Karen’s idea of “something light.”

Karen is not known for going off half cocked…. 

After all, it was mostly vegetables.

A person would be hard pressed to match this blueberry pie.

When we arrived at their home in the Kanata area, Rob stepped off his porch to warn us about the barking dogs that would signal our arrival for supper. Rob and Karen have three very cute Chihuahuas who ferociously try to protect the Sargent home from the confines of their cages in the living room. The little brown one soon joined us, proving by his sweet face and desire to lick my hand that he posed little real threat. Rob and Karen love animals it seems (also having in their kitchen a beautiful gray African

Carrie

parrot with an amusing way of talking) and have passed on their love to their oldest daughter Carrie. Now 22, she works at a nearby horse farm, cheerfully shoveling and cleaning up after them, riding, and teaching others how to ride as well. Coming in from work just shortly before we were leaving, Carrie is just as beautiful and sweet as we remembered her from so many years ago when we were serving as pastors at Chapel Ridge. Carrie’s younger sister, Katy (whom we didn’t get to see except in pictures) is working part time at Starbucks and also plays bass guitar in a band. She adopted her parents’ love of music it seems.

Karen, Rob and Graycee

When we were at Chapel Ridge, I worked with Rob and Karen on the worship team. It was such a joy to see them share their musical gifts and talents with the church. I appreciated how graciously they put up with my lack of musical training as I led the team. Karen was also very involved in children’s ministry at that time. I’m glad to report that they are both still involved in worship at another church in the area. Karen is currently teaching a large number of piano students from her home and especially enjoys teaching them how to play Christian worship songs.

After enjoying a wonderfully fresh and filling meal of salads, homemade dill bread, and grilled chicken, we caught up with each other’s lives before enjoying one of Karen’s amazing homemade pies – blueberry this time, which is one of my favorites. Served with generous amounts of whipped cream, it was delightful. Thanks to Katy (who supplied the Starbucks flavors), we also had a special fruit iced tea during our meal… Passion Fruit I believe it was called. The best part of the evening, though, was sharing our prayer requests and our spiritual passions with one another. After a sweet time of prayer in the Lord’s presence, we called it a night. Even the dogs seemed content as we said our good-byes.

I am not really Ben Peterkins’ grandfather

My pastel portrait of Ben

We have spent so much time with Mark and Tracy Peterkins, they turn out to be like our adopted children. Hence, their three children, Stephen, Ben and Megan have wound up calling me “Grandpa Tony” and Jeanne, they call “Aunt Jeanne”. They love us both the same but have been taught to be rude to me by calling me an older title than my younger looking wife. It is a fond form of insult they learned from their father. We are neither. Officially, I am not their grandfather and Jeanne is not their aunt, but we are happy to be treated that way. For us, visiting the Peterkins’ would be like dropping in on any of our children and their families.

Two years ago I was here in Ottawa for the purpose of celebrating the older brother’s Christian  “bar mitzvah” (a small coming of age party).

Showing no preference, we timed our visit to coincide with this special event and set aside Monday, August twenty-second for this very purpose. The idea was quite similar to the earlier one. As he did for Stephen, Mark invited both Pastor Ken Roth and I to take part in and pray a blessing over young Ben. Additionally, we were joined by Ben’s real, flesh and blood grandfather, Ed Dooner.

It all started at four in the afternoon as I waited in my car along Riverside Drive. It was Mark’s idea to bring Ben out to the Dooner family cottage that has sat on the bank of the Rideau River for at least seventy years. This is all meant to be a surprise, so when Mark turned the corner and onto the side road where I sat waiting, young Ben seemed slightly mystified by this turn of events. He was especially puzzled when his dad instructed him to get out of the van and take a walk with me. Though he was a little apprehensive, I bought his courage by giving him a brand new, commemorative “Buck” knife (something he has always wanted) that I had bought for him a few days before. He suddenly liked the idea of walking down a bleak country road with an old man. I made certain we had the compulsory and rather serious advisory conversation on the way, and though I didn’t quote Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If” I shared some of the contents along with a complete exegete of  1st Corinthians 11:6 (actually 13:11), including a precise Greek translation of each word : ). Frankly, it was a pretty simple talk that could be summed up by the phrase, “Don’t be stupid.” This concept, he thoroughly understood. The rest of what I said will likely fade from his memory in a very short time.

The Dooner Cottage

Ken would be waiting with a ready canoe, where he would take Ben on a similar tour. Please note that Ken was given the more dangerous of the two chat events. I am well-known to have virtually no center of gravity and both Mark and Ken intended for Ben’s first day of manhood to not be his last as well.

Art Shot, Mark Peterkins

While I am happy to take part in this special occasion, I have a  compelling end in view when Mark makes some colossal meal to punctuate the festivities. I was not disappointed, as he offered up shrimp and sauce, hummus, rice crackers, baguette,  grilled filet mignon wrapped in bacon, fried mushrooms, sauce, potatoes, fresh green beans, corn on the cob and more stuff that becomes a blur.

Art Shot, Ken Roth

 

After all of the eating we celebrated by various presentations, including a sword with a blade big enough to kill Goliath if necessary. As a last act we all gathered around Ben, laid hands on him and prayed for him that he will become a man of spiritual valor.

Ken and Ed deep in conversation

 Some might see this as a rather silly way to spend a day, but I think not. Almost all religions other than evangelical Christianity have what they might call “Rites of Passage.” I believe that symbols of this nature, especially where fathers pass a spiritual blessing on to their children, make unforgettable impressions that last for a life time. It is my guess that we don’t do enough of this sort of community event and leave our youngsters to pick their way through the faith on their own. I believe this almost picture perfect day will stick with Ben as long as he lives. 

Chapel Ridge Annual Picnic and Welcome Party

A Change of Plans for the Picnic

Tony and Jeanne in front of Chapel Ridge

The plan on this particular Sunday was to have the annual Chapel Ridge church picnic at the Foster farm following the morning service. But after enjoying many sunny days here in the Ottawa area, Sunday arrived with rain and low clouds, not a good sign for a clear afternoon. So the flexible Chapel Ridge bunch cheerfully switched to Plan B… having the picnic inside the church. Fortunately, one of the church members, Karen Robertson, had already precooked the hamburgers, so it was pretty easy to warm them up in the  oven and cook the hot dogs on the stove. Who needs a barbeque?

 It was a great time to catch up with some people we weren’t able to spend a lot of time with otherwise, to marvel over how much their children and grandchildren have grown, and to watch a rather elaborate group game unfold. The idea of the game was to trick other people out of their two clothespins by getting them to inadvertently say a few key words. I thought I was pretty safe from being robbed since I had no intention of saying these key words (after all, my memory isn’t that bad!), but wouldn’t you know it… one of the Peterkins boys tricked me, fooled me, in such a slick manner that I hardly knew what was happening until it was too late. Ben takes after his dad, Mark, in having the kind of sense of humor that loves to fool with ya. Anyone who knows Mark will know what I mean! Way to go, Ben!

P.S. from Tony: In the end, the mischievous Ben won the entire thing by collecting twenty-one pins. Jeanne was not the only naive person in the fellowship hall that day.

Perhaps not the best examples

It was great to sit on the back row during the service with Tony and watch the body of Christ bring us into worship through music and prayer, and into a greater understanding of the Word through preaching. A new associate pastor has joined the congregation – Phil Hamilton and his wife Chris, who have a baby called Mylo – and at the end of the service Tony was asked to come up and pray over this family. It’s a neat spiritual connection that goes back to the days that Tony was helping plant a church in Kingston, Ontario, with Ken Roth. Tony lived with Phil’s great-grandfather, Sylvester, when he was in Kingston, and he knew Phil’s grandparents, Richard and Eunice, mother and father as well. His aunt Tammy is the Canadian bookkeeper for ACCI and was in Tony’s College and Careers class more than twenty-five years ago.  It’s such a joy to see younger generations of Christians stepping up to take their place in the Body. Phil and Chris are gifted musically and also have experience working with children, so I know they are going to be such a blessing to Chapel Ridge Church. And I know they will be blessed also, through working with this amazing group of Christians.

Scrumptious!

Michio and Lydia Ikura

We were looking forward to an evening with the Ikuras. The Ikuras are known for their incredible hospitality so we were anticipating something good to eat. We weren’t disappointed! Poor  Michio spent part of the day chopping away at hedges and regrettably, after all of that work, I didn’t even notice. Ha.

Michio is Japanese and Lydia, his wife, originally comes from the Ukraine, so this is a real cross cultural, east meets west sort of couple. I love the eclectic and artsy feel of their house. Lydia has a real knack for bringing an interior together. She can also put together an amazing supper. Unaware, we took Lydia a bouquet of flowers only to find that she has flowers growing everywhere. The yard was as beautiful as the interior of their home.  Michio is pretty good in the kitchen as well, so if he had not been busy trimming hedges we might have also had these stuffed grape leaf things (probably mediterranean) or sushi that he sometimes puts together. This time around we were served a starter of homemade soup, followed by salad, bread, a stack of succulent roasted lamb, asparagus, a marvelous (I’m running out of descriptive adjectives) mix of potatoes, carrots and onion in a brown sauce, then finally a swedish chocolate cake.

Years ago, the Ikuras were among the first to take a chance with this pastor and a fledgling church plant in Kanata. They were with us for about twenty years and in so doing raised their four children in our church.

We spent a couple of hours around the table reminiscing about the early days. I give credit to Lydia for inspiring us to believe God and purchase our first church building on Leacock Drive. I wish I had the time to tell the story. Even though the building had a buyer and we had no money, on her word we gathered and marched around it, praying that the Lord would somehow put it into our hands. As impossible as it seemed, within two weeks, the buyer went bankrupt, the property was offered to us for twenty thousand dollars less and someone had given us $35,000 for a down payment.

Miraculous outcomes of this nature bind people together in unforgettable ways. Some people say they don’t believe in miracles today. What they mean is, they don’t believe that axe heads can float, fleeces can have dew appear on the ground side, or that a sea can part so that two million people can walk across. Yet, for the expectant and observant all sorts of things happen that have to be more than circumstantial. I have simply seen too many things happen that could not have happened without divine intervention. This was just one of those incidences that can not be explained and a number of us can attest to it.

More Bad News for American Foodies

Most of you have never really tasted an “honest to goodness” bagel. 

Just out of the forno di legno.

Einsteins and Brueggers are not bagels! They are not bagels once you have tasted a real Montreal, Jewish, earlock, Lubavitch, hand rolled and tied then wood fired bagel. There is only one word to describe this: “incredible”.

Unlike Tim Horton's, not on every corner

While most vacationers to Canada would recognize this (Tim Horton’s) – one of the coast  to coast  institutions that, like hockey, give the country cohesion and identity – few might give this ugly little place at 2217 Carling Avenue (above) a second glance. The franchise is now owned by a family from India but no matter, they make the same toasty, but gummy, hand-turned, wood-fired delight. The terms New York and Montreal Bagel are not synonymous. Trust me, there is a difference between those bagels that are firstboiled in water with drops of honey, then toasted in a wood oven. Regular bagels are baked in an oven,  like a cake. Though half the size of those other imposters, these babies are toasty on the outside and chewy on the inside. In my view, no one is a bona fide “foodie” until they can tell and prefer the difference.  

Our friends the Fosters

A snap shot of Ottawa Valley Canadiana

The Fosters

Driving out to the Foster farm was a nice break from the concrete and litter of Ottawa streets. We passed fields and fields of ripening corn – very high and healthy looking this year – and rambling farm houses as neat as a pin. Steve Foster works for the experimental farm, but he also has his own farm (formerly owned by his parents) in cultivation. Before supper, he and Tony took a swim

Steve as a dwarf

in their roomy above ground pool and also took a stroll to examine the soybean and corn crop. While they were doing that, Wendy and I caught up with our family news and enjoyed the lovely setting behind their house. Their farm is beautifully situated just a little north and east of the town of Richmond. Richmond is where Lauren Carrion and Andrew Roth will be living when they get married next month. It is also where Ken and Linda Roth live (pastors of Chapel Ridge Church). The Richmond area is still quite rural, but no doubt it will one day be captured by the expanding city of Ottawa and its suburbs.

Wendy and Steve always treat us to wonderful food and fellowship. This night we enjoyed barbequed steaks, corn on the cob (local corn here is amazingly good!), salad, rolls, and some yummy blueberry buckle (with ice cream) for dessert. You can see why I am putting on weight the longer I stay in Ontario! You will immediately recognize that Jeanne is responsible for this column. It would not be possible to recognize if I put on weight.  

After supper Wendy and I watched as the sun set behind their green fields, a kaleidoscope of purple, pink, and orange hues. They are blessed to have such a lovely place to live, and they seem to love to share it with others (like us). They often host church gatherings, like showers and picnics, and are generous in their gifts to the Lord’s work. I sure did enjoy our relaxing time there!  

Coffee with Bill and Lorna

Friday Morning, August 19, 2011

In about 1978 we met the Seabrookes when they first began attending our home Bible study and the Merrickville Church. Since then they have remained our friends.

Without meaning to offend anyone else, as everyone has their own good qualities, my personal take on these two is this… next to Jeanne, I have always thought Lorna to be my ideal of the Christian woman – or at least my ideal of what one should be.

Lorna herself had a good start on this since her own mother, Elizabeth Poole (I knew her too), was also an exemplary model. I thought it was about time I told Lorna what I thought of her, so as we sat around the table with tea, scones and muffins, I told her. It is better that I tell her now than saying these nice things at her funeral when she can’t blush at the comment as she most certainly would and did. Perhaps this might be a good policy for all of us –  to tell folks the nice things we think before it’s too late to do so.  

Then there’s Bill, who has some sort of neurological problem with a name I can’t pronounce but can see the effects of… I wanted to tell him what I thought of him too, so I did. I have lots of acquaintances, so many that I sometimes fail to remember people I should know. Yet, with all of my travels, Bill stands out to me as a guy I chose for a friend. Perhaps I haven’t spent much time with him – at least not enough to qualify as a friendship – still, he has been my idea of a good fit for me. Bill is not an anxious sort of guy. He doesn’t talk much (he allows me to talk all I want) and he doesn’t whine (he allows me to whine all I want) a lot. Bill isand always has been quiet and steady. Even with all of this bad news concerning a physical problem there is apparently no cure for, he just shrugs his shoulders and calmly says, “Well, what can I do?” without a trace of resentment.

Bill and Lorna have raised three children. Their two girls are now grown and married. Mark still lives at home. More than thirty years ago, while they were driving home from our house on a bright, sunny, Friday afternoon, they were broadsided by an egg truck in too big of a hurry. This left their only son with a brain injury. Though Mark almost died a number of times, he managed, with lots of prayer and terrific medical care at the CHEO, to pull through and though he may never be able to live an independent life, he is a remarkable, clever and enjoyable person.   

I tell this story, not to remind them again of this horrible event that changed their lives forever but to let others know what has contributed to who Lorna and Bill are. It is no surprise to believers that Christianity is built upon paradox and irony. We all know the topsy-turvy nature of authentic Kingdom living, but few manage to actually engage the promises and fruit of it as have the Seabrookes. They understand that you give to get, lose to win, die to live, suffer with Christ to reign with Him.

One of the reasons I admire the Seabrookes so much is because they made up their minds many years ago and simply did what Peter suggested in his First Epistle,  “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind” (1 Peter 4:1a). Bill and Lorna made up their minds where they would stand, no matter what, and this has made all of the difference in their world. This decision has made a difference in mine as well.

Part of my reason for writing these blogs is to record a history of my travels and some of the stories of those people who have kept me moving forward. Some may take exception to my occasional mention of those who have essentially “fallen away” from the faith (Here, I am not talking about those people who have taken up drinking a bottle of beer now and then or don’t attend church at least three times a week, but those who outright deny the Lord Jesus Christ and His redemptive work). But the truth is, for every one who falls away, there are ten who stand for Him, no matter what. After forty years, facing the headwinds of life, there are more with us than “a-gin” us. As an example, we will be having dessert with more old friends, Fred and Rosalee Williams tonight.

As a project (and a way of making lots of money in the process), Bill Gaither the song writer has gone about gathering up all of the old timers (southern quartets and gospel music legends) and has made video after video of these folks singing gospel hymns and blue grass classics that the church sings very little or no more at all. In so doing, he has captured a valuable history that might one day be lost without his efforts.

In some respect I attempt to do the same thing by recording the stories of many of these good friends who were part of something remarkable that took place some thirty-five or more years ago in a small town called Merrickville. Those on the outside that still remember this or have come upon this  four-year event refer to it as “The Miracleville Revival.” For those of us who lived it, it was a miracle when a little town was turned upside down by the transformed lives of guitar pickers, hippies, pot smokers, dope dealers along with the common village folk. For those of you who had “ears to hear and eyes to see,” you were there. It was undeniable and for those who witnessed it but now ignore it, you were never REALLY there.