Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Many Conversations—Carolyn R. Wilker

a prize-winning exhibit

Women's Institute display

September 8th to10th was our hometown fall fair— the place we loved to go with our parents when we were children, the weekend after Labour Day and when we were back in school after the summer. We looked forward to the parade, rides in the midway, eating caramel corn, and seeing our school friends. Incidentally, it was also the place where my parents met when they were young adults, at the Friday night dance.

This year, as an author with a new book, Harry’s Trees, I’d signed up early and paid for a table where I could meet people of my hometown community. I had other books too, but my new picture book rose to the top in interest. Probably helped by articles in the Tavistock Gazette, the Ontario Farmer and Oxford Review and people who knew my Dad and his inspiration for this book.

My table, ready to sell
Ontario Farmer article about my Dad and my book

Preparing for the weekend, I remembered that we’d be standing on a cold arena floor, one with ice under it, for hockey had already begun. When my husband and I packed the car on Friday morning, we included a rubber mat, a set of coloured foam mats for standing on, my boxes of books, and something to sit on. Snacks too.

We’d set up the books on the table in the morning then went to visit my mother for awhile. The fair began at 5 p.m. on Friday when the arena opened for exhibits and the silent auction.

Parents and children streamed in, seniors ambled along, looking at displays and seeing who won the prizes in fruits, vegetables, handiwork and art. Many headed to the nearby church booth for a cup of coffee or tea and some pie and ice-cream. My husband and I ate our sandwiches and watched the action. Soon people began to stop and take notice of the books. I offered younger children a tree stamp on their hand.

An older man and woman soon stood before me. “We read the article in Ontario Farmer about your book,” the gentleman said. “We came to see you. Did you get my email?” he asked.

I asked for the surname. “No, I didn’t get it. You can get a book now that you’re here.”

“We’d like to buy two copies,” the man said.

They asked me to write in the names of their grandchildren. I printed in the names, they paid and were on their way.

 This sort of thing happened over and over during the weekend—people I didn’t know or ones I knew, seeking me out to buy the book for children, grandchildren, or themselves. They all had the same interest in trees that my dad had, that I had too. Many of them knew my Dad in some capacity.

Conversations included the artist’s style, how the book came into being or asking me how long I’d been writing. I often got a smile as they walked away with book in hand.

I had kindred spirits there, not just farmers who are custodians and stewards of the land, but also long-time friends, fellow high school classmates or siblings of my classmates. Conversations were longer when it wasn’t so busy, or much shorter while others waited. All were good.

When fair goers headed out to the tug of war or the ambassador contest or other activities, the arena would become much quieter for awhile. That’s when I checked my bids at the silent auction, looked at displays, or chatted with the young woman next to me who’d been doing face painting.

silent auction- during set up

Quiet moments at Hannah's table

Another Women's Institute display 

Sherrill and another woman at the Tavistock and District Historical Society booth

The late evening hours passed the slowest. We drove home late, only for me to sleep, eat and return the next morning. The weekend passed and the arena air was so cold, but we had no emergency, so we couldn’t complain. Except maybe shiver. Friends in Florida in hurricane weather certainly came up in conversations.
 Sunday mid-afternoon, I packed up my books. We gathered chairs, mats and other items, packed them in the car and headed for home. It had been a weekend of healthy returns, mostly sunshine, and many pleasant conversations in an agricultural community that works well together.

"We plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the land."  
--text by Matthias Claudius, 1740-1815

largest pumpkins next to my table

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Getting too cozy with Poison Ivy-by Heidi McLaughlin

It’s been there for twenty-one years, trailing down the rock wall and slyly hiding behind the rose bushes.  Twice I got poisoned by that beautifully disguised three leaf plant.  I’ve been seriously bombarded with a hot, itchy rash that wouldn't let me find comfort or sleep.  Some rash turned into blisters that started bleeding and needed antibiotics. Now I know why it is called “poison” ivy.  

Knowledgeable people stay away from it, or do they?

A deeply desired temptation propels us to make stupid moves. For instance, a friend’s son is getting married and they need dried rose petals for the end of the ceremony. Perfect, I want to help! I know the ivy is behind the rose bushes but I’ll be careful not to touch anything with a dark green leaf. For several days I walk by the rose bushes with temptation luring me on.  If I wear long sleeves and gloves nothing will happen. But I’ve done that before and somehow some poison oil got on my skin and it spread throughout my body.  Nah, this time it will be different. Now I know better. And so I deadheaded the rose bushes and got poison on my left thumb.  That was on Monday. By Wednesday I was awake all night scratching my arms, neck and fingers. Friday morning I woke up, my face and neck were so swollen I could hardly see.  I took a picture and sent it to my friend with the message, “Look Ma, no wrinkles.” An hour later I was in the walk in clinic to get medicine for my infected body. 

Temptation has a way of deceiving us.
Giving in to temptation that is wrong for us will always hurt.  Many times it will not only hurt us, but  also friends and families.  When we give in to:
·      It’s just a little flirting, it won’t come amount to anything.
·      I’ll lie just this one time.
·      I’ll just “borrow” this money from the drawer and put it back when I have some of my own.
·      Pornography is free, easy and gives such pleasure. I can stop any time.
·      Just a few drinks after work, it won’t hurt me.

And on it goes.

Jesus the Son of God taught us to pray: “And don’t let us yield to temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:13) Jesus told us to pray that because He knows if we “yield” we will hurt.

There is a deceiver Satan, who knows our vulnerability, our weak spots and blindsides us into wanting something that we should not have. Satan is out to separate us from our vibrant and love filled relationship with God.  Knowing this is the first step to STOPPING and PRAYING the way Jesus modeled for us to pray.

We live in a seductive world and it is easy to get caught.

We are in the middle of the most colourful time of the year.  The autumn landscape evokes deep reflection for me. What are some things I could have done differently?  (Don’t go near the poison ivy).  What tempts me? How did I honour God this past year? When I was hurt or offended, did I give in to temptation and respond with kindness or underlying anger?

Everything is too accessible for the younger generation and us. Almost daily I pray for my twelve grandchildren: “they would not be led into temptation but to deliver them from the evil one.”  Jesus taught us how to pray so that would be safe, healthy and live the abundant life He came to live.  May we learn from His life that He modeled for us when He walked this earth. 

Heidi McLaughlin lives in the beautiful vineyards of the Okanagan Valley in Kelowna, British Columbia. Heidi has been widowed twice. She is a mom and step mom of a wonderful, eclectic blended family of 5 children and 12 grandchildren. When Heidi is not working, she loves to curl up with a great book, or golf and laugh with her family and special friends.
Her latest book RESTLESS FOR MORE: Fulfillment in Unexpected Places (Including a FREE downloadable Study Guide) is now available at;, or her website:

How Unchanging is Change? by Susan Harris

Five days from today the seasons will officially change as summer gives way to autumn. From heat to coolness. From green to red and yellow. 
Seasons change in the Town of Wolseley, SK.
Photo credits Helen Gwilliam.

We've touted the cliché: the most constant thing is change. Some change we like, others we  don’t like.

Without fail change happens. Fads come and go. Cycles heave and fall. We follow change like an audience entranced by a skilled belly dancer undulating with fluidity and grace,  appreciating it until we are asked to take the stage. 

We’ve declared  God is the same. He changes not. "Faithful One so Unchanging" one song hauntingly intones.  Age to age still the same. The standard in spite of what culture or laws demand.

Yet we buckle under change, wrestling with the new, taken by surprise, shaken by the expected unexpected.

I contemplate again if this is how it should be. If God is unchanging, where does change fit?

Ecclesiastes chapter 3 lists fourteen pairs of antitheses, all of them changes destined to occur while we're alive. The first pair scopes our boundaries - birth and death. The rest fall in as we live: plant and uproot…  tear down and build … weep and laugh… scatter and gather…. search and give up…  silent and speak… love and hate… war and peace. These are changes predicted and foretold.
(See how day changes to night at our place in this 18 seconds clip)

Fisherman John's background lay in mending nets, assessing surging tides, and counting fishes for customers.  He had no inference of a digital age. Yet the number he identifies in a vision has produced debates arguably unequalled for any other digit combination.

Theologians, numerologists, and coffee drinkers alike have weighed in on what this means and in whose era it will escalate.  

Technology employs numbers second only to Math. Passwords- re-enter password. Numbers in drivers licenses, in passports and payment cards. In sports teams and waiting rooms. Everywhere.  Numbers abound as abundant as species of plants, an essential evil to the aging population, an enticement to the texting generation.

Unchanging Coniferous Trees.
Photo credit Helen Gwilliam 
And in it I look for the unchanging. Could it be that it lies not in a single event that interrupt the lullaby of our days, creeping them into nights which cajoles into seasons and blends into years? Is it adrift in the spectrum that the Faithful One has gathered between the span of thumb and finger?  The same finger that wrote on the sand while accusers slouched away unnoticed?

I look and I find what I have long known but not realized. My head and my heart move close and shake hands on common ground. The Unchanging One has announced it will happen. All the things I think of as change, He said I should expect them. All the polar opposites in Ecclesiastes. 

And if I have been told to expect them, I cannot claim to be surprised, for to be forewarned is to be forearmed.

SUSAN HARRIS is a product of change. Like a chameleon she adapted from the beachside to the prairies, from corporations to home office. She is the author of 12 books.  

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Advancing Ourselves by Advancing Others by David Kitz

Self-promotion is a required fact of life for authors in today's world. Currently, I am doing a host of activities to promote my recently released novel, The Soldier Who Killed a King. But there can be something unhealthy about all this focus on my books and my writing.

The question I need to ask myself is am I also helping others in their writing journey. Am I willing to take the time to write that positive book review, or provide a word of advice or encouragement to others?

Psalm 35 draws to a close with this warning against schadenfreude: May all who gloat over my distress be put to shame and confusion; may all who exalt themselves over me be clothed with shame and disgrace (Psalm 35:26).

So what is schadenfreude you ask? defines schadenfreude as satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else's misfortune. It is a compound German word: schaden harm + freude joy. In other words, schadenfreude is the joy you may feel when hearing about another person's calamity. Schadenfreude can be viewed as the ladder-climber's delight in seeing others fall behind or off the ladder entirely. Far too often it manifests in the false assumption that we can advance ourselves by putting others down.

The truth is we advance ourselves by advancing others. Advancing by putdowns has no firm foundation because it hurts others and creates hostility. It usually ends badly because pride precedes a fall, just as darkness follows sunset.

Are you exalting yourself at the expense of others? If so, take some time to repent. Do your best to repair the damaged relationships that result from such behavior.

Petrie Island sunrise -- photo by David Kitz
Paul, the apostle, gives us this advice: Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited (Romans 12:14-16).

As writers we should take joy in the success of others rather than resenting their achievements. Let their successes ignite within you a desire for self-improvement. With God's help change what you can within yourself before looking to change others. We all have a place in our heart that needs some renovation.

Then with David we can rejoice when others succeed. May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness; may they always say, “The LORD be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.”

Response: Father God, give me a heart of thanksgiving. Grant me a pure heart with pure motives. May I always delight in the well-being of your servants. Amen.

Your Turn: Have you suffered from a bad case of Schadenfreude? Do you rejoice when others succeed or are you envious?

David Kitz lives in our nation's capital and chairs the local chapter of the Word Guild. His most recent novel is published by Kregel and available through a variety of sources.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Stoplights of Life by Ruth Smith Meyer

Sometimes there are moments in life that make us pause--like a stoplight turned red. 

Because of a curb-hopping accident he had witnessed as a young teenager, my grandson always stood, well back from the curb, behind a light post as he awaited the changing light so he could cross the street. 

Three weeks ago on his way home from work, he decided he had time to make a call to his roommate, so he punched the numbers on his cell phone. 

The next thing he knew, there was a thud and he was flying across the street. “Tuck your chin into your chest to avoid head injury.” He obeyed this caution that came from the inner recesses of his mind.  His trajectory was interrupted when an oncoming car collided with him. He felt himself sliding off of it onto the ground 16-20 feet from where he had been standing. 

His first instinct when he hit the ground was to get up.  But then a bit of his training as a lifeguard rose in his mind.  “Keep the accident victim laying still until emergency help arrives.”  He obeyed.

One small moment in an ordinary day could have changed our lives and had tragic consequences. We are so aware that God’s protection and timing made a difference. How else could you have the presence of mind to tuck in your chin as you are flying through the air? 

In the two weeks since it happened, so many scenarios have played out in our minds. If my grandson had not been behind the light post when the car jumped the curb, he would have taken the full impact of the collision.  The blow was hard for the post was broken off.  The post, falling in a different direction could have caused severe injuries. The timing of the collision with an oncoming car as he flew across the street, could have spelled death or permanent disability.  As it was, because of where he hit it, the vehicle may have broken his fall and softened the impact of the street. So many variables could have caused a different outcome. 

He had a few small lacerations, and bruises besides the shattered tibia just below his knee. That is serious enough. He needed surgery, plates and screws and it will take a prolonged time of healing. Compared to planning a funeral, that seems small. He too, is aware how blessed he is and is amazingly positive about it all. He’s had incredible support and care from his place of work even though he’s only been there six months. For that he and we are thankful too.

 I’m glad that our family has always been free to express our love.  That small moment has made us keenly aware of the need to do so often. The awareness has spilled over into other parts of our lives. Revaluation of what is most important in life, how we are spending our time, the desire to tell others too, what they mean to us in case the opportunity would suddenly not be there.

 Life just looks a little different.

Happenings like that seem to be a time to pause at the red lights of life, consider as we wait for the green and then proceed again with our hand firmly in God’s.

Ruth Smith Meyer finds pleasure in observing life, learning from experience and finding God's surprises along the way.
If you want to learn more about her, visit or get a copy of her life story, Out of the Ordinary.  She would be glad to hear from you.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Escaping Reality in Jasper by Steph Beth Nickel

Photo Credit: Dave Nickel

Opportunity of a Lifetime

If you could travel anywhere in the world where would it be?

After nearly 35 years of marriage, my hubby and I were able to travel to Alberta together. Dave worked in Jasper for two summers and a Christmas before we were married and he'd always wanted to show me his favourite places, some of which are pictured above.

Was it a restful vacation? In many ways it was. But we were, by no means, lazing around. In our two weeks out west, I walked more than I had in months. And I'd never hiked nine kilometres in one day before. 

Dave, at 62, was able to hike the Palisades in less time than he'd expected, two and a half hours up and two hours back. Now that was a day I stayed put, except for doing some laundry and walking around the town site. 

Escaping Reality

Are there times you just need to get away from it all?

For the first week in Jasper, I simply couldn't imagine getting back to business as usual. I didn't want to think about what was waiting for me back home or my regular routine. In fact, I was grateful to spend very little time online although I love connecting with friends and family and learning new things..

The Blessing of the Moment

Are you living in the Now?

Most people I know are busy running from one thing to the next to the next. When they're doing one task, they're thinking of the next thing on their To Do list. They're trying to keep all the balls in the air—or all the plates spinning—whichever analogy works best for you.

While on vacation, I sought to enjoy every moment, to get the most out of every day, to live in the Now. 


Where do you find inspiration?

Although I bought a cute journal and two Writer's Digest magazines in West Edmonton Mall our first day in Alberta, I wrote and read very little. But that doesn't mean the time away didn't give me an abundance of inspiration for future projects.

James 1:17 says, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change" (ESV).

My time out west was a wonderful gift ... as is my life here in Ontario.

What gifts are you thankful for this day?

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Words are not violence - Denyse O'Leary

From the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal,

In her recent New York Times article entitled “When Is Speech Violence?” Barrett contends that speech that “bullies and torments” ought to be prevented because “from the perspective of our brain cells,” it is “literally a form of violence.” She points to scientific findings showing that “Words can have a powerful effect on your nervous system. Certain types of adversity, even those involving no physical contact, can make you sick, alter your brain—even kill neurons—and shorten your life.”

Professor Barrett is a respected psychologist and she cites studies in neuroscience that support her statement that verbal abuse can bring on stress that causes physical damage. Let’s not question the science she cites. Let’s agree that she is correct in saying that chronic stress is bad for an individual, perhaps even life-shortening.

The problem is that there is no apparent connection between chronic stress and merely listening to someone speak, for a while, no matter how provocative his words may be. More.

Reality check: How did today's pensioners get through all these years reading letters to the editor in a free press?

People who think words are violence tend to think that violence is words. Hence the self-righteous campus warrior swinging the bicycle chain.

One wonders how much of the Gospels we would have to cut out if we were told to censure the Lord Jesus' provocative words. Or anyway, words that offended someone.  Doubtless the Lord is an upcoming target.

See also: Campus starts shovelling snowflakes off sidewalk

Sunday, September 03, 2017

A Child Immigrant Comes to Canada by Rose McCormick Brandon

Grace Griffin Galbraith
“I can never regret coming to Canada. I have had to work hard but I don’t mind that for I love to work.” Grace Griffin Galbraith, my grandmother, wrote these words in 1928. She was twenty-five and a perfect candidate for regret. She immigrated to Canada as an eight year-old with her sister, Lily. The two, and later their brother, Edward, arrived through a child immigration agreement between the United Kingdom and Canada. After their father’s death and their mother’s remarriage, Grace and her siblings were placed in the Annie MacPherson Home for Children in the east end of London, England. They remained there until their mother’s death, after which their paternal grandmother signed the Canada Clause giving the Home permission to send the children to Canada.

Grace became one of more than one hundred thousand children to immigrate to Canada between 1869 and 1939. She landed in Quebec on May 13, 1912.

Most child immigrants became indentured servants contracted to work as farm hands and mother’s helpers. Lily was sent to Toronto and Grace to a southern Ontario farm. At the end of her thirty-day trial period Grace was returned to MacPherson’s Canadian Home in Stratford because she “not wholly satisfactory.” This isn’t surprising since she had never been on a farm. Her next placement also ended after thirty days.

Grace’s third placement took her to Manitoulin Island. This home welcomed her at first but later reneged on their contractual responsibility to send Grace to school for at least three months each year. One day, a local minister, Rev. Munroe, arrived at the farm and found Grace in alarming condition.  He immediately removed her and took her to live with a family that attended his church, the Gilpins. She stayed at this safe and kind home until her marriage at age seventeen.

One year after her marriage to James Galbraith, a farmer with Scottish roots, Grace received the sad news that Lily had died of tuberculosis. She wrote, “It was lonesome for me when Lily died. I missed her sisterly letters. 

Meanwhile, Grace’s brother, Edward, who had the good fortune to live with a couple who considered him a son and included him in their will, had returned to England where he visited relatives and contacted MacPherson’s for information about his sisters. On his return to Canada, he began a search for Grace. By the time he found her they had been separated for fourteen years.

Grace wrote, “I always have a longing to see some of my folks.” She also made the sad statement, “I can never remember seeing my mother.” How happy she must have been to reunite with her brother. Edward spent a lot of time on Manitoulin with Grace and then moved from Southern Ontario to Sudbury to be closer to her.

By 1928 when Grace wrote that she had no regrets about coming to Canada, she was married, had re-united with Edward and had four daughters. (A son arrived later.) Her difficult childhood days over, Grace’s writings reveal a full and happy life. “I have a good and loving husband and a good home. We have a 100 acre farm, a large barn and a fairly good house. Jim is a very good to help me. He is very fond of children. We have our place paid for now and I must add that we have a 1918 model car but we intend dealing on a new one next spring.”

The Home Children were unprepared for the harshness and isolation of Canadian farm life. One boy expressed it this way: “When I landed on that farm, I looked up and said, ‘Oh God, where am I?’” Whereas most immigrants form communities in their adopted homelands, these children were scattered in ones and twos throughout Canada’s towns and farms. Like Grace, most had more than one placement making it difficult to put down roots.

As we celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary, it’s estimated that the descendants of Canada’s child immigrants, the Home Children, make up ten percent of the population. This period in our history serves to remind us how much immigration practices have changed. Today, no serious consideration would be given to a program that sends children overseas to live with and work for strangers. What a debt our country owes these young ones who endured heartbreak and loneliness to become some of Canada’s hardiest and most dedicated citizens.

Grace might have become bitter. Instead, she, like most child immigrants, chose to find hope in her new land. Grace’s positive attitude is reflected in her statement - “I can never regret coming to Canada.”

Grace spent her last twelve years at The Lodge in Gore Bay on Manitoulin Island where she passed away at age ninety-nine in 2003.
*This article was published in The Manitoulin Expositor 2017
* * *
Rose McCormick Brandon wrote Promises of Home - Stories of Canada's British Home Children and dedicated it to her grandmother, Grace Griffin Galbraith. She's also the author of One Good Word Makes all the Difference and numerous magazine articles. She writes two blogs, Promises of Home and Listening to my Hair Grow. Contact her at:  

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