Saturday, 13 September 2014

God Surprises Ruth Smith Meyer

This summer we planned a trip to Alberta to visit family. We’ve done it before with less unease. This time I would be doing all the driving since my dear husband has refrained from that for almost a year because of his cataracts.  It’s not that I haven’t done long distance driving—even if I usually shared the task, I have done half the distance as the sole driver.  But I am several years older.
My family questioned it, reminding me that I sometimes asked for them to drive on the busy highways.  I love my family and give serious consideration to their concern.  However driving through Northern Ontario and the Prairie Provinces is quite different than, say the 401 and Queen Elizabeth.  With prayer and conversation, we decided that if we made the days short and took our time, stopping for naps if needed, we could venture out. 

The first day, we started off under sunny skies—lovely warm but not too hot weather.  My husband had a stack of business cards from various motels where we stayed other times. We decided that New Liskard might be our first stop, but thought we’d wait to see if Cochrane was possible. 
Soon after Barrie, it started raining.  The further we went, the faster it rained and the more tense my shoulders felt. Finally, about 2:30, I suggested he call and reserve a room at the New Liskard facility for which we had a telephone number. 
“Could we reserve a room for tonight?” Paul asked,
“Sorry!  We’re fully booked for tonight.”
“Now what?” I asked as he disconnected.
“I guess we’ll just have to go and see if we can find another one.  We don’t have any more telephone numbers.”
“Oh Lord,” I prayed out loud, “Could you provide something for us?  We didn’t want to have long days, and this one is going to be long enough by the time we get to New Liskard.  We’ll just relax and trust you.”
“Amen!” Paul chimed.
When we neared the town, we prayed again, reminding the Lord of our request—as though he needed it. We saw “our” motel ahead.
“Let’s pull in there first, see if they had any cancellations before we look elsewhere,” my husband suggested.
I dashed through the rain as fast as I could with aching, stiff hips from the long sit.  I opened the door and as I approached the desk, I saw the attendant with her eyes wide open and lips apart as if in great surprise.  I wondered what was so shocking about me.  I’m too big and solid to be a ghost and I wasn’t carrying a gun.
 I asked, “Is there any chance you have a room available?”
“I do, I do!” she exclaimed. “I don’t know where it came from, but just as you drove in, I was going over my bookings and I found this empty room!  I don’t know how I could have missed it.  I thought we were fully booked this morning already and I told someone who called at about 2:30 that we had nothing available.  I still don’t know where it came from, but it’s yours if you want it.”
“We do!” I assured her.  “In fact it was we who called and we’ve been praying all afternoon that you’d have something for us.”
“Your prayers must have worked. It must be your room.” She kept shaking her head as I filled out the forms and she handed me the keys and wished us a good night’s sleep. It was obvious that she was astounded at the turn of affairs.

Now, after a busy, busy few weeks, as my day for this blog neared, I felt I was completely empty of words or thoughts to convey to our readers.  Tonight I sat down knowing it was time, but my mind was blank. 
“Lord what would you have me write, when I feel so empty.”
Immediately, the surprised eyes and open mouth of that motel attendant came into my mind. 
Sometimes life (including my writing) happens at times like that when I think my mind is just too full, like those motel rooms were—no room for inspirational thoughts—then he surprises me with something that I couldn’t conceive—a little space where I can find his love and care and know that he is here.  Reminds me of a Haldor Lillenas song my sister and I used to sing.

God was there to hear my prayer,
to lift my load of anxious care,
to every burden with me share,
God was there, yes God was there.

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Thursday, 11 September 2014

Anchors in Grief—Carolyn R. Wilker

Recently I marked the date of my friend’s birthday, September 2nd, though she died eight months ago. I posted one of my favourite photos of her on my Facebook page. 
Her own facebook page is still up and there was a reminder of her birthday— which I could never forget. And her voice is still on their home answering machine. It wrings at the heart. It’s hard when a friend dies. This was a friend I've known since early childhood.
On my Facebook page that day, I received many virtual hugs from others who have known grief too, and those were much appreciated. Yet not all reactions to grief are similar.
Some say, “Keep busy.” Others say, “Move on,” as if the loss were trivial. And while I know that one must keep putting one foot in front of another, I recognize that grief is something that one has to deal with. Grief is hard work. I’ve seen friends struggle with the death of a baby and another who is grieving the death of her husband who was just as much a friend. I will offer a hug and a listening ear, knowing this is a difficult time and a grief I do not know.
 Years ago, Belinda, a fellow writer, understanding how it felt to lose a friend, told me about a little book titled, When a Friend Dies, and suddenly I need it again. On one page of that book, Harold Ivan Smith writes, “Give yourself permission to grieve for your friend.”
In the book the writer recognizes that a friend is the one who bakes cookies for the bereaved family. She may also be the one to listen and support them during the friend’s illness, death and afterwards, but she is rarely the one consoled at losing a friend. Although at visitation just over a year ago, on the death of another friend, Annie, her husband kept saying to me, “You were a good friend.” I was honoured at his words— warm, appreciative and kind. And I recognized his different grief at losing his wife.

An Anchor
A sailor puts down an anchor to keep the boat from drifting away when it is necessary to stay in one place. An anchor might also be the person we love who has helped us in those places where we must stay awhile, and they help when the boat moves on too. Providing stability, praying perhaps when there are rough waters ahead. These friends—Gayleen, Annie and Barbara—have held that place for me.

Yet, as long as the process goes on— and it can be a long time—there is another anchor. Perhaps one of the most comforting verses from the Bible is James 14:2-3, “In my father’s house are many mansions… I go to prepare a place for you.”
Jesus knew grief; he wept for his friend Lazarus, and so he understands and cares how we feel.
          Grief comes and goes. Some days are harder than others. I am sad because I am separated from one I care, about and so I do what I can to alleviate that sadness that goes with loss. I write about my grief, I think about her, and I recognize the pain. As I pray for my friend’s family, I can also pray that God would comfort me in my grieving.
And now, months later, perhaps my friend is looking down and wondering how we’re doing. God will tell her, “Worry no more. Be at peace.”
Resources for Grief:

When Your Friend Dies, Harold Ivan Smith, Augsburg, 2002.
Winter Grief, Summer Grace: Returning to Life after a Loved One Dies, James E. Miller, 1995.

Carolyn R. Wilker, editor, storyteller and author of Once Upon a Sandbox

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

All You Need is Love: The Beatles Fifty Years Later -HIRD

By Rev. Dr. Ed Hird
One of the most enjoyable books that I have recently read is Mark Lewisohn’s biography The Beatles: All These Years, Vol. 1: Tune InLewisohn’s book gave me new insights into what made these four unknown Liverpuddlians into the unforgettable Beatles.  I had no idea that the Beatles were originally a Skiffle band modeled after the No. 1 Skiffle artist Lonnie Donegan, who sold over a million copies of ‘Rock Island Line’.  Paul McCartney commented: "(Donegan) was the first person we had heard of from Britain to get to the coveted No. 1 in the charts, and we studied his records avidly. We all bought guitars to be in a skiffle group. He was the man."  Skiffle music, using guitars, washboards and the tea-chest bass, was big in North America in the 1940s.   In the 1950s, there were around 40,000 UK Skiffle bands.  The Skiffle bands became so popular that you couldn’t purchase a guitar in the UK.  John Lennon’s first guitar had to be shipped from Durban, South Africa, where Skiffle and Rock had not yet caught on.[1]  His Aunt Mimi, who raised John, ironically said: "The guitar's all right for a hobby but it won't earn you any money."[2]
I remember when my older sister Ginny bought her first Beatles record in 1963.  Listening to this strange new sound, I wondered what all the fuss was about.  Before I knew it, I too was singing “All you need is love.”   Little did I know that I was in the middle of a cultural and musical revolution. 

Lewisohn showed how each of the Beatles came from very difficult family backgrounds.  The Beatles were raised in mixed Catholic/Protestant families, except for Ringo who was raised in a Protestant family.  Church did not have a huge impact on the Beatles, though they sang in the early days at church fairs.  John Lennon was fascinated throughout his life by crucifixes, the greatest symbol of God’s love.  George Harrison said: "The only thing that came across to me in the church was these oil paintings of Christ struggling up the hill with the cross on his back. I thought, 'There's something going on here.'”[3]  Paul McCartney failed an audition to become a choirboy at the Anglican Cathedral through deliberately cracking his voice. Paul also abandoned music lessons after four or five weeks, when he was given homework.[4] 

Can anything good come out of Nazareth?, the Bible asks.  Can anything good come out of Liverpool?, many asked.  Liverpool, the birthplace of the Beatles had been devastated by the World War II bombing.  Poverty was rampant.  Black soot covered everywhere.  Fifty thousand Liverpool houses had no bathroom or inside toilet.  Youth unemployment was higher in Liverpool than anywhere else outside of London.  Violent youth gangs controlled the streets.  Almost one-third of the population, 200,000 people, left Liverpool looking for a better life.  In 1962, the UK Home Office report identified Liverpool as England 's worst for drunkenness with arrests.[5]
 John Lennon was known as a Teddy Boy, and seen by some as a delinquent.  Lewisohn said that “John Lennon could be a horrible drunk, shedding the humour that vitally checked his roughest edges to become verbally abusive and physically aggressive, an unadulterated, obnoxious pain in the backside.”[6]  His girlfriend Cynthia Powell said of John, "His attitude was extremely 'Don't look at me’---but he wanted to be loved."[7] "We knew we could make it," said John. "We dreamed of being the British Elvis Presleys, and we believed it."[8]

Richy Starkey, later Ringo Starr, was the last one to join the Beatles.  At age six, he was in a near fatal coma for ten weeks and a year in hospital after contracting peritonitis.  Ringo experienced a further long spell in hospital at age fourteen, after pleurisy turned into tuberculosis.[9]  Ringo’s health challenges led him on a lifelong search for love and for God.

For several years, the Beatles remained undiscovered.  Thanks to the influence of Chuck Berry, the Beatles morphed from Skiffle to Rock. John Lennon said of Berry "He's the greatest rock 'n roll poet. When I hear rock, good rock of the caliber of Chuck Berry, I just fall apart and have no other interest in life. The world could be ending if the rock 'n roll's playing.  It's a disease of mine."[10]  Their biggest break happened when the Beatles began to play extensively in Hamburg, Germany.  Lewisohn calculated that the total time spent onstage on their first two German visits was 918 hours: "the equivalent of 612 90-minute shows  in just 27 weeks." As the most experienced rock band at the time, says Lewisohn, Hamburg toughened their voices, seasoned their characters, enriched their personalities and strengthened their voices.[11]

Virtually all of the early Beatle songs were about searching for love.  When the single Love Me Do came out in 1962, said Ringo, “the whole of Liverpool went out and bought it en masse. They were proud of it: a group from Liverpool. It was fantastic.”[12] From there, their fame exploded through the UK and around the world.  Recently Ringo at the Grammy Museum in LA, admitted: “I have found God...I stepped off the path there for many years and found my way [back] onto it, thank God."  Finding God has enabled Ringo to give up his sixty-cigarettes a day and move away from alcohol and drug abuse: "I feel the older I get, the more I’m learning to handle life. Being on this quest for a long time, it's all about finding yourself.”[13]  Ringo discovered that the love of God changes everything.  Because God is love, all we need is love.

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, Rector
St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Mission in Canada
-recently published in the Deep  Cove Crier  

p.s.My new book RESTORING HEALTH: BODY, MIND AND SPIRIT as of yesterday is now available online ... Reply w/#AmazonCart to add this via @amazon

 In order to obtain a copy of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘ED HIRD’, #1008-555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC V7N 2J7. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD. This can also be done by PAYPALusing the . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $9.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to download a complimentary PDF copy of the Battle for the Soul study guide : Seeking God’s Solution for a Spirit-Filled Canada

[1] Mark Lewisohn, The Beatles: All These Years, Vol. 1: Tune In (Crown Archetype, New York, NY, 2013), p. 115.
[2] Lewisohn, p. 224.
[3] Lewisohn, p. 65.
[4] Lewisohn, p. 62.
[5] Lewisohn, p. 738.
[6] Lewisohn, p. 162.
[7] Lewisohn, p. 228.
[8] Lewisohn, p. 537.
[9] Lewisohn, p. 453.
[10]  Lewisohn, p. 169.
[12] Lewisohn, p. 720.
[13] Andrew Hough, The Telegraph, Feb 3rd 2010, “The Beatles’ drummer Ringo Starr admits: ‘I have found God’,

Monday, 8 September 2014

Does the evidence point to mankind's fully natural origin? - Denyse O'Leary

Here s the intro/link to the last instalment in my series on the question, Does the evidence point to mankind's fully natural origin?

Science-Fictions-square.gif What questions about evolution come down to is, "Who ARE we?" 
Commenting on a dispute over a supposed human ancestor, Smithsonian paleoanthropologist Richard Potts told the Wall Street Journal, "Evolution is wonderfully messy." Few would dispute it, but a multitude of conflicting speculations does not add up to progress.
Maybe that is too challenging a way to put the question. How about, it comes down to what we can responsibly believe. More to the point, who are we?
One thing's for sure: There is no reason, based on any of the above, to abandon a typical traditional religious or philosophical teaching on the origin, let alone the honor and dignity, of human beings. If anything, the sheer vacuity of claims made on behalf of "modern science" (not, in this case, to be confused with actual science) suggests the opposite. More.
Intro/links to the previous instalments are here.

Science-Fictions-square.gif Note: The Science Fictions – cosmology series  is here.  The Science Fictions – origin of life series  is here.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Inventing the Truth by Rose McCormick Brandon



Recently, I wrote about a hospital stay. I was ten. Left in a big city facility by my parents. I begged my mother not to leave. Of course, she had to and I was forced to find my way among strangers for the first time in my life. That’s if I don’t count beginning school, an event that was more catastrophic for me than for most children.

In the children’s ward, I made friends. Most were mobile and reasonably healthy, except for the boy in the iron lung. This contraption appeared as harmless as a knocked-over garbage can but it wheezed like a dragon. By ten, I knew a lot about polio, the disease that had forced a boy my age inside the dragon.

 I told the story of my hospital stay and the boy stuck inside the dragon as I remembered it, all the while, conscious that if I were to visit that children’s ward, and even if it hadn’t been remodeled since my stay, I likely wouldn’t recognize it. Its windows, walls, its cheery nursing staff, the pajama-clad children I scurried with after evening visiting hours are vivid in my mind Yet, I know if I connected with one of the other children, whose names are all forgotten, they would say, “That’s not how I remember it.”

            Our memories are uniquely ours. We can tell our stories however we choose to because they are our memories. Another family member may say they remember it otherwise and tell the same story from their perspective. Both are valid.

            Five people can attend the same event. Each one will leave with a different story. One has a conversation with a stranger that colors their entire experience. Another meets an old friend. One eavesdrops. One is aware of color, innuendo and drama. Another takes away facts only.

            In writing our stories, we should be aware that someone else’s experience of the same event may differ. That doesn’t invalidate our take-away. And we must write it, not to please another person, but to let the reader know how our memory of a certain event has shaped us.

            William Zinsser says, “Memoir is how we validate ourselves.” Therefore, our experiences must always remain our story. We have to get over the idea that someone else will read them and disagree with our take on how events unfolded.

            About telling our stories, Annie Dilliard writes, “The act of writing about an experience takes so much longer and is so much more intense than the experience itself that you’re left only with what you have written, just as the snapshots of your vacation become more real than your vacation.”

I find that as Christians we can be so dedicated to a facts only view of life that we miss out on serendipitous experiences. We can write our personal stories freely only if we refuse to care who reads them.

            My hospital story ended up being about the first time I realized that good writing hums. In the tiny children’s ward library, I discovered The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Mark Twain’s words hummed in my chest – it was a marvelous discovery that lasted beyond my short hospital stay and remains with me today. I’m guessing that no other child in that hospital left with the same experience as I did.
Rose McCormick Brandon's latest book, Promises of Home - Stories of Canada's British Home Children, was published in July, 2014. She has written many magazine articles for publications in Canada, U.S. and Australia.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

‘Ruralites’ and the Resilience Factor (Peter Black)

The characteristic known as resilience involves our lives numerous times on any given day. From the time we cuddle a sponge-filled toy as an infant in the cradle, we experience resilience. As a toddler in the bath, under the watchful eye of our mom or dad, our cute rubber Ducky floats within our grasp.
We reach out and grab him. When we squeeze him, Ducky squeaks, so we let out a squeal of delight. When we release our grip he squeaks again and the impression in the rubbery material disappears. Among other factors pertaining to the physical properties that enabled our rubber Ducky to spring back to its original shape is that of resilience. This quality is also at work in a bouncing ball. 
Courtesy of

Our lives and the physical properties of items we depend on every day are intermingled. From the springs in our bed to the suspension springs in our car, from the six strings in our kid’s guitar to the two-hundred and ten or so in grandma’s piano, and from the hardwood floor in our living room to the trampoline in the neighbour’s backyard, resilience is working for us.

 This is true even in the properties of our skin and bones. When bones lose a degree of this property, they become brittle and more subject to fracturing. Resiliency is related to elasticity, and once aging skin loses those properties it sags, unable to spring back and shrink to its former shape. I know, for I have a lot of sag, myself.
Simply put, resilience is the ability to spring back or return after stretching and compression or bending, and to resume a former size and shape.
Resilience—that’s what I’ve witnessed again and again over the years in rural people and farming folk. Resilient people. Generally the people of the communities served by the newspaper for which I wrote the original version of this article are to be commended on their willingness and ability to help one another in times of difficulty. They’ve risen again and again to help fellow citizens arise from the ashes of broken dreams, bereavement and deep, heart-rending loss. They’ve helped one another to come back and recover from those situations. I’ve little doubt that this would be multiplied hundreds-of-thousands of times across the country.
Fair Use: Courtesy of Pr. Shop
Two-thirds of my pastoral service years were spent in small town and village communities in Ontario. I learned that people who live close to the earth and nature, as rural dwellers do—especially those who have a farming background, often develop a capacity for resilience. Their experience, in facing the challenges of weather and nature and the financial uncertainties inherent in the agricultural life, builds into them a paradoxical combination of the following characteristics:
First, independence (they learn multiple skills and can do a lot for themselves).
Second,  dependence (they depend on the weather and various factors in nature that are beyond their control, and they often depend on and teach their family members to pull their weight, for the good of all).
And third, interdependence (such as when their neighbour needs a helping hand to complete planting in spring or to get crops off the fields before bad weather). They provide help, if at all possible, knowing that the time may come when they’ll depend on their neighbour’s help.
Biblical faith holds firm in many ‘ruralite’ hearts, despite numerous challenges, for their fundamental dependence is placed in Creator God. Experience and perseverance lead to hopeful optimism: “This harvest wasn’t great, but we got one, thank God. Next year may be better.”
Resilience: Springing and bouncing back, and not staying bent out of shape—despite the hard knocks of life.
Resilience: “. . . we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:3-5 NIV).

Peter’s new book, “Raise Your Gaze . . . Musings of a Grateful Heart,” was released in August, 2014. 52 Adapted newspaper column articles and a sprinkling of Words to Bless.

Available from: Angel Hope Publishing (Coming soon: An ebook version and availability at & )


 Peter A. Black's first book: “Parables from the Pond” – a children's / family book (mildly educational, inspirational in orientation, character reinforcing). Finalist – Word Alive Press. ISBN: 1897373-21-X. The book has found a place in various settings with a readership ranging from kids to senior adults.

His inspirational column, P-Pep! appears weekly in The Guide-Advocate (of Southwestern Ontario). His articles have appeared in 50 Plus Contact and testimony, and several newspapers in Ontario.

Monday, 1 September 2014

What is Marriage? - Eleanor Shepherd

             The last time that I performed a wedding was thirty-two years ago.  Things have changed a lot in the intervening years.  The last marriage that I performed was in our church building.  This one was outside in the gazebo of the inn where the reception was held. 
Yesterday I officiated at a wedding.
            As I read the familiar words of the vows that the bride and groom repeated after me, I recalled the day when Glen and I repeated them. That will be forty-five years ago in two weeks time. 
            It also brought to mind an occasion, a few years back when I was forced to ask myself what marriage is all about anyway. Someone who is dear to me announced that she was moving in with her boyfriend.  They were not choosing to get married.  I know that is quite commonplace today, but until then it had not really touched me personally. I knew I did not like the idea, but I wanted to explore why.  I did not want to condemn someone I loved for a choice she made, when I was not sure that I had good reason to do so.  For me the first step was to try to discover what my own understanding of marriage was.  Then I wanted to understand what her understanding of marriage was.
            As I reflected on the subject I drew some conclusions about marriage that I had not considered before.  I concluded that there are three strands that are involved in the commitment that is made in marriage and a union that includes all three would probably have the greatest probability of enduring.
            There is the physical union that is expressed in the sexual union of the couple.  There is the legal union that is formalized by the documents that the couple is required to complete and register to be considered a married couple by the state.  I called this the social union. Then there is the union that is established when the couple chooses to exchange vows and promises to one another, recognizing that this is done before God and witnesses in some kind of public ceremony.  This I called the  
spiritual union.
            It is possible for a couple to have any one of these unions without the other two, or two of them without the third. My feeling was that the optimal relationship would have as the base, all three kinds of union. 
            When I asked the one for whom I was concerned what her definition of marriage was before I offered my theory, I was surprized to discover that her ideas were very similar to mine.  However, she still chose to live together with her boyfriend, in a relationship that included only one of these kinds of union. 
            What I discovered was the case for her and have found to be true for many others as well is that rather than embrace all three elements of the marriage relationship at one time, she chose to eventually embrace them sequentially.  She is now married. She is in a different relationship but in this one, the couple moved in together, creating their physical union.  Then, a few years later they decided to go to the city hall and enter into the social union by the adherence to all of the legal requirements of the relationship.  Then a while after that, they decided to enter into what I called the spiritual union by making vows and promises to one another in a public gathering where they were supported by the prayers, blessings and good wishes of family and friends.  It was not what I had anticipated and wanted but it is the world that we live in today. 

            When Glen and I married forty-five years ago we chose to enter our relationship by creating all three unions on the same day.  Now with the fear that seems to accompany commitment for so many people it seems to be more of a graduated process.  Why this is so, I am not really sure I understand.  So I am sharing with you some of my reflections on the complex relationship of marriage.
Word Guild Award
Word Guild Award