a small angel

Matty’s Angel Picture

Recently, I have been to quite a few funerals and saw the dazed sad faces of the close family as they mourned. Then I saw a competition to write a Valentine story where someone is changed. That’s when this story about a little girl and her neighbour came to me. It had to be no more than 214 words.  I call it

Matty’s Angel Picture

“Where have you been Matty?”said my mother as I came in, late for supper. “Oh, I was just over at Mr. Grantwell’s house.”

“Why go there?”

“Mommy, he was outside and looked sad. I tried to talk to him but he was so grumpy that I left. I decided to make him a pretty picture. Then I went across our lawn and knocked on his door.

“When he saw me, he said, ‘What do you want pestering me again?’

“I said, ‘I just want to give you this picture.’ And I handed it to him. As he looked at it, his face changed. He asked me in.”

“Well, go on .What happened next?”

“After wiping his eyes, he said, ‘ I’ll get you a drink.’ He gave me a glass of juice.

“I said, ‘Thank you. I am sorry my picture made you sad.’

“‘No. It’s just that your angel drawing reminded me of my own little girl. She died about your age. She loved angels. Now my wife’s gone, I’ve no one.’

“I put the glass down and said, ‘ I’m here.’ Then I climbed onto his lap, gave him a hug and cried with him. He hugged me back. That’s all I did this afternoon. He needed someone to love him.”

 

Marsh from tower

WINTER VISIT to Point Pelee

 

On a beautiful crisp Sunday afternoon, we were able to drive to a favourite national park, just 26 km away from our home.It is Point Pelee National Park which offers pleasure to so many families all year round. It made me realize how fortunate we are to live close to the Great  Lakes and near natural beauty like Pelee’s sandy tip where migrating birds come in May and in the autumn. My featured picture shows our neighbour’s children looking over the vast marsh lands and pond from the lookout tower. We met there quite by chance.

 

Young children love the sounds our feet make on the boardwalk. In early spring they enjoy hunting for new life, tadpoles, turtles and muskrats. Here is a picture of a child running around the boardwalk which sounds like clanging boards.  In the Fall, people take canoes out on the pond to spend a quiet hour perusing the sights of the marsh and sharing the experience with family or friends. Last year, it was so cold that children enjoyed skating on this same pond but our temperatures this winter are not so cold.

We headed off  to look at the woodland trail and see if we could spot any tracks. It’s a good time to visit when there are no bugs to bother us. In the woods, nearer the tip is an old cabin once owned by the de Laurier  family. Passing by it or going in during summer hours, shows us how remote life must have been here for a family but also so close to nature. Again Mayia is peering in the door before we joined her one summer.

Going closer to the tip one passes empty beaches where ice and snow how piled up, revealing the weather changes recently and then we go on down to Pelee’s 42nd parallel sign. the park is as far south as Rome and California so it’s a great place for a photograph as a momento, especially because it is painted red and white , the colours of our maple leaf flag.  As we turned round. we saw a family in their bright warm winter jackets head down on the trail right to the point. What a wonderful way to have some healthy exercise on a bright winter day!

Christmas joyjpg

The Joy of Being Invited

As far back as I can remember,the best part of Christmas and New Year has been  parties. So much is anticipated before them, once we receive an invitation either by phone, by email or even in the ordinary posted letter. We feel excited and warmed inside. There is much joy in just being invited and knowing that the day will arrive soon.

As children I knew we’d see our cousins, share games on Boxing day and entertain the adults with singing or small plays. As I look back, it was just great to be totally involved. We played charades, hide and seek, Blind man’s buff and sometimes “Sardines”where we all squashed into a cupboard. There was always a lot of laughter . We challenged each other with guessing games,  and generally ran around our grandmother’s old house. When things quieted down, we were asked to sing carols. My aunt played and we had a way of sharing. The rule was, ‘chose a favourite carol and you sing the first verse.’ My brother had a lovely high voice as a boy and was usually asked to sing Silent Night. We all enjoyed singing Deck the halls with boughs of holly and at least four or five more.

Our four unmarried uncles  enjoyed singing before quietly dropping off to sleep. We were put round the table to get extra trifle and Christmas cake. Later, we’d listen to the adults talking about the days when they were young. It was all special.

I missed these times so much that ,when we were first married, we decided to give a party at Christmas and we continued doing this for 4 years in Malaya and, when we came to Canada, we kept it up for 40 more years till our children were grown up and other commitments got in the way of having the same day- about 5 days before Christmas. We had a wonderful time playing the drawing game with four teams trying to guess the words as someone in each team drew a picture. We enjoyed games adults and children played together such as musical chairs and we always sang carols for our supper!

I miss entertaining in a room where the log fire burned and thirty or more people of all ages crowded in so it was lovely to go to our old friends for a long Christmas lunch this year. We ate, drank and were merry, reminiscing over times gone past. My friend still had his piano and later in the afternoon sat down and played the beloved carols we remembered. The warm hospitality of old friends, the joyous singing and lovely sharing helped to make our Christmas special this year.But, when we sang Once in Royal David’s City, I thought of the child born in a rough cave with a manger for a bed.
That night angels invited the poorest men, the shepherds, to visit this special baby and they, in turn, “spread the word about what they were told about this child and all who heard were amazed at what the shepherds told them.” ( Luke 2:17-18) I am sure this brought others in to see Jesus. That night, out of sheer love for all of us, God let His Son come to earth to bring us joy, peace and love as well as giving an invitation to any who listened. Each year we are invited to celebrate that unique birth. Now, 2,000 years later, the spirit of love still warms our hearts so we want to spread it around, share it with family and friends and hold the joy in our hearts for years to come.

I’d love to know if you have some family traditions you share each year. They enrich our lives and stay in our memories.

Refugees

Being Compassionate to All in Need

Recently our new government promised to bring  25,000 refugees to  Canada before 2016. Since the terrible killigs in France and the fear of individual militants, some people have reservations. As Christians I do not think we should fear; we are people with hope in our hearts and we must show that by our actions. Our government says there will be careful screening and they will go ahead.

I have a friend in London Ontario, the Rev.Canon Kevin George who heads up an Anglican Parish. His congregation under his keen guidance are preparing to help a new Syrian refugee family which I think is wonderful.Here are some of his words.

“I believe that we who are members of the church need to place our voice in the public square as a people who support Refugee Resettlement. I am heartened by the response from so many Christian Communities across Canada who have done the work necessary to rescue Syrian Families from the terror that they have been living. I can include St Aidan’s in that group, as well as the Deanery of London. Our church community has begun the work to bring two families here. Our Deanery is ready to also begin work for our first two families.

We have a strong history in being a people who offer sanctuary and help to refugees. Perhaps the church is so compelled because Jesus himself was a refugee. We have plenty of reason to reach out, to be welcoming, and to be hospitable.

I read a piece entitled What the Bible Says About How to Treat Refugees[1] on Relevant Magazine’s webpage, In it they list twelve passages of scripture that address how we as a people of God ought to be present to those who need help, those who are without a place to call home. It was well done – so here they are some”  that I, Jane chose.

God Loves the Foreigner Residing Among You

‘He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.’ (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)

‘So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against…those who deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty. ‘(Malachi 3:5)

 And Jesus tells us clearly to invite the Stranger In

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (Matthew 25:25-36)                                                                                   For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)

There are more if you wish to find them and read Canon Kevin’s blog at http://canonkevin.com/2015/11/18/scripture-and-refugees/

We can do no better that the way Jesus showed us: to love our neighbours and even our enemies, do good, be compassionate and help all we can. These very refugees could be an asset to our country; they are often well educated and will value our peaceful democracy. We have put it off too long. Too many are suffering, hungry and sick. Let us try to help as long as we are able. The benefits for us all may amaze us and we will grow in Christ too through loving actions.

To do this we need  to be understanding of other cultures not ignore and fear them; that would be a sin. Let’s return to pray as God promised (in 2 Chron.2:14.”If my people, whom I have called by my name, will humble themselves, pr ay, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” AMEN

Listening and understanding at any age

Listening and Understanding

   Recently I have needed some help hearing and this has made me more conscious of listening carefully. I find that a hearing aid helps especially when I am involved in working with a small group at church or in a nursing home. Then different levels of voices come clearer to me.  It made me think of the Bible quotation about the importance of really hearing. Paul wrote, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17 To hear well we need to have some understanding so with faith, the Bible helps. There we are taught caring and compassion through noting Jesus’ own example.

Deitrich Bonhoeffer stated that the first aid to listening  actively is ‘listening with love’. Sometimes as parents we think we know what a child is saying and don’t listen well. I can remember a teenager saying to me, “Oh Mum, you’re not listening to me!” As I look back at what I said in reply, it’s obvious that I needed to listen to her with more loving care. I did not really have enough patience to listen well. Now, as I have got older and life has slowed me down, I am trying to listen fully and allow all the ideas to come out. I found this conji on Dr. Baab’s blog and noted how the writing shows what we need to listen’our ears, eyes, heart and undivided attention.Chinese for Listening

Since I have been doing pastoral care, I spend more time listening and this often leads to questions that bring out more details from a sick patient or older friend. Once at a Hospice session on listening skills, I tried to listen fully and I found that I wanted to ask short questions such as ,’How long has this been bothering you?’ If we ask the right questions, we will learn more and build trust with another person as we show that care.

 I often read good blogs by Dr. Lynne Baab (http://www.lynnebaab.com/blog/holy-listening) who wrote once that active listening requires detective skills. I think a listener needs to be aware of body language; if there is distress, a speaker may twist hands together or have certain facial expressions. I think noting body language is half of listening. She also quotes Henri Noewen and says, “I like Nouwen’s phrase ‘interior stability.’ There’s no doubt in my mind that interior stability or inner peace helps facilitate listening. This is just one of the good points Dr. Baab makes. It points to being at peace with our self so we can give another attention; it reveals humility to listen instead of talk and Dr. Baab says to ‘play the game’ of trying to say less.

Jesus was a consummate listener; he spent much of his ministry in one to one encounters with individuals and small groups. What he said after hearing them was to the point and truthful. He understood what he was about. In ministry as well as in the home, good listening is vital to build  good relationships. The only way we can know how to help others is to listen to them.

God listens to our prayers and complaints all the time. If we learn how to listen, we will improve our own prayer time with God and hear His voice. Jesus gave us a counsellor in the Holy Spirit and I can remember a time when I felt I heard a voice telling me to visit a sick woman. I went and 2 days later, she died. The time we has together at the hospital was special. With His help, we will be better listeners and understand others so we can serve their needs with love.

 I can highly recommend Rev. Dr. Lynne Baab’s blogs at http://www.lynnebaab.com

My great grandfather who founded a church with 9 other men in 1890's

Do you want to discover more family history?

Recently, I was talking to an older lady who wished she’d asked her parents more questions about their lives and relations. I could have said the same thing. I never asked either of my parents about their early life. My mother just told me snippets that grabbed my interest such as my grandmother’s love of visiting churches and her enjoyment of flowers. This came up because my mother saw my own keen interest in our local cathedral in Canterbury. Years later, I discovered that my great grandfather was a Welsh Baptist who helped found a church in Ynyshir, South Wales. Being involved in church ministry, I was delighted with this information which is an important part of my heritage. We became Anglicans after my parents moved to Kent in 1929 but my love of the Bible I feel sure comes from my Welsh family background.

Have you got questions about your own family members who have died? If so, I suggest you ask anyone old enough to remember them to tell you all they know. If they have links with the UK, there are many records on line through Ancestry and also through the Family Records Centre in London UK. In the past, I helped an older lady who thought her family had come to Canada after 1881. A check on the 1901 census in Alberta proved that one great-uncle was born in Ontario in 1865 so she had to re-think when the family came here.

Looking at local history of South Western Ontario, I find many families came as loyalists from USA in the late18th century and quite a few pioneers came from Scotland in the early 19th century. Their names have now been used for local roads and their families still live in our area. It is fascinating to think of settlers who were part of the local militia during the War of 1812-14 and the 1838 rebellion. This past summer, two Church members ensured that their loyal ancestors were acknowledged in restored stones commemorating their part in the 1812-14 War. Visiting one site in a bush, we could imagine how people lived so long ago. I read The Trail of the Black Walnut by G Elmore Reaman published in 1957. It is an absorbing account of what happened to one group of these Loyalists–the thousands of men and women known as the Pennsylvania Dutch who toiled through a trackless wilderness to reach Upper Canada.

Another lady I knew came from Russia along with many Mennonites who were escaping persecution in the early part of the 20th century. It was a hair raising journey to get here. They also spoke German and there was intermarriage with German immigrants too. Some family names were changed because the numerator could not spell or because they chose to blend in; that was hard on the family, I’m sure.

Does your family has a special story to tell, one that you could take pride in knowing? There is always a chance to find out. There are also many useful sites on the internet which help with immigration. PIER 21 has a website for those who landed first in Halifax and I realize we did just that in 1965. Through that website we discovered the actual name of a boat one man’s family came on from Ireland. The University of Waterloo(https://personal.uwaterloo.ca/marj/genealogy/thevoyage.html) has also done plenty of research on immigrants and the way they arrived here too. Local History and Genealogical Societies have much to offer. Through our local HEIRS resource centre(http://www.heirs.ca/), I discovered land records and found that our present home was rented before 1870! Now I need to track backwards to see if there is an early sale of land.

We are fortunate these days to have so many resources on the internet that help us be more accurate when we write up any family history. Fall is a great time to consider doing this. The children are back at school and you can take the time for a quiet chat with an older relative.

You can help to leave a treasure of information for your children. Just think of the possibilities. I will continue this theme in my next few blogs with more useful ideas.

Bringing Hope and Joy through Positive Help

African Choir

At a concert today , I discovered how money from us can feed and educate many children. I went to hear Uganda Children’s Choir at 11am after church. I first heard them in 1988, again in the 1990’s and 2004 .Every time I have been bowled over by the joyfulness of these young children(7-11 years old) as they sing. They are full of the Holy Spirit and wonderfully alive to the rhythmic music of praise songs and newer African songs.  The program called Music for Life has spread to several African countries and over 30 years, has benefited 52,000 children.

At the church  about 600 people were watching them and choosing to donate to their needs. We were shown a film of the poverty in Uganda and then shown the children in a school where they are cared for and taught all subjects so eventually they can help their families and country . They are well fed and some of our small donations go towards an improvement of life for them. They each told us about what they’d like to be in future and they were most specific; their ambitions ranged from being a policeman to being a nurse, a pilot, a teacher and a dentist. With positive encouragement and experiences from travelling as a choir, they have the chance to make their goal.

Another organisation I love is the Gospel for Asia (http://www.gfa.ca/)    which builds ‘Jesus Wells’ in different villages, feeds people physically and spiritually and helps in emergencies such as the one in Nepal. We need to knock down walls of poverty little by little.  With God’s help through prayer we can do this. GAF has a program called Bridge of Hope that constantly allows poor children to get help in life. There they are housed, educated and helped to discover the joy that is possible in life. In the same way the Christian Blind Mission (http://www.cbmcanada.org/) has expanded its work to help children with all kinds of disabilities all over the world. They are even using the benefits of 3D printing to make prostheses for legs and arms right where they are needed. Having seen how this improves life for children I admire the marvellous efforts of these Christian organisations.

How sad that there are places in the world where some are actively keeping refugees out. Maybe one day there will be more compassion less violence, more understanding and a welcoming attitude.. I do realize that more people are a burden on a small country but through agencies cooperating, there could be further developments to help families in need. Doctors without Borders (http://www.msf.ca/ ) have done a wonderful job to stop the spread of diseases as well as care for the poor in many camps Our support of the many wonderful organisations can give those of us, better off, an opportunity to bring some hope and joy into young lives.