Friday, May 31, 2013

William Carey: Educational Pioneer - HIRD

By the Rev.  Dr. Ed Hird

William Carey1

Who was William Carey, and why has he had such a major impact on our global culture?  On May 26th , I graduated with my Doctorate from Carey Theological College on the UBC Campus.  While at Carey College, I often walked past a painting of Carey, showing his humble beginning as a village shoemaker in Paulersbury, England.  Carey was fascinated with reading books about science, history and travel journals of explorers like Captain Cook.  His village playmates nicknamed him Christopher Columbus.  Carey said that he was addicted as a young person to swearing, lying, and alcohol.  A major turning point happened when he was caught by his employer embezzling a shilling.  Fortunately his employer did not press charges.  For such petty larceny, Carey could have easily paid the price of imprisonment, forfeiture of goods and chattel, whipping or transportation for seven years to the plantations of the West Indies or America.  Facing his own selfishness, Carey had a spiritual breakthrough by personally meeting Christ that had a lasting impact on his values and lifestyle.

Carey had a quick mind and a natural love of learning. He would have normally become a farm labourer, but suffered from a skin disease that made it painful for him to go out in the full sun. If Carey’s face and hands were exposed to the sun for any lengthy period, he would suffer agony throughout the night.  So instead he became a cobbler, making shoes.  While making shoes, he was able to read and pray.  Through this, Carey developed a conviction that he was to go to India.  His unimaginative friends and colleagues tried to talk him out of this fantasy.  His five-month pregnant wife Dorothy was also dead-set against it.  His own father Edmund wondered if his son had lost his mind.  Carey said to his dad: “I am not my own nor would I choose for myself. Let God employ me where he thinks fit.”

William CareymapWith unshakable determination, Carey went to India in 1793 which was under the control of the East India Company.  He later ended up becoming a Professor of Bengali and Sanskrit in Calcutta, India.  Through teaching at Fort Williams College in Calcutta, he was investing in young civil servants from England, helping them to have a good start in India.  Carey believed that the future was as bright as the promises of God.  He had an exceptional natural gift for languages.  Carey called himself a plodder; whatever he started, he always finished.   Unlike a number of his family members and closest friends, Carey survived malaria and numerous other tropical diseases.  His first wife Dorothy however had a nervous breakdown before later dying.  Carey was heartbroken.

Some bureaucrats from the East India Company did their best to expel Carey and his team from India.  Anything that might affect financial profit was seen as a threat.  William Wilberforce however, having finally abolished the slave trade, presented 837 petitions to the British Parliament representing over half a million signatures, requesting that ‘these good and great men’ be allowed to stay in India.  Carey’s enemies attacked him in Parliament for being a lowly shoemaker.  Wilberforce won the day in the Charter Renewal Bill of 1813.

William Carey collegeCarey’s motto was “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”

            Entirely self-taught, Carey impacted the emerging generation of Indian leaders that birthed the burgeoning modern democracy of India.  Serampore College was founded by Carey and his colleagues in 1818.  He produced six grammars of Bengali, Sanskrit, Marathi, Panjabi, Telugi, and Kanarese, and with John Clark Marshman, one of Bhutia.  He also translated the whole Bible into Bengali, Oriya, Marathi, Hindi, Assamese, and Sanskrit, and parts of it into twenty-nine other languages or dialects.  Scholars say that Carey significantly contributed to the renaissance of Indian Literature in the nineteenth century.

William Carey StampWhile an ordained preacher and a church planter, Carey was fascinated with all aspects of daily living.  In 1818 Carey founded two magazines and a newspaper, the Samachar Darpan, the first newspaper printed in any Asian language. He was the father of Indian printing technology, building what was then their largest printing press.  Carey was the first to make indigenous paper for the Indian publishing industry.  He brought the steam engine to India, and pioneered the idea of lending libraries in India.  Carey introduced the concept of a ‘Savings Bank’ to India, in order to fight the all-pervasive social evil of usury at interest rates of 36% to 72%.

Carey introduced the study of astronomy as a science, teaching that the stars and planets are God’s creation set by him in an observable order, rather than astrological deities fatalistically controlling one’s life.  He was the founder of the Agri-Horticultural Society in the 1820s, thirty years before the Royal Agricultural Society was established in England.  Carey was the first person in India to write about forest conservation. In 1823, he was elected as a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London, one of the world’s most distinguished botanical societies even today.  As Carey’s favorite flowers were lilies, he had the honour of having one (Careyanum) named after him.

william-carey graveHaving a strong social conscience, Carey was the first man to oppose the Sati widow-burning and female infanticide.  Sati was finally banned by the Government of India in 1829.  He also campaigned for humane treatment of lepers who were being burned or buried alive because of their bad karma.  The view at the point was that leprosy was a deserved punishment in the fifth cycle of reincarnation.

            Carey loved India and never returned home to England, dying in 1834 at the age of 73.  Near the end, he said: ““You have been speaking about William Carey. When I am gone, say nothing about William Carey-speak only about William Carey’s Saviour.”  My prayer for those reading this article is that we too would have the passion for learning and making a difference that William Carey once had.

Video: William Carey – A Candle in the Dark (click to view)

Ed processing

The Rev.  Dr. Ed Hird,

BSW, MDiv, DMin

Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver

Anglican Mission in the Americas (Canada)

-an article for the June 2013 Deep Cove Crier

-award-winning author of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’

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 $9.99 CDN/USD.

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

You can also download the complimentary Leader’s Guide PDF: Battle for the Soul Leaders Guide

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Worth knowing: Will anti-creationism hysteria targets homeschoolers? - Denyse O'Leary

In an age when it is hard to get an education no matter what you pay, expect to see public uproars about supposed evildoers. Creationists are a classic because no one cares whether kids learn anything or end up in jail or on welfare, as long as they are not taught “creationism.”

 Also Is twenty-five really the new fifteen? Or is that a better headline than a concept? The authors of the Escaping the Endless Adolescence argue:

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Hope Floats by Glynis M. Belec

This past Sunday I shared a message during a worship service.  I have spoken many times to all kinds of wonderful audiences - young and not so young. I've led many workshops in schools, at conferences, and in church fellowship halls. As a church drama leader and actor from way back, the upfront stuff isn't foreign to my blood. But this was my first time ever being responsible for the message during a worship service.

     When the lovely Pastor from the Moorefield United Church asked me a few weeks ago if I might be interested in speaking to her congregation, I wondered about my ability to be effective. My thoughts honed in on how would I do it? Could I do it? Would I say the right things? Then something hit me. I had the wrong focus. Speaking in Church was not about my abilities, fears and suppositions. If there was a message to be relayed and imprinted on some hearts, then God would look after that. Once I got that thought circulating in my grey matter, the decision was easy. I said yes.
Thank you Moorefield UC for opening your arms.

And what a wonderful time it was. Moorefield United Church welcomed my hubby and me with open arms. We knew many of the people there and those who we didn't know seemed just as sweet.

The title of my message was Hope Floats. (I chose to speak on hope, at the urging of a special friend who knows my heart.) In true dramatic fashion I put on my borrowed PFD [personal flotation device] and we set sail with Jesus at the helm.

My family bought me this one Christmas.
Were they trying to tell me something? 

My butterflies soon settled as I spoke to the sea of smiling faces. The more I said, the more I felt the calming voice of Jesus. My words, that I was so concerned about, floated forth. Hopefully a tiny seed of encouragement was born. My real prayer was that someone who was hurting and wondering was able to find renewed hope in Jesus through my experience.

I told those who were listening that I am no great theologian. I explained that I was just like everyone else with a story. I just had the opportunity to be the one to share a snippet of my story that fine Sunday Morning.

I took my rock with me for another
'object' lesson!
 Before I knew it the time had flown by and I was sharing the final words. God was good. God is always good. Sometimes it is difficult to grasp especially through the dark days, but God is always in control and is always good. He was particularly good Sunday morning when we got to have lunch with some joyfully kind parishioners afterwards. Then when I got that telephone call later from the lady who wanted to personally thank me for the encouragement and renewed hope she found...yep...I understood then that God really is good and having hope in Him, alone, is the way to that perfect peace that truly does passeth all understanding.

Hope in Jesus is what really keeps us afloat!
1 THESSALONIANS 1:3 Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Gift That Wasn’t—den Boer

The phone rang. It was Marnie. “Marian, I’m embarrassed to tell you this; I bought you a present.”

“For me? You did?”

“For your family.”

“What’s the occasion?”

“Oh, just because you’re nice and Marty and Allison had a birthday.”

“So why are you embarrassed?”

“Well, because the present is so nice.”

“That’s embarrassing?”

“Yes, because I’m keeping it. I bought it for you on Friday, fell in love with it over the weekend, and I can’t bear to part with it.”

“Thanks, I guess.” Marnie and I, good friends since high school, over 20 years ago, don’t often buy each other presents, so I was sort of grateful for the thought. “What in the world is it?”

“It’s a bird.”

“You bought us a bird. Oh, Marnie thank you.” Now I really was grateful. How many friends do you have who would buy you a bird and keep it for you?

You see, our four children had been bothering Marty and me for a pet and again this year we had promised to look into it. The truth is I don’t like pets. I don’t mind admiring someone else’s pets, but I don’t like to take care of a pet. If a pet came to me toilet-trained (that’s flush toilet), I might reconsider.

It isn’t that we haven’t tried to meet our children’s desire for animal friends. We took them to the zoo once and we’ve lived next to people with rabbits and dogs. We’ve even owned goldfish, but they died. Our gerbils died too. So did the puppy we had for three days: the one that slept under the car.

“I knew you were looking for a pet and as soon as I saw her I thought of you,” continued Marnie. “She’s got a big cage and she talks.”

“She talks?”

“It’s a parrot.”

“A parrot? You bought us a parrot? Expensive, I bet.”

“Yeah, but that’s okay. You’re worth it.”

That evening I told Marty and the kids, “Aunt Marnie bought us a pet.”

“She did? What is it?” the kids chorused.

“It’s a bird, a parrot, but we’re not getting it because she fell in love with it.”

“Aww.” The disappointment was showing.

“But,” I added, “we can go look at it and maybe think about getting one like it.” Notice how I didn’t commit myself.

Several evenings later we were introduced to Zack. (She was named before they figured out her sex.) She was a pretty green bird with a yellow patch on her head, orange eyes and several red and blue tail feathers.

“Hello,” she said. “Tickle, tickle. Want a peanut? Thank you. Bye.” She whistled, she barked and she meowed. The kids loved her.

“There’s probably not another bird like her,” Marnie said. “Nobody is allowed to say bad words in front of her: she learns words so fast.”

I actually liked the bird. I liked her all the more because Marnie wasn’t about to part with her, although she did promise we could baby-sit Zack sometime, maybe even for a few weeks when she moulted, because all those feathers would make Marnie’s family sneeze.

Our children came home raving about Zack. Angela took to reading the want ads every evening. She only came across one parrot, but by the time we phoned it was gone.

Maybe I could talk the kids into settling for a bird-feeding station in the backyard.

“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?” (Matthew 7:9)

My sentiment toward pets mirrored my attitude toward the Holy Spirit. It was okay for my sister-in-law to speak in tongues, but I was not interested in receiving that “gift” as she called it. Prophetic words, miracles, signs and wonders were all evidences of the Holy Spirit which I enjoyed reading about in the Bible, but I was not expecting to experience those things personally. Little did I know that in the not too distant future, even as Zack would come to live at our house, the Holy Spirit would captivate me.

Excerpt from Blooming, This Pilgrim's Progress by Marian den Boer. I'm currently working on a novel, Minnie Goes to Heaven. Visit my blog to catch the work in progress.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Dead or alive—animals teach us - Gibson

As I greeted our daughter Amanda at the front door the other day, she pointed to something on the deck—a narrow strip of thickly-furred deer hide, a foot long, recently detached from its owner.

She sighed. “Mom, are you bringing dead animals home again?”

The family has never allowed me to forget that decades ago, I once picked up road kill. Arriving home, I called, “Guess what I've got in the trunk?” Family came running. No one answered.

“A dead body,” I whispered. The Preacher almost swooned—likely more from the stench than the shock. But I used the quills I harvested from that dead porcupine for years.

They also insist on bringing up the half-dead squirrel I dragged home from a picnic. (The children insisted, but that part seems long forgotten.) We cleared the food from the cooler and put the squirrel in, hoping to doctor it at home, or at least let it die in peace. Somehow it got loose in the car. I'd rather not talk about the lesson I learned that day—but the policeman who pulled me over may still be.

“I wanted to show it to the beans,” I said, of the strip. Amanda rolled her eyes, likely remembering the brown bat in Neighbour Ed's yard. I thought it would make a good nature lesson, with its carefully designed wings and soft fur—and I didn’t stop her when she picked it up. It seemed cute—until it bit her palm.

In retrospect, the bat taught us mostly about the science of medicine. Five of us, including the neighbour and his son, needed a month-long course of rabies vaccinations. (The Preacher didn't touch the creature—he mentions that often.)

“This time it's only a wee bit of the animal,” I said of the fur. She seemed not overly relieved. Still not sure if she wanted her children exposed to her mother's penchant for critters--dead or alive.

A few hours earlier I and a pair of friends, out cross-country skiing, had found that piece of deer draped over a sturdy, though short, tree branch, about eight feet up. Using my ski pole, I dragged it down for inspection, wondering how it got there. It reminded me of the pair of antlers the Preacher had spotted hanging about thirty feet up in another tree. That mystery on Yorkton's Hjertas Nature Trail puzzled us each time our family hiked there.

“That likely happened during the night,” my friend said. “The deer was probably trying to escape a predator.” The visual images of those frenzied minutes made me shudder—but clearly the animal had escaped.

I’ve kept the hide. It reminds me how crucial it is to flee from the enemy of our souls—even at the risk of leaving a strip of skin behind—whatever form that skin takes.

Got an attractive temptation, an unhealthy relationship or habit? Considering an unethical deal? Take a lesson from the deer—leave it behind. A strip of skin is a small price to pay for your spiritual survival.

Even Amanda agrees—that’s a lesson worth bringing home.

Kathleen Gibson ponders faith and life in her newspaper column, Sunny Side Up, and her 90 second radio spot, Simple Words, aired on local and not-so-local Christian radio.

Watch for Kathleen's upcoming contributions to Scripture Union's new Bible App, "theStory" (Genesis 18 - 24). Visit theStory here. 

The above column was published earlier this May.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Reunion - M. Laycock

Shades of fresh new green billow across the landscape interspersed with patches of tawny stubble and dark earth waiting for rain beneath scudding clouds and blue sky. Hawks skim the ground or perch on fence posts, eyes ever searching for prey. Here and there cattle graze, wandering down centuries old pathways grooved into the side of low hills. It's springtime in Alberta. The long wait for winter to end has passed but now a new anticipation hovers in the soft air. Will the rains come? Will the crops sprout and yield their harvest? The potential for either feast or famine is there, walking the tightrope of weather forecasts and mechanical failures. 

I feel the tight coil of waiting inside me. Thoughts of "what if" press it down hard until the whisper, "I am with you," breaks through and the tension eases again. Then the distraction of time spent with old friends brings laughter and tears. The sweet sweet song of two young girls, smiling as they sing about Jesus catches in my throat and eye contact with a friend brings a knowing smile. Walking the dirt roads of a country town on a tranquil evening, the joy of discovering new places together makes us giddy and the unexpected certainty that God is walking with us tingles my spine.

All too soon it's time to pack up with hugs all round to say good-bye as we step out into a cooling shower. Blessings falling on us all, on the land. The seeds will yield their fruit. Though weather may turn and machines may fail, the harvest will come. He is with us.

Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor's wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone and also has two devotional books in print. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan. Marcia's second novel, A Tumbled Stone has just been short listed in the contemporary fiction category of The Word Awards. Abundant Rain, an ebook devotional for writers can be downloaded here. Visit Marcia's website

Monday, May 20, 2013

What is a Christian Writer?

I have a book that I bought many years ago when I first began my writing journey. It is Ethel Herr's book An Introduction to Christian Writing. It's a great book and one I encourage new writers to pick up.
I'd like to share with you a few of the points she brought out in her first chapter about writers who are Christian and what their responsibilities are:

  • A Christian Writer is - someone who writes! Sounds rather obvious doesn't it? They are editors, magazine staff writers, public relations specialists, technical writers, writing teachers, novelists. They are writers who happen to be Christian. In other words they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They belong to a body of fellow-believers. Jesus Christ is our Head and gives us our typing orders. 
  • A Christian Writer is - a believer at worship. Ethel Herr says, "We tend to think that we are first ministers with a pen. However, before we can minister, we must learn to worship and regard all our writing as an act of worship offered to the God of the universe. Everything we do and say must be an act of worship, done for God's pleasure." I like that  reminder! If we approach our writing as an act of worship done for God's pleasure, we will never write something that would violate, trivialize or compromise our basic beliefs.
  • A Christian Writer is a ministering prophet with a broken heart. Biblical prophets who preached judgment never delivered many words of fire without stopping to weep and plead with God's people. No matter how urgent the message, we must first let God break our hearts with the thing that makes Him weep, then weep with Him as we write. God has called us to be servants of Jesus Christ and to serve one another. We will write to meet others needs rather than our own. We will present all of life from the Christian viewpoint. The author also shares a warning her pastor gave her in regards to success as a writer - "There is always the danger that what begins as a humble service to God will become a desire to be great." 
  • A Christian Writer is an artist. Art is more than painting a picture. Art is music, acting, dancing, poetry - in other words, art is a reflection of self-expression, a gift of God that we share from our hearts to bring encouragement, beauty and pleasure to our readers and to God.
  • A Christian Writer is a craftsman. The craft of writing is an exercise in the disciplines of polishing and perfecting our work. Craftsmanship is workmanship - the 95 percent perspiration that must accompany the 5 percent inspiration before a piece of art can take shape. Ethel Herr goes on to say that:
  1. A craftsman takes pride in his work. He cares more about the quality than the sale-ability.
  2. The craftsman works with untiring diligence. 
  3. The craftsman nurtures growth in his person and in his writing. 
  4. The craftsman can take criticism and use it constructively in developing his craft.
The author sums up what a Christian writer is with these four principles:
  1. Weep. Look around you; see your world. Look within; know yourself. Look up to God; learn His expectations. Then let Him break your heart.
  2. Pray. Take time to pray each project into being. Don't rush into publication.
  3. Think. Think your subject through. Research it thoroughly. Produce mature, intellectually sound and honest work.
  4. Work. Be prepared to do plenty of this, but not without the first three steps.
Now, let the discussion begin. What do you think a Christian writer is? Someone who just happens to be Christian and a writer? Or, as the author suggests, a minister to those they are writing for? I'd love to hear your comments. If you are on Facebook, please leave your comments on my blog site so that others can follow along. Thanks!

You can purchase Ethel's book here

Until Next Time!

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Spectrum of Life Ruth Smith Meyer

Life presents us with a whole gamut of experiences. 2013 has certainly already imparted much thus far—both elating and distressing, personal and world-wide.

Just in the last few months the distressing has almost seemed over-powering.  On a larger scale: the Boston bombing incident, the Bangladesh factory collapse, the news of the three Cleveland women held in captivity for ten years, the New Orleans Mother’s Day shootings, the killing of Tim Bosma, a young innocent, husband and father.  There have been recent stories of political people who seemed to be reliable seriously violating that trust, costly actions taken at the expense of taxpayers only for political gain. In our personal lives, we’ve experienced the ups and downs of a cancer journey and physical ills.  This line of thought could be further expanded with more incidents.  One could think if there wasn’t bad news there would be no news at all. Life could get discouraging.

Then quietly, we become aware of the other end of the spectrum.  Spring arrives, slowly, but surely.  New growth appears.  The buds on trees burst into leaves, bedecking the branches in a myriad colours of green.  Shoots emerge through bare ground, unfurling into innumerable variety of plants and blossoming into countless varieties of flowers.  Shrubs and flowering trees in succession explode into beauteous array and rapturous aroma. Our hope and belief in a living God are renewed.  

We begin to take note of other hopeful things happening around us: new babies arrive with the smell of heaven and the aura of innocence; men and women finding each other and happily wed themselves to each other with the promise adventure and growth of love and fulfillment; people giving of themselves to help someone in need; those who didn’t think of their own safety, but raced to help those hurt in the bombings; people helping for days, to dig through the rubble to find those still living, the public honouring the need of privacy for the women who had been held in captivity; virtual strangers organizing a ride to raise funds for the grieving Bosma family; a young child writing a book to raise funds for a friend with a life-threatening disease and far exceeding his expectations and those of his parents; a politician going above and beyond the call of duty; a teacher applauding a child who has made great strides in his school year.

New babies arrive with the smell of heaven and the aura of innocence.  Men and women find each other and happily wed with the promise of adventure and growth of love and fulfillment. 

Yes, life presents both good and bad. We can become bogged down if we concentrate on the bad, if we only bemoan the chaos and sin in our world.  But if we look, we can find ways to turn those very things into opportunities for growth, for compassion, for ingenuous ways of showing ours and God’s love and care.  Yes, there will be scars left from many of those tragedies, there will be chasms of emptiness that seem too big to ever be filled, but one step, one act of kindness, one touch of understanding at a time and something new can rise from calamity.  It’s up to you and to me.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

With God's Help, a Mother Copes with the Disappearance of her Son by Rose McCormick Brandon

Robbie Brown
It was a hot Saturday in August 1968.
Between lunch and supper duties at a local kid’s Bible camp, Shirley Brown took ten month-old Cathy and twelve year-old Robbie to the beach while her two middle children, Ross Jr. and Michael stayed at camp for afternoon activities. Shirley watched the interaction between her budding teenager and his baby sister.  Robbie, not thrilled at first with the news of a new baby, had quickly become the adored big brother.
About four o’clock Shirley gathered their belongings and prepared to return to the camp. Robbie walked the short distance home, intending to do his daily paper route and then wait at home for his father to return from work.
“Don’t forget to let Dad know where I am and that I’ll be home as soon as I can,” Shirley reminded Robbie. Watching him stride down the rural road from the beach to home, Shirley thought how responsible and grown-up her Robbie was becoming.
At 6:30 that evening Shirley and Ross pulled into the driveway simultaneously. The boys ran for the house while Ross swooped Cathy into his arms. “Where’s Robbie?” he asked noticing he was missing from the family’s reunion.
Rushing inside to prepare dinner, Shirley said, “He went to do his papers but he should have been back by now.” Ross Jr. ran off to meet Robbie but soon returned alone, with a bundle of undelivered newspapers.
“What has he been doing the past two and half hours?” asked Shirley with an edge of irritation in her voice.
Ross Jr. and Michael delivered the papers while Shirley worked in the kitchen. How could he be so irresponsible? I’ll ground him for a whole week.  These thoughts grumbled in her mind all through dinner. She expected Robbie to burst through the door any minute with a reasonable explanation – he’d stopped at a friend’s house  – “sorry Mom, I lost track of time,” he’d sayHe would pledge never to do it again and that would be the end of that. 
After dinner Ross and the boys drove back to the campground thinking Robbie may have returned there to look for Shirley. They searched the camping area and side-roads stopping to ask each person if they’d seen Robbie. No one had.
At 9 p.m.  Ross’s car pulled into the driveway. Shirley ran to embrace Robbie. Her frustration with his behavior had turned to worry. She no longer cared about grounding him. She wanted to see his face again and have him safely inside the walls of their home. But Robbie wasn't in the car.
Ross couldn't hide his concern.  “No one has seen him for hours. I think we’d better call the police.”
Officers from the Pefferlaw Police Department took a description of Robbie and asked where he’d last been seen then they also searched the campground. This time they found someone who saw Robbie walking toward the beach at about 4;15 p.m. This meant instead of heading home after parting from his mother, he had returned to the water.
Investigators probed into the Brown’s family life to determine if Robbie had reason to run away. When it was determined that running away was unlikely, they assumed he had drowned. But if he went into the water, where was his clothing? He had been wearing bathing trunks under his shirt and pants. And swimmers at Georgina Beach walked several hundred yards before reaching deep water. Besides, Robbie was a strong swimmer.
In spite of darkness, police organized a search party of summer cottagers, friends and neighbours. Shirley and Ross stayed awake all night, watching, praying and fighting off nightmarish thoughts of what may have prevented their son from returning home.
At daybreak, a police helicopter joined the search. Reporters arrived. Friends and relatives came to console the family.  Jo took one look at Shirley and suggested she get some rest. “I need to stay awake and pray,” she protested.
“You go to bed and I’ll do the praying for you,” Jo said. Five years earlier it had been Jo who shared her “born-again” excitement with Shirley and invited her to church. There, Shirley heard that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, gave His life for her and she too accepted Jesus as her personal Savior.
Each time Shirley awoke she saw Jo kneeling beside the bed. Shirley recalls this act of kindness as one of the finest things anyone has ever done for her.
After resting, Shirley visited the beach. Columns of searchers waded through the water like a giant comb, hands joined, eyes downward. Weakened and shocked by the sight, she climbed back into the car holding in wails of anguish by stuffing tissue in her mouth.
At home, Shirley fell across the bed groaning in pain. Ross rushed to hold her, panic and horror binding them together in a moment only they could share.
By the end of the first week Shirley’s mind ached from terrible thoughts of what may have happened to her son, and from probing questions:  What kind of parents were she and Ross? Did they tell the truth about their son’s disappearance? Was there reason for Robbie to run away? Was the Brown marriage a happy one?
Considering the alternatives, Shirley began hoping that Robbie had drowned. If his body surfaces, then at least we’ll know the truth, she thought. Truth is better than uncertainty.
Sightings of Robbie were reported, some hundreds of miles from home. At first Shirley and Ross became excited but as one after the other proved false, they stopped paying attention to rumors.
One day while shopping a woman approached Shirley. “I’d like you to come to my house,” she said, “I’m having a séance and we’ll try to find out where your son is.”
“I talk to God every day and when He wants me to know where my son is, He’ll tell me," Shirley said. Another psychic sent a message giving directions to a pit where Robbie’s body lay.
“Father, please help me,” Shirley prayed. “If Robbie is there, let someone else find him. I won’t even look. I will trust only you, Jesus.” Later Shirley read Deuteronomy 18:9-12 and realized God forbids all occult practices which includes séances and divination of all forms. Today, she thanks the Lord for giving her wisdom to avoid the deceptions of spiritual darkness that could have been a temptation.
At this point, under severe mental strain, Shirley knew if she allowed herself to give in to the desire to scream Robbie’s name, as she sometimes felt driven to do, her mind would snap. She describes this period - “I lived in a circle of God’s peace but a world of madness lurked at its perimeter.”
After two years of alternately believing Robbie was alive and hoping he wasn’t because she knew only horrific circumstances could keep him away from the family, Shirley phoned a local police officer and asked, “Do you believe Robbie is alive?”  
“We’re almost certain that if your son were alive he would have been able to get away by now.” This reply guided Shirley to an important decision – the acceptance of Robbie’s death. With acceptance, the turmoil of wondering and waiting ended. She helped her children come to the same decision by explaining that Robbie was with Jesus. They cried but it concluded their pain and enabled them to remember happy times with their big brother. Gradually, they forgot the sorrow of the past and built new family memories.
As a family, Shirley, Ross and the children placed Robbie in God’s hands. In return, God gave them peace to accept the mystery of his disappearance.
Shirley’s vibrancy and joy make it difficult to imagine the depth of her suffering but like many who have suffered deeply, she enjoys God deeply. An active Christian worker, speaker and woman of prayer, Shirley has invested her life so others may know the Savior she calls her best friend.
A few years ago, Ross, Shirley’s companion for forty-six years, went to be with Jesus.
Of her new journey she says, “It makes a difference when you know your God and His promises. He gives a peace within. I remain focused on Him, He is now my husband. Ross and I walked the road of grief together when Robbie disappeared, but this road I walk alone, yet not alone because my Lord is with me.” 
Today, Shirley makes her home in the Hamilton, Ontario area where she enjoys  spending time with her children and nine grandchildren. She's active in her church and speaks about her experience. Ross Jr. is pastor of People's Church, Hamilton.
Vanished - What Happened to my son?
Vanished - What Happened to my son? by Rose McCormick Brandon and Shirley Brown
Read the complete story of how Shirley and her family coped with Robbie's disappearance in Vanished: What Happened to my Son? available here.
Families with missing loved ones can find help through the Brown family's foundation, Courage to Cope.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Perception: Two Circles . . . What Do You See? (Peter A. Black)

It’s interesting how something is seen for what it is when alone, but once placed adjacent to something else in a certain way, the sight can grab your attention and seem funny, absurd or ridiculous. Take, for example, something that happened this morning.

Our son had to be off to work, and his wife had left long before to start her nursing shift, so my wife and I were over at their place at 7 o’clock, in order to see the young’uns up and fed and off to school.

First up was the eight-year old. As she often does, she soon got busy with pen and paper. This time she practiced drawing circles freehand and came over to me, brandishing her efforts. Remarkable! Believe me . . . I couldn’t have done better myself.

She had some really well-formed circles on the page. “That’s a really good one,” I said. “. . . and that one there is very good, too—very round.”

 “Hah! Hah! Grandpa. See those two together – they look just like a kid’s butt!” she snickered. I chuckled.

Yep, what we often perceive in what we see is not so much in the eye of the beholder, as it is in the mind, of course.

Later on this morning I had occasion to call in at our community senior centre. A Zumba fitness class was in progress. There might have been forty-five or more senior ladies swinging to the music, but only one lone man. It wasn’t funny or even ridiculous, but it caused me to ponder what likely accounts for that enormous statistical contrast. I reckoned the situation offered a study in sociology.

Ah, but I could see a lighter side, too. “One lone, brave soul!” I grinned when chatting with the coordinator. I can imagine the fellow’s family and friends teasing him about how lucky he is to be the only guy with all those good-lookin’ grandmas.                  

Perception is a significant faculty, and we humans have a capacity to detect patterns and perceive incongruities or paradoxes in situations. Here’s one: At a time when whole economies struggle to stay afloat and various nations teeter on the precipice of economic collapse, millionaires and billionaires continue to multiply. I read recently that—despite the international economic gloom—global wealth is at an all-time high. Boggles the mind.

Perspective is related to perception. India is known for its caste-system and towering poverty, yet millionaires are multiplying there at a rapid rate. Likewise, in China. Communist China! Was communism not supposed to bring in a classless society, with all citizens sharing equally in the wealth? Now here’s a contrast, our American cousins—were they not supposed to be a classless society, too, but based on an entrepreneurial, capitalist equal opportunity model? Despite the economic downturn there that affected the whole world, millionaires and billionaires continue to multiply, while people lose their jobs and homes . . . and pensions.

Two circles side by side. Add two round dots to each and you see eyes. Add a spot below them and a small curve below that, and you have faces. Perhaps they’re siblings or friends. Draw another two circles, adding a hooked line on the left of one circle and one on the right side of the other circle, add a short curved dash between them and you see eyeglasses. Or, for a bike add a T-shape for handle-bars, a seat and a triangular shape between the circles.

So much for my artistic prowess—that’s about the extent of it!

Two circles—what do you see? Two pennies?

Jesus observed the rich in all their finery casting their sizable offerings into the temple treasury. What a contrast to the humble widow woman who dropped in a couple of lowly coins.
He remarked, “They gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on” (Mark 12:44 NIV).
Perspective: Jesus saw a grateful heart and worshipful sacrifice.  


(A briefer, earlier edition of the above article was published in The Guide-Advocate on May 9, 2013.)

Peter A. Black is a freelance writer in Southwestern Ontario, and is author of “Parables from the Pond” – a children's / family book (mildly educational, inspirational in orientation, character reinforcing). 
(Finalist -- Word Alive Press ISBN 1897373-21-X )
His inspirational column, P-Pep! appears weekly in The Guide-Advocate. His articles have appeared in 50 Plus Contact and testimony, and several newspapers in Ontario.



Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Influence of Children - Eleanor Shepherd

 Dallas Willard, who was a great teacher of spiritual formation passed away this week.  As we say in The Salvation Army, he was promoted to Glory.  It was just a few days before Mother's Day.  I read in a tribute to him written by John Ortberg in Christianity Today that the mother of Dallas Willard died when he was only two years old.  Her dying wish must have been fulfilled as her last words to her husband were: "Keep eternity before the children." Evidence that he did so, is seen in the biography of her son, Dallas.

The timing of this story is quite incredible.  After living a life that demonstrated the influence of his mother's desire for him, Dallas Willard entered forever into eternity just a few days before Mother's Day.  How fitting.

As I have been scrolling through Facebook this week, during my travels, I have seen so many express gratitude for the influence of their mothers.  I have never noticed before such a widespread changing of profile pictures as adult children post photos of their mothers.  I was thrilled to see the faces of some of my friends who went to Heaven several years ago.  I see proof that their influence lives on in the lives of their children.

This year, circumstances prevent me from being with my children on Mother's Day, yet this week I have had the privilege of special intimate moments with each of them.  I had to be in Toronto for some meetings at the end of the week.  My son, graciously provided me with a place to stay at his apartment.  We were able to do some very ordinary things together.  It seems like when there is unhurried time just to do household tasks and chat together, we realize the joy there is in our relationship.  John even shared his animals with me, his dog sharing my bed and his cats sleeping on the floor beside me.  I felt so at home in his home.  Then after I left I received a text message from him thanking me for the food I bought to fatten his larder.  I loved his gratitude.  What more could a mother ask to celebrate Mother's Day.

Then on the way home on the train, I received a lovely email from my daughter expressing her gratitude for what my husband and I have been able to do for her and her husband and little daughter, since they moved to the city where we live.  I wrote back to remind her what she is now learning herself as a mother.  There is nothing that is too much when it comes to doing something for our children.  Nevertheless her gratitude was a beautiful gift she too offered to me.

It is true that mothers are able to have a great influence on their children.  However it seems to me equally true that children have the unique ability to draw forth from us as mothers qualities like nobility, gentleness, kindness and unselfishness.  I know that I am a better person because of what my children have needed and expected from me and I am grateful that they have given me opportunities to nurture these virtues in my developing character.

As a mother, my children have also taught me that I do not have within me enough nobility or gentleness, or kindness or unselfishness to be the person they want me to be.  However,  when I read the story of a life like that of Dallas Willard, or a hundred other Heros of the Faith, I am reminded that the resources are avialable to me to approach more and more those lofty ambitions I have to be a mother who makes a positive difference in the lives of her children.  When I keep eternity before my eyes and reach for help from He who fills eternity with His loving presence, I can bask fully in the joy and gratitude of my children.
Word Guild Award
Word Guild Award

Monday, May 13, 2013

HORROR-- Alan Reynolds

            A recent item in our newspaper noted the 20th anniversary of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Attending were former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Nobel Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor Eli Wiesel, who as a boy was interned in the horror of Auschwitz.

 Despite movies and books which seek to portray situations of horror for our entertainment, we have not
completely domesticated the word. The bombings at the Boston Marathon, the continued bloodshed in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as Somalia and other parts of Africa, the collapsing of a garment factory building in
Bangladesh -- the horrors seems to be endless. Of all the horrors of the last hundred years, one stands out,
perhaps because we feel a part of it, bearing some responsible for it: that is the Holocaust, the attempted
elimination of the Jewish people during World War II by the Nazi regime. You may not like reading the following (as they say on TV, you may find the contents disturbing), but it is important that we remember. It is important that we wrestle with the questions it raises, and to read the comments of Francois Mauriac from a Christian point of view.    

 And yes, I admit that this, the suffering of the innocent, the righteous, is the problem I find most difficult theologically. In fact I doubt that it can be resolved theologically. The closest I come to any satisfaction I find in the Cross. God is with us, even when God seems gone, to have left us bereft; when God seems to have forsaken us. I have found it to be true. “God was in Christ” (II Corinthians 5:9), and is with us today in the horrors we face in our own lives.

In his book, Night, Eli Wiesel tells of being a child in the internment camp at Auschwitz, a story of horror upon horror, where the SS guards would toss babies in the air and shoot at them, using them for target
One day when we came back from work, we saw three gallows rearing up in the assembly, three black crows. Roll call. SS all around, machine guns trained.  Three victims in chains, one of them a young boy, a child with a refined and beautiful face, the face of a sad angel. The SS seemed more preoccupied, more disturbed than usual. To hang a young boy in front of thousands of spectators was no light matter.  The head of the camp read the verdict. All eyes were on the child. He was lividly pale, biting his lips. The gallows threw its shadow over him.
 The three victims mounted together onto the chairs. The three necks were placed at the same moment within the nooses.
“Long live liberty!” cried the two adults.
But the child was silent.
“Where is God? Where is He?” someone behind me asked.
At a sign from the head of the camp, the three chairs [were] tipped over.
Total silence throughout the camp. On the horizon the sun was setting.
"Bare your heads!" yelled the head of the camp. His voice was raucous. We were weeping.
Then the march past began. The two adults were no longer alive. Their tongues hung swollen, blue-tinged. But the third rope was still moving, being so light, the child was still alive….
For more than half an hour he stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying the slow agony under our eyes. And we had to look him full in the face. He was still alive when I passed in front of him. His tongue was still red, his eyes not yet glazed.
Behind me, I heard the same man asking,
 “Where is God now?”
And I head a voice within me answer him:
 “Where is he? Here He is – He is hanging here on this gallows….” 
(Night, by Eli Wiesel, Avon Books, 1972, pp. 74-76.)
 In the forward to the book, Francois Mauriac tells of being interviewed by Wiesel some years later. Wiesel was now a young man, a journalist.
The young Israeli who came to interview me for a Tel Aviv paper immediately won my sympathy, and our conversation very quickly took a personal turn. It led me to recall memories of the Occupation. I confided to my young editor that nothing I had seen during those somber years had left so deep a mark upon me as those trainloads of Jewish children standing at Austerlitz [train] station [in Paris, during the Occupation]. At that time we knew nothing of Nazi methods of extermination. And who could have imagined them! Yet the way these lambs had been torn from their mothers in itself exceeded anything we had so far thought possible. I believe that on that day, I touched for the first time upon the mystery of iniquity.
 This then was what I had to tell the young journalist. And when I said with a sigh, “How often I have thought about those children!” he replied, “I was one of them.” He had seen his mother, a beloved little sister, and all his family disappear into an oven fed with living creatures. “Never shall I forget that night,” he wrote. "Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky. Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever, those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust.”

And Mauriac writes,

 And I who believe that God is love, what answer could I give my young questioner. What did I say to him? Did I speak of that other Israeli, his brother, who may have resembled him – the Crucified, whose Cross had conquered the world? Did I affirm that the stumbling block to his faith was the cornerstone of mine, and the conformity between the Cross and the suffering of men was in my eyes the key to that impenetrable mystery whereon the faith of his childhood had perished? … All is grace. If the Eternal is the Eternal, the last word for each one of us belongs to Him. This is what I should have told this Jewish child. But I could only embrace him, weeping.

Friday, May 10, 2013

My Mother's Turnips, Visits and Quilts/MANN

Childhood memories are golden. However, some don’t make much sense without interpretation. And sometimes, we can’t do that by ourselves.
Back in the 40's and early 50's, I remember my mother going to what was called “The Poor House”, a huge three story stone resident that housed people without means, situated between Elora and Fergus. She took produce from the farm; I faintly remember turnips as one item. I wondered over the years, why turnips, when The House of Industry had a mega garden across the front of the property and lots of workable farm land.

I also remember cutting, what I think were quilt blocks, for Mother to take there. She would wait patiently for an item of our clothing to wear out so she could cut it up and get a few blocks. She would use corners and lengths of material from blouses, shirts, bedding and aprons to create a colourful pile. Sometimes it would wait for the quilt frames in the upstairs bedroom and other times, she’d put it in a paper grocery bag for other places. She’d visit The House of Industry and enter at the barn side of the big house with a box. When I was with her, I'd remain in the car. This was the second memory of the mystery.

The third part of the triad was equally unsolved. Mother would drive to The House and bring several women down to our farm for the afternoon. I often wondered if she had some friends who moved there for better living conditions. Although I was in school, I don't remember meeting them, but I heard her tell her friends. Seriously, at times, I wondered if this snippet of memory for just a figment of my imagination.

Only recently a historian friend shared that following the WWII ‘the vegetable gardens at the Poor House were scaled back and local residents were then asked to donate what extra farm produce they had to feed the residents.’ This fit for my mother’s character, as she often shared her garden produce with neighbours who didn’t have a garden.

My friend also said her grandmother went to The House regularly to cut quilt blocks and added, “My grandmother always had one or two women [from The Home] come to visit. They'd spend the afternoon drinking tea and quilting.” This was an important piece of information for me as the residents, or inmates as they were referred to at that time, would need bedding. It seemed right, as Mom used to have benefit card parties and social events at the farm house to raise money or to wrap bandages for the local  Red Cross during the war. She also quilted, gathered items of use for them and worked diligently in her local rural church through Mission and Service.
So turnips, visits and quilts, all a part of my mother’s life who believed in ‘feeding the hungry, visiting the poor, and providing warmth on a cold night.’ One of her favourite scriptures: 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.' (Matthew 25:40).


Aggie’s Voice, the third and last of the Agnes Macphail trilogy, coming early fall (Brucedale Press).

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