Saturday, February 28, 2009


In the late 1960’s Bill McLeod pastored a church of two hundred people in Saskatoon that caught a spirit of prayer. Prayer became the most important activity of their church life. They poured out their hearts to God to send revival to them and their city. In 1971 God sent revival. It went on for months and involved countless other churches and moved to ever large venues to accommodate people night after night. In the years that followed the revival movement moved to every province and every US state having similar life changing results. Families were reconciled. Destructive habits were abandoned. But it all began with concerted prayer because praying people take God seriously.

I believe many in evangelicalism have concluded that to see crowded churches in North America we have to redesign, reorganize, renovate, restructure, rebuild, retrofit, and reshuffle. So we spend money on capital items when we should be spending time in prayer so that God will send revival and people will crowd into any kind of facility where God is busy. Over the decades as we modernized and contemporized our church programming I noticed that we became satisfied with less and less corporate prayer. Then along came the testimony of one pastor Jim Cymbala and the Brooklyn Tabernacle and his first books and videos that inspired thousands of Christian leaders as though Cymbala had stumbled on something revolutionary. Jim was a brand new pastor at his first church in Brooklyn which had only twenty members until one day there was standing room only at prayer meeting and until today when it is deemed a mega church. In his book called Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire Cymbala provides a one-word answer: prayer. He tells how passionate, persistent prayer transforms individuals, revives churches and revitalizes communities.

Instead of losing hope we need to go back to the biblical basics.
Communication with God through prayer is one of the foundational and unchanging essentials of a life with God.

See Bill McLeod's website
See Brooklyn Tabernacle site

Friday, February 27, 2009


Why is it that we miss some things that should be so obvious to us?

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went on a camping trip. After a good meal and a bottle of wine they lay down for the night, and went to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend awake. "Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see." Watson replied, "I see millions and millions of stars." "What does that tell you?" Holmes questioned. Watson pondered for a minute. "Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you?" Holmes was silent for a minute, and then spoke. "Watson, you idiot. Someone has stolen our tent."

We are presently living in a worrisome time but we may be missing the point. The Stock Market indexes are still falling. Perhaps we are mistaken about the true nature of crisis. Maybe this is not about the economy at all. The most serious issues that this world is facing may not be economic. America and Canada have been degenerating for some time into godless societies. The world economic crisis may simply be a warning that the eternal God of the universe is profoundly displeased with world ethics and morality.

Our churches are visible certainly and the US has more of them and larger churches but churches appear powerless to reverse the downward spiral and the speeding secular currents. Religion is up but morality is down. We have little impact on our societies. In fact the influence of cultures is permeating our churches so that we are seduced by the social agenda of wealth and pleasure. Our two countries are stalled in moral and spiritual crises. The only hope is a revival from God. If a spirit of holiness captivated God’s people, of how much would we all need to repent?

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Twelve animals comprise the Chinese zodiac: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. 2009 is the year of the Ox. The significance of the Ox is a power sign. Oxen are dependable and possess an innate ability to achieve great things. The Ox is thought to be the sign of prosperity through determination and hard work.

We city dwellers know very little about locusts except what we are told. We see the occasional grasshopper. When environmental conditions are suitable, locusts swarm in the billions and cover hundreds of square miles and within hours strip entire fields of grain or corn. Locusts are edible in some cultures and if a person is desperately hungry. But locusts are chiefly considered a nuisance, a pest because of the incredible crop destruction they can effect.

This Chinese sign of the ox for 2009 is an oddity given the fact that in most of our memories, we have never known a time when the entire world has been involved in such an economic crisis. Prosperity doesn’t appear anywhere on our economic horizon. It appears to me that given the world economic crisis, and even though the Chinese Zodiac doesn’t include this, I believe that 2009 could be viewed as the Year of the Locust.

Within just a few months late in 2008 and in early 2009 stocks have lost ten trillion dollars globally. The economies of developed countries have gone south and foreclosures and bankruptcies and layoffs are all we hear. Everyone is trying to understand it and to deal with it. Recovery and stimulus packages are being thrown at the locusts to stop their advance. But I don’t hear anyone speaking about a link between our locust problems and God Himself. Has it crossed your minds to draw a connection between Almighty God and the global and national crisis? There are numerous disasters that are classified ‘acts of God,’ so why not this reversal of fortune? Have any of you been wondering whether in the economic downturn and our feelings of defenselessness, God is seeking to communicate with us about something more serious than money?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Urban or Nordic Poling

How was I to know?

I have seen a few people in the neighbourhood walking with the help of poles. They look like cross country ski poles but with rubber tips rather than steel spikes. Granted I viewed my energetic walking pace and certainly my running gait as superior to the odd sight of people poling down the street.

Now I learn that Urban Poling is a growing and popular sport. It is also known as Nordic Walking. It evolved from an off-season ski-training activity known as ski walking, hill bounding or ski striding to become a way of exercising year-round. Ski walking and hill bounding with poles has been practiced for decades as dry land training for competitive Nordic skiers. Nordic walking poles are significantly shorter than those recommended for cross-country skiing. The result is a full-body walking workout that can burn significantly more calories without a change in perceived exertion or having to walk faster, due to the incorporation of many large core, and other upper-body muscles which comprise more than 90% of the body's total muscle mass and do work against resistance with each stride. 'Normal walking' utilizes less than 70% of muscle mass with full impact on the joints of the legs and feet. Nordic Ski Walking produces up to a 46% increase in energy consumption compared to walking without poles.

Why would a person do this? It has some surprising benefits.
• With no more perceived effort than walking it is a full body workout
• It Exercises the hard to exercise, “trunk” muscles
• It burn from 20-47 % more calories than ‘ordinary’ walking
• It take damaging stress off of your joints, hips knees and ankles
• It provides greatly increased cardio workout (10-15 more heartbeats per minute than regular walking)
• It helps maintain and correct posture
• It can be practiced on almost any terrain (asphalt, gravel, grass, snow, etc.)
• It is clinically recommended to aid people in recovery from osteoporosis, arthritis, breast cancer, neurological and heart conditions

Check it out at

Watch the one minute Video about nordic poling

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bread for the World

6,761,860,106 people live on this planet.

One third of us are well fed. One third is underfed and one third is starving. 18 million people die of starvation or starvation related diseases annually worldwide. Malnutrition is implicated in more than half of all child deaths worldwide. Every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hunger.

3 billion people in the world today struggle to survive on US$2/day.

Warren Buffet is an American and at 77 years of age he is the wealthiest man on earth with 62.0 billion dollars. Carlos Slim Helu lives in Mexico and is worth 60 billion dollars. Bill Gates III is American and worth 58 billion dollars. The assets of these three richest men are more than the combined Gross National Products of all the forty-nine least developed countries on the planet. (map is of LCDs - least developed countries)

I am not laying the responsibility for feeding the world's hungry on the doorstep of these three aforementioned men. Each may already be a philanthropist. I am saying two things. There is tremendous disparity between the wealthy and the poor of this world, and there is more than enough money in the world to feed everyone. The world's wealth (businesses and individuals)is estimated at 44 trillion dollars. Nine million people worldwide each have one million dollars of worth.

The United Nations classifies a Least Developed Country with three criteria:
* low-income (three-year average GNI per capita of less than US $750, which must exceed $900 to leave the list)
* human resource weakness (based on indicators of nutrition, health, education and adult literacy) and
* economic vulnerability (based on instability of agricultural production, instability of exports of goods and services, economic importance of non-traditional activities, merchandise export concentration, and handicap of economic smallness, and the percentage of population displaced by natural disasters)

$30 billion per year is what UN officials estimate is needed to eradicate hunger.

Bread for the World has a site with links to countless organizations seeking to relieve world hunger.

Monday, February 23, 2009


She is always smiling a pleasant smile. I always wondered why all the male curmudgeons that preceded her at this corner bothered reporting for work. They never talked to the children. They never smiled. They barely responded to my good morning greeting.

She is a crossing guard at our local Martha Currie elementary school. She is in her mid forties and she wears the customary guard coat, hat and big red cross over her body and she carries a Stop sign. Each day when I do my walk/run, still more walk than run at this point, she greets me. We exchange a courteous salutation or weather comment as I pass by her on her corner.

Today she asked, “Did you enjoy you holiday?”
Not always certain about my own memory I was sure this time that I hadn’t ever conversed with her about a vacation so I asked, “Did I tell you I was going on a holiday?”
“Maybe I confused you with someone who looks like you,” she answered as we stood momentarily together.
“You look like your brother Mike,” she told me.
Not convinced that this was true, I said, “No!”
She asked, almost stated, “You don’t have a brother Mike?”
“No, I don’t” and I was in a half turn to continue on my homeward saunter.
“But I am going on a trip soon,” I hinted and she followed up with “Where are going?”
“France” I boastfully said.
“Do you speak French?” she wondered.
“A little” I lied to her and she wished me a good trip.

And now I am thinking that if you want friends and care to be friendly it’s so easy. All one needs is a cache of good lines like the one she used with me. You can always generate a short conversation.

I might see a total stranger and ask, “Did you enjoy your dinner at Moxie’s last Thursday?”
To which I might receive, “No, I have never been to Moxie’s. You have mistaken me for someone else.”
To which I can say, “Oh, you and your sister Amanda look so much alike.”
To which I might get, “My sister’s name is Kelly.”
To which I could answer, “That’s right, I often get those two names mixed up.”
And then I can add, “You should try Moxie’s. You will enjoy the ambiance and the food is good. Have a nice day.”

To have friends, you must show yourself friendly.

Friends official site

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Most - The Bridge

I have found nothing to dispute that it was a true story about John Griffith who in 1937 made the most costly decision of his life. He gave up the life of his ten year old son in order to save a commuter train full of people. I remember using the story as an illustration for a theological statement about the sacrifice the Father made in giving up His Son Jesus Christ. It's a modern parable.

Unknown to me, a movie was made and released in 2003. The producer and director were Czechs and the film is dubbed with English. Nevertheless because of the nature of the story, the impact of the movie is powerful by all reports. The film is entitled ‘Most’ which is the Czech word for ‘bridge.’ The 33 minute film was nominated for an Oscar (best foreign film).

The protagonist is a bridge operator and a father and is based on the story of John Griffith who lived in Oklahoma until the stock market crash of 1929. He moved to Mississippi and took a job as bridge operator on a railroad trestle. In 1937 his eight year old son was with him at the bridge first in the office with dad and then outside. John lifted the drawbridge to permit a ship to pass under it. As a fast approaching commuter steam train, the Memphis Express, carrying 400 passengers bore down on the bridge, John saw his son below playing around the bridge gears. Without time to rescue his son, and unable to get his attention, he realized the horrific decision he needed to make - to sacrifice his son. He must lower the bridge to prevent the death or injury of hundreds of people.

The website for the movie is

Watch a 3 minute clip Most - The Bridge (3:56)

BUT this YouTube 6 minute clip is better by far, with a clearer concept of the movie version and with profound script to add a spiritual lesson.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Jeff’s 39th Birthday

Happy Birthday son.

Your age makes my place in the world unquestionably clear. You are approaching middle years with a small son of your own. I am the grandfather and I am a senior. I marvel at the truth that my little boy has become this impressive man who makes me proud.

You were a beautiful boy with blond hair and hazel eyes. You were your kid sister’s constant companion. You were a southpaw and I loved seeing you throw and draw and handle things with your left hand. I didn’t correct your natural preference and I was bugged by educators who did not understand the special needs of lefties, such as school desks with a supporting left arm and scissors designed for a left hand. You compensated successfully.

You made your sister laugh, frequently and uncontrollably. You have always had a great sense of humour which you honed and enhanced with sarcasm, which has systematically broken me up. Good on you. Laughter helps to make life work.

In contrast with your comedy was a low frustration level. You displayed an occasional exasperation. I reluctantly confess that you must have inherited this genetic volatility from me. Sorry! Yet with the use of ‘genetic’ I am not taking full responsibility for it. Someone else is to blame. On the other hand while I have no evidence to support my notion, I believe that irritation and determination are coupled. You were resolved to understand or overcome or master anything that challenged you enough.

You were an inquisitive child and mechanically minded child. You dismantled and reassembled objects to examine their parts. One of your standout accomplishments was your design and construction of a fiberglass model radio controlled racing boat. Then one glorious morning at the cottage the morning stillness was cut by the sound of the high-pitched success of that small boat cutting around the lake.

I will forever remember playing on the church softball team together with my teenage son for several seasons. I will never forget white water rafting with you and climbing Black Tusk. I admired your interest in various sports through the years, from wind surfing and wake boarding to snow boarding and sports fishing. I have appreciated your eagerness to try new things, fly tying, silk screening, and home renovation. I am deeply thankful for your mastery of so many handyman skills.

While you had some uncomfortable grade school experiences as a boy, it pleases me that you are a respected and effective educator today. Your students are fortunate to spend a year in your classroom learning from you about lessons and life.

What I love best about you Jeff is your love for your wife Gina and your love for your two children and your love for your Mom and me. I enjoy watching your emotion as your children amaze you and make you happy. I am grateful that your childhood faith grew into maturity in your adult years and you treat your relationship with God as integral to who you are and want to be.

Happy Birthday Jeff, my dearly loved son.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Good hair Day

I have been convincingly bald since the age of 26 when I had only wisps of hair on top. I believe that I am going to have a full head of hair again.

What do you pay for a haircut these days. I have to ask because I haven’t been to a barber or a hair salon in maybe, forty years. Christine and I became convinced that long ago, at a time that we didn’t have two discretionary pennies to rub together, that she could adequately trim my hair – the hair that I had. (This is not me in the photo but a stand-in). So we have eliminated this expense all this time. She has mastered the art of the simple cut on a bald guy. I am satisfied and it never cost me any friends or jobs. And candidly, when I have seen some of the do’s that come out of salons I see money mis-spent.

So, the other day Christine had me on a kitchen stool with a towel around my neck and she was barbering my straggly ends. I said I wanted it short, saves me time, feels neat, and grows quickly. As she cut she said, the hair on the top is so long. I said that I knew that and that I have to plaster it down with gunk. She asked me what I wanted her to do with them (the pronoun signifies that the number of hair is still relatively few). I told her to cut them off. She told me that she thinks the hair is growing – that there is more hair there now than there has been for a while. I said, “wouldn’t that be amazing, for me to grow a full head of hair at my age.”

I knew a man who wore eye glasses for many years, and then one day I saw him without the specs and he told me his doctor examined him and he didn’t need the glasses any longer. He believed God had restored his vision to 20/20. And there you have it – the foundation for my conviction that without resorting to the Hair Club for Men or toupees or any artificial follicle inducement, God is going to give me a restored head of hair.

If you see me wearing a baseball cap, it’s either because I have a game that afternoon or my hair hopes have blown in the wind.

Really cute bald slapstick video

Another funny bald video

Thursday, February 19, 2009

February is Black History Month

Western Canadians are generally surprised to know that the month of February is Black History Month in Canada. When do we hear or even speak about African Canadians? Our deficit of familiarity is reasonable since the Black history being celebrated occurred chiefly in Ontario and Eastern Canada. While Toronto's Black History Society successfully petitioned the city of Toronto for the event in 1978 it has now become a commemoration officially observed across Canada.

Travelling secretively by night approximately 50,000 slaves found freedom between 1810 to 1850 through an informal network of secret routes and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. The route from the southern States north to Canada was developed by white abolitionist sympathizers, free-born blacks and former slaves. Churches such as Reformed Presbyterians, Quakers (Religious Society of Friends), Wesleyans, Baptists, Congregationalists and Methodists also played a supportive role. (The photo is of the Underground Railroad monument in Windsor ON)

Citizenship and Immigration Canada posts in its site the following statement. “This is a time to celebrate the many achievements and contributions of black Canadians who, throughout history, have done so much to make Canada the culturally diverse, compassionate and prosperous nation we know today. It is also an opportunity for the majority of Canadians to learn about the experiences of black Canadians in our society, and the vital role this community has played throughout our shared history.

Today the African-Canadian population is made up of individuals from a range of places across the globe including the United States, South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, and Canada. Canadians may pride ourselves for tolerance and inclusiveness but the erosion of racial bigotry has been slow. We now can say there have been black male and female members of parliament, Senators, Judges, a Moderator of the United Church, Ontario's first Ombudsman, and Ontario's Lt. Governor etc. and of course Haitian born Michaëlle Jean our current Governor General. Canada's First Black Mayor is Haitian immigrant Dr. Fermin Monestime of Mattawa.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada has a helpful site entitled ‘On the Road North – the Journey to Freedom which contains good data and a slide show.

Read the book ‘A Safe Haven: The Story of Black Settlers of Oxford County’ by Joyce A. Pettigrew is an excellent example of recent black history. That is available together with a variety of others including one for children up to age 12, at the Black History Society site.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Internet Addiction

This is a serious entry. I won't apologize for it. It might be beneficial.
I have become aware that since I retired, I have been exploring the internet for more hours per day than I realized it was possible to do. I am seeking information, supportive material for articles and blogs, reading news. That’s all quite legit. What I am asking myself is whether I am an addict. I don’t think I am. The internet is a resource for me like any library and it’s a mouse click away. I do wonder however, whether people can become addicted to the internet.

Now I have come across the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery and its director Dr. Kimberly Young. She has been finding that study respondents report marital problems because of internet use. Customarily the difficulty arises because of the amount of time users spend on the internet. The Stanford University School of Medicine asserts study results of one out of eight Americans suffering from Internet Addiction: 14% of respondents claimed they found it difficulty to abstain from Internet use for several days; 5.9% said their relationships were suffering because of excessive Internet use; 8.2% said that the Internet was an escape from real life. Get this, 71% of office workers abuse Internet use during work hours as they socialize at networking sites, shop online, do personal email, and browse porn, gaming and gambling sites.

Several categories of this impulsive control problem have been identified.
1. Cybersexual Addition: viewing, downloading and trading porn or using fantasy role play chat rooms;
2. Cyber-Relational Addition: addiction to chat rooms, IM, or social networking sites or engaging in virtual adultery;
3. Net Compulsions: addiction to online gaming, gambling, eBay;
4. Information Overload: compulsive behaviour regarding excessive Web surfing and database searching.

I am putting myself on alert. I will be more evaluative about my time on the internet so that my wife doesn’t at some point claim that I have deserted her. Perhaps it is a good thing for me that she has her own laptop and now spends some time communicating and exploring the places we will soon visit. So she understands the vehicle.

You can received more information about Internet Addiction Recovery at Dr. Kimberly Young’s web site

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sunshine Musing

My four year old grandchild navigates with ease around the parental approved websites on the family Apple notebook. The facility of children to use if not understand gadgets and technologies astounds me. My two year old granddaughter knows how to operate the TV remote. I remember Louie Armstrong’s raspy rendition of ‘It’s a Wonderful World’ as he sang, “I hear babies cryin', I watch them grow. They'll learn much more than I'll ever know, And I think to myself, what a wonderful world, Yes, I think to myself, what a wonderful world.”

I muse that at my age of 66, it will be a stretch for me to be around for this little girl’s wedding if she marries at 25 years of age. Eighty-nine is pushing the envelope of life’s possibilities. Without health issues I could achieve the length of years of my 93 year old dad and my 89 year old mom before they passed away. They saw their grandchildren married with the exception of one grandgirl when their health wouldn’t permit them to make a short trip.

For medical reasons my parents stopped travelling west a few years ago and because my two married children could not afford to travel with their families, my parents saw only one of my five grandchildren. My children were saddened by that.

Both of these grandchildren sat in car seats yesterday as I drove them home. The sun emerged after an absence of a couple of days. This four year old grandson noticed it and maturely commented his approval. So I sang “Sunshine on my shoulder makes me happy." Then we improvised and sang about sunshine on our noses and hair and ears and hands. This sure beats Board meetings (bored meetings). The link is the John Denver rendition.

Monday, February 16, 2009

RU Disappointed?

I am RU and yes I am - disappointed. I am bugged. To understand this, you must know that I liked Harper’s values. I liked the man himself. Candidly, given the alternatives before Christmas between NDP and Liberal, and the possibility that Larry, Curly and Moe would form a coalition, is there any question why I would side with Harper? But now I am irritated. My feelings are exacerbated by my comparison of Harper with the American President which I expressed yesterday.

It’s the fact that Obama and Harper are doing this economic recovery thing so differently from one another. No, it’s more than that. Their governing styles are so different and I appreciate Obama’s approach much more. Here is what is lacking in Harper’s practice in my view. I am not discounting Harper’s work ethic. He is an active politician but at this time in the life of this nation shouldn’t he be speaking to its people about the economy and what we can expect him and his administration to do to fix it. Well he isn’t speaking to us. In fact he isn’t even speaking to the news media. His last press conference on Parliament Hill was held on November 8. Oh, he did talk pithily to news journalists at the conclusion of his January meetings with the premiers. But he is not exactly exuding hope and confidence and the ‘Yes we can’ realism we hear to the south. In the House of Commons as the formal budget debate occurs Harper has not participated except in predictable question period responses. When he ventures outside the House and home, he is doing photo ops, vaguely related to the budget’s provisions for infrastructure spending. He has attended the Quebec Carnival opening and Toronto Chinese New year dinner and New Brunswick hockey tournament. He is shaking hands but not calming shaken spirits of the jobless.

Now if you think I have assessed him unfairly consider this. Obama fired up Air Force One and keeps it on the launch pad for an unprecedented series of public relations campaign in various cities in which he carries on heart to heart and personal conversations with Americans. He does ‘sit down’ interviews with all the TV networks. His recent press conferences were nationally broadcast. He knows how to use the media and be available to the media. His rhetoric is hard-hitting and direct and you can’t miss that he is in this American crisis together with everyone and specially those most affected. His White House website is informative and encouraging. Now his stimulus package has been passed and he is not stepping back an inch from the public forum and therefore no wonder he has a 76% approval rating. You get the feeling with him that this is not merely freshman fervor but a deep commitment he will carry until he has expired his two terms.

Of course the differences between the two national leaders relates to personality and style. One appears approachable and the other appears distant. What I have come to believe is that with Obama it is about power to affect the sweeping changes in the way government works for its people. With Harper now, it may unconsciously be about power to affect his survival in the event of another vote of confidence. What we don’t know is hurting us. Okay I am dismounting this hobby horse and will stay off for a while.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Canadian Federal Administration Dismays Me

I have too much unfocused time and use a great deal of it to reflect on details of life that I ignored before I retired. I have harangued about this before but it irks me still. Obama’s White House government website is impressively classy, regal, and so very user friendly and informative and Obama is front and centre. Our Canadian Parliament site is tightly packed, minimalist and visually challenging and Harper is just a name, no visuals. I wrote a polite note to the Parliament website managers with some suggestions and detected in the following days that someone in the Parliament building had looked at my blog and art sites trying to know who I was. I received no acknowledgment of my note even though suggestions are welcomed. Maybe that was one of the jobs cut in this downturn.

I know that our Prime Minister is subject to parliamentary confidence while the US President is independent of the legislature. Stephen Harper is viewed as one of the many elected officers. Obama is viewed as the Chief as in "Hail to the Chief." Harper fits within Canada’s constitutional monarchical form of government while Obama operates within the American federal constitutional republic. In some ways that seems more pluralistic and democratic. I wish that we could accord to our prime ministerial leader a greater dignity and distinction than we do.

Stephen Harper gets a good deal of negative press. He has brought some of it upon himself. He and his inner circle goofed before Christmas. It is also directed at him because that is how we treat politicians in Canada – badly. He has shown some executive weaknesses as well as many strengths. By the skin of his prorogued teeth Harper is still on the same side of the House. We are moving forward with the Conservative plan for economic recovery but Harper’s hold on power is tenuous.He will stay there as long as the opposition parties (Liberals are key) allow him. I voted for him. I am trusting that his plan will work. But I am concerned.

Harper is almost invisible to the average Canadian. When did you last see Harper before the camera, talking to the press, taking time to talk to a city of people about the economic recovery strategy and listening to their stories. News networks profile every other piece of news, even the token animal story before I see Harper. How can I help but to contrast Canadian leadership with American leadership. I watch Obama almost daily with some clip of him in some American city or at this week’s second weekly Presidential Press Conference. I watch him because I can. He is news. He makes news. He speaks and it becomes news. Harper is unavailable. He is almost silent. He is closeted somewhere. Oh, I forgot. He was in our House of Commons where daily he must compete to talk more commandingly than the opposition amid catcalls and hissing. And you can watch this circus in action if you choose to do so. It’s no wonder Canadians turn to Jeopardy and American Idol.

See Obama's Feb 14 and 2nd press conference at the White House site (4:45 min)

Harper has not addressed the Press since November 8. Oh yes, and back to websites. The Conservative Party site which is colourful and is easily navigable merely leads you to outdated documents. Press the large photo on the first page of the site and you get a November 2008 statement about the economic action plan. I can’t tell you how this dismays me. This is our governing federal party. I can keep things more current than this. The True North Strong and Free is the Party’s 2008 plan presented before the last election. OK! Enuf already, I agree.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine’s Day, Valentine

I first knew about Christine when I resumed my college undergraduate studies. She enrolled during the year that I was out of school to work. She in her pleated skirts with long legs and auburn hair that fell softly and elegantly on her shoulders and a smile that won me before we were even introduced. It was my bad luck that she was already dating someone, a student with a larger car than my VW Beetle. His was a land yacht. Of course gas prices were about fifty cents a gallon. The litre was not yet ensconced into our lives.

She was a music major and she spent a good many hours in the rehearsal rooms behind closed doors. Walls were thin. I too was taking some voice lessons and I needed to rehearse as well. I booked rehearsal times to coincide with times I knew she would be in the building and if possible I found a room beside hers. My repertoire invariably would have to include an occasional love song, my own odes to Christine. What youthful nerve.

Then came the day that her beau dropped her. Wasting no time I asked her for a date. She came. We spent more time together. She held a part-time receptionist’s job at a doctor’s office. I would meet her as her shift ended. It was London Ontario and it was the school year and it was a snow-belt winter. No winter has every been so beautiful as that one was for us, hand in hand with large flakes coming down in the glow of the street lights as we walked the long way to our dormitories.

One year later on a New Year’s Eve, I took her to Niagara Falls. I had arranged to have an engagement ring to put on her finger when I asked her to marry me. My trouble was I wasn’t sure that the one I selected was the one she would treasure. My jeweler was a young man, a friend, who gave me a paper bag with seven rings in beautiful velvet boxes. She said yes to my heartfelt question and I gave her my ring. Then as she looked at it I pulled the bag from under the front seat of the car and hauled our cache and placed in turn on the dashboard, the array of carats.

We married on a bright peaches and cream August day with friends and families in the fruit belt of Ontario and now two children and five grandchildren later we soon will spend two months in France with the last two weeks in Paris, the city of love, Mon amour et moi. A lifetime is hardly enough time to accommodate all our memories.

Friday, February 13, 2009


When I first met Christine, I sang her love songs. It’s true. It embarrassed her but I was okay with it. I brought her flowers. I wrote her poems. She still has a couple of them, poems that is. That was 43 years ago and we have been married for 41.

I am retired, at home all the time. I emphasize that because home was my haven and Christine’s domain for all these years. I always had a work environment to which I went for several hours each day.

Christine told me today that I need to relax and loosen my grip and stop trying to control things. It’s not me she is speaking about is it? After running a 150 church denomination for six years and being a lead pastor for 34 years could there be any truth in her statement. All I can say is that it takes one to know one. Through all the years of my focus on career and ministry and other peoples’ issues, the substantial part of home care and childcare was done by Christine and believe me she is a hands on manager. We are both A types and that makes clashes over preferences and opinions inevitable. So they happen. That disturbed me for years. Here I was, this preacher of piety yet with marital abrasions. I recall a couple of receptions for weddings which I officiated, at which the bride or groom spoke glowingly about parents who had never been heard to argue. Guilt washed me like a torrent. Well we have been married for 41 years now so you know we have it sorted out, right? Not! We have learned to make the necessary concessions to enjoy one another, to understand one another. Vacations spent in the car and on the road have been marked by differences of opinion and we learned to concede that “today I will be the wimp and tomorrow it’s your turn”. It works. A couple of other things work as well. Always saying sorry. Makeup hugs. An abiding love that doesn’t want to allow the other person to be hurt – at least not for long.

She's still my valentine and I bought her flowers the other day. Beats doing it on Valentine's Day when the prices are spiked. I sing her love songs too, just like Neil and Barbara did. It's a great duet with tender sentiments which yield the surprise that one wants to say goodbye to the other. But I will never tell Christine goodbye. She's got my heart locked up.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


If someone says to you, “you are an Einstein,” it’s a compliment. The term has become synonymous with ‘genius.’ The term “Einstein” derives from a phenomenally brilliant person, Albert Einstein.

In 1999 Time magazine named Albert Einstein its “Person of the Century.” Born in Germany in 1879 Albert Einstein died in 1955. Born into a Jewish family that didn’t observe Jewish practices he attended a Roman Catholic elementary school. A theoretical physicist Einstein won the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics specifically for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect. He is renowned for his theory of relativity and specifically his mass–energy equivalence that is expressed by the equation E = mc2. During his career he wrote 300 scientific works and 150 non-scientific works.

He was a profoundly complex man and because of his fame and genius he was expected to pass judgment on numerous subjects unrelated to physics or mathematics and he didn’t hesitate to express himself. He defied the growing Nazi movement in Germany and spoke passionately for the formation of the State of Israel.

Einstein occasionally used the term "God" as has Stephen Hawking, and I am dismayed by any in the Christian community who immediately claim that he was a believer. It is much better to ask which God, what kind of God or what did he have in mind?

Einstein did not believe in a personal God and believed the idea was a childish concept. He termed himself agnostic rather than atheistic because his admiration for the structure of the world was so ardent that this emotion served as God. He himself wrote: "A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms—it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man." (Einstein, Albert (1949). The World as I See It. New York: Philosophical Library. ).

Einstein in a 1 min clip, teaching E+MC2

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


When my wife’s family moved from UK to Canada, her uncle’s family moved to Rhodesia now called Zimbabwe. They had a good life in this colonial atmosphere and then things changed. Civil War. Independence. Nationals took over. The family members moved back to the UK, being able to take no more than $2000 out of the country.

Don’t go to Zimbabwe for a vacation. In fact travel there is discouraged. Zimbabwe is in trouble, a state of emergency more accurately. It is facing several crises at once. There is political unrest that is threatening the country’s stability. As the humanitarian crisis deepens, pressure grew for President Robert Mugabe to step down. From June to August last year, President Mugabe banned international charitable organizations from operating, depriving more than a million people of food and basic aid after the country had already suffered one of its worst harvests.

The economy has bottomed and inflation is reported at 230-million percent which puts the price of food out of reach for the underprivileged. Money is worthless. Unemployment is at 93 percent. Cholera, a waterborne disease has spread to all ten of Zimbabwe's provinces because of the collapse of health and sanitation systems. The cholera death toll has topped 1700 and 24,000 others have been sickened since August. The country’s Health Minister warned that the epidemic may grow worse as the rainy season develops. Hospitals are full, floors as well as beds. There is food shortage. According to the United Nations, 5.5 million Zimbabweans need food assistance. Two-thirds of Zimbabweans are living on one meal or less per day. With little relief in sight, the most vulnerable parts of the populace, namely women and children, have been crossing the border into South Africa in hopes of a better chance of survival. Unaccompanied children, as many as 1,000 per month are fleeing. Life expectancy at birth for males in Zimbabwe has dramatically declined since 1990 from 60 to 37, among the lowest in the world. Life expectancy for females is even lower at 34 years.

In view of all of this Mugabe has remained defiant and rejected U.S. President George Bush's demand that he quit and blamed his country's troubles on international sanctions. One wonders whether the Obama administration may have a different outcome when it speaks to this international crisis.

This is where faith mission and relief groups once again demonstrate their value. Aid is being provided by numerous ministry operations. Cholera medication, antibiotics and rehydration medication, water filters, millions of meals. But none of this happens without the financial gifts of ordinary people such as us in the Western world where downturn is being experienced but at a comparatively superficial level.

See this site for a list of groups working in Zimbabwe

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Everybody's Beautiful

“Everybody’s beautiful in his own way…” “Jesus loves the little children; all the children of the world, red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

How many Christians have sung the choruses and songs that contain similar sentiments? Some of those very people stood screaming profane epithets at the black marchers who gathered enough courage to protest in the 1960’s. I watched some historical clips of those days in the southern states when discrimination against blacks was being challenged. Violence and venom spilled from whites and I was horrified to realize that I had forgotten how reprehensible it had been. Generations younger than mine may possess only a cursory knowledge of this demeaning treatment of human beings with another skin colour.

When President Barak Obama was elected, a recurring comment was ‘look how far we have come.’ On one hand great social inequity has been reversed within half a decade. On the other hand in the long history of the United States, how ashamed should white Americans and Canadians be that the changes didn’t happen sooner?

St. Catharines, Ontario, not Alabama, was my childhood home. I grew up in a white family. Yes, it’s true. I attended a Caucasian church with people white like me. The Bell family was the only black family in our church. The Bells had a son named Ralph a few years my senior who was an outstanding person, a role model, an achiever, a high school student body president, and later an associate evangelist with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Team. I admired him very much.

The church wasn’t segregationist, wasn’t intentionally white. That’s the way the societal climate was in the 1950’s. Ethnicities voluntarily practiced a soft exclusivism. Nevertheless ours was a church with an international missions focus. Many of its own members were commissioned to work overseas with other racial, cultural and language groups. We at home relished their stories and pictures.

I will forever be grateful for the opportunity my family had to live in Toronto from 1981-1991 where I pastored a Scarborough church in which Asian, Jamaicans and Caucasians enjoyed one another’s company. Oh we didn’t have integration mastered by any means. But what a socially educational environment in which to raise my children through their teen years as they enjoyed multi-cultural friendships.

Monday, February 9, 2009


Guess how vulnerable I feel.
Not a classy move.
I woke up, gradually, with some neck pain; face down on the bathroom floor. Christine trying to get my attention.
Four in the morning. Customary nightly pit-stop but something went wrong. Some synapses misfired.

I can recall walking rather thick-headed from bed to bathroom, thinking some muddled thoughts and sitting down on the throne. Now as I contemplate, maybe I fell asleep. Perhaps I just dozily tumbled over on the floor and cracked my noggin. Actually writing this episode is therapeutic because I have been somewhat paranoid about this event. It rendered me fearful.

Four summers ago I suffered a grand mal seizure, unconsciously convulsing on the kitchen floor. Christine witnessed this and called 911 and the rapid response team of paramedics arrived in force I have been told, subdued me with a tranquillizer and whisked me away to the hospital where I gained consciousness three hours later. Fifteen minutes of violent physical thrashing left me with two weeks of muscle pain. Beyond that however, I spent the next four months with driving privileges withdrawn, going through most medical examinations known to medicine. All serious causes were eliminated and the seizure was termed an anomaly. It was acknowledged that blood sugar imbalance might have caused this. So life resumed, cautiously, always with a remote fear of a recurrence. Then this.

Well there is no resemblance between the two situations. Nonetheless, to wake up face down and pajamas down as well, is disturbing at the least and concerning, certainly. But as I say, writing about it has been good for me because I have been unnecessarily anxious that I am vulnerable, when in all likelihood I was simply not awake enough to assume the throne position. I hate to think where my head may have ended up had I been standing upright at that appliance.

I can’t blame anyone. I am my own pain in the neck.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


I won’t be so presumptuous as to call her my friend but she is an acquaintance of mine. Perhaps our shared appreciation of the world through artists’ eyes suggests to me a connection stronger than is actual. Or perhaps her story resonates with me so that I wish her every success. Barbara is the featured artist in a one woman show that is open for viewing right now. The show is built around her story which is a phenomenal tribute.

Barbara is a Fort Langley artist whose work is on display in the first solo exhibit of a living artist in the history of the Langley Centennial Museum and Exhibition Centre. The show is entitled, ‘Barbara Boldt: The Journey,” and it is hanging in the museum gallery until March 26. It explores her life story through her art, poetry, and inspirations.

I am convinced that this exhibit will confirm Barbara as an artist to be cherished within our community. Having seen this myself I confess I was stirred and even overwhelmed by the effect of this collection and the narratives that explain the stages and experiences of her life out of which the paintings were born. Her body of work numbers over 1700 pieces. You see some of them here. In this show we are privileged to view various series of works, not untypical of artists. She has her recognized Earth Patterns, Cape Series, and North and South of the Fraser Landscapes. Her ancestry is displayed by paint. There is also a never before seen section called the Heart Series which is intimate and personal and therein lies the importance of this display to the public. It is truly a look inside the life of an artist and what makes the Barbara Boldt lens on the world so distinct and unique. This is aptly named her Journey.

Barbara spent the first twenty-two years of her life in Germany which became the war ravaged country from which her family moved to Canada in 1952. She married and had a family and had life. Around 1990 it came apart with a variety of wrenching experiences including the death of her son. Her art became a therapeutic release and this was captured in pieces of art which she painted for her eyes only but which she is now comfortable to disclose to us. This is the Heart Series. The exhibit has occurred because of the encouraging collaboration of Kobi Howard, the Collections Assistant for the museum.

She says on her website, “I am a realist in life and in my work, being guided by Henry David Thoreau's words in “Walden”: “The more the painter invents the further he takes us from the world which actually exists; and to that extent he may even encourage us in the alienation from the real.”

Continued Good Success Barbara!

Come and experience the definitive Barbara Boldt: The Journey at the Langley Centennial Museum and Exhibition Centre is at 9135 King St., Fort Langley. 604.888.3922 or email Kobi Howard.
*Museum website:

*Barbara’s website:

The images above are used with permission of Barbara Boldt and both painting images are copyright of the painter and not to be downloaded without permission of the artist.

* Photo of Barbara Boldt by Kathy Ward

Saturday, February 7, 2009

CHEERS ! Where everybody knows your name

There are other examples of community that I might choose but one of the most memorable examples of value of social interaction was the bar made famous by television’s long running ‘Cheers.’ The theme song of Cheers, was a compelling hit, with welcome lyrics, sentiments with which everyone can identify.

“Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name,
and they're always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
Your name.”

(Tap the lyrics and listen)
Unless one is suffering from one of many disorders or syndromes or illnesses we generally like to be with people who know us by first name and are happy to see us. It feels good to be among others who understand what we are living with. We enjoy people who are interesting and interested in us.

When I retired from a very active career and life which involved daily contact with people I surprised myself with how little I needed to be with people. Being alone was just fine with me. It drove my wife crazy that I didn’t show interest in going out, doing things with others. It gradually changed and is changing. Now I miss going to the office and to boarding the plane to head to another function with hundreds of people. So, now I am relishing the ordinary interfaces I am privileged to have with people, the serendipities as well as the planned coffee shop meetings. These are people whose names I know and who know my name, and they are as pleased to see me as I am to recognize them, and we share a little of life for a little while. For those minutes accumulated over the week I am made richer and wiser and useful and encouraged. I guess I don’t need Cheers. I simply need to cheer up and be cheered by my friends and acquaintances.

"The only way to have a friend is to be one." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, February 6, 2009


We are contemplative in this photograph, my brothers and me. We have said farewell to our father, Edward, at 93 the last of the Unruhs of his generation. We are now the next in line.

I am reflecting for a few minutes upon legacy. I am grateful for my heritage. My ancestry derives from Low German speaking (Plautdietsch) Russian Mennonites who were descended from Dutch and Germanic Prussian Anabaptists who emigrated to Russia as early as 1789 and established colonies, homesteaded and farmed in South Russia now known as Ukraine. These people developed colony cities and culture and respect among their Russian hosts and leaders. Queen Catherine the Great welcomed them and Joseph Stalin ended it all with brutal repression. Catherine the Great of Russia issued a Manifesto in 1763 inviting all Europeans to come and settle various pieces of land within Russia. My own genealogical research has informed me of the names and sketchy histories of family members as early as 1725. Throughout those generations my people have been associated with God and the Church as they understood and practiced it. More particularly, in each generation of my paternal Unruh family there have been people involved in full-time church or mission work or lay positions as elders and teachers.

I think today of my brothers and me, three of us. I am five years older than Murray and eleven years older than Neale. Each of us has attended undergraduate Bible College. Each of us has been involved in Christian ministry. I was a pastor for 34 years and a denominational president for 6 years. Murray was a pastor for 15 years (a guess) and Neale was a Christian musician for several years and a International Mission national manager for several more. Presently Murray is an artist part-time and works at a part-time job. Together with his wife Kathy, my brother Neale owns and operates a needlecraft and framing store.

All of our adult children have personal relationships with God and are involved in Christian gatherings or conventional churches. Those that are married are committed to instructing their children to follow Christ as well. Of my five grandchildren, only one has ‘Unruh’ name carrying potential - my son's son. My brother Murray's grandchildren are females. That’s how a line can run out. It is the family of God ultimately that is of greatest importance and comfort.

Brian Doerksen recorded a song some of the words of which say, "as for me and my house we will serve You. As for me and my house we will spend our lives on You." You can hear it here.

1. Murray's youngest son, Drew’s MySpace music site (he has recorded three pieces here) He is a Worship Leader, St. Catharines ON

2. Murray's eldest son, Matt’s music (He is the author of the worship chorus ‘Everlasting’ and sings with Brian Doerksen in this clip) He is also Worship Pastor at Gracepoint Church in White Rock
3. Neale’s Needlecraft Store Website
4. Murray's Art Website
5. My daughter Cari’s Scrapbooking Website
6. My Art Website

Thursday, February 5, 2009

IT'S CLEARING 20X24 in, acrylic on canvas, $300 unframed; $400 framed

This is a scene of the White Rock marina at the end of the pier. It was an overcast morning but the skies were promising fair weather and at least a couple of sailors were out early preparing to leave their mooring.

Technically this painting was one severe pain. The perspectives were ridiculously challenging. At one stage it sat for weeks untouched on my easel because I couldn't summon the courage to try to correct what I didn't like. In fact I couldn't identify what was throwing me off. It is as finished now as I will make it but I am still not satisfied with the outcome. Doing it again I would do it differently, design it differently and use different strokes. I suppose that can be said about most paintings other than the exceptional ones, which are perfect and you know it. Other people have said they think this is nice work so I will live with it. My challenge was the angle from which I was trying to render this scene, standing on the deck of the pier looking down and with the dock slanting away from me at an angel toward the far shore and the many boats tethered together. It was too complex a painting for me at this stage. I will do a better job next time I am certain but I will limit my subject.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

On Display in MP Suhk Dahliwal's Office

Surrey Arts Council invited artists to offer to hang paintings in some public offices. I inquired further and was told that Member of Parliament Suhk Dahliwal’s Surrey Office suite required eight paintings. So, I have my paintings on display in this moderately busy office where many from the Indo-Canadian community in particular come for consultation and counsel.

One of the themes that I have chosen to paint is the agricultural work being done in the lower mainland. In recent decades farm ownership has changed. Many Asian families and more predominantly Indo-Canadian families have purchased these produce and fruit farms. This is noteworthy to an artist because of the striking imagery of bamboo hats and turbans among the vines and fields and atop tractors working the land.

I recently painted three paintings that capture these diligent workers and enterprising businesspeople. Painting them has also caused me to do some research on who these new farm owners and workers are, where they have come from, and what kind of Canadians they are. This information is exhilarating and encouraging. We are a pluralistic country and proudly so.

I was told that quite possibly someone coming into Mr. Dahliwal’s office might want to purchase these paintings. I would of course love that.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

200th Anniversary of FELIX MENDELSSOHN'S BIRTH

I like to celebrate people who have made an extraordinary contribution.

This is the birthday of Felix Mendelssohn. This is the 200th Anniversary of his birth. He was born Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn on February 3, 1809 to a notable and wealthy Jewish family that converted to Protestantism. He was the grandson of the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn and son of Abraham who upon conversion to Christianity changed his surname to Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, which was seldom used. He died November 4, 1847.
You know Felix Mendelssohn as the German composer, pianist and conductor of the early Romantic period. He is among the most popular composers of that period although he wrote music that included both the styles of romanticism and classicalism. His works include concerti, oratorios, symphonies, piano and chamber music. He began to compose at age 11; at 16 he wrote his first masterpiece, the String Octet in E Flat Major (1825), followed by the Overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream (1826) at age seventeen. He wrote the first of a series of elegant piano works, Songs Without Words, in 1830. His Reformation (1832) and Italian (1833) symphonies date from this period. In his last decade he produced great works such as the Scottish Symphony (1842), the violin concerto* (1844), and the oratorio Elijah (1846).

Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel was his beloved sister (1805–47), and she was considered his equal in musical talent but she was discouraged from composing until her marriage to the painter Wilhelm Hensel (1794–1861); she eventually wrote more than 500 works. Her death was a severe shock to Mendelssohn. Years of overwork simultaneously caught up with him, and he died six months after her.

*Listen and watch renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman at the age of 13 years playing Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto - 2 min clip
Then look and listen to Perlman as an adult playing this same piece. - 5 min 45 sec

What a treasure people like this are. This is a happy day.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Congrats to the Steelers!

Okay Steelers by 4. Yes, the favourites came through with 35 seconds remaining on the game clock. It was an exciting final four minutes of play. Pittsburgh ahead, then Arizona and at last Pittsburgh again. Superbowl Champions for the sixth time in 43 Superbowls. My underdog Cardinals gave a valiant effort which fell short.

I watched the game with my son and son in law. As loud and animated as we were, cheering the Cards whom we hardly know, my son and I concluded later that ultimately it doesn’t matter to us who won. It changes nothing in our lives. I am not a gambler and I had no money on the outcome. We are weekend TV game watchers. It was hanging out that mattered.

Yesterday afternoon the guys including my three grandsons, who are 6 years and under, hung out at my son in law’s place with the large high def screen. The girls, three spouses and two granddaughters, watched a chick flick at my place. At about seven o’clock it all wound down and we went to our own homes. When my son delivered me to my house, Christine came out on the veranda to say hello to four year old Kale in the back seat. Kale said her, “love you.”

Thinking of my family, I had the distinct feeling that we were all winners yesterday.

* Top photo is of Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes, named MVP of the Super Bowl, smooching the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Photo is by Gary Horshorn/Reuters