Friday, October 31, 2008


I can’t understand why I am such a Halloween scrooge. . I can’t be bothered going to the door to see all the costumed kids expecting a treat. Christine calls me downstairs to share the festivities. I must admit the really tiny tots are very cute because they are so innocently involved in this seasonal festivity. I should be more into it. Halloween eves when I was a kid were legendary. Typically, Dad would oblige the request of my brother and I to drive us to the wealthiest neighbourhoods in the city where we cleaned up. Big houses gave big treats. Occasionally, the homeowners expected us to sing or dance or some other talent exhibit. We were up to it. My brother and I could sing in harmony. We would get extras handfuls of treats. But when you become a man you put away childish things. So then I was a young father, oh yes, and a pastor. And when my children we very small I was thinking conservatively that Halloween was inappropriate because of its emphasis on the dark side. My children remember their friends going out to bang on doors while they had to come with Christine and I to the bowling alley for an evening of bowling. Clean fun. All things change of course. Our children have just come to the door with their own little tots looking so cute in their zebra and mouse costumes and waiting for a gift. Our little friends next door visited earlier and each of the three had to tell us a joke – prepped by their daddy. One asked, “What kind of car does Luke Skywalker drive?” Answer: “A Toy Yoda.” Maybe my biggest hang up is the fact that one of the most popular masks is that of an old person. Pretty scary. I look at one in the mirror every morning.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Rambling New Me

I have sent a recent photo of myself to my family this morning to introduce my new look. I keep having to trim my five week old beard. It’s fun hearing the reactions from people who haven’t seen me for a while. Usually they affirm me and when Christine is accompanying at the time, that’s a bonus. As I told you earlier, this look is not her preferred persona for me. Some of my friends think I am keeping it to make her mad – not so! She is humoring me but hoping that I will ‘grow’ out of this soon. Candidly it’s far more work to maintain a neat beard that to sweep it off each day.

I am enjoying my concentrated time at art. All kinds of time to paint but I don’t stay at it very long. Too many other activities. The past two days it has been warm and sunny. Here in the lower mainland of BC you seize the moments. When you have an MX5 sitting in the garage anxious for the road, guess what? You get out there. Christine and I have been out driving the back roads and small towns south of the border in Washington State and then here through farm country. We stopped for pie and coffee yesterday on Lyndon Washington. It was $15 plus a tip for a $17 payout, and that’s $20 Canadian now. Our Looney has plummeted in two weeks to .77 against its USA counterpart. Bank of Canada may think the lower dollar helps the economy but it’s not helping mine. I’m retired.

Two weeks ago we were paying $1.50 per litre for gasoline and yesterday I happily filled up at $1.03. We are puppets on a string sometimes. At a buck fifty I would have to confine myself to driving up and down the driveway. Humor aside, I am realizing anew the crushing weight of the cost of things and the disproportionate share of our seniors’ incomes spent on the basics. Gas and food costs keep climbing. I am grateful for Canada’s medical help, even with its shortcomings because many in the US are crushed by medical costs. I know that everyone feels the sting of inflation but retirees on fixed income amounts feel it more severely.
But I am concerned for my children and their children. If the downturned economy is here to stay, different choices will have to be made as to lifestyle and that’s not easy to do when we have become accustomed to instant gratification. Who would have thought one year ago that we would have to reinvent responsible personal consumer practices to protect ourselves against credit card debt?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Returning to Bartering in this Failing Economy

I mentioned earlier a recent arrangement whereby I painted an acrylic fine art painting for a local golf course in exchange for a year’s golf membership. Further consultation has concluded an agreement that with the submission of another painting next year I will now have four years of golf. It’s a par 3 course. I can never take out the big sticks on this course so it occurred to me today that I should try bartering with one of the area golf and country clubs. Why not?

Christine and I are not using plastic any longer. Before I retired we made the decision that when we would live on pensions alone, we would have to curtail credit purchases. What an adjustment for me. I have been so accustomed to frequent meals out and purchases everywhere with no concern about paying the Visa bill at month end.

Now it appears reasonable that if there is merchandise or service that I want or need and I can find a supplier who similarly wants a service which I can provide that we might make a transaction. The present economic times make the merits of this approach more convincing.

Now I find out that my idea isn’t novel at all. In fact the resurgence of bartering has been in evidence for some time. Bartering, or the exchange of goods and services without money, has become a more common solution as family budgets tighten. In July, consumers listed nearly 142,000 ads on the barter section of Craigslist, a 96% increase from the year before, according to site statistics. What is noteworthy is that there is a shift in the things being traded, that is, from recycling unwanted things to things that are needed. For that matter, nations are creating
bilateral exchanges of grains and other goods. My reading of related materials informs me that when sales are down, small companies will benefit if they trade services and good with other companies. Almost any product or service that can be purchased or sold can also be used for negotiation, home renos, house painting, accounting, lawn service, car repairs, pet grooming, hair cutting are all useful considerations. One just has to make certain that the transaction is equally satisfactory for both parties. It's the barter or trade exchange business. The internet has spurred the growth of barter.

Check out and, and as well as your nearest city on For books, CDs and DVDs, try swap sites like and Another popular trade: swapping your home for someone else's as vacation lodging. There's no cash transaction. You stay in their home, they stay in yours. See which lists and rates home exchange sites.

Friday, October 24, 2008

#1 TEE AT SUNRISE 18X36 in, acrylic on canvas, Collection of Sunrise Executive Golf Course

Today I will present to the owners of the Sunrise Executive Golf Course, my finished commissioned painting. I intended it to hang in their clubhouse as well as be useful for marketing pieces. I wanted to capture something that would immediately identify to golfers, the location of this course. The first tee presents a unique and picturesque vantage point - unique because of the power lines under which the course is designed and picturesque because of Langley City in the valley and Mount Baker in the distance to the south. On a busy and sunny August Saturday afternoon, the tee box was crowded. The golfer was in position and must have felt the pressure. All eyes were on him.

This is what I am doing with my life and with great delight. There is something very gratifying and energizing to work on projects, watch their development and then see their completion. They aren't complete until I say they are. When I feel that I don't want to apply one more brushstroke, I leave it sitting on the easel for a few days looking at it every chance I get, and when confident that it is done, I apply the varnish coats to the acrylic paint surface. Now it is ready for everyone to see.

The process is not at all unlike what God is doing to me. He has been taking 66 years to work on me and he is apparently not finished. Even I notice there has been a great deal of improvement, definition, addition of colour and contrast. He is into realism. He alone will decide when I am complete and then I will be ready for presentation.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tartuffe - Pretense and Hypocrisy are to be laughed at

Molière was the pseudonym or stage name of Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, a French playwright and actor who is considered one of the greatest masters of comedy in Western literature. He came from a prosperous family and studied at the Jesuit Clermont College now known as Lycée Louis-le-Grand.

This Saturday Christine and I will have the opportunity to view the French comedy Tartuffe, presented by the players group at our local university. A tartuffe is a hypocrite, especially a hypocrite displaying affected morality or religious piety.Tartuffe is Molière’s most famous play and it was performed for the first time in 1664 at the fêtes held at Versailles. It was panned immediately, no, censored because of the outcry of the dévots no less, that is the "devout" people. Dévots was a term that referred to people who claimed to be religious but were religious frauds or hypocrites. They were also influential in King Louis XIV’s court. Because of them the play was suppressed. Perhaps it resembled a mirror for them.

Our English word derives from the Greek word hypokrisis which meant playing a part on a stage, or putting on a mask that represented reality but was not reality. Ancient Greek actors were known as hypocrites but of course at that time with no adverse connotation.

I have arrived at a place in my life where I am wearied by the games people play in the real world, by the masks worn. I love to be with sincere and transparent people. It’s always a subtle temptation to wear a mask depending upon whom you are with at the time.

You can read the entirety of Tartuffe online

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bone Marrow Transplant, child hood cancer,

A few days ago I wrote back to back blog entries that were entitled # 'Stolen Story? What if I am a Poacher!', and # 'Poachers Anonymous'. I comically addressed a matter that troubled me. Within one chapter of a manuscript for a children's novel which I have written there is a story of a brother's generous gift of love to his desperately ill sister. On one occasion he gave his blood via transfusion, and on another his bone marrow in a transplant. I wrote the manuscript twelve years ago and then shelved it after eighteen publishers sent me rejection slips. Unsolicited work isn't welcomed warmly by fully committed publishers. It's a good story and I will immodestly tell you that it is written well, because it is. Within the past year I have been encouraged to dust it off and publish it. I believe I will. If the one tiny story that develops the character of the brother was truly something that was less a product of my creativity and more a poaching of a legend that has been championed for decades, I wouldn't be proud of that. I came up empty when with a sincere effort I tried to recall why I had included the reference to the blood transfusion.

Then today, a news article spoke of a young woman who had cancer when she was seven years old and now she is 28 and who involved as a researcher in cancer cure initiatives. I recognized her name and her family's pain when back in 1987 the battle first began. The Bartley family belonged to the church that I pastored. And suddenly I realized with comfort that Naomi Bartley and her nine year old brother Nathan were the stimuli for my story. He was a perfect match as a donor for marrow for his sister. It was a true and touching story that had guided my writing. It was not an invented story of legendary proportion concocted to jerk tears.

Now I want you to become familiar the valiant efforts of this twenty-year survivor as she raises funds through Naomi's Hope Chest. CBC has produced a two part documentary called 'The Cost of Survival.' It chronicles Naomi's Hope for a Cure which is committed to raising funds to support research for new and less harmful childhood cancer therapies. As a girl she collected little hope chests. Now she has received the help of artists like Robert Bateman to paint collector chests for a fundraising auction. You can watch the CBC pieces on this page.

Monday, October 20, 2008

People Connections

I see many of the same people each day as I do my morning walk/run. We acknowledge one another. We are each bent on completing the walk, not stopping to talk. At least we are courteous. I often wish I could pull them over and know who they are. As I passed a turbaned man with a long white beard one day, I started a conversation which the two of us enjoyed for ten minutes before I moved on. He told me he has had his beard for twenty years. As a young man he shaved his beard when he began to do a comparative study of the religions of the world. He returned to Hinduism and grew his beard once again. He asked me why I shave and scolded me by saying, "Jesus didn't tell you to shave. You should have a beard." I have been looking for him lately so I can show him my new beard (3 weeks growth now). My wife has always seemed more gregarious than me. She is a sparkplug within a group setting. Over the last long while she has noted how much more conversational I am with people. In fact she questions why I chat so readily now often with strangers, when as a pastor I was reserved with parishioners. She's exaggerating. I spent tons of time with people. Perhaps that's part of the explanation. People were my job, or the main component. My commitments to people and their expectations owned my days and years. I am wired to be a people pleaser. It's a cumbersome enslavement. Oh it was all in the name of Christian service. Truthfully, I am enjoying people more. I appreciate spending time with people, hearing their stories, sharing mine when invited. Blogging is a curious activity isn't it? What audacity to think others are interested in our ramblings. Christine is suspicious of the advisability of me sharing so much in a public forum. I wish I had been more relaxed than I was with people these past four decades. I felt I was always an example on display. A few of us are slow learners I suppose. I can be an example by being myself and enjoy all the people who chance to enter my day and perhaps be a source of some pleasure to them as well. I just called my two grandsons who are crowding four years of age and told them we three guys were going for lunch to MacDonalds. Pretty exciting.

Friday, October 17, 2008

You Tell Me - Does It Matter when your testimony and conduct compete?

I have discretionary time. Some of it is spent productively and some is, well, you tell me. I saw the 100th episode of A&E’s ‘Dog’ The Bounty Hunter. Duane Chapman is the leather clad, chain smoking, tough talking, f...wording, tank topped former convict (accomplice to murder no less)who is known as ‘Dog.’ He's over the top enthusiastic and vulgar during a take down of a fugitive, and immediately thereafter becomes a big hearted social worker soft talking the captive down the road to rehabilitation. Makes for quite a show. Now get this, before a pursuit, he gathers the posse and he prays a spontaneous family prayer that may include “and let our lights shine in Jesus’ name, Amen.” His website claims that he is a highly intense, charismatic ex-con and born-again Christian and king of comebacks. His father was a Navy man and his mother was a minister with the First Assembly of God. Dog says, “I am what rehabilitation stands for.” He is tireless to bring in the bad people and to encourage them to change their lives.

Comebacks? Dog has been married five times and has fathered eleven children in his fifty five years. After serving time Dog co-founded Da Kine Bailbonds based in Hawaii. Joining him in the pursuits are members of his family, children Leland, Duane Lee, Baby Lyssa and his current wife of two years, Beth, a peroxided, large-haired, big bosomed business partner.

Penny Harding, the executive director of the California Bail Agents Association, said about Dog, "He represents all of the things that bail agents are trying to get away from - the cowboy image, the renegade, bring 'em home dead or alive."

This enigmatic figure is a challenge to the conventional Christian profession of faith. We customarily want to see a clearer correlation between profession and behaviour? When A&E bleeps his speech yet it's still evident that he said, sh... or mother f..... or f... one wonders about validity, true faith. When questioned about his profanity he has answered. “To say God (bleep)it or to say that God (bleep) thing -- that's not taking God's name in vain. That's like saying, 'Oh, Dog Damnit.' Is that taking my name in Vain? No! I don't think that by saying God (bleep), that takes the Lord's name in vain, and if it does every night before I go to sleep, my mother used to tell me, 'You're a lot like David in the Bible, son,' and I would say, 'Why, Mom?' And she would say, 'Well, the Bible says that David was a good repenter, and loved the Lord with all his heart.' And I repent so much, at night, I talk to the Lord, go over what I did and tell Him, 'Please forgive me for that. Don't let me do it again, God. Why did I do that?' I'm constantly repenting everyday..." And as for him being an example or role model forget it. He says that's not his role. He looked up to Jimmy Swaggart he says. "Don't look to me."

The truth is however, the thousands of viewers of this top rated show do form an impression of Jesus and his place in a person's life through observation.

What do you think about this? Some professing Christians, calling themselves Red Letter Believers endorse Dog's dichotomy as authentic Christianity.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Poachers Anonymous

Well now I have the truth. My name is Ron and I am a poacher! I have enrolled in Poachers not so Anonymous.

The disclosure comes from a visit to Snopes website and particularly a page entitled ‘Tranfusion Confusion.’ There my originality is debunked. In yesterday’s entry I told you about an anecdote within a children’s novel that I wrote twelve years ago. Someone recently questioned whether I had created that story or ‘borrowed’ it. He was gracious. Let’s call it what it is. I am man enough. It’s Poaching.

A brave little boy agrees to transfuse his ailing sister even though he believes that he will die in order to save his sister’s life. I wrote my book between 1996-1998 and it contains a scene that is a clone of this tribute to filial love. Apparently the tear jerking story began its online odyssey in 1998 but not because of me. Whoever wrote it, lifted it from the 1993 best seller, ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul.’ Further, in a book published in 1994 an author named Lamott attributed a similar sounding story to a spiritual teacher named Jack Kornfield. In a 1974 magazine produced by the Church of Christ of the Latter Day Saints, an identical story was contained and unattributed. The Snopes article writer also says that some Latter Day Saints high school students of the 1970’s remember watching a film that used the same storyline but swapped the genders of the characters. Another story comes out of a US military strike on a Vietnamese village when an American medic attended to children, one of whom performed this heroic if also confused donation of blood. One might appreciate the misunderstanding given the language barrier. Yet the oldest parallel comes from a 1925 Mary Pickford film in which 32 year old Pickford played a twelve year old Annie Rooney who rushed to the hospital to offer herself for a life giving transfusion to save the life of her brother shot in a gun battle. She thinks she will die in giving this aid.

So needless to say I am ruined. This heart rending story has been kicking around for over 80 years. It was not the product of my fertile fiction after all. What a disappointment. What’s disconcerting to me is that I could not, cannot, recall pinching it. I believe that I was convinced I was fashioning an emotionally compelling and original narrative. I promise, I will return to the chapter of my book that contains this and excise it. What in the world can I substitute for it?

How in the world did 32 year old Pickford pass for a twelve year old?
Watch this trailer (nothing wrong with your audio. It’s a silent movie.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Stolen Story? What if I am a Poacher!

My coffee tastes particularly good this morning. We treated ourselves to a pound of Starbucks Anniversary blend beans yesterday. It’s 4:22 am. I am pondering lots of things.

Harper and the Conservatives were re-elected with a stronger mandate yesterday but still a minority government. I am preparing the spoken words for my aunt’s funeral this coming Saturday which I have been asked to officiate. A friend of mine lost his sister to cancer last week and he devotedly sat with her through her last days. I have to tend my 20 month old granddaughter for two hours this morning and it worries me. I would rather write a book.

Speaking of which… an acquaintance with some interest in the children’s novel that I wrote is willing to finance the self publishing of this book. I wrote it twelve years ago and ambitiously sent it sequentially to eighteen publishers over a two year period only to receive kindly expressed rejection letters. I was assured that my content and writing was acceptable but they were all oversubscribed with unsolicited submissions. I left it alone for ten years and cleaned it up recently. I might have one more bit to filter.

One vital chapter for developing the filial relationship between my hero and heroine characters, aged eleven and thirteen years, contains a story which now causes me to ponder. Did I actually originate that story twelve years ago or did I scrounge a yarn I read somewhere? My benefactor read the book and asked me this question. He had heard the substance of this anecdote before. It’s one of those classic object lessons describing the cost involved in love for someone that is so profound that it compels a self sacrifice. In this case a brother loves his sister so much that when she is stricken with a blood disorder that threatens her life, a blood transfusion from a blood matching donor is all that can save her. The brother has that compatible blood match. When asked to donate his blood, he misunderstands that to mean that he must give all his blood. He anguishes briefly over this life-giving choice, then chooses to give his blood to the sister he loves. Of course when his parents realize his confusion they reassure him that his gift will not be lethal.

My concern is that an internet search yields similar sounding tales. I don’t want my entire novel content to be compromised by a pilfered parable. I honestly cannot recall whether I was the originator. If the story concept can be found prior to 1998 then I am a poacher. Can you help me? Can you discover an online source that predates my story? If so, please notify me promptly. I will tell you tomorrow what I learn.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Proud to be a Free Canadian. Election Day.

I am Canadian (the rant). This is Canada’s federal election day. The values and priorities of voters will be reflected by X marks. I view today as an awesome privilege.

Democracy first appeared in ancient Greek political thought. Plato contrasted the rule by the governed (democracy) with alternative systems of rule by an individual (monarchy), or rule by the élite (oligarchy), or rule by the rich and famous (timocracy).

Throughout 2008 Nova Scotia has been commemorating its unique place in Canadian history with the theme, 'Celebrating 250 Years of Democracy.' It was in Nova Scotia that Canada’s First Parliamentary Democracy was established.

Let’s not become prematurely bloated about our democracy. It evolved through struggles. Early elections were based on the practice of 18th-century Britain. The ability to vote was not universally available. It was restricted first to loyal British subjects, specifically men of property. The franchise was constantly scrutinized to insure that the wrong type of people did not acquire it. For example, in Prince Edward Island, the governor of 1773 allowed a representative assembly to be formed only when enough Protestant Scots had arrived to counterbalance the earlier Acadian (French) settlers. Throughout the pre-Confederation period (1867), in every Canadian colony there was a series of exclusions against non-British. Catholics were soon enough accommodated; however, in the 1810s, recent American immigrants were seen as a threat in Upper Canada (Ontario); in the 1860s in British Colombia, it was Chinese immigrants and aboriginals, and later, "Hindus" and Japanese; before and during World War I, prairie settlers of Polish, Ukrainian and Russian origin were the menace. In all those cases and others, efforts were made to keep these groups from voting. The restrictions were long-lasting. Racial and religious exclusions waited until after World War II to be lifted completely. With regard to the women's vote, Quebec lagged behind the rest of the country in allowing women to vote and not until 1940 were they allowed to vote in provincial elections, though they could vote in federal elections earlier. In 1867 voting was oral and public in all provinces but New Brunswick. The necessity of a voter standing on a platform and declaring his preference to the world allowed plenty of scope for intimidation, at, before, or after the poll. The secret ballot was resisted as contrary to the "manly spirit of the British people" and as contrary to the realities of electioneering. Changes came slowly. Canada committed to an open political process with the adoption of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982 in which the rights of Canadian citizens to vote and stand for office in federal and provincial elections was guaranteed.

My schedule of activities as a retiree has changed but clearly marked on this day is my trip down the street to the polling station. I am entitled. My freedom is the underlying principle of democracy. Currently, there are 123 countries that are democratic and the trend is increasing (up from 40 in 1972). The map shows blue countries as democratic.

Just for kicks watch this consummate poetry of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Democracy is coming to the USA’ on this Youtube video.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Journalists have made a big deal of Obama as the potential first ‘black’ US President. Aren’t you weary of this? I have lived long enough to recall when TV ads first began to feature African American actors. I remember when bilingualism became a source of chronic national complaint in Canada as all product labeling appeared in French and English. People of different racial backgrounds still look suspiciously at one another. I’m white so I know that Caucasians carp about cross cultural, multi-lingual relations all the time. I have been guilty of it myself sometimes. I’m not proud of it. Like you I have found myself in a confusing phone conversation with a service person for a major Canadian company like Telus or National Car Rental only to learn that the person lives in Karachi or some other distant location.

One of the most enriching experiences of our family life was our move from Peterborough to Toronto when my two children were entering their teen years. The communities in which we lived and the schools they attended were rich with ethnic and racial diversity. Each member of my family enjoyed friendships that accepted this fusion of peoples. We worked and played with people from Asian, Jamaican and European personal histories. When I moved to B.C. eighteen years ago my new network of acquaintances was all white and I was uncomfortable. I missed the racial mix of God's people who I had learned to love as brothers and sisters. During these two decades in BC the people landscape has changed with immigration. My life and work has enabled me to meet and to appreciate French speaking Quebec residents and the Chinese community in Richmond BC and a few Indo Canadians.

My sensitivity quotient has heightened as I have aged. I cannot express how it hurts my spirit when my friends, some Christians ... please forgive us God, even some missionaries I have heard speak pejoratively about other races and language groups. Hurt? No, I find it offensive that people who should know better and love larger as God loves, would denigrate His creation with careless words, with irresponsible attitudes. What kicks my butt is my reluctance to speak up and challenge this prejudice.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Believing is Seeing

One of my surviving aunts on my mother’s side died yesterday. She was a believer. She was ninety-seven years of age. She was waiting to leave this life. For the past many years she was sightless. Years ago she asked me to officiate her memorial service, so her son called me to invite me to do this.

Her name was Rose. Let me tell you what her life teaches me.

One day we sat together and this is what she told me. She and husband Jake, a school principal left Saskatchewan in 1947 and purchased twenty acres of BC dirt in the lower mainland. They and their children, Shirley, Sheldon, and 9 month old Larry made the move with a nest egg of $50.00. They obtained a cabin occupied by Japanese Canadians during WWII and moved that to the acreage. Rose said they had two doors, one to enter and exit and the other used as a table top. They sat on apple boxes. They borrowed canvas camp cots for the children, Shirley and Sheldon were on opposite ends of one cot for a while. Larry slept in the box in which they had brought their linens from Sask. Jake’s and Rose’s bed was a homemade effort from a frame someone threw out, and some boards set across that, and some material sewn together after being stuffed with straw. With no teaching jobs available Jake and Rose earned some money doing farm and produce work. Rose remembers Larry crawling around in the dirt of an orchard floor while she picked fruit and by the end of a day, he was a mess and she was a neat freak. At the end of the day she would have to scrub the children’s’ clothes on a small washboard and she remembers screaming, “Why did I come to BC to do this?” But that feeling never lasted long. She told me that she never cried about her life. She always believed that tomorrow would be a better day. As she spoke to me I thought I was listening to a refrain from the Annie musical. And then she finished that segment of her narrative with, “We were happy!” Rose was a happy woman, the catalyst of happiness for others.
Eventually a teaching job and later a principalship opened to Jake.

She spoke about the limitations of sightlessness. She said, “I am okay as long as I have my music. If I didn’t have my music I’d go bonkers.” For her the golden years were with Jake, her husband, in the years following his retirement. They went on photographic trips together, daytrips and longer adventures. Ten years later at age 75 he died. Rose told me, “it seems like I have been without him all my life. I have had so many years on my own.” Perhaps her saddest loss was the death of her married daughter Shirley. They did so much together, canned together, and baked together. As she talked of it she said, “it makes me cry even now. She was taken from me.”

She said going to heaven was what she lived for now. She prayed for the time when God would come and pick her up, and there would be no more darkness, no more loneliness and everything would be right. She said that was the best thing that could happen. She said my children don’t want to me to say that, but it’s no fun for me here any more. I am 96 and I have had my days.

She told me, “You tell them when I am gone, that I can see.” So I am telling all of you. “Rose can see!” And it is Thanksgiving Sunday!!!

Listen and watch Wintley Phipps singing "It is well with my soul."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Thanksgivng Monday is Coming

Mondays were always good for me. Typically Monday was the preacher’s day off. I practiced that in my early years as a pastor. Over time I realized I was still hot-wired from Sunday so I took a different day off. I found Monday to be very productive days. For some people Mondays are the worst day of the week.

In their 1966 hit song, the Mamas and the Papas sang ‘Monday, Monday’ Can’t trust that day. Monday Monday, sometimes it just turns out that way. Oh Monday morning, you gave me no warning of what was to be.... Every other day, every other day, Every other day of the week is fine, yeah. But whenever Monday comes, but whenever Monday comes, You can find me cryin' all of the time.’

What will this coming Monday bring? It’s Thanksgiving Monday in Canada. When the Stock markets worldwide closed on Friday it was clear that the monetary malaise is now global. It’s Saturday but Monday is coming. What investor responses will be produced with the opening gavels in major cities on Monday? Get this! Chrysler and General Motors are reported to have held merger talks already or an acquisition of Chrysler by GM. Are you concerned yet? Don’t be. You likely didn’t know that Cerberus Capital Management, the private equity firm owns 80.1 per cent of Chrysler and 51 per cent of GMAC Financial Services. It will simply receive GM’s remaining 49% in GMAC. So it goes. Someone described this as the Hindenburg merging with the Titanic. What will they call it? Cry-Motors.

BMO Mutual Funds are still running an ad that says ‘Welcome to Worry-Free Investing’ I don’t think so! On the 14th, the day after Monday, which governing party will be mandated to help us? As of October 9th Harris-Decima, Nanos Research, EKOS Research Associates and Angus Reid all poll a Conservative win ranging from 33-36% compared to a Liberal 24-27% and NDP 18-22%.

Rainy Days and Mondays, was recorded on an album in 1971 by Karen and Richard Carpenter.
Talkin' to myself and feelin' old / Sometimes I'd like to quit / Nothing ever seems to fit / Hangin' around / Nothing to do but frown / Rainy Days and Mondays always get me down.
What I feel has come and gone before / No need to talk it out / We know what it's all about / Hangin' around / Nothing to do but frown / Rainy Days and Mondays always get me down.

Not me! Members of our extended family will be at our home for a Thanksgiving Dinner. It will be wonderful Monday.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Lessons from 'The Kite Runner' about being a friend

I have spent a working lifetime helping people, mentoring and teaching, encouraging and admonishing. I have grown immeasurably as a person during all these years. So much of that character development was affected because I was in the public eye, in a position of trust and example. I was as reflective and meditative as I had time to be. I now have more discretionary time to be reflective about who I am, how I became this, where I can improve and where it’s okay to be me. I wish God was finished with me but the changes keep coming. The other day the lesson was about friendship.

I remembered that “The Kite Runner’ received Oscar mention last year, so when I saw the DVD at the corner store I rented it, $2.99. This powerfully engaging story was Khaled Hosseini’s debut novel and best seller. Emotive themes about bravery, weakness, fathers and sons, friendship, betrayal and hard won redemption move through it. While told with fiction the tale develops from the history and culture of war torn Afghanistan. The book follows a young boy named Amir in the 1960’s. Amir and another boy named Hassan. They are childhood friends in the alleys and orchards of Kabul in the sunny days before the invasion of the Soviet army and Afghanistan’s decent into fanaticism. Both motherless, they grow up as close as brothers, but their fates, they know, are to be different. Amir’s father is a wealthy merchant. Hassan’s father is his manservant. Amir belongs to the ruling caste of Pashtuns, Hassan to the despised Hazaras. Hassan is as good a friend as Amir could ever want. Amir never fully reciprocates. An unspeakable assault on Hassan by a gang of local boys tears the friends apart. Amir witnessed his friend’s torment, but was too afraid to intercede. Plunged into self-loathing, Amir conspires to have Hassan and his father turned out of the household. Mounting ethnic, religious, and political tensions begin to tear Afghanistan apart. When the Soviets invade Afghanistan, Amir and his father flee to San Francisco, leaving Hassan and his father to a pitiless fate. Years later Amir has an opportunity to redeem himself by returning to Afghanistan to begin to repay the debt long owed to the man who should have been his brother.

For my own life with its luxury of reflective time, this story served as a parable. Friendship cannot be overrated. The Bible speaks much about friendship. The intimacy of God’s communication with Moses is that of a friend (Exodus 33:11). The wisdom of Proverbs 17:7 informs me that a true friend loves you all the time. I am reminded that a true friend sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). Self examination is not always comfortable but it is biblical. Through the years some people have been better friends to me than I have been to them. I am looking for steps to rekindle friendships. I struggle with memories of betrayal by people I regarded as friends. I abhor the human frailty and selfishness that propel us to squander friendships and leave broken ones unresolved. A memorable quote from The Kite Runner is the words of a friend Rahim Khan inviting Amir back to Afghanistan with these words, ‘There is a way to be good again.”

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Recession - Economic and Spiritual

I subscribe to an art e-zine that comes twice weekly and provides hints to improve my art, my enjoyment and the marketing of it. Most recently the October 7, 2008 topic was “Art in Hard Times.” It is a response to artists’ concerns about the economy. Robert Genn is the author and artist and originator of The Painter’s Keys online newsletter. His comments prompted me to consider other implications. Genn wrote that in his experience, investment and collector art can continue to thrive in bad times. He suggests that “Recessions are blessings. Historically, recessions and depressions have been times when "important" work gets made. Realistically, our financial outlay for equipment and art materials (unless your medium is gold) is relatively minor. In hard times artists need to get themselves as debt free as possible and invest in the joy of their vision.”

Recession! The word sends chills up the businessman's back. Do the evaporation of bank credit, the drop of home values and stock market uncertainties trouble you? The US Congress would not have changed its mind about passing the bailout package if the majority had remained unconvinced of its necessity. The step was taken to stem off economic recession. Some people however, believe the US is already in recession. Technically a recession consists of two consecutive down quarters in the gross national product. That has not yet happened. I have examined the competing opinions of journalists, economists and politicians with regard to the economic position in which the USA particularly and my country of Canada presently find themselves.

Sorry. I can’t help myself. Bill Maher would ridicule me. I was a preacher for so long. I am not any longer but I still see parallels between spiritual and economic observations such as I cited. I am also a follower of Christ, so it’s natural and beneficial for me to examine transferable concepts. New Testament writer of the book of James wrote in his fourth chapter verse 13-17, wrote about spiritual recession. The roots of spiritual recession appear to be similar to the roots of economic recession. One common root of recession can be foolish presumption since the person described in verses 13 and 16 lives as if tomorrow will never come but is motivated by money and greed. Another root of recession whether economic or spiritual is overlooked perspectives since in verse 14 James teaches that life comes with some uncertainties but life also has certainties. The uncertainties are summed up in a question. “What is your life?” Certainties are contained in the expression, “It appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” A third common root to recession whether economic or spiritual is abandoned priorities. In verses 15-17 James is urging readers to get priorities in order because some people have forsaken two things, God’s will and His way.

If it’s natural to revisit a business strategy when market conditions change, it is likely appropriate for me to revisit my relationship with God. If the bedrock to business success is entrepreneurial spirit, substratum to spiritual victory is a blameless spirit.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Mom and Dad

At different times recently I have seen both Mom and Dad. You may know what I mean. I saw Dad, walking across the street the other day as I drove past him. The smallish man was wearing the type of hat and jacket dad used to wear and I looked hard at him to see why the man looked so much like Dad. I saw Mom a few days earlier. We were in downtown Vancouver and a woman who looked like Mom when she could still walk, was briskly moving down the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street. She stopped in front of me and looked across at me, and then carried on. In those moments I missed my Mom and Dad terribly. I feel ancient.

Mom died in November 2007 and Dad died in April 2008.

I am feeling vulnerable. All the weight loss progress I made from last Feb – July is being lost by bad eating habits and laziness. My work life was a primary motivator for my devotional life and I have to now re-learn a discipline for my bible study and prayer.

I have a lot for which to live. Today one of my three year old grandsons wore his backpack and wanted to go on a hike. I easily accommodated him since he has no understanding about hiking. I took him around the block. On one of the adjoining streets we found a small park with a playground for children. He was thrilled to use the playground toys that dig sand and rock on large springs, and I was equally satisfied to sit on a bench and watch him and dialogue with him as he chose. On our way back home, his tiny hand in mine, he sang to me tunes and lyrics he made up as we went.

I realized that it's okay to be the grandpa, the eldest surviving member in the lineage. It's good. I have the time. I must use it as my Father wants me to do.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Emily Stauffer

Any personal retirement issues fade to insignificance in light of a recent event in someone else's experience. I have known Allen Hern for years. He was a fellow pastor in the same family of churches. His daughter Jaunita is married to another pastor, Terry Stauffer. I met the Stauffers years ago when they were a sweet young couple eager to be serving the Lord. My heart aches for all of them today. Terry and Jaunita live in Edson, Alberta. That's where tragedy has gripped the family. I first knew them some years ago, a sweet young couple eager to be serving the Lord. Through the years they have had one son and three daughters born into the family.
Last Saturday 14 year old Emily Joy Stauffer was attacked and murdered by a stranger in broad daylight on a walking path. This has traumatized the small town of 8000 people, 200 kilometres west of Edmonton. Emily loved photogaphy and her school walls were adorned this week with her photos that included portraits of her sisters Petra (9), and 7 year old Anne. Over 800 people packed the school gymnasium yesterday (Friday Oct 3). As one would expect, these people of faith affirmed their confidence that Emily's personal faith has now become the reality of actual sight, and God is good, and we will see Emily again. Among the 8000 townspeople we will pray that there will be many whose attention is directed to spiritual matters because of this community loss and that God will come close to them as He frequently does in times like this.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Family – Economic Clash of Ideas

My approach to finances and financing is philosophically and diametrically different from those of my two children and their spouses. Even this part of my life makes me feel old. This entry is not speaking to which view is right and which is wrong. It relates to my inability to understand the next generation’s economics. Does it matter? Yes, because I worry for them. No, because it is their responsibility. Christine and I worked our buns off to be debt free and we are. To know my children are engulfed in a debt quagmire bothers me. Why should this make me feel old? Because I share my Dad’s approach to money, frugality and saving. My father died this past year at 93 years of age. He worked as a factory laborer until he retired at age 65. I wonder whether he ever earned more than $15,000 per year. His home cost him $10,000 in 1955 and he sold it for $60,000 in 1985. His company pension was pocket change yet his estate yielded $40,000. That’s amazing. He was a cash man. No plastic. So, like most of their peers, one of my young couples is mortgaged up to the yin yang but when requiring more cash are encouraged by the bank to increase the mortgage ceiling. It's common practice. Their peers do it. The other couple, having sold a house have needed to live off of some of that sale money before purchasing another home in our area where house prices are atmospheric. They too are unruffled about it. I grant you, it may be the resilience of their ages and the reasonable expectation of many years ahead to deal with debt. I am on the downside of the time line and I fret for them. All four of them are highly intelligent, confident, informed and conversant. I am sure they know what they are doing but then the American economy tanked last month and thousands of people have lost their homes, and I wonder whether this credit shattering scenario will visit us in Canada. If it does, then both my couples will be hosed. And then what? I suppose they all come to live on our property. Six adults and five children. I can always convert the garage into living space for Christine and me. I can build in a padded room. I can run away from home.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Local Newspaper Article - The Cloverdale Reporter

I spoke with a friend the other day who retired earlier than I did yet he is still working almost fulltime in ministry areas and he is deeply satisfied. For over 40 years I have enjoyed the satisfaction of helping people, comforting, counselling, and teaching. Leadership has been a major concentration. During all these years I have received strong affirmation and appreciation. For this I have been grateful. For the past three months I have devoted my attention to predictable activities of a retired guy, sports car driving, beach walking, garden chores, golf or nothing in particular. I have also spent a lot of time painting. Imagine my pleasure to receive a call from a news columnist requesting time to interview me for an article. The piece would describe my transition from pastoring to painting. The article by Christine Lyon of the Cloverdale Reporter was published on September 21st 2008. What a neat experience for me to receive recognition of my revived painting interests. It has been good exposure within our community.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Funeral and a Life Lesson

Today I attended the funeral of a college friend. In the sunshine I drove my MX5 convertible with the top down, radio banging out some hard music and I loved the 45 minute trip.

My friend died of cancer at age seventy-one after a protracted six year struggle. She was uncomplaining, buoyant, happy, and content to the end. Her husband, two married sons and three grandchildren filled her world with joy and peace. She loved God.

I arrived early at the small town church, spoke with two pastors, friends of mine. I sat for a time prior to the start of the memorial service. The sanctuary is an all purpose room. Centre aisle had large nasty carpet stains. If there were assigned ushers they came late. I saw one pastor and then the brother of the deceased handing out memorial programs to guests. An organ and piano played together, sometimes, although at times it was a competition for speed and tune. They did not comfort me. When was the last time you heard an organ in a church. They have all but been eliminated in churches. Remember I am a retired minister. I have officiated hundreds of funerals during my career. In these surroundings on this day, my mind was struggling with concepts of church and aspects of age, what I can tolerate and what makes me uneasy.

I am sixty-six you know. Around me the seats filled with people ten, fifteen and twenty years older than me. That was dismal enough. Then some of my peers entered stoop shouldered, shuffling and convincingly post prime. I began thinking that people likely observe me that way and I was rapidly developing an urgent need to get out of there. I could have run for it, but upon returning home, Christine would ask me about the memorial and I couldn’t tell her that I went but I left before the service started.

A divine thing happened. The memorial program unfolded just as it was printed in the folder. A seven year old granddaughter quoted John 3:16 and later a pastor spoke about Psalm 23 and he alluded to John 3:16 again. The divine happening was that I learned a basic life lesson. Suddenly I realized that the good news doesn’t change. God so loved the world that He gave His Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have everlasting life. The life lesson was that regardless of the predictable changes to creatures and creation and me, God’s good news is ageless. Now that is comforting.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

My Teeth Are Out

Jayden, my three year old grandson, greets me each morning when he wakes. He comes into my studio where I am customarily engaged at the computer, and he leans his cuddly body against my arm until I pick him up. Then we just hang for a while.

Yesterday morning he saw my lower partial plate sitting beside my notebook and he asked, “Grandpa, what is that?” I said, “Those are my teeth.” His head did a classic double take, as his uninitiated mind processed this response. With eyes wide in disbelief he asked, “What are they for Grandpa?” I picked up the partial and slipped it into my mouth, which was a mystery and an education to Jayden. “Can I see?” He asked. I opened my mouth and he smiled with satisfaction to see that I had a full set of teeth.

Today he met me in the morning again. “Grandpa, are your teeth in the box?” “No,” I responded. “Are they in your mouth?” I said, “Yes.” He said “Can I see your teeth.”

This is what my life has become. A partial.
I have a partial forefinger, which I snipped off in a bizarre accident last summer as I sat in a lawn chair with my other three year old Grandson Kale, and the chair collapsed. Only a partial or fractional number of brain cells remain following a 2005 Grand Mal seizure which remains an enigma. The missing cells seem to be in the short term memory department. I used to be proud to give a strong handshake but I can squeeze only partially now before the osteo arthritis kicks in. I skip stones with my grandsons at the beach but I can only throw partially as far as I once did. I sleep only a part of the night – old man syndrome you know. Good thing I enjoy early morning hours. It gets far too personal and private to mention more of my partial limitations.

But I am nevertheless a thankful man because I have the use of what remains of my forefinger, so that I can still paint my pictures and I have the complete devotion of these little grandguys and gals and I am favoured with the full commitment of a loving wife who is nothing but partial to me.

I better go brush my teeth. Jayden will come into my room any moment now.