Wednesday, December 31, 2008


When I was a boy of three living in a small Saskatchewan town, my parents operated a small coffee shop. Behind the shop was a gravel road and a small open well. One day as my memory serves me I was looking into that well when a farmer in a pickup truck drove by, stopped and seeking to protect me, said, “if you fall down that well, you will be bagiki.” No one knew what bagiki meant, but certainly its intended meaning was clear.

Throughout my childhood and now well into adulthood that word has served the extended family as a descriptive for something, more than unpleasant but nasty, negative, very bad.

That story is among a number of children’s stories I have written, and this Christmas I drew illustrations for a small three story book called Bagiki which we gave to each of our children’s families. Christine got T-shirts for each of the grandchildren with the words "You will be Bagiki" printed on the front and at a key point in our gift exchange on Christmas Day, Grandma and Grandpa and the five grandchildren left the room and came back with T-Shirts on and handed out the gift books.

The old year is almost over and the new year about to emerge. My wish among many more is that no bagiki comes your way but that you have a Happy New Year.

(The New Year Link is the countdown meter. Mine is set to Vancouver time. You can customize it.)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Days Old , She Sleeps.

JWW Turner believed that poetry and painting flowered from the same fountain. I think he was correct, at least in my case. Here is the painting I have just recently completed to commemorate the birth of my granddaughter two years ago to my much loved daughter in law Gina. The poem describes what I saw as I painted it.


Long awaited she came, first a wife for a son
Then a daughter for them both
A sister for their boy.
She let me enter that chamber
Where birth happens and is seen,
Not usually by fathers in law
But on this occasion I was there.
I saw Kadence come into the world
A new sight for older eyes
Another life to love and nurture.
And now on one of those following days
The two girls sleep
Gina and her child.
'Kadence' meaning “with rhythm”
Is rarely given
So Kadence with a K she is
A strident girl, a girl with a voice
A girl who will be heard
A girl who will sing and laugh
And make parents proud
And give grandparents joy.
They sleep now, one only days old
But soon we will wonder where the years went.

Kadence this Christmas is two years of age.

Monday, December 29, 2008

My Painting as a Christmas Gift

I am thrilled. Long before Christmas, Kae called me to inquire about one my paintings. Kae is the daughter of a college prof I had 45 years ago. She was a few years old when I knew her then. Occasionally her father and mother invited students into their home. She recalls that I taught her to draw sea horses in which she was interested.

She and her brother now wished to purchase a mountain scene she had found on my online gallery website. It was to be a Christmas present to their parents. By now they have unwrapped it. Do you know how much fun this has been for me?

For forty years I have been involved in church work using skills to which Kae’s dad contributed. He taught me New Testament studies. Now after my fulfilling career as a pastor one of my paintings from my retirement period will hang in his home. Although living in the United States now, my former prof is familiar with and loves the Rockies. This view was one of many that I found along the Icefields Parkway between Jasper and Banff, Alberta. This highway is an endless chain of paintable roadside scenes. Glaciers sit cold atop these majestic mountains and melt water makes its way through timbered mountainsides to the remarkable lake water below.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Snow Girl and Concluding Bulletin

She stands proudly in our back yard. “She”, I said because this is not a snow man. She is a snow girl. She is a feminist statement if ever there was one, with a flowing skirt, and dried up hydrangea hair and road hockey ball nose. She was built over Christmas by our family. I think the feminine influence was compelling during the construction. Only then? Who am I kidding?

Snow still covers Canada like a comforter. This Christmas we have been the true north, with a White Christmas from coast to coast. The snow was a great help this year. Our children’s families came for 11 AM Christmas brunch and stayed for the day with a great dinner, compliments of Christine. What are you going to do for ten hours with five grandchildren all under eight years of age? Well I have a backyard of snow unlike any other season in our eighteen year history at this home. Son in law Tim came one evening before Christmas to carve a snow cave out of the eight foot mountain of snow from my driveway. It accommodated four adults and five children. So on Christmas Eve Day and Christmas Day children and moms and dads had a blast in the backyard, burning calories and energy.

On occasions like this Christine and I are glad for this large home. The rest of the year it represents a lot of square feet to clean.

Time was that I tried ploughing my car through any amounts of snow. Now I don’t even want to venture out at all. Maybe that is an age response too. More likely it is because I was among the thousands who had good intentions to purchase snow tires but didn’t do it. The CRV has the height to get around but it needs a grip that all season radials don't provide. My MX5 won’t come out of the garage for some time. She has the clearance of a salamander.

It's going to snow all this week and next as well The Weather Channel tells me. How much load bearing capacity does a cedar shake roof have? Groan! It's already up to my yin yang.

Now I have good intentions to purchase a couple of kayaks but I likely won't do that either. I hate to think of the flooding that will occur when the rains begin soon and the temperatures rise.

(The Cedar Shake link takes you to a Bob Vila video clip.)

Bulletin: I wrote only days ago, Dec 24, of our Canadian grief at the death of three more soldiers in Afghanistan. Today we sorrow for three more brave men who died since Friday. We mourn for Warrant Officer Gaetan Joseph Roberge and Sgt. Gregory John Kruse and Pte. Michael Freeman.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Make it Skip Daddy

My best Christmas gift this year was the one I gave myself. I did a painting for my son. I didn't wrap it but hung it in my family room, waiting for it to catch someone's eye. He was the first person to notice it, and as it twigged with him what he was looking it, he moved closer. As I watched him he moved in front of it and stood there for the longest time. When I came to him I found him with tears in his eyes. He cherished the moment portrayed in the painting and he will cherish the painting in his own home.

I consider this one of my masterpieces. Of course, sentiment clouds my assessment. This is a painting of my son Jeff and his own son Kale. It portrays Kale at about two and one half years old. He is now four. Kale, like his dad loves water. It’s a good thing that we all live close to White Rock and Crescent Beach. In this painting Kale has found a stone. He has seen his dad and Papa (me) throw stones into the water to make them skip. He has yet to master the art. He needs a little more strength and speed to make it happen. Here he is pictured saying, “Make it skip Daddy.” It’s a father and son moment to be treasured, and now it can be. I painted this for my son. I have had it hanging framed in my family room for the past several days and now am getting reluctant to let it go. But I will let it go. It is their moment.

Part of my reluctance is because the painting marks a stylistic change or adjustment I made with this piece. It is small, 11 X 14 inches. Whereas I have been using larger brushes and larger strokes for a realistic yet impressionistic result, on this canvas I used small brushes for more detailed outcomes. I also accented the lights and darks without feathering the edges. It satisfies me because I am a good drawer and I can retain the penciled features with this more careful approach. I will see as time goes on but I am surmising that I will retain the precision work for the main subject of larger paintings while giving myself liberty on the supportive backgrounds.

This sequence shows you the sketch, then some paint application and the final product.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Boxing Day - Clenched Fist or Helping Hand or Greedy Fingers

When I was growing up without television, the radio was the essential connection to the world beyond my street. We listened to news, mystery shows, Hockey Night in Canada and Friday Night Fights. Naturally when hearing the term Boxing Day, we thought of fist fighting. That too was a mystery but no one questioned it. Then as time went on we were supplied the explanation that Boxing Day was the day one through out all the empty Christmas gift boxes. That too satisfied us. How was I to know that Boxing Day had a more altruistic purpose?

England under Queen Victoria in the middle of the nineteenth century was the birthplace of this December 26th exceptional holiday so named as boxes were filled with gifts and money for servants and trades people. None other than Charles Dickens wrote that originally Boxing Day was the first weekday after Christmas Day and was observed as a holiday “on which postmen, errand boys, and servants of various kinds received a Christmas box of contributions from those whom they serve.” Also, poor people carried empty boxes from door to door, and the boxes were soon filled with food, Christmas sweets, and money. Parents gave their children small gifts such as, oranges, handkerchiefs, and socks. People also placed old clothing that they didn't need anymore in boxes, and they were given to those in need. In some cultures the 26th is also St. Stephen’s Day in honour of the first Christian martyr.

Today in Canada as well as other Commonwealth nations the day is a statutory holiday and is always celebrated on Dec. 26, with the closure of Banks, schools and government offices. Stores and Malls are open for bargain Boxing Day sales and gift exchanges. It can be madness as people clamour for ‘stuff.’ You almost need a Survival Guide. Commercial outlets expand their sales with a Boxing Week. Here is a list of companies offering Boxing Day Sales with 50-70% off right now, and a gazillion retail outlet opportunities here. And of course many people now can do online Boxing Day shopping. Take Future Shop for an example.

Thankfully some organizations do follow the original Boxing Day tradition and give to the Food Bank or gifts to needy families or otherwise underprivileged people.

So you don’t miss it – here are future Boxing Day Dates
2009: Sat, Dec 26, 2009
2010: Sun, Dec 26, 2010
2011: Mon, Dec 26, 2011
2012: Wed, Dec 26, 2012
2013: Thurs, Dec 26, 2013 Good Heavens I will be 71 years old then.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Who is the oldest guy with the longest driveway on our street? And who consequently has the greatest amount of snow to move? And who can’t move it to the side but has to move the entire lot either forward or backward. And who was out there on Sunday digging out three times. MOI! And yes, Christmas Day 2008 is a snow day. A digging I will go.

Our family, the families of each of two children, five grandchildren are with us for an anticipated time of laughter, gift exchange, table games and a great dinner.

From all of us to you, I extend best wishes for a blessed Christmas Day and thanksgiving for God’s perfect gift of His Son Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Canada Grieves this Christmas Eve.

Christmas is an agonizing time for many people in Canada.
Christine and I have had a nephew do several tours of duty in Afghanistan. We are touched by the loss of lives there.

Yesterday on Tuesday the 23rd of December 2008, the body of Private Justin Peter Jones was laid to rest in his home town of Baie Verte, Newfoundland. His was a military memorial service at St. Pius X Roman Catholic Church. Justin was one of three soldiers who were killed on December 13 by the blast of a Taliban improvised explosive device (IED) under their armoured vehicle during a patrol in the Arghandab District of Afghanistan. Also killed were, Cpl. Thomas James Hamilton and Pte. John Michael Roy Curwin. Cpl. Hamilton, was known as ‘Hammy’ and while he was an outdoorsman, loving to hunt and fish and barbecue his first love, his pride and joy was his daughter. Pte. Curwin was a model family man, dedicated to his three children and always said that his wife was his best friend.

How must their fellow soldiers have felt as they bore their comrades’ bodies upon their shoulders and placed them on a flight headed for Canada and home? Their deaths raised the body count to 103 members of the Canadian Forces who are promoting freedom, security and democracy in Afghanistan. All three were from Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment from CFB Gagetown, N.B., and served as members of the Force Protection Company of the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team. Their job was to conduct regular security patrols to facilitate the reconstruction and development work within the province.

Private Justin Peter Jones celebrated Christmas early this year. He went home for a brief visit to the small Newfoundland community of Baie Verte. It was a respite from the rigours of military life overseas that also let him mark his 21st birthday and participate in his grandparents' 50th anniversary.

He was the only son Anthony and Rowena Jones, who travelled to Trenton, Ont., to meet their son's body. As the Baie Verte population of 1500 waited for Private Jones’ body to come home they tied yellow ribbons on cars, trees and buildings in the small town of 1,500, and drove 200 kilometres to the larger centre of Corner Brook for more ribbon when the stores in Baie Verte ran out. They did this because of Justin. Since childhood he had shown himself as a kind person, trustworthy, a volunteer, and inspirational man. He had a three week leave during the summer and spent 2½ weeks helping his grandfather roof his house.

May the God of comfort bring peace to these wounded families this season.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What Hanukah and Christmas have in common are Cupcakes

I’m serious - cupcakes. I’ll tell you about it in a second but first a recap. Hannukkah sometimes spelled with two kk’s and sometimes spelled with a Ch (Chanukah) is the eight-day Jewish holiday that commences on December 25th. Christmas is the celebration on the 25th of the birth of Jesus Christ even though his birth was more likely in September. Jews are remembering a bloody but successful second-century rebellion against Syrian invaders, a subsequent rededication of the temple in Jerusalem with accompanying miraculous lighting of lights for eight days using one day’s fuel. Christmas recalls that God compelled by love for contaminated humanity, sent his divine Son to earth via a supernatural conception in a virgin’s womb, for the sole purpose that the Son would become a sinless sacrificial atonement for human sin so that believers might be saved.

The two emphases clearly sound unrelated other than a shared calendar date. Some Christian writers are asserting that Christmas and Chanukah (pronounced Hanukah) have a lot in common. Having read their supportive material I have concluded that they have been hitting the punch bowl a bit early.

What are shared in common are trimmings that neither tradition appreciates. North Americans are weary of hearing Christians decrying the secularization and commercialization of Christmas while being as heavily into the parties, decorations and gift giving as anyone. Jews too, have allowed the compromise of an authentic Hanukah with the addition of gift giving for eight days, meals galore, decorations, even trees, albeit Hanukah trees. Some Jews transfer Christmas customs to the Hanukkah festival and to this blend has been given the term "Chrismukkah" replete with a Christmas tree and a Hanukkah menorah. No wonder some Jewish commentators feel that for too many American Jews, Chanukah is merely an insipid blue-tinsel copy of Christmas. For purists in both camps the concerns about the high jacking of respective traditions continues.

What took the cake for me was reading that specialty bakeries were making both celebratory Hanukkah Cupcakes and Christmas cupcakes. This is in reference of course to the cupcake craze that began a few years ago, possibly at New York City’s Magnolia Bakery and gradually spread across the country and into Canada. Cupcakes are the new Krispy Kreme and frozen yogurt. There is high demand for these delectable treats. I am referring you to the TRACYCAKE BAKERY CAFÉ at 9090 Glover Road, Fort Langley accessible. 604-888-1984, Tracy Dueck is the owner who bakes 200 cupcakes every day and they are gone. I have tasted a few of these, compliments of my wife, and they are sooo good. Don’t lick this page.

Happy Cupcakes.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Chanukah and Merry Christmas

Both the Jewish and Christian holidays occur annually in December. Christians have accepted December 25th as a date to honour the incarnation, the birth of Jesus the Son of God. The Jewish community celebrates the Festival of Lights known as Chanukah (pronounced Hanukah) with an eight-day holiday beginning on December 25th. While the Christian faith tradition has Jewish roots, and while they share some common features, like lights, food and gifted presents, they are historically and practically dissimilar. In Century 2 the Maccabees successfully rebelled against Syrian Antiochus IV Epiphanes who had ravaged the temple. This festival commemorates the 2nd century purification and rededication of the temple in Jerusalem with the kindling of the menorah lights, one light on each of the holiday nights. Tradition teaches that the wicks burned miraculously for eight days with only a one day supply of sacred oil.

Jewish and Christian faith traditions have not excelled at understanding one another. Christians and secularists have often mocked Jewish culture and characteristics. I have learned that disrespect occurs among Jews for Christians. I recall a December afternoon concert at Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto and chatting with two Jewish couples when one of the women said, “I hate Jesus and this Christmas thing.” That vivid recollection is the reason why comments credited to Ben Stein struck a responsive chord with me yesterday. In a CBS commentary spot on a Sunday Morning show he said, “I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees, Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are, Christmas trees. It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, 'Merry Christmas' to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a crèche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away. I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat.”

That was part of a much larger commentary article which was sent to inboxes all over the world recently but this section may be the only true Steinistic part. Someone added the other material and turned this into an urban legend thing. (More tomorrow)

If you want to hear and see Stein on this topic for 2 min. click this sentence. There is an ad and some intro stuff and then the relevant excerpt.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Work After Retirement

I have known people who through bitter life experiences have become cynics who are prematurely disappointed in the future. I am not one of these. Oh I have brushed up against adversity occasionally. I have never lost heart. Most retirement books focus on financial planning. Prudent but myopic. Having worked all my life in the not-for-profit sector, I should be close to pessimism if not panic given my retirement preparedness. But I’m not.

The books inappropriately project the idea that the last day of work is the goal. For many people retirement does not announce the end of working but rather a career and lifestyle transition. A retiree has multiple options, continuing to work but with fewer hours, returning to school, changing careers, venturing into an entrepreneurial pursuit, doing volunteer work, or just enjoying leisure and travel or blending all of this and trying new things. What’s to be cynical about?

If you have walked into a MacDonald’s or Tim Horton’s at lunch and been served by seniors and alternately by teens, I’ll certify you were served more effectively, quicker and more cheerily by the seniors. Seniors know how to work - more life experience under the belt. Pounds too maybe. A retiree never has to be concerned about finding a job. Many employees are looking for senior employees because they represent a wealth of experience with little or no necessary training.

Pizza Hut’s website contains a page that invites you to ‘Think about Coming Back.’ They are not talking about returning to scarf another pizza. The page goes on to say, “Sure, you’re retired. But that doesn’t mean you’re ready to stop working. Come back to Pizza Hut. We’ll make sure you stay active and engaged with people on a daily basis. What’s more, you can earn some extra cash—and have an incredible amount of fun in a lively atmosphere.” Look at the site for yourself.

Retirement doesn't always mean a complete separation from paid work. The way I see it through my graduated bifocals, retirement provides opportunity to continue to work by choice at jobs that you can enjoy. One in three retirees age 65 and older has a retirement job. Retirement jobs are particularly popular with baby boomers entering retirement. Eighty percent of Boomers expect to work in retirement jobs even if it’s part-time for either income or enjoyment. This is transforming the way people regard retirement, resulting in a new image of aging and the role of older people within our society.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Where No One Has Gone Before - Are You Kidding?

The Bucket List. Funny movie. The premise is two older terminally ill men escape from a cancer ward to pursue a wish list of things to do before their number is punched. Even if we haven’t reached the expiry date yet, it’s interesting to me how interested my friends and I are in the obits. I am still only an occasional obits reader. Perhaps we are unconsciously doing probability assessments of how much time we have left. Sounds grim, but it’s not as if no one has gone before. It’s the rest of the story that fascinates me.

Is this introduction familiar to you? “Space... the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.” Click the line to listen.

One of two people whose death announcements I noticed on December 18, 2008, was that of Majel Rodenberry, The other was Mark Felt. Majel was 76 and Mark was 95. Majel was the wife of the legendary screen writer and producer Gene Rodenberry, best known for Star Trek. He predeceased her in 1991 at age 70. His Star Trek universe was so prominent that in 1981 Australian scientists named a newly discovered asteroid in his honour - 4659 Roddenberry and also one of the bazillion impact craters on Mars bears his name. His ashes were aboard Space Ship Columbia in 1992 and in 1997 a small capsule of his ashes were sent into earth orbit. Majel married Gene in a Shinto ceremony in Japan in 1969. She was an actress who appeared on Bonanza and Leave it to Beaver before she was cast as USS Enterprise's Nurse Chapel in the original series and in subsequent films. She later appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation as one of its beloved: Betazoid ambassador Lwaxana Troi and as the voice of the starship's onboard computer — a job she held in spin-offs Deep Space Nine and Voyager as well as the forthcoming J.J. Abrams prequel film to be released in spring 2009.

Mark became an FBI chief agent in 1942 (actual photo on right) and worked as a Nazi hunter during the Second World War. He was serving as deputy associate director when he became the anonymous source of damaging information about Richard M. Nixon and his aides to Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Their coverage of the Watergate scandal eventually led to Nixon’s resignation in 1974. Felt was known only by a code name Deep Throat which remained secret until 2005 when he publicly disclosed his identity. Woodward and Bernstein wrote a book entitled All the President’s Men which was made into a movie in 1976.

Gene Rodenberry, rejected his Southern Baptist family-faith and became a humanist. In 1941 following university he studied aeronautical engineering, gained a pilot’s license and joined the U.S. Army Air Corps. He flew the B-17 Flying Fortress on Pacific Theatre missions and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal. He became a Pan Am commercial pilot and received commendation for his efforts following a 1947 crash in the Syrian desert during a flight from Istanbul to Karachi. He joined the LAPD and served for seven years before resigning to pursue his writing career in 1956 which as we now know was immensely successful. And he was gone at age 70.

Few of us boldly go into this after life. It is usually a reluctant entry. But when we can have confidence that someone has gone before and his passage has made a difference to each of us, it makes the journey less strange and not at all worrisome. That’s what Jesus has done. I am pleased that my obit reading friends agree.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Changeless Change Agent

Christine and I visited Ephesus last year. One of this ancient city’s early philosopher’s was Heraclitus who lived from 535 BC – 475 BC. He is known for his doctrine of change as central to the universe and for establishing the term Logos (λόγος) to mean both the source of and fundamental order of the Cosmos. He said, “Πάντα ῥεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει,” which translated means “everything flows, nothing stands still.” He also said, “Nothing endures but change,” a variant of which is the easily recognized, “The only constant is change.”

On the one hand I suffer change. Recently I noted the physical changes that accompany aging. The mirror is no longer my friend. The curmudgeon who peers at me is not someone with whom I want to have coffee. Yet Christine lives with him. It’s a good thing that memory fades with age – hers that is. She cannot recall how svelte and beautiful was the young man with whom she fell in love over forty years ago.

On the other hand I am a fan of change. I love rapid advances in electronic toys and tools. All of us are enthusiasts of continuous improvement. Consumers demand faster service, superior products, lower prices. It is critical for businesses to be asking what they should be doing and what should be done differently.

Every ascendant political leader pledges change. It’s implicit in the election process.
Have you looked at Barak Obama’s website? You should. It is a marketing masterpiece based upon the theme of change, specifically ‘Change is Coming.’ Canadian conservatives are hoping that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s recent foray into the land where angels fear to tread will have informed him of his need to change his approach to working with the opposition in this minority parliament.

I concede that inherent within life itself is change. Yet Heraclitus slipped when he said, “This universe, … has not been made by any god or man, but it always has been, is, and will be an ever-living fire, kindling itself by regular measures and going out by regular measures.” Mistakenly he was satisfied that logos was simply ‘reason’ within the universe. My commitment is rather to this understanding of the cosmos. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Further, “In the beginning was the (Logos) Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory.” And you shall call his name Emmanuel, meaning ‘God with us’. The designer and effecter of change is none other than the changeless one about whom Hebrews’ author wrote, “he is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.”

This is the website for the President Elect
This is the site of his presidential election campaign
This is the Obama store for products bearing his name

Harper’s Conservative website

Harper's Store

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mirror, mirror on the Wall

Mirror, mirror on the wall
Once you were my friend
I loved the way you made me look
Whatever was the trend.

Mirror, mirror on the wall
No matter my style of hair
Every time I looked at you
A handsome stud was there.

Mirror, mirror on the wall
I led a busy life
And what you’re showing me today
Cuts me like a knife.

Mirror, mirror on the wall
Why couldn’t you be kinder
As I changed from that to this
I’d have liked a reminder.

Mirror, mirror off the wall
You’ve bullied me enough
You can’t disgrace me any more
As I stand here in the buff.

Mirror, mirror on the floor
My nickname is the Slammer
Soon you will have lots of parts
Meet my friend The Hammer.

By ron unruh

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I am being metamorphosed – morphed!

I am not a transformer. What is happening is much slower than a few clicks of my parts to turn me into something I was not before. No, I am being morphed ever so slowly. I am being turned into Yoda the Jedi master in Star Wars.

Look at the similarities.
1. Yoda has countless wrinkles, so do I.
2. Yoda’s hands appear arthritic, so do mine … ouch. In fact he has a three finger hand. I am down to four and a half.
3. Yoda’s hair is thin and wispy; Christine trims what’s left of mine.
4. Yoda’s stature is well, diminutive, and I am shrinking.
5. Yoda can wear that homely mantle/shawl all day, and I get buy with a sweatshirt and denims.
6. Yoda doesn’t shave, and I, not much.
7. Yoda doesn’t wear glasses, and neither do I at night.
8. Yoda’s ears are huge, and mine are growing at an alarming rate, 0.22 mm per year. Don’t laugh! So are yours.
9. Yoda’s spoken language places the subject and verb at the end of the sentence. “Speak like Yoda I do.”
10. I can hardly understand what Yoda is saying. My hearing is getting so bad I can hardly understand what anyone is saying.

But that’s where the similarities break down. I won’t live as long as Yoda did. He was 900 years old when I first met him and he had trained Jedi for eight centuries. Along my briefer journey I should experience some hearing loss at higher frequencies and loss of visual focus due to loss of eye elasticity. My heart will decrease its output and that may increase my blood pressure. I won’t be able to breath as deeply as before. My sleep will be interrupted. I will become more susceptible to infection. My skin will become dry and thin and my bones may break more readily and my reaction time will diminish. My mobility and range of motion will decrease. My bladder capacity and kidney function will decrease. Sweet! In Yoda speak, “like him exactly I am not. A bloomin treat getting older is not.”

Oh and here is another dissimilarity. Yoda taught Luke Skywalker how to "farsee" into the future. I can’t farsee but I still know the future albeit in a limited way. That’s because I have God’s book. The nature and quality of what God has prepared for me, I cannot even imagine and no one can tell me about it because no one has seen it or heard about it. But Jesus has certainly made me excited about it. He told me that nothing less than a home in God’s kingdom was being prepared for me.
So I am going to fight the good fight.

That little green guy Yoda was quite the fighter. Click here to look at a Yoda video clip.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Right Stuff

What was I expecting? In my sixties I am not as fast or as strong as I once was. My mind plays tricks on me, memory deficit. Abilities in which I took pride have diminished. That’s life.

Yet here are five assets which in most pursuits customarily produce success: speed, strength, wisdom, discernment, and skill or education. Each in specific applications can achieve its objective. One would naturally assume that possessing all five should guarantee achievement and victory. But that’s not always true. Actually two factors, time and opportunity, control the relative effectiveness of human ability. ‘Opportunity’ is the alignment of events and occurrences in which these personal assets operate. ‘Time’ refers to God’s participation in directing circumstances that either invite or overwhelm one’s personal qualities.

If you are wondering why I pulled God into this human occasion, it is because the Bible assumes that He administers all that pertains to our lives. Ecclesiastes is part of the Bible’s Wisdom Literature and chapter 9 verse 11 says, “I saw something else under the sun. The race isn't [won] by fast runners, or the battle by strong heroes. Wise people don't necessarily have food. Intelligent people don't necessarily have riches, and skilled people don't necessarily receive special treatment. But time and unpredictable events happen to all of them.” That is Solomon’s one man observation that we should value human qualities but not trust in them to guarantee success. Our memories are crowded with examples of individuals who scored high in one or more of these assets yet fell short at life.

Then how do we let this nugget of wisdom assist us today? Ecclesiastes chapter 9 opens with this stark reality. It doesn’t matter who we are or how well we are doing with God or with others, the same event, death, happen to us all. It is an equalizer. In view of this the counselor has some advice and part of it is in chapter 9 verse10. “Whatever presents itself for you to do, do it with [all] your might, because there is no work, planning, knowledge, or skill in the grave where you're going.” Wow! That is a reality check. Don’t hold back Solomon. Tell it like it is.

So, approach enthusiastically the things God gives you to do in your years on earth and pursue it all wholeheartedly and energetically. A New Testament compliment says, “Whatever you do, do it wholeheartedly as though you were working for your real master and not merely for humans. You know that your real master will give you an inheritance as your reward. It is Christ, your real master, whom you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-34

Monday, December 15, 2008

How’s retirement treating you?

“How’s retirement treating you,” everyone who hasn’t seen me for a month asks. “Really good!” I blithely say. “I like it.”

It takes too long to answer candidly one of those predictable break-the-ice exchanges. If I were to answer fully, my acquaintance would charge me therapist fees. It’s been five months now since I retired and began staying at home – in Christine’s space. Are you intuitive? Do you know where this is heading?

Prior to my retirement becoming official, a thoughtful woman gave Christine a book to prepare her for my homecoming. “Honey, I’m Home for Good,” was the title. Christine loved it and laughed, that is before she had to live it. Does anyone have a problem? I am always here. That’s the problem. I should cover my tail on this one. It’s not so much a problem as an adjustment. I have upset my wife’s routine. I haven’t meant to do it but that doesn’t matter. Hitherto, what a great and antiquated word. Hitherto when I worked, I slipped away early to the office and Christine could sip a few mouthfuls of coffee, go for her morning walk, sit with her journal, be quiet, then in time turn on Regis and Kelly, perhaps dust and clean house in a stress-free manner taking as much time as she liked while listening to CBC classical. Now she may be sitting with her journal when I trundle to the kitchen for another cup or go to the can. Apparently the sound of flushing disturbs one’s prose. Oh, certainly I have agreed to share household chores, so I vacuum and I wash the kitchen floor and do anything else she invites me to do. But that poses a concern because I work too fast and do not take time to enjoy the process and thereby create an environment that makes her feel that she has to rush her tasks as well. Christine also graciously cares for two of our grandchildren two days each week. With me at home, she cares for three dependents. She is constantly concerned about how I am handling the grandkids’ volume and interruptions.

That is how I would respond to the initial question if I felt a freedom to be more than merely courteous. Oh, and that is only half of it but it’s enough for now. It’s a good thing that Christine doesn’t bother reading my blog. She wonders why anyone wants to air personal stuff anyway. If she knew about this entry, well! What would she do? Maybe threaten not to go to bed with me. Big deal. I am already sleeping in the guest room, for three weeks as a matter of fact because I have had a lingering head and bronchial thing going on.

Really good. We like it.

You can Order from Amazon, ‘Honey, I’m Home for Good!’ 14 new from $4.25 23 used from $1.92

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Poetic maybe, Limerick a little, Wordsworth I’m Not

Wisdom Literature

I woke up today as always, early and with lots to do.
No board rooms, reports, speeches to write but still my 24/7 fills up tight.
Unwritten on my schedule are a coffee, inbox check, CBC classical and a morning walk
By that time Christine is up, has made the bed, is cutting fruit and can abide quiet talk.
These retirement days run into one another like fluid watercolours on a page.
Sipping a cup I read and write and sit at my easel until I nap and act my age.
I still feel like I need permission to be so relaxed, so free, sorry that’s me.
The other day I asked Christine again whether it’s okay
For me to read a novel, take a drive, spend some hours just for play
And she told me that my time was mine and I don’t have to be anywhere for anyone.
It’s taken a long time to arrive at this place that I am finding to be so much fun.

There once was a man named Ron
Who thought he had it done
To his surprise
God opened his eyes
To nurture his small grandsons.

I can’t escape the sense that time
Has sped clutching me through years
Until at age sixty-six I’m
Filtering memories with tears
Of gratitude that life’s so good
Containing more joy than I think it should.

I’m humbled at my privilege in life
In contrast with the deprivations,
Hatred, cruelty and strife
Evident in this world of nations.
I’m sure that God will yet use me.
With favour comes responsibility.