Wednesday, June 17, 2020
In May I paid tribute to a friend Bob who had passed away in late April.
When it was announced in 2012 that the penny would be removed from circulation, I interviewed Bob on the coin's once-upon-a-time worth. Bob was a simple man whose goodness touched the lives of many, and his anecdotes were as entertaining to kids and oldsters alike. Our much-loved friend Peter Black wrote in the comments of the May blog that he read the delightful story aloud as part of his speech therapy exercise. Peter is the only person I know who have read my articles from 2014 to now (and he reads everyone's blogs as well), and today I share another of Bob's story for dear Peter. Bob is Bill and the story is set in the same coffee shop as the Pennies in The Locomotive. I might be Isabelle.
Isabelle touched Copper in the pocket of her thin cardigan. She carried the penny around because it reminded her of all the pennies that once had value to buy a single item. Then she took Copper out and set it on the table of the coffee shop, drinking in the details of Bill's anecdotes more than she did the hot chocolate in the white ceramic mug. She loved hearing the stories from the good ol’ days when a penny had its own purchasing power.
Bill was a natural storyteller. At six feet two inches, he often joked about being the second shortest male in his family, grinning as he sketched the others who towered an additional five inches. His large frame was encased in blue jeans and a navy jacket, which he informed Isabelle was made from recycled milk jugs. Plastic ones. Two letters were printed neatly in white on the left side of the jacket.
Isabelle was ecstatic as Bill told stories of the years gone by that had been shared with him by older people. His parents had grown up during the Depression of the 1930s and money was very scarce. Back then, instead of buying items at stores, people bartered goods and traded services. In fact, stores were sparse, sometimes non-existent, in the struggling towns of the Canadian Prairies.
The old man's blue eyes dimmed as he remembered his parents. His dad was a Swedish/Scottish farmer, and he described his mother as having “a bit of every nationality including some Cree.”
"Dad said back in the 1940s he used to buy a cigarette from a machine for a penny," Bill recalled. "I never saw a machine, but he would put a penny in the slot and a cigarette would pop out." And he could buy a book of matches for a penny."
Penny matches. Another star for little Copper's value.
"Dad also told me that people could weigh themselves on the scale at the store for a penny." Bill finished his father's recollections and then his eyes brightened and a smile broke on his clean-shaven face as he recalled his own years. As young teens he and his twin brother John had earned pennies in 1957.
"John and I used to sell rides for a penny on our little horse, Poika." He chuckled at the memory.
"Poika?" Isabelle repeated the new word and Bill quickly explained that it meant 'boy'. He described the dapple grey gelding as good-natured and willing to do anything—except pull a car. To overcome this resistance the boys would place blinders on the animal, and with only tunnel vision, the horse was tricked to move the car in tow. Poika was traded to another family over some winters so the small children could ride to school, since their little legs could not make the long walk in the snow. No cash was exchanged.
Bill told Isabelle of the weekends when the lads took Poika to the baseball diamond, and sold rides to kids, who ranged in age from toddlers to ten years. For one cent a child would ride on Poika's back, from home plate around the bases. This was a grand event, and the energetic teens, possessing both the charm and the tongue of the skilled marketer, drew customers in large numbers. Children often took multiple rides, and a beaming Bill reported that one weekend the brothers had earned over twelve dollars.
"That was over twelve hundred rides," he announced. "All we did was give rides for days."
This was indeed exciting news. A penny for a ride! It was neat to reminisce over the value Copper once possessed. As it faced retirement, in many ways it was as though the little coin was hearing its eulogy.
Bill explained that with the earnings the boys bought Christmas presents for their parents and siblings.
"We could buy three jawbreakers for a penny." Bill continued, then paused as if he was savouring the sugary taste of the round confection. He sipped his coffee and added, "Six more when we returned a pop bottle to the store."
In his day a deposit of two pennies was made when purchasing a bottle of pop. When the glass bottle was returned the two cents would be refunded, but young Bill often chose six jawbreakers instead. "Yes, I could happily spend a whole afternoon with jawbreakers," he soliloquized. "The same with the bubble gum we got for a penny. Those made the largest bubble you could ever want. It could cover your face, and if it popped on your eyebrows, that could be something to remove."
He also described the comic strip paper that was wrapped around the bubble gum, with pictures of popular television characters. Bill had kept a collection of comics for a while. With both the jawbreaker and bubble gum, he could suck or chew until his jaws ached. Isabelle rubbed her finger on Copper's circular outline as she listened.
Bill grinned again. "The tooth fairy always left a penny for us." Which child has not willingly endured the pain of a loose tooth to gain the coveted penny? Still laughing he added, "My granddaughter now demands a loonie for her tooth."
Since Copper came into circulation, it had been placed under pillows a few times. Oh, it was so much fun to hear the children squeal when they discovered that their tooth was gone and a penny was left in its place. As an ambassador, working with the tooth fairy was a delightful task. Nowadays, greedy children demand more money for their tooth, but however high the price rises, the saying will always be 'a penny for your tooth.'
Isabelle was asking about when payment was short. A few years earlier many stores had started carrying penny dishes where customers could take a penny if they needed one, or leave one if they did not want their change. She was curious as to what was done in the past. If a child did not have a penny in the 1950s, did the storekeeper withhold the purchase?
Bill shook his head. "Actually, I could charge a penny to Mom and Dad's account." His eyes veered slightly to the right of the coffee shop as a customer opened the fridge to take a pop. Then he continued, "The storekeeper would write it on a charge account he kept on a foolscap sheet of paper, and my parents would pay it when they went to the store."
Copper's value was accounted for. It meant something and was not dismissed.
Then Bill talked about the penny fundraiser at school. He got a card that was divided into 100 small squares. A penny was placed in each spot and when the spots were full, it amounted to one dollar. It was an easy way to raise money. He had another memory. "We could get ten minutes of parking time for a penny at the parking metres in Manitoba."
Ten minutes of parking. Wow. In that era it was probably the same in many parts of this great nation. In our present time, ten minutes of parking would cost twenty-five cents in smaller cities, and more in urban centres. Copper was happy because the little penny had truly been a winner.
Here Bill drained the last of his cold coffee as he came to the end of the exciting narratives. The faraway look in his eyes was gone, and the approaching night signalled that Isabelle should go too. How many other celebrations of the penny were there? Unknown.
What Copper's special heart knew was that it and its little penny peers, would be fondly remembered by the old and would leave dents in many hearts.
More of the Good Ol' Days
Thursday, June 11, 2020
It’s true, we’re all in the pandemic together. The definition of a world-wide epidemic is an infectious ‘something’ in many corners of the world at once. Pandemic is both a noun and an adjective, a thing and a descriptor. But in my mind, it is also a verb, because actions and consequences come with it.
I awoke to a song line very early on Saturday morning, the tune in my head, “Will you be my refuge?” Carrie Newcomer’s CD collection A Permeable Life finally arrived in the mail after a long wait. I’ve been listening until I can almost sing along. The lyrics to this song, Haven, are on another album though. She’s asking God to be her haven in the storm, asking for direction and “holding me up” until she can continue on herself.
My friend in Colorado has her family-prescribed limitations and her adult kids get her groceries. A friend in Vancouver is watchful, too, since she’s just gone through surgery for cancer. Maryann and her husband John, in Nova Scotia, have their adult daughter with them from a group home at this time. Nova Scotians have also suffered numerous and unspeakable tragedies in the past few months. So many of them must be crying out to God for solace in these circumstances.
Carrie’s words float through my mind again, a “haven in the storm.” I like that picture of a quiet place where I can go when the world around me is crazy and mind-boggling.
Poet Luci Shaw said in a recent Renovaré webinar about creating in chaos, “God will honour our prayers of lament.” We’ve heard laments from many corners.
If we, in privilege, can live and move around in our homes and on our properties, Carolyn Arends also recognized there are people who’ve lost jobs, whose lives are anything but comfortable right now. I think, too, of people who have died of covid, or other illnesses, and their families cannot hold a funeral or cry and weep on a friend’s shoulders.
Andrew Peterson, song writer and recording artist, said (on the webinar) that he was told during a time of great difficulty that God can take it when we cry out against him. Even the psalmists cried out at unfairness, but still they surfaced at the end with some thread of hope that kept them going.
We have that hope in God that will carry us through these days. A haven in the storm, I like that term. Thank you, Carrie.
Tuesday, June 09, 2020
By Rev. Dr. Ed & Janice Hird
We hear a lot about essential workers and essential services in these COVID-19 times. At 7 pm each night, many of us have been cheering for them, as we bang on our pots and pans. Dr. JI Packer, God’s essential worker, helps us rediscover Richard Baxter’s essential writings, not just for mortal life but more importantly for eternal life. What might it be like to cheer for God’s essential workers, including our theologians, pastors, evangelists, and missionaries? Both Baxter and Packer knew from personal experience that physical death is not the worst thing that can happen to us. Both faced sickness and possible death early in life, but fixed their gaze on Jesus Christ in those difficult times. Packer, who did his Oxford doctorate on Baxter, has helped us rediscover Baxter’s brilliant emphasis, derived from Rupertus Meledenius: “In Essentials, unity; in non-essentials, diversity; and in all things charity.”
Many believe that J.I. Packer, born in 1926, will be remembered as the principal theologian of the 21st Century. Packer and Baxter each had the same puritan passion for knowing truth, seeing it as our first duty. Both represent the best of Puritanism without being ‘puritanical’. Baxter in the 17th century commented: “I never discover a Truth in my studies, but it is as sweet to my mind as a feast to my body…I spend my time, and strength and spirits in almost nothing but studying after Truth.” Many people nowadays dismiss theology as non-essential ivory-tower speculation. We live in an anti-rationalist culture that worships one’s feelings and denies any objective truth. Both men believed that the mind actually mattered, that reason and thinking were gifts from God that helped us discern truth. Their love for truth gave them a respect for the arts, sciences, history, as well as theology. In Baxter’s day, theology was seen as the Queen of the sciences.
For both men, knowing God with our head and heart was essential. It is not enough to just know about God academically. Baxter held that “he is the best scholar who hath the readiest passage from the ear to the brain, but he is the best Christian who hath the readiest passage from the brain to the heart.” Dr J.I. Packer also warned against “hardness of heart and cynicism of the head.” Being heavenly-minded for Baxter and Packer is the key to making the most lasting impact on planet Earth.
Recognized by Time Magazine as one of the twenty-five most influential evangelicals, Dr Packer is best known for his most popular book Knowing God. In reading Dr Packer’s doctoral thesis, I discovered that Packer’s Knowing God classic is an unpacking of the wisdom of Richard Baxter.
Jesus prayed in John 17:21 that we would be one as the Father and Son are one that the world may believe. While Baxter and Packer were both ordained Anglican clergy, they had a deep love for the wider body of Christ. That is part of the reason that Packer has served since 1979 at Regent College, a interdenominational college. Baxter called himself ‘a mere Christian’, expressing the truth that God’s people go beyond the bounds of any one denomination. Both have shown us that unity in the Essentials of the Gospel is essential to reach the world for Christ, such as the creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments. Are we willing to repent over our division and arguments over non-essentials? We can all agree to the full deity and humanity of Jesus, his virgin birth, his death for our sins, his physically rising from the grave. By contrast, the precise way that we baptize, celebrate communion, organize our church leadership, or sing worship songs are not essentials worth splitting over. Both men knew that not every Christian congregation has to be exactly the same, as sameness crushes creativity and spiritual intimacy.
After the heart-rending English civil war of 1647, Baxter felt called to be a peacemaker. All his writings sought to promote “in all things, charity (love).” As Packer put it, Baxter “meddled much with Controversies...to end them.” It was Baxter’s respect for truth that kept him from ‘undignified wrangling’. Even though he was often banned from preaching and forced out of town, Baxter stayed gracious and Christ-centered. Both Packer and Baxter have been deeply charitable and humble in times of great controversy. While neither liked controversy, both had the courage to take a stand for gospel truth when waves of conflict occurred. Even when recently needing to say no to false teachers, Packer spoke the truth in love. He never became vindictive and negative. At age 93, he is finishing well, staying focused on the goodness of the gospel essentials.
Our prayer is that in this COVID-19 pandemic, that we like these brave Christian men, Baxter and Packer, might rediscover what is essential, how to celebrate diversity, and the urgency of charitable love in all circumstances.
Rev. Dr. Ed and Janice Hird
Co-author, Blue Sky novel
-published in the June 2020 Light Magazine
-Readers are invited to read the first two Academia.edu articles of the JI Packer & Richard Baxter Trilogy:
1) Analyzing the Global Impact of Dr. J.I. Packer
2) An Evaluation of Richard & Margaret Baxter’s Lasting Contribution in 17th Century England
Wednesday, June 03, 2020
At fourteen, my pastor’s wife asked if I would like to receive Jesus as my Savior. “Yes,” I said, not understanding what she meant but knowing it was exactly what I needed. She didn’t ask if I wanted to enlist for battle. If she had told me what Paul told Timothy – that I was called to wage war (I Tim. 1:18), I might have said, “No thanks, fighting’s not my thing. I’m only interested in peace, love and joy.”
Spiritual warfare makes us uncomfortable. We want to put it in the spiritual gift category. Let those who are called and gifted for warfare take it on. Who are these called and gifted ones? Could they be me?
“Before His return there will be a hard battle so it is good to prepare ourselves. Every Christian is called to take his place in the army of Jesus and to wrestle as a fellow-conqueror with Him.” Corrie ten Boom(1)
When we signed on as Jesus-followers, we signed up for battle. Christianity is not a spectator sport. There are no celebrities in God’s kingdom, only servants. Servants do dirty work – washing feet, embracing sinners, and yes, the dread of all dreads, standing against the forces of evil. Jesus left us with the tools for warfare and we must pick them up and put them on.
Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God's armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Ephesians 6:10-13
“Today, we do not fight for victory; we fight from victory. We do not fight in order to win, but because in Christ, we have already won. Overcomers are those who rest in the victory already given to them by their God.” Watchmen Nee (2)
“Before we put on our clothes, let us put on our weapons (Eph. 6:10-18), for we are stepping out into a land of enemies and a world of dangers; let us put on the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of love, and the shield of faith, and stand armed and vigilant as the dangers of the last days gather around us.” A. B. Simpson(3)Prayer: Lord Jesus I praise you that we have the victory over Satan and his entire works of darkness because you have gone ahead of us and already defeated him.
2 Watchmen Nee, Sit, Walk, Stand, Tyndale House Pubishers, Inc., Wheaton, Ill.
3 A. B. Simpson, Days of Heaven Upon Earth, Christian Alliance Pub. Co.
Monday, June 01, 2020
One of the happiest people that I know is a little eight year old girl who has already suffered more than many people do in a lifetime. Her name is Eloise and I find it difficult to think of her without smiling, as it is such a joy to be in her presence. Her arrival was a huge interruption in the life of her parents and close family, not because she was not expected and desired, but because it was only when she was born that they discovered that she came with an extremely rare genetic disease called Coffin-Siris Syndrome. The diagnosis was that she would be physically and mentally handicapped with severe complications. The reality is that with her parents, she has been a true warrior and has overcome huge challenges and brought incredible amounts of joy to those around her.
Eloise’s father, Graham is a good friend of our son, John and showed his practicality in dealing with tough situations in providing a track suit for John to wear, when he left the hospital in Burlington, Vermont to go by air ambulance to Toronto where he would undergo rehabilitation therapy after breaking his neck in a car accident. I had become so accustomed to seeing John in hospital attire that I never thought of providing clothes for this trip.
This kind of practicality shown by Graham has I am sure served him well as he has dealt with the many difficult situations faced by his daughter. She spent her first sixteen months in the hospital and there were many days when her survival was threatened by one of the many complications of this syndrome. Yet buoyed by the love and encouragement of her parents and family she pulled through time after time.
When she was finally able to go home at sixteen months, her parents, Graham and Genevieve had to create a nursery that looked more like a hospital room, as they prepared to anticipate any health crisis without having to immediately return to the Children’s Hospital. By then they had become quite experienced in her care through the months they spent at her bedside, learning from hospital staff.
At that point, Graham was able to step back a little and provide me with some insight into his reactions to this interruption.
He and Genevieve both enjoyed their careers but also really wanted to have a family. This did not happen as quickly as they desired so when they discovered that Genevieve was pregnant they were delighted. It was only one month before delivery that they were informed that there may be a problem. Like most couples awaiting their first child, the niggling fear always was present that something might go wrong. For them it did.
I loved the way that Graham responded to my question about his faith at the time. He clearly stated that he was a person of faith, and followed that up in response to my question about what his faith looked like with such an honest response that reflects his generation so well. He described it as a mixture of Christian, Spiritual, Humanism and Christian Humanism. I smiled as I realized that he was admitting what few can, that he has been influenced by many different ways of thinking and he cannot put his faith in a neat little box with all the right answers.
What I most appreciated was how Graham has been so grounded in his approach to an incredibly difficult interruption. When I asked about what his dreams were he spoke of learning to enjoy every day without thinking beyond the next one. Survival is for this family a daily victory. When asked what the most important thing in his life was now, Graham assured me that it was to give their daughter and their family as much love and support as possible. A year and a half ago, Graham and Genevieve and Eloise welcomed Édouard, her healthy little brother into their lives.
During this Covid-19 lockdown, in spite of the risks for someone with the fragile health of Eloise there has been reason to rejoice. Her family were able to post a video on Facebook that shows Eloise taking her first tentative steps, accompanied by little brother Édouard. What a beautiful sight! Again my spirits have been lifted by the child who ushered an interruption into the lives of her family and friends that has enriched each of us because of her beautiful spirit.
|Word Guild Award|
|Word Guild Award|
|Word Guild Award|
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