this one, manufactured in India:



Brand new it costs $14,000-15,000 - a great price compared with what we would pay in North America, but still staggering for our little Children's Home!

Thanks to the amazingly generous response of last year, after the mattresses and bedding were purchased we had a surplus of $2,000, which I left with Ed to be used for the Children's Home. He is putting that money toward the van. In addition, in the last few weeks we have received $1,490 from people who have asked what this year's project is. (A goodly portion of that was given with much love and prayer from the Oldies who attend Dad's Tuesday morning Bible study group at the Robertson Manor!)

So I'm putting it out to you all who have held the ropes for these children's homes right from when we raised money for the bunk beds for the Tsunami Children's Home: if you feel that you are able - in these tougher economic times - to help toward the purchase of this van, the TH will once again be accepting donations. As always, ALL the money goes directly to the project. And because this is not what's called a "soft" project (which apparently bedding and bunk beds are!), we can get tax receipts for donations over $50. If you would like more information, please email me at cleosriver@yahoo.ca.

Dad is back in Three Hills, and this week he once more took the Robertson Manor Tuesday study. This coming week he hopes to be able to resume the Wednesday evening study at the Tea House. Please continue to pray for continued restoration of strength and health. God promises that His strength is made perfect in our weakness and we see Him working even through this time of Dad's suffering.


Today would have been my Mum's 77th birthday. Dad always would sing to her that old song "Have I told you lately that I love you?" Today he had no voice for singing, so he played Jim Reeves' version of it for BA and me as we sipped tea and remembered a truly great woman.

But oh how he longs - how we all do! - to be back in what we consider in many ways to be our true home land ... to rid ourselves of this bitter cold, these mountains of snow; to be in the place of great congregational singing and outstanding preaching and unquestioning welcome and unwavering love.

To be in India.




Monday, February 10, 2014

If a Picture Is Worth 1000 Words, What Are 1000 Prayers Worth?


This picture, for starters ...



Yesterday morning an anxious 22-year-old grandson made his way to Deb's home. He opened the front door and was greeted by a dear, familiar voice:

"How's my boy?"

"There's my Poppa!" he exclaimed, his voice catching in his throat.

And indeed, our beloved Dad / Poppa / Grandpa / Bop / brother/ uncle / pastor / teacher / mentor / friend is showing remarkable signs of unmistakably improved health. 

  
We often quote the words of that ancient sage, Job: The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away ..." 

Sunday morning the Lord gave - "strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow."

" ... Blessed be the name of the Lord."



Sunday, February 9, 2014

"Who Am I Going To Call On Sunday?" - Bernice Anderson McComish



Yesterday we laid to rest one of the best women I know.
Here is the obituary for Bernice:
Bernice McComish (nee Anderson) – The memorial service for Bernice McComish is scheduled for 11:00 am, Saturday, February 8 at Bethel Evangelical Missionary Church, 123 4th Ave S, Three Hills. Bernice Elsie McComish was born the fifth child of nine to Alfred and Elsie Anderson on July 29, 1931.  She lived on the Anderson Farm in the Lake Thelma district and attended a one-room school to grade nine.  For high school she stayed in a dorm in Castor, returning to the farm on weekends. The farm was a busy place without the modern conveniences of today so Bernice did her share of farm and house work, including milking cows, stooking, and driving her own team hauling bundles. During the years of high school and of sharing an apartment with other young ladies while working in a bank in Coronation, Bernice made friends that lasted a lifetime. At 23 years old on Feb. 19, 1954, she married a local rancher, Arden McComish, They worked together on the farm for 20 years, raising four children.  In 1974, they moved to Three Hills where their children finished their general education at Prairie High School.  Bernice lost her spouse in July, 2002.  She lived her final years at the Golden Hills Lodge and felt so blest to be surrounded by wonderful friends and staff. It was in her early twenties that Bernice realized the importance of having God in her life and accepted Jesus Christ as her personal Saviour and Lord. During her years on the farm, she was very involved in her small local church.  Bernice was a devoted wife and mother who gave her time to her family, while also providing encouragement and help to extended family and friends. As she got older, her conversation turned more and more toward heaven.  On Friday evening, January 31, 2014, after a few hours in hospital, God took her home. She leaves many who will miss her greatly but also rejoice with her in the new life she is enjoying:  her sons, Wallace (Bonnie) of Stettler and Bryan (Eileen) of Erskine; her daughters, Deanna (Glenn) Odland of Singapore and Arlene of London, Ontario; three brothers, Lawrence (Edith) Anderson of Hanna; Ken (Lil) Anderson of Calgary, and Cliff (Helen) Anderson of Calgary; one sister, Edna Kary of Irricana; one brother-in-law Dave (Mary) of Three Hills; eight grandchildren; nine great-grandchildren; in-laws through marriage to Arden, numerous nieces, nephews and friends. She was predeceased by her loving husband, Arden, four sisters, seven brothers-in-law and two nephews.

I got to know Bernice through my parents. Bernice and Dad had grown up in the same area; she was a year older than he and never failed to delight in that fact.
She and her husband, Arden, befriended my parents as they worked in India and helped support them financially and with their love and prayers. After Arden passed away, Bernice continued on. 
It was always a delight to have her in the TH - she would give me both a hello hug and a goodbye one. She liked her coffee black, the mug set down on the left side of her place setting, with the handle of the mug to the left, because of her poor arthritic hands. And she liked her chocolate Ovation served to her not at the time of the bill but with her last half cup of coffee. She would come to the TH with her friends; but what would make her light up were the visits with her family - she, Edna, Lynette, Dave and Mary were often together at one of our corner tables for Sunday dinner. She unfailingly made me feel that what I was doing was important and that she was grateful.
Her funeral was a tribute to a gracious, godly woman. Not only her children but her grandchildren spoke about her as the one they wanted to spend time with, the one who loved them unconditionally, the one who was always there for them.
At the funeral I sat next to my Uncle Clark, who had known her his whole life, and who said this about her: "She was always smiling. You never saw her without a smile on her face ..."
Pastor Dave Lanigan brought a very fitting word for this extraordinary woman who never pretended to be something she was not; she didn't have to because who she was was courageous, loyal, loving, happy, caring. But one part that particularly gave me pause was when he was talking about Bernice departing this world for the next. 
The word depart, he said, has several different applications. First, it was used for a ship sailing out of the harbour. We can watch that ship travel further and further away from us until it's a dot on the horizon, and then it disappears. It doesn't mean the ship has vanished; it's still sailing toward its destination, getting ready to drop anchor in another port.
Secondly, Pastor Dave said, the word depart also applied to a soldier pulling up his tent pegs and packing up his tent to move to the next destination.
Lastly, the word is evocative of oxen who have been labouring under their yoke from the start of the day, methodically ploughing field after field. Finally, as the sun starts to set the farmer approaches his team and with his own hands lifts the heavy, cumbersome frame from off his animals' shoulders.
As Pastor Dave talked about Bernice being released from her burden and care just as surely as the oxen were, my mind darted off to the words the Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples: "Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly of heart, and you shall find rest unto your souls" (gospel of Matthew chapter 11 verse 29). Bernice of her own volition answered that challenge - and on January 31, Jesus lifted the yoke off her faithful shoulders and said, Well done!
Toward the end of the service her son Wallace spoke, a deeply moving tribute to this mother who loved her children with every fibre of her being. He talked of how he always called her every Sunday night, not because he had to but because he knew she enjoyed that special time they had set aside. Even if he'd talked to her on Saturday, he would call her the next night. One of the things she used to love about this particular son is that he has an uncanny way of imitating singers, much to her delight - music was one of Bernice's passions.
As he closed his remarks, he said he was going to sing for her one last time - just his voice this time, singing to his beloved mother.
And the song he chose? Johnny Reid's poignant "Who Am I going To Call On Sunday?" Just a boy, longing to talk to his Mom.
Just like each one of us who've lost someone so precious to us we can't imagine quite how life can go on without our beloved one. We would never wish them back to this world of care and pain and suffering; but oh, how we'd love to hear their voice one more time ...

Friday, February 7, 2014

Where Two Or Three Are Gathered Together ...


It had been a particularly tough day, Tuesday. Dad was almost motionless all day: he could barely open his eyes, barely eat or drink anything, barely speak to us.

Even Matt, when he came over, was unable to capture his interest.

We called our dear Naomi and our dear Navaid, who reassured us of their constant support and availability.

Later on Elliot and Oliver, and an assortment of Dad's children, filled up the house and the space with sound, with laughter, with conversation; and he managed to sit up for a while, to half-enter into what was going on, to walk around behind us when the swirl got too fast.

Wednesday was slightly more promising. He was more alert and he could move around with greater ease. But his eyes were dead, glassy, no light or spark in them.

Then Brian came over to visit.

Brian may as well be another son to Dad. They have known each other since Brian was about 16, and Mum and Dad loved Brian as though he was their own from all those years ago.

He sat across from Dad, not saying too much or forcing the conversation, his penetrating, loving gaze never leaving Dad's face. 

And suddenly Dad began to talk.

"You know the verse, The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous shall run to it and be safe?" he asked Brian, who nodded.

"I've been giving these kinds of verses to people for decades. I need them for myself now ..."

Deb said to me later, "When you can't talk to your best Friend, who you're used to talking to throughout the day every day, you just want to die ..."

"They're still there," Brian replied confidently, with conviction.

"Yes," Dad whispered.

Wednesday evening Bronwyn came over with the boys; and she brought Ian Trigg, the lead pastor of Foothills, with her.

Ian sat on a little stool that had been drawn up next to the couch where Dad lay. He took Dad's hand and started to ask him questions about India, about his ministry.

They began with Dad arriving back in 1959 and teaching a few students in Chembur, Bombay. They went on to how the college moved to Bangalore but how Dad stayed in Bombay to continue studying with the students there, to work in the churches he had become involved with.

We talked about coming back to Canada on furlough ... the educational systems for us as third culture kids - "Fourth culture kids, really!" Bronwyn exclaimed when we looked at it through the eyes of Ian ... what it was like for Dad and Mum to leave us in Canada  - "The worst kind of pain," he admitted.

We talked about how, through the seeds planted by two men who sent letters requesting Dad to join their work, John Teibe and Jake Johnson, Dad went to India to fulfill God's calling for his life.

And as Dad told Ian about churches planted, colleges started, orphanages and children's homes flourishing, work with prostitutes and victims of HIV, deaf schools, music ministries, Ian marvelled at how God had worked and continues to work because Dad and people like him were and are so faithful to their call.

Bronwyn told Ian that the verse that has governed Dad's life, that has comforted him and directed him and sustained him, is the one found in the first letter to the Thessalonian church, chapter 5 and verse 24: "FAITHFUL IS HE THAT CALLETH YOU, WHO ALSO WILL DO IT."

"It's about His faithfulness," Dad replied to Ian. "He is the One who does it all."

As he prepared to leave, Ian asked if he could pray for Dad. These two godly men linked hands and Ian thanked God for the ministry Dad has had that has impact all over the world today. He thanked God for the ministry that Dad continues to have, preaching, leading Bible studies, counselling, sharing, helping to shape the characters of those who will seize the baton and carry on with the race. He prayed for strength for Dad in a huge ministry that he has and that will continue to develop: that of praying for people, of holding them up before God, a ministry of intercessory prayer.

And then Dad prayed for Ian - for his ministry, for his family, for him.

And in the hush, all of us in the room knew that we were standing on holy ground.

For where two or three are gathered together in My name,
there am I in the midst of them.
(Matthew 18:20)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Of Para-flus and Paracletes


The results are in: Dad's H1N1 test came back negative, but he tested positive for para influenza, which in most healthy people will run its course in 3 - 10 days.

But Dad has pulmonary fibrosis and struggles for breath now ...

Certain words fascinate me. For example, cleave means both to cling together and to slice apart.

Flammable and inflammable mean the same thing.

And para has a number of meanings and uses. Wikipedia gives a succinct summary of two definitions that seem contrary, that seem to be at odds with each other:

- a prefix widely used in various compound words (para-olympic, para-medic, para-gliding etc.) which can signify alternately: "alongside, altered, beyond, contrary," originating from the Greek preposition para that means: "beside, next to, near, from," and also, "against, contrary to," similar with Sanskrit para "beyond." 

Para influenza has made my Dad's heart race far too fast; has made his concentrator pump out oxygen levels at a rate of 4 litres rather than 2; has made him cough up vile green gunk; has forced him to sleep 18 hours a day; has zapped his strength; has almost curtailed even minimal movement. It is certainly against, certainly contrary to, what we want for him. It might even have altered the course we thought was charted for him.

But through it we have seen many people come alongside, beside, next to, and near him. Paracletes have encircled him with love and concern and practical guidance.

Wikipedia, again, describes paraclete as follows:

Paraclete comes from the Koine Greek word παράκλητος (paráklētos, that can signify "one who consoles or comforts, one who encourages or uplifts; hence refreshes, and/or one who intercedes on our behalf as an advocate in court"). The word for "Paraclete" is passive in form, and etymologically (originally) signified "called to one's side".

Let me give you just a few examples:

Dr Rimmer - his pulmonologist who, after assessing Dad and wanting to admit him, went and checked the realities of the bed situation in the hospital and reluctantly decided that he would receive better care and rest at Deb's home ("You're sensible," Dr R said to Deb!). From that time she has called frequently to check up on her patient, exhibiting the same level of care and compassion she has always given Dad over these years. Last night she called at 7:45 - what other doctor does that any more?! - and discussed with Deb the plan of care and action that she feels would be best for Dad in the short-, medium- and long-term.

What other doctor calls at 7:45 in the evening? Dr Husain, that's who - Dad's family doctor in Three Hills and someone whose family we have grown to love as an extension of our own. Deb apologetically called him at home, and he immediately phoned a late-night pharmacy in Calgary with a prescription to ease the excruciating cramps that Dad was experiencing from the Tamiflu. He called upon the recommendation of

Dr Naomi Chelli Gunti, the eldest of the Chelli kids, who called from the States to see how Uncle was doing. She listened while Deb went over the symptoms and as they were discussing treatment options, she said, "Deb, what about the drug that's used for the unbearable cramping caused by Crohn's disease?" Deb called Dr Husain, who agreed that this could work and called the Rx in. Dad has not suffered that terrible pain since.

Zeba Husain - Zeba, Dr Husain's wife, cares very deeply for Dad and on Saturday she called me just as I was closing the TH to head up and see Dad. "Karyn, I've made some khichdi [kitcheree] for Uncle Allan - will you take it to him?" I gladly agreed. When I got to Deb's house I said to her, "Zeba made khichdi for Dad ..." and she immediately took it, saying, "Dad asked for khichdi this morning!" Zeba, you were the direct answer to what he needed that night and I thank you for your sensitivity to the promptings you felt to make that ultimate comfort food for Dad.
Almost too weak to eat, Dad managed to swallow some of Zeba's khichdi

Flowers and flags - Peter and Mel Mal's girls came to the TH on Saturday: "We made a picture / a flag for your Dad!" He has them on his window sill ... And that same day Naomi and John, and Sue and Les, sent beautiful flower arrangements, reminding us of all the beauty to be appreciated in the ashes of the situation we were facing. Debby cleaned the TH for me so that I could get to Calgary. Don and Norma came over and got me back on my feet again on Sunday afternoon.

Dozens of you have called, left messages, sent cards, written words of encouragement for Dad and us - and he has read EVERY comment, asking about the people he doesn't know personally and asking God to bless them for their kindness.

There are five very special paracletes who have come alongside their Grandpa / Poppa / Bop whenever they can. Luke, Craig, Matthew, Elliot and Oliver - how he loves you boys! His spirits brighten measurably upon a visit from you guys. There is no doubt how much you love each other and him. 

And THOUSANDS of people are praying. You are all paracletes as you have come alongside Dad, bringing him before the throne of grace around the clock.

The most valuable Paraclete of all for Dad - for all those who have trusted in Christ - is God the Holy Spirit. This is how He is described in the gospel of John: counsellor, helper, encourager, advocate, comforter ... the one who makes free. As you all pray, Dad feels the presence of God and the power of all your prayers in a very real way.

I and my family - siblings, nephews, aunts and uncles - have derived much comfort and love from your outpourings of sympathy. But two special reassurances were given to me personally that have brought me peace regardless of whatever lies ahead.

The first was a comment left by Sumitra. Sumitra was in the group of men who met Dad as he disembarked off that ship 55 years ago in the port of Bombay. He and Dad studied together, prayed together, served together, preached together, ate together, laughed and cried together. He has always held a very special spot in my parents' hearts,

This dear man's comment read: "Dear Karyn, sorry to learn of your dear Dad's ill health. Be assured of my prayers for recovery of his health. I praise the Lord for Bro. Allan's input in my life. I remember welcoming him in Mumbai 55 years ago. God has made him blessing to many through his and yes through your Mum's simple life style and teaching because of which many are serving the Lord and I am one of them. Be encouraged, Dad will be well soon."

I could not help but think of the story recorded in the gospel of John chapter 4 about the nobleman whose son was dying. He sought Jesus out and begged Him to come to the house to heal his son. Jesus said only six words: "Go thy way; thy son liveth" (verse 50). And the child did. When I read Sumitra's last seven words, it was as if the Lord Jesus Christ himself spoke them to me. Those last seven words broke through my grief and despair.

And then Tuesday morning, Dad was too weak to read, so he asked me to read the morning passage from the Daily Light devotional that Mum read and recorded events of note in for years.

The captioned verse was this: As Your Days, So Shall Your Strength Be

My breath caught in my throat and I checked the date. You see, last year, on February 27, I boarded the plane a few days ahead of Dad, BA and Deb as I was flying on points and had to leave on that day. I had been worried about Dad's low energy levels and the long flight ahead. God brought this verse to my mind, and I have claimed it on behalf of Dad almost every day since then. "As many days as You want him on this earth, give him strength for each one," I ask. 

Yet for the past few days, since Thursday, I must confess to my shame that I had completely forgotten about it.

But my Paraclete gently reminded me that God is in control by sending the verse I had been praying for almost a year directly back to me right when I needed it most. Not only that, the entire reading is of encouragement and strength. Truly God's timing is impeccable ...


Sitting on the floor beside his bed:
"someone to watch over me"
There are two more paracletes I must mention. The first is our beloved Deb, who faithfully cared for Dad and continues to care for him. She it has been who sat up with him on those first critical nights, monitoring his pulse and O2 levels, giving medicine, holding the straw to his mouth so he could take a few sips of liquid, washing him, cooling his forehead and piling on hot water bottles and blankets as he shivered his way through his fever until it broke. She has had very little sleep in the last week, but she never once expressed even that she was tired.

As a matter of fact, at the conclusion of Dr Rimmer's most recent phone call, Dr R applauded Deb: "You managed very well the care of a patient who should have been admitted." Thank you, Deborah Joy, from all of us who love him and you.

The last paraclete is our beloved Dad himself. In an almost whisper he marvelled at the prayers offered up on his behalf from the people of God all over the world. "I am so blessed," he murmured. That Tuesday afternoon he finally felt able to pray aloud, asking God's blessing on our simple lunch. And after he thanked God for the food, these are the words he said next, the ellipses indicating where he had to pause for a breath:

We remember others ... just as sick ... weaker ... more needy ... without people to pray for them ... Hold them in your tender mercies ... Heal them ... Forgive them ... Restore them ... Comfort them ... Meet their needs ... today.

Amen.