eulogy

015_HaroldDettweiler_portraitat29On Wednesday morning, the day of Dad’s funeral service, I woke early and went downstairs with my iPad to write out my eulogy in full. A search for the words of the verse I had gone to bed meditating on turned it up in Psalm 116:15. I have a developed preference for quoting complete passages of scripture, whenever possible, and I saw that this Psalm had both several All-Star verses (the type we might highlight) and had an overall theme which is more than compatible with describing the life experience of one who “calls on the Lord”. I decided early to read the Psalm in Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” version, not because it is any stronger or says more what I’d like to say in that version but because I know my weakness and how I can become incapable of continuing to speak when Scripture slays me with its “sharper than a two-edged sword” nature. Eugene Peterson uses different words and perhaps I thought that these words would be somewhat duller to my emotions. So there I was, in a different way than usual, using the words of Scripture for my purposes.

I am a fan of historical fiction, especially when the writer has done his or her research. Much of the time that I spent sitting in Dad’s room at A.R. Goudie I needed no more occupation than to think about dad’s life. In my eulogy, I tie the dated photo [January 1948] of dad with 120 other students at Kitchener Bible School with a note that dad wrote about his “first job” which included milking Uncle Norman’s cows besides their own. When he wrote that he would hitch up the horse to the sled in the winter and head across the fields in the morning I had a romantic image that I just couldn’t resist. It is quite probable, now that I’ve done a quick Google of Howard Dettweiler’s birth year, that Dad was referring to his chores circa 1936, when he, as a 14 year-old, would be more capable of hand-milking cows than 7 year-old Howie, Uncle Norman’s only son. But a little compression of a lot of chore-doing between 1936 and 1948 is only taking a tiny bit of poetic license.

some of Kitchener bible school January 1948 studentsAmong the witty one-liners that Dad so often used in Karen’s biographical exercise book to avoid the hard work of filling out the facts, there are, in fact, a few interesting facts. It is recorded that Dad made Mom’s acquaintance (for the first time?) when he was invited to Cecil Mader’s Sunday dinner (dad’s employer from 1943 through to 1946) along with the [all-girl] Arthur Hachborn family who went to the same Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church in Breslau as the Maders. Mom verified [in a phone call today] that this would have been when she was 15 or 16 years old. I said in the eulogy that Hitler delayed dads life, but that God uses for good what was intended for evil. I’ve no doubt that Harold took note of the young woman, Margaret, on that Sunday dinner in 1943. I can imagine him contemplating if God was beginning to call him to the church that in 1947, after the war, changed its name to the “United Missionary Church”. A girl hardly 16 is much too young to be a wife, however, and Mom was busy boarding in Kitchener to continue her education at K.C.I. The next we hear of Dad and Mom is Christmas of 1948 when the youth groups join to go carolling. Margaret is now 20 years old and Harold is not going to miss his opportunity to drive Margaret home and begin a 4 year courtship.

When I read the eulogy based on Psalm 116, I finished with an uninterrupted reading of verses 16 through 19. Bear in mind I was expecting to have difficulty delivering this eulogy without choking up and being unable to speak. Carol and I had prayed that I would be able, contrary to many previous experiences, to overcome my emotions, so often brought on by the word of God, and deliver this to the end. By the grace of God I had reached this point without any tears or debilitating emotion and, I must say, I was rather elated. It could be that I stretched my hands in the air as I read with the psalmist “Oh God, here I am, your servant”. Afterwards at least one person described my delivery as being “like a Pentecostal preacher”. I must say that careful listeners might have noted that I did ask that they consider these last words of Psalm 116 as the “theme song of Dad’s life”. As I entered into the character of my father addressing these words to the Lord, I just don’t see him doing it with nonchalance or with his hands in his pockets. This is not a kid struggling through a scripture passage and missing the meaning of the words. I know I get a lot of practice, singing in a gospel choir, but Dad will seize the moment when he stands before his creator and he will break forth with all the emotion that God gives him and give praise, give blessing to God.

My life goes on in endless song
above earth’s lamentations.
I hear the real, though far-off hymn
that hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear it’s music ringing,
It sounds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?

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

Life when busy

It is my 55th birthday weekend….and what a weekend is planned!!!!  We didn’t plan it this way because it is my birthday, but, this is definitely my idea of how to celebrate a birthday!

I’m giving myself 2 more minutes to write this blog post….so here is the weekend plan.  I told myself that I would start putting together the merchandise for the Jireh concert today in Sainte-Genevieve.  That’s on the island of Montreal so it is a home-game type of affair.  Around 9am, I should pick up the drum shield from Steve’s music. Sometime in the afternoon we’ll have the various |Jireh CD’s and the Get Up t-shirts and my wardrobe (intermission change of look – I sincerely love that, because ‘au fond’ I am a true blue performer and performers do multiple wardrobe changes during the same show) and the Jireh banner for the merchandise table and (have I forgotten anything?), oh yes, there is Carol, my wife and director of Jireh Gospel Choir.

Thinking of Carol, she would find it SPOT ON if I would suggest, maybe around noon today, that we stop what we are doing and pray for the concert today in Sainte-Genevieve and for the second part of the birthday mad weekend which is a Black History Month concert in Burlington, Vermont with Montreal Gospel Choir.  We have much to pray about, you can see.  We want to do the choir thing well – both choirs.  Do well in our interactions within the choir and in our brief but important relationship performing before an audience.

So, there will probably be a cake or two on my choir extravaganza 55th birthday weekend, but the thing that will make it so special is that at 55, I will be celebrating with people I love doing something that is such a big part of my life, something that I LOVE doing and that gives my life fulfillment and purpose.

More on this weekend, later – perhaps a resumé of highlights when I return from Vermont on Sunday evening!

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”.

 

Engagement

engagement rose

The roses at my local-preferred flower shop, Florateria on des Pins in Montreal, are magnificent and fittingly they have names to inspire the imagination.  “Engagement” did that for me.  It brought to mind the time, 19 years ago, when I had entered into an engagement for life together with Carol Bernard.  Such good memories of being on the edge of a permanent life change and enjoying every anticipatory moment.  I had to buy the rose – it had singular beauty, one was the only appropriate number, five or a dozen would only diminish the glory.

In the months between the day when Carol accepted my proposal and the the day we married we searched out and found a home that will most likely be the only place we will ever need to call home.  We didn’t know just how perfectly it would fit with our future lives.  I knew at the moment that I carried our first Christmas tree two blocks home from the supermarket that I would enjoy bringing my country ways home to our condo in the city.

Engagement rose on dining tableOur engagement to each other has, from our very first moments together, always included the engagement to a joint “projet de société” of being in, about and all through a gospel choir.  As friends, we began Jireh together out of being brought together in Union United Church Gospel Choir.  The years added River’s Edge Gospel Choir and then Montreal Gospel Choir.  This Sunday, that last choir and its’ 90-some singers will be blowing the lid off of the church that Carol and I call home.  We didn’t imagine something big like that when we began our life together but with God life has been ordered, blessed and the kind of thing you could describe in the most positive words the prophet Jeremiah can muster, “a future and a purpose”.

I have a heritage

Harold Dettweiler, first-born son with (oldest to youngest) Margaret, Mary and Ruby. Year - 1925.
Harold Dettweiler, first-born son with (oldest to youngest) Margaret, Mary and Ruby. Year – 1925.

 

This photo of my father speaks volumes to me.  I love reading and contemplating history.  The best kind is the history that has shaped your own life.  My father is still with us in 2016, passing his 94th birthday!

In the midst of the “roaring twenties” my grandparents had the family put on their Sunday-best clothes and document themselves at a photographer’s studio.  Dad knew the Great Depression of the thirties. There’s a story of my grandfather going to market with piglets and coming home later with more than he took as someone else had slipped their own that they didn’t have the means to feed in with the Dettweiler stock.  The Christmas gift one of those lean years, shared among his sisters was a simple enamel or steel comb for their hair. Dad was finished his schooling at the Riverbank school, just down the road from home, in 1936.Harold, Clark, Ward and Glen Dettweiler in dad's teen years  The future, from that point was working on the farm.  My Mennonite heritage, through my father, is evangelical Christian.  His father’s barn impelled passers-by with the words of John the Baptist from Mark 1:15, “Repent, and believe the Gospel”.

In 1942, my dad was sent, along with other conscientious objectors to alternative service which began, for him, at the Montreal River camp in Ontario, on the north shore of Lake Superior.  An autograph book my father kept from those times makes me think that my father experienced an extended bit of camp-comradery as his co-workers there in the 6 or 8 months he spent there shared on those pages scripture verses or perhaps a witty poem.  His alternative service then continued near home as he worked for the local dairy right through the very end of the war in 1946.

After the war, life continued on the farm.  Dad travelled several times during those years between the war and the meeting-my-mom and marriage in 1952 to Alberta, at harvest-time to work on harvesting the grain.  In winter, when farm work was less intense he attended this Bible School held at First Mennonite in Kitchener.  The photo below is only half of a huge panorama shot of the students involved with him in learning from the Bible in January of 1948.  My dad is in the top row the second from the right hand side of the photo.My dad among other Bible School students at Kitchener in January 1948

From all this history of dad, I learn that I didn’t invent life out of nothing (ex nihilo?) I just continued it.  Like I would walk behind my dad as he tilled the soil of the garden in spring with the roto-tiller, I followed in the way that he had established.  If I like to dress well, I continue the lines established by father’s very non-plain ties.  I eat simple food and enjoy it; I love adventure that takes me from home and I love returning.  I can make my own way through life and I’ve been informed by God’s word.

Thanks, Dad for all of this.

God has no problem with that

Thinking of a title for my Sunday blog this week, which must be prepared this Saturday night as tomorrow is not only a day of rest in the morning for me and Carol, it is an exciting day of choir work as we audition over 50 singers for Montreal Gospel Choir.  Exciting season-beginning event each year.

So….what of the title, “God doesn’t have any problem with that”.  Well, if God were God On High, and also Prosperity God, wishing, even willing my material well-being, I know he would have a problem with the way I conduct my business. This Prosperity God would be ashamed to be associated with an affair like mine which refuses to progress and finds itself (parce que, l’affair dans cette affair, c’est MOI) doing shoddy things like lugging home leftover product wrapped up with ice like I was some bag-lady moving her worldly possessions. At the June market I reached my target of a complete sell-out in spite of having significant un-ordered product.  When this happens, I’m elated the whole trip home.  Today I had little extra product available at the outset (except in Garlic-smoked sausage) so I didn’t try to promote extra sales.  Result:  I didn’t get extra sales and had several no shows – people not claiming their orders.

[Note added 6 weeks after original date of this blog:  watch this 6 minute presentation on the effects of inner voices from Alain de Botton’s School of Life.  You could say that my rather confusing blog “God has no problem with that” is about me listening to my inner voice condemning me about the way I do business.  Fortunately, God is to me the comforting, encouraging inner voice and more than that, God specializes in redeeming bad situations, at least that is my experience.  Read on and see what happens when I’m faced with more leftover product than I can carry and a rapidly approaching deadline if I am to reach the last Saturday train back to Montreal.]

What did the God that I know do?  (Btw, He is Suffering Servant God and God Immanuel, too).  This God sent an absolute angel of a taxi man: patient, caring, good driver, very professional, a listener.  The flat rate from Burlington to Union Station downtown Toronto was nothing miraculous, but I tipped him as if he was Jesus Christ meeting Abraham.  God can get me more of the tipping money and he all-the-time-Jehovah-Jireh does (that’s my life experience).  But still, I’m lugging a hockey-bag-sized ensemble of 4 X 5 kg garlic sausage plus ice bag to keep the product chilled, plus insulation to keep the ice from totally melting, a vinyl sign used between ice and product to keep the whole thing from becoming sausage soup until I got on the chill train. ‘Le tout’ bound together and made carry-able, but not elegantly, with the jib halyard that I salvaged from the items in the rummage shed at the Lake of Bays dump several years ago.  Fer shame, Ted!

I am presently returning from a business trip – please don’t imagine me meeting clients like a traditional businessman might on a business trip.  That is what I do – meet my clients – but we’re not talking of some future sale, we’re handing over product that they have ordered from me by phone or email.  If I did it every month I might really hate what I do, but I do it 4 times per year (go to market) and it refreshes the majority of what I do in my business which is work by myself in a cooler, packaging sausage while staring at the box liners hanging in front of my stainless steel work table. I don’t exactly hate that either, as it is menial work which gives a person time to think great thoughts, and the one day per week nature of packaging is about the appropriate healthy level for doing that sort of thing.

God has no problem with that.  God can use that, even when I’m ashamed of myself for my shabby show.  God is ‘in it’.  Like ‘with me’ – Immanuel.  God doesn’t desire to put me in a situation where I don’t feel much respect for my business self, but he doesn’t say “I’m out of here” or reinforce my negative self condemnation, he sends his angels to carry me.  Sometimes the taxi dispatcher sends Jesus.

Glory to God, in the highest!

And peace, on earth.

Good will…

 

 

btw, the bag-lady worldly possessions ensemble got delivered to my faithful Cornwall customer (and perhaps himself a double agent school teacher / part-time angel) who was over-the-moon for how it worked out in his favour and was ready for me to deliver like this all-the-time.  That would be putting the Lord, Thy God to a foolish test (in my eyes, anyways).  This one’s a one-off, kind of cool-in-the-end experience that started with me wallowing in misery.  And praise God, for His ways are right.  But Via Rail delivery? Not happening…..more than once.

Creator in Cana



Above is a screen shot of just one (of four) scripture readings for me on October 7, 2015.  Sometimes I can get in the habit of treating the Bible as a book that preachers use to make their point. This reading snaps me out of that sort of unfortunate thinking.

A sceptic might say that the early church got together and insured their institution’s future by writing these gospels – accounts of Jesus’ life. But this doesn’t read like something approved by a committee.  The simpler, non-conspiracy theory explanation for these accounts of Jesus is that individuals who had been with Jesus wrote down what happened. That’s how I’m reading this.

Jesus’ mother obviously knew that she had much more than an exceptional child.  He’s now a man and she is more than proud, she’s experienced God’s favour to have a mother-son relationship with the creator of the universe.

Jesus, his mom and some of the disciples are at a wedding, kind of like I’m going to a wedding out of town this weekend. There will be real things, maybe something I could blog about, that will happen while I’m at Gabrielle and Christian’s wedding in Sherbrooke, just like there was eating and drinking and maybe some dancing at this wedding in Cana.

So I might use my talents and make a blog posting based on my experience this Saturday. John was at a wedding in Cana with the Creator and his mother. Definitely worth writing about. I once missed a funeral, because I was in Ottawa and the action was in Montreal, where the pall-bearers included a former American president and a Cuban dictator.  That happened. This wedding in Cana had much more, the Creator and his mother. That happened as well. They just don’t make this stuff up.

What does John write of what happened between the Creator, his mom and the various wedding people?  [Take time to read my screen shot above]

If I was looking for a creative twist for how to teach this story to my grade 2/3 Sunday school class (back in the day) I might decide that we were going to make wine.  I do have wine-making equipment stored in a closet somewhere and if I got some grape juice and a fermenting agent, well, we could pretend. My kids would not be wine connaisseurs, not like the master of the banquet and while I really think that Jesus might just show up (in spirit) in my Sunday School class it would be more to laugh in the background at my creative effort than to rock our worlds by transforming grape juice (me, of little faith) into wine in a half-an-hour’s time.  Most of the time God allows faith to grow normally through Sunday School teachers and other people who are simply good examples – he is the ultimate delegator that way.

But for Biblical occasions, the Creator gets “hands-on”.  Well, he doesn’t actually DO anything, he is just present and he gives orders.  “Fill the jars with water” and “draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet”. Everybody did as Jesus requested. Jesus humours his mother. Everyone’s blessed by the Creator.

The Creator is not limited by time and space anymore.  Greater things than these…to those who believe.