Mince Tarts

Shopping this morning, we found some mince tarts… one of my favourite Christmas traditions in our family. I’ve tried to find a reference online, but have not been able to find anything quite the same. Mince tarts are considered lucky. The custom for us included having mince tarts in December: every tart (or slice of a larger mince pie) represented good luck for one month in the coming year. Which was generally not difficult for me.

Some years, however, I’ve not quite completed the task. Last year, I remember, was a busy holiday season. So I only got ten of my twelve requisite tarts. Which took me through to October. Right up until about the time of the American election. That might help explain a few things.

So I bought a box of tarts and am all set to start December first. I may not believe a lot in lucky traditions, but I do believe that in 2017 we will need as much help as we can get.

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Remembrance Day 2016

On Remembrance Day in Canada (called Veteran’s Day in the States) I am often reflective (as I was in a post 5 years ago). I remember in Junior High (I think it was in English class, Grade 8), I had to memorize and recite “In Flander’s Fields” on November 11th. Far from being a threatening experience (one of my first times standing up in front of class… and for a teacher whom I respected), I learned a lot from it. I came to respect the decisions made in the past that have brought us to war. Even though I’m a pacifist, even though I think that most of our leaders go to war far too easily, I have to respect that being part of my culture and the socio-political system that I was born into. Although I’ve never officially been part of any army or drawn weapons against another (and hope I never have to), I’ve had enough brushes with the subject and have friends in the Forces (of one country or another) that I’ve come to where my respect for the military abounds. So each year around Remembrance Day I take time to honour the sacrifices and efforts of others to build the freedom that I enjoy today.

This Remembrance Day is a little darker than most I remember, certainly than any over the last few years. And it’s because, more than I have recently, I wonder where our world is headed. Watching the U.S. Election over the last few months, and particularly to see how far one of the candidates was willing to go… or rather, perhaps, how deeply he was willing to delve… rather shocked me. And then to see that he was rewarded for mastering such a rhetoric of evil: that saddened me. It did not surprise me, but it darkened the world in my eyes. That so many people were willing to vote for such a person is a bleak testimony to our time, our world.

Part of the reason that I find this so sad is that I don’t think the sacrifices we remember today were made with this kind of “freedom” in mind. Freedom to love, yes. Freedom to pursue our dreams, absolutely. Freedom to be who we were intended to be, whatever our gender, orientation, race or religion: without question. But freedom to exploit? No. Freedom to say or do whatever we want, justified by wealth or ambition? Absolutely not. Freedom to portray the kind of hatred and abuse that one of the candidates was not only accused of, but actively portrayed before our very eyes: a thousand times no.

That kind of freedom was not what our friends and forebears died for in the past. But I believe it is what will lead to more death than we can imagine in the future.

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Signs and Wonders

This is a reprint of a piece that I wrote in the yearbook for Moody Bible Institude, 1987, “Modern Classic”. The format was a bit messed up in the original publication: probably because it was a bit long. So I wanted to reprint it as originally intended. There are a couple of minor changes in wording.

Chicago – 100 miles
We pass them all the time, everywhere we go. We hardly bother to notice them, yet we need them to get where we want to go. They sit on the side of the road, just signs, pointing quite unobtrusively to a destination that is far from where they are.

Chicago – 80 miles
Jesus Christ is our destination. He stands on the horizon and beckons us toward him – and we walk, run, scramble and crawl in his direction. He’s our primary reference point. By looking at him and drawing on His power, we can tell exactly how close we are to what we were meant to be.

Chicago – 60 miles
But sometimes things get in the way. We fall into dark holes or stumble along some obscure path; we look in the wrong direction or simply decide that the road is too difficult and we want a rest… now. That’s when it gets hard to see where we’re going. It hurts. It’s frightening when we  feel like we’re lost.

Chicago – 40 miles
That’s why God put other signposts along the way. They, of course, are not the actual destination; they simply point the way. They’re people. And they’re flawed, though they can still point to the right road. Usually the best ones are the people who aren’t trying to be what they are; they’re too tired and bruised and heartsick trying to get to the destination. Trying so hard to follow they’re not worried about trying to point. They show the way simply by going that way.
A neon sign with fluorescent lettering and flighing lights draws more attention to itself than it does to what it wants to say. But that’s the way our society thinks: make the sign more spectacular, and then they’ll see the directions.

Chicago – 20 miles
When I think of a parallel of a sign that points to God, I picture one of those little, rustic signposts that sits out on a country lane, rather weatherbeaten and slightly tilted. It has only one or two words on it, and sometimes it doesn’t even have the mileage. But the wery traveller who passes by is glad to see it.
I suppose that’s why it’s been some of the more quiet people on campus who have impressed me this semester. Shouts and raucus laughter fade quickly from memory, but the sounds of silence linger with a haunting stimulation in his room. Snow falling in the plaza, Third Coast and Coffee Chicago., That quiet quality, so subtle and yet so powerful, seems to be what really touches a man’s heart.

Chicago – 10 miles
So, Lord, Grant me the ability to clamber after you, and in so doing I learn to point. Thanks for those who’ve taught me so far. I’ll await the morning I’ll wake up and find that I don’t have to point any more. I’ll be


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Farewell: June Bowles

The last few days have been a whirlwind, so I’s like to thank all those who have helped out or sent condolences since my mother died on September 2nd. It seems quick, but we have balanced priorities to come out with a date to say farewell to June:

A visitation will be held at the R.S. Kane Funeral Home (6150 Yonge St) tomorrow, September 6th, from 2:00 until 4:00 and from 7:00 until 9:00. We will then have the funeral at St. Johns York Mills Anglican Church (19 Don Ridge Drive, near Yonge & York Mills) at 11:00am on Wednesday morning, September 7th. In lieu of flowers we will be asking people to donate to one of the Alzheimer’s Associations, however we are still arranging the details for that. I will post that information this afternoon.

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Candlelight Vigil for Orlando

I was at church this morning when I was told about the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando: now the worst shooting in U.S. history, it was apparently motivated by hatred for queer people. It was a hard thing to hear; my days of “clubbing” are not so far in the past. I read the news and skimmed the blogs. I wanted to do something to help, and I came upon an announcement of a Vigil being organized. Some of my pictures are on my flickr blog: a couple are at right. There were speakers and we encouraged each other; hundreds of people showed up. I went down alone, and found a friend or two who had similarly sought (and found) human companionship. For me one of the best moments was when we all joined hands across the park, people we knew and people we didn’t know, joining our hearts together to pray for those who were affected. For those moments I think we all felt the benefits of community.

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You can take the boy out of the south…

Pictured at right was tonight’s dinner. Yes, you have it right: canned turnip greens and cornbread. And not just any cornbread: Jiffy cornbread. I got these as a present for Tim when I fount them; they are ubiquitous in Arkansas, easy to make, inexpensive (I think I got two boxes for a dollar) and they are yummy. Note that listed on the ingredients, however, is the key: “animal shortening”, composed of, among other things: “lard”. You don’t find that in too many places these days. The meal was very much a throwback to old comfort food: not exactly vegetarian, but low in meat and inexpensive. I’m often impressed with what you can make at low cost. Although I would rather make both these from scratch, which Tim frequently does later in the summer: the salt content of the prepared foods was a bit on the high side.

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Pow Wow 2016

Yesterday Tim and I attended our first event sponsored by the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto (NCCT). It was quite interesting; we stayed to see a significant amount of the dancing and the discussions. Although I know that I felt a bit of an outsider, there was a strong attempt to make the day welcoming to all. We thoroughly enjoyed some of the dancing and presentations, and we did our best to support the community by buying some materials from the vendors. One in particular was a little shop where the the parents of the owners (grandparents of the young woman we spoke to) had written a cookbook with a native flair. We bought one and took it home; Tim was quite excited to find nearly a chapter on different kinds of cornbread, and some presentations on different techniques common among the native peoples. It was a great day, wonderfully bright and sunny.

The announcer was quite good: he was from Alberta, brought in for the event. I’ve done my own bit of announcing at rodeos, and it is not an easy task to keep people watching and waiting between unpredictable events. One has to be quick thinking and knowledgeable about the reason for the gathering: one has to be able to speak on a whim about far-ranching subjects that bring people together to celebrate what is happening. And one has to have an element of timing that is sufficient to keep people’s interest, and yet not be continually demanding that they listen.

The event was held at Downsview Park: once the Downsview Air Force Base of my youth, the area is being converted to general use as a large, urban national park, and sections are being built up for housing. The organizers of the event brought in stands and made an arena, through which they introduced all the participants and performers. I was particularly interested in the agenda: I had not known this, but the Pow Wow’s stricture was the same as what I am familiar with at our rodeos. We all sat in stands that were arranged in an arena; there was a grand entry, anthem, prayer and a posting of the colours. It was quite a bit different from what I’ve experiences in my culture, but the structure helped to make me that much more comfortable.

Some of my pictures are at left; more are my flickr site. Unfortunately, I realized after we had arrived that I had forgotten my camera card, and it was too late to go back to get it. So I made do with my cell phone. Which was good enough, but not the quality I was used to. I did get a few shots of the arena as things started. In many ways, set where we were, it was not too difficult to forget that we were in the middle of the city. There was one tree that over-arched the festivities; the announcer referred to it as the prayer tree. It seems that in the city there were some aspects of their usual activities that were not possible, but that tree was supposed to be the base from which they would at least agree to recognize the things that were missing. I suppose we all compromise when we shift places.

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