Showing posts from February, 2010

Lord Also of Good Times

The Wedding Feast

“There was a marriage in Cana of Galilee & And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.”

John 2:1-2

Jesus approved, sanctified, and adorned marriage by attending this wedding feast. The Bible from the beginning to the end, (from Genesis to Revelation) puts high honour upon marriage. God Himself ordained it in Eden. It is not without peculiar significance that Christ made His first public appearance, and wrought His first miracle, at a marriage, thus showing His approval, and putting His sanction upon the relation.

There is no subject on which young people in these days need to receive more careful instruction than concerning marriage. The many ill-advised and unhappy marriages, the alarming frequency of separation, and the ease with which for the slightest reason divorces are obtained, show that the ordinance is losing its sanctity in the public mind. Jesus should be invited to every wedding, as He was to this at Cana. No marriage relation should …

J. J. Halcrow

I remember the entire camp carrying benches from the dining hall to the shaded stand of cedars beside what we called Chapel Bay. The morning had an evidently different air about it as the boys were all required to wear clean T-shirts and jeans or shorts.

The Catholic kids had already gone on their bracing boat ride to Honey Harbour for Mass.

Program Directors distributed the song sheets and got everyone's blood and lungs going with a couple of hymns. Evelyn Halcrow, wife of the London Y's General Secretary, then offered a fine solo in her mezzo-soprano. Perhaps "His Eye is on the Sparrow" or "What a Friend we Have in Jesus" or "Will Your Anchor Hold?". Only the worst of the camp clowns would giggle.

Then one of the senior campers would read something selected from the Psalms or Gospels. Here in a former time I found the Y.M.C.A. behaving like a Young Men's Christian Association. This was before political correctness in the community re-fashioned…

Mr. Crusz

I was made aware of his work in a book review in the local paper. Rienzi Crusz. Poet laureate of our twin cities. Former Collections Development Librarian at the University of Waterloo. Native of Sri Lanka transported to a land of ice and snow. Divorced. Remarried. Strong family heritage. Devout.

I first made contact with him after sending a small collection of my poetry in the mail. He could sense the starry-eyed desire to publish, and the absolute ignorance of this writer concerning market realities and current trends in writing.

Both on the phone and in person at a local grocery store, he tempered with words to the following effect:
'Always write what you want to. There is no creative freedom greater than poetry. Form, appearance and subject are entirely up to you. Feel strongly before putting pen to paper. It is immensely therapeutic. Don't panic about getting published. That is a long, patient piece-meal process.'

In his work one senses immense debt to parents; a period…

Language Drought

In scripture we are told that in the last days there will be a famine for the word of God.

Presently I am seeing a famine for words. Younger people are losing the ability to express themselves.

Good reading has been reduced to cheap newspapers, gossip magazines and Wikipedia. The classics of literature are never on anyone's lips.

Everything has become visual - the computer screen, the billboard, the texting phone. Time is scarce for direct conversation.

I would hazard a guess that the schools have still not learned their lesson about abandoning the phonetics approach to spelling. Similarly they refrain from bruising the little darlings with rules of grammar, parts of speech or word definitions.

As a consequence we see all around people who really do not know how to express themselves, how to be imaginative in telling a story, how accurately to portray emotion or hurt or fear or heart's desire.

What is this doing to relationships, to the work environment, to romance, to disciplinary …

Dads, Spend the Time

River Ducks

A walk by the river in winter
My Father and I undertake.
The bush is all glaze from the ice-storm,
Affording a needed wind-break.
The City with all its white panic
Seems much farther off than in fact.
The Country calls us to adventure,
With lunch and hot drinks duly packed.

We’ve done this before, but in springtime
With wildflowers and vine in the bloom.
But this day holds different promise,
Somewhere in the gray and the gloom.
The trees are bereft of their songsters
Save only one brave chickadee,
Who scolds from his perch in the low brush,
My Father and I cannot see.

Approaching a bend in the river
My Father, with much softer gait,
Binoculars pulled for a sighting,
And signaling me just to wait,
Steps out to the clearing at shoreline,
Where ice has been broken away,
By storm sewer’s much warmer waters,
And ducks are out there, and at play.

The first that I see are just landing,
With synchronized drop, skimming wake,
And greeted by others assembled.
What strange, raucous music they make!
The mallards,…

Ferdinand the Bull

The mother has two kids enrolled in a Christian school. In the playground after hours she observes a big kid. A very big kid. A very big black kid. He appears hauntingly sad and quiet.

On another occasion the family offer "Big Mike" a ride home which he refuses awkwardly. Mother digs further and confirms that the boy has no home. Picking up discarded food after the school basketball game. Staying overnight at the laundromat to wash his too few clothes.

Disturbed by this story she offers to take "Michael" home for a stay. This kindness turns into a longer stay and the entire family warms up to the possibility of taking legal guardianship for this sweet-hearted giant who has fallen through the cracks.

A mother of too many partners, too many children, too much substance abuse is sought out from the boy's past. She is too wounded, too poor, too ashamed to countenance a reunion with her son. The way is cleared for a new family connection. New clothes. Flashy ones. New …

Those Big Fellas

In an earlier post I referred to our friend Geri. She and her husband Allan played a very large role in encouraging my wife and myself in early Christian experience. She was the wide-eyed, petite, feminine one with a tremendous sense of humour, hospitality and gentleness in her treatment of others. Allan, a long-trip trucker, had a remarkable way, out on the road, in meekly coming alongside a fellow trucker, hearing of his gains or losses, and turning the conversation toward Christ.

I wish that I had retained the details better on this story, but here goes. Geri had a sister who was in missionary work in South America with her husband. The native communities contacted were very primitive and significantly uncomfortable with outsiders. This was over forty years ago.

The husband was called away by small aeroplane from their new and undeveloped mission camp. The woman busied herself with domestic improvements, singing and Bible reading to stave off loneliness. At night on the outskirts of …


So who is my client?
Oh, you are my client.
We'll be so suppliant today.

I've read through the brief,
The carnage and grief,
And for swift relief we should pray.

They have an eye-witness
A clerk in the business
Who saw through the mask and the gun.

A friend of your neighbour's.
For whom you've done favours,
And shared in some barbecue fun.

They've dusted the till.
Your prints on it still.
Like those from your last B and E.

And leaving the shop,
Oh why did you stop
To grin at their in-house TV?

Once out on the street,
What luck had you meet
A school-mate who noticed the pouch?

Bold faced and secure,
What made you so sure
He'd missed the shop's name on it- Ouch!

Around the next block
Your chum had his talk
With lawman now hailed to the scene.

You stayed on that street
A rare ringside seat.
You should have put mileage between.

Then tired of such fun,
You started to run,
And lawman took note of your flight.

And taxi-cab fare
Took you right to where
The cruiser came later that night.

I'll try…


The pigeons around
The Old Court House
Know nothing of
Issues at stake.
No money nor marriage
Nor murder
Disturbs all the cooing
They make.

The pigeons beside
City Council
Know not if the
Tax rate is high.
Nor whether last winter’s
White deluge
Had pushed traffic
Costs to the sky.

The pigeons who
Perch on the steeple
Will flit at the
Sound of the bell.
A simple way,
Theirs, to co-habit.
With nary a
Sermon on Hell.

The pigeons at
Cenotaph Corner
Will rest on the
Soldier’s bronze gun.
With no sense of
War’s devastation,
Or what was the cause
Or who won.

But down at the
Park’s peanut corner,
A woman comes
Daily at four,
With treats for her
Fine feathered neighbours,
Who gather around
By the score.

Teaching Taking Its Time

There is a kind of faith teaching that is sincere, straight, short. It draws from scripture and adds briefly from the bank of personal experience. It does not repeat itself. Its words are precise. It is not "dumbed down". The bar is raised. It is not embellished with emotion. It says its piece and walks away.

The listener is left with time, meditation and life's journey to come eventually to the threshold of the revelation."Oh, so THAT is what he meant; what Jesus meant!"

I had such a friend, Leon, back in Chatham. He kept on running into my wife in the apartment elevator going to the laundry room. He was pleasant, respectful, and only gradually did he approach the message of salvation with her. As our acquaintance grew, we learned that he had been an ordained Pentecostal preacher, but had been given the polite boot after his wife left him for another man.

We heard him preach in various independent Charismatic gatherings. Very stirring. Solidly Biblical. He under…


She was one of the bright spots of our period of years at Victoria Ave. United Church in Chatham.

In her late seventies. Widow of a prominent local doctor. Mother of Rick, a counseling psychologist. For years a speech therapist helping stroke victims in recovery.

She couldn't have been better placed. Effervescent. Beautiful English accent. Beautiful singing voice. (We were in the choir with her). A solid Evangelical faith. Never long-faced about it.

Back in England she had had her time on the stage, and it showed in her expressive face, a face which could register all kinds of emotions convincingly.

Elsie took a particular liking to our three-year old daughter. Instant grandmother. Of course with her animated presence, she was an instant hit with Lauren.

I remember attending a Christian conference in Kitchener with Elsie and others from the church. It was evident how quickly she could warm up to people who were total strangers but for the common link of Christ. This was also Hilary…

George of Spain

I often talk with my acquaintance George around the Sobey's plaza in Waterloo. He left Spain unlawfully during the Franco regime, and together with teenage friends was rescued by French peasants from recapture by the Spanish border police. Running through the check-point.

Eventually he found his way to Northern Ontario and purchased a general store in one of the towns. Shortly thereafter some legislation prohibited public facilities from witholding services from aboriginals. George had no problem with this. All of his encounters with the "people of the land" had been acceptable. He heard that the Provincial Police were bringing an extra contingent to town. This caused some alarm in the community, and was yet another slap in the face to the First Nations people.

On the Thursday before the effective weekend, the Band Chief came into George's store asking him for a moment. He regretted to advise that foul play was expected over the weekend from some of his people in light…

Gone On Before

She had gone for a walk
On the country road;
And the spring grass waved
And the sunshine glowed.
And the horses pranced,
And the ravens crowed;
And my love simply followed the road.

She had said that she wouldn’t
Go very far,
As I stopped to read
In our shaded car.
And she sought the spots
Where God’s blessings are.
But it seemed she was going too far.

And her figure shrank as she
Scaled the rise,
To that wondrous line
‘Twixt the road and skies.
And the blue and white
Were a sight for eyes,
As my love vanished over the rise.

And I thought of her
In that distant place,
Just beyond my view
Both in time and space.
And I guessed her thoughts.
And I missed her face.
And I longed just to share in that place.

Oh, it’s much the same
With the ones we love,
Who have gone before;
Who have joy above;
Who are lost to view
In faith’s blissful grove.
But in time we shall follow our love.

For assurance comes from
A risen Lord,
Who endured the shame,
And the cross and sword;
But was seen again
And by saints adored.
And my love and I trust …

Truth Despised

This "born again"
A phrase of men
That sits not well with me.

And all the blood
A cleansing flood
That flows from Calvary?

Must each address
His sinful mess
As if to start anew?

Will not the priest
And Easter's feast
Suffice to see us through?

But then a word
My spirit heard
Providing precious light.

'The chicks from eggs,
The tadpole's legs,
The Monarch at first flight.

The fruit from flower,
The rainbow shower,
The acorn, then the tree.'

And truth despised
Meets clearer eyes
And sets this captive free.

Ezekiel 36:

25Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.

26A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

27And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

Our True Life

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”

Matthew 4:4

There are other needs of life besides those which bread supplies. Sometimes we hear it said as a pretext for doing wrong or debasing things, “Well, I must live,” as if hunger excused stealing or fraud or other sinning in order to get bread. But it is not true that we must live, or that living is in itself the best thing for us. It certainly is not true that we must live if we cannot live without sinning. We have a higher life than our physical, and this, our true life, is nourished by communion with God.

It is never right for us to starve our spiritual nature to get bread for our bodies. It is our first duty to keep God’s commandments, and in obedience is the highest good that we can attain in this world. Sometimes the best thing that we can do for our life is to lose it; we had better any day starve to death than commit the smallest sin to get bread. Jesus said, “Seek ye first the…

Jail-House Prophet

He was the one who prayed most sincerely for me at a time of great struggle and embarrassment. My wife, daughter, baby boy and I were about to leave Chatham, and I went to Ron for a talk and some encouragement and prayer. My law business had collapsed.

He had been a client of mine in the setting up of a facility for the St. Leonard's Society, giving support, shelter and life skills to recent parolees. I had also known him from a quaint Charismatic fellowship which we attended for a time.

Ron had a criminal record which prevented him from ever again crossing the U.S. Border. Biker. Drug importer. Scrapper. Jail-bird. It was hard for me to believe the reports looking at his clear blue eyes, neatly cropped beard and gentle handsome countenance. His wife and children rounded out a beautiful family. He was leaving factory work at that time for St. Leonard's.

I remember when I first heard him giving a message at another church. He had a burden. It was difficult and delicate. It concern…

Lawyer Unger

I can remember him perched happily in his corner window office on a Saturday morning, surrounded by his beloved law books, smoking a prized cigar, relaxing in short-sleeved shirt and flipping through some corporate minute books for a client.

Or chatting cordially across a table at the Registry Office with another solicitor, title abstracts, deeds and closing documents all around, going through the agenda of a house purchase transaction.

Or walking briskly with signature pork-pie hat over to St. Peter's Basilica (London) for a mid-day meditation and possible exchange with the Monseigneur.

This was Mr. Unger (Edward G.), my Dad's business lawyer and my mentor for law articles, following three years of law school. He was the definitive gentleman sole practitioner. One of the last in that strange breed who would presume to practice it all. (Now all is specialty and large departmentalized partnership with ranks of conveyancers and para-legals on the payroll.)

Mr.Unger also traveled onc…

Old Style Retail

I can still see George standing by the restaurant cash register and looking out his big picture window on Dundas Street. Three piece suit. Gold chain watch. Ever present cigar. Diagonally opposite the old Hotel London. This was his street.

My Dad's sporting goods store was around the corner and he would often cut through the back parking lot and George's rear kitchen to go to the restaurant. Cooks. Waitresses. George's two sons, Gus the number two restauranteur, and Gary the high school teacher. "Nice boys." Mrs. Kerhoulis, short, neat, smartly coiffed and keeping an eye on the table service. Addressing many of the customers on a first name basis.

Often when I was working youth program or the swimming pool at the YMCA I would join Dad there for a lunch or Friday night supper. Meals were prepared to your specifications and the waitresses got to know "the usual" for many of the patrons.

This was retail as it used to be for those like George and my Dad. Big o…


I put in the last post mentioning Harold Abrahams (Not to Be Discouraged)in order to set the stage for this item on my wife's new friend Mavis.

This woman comes from England and was formally qualified as a nanny for aristocratic families. Quite a training process - early childhood education, household management, basic nursing, primary English curriculum, discipline and etiquette.

She is now in her mid-eighties and has marvelous stories to tell from both sides of the Atlantic. For a time she served in the household of Mr. and Mrs. Harold Abrahams as above-mentioned. She became particularly close to the wife (Sybil) who served for years in amateur theatre endeavours. Sewing costumes. Attending premieres.

The film Chariots of Fire (1981) spot-lit Mrs. Abrahams' earlier career in Gilbert and Sullivan productions on the stage.

Mr. Abraham's constant involvement in British amateur sport brought to the family, with Mavis included, many box-seat opportunities at Wimbledon and other …

Not to Be Discouraged

Martin Luther once said something to the following effect:

"A little bird flies past your head and you sense the breeze, and for a moment you are curious, and perhaps interested. That is temptation. A little bird flies up to your head, hovers, and then you invite him to build a nest in your hair. That is sin."

This was the observation of a man who in his early days was tormented by the nature of thoughts which came to his mind. As a young priest he struggled incessantly to remain holy before an awesome God, but all to no avail. Then he discovered grace.

We know from the scriptures that it is possible to be tempted and yet not found in sin. Even Christ encountered this. Consider Hebrews 4:

14Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.

15For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

Tripping the Confidence Switch

Young Robbie at the summer camp had a real problem with self-esteem and confidence. Ten years old. Thick glasses. Son of a prominent dentist. Younger brother to an athletic prodigy. Long-faced and disparaging any chance of success in the various skills tests facing the new camper.

Robbie was particularly haunted by the prospect of swim tests for boating privileges. Get fully clothed. Jump in. Two lengths of the swim area for canoeing. One length for the row boats.

Fateful day came. I was in the back of the lifeguard boat. Robbie was struggling from the get-go. Dog paddle of sorts. Determined not to put his face under. Sputtering. Quick to cry out, "I can't". I tried twice to encourage him farther but to no avail. Reach pole extended. Game over.

How pathetic he seemed over the next two days. But Jack, the Program Director had an idea: "Robbie, these aluminum row-boats need some enamel painted on the side panels to show the camp colour - orange. Would you like to help me…

Sanctuary Stranger

Ryan, the priest-novitiate nudged his superior in the arm and pointed to a pew mid-way down the sanctuary on the right side.

"There he is again. Same time almost every day. Looks around and then just sits there for about twenty minutes. Sort of a seamy looking character. I wonder if he means well? Remember the recent thievery?"

Monseigneur quietly examined the old fellow in the dwindling late afternoon light. Quiet surroundings. Votive candles flickering nearby. Archie practicing some Bach on the organ up front. Nothing to worry about. Just sitting there. Head slightly bowed. Old tweed overcoat. Peaked winter cap in hand...

The two men went on to other matters.

But then the simple visitor stopped showing. One day in a hospital visitation, Ryan had left a parishioner's bedside and was headed for the elevator when he noticed the old fellow propped up in a bed in a four-patient ward room. He yielded to the temptation to drop in for a short visit.

After introductions he learned t…

The Gentleman is Always Welcome

(Taken from The Analysis of Love contained in The Greatest Thing in the World by Henry Drummond)

The fifth ingredient is a somewhat strange one to find in this summum
bonum: Courtesy. This is Love in society, Love in relation to etiquette. “Love doth
not behave itself unseemly.” Politeness has been defined as love in trifles. Courtesy
is said to be love in little things. And the one secret of politeness is to love. Love cannot behave itself unseemly. You can put the most untutored person into the
highest society, and if they have a reservoir of love in their heart, they will not
behave themselves unseemly. They simply cannot do it. Carlyle said of Robert
Burns that there was no truer gentleman in Europe than the ploughman-poet. It
was because he loved everything—the mouse, and the daisy, and all the things,
great and small, that God had made. So with this simple passport he could mingle
with any society, and enter courts and palaces from his little cottage on the banks
of the Ayr. You know the m…


What skill, what gift
What fashioned art,
Has come your way,
Set you apart;
Has settled on
Your hands, your eyes,
Your tongue, your pen,
Your tools, your pies;
Has come to you
With little strain,
While others toil
The skill to gain;
Has been the joy
Of leisure’s hours,
In shaping wood
Or tending flowers;
Has been the means
To new friends met,
And medium for
Their blessing yet;
Has raised your voice
In moving song,
To lift the heart,
To heal the wrong;
Has filled your mind
With hidden views
Which splash to life
From pallet’s hues;
Has given you
Creation joy
To pass to lass
Or eager boy.
All these are gifts
To you in trust.
Creator shares
His power with dust.
And with the gift
You must, you must
Spread blessing, help
And Gospel trust.

Canadians Don't Always Apologize

Sandy was enjoying a slow coffee after breakfast at the City Centre Grill. Marcel was on a holiday to the old country and his daughter Samantha was in charge for the month. Sister Karina was cooking, and the new woman Cindy was waiting tables.

The latter had the nervous look of the hopeful novice. Her hair had been tossed back into a hurried pony tail. She talked with Samantha of the mechanics of day care for a little girl. Of buses to be caught. Of sniffles and symptoms which were raising some alarm.

Shortly Sandy would be off to help his son-in-law Ken paint a couple of bedrooms. He had picked up the colours as instructed the day before from Rona building centre.

An influx of cold November air at the door announced a middle-aged couple, smartly dressed and engaged in heated conversation.

"I told you Frank that there wasn't time to stop in at that men's shop. The rehearsal is in an hour. It's hard enough to stomach that niece of mine. But you had to add to my torment by …

Twenty Bucks for a Ride

It was a cold and damp January morning and I was trying to kick-start myself for work with a coffee from a Timmy's in a harsher central district of the city. Six-fifteen A.M. on a Friday. Happily only a small line-up and then out the door to the car.

"I'll pay you twenty bucks if you will drive me to de-tox." "What was that?" "Excuse me sir, I need to get to the de-tox centre behind the hospital. I'll pay you."

She was in her young thirties. An outfit of slacks and sweater that had been worn one day too long. A thin autumn rain jacket. She nursed the last of her coffee for the warmth, on the sidewalk and under the night-light. Her make-up running. Trembling and stunned by the cold. Obviously a Thursday night outing gone very bad. An apologetic, eyes-downward expression for yet another fall off the wagon. Then she looked up imploringly with what appeared to be younger girl's eyes, and I knew that I had to provide this help.

I held open the car…

Backgammon in the Park

With case underarm
Jerzy seeks the perfect
Shaded table for
Battle with Lef.

On cue, the women
Depart, arm-in-arm
To more populous spaces
This sunlit afternoon.

Down the pathway
June garden colours,
Splashed and swaying,
Beckon to a gathering.

But men, board-side
Under the old oak.
Sandals kicked off,
Elbows on the table.

Begin the siege.
Dice-cup clattering,
Fate spilled repeatedly.
Checkers moving in league.

Do they see it?
Hear it, now?
The glory, I mean
Of this Saturday.

Laughing children
Dining at picnic blanket.
Lovers striding,
Wordless, in unison.

Brazen ducks waddling
To the combat zone.
Seed-pecking perilously
Close to bare feet.

The generals persist
Oblivious to onlookers,
Scrutinizing spiked field-of-play,
And not each other.

Yards away, smiling
Lab chases frizbee.
Crimson cardinal flits
From pond-side brush.

Occasionally, throats cleared,
Bravado, hands clapped,
Table-top tapped.
All telling strategies.

This time Lef conquers,
Shouting briefly, boyishly.
Landing playful jab to
Shoulder of the gracious foe.

Twenty summe…


She was a friend of ours back in Chatham. Beautiful woman outwardly. Auburn hair. Striking brown eyes. The animated body language of the French in conversation.
At one time a hard working farm wife near a small rural village. Four sons in rapid succession.

The great tragedy of her past had been the farm equipment accident taking the life of her one young daughter. Then the increasing unspoken tension with a husband now pouring himself into building construction. The village, largely Roman Catholic, sided with him and ostracized Laura in many ways, after her encounter with Pentecost.

A move came into the City. The couple lived under the same roof though effectively separated. She came to my law office with suspicions of infidelity. The husband wanted a divorce. Initially she would not oblige. The litigation was a painful process with all the male faces of her family seemingly in opposition. (In later years some healings did occur with the sons.)

My wife became increasingly attached to Laur…

Dear Teacher Remembered

Her name was Louise Wyatt. Never married. Head of the London Central Secondary School English Department. No children. But a large moving cavalcade of young people drawn into her interest, time, attention and love.

One would see her shuffling between classes. Arms full of books. Hair bun slightly askew. Spectacles slipped low on the nose. Her classic "hunkering" posture. But if you had a question or a concern, all would stop and the time would be yours.

My mother-in-law Betty Hourd told of how Louise had made her first few weeks of supply-teaching bearable with the class "straight from hell". Miss Wyatt would focus those piercing eyes on Betty, and would see, and would understand everything. Betty finally got the better of that class and came to enjoy teaching. It was as my supply teacher that I first met Betty before starting to date Hilary.

Years later Betty and Louise would share a room at Parkwood Senior's Residence. Betty for a short period of convalescence. …

Note Placed in the Hand

Chatting in the grocery store about this woman's very sick young friend.

A note exchanged on a crude piece of cardboard: "God delights when we ask Him largely. Read Luke chapters 7 and 8". A brief prayer for mercy offered up together.

How many times have I examined the active, virile, tireless, compassionate, bold Jesus portrayed in these chapters. I marvel at the energy, the casually unfolding panorama of opportunities, the instant trust which the Lord commanded.

Perhaps you are facing some large dilemma, a test to stamina, constitution or steadfast faith. Consider our little cardboard note. Remember that God is omnipotent. God is love. God will make even this "work together for good".

Real Help for Real Needs

A friend, Sam, made some comments which I shall never forget. He was eager to find some meaningful opportunity to render service in the community in his spare time. He chose the Adult Literacy Group and was soon paired up with a young man who had spent too much of his life hiding what he called 'his great shame'.

Initially the two men just got acquainted and let their interests in discussion lead them to some small articles to explore together. Sam did not give details of his technique, but the outcome about six months later was a thrilling improvement in confidence, communication and job opportunity for his new friend.

Apparently the literacy service had on its roster a number of Christian acquaintances of Sam. They had each stated to him that they had had to go outside the walls of their churches to find opportunities of service to the community at large. Everything at the home church was just too insular and self-absorbed to make a dint in the neighbourhoods, schools and work…

What Comes Out

I was taking my Saturday morning coffee break from the part-time job at the grocery store. There appeared to be only one table available, next to a stately elderly woman with colourful winter hat and coat.

Initially no conversation as we both watched the passing queue of college students, elderly, hockey enthusiasts, young families and small children with doughnuts almost too big for their hands.

Eventually I passed a comment about how the proprietors of the shop appeared reluctant to take down Valentine's Day decorations. We each shared what we understood to be some of the history of St. Valentine. Then the woman mentioned that she still kept and treasured the very first Valentine's card ever received from her husband.

A significant pause followed.

"My husband died three weeks ago, you know." Quivering lip. The students across from us raised their voices about some issue in their group assignment for school.

"I think it marvelous that you are out today Ma'am. Pr…


He would stop me
By the Mall.
Excuse himself.
Ask for change.
Words came out awkwardly.
Almost shaven,
Hair curly, uncombed.
Usually sunny days.

As if seeing a friend,
He once more would
Expect a bit.
Damp morning, this one.
Did I catch a smirk?
Coin in hand, searching.
No longer any small talk.

Early winter wind.
Rushing to bookstore;
Almost tripped
Over him,
Crouching in the vestibule
By a warm vent.
Feigning guitar performance,
Two strings missing.

Heavy snows last night.
Grabbing java before work.
Heated conversation
Over my shoulder. him,
Alone and jabbering.
Cradling warm Tim's cup.
Mongrel dog leashed outside.

Happy to feel
First promise of spring.
But ruckus on the road;
Car horns blaring.
Straining to see
Scarecrow figure, spittled beard.
Pacing the white line.
Window to window.

Love in Shoe Leather

The following comments are from Henry Drummond in his classic "The Greatest Thing in the World" (a sermon of thoughts on 1 Corinthians 13):

As memory scans the past, above and beyond all the transitory pleasures of life, there leap forward those supreme hours when you have been enabled to do unnoticed kindnesses to those round about you, things too trifling to speak about, but which you feel have entered into your eternal life. I have seen almost all the beautiful things God has made; I have enjoyed almost every pleasure that He has planned for man; and yet as I look back I see standing out above all the life that has gone four or five short experiences when the love of God reflected itself in some poor imitation,some small act of love of mine, and these seem to be the things which alone of all one’s life abide. Everything else in all our lives is transitory. Every other good is visionary. But the acts of love which no man knows about, or can ever know about—they never fail.


But Still...

I have bottomed out.
I have lost the day.
I have pain within;
I can scarcely pray.
I have watched dreams pale
In the time's harsh gale.
I have few to help.
I am gaunt and pale.
But still I have the Lord...

But still I have the Lord,
And He picks me up
With the thought of Him.
And He brings His light
Where before 'twas dim.
And He makes me see
With new eyes of grace;
As His Kingdom comes,
And I find my place.
So sufficed, I have all.

The Outing

It is a cooler
Late-summer Sunday,
When grand-daughter finally
Gets the time to take
Rose to the Park.

The two cross
The lawn slowly (walker included).
Shaded picnic tables
Invite to a comfortable
Vantage point.

Before arrival,
Half-dozen ducks
Amble toward them,
Chuttering welcome.
To Rose’s laughter and surprise.

Once seated,
Grand-daughter suggests
Cold drinks,
If that would be all right.
Leaving the elder, in broad sun- hat.

Five-year old blonde,
In long braids, crying
For lack of sandbox toys.
Soothed by Rose’s reassurance
And peppermints.

Young couple, bicycling
Along cinder path,
All smiles and small-talk.
Reminding her of John
In that first summer after the war.

Grand-daughter back
With refreshments.
Apologizes for the wait.
Rose gestures a “de nada”.
“It’s a good time for ice-cream line-ups.”

Distant, muted loud-speaker.
Rise and fall of children’s cheers.
Sunday-school picnic.
Cavalcade of colours - towels,
Marquis tent, sun-hats.

Grand-daughter feels no need
To struggle at conversation.
Rose’s eyes are everywher…


Line-ups. Busy people. Pre-occupied. Impatient. Disinclined to engage. Detached. Rushed.

I was in Toronto the other day and I guess that the impersonal nature of the place left an impression.

Yet how easy it seems to bring down those walls with a smile, a simple courtesy extended, a favour performed, a willingness to listen for a few moments. People may not admit it, but they are craving recognition, affirmation and a sense that they matter.

These are difficult economic times with looming threats of shut-down, depletion of savings, rising prices, reduction of community services and increasing irrelevance of the advertised lifestyle. Our media, politicians and business movers simply do not know what the average person faces in the "new economy". They do not speak for us or listen with pure motives.

In the midst of it all a tremendous service can be rendered by those who exhibit a willingness to stop, listen, care and render simple acts of encouragement and help.

I remember a time …