Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Friday, May 24, 2024

Everything AND the Kitchen Sink...

Being a homeowner means living life constantly on the edge of wonder. I wonder which appliance will be the next to break down? I wonder how long our furnace or water heater will hold out? I wonder if it’s time to replace the shingles, the windows, the concrete? I wonder how old these plumbing fixtures are? I wonder when the next big expense will happen and how much it will cost?

You could call it a wonder-filled life.

One of my wonderings found its answer recently. While washing lettuce in the kitchen sink, I first noticed my feet sticking to the flooring. Well-worn Manitobah mukluks on my feet meant I couldn’t tell they were wet. Then I saw water on the floor. At first, I thought I’d simply slopped a bit. Then I realized the rug in front of the sink was soaked. Then I noticed water pouring out of the cupboard below the sink.

Uh oh. Major trouble. Supper could wait.

The next forty minutes were spent pulling stuff out from under the sink and sopping up water with old towels. With the cupboard empty and a bucket beneath the pipes, I carefully opened the tap while Hubby inspected, using his high-powered flashlight. The faucet and its workings were leaking, all right.

After hanging up all the soaked towels and rug and moving the contents of the cupboard out of the way, I finished supper preparations. I couldn’t believe how difficult it was to not flip on the tap for a quick rinse of spoons or fingers. My brain does not enjoy forming new habits. After supper, I tied bright orange tape around the faucet as a deterrent.

Now to figure out how to do dishes. I scrubbed my big red mop bucket in the bathtub and filled it with hot water twice. I poured the first pailful into one side of the kitchen sink with dish soap and the second into the other side for rinsing. Seemed like a big hardship, until it occurred to me what an absolute luxury that would have been to my mother back on the farm, or her mother before her. Imagine, hot water straight out of the tap and carrying it only 14 steps (I counted), all of them indoors. Suddenly, my annoyance at this minor inconvenience gave me cause for gratitude. The dishes got done.

I began to Google kitchen faucets, figuring if we needed to replace ours anyway, this provided a chance for an upgrade. The next morning at Canadian Tire, I found one on sale that was a step up from our old one. I shelled out $156.75, then called the plumber who brought our grand total to $251.95 which Hubby can almost earn in two eight-hour shifts at the gas bar. Easy-peazy.

No, home ownership is not for the faint of heart but less than 24 hours after discovering the leak, we were up and running with a new and improved faucet. Truth is, I’d been meaning to clean under the kitchen sink for weeks. You know how grubby that space becomes, especially if it’s where you keep your trash can, like we do. This forced emptying of the cupboard provided the perfect, no-excuse opportunity.

The next week, we discovered our garden hose nozzle and attachment needed replacing, another $75 at the hardware store which I can earn by selling only 15 books or 75 e-books, about a month’s work. Piece of cake.

I wonder what will quit next week?

“A house is built by wisdom, and it is established by understanding…” Proverbs 24:3.

Friday, May 17, 2024

Some Long Weekend Trivia

Do you know a 21-year-old woman? Cement her firmly in your mind. Now imagine her marrying the love of her life, who’s the same age. Nine months later, their first child arrives. Over the next 16 years, she gives birth to eight more children while also managing a successful and important career. After 21 years of a happy marriage, her husband dies at the age of 42, when their children range in age from four to 20. She mourns her husband for the rest of her life and never remarries.

By now, if you know your history, you’ll know that all of this happened to Queen Victoria, whose birthday we commemorate this long weekend. Isn’t it hard to imagine all this happening to a woman today? I thought I’d investigate what became of those nine children of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (who were first cousins. Not uncommon among the royals in their day.)

Princess Royal Victoria (1840–1901). Nicknamed “Vicky” and given her title of “Princess Royal” at the age of one, she married Prince Frederick William of Prussia. Following his death, Vicky lived as empress dowager before her death from breast cancer at age 60.

Prince Edward VII (1841–1910). Given the title of Prince of Wales, he became King upon the death of Queen Victoria in 1901. Reigning for only nine years, he was known as a peacemaker for fostering good relations with foreign powers. His son King George V succeeded him.

Princess Alice (1843–1878). Known for her nursing, she befriended Florence Nightingale and played an active role in military hospitals. Alice died from diphtheria in 1878, the first of three of Queen Victoria’s children to be outlived by their mother.

Prince Alfred (1844–1900) joined the Royal Navy at age 14 and obtained the rank of Admiral in 1893. He married Maria Alexandrovna, the daughter of Emperor Alexander II of Russia.

Princess Helena (1846–1923) Highly engaged in charitable institutions and a founding member of the British Red Cross, she married Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein.

Princess Louise (1848–1939) was 13 when her father died. She pursued a career as a sculptor and became a strong advocate of higher education and the feminist cause.

Prince Arthur (1850–1942) served in the British Army for 40 years, remaining active in the military into the Second World War.

Prince Leopold (1853– 1884) inherited the blood disorder hemophilia from his mother and was reputed to suffer from epilepsy, hindering his chances of joining the military. Instead, Leopold became a patron of the arts and acted as his mother’s unofficial secretary.

Princess Beatrice (1857– 1944) became the editor of her mother’s journals. She died in 1944 as Victoria’s last surviving child.

Queen Victoria died from a cerebral hemorrhage on January 22, 1901, at age 81. Of the approximately 28 surviving monarchies around the world, five are held by descendants of Victoria (England, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Denmark. King Phillippe of Belgium also has ties to the family.) She is King Charles III’s great-great-great grandmother on both sides. A quick Google search tells me that today, her descendants number over 1200, with 983 of those currently alive and scattered all over the world. No wonder she’s referred to as “The Grandmother of Europe.”

As for me, I love the words of I Peter 2:9, which apply to all believers: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

Painting of Queen Victoria's family / Public Domain


Friday, May 10, 2024

When Mother's Day Feels Like Other's Day

We started watching a family-friendly TV series (which shall remain nameless in case you happen to love it) where the first episode begins on Mother’s Day. Parents with five adult kids, their partners, and some grandchildren are gathered in a beautiful backyard on a perfectly lovely day. They’re all perfectly gorgeous. They’ve just finished a delicious brunch. It’s not clear who cooked the meal, but I bet it wasn’t Mom.

Now it’s time for Mom to open her perfectly chosen gifts. She receives a necklace she loves, earrings to match, a sweater that fits, a scarf to go with it, and a gift card for an evening out with Dad (the doctor who adores her and tells her how much she deserves it all). Everybody expresses their love and appreciation to Mom, with the obligatory sibling competitiveness thrown in to keep it real. They make plans for their next family dinner in a week.

So heartwarming I wanted to throw up.

Just me?

Granted, the show then delved into some pretty heavy family problems and I understand that over the course of the series, each offspring takes their turn to face a personal crisis that affects the whole family. The show is probably designed to model for viewers (or readers of the novels it’s based on) how tough circumstances can be handled in healthier ways. That’s never a bad thing.

I just wonder how many people feel represented by these characters. I hate to sound like a bitter old woman, but first of all, how do you raise five children and convince them all to live within come-for-brunch distance? How does no one have to work that day? How is no one sick? How is there not at least one individual at odds with another, refusing to attend? How do they coordinate the food and have everyone bring what they said they’d bring, and on time?

How do they all have money for gifts? How do they communicate so well that they can coordinate said gifts? How do they even think of it in time to have a gift purchased, wrapped, and ready by brunch time?

Some of the kids are mothers themselves. How do they prefer brunch with their parents and siblings over a restaurant with their spouse? Some of them have mothers-in-law. How do they not need to spend time with her? Is there a grandmother in the equation, sitting home alone and forgotten?

So many questions. I suppose that’s why they call it fiction.

The setup in this story well represents the ideal picture that a mother of grown children might imagine if she allowed herself to dream. If she had magically managed to raise such thoughtful, organized, wealthy people. If life hadn’t taught her to lower her expectations so that even a text or phone call on Mother’s Day provides cause for celebration. If she’d learned not to beat herself up as a failure when her picture-perfect Mother’s Day doesn’t materialize.

If you’ve come to expect a Mother’s Day that won’t result in Facebook-worthy family photos of smiling faces, flowers, and food, you are not alone. You won’t be the only one scrolling social media, wishing your day looked more like someone else’s or trying to feel genuinely happy for your friends.

But you’re also not the only one who loves her kids more than life. Motherhood has taught you more about love than a million perfect Mother’s Days ever could. You walk around in a body that has spent itself to give others life and nourishment. You carry inside you a heart that beats grace a thousand times every day, lungs that breathe hope and healing for your children all their lives long, a spirit that prays for them unceasingly. These gifts may not come wrapped in pretty paper, but they are gifts. They’re yours to cherish and use with gratitude and joy in this perfectly imperfect world.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Friday, May 3, 2024

Swimming in Fog

We hosted our three oldest grandsons for a sleepover halfway through their spring break. I thought an afternoon at the pool would provide a great way to burn off some adolescent energy, and the boys certainly weren’t opposed. Before leaving the house, I reminded them at least twice to remember their swimming suits and towels. Once everyone loaded into the car, I asked again. Trunks? Check. Towels? Check.

Away we went, grateful to live so near Stride Place. Nobody was surprised to find the parking lot full, but we found a space some distance from the doors and the boys barreled out. I looked around my feet. Where was my purse? I must have put it in my tote bag with my bathing suit. I opened the back of the vehicle and checked my bag. No purse. I never forget my purse.

How humiliating. “Sorry boys. I have no way to pay. We need to run home for my purse.”

At least we hadn’t gone all the way inside. I gave them the option of staying there or coming home with me, and they all piled back into the car. Luckily, it’s only a five-minute drive. Graciously, the boys said nothing but they certainly could have ribbed me. I ran inside, grabbed my purse, and away we went. Again.

When I opened my purse to pay for our swim time, I discovered I’d forgotten my cell phone. I never forget my cell phone.

Oh well, not a huge deal. I could live without it for a couple of hours. I just wouldn’t be able to text hubby to let him know when to expect us home.

Unfamiliar with how the change room lockers worked, I hadn’t known to bring padlocks. I purchased two—one for me and one for the boys—increasing the price of our activity by thirty percent. (Although, without the calculator on my phone, my math could be off.)

The boys and I parted ways and reconvened in our swimwear on the pool side, locker keys firmly attached to our wrists with the rubber bands provided. This being spring break, the pool was shoulder-to-shoulder people. Plenty of grandparents with grandkids, like us, as well as parents. I checked out the hot tub first, then dog-paddled around while the boys rough-housed. Once the lineup at the slide shortened, they tried that. I did not. Two hours seemed plenty for them, so back to the change rooms we went.

I opened my locker.

Inside, I found someone else’s stuff. What?

I checked the number. I’d opened the wrong locker. Mine was two doors over. Why had my key worked in someone else's lock?

I locked it, then opened mine. No problem. Was I losing my mind?

After dressing and returning to the lobby, I told the receptionist my weird story. He suggested that maybe the other person had not actually clicked their padlock properly closed, in which case I only thought my key opened it.

Now new thoughts tortured me. What if the person deliberately left their lock unlocked because they didn’t have the key but wanted it to appear locked?

I guess I’ll never know. I do know the whole experience felt a bit surreal. I chalked up my forgetfulness to lingering brain fog after fighting a month-long virus. Or the stress of having to oversee three minors when I’m no longer used to it. Or fatigue from missing my afternoon nap. Probably all three. Certainly not old age.

It felt good to get home.

“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.” (1 Corinthians 14:33)

Friday, April 26, 2024

How is this Okay?

Have you noticed how often men are made to look stupid in commercials? With my radio on as I worked around my kitchen one day, I counted three ads within an hour that all used some variation of the same worn-out trope. Hubby is trying to repair or accomplish something. Wife advises him to call Business X or to purchase Product Y. Hubby refuses, insisting he’s got things under control. Except he doesn’t. By the time the 15 or 30-second spot ends, he realizes he should have listened to his wife in the first place.

Can you imagine if they flipped the script? Hubby suggests calling the plumber or the designer or the realtor but the wife resists because she can handle it herself. Then the dilemma blows up in her face and she acknowledges her husband had the better idea. How well would an ad like that be received?

I recently read the script for a stage play called The Smell of the Kill by Michele Lowe, described on its webpage as a “tantalizing new comedy that had Broadway audiences cheering.” In the play, a cast of three women complain about their husbands (who remain offstage). Granted, the men have behaved badly, so viewers naturally side with the wives. But when the husbands accidentally lock themselves into a frozen meat locker, the wives spend the remainder of the play trying to decide whether to free them or to let nature take its course so they can rid themselves of the losers. They discuss the pros and cons, arguing their points while the audience howls. Eventually, the women decide to vote.

A dark comedy, for sure. I understand that. I just can’t help wondering how much the audience would laugh if we reversed the roles. Imagine if some community theatrical company somewhere, miraculously, had more male than female members and decided to flip the script so that the wives were locked up and the husbands debated about leaving them to die? No matter that the wives had committed the exact same crimes as the men in the original version. I suspect you’d hear howling at that play, too, but not howls of laughter. Who would dare?

It’s a double standard. I understand—sort of—why we’re okay with it. Women have been trodden upon for millennia, therefore men became fair game. I get it. But how does belittling men elevate women? If anything, such scenarios make women look like children and keep us down. If it’s equality women want, then humor needs to be equally funny (or not funny) either way it’s portrayed.

This is one reason I love Jesus so much. I’m a woman who has wanted to throw her Bible across the room when I’ve read how horribly women were abused in the Old Testament, seemingly while God gives a thumbs-up. Then, in the New Testament, Jesus comes along and changes the landscape. He treats women with kindness and dignity. He grants them protection. He engages them in meaningful conversation. After his resurrection, he appears first to women, fully knowing their reports will be dismissed merely because they’re female. He tells us that if we want to know what our heavenly Father is truly like, we should look at Jesus—not at his creepy, misogynistic forefathers. The more we become like Him, the more we will respect our fellow human beings, regardless of gender.

The Battle of the Sexes will not go away simply because I decided to rant, but we need to remember that sexism works both ways. If we’re not okay with the one, why are we okay with the other?


Friday, April 19, 2024

Lessons from My New Babies

On the official first day of spring, I decided to start some seeds indoors for transplantation outdoors when the time comes. A new-to-me, money-saving venture. In two packages of zinnia seeds costing $1.50 each, I counted 60 seeds. Imagine getting 60 bedding plants for the price of one! I’d seen online where someone used cardboard egg cartons to start the seeds, one per cup, and then simply planted the whole tray so the paper could decompose and the seedlings would be evenly spaced. Seemed like a great plan.

I covered my kitchen table with newspaper and cut the lids off the five egg cartons I’d been saving. I stirred up some potting soil with water to make a nice mud, then spooned some into each egg cup, kind of like making drop cookies. After pressing the tops flat, I poked a one-quarter-inch hole in the center of each with a chopstick. Then, using tweezers, I dropped a seed into each hole and covered it with the soil.

I lined old cookie sheets with newspaper and placed the egg cartons on them, then lay them on a table in the living room where direct sunlight pours in for nine or more hours a day. I kept the soil damp. By Day Four, the first tiny sprouts appeared.

How many gazillions of times has this little ancient miracle played out on this earth? Yet still, it’s worthy of our awe. We can plant and water and fertilize, but we cannot give life. We cannot make a seed to save our lives. If God does not do his life-giving part, nothing happens. Partnership at its finest.

By Day Six, half the sprouts were up and the keeners among them reached for the sun. Now I’m watching, watering, and wondering. Will some fail to sprout? Will the plants become root-bound in those tiny egg cups before my garden’s warm enough to receive them? Will the paper disintegrate and everything fall apart? Already, I realize I’ll need to cut each cup apart or they’ll stand too close together to thrive in the garden.

Gosh, this gardening feels a lot like parenting.

Here’s the thing. If a seed fails, my first question is not, “What’s wrong with it?”

Instead, I wonder what it needs that it isn’t getting. I’m asking where I’ve failed.

Yet how often, when we see someone—perhaps ourselves—who isn’t growing like we think they ought, do we wonder what’s wrong with them instead of asking what they need? Seeds are made to grow. Given the right environment—soil, water, sun—they will. You and I were made to grow, too—physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. We’re made to thrive, to become stronger the more we grow, the more challenges we overcome. When that doesn’t happen, it doesn’t mean something’s wrong with us. It means we need something we haven’t received.

Asking the right question can lead to better answers and help us to be kind to ourselves and others. My baby plants depend on me—without asking, begging, demanding, or worrying. They simply receive what I offer and do what they were made to do.

We thrive best when we allow the One who created us in the first place to be our source of light, our wellspring of nourishment, our foundation of love, our cradle of understanding, and our font of wisdom. When we stop striving and struggling. When we simply bask in his provisions and then do what He made us to do.


Friday, April 12, 2024

Where Do I Go to Renounce my Senior Citizenship? Part 2 of 2

Last week, I wrote about the humiliating fall I took on some ice and how unimpressed I feel with senior citizenship so far. As my Granny used to say, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.”

The virus I thought I’d beaten before my fall swept in with a whole new vengeance, knocking me out for weeks.

My errands remained unrun. I stayed home from church, small group, and everything else. I rescheduled a chiropractor appointment—which might have been helpful after my fall—only to cancel again a week later when I was still barking like a seal. Thankfully, I had enough pre-written columns stockpiled to see my readers through, as long as I remembered to email them on time. No actual writing got done, only lots of coughing, sleeping, reading, watching of British period dramas on TV, and staring out the window waiting for the angel of death.

This is not me and I do not look this good when I'm sick.

I ventured out to the clinic with Hubby as my chauffeur, remembering with chagrin that when he’d had the same illness, he’d driven himself to the doctor. He took care of my errands. He even picked up my prescription for me—antibiotics and an inhaler. A week later, the drugs were gone and the symptoms still raged.

Our small group delivered a care package of soup, ham, muffins, cookies, cinnamon buns, and cheesecake—which almost made the ordeal worthwhile. Hubby was introduced to grocery shopping, and I was introduced to store-bought freezer meals and salad kits (which could all too easily become habit-forming).

Eventually, I discovered that by tackling one task per day, like cleaning a bathroom or throwing in some laundry, we could survive. But it was all I could manage. I’d crawl into bed and force myself to mentally count my blessings. Cozy bed. Warm blankets. My house. Cough syrup. Hot drinks. Tissues. Can you imagine going through a cold or flu with only fabric handkerchiefs and then having to launder them all with only a scrub board and clothesline? Yes, one can always find plenty for which to be grateful.

I know I’m not alone, and it’s not merely my age. Chances are, you’ve been plagued with a similar bug and its lingering symptoms. The difference is, I have a blog and get to whine about it in a public space. I hope you’ll consider this a rant on your behalf as well.

As I write this, I am finally seeing some light at the end of the viral tunnel which has kept my brain in a virtual fog longer than I’ve ever experienced. Will this worsen my already troubled lungs? I don’t know. Will my energy levels be even further depleted than before? I don’t know that, either. Is this simply what senior citizenship will look like for me? Heaven help me.

Which leads to my point. Though my daily posting of scripture memes on social media had come to an abrupt halt, two weeks into my illness a Facebook memory popped up where I’d shared a verse from Psalm 54 years before. “Surely God is my help. The Lord is the one who sustains me.”

Sometimes that’s all you really need to know.

Friday, April 5, 2024

Where Do I Go to Renounce my Senior Citizenship? Part 1 of 2

Six weeks in, and I can’t say I’m too impressed with being 65 so far. Due to Hubby being too sick to go out on my birthday, the plans we’d made to celebrate with an overnight date in Winnipeg were first downgraded to dinner and a movie. When his virus refused to yield, we downgraded yet again, settling for watching TV and ordering home delivery from a local restaurant.

I tried not to feel ripped off. After all, a certain amount of maturity should come with being a senior citizen. We’d simply postpone our plans.

Before Hubby fully recovered, his virus began threatening me too. I kept it at arm’s length with regular doses of good old oregano oil and stayed cooped up for several days. Believing myself on the mend, and with business at the bank and post office, I decided a walk might do me good. Oblivious to the ice storm that had recently pummeled us, I bundled up, slung my purse over my shoulder, and locked the house door. I took maybe three steps down our crushed rock driveway and it rushed up to meet me, face to face. Ow. 

It’s been said that if you want to know whether others see you as old, try falling. If they laugh, you’re considered young. If they hurry to help, asking if you’re okay, they see you as elderly. I still don’t know because no one was around to witness it.

My first thought was, “Can I get up before someone drives by and sees me?”

My second thought was, “Can I get up before falling again?”

My third thought was, “Can I get up?”

I eventually succeeded, which surely validated my relative youthfulness. I managed the three steps to the door and hurried inside where I could assess the damage. Dirty mittens and jeans. Two scraped knees, two scuffed hands, one sore hip and shoulder. A bruised ego. The rest would no doubt show up the next day. My list of “at leasts” kicked in.

At least I’m athletic enough to fall fast.

At least it didn’t happen at the top of the Tupper Street bridge.

At least that loud crack I heard was only my hip and not my expensive new cellphone. (Just kidding, settle down. Nothing cracked.)

The fall reminded me of the riddle I’d asked my grandsons recently.

Question: “What did the horse say when he fell down?”

Answer: “I’ve fallen and I can’t giddy-up!”

Between the humiliation of the fall and the lingering virus symptoms, I decided my giddy-up was gone for the day. A nice bowl of soup, a cup of tea, and a nap with my heated bean bag were in order. The errands could wait.

Little did I know how long those errands would wait. The next day a whole new issue swept in, worthy of its own column which I’ll share next week. Maybe then someone will take pity and tell me where I can go to renounce my newly acquired senior citizenship.

Proverbs 24:16 says, “The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again. But one disaster is enough to overthrow the wicked.”

Since I’ve not yet been overthrown, I won’t consider myself one of the wicked. If you take this proverb literally and count my fall on an escalator a few years ago, I figure I’ve got five more good falls in me.

Here’s hoping nothing cracks when I take them.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Take Up Your Cross

This weekend, we Christians joyfully celebrate the resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ, after gratefully and solemnly commemorating his sacrifice for us. We remember how the Romans forced Jesus to carry his own cross to the place of his crucifixion. When the blood loss from the soldiers’ whips rendered him too weak to continue, a passerby named Simon was pressed into service. We know little about this man other than he was Jewish, he had two sons, and he came from Cyrene (a city in Libya, so tradition holds that he was black).

Simon didn’t freely offer. Probably in Jerusalem for Passover, he’d be seriously inconvenienced by this gruesome detour. But when the Romans issued an order, the only options were to obey or die. Would they have asked for volunteers before recruiting Simon? Would anyone have stepped up? I doubt it, given how Jesus’s closest followers had already deserted him and those who remained were women. To many in the crowd, Jesus was simply one more rabblerouser who needed to be removed—the sooner, the better.

Now, in hindsight, millions of Christ-followers would stand in line for the privilege of carrying Jesus’s cross. We would consider the task an honor. Do you suppose Simon of Cyrene ever understood the significant role he played?

None of us will ever have that opportunity, but Jesus told his followers something shortly before his death that is far more significant. In Luke 9, he said “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”

Obviously, Jesus didn’t mean picking up a literal cross and being crucified, although some have gone to that extent to prove their devotion. All they accomplish is drawing attention to themselves, hardly Christ’s intent. His use of the word “daily” also makes it clear he wasn’t talking about giving up something for forty days of Lent.

Taking up our cross involves a denial of self, a daily commitment, and a sacrifice (which always benefits someone else). Is everyone’s cross different? Can it change from day to day? What might a modern cross look like?

  • Denying yourself a winter vacation to provide a better life for a child in a developing country?
  • Setting aside beloved hobbies to provide care to an elderly family member?
  • Forgoing some longed-for new furniture so you can help a single mother?
  • Surrendering precious “me time” to volunteer in your community or church?
  • Trading a week at the resort for a week-long mission trip?
  • Settling for a used car so an under-resourced person may have one too?
  • Taking a smaller salary that more closely matches that of your employees?
  • How about simply serving your family day in and day out with meals, clean clothes, and a healthy place to call home—without grumbling?

Did Jesus’s definition of “cross” here include shame and humiliation, like his cross surely did? If so, maybe it looks like speaking out against popular ideologies that go against the grain of dying to self. Or choosing to keep one’s mouth shut when the temptation to defend looms.

Is your cross the thing that will eventually kill you, though you might feel you’ve already died a thousand little deaths every day? If your cross does kill you … look at what awaits on the other side! Resurrection. Eternal life. Glory. Living in the embrace of your Savior.

Could it be that, like Simon of Cyrene, we don’t understand the significant role we play when we willingly take up our cross every day to follow Jesus?

Lots to think about. Happy Easter!

Friday, March 22, 2024

Canadian Heroines, Part 3 of 3: Muriel Kitagawa

Born in Vancouver in 1912, Muriel Kitagawa was the eldest child of Tsuru and Asajiro Fujiwara, Japanese immigrants. Moving frequently, the family struggled to make ends meet despite her father working in a mill and her mother making dresses. When Muriel was ten, the family split for several years, reuniting in 1924.

Showing an aptitude for writing and always troubled by the racial discrimination around her, Muriel received encouragement from her English teacher to develop her writing around that theme. She graduated second highest in New Westminster’s Duke of Connaught High School’s Class of 1929. From there, she studied one year at the University of British Columbia before financial problems made enrollment no longer possible.


As part of the Nisei (second-generation or Canadian-born Japanese), Muriel’s writing talents became important in activism as she fought for the right to vote for herself and her peers. Many professions were open only to voters, which led to economic discrimination.


In the early 1930s, Muriel wrote for The Young People (the journal of the Young People’s Society of the United Church), The New Age (an English-language newspaper founded by and for Nisei), and for The New Canadian paper.


In 1933, Muriel married Ed Kitagawa, a celebrity in the local Japanese Canadian community due to his fame with the Asahi baseball team. Professionally, Ed served Japanese Canadian clients at the Bank of Montreal. Between 1934 and 1942, four children were born. In 1940, the Kitagawas purchased their own house in Vancouver, a significant achievement among their peers.


Muriel became president of the Japanese Canadian Unit of the Red Cross Society, withdrawing in 1941 because of a difficult pregnancy with twins. During that same pregnancy, Canada declared war on Japan following Japan’s surprise attacks on Pearl Harbor, Hong Kong, and the Philippines. All of this threw the Japanese Canadian community into turmoil. Muriel began documenting her experiences and observations in letters to her younger brother, Wes Fujiwara, a medical student in Toronto. The letters detailed concerns over her family’s arrangements, as well as the attempts of their broader community to organize and advocate for themselves after the government forced removal of Japanese Canadians from coastal British Columbia. 


Rev. James Finlay, a connection of Wes’s, offered the Kitagawas board in his home, which helped the family relocate to Toronto and stay together while the federal government sent many of their peers to internment camps and farms. In 1943, the government began to sell Japanese Canadian-owned property, including the Kitagawas’ Vancouver home, without the consent of owners. When Japanese Canadians were finally allowed to return to BC in 1947, the Kitagawas had nothing to return to and remained in Toronto.


Muriel Kitigawa died in 1974, never knowing that her letters to her brother would be published in a book called This is My Own: Letters to Wes & Other Writings on Japanese Canadians, 1941-1948, or that her work would inspire the novel Obasan by Joy Kogawa, or that these books would play an integral role in the redress for Japanese Canadians in 1988. On the twentieth anniversary of that event in 2008, the late former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney quoted Muriel and said, “For her life, and the lives of other Japanese Canadians in wartime, Canada can be grateful.”

Muriel Kitigawa

Have you ever been tempted to exploit another human for your own benefit? An immigrant, a child, a person with fewer resources than you? Jesus made it clear that he despises injustice. Ask him to open your eyes to it and be swift to overturn wrongs. Don’t wait.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Canadian Heroines, Part 2 of 3: Chief Elsie Knott

Have you heard of the “Change the Bill” Campaign? An initiative of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), the campaign calls for an Indigenous woman to replace Queen Elizabeth II on the $20 bill. Begun before the Queen’s passing, the campaign seeks to foster reconciliation by commissioning Indigenous artists to reimagine the banknote with notable Indigenous women.

Although our current $20 note will continue to circulate for years, the Bank of Canada has already begun the design process for a new bill featuring King Charles III (whose effigy is already circulating on loonies). It will likely be years before it’s issued. Where does this leave the “Change the Bill” campaign? I’m not sure, but I would certainly vote for it, given the chance. Canada has been printing money for over 150 years. In that time, an Indigenous woman has never been featured on a Canadian bank note. Why not make our twenty something truly and uniquely Canadian?

Among the twelve notable women put forth as candidates is Chief Elsie Knott.

Born to George and Esther Taylor on September 20, 1922, Elsie Taylor grew up in a family of seven on Mud Lake Reserve northwest of Peterborough, Ontario. She spoke only Ojibway when she began Grade One at the school run by the Department of Indian Affairs. Here, students caught “talking Indian” had their names placed on the chalkboard beside a giant X. Naturally, the situation laid the ground for a deep-seated fear of public speaking.

Elsie completed Grade Eight at age 14. At 15, her parents had arranged for her to marry a man from the reserve, 27-year-old Cecil Knott. “Nobody ever talked to me about a career,” she said. “Women just got married.”

By age 20, Elsie had three children and a husband too ill from TB to work. Welfare provided $15 a month. Desperate and industrious, Elsie did all she could to improve living conditions for her children—including berry-picking, cooking, laundry, sewing, cleaning, selling bait, and driving school bus.

The latter enterprise led to a deep concern for the community at large, particularly for getting kids to school. When a 1951 amendment to the Indian Act allowed women to become officially involved in band politics, Elsie ran for chief at age 31. Her landslide win made her the first female Indigenous chief in Canada, leading the way for other First Nations women to become more politically active. First, she’d need to overcome her biggest fear.

Success in that area would come gradually as Elsie served as Chief of the 500 Mississaugas of Mud Lake Indian Band (now known as Curve Lake First Nation), first from 1952 to 1962 and then again from 1970 to 1976. For eight years, she didn’t receive a salary because band funds were so small. Yet during her terms in office, the band built 45 homes, upgraded roads, dug new wells, constructed a daycare, and provided more social services. Elsie and her council revived the powwow by opening it to outsiders and using the profits for Christmas hampers. The little girl who hadn’t been allowed to speak her own language now taught Ojibway classes and translated 14 Christmas carols into Ojibway. She organized Girl Guides, Boy Scouts, baseball teams and more. She brought back traditional drumming and singing.

Chief Elsie Knott in 1973
When five of the students on her reserve wanted to attend high school, Elsie drove them in her Ford. When their numbers grew, she purchased a used hearse. She painted it blue and put benches inside. Eventually, she drove a school bus for 34 years and ended up with two large buses and 130 students. One of those students became Judge Tim Whetung, who publicly thanked Elsie not only for driving him to school but for inspiring many young people to follow their dreams.

In 1975, Elsie was named one of 25 outstanding women in Ontario. A committed believer in Jesus, her most treasured work was fundraising for a new church. Elsie Knott died on December 3, 1995, at the age of 73.

Friday, March 8, 2024

Canadian Heroines, Part 1 of 3: Harriet Rhue Hatchett

March 8 is International Women’s Day. In 2022, I began writing a series of posts on Canadian Heroines and they’ve been some of my most popular. This year, I’ve chosen three more Canadian women to inspire you.

In the middle of the American Civil War, a baby girl was born to two fugitive slaves who had escaped to Canada via the Underground Railroad. William Isaac Rhue had fled the Miles plantation in Virginia and had met Jane Serena Lewis of Kentucky in their travels. Together, they settled at Buxton, Ontario where their daughter, Harriet (Hattie) was born in 1863 and where they would raise another fifteen children as well. Their faith-filled home was abundant in music and musical instruments.

Hattie attended a one-room school near the Rhue farm and took piano lessons at the Elgin Settlement School. At 17, she graduated from Chatham Collegiate Institute.

By 1881, the need for teachers for former slaves in the southern United States was great. Encouraged by her pastor and her mother, 18-year-old Hattie traveled to Kentucky where she taught children and adults to read and write. Among her students was a man named Millard Hatchett, whom she married in 1892. Hattie continued teaching as three daughters and one son were born to them. In 1904, the family returned to North Buxton.

Tragically, all three of their daughters became ill and died. Grief-stricken, Hattie turned to her music and her faith for consolation. Although she’d obtained a music-teaching certificate, she could not find work, due to racism and sexism. Teaching jobs were closed to married women. Despite not being hired as an organist in a white church, Hattie organized a choir for white churches. She also gave free music lessons out of her home and became much sought after in helping students prepare for recitals and music competitions.

Harriet Rhue Hatchett

Over the years, Hattie composed many original songs and became a popular performer for church, conferences, and community events. Her eclectic repertoire included classical, popular, spirituals, hymns, and children’s songs. Sadly, most of her compositions were lost in various fires over the years.

She did copyright three songs: two hymns called “Jesus, Tender Shepherd Lead Us” and “That Land Beyond the Sky,” and one song that would become increasingly popular as it was written specifically for Canadian soldiers during World War I. “That Sacred Spot” from 1915 was chosen by Canon Frederick G. Scott, senior chaplain of the 1st Canadian Division and a poet himself, as the official marching song of the troops. It made the soldiers think of home. Its title refers to the spot where a soldier might die as being sacred to God. The song was born out of the pain of Hattie’s own grief for her deceased children. For a number of years, it was sung by school children on Remembrance Day.

In foreign fields apart or in a row

There lies a soldier’s lonely grave so low.

Tremendous cost wherever it may be

Keep that Sacred Spot in living memory.

Though many soldiers knew the song well, its origins remained unknown to most. That such an important piece of music was composed by a Black woman is a significant piece of Canadian history worth remembering.

Hattie Rhue Hatchett outlived her children and her husband, dying at the age of 94 in 1958.