Reverend Toussaint

My last blog spoke of a busy birthday weekend for me with both a Jireh concert and a Montreal Gospel Choir performance as part of an event marking black history in Burlington, Vermont.  In this blog I want to highlight an unexpected pleasure for me on my birthday – something that happened quite by surprise and was the perfect way to mark my 55th birthday.

I made the remark to a couple of my fellow MGC members in the weeks leading up to our choir’s second career performance in the United States that if there were any border troubles and for some reason, or perhaps some unwelcome choir member we were refused entry at the Quebec – Vermont border, it actually might turn out to be more interesting  that way than performing at the scheduled event.MGC  And I, who really do love performing anywhere, love especially performing to the people of Vermont.  This is a people as mellow as the Green Mountain Coffee that they serve, but you can count on them to raise their hands and participate actively in a  gospel concert. In the earliest years of Jireh, and before that with Union Gospel Choir, I had the pleasure of being before an audience who not only loved my Lord Jesus but outwardly indicated the same in the way that they responded to his music.  Rarely seen in Canada, this gospel fervour, I must admit.

The building of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington was what my ideal church building would look like – simple, but infused with light with windows on both sides of the sanctuary on the main floor and the balcony floor.  My own chosen church in Montreal does not possess such easy access to light.  We are a multi-campus church that has a goal of having a location in each borough of Montreal.  I may just drive across town to some foreign borough should we ever find a location with the quality of light that the Unitarian Universalists of Burlington possess!

The choir performed, and I must say we performed just a little better than usual because we were actively encouraged by the greater part of the black audience and even those of the whiter solidarity set.  My wife, Carol, as director is world class.  I love watching her lead – she has all the skills on and offstage to excel in her chosen field.  Then came my birthday surprise as Reverend Toussaint King Hill from Atlanta, Georgia was introduced as the speaker at this black history month event.

Carol and I went to see a civil rights era movie recently.  “Hidden Figures” is set in the very early 1960’s in the state of Virginia and follows the story of 3 black “computers”, women who used their dexterity with adding machines and sometimes, when given the opportunity, their math abilities to enable NASA to send men and spaceships into orbit and to bring them back to earth again.  Civil rights history in the United States is so close at hand to us as Canadians and is so troubling because my privileged class of whiter peoples in all their institutions were so slow at bringing equal rights and access to education to their neighbours who didn’t share the same ancestry.  It is striking to Carol and I, this injustice, as we can testify as a married couple that there are far more things that we share in common than there are things that would divide us.

Faith in Jesus Christ is perhaps the greatest unifying element that Carol and I share.  Carol loves hearing preaching even more than I do as she continues daily to hear the word of God set forth (through means of the internet) while I get my preaching fix but once per week at church.  This was my once per week prescription that the introduced Reverend Hill was bringing today and for Carol, it was a sampling of something too rare for our northern breed – African American preaching in the tradition of the great Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

Reverend Hill is a distinguished alumnus of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, without doubt one of the greatest colleges among all the outstanding educational institutions in United States.  He prepared there, as Martin Luther King Jr. himself did, to be the pastor of a church.  Reverend Hill received his present call as pastor in 2006, to West Hunter Street Baptist Church in Atlanta.  This was the church that Ralph Albernathy also pastored for many years, another renowned civil rights leader, colleague and friend of Martin Luther King.  Could there be a better speaker possible for a black history month event in Burlington, Vermont on a sunny day in February?

The sermon, for our speaker did not shy away from his gifting even in this Unitarian setting, started slowly, a cadence well-known in the southern states.  As the sermon developed, Reverend Hill added different “tracks” – biblical, historical, musical, mythical, inspirational, political and educational.  Instead of going serially from one track to another as a less-gifted speaker might, he wove the traps into a tapestry – one theme appearing for a minute before it stepped behind another track.  There was a large white handkerchief ready next to the pulpit for Reverend King’s use.  By midway through the sermon, it was obvious that our speaker would be needing the handkerchief even in these northern climes.  He was working the tapestry which was meant to both honour and inspire a people.  You certainly didn’t have to be black to be inspired and moved by his words.  You didn’t need to be a believer to have a great appreciation for his subject of the afternoon, but for those of us who were of the faith in Jesus, he rallied us to proclaim it and to acknowledge Jesus with him.

Carol could not have hoped for a speaker who better represented the preaching style that is native to the churches that birthed the gospel music that Montreal Gospel Choir sings.  His connection with American Civil rights history  and his practice as a preacher to continue in that tradition along with his obvious faith in God and love of Jesus made him the perfect person for us as a choir to back in this event.  Sometimes pastors are accused of “preaching to the choir”.  Because of the willingness of Reverend Toussaint King Hill to come north at the invitation of Patrick Brown, sponsor and organizer of this event, he had the opportunity to preach to a choir very different than the gospel choir that he has in his home church.  As Montreal Gospel Choir continues to develop in its unique way, Reverend Hill’s sermon on February 26, 2017 will no doubt provide a frame of reference to us in faith and in singing.  Preach it, brother!IMG_0763

Sunday blog and Ted in 2017

Sunday, January 1, 2017 brings the renewal of my commitment to write a Sunday blog.  These will be, at the best of times, posted on the Saturday-preceding so that those in time zones further east (Europe, Africa) can read it first thing on Sunday and be blessed all Sunday.

I began my Sunday blog commitment on June 26, 2016, largely inspired by my nephew, Micah Dettweiler, who was writing an almost-daily blog while studying for the year at Oxford University.  My blogging record to that point was sporadic, so I decided to commit to a schedule of posting once a week.  I reasoned at the time, “How hard could that possibly be?”.  Today I counted and I hit my target of once per week roughly half of the time, posting 13 Sunday blogs over 26 weeks.

New Year, new commitment:  for 2017 I purpose to write 40 Sunday blogs – that gives me roughly 3 whole months of holidays.  Not bad, eh? How hard could THAT relaxed schedule be?Jesus is coming

Often Sunday blogs are reflections on things that are on my mind.  In addition, as a believer in Jesus Christ, Sunday blogs might be a good venue to dialogue some of my beliefs associated with Jesus.  To the right is the perfect photo that I took one morning at Payne’s Bay, Barbados: “Jesus is coming!” cleverly posted next to a bus stop sign.

I do believe that Jesus is coming.  I believe in his “imminent” return, which means he could come at any time.  Along this well-traveled road leading to Speightstown the buses passed every 5 minutes or so.  I could say to my fellow traveler, “the bus will soon come” based on my observations that there were plenty of buses traveling this road.  If I say “Jesus is coming soon” what would that assertion be based on?  I don’t have a schedule, so “Jesus is coming” is not followed by “at 3:25pm on February 26, 2017” or any such date.  I say “Jesus is coming” because it says in Revelation 22:12 “Behold, I am coming soon” and again in 22:20 “Surely, I am coming soon.”.  Both passages in my Bible are marked in red – words of Christ.  The same author of Revelation, John, in his gospel summarizes the completed purpose of his writing in  John 20:30-31. “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;  but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Yes, I believe.  I believe that Jesus is the one promised by God, the Christ.  I’m convinced, with John, writer of the gospel and of the book of the Revelation that Jesus is coming (back) again.

“Yes”, I say.  “Come again, Lord Jesus”.


Bees welcome here

Butterfly on salvia sauge flower


There are small things that make me disproportionately happy.  A bee, whether bumbly or the honey-making variety, checking out the flowers in my garden pollinates satisfaction in my soul, and it has come to be one of the goals of my gardening.

The bee magnet of my garden, without contest is the salvia sauge.  At the peak of its flowering, perhaps mid-June, the small violet flowers – last year more toward purple, this year closer to blue – are beautiful to look at.  It is a beauty whose glory lies in the collectivity.  Go to the Mandevilla flower if you want a solo star, but the bees and the butterflies won’t come for these more tropical blooms, they come to work on the small, grouped flowers of the salvia sauge.

Today, they are a month past their prime, but they are more than a fleeting attraction for these industrious insects, they are a regular stop on the bee tour of the neighbourhood.  I could run to get a camera, because at the moment that I am writing, past 4 pm, a honey bee works at the white flowers of my prolific genoa basil plants.  If this is not enough, a bumble bee now works the salvia sauge and makes passing acquaintance with the basil, as well.

God has ordained Sundays as my day of rest.  As an adult, I acknowledge my need for a day set apart unto the Lord.  God is not a man that he should slumber…

Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD is your keeper;
The LORD is your shade on your right hand.

The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.

The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever more.

Ps. 121: 4-8 ESV

Gardener in springtime


 This evening’s work included planting these seeds from my 2015 garden: echinacea, yellow dahlia, red dahlia, cosmos, salvia sauge & basil – Thai or Genoa?  Didn’t label my egg carton seed container very well, so I’ll have to wait too see. How much time before. Seedlings pop?  Not much experience in this but with the warm, humid days- maybe one week.

used this bumper stickert to separate out the seeds from a dried flower

Bright view

 A bright view to light the cold, rainy days to come…

…for where there is light, beauty will rise from the earth. Spring-hope, summer-fruition, will come again.

I have seen this light, tasted the fruit, thus I believe. Blessed are those who have this bright view faith in midst of dark days.

Lives enabled pure

It is a Saturday morning and I am so well situated on a wooden lounger next to a most elegant lake and it is quiet except for the hum of traffic on Rue de la Parc Lafontaine and the footsteps of the occasional jogger.

CarreSaintLouisVectorTomorrow at this time I’ll be singing “I am souled out”, for that is the song that Jireh uses as Julien balances the individual mike levels and then the section levels. Tomorrow is work, at the “Lanaudière” festival, and the pleasure of performing, but today, in a swap for Sunday, is reflection and satisfaction in God’s blessings.

I read scripture daily and this morning, instead of the usual breakfast table or living room setting, I took the Bible down Prince Arthur to Carré Saint-Louis, that most Français of Montreal parks and sat next to the two-tiered fountain and opened the Psalms. I have a fountain psalm – one of my very favourites, Psalm 87, but this morning I stuck with where I am in the structure of my read-in-a-year program: Psalm 140; and then Solomon dedicating the temple (and preaching a really good sermon) in 2 Chronicles 6 and 7; and Jesus teaching a lawyer the meaning of the word “neighbour” in Luke 10; and Paul, about controlling my body in 1 Thessalonians 4:7-8 (NIV). “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.” All of that – all 4 readings and the Psalm that sprang to my heart in view of the fountain that says “we belong” – spoke to me this morning. God gives us his Holy Spirit. Being holy is my calling, and it looks entirely like Jesus. “Pure” is my word of reflection for this year et, le voilà, there it is, just like that, God’s Holy Spirit, teaching me what pure looks like in all 4 readings. His Holy Spirit, convicting me and showing me the better way.

And there’s even more in store – God speaks through nature and I have Annie Dillard along as an interpreter of that. I have 3 fruits, bought on the way, with me. A fig from the near East, framboises provenant du St-Joseph-du-Lac, and half of a dragon fruit from the Far East. May God’s fruit which comes from lives-enabled-pure be in evidence here in Québec and throughout the whole earth. Selah.

Step of Faith

Ted_Carol_withbananatree_croppedI love this picture from June of 1997 because I love the woman next to me, who, inconceivable to her as this photo was taken, would become my wife within 6 months time.

Marriage might be the biggest step of faith that a human-being takes.  Compared to the step of faith of believing in God, marriage is deciding that you are going to link your future to a person that you have only recently become acquainted with. God, on the other hand, if you believe what I believe, had initiated a relationship with you and was absolutely committed to you from the moment you were conceived.  You became aware of his existence years after God knew about you and then you decided for any one of many great reasons that you would link your future to God.  It’s one small step for man, but it seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable step to take to commit to someone who has known you as long as you were.

Even if you married the girl next door, at some point you took a risk in thinking that if you lived a little closer together it would make for a better relationship.

For my beautiful Carol, the man with the perfectly contented grin next to her might turn out to be so perfectly full of himself that he wouldn’t give the appropriate time-of-day every day to developing his relationship with her.  That happens in marriage.  Marriage relationships are work – who is to say that this grinning man wouldn’t turn out to be too lazy to do that work?

I love this picture because that girl with her both feet standing on a hot driveway next to me took that step of faith in me and it is turning out fine.  So fine!

Most unfavourite things

“Hi, this is Ted Dettweiler calling from Dettweiler’s Sausage.  We’re going to be delivering in your area in the afternoon on Saturday, August 23.  Would you like some sausage at this time?”

That’s my opening line on the telephone to my 87 phone order customers in various parts of the Niagara region.  It’s not very refined – I think they say in sales to never ask a question that can be answered with a “No”.  But this blog post is not about improving my sales technique, it’s to tell you the very interesting things that happen when I FINALLY get around to making these phone calls.

FINALLY get around – OK, let’s back up – calling customers in the Niagara region is something that I do only 4 times per year as that is how many trips I make to the St. Catharines market, doing delivery to homes in certain areas, like Niagara-on-the-Lake, in the afternoon after I’ve finished my market sales.  I have more customers than the 87 that I will call today and tomorrow, but the rest have email addresses and I have rigged up my Filemaker Pro database so that I can click my mouse on “Send delivery email” or “Send market email” and when they respond I can click on “Send delivery confirm” etc.

4 times per year I procrastinate the calling.  I’ll fiddle with my database layout; I’ll do the dishes; I’ll make raspberry jam; I’ll create a blog on food and then post a story on the garden stew I was making to avoid doing these calls.  You must be thinking, what kind of customers does he have that he avoids doing a half-a-baker’s-dozen-dozen phone calls so?

My customers are the best customers in the world.  Many of the phone list customers are older and don’t do internet, email and all that modern stuff.  While many are quite business-like on their calls (my long distance records show that my average call lasts 14.5 seconds*) that suits me fine as that is exactly my phone manner – all business-at-hand, no chit-chat or politesse.  “I’ll have the same as last time” is a common order, which is why I keep records in my database, so I know exactly what, when, who and how much the last time was.  The number of these customers who order every time I call is much higher than it is for the email customers*, so I would be a fool to stop calling them simply because calling is something that I prefer not doing.

*Full disclosureI made up the two authoritative statements made in the previous paragraph.  If I took the time to do a study on my average call length or the order frequency of phone vs email customers I would only be further procrastinating my calling.

Calling is going very well, as usual. I’ve been playing a game to get through the calling.  These are the rules:  I must continue calling until one of the customers says “not this time”, at that, I mark “NTT Aug 2014” in the calling status field and put an X, which becomes an X in the YmX field.  At that point, I give myself permission to write another paragraph in this blog.  If I get an answering machine, or they are going to call me back once they check with their daughter, or the phone is busy (*66), that doesn’t count – I just document it in the database in the call status field and <ctrl>semi-colon in the call date field to put a timestamp on it and I’m on to the next phone number.  Count the paragraphs and you’ll see how many NO’s I’ve had so far.

†Not many NO’s at all as I only started the write-a-blog-paragraph-each-time-I get-a-NO game on around the 3rd paragraph (that doesn’t include the opening call-dialogue quote, but does include the footnoted paragraphs written in-line – like this one).  I’m actually wanting to procrastinate on the blog writing in favour of the calling, it’s going so well.  But first let me tell you about one interesting call that brought tears to my eyes, and from the emotion in my callers voice, I would likely say that it brought tears to my customer’s eyes as well.  Stay tuned, that’s coming up right after this calling break.

I think there were probably at least two or three very interesting calls that I could write about – I’m a writer (though not professionally) besides making the very best sausage you can find anywhere.  Sometimes when I am in the midst of the mundane task of calling customers it’s as if God sends me a sparkling jewel to remind me that there is more to life than making a living.

I’m thinking back to a call, earlier this year, to one of my very best customers  as I was preparing for my annual Leamington-and-area sausage deliveries in February and there are tears in my eyes as I write.  On that day, I could hardly continue talking on the phone, my emotions made it difficult for me, because of her and her family’s tremendous loss that was still so painfully fresh when I made the call.  I don’t want to give any more details about this experience but even this was for the good as I felt it was ordained by God that I called that customer on that day.

This morning one of my best customers spoke of her granddaughter who was on her way today to the U.S.A. where she is accepting a scholarship for university.  I’m sure she is so proud of her granddaughter’s achievements which allowed her to earn this scholarship, but the concern that she expressed was for her spiritual well-being going away to study.  I said that I’d pray for this grand-daughter whenever I thought of the school where she is going to study.  That will be fairly often as the school, or state, has produced many fine football coaches that have worked in Canada in the CFL and also in our universities.  (I’ve been a CFL and Golden Hawks fan for a long time).

I really liked when my customer told me what was on her heart on this day.  God has always provided for me quite well through this sausage business passed down from my father.  In recent years I’ve seen great things happen in around the business.  I have the faith that comes from seeing God act in my life.  I’ve come through a few very challenging experiences myself and now sometimes I feel called alongside others when they need support.  For sausage lasts for 6 or 8 months when kept properly in a freezer, but the spiritual side of us, I know, that keeps forever.

Rejoice with me, for I finished all 87 calls and this blog is thus complete!