Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Dropped Hat Results in Trip to Greece

The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, and He delights in his way (Psalm 37:23).

It’s not often that accidentally dropping your hat at a public event leads to a trip to Athens, Greece. But that’s exactly what happened to Orleans, Ontario resident David Kitz.
Kitz was attending Orleans MP Andrew Leslie’s 2017 New Year’s levee when he dropped his hat
David Kitz in front of the Parthenon in Athens
near the coat check.
“Suddenly, I felt a light tap on my back as a gentleman handed me my hat,” Kitz recounts.
“You dropped this,” the gentleman offered.
“A discussion followed and I discovered that this man, Omer Livvarcin, had a few months earlier fled Turkey following the coup attempt.”
Livvarcin explained, “I was a high-ranking officer in the Turkish navy, but following the coup everyone in the military was under suspicion. My wife’s private school in Ankara was shut down and all the teachers were dismissed. Life was becoming very difficult for us. Many of our friends were arrested. We were sure we would be next. That’s why we fled to Canada.”
After that chance meeting, Kitz and Livvarcin kept in touch. “I was troubled by the news coming out of Turkey,” Kitz explained.
Human Rights Advocate
David Kilgour
In early June of this year that interest led to a call from former Edmonton MP and cabinet minister, David Kilgour. Two months earlier Kilgour had been on a fact-finding mission to Athens with US members of congress. Kilgour described the human rights abuses of the Turkish Erdogan regime as “absolutely deplorable.”
Kilgour was asked to make a second trip to Athens to advocate for the Turkish refugees stranded there, but prior commitments made that trip impossible. That’s when he called on David Kitz to go in his place.
“The four-day trip was a real eye-opener,” Kitz states.
He explains, “The Turkish refugees fell into three broad categories: journalists, teachers and intellectuals.”
“The first interview was with a senior level journalist with Zaman, the biggest daily newspaper in Turkey. In 2013, Zamon reported that truckloads of armaments were crossing from Turkey into Syria in support of ISIS fighters. The government’s response was swift. The newspaper’s assets were seized and the journalists were arrested.
Teachers’ faces hidden for the safety
of family members still in Turkey
“The next day we met with a university professor and engineer, Yunus Karaca. Karaca patented an award-winning system for separating glass, metal and plastics for municipal recycling. Yet despite numerous accolades including from NASA, his career has been stifled. His passport was cancelled by the Turkish authorities, and fearing arrest, he fled with his young daughter to Greece.”But the most gripping interviews were with teachers, some of whom were imprisoned for a year or more with as many as 28 men crammed into a cell.
The leader of a teachers’ union told Kitz that the 30,000 members of his union lost their jobs, and then they were systematically arrested and imprisoned for being members of a terrorist group.
Families have been wrenched apart. They live in dread of police arriving at their door. Many are in hiding. To escape they make a dangerous night-time crossing by river into Greece.
Kitz states, “Their stories affected me deeply. I returned to Ottawa with a determination to raise awareness here and across Canada.”
Omer Livvarcin
As for Omer Livvarcin, he is a poster child for what an asylum-seeking refugee can bring to this country. After escaping with his family and little else, he now is a part-time professor at the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management. He heads up two projects doing research on artificial intelligence (AI).
“Canada opened its doors to me. Now I want to give back. By using AI in military procurement I believe we can design a process that can save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.”
His second research project involves using AI to benefit the charitable and non-profit sector.
“Again,” Livvarcin states, “for me this is about gratitude—about giving back.”
You never can tell where unexpected events—like a failed coup or a dropped hat—might take you.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

For the Beauty of the Earth

Walk in the Farmer’s Market any day this summer and you’ll see colour everywhere. Green, red, yellow, orange and even purple. Walk up and down the outdoor aisles and be tempted to try many fruits and vegetables, maple syrup and honey. I love going to the market in summer and it’s where I get my produce for canning.

Favourite market place, so many vendors to choose from

Already I have jars marked 2018 dill pickles and pickled beets on the shelf in my cold room. I still have some jars from last year’s canning, 2017—applesauce, grape jelly, fruit relish and a limited number of dill pickles. We’ll use those first and then open the new jars afterwards.

Mom always taught us that getting the produce as it’s ready and handling it right away guarantees the best crop for eating while it’s in season and for preserving. It makes for a busy season when so many offerings are available at one time, but that’s the way the growing season works. She stayed up late many nights while we were small children, to get the processing done probably more efficiently and more easily. It’s a task where you don’t need interruptions.  Then as we were old enough, we learned the tasks to help mom—podding peas, snibbling beans, shucking corn cobs, peeling apples and more.
My cold room shelf, a mix of 2017 and 2018 preserves
Eventually we learned the process so that one day we could do it ourselves in our own kitchen. And now I can supply Mom with some of those preserves since she doesn’t have a garden and doesn’t can anymore. However, I only make those products that I know our family will help us consume. We don't want anything to go to waste.

The beauty of the earth goes beyond the produce growing in season and encompasses all of creation, to the skies, the trees, waterfalls, rainbows and scenes in nature.

 We sang the hymn, For the Beauty of the Earth, in church when I was growing up. Folliott Sandford Pierpoint, the composer, wrote of creation as a whole:

1 For the beauty of the earth,
for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies.

Christ, our Lord, to you we raise
this, our hymn of grateful praise.

According to hymnary.org, Pierpoint “was born at Spa Villa, Bath, October 7, 1835, and educated at Queen's College, Cambridge, graduating in classical honours in 1871.” He wrote of the same earth we know, but in a different time and location. Other composers and hymn arrangers, such as John Rutter, have arranged new compositions from this initial hymn that shows up in more than 500 hymnals.

 Pierpoint’s song is in the public domain and has been for more than a century. We may expect to see other musicians present different versions. Having sung in church and community choirs, I am familiar and rather fond of Rutter’s artistic arrangements of hymns. Whatever you sing of God’s praise, whether an original composition or new arrangement, sing joyfully. For in singing, we pray twice.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

If, as atheists say, the mind is not real, how do we explain this? - Denyse O’Leary

Recently, I became involved in writing about artificial intelligence at Mind Matters Today. Here’s a short piece you might enjoy: 
If the mind is just what the brain does, as materialists claim, how do we explain this?

The boy, identified as UD in the case study, was a healthy, normal kid—up until he suddenly suffered a seizure at age four. He subsequently developed intractable epilepsy due to the tumor. When he was nearly seven years old, his parents and doctors made the tough decision to surgically remove the mass. That also meant removing the entire right side of his occipital lobe and part of his temporal lobe on his right side. Together, the extracted sections accounted for a third of the right hemisphere of UD’s brain.
It was a terrible decision to have to make.
After the surgery, doctors and researchers weren’t sure exactly how UD’s brain would handle losing such key visual and recognition regions. Of the two extreme possibilities, one was that his brain’s networks wouldn’t reorganize at all to compensate for the loss, and UD would have severe visual and sensory processing disabilities. The other extreme hypothesis was that UD’s brain would completely compensate, with other regions taking over the roles of the right sides of the occipital and temporal lobes, leading UD to function completely normally. Beth Mole, "Doctors cut out a large chunk of a boy’s brain—now he’s doing just fine" at Ars Technica

In the end, the only permanent injury appears to have been a blind spot on his left side. The paper is at Cell Reports (open access).

Modern medical diagnostics, far from definitively showing that the mind is just what the brain does, challenges that notion.

Earlier this year, Ars Technica also reported on the case of an otherwise healthy 84-year-old man who had a 9cm (~3.5 inch) pressurized pocket of air in place of much of his right frontal lobe. He had come to medical attention because of routine complaints for an elderly person. (The journal article is open access.)

When pundits talk glibly of creating artificial minds or claim that consciousness is an illusion, it might help to remember that few predicted cases like this could exist and few thought that high tech diagnostics would lead to their discovery.

See also: How to hack your unconscious mind - assuming it exists Those who tell us that we can learn to use our unconscious mind and those who tell us that it doesn’t exist both claim to speak for science. But this is no ordinary dispute. An ordinary dispute might be something like What killed the dinosaurs? Imagine instead a dispute between scientists who do and scientists who do not believe that dinosaurs have ever existed.

Neurosurgeon outlines why machines can’t think: The hallmark of human thought is meaning, and the hallmark of computation is indifference to meaning. and Neuroscience tried wholly embracing naturalism, but then the brain got away

and See also: The brain is not a “meat computer” Dramatic recoveries from brain injury highlight the difference Writers' tips

Also, a sample writer’s tip link from the Ottawa Christian Writers’ Fellowship Facebook page: A new kind of book, designed for the age of peak TV? (May as well know it's out there. Would the format work for us?) See here. Join OCWF here to see all the rest. (You do not need to live in or near Ottawa.)

Friday, August 03, 2018

A Promise Kept by Rose McCormick Brandon

May 14, 1948. In a thirty-two minute proclamation Ben Gurion established modern Israel. Dancing, singing and cheering followed. Less than twenty-four hours later, enemies numerous and more experienced, attacked. In an Old Testament display of power God took the side of the Jews, fought for them and won.
God fulfilled His ancient promise to IsraelListen to me, you nations nearby or across the sea. I scattered the people of Israel, but I will gather them again . . . I will rescue them from enemies who could overpower them. My people will come to Mount Zion and celebrate; their faces will glow because of my blessings. I’ll give them grain, grapes, and olive oil, as well as sheep and cattle. Israel will be prosperous and grow like a garden with plenty of water. Jeremiah 31:10-12
May 14, 2018. An historic day. Israel celebrated its seventieth birthday. Seventy years since the fledgling nation danced in the streets. On this day, the United States officially moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. A brave step. Until now, all the nations of the world have refused to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The U.S. promised many times to move its embassy, but all those promises were broken. 
As in 1948, most peoples of the world watched unable to grasp the significance of this event. Many sneered. Some attacked. This time mainly with words. 
David established Jerusalem as Israel’s capital 3000 years ago. Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41) 2,000 years ago. Now, against all odds, a people disconnected from their homeland for almost twenty centuries have returned. Impossible. Except that God decreed it. Israel began with 650,000 citizens in 1948. Today, there are more than six million. And more arriving.  
God’s promises are always fulfilled! Always! You can take the promises of God and build a lifetime on them. They won’t collapse, wear out or disintegrate. No world leader, no matter how lauded and admired, can stand against His promises. God is an immoveable rock. Those who oppose Him fight a losing battle (Matthew 21:44). 
He that keeps Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121:4). God blesses those who bless Israel (Genesis 12:3).

“What a glorious day! Remember this moment!” Benjamin Netanyahu, May 14, 2018

            Praise you Lord God! Time may pass. People may forget. But, You never forget Your promises. 
* * * 
Rose McCormick Brandon is the author of four books - Promises of Home – Stories of Canada’s British Home Children, One Good Word Makes all the Difference, He Loves Me Not He Loves Me (with Sandra Nunn) and Vanished (with Shirley Brown) – plus dozens of personal experience pieces, devotionals, short stories and essays. Rose’s work has won awards in the personal experience and short essay categories. Her story, Manitoulin Connections, was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, O Canada. A member of The Word Guild and The Manitoulin Writers Circle, Rose publishes two blogs: Listening to my Hair Grow (faith writings) and Promises of Home (stories of child immigrants). Rose and husband, Doug, summer on Manitoulin Island where her pioneer ancestors settled and the home of his favourite fishing holes. The rest of the year, they live in Caledonia, Ontario, near their three children and three grandchildren. 

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Three-Hundred Years . . . Of Marriage! (Peter A. Black)

I acknowledge the passing a week or so ago of two members of The Word Guild. Many of us, myself included, benefitted hugely from the generosity and grace and writing-related skills of Anna Elizabeth Wiseman and Wendy Elaine Nelles.
Wendy’s memorial service in Simcoe, Ontario, was a full-house event. I saw a good number of TWG friends there, and am glad I was able to connect with several of them. Another memorial event will be held in the Toronto area later. 
I regret not being able to attend Anna’s service. However, I honour and thank God for both ladies’ lives and ministries, and I pray with others of you for our Heavenly Father’s comfort and peace for their loved ones.
The piece below is on another topic. Unfortunately, I don’t have permission to post photos of the participants.
Close family and friends crowded into the space, along with supportive resident neighbours.  Smiling, helpful staff pinned boutonnieres on five ‘grooms’ and placed beautiful bouquets in the hands of the ‘brides.’  Five couples – three-hundred years total, to date, of shared life!
Mine was the distinct honour and joy of ‘officiating’ at this Marriage Affirmation (or Rededication), last week. In the case of three couples only one of the respective partners is resident in the care facility, whereas both partners of two couples are resident.
The length of those marriages currently range from fifty-four to sixty-five years. Last year, we said goodbye to a couple who passed away in their seventy-forth year of marriage. Wow! How common is that kind of duration likely to be in our society in the years to come?

Not "my" couples. Credit: www.boredpanda.com ; google free
People in developed countries on average are living longer nowadays, but I wonder about the longevity of stable marriages or lifetime spousal relationships from here on.
Back to the event: A group of senior musicians played golden oldies, while the brides and grooms lined up in the hallway. Two were in wheelchairs. One gentleman, his hands gripping his walker handles with all his might tried to control his incompliant limbs, aided by his wife.

Credit: mustard.org.uk
The musicians struck up, I’m Getting Married in the Morning . . . get me to the church on time. The couples filed in and formed a curved line, proudly standing as able or sitting, side by side. Their radiant faces and sparkling eyes beamed out joy and love.
I detected a wistful, far-away look radiating from several faces, which I’m sure communicated that their minds had drifted back to that memorable day when they declared their commitment to their spouse, many decades before. 

In my introductory remarks I shared this verse often read in traditional Christian weddings:

“Unless the LORD builds the house [or, household / family], its builders labor in vain” (Psa. 127:1a, NIV). 
I added that our Lord taught that those who are wise build their house (including household and family and life) on a rock; that is, on the sure foundation of Jesus and His teachings and wisdom. Against these the storms of life cannot prevail.
It has been said:
A smooth sea never made a successful sailor. 
Undoubtedly those couples weathered many a storm throughout the decades. My concluding thought before leading them through their affirmation was in the adage:
The perfume of kindness travels even against the wind.

Moments later, I led the couples through an affirmation of their commitment to each other in the “sight of God and these witnesses.” And then, following the benediction the band struck up again, and cake and ice-cream and punch were served.
God bless’em, every one.  God bless’em!

Peter A. Black is a retired pastor – well, sort of retired – and lives in Southwestern Ontario. He writes a weekly inspirational newspaper column, P-Pep! and is author of Raise Your Gaze ... Mindful Musings of a Grateful Heart, and Parables from the Pond – a children's / family book. ~~+~~

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

STITCH AND CHAT - Eleanor Shepherd

“What I would like would be a group where we could get together every week, maybe bring a knitting or craft project and just chat as we work together on what we are doing, spending time getting to know each other.” During a conversation over coffee, Kathy expressed this idea to me. She was a friend who had recently returned to our congregation and we were looking for ways that we might build community.

            I liked her idea and suggested that she develop it a bit more by creating a poster advertising such a group. A couple of days later, after the exchange of a few emails, I received the poster, inviting people to come to Stitch and Chat. In the meantime, Kathy had also talked with a couple of other ladies who were willing to teach knitting, crocheting or sewing to anyone who wanted to join the group, but might be kept away by not knowing how to do these things.  

            Kathy was job hunting herself and had a couple of good leads so she was not sure she would be able to lead the group, nor did she want to take sole responsibility for it. She recruited Louise who was always enthusiastic about projects that brought people together. She is a real people lover.  

            We decided the day and put up the poster on the doors and the front windows of the church, prepared and waited to see what would happen. Somehow we felt that the impetus behind all of this was bigger than us. The first week we met together there were four of us. We had announced the program to the congregation on Sunday, but it did not seem to interest anyone. 

            The following week we were encouraged when eight ladies who showed up.  One lady who lived in the neighbourhood passed the church every day as she went about her errands, and told us that as she walked by that week, she noticed the poster advertising Knit and Chat and thought she would give it a try. Another lady told us that although she lived in the area, when she went home she usually took a different route that did not take her past our door, but for some reason that week, she decided to choose a different route. In doing so, she saw our poster and thought this might be a place where she could find someone to talk to. So she was there. A couple of ladies from the congregation also came. 

            It grew from there. People who came to our Family Services offices for help saw the notice and decided to join us.  Women from one of our shelters came with the chaplain to learn to knit. Women told their friends and they came. It did not seem to matter whether their first language was English, French, Spanish or some other language they were soon communicating with one another and caring for one another in a way that only women who understand we are all sisters are able to do. 

            Many people benefit from this exciting group as it grows and expands. The leadership has changed. I am no longer the pastor. Kathy, who initiated the program, has moved away. Enthusiastic Louise has taken over the leadership. New ladies still come and learn how to knit or crochet or sew. Creative opportunities have been provided for those who can do none of these activities. 


         The women have knit many Izzy dolls to send with medicines to the developing world and little hats for newborns in many countries. They have made slippers for all of the women in one of our shelters. They are now busily working on mitts and hats and scarves to put on a Christmas tree outside our door this December for those who pass and need protection from the cold. 

            One of the most beautiful developments is taking place during our coffee time together. Louise asks us to answer a question about our lives like: 
            What was the best year or your life and why?  
            What is your favourite place in your home and why? 

            As the ladies share their stories, we grow in our love and appreciation for each other. Kathy was right. It is building community and we sense the bonds of love that are being knit with one another by the One who is love.   

Word Guild Award
Word Guild Award
Word Guild Award

Eleanor Shepherd, an award-winning writer is a retired Salvation Army officer and has published over 100 articles internationally. A speaker at conferences, in Canada, the USA, France, Belgium, Switzerland, South Africa, Australia, Haiti and Jamaica, her stories appeared in Hot Apple Cider and Christmas with Hot Apple Cider.  Her book More Questions than Answers, explains her style of evangelism by listening

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