“The hardest thing about the road not taken 
is that you never know where it might have led.”  
Lisa Wingate, A Month of Summer

My Get Up and Go, Got Up and Went
It’s a line from a song; it made my plans bend.
I’d planned to go further, but my vehicle stalled
And I had to make that fatal, 911 call.

I called up my Bro, to tell him the news
“You can’t push my wheelchair for the dinner or cruise,
I have to cancel the date we planned for years,
Cause my get up and go, just got up and went.”

I have 13 screws placed in my neck, 
connected by 13 rods in one set.
I put my foot in my mouth when my neck doesn’t bend… 
It’s an achievement I’d rather not try again.

Thankfulness comes in a pushy way
You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s taken away
Until I’m ashamed and my soul feels betrayed,
When dark corners get lit, I’m content to say…

That my get up and go has got up went
And that’s really okay, because there comes a day
When the gift God gifted does the same thing
And you are left with the grace of that very first day. 

Now my get up and go has got up and went;
I’m headed home, where I’ll be content.
My vehicle stalled, I made that 911 call,
Now I’ll say goodbye, and won’t see you again.

Please send me your photo of ‘72, 
Include your name tag in, bold, gold letters, too. 
Have fun at the 50th Highschool Reunion, 
Remember the good times we had at school.

Moments in memories make a reunion.
Ask Mr. Emmert or Miss Dyck,
Who are never mistaken,
What was at the end of the road not taken?

Do write to me: frieda.mcrae@gmail.com

The fun is explosive; it can’t be just mine. 

You on your side of the world and me online. 

If I take a flight, in the dark of the night

I may think up new stories, or else cause a fight.

Pause and take a few weeks or even some months,

Have something to eat and go out for lunch.

Parting is really such sweet ‘n sour sorrow,

But don’t you fear, there’s another tomorrow.

Juni spent all night crying into his pillow and devising his escape plan. He was drastically homesick. His mother dropped him at the school campus where he lived 11 months of the year with 11 other boys. Juni, 12 years old, had been part of the hostel for nearly 4 years and enjoyed the other boys, ranging 5 to 18 years old. But that night his pillow grew soggy. Every tear brought memories of his mother who lived in a crowded colony of rag-pickers along the city’s railway tracks. For Juni, “home” is “Mom.” The ghetto filth, the abusive language and life, the violence and poverty are all accepted parts of the “home” he loves. He missed her, even though her last, loud, scolding words to his hostel parents were, “Next year I’m not taking him home for the summer. He’s way too much trouble.”

Four years earlier, Juni’s father was drinking with his neighbours. Then the inevitable happened. Obscene language echoed in the narrow streets. Shouting and the sounds of rioting were heard. Suddenly, inebriated neighbours converged on him, beating Juni’s father mercilessly.

The reason? Money. Always money, debt, or greed. But that wasn’t the end for Juni’s father. A rope was tied around his neck and he was hung. When it happened, Juni and his mother were on a bus heading to Punjab to visit relatives. When the phone call came, detailing his father’s death, their journey ended. Juni and his mother turned around and went back. Juni was seven years old—old enough to have learned survival skills in the ghetto.

Juni grew up hearing conversations about money and understood money was life’s priority. Money meant survival. And he knew more than one way to earn money. At six, he would often board newly arrived trains to clean the floors, disposing of the garbage people thoughtlessly scattered during their journey. He was given a small sum for his cleaning. Juni learned what kind of trash would sell—the work of a rag-picker. Depending on what he found, or what he could steal, he could make a fair amount of money. This work was always done in the early morning hours, before dawn, in darkness, when it was easier to avoid the police. And then there was the chai shop where he could earn honest money serving chai and washing pots and cups. Juni was still a child, but he knew a lot about survival. He knew how to keep safe, and who to avoid. Which is why his escape was so perfectly planned.

When Juni’s father died, his mother was left without a way to care for her young son and work as well. She was well aware of the trouble Juni would get himself into if she was not with him. From neighbours she heard about our school and admitted him when he was eight years old. She wanted him to have a bright future.

After that night of tears, Juni appeared ready for the usual Sunday meeting at 10:00 a.m., Juni, the school staff, and the other hostel boys, had returned from a month of being with their families. In a large room everyone gathered for a time of sharing. A special activity was always planned for the children, but this Sunday included a snack for everyone as well. The younger children were excused for their activity, and it was at that precise moment that Juni’s plan kicked into action.

Before the Sunday meeting began, Juni asked a few boys for money. Then he placed a few things in his bag, including the goodies he’d recently brought from home. Early in the morning he hid the bag among some bushes. When the children were called for their activity, Juni turned into the bathroom. Who would question that? His teacher wasn’t aware that he was absent. Juni waited in the stall until there was silence, then slipped out. Ducking beneath windows where he knew adults sat, he headed for his bag in the bushes. Without slowing down, he slung it onto his back. It was 4 kilometres to the bus stop and he never stopped running. When the bus appeared at the same time he reached the stop, he scrambled aboard.

Back at the school campus, the Sunday morning meeting went on longer than usual because of a special after-meeting snack. Finally, Juni was discovered to be missing. His house-parents plopped themselves into the chairs in front of Yip and I. It was obvious from their faces that something was wrong.

“Juni has run away!” And before we could respond, “We just had a call from his mother who is asking, ‘Why is Juni at home?’”

“What? He’s already home!” I was astonished.

Slowly, the pieces began to fit together.

Juni had been a ringleader in the younger boy’s hostel. He planned what they could steal from the school and how it would be done. Biscuits, cell phones, and purses began disappearing. He’d observed what items there were on the campus, including the trash, and decided what could be sold to earn a little money. With the younger boys enlisted to help, they started collecting trash, and even did some stealing. And finally, Juni taught them how they could successfully avoid detection while breaking rules and running away. He told them the plan of his great escape and asked them, “Who wants to come with me?” He had no followers. They’d been punished before because of Juni’s escapades.

He left undetected. His plan was a success. From the time of the children’s activity until the snack afterwards, Juni had travelled home. He’d run 7 kilometres, and rode 34 kilometres on the bus to the city. Juni knew how to survive. He knew how to succeed.

Our immediate thought was to get Juni back and help him to understand that the school where he learns is for his benefit, for his success. It may not be “home,” but is a place that offers him and his mother a positive, alternative chance in life. We wanted him to understand that he could learn to navigate, and achieve success in a world that demands education. He could succeed in a career and be able to provide for his mother. He would be able to get her out of the ghetto. But that didn’t happen.

Juni’s mother sided with her son, believing his lies of being mistreated… Or why would he run away? She threatened us: If her son returned to the hostel, and attempted to run away again, she’d hold us accountable if he didn’t make it home. She declared loudly, “I lost my husband, and now can’t face the possibility of losing my son as well.”

Knowing Juni’s proclivities, we had to let go. “Mom,” is universal for “home.” Wherever Mom is, the heart is. The ghetto filth, the abusive life, the violence and poverty are all part of the “home” Juni loved. We had to trust God for Juni who wanted to fit into his dad’s shoes and care for his mother. He had executed his escape plan faultlessly, but could he survive in a place where his dad couldn’t?

We will remember Juni’s tears, and pray.

Veil My Eyes

Lord my eyes are veiled to Thee

Still brilliant radiance captures me
Lord veil my eyes to Your holiness

For I’m bound to your love mysteriously
Lord, like a child I see Your face

Like a child I feel Your embrace
Don’t lift the veil Lord, awesome God
Till by grace I’m clothed with You above

Don’t lift that veil Lord, lest I die
I know I need to be wholly sanctified
Let all creation announce your love

That unveils Jesus, who face to face will come
That unveils Jesus, who face to face will come

Lord my eyes are veiled to Thee
Still brilliant radiance captures me
Lord veil my eyes to Your holiness 
I’m bound to your love mysteriously

Lord, like a child I see Your face

Like a child I feel Your embrace 
Don’t lift the veil Lord, awesome God

Till by grace I’m clothed with You above
Don’t lift that veil Lord, lest I die

I know I need to be wholly sanctified
Let all creation announce your love
That unveils Jesus, who face to face will come
Let all creation announce your love

That unveils Jesus, who face to face will come
That unveils Jesus, who face to face will come
That unveils Jesus, who face to face will come

Composed by Frieda McRae
Produced by Christopher Hale and Peter Hicks

2011 marked the 25th anniversary of our school, and art made it happen.

I walked into the boy’s study room. It was quiet, but would soon turn into a noisy supper-time dining hall. I sat down beside Paul, an American who came to volunteer for a few months. He is an artist. We had no idea of his talent when we invited him.

One of his passions was drawing on whatever he found. What was trash to most, was for him, an opportunity. When I walked into the dining room that evening, he was busy with a torn piece of paper and a pencil stub he’d found on the table. He was totally absorbed. I peered over his shoulder to see the drawing. An old man leaning over a young child. The old man seemed to be mentoring the child. The child was absorbed in his work, concentrating on the work in front of him.

“Paul, Wow! That’s Shishya!”
“Uh?”
“That is what Shishya means. It’s a Sanskrit word and means to disciple someone; a one-
on-one relationship.”
Paul was excited. He went to check it out in the dictionary. The dictionary definition confirmed his art, and the drawing has represented our school vision for many years now.

Paul kept an eye out for materials to paint on and found quite a few. One day he found a very old rusted piece of tin, 9 x 4 feet. To him it was gold! A treasure! To us it looked ike garbage. In hardly any time, using only white paint, a masterpiece was produced. The tin had rough edges, dangerous for school children, so it was hung on the garage wall— the only safe place for it. It’s message about make-up speaks loud on the backdrop of rusted tin.

It’s not about make-up. It’s not about appearance at all. It is about beauty… beauty made from clay, beauty from ashes, beauty from sharing suffering. Beauty surprises us; it comes in many forms.

One day we hosted a sports day for disabled children who were not students at Shishya. It took serious effort to organize, but with the arrival of the kids, the atmosphere changed. Our students were glowing—oozing with love and welcome for their visitors. They offered a supporting hand, or walked or ran alongside those with disabilities, guiding the deaf and the blind. Friendships were formed, love was found.

We have one student in Shishya School who has no arms, and only one leg. He sits on a special table that gives him enough room to write his lessons with a pencil between his toes. He writes very well.

Another high school student is in a wheelchair. The older boys carry him up and down the stairs happily. His teachers asked if he wanted to do something in the Christmas program. He replied, “Dance.”

That is what he did. In his wheelchair, he moved, spun, threw his arms in abandonment and was wildly happy. Everyone loved it.

Because it was the school’s 25th anniversary, I asked Paul to create an art gallery at our school. The kids were enthusiastic like never before. Paul had ignited a dying spark within the students—a fire of creativity we never knew existed. It was an art attack!

“Paul, can you make a sculpture to put in front of the school to celebrate our 25 years?” “Sure. Let me think about it.”

(Shishya Public School, Atak Farm, Village Kheri)

A few days later Paul returned. “Is it okay if I make a heart?” Knowing Paul’s talent and unique creativity, it seemed trite. “No. That won’t be so good.
Keep thinking.”
He left and never came back to ask again… he just began working on it. A heart. When I saw the sculpture, I was embarrassed. The heart I’d envisioned was more of a valentine. His heart was the artistic interpretation of a living, beating heart. In the centre was the shape of a cross. Twisting around the cross were the words, For He Loved.

It was Shishya.
It was the one-on-on relationship that spins on the axis of love.
It was God bringing beauty up from ashes. His speciality.
God, thanks for Paul, and for art.

Video Folk Dance

Video Independence Dance

*Find Paul online at: Paul Crouse Art

It’s already 50 years down the road—unbelievable! Concord High School class of 1972 celebrates its 50th reunion this year. Will I recognize faces? I messaged Jolene and asked her, “How will I ever know who’s who?” She assured me everyone will wear name tags. My memory is bad, but a few memories I recall vividly. When I share some of them, a frequent response is, “That’s not how it was.” My heart drops, I feel like the dunce in the class again. I’m 68. Why does walking down memory lane turn you into the unconfident, unpoised, ever-awkward teenager?

Subconsciously we choose our memories. We keep some and throw out the ones we don’t like. Two of my sisters insist that my memories are correct, even though they recall the same incident entirely differently. Details are unimportant. The meaning and emotions of what is remembered is what counts. Everyone’s recall of an event is perfect, and as important as the next persons. I write stories and send my memories across the world, hoping a classmate, a friend, might read it. I’ve had some responses:

Looking back, I wish we would have been more supportive to you, but we were also kids, and just as confused.

Yes, now it’s easy to understand that as teenagers, many of us were confused. And not, as I thought at the time, only me.

From 1969-1972 the teenagers of Concord High School processed life through varying stages of personal crisis and muddled misunderstandings. It was the hippie era, peace sit-ins, anti-war protests, learning to make marijuana brownies, the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Rod Stewart… trends and influences within a culture we were trying to emulate. For me, the world became darker and devoid of color. Grey took the forefront. I was searching for that bridge over troubled, raging waters. It seemed like the end as I witnessed children losing their mothers, parents losing their children. Accidents that injured or claimed lives; all at the tender age of searching for life’s purpose. The math didn’t add up.

When my mother was murdered, Dad aged overnight. He was transformed into the exact replica of my grandfather. He was a walking sack of bones, and every muscle in his face drooped. My sisters and I were irrevocably altered, moving through our lives with ghost-like faces. Our close-knit neighborhood was masked in anxiety, frozen in their own shock and fear. The choking lump in our throats left us speechless.

From childhood I intended to go to India. I hadn’t counted on the mess my life would be in by then. I thought I’d skip over to India and take care of orphans in the same manner that the wonderful Flying Nun did in the T.V. series.

In 9th grade, while sitting on the bleachers at a football pep-session, I heard my name announced over the loudspeakers. I feared I’d been caught doing something wrong with my friend, Jane, but instead, found all the girls closing-in to congratulate me. I was clueless.

“Why did they announce my name?”

Jane said, “You’ve been elected Homecoming Attendant.” I didn’t want to show my ignorance, so I waited until later to find out what that meant. It was an honor to be elected, and my mother pampered me with such obvious pride. She took me shopping and picked out my dress-suit for the occasion. She styled my hair, and then sprayed it until the curls around my head were stiff enough to support a banana. Not a hair would blow out of place—even in a hurricane. It was the last time I would be so pampered in by her. When she was murdered, grief and anger turned to teenage rebellion.

I tried for a while. One day, Mr. Lowery had a board drill in Algebra class. My turn came and I marched to the front of the class. I hated algebra. We wrote the problem down as he read, and we each worked on the board as fast as we could. I finished first. Mr. Lowrey’s jaw dropped. He couldn’t believe I got the right answer. Not only was it correct, I beat everyone!

I played on the girls’ basketball team, and during the last seconds of a game, we needed one more basket to give us a victory. Suddenly, the ball landed in my hands. With no time left, everyone yelled, “Shoot!” I was in the middle of the court. With a mighty heave, I “shot.” The ball was in the air when the buzzer sounded… Whoosh! Cheers erupted across the stadium. What an amazing stroke of luck! And what a great memory. Please don’t correct that memory because I like it very much.

I also remember taking my driver’s training test. It was a summer course, and most of us were keen to get a license. I was beyond nervous—I was terrified I’d fail. The test official had me drive into the country to see how I’d maneuver 4 way-stops. I pulled up gently to the stop sign and stopped. I was in a manual car. When the car came to a halt, I realized I’d pulled too far into the intersection. I panicked. So, pretending to be calm and in control, I shifted to reverse and moved back a bit. The teacher seemed to approve. I gained confidence. I looked every direction, and then pressed the gas to cross the intersection; alas! I went backwards! I was still in reverse! Luckily, I jammed the brake before I hit the car behind me. Somehow, that teacher had mercy. Perhaps he saw my nervousness, or remembered being a teenager himself. Whatever the case, I passed.

Until then, I had gone by the books, done everything right and went by the rules. At school, teachers trusted me… and I knew it. I took advantage of it by putting on my coat and hat and strolling out the door, nodding pleasantly to teachers on the way out. It was easy.

One night I brought an African American friend to a basketball game. I was stared at… he was stared at more. Later, a teacher informed me that I was kept off the Honor Society because of it. Concord, in those days, was a very white school. Later, I brought my girls club (African American girls from a poorer area of town) to drape the school’s trees with toilet paper. (Apologies for that one.)

As a senior in high school, I was again one of the four girls elected Attendant, and one of us would become Queen. My name as Attendant was announced over the loudspeakers during one of my classes. It was basketball season, which meant attendants wore formal gowns. I was a dedicated, rebellious hippie. A formal gown was not doable for me.

As soon as I heard my name, I turned around in my seat, my cousin, Steve, was sitting behind me. “Do you want to be my escort? I’m wearing a jeans skirt and a white baggy shirt and climbing boots. As my escort you’ll have to wear jeans and a matching white T-shirt with running shoes. What do you say?” He looked at me with rascally eyes, while his eyebrows rose up playfully. It was obvious. He couldn’t resist such a mutinous offer. “Okay.” That settled that.

On that auspicious day, Steve and I walked onto the Homecoming court arm in arm, wearing our cheap second-hand clothing. Half the crowd booed, and half cheered. It was a rebellious victory and stamped a happy image into my memory. My apologies to my other attendants and the Queen; I meant no harm. I wasn’t trying to hurt anyone; I was just trying to find my way. It didn’t help that I was a pressure-cooker about to blow.

The night mom died, my family and church friends had gathered at a relatives’ house. Police detectives had monopolized our house, investigating and fingerprinting everything. I couldn’t sleep, so I roamed closer to where the adults sat talking in whispers. I was not visible to them in the dark hallway. Someone said: “It must have been God’s will!”

I was taken-aback. “God’s will?” That surely wasn’t true. It contradicted everything I learned in years of Sunday School; God is Love, Jesus saves, God sends angels for protection and only does good. But those words resounded and echoed through my mind like an arrow through my heart. They hurt not only me, but stamped out the faith my mother had taught and raised us with. I decided right then. God was no longer the good guy and threw Him out.

Our friends and classmates saw our pain and grief and avoided talking to us, because, they were also confused. We sisters were becoming that event, and, the event itself was confusing. It made no sense. What could they say?

I arrived in India in 1974. I was 20. My ambition was not only to help orphans, but to find God. God and I had a mutual antagonism towards each other. He killed my mother. He killed my friend and classmate, Mike. God was the murderer who held the whole world in His hands. That’s a lot of control. I wanted truth; whether it be in Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhs, Jains or other. India had every religion. I’d surely find truth in India (and a refuge from Christians).

My classmates in school know that my high school years were tarnished with crisis. But you should know that the reason I went to India was not only to “serve,” but also to find God, to find purpose, to find a reason to live. If didn’t get out of grief, trauma and self-pity, I’d have died. I’m quite sure. At that point of life, unknown to me, the plan had been laid out by my mortal enemy, God. I have no idea why all the bad stuff happens, except that God is able to turn it into good for your life. I began serving children whose vital need was love.

The cure to my soul was serving with love. To do that, my eyes were off myself. Selfishness disappeared like water evaporates; disappointment turned into deep satisfaction. It’s amazing just how simple it is. I stepped out of the victim role and moved into being someone else. I had to have a different perspective to see that I was running away from life, from truth, and from God. From this new perspective, from across the world, I had to look, once more, at Jesus.

One day, I met him. I never confessed my sins or even admitted I was a sinner. I simply, gave up running from Him, and said, “I want to be your friend.” That was when life re- entered my spirit. And I knew Him. There was nothing hidden, nothing to be worked for. Jesus is love, and through Him I learned how to love.

Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail. I Corinthians 13: 4-7

When I place God centerstage, I am free. He frees me from being the 1969 event— Mom’s murder, for which classmates remember me. He taught me forgiveness and love. He showed me I’m no better than anyone else; not even a murderer.

That’s what I wanted to say. I didn’t mean to stay so far away for the last 50 years, but India is far away from Concord High School. I cherish all the memories and all the relationships. Sorry for hurting anyone, and sorry for any pain many of you faced in our school days.

I never expected to have anything to do with school. But in 1986, Yip and I started a school. Exactly 50 years down the road, our first graduation. The Class of 2022.

Hurting each other was never intended. Being 68 is good. My perspective has matured, and I still have time to grow. Through all the hardships, trauma and grief, life has been rich; it’s been amazing. Thanks, classmates, for being part of mine. You’ve given me memories and friendship.

Can you find me?

See you at the 50th.

P.S. Please wear your name tag!

“Let’s Make a Deal”

God said,

“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

That is the question God asked and kindly wrote out for us to think about. I’m guessing He is expecting an answer. In fact, I think He is offering us a deal. Surely, there is some reason why he threw that out to us. Perhaps some simple deductions might give some kind of answer. For God, it should be not only an intelligent answer, but the right answer. Think hard.

Being inspired, I made some notes and formulated a few questions in order to provide some light meditation on God’s question and bring us closer to the right answer. If we focus on life, death, the world and everything else, we’ve probably got our bases covered.

Kindly follow these rules and take the following quiz. When finished, if you are in a classroom, pass your paper to the person behind for checking. If you are alone, sign a vow that you trust yourself enough not to cheat on answers of life and death—no matter what the outcome may be.

If you need paper, find some. This is a one dozen-question quiz. Good luck, and look good.

As you write, keep in mind; “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

(begin)

  1. Does your happiness fit into a pillbox or can you measure it in kilometres?
  2. Considering the state of the world, is best to be a gopher or an ostrich?
  3. Is PTSD the same thing as, Pre-meditated Thought on Sacred Deals?
  4. True or false:
    Can the answer to the great question of life, the universe, and everything, be 42 as discussed in the book, Hitchhikers guide to the Universe?
  5. Multiple choice: Which is the most probable way the world was formed?
    1. The big bang: otherwise, what in the world happened?
    2. Evolution: Hint: put all the pieces of a watch in a jar and shake it; same concept.
  6. True or false:
    Is there something else, or is this it? (Hint: We asked Grandma where she wanted to be buried, “Anywhere should do, I’m not staying there anyway.”)
  7. True or false:
    Angels are God’s messengers in much the same way that demons aren’t.
  8. Would you feel secure if areas of misgiving and indecision were inflexibly distinct?
  9. Could Earth, where you live; be better titled as “Neanderthal Explosion?”
  1. If the answer to life, the universe and everything is not an algorithm, but is God; where would you be on His scale of 1-10?
  2. Why do humans have the habit of continually denying the obvious
    *Use cheat-sheet @: Rom. 16:18-20;
    Opposition to truth cannot be excused on the basis of ignorance, because from the creation of the world, the invisible qualities of God’s nature have been made visible, such as his eternal power and transcendence. He has made his wonderful attributes easily perceived, for seeing the visible makes us understand the invisible. So then, this leaves everyone without excuse.
  3. The final question: What is the deal God wants to make with us?

Hopefully, the quiz has ignited your brain and thoughts are now flowing in like a computer upload.

Time to answer God’s question:

What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and loose his own soul?

Some deductions were just sent in:

*Thank you, Mr. Smith, for sending your calculations. That’s pretty deep stuff.

Since we’re on the subject of gaining the whole world, I’m reminded of my husband, Yip, who came hippy-style to India in 1974. He worked with a doctor and couldn’t help hearing over and over again about Jesus, God, and how He created the universe, life, and everything. But Yip wasn’t really wanting God. Not Jesus. He wasn’t wanting to become one of those nice Christians he’d met. He’d had enough of them.

Yip was staying in the mountains, and one starry night stood outside, looking at the valley and up to the stars. He wasn’t thinking of anything in particular, when he heard a voice, seemingly out of nowhere. “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” Yip was startled, for his aim was to be the youngest person to travel the world and visit the most countries and buy a Jaguar with his own money.

Now he was worried about who was talking and why was he talking to him? Disturbed, he went inside and asked his friend, P.M., about the voice message he’d heard. He repeated what the voice had said. “Wow! That’s great,” said P.M. “Those words are from the Bible. Mark 8:36.”

Now Yip was concerned. “God? Why in the world would you speak to me? Feeling quite troubled, and slightly guilty, Yip decided the best thing to do would be to go to bed. So, he did.

But he couldn’t sleep a wink. He just tossed and turned. In the early hours of the morning, Yip decided to talk back to God. It never occurred to him that it was exactly what God wanted.

“God, I can’t understand why you’d want someone as useless as me? It makes no sense. But, if you’re that keen on me, then you can have me.”

After that, Yip slept soundly. When he got up in the morning, the world was a brilliant kaleidoscope of colour. Actually, it hadn’t changed a bit, but Yip had changed. Everything he laid his eyes on looked brighter. The universe was more beautiful, and full of life. Yip was dancing, literally… with God.

Have you seen the horizon looking like the portal to heaven?

I walk out my door and hear the songs of the birds, the barking of dogs, the laugh of children on the playground. The flowers. Clouds and storms. Songs. Love. Children, ants and elephants.

None of these things are man-made; no algorithm has been or could be invented for such things. In other words, it is clear. No excuse can stand. There is evidence.

So, there is a choice.

Think hard.

Choose the right answer. 

God doesn’t want to fail you.

I suggest that enduring the present pain, suffering humiliation and worse, as compared to living eternally with Jesus; no pain, no tears ever, would be a good choice.

P.S. The twist in the plot is that God made a few extra promises that look pretty good, you may want to check them out: (at the bottom of the page)

Answers:

  1. Answer to Question number 12:
    (Officially correct answers are not provided for Q #1-#11, but an answer for #12 is given)

    God’s proposed deal:
    “If you agree to suffering, pain, and sorrow for my sake now, I’ll give you eternal life in an unbelievable, peace-filled paradise with me.”
  2. Answer for God’s Question: (the one he wrote out for us to answer; Mark 8:36)
    (The answer is not 42, but is written for you spelled backwards, in case you are still thinking hard)

    Answer: The negative form of:
    GNIHTON
    Life, death and everything flies by very quickly, so, THINK HARD.

Note the great perks in God’s deal:

Revelation 21:3-4 
I also heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is among men, and He shall tabernacle among them. They shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them and be their God. He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more. Nor shall there be mourning or crying or pain any longer, for the former things have passed away.”

Romans 8;17,18
Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. For I consider the sufferings of this present time not worthy to be compared with the coming glory to be revealed to us.

Isaiah 11:6 -9
Leopards will lie down with young goats, and wolves will rest with lambs. Calves and lions will eat together and be cared for by little children. Cows and bears will share the same pasture; their young will rest side by side. Lions and oxen will both eat straw. Little children will play near snake holes. They will stick their hands into dens of poisonous snakes and never be hurt. Nothing harmful will take place on the Lord’s holy mountain. Just as water fills the sea, the land will be filled with people who know and honour the Lord.

The Wisdom of Job

He spreads the skies over unformed space.

Hung the earth out in that empty place.

Pours water in cloud-bags, then blows them along,

Speaks but a word and the storm is gone.

Listen and say, let’s just see God. 
Listen and say, let’s see God his way.

At His gentle gaze, the moon waxes and wanes,

Showcasing lightshows and lunar displays.

When sun meets the moon; horizons unfurl;
A palate of colour splashes the world.

Listen and say, let’s just see God.
Listen and say, let’s see God his way.

Nails were driven into his flesh;
He made it clear we don’t need to fear.

Punishment has been taken away;
Through nails and tears our debt has been cleared. 
Listen and say… let’s just see God.

Thunder in heaven crashes and roars
God defends His family forevermore,

Listen! It’s God! He’s raising his voice! 
His children cry out; justice arrives.

Listen and say, let’s just see God.
Listen and say, let’s see God his way.

Nails were driven into his flesh;
He made it clear we don’t need to fear, 
Punishment has been taken away;
through nails and tears our debt has been cleared.

Let’s just see God.
Let’s see God his way.

Job 26:9-14

Audio version for Sermon 206

Life. It’s full of sink or swim moments.

Swim? We’re elated.

Sink? We’re down in the dumps.

I began thinking about these things after somebody said something hurtful to me. God’s answer? “Frieda, you can take this. Just deal with it. I’m with you.”

Some say we’re 90% water; I say we’re 98% emotions. We’re happy, we’re sad. We are familiar with grief, joy, bitterness, hilarity, jealousy, pride and a zillion other emotional out-bursts. We can easily cover a range of feelings in just a few minutes or hours, and along the way, indulge ourselves in little dramatic eruptions. We love topping them off with self-pity as extra masala.

Everyone has a personalized Life Road. What is at the end of yours? Tears? Joy? Catastrophe? It can be a scary view down that road. If we could see the end, even one glance would take courage.

How you weather life, that is the issue; finding the key to get the best end results. The greatest challenge? To manage well the most delicate, most fragile of all emotions. Yep, you guessed it. It’s the biggest, scariest, most cherished and necessarily sacrificial emotion of love. Life’s quest is learning how to love. That is the whole purpose.

My brain, while thinking these deep, invasive thoughts, became muddled. I landed in the mud. I searched out an old hymn book, opened it up (plop) and it landed on hymn number 206. I didn’t know the hymn. It was written by Leighton G. Hayne in 1863. God spoke to me, saying, “Come on, encourage yourself.”

I started strumming my own tune and found myself turning Leightons words into my words… (sorry Leighton) and before I knew it, I’d dug myself out of the mud.

I hope that if you’re down in a mud pit, the song will pull on your heartstrings (like a pully), and pull you out of the mire.

Hymn Number 206 

Gracious spirit, Love divine; let thy light within me shine;
All my guilty fear remove, fill me with thy Heaven’s light.
Speak your pardon, it’s grace to me, set this chained up sinner free.
Weight of sin flee far from me; the Lamb of God has died for me.
Life and peace to me impart; seal salvation on my heart.
Dwell O God, within my breast; guarantee of immortal rest.
Let me never from the stray. lest I stumble and lose my way. 
Without you’d be no light of day, darkness flees from Jesus’ face. 
You speak grace to all you meet. Paid a debt, was owed by me.
Set this chained up sinner free, joy has captured my destiny.
Amazing love. Love’s my plea. Amazing love for me.
Amazing love for me.

*Hymn Number 206—composed by me and my buddy, Leighton G. Hayne -year 1863

Growing up in Toronto: 1953-1973

My claim to fame was in owning a large red wagon that we, the kindergarten class, needed in order to bring back the pumpkin for the school Halloween celebration.

I also remember being in the principal’s office, to receive corporal punishment, or perhaps it was only a warning that such a thing could happen. Both seemed of equal severity.

In Class 4, I ripped my new red plaid shirt, made by my mother, when I got in a fight with Michael Kelly. I don’t remember the fight itself, only the mortification I felt about crying as a result of it. That may have been the last time I cried.

Early Learning

With seven children in the family, it is not surprising we learned how to work and take on responsibility. My mother was at the heart of that dynamic. She took on secretarial work while completing her college course in botany, all the while keeping her family a well-oiled work-machine. Everyone did household chores, but we also functioned as a little factory. The Rust-Craft truck backed up to our door every week and unloaded boxes of freshly printed cards. Our job was to assemble, glue, count, and repackage the cards, making everything ready for display in the shops. We learned faster than our neighbours how to count to 10.

Eventually, we delivered newspapers—a good reason to not to dilly-dally home from school. We got to know everyone in the district when we made our collections at the end of the month.

Church

The ploughing competition was not the most spiritual church activity, but in retrospect, it was a community happening. I remember it well because it was such a singular event. All the city church folk played “farmer,” with food at the centre of all activities.

One night a week, J.W. Sefton gathered us pre-teens together for floor hockey at the church. I have no recollection of learning any skills, but enjoyed the games.

Every year we camped in the forest and played capture the flag. One year, I went up a day earlier to get things set up. In the afternoon I took the canoe out by myself, without a life-jacket to enjoy a short ride. The wind began picking up so I decided to head back. While manoeuvring the canoe, I was dumped into the freezing cold water. Pushing the swamped canoe ahead of me, I swam for the island in the middle of the lake. Relieved to be on land again, I flipped the canoe over and warmed myself in the sun. Later, I headed back to the campsite, seemingly without anyone noticing my absence. I wondered, had anyone really missed me?

I am not sure why, but I was elected to be in charge of the spiritual aspect of the youth group. I penned some questions we had about God and the church. Then, with two others, we put the questions to the minister. His answers were disappointedly poor in content. We felt our thirteen-year-old selves deserved to be treated more intelligently, even if it meant rescheduling to allow the minister time for research. That put a clear stop to my being in charge of “spiritual stuff.” It was also the last time I went to church for many years.

Sport

My baseball team was the Joe Charish City Service (named after the petrol pump). That is, it was my team until it was clear to everyone I couldn’t catch or hit the ball. Much to everyone’s relief I was found to be good at absconding.

Diving classes must have been someone else’s idea as I surely didn’t sign up on my own accord. I did, however, gain distinction as the only one able to hit his head on the bottom of the diving board before sinking to the bottom of the deep end.

Cross country running was my passion. It allowed me to participate in sports without the peer pressure that comes with being part of a team. I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to go out into the country for competitions.

On summer nights, street hockey was popular. There was no shortage of boys in the neighbourhood, and we played every night. The matches finished early enough for us to play Nicky-Nicky-Nine-Doors. We would run around banging on the neighbour’s doors, and then run away. The Smith’s and the Lankan’s got the most annoyed, so we gave them more attention.

High jumping was a serious sport for my 3 older brothers. It was played by vaulting over the hedges between the neighbourhood houses. My brothers were famous for winning; however, our mother got an earful of complaints from Mr. Alain. Never discouraged, my brother Ted elevated the sport by setting up a pole-vaulting pit behind the house.

Joining the Workforce

I joined my neighbour, Michael, in trying out a better way for an eleven-year-old to earn some money. Because delivering newspapers was not fun during sub-zero temperatures, Michael showed me the ropes at Silverwood Dairy. We arrived at 6 in the morning, and for the first few weeks, Mom got up and made me eggs and a thermos of coffee to take with me. Arriving at the dairy, we hung around asking the drivers if they wanted a helper for the day. Helping meant going with a driver in his truck, running up to the house and depositing milk bottles into the box. We returned with the empties and the tickets. This earned me two dollars a day. A good driver might give you three. I was lucky to have had a number of decent drivers. Apart from earning a daily wage, I also learned my 28 times-table according to the price of a quart of milk. I can’t say that I have used that particular skill since then. Working on the trucks made for an interesting bunch of drivers giving me an interesting bunch of advice—and habits. Some good, some not to be used outside the job.

The variety of routes used by the trucks opened up my world. My confidence began to expand. In my second year of Saturdays on the trucks, I was fortunate to work for Jim Barker, who was a decent guy and paid me 5 dollars. I worked with him for nearly a year. It was great to have a regular driver rather than having to search out a new one every time. We shared a friendship and mutual respect.

In the summer, I worked 5 days a week. I was excited when Jim invited me to join his family at their cottage on June 23, 1966. I remember the date, just 3 days before my birthday. I’d be with Jim for my birthday. We planned to do the regular delivery route, then drive to the cottage for the week. I arrived at the usual pick-up spot and waited till way past the time set. After a long two hours I returned home, unable to think why Jim hadn’t shown up for the special trip.

It was at the breakfast table, listening to the news with my family, that we heard of Jim’s death. Jim had been hit by another car, driven by a couple of drunk boys. I stopped breathing as my brain struggled to comprehend the impossibility of what I’d just heard. Knowing no one would understand my grief, I processed the tragedy by myself. I attended his funeral, standing at the back of the big Catholic church. I wanted to meet his family, and see his face one last time, but left without doing either. It was a loss I was not prepared for. Nor did I heal afterwards. I never returned to the dairy.

Being thirteen-years-old is a bit of a drawback if you want to get an honest job. My brothers had jobs working in the cinema hall, the grocery shops, and fast-food places. I went to about twelve businesses before I was hired at the Dairy Queen. Minimum wage was 85 cents and all you can eat! What more could I ask!

Among the younger of us were four older employees, one who took it upon herself to ridicule and abuse the younger ones. Because I didn’t smoke, she called me names and bullied me to the point that I finally took the time to learn. I hid behind the bushes, puffing and coughing for a week. When I returned, I was ready to prove my manliness. It solved nothing. What took a week to learn, took 10 years to leave!

It was the manageress who gave young kids like me their first job. Over a period of three years, she taught me everything from cleaning and cooking, to running the cash machine and balancing the books. I did crazy shifts, getting home at 2:00 in the morning, after a final coffee with the gang at Mister Donut. My job filled my life and began to feel like family.

My life was changing in subtle ways. I hung out with older people who cruised Yonge Street after work. We watched all night movies, and tried different ways of being cool. The pressure I felt to be part of the gang was paramount.

My working hours didn’t coincide with my education, so I fit school in when convenient. Reaching 16 gave me some freedom to do what I wanted, like moving out of the family home and into a commune in the heart of the city. After some time, on an urge, I left for the west coast—easy drugs and California hippies. After a few months, I phoned my mother. She was shocked, and not too happy, completely unaware that I wasn’t in Toronto. I still had that lingering feeling of never being missed.

Reaching the Top

By the time I was 18, I was back, working for Mr. Mac, the richest man in Toronto. He indulged in luxuries; expensive cars, houses, land—whatever he fancied. I managed one of his fast-food restaurants. One of the house specialties was a Bobo. The trick in selling a Bobo was being able to explain a Bobo fast, like it was one word—”Bobo is a spicy chicken meat ball deep fried in an egg-batter and dipped in plum sauce”. The tongue twister aroused the curiosity of the customer, and they’d place an order.

While working with Mr. Mac, I spent a lot of time listening to his problems; women problems, wife problems, alcohol problems, lack of sincere friends. He knew his “friends” were after his money—and this hit home—because I, too, was a friend because of his money. Mr. Mac’s wealth brought him no happiness. And the more time I spent with him, the clearer it became that my ambition to become the richest man in the world at the youngest age, was not going to make me happy.

By 1971, school was nearly finished, or more accurately, I was finished with school. Instead, I embarked with my best friend, Tim, on a trip through Europe. My plan was to end the trip in Fiji. There, a job managing one of Mr. Mac’s many restaurants awaited me.

Europe

Outside of Amsterdam, Tim and I realized we needed to take a break from each other. Tim had been playing around with his pocket knife while waiting for rides. I was annoyed. We’d never get a lift unless he put it away! We agreed to meet again in five days, in Munich, at the Octoberfest. I don’t remember who got a lift first, but my ride was a great surprise. Instead of going to Cologne, the fellow who picked me up convinced me Cologne—such a dirty city—was not worth my time. Hearing that, Salzburg became my new destination. My longest hitch in Europe was from Amsterdam to Salzburg, Austria. The driver’s suggestion of hiking in Austria would have been easier if I’d known where Austria was located. Did he mean Australia?? Why had I slept through my geography classes? Australia I could locate on the map, but Austria? Had I purchased a map, it could have opened up a whole new level of understanding!

My guide drove straight through Germany without stopping, and we arrived in a village above Salzburg that night. He arranged a “Zimmer” for me: A bed with a down quilt, cowbells to wake me in the morning, and a farmer’s breakfast. When I woke, I was amazed to look out the window and discover I was perched right above the actual movie set of The Sound of Music. For three days I walked the streets, (humming Climb Every Mountain), climbed surrounding mountains, and sampled the wares of the many cake shops. Every morning I looked forward to doing more of the same.

One day everyone in town was dressed in traditional costume to celebrate All Saints Day. It seemed like being zapped into the past. The huge church in the centre of town was packed with locals and tourists. Classical music resonated from within. I went in and sat down to enjoy the recorded music. Gazing at the vaulted architecture, I was stunned. This was no recorded music. Above me in the balcony sat a full orchestra. Mozart would have been proud.

Remembering my plans to meet Tim, I headed for the beer fest in Munich. Despite waiting three days, he didn’t appear as per our plan. I left a note on the Hostel board: I would be in Geneva, then Spain, then Greece by Christmas. (Long story short: when I returned to Canada 7 months later, I met up with Tim. The same day we split-up outside of Amsterdam, he went straight back to his girlfriend in Canada!)

In Geneva, I met travellers going to a cool place in the Alps, with a free stay for up to 20 days. A place where people talked about amazing things. Being budget minded, and eager to be in the Alps, I changed plans for L’Abri.

This Christian community was started by an American philosopher, Dr. Francis Schaeffer. The community focused on getting youth to re-think life questions, addressing issues of origin, morality, meaning and destiny. Bible study based on logic, philosophy, and history, and, couched in the atmosphere of a loving family environment made it truly impacting. Illuminating discussions happened throughout the day, with intellectual input from the Schaeffer’s. It was the first time since Sunday School I’d heard something from a Christian perspective that was intellectually acceptable.

Something happened there. In 20 days, I came to a point of clarity, of accepting that there had to be a creator God… and I came to that conclusion without having to commit intellectual suicide. On the day I left, I attended a meeting. While we were all standing and singing, I noticed a boy sobbing—in joy and happiness. I realized that what I’d learned was not simply intellectual, but a sincere relationship—just as real as my intellectual understanding. As real as any math calculation or scientific equation.

Relationship had to be in the picture.

(Edith and Francis Schaeffer)

Unlike those who had applied to stay for 6-12 months of study, I did the twenty free days for “drop-ins.” Before I left, the leaders requested I escort two girls to Madrid. Lyon is as far as we got, because hitching in France isn’t as acceptable. Finally, a car pulled up. The driver wasn’t going our direction, but he invited us to stay, and have dinner with him and his wife. He promised to drop us in a good spot in the morning. He and his wife were great hosts. At dinner, over many hours, each of us shared our newly found faith with them. They also shared their faith. He, our host, was a warlock, and she, his wife, was a witch. Nevertheless, they sincerely appreciated us sharing our beliefs. Good to his word, the next morning our host took us to the train station and paid our fare to Marseille. From there we hitched to Barcelona, and eventually to Madrid.

After dropping the girls, I returned to Barcelona and slept on a bench in the harbour, wanting to catch the early morning ship to Italy. In 1971 the port in Barcelona was known to be the most dangerous one in Europe because of drug trafficking. As the saying in Hindi goes, “I sold my horse and went to sleep.” —

“अपना घोडा बेचकर मैं सो गया”

When I got to Italy, I enjoyed the relics of the Roman Empire. Then I caught a ship to Cyprus. The day I arrived a civil war broke out, and I also became “broke.” I only had seven dollars left to my name. I slept on a beach for a week, ate oranges off trees, and waited for a ship to Israel.

Bet Queshet

(Hitching on the Sinai desert)

I arrived on Shabbat in early January. I was assigned to work on Kibbutz Bet Queshet, where I joined about 25 other volunteers from all over the world. I roomed with two Australian guys, both named Gary. Nearly all the volunteers were taking advantage of cheap dope, free boarding, and an easy lifestyle. We worked six hours a day for three meals a day. Every week we’d be issued a clean work pant, a shirt, underwear, and two packs of cigarettes. Everything necessary to cover our basic needs.

(Family’s kibbutz house)

I don’t remember how I met the Ben Gera family. It must have been when I was elevated to the post of head-pot scrubber. The whole community ate in one dining room, facilitated by a large kitchen and clean up room. Pot-scrubber was the lowest rung of the ladder, but I took to it like a penguin in snow, and enjoyed it immensely. I talked constantly with people whose language I couldn’t understand at all. Asher, the man in charge, invited me to his house for sweets and a drink. Every day his family would meet at 5:00pm. All seven of his kids came.

Me, Gad Ben Gera And the dog

On the kibbutz, children lived in children’s houses, not with their parents, so a family hour was set aside so families could share the week’s stories, eat Mom’s cooking, laugh and goof-around together. I never could have imagined such a family environment. Tamar, the mother, was the nurse in charge of the infirmary. She was an amazing woman. She served the community wholeheartedly and cared about every individual family and volunteer.

After inviting me numerous times to share in the family hour, Asher asked me, “Why is it you don’t come unless I specifically call you? Do I have to call you every time?”

I worked in many areas, driving tractors, working the field, picking grapefruits and oranges and learned much about the philosophy of communal living. The kibbutz members certainly had their reasons for creating such Jewish communities, for nearly all of the its members were survivors of the Holocaust. I had little understanding of that. It was a locked door; something never talked about. Parents didn’t even tell their children. Memories were too painful. Most everyone had no living relatives. Unimaginable trauma was their past, but the past left them with ever-present memories.

Asher genuinely seemed to like me. We enjoyed working in the kitchen together. It surprised me that he wanted me to join the family every evening. Asher was an educated and wise man, and loved music. He was a teacher who could expound on many subjects. He had a keen interest in spiritual topics and an unusual sense of humour.

(At Bet Queshet…thinking.)

Special times with Asher included times when he totally relaxed, leaned back and shared a drink and a cigar with me. Sometimes, it overwhelmed me. He was like a father to me. I never had experienced such a relationship with my own father. We’d sit and talk openly, personally. I wish I’d asked more and listened more. I couldn’t imagine why he liked me so much.

Tamar was not only a mother to her seven, but to the three or four others who showed up for her “Schlopkus” (soggy cheese cake, her house speciality). Tamar lit the Shabbat candles, but beyond that, I have no recollection of there being any religious tradition. I don’t know how the family’s own children felt about all the extra volunteers during family time. They seemed very accepting, and graciously involved each of us in unique ways.

I’m not sure what prompted me, but after I’d been there for another 4 months, I felt like I should go home. I borrowed money from my mother to return to Toronto. I was nervous and unsure about my present relationship with my parents, so instead of returning home, I went to the commune where I used to live, and where an older brother lived.

I’d been gone for nine months. I’d experienced things I couldn’t have imagined, met remarkable people, and had amazing adventures. My life had been irrevocably altered. I was a different person from the one who left nine months ago. Now, I was left with memories.

When I walked into the commune, everyone was planted around the TV watching Star Trek. After an initial round of hellos, everyone went quiet in front of the T.V. again. I felt flat. They had no interest in what I’d experienced or how my life had changed. It was an eye-opener for me.

The next day I went to pick up the money owed to me from where I’d previously worked. The secretary informed Mr. Mac that I was there. He asked me to come into the office to talk over a business proposition. He wanted me to take over management. Because I knew the ropes, he applied pressure by offering a generous wage. So, I ended up back in the old “normal.” I worked long hours, earned money, but had no purpose. Nine months of travel had changed me, and months later, I knew I was losing what I’d gained in my travels.

In February 1973, I returned “home” — where I felt belonging and purpose. Israel. Arriving there, I sat on the bench outside the dining room, making myself obvious, waiting for Asher to come by. When he saw me, he said in his typical loving and teasing way, “Yip, what are you doing here? Why haven’t you come home?”

Years later he told me, “I knew you were waiting on that bench to see my reaction.” He knew I wanted a personal welcome. So, he took care of it.

Soon a routine was in place. I didn’t have plans for the future and my relationship with the family was even stronger. I never realized what I was searching for. I didn’t even know I was searching until I found it. I found family. I had a father.

The Gallery

Later, in India, I found someone to hike with.

1984: Me with my son, Asher.

A few of my sons.

Goa: 2011: Family is growing…

We are now:
5 kids,
11 grandkids,
living in 5 countries. Our birthdays continue.

My passion: growing boys into fathers.