Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Waiting for Weight SUSAN HARRIS

Susan currently weighs 115 lb
I was a perfect skinny-minny for more than half of my life. Being thin might be vogue now, something the models aim for, but it was not attractive when I was a child. In Trinidad, being thin made one a target for teasing and an almost certainty for no dates in later years. So I was taunted in elementary school about my little body, and as a result I never took part in sports.  
Years later, at university, I discovered that I was good at long distance running, and apparently so did others. One evening while I was doing my laps a leader approached me to ask if I would consider running at inter-campus games. I'd never heard of those games—how could I when I was not a sporting person? So I kept away from the field for a week, afraid to be seen and asked again. 
I was after the pure enjoyment that came from gliding over the ground in the warm breeze, wisps of hair flying into my eyes, birds and the blue sky above. One of my lecturers picked up on my jogging. He examined my dusty shoes, pointed out where I needed reinforcement based on how the soles wore out, and offered advice on the best ones for running. But I had deprived myself of the joy of running during my younger years because I believed my bones would break if I fell down. That's what the boys at school told me, and I did not think they were joking. 

Susan at age 16 at high school weighing 66 lb.
She was the president of ISCF
I always had a voice, and words were my friends from youth. When the boys bullied me about being skinny, I called them names like "dunce" and other unflattering ones that I'm too embarrassed to print but that hit home. All four of the boys were at the bottom of the class, they could barely read, and Arithmetic was a sworn enemy. And though they tried to come across as not caring, they squirmed under my retorts.
Fortunately, what I lacked in body size, I made up for in brains. My intelligence was inherited and there was nothing the other kids could do about it. Throughout elementary school, my tiny fingers wrote tests that scored the highest marks in the class, beating every child with their more perfectly-sized features 100% of the time. 
My small head remembered almost every fact and figure that the textbooks contained. Dressed in my white shirt and green overalls, my frail, weak person was invincible when it came to books. Pupils were ranked as 1st, 2nd, 3rd and so on, with the lowest rank being the total number of children in the class, and I placed 1st without fail in elementary school. I was smart and I knew it, so I did not need to be affirmed through sports. While others played, I traveled the world a page at a time; without packing a suitcase or requiring a passport, I crossed the oceans like Peter Pan. A sprite who would one day write.
But before I wrote, I had to figure out how to cope as an underweight teen. If you've not thought of it, being underweight is as loathsome as being overweight, because both lead to self-esteem issues. I disliked the fact that I was not what I wanted to be. Even though I was healthy, I yearned for the extra pounds that would fill me out in the right places. 
We were all naturally small and petite in my family, but I was the world's pickiest eater, so I was skinnier than my siblings. Come to think of it, there were hardly any overweight teens when I was growing up. (I think it was the healthy, non-processed foods our parents fed us.) In fact, a lot of other teenage girls were also struggling to gain weight. No one wished to be thinner - it was quite the opposite.

At high school, our class joker taught us a rhyme with matching actions. To imagine it, bring your fists together in front of your chest. Then move your shoulders back, extending your arms and fists apart, and bring them together again. At the same time repeat, "I must, I must, I must increase my bust." It did not work. None of us developed extra inches on our chests. Incidentally, the actions were not wasted, as they’re good exercise for shoulders and posture, and strengthen the pectoral muscles. 
At university, I met Lisa (name changed) who was also struggling to gain weight. And she introduced me to a most delightful recipe for adding pounds. This might freak you out, but in our minds, NestlĂ© cream and sugar would do the magic. The thick cream contained 40 calories and 21% fat in one tablespoon. The tin held eight ounces of cream. Add to that sugar, then multiply it by two cans daily for a few months. The result? I only gained 5 pounds. Lisa gained slightly more, but results are results, no matter how miniscule, and soon many young women in our department were on the cream diet. Knowing what I do now, I would not recommend this unhealthy recipe. 
A year later, another friend gave me a book identifying the number of calories in foods and servings. I was able to follow a 1500-calorie diet for a little while and reach a milestone weight of 82 pounds for my wedding! But I was still a skinny-minny with a high metabolic rate that used fat for energy, although I did not understand it. 
In my 20’s, as an adult whose brain had finally matured, I found that others felt less blessed, and women sought to lose weight. And in the workplace, the quest to be svelte was on. One friend who I thought had it all—looks, family, career, wealth—told me how unhappy and miserable she was.
 "I go to bed hungry. I have headaches. I eat so little and I'm still gaining weight." This was Andrea's (name changed) typical complaint. Her husband was angry because she refused to eat, and because the meals she cooked were watered down and not tasty. He was also upset and very concerned at the self-inflicted headaches that came about because she deprived herself of food. Andrea did not feel well enough to play with her children.
One day Andrea declared that she wanted to be like me. I had become her ideal. Me, the slight, teased girl from elementary school. 

Living Intentionally 

Idealism and the quest for perfection are volatile. Like quicksand they move, ever-shifting, never stable. Very few people attain a body image they are contented with, invariably driven by the comparison game to be something else. I've been there, and I'm here now, and this is what I know:
My friend Andrea was losing her self-control, and was making poor decisions driven by destructive behaviour. Many people of both sexes want to be thinner, but too often they use methods that are not healthy. In wanting to take control of their weight, people may lose control over other aspects of their lives. 
Using a formula I found at this website (,1)I calculated that for 5'2", an ideal weight is 122 pounds. But I've never been ideal by world standards, and except for pregnancy, I’ve never been that weight.
I weigh myself when I remember. I've cut back on carbs and sweets and step up on protein and exercise. And the "exercise" part does not come easily, it's still a challenge, one I have to be deliberate about.
Looking after one's body takes a combination of proper eating and exercise, along with support from family and friends. The emphasis on body image is beyond what it should be, but it cannot be totally ignored. One thing I do is take the parts that will create a healthier me and integrate them into my lifestyle. But what I keep at the fore is the truth that, regardless of my weight, people anywhere and everywhere will have opinions about me. But the only thing that really counts is how I feel about myself. 

Susan Harris keeps clothes from decades because she still fits into them. The author of several books and host of Eternity on Access7 television, she has increasingly appreciated the value of a nice wardrobe.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Boundary Lines in Pleasant Places

I have a delightful inheritance -- Bonnechere River, ON -- photo courtesy of Liz Kranz

LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup;
    you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the LORD, who counsels me;
    even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the LORD.
    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence, 

   with eternal pleasures at your right hand. 
(Psalm 16:5-11, NIV)

It's summer time in Canada. What could be better?

There's a line from the Psalm 16 that perfectly reflects the gratitude that we should all have in our hearts. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.
View from Champlain Lookout, Gatineau Park, QB -- photo by David Kitz 
Over the years as I have traveled this country, I have seen firsthand that truly for us, the boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places. 

When I think of Canada my mind instantly flashes to pictures of nature. I see God there, in the dazzling sunset, in the mountain grandeur, in the forest depths, in expansive prairie vistas, in the wind whipped ocean breakers, and by the sunlit babbling stream. God is there. This is His dwelling place. It is just as David declared, "The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it" (Psalm 24:1). 
Lake Louise, AB -- photo by David Kitz
Gratitude fills our hearts. We are a blessed people, living in a blessed land. Let's not forget that as we vacation and travel. Politics and regional differences may divide us, but let's not make these things our focus. We remain blessed beyond measure. God has been good to us. 
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. 
Manitoba sunrise -- photo by David Kitz

What could be better than summer in Canada? Heaven, of course. The words of Psalm 16 remind us of that. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand (Psalm 16:11).

Before we pass into eternity, with thankful hearts let's enjoy the presence of God in this land—in Canada—this slice of heaven on earth that the Lord has graciously given to us while we sojourn here. 
Strait of Georgia, Tswwassen, BC -- photo by David Kitz

David Kitz is the chair of the Word Guild, and the author of Psalms Alive! Connecting Heaven and Earth.  

Thursday, July 11, 2019

When you need a friend

A long-time friend posted on my Facebook page yesterday about making and keeping friends. The message said:

“It’s easy to make 15 friends in one year.
But keeping one friend for 15 years is special.”

I had to agree, because this person has been my friend since senior public and high school days, when our small rural schools closed and we were collected by bus and on our way to another bigger school. In a time like that, we are forced to move beyond our comfortable places. My friends from School Section (commonly known as S. S.) # 8 came too. We made new friends and kept the former ones too. And there were friends along the way at church in my Sunday School class and in our church in the city who have become just as dear.

East coast friend Maryann


Sunday School and confirmation-- friends there too

We recently had opportunity to gather with these long-time friends, for Linda’s partner became a friend of ours too. With us, another friend, Lorraine, gathered into our midst at a different point in our lives, in career choices and university years (for them).

Lorraine travelled with us to visit Linda and Bob in Port Dover, their retirement community. Another couple, Donna and Ron, also represent a friendship made during high school years, so you can imagine the conversations that might make its way into our gathering. 

in Port Dover

I’ve learned over the years the difference between an acquaintance and a close friend. I have many acquaintances, people I know reasonably well. Then the life-long friends, or other friends made later and just as dear, who care about how I’m doing, who have interests similar to mine. Those are the ones I share with when the world feels uncomfortable, when things happen that make me sad. Those are the ones who I go to when my world feels like it’s falling apart, and whom I also lend an ear when they suffer a life calamity or death of a loved one. We celebrate too, and often finish each other’s sentences and thoughts.
Missing Kathy too

It’s painful to lose a friend like that, and I’ve lost a number of them over the years— Barb, Susan, Gayleen, Kathy, and more. The other half of a personal journey, the second part of a soul sister. It’s good when a sibling, daughter, or a cousin fits in that space too, and I add a few of those to my consideration of soul sisters and friends (including male cousins).

In Sunday School we sang, “Jesus loves me, this I know,” and we learned that Jesus wants to be our friend too. A different kind of friendship, to be sure, because grace and mercy are at stake. And forgiveness. We might try, but we humans don’t forgive as freely as God does. I know I am forgiven, and often the hardest to forgive is myself. My friends may forgive me, but God’s grace is so much bigger and eternal.
I cannot imagine going through life without friends. How lonely it must be. We as humans will never perfect, in fact far from it. And yet in our communities there’s still loneliness and lack of trust, and pain. And we feel it too at times. We need grace and forgiveness. As Leonard Cohen says in Anthem, “There’s a crack in everything.” And he expresses that’s where the light gets in.

And so I’ll keep all my friends—acquaintances, soul sisters and close friends, siblings and cousins whom I can confide in, and Jesus. That should keep me in good company whatever happens in life.

 Carolyn R. Wilker is a blogger, author, and editor from South-western Ontario, Canada, who enjoys photography, gardening and reading, and spending time with family.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Eric Liddell’s fiery chariots --HIRD

Image result for eric liddell

by Rev. Dr. Ed & Janice Hird
How often does a Chinese-born missionary to China become the subject of an academy award-winning movie? The people of China see Eric Liddell as their first Olympic gold medalist, even recently unveiling a statue of him. His daughter, Patricia Liddell, commented, “My father was multi-faceted, he didn’t just appeal to religious people. He was born in China, he worked in China, he died in China. He’s their Olympic hero.”
In the movie, Chariots of Fire, he is shown running for the glory of God in the 1924 Olympics. Known as the ‘Flying Scotsman’, he famously said: “God made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.” When asked how he ran so quickly, he often said that he ran as fast as he could for the first half of a race, and then asked God to help him run even faster for the second half. Liddell won so much gold and silver that his mother hid his trophies under her bed at night, in case of burglary.
Missionary families often make great sacrifices for the sake of the lost. Born in 1903 at Siao Chang on the Great Plain of Northern China, Liddell, and his older brother Robert, were sent in 1912 to the Eltham missionary boarding school in London. While at Eltham, Liddell earned the Blackheath Cup as the best athlete of his year, becoming the captain of both the cricket and rugby union teams. He did not see his mother again for seven years, and his dad for 13 years. Since he only knew Chinese culture, he experienced enormous culture shock in his parents’ homeland of Scotland.
While earning a chemistry degree at the University of Edinburgh, he was not only a track and field runner, but also became an award-winning rugby player for the Scottish national team. Being painfully shy, Liddell never could have imagined that he would become the most famous person in Scotland. Chemistry Professor Neil Campbell at Edinburgh commented, “No athlete has ever made a bigger impact on people all around the world, and the description of him as ‘the most famous, the most popular, and best-loved athlete Scotland has ever produced’ is no exaggeration.” Dunky Wright, Scotland’s greatest long-distance runner, said, “he was without doubt the most glorious runner I have ever seen …with such a high moral Christian character…”
Liddell had a unique running style that coaches tried to cure without success. The New York Times noted that he seemed to do everything wrong. The Daily Mail sketched him in a cartoon as if he were a rubber contortionist. Throwing his head back, he swayed and rocked like an overloaded express train. He was compared to a startled deer, a windmill with its sails off kilter, a terrified ghost, and someone whose joints had never been oiled. Jack Moakley, the wisest and oldest of the American Olympic running team, said, “That lad Liddell’s an awful runner, but he’s got something. I think he’s got what it takes.”
It hurt Liddell deeply when many called him a traitor for being unwilling to run on Sunday at the Olympics. His strong Christian convictions led him to refuse to work on Sundays, including winning gold medals. His stunning gold Olympic win in the 400 metres turned him from a national embarrassment to a celebrated hero. The closest parallel to his new fame was Beatlemania, complete with an actual Eric Liddell fan club.
For Liddell, the 1924 Olympics was just a brief diversion on his way to serve as a missionary in China. Before he boarded the boat to China, enormous crowds came to hear him speak in churches. More than 1,000 people had to be turned away sometimes because there was no more room.
Liddell served in China as a missionary chemistry teacher from 1925 to 1943, first in Tientsin (Tainjin) and later in Siaochan. In 1941, the fighting between the Chinese and invading Japanese forces became so dangerous that he was forced to send his Canadian wife Florence and their three children back to Canada. Kissing his wife goodbye, he whispered in her ear, ‘Those who love God never meet for the last time.’ The Japanese occupiers did not allow Liddell to hold church services with any more than ten people present. So he met nine people for afternoon tea, giving out copies of his sermon. These nine people then each met nine other people giving them copies of the sermon until everyone was reached. This became known as the Afternoon Tea Church.
Over 1,000 missionaries were imprisoned by the Japanese, many of whom died. In 1943, Liddell was sent to the Weixhan Internment Camp in modern-day Weifang, Shandong, with 1,800 other prisoners, including 100 other missionaries’ children. While interned in this 150 by 200 yard camp, he helped the elderly, taught Bible classes at the camp school, arranged games, and taught science to the children, who referred to him as Uncle Eric. David J. Michell, a child internee, remarked, “He had a smile for everyone.” Sports Writer A.A. Thomson said of Liddell, “During the worst period of his imprisonment, he was, through his courage and cheerfulness, a tower of strength and sanity to his fellow prisoners.”
Sometimes he ran races against the Japanese guards in order to allow food and medicine to be smuggled in for the starving inmates.
Liddell never saw his family again, dying at age 38 in the internment camp of a brain tumour, just months before the WW II liberation. His last words were, “It’s complete surrender.” Adopted by the Chinese as their very own, he is commemorated in a monument in Weifang, featuring these words from Isaiah: “They shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary.” What might it take for us to feel God’s pleasure for the sake of the nations?

Rev. Dr. Ed and Janice Hird
co-author of For Better, For Worse Discovering the keys to a lasting relationship
Image result for eric liddell in china

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