Wednesday, July 30, 2008
A small scar on the back of my right hand often causes me to pause and ponder God’s protection. I am frankly skeptical of many tales of angelic encounters, and I’m not ready to make any claims – yet a question always lingers in my mind when my glance takes in that particular scar. I can speak with considerable authority now, about why you DO NOT make the final connection to the poor battery when using booster cables.
Battery acid is a vicious concoction. Leaning over a battery with a set of booster cables when it explodes is not good form. It is not recommended for your health. The human eye is especially vulnerable, and since I was much younger in those days I wore no glasses to give even the most basic protection. I had worked with acids and other toxic chemicals enough to know the risks. It was only a ten meter run to the house, but a fiery ring bordered my face before I got there. I didn’t worry about splattering the bathroom as I leaned over the sink and flushed water across my face over and over.
It was only later that I realized how extraordinary that burning was. My chin, the outer boundaries of both cheeks and my forehead had been drenched with acid. The central part of my face, my eyes, nostrils and mouth were untouched. Holding my own hand up to my face I could protect myself in roughly the same pattern. But my hand had not been there. The scar comes from hitting the hood of the truck. It was a 4-wheel drive pickup sitting high on big tires. I had to step onto the bumper to reach the hood to pull it down. Yet from a hunched position I had jumped high enough at the explosion and struck the hood hard enough to depress a crude boomerang shape into the back of my hand. It never actually bled, but wept a bloody fluid. It scabbed over, throbbed for months and left a scar clearly visible two decades later. With the scar comes that persistent question. If something the size of a man’s hand protected my face from battery acid – whose hand was it?
I don’t have answers, but I have repeated a quiet thank you to God many times when I’ve glanced at that small mark on the back of my right hand. I won’t make any claims of miracles or of angels, but just the same, as I struggle with some of the irritations of growing older, I’m very conscious of the blessing of two decades of good eyesight. It seems appropriate to give thanks to God for that.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Canadians in four provinces reported seeing a record number of unidentified flying objects in 2007, according to an annual report released by a Winnipeg-based non-profit organization that has recorded UFO sightings since 1989.
The UFOlogy Research Institute, which compiles data from sources including Transport Canada and the Department of National Defence, said researchers examined 836 alleged UFO sightings in 2007, an increase of almost 12 per cent over 2006.
In the wake of National Geographic's Extraterrestrial and increased funding for pursuit of extraterrestrial life, no doubt many more amateurs are anxious to help. And the more people look up at the night sky, the more strange things will be discovered - or anyway believed in.
As G.K. Chesterton said long ago, when people stop believing in God, they do not believe in nothing, they believe in just about anything.
Here are some other recent items from my blogs Colliding Universes, and The Mindful Hack:
From Colliding Universes
All existence is the expression of wisdom
So what if fossil bacteria are found on Mars? Polls show many Americans expect Star Trek!
Talking to origin of life scientists: Like giving a bobcat a prostate exam?
Agnostic mathematician: God is in the discoveries, not in the gaps (assuming he exists)
Carl Sagan and celebrity cosmology: Was he the best cosmology could do? Or the best celebrity could do?
Berlinski: Creation of everything out of nothing - a clinical level of self-delusion?
And what if the Large Hadron Collider doesn't find the Higgs boson ... ? Philosophy time!
Philosopher: God is not dead, and physics arguments are one of the reasons
Stephen Hawking, miffed over science funding cuts, to move to Ontario, Canada?
From The Mindful Hack:
Are religious ideas innate?
Creating belief systems more essential to our humanity than making tools?
Neuroscience: How complex is your brain? More than you can easily imagine!
Hunting, herding, hiding, and hustling - that explains our social relationships?
Psychiatrist Jeff Schwartz speaks on what drugs can do for you - and what you and your mind must do for yourself
Monday, July 28, 2008
A word about Joe: I’d say he was about 20 years old, was dressed in a manner typical of his peer group, and seemed physically agile (in any case he certainly moved around the eating area in a hurry). From what I saw he didn’t display any obvious signs of a physical disability. Granted I’d just seen him for a few minutes but during that time nothing about his behaviour seemed out of the ordinary. That is, until he started cleaning up after paying customers.
Now this was no exercise in benevolence because his “cleaning up” consisted of finishing up the leftover food on abandoned or unattended trays. You can believe that I watched my meal closely as I backed up to the counter for a couple of extra serviettes…if Joe was going to eat it, I wanted some first!
My reaction to Joe’s consumption of cold fries vacillated between pity (should I buy him a meal?) to frustration (employers are begging for good workers – get yourself a job!). In just minutes he’d snatched what he could and left with a group of other young people. I contemplated the hunger that often invades the human heart – hunger for something beyond the cold, greasy offerings of sin.
In his book, Reading with Deeper Eyes: the love of literature and the life of faith, William Willimon says: “Words are the only tools in my ministerial bag of tricks.”
I’ve thought a lot about Joe since then. At least my meal was hot and satisfied my hunger; his was cold, and I suspect, far from adequate. As a writer I long to have my work saturated with a God-hunger that can’t be explained in human terms. There’s a hungry world out there and someone is longing to be fed.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Yesterday, I finished reading an intriguing new novel by Ron Hansen, entitled Exiles. Having read other Hansen novels — including the exceptional little book Mariette in Ecstasy — I was looking forward to this book. This was especially so, because American poet (and recent Gerard Manley Hopkins biographer) Paul Mariani had excitedly told me Exiles would soon be published, when I met him back in April.
Exiles is two stories: Hansen’s well-researched telling of the story of the five German nuns who drowned off the English coast aboard the ship Deutschland in 1875, and the surrounding story of poet Gerard Manley Hopkins and the writing of his famous poem “The Wreck Of The Deutschland”.
Hansen is a major literary novelist who is unafraid of being labelled a genre writer. His first two novels Desperadoes, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (the latter recently turned into a movie starring Brad Pitt) are westerns, and many of his other novels, such as the gripping Hitler’s Niece, are historical fiction.
Both stories within Exiles are thought-provoking in terms of God’s call on our lives. The nuns had been exiled because of German persecution of Catholics, and had been anticipating years of service in the United States — which never happened. Hopkins had been sent by church authorities to Ireland, into conditions where his talents were unable to flourish and where his health deteriorated — leading to his premature death.
As we wonder about five young women tragically lost even though they’ve dedicated their lives to God’s service, Hansen has one of the doomed nuns speak of how strangely some prayers are answered while others are not; another simply responds, “prayer is not like money”.
Similarly we wonder along with Hansen about what Hopkins could have accomplished if he had lived and his talent been nurtured. Hopkins only had two original poems published in his lifetime, and was far overshadowed by his friend Robert Bridges who later became Britain’s poet laureate. Ironically (and the Kingdom is often ironic) Hopkins today is the one considered the great poet, while Bridges’ work is all but forgotten.
“Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions...” Hopkins wrote, and, “that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as he should see fit.” We have seen the outcome to these prayers.
Exiles is an engaging novel in its own right, yet should also inspire readers to carefully consider the spiritual, insightful and often difficult poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins.
Exiles is published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2008)
D.S. Martin is Music Critic for Christian Week; his poetry chapbook So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed is available at www.dsmartin.ca
His full-length poetry book, Poiema (Wipf & Stock), will be available in September.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
They fished for hours to no avail so when a man turns up on the shore and asks if they have any fish they all shout a resounding, "No!"
It's when that man tells them to cast their net on the other side of their boat that one of them, the well-loved John, says, "Hey - uh - I think maybe it's Jesus."
To his credit, Peter wasted no more time with the fish - he leaped out of the boat and hurried to shore. Then Jesus, who was indeed the one speaking to them, tells them to bring some of the fish they'd just caught to the fire. An interesting statement, that. Jesus already had fish roasting over the coals, yet he tells them to bring what they had just caught with their own hands, under His direction.
There are a couple of lessons to learn here. One, guard against giving up on Jesus. He will come through, He's never late, and He will always give us what we need to accomplish what He has in mind. Two, there's a principle to learn from Peter and the disciples who followed his lead. We can so easily get caught up in striving to make a living - trying to make things work out the way we want - that we can lose sight of the One for whom we are working. But as Peter discovered, when Jesus shows up, the bag of fish is suddenly of no importance. Being with Jesus is all that matters.
And there's a third principle to learn from this story. We can know that God intends to put us to work. He has given us skills - like the ability to catch fish, and write books or poetry or magazine articles - and He will use those skills to His own purposes. Part of that purpose is to teach us and bless us abundantly as we become a blessing to others. The disciples ate as much fish as they wanted that morning and had plenty left to sell. It was the fruit of their own labour but it was labour guided by their Lord, labour that taught them something about Him, labour that was indeed, life-giving.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Who wants perseverance when you can have happiness?
A closer look at the Bible shows that perseverance is, in fact, a gift from God. ‘Scuse me? Wouldn’t God rather give me comfy, instead? Then we could just skip over the perseverance thing and get right to the winning.
In the end, we will suffer. And the gift from God is perseverance. It is the very presence of God in your life. God bends and weeps with you who grieve, He cries with you who are crying, and is the Balm of Gilead for those who are wounded.
Friday, July 18, 2008
I thought of this when I weeded my garden this week. Granted the flowers I purchased in the store are nice, and they definitely have their prominent place in my garden. However, there are often those who find themselves seeded in difficult places without sun, or among cramped roots. I saw this lily this morning and although I may have planted it in its place of honour behind a beautiful stone, branches of greater beauty now overshadowed it.
Although, it did not have the power to attract someone’s attention, its position did not take away from its beauty—but one had to look closely.
When writing, I’m always attracted to the minor characters in my manuscript. “No,” I tell them, “you have to stay in your place, even though I know you want to shine.” I struggle to give them just a little more opportunity to strut their stuff.
Sometimes, it’s difficult to identify the gift, or beauty of grace that a person offers to the bigger picture. Life gets difficult, insight gets confused and even self identify gets bent out of shape. I am always thankful when God nudges me to look deeper, to see the inner beauty and to acknowledge the blessing that others have to offer – sometimes even the most unexpected.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Recently in numerous magazines, on list serves, in meetings and in conversations the topic has come up for discussion. Gauged on sales alone, it would seem that dramatically dysfunctional lives, lurid sex, child pornography and child abuse, evil-minded politics and the dark side of life are what make good reading. One could ask if it is because of the demand or if that kind of story that gets most publicity and promotion. Is it the money that goes into the effort that brings the sales, or that the kind of stories for which people are clamouring. It seems the old conundrum about what comes firstthe chicken or the egg?
Stories about the positive side of life are often dismissed as being “fluff” or unrealistic. The trend is not new, but has been developing and becoming stronger over the years. The popular 1913 story Pollyanna, by Eleanor H. Porter actually coined a new term- the Pollyanna principle or Pollyannaism. (How many authors can claim that one of their heroines has come into usage as a term for anything?) This young girl actually practiced Norman Vincent Peale’s power of positive thinking before he wrote the book. However, today the term is apt to be used almost in derision for people who look only for the bright side of any circumstance and cannot be “realistic” enough to acknowledge the dark or negative in life.
If people actually read the story about the young girl, they will find Pollyanna knows, all too well, the heart-rending and tough side of life. She has however, made the choice to cope with the hardship by concentrating on the positive side of the experiencein the midst of her hardships to still find something for which she can be thankful. It is a fact that most things in life do have a positive if we care to look hard enough to find it, and that fact is just as realistic as the negative.
It seems to me that finding a way to make something good from our difficulties, to balance the negative in our lives with a positive is not being unrealistic, but creative and constructive. As writers, who are Christian, does our writing inspire people to find the positive?
Do we pass on the stories of people who triumphed over the negative? Can we report the experiences of those who live the Pollyanna principle? Will we be allowed, even by our contemporaries to promote such reading? Will they be given a chance? Can we do less? Phillipians 4:8 Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right (honest). Granted, being honest will include acknowledging the mistakes, the sins and the wrong-doing. But. . . Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine good things in others.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Heather’s last name comes from a Welsh/German background that means, “By following the truth.”In Bible times, names had significance. They usually indicated a personal or physical characteristic or related incident to the birth of the child. When Sarah was ninety years old, God told her that she and Abraham would finally have a child. Sarah named her first-born Isaac, which means “He laughs” because she laughed when God told her she would bear a child in her old age. Isaiah’s name means “The LORD saves,” and Eve means “Life-Giving”. God changed the names of Sarai to Sarah, Abram to Abraham and Saul to Paul – just to name a few. This was to show that they were new creations and somehow changed after their encounter with God.
The names of Bible characters and saints have become popular in our society today. Leading all saints names are Mary, William, and John. My brother named his firstborn son, Benjamin, which means “Son of My Right Hand.”When writing fiction, it’s important to choose a name best suited to your character. I named the antagonist in my novel, Rod Kramer. Both his first and last name give the reader a glimpse into his character. Rod is short for Roderick, “Famous Power” and his surname comes from Irish/German ancestry.
There are a number of websites on the Internet that offer anything from the origin and meaning of the name to popularity rank by year.Baby name books make a wonderful gift for bewildered parents hunting for the perfect name for their baby. They also work wonders for writers who are looking for the exact name that will fit the personality of their characters.So before you name your heroine or villain, make sure you know her history and choose the perfect name that holds true to her character.Kimberley (forest clearing) Jane (God is gracious) Theresa (of the harvest)
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Those of us who write books may love this uninterrupted time to write proposals, research projects, and design plots. Fewer deadlines give us extra time to renew that creative spark. That helps breathe new life into projects that grew stale under a pile of winter deadlines.
During summer, we don't cling so tightly to our desks.
When it's hot, I spend at least one day a week working in an air conditioned library or achives. Sometimes, I find a sunny window beside a rock garden and dream up queries for magazines. Sometimes, I edit a summer assignment.
Summer is a good time to research history books. Last week, I sipped coffee in the library cafe while I read 19th century newspaper headlines about the District of Alberta's war footing during the Riel Rebellion. Other headlines shouted the nation's response to the death of Sir John A. Macdonald. A local reporter proclaimed the work of Father Lacombe at Macleod.
Summer lets us escape our routines. Time spent hiking mountain trails, visiting family, travelling to historic sites, or even pulling weeds in the garden often brings fresh ideas. As we think, pray and listen, we may suddenly be inspired to pursue new projects.
We may also realize that some projects we have been pursuing aren't in His plan. Realizing you must revise or change course can be unsettling. Change is risky. It usually means starting from scratch on something we're not sure we can do. But without it, our work grows stale and worthless.
So, don't be surprised if you find yourself moving in a new direction after your summer break. Don't fret about it, either.
God is better at managing careers than we are.
And that's the exciting part.
Jane Harris Zsovan writes in both mainstream in Canadian publications about faith, business, arts, and contemporary Canada. She is the author of Stars Appearing: The Galts' Vision of Canada
She contributed "Jessie's Generation: Canada's Firebrands of Mercy and Justice" to Hot Apple Cider: Stories to Warm the Heart and Stir the Soul
She writes Vision of Canada Blog, on contemporary and historical Canada.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Some people believe this was a direct attempt on the government’s part to further the cultural genocide begun with the residential schools – their stated policy to “kill the Indian in the child.”
But when Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized on June 11, 2008, to the Aboriginal people of Canada for the residential school fiasco, he was also apologizing to the people who did not go to Indian boarding schools but who still suffered the effects.
The kids that were taken away from their parents at age 4, 5, or 6 and were not returned until they were teens (usually at age 16), found they were no longer equipped (with language and life skills) to live on the reservations but they were also unable to live in white society. Their attempts to disclose about the sexual and physical abuse they had experienced were met with disbelief and denial. Many of these teens turned to alcohol to numb the pain.
Then these kids had kids. And those kids were taken into foster care.
My mother took care of approximately 1,000 First Nations children over a period of about 30 years. The average number in our household was 20-25. (photo insert is of kids at my mother's house - I'm 4th from the left in the back row). Back then, a lot of kids shared rooms and even beds, so that part was fairly normal but the very high number of children in our home didn’t allow for much individuality or personal development. And, as with the residential school system, being taken away from EVERYTHING that was familiar to you and being plunged into a totally foreign environment away from your mom and dad and grandma and grandpa, probably had the most detrimental effect on these children.
And because these were the kids of the kids who had been taken away into residential school facilities, this effected an entire generation (or possibly two or three or four generations, depending on how you want to count it).
The legacy of residential schools will be with us for a while yet. Many, many First Nations people are rising above the crippling effects of this government policy (one organization that is doing great work is http://www.risingabove.ca/). I believe that Stephen Harper’s apology will help. Our attitudes will also help. As representatives of Jesus, let’s not mess up this time ‘round.
Author of Deep Waters, a compelling contemporary novel that will give you the opportunity to “walk a mile in the shoes” of Gracie, a First Nations residential school survivor, and experience her reconciliation to Sarah, the daughter who had been taken away from her at birth.
There is no “them and us” – there is only “us.”
Friday, July 11, 2008
Okay, was that a bit harsh? Those golden words you’ve agonized over, the subtle humour, the precise phrases, the edgy ideas that were going to excite and challenge and leave readers begging for more—nothing but a product? Say what?
I remember one writer who lovingly passed her manuscript to me as though handing her baby to a construction worker straddling a girder on what will eventually become the twentieth floor of a new skyscraper. At the time, I wasn’t sure if she would actually leave it with me or if she would wait until the last second, then pull it out of my hands and take it back home with her.
Of course, in a way, it was her baby. Her first novel, it represented hours of creative genius, hard work, amazement, pride, and not a few tears.
The difference is that few people would ever look at your baby and exclaim, “Ugh! This is terrible!” and drop it. But people are more than willing to say that and more about your writing. And that is why my friend was so hesitant to give me her first novel. She knew I might tell her she couldn’t write. Couldn’t even begin to write. Might just as well take up knitting and not waste any more of her time or mine….
Fortunately, I didn’t say any of those things, and, in fact, I recently read her publisher’s advance reading copy of the book.
Ah, publishers….Let’s say that, like my friend, you finally, in some way and at some time, find a publisher. Now you can relax and bask in the glory of having a book.
When your book is published, there will be many more people who are happy to tell you what they think of it.
Your friends and family are probably going to be nice, although you can’t assume that. (You also can’t actually assume your friends and family will ever buy a copy of your book, but that’s another topic. Let’s assume some of them do—or you willingly or unwillingly give them copies.) Aunt Bertha may fall asleep reading it—and laughingly tell that story to everyone she knows. Your mother may be upset that you bragged about that incident she’d rather everyone forgot. Your grade four Sunday school teacher may be horrified that you were able to write the gory scene on page 172.
And some people you know of them will look you in the eye and say, “I read your book.” And stop there. And you want to encourage them to go further. The word “And…?” sits on the tip of your tongue. But you keep it inside. You’re afraid to say it because maybe they’ll tell you what they really thought of the book, and of course, it will never be good. And then you wonder if they feel you should be giving them a prize for actually getting through the book.
And then there are the total strangers who read it and decide to let you know about the typo on page one or the incorrect details on page 83 or the completely impossible plot twist on page 350 (yes, the climax.). Of course, you want to know these things. You need to know them. But after all that editing, you can’t believe there are still problems. And you wonder if the editor might be to blame. But then you go back to your original copy and—there it is. Sigh.
And, finally, you have the reviewers. They say any review is better than no review, and I guess it’s true, but—that doesn’t mean a bad review doesn’t hurt. And a review where the reviewer clearly had no idea why you wrote the book or what you were attempting to do really hurts.
However there is good news. You can be glad all this doesn’t happen in front of millions of readers on a program like American Idol with Simon Cowell as the reviewer.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
To have Mount Seymour Provincial Park right in my backyard is such a blessing. My wife and I, along with our three boys, have whiled away many pleasant hours hiking along the mountain’s trails. I often wondered just who it was named after.
After being given a fascinating book entitled British Columbia Place Names, I discovered Mount Seymour is named after the first governor of the united British Columbia colony, Frederick Seymour.
Even though Seymour has been described as the forgotten governor, his name is found scattered throughout the Lower Mainland.
Examples are Mt. Seymour United Church, Seymour Golf & Country Club, Seymour Heights Elementary School, Seymour Creek and Seymour Street.
The more I learned about the Seymour connection, the more curious I became about just who Frederick Seymour was and why so many things were named after him.
I discovered Seymour was born in Belfast, Ireland on September 6, 1820 to a formerly wealthy family that had just lost its properties, position and paycheck.
Through a family friendship with Prince Albert, Seymour was appointed as assistant colonial secretary of Tasmania. Seymour also served in Antigua, Nevis – and as lieutenant governor of British Honduras for 16 years.
He was appointed governor of the mainland colony of British Columbia in 1864. The Duke of Newcastle chose Seymour for B.C. because he saw him as “a man of much ability and energy.”
Seymour was thrilled at the “prospect of a change from the swamps of Honduras to a fine country.”
Frederick Seymour got along well with the citizens of New Westminster, the capital city. He upgraded their school, made personal gifts of books and magazines to their library, built a 200-seat ballroom, and encouraged the growth of cricket, tennis and amateur theatre. He also ambitiously attempted to complete Sir James Douglas’ great highway to the interior of B.C., but the financial costs of construction were staggering.
Seymour hosted 3,500 First Nations people at New Westminster for a weeklong celebration of Queen Victoria’s birthday. He also gained the support of a Chilcotin chief in ending a violent interracial dispute at Bute Inlet. Seymour later reported that his “great object was to obtain moderation from the white men in the treatment of Indians.”
As the interior B.C. gold rush began to slump in 1865, Seymour went to England in a bid to cut costs by consolidating the two colonies of Vancouver Island and the Mainland. The British Government endorsed Seymour’s plan – which resulted in the abolition of the Vancouver Island House of Assembly and the establishment of New Westminster as the sole capital of B.C. Victoria’s leaders were outraged at this treatment, and lobbied successfully to have the city reinstated as capital. Seymour grudgingly was forced to move from his beloved New Westminster to Victoria – where he was deeply disliked by many locals.
Despite such Islander animosity, Seymour was able to establish the B.C. public school system, improve the courts, draw up public health regulations, set standards for mining and reduce the provincial debt. During this period, some B.C. citizens petitioned for the province to join up with the United States. Others began campaigning for B.C. to join Canada’s Confederation – an initiative Seymour opposed in numerous ways. The governor initially ‘forgot’ to forward a number of pro-Confederation letters to the Colonial Secretary in London; and when he did, he included his own anti-Confederation messages. Seymour believed Confederation was only wanted by a vocal minority of business people, who were hoping the move would solve B.C.’s economic woes.
Prime Minister John A. Macdonald was outraged at Seymour’s opposition to Confederation, stating that Seymour should be recalled “as being perfectly unfit for his present position, under present circumstances. From all I hear, he was never fit for it.”
Seymour’s provincial recall campaign never had a chance to get off the ground, as the governor was called up north to settle an inter-tribal war between the Nass and Tsimshian First Nations.
Using the famous Anglican missionary William Duncan of Metlakatla as an interpreter, Seymour convinced the warring groups to sign a lasting peace treaty.
On his way back, Seymour died in Bella Coola from one or more possible causes: dysentery, Panama Fever and/or acute alcoholism. His convenient death paved the way for his opponents to sweep the memory of Seymour and his anti-Confederation feelings under the carpet.
It is amazing to realize that, when B.C. entered Confederation in 1871, B.C. had fewer than 40,000 people, of which almost 30,000 were First Nations people.
Confederation, for better or worse, was the watershed experience which defined our province.
Seymour was an embarrassment to John A. Macdonald and friends, so Seymour the anti-Confederationist became the ‘forgotten governor.’
Excerpted from Ed Hird’s Battle for the Soul of Canada
-published in July 2008 BC Christian News
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
This year, the Feast of Pentecost was earlier than usual and, living in Muskoka, our plants tend to be a couple of weeks later than they are in southern Ontario. It was no surprise therefore that our peonies bloomed way after Pentecost was over.
We started our garden about five years ago and the peonies were planted the first year. We had decided on a perennial garden for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that we would have plants as soon as the snow had gone. This has proved to be true and it has been delightful to see plants growing green as soon as they are released from their burden of winter.
The peonies have given us some anxiety over the years. When they were planted five years ago they had already bloomed—so we looked forward to the following year when we anticipated some large, showy blossoms.
When the next year came, however, there were only a few buds on them and they atrophied on their stems. The ants, which help the petals open up, had no effect on them at all. Needless to say, we were very disappointed.
Year three, the white flowered plant gave us a few blooms but, again, the pink buds atrophied. At the end of the summer, we could see that there was some problem with the stems as they came out of the earth. The gardening book recommended that they be cut right back near to the ground. This we did with great trepidation, fearing that the plants might die from such extreme cutting back.
Year four gave us two good plants—obviously they had responded to the harsh treatment—and year five, as I already said, gave us a spectacular showing.
That was not the end of it, however. This year, after the plants came out in large, heavy blossoms, which we enjoyed for a couple of days, the rains came down from the heavens. As a result, the plants hung down over their supporting cages; their stems were broken and their petals fell to the ground. It seems as if it is not easy being a plant or a gardener.
Nature shows us so many parables of life; the peonies have shown perseverance through so many trials over the last few years. They finally came through in all their beauty, even if only for a brief moment. I am sure that they will produce another profusion of blossoms next year—they will not be discouraged by their brief showing followed by a quick fall to the ground.
Oh that we, as Christian writers, would take the lessons from the peonies and keep on trying our best no matter how slow our progress may seem to us or how short our success may be.
© Judith Lawrence
Author of Glorious Autumn Days: Meditations for the Wisdom Years; and Grapes From The Vine, Book of Mystical Poetry. Both available at http://www.lulu.com/ Author of Prayer Companion: A Treasury of Personal Meditation, available at Chapters and http://www.pathbooks.com/
Web Site: http://www.judithlawrence.ca/
Sunday, July 06, 2008
On May 19th 1987 at 2:15 in the afternoon, I met a dear couple who changed my life. I had no idea that I would spend the next twenty-one years getting to know them better. Rita and Ashley Carr are long-term Deep Cove Residents who helped a rather naïve, well-meaning 32-year-old Anglican clergyman learn more about the meaning of life.
As some of the longest members of St. Simon’s North Vancouver, Rita and Ashley taught me much about the people and life of our congregation back in the early pioneering 1950s. Some of their stories, especially about going fishing with Bud the local Anglican priest, were hilarious and full of fun. Rita and Ashley had a way of making a person feel deeply loved and welcomed. They truly lived out the Golden Rule and the Good Book’s call to love one’s neighbour as themselves.
I will always remember that first home visit with Rita and Ashley on Dollarton Highway. As she always did in each succeeding visit, Rita fed me with juice and cookies, and then asked about my family and the congregation. She said to me “It’s about time to get back into the fold”, commenting that when children get older, it’s easy to become inactive.
Some people say nice things to clergy to make them feel better, hoping that they will go away. Rita and Ashley were people of their word. First Rita came back to church, dropped off by Ashley. But gradually Ashley returned as well. They had their favorite seat in the congregation. Even though the Carrs were older, they loved the liveliness of the younger people in our contemporary 10:30am service.
Rita and Ashley aged well. They are one of the most loving and good-natured older couples that I have known. Their deep love for each other ‘for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part’ was an inspiration to many younger couples. Rita was part of the Sweet Adelines singers for many years. She really was one of the sweetest Deep Cove residents that I have had the privilege of meeting. Rita and Ashley were always so good-tempered and kind to others. Even in the worst of times, they always left me feeling better after visiting them.
At the end of every home visit, I would offer to read the bible and pray with them. Rita was a deep woman of prayer. She always prayed with me for each member of her family that they would know Jesus’ love for them. Even after her health made her a shut-in over three years ago, Rita kept in touch with her church family and friends. It was hard for her to not be able to attend her regular Thursday morning St. Simon’s NV home group. But she was always there in spirit.
On July 4th 2008, Rita went home to be with the Lord. As a World War II ‘war bride’, Rita had three homes: England, Deep Cove and Heaven. Rita was ready to go Home. She had a deep confidence in what Jesus had accomplished for her on the cross, and a quiet assurance of the reality of life after death. Like many in the Deep Cove/Seymour community, I deeply miss Rita, and look forward to having ‘English tea’ with her some day in heaven.
The Reverend Ed Hird+
Rector, St. Simon’s North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada
Saturday, July 05, 2008
Frequently – I am urged to drink more. Up to eight liters of pure water a day are recommended as one of the best nutrients for overall health. I feel waterlogged at less than half that. Yet paradoxically, almost instantly I am conscious of thirst if something cuts off the supply. During a power outage, the water remaining in our pressure system suddenly becomes a hoarded treasure. Flushing toilets drops to a low priority. When a lightning strike destroyed our pump, the prospect of days without water was weighed against a quick shell-out of hard-earned money. The new pump was purchased and installed within hours. Strangely, the first act with the new pump installed was to flush toilets. It is reality that in Canada we use purer water to flush our toilets then most people of the world have to drink. It is reality that most of the time we thoughtlessly squander what may be the greatest natural resource on the globe.
It is not by accident that the Bible uses water over and over as a picture of God’s love. When put in a cultural context, community wells in a nation susceptible to the vagaries of weather, kept water much more on the edge of people’s consciousness. Vast deserts spread little more than a day’s walk from any part of Israel or Judah. Droughts and famines were known to nearly every generation.
The blessings of Deuteronomy 11 included the early and the latter rains. The curses included the heaven’s shut, that there would be no rain. Those blessings and curses were taught to every child as part of the national consciousness. They understood the biblical picture of water in a way that we can only guess at.
I wonder sometimes if I would have a deeper appreciation of who the Holy Spirit is if I had a deeper understanding of thirst. I wonder if “I thirst,” coming from the lips of the Living Water, as He hung on the cross has a deeper significance than I have yet grasped.
Sometimes I suspect my life looks too much like our pump during a hydro outage – everything in place and connected properly, but nothing flowing from the tap.
Frequently – I am urged to go deeper with God. Multiple Bibles can be found in our home, in many translations. I can quote many passages. Yet I never seem to drink of it as deeply as I might. And paradoxically, the one time in my life when for several weeks I could not get hold of a Bible, it was the one book I craved with an intense thirst.
Cool water. It is a fitting picture. And sometimes it is healthy that it doesn’t always flow from the tap. Sometimes I need to be reminded that it is a treasure.
Thursday, July 03, 2008
My regular blog beats are the intelligent design controversy (The Post-Darwinist), the controversy over the reality of the mind (The Mindful Hack), and the rapidly growing controversy over whether there are many flopped universes out there, which - we are told - explains why our universe looks so well-designed. (Uh ... unless, of course, it looks designed because it, like, is designed? See Colliding Universes.)
However, I have recently joined the many writers and artists who are alarmed by the rapidly growing intrusion of the "human rights" commissions into media.
Both for writers and artists, and for people of faith, the stakes are very high. And quite honestly, it will be a lenthy, difficult fight to restore freedom of expression, including religious expression, to Canada.
Unfortunately, many Canadians believe that the Canadian Human Rights Commission's recent retreat from its case against historic Maclean's Magazine and famous commentator Mark Steyn is a victory. It is not.
Theirs is a tactical withdrawal only. As I said recently, the Commissions can simply go back to persecuting traditional Christians like Stephen Boissoin, people who do not have Macleans' boss Ted Rogers's money to keep fighting the case and to appeal to the Supreme Court. Nothing has changed, and once the Commissions' power is even greater, they will go after major media again.
In recent news, Guy Earle, a late nite comic at an edgy Vancouver club has been charged by the BC Human Rights Tribunal for "offending" some audience members who heckled him. (Here is my open letter to Earle.)
Now, I suspect that most people who read this blog would not be inclined to go to that club or to laugh at Earle's jokes. Perhaps you would be more likely to go to Boissoin's church.
But do you see what is happening? The "human rights" industry is rapidly gaining a chokehold on every aspect of Canada's life - both those aspects you approve and those you don't.
It is, as I have said, the "human" face of fascism.
Don't be fooled by the absence of jackboots and rigid salutes. When soldiers introduce fascism, it comes in battledress, with guns. When social workers introduce it, it comes in claims about hurt feelings, with crippling fines, imposed speech bans, and forced reeducation.
If you care about the country our young people are growing up in, write to your member of Parliament. Let him or her know that you are watching. And by all means, support those who are currently under assault in your community.
See also: My plenary address at Write Canada 2008.
Other recent posts:
At The Post-Darwinist:
Birds: What you thought you knew about their evolution is wrong, all wrong
Governor Bobby Jindal passes Louisiana bill to permit critical thinking about Darwin, and such (But is this a good idea?)
If order just somehow emerges from chaos, why aren't we all young and beautiful?
At The Mindful Hack:
Consciousness: Belated "sublimely ridiculous" award for 2006
When pop science TV wants to hear only one side ...
Psychology: Compassion is an emotion, not a virtue unless disciplined, prof says
Neuroscience: Making sense of uncontrollable itching
Evolutionary psychology: The selfish gene in the art world
Evolutionary psychology: Key concept of "memes" trashed as "one of the bigger crocks hatched in recent decades"
Does a recent discovery in honeybees "prove" that the "selfish gene" exists?
At Colliding Universes:
Universe arranged like nautilus shell on a large scale? (Well, would you prefer it had been arranged like a losing hand in poker?)
Serious push to find more exoplanets
Water inferred on Mars
Coffee Break: Scientist discovers two alternative universes
Well now, and what of Berlinski's Devils?
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Usually on Canada Day cities and towns across this country will shoot off fireworks. I love fireworks. I love watching the expression of little kids as they react in excitement to the colourful bursts in the night sky. A wonderful lady I know grew up during the war years and only until recently was she able to stand and watch fireworks. Why?
Some 65 years she lived during bombing raids. The sound of sirens caused her and her family to go rushing into bunkers or wherever they could find shelter. The banging sound of the bombs exploding around them were etched in her memory as she sat there, hoping that everyone would make it through.
Ironically, bombs exploding sound similar to fireworks. And so all these years she has avoided fireworks because they remind her of a time when she could not celebrate. It reminds her of a time when people could not go to the park with ice cream cones, gather with thousands of others and cheer on the fireworks bursting in air. She remembers running for her life. Interesting how the same sound can trigger war memories for a survivor of bombing raids and at the same time trigger good memories for me.
The first time I recall seeing/hearing fireworks was at a theme park in the States. The sound of fireworks brings me back to a great time with my family. It never occurred to me until someone pointed it out that there are reasons why some people have a hard time with fireworks.
I was happy for her to be able to see the fireworks. Actually, I was happy for her that she could hear the fireworks and be able to associate that with something good instead of something terrifying. I don’t think that association will ever be completely changed. Exactly how do you forget a bombing raid?
But if the look on a young child’s face breaking into excitement at the sight of a firework going off can bring healing to this wonderful saint, then I think the fireworks have done their job.
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
This week a friend posed a legitimate question: Why join a writers’ group and more specifically, why join a group of writers who are Christian? The usual answers popped into my head and I recited them back to him: honing skills, encouragement, and sharing of writing opportunities. Those were my answers and I’m sticking to them…but I’ve also thought of a few more.
I believe that mutual encouragement is a function of the Body of Christ. According to St. Paul, believers need to remember that every part of the body is necessary and beneficial. Fiction is undoubtedly the most often cited in the circles in which I move; poetry would come next, based on the number of listserve postings. That makes it even more important that the lesser-known gifts Christ distributed to His Church be represented. It’s hard to support an unknown factor.
I believe that there is power in unified prayer. The ministry of collective prayer has power we rarely grasp or employ. Whether it’s for a TV appearance or the writing of a grant proposal, individuals need the prayer-force exerted by many. The promise of the appearance of Christ to a group of two or three extends to us all, no matter what our genre.
I believe that there is need for increased understanding of the scope of our service. It’s easy to define (or cite examples) of how stories, articles, or presentations touched hearts but how often are marketing strategies, qualitative reports, or the creation of technical manuals dismissed as “not real writing” or worse, far from legitimate “ministries”. A Christ-centered writing group is presented with the opportunity to genuinely honour the giftings of Christ in whatever form He chooses to distribute them.
I believe that there is new territory to be explored. While attending the Write!Canada conference in Guelph last month, I attended a workshop dedicated to the topic of writing for the new media. I freely confess it’s not only new to me, it’s mind-boggling to this 65 year old who remembers when black and white television was the “in thing.” While the message, to the Christian/writer is unalterable, the methods they are a changin’. I may never go down that trail but I need to know it’s there.
I think I’ll call my friend back and finish the conversation.
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