Monday, June 30, 2014

What is a Prayer Truck? - den Boer

A prayer truck is parked in an alley in downtown Hamilton. This is a rented U-Haul truck, the walls of the box papered with blank sheet on which people can scribble, print and draw with marker or crayon or pen their prayers, praises, and requests. Or they can sit on pillows or stretch out on the carpeted floor. Or play the drum or guitar. A small fridge is packed with bottled water. Volunteers at the truck give away hundreds of bottles of water over the course of several weeks.

The open box of the truck faces out onto Hughson Street where several chairs and a sandwich board litter the sidewalk. The sandwich board asks, "Need prayer?"

Christians from across the city have signed up to be part of this GOHOP (Greater Ontario House of Prayer) initiative. I signed up for last Wednesday afternoon.

Other years I spent my time inside the truck praying for the city, particularly the youth in the city. This time I  sat out on the chairs with three other volunteers next to the sandwich board. A fellow with a guitar dropped by. Pretty soon we had two guitars going and someone on the drums.

Another fellow skate-boarded up with a banged-up guitar, "Here you guys can have this." He asked for prayer about an upcoming court date to do with custody of his young son.

A girl with a wrist brace came over.

We prayed for her wrist to be healed. "On a scale of one to ten, how much pain do you feel now?"

"It never hurt."

"Do something you couldn't do before."

"I can already do everything. See." She swung her arm around.

We prayed for someone with a girl's name and stretch pants. He had long grey hair and a bald head.

I talked to a young fellow who had just broken up with his boyfriend. He didn't want prayer about anything. He was simply waiting for a friend who was being prayed for inside the truck.

At the end of the hour and a half I wondered if my being at the prayer truck had made any difference. What did I do besides be there and join in the prayer that would have happened even if I wasn't there? I was probably redundant.  After all Jesus sent out his disciples two-by-two.

That evening three people gave their hearts to the Lord. The angels in heaven are singing.

"So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labour. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building." I Corinthians 3:7-9 NIV

Sunday, June 29, 2014

This Amazing Journey of Life/MANN

Ted Decker talks about his early life on the mission field in Indonesia. Friend Louise shares about her childhood in British West Indies. The woman next to me at the craft show speaks about being born and raised in Jerusalem. Each of these folks celebrate who they are in their space. And I add my few notes: I was born and raised on a farm, moved up the road after marriage and lived the first forty years of my life at a R. R. # 2 rural route address.This doesn’t quite compare with the adventure of the first three, and yet each memory proves sufficient.
 I find some similarities to this illustration in our writing world. I see Sandra Orchard’s list of accomplishments, Linda Hall’s impressive covers and Jan Cox’s creative art, each celebrating who they are in their own right. I remember sitting in Jean Little’s living room many years ago and looking at her collection of books with the words, Jean Little, written down the spine. And I thought, some time, me too. Today, I look at my bookshelf and think, ‘well done – you have contributed in different ways’. More recently, I read where Alice Munro has retired from writing. How can one totally do that?  We learn from those who have gone before, or lovingly walk with us, don’t we?
Last week, I saw the obituary of Dr. Margaret Mahoney from Toronto. “One of two women in her program (DDS) at University of Toronto in 1944.” I graduated from UofT in 1982 and I too remember being one of two women in some subjects in my program toward ordination. Now, after my doctorate and serving as adjunct professor in Women’s Study of a conservative seminary, I may be the only ordained woman. What would we do without those who go before us and forge the way?
It is good to look at where God leads people, to celebrate the gifts God gives them and to acknowledge opportunities placed on their path of life. It is exciting to reflect on how one part of our life fits with another and we realize God has crafted an amazing journey.
At times, this has taken me into trouble zones, from losing friends to tripping on other people’s interpretation of my words and actions. An important part of my life’s walk has been and continues to promote women’s equal place with men in the leadership of the church and to see how God honours
that. Another significant jump-start for me is to read the Bible inclusively — that in itself has put many gates in fences. These efforts offer positive challenge and awareness through the choice to persevere and follow the road less traveled.
Watch for the sign-posts. The directions can be very interesting.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Donna Mann
Agnes Macphail series: (Brucedale Press/Pt. Elgin)
A Rare Find: (Castle Quay Books Canada)
WinterGrief: (Essence/Belleville)
Take Time To Make Memories (Manna Publications)

Saturday, June 28, 2014

WHOLENESS (A meditation on Acts 8:26-40)

   by Alan Reynolds

      Philip the Apostle, the disciple of Jesus, is not a prominent figure in the Gospels. Here, in the eighth chapter of the book of Acts, he comes into the spotlight in the early years of the church, first as a preacher or evangelist to Samaria, and here in an encounter with a “man” from Ethiopia. “Man,” in quotation marks, because he was a “eunuch.” “Eunuch” – emasculated, not a man. Literally “bed guard” from the practice in oriental courts that the keeper of the king’s harem be castrated to remove any temptation.

     This man was not “whole.” He was “disabled,” or in a politically correct age, challenged. The point is, we’re all “challenged,” mentally challenged, visually challenged, physically challenged. None of us is “whole.” We have all “fallen short of the glory of God.” We are not what God intended us to be, what we ourselves would be. And because he was not whole, he could not be holy. Eunuchs were not allowed in the temple, nor to be part of the worshipping congregation. No eunuch, whether accidental or intentional, “shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord” (Deut. 23:1).

     And he had traveled all the way from Ethiopia. Here he was, in that hot and barren desert region south of Jerusalem, symbol of the barrenness of his own body, maybe his own life. He was reading Isaiah 53 and wondering what it meant. “Who is this of whom the prophet speaks?”

     Isaiah 53 is one of the “Songs of the Suffering Servant,” found in the last twenty-six chapters of the prophet recorded simply as Isaiah. It was a message very different from the first 39 chapters, a message of one who would come, not in power, but in love, who would redeem the people through his suffering. In this figure, the Suffering Servant, the early church saw many of the qualities they knew in Jesus, a very different Messiah.

     Phillip shows the relevance of Jesus, his death and resurrection: despised and rejected by men, like a lamb led to the slaughter, he opened not his mouth; who made himself an offering for sin.

     This man, this eunuch, would see, would feel, the relevance of this passage for himself, for his own lack of wholeness. Cut off from the land of the living (verse 8). When he makes himself an offering for sin he shall see his offspring (verse 10). This eunuch, who had no sons, no offspring to speak for him, would be made whole.

     They come to water, toward the coast, from the arid desert to a place of life, of fruitfulness. The eunuch requests baptism and Phillip raises no objection. It is astounding – a black man, a eunuch. I remember a colleague who was criticized for baptizing a man who was mentally challenged. Philip had no hesitation. Perhaps Phillip (Acts 8:35), “starting with this scripture,” went on to the following chapters of Isaiah.

     In chapter 54, the prophet turns from lament to a song of joy, a barren woman is promised so many children that she will have to enlarge her tent, her dwelling space:

Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child.
Burst into song, shout for joy, you who have never been in labour.
Because you will have more children than a woman who has a husband. . . .
Enlarge the place of your tent; stretch your tent curtains wide.

Chapter 55 is an invitation to all, “whosoever will may come.”

Come all who are thirsty. Come to the waters.
All peoples, black, white, yellow or red, can come to God seeking grace.

And chapter 56:

Let not any foreigner who has bound himself to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.”
And let not any eunuch complain, “I am only a dry tree.” . . .
For this is what the Lord says,
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant, to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name, better than sons and daughters. I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off.”

     Today, the church in Ethiopia claims descent from this man. He has many children.
The point is we’re all challenged. We are none of us whole. We are all called to be more than we are. That is the desire that calls us to worship, Sunday after Sunday, that we may become, in God’s grace, what we are meant to be.

     To us, the promise also is given – even though we are not whole, we may find joyous acceptance in God’s household. We may be part of the family of God. We may have a name, “an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.” And in God’s time and place, we will be what God has called us to be.

Alan is the author of Reading the Bible for the Love of God, and A Troubled Faith: Affirming Christian Faith in the Twenty-first Century. Both books won awards from the Word Guild.
He lives in Richmond, B. C., and is still married (since 1962) to beautiful, blue-eyed Brenda. They enjoy great family times with four children and their spouses (all above average), and eight wonderful grandchildren.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Backstage Drama - All In a Day's Work - Tracy Krauss

Photo courtesy of Tumbler Ridge News
“Everybody take a deep breath.” I purposely inhaled to demonstrate. “Everything is going to be fine. You know the motto.”

A couple of veterans, sporting manly beards despite the fact that neither one of them was quite eighteen, nodded. “The show must go on,” Poseidon said.

“That’s right.” I smiled reassuringly.

“You better go check on Hermes, though. Some of the girls are pretty emotional and you know how he can get.” It was Zeus talking. “It might throw him off for Act Two.”

Indeed, I did know how ‘Hermes’ could get. New to my drama troupe, he was a talented actor but was a bit of a wild card. One day he was quick, witty and totally in character. The next day he might as well read his lines from a dictionary, it was so dry. He’d even been known to just up and leave rehearsal when he suddenly felt angry or uncomfortable. I should have cut him long ago, but being a bit of a soft touch, I saw how being part of our tightly knit drama group might boost his self-confidence. Plus, strong male actors aren’t easy to come by in the boondocks.

This was the scene a few months ago at the final performance of my stage play, MUTINY ON MT OLYMPUS. The truth is, we were heading for a near mutiny backstage. All in a day’s work.

In my ‘real’ life I teach Secondary School Theater Arts at our local high school. Believe me when I say there is often more drama outside the classroom than in it.

In this particular instance, Hermes (I am using his stage name) said something very inappropriate during the performance. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the first time. Now, I encourage my students to improvise their way through a scene if necessary, and most of the veterans have become quite good at it, often adding the odd one-liner that gets a good laugh during the course of any given show. The ‘messenger-god’ wasn’t quite as adept and obviously didn’t understand the line between innuendo and being downright crude. The night before, his attempt at humor brought a gasp from the audience, followed by a tittering apology from me at intermission. (You just never know what might come out of the mouth of a teenager…)

The next day, after fielding two telephone calls from concerned parents who had heard the show wasn’t suitable for children, I read the riot act to the entire cast. The sober faces of thirty-three teens aged thirteen to eighteen told me they understood the seriousness of the previous evening’s faux pas. My reputation, not to mention the future of the drama program, was on the line. I also had a very serious private discussion with Hermes. Everyone got the message – or at least I thought so.

The final performance got under way. This was their fourth time in front of an audience and energy was high. Witty one-liners were flying about the stage, and the audience was loving the show. And then he did it again. Same spot, different word, just as bad. I groaned.

As soon as intermission hit, my stage manager rushed out to get me. “You better come backstage, quick. Everyone is freaking out.”

I took a deep breath, smiled and headed behind the curtain. Several veterans were loitering as far away from the source of the drama as possible. These are kids who started drama with me as young as thirteen and were now about to graduate. They’d been in seven or eight shows each and knew they needed to stay focused. Poseidon and Zeus were among them. 

Further down the line some of the female cast were not as composed. Mascara was running down the cheeks of at least five faces. Aphrodite, an emotional creature even in real life, was crying her eyes out. “Take a deep breath. Everything is going to be okay,” I repeated.

“But… but he’s ruined the show!”

“It’ll be fine. The show must go on.”

“But what if you get fired?!” This brought a wave of wails from a couple of nearby girls. “What if they cancel drama?!” More wailing.

“Everybody breathe.” I demonstrated. “Put your game face on. Smile. Because -”

“The show must go on,” a chorus of wobbly voices finished for me.

“That’s right. Now go fix your mascara and be ready for the best second act yet.”

The final stop on my backstage tour was to find the cause of all the extra drama. I found Hermes lounging with a couple of others, smiling as if nothing had happened. I was grateful that he hadn’t internalized the ‘yelling at’ he’d received from Aphrodite. I needed him to be in good form for Act Two. Still, it irked that he didn’t seem phased by what he had done. I wondered if he had decided to go with ‘Method Acting’ in order to better get into character. (The “Method’ is a form of acting which encourages actors to ‘become’ their characters in order to increase believability.) As the god of mischief as well as the messenger god, perhaps Hermes was taking this to heart. I kept our conversation short and low-key, expressing my dismay but focusing more on the fact that he could not, under any circumstances, do it again.

Act Two commenced and went off without a hitch. No one in the audience had any idea that just minutes before a major time bomb had just been diffused backstage. The mascara was repaired and each and every actor performed with the kind of believability worthy of a Tony. I was so proud. 

In many ways, I feel like a mother to these kids. We become very close over the course of the months it takes to put together a production. Just like my biological children, they aren’t perfect. They make mistakes, disappoint, and even make me angry on occasion - but there is a bond that develops within the group that is difficult to put into words. I have students from fifteen years ago who still contact me and thank me for the positive memories and self-confidence they learned through drama. I feel so fortunate to get to impact their lives in this way. Even the Hermes of the bunch – although his chances of ever appearing on stage again are pretty much nil.

This article was originally published in April 2014 'Bookfun' Magazine.

Tracy Krauss is a best-selling and award winning author, as well as a playwright, artist and teacher. Originally from a small prairie town, Tracy received her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Sask. with majors in Art, and minors in History and English. She teaches High School English, Drama and Art – all things she is passionate about. Apart from her many personal creative pursuits, she also leads worship at her local church. She and her husband, an ordained minister, have lived in many remote and unique places in Canada's north. They raised four children and were active advocates of the homeschooling movement for many years. They currently reside in beautiful Tumbler Ridge, BC, known for its many waterfalls.Visit her website for more:

Thursday, June 26, 2014

You Never Know


Glynis M. Belec


 As usual I was flying in to our local grocery store intent on flying out again within ten minutes, knowing well that is a foolish expectation in our small town. I moan about this every time, but it is an affectionate moan for I know each time I go into the store I will see someone I know. And that's not a bad thing. After all, I've lived in Drayton for almost 30 years. Tuesday morning grocery shopping has been part of my social calendar for years. The weather is usually the conversation initiator, then before I know it I'm chatting up a storm with some sweet local.

     So when I spotted Miss K this past Tuesday, I knew we would dive in and have a rollicking good laugh. Miss K is one of the sweetest, jovial-spirited women with whom I love to swap words. She loves the Lord and it shows. I rarely see her without a smile lighting up her slight, pretty features. She lives down the road from me but the busy bees that we are, we don't see each other on the street often - maybe the odd wave from the car as we whiz by each other's homes.

     I had spotted a for sale sign on Miss K's house the other week and since we have our abode up for sale, too, the conversation this morning skipped the impending rain and we dove right in to our high taxes and big houses. We commiserated and told each other about our plans - wondering if God's plans aligned with ours. We were hopeful.

     Somehow the conversation slipped into one of health issues and as I leaned on my cart in the middle of the produce aisle Miss K proceeded to tell me that after eight years in remission from breast cancer, she has recently found out that it has resurfaced. I felt like one of the nearby honeydew melons had hit me in the stomach. For one brief moment I was speechless. Miss K smiled her usual beautiful smile but with a tinge of sadness as she relayed her frustrations and what would happen next.

     The middle of the local grocery store is hardly the place for deep conversations but we continued to speak in now hushed tones about the testing and the plan for my friend.

     "I was stage 0 when I was first diagnosed eight years ago," my friend uttered as she tugged on her cute and becoming peaked hat. "So I guess you never know."

     Eventually we both said our goodbyes and I walked around the store ticking off my list in methodical fashion, not really focussed on the task at hand.

     Instead my mind wandered. How fleeting life is. How quickly the joy can be squeezed out. My expectations for a carefree, joy-filled, laughter dabbed conversation with my friend turned into one of sadness and confusion.

     When I got home, I went to my room and had a little cry for Miss K. But no sooner had I started with the 'whys' and the 'wherefores' of what was happening, I felt God pressing upon my heart the verse that has kept me afloat since my own cancer diagnosis almost six years ago - Be Still and Know that I am God - Psalm 46:10.

     In the silence I heard God whisper. He told me not to cry for my friend. He told me that the tears should fall but not for my friend. He has her in the palm of His mighty hand. I truly felt the Lord impress upon my heart that it is okay to cry - but to cry more for those who don't know Him.

     So Miss K and I will have tea together next week and we shall chat about a lot of things. We might talk about cancer. We might not. Maybe we will cry. Maybe we won't. We will definitely laugh and find joy. We will grab life by the ears and we will dance [okay maybe we won't dance but we will laugh] and then we will have more tea.

    No, we just never know what lies around the corner in this world. But thank goodness we do know Who is a mere prayer away.

Revelation 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Remember your pipes -- Kathleen Gibson

I stopped at the piper today. Though I’ve noticed the bronze statue outside Chilliwack’s stately City Hall on previous visits to the city, I’ve never made time to pause. This morning’s sunny walk seemed the perfect opportunity.

The WW1 soldier stands tall on a concrete pedestal, frozen in mid-stride. Pipes to lips, he plays a silent tune, his face serene but determined. I wished I could hear his song, especially after reading his story, engraved in brass on the plaque under his feet.

Piper James Cleland Richardson, V.C.

16th Battalion C.E.F.

Victoria Cross Citation

“For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty when prior to attack, he obtained permission from his Commanding office to play his company “over the top.”

“As the company approached the objective, it was held up by very strong wire and came under intense fire, which caused heavy casualties and demoralized the formation for the moment. Realising the situation, Piper Richardson strode up and down outside the wire, playing his pipes with the greatest coolness. The effect was instantaneous. Inspired by his splendid example, the company rushed the wire with such fury and determination that the obstacle was overcome and the position captured.

Later, after participating in bombing operations, he was detailed to take back a wounded comrade and prisoners. After proceeding about 200 yards, Piper Richardson remembered that he had left his pipes behind. Although strongly urged not to do so, he insisted on returning to recover his pipes. He has never been seen since, and death has been presumed accordingly, owing to lapse of time.

“London Gazette Supplement

22nd October, 1918

“James Richardson was the son of David and Mary Richardson of Chilliwack.”

As I stood reading, morning commuters rushed past City Hall, pushing toward a timely arrival at work or appointments.  I had an appointment too, but I didn’t move. The young piper’s memory deserves far more, but standing in silence for a brief moment seemed the least I could do.

Like the biblical story of David and Goliath, young James wielded an unlikely weapon against the enemy. No landmine, no machine gun, no grenade; just a few pounds of wood and cloth brought to life by his own courage and breath. Enough courage to loan to his comrades the strength needed to gain a vital victory over their enemies, for that day at least.

His boldness astounds me; as does the fact that the young piper eventually lost his life while going back to fetch his forgotten instrument. He knew its value: for his battalion, his intimate connection with those pipes meant the difference between victory and defeat; lives lost and lives gained. He dare not leave them behind.

The Bible is to Christians what those bagpipes were to the piper: when under attack, a weapon sharper than any manmade one, and exactly what’s needed to play those around us, “over the top.”

How well do you know God’s Word -- or are you in danger of leaving it behind?

Kathleen Gibson is a faith columnist, broadcaster, author and political assistant. This Sunny Side Up Column was published in Yorkton This Week and other Western newspapers during the week of June 23rd 2014


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