Monday, February 28, 2011

Old Parr: From Cottage to Palace - Lawrence

A number of years ago my aunt gave me a package of photocopies relating to my grandfather, Edwin Davies. At that time, I had no interest in my ancestors and I filed the documents away. Twenty years later, heavily into my genealogy, I regretted the lost opportunity to have my many questions answered.

The drawing of Old Parr’s Cottage in Shropshire, England, where my grandfather was born, began to hold great fascination for me as I searched for my ancestors’ lost lives. Who was Old Parr? Had he really lived to 152 ½ years? Which of Edwin Davies’ sons had written the caption at the bottom of the drawing? What was cousin Bert’s last name?

I set out to do some research on the Internet but the words “Old Parr” in the search engines brought no results. I e-mailed the genealogical society for the area and by coincidence they had just received information on a Thomas Parr from Shropshire who had lived to a great age. The surprise to me was that his life was five centuries ago—I had assumed that Old Parr was living at the time of my grandfather’s birth.

Having gone this far on my search for Old Parr I couldn’t let it go. I now knew that his first name was Thomas and that he was indeed buried in Westminster Abbey. I went to their web-site. His burial there, I found, was by order of King Charles 1st, and the inscription on the white marble gravestone gave his birth as AD 1483, his burial as November 15, 1635, and his age as 152 years. The gravestone also told us that he lived through the reigns of ten monarchs: Edward 4th, Edward 5th, Richard 3rd, Henry 7th, Henry 8th, Edward 6th, Mary, Elizabeth, James, and Charles.

What would make Thomas Parr uproot himself and go to London at his great age? A change from his simple Shropshire life would surely be hard on him. It is recorded that he did not smoke and that his diet consisted of green cheese, onions, coarse bread, buttermilk, and mild ale. He gave his recipe for long life as, “Keep your head cool by temperance and your feet warm by exercise. Rise early, go soon to bed, and if you want to grow fat [prosperous] keep your eyes open and your mouth shut.” (Quoted from John Taylor’s pamphlet of 1635, The Old, Old, Very Old Man.)

He did not leave his home of his own volition. The Earl of Arundel, Thomas Howard, while visiting one of his Shropshire estates in 1635 heard about the great age of this man and decided to take him to London to see King Charles. Thomas Parr, I suppose, had no say in the matter. The journey was made in easy stages and the Earl provided a jester for Old Parr’s entertainment along the way. But the venture would have brought him little joy given his old age and his blindness of some 20 years.

When they at last came to Court, King Charles asked him what he had done differently from other men in his long life. Old Parr answered that he had done penance when he was 100 years old. Parr’s penance entailed standing draped in a white sheet in the parish church, according to Taylor’s pamphlet, and was a result of his unfaithfulness to his wife and the fathering of an illegitimate child by Katherine Milton. His first marriage, from which he had two children both of whom died in infancy, was when he was aged 80. Ten years after his wife’s death he married again, but there were no children by this second marriage.

The alteration from his country lifestyle and plain diet caused Parr’s demise according to a post mortem carried out by Dr. William Harvey, who cited a diet change, rich wines and London’s pollution as the cause of death. Though he might just have succumbed to old age! After all, he was 152 years of age!

The point of interest for me, of course, is my grandfather’s connection to Old Parr. Why was he born in Thomas Parr’s cottage some 225 years after his death? Was it just coincidence that my great-grandmother went into labour while she was visiting there? Was she a descendant through Parr’s illegitimate child and calling on a relative? Was there some superstition that anyone born in this cottage would live to as great an age as Thomas Parr?

Apart from the fact that the caption under the drawing tells me that Edwin Davies was born in Old Parr’s cottage in 1859, I have found nothing to suggest that there is any relationship between Parr and my ancestors. By continued research, I hope to get answers to the mysterious connection of my family to Old Parr.
Meanwhile, Thomas Parr is certainly worthy of note and provides us with an interesting tale.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Two Worlds - Mann

Have you ever had an experience that changed your direction in life, or perhaps dismissed a judgemental attitude or even created an abundance of grace? I had such an experience while serving on my church National Evangelical Team a number of years ago when I had opportunity to travel to Washington. It was here that I had the blessing of interacting with people who came regularly to the mission.

It was an experience of two worlds in many ways. While walking up the street with the drug mind-altered poor, through littered alleys and muddy weed-ridden areas with graffiti walls, one could look further down the same street and easily see the manicured lawns and the pillared columns of the rich.

I sat on a weathered-beaten windowsill late one night after worshipping with the street community, anticipating fellowship. The leader asked a woman who had been off the street one week to assist with communion and as she bend down to serve me, a small cup tipped and the red fluid spilled across her hand and mine. I wrote the following poem out of that experience:

Coming into the Light
“God, you come to me
through the dark, sad eyes of my black brother and sister,
through the homeless,
the hungry,
the rejected.

God, you touch me
through the alcoholic
the prostitute
the storekeeper,
the prisoner

God you watch me and make me feel no guilt for my wholeness, yet
you call me to share out of it.
you ask me to use my strength to take down fences and borders that limit
you show me unconditional love that reveals itself in compassion acts

God, you confront me to seek out those who have not discovered their need for you.
You challenge me to speak with others who have not found a voice to honour you and themselves
You convict me to share with others all that has been graciously shared with me.
You teach me to free those in exile and you offer the way to do this.

Your people have proven there is hope:
- to wait for a promise
- to listen for a word
- to receive a touch

Your Spirit is here in your fullness, giving birth to wholeness.”

I departed physically from that place, and yet, I will never totally leave it, for regardless of where I go, I will return in memory to touch the joy, the family, the wholeness, that was shared with me in brokenness.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Louis Riel and Nicholas Flood Davin -HIRD

By Rev Ed Hird

Davin and Riel were perhaps our most famous Western Canadian pioneers. Louis Riel called for the creation of a new Canadian province. Nicholas Flood Davin called for the hanging of Louis Riel. “Riel is not a hero,”[1] said Davin. “…If Riel is not hanged, then capital punishment should be abolished.”[2] Both died tragically, Riel on the end of a noose, Davin by his own hands.

Born in Kilfinane, Ireland, Davin served as a journalist in the Franco-Prussian war, seeing bodies piled six-deep.[3] Reporters in those days were often arrested as spies, being required by the governments to print false information in order to throw off the enemy. This is one of the reasons why reporters in England were not given bylines, so as to protect the freedom of the press.[4] Davin then became the editor of the new Belfast Times, but was dismissed after being so drunk that he reused his previous article from the Sheffield Times. Davin was so offended that he sued them for wrongful dismissal, demanding 5,000 pounds and being awarded only 50 pounds by the courts.[5]

Being a keen observer of social interactions, Davin surprisingly commented that ‘the pulpit occupied almost the whole ground occupied by the newspaper today…The Editor has superseded the preacher.”[6] After being commissioned by Prime Minister John A MacDonald to study the American residential schools, Davin the future federal MP wrote the infamous confidential Davin Report which resulted in our First Nations being subjected to the Residential School tragedy.[7] The indigenous people already went to day-schools run by various churches, but Davin was not satisfied, racistly saying “The child, again, who goes to a day school learns little, and what little he learns is soon forgotten, while his tastes are fashioned at home, and his inherited aversion to toil is in no way combated.”[8] Sadly both the Canadian government and the Canadian churches uncritically accepted the Davin Report claim that “it was found that the day-school did not work, because the influence of the wigwam was stronger than the influence of the school. (p. 1)”

By hastily imitating the apparent success of the American native residential schools, great and lasting harm was done. The Davin Report patronizingly said: “The experience of the United States is the same as our own as far as the adult Indian is concerned. Little can be done with him. He can be taught to do a little at farming, and at stock-raising, and to dress in a more civilized manner, but that is all.”[9] The Davin Report is ground zero to the deep wound that we inflicted on the First Nations. With Prime Minister Harper’s apology two years ago, our First Nations have only begun to recover from decades of residential school-inflicted trauma.[10] The impressive new ‘People of the Inlet’ film by the local Tsleil Waututh First Nation shows what great courage people like the late Chief Dan George showed in rebuilding his devastated people.

After serving as a reporter in Toronto, Davin became editor in 1883 of the brand-new Regina Leader newspaper.[11] My great-grandmother Mary McLean, after taking journalism at a women’s college in Kirkland Ontario, served as one of Davin’s reporters covering the Louis Riel crisis. My late Uncle Don Allen, who was passionate about history, often told us about this period, noting how sympathetic his grandmother was to Riel’s plight. Davin carried on the British tradition of not listing as a byline the names of the reporters who wrote for the Regina Leader. This was helpful for my great-grandmother Mary in protecting her from arrest by the RCMP when she snuck in disguised as a Roman Catholic priest confessor to obtain an interview with Louis Riel. Mary McLean quotes Davin “the officer in command of the LEADER (saying) ‘An interview must be had with Riel if you have to outwit the whole police force of the North-West’.”[12] Because Davin protected her anonymity, some writers like CB Koester and his fellow playwright Ken Mitchell have popularized the myth that Davin himself disguised himself as that priest.[13] While waiting for my throat operation in May 1982, I spent a week with my late Uncle Don Allen who carefully explained to me about his grandmother’s interview with Louis Riel. “When I first saw you on the trial, I loved you” was said by Riel to Mary McLean, not to the man Davin who was calling for his hanging.[14]

The November 19th 1885 edition of the Regina Leader could not be clearer that Davin himself was not the reporter who was disguised as a Roman Catholic priest. Instead Davin is described several times by the reporter as the proprietor and the editor in chief, both terms prominently displayed by Davin’s name in editions of the Regina Leader.[15] Mary McLean also writes in the article about another female reporter (code-named Saphronica) who earlier failed to get entrance, most likely referring to Kate Simpson-Hayes, Davin’s mistress.[16]

This confusing of Mary McLean’s Riel interview with Davin forced CB Koester to ‘contort himself into knots’ suggesting that for Davin, there was two Riels, one the rebel who Davin wanted to hang, and another Riel to whom Davin was compassionate.[17] Such verbal gymnastics were entirely unnecessary if one simply acknowledge that it was the female reporter, not the male editor-in-chief/proprietor, who did Riel’s final interview.

After having two children with Davin, his mistress Kate Simpson-Hayes gave the children away and became a reporter in Winnipeg.[18] When Davin then married Eliza Reid, he brought his six-year-old son Henry to live with him as a ‘nephew’, but was unable to locate his daughter.[19] In Davin and Kate’s final argument over the daughter, Kate said to him: “You go your way. I’ll go mine”, symbolically pointing to the Winnipeg Free Press building.[20] Davin was so crushed that he bought a gun and shot himself on Oct 18th 1901 at the Winnipeg Clarendon Hotel.[21]

The tragic ending to the lives of both Riel and Davin reminds us that our Canadian history has much pain and trauma which can only be resolved through reconciliation and forgiveness. May the Prince of Peace bring deep restoration to the painful wounds left by Canada’s residential school tragedy.

Reverend Ed Hird, Rector
St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada
-an article published in the March 2011 Deep Cove Crier

[1] CB Koester, Mr Davin, M.P.: a Biography of Nicholas Flood Davin, Western Producer Prairie Books, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 1980, p. 64
[2] Koester, p. 65, quoting the Daily Regina Leader, “Riel Agitation”, August 15th 1885
[3] Koester, p. 2, p.13
[4] Koester, p.11 “Neither of these appointments (by Davin to the Irish Times and the London Standard) can be substantiated by external evidence…it was the accepted practice for the newspapers to preserve their correspondents in dignified anonymity.”
[5] Koester, p. 16, Davin sued them for wrongful dismissal and settled for six weeks salary…He vented his anger in a letter to the News-Letter editor. Clarke, Davin’s former boss, brought a libel suit against Henderson of the News-Letter for 5000 pounds, given 50 pounds by court. Davin left unemployed at almost age 33, with his pride severely wounded.
[6] Koester, p. 31 Davin comments “No one can read the sermons of Chrysostom or Hugh Latimer, or follow the life and times of John Knox, without seeing that each of these divines was the journalist of his day. The pulpit occupied, in addition to its legitmate sphere, almost the whole ground occupied by the newspaper today…All business of life was the preacher’s domain.”
[7] “Davin also authored the invidious (and confidential) Davin Report of 1879, a study of the way in which Americans socialized young Natives in residential schools ( see and . The study paved the way for Canada’s scandalously racist policies towards Native youth and their mistreatment in the Canadian Residential School system, which effectively destroyed familial relations by virtually kidnapping children to be socialized into so-called civil society, a policy that led to generations of cultural damage to First Nations peoples throughout Canada.” To read first-hand the tragic Davin Report, click on The Davin Report .
[8] “The report, archived in its entirety in the CASP Essays and Documents section, takes note of the American policy of “aggressive civilization” towards its indigenous populations, a policy implemented by the hypocritically named “Peace Commission” (after a law passed by Congress in 1869), which sought to abolish “tribal relation[s]” and to do away with communal lands while consolidating Native populations “on few reservations.”
[9] In rushing into starting native residential schools, Davin disregarded advice not only from the local Catholic hierarchy, but also from the Anglican Bishops and Metis elders. They also said ‘no’. Davin’s exploration in the USA of the allegedly successful American Carlisle School with Carl Shurz and Pratt lasted less than 72 hours before he went back by train to Winnipeg.
[10] 39th PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION, EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 110, CONTENTS, Wednesday, June 11, 2008 ; (video of apology)
[11] Koester, p. 55; p. 58 “On September 24th 1885, he was appointed a Justice of the Peace, and on January 11th 1886, he became an advocate of the North-West Territories.”
[12] Mary MacFadyen McLean, Louis Riel’s Parting Messages to Humanity, “INTERVIEW WITH RIEL” Regina Leader Newspaper, Saskatchewan, Nov 19th 1885 ), ; Rev. Ed Hird, Battle for the Soul of Canada, 2006, p. 106;
“(…)The Leader merged with another paper, the Regina Evening Post, and continued to publish daily editions of both before consolidating them under the title The Leader-Post. Other newspapers absorbed in due course by the L-P include the Regina Daily Star and The Province.” (note from Ed: Mary appeared to have also worked for the Regina Star before it was absorbed by the Regina Leader-Post); The interview published in the Nov 19th 1885 Regina Leader took place some time during the week preceding Riel’s execution on Monday, Nov 16th 1885. In ‘Execution of Riel’, Saskatchewan Herald (Battleford), Nov 23rd 1885, it is reported that the Nov 19th Regina Leader interview was held two days before the execution. (This corresponds with Louis Riel’s death on Nov 14th 1885)
[13] Koester, p. 65, p. 215; Davin the Politician, a play by Ken Mitchell, NeWest Press, Edmonton,1979, p. 7 “After smuggling himself into the condemned man’s cell dressed as a priest – a most enterprising journalistic exercise – Davin wrote of Riel as a man of ‘genius manque’ who, had he been gifted with a finer sense of judgement, might have done much for his people and for the West. On the other hand, Davin had no sympathy whatsoever with those who advocated the commutation of Riel’s sentence…” (note: CB Koester wrote this foreword to the play); Mitchell, p. 37 (excerpt from the play) “Davin puts on a dark black coat and a cross. He holds up a Bible to Saunders. Davin: Je suis Pere Andrew. L’ancien confesseur. Oui? “If I do return, we will have the interview of the century.”; Mitchell, p. 38-39 (another excerpt from the play): “Davin appears in the robe and hat, but with the addition of a false beard and a large silver crucifix…Riel: (clasping his hand): Your name is Davin!”; Mitchell, p. 42 (excerpt from the play: the final imaginary conversation as if Davin the proprietor/editor-in-chief had been the disguised ‘priest’) ”Kate (to Davin): ‘The whole town can talk of nothing but your interview. The Mounties are probably on their way to arrest you.’ Davin: Let ‘em come!”
[14] Regina Leader, Nov 19th 1885,
[15] Regina Leader, Nov 19th 1885, ; In the March 31st 1885 Regina Leader Newspaper, the heading is ‘The Leader, then below it NICHOLAS FLOOD DAVIN, Editor-in-Chief’. In the heading of the Thursday August 6th 1885 Leader newspaper (and every other date of which I have a zeroxed copy), it says “Nicholas Flood Davin, Proprietor and Editor”. The evidence is clear that Nicholas Flood Davin, being the proprietor, editor, and Editor-in-Chief, could not be the very reporter whom he commissioned to get the interview.
[16] Regina Leader, Nov 19th 1885, ; As to why Kate Simpson-Hayes (a.k.a Mary Markwell) was code-named as Saphronica, it is quite likely a reflection of both Kate and Davin’s common involvement in plays like those by Shakespeare.
[17] Koester, p. 66 “Yet for Davin there were two Riels: the one, the rebel, the cause of death and anguish to white and Metis alike, he had condemned in the strongest language; for the other, the strange man who was the victim of his own undisciplined imagination, he felt compassion.” (quoting the Nov 18th interview as if it was done by Davin).
[18] Koester, p.122 “Davin was now in his fifties, and Kate was some fifteen years younger….Consequently the daughter (born Jan 11th 1892) was placed with a private nurse and when this proved unsatisfactory, given over to the care of nuns in a Roman Catholic orphanage at Saint Boniface, Manitoba.
[19] Koester, p. 129 “On July 25th 1895, he married Eliza Jane Reid of Ottawa…shortly after the marriage, Mr Davin’s six-year old ‘nephew’ Henry Arthur entered the Davin household. …Davin’s daughter could not be found.”
[20] Koester, p. 207
[21] Davin the Politician, a play by Ken Mitchell, NeWest Press, Edmonton, 1979, p. 11
-award-winning author of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’ (which includes five pages on Louis Riel and Mary McLean)
p.s. 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 PAYPAL using the e-mail . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $9.99CDN/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
You can also download the complimentary Leader’s Guide PDF: Battle for the Soul Leaders Guide

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sweet Words - Belec

Miss J
   Babies and children warm my heart. God sure knew what He was doing when he created these lovable little sugar lumps. Of course [slightly biased here] my own little granddaughter, Miss J, is a glowing example of lovability.

Thankfully, my daughter works for me so I get the privilege of seeing 2 year old Miss J often.

Sometimes Miss J says the darndest things. Like today...
'Amanda Mommy' and I were rushing around getting some office work done and Jocelyn was trying to help.
"Where's your fat machine?" asked Miss J.
Amanda and I screeched to a halt. Fat machine? What did my darling little granddaughter mean? Had she spotted my expanding girth? Had she seen my vain attempts at sit-ups on my slightly deflated exercise ball? Did she over hear me the other day when I asked Papere to bring up my stepper from the basement?

"No rush," I had said at the time.

After Miss J's comment, I  thought perhaps I should put a rush on and get my 'fat machine' out of the basement, pronto.

The sweet little bairn did not give up either. Mommy and I, in between fits of laughter, tried to figure out what she was referring to; then the lights came on. Fax machine...not Fat machine! Miss J pointed to the multipurpose printer/copier/scanner & Fax on my desk. I breathed a great sigh of relief; and then Mommy and I guffawed once more!

No sooner had I recovered from the trauma of darling Miss J's fat/fax machine fiasco, then the little scrumptious munchkin wanted to tickle. So we did.

"Are you made of playdough?" was the next probing question to proffer forth from her cherub lips, as she tickled me all over. Thank goodness I was already on the floor. Momma bear stopped messing with the fax machine and joined us on the floor. We laughed for ten minutes. Jocelyn, oblivious to what we were laughing at, thought that this lovely game of tickle was just what she ordered.

 God is amazing. He has blessed us with children because he loves us. What joy fills my heart when I am in the presence of a child. I learn so much. I especially learn how to laugh. Jesus loves the little children, and so do I! So do I!

Now I am off to the basement...

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."  Matthew 19:14

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Every Novelist Starts Somewhere - den Boer

While thinking about what to post, I had a brilliant idea—entertaining, great marketing strategy—totally brilliant.

I would post a scene from my first novel. This would endear me to future readers and create a worldwide desire for my novel before its completion.

With bated breath, I read what I had written—the first tenth of the first draft of my novel-to-be. My brilliant idea dimmed to zero watts. But, hope persists.

Buried beneath mundane dialogue, poor word choice, awkward sentence structure and shallow characters, I detect a hint of genius.

I have a question for the novel writers out there. (I’m sure some of you are reading this if only to postpone tackling your manuscript.) How many drafts do you do before your novel is presentable? A ball-park figure will do.

Marian den Boer is the author of Blooming and a novelist wannabe.

Monday, February 21, 2011


In the early 1940’s, three young preaching dynamos lined up at the starting block of evangelistic preaching. The trends for those times ran in the direction of large campaigns, which attracted thousands for as long as a week at a time.

Critics called Chuck Templeton, the “Babe Ruth” of evangelism. One seminary president marked him for greatness, calling him brilliant, dynamic, and “the most talented preacher in North America.” A 1946 article published by the National (US) Association for Evangelicals featured his ministry as one of five most successful in the past five years.

Others believed Bron Clifford to be the most powerful preacher in many centuries. Once, when addressing students at Baylor University, the president had the school’s bells turned off so nothing would distract listeners from Clifford’s two-hour lecture.

In his book “Lead On,” author John Hagee notes that by age twenty-five, Clifford had “touched more lives, influenced more leaders, and set more attendance records” than any other preacher in history. Tall and attractive, Hollywood unsuccessfully tried to woo him into a starring role in the movie “the Robe.” National leaders, too, courted him.

Like the others, the third young preacher attracted large, spiritually hungry crowds. But Billy Graham also spent much time in the quieter pursuit of establishing boundaries for both life and ministry. Because they worked jointly in the organization Youth For Christ, Graham and Templeton became good friends, but of the three, Graham was considered the least.
Templeton proved a disappointment to his lauders. By 1950 he’d abandoned preaching for a career in broadcasting and commentating. He eventually lost his faith entirely and became a prominent atheist.
A few years following his sudden rise to the top as the evangelical sweetheart preacher, Bron Clifford left his wife and two Down’s Syndrome children to work as a car salesman. An article by Mike Fehlauer in Ministry Today reveals that shortly after, Clifford died in a drunken stupor in a “sleazy motel room in Amarillo, Texas.”

At age ninety-two, Billy Graham is the best loved and most widely known evangelist in history. In 2008, his lifetime audience for his radio and television broadcasts topped 2.2 billion. He has preached live to more than 215 million people in over 185 countries and territories. His children say of their ailing father, who only recently stopped making public appearances, that he has one more sermon left to preach. He has counseled and befriended almost every US president serving during his adulthood. Though not without critics or self-confessed faults, Graham is finishing the way he began—well.

At the end of each life, career or year, what matters most to God and for eternity is not what we’ve been or done—it’s what we’re being and doing right now. And as Christ-followers, when it comes to influencing people around us—nothing else matters either.

No matter our beginnings, we all can finish well. How are you doing?


Watch a young Billy Graham here:

Kathleen Gibson
columnist, author, broadcaster

Friday, February 18, 2011

Anniversary - Martin

On Family Day of 2010 (Ontario’s February statutory holiday), I embarked on a new project: Kingdom Poets. On that Monday — and every Monday since — I have posted on my blog a weekly feature celebrating the poetry of some of the best poets to write within the Christian tradition. My first post was about 17th century metaphysical poet, George Herbert — and on this Family Day I will post about his predecessor, John Donne. You’ll also find entries on such famous poets from the past as John Milton and Francis Thompson.

Featured contemporary poets include: Wendell Berry, Luci Shaw, Robert Siegel and John Terpstra. I’ve receive wonderful feedback from many of the poets themselves — including a surprise e-mail from Pulitzer Prize winning poet Franz Wright, thanking me for my entry. Many poetry lovers have become followers of Kingdom Poets, and several college and university professors have encouraged their students to regularly visit my blog.

St. Lucian poet John Robert Lee is a recent discoverer of Kingdom Poets, and is active encouraging Caribbean Christians to visit as well. Here’s a link to his blog: Manhanaim Notes.

Now it’s your turn. If you’re not yet a follower visit: Kingdom Poets. Add your name. Check back weekly, or whenever the impulse hits. I know you’ll discover some exciting poets who are new to you, as well as get the chance to review many favourites.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at:

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Pro at Procrastination - Arends

I thought the writers amongst us might relate to the following from P.J. O'Rourke ... enjoy!

"Usually, writers will do anything to avoid writing. For instance, the previous sentence was written at one o’clock this afternoon. It is now a quarter to four. I have spent the past two hours and forty-five minutes sorting my neckties by width, looking up the word “paisly” in three dictionaries, attempting to find the town of that name on The New York Times Atlas of the World map of Scotland, sorting my reference books by width, trying to get the bookcase to stop wobbling by stuffing a matchbook cover under its corner, dialing the telephone number on the matchbook cover to see if I should take computer courses at night, looking at the computer ads in the newspaper and deciding to buy a computer because writing seems to be so difficult on my old Remington, reading an interesting article on sorghum farming in Uruguay that was in the newspaper next to the computer ads, cutting that and other interesting articles out of the newspaper, sorting—by width—all the interesting articles I’ve cut out of newspapers recently, fastening them neatly together with paper clips and making a very attractive paper clip necklace and bracelet set, which I will present to my girlfriend as soon as she comes home from the three-hour low-impact aerobic workout that I made her go to so I could have some time alone to write.”
— P. J. O’Rourke
The Wit and Wisdom of P.J. O'Rourke

Happy writing!
Carolyn Arends

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How to love everybody - Nesdoly

 "Love...does not seek its own..." 1 Corinthians 13:5.

Adrian Plass tells this story of an epiphany he had when he was ten:

"As I sat on the front seat of the big green Maidstone and District bus, a sixpenny bit and a penny clutched in my hand ready for the conductor, a phrase I had read earlier repeated itself over and over in my mind.

'Everybody is I.'

For some reason, I sensed an important inner core of meaning in the words, but I was unable to dig it out. I was frustrated and fascinated by the problem....

[...] Suddenly I stiffened. Body erect, hands flat on the ledge below the window, I pressed my forehead against the glass and stared in amazement at the crowds on the pavement below. The true meaning of those three simple but puzzling words had exploded into my mind, destroying the illusion that I was the centre of the universe, and leaving me to cope, for the rest of my life, with the burden of knowledge. Every one of those people down there in the street, walking the pavements, driving cars, waiting for buses — every single one, whatever they were, whatever they looked like, whatever I thought of them, were as important to themselves as I was to myself!

I shook my head, trying to clear it of this incredible notion. Everybody is I...That funny, bent old lady with the mouth drooping on one side — she mattered, she was vital — central. The bus conductor who had interrupted my mental churning earlier; he wasn't just a bit player in my world. He was the star in his own. He had a head full of thoughts and feelings; a life inside him; he was the reason that the earth went on turning. My own father and mother, my brothers, aunts, uncles, all my friends — all were 'I' Everybody was I, and at that moment I was somehow aware that I would probably never learn a more important lesson." Adrian Plass, From Growing Up Pains to the Sacred Diary, p. 20,21.

In our quest to learn about love, to learn how to love, the realization that "Everybody is I" is a good place to start. As we, in our imaginations, put ourselves into another's shoes, it becomes much easier to suffer long, be kind, humble, polite, patient, etc.

It is the other-centered love we see emanating from Jesus when He speaks to the Samaritan woman, cuddles and blesses babies, parties with tax collectors, names for the Rich Young Ruler the one thing that keeps him from being a follower, and in so many other incidents does the thing that communicates God's love.

The miracle of Christ in us is that through His indwelling Spirit, He can transmit through us to those around us the love Jesus showed to those around Him when He lived on earth.

A version of this article was first published on Other Food: daily devos, February 14, 2011.



Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Ultimate Love Question - Laycock

There is a very old technique that has been used by teachers for centuries. Jesus used it skillfully and often. When he wanted to teach his disciples something, he asked them questions. The dialogue that usually resulted not only revealed the answers, but caused them to think. He asked questions that made them examine themselves, their motives and their true beliefs.

We can imagine Jesus asking those questions as they walked along the dusty roads of Palestine, along the shores of the Dead Sea, or up the sides of the hills around Jerusalem. The questions often seemed innocuous at first and easily answered. Questions like the one he asked His disciples on the road to Caesarea Philippi: “Who do the people say the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16:13-15) The disciples were quick to answer. They’d been in the market places, in the synagogues. They knew what the people were saying and seemed eager to tell Jesus that he was well thought of.

The people were comparing Jesus to some of their greatest heroes, some even believed those heroes had returned in His form. “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” We can imagine Jesus stopping then and turning to face the men who followed him. “But what about you?” He asked. “Who do you say I am?”

It was Simon who answered first, proclaiming his belief – “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v.16). Jesus responds by proclaiming Simon’s true identity. He calls him first by his biological name – he is Simon, the son of Jonah. Then he gives him a new name, a new identity – Peter, the rock, the one who will build the church, the one whose authority will reach into heaven itself.

It isn’t much later when that same Peter is asked another question, three times. “Hey, aren’t you a disciple of that Jesus?” Peter had a quick answer then too, but it wasn’t the right one. His denial of His Lord seemed to fly in the face of the new identity Jesus had given him. But that wasn’t the end of the story. There were more questions to come.

After the crucifixion, after the resurrection, Jesus came and ate with Peter and a few other fishermen. Perhaps Peter had gone back to fishing, doubting that all those other dreams would ever come true. But Jesus broke bread with him again, and asked him another question, three times. “Simon, do you truly love me?”

I wonder how quick Peter was to answer? I wonder what he felt when he realized it was three for three? No doubt that question rang in his ears for the rest of his life, right up until he too was crucified.

It’s a question that should ring in our ears too, a question that should make us stop, examine our motives and our hearts. It’s the ultimate love question.

Do we truly love Him?


This post excerpted from Focused Reflections, Marcia's devotional book for special occasions.
Visit her website to learn more about her writing and speaking ministry -

Monday, February 14, 2011

From The Miniscule to the Majestic - Derksen

A question that often travels across the frontal lobe of my brain, or whatever place the brain handles questions, is why would God create such a vast universe, if all He wanted was one inhabited planet? Secular scientists try to present a case for other life forms living on other planets, but, being a strong proponent of Biblical truth, I see no evidence in the Bible for another civilization.

So…why did God create a universe that it takes millions of years to travel through? During a recent trip to the Creation Museum in Cincinnati, my husband and I visited their planetarium. We learned that not only are we only one galaxy among billions out there, but the bowl of the big dipper is made up of billions of galaxies all by itself. The concept is so vast that our finite minds find it hard to conceive and yet, scientists have proven this to be so.

We can comprehend the idea that God created us, our moon and stars, and all that lives on our planet. That’s easy to understand when we look at an intricately designed snowflake sitting on a tree branch in the dead of winter. We see that no two snowflakes are alike. Only our awesome Creator could have done that. When we think of the human body, an organism that scientists for years have tried to create, we discover that the best they can do is copy because God has devised this wonderful shell we live in.

Our human mind tries to understand how great our God is BUT until we look closely at or hear someone who knows describe, the extent of our universe; we never fully comprehend how Majestic our God is. He created it all. He is bigger than His Creation. Think about that for a second or two.  God could probably place this planet in the palm of His hand… maybe even the entire Universe.

Yet He loves us individually. The Bible says He cares for the Sparrow and He knows the number of hairs on each of our heads. In all the vastness of the Universe, only our planet could sustain our lives. God designed it just for our needs, even our need to satisfy our thirst for beauty.  In our human-ness we try, with our little finite brains to understand how awesome He i s. It takes our looking at a never ending plethora of stars and planets to even begin to know how powerful our God is. God says to us, “This is done by my hand and I am bigger than all of it.”

Still, we insist on making Him into our image. We pull Him out of our pocket once in a while, when we need a favor, want a wedding blessed, or a birth dedicated. We make decisions without Him and wonder why we fail. We tell Him that we know better than He how to run our lives. Imagine that…the ultimate audacity.

Barbara Ann Derksen, with 10 books currently published, writes devotionals (latest one at, murder mysteries, and children's stories. Her latest mystery, the third in a series, Fear Not, will be released this spring.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Prayer - Reynolds

He was over ninety years old, at one time a famous Canadian athlete, now living in a nursing home. Once, visiting him, I asked him if he prayed. “I talk to God a lot,” he said, “but God never talks back.”

I’ve been thinking about that quite a bit lately.

Words are important to faith, to understanding our own faith, or explaining our faith to someone else. We talk a lot about “the Word of God.” We need to remember that when we speak of the Bible as “the Word of God,” it is “Word” (I use a capital “W”), not words. The Bible is not “the words of God.” There is a significant difference.

But what words does God use when talking to us? Paradoxically, I am not sure that God uses words.

I can’t claim that God talks to me with words. It seems to me that our conversation is subtle. Sometimes I am left wondering what God is saying to me. Often it is only later that I understand. For instance, my “call to the ministry”. I expected chimes in the night, or a voice speaking to me as to Samuel, “Samuel! Samuel!” (1 Samuel 3). It never happened. Finally I said, in effect, “Lord, I don’t know what you want me to do, but I am going to give it a try and see what happens.” Looking back, I feel confident that God was in fact “speaking to me.” In any case, I’ve never regretted that decision – at least not for more than a day or two at a time.

Of course, we will still speak to God with words, ask God for our needs and wants. Most human religion, it seems to me, consists of trying to get what we want from God or the gods, whether through prayer or sacrifice, even human sacrifice. To seek help from God is natural and inevitable, tugging at God’s coattails or apron strings, crying “Please!” But it seems to me that the best of prayer is just the sense of God’s presence. I picked up, years ago, the following illustration:

A woman was visiting a friend. As they sat and talked, one of the friend’s children came in, a dark-haired little boy about eleven years old. He wanted some candy. His mother said, “No, you’ve already had enough candy for today.”
Then came a rather studious girl about twelve years old. She had a problem with her homework. The mother didn’t give her the answer but showed her where she was going wrong.
Next came a little male tornado of nine years, crying with a scraped knee. The mother washed it and kissed it, and miraculously it was made well.
Finally came a quiet little girl about five years old, tugging at her mother’s skirt. By this time, the mother was getting a little impatient, so she turned to her and said, “Well, dear, what do you want?” The child replied, “I don’t want anything, Mummy, I just want to sit on your knee.”
That’s prayer at its best, just the sense of being in God’s presence. You don’t have to ask for anything. You don’t have to talk at all.
(Reynolds, Reading the Bible for the Love of God, pp. 93-94).

An old friend, a psychologist and counselor and an ex-member of the Franciscan order, gave me a book shortly before he died. It was by his good friend, Christopher Coelho, a Franciscan. And Now I Can See. I read, yesterday morning, the following:

We think of prayer as an exchange of ideas with God, where our ideas and our thinking are all-important. It never occurs to us that God doesn’t need our bright ideas. Jesus said he knows them all before we even start praying. Prayer is much simpler.

Basically it’s being with God, relaxing in him, growing in him, accepting God in all simplicity and giving ourselves to him. Words and ideas are only means toward this….

Three pews ahead of me there is a child sleeping in his mother’s arms. What exactly is happening here between mother and child? There are no ideas exchanged, no concepts analyzed, but his being there is the important thing. With every breath there is rapport growing between them, enriching both. (p. 78)

Mother Teresa was asked by an interviewer what she said to God when she prayed. She answered: “I don’t say anything. I just listen.” When the interviewer asked what she heard God say, Mother Teresa replied: “He doesn’t say anything. He just listens. And if you can’t understand that, I can’t explain it to you.”

And if you can’t understand that, I can’t explain it to you.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Of Scrambled Brains and Other Excuses - Austin

I'm trying to not let myself use the excuse of brain damage. It's a bit too convenient, however true it might be. Still I sometimes wonder if backing away from it is a form of self-deception. Whatever is going on inside this skull of mine, it's giving a neorologist an interesting challenge. His focus has been primarily to try to discover why my brain (yes, he seems to think I have one) picks up something different than my eyes actually see. Double and triple images with each eye individually has me choosing a designated driver most of the time. Now I know there are explanations for those kinds of images, often followed by headaches the next morning. I'm not a habitual drinker but I will confess that I had a sip of wine at a wedding last July. Should I have told the doctor about that?

Scrambled brains for breakfast, lunch and supper -- according to one talk -- should give me a big boost up the evolutionary ladder. When our forebears learned to crack skulls (according to the aforementioned theory) they made a huge jump in total calories and improved their survivial chances. My trouble is, I can't see the ladder clearly enough and so keep missing rungs. Besides that, I think there may be an evolutionary down-side if the brain you are feeding on happens to be your own. So if I'm evolving faster than the rest of you, I'm tempted to call it a mixed blessing.

Certain areas of memory have recently been misplaced. My glasses, that no longer perch on my nose through all my waking hours, now habitually lose themselves. They turn up in all kinds of strange places: at the computer, beside the phone, on the clothes dryer, or on the dining room table. They are even found on the piano at least once a day -- hard to explain for a guy who cannot play this instrument. Other changes also call for explanation. Great old classics I have treasured and returned to through the years, have invariably shrunk. Somebody has gone through our bookshelves with a reducing ray. There are enough people in this world desperate to lose weight that I'm sure it could have been used where it was appreciated. But I will walk through the house and pull a book off the shelf that I read just a few years ago and the type is TOO SMALL. That is a cruel trick to play on a book lover.

There are, however, certain compensations. The reducing ray has missed a few -- very few -- stories I've known and loved. A case in point is The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas. I thought I could have told you the whole story line, but just a week ago I re-read it. Is there some lingering effect in the air from that reducing ray? The story was fresh with all the richness of a treasure newly discovered. Jane Eyre sits on that same shelf. But alas, Charlotte Bronte's incredible prose has been shrunk. Still, The Yearling has survived, and The Good Earth. John Bunyon's The Pilgrim's Progress apparently only got a half dose. It will cost headaches, but can still be read.

Since I'm trying to avoid using brain-damage as an excuse, I have to come up with something else. It might be the number of birthdays behind me, although I know people with more candles on their cake who seem able to function as if they still had all their marbles. What hair I have left carries the distinct look of "wisdom." I'm welcome in gray-haired company these days. It really is a shame that looks can be deceiving.

I've got a collection of great excuses. I've saved them for years, typing them into a special file in the computer. Just one little problem. I can't remember the file name. Now is there a better excuse than brain damage for that?

Fan of You Tube - Meyer

As a recent reluctant convert to social media, I am still navigating my way slowly around the Internet, discovering hitherto unknown (to me) and unexplored vistas.

In the last few weeks, I have discovered You Tube. Of course, I knew it existed. Perhaps, I should back up and explain that I only recently acquired high-speed Internet service. Living as I do 850+ km north of the nearest large city (Winnipeg), I limped along for quite some time with dial-up (through telephone lines) and then 3G (a modem using cell phone service). Both were very slow and often unreliable. Watching a You Tube video was not possible.

Being able to watch a You Tube video at my leisure has opened up a whole new world for me. I recently watched some life stage performances of popular musicians and thought, oh, that’s what the fuss is all about! Many performers have incredible stage presence that cannot be realized unless you have the good fortune of being able to see them live – or watch them on You Tube.

In addition to learning about (and enjoying) music, You Tube can also be an educational tool in other areas. In a college class that I am teaching, one of my students recently used a You Tube video in his presentation about Nonverbal Learning Disorder.

You can look up any topic you like, topics such as: Canadian Christian Author. When I did this, I got an excellent video produced by 100 Huntley St about Write! Canada. The title for this You Tube video is: Christian Writers – The Word Guild.

With Write! Canada just around the corner, I would encourage you to take a gander at this little clip and perhaps send it along to others.
Write! Canada is a great opportunity to learn and grow as a writer. The website for Write! Canada is
This year, the dates are June 16-18 and the location is Guelph, Ontario.
I’ll be there. Will you?

Dorene Meyer

Author of The Little Ones and Jasmine
Now in book stores across Canada
Distributed by Word Alive Press
Available online and as ebook on Amazon (key in title of book and publisher: Word Alive Press).

Also author of Lewis, due to be released in March!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011


This past weekend I had the opportunity to see a wide variety of people living out their faith at MissionFest. There’s something truly genuine about seeing people who have left everything to pursue Christ.

MissionFest involves missionaries speaking about their particular experiences and it includes booths of missions organizations, Bible schools and outreach events from around the world. Over 140 exhibitors present on how God has called them to reach the lost and encourage the saved.

It’s energizing because it refocuses my attention that Christ is all.
I met a man who runs a Christian music festival who works during the day to finance this outreach event every year for many years now. It was uplifting because this year I’m trailblazing on the Winnipeg Real to Reel Film Festival and I just felt so encouraged to meet someone who also loves the arts and is passionate about loving people through this medium.

I met a woman who is part of an organization that gives shelter to women who have chosen to keep their babies through pregnancy, but have no place to live. On one of the evenings, a man from a neighbouring town gave – I repeat – gave them a six bedroom house to use to help women who will benefit from being able to carry their child full term through their support.
Divine appointments still happen.

We heard from Setan Lee – a man who was in the killing fields of Cambodia – who saw his female friend killed right before his eyes by a female guard, and then years later met the killer in a church service and forgave her.

God doesn’t often make life easy. And when you hear the stories of how people have endured through suffering, it’s a good reminder for our Western Culture that we are really living in a unique time and place in history that very few people can relate to. We have tremendous opportunity to serve.

And when you meet the people at those exhibition booths and the speakers who have grasped this, it’s truly something inspiring. People whose passion and identity in Christ spurs us on to do the same.

What’s God been calling you to do that may seem out of the ordinary for you?

Monday, February 07, 2011

Latent Capacity Ruth Smith Meyer

In our adult Sunday school class yesterday we talked about the value of prayer. Someone asked “What exactly happens when we pray?” Saturday, I had been reading over the scripture I was to read for the service and it included Jesus’ promise that if we ask anything in his name, he would do it, so I already had been thinking about prayer and the great resource that can be to us as we face the difficulties and quandaries of life. The thoughts had been percolating in my mind even while I slept.
What exactly happens when we pray? Many answers to that question come from past experience. When we pray we connect to a power greater than we possess. When we pray, we take the focus off of our anxiety and frustration and we zero in on the one who loves us more than we can ever understand. When we pray we learn to trust. Sometimes, we are able let go of the urgency and are content to wait for the answer. That in itself can be a difficult but freeing step for one who wants to do something about it now!
Guess, though, what I found myself saying in reply to that question yesterday morning. I hadn’t even formulated it in my own mind, and I’m not sure if I have done so yet. I expect I am going to be mulling it over in my mind for some time to come. But here it is, if not in the exact words, it is the idea.
“God made me in the beginning, and he made me more complex then I have discovered even in all the years I have lived. Sometimes when I pray for strength, or wisdom, or guidance, I think in that quiet prayer-time, God just leads me in an archaeological “dig” to find what he already placed inside me. Together we find the strength, the wisdom the understanding that fits the moment—the answer to my prayer. He gently brushes off the dirt in which it has been buried, hands it to me and with a pat on my back says ‘There you go!’”
Far from putting me on an ego trip, leaving me saying, “So I have all I need within me, I don’t need God.” I am humbled to know a bit more about how God made me. That knowledge makes me even more aware of how closely I should work with my maker. Who would know better how to make something work right, how to fully utilize the inner workings and possibilities that the maker himself? To try on my own to use all that I have been given is like trying to figure out all that can be done with my computer by trial and error only. I most certainly will never find that out on my own. But if I could work closely with the maker of my Dell Laptop and with Bill Gates, for instance, I would find within its 12”x15”x 2” makeup, many applications of which I now know nothing.
Writing has been a revelation in that area. Often as I sit writing, ideas come to me and they’re formed into words as my hands operate the keyboard. Sometimes I am amazed when I read them over again. Did I really write that?
This morning, I am conscious of the need to stay in close contact with my Master so that the possibilities he placed in me can be found and released.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Squeaky Footsteps - McCormick Brandon

When it's many degrees below zero, boots squeak on snow. Breath hangs in the air like little clouds. Noses turn red, frost clings to lashes. A windless frozen day, tree branches stiff, dangerous as swords.

Feet tramp down the crispy trail, toes sting with chill. Alone in the cold. The sensation links us to nature, forces us to feel our fragility. Without a warm fire at the end of the trail, blood would turn to ice; we'd perish. Most days we don't feel our humanity; we don't remember how dependent we are on something as basic as fire. Cold draws out our primitive nature.

Freezing temperatures also have medicinal qualities. As a child, our son Carson suffered bouts of croup. My husband and I woke often in the middle of the night to the sound of his whooping gasps. We'd bundle him into a snow suit and carry him outside. While the rest of the street slept, we took turns pacing; back and forth; our steps squeaked on the front porch. Under a dark, star-filled sky, God seemed close. We looked to Him to ease our son’s laboured breathing. Step, inhale, step, exhale. Our breath-clouds hung in mid-air.

An hour in the cold. Just what the doctor ordered to open swollen passages. We return our son to his crib. Rest on little one, our squeaky steps have made you whole.

Prayer comes easy when accompanied by the sound of my boots squeaking on snow-covered ground. Cold snaps me back to reality; makes me thankful for simple things like fire.
When worry overwhelms, a winter walk can be just what’s needed. Each boot squeak draws us closer to God.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Six Signs of "Scientism" - Denyse O'Leary

Headed 2 km below to underground SNO Lab 
[Many of us must deal with "scientism" - elevating whatever current science findings as irrefutable sources of  truth, until they are replaced by more recent irrefutable sources of trut. Here is a handy guide  to scientism at work. - d.]

Non-materialist neuroscientists must often deal with the claim that their work is “unscientific,” despite the fact that, for example, the placebo effect, for example, is one of the best attested effects in medicine and the fact that there Is mounting evidence for researchable psi effects. The problem arises because, as Susan Haack puts it, "scientism" enables assessors to avoid evaluating evidence in favor of evaluating whether the evidence "counts as science". Here are her six signs:

1. Using the words “science,” “scientific,” “scientifically,” “scientist,” etc., honorifically, as generic terms of epistemic praise.
And, inevitably, the honorific use of “science” encourages uncritical credulity about whatever new scientific idea comes down the pike. But the fact is that all the explanatory hypotheses that scientists come up with are, at first, highly speculative, and most are eventually found to be untenable, and abandoned. To be sure, by now there is a vast body of well-warranted scientific theory, some of it so well-warranted that it would be astonishing if new evidence were to show it to be mistaken - though even this possibility should never absolutely be ruled out.
Always remember that Ptolemy’s model of the solar system was used successfully by astronomers for 1200 years, even though it had Earth in the wrong place.

2. Adopting the manners, the trappings, the technical terminology, etc., of the sciences, irrespective of their real usefulness. Here, Hack cites the "social sciences", quite justifiably, but evolutionary psychology surely leads the pack. Can anyone serious believe, for example, that our understanding of public affairs is improved by the claim that there is such a thing as hardwired religion or evolved religion? No new light, just competing, contradictory speculation.

3. A preoccupation with demarcation, i.e., with drawing a sharp line between genuine science, the real thing, and "pseudo-scientific" imposters. The key, of course, is the preoccupation. Everyone wants real science, but a preoccupation with showing that a line of inquiry is not science, good or bad - apart from the evidence - flies in the face of "The fact is that the term “science” simply has no very clear boundaries: the reference of the term is fuzzy, indeterminate and, not least, frequently contested."

4. A corresponding preoccupation with identifying the "scientific method," presumed to explain how the sciences have been so successful. " we have yet to see anything like agreement about what, exactly, this supposed method is." Of course, one method would work for astronomy, and another for forensics. But both disciplines must reckon with evidence, to be called "science".

5. Looking to the sciences for answers to questions beyond their scope. One thinks of Harvard cognitive scientist Steve Pinker's recent claim that science can determine morality. Obviously, whatever comes out of such a project must be the morality of those who went into it.

6. Denying or denigrating the legitimacy or the worth of other kinds of inquiry besides the scientific, or the value of human activities other than inquiry, such as poetry or art. Or better yet, treating them as the equivalent of baboons howling for mates, or something. It discredits both arts and sciences.

Here's Haack's "Six Signs of Scientism" lecture: .

Denyse O'Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Practical Applications of Listening - Eleanor Shepherd

In my book, More Questions than Answers, Sharing Faith by Listening, I have tried to illustrate the value that we demonstrate in our relationships with one another by offering the gift of listening. I found this to be true from personal experience.

I have always been fascinated by psychology that helps me learn something about why people do the things they do. As a woman, I have discovered the power of enabling problems to assume their proper proportions by sharing them with my friends. As a result, it has always made sense to me to talk about how we feel about the experiences that life brings our way and why. I know that at stake is more than just giving expression to how I am feeling, but being able to hear and understand my own verbal explanations of reality in the light of a larger context.

Let me give you some concrete examples. After we had been married for over twenty-five years my heart came to understand what my mind knew was true through the intervention in our lives of a good counsellor. There was no doubt that my husband, Glen truly loved me. But, there were many barriers between that reality and my perception of it. Encumbrances included the problem Glen had with anger management, and my perception that I was responsible for his emotional well-being. It was as we together visited a counsellor, who helped us to be able to express our deepest feelings to ourselves and to each other, that we discovered that there were ways that we could help each other deal with these problems and be freed to explore the underlying realities. The most significant discovery for me was that Glen and I both wanted to remove these encumbrances. In being enabled to do so, my heart came to truly understand how much he loved me. What a gift that was!

A result of this counselling was the development of skills that Glen learned to enable him to manage his anger and the freedom from a self-imposed responsibility for his emotions that helped me to learn how much he loved me. These discoveries rekindled and strengthened my love for him and our relationship moved to a never before imaged depth.

Little did we both know how important this development was going to be a few years later, when a new challenge was thrust upon our family. In 2003, our son, John became a quadriplegic as a result of a motor accident when the vehicle, he was driving hit black ice. We were plunged into a sorrow we never could have imagined. The grief was too profound for us to be able to talk to each other about it, so there it sat at the centre of our lives. We were forced to skirt around it fearful of its power to destroy the strong relationship we had been able create together.

As humans, when listen to the affliction of another we are offering them an invitation to help carry their grief. It is one of those unwritten human laws that we all understand. Our own emotional well-being complicates the situation. When we are in a reasonably healthy state this can happen and good can come for both the person bending under the load of grief and the friend who comes alongside to help bear that burden. When we are in a place where we risk being submerged under the weight of our own grief, we find it impossible to invite on board the raw pain of another. This is where another kind of counselling can prove so life-giving, as was the case for us. Together we visited a grief counsellor.

When we came into the office of the counsellor, he would ask Glen, “How are you doing on your grief journey? Where are you?” Glen could tell him how he was feeling about what had happened, knowing that the counsellor was able to bear the weight of his agony. Not being obliged to take on that responsibility, I was free to listen to the conversation with empathy for Glen, but know that my listening did not require me to take the weight of his grief on my own laden shoulders.

Then it would be my turn. The counsellor would turn to me and ask, “How are you doing with this?” I could express my feelings and reflections about it all, without any threat to Glen and his emotional stability. We both knew that it was the counsellor who by his listening was offering to help me to carry the load. From our conversation, Glen could glean whatever he needed to know about what was happening in my life and know it was not up to him to fix it.

The freedom to think about and express our feelings about what had happened to us without creating a crushing load for each other, helped us to be able to struggle with the burden of grief individually with the help of the counsellor until it assumed proportions that we were then able to handle. Then we were able to talk to each other about how we felt and instead of our grief becoming a powerful force that could rip us apart it became a challenge that together, we were able to confront and learn new ways of coping, thereby growing in our understanding and appreciation for the strength to be found in each other.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Kaleidoscopic View - Whassat? - Black

I recall my sense of wonder and amazement at the beautiful designs I observed as a four or five-year-old looking into a kaleidoscope for the first time. All I had to do was gently turn the end of the tube and voilĂ  – a new colourful design instantly formed! Wow!

The changing colourful patterns intrigued me. How does it do that? I eventually discovered the secret of this magical tube. It was a miniature tunnel of mirrors, containing translucent coloured chips of various shapes and sizes. I came to realize that the components making up the continually-changing and perfect designs, in fact, fell into place in a random process when the tube was turned.

Those coloured chips only became distinguishable as a pattern, because the mirrors inside replicated the image several times. Of course, I should confess that the discovery was made because an intrigued little boy took the thing apart to investigate the phenomenon. Hmm, the problem he had was in getting it put back together again!

As I look back, I realize that I understood how the ‘scope worked, even at that young age, once I examined what comprised it, although I could not have expressed it then in the way I have just done.

Ah yes, the wonders of the kaleidoscope. And what is it, but a tube containing a jumble of coloured chips and mirrors. However, the contraption’s images would remain meaningless and chaotic were it not for several additional factors:

There has to be light, since light illuminates and reveals what’s there. One must have sight to observe. And the observer must have a brain and mind with the capacity to register what is seen and to recognize the apparent order and beauty in the image. The reflected replication helps the mind make sense of the chips where they lie.

And so, a kaleidoscope provides a way of seeing what is there in that tube, and what it would look like if the arrangement of the chips were actually replicated in the same order.

Do you have a kaleidoscopic view? Do we see patterns and find meaning in what is otherwise chaotic in situations around us, or elsewhere in our world, making sense of what sometimes appears meaningless? Yeah, and perhaps it takes more that brain and mind; a sensitive heart (in the spiritual sense) goes a long way.
In creative writing we are engaged in viewing, as it were, the random, coloured chips of events, situations, and scenes – the delightful (the brighter coloured chips), and even the tragic (the darker ones) – that occur in our lives or in the lives of others, and finding a way of ordering and reflecting them.

Those of us who write from a Christian world-view may intentionally – or perhaps unintentionally – so order our words, that the minds of our readers (who, after all, are made in the image of God, regardless of how distorted and fragmented that image may be) will view life and the world around them in a way that makes sense. And further, through our writing they may even be enabled to see beauty arise from the ashes of disaster and despair, or perhaps be inspired to see the glory of God in the innocent face of a child, or in the wizened countenance of a centenarian.

Let me suggest that the kaleidoscopic view is a cosmic view, since the word from Greek kosmos means order, beauty, and / or arrangement.

I hope that these rambling, random thoughts make sense to you, my writer friend/s.

Peter is a freelance writer living in Southwestern Ontario.

He is the author of "Parables from the Pond" (Word Alive Press),

and writes a weekly column in The Watford-Guide Advocate.

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