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. 

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.  

Canadians on Highway 77 at Fort Mill take note… instant money to be had!

Snowbirds, Poutine  and Beavertails

The really good one's actually look pretty crappy by comparison

I often drive up and down Highway 77 in and out of Charlotte, North Carolina and on those days when “Snowbird” migration is at its peak (November and March) I often trail a host of RVs pulling automobiles, bicycles, motor scooters on their way to and from the sunny south. It occurs to me that I have a ready-made clientel should I want to open a “Chip Wagon” with “Poutine” and “Beavertails.” 

With all of their infatuation  for things fried in oil, Americans haven’t yet caught on to these gourmet treats like Canadians have. My wife is addicted to chips(known as French fries in the U.S.) and, should she have the time, she could do a full review of the hundreds of “FRESH Hand-Cut CHIPS” wagons dotted all over the Ottawa Valley. They aren’t hard to find and for certain, there are as many chip wagons in Ontario as there are Canadian Tire stores (since almost every Canadian Tire store parking lot has one).

I stood for twenty minutes at the Kanata Centrum chip wagon as they took in money “hand over fist” for a concoction called by its Quebec name “Poutine,” otherwise known as a “heart attack in a bag.” Poutine is fresh chips, first covered with cheese curds and then brown gravy (go figure?). This item must have originated in Montreal’s Point St. Charles or on Notre Dame Street in the lower end – the same place the Joe Louie and a Pepsi combination come from. My French Canadian friend Paul Laberge once told me that growing up he immediately could recognize who were the French and the English girls. The English girls all had braces and the Quebec girls all had false teeth. Not funny, but in those days of economic disparity, partly true. 

Anyhow, wherever these chip wagons are parked, there is generally a line-up from March to November. There are competitions and arguments about who has the best fries and some folks will drive as far as Arnprior to Wes’ Fries (twenty-five miles from Ottawa) just to buy a bag. Others argue that Glen’s Fries in Westboro are the best and will stand in line for half an hour just to prove this conviction.

Jeanne and I so far disagree on who has the best fries in Ottawa. I am a fan of the Canadian Tire location in Kanata and she opts for the one at Merivale and Hunt Club Road. She thinks the outside is crisper and the inside chewy.

Myths get started about who has the best and some hang the banner which proclaims them “Voted Best Fries in Ottawa 2010” and so forth. When this happens the lines get longer and longer. 

Parliament Hill's Peace Tower

I just spoke to a young couple on vacation here from Saskatoon and had no idea that this fry business was because it is essentially an eastern Ontario cultural icon. I informed them that they have not visited Ottawa unless they had sampled a bag of these little crisp, golden, calorie laden morsels. Next to a visit to the “Peace Tower” on Parliament Hill,  they are the next “MUST SEE – MUST DO ” major attraction in Canada’s capitol city. (Yes, American friends, Ottawa is Canada’s capitol city, not Toronto.) 

While driving south out of the city and through Manotick on River Road (Highway 13), I found this rather high brow version of a chip wagon (above). It is one that Jeanne has not yet tried and should whet her appetite for a drive. Actually, to be fair, I must report that she has seen the light (or rather her waist line) and has sworn off of them for a while.

Beavertails in the Byward Market

Let me introduce our American friends to one more food item unique (or so it seems) to Ottawa and the Byward Market / Rideau Canal area: “BEAVERTAILS.” These were actually invented by some American relative to the Christian gospel singer Dallas Holmes. Somehow he got to Ottawa, started deep fat frying these sweet breads and then slathering them with all sorts of  “Nutella”, cinnamon, and jelly combinations. For almost forty years knowing what these are have been an indicator of authentic Ottawatonian status.

Entry 29 / Posh

Gruppo Cristiano Latino Americano

On Sunday morning I took to the pulpit again and faced a full house of  nearly 180 people. Following the altar call I gave an invitation to which twenty people responded. Many were asked to help by praying with the seekers and Jeanne, who is quite good at this sort of thing, got an interpreter and prayed for several who came forward.

The Villa

Thomas and Marcela (Cassandro) McEvoy 

Thomas and Marcela

On occasion I am asked to participate in a wedding. I never quite have the clothes for such things and have to borrow this thing or that in order to make myself look halfway presentable as Italian and African weddings are quite extravagant affairs. Having been surprised with wedding invitations at other times, I have left hanging in Aldo’s closet a few items, like a gray pair of slacks and a tie. This time I had to borrow a royal blue jacket which I kept unbuttoned for rather obvious reasons. Italians are not as “portly” (the polite word) as I am.

Under the Cedar of Lebanon

At four in the afternoon we arrived at a gorgeous villa where an hour later a beautiful Columbian-Italian girl would be married to an Irish fellow. This happens quite often as the Italians and Irish have some attraction and affinity for one another.

I have known Marcela for a number of years but am more acquainted with her parents, Luciano and Marilene, since Marcela has been living and working in London for several years.

I knew that this would be a big deal and felt privileged to be asked to speak, knowing that half of the congregation on that sunny afternoon would be either unbelievers or religious but not necessarily Christians. I was sure that most would simply want my part to be over with rather quickly so we could have the wedding vows and get on to the reception. Yet, I saw this as a splendid opportunity. Having been given about fifteen to twenty minutes with translation, I couldn’t say much. Still, when it was my turn I took high ground, speaking on the “Mystery of Marriage” from Ephesians 5. I relied on two metaphors, the body and the bride, and wrapped a clear presentation of the gospel in, around, and through it. All the while I was speaking, I could sense that the message was being well received and hitting its mark. At the end of the proceedings I had many new friends with invitations to England and Rome. Tom and Marcela’s friends are all very warm and open-hearted.

   

The surroundings were lovely, with the vows being exchanged under a two-hundred-year-old Cedar of Lebanon that stretched over the entire gathering, providing a cool shade in a rather warm day. Later there were a number of food and drink tents with the finest in Parmesan cuisine. Though I wasn’t able to stay for the dinner and other festivities that ran long into the night, I was told that the reception dinner was the best one could hope for, laden with local cuisine.

Pastors Aldo and Mariela Cerasino and daughter Rebecca

While I was attending this affair Jeanne stayed back at the Cerasino’s getting some rest and packing us up for our trip back to Oslo on Monday morning.

Entry 28 / Collecchio, Italy

Michela, Anna and Jeanne

After at least eight or more years in the same city I have accumulated a lot of friends. It is rumoured that it is not until you are invited into an Italian home are you really considered a friend and not and simply an acquaintance.

Anna, her husband Stefano and daughter Michela are friends for several years now and not only mine but friends of my children Amy, John and their kids as well. On Saturday afternoon we were picked up in Corcagnano and taken some ten minutes to the south here they live on the edge of the Apinnine mountains which separates the Po Valley from Florence and Tuscany.

Inside Torrechiara

We enjoyed the lunch and then went further into the mountains to visit Torrechiara, one of the best preserved castles in all of Italy.

Entry 26 / Celebrating our 45th at Cinque Terre

On Monday, our friends Emile, Imra, and two of their children came to Parma from Veneto for lunch and a visit. After several hours they returned to their home in the mountains near Trento while we packed for three days in Monterosso.

Monterosso

A few of our hotel from the beach just below

Room with a View and Noise

Though Jeanne was still finding it difficult to catch her breath, coughing throughout the night, and lacking in energy we had planned on this getaway for several months. I had been there on a number of occasions and promised Jeanne that she would love the view of the sea. I went out on a limb and did something I rarely stretch myself to do. To quote the title of one of her favorite movies, I got her a “Room with a View.” Though this seemed like a stellar idea, we later learned at one in the morning that a balconetta room overlooking the sea also meant a balconetta room just above the street that didn’t grow quiet until two in the morning.  It might be worth remembering this fact. No wonder Rick Steeves, in his travel books, recommends getting a room on the back side of hotels. If you are under thirty, you may disregard this advice. The definition of becoming old is simply when one looks forward to a quiet night at home.  

Pictures tell the story

All three days were stunning, with not a drop of rain and temperatures in the eighties.

    

The CIAK

Everywhere the food was terrific! At least I enjoyed it. Most of the food is straight from the sea so Jeanne, because of her allergy to shell-fish,  had to pick around the menu packed with various crustaceans. Yet, there was plenty of sea bass and other items to choose from. One of our favorite restaurants is CIAK where the owner is the chef and he cooks up everything in about twenty enormous ceramic skillets -all at once. To watch him through the window is to watch an artist at work.

Alessia and Francesco

On one of the days, our friends and  ACCI missionaries,  Francesco, Alessia, and their daughter Francesca Abortivi came up to join us, so we took lounges under the umbrellas and spent the day chatting and eating gelato.

On the final day, Jeanne and I took trains to the other of the five villages and returned later to Monterosso by boat. At Vernazza, I sat on a bench in the shade while Jeanne looked for a few gifts. Down from the inter-village mountain walk came this cute couple. As an extrovert I spoke up and said, “You took the walk, I see.” They happily replied in English with, “Yes, and did you?” To this I replied, “No, you walk, I eat.” This seemed to get a smile and a chuckle so we continued to

Our new friends from Chicago

converse. It turned out that this newly married couple were both doctors from Chicago. When in the conversation they made acquaintance with Jeanne and learned that she had asthma, they both immediately went into their caregiver mode. It turned out that Sashe, the husband, also had asthma and knew how to manage it. We also learned that we were in the same hotel, only two doors apart, so we were able to visit on several occasions. They were a bit of a “God-send” and though we didn’t manage to get to know them well, we really developed a great affection for them.

Important travel note:

We stayed at The Baia. The Baia is long on cleanliness, but short on breakfast items. They seem a little chinsy and only put out small amounts at a time. This is, I suppose, to discourage gluttony and waste, but one always feels that rationing is going on. The price for a room is not cheap to begin with, and then come the extras. They charge 20 euro extra for air-conditioning (insane). The beach (just across the street) doesn’t belong to them and though one does get a discount (10 euro) on renting an umbrella, you do feel it should be included in the room price. Finally, at least one of the front desk staff needs to be replaced. She is just plain rude and nasty. Americans rightly get the notion that the customer is king, but it appears this is not so in Italy. In Italy, businesses feel like they are doing you a favour by providing you with a drink, a Panini, or a bed.

I suggest you try the next hotel over, The Spiaggia (Beach). Spiaggia is just as nice and has the same amenities for fifteen euro less a night. If you prefer to walk a little and use a non-private beach, try Gli Amici in Monterosso for half the price.

Entry 17 / Norway after two weeks

As of  Wednesday past, we have been on the ground in Norway for two weeks. After landing we stayed a day and a half in the Oslo area (The Normisjon Ga Ut Center) catching up on sleep and getting our land legs. We will be going back there tomorrow where on Monday I will teach a day long seminar on “Contemporary Evangelism Methods” or “Communicating Christian Thought in a Post-Christian, Post-Modern World.”

For the last two weeks we have been mostly encouraging, teaching and mentoring students.

Promotional Poster

Last Sunday I preached here at SBI and Oasen on, “The Plague of the Heart – The High Cost of Sin Management” apparently resulting in good fruit especially with two young ladies, C and J who seemed impacted by the call to Christ and righteousness.

On Sunday evening we were at Betel in Halden across the Oslo fiord near Sweden where I spoke on “Justice, Mercy and Grace – The Unjust Steward.”

During the first week I taught everyday for about four hours. If I were to title the course I might have called it, “Rightly Dividing’ or “Discerning the Full Counsel of God,” where first I explained the divisions of systematic theology and the purpose of theological study. After explaining why theology is important, I took denominational distinctions and various doctrinal positions such as water regeneration, universalism, second work of grace, etc. along with statements like, “What Happens to the Poor Innocent Native who Never Heard of Christ,” and provided biblical answers. We were lost at first with a certain air of anti-intellectualism but once they could see it they got on board and we wound up having a good class which I think will greatly benefit them in the future.

MEXICALI ROSA’S OUTREACH TONIGHT!

Jeanne and Sara sizing up the Mexican food at the local grocery

Jeanne and I also organized an outreach whereby we hope to entertain many first time guests. You can read about it on one of the earlier blogs, “Mexicali Rosa’s, Cafe’ del Sol.” We hope to serve over three-hundred and fifty tacos and burritos today between five and seven pm today.

On the next Friday evening I spoke at a youth meeting on “So What Makes Jesus So Likeable?” Jesus commended the social outcasts (sinners) while turning away the self – righteous. He was and is a friend of sinners. All other religions teach exactly the opposite and this is why the gate is narrow. People simply have to put away their pride which they are not apt to do. People can’t seem to get this concept without divine revelation.

This past Thursday evening I spoke to a combined church, bible college meeting on “Totemism – Living in the Culture of  the King.” All cultures tend to remake Jesus into themselves by making our cultural values his. When we do this we wind up worshipping ourselves. We become God. This is true in America where Jesus is upwardly mobile, successful and wealthy. By putting cultural grids over the New Testament many “Christian’s” wind up as tourists to the kingdom of God rather than immigrants. We should not be forcing Jesus to be the culture learner. He is King.

Last night I talked on the subject, “Who Switched the Price Tags,” using “What does it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul.” All persons, place high value on trivial things and fail to give importance to  the things that  really matter.

I will finish the series on Sunday morning when I have chosen to talk on Hebrews 12: 1-2, “Jason’s Marathon and Laying Aside Every Weight.” Many people need to unload their anger, bitterness and pain. I will also take them to the bitter water’s of Marah in Exodus 14. To sweeten the poison of life we must put in the stick as Moses did. This stick is a type of  the cross of Christ.

Entry 16 / Norway

A Land Full of Surprises…

It’s fascinating to me how many surprises I have experienced on this cross-cultural adventure. And it has just started! A good case in point is how much Norwegians seem to enjoy Italian food. Now in my head I figured my time in Norway would be spent eating lots of fish and potatoes and I would have to wait to get to Italy to have pizza and spaghetti. But in the mere two weeks we’ve been here, I’ve had pizza three times and just a few nights ago Tony and I

Dinner at a Norwegian home (with our hosts and friend Inger)

enjoyed a truly outstanding spaghetti dinner at a friend’s house. The man of the house, Tor kjell (forgive me if I spell it wrong!), cooked up his own marinara sauce and focaccia bread to go with the perfectly cooked pasta and fresh salad (he used rapeseed oil instead of olive oil for the dressing, because it’s not as heavy tasting, he explained). To say we were impressed with his cooking skills would be an understatement. It turns out that he loves to watch cooking shows and read gourmet cookbooks – another stereotype blown out of the water since I thought all Norwegian men were outdoorsmen who would disdain spending time in the kitchen. Our host is a man of many talents… he is a kindergarten teacher with amazing musical talents and is also an excellent translator.  He served as our translator when Tony preached and I gave an impromptu testimony at the Sunday evening service at the school. He and his wife Heidi (also a musical whiz and an exceptional baker in spite of being blind) live in a rented farmhouse with their two young children. Their son, who’s four, really reminded me of our grandson Dylan back home. Anyway, after enjoying the sumptious main course our host shooed us out of the kitchen so he could clean up. (He

We almost ate it all! Norwegian cobbler

insisted he had his own system and wanted no help!) In about half an hour he called us back in for some to-die-for berry crisp served with ice cream and Norwegian coffee. If we closed our eyes we might have thought we were in another country, but I’m beginning to see that Norway’s people have many sides to them and each of them are terrific. Although they have no regular television, our hosts were able to share some interesting Internet sites with us… including cooking shows like “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” Heidi leads worship at the SBI church services and has such a sweet spirit. Obviously her disability is not something that robs her of her joy in the Lord. How blessed we are to know them both. Sharing their home and their lives with us was an encouragement to us, the bewildered strangers in their midst.