Friday, October 6, 2017

Palliser Heights– a half century later

I am a student from the early days of Palliser Heights school in Moose Jaw. From 1960 – 1965 I attended Grades 1 – 6. I attended school the day JFK was shot. I was there when the soccer field was shoots of grass and gravel. I remember the hallways being polished and the structure being only one story.

My own story was as a student coming to Moose Jaw as a raw grade oner! My memory was of entering the classroom after the school year had begun. I was scared and was welcomed in. By Grade six I was comfortably situated in a school community that I enjoyed. And then we moved.

In the early grades, the English readers which students studied carried stories by now famous authors. One story struck me. “Circumstances Alter Carla.” Carla had transferred schools and had learned to live into the circumstances instead of fighting the changes. She was mentored by older people and cared for by her peers. This scenario, portrayed in a classroom assignment, became very real to me in coming years.

When students say they learn nothing new each day, that’s how I felt in my elementary schooling. Perhaps normal daily life in the classroom was the teaching environment. Nothing new but everything newly experienced and taken in. Mrs. Winslow (or so I remember the name) was my grade three teacher. In Grade three life was about stories of travels. Sitting at the front of the class, Mrs. Winslow would talk of climbing mountains and seeing the beauty of nature. A world that needed to be explored.

By Grade five I was beginning to enjoy writing. My competitive nature came out when journals were required of each student. The journals required cursive writing, but also gathering in of our observations. My friend, Donald Dankewich, was neat and organized. His journal was outstanding and he received the highest honours – an honour I did not begrudge him, but that also spurred me on to excel and not just coast along.

In Grade Six I was abandoned to “The Other Grade Six Class” when I was unable to attend a scheduled day-time field trip. In the class, the teacher handed out pictures. Mine was of a white-tailed deer. The assignment? Observe the scene and write a paragraph about what you saw. Each of my sentences began with “The white tailed deer . . .” The foreign class laughed at me and I felt shame. I determined to either not write again, or only write in such a way that I expressed myself well and the reader became immersed in what I was saying. In strange settings, some of our best incentives come clothed as failures.

In August of 2017, I returned to Palliser Heights school, with my grandson in tow. He was entering Grade Six and comparing his school with the school his grandfather grew up in. Thanks to the principal, Jonathan McLean, for the tour of the facility, and for those teachers and staff who were present to greet us. I truly believe the students are in for a treat as they are guided by your patience, presence and passion for them this year.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

Every generation feels like we are blazing a new trail.

We are.  Up to a point.  On the trail.

The point where we walk an old path is when we look at the rocks and foliage and sky.  The similarities to the past suddenly appear – in living colour. 

This is so with the current state of Western Christian ideals.  For the last few decades we have been quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) gone about exploring the culture’s current store of novelties.  This has happened in such varied areas as sexuality, or integrity, or even marketing.

Now we are at the state of calling for a council, a Diet, a creedal confession.  For those of you who look back as much as forward, you are already thinking such places as Constantinople, Wittenberg and even Worms.

The latest outpourings now come in online statements with signatories gained by electronic clicks.  Two that have come out most recently are:  The Nashville Statement:  a coalition for Biblical Sexuality; and A Reforming Catholic Confession:  A ‘mere’ protestant Statement of Faith to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

For others in the evangelical camp, you know of The Truth Project, and The Gospel Project, and who knows how many other projects designed to steer our education. 

Now we are into the affirming part of the mix.  To figure out how many of us are actually on the same side – because we have all been trying to live in the same camp for some time.

The next step will be the ‘Stand Firm, Hold Fast – here comes Trouble’ part.

Always the hardest part.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

A gig economy?

Well, here’s a new word for me!

An old concept, but packaged for a new generation.

A gig economy relates to the idea that people take temporary jobs and institutions contract with independent “contractors” for short term assignments.  Each job is a new “gig”.

With the downsizing of available resources, companies are looking for savings.  A contractor does not receive extra perks – like benefits, sick days, retirement contribution.  A highly experienced and resourced contractor can work for a short period – instead of being on the full-time payroll.

For the worker there is the opportunity to seek out life balance, to do what  you love, to charge what you think you are worth.

Of course, there are downsides to each of these approaches.  I’m not about to dispute that, nor to go into explanations.

The result is an increase in the sharing economy – where we will borrow or rent rather than buy; the gift economy – where we will head towards contributing to society from an altruistic bent; and the barter economy – where we will exchange what we have for what others have in a negotiated agreement.

Tax structures will change to try to assess and gain from these economies.  Workers will need to specialize – or at least be proficient at what they do.  Companies will need to reassess efficiencies.

As if the change from a word based to a visual society were not enough, now try and figure out the change from employer based job descriptions to employee based proficiencies.

And life goes on.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


WWJD – another perspective from A.B. Simpson:

I had earlier this year mentioned that the book "In His Steps" was not wholly endorsed by A.B. Simpson – a contemporary to the writer – Charles Sheldon. Here is another indication:

– From A.B. Simpson’s Christ in the Bible series – XVII – Romans (Christian Publications), p. 266 –

"What would Jesus do?" is a simple question which will settle every difficulty, and always settle it on the side of love.

But we cannot answer this question rightly without having Jesus Himself in our hearts. We cannot act Christ. This is too grave a matter for acting. We must have Christ, and simply be natural and true to the life within us, and that life will act itself out.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Reviewing a life past

A decade ago a friend of mine died.  These past few weeks I was going through some files and found a card on which I had jotted down some thoughts. 

Lloyd Orthner had been a dentist in our community, a church leader and a community spokesperson.  In the last year of his life (before his passing from cancer), I gleaned from him these thoughts, which are still relevant today:

Accept others for who they are.  God will do the changing.

Know people’s limitations.  Don’t just dismiss people.

Be involved in the community.

Don’t force things – care about people.

Be yourself – sincere in all  you do.

Be content where you are.

Not a bad list of virtues to live by. 

Life in Jesus is reflected in people like Lloyd, a winsome person who lived his life transparently following Jesus.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Witness to a conversation

The Party Line is not dead.

Not the political party line – which many be finding itself on hard times.  What with extremist leaders and moderate followers.

No, the party line I’m talking about is the old fashioned phone line, where conversation could be had with a multitude of people at one time.  Before three way calling or teleconferencing. 

Yesterday I sat at a party.  We had a circle of around 10 people, with four leading the way in conversation.  They were all within about 5 years of each other, had been school, church and family chums.  Their stories were hilarious, scattered with inside jokes.

They were fun, without cell phones to interrupt.  Us on the periphery found out lots about those on the inner circle.  Things that helped us see what companionship and community is all about.  Institutions do well to heed the micro functioning of those who guard our heritage. 

Enjoy those times where you are not the center of conversation, nor are you attempting to propel the conversation.  You will find a global wealth of life that so easily escapes us.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

How did we get here?

I’m a baby boomer.  We were the generation who were going to be free from all the constraints of life.  We would have free sex, free love, free from authority.  Life was to be a party!  Woodstock be praised.

We are now into our retirement years, or coming close. 

I’m not so excited about where we ended up.  Our culture has a desirous supreme leader who understands entertainment only too well.  And the church???

Our worship services are about entertainment – and too often about ourselves.  Our children are non-attenders of spiritual gatherings. 

The idea was to entertain to attract.  The idea was excellence in the entertainment to rival the culture’s best.  The idea was that felt needs would attract people. 

And I feel like we won a community and lost a vision.  Perhaps we are perishing – from entertainment, felt needs, and selfishness.

Where is God? 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

On being OCD

I recently took one of those internet tests to determine my OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) quotient.  The test determined ability to see perspective, color saturation and general misalignment in three “equal” images.  I scored 100%.

I then went on to another test which determined my ability to see a letter hidden behind various strings of colour.  This one was much easier.  I again scored !00%.   I was told I had a 167 IQ – in the top 1% of the world.

So I’m brilliantly obsessive?  Or should that be compulsively intelligent?

And my OCD immediately kicked into gear!

I began to question whether the originators of these test had researched with due diligence (ie. – were obsessive compulsive) and were broad ranging in their research (ie. – were smart enough) to have truly provided an unbiased test.

Ah, such is the true burden of an OCD person!!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Mercy Me

Our church has a fairly free form type of service order.  The general idea is laid out, the songs listed and perhaps a few special events.  We seldom have phrases or prayers recited weekly.

Perhaps we are the worst for this omission?

I have attended a church lately where they have a Christ candle.  This reminds us that God is with us during the service.  And the church attenders can say this phrase off by heart. 

Another phrase is “Lord, have mercy.”

At first I thought this was blasphemous.  My own background teaches that God has brought us mercy in Jesus.  As one phrase states, “Mercy kissed justice.”  And love was fulfilled – God has forgiven us and we are his children.

Until I realized that day-by-day the unfolding of life requires “existential” mercy.  We pray, not perfunctorily or out of only duty.  We pray because God hears and answers.  We pray because we recognize that, given our current circumstances, our stupidity would merit the consequence of punishment. 

And we want mercy.  So we pray for mercy.

A phrase to remember – “Love, have mercy.”

Monday, June 19, 2017

Tribute to Perry Graham–passed away June 19, 2017

This morning, Perry died.  Ushered by God into a better place, yet we are still mindful of the loss.

Perry was a good friend for 41 years.  We had probably met years prior (we both attended the same church when we were babies and toddlers).

In 1976 I moved to Kindersley, Saskatchewan to take up an assistant pastor position at the Kindersley Alliance Church.  Perry, a year older than I, was an active member of the church.  He was also a good fit for a new young pastor that needed encouragement, support and words of wisdom.

In the fall of 1976 I headed to Ontario to get married.  Perry and a few friends decided to take vacation time (harvest was pretty well done) and travel the 1600 miles to witness the wedding.

For four years we worked together as friends, both in church work and as fellow journeymen on life’s path.  I watched as he courted a young lady and officiated their wedding in 1980.  Meanwhile, I returned to studies and ended up 25 years away from Kindersley.

Not that we didn’t converse.  We did.  Our children were close to the same ages.  Our ventures to Kindersley were often at the “Graham Hotel.”

And then we returned to Kindersley in 2005 to pastor once again at the Kindersley Alliance Church.  My first officiating of a wedding in my new/old place of ministry was for Perry’s son.

This past decade has seen shifts in both of our lives.  In the end, we both retired about the same time.  For me, Perry’s diagnosis of cancer was unwelcome news – I had looked forwards to coming years continuing to strengthen our friendship. 

His last breath was this morning around 7:00 am.

I will greatly miss a friend, a spiritual mentor, a loving father, a devoted churchman, and a friend of God.

Rest well in God’s hands!

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