Showing posts from April, 2010

People's Republic

Xin passed the pillar.
Chairman’s head raised
Above red mantle.
Four sides telling
In flowing font
Of ages and empires,
Battles and production,
Rivers traveled and tamed.
Of poets who sang
The Revolution.
Peasants who trod the terraces,
With partner-beasts.
Silent women who bore
The New Generation.
For a cup of rice each evening.
Xin read the account
Of pain, peril,
Party Promises.
Such patient dedication
In Grandfather’s time.
The Common Plan,
Common Pot, Common Purity.
(He died in
A mining box-car
Accident at Peng-Chow.)
Xin knew by sun’s angle
It was time to leave
The Great Square,
With its din of excited tourists,
Aiming Minoltas.
Paving-stones displayed
Scarrings and strafings.
Singed signatures
From That Other Day
Of Raised Fists.
And now, just enough time
To make the last cinema
With Meng, his latest interest,
Looking ever so right
In her blue Gap jeans.

(Inspired by our son's trip to China a couple of years ago.)

His Billows

(Today's entry from Streams in the Desert by Mrs. Charles Cowman)

"All thy waves and thy billows are gone over me" (Ps. 42:7).

They are HIS billows, whether they go o'er us,
Hiding His face in smothering spray and foam;
Or smooth and sparkling, spread a path before us,
And to our haven bear us safely home.
They are HIS billows, whether for our succor
He walks across them, stilling all our fear;
Or to our cry there comes no aid nor answer,
And in the lonely silence none is near.

They are HIS billows, whether we are toiling
Through tempest-driven waves that never cease,
While deep to deep with clamor loud is calling;
Or at His word they hush themselves in peace.
They are HIS billows, whether He divides them,
Making us walk dryshod where seas had flowed;
Or lets tumultuous breakers surge about us,
Rushing unchecked across our only road.

They are HIS billows, and He brings us through them;
So He has promised, so His love will do.
Keeping and leading, guiding and upholding,
To His sure harbor…

Cup of Water from George of Spain

"Well my friend, how are you? I haven't seen you here in a couple of weeks and I wondered what had happened."

It was my octogenarian friend George. I was pushing out dairy product at my Saturday grocery job. I told him about my trips to London to help parents in their adjustment to a retirement home. About my Mother's promising recovery from hip replacement surgery. About my Father's dwindling physical strength and brooding silence. I had seen them earlier in the week and had sat in the dining room making observations on their progress.

I was saddened by my Dad's condition - wheelchair, listless, sparse in conversation, confused, returning to his single quiet room after Mom's good-night kiss, all too soon ready for bed. No ideas for activities. Bored. Effectively blind. Was he giving up? How hard should I push him for exercise, for involvement, for hope?

"Doug I see a lot of this every day at the coffee shop," said George. "Elderly people goin…

He Remembers It All And Loves

Isaiah 43:

1But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.

2When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.

3For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.

My wife got this scripture with particular force recently. It has always comforted us to see how God remembers the man as "cheat" and as "prevailing prince", for these are the meanings of the two names Jacob and Israel.

Could it be that the Lord foresaw the patriarch in both of these dispositions. First as the scheming manipulator who robbed his brother Esau of rights of primogeniture, and robbed his future father-in-law Laban of flocks. Next He saw t…

Fire and Ice

"Help you here?"

Standing in the bank line-up, I could hear the voice but could not discern any available teller. She spoke again and I could see the smiling face just a little bit above the counter. She was a very pleasant Caribbean woman and easy to talk to. She teased me saying, "Oh so the big fellow just couldn't see us little folk down closer to the ground."

For some reason conversation shifted to the predominant news item of volcanic activity in Iceland sending up ash, molten material and glacier bits. This process had endangered air routes across the North Atlantic and had stopped most of European and Mediterranean air traffic for days- the biggest disruption since the 9/11 terrorist event.

The woman looked concerned and said, "Oh and don't forget the earthquakes, poor Haiti and now China. What is happening? I think it is near The End."

She gave me an inquiring look. A fellow believer? I responded, "Do you mean like Matthew 24?" (wars…

Determined Joe

I remember Joe at Law School at Western (1971-1974). His name was near the beginning of the alphabet as was mine and consequently we got close in some orientation sessions and projects.

It soon became apparent to me that Joe was a dynamo of quiet determination. Effectively crippled in both legs, he made use of those metal crutches clamped to the forearms. His many books were in the backpack. His old car was equipped with hand operated controls. He constantly had to give himself double the time to make it down the halls to make it to lectures.

Friends would hold doors and offer other assistance. Joe took it with a sincere smile and no embarrassment whatsoever. He had a good sense of humour, dry humour. His questions in class were always "thinking man's questions" but never showy. There were others who would ask extended questions simply to display what they already knew. They were the sadly competitive ones shown to poor effect in the various movies about law school.

Joe sim…

I Would Be True

(Poem by Howard Arnold Walter)

I would be true, for there are those who trust me;
I would be pure, for there are those who care;
I would be strong, for there is much to suffer;
I would be brave, for there is much to dare.
I would be friend of all-the foe, the friendless;
I would be giving, and forget the gift,
I would be humble, for I know my weakness,
I would look up, and love, and laugh and lift.

Note: However difficult the situation, the sense of entrapment or futility, there is still room for noble aspiration, thanksgiving, laughter and indomitable trust in the providence of a sovereign Lord and Father.

The Violinist

I just want to share this poem by Archibald Lampman (1861-1899).

I can remember enjoying the drive east on Highway Three from Blenheim to Morpeth. Just before you reach the turn-off for Rondeau Park, you will see a small church- memorial and beautiful sloping farmland down to Lake Erie.

While living in Chatham we would crave this drive for a look at land which was neither flat nor covered with corn. One could go inside the chapel and feel the warm and reverent spirit of rural Kent County folk. A blue Ontario historical plaque featuring Lampman was just outside.

The following poem displays the large heart of this "Confederation Poet". Note the short span of his life. Interesting name, "Lampman".


In Dresden in the square one day,
His face of parchment, seamed and gray,
With wheezy bow and proffered hat,
An old blind violinist sat.

Like one from whose worn heart the heat
Of life had long ago retired,
He played to the unheeding street
Until the thin old hands…

Temagami Laker

Hard to tell where
Copper-tone rock- face ends
And lake surface begins.
Mirror image.
Late afternoon sun
Bathing all in rust.
Trolling this
Finger-arm of the lake
These twenty-five minutes.
The boy is intent.
Line out a good
Seventy feet,
And thirty feet beneath.
Trusty Rapala
Doing its lazy wiggle.
Noticed a gull
Plopping to surface.
Feasting on small-fry.
Same gull,
Moments ago,
Other end of the slip.
Something beneath,
Frightening up a school
Of little ones.
Perhaps a pattern?
Will the hunter
Again harvest
The far end?
“Doug, let’s quietly
Pull in line,
And scoot down
Hundred and fifty yards.
See if He comes back.”
Springbok delicately
Traverses the fluid face.
Fresh wind pleasant
On eyes and cheeks.
“This should be right.
Don’t cast. Drop
And play out some
Hundred and twenty feet.”
Trolling motor
Reduced to childish chug.
Overhead, blue heron
Bats out his strange
Croaking sounds from tree-line
Suggest heron's nest.
Fish-line quivers where
Wave ringlets mar
Sun-trail of gold.
“Still, Doug. Wait.
Don’t spo…

Nursing Touch

Another time
Before shift's close
I'll check in
On dear Fred.
And give a smile.
And squeeze the hand.
And tuck him into bed.

His left arm limp;
His left cheek drawn;
His speech now
Slow and odd.
And few have come.
And few have cared.
Oh use me now, dear God.

A businessman
He was 'til late.
And numbers
Ran his life.
And midnight oil
And corporate climb
Had cost him home and wife.

Is he asleep?
Though bedside lamp
Illumes the
Quiet nook?
The half-sipped juice.
The handy-wipes.
The dark blue Gideons' Book.

My first steps heard.
He slowly turns.
And just as
Slowly grins.
His good right hand
Wipes back the tear:
"I might drop in."

I touch his arm.
I pull the sheet.
I'm desperate
For some word.
The Testament
Is open yet,
At Psalms, One hundred-third.

I take the Book,
Approach the light,
And sit beside
My friend.
And one more time
Recite those words
Of mercy without end.

Of God who knows
Our darkest trait,
Our hardest
Pain to bear.
But still forgives
That we might live
Forever in His care.

I cl…


The lilies of the field whose bloom is brief:--
We are as they;
Like them we fade away,
As doth a leaf.

The sparrows of the air of small account:
Our God doth view
Whether they fall or mount,--
He guards us too.

The lilies that do neither spin nor toil,
Yet are most fair:--
What profits all this care
And all this coil?

The birds that have no barn nor harvest-weeks;
God gives them food:--
Much more our Father seeks
To do us good.

(Poem by Christina Rossetti, 1866)

(Photo by Jim Bailey)

Untie the Rope

Heard an excellent message this morning from evangelist Dave MacFarlane with the Billy Graham Association: "Love, Laugh, Live".

This English sounding man raised in South America gave a humorous but impactful sermon full of personal illustrations. The one which I shall remember involved his favourite sport on the tropical river - skulling. He painted a beautiful picture of coming down to the water in the mist of early morning, of delicately squatting and moving to the rower's position, of gripping the oars and willing tired muscles to begin. But it did not seem that he was making any progress. He pulled harder. Still no progress. No change of scenery. Again harder. Then through groggy eyes he looked down to the end of the boat to discover that he had not yet untied from the dock!

This was his illustration for "letting go". So many in the Church and indeed in the world row with the handicap of unforgiveness, of past abuse, of personal foul-ups and embarrassments, o…

Time Out: God-Prescribed

(Today's entry from J.R.Miller in Come Ye Apart)

The Sabbath

“The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:”

Mark 2:27

The Sabbath was not made for man merely as an arbitrary law which he must observe. It is as much a law of his nature, or in harmony with his nature, as is the night which bids him cease his toil and seek rest and sleep. It was made for man’s physical nature. It has been proved many times that the body needs the Sabbath. Then it was made for man’s spiritual good, to give opportunity, not alone for physical rest, but for communion with God, when the noise of business and of toil has ceased. It was made for man to promote his welfare in every regard. All history proves that the Sabbath is a blessing wherever it is observed, and that its violation always brings loss and suffering.

Our Lord clearly showed by His example and teaching that the Sabbath is never meant to be a burden or to work oppressively. Though secular work is forbidden on the Sabbath, it is not…

Following Champlain

It’s a good feel,
And a painful,
And I’m stiff and sunburnt too.
And the camp is almost set now
And the kids are howling “food”.

It was in
The open water,
As they laughed and bent each back,
That I knew the group was willing.
Heading windward, tack by tack.

I was looking
For some cottage,
Where the river mouth began.
And they teased my indecision:
“You’re the tripper…trip, young man!”

Then I saw it.
It was yellow.
(They had told me white with green.)
And the dock was twice as long
As the last tripper here had seen.

And a lull
Inside the inlet,
Past the sheltering granite bluff,
Told each straining Hiawatha,
We would make camp soon enough.

And the stream
Now took to narrowing.
Stately pines right to the edge.
A barrage of bluejay banter,
And a weasel on a ledge.

With the late day’s
Sunshine angled,
Welcome silhouettes in shade.
Black-green fingers now caressing
Water lilies, gold inlaid.

And the flipping
Of a gar- pike
At a droning dragonfly.
And the Sun-God peeking through the pines.
A banquet to the eye.

And the creakin…

King of Hot Peppers

Bob came to our factory from a placement agency. A couple of years my junior. An interesting and diverse work background. Experiencing a gap in placements. Carpenter. Curling club ice-maker. Ski-club snow-maker. Professional photographer. Shift foreman at heat-treating plant. Outdoors man. Vegetable gardener. Wood carver.

Apparently a good position in industry had gone south because a second generation in management remembered earlier testy days with Bob. All of his good work was forgotten and he was made to be replaceable. A bitter man? Perhaps. Seriously ill father (a long-time city bus driver). Indomitable mother (the region's matriarch in Boy Scouts-Cubs for years and a line-dance teacher). Runaway sister. Irish and German. Unmarried. Childless. Selling part-time photo and dark-room efforts to calendar companies and stripper club promoters and dancers.

Working alongside me in shipping at a steel fabricating shop, he released to me details only slowly. I began to see his vast res…


"We have seen Him! Miriam, it was wonderful. Cleopas and I were walking the road to Emmaus. We just needed some time together to deal with the events of the last few days in Jerusalem. Some small business there provided the opportunity for a quiet journey.

We felt intense heaviness and disappointment. We had heard the Nazarene in the Temple. On the Mount of Olives. Wonderful, frightening words of a coming upheaval followed by a Golden Age. Admonitions to remain vigilant, clean, helpful. Just like the man himself. Surely you had heard, Miriam, of his many deeds of mercy. How he would lighten up a crowd. The many healings. That fellow Lazarus over in Bethany. And such Messiah talk!

But this was the third day. Some women had reported that his body was missing from the tomb. No one knew where he was or who had taken him. Our spirits were heavy. It was hard to let go of the dream. Liberation for our people.

Suddenly we were joined by a pleasant looking man who asked if he might walk with…

Widow of Nain

She lived down the street from us. Trying to make ends meet with her baked goods and her simple stitchery. Six years the husband had been gone. That awful accident at the building site. The week of lingering and the night of the terrible storm when her childhood sweetheart breathed his last.

Their son had been twelve years old when he lost his father and the much needed male influence. In the intervening years he had few friends, no known romance and a string of short-term jobs to help his mother. It had seemed to her that a new household and laughing grandchildren were dreams incapable of fruition.

Then fever visited, and the youth with his irregular work schedules, poor diet and meager build proved a ready target. He came home wheezing and lasted only two days.

The neighbours, my husband included, had arranged the funeral bier, the rabbi's attendance and the simple gathering of respect for one so little known. Oh, but he was still the hope and treasure of his mother. To the rest of…


"The Germans were bad, but the Russians were worse. I was at least given a choice. Fight with the Nazis. Prison camp. Work crews. Naturally I chose the last option. Roads. Bridges. Storage buildings. Temporary camps. Our poor Latvia. If we could just wait it out. But then things turned against Adolf, on several fronts. Russians were in the wings, and stories of bloodshed, fire, humiliation. We could see the growing disillusionment in the squareheads. The fleeting looks of fear when they thought no one was looking. So one night after lights out a few of us headed for the trees..."

This was the most I had ever heard Rudy talk. Carpenter and general handyman at the London YMCA. He had come up to join us in summer pre-camp. Beausoleil Island. Georgian Bay. Together four of us had rebuilt the trolley incline from the docks to the Main Lodge and Dining Hall. Basically we carried the materials. Rudy built the track. Firm, resolute use of his hand tools. Big hands that would dwarf mi…

Here Is Love

I have somewhere outside my bedroom window a purple finch singing his alert, joyful, high-pitched "see-saw" spring tune. It is Good Friday. We have had an extraordinary week of warm weather. March retreated without incident. The community sheds a collective sigh of relief and casts off winter coats.

Facilities are closed for this statutory holiday, but I sense that largely the people do not get it. Certainly there is little decoration proclaiming the greatest day in the calendar. The hams, lambs and turkeys are in store for Sunday. The candy. The new spring clothes. But what of this day?

"Oh, you mean your morbid Christian day of brutal death on a hill?"

No, I mean the day where above all others God showed his love and opened a way for us for fellowship and mutual trust which could not have come about in any other fashion. I won't press theology here. I do enough of that in another blog.

But I will present one portion of scripture from 1 John 4:

9In this was manife…

Standfast Makes It Across

(Taken from Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan)

Then there came forth a summons for Mr. Standfast. This Mr. Standfast was he whom the rest of the pilgrims found upon his knees in the Enchanted Ground. And the post brought it him open in his hands: the contents thereof were, that he must prepare for a change of life, for his Master was not willing that he should be so far from him any longer. At this Mr. Standfast was put into a muse. Nay, said the messenger, you need not doubt of the truth of my message; for here is a token of the truth thereof, “Thy wheel is broken at the cistern.” Eccles. 12:6. Then he called to him Mr. Great-Heart, who was their guide, and said unto him, Sir, although it was not my hap to be much in your good company during the days of my pilgrimage, yet, since the time I knew you, you have been profitable to me. When I came from home, I left behind me a wife and five small children; let me entreat you, at your return, (for I know that you go and return to your M…