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Thursday, July 20, 2017

LIVING IN COMMUNITY MEANS BEING AVAILABLE


If we ever had a notion that retirement from formal pastoral ministry meant separation from the issues that trouble people around us, these past five years have cured us. I am nine years into retirement and five years ago we moved from our detached home on a third of an acre to a unit in a strata complex. At this moment (12:40pm Jul 19), Christine is sitting with a young wife who voluntarily came over in tears to talk about her marriage that has died. Thirty minutes earlier her husband spoke with both of us apologizing for the noise emitted from their unit when they fight, and through tears saying they are trying. On several occasions we have lifted a drunken, weed smoking woman from her toilet and her floor and her bathtub when she could not move but her cell phone was within reach. In the past I have been asked to officiate a funeral for a resident, and Christine has played the piano for that service for which the family requested one hymn of their choice. "Amazing Grace," sung at full volume by an auditorium of unregenerate people, enfolded by the gospel. We have spent time with a dying neighbour in palliative care and been able to ensure that we would know the Father's love for her. We have harvested first name relationships with many people, shared appies and meals. We have experienced our own health concerns and appreciated the interest and concern of our neighbours. We have discovered neighbours who are believers. We have found covert Christians disenchanted by their previous church histories. Church does not guarantee community, but interestingly community can be church.Sunset 

Friday, June 30, 2017

WELL PAST 70, GIRLFRIEND AND BOYFRIEND AGAIN

Christine & I can enjoy anything ... Burnaby appointment with a heart specialist, convertible ride home, stop for a Famosa pizza on the terrace, delish.


 We are at the time of life when we still are surprised but shouldn’t be, that our remarkably designed human bodies that have functioned flawlessly and reliably for 7 decades begin to demonstration the predictable attrition of wear.

There is often a choice to be made. Dr. Tung identified it for us yesterday. Christine had an ablation treatment two months ago to correct a heart flutter. It was successful. What remains are some symptoms of atrial fibrillation, occasional but fleeting rapid heart rate. He could do another ablation treatment, this time more invasive, inside the heart rather than on the outside as before.

He asked Christine whether these occasional episodes impeded her life, that is, stop her from doing the things she desires. She replied, “No.” He said,  “well, then let’s just leave things as they are.” She was content to agree. It’s a matter of coping with what is, until another choice must be made. We drove home in the MX5, top down, hot summer air around us, open sky with high scattered cirrus clouds. Said hello to three grandsons, Ryan, Jayden and Kale. Then the two of us carried on to Famosa on 24th Ave, south Surrey and found the coolest, shadiest corner table on the patio and enjoyed a girlfriend and boyfriend supper date.



Saturday, June 24, 2017

NANA & PAPA & OUR GRANDCHILDREN

Today my 3 grandsons & I had supper together & saw CARS 3 @ Colossus. In 2008 Ryan & Jayden and Kale were small as I told them a story (painting is on my wall), & today 2017 Kale & Jayden (cousins), are 12 and Ryan is 14. Jayden graduated from gr7 last night & Kale graduates next Tues. Both will go to Lord Tuidsmeer HS in Sept with Ryan.  


Yes, I can’t help it ... the summer sun is out in full for the next many days and that means sunsets, so the 3 of us, Christine, Miata and me will be out & about, oh maybe 4 of us, include Siri. “Take me to Steveston,” I say and she replies, “it will be my pleasure. Follow me.





At the Honeybee Centre for High Tea this afternoon. What a lovely treat, Kadence and Nana enjoying after school time together. They drove there in the sportscar convertible.  

Monday, June 12, 2017

SHE MARRIED HIM ANYWAY - MOM’S & DAD’S WEDDING ANNIVERSARY

MOM'S AND DAD'S WEDDING ANNIVERSARY

He was Edward Richard Unruh, living in the small town of Hepburn, Saskatchewan. He came from a respected family. His dad was Reeve, and hail adjuster and treasurer for the Mennonite Central Committee. He was already bald on top but he was handsome, with dark hair on the sides and a pencil-thin mustache. His brown eyes romanced her. He had a pleasant voice, and a constant whistle. The tunes he whistled in downtown Hepburn (Main Street), were secular tunes, dance band tunes. She was Tina Martha Doerksen, with a sincere Christian faith in that Mennonite community.  Edward was four years older than she. He was a good young man but he was not a believer, that is, he had not made a public profession of faith as many in his community had done. She married him anyway. In the town of Hepburn, Saskatchewan in 1941, that decision carried a stigma. It was an unequal yoke in the eyes of her church. In their wedding photos she is wearing a pink dress and a matching pink hat, revealing that it had been considered inappropriate for to wear white, and they were not permitted to be married in the church.  

World War II broke out and Canada became involved as a member nation of the British Commonwealth. Hepburn’s dominant Mennonite community held a pacifist position. Dad, in contrast, felt that his father had emigrated to Canada from a Mennonite settlement in Russian held Crimea, and Canada was now the family home where freedom reigned, so he enlisted. I was born on September 13, 1942, and Dad was a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force.  When the war was over, employment was scarce in a prairie town, so dad operated a service station (gas), and mom and dad together began a coffee shop, with a reputation for great pies. That comes as no surprise to anyone who remembers mom’s reputation for baking and cooking.

When I was four years old and with mom pregnant again, it became apparent that opportunity for the family did not exist in Hepburn an longer. Non-farming prairie families were moving either west to the B.C. coast or to Ontario. Dad and mom decided to go east. Mom’s parents had already made the move to St. Catharines, Ontario, and that is where our home was made. Job opportunity for an unskilled worker like dad and the urgent need for an income to support his family meant taking a factory job, first at Ontario Paper Mills, then Thompson Products pumping out GM parts, and then for over 40 years at Anthes Imperial that produced furnaces. He had a few different tasks in that company but most of his years until he was 65 he was on an assembly line, up and down, from his knees to a standing position, screwing in metal parts. He was a hard worker and his sons, all three of us respected him.  Three sons, with Murray born in 1947, the year of the move from the West to St. Catharines, and the year that I turned five years of age. Neale, the youngest came later, when I was eleven and Murray was six. I mentioned that we respected our father, each of us for our own personal reasons and also for shared reasons. When the three of us were grown men, we asked him why he had stuck with that same hard physical job all those years, and his response humbles me still. “I did it for my boys.”  Such was the loving motivation of a family man. Nothing else needs to be said to explain him. 

My parents made incremental changes in our standard of living as they were able. From the downtown St. Paul St. third-floor apartment, up three flights of stairs with baby carriage and groceries, to suburban Rosedale Gardens and a rental home owned by Ken Grimwood. Three years later we were back in the city, settled at 10 Clark Street in a rental home next to the old St. Catharines Bus yards that contained old maintenance and storage barns and train tracks and trains and streetcars. That two-story brick house was the home to which Neale came after his birth in St. Catharines General Hospital.  Years later other family members whispered the story to us that Mom lost a pregnancy several years after Neale's birth, and that time it had been twin girls.

When I was ten years old, my father went alone to an evening church meeting and it was on that occasion that he did make a conclusive choice to believe in Jesus as his Saviour and LORD. Dad was not a theologian but he tried to understand scripture and he sought to live by its principles. My mom and dad loved each other for all of their 67 years together. There were occasional differences of opinion between them, but I cannot remember a time that my father raised his voice in anger at my mom. Instead, because mom was entrepreneurial with her cooking and baking abilities, he became wholly supportive of her catering business, launched from her home, serving meals to hundreds of guests for various functions. She even operated a coffee and pastry bar at Ontario Paper's home office for many years. She managed a kitchen staff cooking at Fair Havens Conference facilities and Dad helped as he could. He loved her so much. He was never a wealthy person, but he impressed us all with his generosity to her, purchasing a special piece of jewellery to mark various occasions. Mom’s and Dad's dependability and authenticity most certainly affected us, their three sons, each of whom became involved in Christian service. Those who survive still cherish this legacy.

And note this. After purchasing their first home for $10,000 in 1954, when dad was 39 and mom was 35, and living in it for 30 years, they sold it in 1985 for $65,000 when dad was 70.  They then lived off of that money and modest government pension, and government pensions for another 23 years, enjoying annual month-long winter stays in Florida and trips to the West Coast to which I moved in 1991. Still, when the estate was settled, dad left $39,000 to his sons – incredible frugality.

She died six months before he did. At her passing he told her, and all of our family heard him say, “ goodnight Sweetheart, I’ll see you soon.” He still romanced her. So while they have been gone from us here for nine and ten years, I honour their memories today on what was their wedding anniversary date.  


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

MY ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS IN MY BOOK, 'THE ELEVEN'

When I wrote this book, The Eleven, I placed these names on the Acknowledgements page. You may know some of them. 
Thanks to Koos Fietje, Bob Dobson, Ross Rains, Marguerite Davies, John Baptist, Jack and Sharon Ninaber, Don Symons, Ann Griffiths, David Fisher, Rod Heppell, Lorin Bergen, Wes Bowers, Alec Niemi, Don McMullin, each of whom I have been privileged to know and in whose lives I have observed the transformations produced by fidelity to Christ and the enthusiasm for teaching other people to live as disciples of Christ. The book contains my interview conversations with 11 of the original 12 apostles of Jesus Christ.

Find the Book at Amazon, either eBook $4.99 & paperback $10.68


Sunday, June 4, 2017

MY MOM’S BIRTHDAY JUNE 4


My mom, Tina Martha Doerksen, was born in rural Montana on June 4, 1919 at the end of WWI. She lived 88 years and passed away in November 2007. During her last five years dementia obscured her clarity and memory. As a boy, adolescent and young adult I appreciated my mother for all the customary reasons within happy families. My reasons for missing her today are explained by her history that I understood later in my life. An illness claimed her homesteading father's life when she was two years old and her sibling brother Peter was four. With her two children, her mother Marie emigrated to Saskatchewan and soon married Abram Willems who had been recently widowed and left with the care of his six children. It was a marriage of mutual convenience. Over time, this couple had five more children. Farming small acreage was a grim way to support a large family. My mom was able to go to school as far as grade 9 after which she had to find work, house keeping and childcare to farming families. She met and married Edward Richard Unruh, the youngest of four children. She was then 22 and he 26. I was her firstborn in 1942 and very soon as WWII involved Commonwealth countries, my Dad was enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force. When the war ended, Mom and Dad made the decision to move to St. Catharines, Ontario where factory jobs were available and where many Mennonite friends and some family members already lived. Mom bore two more sons, Murray in 1947 and Neale in 1953. She lost twin girls years later when I was in my early teens. Dad's employment as an assembly line worker required my mother's supplementary labour at anything that paid. In the early years she was a housekeeper, and a seamstress. She made costumes each year for the St. Catharines Figure Skating Club. In time she became known for her cooking and from that developed a business, catering to small and large gatherings, serving coffee and baked goods daily at the Ontario Paper Mill Home Office, managing food services at Fair Havens Conference and Camp in summers. She assembled her recipes and published a cook book. She was always a woman of faith, and over time became respected and valued as a leader. She was humbled and amazed that she, with her grade 9 education was given responsibility to speak publicly and to lead a province wide women's organization for her church denomination. My mind still sees her distinctive handwriting with which she wrote her notes and letters and recipes. I would like to write this to her today, "Well done Mom. I love you."

Friday, May 26, 2017

NARAMATA GETAWAY May 22-25

Christine and I have enjoyed four days travelling (Miata top down) to and from and staying at D'Angelo Estate Winery in Naramata. It’s a five hour drive ton #3 and #97 thru winding rides just made for cruising in a sports car. Over the years I have painted four oil paintings for the D'Angelo family. Here is one of Stephanie and one of her little Luca. At their guest house in the vineyard we have found a quiet retreat overlooking lake Okanagan to which we have returned four times. I have come home with many ideas for future paintings. While we were in Penticton and area we treated ourselves to meals in special places. The Naramata Inn's Ambrosia Restuarant served delicious evening tapas. On a hot windy day at Lake Breeze Winery we were served an exquisite lunch while enjoying a shade pergola that overlooked the lake. Most memorable was Front Street Brasserie in Penticton, where chef John Burke and his wife Lisa with whom we spoke at length while relishing three special dishes and dessert all with a French cuisine flair.
http://www.dangelowinery.com
https://naramatainn.com
https://lakebreeze.ca
https://frontstreetbrasserie.com

    

           

JORDAN’S GRADUATION

He is being picked up today. Well, his portrait is. He is Jordan Cropper and he is an officer with the RCMP. Jordan and his wife Brittani recently commissioned me to paint this portrait of Jordan, the image taken at his graduation some years ago. They now have two children and they live where he is posted in northern B.C. I became proud of this man as I painted him in a moment of his aspirations and dreams. He has already seen some of life’s pain and sadness as he serves the public. When elements of RCMP receive bad press, think of these men and women who with their lives serve us.

20X24” oil on canvas

Friday, May 12, 2017

I LOVE COLOUR & I LOVE PAINTING

Taking no credit for the lyrics, I am sitting at my easel again, telling myself to, take the blue of the sky and the green of the forest, and the gold and the brown of the freshly mown hay; add the pale shades of spring and the circus of autumn, and weave you a lovely today.

Even as a child I drew and I painted. As an artist now I most happily remain the child. I put down paint, I try, I learn. It surprises me and I am filled with wonder. I am eager to fall asleep imagining the strokes I'll apply tomorrow. I wake and I can hardly wait to see what happens when I try again.

WEDDING GUESTS

We are invitees to a wedding today. They are so young. Here Christine and I are in our 50th year and our encouragement to newlyweds or anyone is contained here in a Gaither song.

Tender words, gentle touch and a good cup of coffee, And someone that loves me and wants me to stay; Hold them near while they're here and don't wait for tomorrow, To look back and wish for today.