Monday, June 17, 2019

Another White Stone by SUSAN HARRIS

My last picture with Baron before he disappeared
The lights ablaze in our house should have alerted me. But Mosaic, the festival of cultures celebrated annually in Regina, flitted in my thoughts, and the Caribbean cuisine, which had been my sole enticement to the fair, lingered in my taste buds as I drove up the lane. 

“Here’s baklava from the Greek pavilion for you,” I gushed to my husband. Excitedly I launched into an account of the colours, dance, music, and food as I removed my coat.

His responses were short. Happy to see me, yes, but distanced as if his heart was not in the trivialities that brought me such obvious joy.

 “Is there anything else to bring in from the car?” 

"No." I waved my hand, still immersed in the kaleidoscope of the international heritage.  

“I found Baron’s body in the field.” 

Beautiful kitten responding to me

The anguish in the green eyes was undeniable in the brightly-lit kitchen. Two weeks earlier my husband had buried his first companion, his cat Straw whom he had introduced me to when we first dated. (This was my blog in May

Suddenly I couldn’t remember the pleasure of the curried chicken and roti of my Trinidadian roots that I had eaten at Mosaic. For all I could remember, it had tasted like the useless straw left after the harvest is reaped.

Dead Straw. Dead Baron. From a harvest of 116 felines over 11 years, a mere three remains.  

My husband appeared to be waiting, as if he didn’t know how I would take the news. Daily I had gone out looking for my nine-month-old kitten Baron, a guest participant on my television series Eternity, playing the theme music of said program on my phone. One evening he and I had trudged in the rain, shrouded in winter coats, gloves, hats, and boots, and me in additional swishy pants that kids wear for the snow (which I had actually bought in the kids’ department and which I named Swishers.) It had been a cold, cold day on the prairies in spring. 

B-a-r-o-n. Baaaaarrrroooooonnnn. BAAAAARRRROOOONNNNNNNNN. 

My Trinidad accent tinged with “something Canadian” which neither Trinidadians nor Canadians recognize as theirs, echoed in the open space, a prayer to Heaven in the unending cloudy expanse above. A CNN report had identified the Trinidadian accent as number 11 out of 7000 for “sexiest accents”, but that knowledge was no consolation this night, not when I had to shout for lost cats.  (

The week before we had removed branches in our neighbour’s field as we scrounged for Baron, and prayed for the harvest as we walked. Finally the darkness swooped and we headed back empty-handed.
Baron was buried on the spot he sits

That Mosaic night I pretended I was fine as I bade my weary husband to have a shower while I informed the social network that they could cease praying for our kitten’s return. So many had responded to my call for prayer, many in The Word Guild. 

But I was not fine. The love for a pet is a real, unconditional love. The pain is real.

A feral tom cat had taken up territory at our farm and had chased Baron out. The kitten had been scheduled to be neutered on May 22nd but had gone missing a few days before his appointment. Many prayed, and those prayers were answered for I had seen Baron running back to the farm during the second week. We intensified our search that week, but the feral chased him again, and either it or a coyote killed my kitten. (The day Straw died the feral was seen in the shed with her. He had also bitten off the tip of one of Smokey’s ears.)

Soft, gentle little pet. Baron’s soulful round blue eyes in his chocolate face were always alert. He was long haired, a Siamese crossed with a regular, long-haired breed which gave him the best of both strains and resulted in a beauty that surpassed the rest. My producer thought he looked like a little sheep.

And so we dug another grave. On June 2nd, I placed my size-6 feet into size-10, masculine, heavy-duty boots and stood patiently while my pants were sprayed with tick repellent. Then I drove to a little approach, where I followed my husband  on foot into a small clearing surrounded by trees, the place where he had buried Straw. Land that would never be disturbed! A haven for animals dead and alive. He used the deer path, which my untrained eyes could not readily see, but I trudged obediently if clumsily in the oversized boots, trusting, as I always trust him in the wild. My own boots were too fine for the terrain. 

The whiff of death caught my nostrils, gushing tears with it.  

“Take your last picture.”

My phone was playing “In Moments Like These”. I aimed the camera at the bushy tail and white paw peeking out from the sweater he had taken off to wrap the remnants of the kitten in when he found him. Then an empty box—one that had held copies of my book Touched By Eternity when they arrived—was lowered in the hole with Baron inside. A fitting casket for the kitten of Eternity (referring not only to my television series, but to my belief that my pets will be in Heaven based on the testimony of others who have experienced near-deaths and my own interpretation of the Bible). 

Baron was buried in the same spot he had sat after Straw was laid to rest, alongside her. He understood what had happened to her. As he had done two weeks earlier, my husband  laid a white stone on the spot. 

Paris, the mother of Baron, sat on the stone and emitted the most guttural, abysmal sound of mourning such as we had never heard before. She, too, understood what had happened. Summer, the twin to Baron, crept near my billboard of Touched By Eternity in the equipment shed and lay there quietly. She also knew. So did a sombre Smokey.

How does one comfort grieving cats when one is allergic to cats like I am?

The years we’ve spent with animals have taught us how intelligent they are, how easily they communicate. We learn from them and we listen to them.  

This is an older photo but Summer went back to
the billboard  after Baron's funeral.

Two cats gone in two weeks. Two human hearts and three feline ones sorrow.  We pray for our pets’ comfort and our loss, and we make the memories count. Further, we pray that we will not count more than two white  stones for a long time.

Baron was with us from August 20, 2018 to May 30, 2019.  

Susan Harris is a kitten lover and the author of 14 books. She hosts Eternity on Access7 television in eastern Saskatchewan. Her newest release "Touched By Eternity" can be found online where books are sold. ISBN 978-0-9949869-4-8 .

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Tis the Growing Season

Everywhere I look now, I see the green of spring, pretty petalled flowers and their stems, leaves unfolding on trees, and little shoots coming up in the garden. And bigger plants that were started as seedlings. And while refreshing the flower beds this spring, sharing some of the overgrowth with fellow gardeners. Soon the weeds will come too, unfortunately.

Our own garden beds

We’ve got an extra bed for plants this year, besides our own two raised ones in our backyard. A church not far from ours has expanded their community garden and I thought I’d like to try it out this year. That bed is planted too, just last week, so the seeds are doing their thing, germinating underground, I hope, and the tiny onion sets are beginning to poke a stem through the soil. It’s an experiment this year, having an extra garden elsewhere. My granddaughters helped to plant at our home, and I look forward to showing the two older ones the other bed when they come next week. It will take some extra work and time going there and back, but it’s an interesting experiment thus far.

Community garden bed behind this colourful one

The promise of growth happens in spring in creation and it can also happen in our lives when we dare to explore something new. I haven’t always been a writer, for publication, but I’ve always been a reader. My first career as a preschool teacher taught me things that I didn’t know that helped me when my children were young preschoolers. It’s still an age I enjoy, even if my energy is not all it used to be. Each new thing I’ve tried—retail, election work, learning to play musical instruments, storytelling, teaching, writing and editing—have brought with them lessons I wouldn’t have learned otherwise. New connections were forged and publication credits encouraging, but also humbling.

The down sides have been like the weeds, cropping up here and there, making me doubt myself and my abilities from time to time. I ask myself, Was I meant to do this? But it was always something I wanted to try, like learning to play guitar more than a year ago, and more recently, deciding to try playing bells in a bell choir. The learning was still sometimes quite hard and required greater concentration.

Storytelling at the Button Factory

I’m still learning and hope I always can continue to learn. It keeps life interesting. It’s not always something brand new, but a different area of something that already holds my interest, like natural gardening and ways to work with nature instead of against it. 

And so the weeds are there all the same, in the garden and in our lives. I just need to learn when to pull them out and examine the situation from a different perspective before jumping back in again.

Garden, if you wish, but learn to recognize the weeds.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Evan Roberts in the Land of Revivals: HIRD

Evan Robert in the land of Revivals
By Rev. Dr. Ed and Janice Hird
Image result for Evan Roberts
How might Canada be different if ten per cent of Canadians entered into the Kingdom of God in the next two years? That’s what happened in Wales, the land of revivals and song. Evan Roberts, the spiritual father of the 1904 Welsh Revival, worked from age 12 to 23 with his father Henry in the coal mines. He had visitations from the Holy Spirit, showing all Wales being lifted up to Heaven.  For several months before the revival broke out, Evan would be taken up into the heavens every night where he would commune with God.  Evan began to ask God to give him 100,000 souls, something that occurred during this revival. During this awakening, ten per cent of the Welsh people were ushered into the Kingdom.  Revival historian J Edwin Orr says that 150,000 became members of local churches in Wales, with 250,000 becoming born again.
Prayer was the very breath of Evan’s soul.  He seemed to be constantly praying. The prayer that Evan received from his mentor Rev Seth Joshua was “Bend me, bend me, bend us.” He urged total abandonment to the will of God.  As one participant commented, “Did we not hear him time and again praying the words “Empty me! Fill me! Use me” until they became part of our thinking?” Whenever the Holy Spirit came upon Evan in a revival meeting, his face was transformed, bringing a radiant smile and shining eyes.
The four "points" of Evan’s revival message were:
1. Confess all known sin, receiving forgiveness through Jesus Christ
2. Remove anything in your life that you are in doubt or feel unsure about
3. Be ready to obey the Holy Spirit instantly
4. Publicly confess the Lord Jesus Christ
Evan became perhaps the most famous man in the world at the time. Even the future UK Prime Minister, Lloyd George, vouched for the genuineness of Evan Roberts and the Welsh revival. Evan was present at only about 259 of the tens of thousands of Welsh revival meetings that took place.  The chapels were often so crowded that Evan often had to climb over people’s shoulders just to make it to the pulpit. Participants said that it was not the eloquence of Evan Roberts that transformed people —it was his tears. People were standing for hours in the cold, wintry air hoping that by someone leaving the church, they could push in to witness the scenes that were taking place inside.  Troubled by both the adulation and criticism, he wouldn’t announce his meetings in advance. He wanted Jesus, not himself, to be the focus. Sometimes he would go to a revival meeting and then refuse to speak, instead praying silently before leaving.  Evan said “I am not the source for this revival. I am only one worker in that which is growing to be a host. I am not moving the hearts of men and changing their lives; but ‘God is working through me”.’ 
From the very beginning of the revival, there was a strong sense of conviction of sin, with wrongdoing publicly confessed. Instead of sports, the hot topic in the pubs was about Evan Roberts and the revival. Drunkenness was cut in half, causing bankruptcies in many pubs.  Crime was cut in half. Former houses of prostitution turned into homes of heavenly singing, encouraging their former customers to go to the revival meetings. The Bible Society in Wales could not keep up with the request for their bibles. People began to pay off their bad debts. Some of the toughest characters in the Welsh valleys were converted. Pit-ponies could no longer understand the miners' commands as they had stopped cursing the ponies. The police, often having no one to arrest, would come to the revivals to sing in quartets. In one court case, the prisoner came under conviction, confessing his sins. The judge then preached the gospel to him, and the jury spontaneously broke out into Welsh revival singing.
Just like with the 1970s Jesus movement, most of the Welsh revival leaders and participants were very young.  The revival services were marked with informality, laughing, crying, dancing, joy, and brokenness.  Many of these youth did spontaneous Jesus marches, singing songs and visiting the pubs to invite people to the revival.  No one bothered about the clock. People often stayed until two to three am in the morning, and then marched through the streets singing hymns.  A participant, David Matthews commented, “When I left the heavenly atmosphere of the church for home, I discovered that it was five in the morning! I had been in the house of God for ten hours — they passed like ten minutes!”  
As predicted by Evan, the Welsh revival had a worldwide impact, birthing over 30 revivals around the world, including in China, Korea, India, East Africa, and the 1906 Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles, impacting hundreds of millions. At one meeting, all Evan said was ‘let us pray’, before revival broke out. As with the later Korean revival, the Welsh all prayed simultaneously. This revival of love gave Evan the ability to sing all day. The first Welsh revival team was five teenage girls who would sing about God’s love at the revival meetings.  The love song of the Welsh revival was the song “Here is love vast as the ocean”.  Evan told the reporters, “I preach nothing but Christ’s love”.
Because Evan seldom ate, slept and rested, he soon succumbed to the pressure of his rigorous schedule, and, in 1906, suffered a physical and emotional collapse, the first of his eight nervous breakdowns. The doctor told Evan after his nervous breakdown that if he ever preached again, he would die.  He then moved to England, living in virtual seclusion until he died.  Sadly, Evan refused to see his family when they visited, only returning to Wales upon the death of his father in 1928. While there for his dad’s funeral in Loughor, Evans spoke a few sentences and a "mini-revival" sparked.  Evan Roberts died in 1951 at age 72.
Imagine what God might do in Canada, if we like Evan Roberts bent our will to God’s will for our nation? Bend us, Lord! Bend the Church in Canada!
Rev. Dr. Ed & Janice Hird
-an article previously published in the June 2019 Light Magazine

Friday, June 07, 2019

Babylon Bee: Earth cools due to Bill Nye’s ego - Denyse O'Leary

Are you familiar with the Babylon Bee, a Christian satire site?

We noticed the trend about three years ago, but it really accelerated over the past few months,” an EPA representative told reporters. “After controlling for solar activity and weather patterns, we determined that the biggest factor is the exponential growth in Bill Nye’s self-admiration. His expansive, pretentious hubris now casts a shadow large enough to shield most of the Earth from the warming effects of the sun.”

See also: Bill Nye as “a terrible spokesman for science”

“Neil DeGrasse Tyson” Debuts At The Babylon Bee In An Op-Ed

Note: Things are so crazy that the Bee has actually been fact-checked by over-earnest fact-checking sites. As if.

Esther and Ryan — and You and Me by Peter A. Black

Credit: Esther's Family
I admit to any grammarian readers that my title is poor grammar.  :)

She could always be counted on. For decades she put in many thousands of hours – all for free! Esther’s soft features and warm smile would often be the first to greet you in the hospital foyer, as she sat attentive behind the desk, with the current patient list at the ready.
With her thorough knowledge of the building, her directions, if followed, would always get you to where you needed to go.

Esther came off her volunteer shift last week. It would be her last. She died that day. Esther was one hundred-and-two—in fact, closer to one-hundred-and three! Well done good and faithful servant. She began this volunteer stint in 1950 and never stopped.

Why did she not take her senior years easy? Why not relax and enjoy herself?
She did enjoy herself: she loved God and life, and people.
Time, like an ever-rolling stream . . .

In a recent column article I wrote that it’s not difficult to find kindness, gratitude and generosity in the world, but also how it takes little effort to tear people down with negative attitudes and mean-spiritedness. I later thought that I should be on the lookout for a couple of positive examples of self-giving for this piece. 

Days later, that remarkable lady, Esther, received her home-call from this life. And then, my wife, who’d been reading the book, Chicken Soup for the Canadian Soul,* told me the inspiring story it contained about Ryan.

Six year-old Ryan’s grade one teacher told the class about how children in developing countries often didn’t have enough food or clean water. 

A list had been circulated stating the cost of various items – a pencil, a hot meal, a blanket. But when Ryan realised that without clean, safe water many children were dying, he knew he must do something about it.

In the bulb there is a flower . . .

He went home and told his parents he needed seventy dollars to buy a well. He began doing chores around the home and setting the money aside. He worked and worked, and still wanted to do

more outside of the home and for neighbours. This was no flash-in-the-pan—Ryan was for real.
It was now 1998 and, as things turned out, the well would require $2,000. His class became enthused about it, too, and other interested parties got on board. The money came in and the well was installed close by a school in Uganda. It would serve the whole community. That was not the end, the youngster’s zeal continued unabated, and Ryan’s Well Foundation** was established. The work continues with more that one million people helped through water well installations.

His mother wondered whether, with all the media attention, it would go to his head. But no, the lad took it in his stride. It wasn’t all about him; it was about the needs of those children. Young Ryan understood that it took all those other people to get the job done.

Sometimes it doesn’t take that much really, does it—to do some good in the world; to shed a little light into the darkness of some situation or other; to ignite the lamp of hope? And yet it often does take a lot—much self-sacrifice and numerous modest contributions from a great many people. . . . 
People like Esther
At one hundred-and-two
And Ryan at six 
And me and you.

* © 2002 Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. Publ. HCI Inc. Deerfield Beach, FL. 
Peter is a retired pastor  well, sort of retired – as he is currently engaged as an associate volunteer pastor. He lives in Southwestern Ontario with his wife, May, and writes a weekly inspirational newspaper column and occasional magazine articles. Peter is author of two books: "Parables from the Pond" (Word Alive Press) and "Raise Your Gaze . . . Mindful Musings of a Grateful Heart" (Angel Hope Publishing). He and May are also engaged in leading nursing home / residential chapel services, pulpit supply and music. ~+~

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