The pressure in praying for Righteousness

We are coming round to Easter again! (April 9, 2023) the remembrance of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. God sacrificed for us, to save us. Not just from this wretched world, but from ourselves and our actions in it, on that Good Friday long ago. And then 3 days later: Easter, resurrection – death defeated. Halleluyah!

Look now: 3 years of pandemic, inflation with ‘not sure this is going right’ by raising interest rates, war (utter demonic) devastation in Ukraine; earth quakes (50,000 cries), water and wind catastrophizes, embezzlements, frauds, lies, unsafe media, racism, intimidation, food and housing insecurity, unwilling to tell the truth, lost in creature `identities, youth hopeless for the future, unable to find our Saving Grace. These are the times we all experience. For this reason I recently listen again to a sermon preached over 30 years ago by Rev Andrew Kuijvenhoven * @ Bethel Church in Waterdown, probably in 1991.

Here is the Biblical TEXT for the Sunday afternoon Sermon Gospel of Luke chapter 18 : (Jesus speaking): There was a judge living in a certain city. He showed no respect for God or humanity. In that same city there was a widow. Again and again she kept coming to him seeking justice: “Clear my name from my adversary’s false accusations!” He paid no attention to her request for a while, but then he said to himself, “I don’t care about what God thinks of me, much less what any mere human thinks. But this widow is driving me crazy. She’s never going to quit coming to see me unless I hear her case and provide her legal protection.” Did you catch what this self-assured judge said? If he can be moved to act justly, won’t God bring justice for His chosen people when they cry to Him day and night? Will He be slow to bring them justice? Mark My words: God will intervene fast with vindication. But here’s the question: when the Son of Man comes, will He find anyone who still has faith? (translation ‘The Voice’ from

My sisters and brothers in the Lord Jesus Christ: What is the most serious question?

Often I will be requested to write a few articles for the Banner **, that’s a long time ago of course and I used to go out speaking on church speaking engagements for the Banner and in many congregations then they tell me: “the biggest problem in the Christian Reformed Church was congregationalism, those congregations do exactly what they want and never mind the rest. But there is also feminism, ecumenism, liberalism, fundamentalism, materialism, scientism, all these isms they said were all bad. Of course Calvinism was fine!”

Then sometimes they would press me to say what I thought was the biggest problem. And I would say that the biggest problem is that the Lord Jesus hasn’t come back, and then they would say: “Oh yeah…. that….But what about all the today problems we face? Those are the biggest problem, it is not that the Lord Jesus hasn’t come back, for 2000 years ago they promised but it hasn’t happened yet.”

Now, you cannot go into the Bible very deeply without being struck by the fact that Jesus is coming. The last chapter of the Old Testament ends with: He is coming like a fiery oven unless you repent, and the last chapter of the New Testament He is coming! Come! All throughout the Bible there too is the cry: Come, Come, why do you tarry? why Lord, why?

We have this in Psalm 13*** and in the book of Revelation 6*** the cry of the martyrs under the altar whose blood is dripping from the altar. Come! how long before you will avenge our blood, yeah I think that if you take the Lord Jesus promises seriously, not for like, – well that’s in the book, I belong to church too – but if you take him seriously, then this is a great thing to be concerned about and prayed for. Yet today, it is not so much when is the Lord coming? but the question is actually will you be…..will you still be there when he comes when the son of man comes and will he find the faith on the earth. So the other side of the coin is when is he coming but can we persist in waiting………..because this parable will teach us also to persist in waiting, it says: Jesus makes the application, for he told this parable to show that they (listeners) should always pray and not give up. Now the parable is clear enough: there is a woman to whom has been done an injustice. We don’t know what that was, but you can imagine let’s say: that somebody, somebody took your house away or some fellow with a lot of money didn’t pay her because she was only a widow and a widow especially in those days had no clout, you can still get away doing a lot of stuff to people who have no clout, but (on the other-hand) you’ve got to be very careful with people, who can hire lawyers or so. But for those with no clout you can get away with things. So that is what the judge did to her. But this woman was the first to put on a demonstration parade that’s been recorded in the Bible. She was there every day! Yes, she said: ‘do me justice’ to that judge. Now the judge is described here as someone who didn’t fear God and he didn’t care about anyone. Now that’s callous, isn’t it, he was a careless, selfish, unconcerned, son of a – – – – – , – he didn’t fear God and didn’t care about people. But whenever he came out of his chambers, there was that woman again, ‘Do justice to me!’

Finally he said to himself: ‘If I don’t do something about this, she’ll drive me nuts’. So he relented and gave her justice. And now we read the Lord’s application of this parable. Jesus says: “If even an unjust judge will do a thing like this, how much more should you (and I) be persistent with the loving, the righteous judge in heaven?! Persistence, Jesus says, pays off! You know that persistence pays off, you just keep going at it! How is it again, ‘a persistent water drop hollows out the stone’. And so it is also in your prayers, it isn’t just once or twice, but keep praying! If an unjust judge will listen in the end, how much more this One, because for him someone is praying whose causes is his cause. “Saints their watch are keeping!” How long before you do justice to us. Yet though the unjust judge lets her wait and wait, Jesus says, you must know that the saints must never give up, their cry goes on: how long, how long! And you must keep knocking on the doors of heaven, until he does justice to us. Hear your servant Lord, for your namesake, pay attention to our pleadings, hear O Lord, hear! And when he opens that door and comes will he find faith in Waterdown, in Burlington?

Faith means here, the persistent pounding on heaven’s door. Faith here means that you’re still hungering and thirsting in and for righteousness, that’s persistence in waiting. So that’s the most serious question when he comes, will He find faith? We talk about Jesus coming, he came; and if it is true that he came, you should be overjoyed that he is coming again. Now when He comes will you have faith? will you still be waiting for him by the time he opens the door? will the pure still be pure and the meek still waiting to inherit the earth or will the weak meek have said: well enough is enough; I waited long enough, now lets grab, while the grabbing is good. Or will you continue to pray and continue to wait as Psalm 43 is one of these: ‘vindicate me O God! – plead my cause against an ungodly nation, rescue me from deceitful and wicked people!’ Will there still be people waiting and saying day and night: judge us, do it now. Reveal your righteousness.

When he comes will he find the faith? Now there is that problem of course of his not coming, or his delay in coming and that should puzzle you too, once in awhile. In the catechism class over this questions about the coming and not coming of the Lord Jesus, we must and they must learn, I must learn, you all must learn, to persist in prayer that the Lord will do now what He has promised. The Bible hardly ever addresses the question why it takes so long. The only place that I know where he addresses that is in second letter of Peter’s chapter three, that’s one of the last books in the Bible, I quote: “Dear friends this is now a second letter. You must understand that in the last days scoffers will come scoffing and following their own evil desires they will say: where is this coming he promised. Ever since our fathers died everything goes on as it has been from the beginning of creation…………but do not forget this one thing dear friends, with the Lord a day is like 1000 years in 1000 years like a day, the Lord is not slow in keeping his promise as some understand slowness. He is patient with you not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance”. So that’s one of the reasons why he postpones, there must be greater repentance, more must be saved. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. Well, 1000 years may be a day for the Lord but for us as we are, a 1000 years, 20 years, 30 years is a long time and you must not give up, and not give in, and not fall over, but you must keep saying, do justice, O God, bring it about. The question then this evening is, the question is not, when will He come, but can you keep waiting. I too, every time, I go to the other questions, I go, – when will He come, but the question the Lord now puts before us is: ‘Can you keep waiting! can you keep knocking on the door! pleading on the promises and calling on heaven to burn away the thistles from the earth. The question is not, if God will hear, but the question is whether you can keep asking. It is not, that the judge will listen but, will the woman (you) keep knocking, that’s the question.

Now, you see you and I can get used to sin, for you see it everyday and you get used to living in a sinful world. For there are lots of things in this world that are basically unacceptable to a Christian but then slowly you accept them because everybody does it. These things happen all the time and that’s how the ‘cookie crumbles’. And then somehow you must keep your bearing and so must I. For the pre-occupation of this world, as the Bible calls it, and the interests of the followers of Jesus Christ are totally opposite (different). You can lose your perspective in your sense of Christian justice demands for righteousness. The world is unspeakably superficial. Last week, we were in Florida and what did the ‘Miami Herald’ have on its front page. Mr. Kennedy-Smith**** and his alleged rape and what did the ‘Toronto Star’ have on its front page when we came home, Mr. Kennedy-Smith and his alleged rape. That shameful behaviour, whatever, was lifted up. Justice is not done with dignity because justice should be administered in the name of the judge but it has becomes food (tit-bits of gossip) for everybody. That should irritate us, it’s unfair in this world, where the rich get richer and the poor cannot make it, although the trouble is not easy to resolve. It is not something that we should take for granted, you must say: God come and straighten it out! There is no reason why everybody should lose money but the banks make record (years) profits. Sin therefore also, you must not take sin for granted. You must not say: ‘I am a sinner, always been a sinner’, good thing Jesus died for my sins; that’s no attitude, that’s not a Christian attitude. I must say: sins been paid for on the cross and has been overcome by the resurrection and that I don’t want that ugly thing in my life anymore. I don’t want it! I want to get a new Monday tomorrow morning, I don’t want one ugly sin to spoil it again. God come!

Don’t accept the world as it is and don’t simply accept yourself as you are that you cannot change because you can, God says that. All around us there are sordid things going on; pornographic peddlers poisoning the tender beauty of awakening sexuality and making unstable individuals totally unfit to live. And that goes on and on and on because it makes money and you and I must get angry sometimes, you may not always have it out with them immediately, but you must knock on the gate of heaven and say: Lord come now, do it now! Terry Anderson****** said: that during seven years in chains, in Lebanon the Bible was a book of comfort and strength and he also said he could forgive his enemies because he’s a Christian. Why isn’t that ever front page news for our newspapers, why does every kookie religious group, like one in Toronto get all the attention and acknowledgement. But why only look at them: Why can’t brothers and sisters in one house live together in harmony?

So, Lord come forgive us and restore us. Don’t let us get used to it, don’t just simply say: well that’s the way it is. The widow in the parable, she does not take it, for she says: ‘do me justice’ and so we must have the same perseverance, you must keep at it. There’s plenty of food to go around in the world, yet thousands are starving, why should that be? That should not be so. Why do people every day get away with this; the denial of God, he is Lord! but they paid no attention to him at all, they just go their own sweet way and that goes on, and on, and on, and you get used to it, you get so used to it, you take it for granted and you shouldn’t. You should pound the door  of heaven and say: Reveal yourself! Why must we, in the church or for a good cause always beg for money, can’t people simply give 10% and if all of us did it, we would have more than enough. Why does cancer still kill? it doesn’t belong in you. Why is death still around? even death you should not take for granted, Jesus is the victor, the resurrection has begun. Now you want God to bring it all to give it all to us, don’t you Lord? That is what we should be praying for. Is it not terrible how people grow old together, as some people do, and then are separated from each other long before death by Alzheimer’s disease? My good professor Herman N. Ridderbos (Professor @ Theological School of Kampen, Netherlands) wrote to me a letter about that. Seven to eight years he took care of his wife and for the last years she didn’t know him at all. He was sweet to her, I know, it is a sweet burden and God can make it good for us, nevertheless, but it is hard and it shouldn’t be! We have been promised a new heaven, we have been promised a new earth and we have been promised perfection. So you must pray, the church must pray, this Christmas (Easter) season. When we look back and we look forward what do you really want, what are you praying about and what are you doing about it, yes, you must work hard, we must work hard, there must be no apathy among us. Any organization that brings about something of the just world should be supported by Christians, no apathy and yet the answer to our deepest problem is not that we finally get a majority (elected) vote and then we can straighten things out. Oh, how I wish we could get that far, but you must persist in prayer!

The question is not if God will hear, but will we keep asking. When the Son of man comes will he find you pounding heaven’s door; will he find you persisting in your prayers; that’s the question. The good judge will listen, if even an unjust judge listens in the end, the good judge will surely listen and he will intervene and ‘all flesh shall see the token, that his word is never broken’.******* So he says, he said to you and he said to me: “I’m coming soon!” and we say: Yes, come Lord Jesus! ……..and to that the church answers: AMEN (congregation response)

* Andrew Kuijvenhoven was a pastor in the Christian Reformed Church. He died December 1, 2015. He was 88 years old.

** Banner is a church magazine of the Christian Reformed church

*** from translation ‘The Voice’ – book of Psalms 13: How long, O Eternal One? How long will You forget me? Forever? How long will You look the other way? How long must I agonize, grieving Your absence in my heart every day?
How long will You let my enemies win?
and from book of Revelation chapter 6: Murdered Victims cry: How much longer, O Lord, the holy One, the true One, until You pronounce judgment on the inhabitants of the earth? Until You avenge our blood?

**** Mr. William Kennedy-Smith was acquitted of rape in the courts (1991) He was a nephew of President JFK.

***** At the Toronto Airport Vineyard church miraculous events occurred during the services. There were physical healings, people reported a new sense of God’s love, freedom from fears, anger, and life issues. Claims of God putting gold fillings into people’s teeth and uncontrollable laughter.

****** Terry Anderson, a reporter in Beirut for the Associated Press, was taken captive in 1985 by Shia Hezbollah militants and held for 6 years, till 1991.

******* Last line of the hymn: Comfort, Comfort Ye my people, says the LORD.

….and yet in all this -‘EMET’

My Oma Titia Grasdijk-Schuurman was born in the village of Sauwerd, province of Groningen (Netherlands) on May 22, 1882.

I have been reading in the book “For Better For Worse” ‘Stories of the Wives of Early Pastors (Dominees) of the Christian Reformed Church’ by Janet Sjaarda Sheeres published by Wm Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on January 1, 2017.

This book describes the lives (especially the hardships) of wives of pastors and family who immigrated from the Netherlands to the USA in the mid to late 1800s. The purpose of this book, as I read it, is to shine a light on the lives of the pastors’ wives, especially as it was expected for the wives to obey the “headship” marriage principle and honor (follow) their husband in family leadership. Although we have on record mostly historic notes/records about their husbands work in church council events etc., the lives/experiences of their wives are ‘invisible in history’ and not important enough to record. Yet the author succeeds in digging-out through known events and secular historic notes what these wives might have experienced in following their husbands from the Netherlands to the USA; the good-byes to their parents and siblings, then 3 or 4 weeks of travel crossing the ocean and finally arriving at their destination in the USA. Many were their tales of hardships: their older husbands deaths, the early deaths of children, a new language, the strangeness of the environment and the faith-theological-confessional-congregational issues that confronted them again in the life of the Michigan (USA) Reformed congregations of those pioneering days. The lives of the wives in this book illustrate many married older husbands and so some also experienced 2nd marriages and were step-mothers to sons & daughters by a previous marriage: Juffrouw (or Mevrouw more respected) Dieuwerke Schuringa Hulst-Gelock; Gerdina ten Brummelaar vanderWerpLokker being just two persons mentioned in the book.

The break-away faith conflict (1834-Secession) issues (does it ever stop!) in the Netherlands with the Dutch Hervormde (State) church mostly prompted their immigration starting in the 1840s under the leadership of two notable pastors – (Ds. Albertus C. Van Raalte to Holland, Michigan-1846 and Ds. Hendrik Pieter Scholte with 900 followers to Pella, Iowa, USA-1846) and the re-interaction/engagement of again church concerns in the USA between the immigrants and the Reformed Church (est. 1628- New Amsterdam) eventually forming breakaway groups. The establishment of the Christian Reformed Church (1857) forms the background and involvement of the wives and families mentioned in the book ‘For Better For Worse’. Some of these pastors had served congregations mostly in the province of Groningen and this made me remember my Oma Titia Grasdijk and the village of Sauwerd. Some of these immigrated pastors mentioned in the book had served in Wetsinge-Sauwerd: Ds Willem Hendrik Frieling; Ds Freerk (Frederick) Hulst and towards the end of the 1800s (although not mentioned) a Ds Jan Teves (1885 – 1908)

Into this church conflict times, the Grasdijk family settled in the village of Sauwerd. Pieter (1853 -1901) -son of Jacob Klaassens Grasdijk and Ietje Harms van Stedum), a tailor by occupation, married, on May 6, 1880 Antje Hempenius (1858-1927) (daughter of Dirk Sikkens Hempenius and Tietje Sybrens Hoekstra). Antje was born in the village of Engelum, Friesland and Pieter was born in Sauwerd. The marriage took place in Engelum, in the region Gemaldeveen (Friesland). They settled in Sauwerd, Groningen and their family would have 5 children, a still-born male child; two sisters, Trijntje born 1896 died at 9 months, Anna died in 1889 – one year old, a brother Jacob (1886) died later at 27 years in 1913. Titia was born in 1882 and a brother Dirk in 1889.

The church of the Wetsinge-Sauwerd Christelijke Afgescheidene was small and had a couple of starts as early as 1838 (worshipped in a barn for a while). There were ups and downs over the 1840s but by 1857 when Dominee (Ds) Keizer who had served the Hervormde church for 52 years, left the area, a small break-away group in Wetsinge-Sauwerd (region Adorp) was formed under leadership of Ds W. H. Frieling from Adorp) as the Christelijke Afgescheiden Gemeente (they wanted to have ‘Gereformeerd’ in their church name but the authorities would not allow it). In the background we must note: Already by the 1840s in the province of Groningen small cells of people (huis-gemeentes) were meeting (these were illegal gatherings) who agreed with Ds. H de Cock (1801-1842) had left the Hervormde Kerk (state-church) and were meeting in various regions of the province. This leaving by Ds H. de Cock was over dissatisfaction with the spiritual direction and state church policy. There had been a flaming-out loss of the spiritual accents of the Gospel that had been encouraged by the outcome of the Synod of Dord (1618-1619) together with arbitrary ambitious government (state) control over the church policy and its affairs. Ds de Cock’s spiritual conscience and pastoral objections found him in conflict with the state church and local authorities (1834-Secession and after) and so with his Church congregation and council at the village of Ulrum was constrained and persecuted. People however, came from far and near to hear him preach; it is said that the small church building at Ulrum could not accommodate the worshipers and many listened in at the church windows as he conducted Sunday services. This was a rocky time for the believers and conflicts grew within many congregations/groups breaking away from the Hervormde church during that area. Some of those Seceders groups called themselves Christelijke Afgescheidenen. These were the ‘quiet’ people, experiential Reformed religious folk; sometimes called the ‘kleine luijden’, deeply serious about their salvation and their spiritual well-being.

Wetsinge-Sauwerd by 1861 was a small congregation and called its first pastor Ds Syke Brand Sevensma, who served from 1861 to 1863 and with his family immigrated to the USA. In 1863 Ds M. Stadig came and served till 1865. Then in 1865 Dominee (pastor) Freek (Frederick) Hulst accepted a call. Freerk Hulst had married Diewerke Schuringa in 1858. He had already served in five congregations after his ordination in 1855, before coming to Wetsinge-Sauwerd. Mentored for the ministry by Ds Willem Hendrik Hendrik Frieling (married to Geertje Bennink – 1843 his 2nd marriage) who with his family immigrated in 1866 to Vriesland CRC (organized in 1857), Michigan church. Ds Frederick Hulst stayed in Wetsinge-Sauwerd till 1868 and then also immigrated to Holland, Michigan and later also served a church in Chicago, Illinois. He was small of stature and had a difficult disposition (the author of the book describes it as ‘strident outbursts’) which would get him in difficulties now and then. Later a pastor, Dominee Jan Teve served in Wetsinge-Sauwerd also immigrated to Michigan in 1908. When a pastor would immigrate often some families immigrated together with their pastor. As many as 750 persons immigrated from Groningen province to the USA in 1866 alone. The last decades of the 1800s was a time of hardships for many. There had been the potato blight misery (1845-47) with long consequences – economic depression, heightened by social unrest, so many faced poverty and people started moving to the cities for work.

For the wives of immigrated pastors, pioneering was a real personal sacrifice in many cases. Many immigrants did not all speak the same Dutch dialect and housing environments could be primitive and sparse. The pastors families experienced, besides physical, (many families experienced the early death of children; small pox, diphtheria, consumption etc.) also economic hardships in that their promised salaries were not always paid as agreed. Some lived in Michigan forested areas not experienced by many who had come from the flat and wide fields of the Netherlands. The dry conditions in the Fall of 1871 which caused the Great Fires, not only destroyed a large part of Chicago but also effected the people in Holland, Michigan (October 8, 1971) The town suffered great destruction and losses included the burning of their Third Reformed church building.

Reading the events of the Wetsinge-Sauwerd church during these times (1850 -1900), showed me how my Oma’s parents and family lived with not only community, family, and economic but also constant church conflict (faith) struggles.

In the 1886 events surrounding the Doleantie, another large break occurred in the Hervormde church with Dr. Abraham Kuiper (1837-1920) as leader were tumultuous also in Wetsinge-Sauwerd. I am sure that in many families on Sundays after church, there were heavy discussions about theology and doctrine. In 1892 this break away group (Dolerenden) merged with the Christelijke Afgescheiden church into the Gereformeerde Kerk in Nederland. During the time Ds Jan Teves was pastor 1885 – 1896 there was much going back and forth (conflicts) between Hervormde and Afgesheiden together with the Dolerende forming the congregations of Kerk A and Kerk B (1992) The records show that Ds. Teve left Wetsinge-Sauwerd congregation in 1897 to Beekbergen (Overijsel) where he was let go on ‘suspicion of sin against the 7th commandment’ in 1902. In 1908 he immigrated to the USA and died in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1913. In 1898 a new church building was erected in Sauwerd and the stone bricks of the old church taken down and used to harden a road in town.

`My Oma Titia Grasdijk was born in 1882 (1969) and believed to be the oldest of 5 children. She attended the local school probably until she was 12 years old (Grade 6) and then helped in the household and probably soon after got a job as a ‘dienstmeid’ a popular job for a young teenage girl. Sometimes teenage daughters were able to obtain a position with a well-to-do family which greatly enhanced their status in the community. It is apparent that Oma in her twenties, sometime in the early 1900s, after the deaths of her sisters (1889 & 1897) and her dad Pieter Grasdijk in 1904, left for the city of Groningen and in those years met my Opa Jan probably as they attended church in the city. It is told that Opa Jan Schuurman (1881-1956) who was born in the village of Haren, close to the city Groningen had not yet done profession of his faith and so they attended study sessions at the church together. Apparently Opa Jan (or family?) had some issues and the local pastor would not confirm him as being eligible for saying his profession. My Oma small but an outspoken (feisty) young lady is said to have opinioned to the pastor: ‘Dan krijg je mij ook niet!’ (‘Then you won’t get me either!’). So some of the Schuurman-Grasdijk children were not baptized until they were older, my Dad was 5 years old. Here is a picture of the family when my Oma Titia & Opa Jan married in 1910 on September 1.

My Opa was a baker and so he pursued his occupation by starting his own business in the Barestraat, a new sub-division on the south side of the city. Two months after the wedding her brother Dirk Grasdijk having got a girl in ‘trouble’ as has been told, left on the S.S. Rijndam to New York on to Chicago on November 23, 1910. There were many Groningers in Chicago at that time who were very active in the Waste Management business. No doubt the fleeing young man (21 years old) had some connections. He later settled in Decatur, Michigan and married Nellie Haak. My Oma never corresponded with him after that and for a reason not known, refused to even mention his name. A close relative I knew, as Tante Boukje (I believe was a cousin?) kept contact with him till his death on April 3, 1964.**

Very quickly in 1911 on October 14 their first children were born, twins named Antje (2008) – daughter, and a son named Derk Pieter. The son contracted, probably small pox and died after 10 months on August 3, 1912. On January 27 of 1913 my Oma’s brother Jacob died. My Dad was born on July 30, 1913 (1991) and named Derk, as was the custom to name children after their grand-parents and if one would die young, the next child was named by the same name so that that family name was maintained and honored. A son Pieter followed in March 28, 1916 (1972) and another son named Gerrit on March 23, 1919 (1999). As you can see, even as a wife my Oma had her share of sad events in first the decade years of her marriage. This together with a quickening of the first World War (1914-18) created large uncertainties in their walk together. Her mother Antje Hempenius died in 1927, followed by the ‘Depression’ of the late twenties and early thirties. This together with the social and political rhetoric (Nazis) in Europe culminating in the second World War added to their life difficulties. Another church split in 1944 and then the marriages of their children in the 1930s and 40s. In the 1950s they attended the Parklaan church which was an Article 31 (Vrijgemaakte) congregation. Some of these events and others including the heavy burden letting go of their oldest son Derk and family to Canada, have already been told in the history/remembrances of my parents Derk & Trientje in story of ‘In the Shadow of the Martini’.

** NOTE: My parents once they had settled in Canada visited him in Decatur, Michigan. The first direct family members to do so. In 1963 after his wife Nellie Haak’s death (they had no children), he drove up to Canada and attended my parents 25th wedding anniversary. (on above picture, he is the man beside the tree) (Jacob who died is the man beside the 3 women on the left)

EMET‘ (Hebrew) = truth/faithfulness/reliability/firmness/assurance/trustworthiness/steadiness…….

For this article I searched: & & & & others.

JS January 14, 2022

Christmas 2022 “A Thrill of Hope”

This morning early (December 15) I got up and the neighbourhood was dark, foggy and foreboding in the midst of winter’s embrace. I could barely make out the tree in our backyard and the streetlights were still on with droplets of rain highlighted by the light. Far down the street the ghostly flashing lights of the local school bus shimmered as it stopped to pick up students ready for another school day. What a dark and dreary world it can be, I thought. It reminded me how Charles Dickens started his ‘Tale of Two Cities’: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” The book of Isaiah in chapter 60, tells us: “See truly; look carefully—darkness blankets the earth; people all over are cloaked in darkness. Yes, I said quietly, as I reflected on what we daily read in our newspapers and hear and see on media and our TVs. The big crisis in our hospitals, Covid 19, war in Ukraine and other places, cost of living, despair of our young people about their ability to participate in our communities. The cost of everyday food and necessities. The numerous concerns expressed in the media about environmental/political events and expert forecasts for a year of recession and inflation. The 2023 look ahead appears gloomy.

And always I find that at this time of Christmas it comes at us in hyper size and time, where everything seems to be gigantically overstated. Even the traffic on the main throughfares seems full of anxious drivers getting things done or trying to get things done before…… Things and events seemed to get compacted and backed-up in ridiculous fashion. Black Friday, oh the rush for bargains, loading up our credit cards with debts and worry. Fear for January 16th when the bills will hit. And don’t forget to send cards to uncles, aunts, friends and acquaintances and what about presents…Oh my, we are full of businesses and worry. Checking our lists twice, three-times. Can even the jolly elf of the North Pole with his HO! Ho! Ho! cheer us up or a Rudolf with his nose so bright, can he guide us in this dark night that we now face? Where is that breathing space, that quiet assurance whisper that we all long for, telling us ‘take it easy, it will be alright’. Even churches recognize the crush and organize special ‘blue Christmas’ events and services for those who feel the pressure of sadness and loneliness as they reminisce past events or consider their future.

Maybe it is not Christmas itself that causes this heightening of our senses at all, but rather it is something more like the ‘ending’ of a year. A closing off of a life-time, as we come to the end of 2022; like the end of an aera, a slipping away without the chance to revisit, do over and do a refresh to a major portion of who we are and how we were and…… do better? I think something of this is felt by everyone but especially those who have travelled over rough ground and scaled emotional mountains going where the way was not clear, or dipped into valleys of unknown paths, even life-threatening dead-end scares. Perhaps we should celebrate Christmas at another time, move it, there is just too much disturbing noise, maybe switch it with Thanksgiving? The fall can be lovely and bright and pleasing. And then a December Thanksgiving may be more in a respectable place at the end of the year. More uplifting and positive? Just a time of plain giving-thanks. What a great idea!

But would the hurts go away? after all we are merely human. Remember Murphy’s law: what will come, will come! Life is not always a bowl of cherries. Sadly though, life is not always a beach! The apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians even says: “Now we see through a glass darkly.” Yes, so what are we to do?

But there is a prophetic word for those who despair, exclaimed long ago: “The people (that includes us) who walked in darkness have seen a great light”. And what is that light? It is the light that will brighten for everyone in the world.  John the apostle in his day proclaimed and said: “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome. it”. I was reminded of a song, one that I learned when I was young. A Christmas song: “Het dagent in het Oosten, het licht schijnt overal”, “it is shimmering in the East”. The light! The light is coming!

So then another Bible verse entered my mind: “See truly; look carefully—darkness blankets the earth; people all over are cloaked in darkness. Book of the Prophet Isaiah – chapter 60 – verse 2; (the Voice Tr.) and then what follows is the key as to why we shine lights at Christmas and why Christmas is always celebrated full of lights. Lights that dispel the darkness of the season and the darkness of the soul and light our paths into the future. As the prophet Isaiah predicted: Arise, shine, for your light has broken through! The Eternal One’s brilliance has dawned upon you. For God will rise and shine on you; the Eternal’s bright glory will shine on you, a light for all to see. Nations north and south, peoples east and west, will be drawn to your light, will find purpose and direction by your light. Your GPS!

This promise, in the splendour of heavenly lights, proclaimed by angels to the shepherds is a proclamation of HOPE: “Give God glory! for all who seek Him, they will be blessed with PEACE! To them is the promise: “For unto you is born this day a Saviour who is Christ the Lord”. The Lord of Peace and Love. The bright Morningstar! May you know this light giver this Christmas 2022!

A thrill of HOPE for all the world!

Listen to the words of the song: ‘O Holy Night’

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining, It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appeared and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices! O night divine, O night when Christ was born; O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming, with glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming, Here come the wise men from the Orient land. The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger; in all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, to our weaknesses no stranger, Behold your King! before Him lowly bend! Behold your King, before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; and in His name all oppression shall cease. Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever, His power and glory evermore proclaim. His power and glory evermore proclaim.

Songwriters: Placide Cappeau, Adolphe Adam, John Sullivan Dwight

And another song: ‘Beautiful Saviour

1 Beautiful Savior, King of creation, Son of God and Son of Man!
Truly I’d love Thee, truly I’d serve thee, Light of my soul, my Joy, my Crown.

2 Fair are the meadows, Fair are the woodlands, Robed in flow’rs of blooming spring;
Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer; He makes our sorr’wing spirit sing.

3 Fair is the sunshine, Fair is the moonlight, Bright the sparkling stars on high;
Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer Than all the angels in the sky.

4 Beautiful Savior, Lord of the nations, Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor, Praise, adoration, Now and forevermore be Thine!

Gesanbuch Munster 1677

JS Christmas December 2022

Can the Internet forgive?

I have been reading the book by Bonnie Kristian entitled ‘Untrustworthy (the Knowledge Crisis breaking our brains, polluting our politics, and corrupting Christian community) in which she discusses among other things our present communication uses and (perceptions of truth) attitudes, comments made (shared and believed ‘conspiracist’ info) on the social media like ‘Facebook’, ‘Twitter’, ‘Tik Tok’ and ‘Youtube’ to name just some of the more media popular ones that have mushroomed in the last 10 years or so. (Apparently over 100+ Social Media Platforms have been initiated since 2000 and the bulk of them since 2010)

Most of these are used by the 18 to 35 year olds (who represent 60%+ of all users on such platforms as Instagram). Facebook has almost 3 billion users or roughly 40% of the world’s population has a Facebook account. (see: influencemarketinghub)

There are millions of stories, comments, reports and opinions posted on these sites, so the real question that pops up all the time is: what is real, faithful, reliable, factual and fair?

If I post something on the net, the question arises, who will read it? and what will they think it means? Yes, you can limit access to your comments and posts but who knows? Much posting is like throwing dust to the wind, where it goes cannot be known or tracked. All manner of comments and remarks and ‘on the moment’ feelings and opinions once written and released are scattered by our ‘friends’ and ‘enemies’ without our control. Copies and references of our postings (pictures and videos) can be multiplied many times over and over and who knows where they land?

So why do we do this?

We want to be heard, we want to connect, we want to promote and create a ‘personal brand’, we want to be seen as people who care and share ‘selfies’ especially as pictures (videos) get over 30% more traffic than other postings. (there is an old saying: One picture is worth a thousand words!) It is an ‘ego’ thing, sometimes a put down or a one up – (my dad is stronger than your dad! thing) and a desire to teach and pass on good ideas or sometimes just a money grab, or even a ‘no brain’ reflex to a situation that maybe should have required more info and thought. Especially the quick jerky (nasty) reaction is usual the most passed on remark.

Is it all real or is it fiction? are we setting up ‘fake’ situations about ourselves (making us look better, improving our persona?) or ‘spotting’ someone we know, or are there situations where we have interest or just being nosy participators (but at a safe anonymous distance). Or are we using it to get back at someone. (there are stories of nasty and horrible tragic postings and follow-up events, especially when we wander into the pornography selfies world) The dark-side of the Web.

Bonnie Kristian cites the example of Justine Sacco, a publicist who had 200 Twitter followers and posted a comment while on a flight to South Africa: ‘Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white.’ Before her flight landed she had gone from ‘who is she’ to infamy. The barrage of condemnations followed her as the ‘net’ trolls tracked her flight journey, she was ‘net identified’, and photographed when her plane landed. Sad results followed; with her losing her job and trying for years to regain her reputation. (she eventually got rehired)

Does the interest forgive?

My take on this is that it does not, for it cannot! Consider: how can you get a clear bill of ‘deletion’ of ‘OK GONE’ from something that is ‘out there!’ and unable to be ferreted out in every case line for line and internet cranny. And then once seen by multiple people, who obviously copy and distribute, and who are affected by what they read and see (about you) and can remember. (see NOTE*)

In 2014, a landmark decision issued by the European Union’s highest court has ruled that data about individuals held by ‘Google’ must be deleted on request. The European Court of Justice called it the right “to be forgotten” for individuals to have control about what information pertaining to them should be available online and what should be deleted, especially those data(s) that may harm their reputation or are no longer relevant. But this is only on ‘Google’, what about all the other platforms and sites throughout the world. There are over 2 billion sites of which 400 million are positively active. (there was only 1 site in 1989; a huge number of internet users 1.2 billion has arrived since 2012))

So what can we do?

Don’t do it! Don’t make comments or post selfies or reports that you would most likely never say or show to someone’s face in public. Tone down the rhetoric and act kindly and humbly with yourself and your loved ones and neighbours. The old adage: ‘Sticks and stones will hurt my bones; but words will never hurt me.’ is a piece of advice that we now know is not true. Words (pictures) on the internet or other media can and will hurt!

So you ask: to use a book title: ‘How then shall we live?’

Because I am a Christian, I fall back to the age-old, wise admonishments of the Bible. Let me give you a few that Bonnie Kristian quoted in her book and others:

Book of Proverbs, chapter 14 verse 15: – “Only a simpleton believes everything he’s told! A prudent man understands the need for proof.” and from verse 29 – “A wise man controls his temper. He knows that anger causes mistakes.” Book of Proverbs, chapter 15 verse 28: – “A good man thinks before he speaks; the evil man pours out his evil words without a thought.” (Tr. Living Bible) The second letter of the Apostle Paul to Timothy, chapter 4 verses 3 & 4:” You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching but will fill up on spiritual junk food—catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages. But you—keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message (Gospel) alive; do a thorough job as God’s servant.” (Tr.The Message)

Bonnie Kristian also quotes from a poem by W. H. Auden (1907-1973: entitled September 1, 1939 (the date when Germany invaded Poland and England announces a declaration of war – WW2 starts)

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:

May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

Will we always be perfect internet users? No, but we can all, be wise and peaceful! Shalom!

JS November 17, 2022

NOTE* there are some websites that will help you remove personal data, but that ability is limited; see: – Also see Facebook removal of personal info:,files.%203%20Here%E2%80%99s%20how%20to%20fully%20delete%20Facebook.

Grace that is common

I have been reading a book of essays by Abraham Kuyper ” Wisdom and Wonder” ** Common Grace & Art.

When I attended HCS as a student way back in the 50s, we (and teachers) were cautioned not to enter into a discussion on ‘Common Grace’. It had been a ‘church’ confessional problem.

Some of you may ask: What is common grace? Common grace is the term used to describe how human motivations of good caring things can happen in people’s lives; for not all is evil or maleficent, but grace (good) abounds across time eternal because God the creator, rules in the hearts and minds of his creatures, even though some people do not acknowledge his presence or even use their gifts of life and the reality of his creation all around us wisely. Nevertheless, as we have experienced, evil does not always triumph in the lives of people. Just think about the many fairy tales and real-life stories that celebrate good over evil. Grace is built in. God hardwired it into his creation.

Wisdom tells us that life without grace would be disastrous. We would all be prone to selfishness, looking out for number one! giving in to strife, mischief, evil and corruption and so the world would probably not have lasted as long as it has. Dystopia and a frightening world it would be. The opposite of utopia.

Now in this book, (“Wisdom & Wonder”) Kuyper takes us on a journey into a discussion of the world as we know it, with its many fascinating areas of human endeavour and discoveries since the ‘beginning’. Science, Art, Nature, Sin and Redemption. A discussion set in a creation philosophy; that includes God who prepared it for human discoveries of all kinds in every good way, so that His glory may be revealed!

Already in God’s mind (He spoke a Word and it is) was laid out the ability for humans to discover the riches of creation; our bodies, the animals and plants; the environment and all that is real around us and even the unseen things we now enjoy such as electricity; radio, ex-rays and other enhanced technological discoveries and mechanics.

So the ‘Sciences’ have been spoken by God into ‘creation’ for us to be busy with in as many life spheres as there are questions for the What? Why? How? When? of the things we experience. There is a God given pent-up drive by humans to uncover all this, Kuyper called it Knowledge or Science (Wonder). It is the striving for answers for the betterment of society and to the many as yet uncovered glories in the world around us.

This, Kuyper says, was not instantly known to us at the beginning but slowly developed as ‘human discovery history’ formed by the creation through the word God spoke to the first humans: “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge! Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.” (the Message)

This was an awesome invitation to play with in the deep mysteries of our world (universe) A beneficent gesture to be God’s partner and pupil. This showed God’s goodness, his GRACE.

Now Kuyper says since we are all human, we all have this ability to make discoveries and contribute knowledge towards good results as we uncover these mysteries how to help and benefit the world and its creatures. There are no humans who were not granted some capacity to help in this discover. We have been hardwired to prosper; to fill the earth; inquire and to take charge.

Then why do we still see misery? because we are selfish creatures. Why? the answer is given to us by God. From almost the beginning of time, the rules God had set we broke, we said: ‘we can do it alone, we do not need you God!’ Christians call this the FALL! But even so, we were still humans made after Gods image with all smarts and cleverness intact, except we said: we had no need for the Spirit of God; the teacher who knows the blueprints to guide us. We can do it ourselves, thank you!

So letting the Creator, the minder of all things go, has led us into new waters where our striving now has become OUR triumph and OUR self Glory! But yet, God has not abandoned his work, he is still there and yes, that Common Grace element still pushes us onward and upward.

Now the argument at HCS was that since we as people, have rejected God’s Wisdom we also do not have a ‘right idea’ about creation’s Wonder and so the Glory of that (Common) Grace has been obscured and will not edify us as a human before holy God. Therefore, this Grace is now a curse for us as we have thrown off (pushed away) the hand that guides us with Wisdom to use God’s Mysterious gifts honestly and rightly. So some said this ‘Commonness’ grace notion now does God a disservice for his Grace is only always pure and true, reserved for those who honour him. You know the verse “Amazing Grace how sweet the sound in a believer’s ear……’tWas grace that brought my heart to fear and Grace my fears relieved. How precious did that Grace appear the hour I first believed!

We are now living some 70 years later and have realized that but for the Grace of God, go I; and in our time the world has seen some amazing things and discoveries that have helped us live better and help others better than ever before we dreamt was possible, and for that we praise God’s Grace. So always remember, it is that Grace that allows us to work and play in this world of ours.

As stated in the Confession “Our World Belongs to God”

“Made in God’s image to live in loving communion with our Maker,
we are appointed earthkeepers and caretakers to tend the earth, enjoy it,
and love our neighbors.
God uses our skills for the unfolding and well-being of his world so that creation and all who live in it may flourish.

Together, male and female, single and married, young and old—
every hue and variety of humanity— we are called to represent God,
for the Lord God made us all.
Life is God’s gift to us, and we are called to foster the well-being of all the living,
protecting from harm the unborn and the weak, the poor and the vulnerable.

Even now, as history unfolds in ways we know only in part, we are assured
that God is with us in our world, holding all things in tender embrace and bending them to his purpose.
The confidence that the Lord is faithful gives meaning to our days and hope to our years.
The future is secure, for our world belongs to God”.

To get back to the Book “Wisdom & Wonder”; there are some pages where Kuyper lost me and I was not able to follow through on his arguments, however, I would recommend it to those who are interested in learning more about the Reformational study look into the validity of the Gospel message for today’s culture. The ‘sciences’ have been lifted high in their own right as being all above all. Just look at the media floods we experience everyday on our magical gadgets. There is a struggle where in a lot of Art, Science, Nature, culture and other educational & professional areas the Gospel is only the (personal) dressing on the matter, rather than a deep struggling with delight to see the miracles and riches in the creator’s mind of all that God has given us as stewards of the universe.

Come back………and see the mind of God in all things! In Jesus, all boasting now has ended! For if not “the stones will cry out………….” Gospel of Luke, chapter 19

JS Oct 17, 2022

** translated by Nelson D. Kloosterman, published by Christian Library Press in Grand Rapids, MI USA

A. Kuyper was very much concerned that ‘Secular’ higher (university) education would become the ‘primary’ and only ‘for real’ study focus for professionals and that the mix with ‘religious’ education was not professional and be kept down at the ‘Bible School’ level only. Throughout his life, He made the case that putting God in the picture was as relevant and study worthy, as the ‘Secular’. Herman Bavinck, a compatriot and fellow professor and pastor, was another who also argued that religious learning, putting God in the mix was equally worthy as the ‘Secular’ notion of what higher education is.

Thanksgiving 2022

It is good to have a set time every year to mark our THANKSGIVINGS! And this year is beyond exception!

Perhaps if you are a Christian, Psalm 92 would be your praise song to the Creator, the Giver of life:

It is good to sing your praises and to thank you, O Most High,
Showing forth your loving-kindness when the morning lights the sky.
It is good when night is falling of your faithfulness to tell,
While with sweet, melodious praises songs of adoration swell.

When we consider the current news events (wars, floods, storms, shootings, robberies, traffic events and even personal health concerns and consumer price increases) everyday things that we all see and hear and experience on our TVs, computers, ipads, iphones and from friends, relatives and word of mouth, we have every reason to be THANKFUL for the communities we live in.

It seems to me to be especially so, when we look around us and see the seasonal changes in the environment near us. Every tree, bush, flowers and grasses are putting on their best. If you are able, go and visit your nearest park or take a drive to see the views in the countryside all around. It is spectacular!

My son just returned from a week camping in Algonquin Park and brought back some spectacular photos, one of which heads this post. The maple tree in our backyard is just now turning into a flaming torch of red. The fire bush in the front yard is doing its best to compete in completing the red all-around decor of our neighbourhood. Across the street our neighbour has another maple tree that will turn into a bright red to orange in the next week. There are yellows and bright greens on the conservation path near our community. My roses are giving their one last magnificent burst of flowers. Clumps of purple asters are growing along sideroads and the fields of soybean and corn are ready to harvest, with the apple crop abundant in its variety. The sumacs are stunning as they change into their Fall colours. The scenes are alive with the music of nature’s autumn songs.

If you are alive today, you can enjoy all of that. It is free!

Then giving THANKS is not too hard! Try it!

JS October 6, 2022

Appleby Line

The Gospel and the death of a Queen

There were thousands of people arriving early that day, to watch the procession of the Queen’s coffin being carried on a gun carriage wagon towed by 98 sailors* (men & women) along part of the route to Windsor Castle’s St. George’s Chapel for her last resting place beside her husband the late Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. (1921- 2021)

Queen Elizabeth ll (1926 – 2022) had reigned over 70 years as Queen of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth realms from 1952 – 2022. She had been steadfast and loved.

People from all walks of life lined the streets where the cortege would pass, some claiming their spots 24 hours before the event. There was an outpouring of gratitude and loyalty, sympathy and tearful goodbyes as the procession, led by 5 members of the Canadian RCMP passed by.

Over 2,000 uniformed men and women from all military support services were present. The coffin which rested upon a (3,000 lb) gun carriage, slowly advanced with Royal family members walking stately behind at 75 paces a minute; and with over 200 musicians and bagpipers playing the funeral march. The sight was grand and eventhough sad, provided a great stately event executed with perfect precision and yet a very solemn occasion. At times the exceedingly great crowd was completely silenced.

Kings, Queens, Presidents and Prime Ministers and International leaders from around the world attended (Putin was not invited) and listened to a ceremonial funeral service and Gospel messages in Westminster Abbey, London.

Inside the Abbey the music was grand but the star of the show besides the deceased late Queen Elizabeth ll and all the ceremonial trappings of her funeral, was surely the teachings of her majesty’s Saviour, Example and Leader, Jesus Christ. Those invited quests who attended (over 2,000) clearly heard an invitation to the Gospel of comfort and peace and the celebration and promise of resurrection.

The Right Honourable the Baroness Scotland of Asthal KC, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, reads the First Lesson.

NOW is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.  (1 Corinthians chapter 15, verses 20 – 26 and 53 – 58)

The Right Honourable Elizabeth Truss MP, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reads the Second Lesson:

LET not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father. (Gospel of John chapter 14, verses 1 – 9a)

Thanks be to God.

And after the singing of the beautiful hymns by the choir with all the dignitaries invited to join in and then after listening to the eulogy of the Archbishop of Canterbury, before the conclusion of the service, these words to those gathered and thinking surely of their own end, an encouragement to every believer of comfort and hope:

Bring us, O Lord God, at our last awakening into the house and gate of heaven, to enter into that gate and dwell in that house, where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light; no noise nor silence, but one equal music; no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession; no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity; in the habitation of thy glory and dominion, world without end. Amen. (John Donne 1572 – 1631)

And then at the conclusion, the Archbishop of Canterbury read from the Book of Common Prayer and gave this farewell blessing to all:

Go forth into the world in peace; Be of good courage, hold fast that which is good, render to no one evil for evil; strengthen the fainthearted, support the weak, help the afflicted, honour all people, love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit; And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

For all the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus. Let them that have ears, hear what the Lord of life is saying to the people of the world.

God save our gracious King!
Long live our noble King!
God save the King!
Send him victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us,
God save the King.

Thy choicest gifts in store
On him be pleased to pour,
Long may he reign.
May he defend our laws,
And ever give us cause,
To sing with heart and voice,
God save the King.

JS September 20, 2022

Note: * Earlier processions had used horses to pull the gun carriage, but in 1901, in Windsor, during the funeral of the Queen Victoria, the weather had turned bitterly cold, snowy and slippery. As one of the splinter bars broke, the horses panicked and bolted, the coffin was jostled badly. The naval guards who lined the route were ordered to take control and safely guided the gun carriage with coffin to it destination. From then on this became a tradition that sailors would escort the coffin on the gun carriage at all future state funerals.

Picture: The coffin of Queen Elizabeth II is pulled past Horse Guards Avenue following her funeral service in Westminster Abbey in central London Monday Sept. 19, 2022. (David Davies/Pool Photo via AP)

Flag demotion

We fly the Canadian flag from my home usually from May to November. I like to do that to remind me of what a great country we live in and to cheer on the birthdays in my family, most of which occur in these Spring & Summer months.

But yesterday, my wife, as she came from outside, asked me to remove and take down the flag. Her reason: We do not want to be seen as ‘conservative extremists’, ‘anti-vaxxers etc,’ part of the ‘fringe Freedom ideas’ crowds with pockets of odd radicalized groups that are emerging in Canada, USA and other parts of the world.

We are not like that, she said.

See a truck with a flag? You can be sure its owner thinks like them. Go and take a drive in the surrounding country side and you can tell who is a supporter by the flags and slogans on their property. These views are not only developed politically but also by religious extremists. 

But I said: we are not them! yah, she countered, but people may think differently when they see we are flying the Canadian flag. We should not give them an idea that we agree and are part of their ‘movement’ or even their militant (political and far out religious, anti-cultural) ideological perspectives.

So yes I took it down. I agree with my wife. Our beautiful flag has been captured!

And we all know why……It was mostly the memory of the ‘Freedom Convoy’ demonstrations events last winter, taking over and occupying downtown Ottawa by the Parliament buildings, blocking access to streets and resident dwellings, threatening (shouting) everyday security and annoying the residents with the continual running of their tractor motors and blaring their horns day and night together with people running around draped in Canadian flags with signs carrying outrageous slogans having their around the clock ‘Freedom parties’ in the streets. Rebellion!

Well, it certainly emptied out respect for the flag and what it stands for. A democracy and rule of law. A fairness dominion from coast to coast.

Flying the Canadian flag now conjures up, not patriotism or celebration or fairness, peace and equity but a new kind of feeling, a stirring in the mind and sentiment never before experienced while viewing the flag: there are thoughts of disruptions, anger, strife, brashness, arrogance, extremeness, lawlessness, meanness, disobedience, mischief, standoffishness, disloyalty and should I say it:….Fascist ideas and hooliganism  tendencies. We watched it all on live TV. Border blockings, ignoring peace orders and shouting crude (almost terrorist) demands. Confronting police, local authorities, attacking our politicians and others charged to make our communities places of well-being for all citizens, while shouting and cursing them and even attacking some. Threatening by email and other means. Even those who report these actions in newspapers and other media are being harassed and threatened.

Yes, that is why now, it all feels so different.

Pride in the Canadian flag has gone out the window. A symbol of peace and stability with kindness and hospitality has become a weapon for war. (maybe I’ve gone too far?)

I can’t help it, but it is a sad day for us all.

Can we regain our goodness again? Be open about our differences but remain civil and respectful? Can we again be the country of choice for the depressed, the refugee and persecuted in the world?

Think about it!

JS September 3, 2022

Quote: “The thing worse than rebellion is the thing that causes rebellion.” —Frederick Douglass

O Canada, again 161 times…….*

July 1 celebrations have come again. This time the world of a year ago looks so different. Covid has changed the heart(s) of our country in many ways. The celebrations in Ottawa are looking a lot like the construction goings-on at Parliament Hill. There are fences and patrol units to keep some of our citizens out. It is a no go zone.

This year’s July 1st celebration will be away from Parliament Hill due to not only the construction fences but also the anxiety that there needs to be more control because of what happened last January. There are scores of police in the streets. Can we still trust the average Canadian to behave themselves? The mess of those winter days have not disappeared in fact it is not only the crowds that have become unruly, some people claim so also has the government itself. F**k Trudeau signs can still be seen proudly worn on the T-shirts of some Canadians. Yes, those meek and socially entwined and careful shy – I’m sorry?! – folk have changed. We seem to be more interested in ourselves then in the whole of us. Can we still pull together?

Some politician are no longer discussing policies but are calling for a radical throw-out of policies and institutions, even the Bank of Canada. Oh, and Freedom! cries are now heard in the streets of Ottawa by those who want no system, no rules at all. They say the “mandate” constraints should be gone, finished. We have had enough!

Echoes of historic situations that ended in tragedies. Count the times!

Where will all this end? Does the road ahead look murky to you? When will we be able to pull together and look at the whole rather than at our own navel? Do we know where we are going (or end up) with all this? Only God knows. O Canada!

Have a blessed summer and appreciate your communities.

JS July 6, 2022

Note:* Counting the years since 1861 Confederation of the three British North America Regions to create the Dominion of Canada. On 1st July 1867, through the British North American Act, the Canadian Federation was created. It was not till Nunavut joined in 1999 that the Canada as we know it today was established. 

When a loved one dies…….

“But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be an affliction, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace”. (Wisdom of Solomon chapter 3)

On June 21, 2022, we said to good-bye to Gerald (Gerrit – 1942 – 2022). He was the husband of my wife’s sister Jackie for 56 years. A son, a brother, a husband, a father, a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus, a man, a child of God. A first direct passing of the spouse of one of my wife’s siblings.

We had seen this day coming as that Multiple Myeloma (an incurable cancer that affects the blood cells in the bone marrow) was slowing taking control of his ability to move around. This magnified by the chemo treatments (which are supposed to help) sometimes made things worse.

We were not aware of this disease till we saw it close-up and looked on helplessly and noting at each visit, yes! it seems worse.

An important and well-known US journalist, reporter and TV commentator (NBC News) wrote a book about his journey with multiple myeloma. The book title ‘A Lucky Life Interrupted’ by Tom Brokaw, he writes about his denials, struggles, acceptance, turning points and courage, all emotions that affected him as he journeyed (from 2013) through the unknowns of this disease.

I would say that 2013 was about the time that Gerrit began to have pains in his knee and then more in his neck. Many were the doctor and chiropractic visits and then a neck operation at Juravinski Hospital, after which Gerrit was almost convinced that he would not walk again. As I visited with him he said that the hymns in the ‘Psalter Hymnal’ (he loved to sing and had a very large voice) had comforted him in his devotions and those hymns were his prayer book. Although he was doubtful about walking, the hospital therapy staff encouraged him and after many weeks of recuperation, he went home to Jackie. Soon a decision needed to be made about moving to a Senior Living space where the ‘house-keeping obligations’ for Jackie and him would be less and they could be surrounded by other Senior friends and acquaintances.

But after the move to ‘Wellingstone Christian Home’ Senior Apartments the journey was just starting. His diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma was scheduled into a cancer care regime at Juravinski Hospital. The chemo and the steroids started to make his life difficult. Sleep was erratic and the chemo affected his legs giving him neuropathy numbing his ability to feel his legs and gave way to weakness and he began using a walker for his mobility to get around. Not only that, but he also developed ‘shingles’ on his body which seemed to last for over a year. I remember seeing him at concerts (religious and classical music concerts were his passion) and other events bent over in the pew from the pain of the not only ever present cancer but also those ‘shingles’ (an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus – chickenpox) which somehow refused to go away.

He had given up his participation in the Brantford Choir ‘the Grand River Chorus’ as he was no longer able to stand up for periods of time. Instead his son in law provided him with a new music system (speakers and amplifier) so that he could access and play (and directing imaginary choirs with his hands) his favourite music usually Bach, and other early classical sacred choral favourites.

Eventually he came to the understanding that he was not longer able to drive his car and Jackie became the designated chauffeur as they went on small outings, attended family gatherings and doctor appointments. The coming of the ‘Covid Pandemic’ in 2020 had already put a slow down on their going-outs and became a time of staying put with cautions as to visits, shopping etc.

Gerrit was a person of realities. Fast to express his distaste for certain practices or actions (‘that’s crap!’) and also quick to acknowledge easy to go (‘yes’) agreements to others was his style. So as the disease took hold he would often talk about his funeral as he realistically knew that this journey (‘disease’) would hasten his end. As time went by he started to think about what his funeral service would look like. For sure, his and Jackie’s hymnal theme song ‘If you but Trust in God to Hide You – PH 446’ would be sung.

In his last sermon preached in Mount Hope Community Christian Reformed Church in, I believe, October 2019, his text was taking from 2 Corinthians 5 – “We know that if our earthly housea mere tent that can easily be taken downis destroyed, we will then live in an eternal home in the heavens, a building crafted by divine—not human—hands…Currently, in this tent of a house, we continue to groan and ache with a deep desire to be sheltered in our permanent home because then we will be truly clothed and comfortable, protected by a covering for our current nakedness. The fact is that in this tent we anxiously moan, fearing the naked truth of our reality. What we crave above all is to be clothed so that what is temporary and mortal can be wrapped completely in life…………The path we walk is charted by faith, not by what we see with our eyes. There is no doubt that we live with a daring passion, but in the end we prefer to be gone from this body so that we can be at home with the Lord.” (Translation ‘The Voice’) Here he spoke that he will die, as we all will, a typical straight talking Gerrit about our life and our human condition here and also God’s promises to those who walk by faith in Jesus, for them a transfer from an earthly tent to a home with Jesus, our (his) Lord. That was his way, straight forward, what we say ‘calling a spade a spade’!

Life was now getting tougher and as time progressed (2020-2021) through the Pandemic his mobility lessened. In the Fall and Winter of 2021 -22 there were several times Jackie had to get assistance to lift him up for bathroom breaks as the strength (and neuropathy) in his legs and his body were failing. And so in April/May of 2022 COVID (he had received all the shots available) also somehow invaded his body and in the week before he died, he made mention, that it turned so bad, he had thought for sure he would die while lying on a hospital bed in his living room for more than a week, deathly ill with the virus, while Jackie and family taking turns attending to him together with the help of the medical care available under the Ontario Home Care plan. It was a most trying time!

Hospice care was needed but because of COVID, acceptance to such a facility was put off and delayed. The (timely) event (in May 2022) of him breaking his arm (as he was escorted to the bathroom) triggered an emergency hospital attendance which in turn led for a doctor finding him at place at St. Peter’s Hospital on Maplewood Ave for palliative care. Because of COVID, he was first isolated in a private room with only Jackie and family allowed to visit and later in the beginning of June transferred to a ward with 3 other palliative care patients. When he got trouble with his right eye, the resident doctor had noted that Gerrit’s life expectancy was now 2 weeks to 2 months, no more.

The last 2 weeks of his life allowed for more restricted visits by others and designated family, still with COVID masking. We attended him on June 5 and fed him his supper as he was unable to help himself due to his broken arm. He was in good spirits, listening to his favourite music and expressed the fact that ‘Ancaster Christian Reformed Church’ church building’s renovations would for sure be completed in time for his funeral. How typical Gerrit!

On Sunday June 12th Jackie called to arrange for us to come the next day for a lunch break and warned us that Gerrit’s condition had drastically changed. And yes it had. He was no longer able to eat anything or talk, and needed to have his mouth and throat soothed with water. His hearing and listening abilities were strong and so we ministered as much as we could while relieving Jackie for lunch. This is hard work for anyone who attends the care of a loved one in their last days of life. The family was now present in shifts around the clock and the staff moved him to a private room. Jackie was given a comfortable chair so she could continually be with him during these last hours. Son Paul’s friend John Terpstra had written a contemporary version of the 23rd Psalm especially for Gerrit. When it was read to him, he loved it. It is hard to minister to someone who can hear but no longer respond verbally. Holding his hand (his grip was strong) and reading from Scripture or just telling him that we thought him a brother, was for us, very moving and meaningful.

Yet the call on Friday was unexpected! Gerrit is home! He was now before the face of God, the One who he had dedicated his life’s work to. Always proclaiming the grace of God to people under his care. Repent and believe and enjoy with thanks, the good news of the Gospel.

Next comes the hard part for the living, those left behind. Taking care of Gerrit’s body, taking care through visitations and notices sent, and then the hard part; laying his body to rest in the earth.

On that morning at 10 o’clock on June 21 (the fist day of Summer) under a sweltering sun and its heat, we attended the burial, saying our last farewell to Gerrit. In St. George cemetery with the oriole singing in the trees and with sounds of a drum and pine boughs and roses to lay on the simple casket, together we spoke our pastoral expressions of Gospel communal confessions, Christian hope and prayer, and led by Gerrit’s brother in the song: ‘Sweet chariot, comin’ for to carry me home, O, sweet chariot comin’ for to carry me home’, we set his body at rest. “O death where is your string, O grave your victory!……..But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”. (Epistle to the Corinthians chapter 15)

The service of ‘Celebration of Life and Resurrection’ at ‘Ancaster Christian Reformed Church’ followed at 1 PM. The remembrances of his children were on the theme of hands….Gerrit’s – Dad’s hands…. how they moved, held, molded and folded in and for their family life and experiences throughout the many years. The message from Scripture was on the Epistle to the Ephesians chapter 2 – ‘it is by grace you have been saved‘ – with a reference by the preacher that Gerrit (typical) in a conversation long ago said to him: that believing Jesus’ death on the cross took care of (his) our sins is: – like the flushing of our dirty mess down the toilet in one stroke and it is gone! and from Revelation chapter 21 – ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

We together sang the hymn – of course – ‘If you but suffer God to guide you’ and ‘Jesus lives and so do we’ – PH 399 – and so ended our spoken remembrances of Gerrit, but the memory of him will be ever with us. A life well lived with small pretenses but a very large hope. Hope for the good things God has promised to all who love him and keep his Gospel front and center!

My gratitude and love! Well done! Rest in peace, my brother!

Sing, pray, and keep his ways unswerving, offer your service faithfully,
and trust his word; though undeserving, you’ll find his promise true to be.
God never will forsake in need the soul that trusts in him indeed.

JS June 29, 2022

Upside-down-ness of the world God Created

Unbelievable! I received a phone call the other day that I have been selected for a prize! (as a reward for paying my bills on time in the last 5 years) of 2.5 million dollars and a Mercedes car. The caller asked: ‘Would you prefer a green, blue or red colour car? Of course I said a red one please, – it is my favourite colour for a car! Otherwise I prefer green. The caller then verified my address and name and asked whether I would prefer a ‘private’ or ‘public’ award presentation of the prize. I prefer ‘private’ that way no one will know I am about to be a multi-millionaire. The caller said that they would be right over to present the cheque and drive me to the bank to make the deposit in my account. I checked my watch and noticed that it was 5:30 PM and said: Sorry the Bank is closed, and proceeded to tell the caller that I considered this a scam call and hung up.

You ever have a call like this? I have, many times. Oh, they vary in format and presentation. Some are the SIN (social insurance number) calls whereby my SIN status is questioned and I should press 1 to get more info. Some are from Revenue Canada (CRA) notifying me that I need to pay a certain sum or else?……… The one I like the best is the Amazon credit card call where I am told that the Amazon Security Department has noticed suspicious activity and the attempted cashing of a ‘gift card’ on my account. My standard reply for this one is: ‘Oh, that must be my cousin cashing the gift I gave him. It is OK, just let it happen’, end of call. There are others with various scenarios like that.

The ones that are really annoying are the ‘duct cleaning’ calls. These happens again and again in series and then it is quiet for some weeks and then start again. Very annoying! In the beginning we would say did you say DUCKS? No, we only have geese not DUCKS! In the beginning it was new window and we would joke about having a place with no windows….etc.

Some people have had calls indicating a friend or family member (grand-child is the favourite) is in a tight spot and needs money right away or else……… so please go and buy a gift card or similar product, take a photo of the numbers and code on the back of the card and forward that by email to the caller and your friend etc will be very pleased and happy you could help them.

Or what about the Microsoft Technical Department call telling you that you have a virus (or bug) in your software that needs to be corrected and they are willing to help. Just go to your computer and follow their instructions to correct this problem. If you do this they will ask you to insert ‘code’ that will lock your computer and then they will offer to unlock you for a payment of hundreds of dollars………..

This all is crazy…….. and I have not even told you about the scamming emails and or the friendly guy at your local shopping center who can supply you with a cheap laptop (or whatever……..) show you the box and when you pay him and go home to use you new purchase, you find the box filled with pamphlets and other papers only.

There are a thousand different ways to scam and defraud us, the public.

The first time I was scammed by one was back in 1965 on my honey-moon at the New York World Exhibition. I was approached by a lady all dressed up with American flags and military dress sort-of and said she was campaigning for aid for war veterans, could I give a donation, and when I did was rewarded with a small paper US flag. I was had; and the funny thing was, after it happened (it was fast) I knew right-away I had been scammed. I felt used and stupid!

I know that was small potatoes but we read of these things all the time.

There are: The Romance scams. I love you sent me money I’m in trouble etc….. The Employment scam…The Rent an apartment or Vacation scam………The Overpayment scam……..The Phishing scam, asking for your info or response by clicking on LINK (don’t do it!) pretending they are someone familiar or there is a reward if you do….this is probably the oldest and most used scam since Emails and Texting messaging were invented…………. and so many more!!!!!

Best advice the experts give is: ‘hang-up’, if you do not recognized the caller put down the phone, ignore pressure tactics: like you need to do this right now or else…….. Don’t click on the LINK in your email or message you do not recognize the sender or have ever seen it before. Be smart usually a ‘gift’ could be a ‘ploy’ to scam you!

Even if you know all this, you could be scammed, impersonated or robbed as they say in broad daylight. The evil is out there and they are continually finding new ways to deceive us.

We read and hear of people whose identity was stolen and the trouble they had to right the wrong. This one may become very very serious. Protect yourself as much as you can, hold your personal identities (cards, info, credit, telephone access, computer passwords in a safe place) never assume that no-one is watching. Always be on your guard as much as you are able. Multiple verifications are now necessary to identify the rightful owner of a bank or purchase order type of account when using the internet and the phone. Single passwords access in some cases are now doubled password-ed or voice secured to protect the owner and how to access private and privileged information.

Other scams are more brazen and bizarre, there are photo-shop and video face trimmed events created to make you look bad or untruthful or where you are simply attacked (picked on) for easy prey. As was the news the other day, where a lady out shopping, was approached by two men who threatened her and then asked for her car keys. She complied not wanting to be on the receiving end of the threat and the two (young) men drove off (no, stole) her LAND ROVER in broad-daylight.

Well by now you get the drift that we are living in UPSIDE DOWN communities. The streets and even our homes are no longer a safe place. No front door should be unlocked anymore. People now do what they want. Truth and trust are lost. Lies and trickery is practiced and takes place even in the highest places of our land. Just think of ‘Make America Great Again’ lies and innuendos, the US election fraudulent statements, the Russian (Putin says he is ‘liberating’ the Ukrainians) denial of military actions in the Ukraine, denials of wrong doings even by our elected representatives. And should I dare to mention the ‘Freedom’ event we saw in Ottawa earlier this year! Misrepresentation of everyday facts and events! PROTECT YOURSELF!

The Psalmist also was already discouraged by the evil and lying done in his days: Book of Psalms number 14 *: A protest song – of David!

Wicked and foolish man truly believes there is no God. They are vile, their sinfulness nauseating to their Creator; their actions are soiled and repulsive; every deed is depraved; not one of them does good. The Eternal leans over from heaven to survey the sons of Adam. No one is missed, and no one can hide. He searches to see who understands true wisdom, who desires to know the True God.

 They all turn their backs, walking their own roads; they are rancid, leaving a trail of rotten footsteps behind them; not one of them does good, not even one. Do the wicked have no clue about what really matters? They devour my brothers and sisters the way a man eats his dinner. They ignore the Eternal and don’t call on Him, rejecting His reality and truth. They shall secretly tremble behind closed doors, hearts beating hard within their chests, knowing that God always avenges the upright. You laugh at the counsel of the poor, the needy, the troubled who put their trust in God. You try to take away their only hope, but the Eternal is a strong shelter in the heaviest storm.
 May a new day, a day of deliverance come for Israel, starting with Zion. When the Eternal breaks the chains of His oppressed people, the family of Jacob will rejoice, and Israel will be delighted.

And one of the earliest scams of all: Book of Genesis chapter # 27 – the story of Jacob scamming his father Isaac for the blessing of the first-born birthright. Oh, the misery that followed.

I am not downhearted or fearful, there are many good neighbours and friends and family members that I and you the reader know of. So be not discouraged always be careful. Living comes with many choices. And God is good!

JS June 11, 2022

Note *: Psalm translation: The Voice

The title picture by: an Unknown author is licensed under CC BY SA

HELL, TEARS and more tears!

Tears……………………..! Have you seen the pictures of mothers and wives in the Ukraine shedding tears for sons, fathers, husbands and children. It affects me with sadness, when I see those pictures on our screens of the aggressive cruelty that this war brings. The senselessness of the whole events. Why this was necessary and for what reason? Total ‘scorched earth’ blasting tactics by the Russians. Insane! It is beyond me.

Of course we hear what Putin is telling his people how the Russians are saving the Ukrainians from a much and terrible (Western Culture) danger. We are the Saviours, he tells his people. But………. from our side we see nothing but his denials, aggression and anger and the innocents deaths and destruction and many tears. Hell has come to the Ukraine!

After tracking over 100 days of fighting, I guess maybe also for others, I have gone from an eager view of war news, (sinking of the Moskva war ship – April 14, 2022) hoping the Ukrainians would teach the Russians a lesson and win the war, to a more mundane noting of war news progress each day. There have been times when the tanks pulled back from the capital Kyiv that I was hoping for a truce but with the flattening of Mariupol and the battle for the Steel Plant factory to the fighting in the Donbas region now in full swing, the full force of the Russian military superiority in numbers can now be seen to be gaining the upper hand in eastern Ukraine.

Pictures of tearful people mourning the death of loved ones and the destruction of their homes and neighbourhoods are hard to watch. The pictures and videos are plenty and extremely moving. Funeral services and the discovery of mass graves ran a chill over my body giving flash backs to the Yugoslavian (Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian) conflict of the 1990s where we heard stories of children asking their mothers: ‘Where is my daddy?’ and receiving the soft reply: ‘He has just gone into the woods for a while’. The song by Kurt Bestor “The prayer of the children” reflects the anguish of war on children but also on the whole of the afflicted communities. (listen for this sung by the Ambassadors Christian Male Chorus)

Putin says, if the US and others (NATO allies) supply Ukraine with more deadly weapons with longer range, it will force him also to use his more powerful deadly weapons with longer range. Already he is moving multiple rocket launchers thousands of miles across Siberia to boost its war effort. The Russian BM-27 Uragans can fire 16 rockets in 20 seconded up to 20 miles distances. And there is access to other terrible weapons! I sometimes fear the war is escalating into a large European conflict and I fear for its potential bad outcomes for our EU immigration home-lands and our extended families living there. Not only that, but what about the Ukrainian (food) grain harvests which feeds 15% or more of the world’s population especially those of African counties where famines are already taken hold in Somalia and other near areas. What is the use of winning when the spoils of war are death, destruction and blowing up every building in the conquered cities and towns leveling the territory gained to a flat contaminated disruptive wounded earth. The ‘scorched earth’ war tactics practiced by Russia on the Syrian city of Aleppo. Not only have the communities and its structures disappeared and disintegrated but also the natural environment has suffered with large bomb caters and unexploded missiles and rockets in roads, streets and fields with its chemicals and fire damaging pollutions of air and waterworks, streams and nesting habits of wild creatures have been disturbed and dislodged. The hearts and minds of those affected citizen who lived in and formed the targeted communities are in despair (imagine losing your home and possessions!) and many have had to flee to other more safe areas. What has Putin gained? Certainly no thanks! He has turned the world against himself. It is madness. The Intelligencer (March 23, 2022) states: ‘Putin has brought HELL to Mariupol!’ yes, and to all of the Ukraine!

Even now, as the war continues, for me it has become a more, ‘what can we do?’ and dare I say it? a normal reality check-in of our lives! It is a human nature’s acceptability of ………. Well, it is what it is! and that bothers me! Oh, I am not casual about these events or their dangerous consequences, but have almost come to accept the (daily) reality (tired) of it all. Selective support for donations for the Ukrainian people is something everyone can do!

Still a prayer for peace and deep sympathy and empathy for the people of Ukraine is my daily wish and practice. May God give those who lead wisdom to bring it all to a just close. May the Holy Spirit of Pentecost blow through the corridors of the world’s power groups and parliaments. The Russians need to stand down, face reality and tell the world ‘it is over!’ Putin needs to come to the peace table. PRAY FOR PEACE IN UKRAINE but also in other parts of the world!

May we show your compassion, Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

From the Book of Psalms # 120 – A prayer for help.

I cried to the Lord in my trouble, and He answered me. O Lord, save me from lying lips and a false tongue. What will be given to you and what more will be done to you, you false tongue? He will punish you with sharp arrows of the soldier, and with the hot fire of the broom tree.

It is bad for me, for I travel in Meshech * and live among the tents of Kedar! I have lived too long with those who hate peace. I am for peace. But when I speak, they are for war.

(Translation: from New Life Version)

Note: * sometimes identified in the Bible as people from Japheth’s descendants living in Russian geographic areas.

JS June 9, 2022

Above picture from the Atlantic Council report May 24, 2022 entitled: Putin’s Mariupol Massacre is one of the 21st century’s worst war crimes.

June election thoughts.

I never thought I would hear the following statement uttered by my wife as we discussed the Provincial elections choices for this JUNE 2022 in Ontario.

My quiet opinionated wife, not voiced outside the home, says that we should not be voting for the PC’s (Progressive Conservatives Party) as they have given the FOR PROFIT Senior Long Term Care (LTC) home owners a wheel barrow to take their treasures to the Bank at the expense, she says, of the Seniors in Long Term Care, whose welfare will be in their keeping for the NEXT, would you believe it! – 30 YEARS. She says tax payers are on the hook for enriching corporations and their owners at the expense of the tax payers for a generation to come. Their gravy train has arrived! Stop the train, don’t vote for the PCs.

And so it now will happen! The PCs were elected with a majority in the legislature (83 seats) even though the voter turn out (40%) was said to be one of the lowest in the province’s history.

The LTC in Ontario is at least 52% owned by private for profit corporations and some of these were cited as the worst run facilities during the COVID pandemic. Many a family lost an older family member due to lax preventative health and cleanliness routines in the home. Provincial health inspections were few, irregular with a light evaluations of the practices at these homes. Supervision controls were not enforced according to regulations and staff protection and cautions were ignored. The province intervened in 35 of the homes hardest hit by COVID-19 outbreaks, and took over management of some. About 80% were for profit homes. (as reported by the Globe & Mail)

Not much was said by the PCs about the state of LTC in the province during the election (in fact many PC candidates never showed up for a local debate) except in their election rhetoric they promised more beds and facilities. But Doug Ford’s earnest plea as he rolled out the pandemic mandates, from a couple of years ago to keep our Seniors safe, has now taken second (fifth?) fiddle to highways and infrastructure etc building that the PCs proclaimed in election mandates to ‘get it done’.

But the PCs, now with such a majority, have the opportunity to give care workers a decent wage increase (rather then the present legislated 1% per year) which may also help to attract more qualified workers to this meaningful sector for our increasing populated group of Ontario citizen who need and are entitled to decent care in their elderly years. This is their opportunity to upgrade the LTC facilities and perhaps rewrite the rules for the For Profit licensees. Time to strengthen the health care mandates and management rules. Our mothers and fathers deserve every bid of comfort and attention, for they earned it in their working life-time as they helped build and contribute to the wealth in this beautiful province, Ontario.

Even though the number of LTC beds in the province is projected (promised) to rise to 110,000 in the next few years, will there be enough government muscle to get it done? Many promises to keep!

Here ( were the PCs election slogans: Note there is a vague reference to LTC care but it is only #5 (last) on the list of promises. Just remember, we all get old!

P.S another party candidate got her vote!

JS June 5, 2022

75 years Remembered!

A good friend and fellow church member Bill Huinink wrote the following report to record and remember the journey for those who travelled on that very first post-war immigrant ship from the Netherlands to CANADA! check the passenger list here!

DE S.S. WATERMAN – 75 Years ago

On May 5, 1945 the Canadian Army finally drove the Nazi occupiers from the Netherlands. The occupation had produced economic ruin to the country. Many people lost their lives to repressive actions by the Nazi forces, but the worst had been the seizure of most food products from the Netherlands and sending them to Germany. The western part of the country saw the literal starvation of thousands of Dutch citizens during the ‘Hunger Winter’ of 1944/45. Following the euphoria of the Liberation, the country still suffered from a lack of basic necessities for living. Many industries, and particularly farming, had lost most of their equipment to the Nazi war effort, either for the equipment itself or for the need for steel in the armaments supply.

The following 2 years saw little relief from this loss with only a small amount of Importing equipment being possible due to all countries working to recover from the war losses. The other major problem of the time (pre and post war) was the lack of land for agricultural expansion and the Dutch government policies of strict control over passing on real estate within a family. The existing farms/industries seemed to offer little opportunity for young people in the foreseeable future. Many Dutch people were actively looking to other countries that appeared to be offering much more promise. Many thousands had made enquiries and registered for emigration to foreign countries including Australia, Canada, and the U.S. In the meantime, the Canadian economy was healthy and particularly the agricultural industry suffered from a labour shortage. In March 1947 the Canadian and Dutch authorities came to an agreement that Agriculturists willing to work as farm laborers would be admitted to Canada. A sponsor must be in place and this sponsor was obligated to pay the workers $75/month for family men, $45 for single men, plus free housing.

Notifications went out to many families who had registered, that the boat – the SS Waterman – had been pressed into service and would sail on June 17, 1947 from Rotterdam. In the space of about 10 weeks final decisions had to be made. Visas were dependent on health and security checks, businesses had to be transferred/closed down, employers notified and personal effects had to be packed, sold or given away and separation from families/friends all needed to be dealt with. Many were afraid that they would never see their loved ones again. (A number never did, for various reasons.)

On June 17, 1947 the ship was ‘ready’ for boarding. The previous day it had dropped off a load of Dutch soldiers returning from Indonesia. The decks had been hosed, garbage unloaded and the new crew was at the stations. Otherwise, it was still a troop ship – ill-suited to being a passenger liner. Sufficient good food and supplies were loaded. The boat was not docked, but anchored out in the harbour. A tender was used to ferry the passengers to the ship (50 people at a time) and a ships ladder was used for boarding. Families with young children struggled to carry babies and toddlers up the long steep stair that swayed to the movement of the water. Once on board, you can imagine the shock of seeing the accommodations. The men and older boys were sent to one section where the beds were cramped bunk beds stacked 4 high with thin pads as mattresses, a sheet, a single blanket and a small pillow. The women and girls along with the children under the age of 10 went to separate areas of the ship where conditions were similar to the men’s. Some of the families (minus the men) were lucky to be assigned to a cabin and some even shared a cabin. Boys over 10 were housed with the men while girls over 10 shared the bunk accommodations with the women who had no children. Approximately 70 single women – most of them, war brides – were on board. 160 single men came along to scout out the new land’s suitability for their parents and siblings, and prepare for them to come later. The families were on average a couple with 3 children but there was one family with 13 children and another with 11.

The Groenewegen family had 5 children and the Dam and Huinink family had four each. Tess’s parents (de Jong) had been married only shortly before the voyage, but were already expecting her (without their knowledge at the time). Coincidentally, the Groenewegen and Dam families were right beside each other in their quarters. Nellie Schuurman (Groenewegen) recalls that Mrs. Dam often looked after both family’s children while Mrs. Groenewegen had to get on deck for some fresh air, away from the cabin fever conditions in the barracks. The families soon found out that the troop ship conditions extended to the meals. Although there was plenty of good food, all passengers had to stand in line – cafeteria style – with a plate being handed to each, even the little ones. The plate had several divisions in it to keep the types of food separate – but on one plate. The food was to be eaten at long tables. This requirement was soon dispensed with.

As soon as the ship exited the English Channel it hit a storm on the open ocean. That evening many of the passengers became sea-sick and a good number of family members were confined to their beds. Those who were not sick would bring some basic food down to the barracks so that the bed-ridden ones might try to eat at least a little bit. Leda Vanderkruk (Dam) remembers helping here Dad carry food down the stairs into the lower sleeping quarters – a difficult task for a 4 year old on a swaying ship. With so many being sick, people were vomiting at very inconvenient places. Eventually open barrels were placed on the decks and they tried to aim the projectiled food into them. In the men’s quarters, the urinals were made of steel tanks cut in half and hung from the walls with drain pipes leading out to the open sea. They were a handy place to vomit into but a lot of food got stuck in the drains. The urinals started to fill up and with the swaying of the boat, the contents started sloshing from end to end and flooding over onto the floors. Needless to say, the sanitary conditions were far from ideal. The storm abated the following day but some people were sick for the duration of the crossing. Those who were not, started to wander on the open decks and many of the children spent hours playing with their siblings or finding new friends. Older siblings looked after younger ones while their mothers were busy with babies or even confined to beds because of sea-sickness. Nellie Schuurman (Groenewegen) recalls that her 6 year old brother (Ted) would push the younger 2 ½ year old brother (John) around the deck in a folded high chair that had wheels on it. She noted another activity that fascinated her. Her Dad would lift her up to look out the porthole and watch the waves surging by during the storm.

During the day, fathers were allowed into the women’s quarters to help their wives with the chores of dressing and feeding the little ones. One day, as they were approaching land, someone spotted an iceberg. Anyone who could, got on deck to watch the new phenomenon. One of the passengers, while standing at the railing, saw an object floating at some distance from the boat. He recognized it as a sea Mine – a remnant from the war 2 years earlier. He could see that the boat was in no danger of hitting it, so he did not draw attention to it in case it might cause a panic. Then land came into sight. Newfoundland on the left and Labrador on the right. As they passed between they could observe green hills, even low mountains. This was their new country. The next blessing was the calm waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence (no more sea-sickness) and plenty of sunshine. The voyage now became a pleasant adventure for almost everyone on board. But surprise, surprise – they sailed a whole day and were told it would be another day before they would reach Quebec City.

At Quebec City the boat was held up for a number of hours while immigration officials boarded and other affairs were taken care of. Late afternoon they sailed again and at about 10:00 AM on the morning of June 26, 1947 the ship docked in Montreal. The whole harbor appeared to be aware of the special arrival. There was a cacophony of ships horns from all over to welcome the newcomers to Canada. On the dock stood the Dutch ambassador to Canada and a Canadian official in charge of immigration. Speeches of welcome were made by both to the waiting crowds on the deck. It took most of the day to unload the travelers and transport them all to the Central Station – several blocks north – in the city. Red Cross workers were on hand, both at the dock and the Station with food and drink and other treats. Most of the passengers knew where they were going already, but some just got to know this as they came to the station. A special train was making the run to Toronto (5 – 6 hours away). The coaches had been assembled specifically for the migrants and turned out to be the oldest, most dilapidated cars that could be in service. The ride was hot – 30/31deg. C – and stifling. Some tried to open the windows but the soot from the steam engine would be sucked into the coaches. The view though, was exciting; there were lots of trees and green farm fields for most of the trip. A few families – hired by sponsors in Eastern Ontario – were dropped off along the way. In Toronto’s Union Station there was much chaos. Due to language problems a number of families were
sent to the wrong trains.

Nellie recalls that the Groenewegen’s were supposed to go to Bradford but ended up being put on a train to Brantford. During the stop in Hamilton where a good number were being sent, they happened to talk with Peter Spoelstra who was assisting the ones coming to Hamilton.

Part of Hamilton Spector front page news of Immigrants arriving at the CNR Station, Hamilton in June 1947

He helped them in arranging a train passage back to Toronto and on to Bradford. The Huinink’s were to go to Thamesford and when they got off there, their sponsor was nowhere to be found. The stationmaster got to thinking – many people coming to Thamesford would take the train to Woodstock (different rail line) and arrange to be picked up there. He got on the telegraph to the Woodstock station and, sure enough, their sponsor was waiting there and wondering where his migrant family was. He then drove the 25 km back to Thamesford, only 6 km from his home, and picked them up there.

Many sponsors were fair and well intentioned to the immigrants. Among our 4 families there were no major problem or abuse of the workers. There were, however, many stories of families being housed in chicken coops or other dilapidated structures with no reasonable sanitary facilities; stories of wind howling through the wood siding while trying to keep a young family warm; outhouses to be used in freezing weather; lack of windows for ventilation in one of the hottest summers on record – it was not easy for them. The minimum wage left little for saving to cover the transition from the sponsor farm to other employment. It was a difficult time for most and we can’t go into much detail on that, but definitely the majority of immigrants, having already gone through a depression and the WWII occupation, were thrifty enough and had the determination and FAITH to get through this as well. 75 years later, we are ‘celebrating’ the fact that our families have done well – even extremely well – in the years that have gone by.

Bill Huinink’s NOTE: I acknowledge the information gleaned from the book ‘To All Our Children’ by Albert Vandermey, the passenger list for the boat, the diary of Tryn Snyder (one of the passengers on De Waterman), inputs by Nellie Schuurman and Leda Vanderkruk (Dam), and word of mouth comments by my own parents and other passengers I have met over the years.
W. (Bill) Huinink – June 12, 2022


So on that 17th day of June 1947 the S.S. Waterman slipped out of the Rotterdam harbour into the Nieuwe Waterweg, and so out to the North Sea, headed for Montreal, PQ Canada with 1,100 Dutch immigrants on board who were full of excitement for the new adventures that would await them. They all had visions of a new starts and prosperity for them and their families; to a bright future in a welcoming land. O Canada!

Many of these pioneers have now passed away and their children and grand-children and great grand children are remembering the joys and the hardships of their parents bold venture, so many years ago from a war-torn Netherlands, to a new country full of future hope and new beginnings.

Here is a poem written by J. Bergwerff, living in Rozenburg, at the occasion of the Cor & Sjaan Groenewegen family’s departure to Canada via the S.S. Waterman. (Translated in 2005 by Mrs. Benna Nicholai)

As the ship comes sailing by, and we, filled with sadness, with a sigh 
Stare at the fading silhouette; we know a full stop has been set.

The tie with Holland has been cut, you'll travel another country but
Our poor little Nederland is it no longer your fatherland?

Our country's little, that is true yet you earned your living, didn't you?
We're wondering and we'd like to know what possessed you to decide to go.

Couldn't your children and your wife prevent this sad parting in your life?
Didn't you think of your mother dear, who now must carry this sorrow year after year?

Or were you thinking of your children's welfare? to oppose, in this we would not dare.
In this battle how did you fight? We trust that you did pray for light.

That you didn't stand alone, of course, you know. What thoughts and questions through your mind did go?
Were you careful to bend your knees to pray, as every possibility you did weigh?

There's still something I truly want to know. You won't forget our Holland when you go?
That little spot of treasured ground where years ago your cradle was found!

O Nederlands, your best sons and daughters no longer want to live within your borders.
To unfold their talents is their wish, strong and sure, in this place they no longer can endure.

They'll spread their wings in a land so wide, far from here on the other side.
Here they cannot build a future and grow. Should we then hinder them and say, "Don't go?"

There goes the ship. It's done you see. How endless the distances will be.
O Lord, what pain.........  there goes my child, to each one give Your comfort so mild.

Long ago a mother stood by the cross, her son was going home. To her it seemed a loss.
Dear Mother and Father remember always, that Son our Eternal Great Shepherd will stay.

After we travel our tiresome earthly road, we'll arrive with joy in our heavenly abode.
Whether in Canada or in the Nederlands, we're all on our way to our eternal homeland. 

June 26, 1947 – Netherlands Ambassador Dr. J.H. van Roijin and Mrs. van Roijin greeting Dutch immigrants arriving by ship in Montreal. Photo by George Hunter: National Film Board of Canada

Was your FAMILY ON-BOARD? check the passenger list here!

for more info about Immigration, ships etc see:

Blood on the Doorposts

As I opened my iPad, there it was, shocking, a picture of senseless destruction and chaos, a family man, perhaps a husband/father/son, lying tossed like garbage along the side of the road, degrading him of human dignity. Yet, a (his) dog is keeping watch. Perhaps he was getting food for his family and hurrying back to the safety of his shelter. Gunned down without mercy. O Lord, why? But see, there were more pictures of sadness: More bodies in the streets and in the bombed out buildings. Blood on the sidewalk and blood on the doors and hallways.

They are the terrible scenes we are able to be part of, as we peek in on our iPhones and tablets every morning. Ukraine is on fire, this is war gone wild, insanity and total destruction of people, neighbourhoods and civilization. Explosions, fire and the burning of homes, buildings, cars and machinery. Battle weapons scarred and destroyed; rusting in the streets and roads. People coming out of their building/homes and finding hiding places in basements and shelters, while columns of smoke and explosions are seen on the horizons everywhere. Faces edged with fright and fear. Children crying and wives carrying small children, weeping as they say good-bye to their husbands. Seniors and grandmothers helped by soldiers across make shift bridges and cooking their meager meals outdoors. Make-shift graves along the side of the road or in the local park/playground. Mothers/wives weeping for their soldier husbands/sons as their caskets are carried out of the church through the streets. Bombed buildings and war junk lying everywhere. Flames and destructions in every direction. Imagine the noise as the missiles hit and explode! with shrapnel flying in all directions finding their targets in flesh and surrounding materials. It is a war of crime (criminal)!

The above photo is the telling summation of all the ‘what for!!’ insanity of this war.

See here is barbarity in full action and view. A citizen of Bucha * lying on the curb shot dead while gathering groceries for his family. For no reason. For ‘in spite of’ and because they can. A scene that grips me and will not let go. O God have mercy!

Soon it will be Easter (2022) again when we remember the blood on the doors posts to free a people locked down in slavery. When the avenging angel of God passed by those who had the sign of redemption on their doorposts. It is the time again to remember the blood on the tree of Golgotha. The blood of the LAMB (JESUS) slain for the salvation of many, proclaiming God’s peace to all peoples and nations. This is the blood that “was poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”. Gospel of Matthew chapter 26 verse 8

May Easter – this 2022 Easter – speak to you and me more loudly and clearly with conviction as we contemplate the Lamb slain for all to give us peace with God. A peace that was given, and we must pass on and practice, among us and to others. As the angels sang on that new morning in Bethlehem: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.” Gospel of Luke, chapter 2

JS APRIL 11, 2022

(Book of Common Prayer) A PRAYER FOR OUR UKRAINIAN BROTHERS AND SISTERS ON THE BATTLE FIELD: O God, who seest that in this warfare we are seeking to serve thee, and yet in the waging of it must needs do many things that are an offence against thy love; Accept we pray thee, our imperfect offering. Arm us with thy Spirit that our warfare may further the victory of thy justice and truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Psalm 3 (all verses); a psalm asking God for deliverance:

verse 1: O Lord, how swiftly grows, the number of my foes, who wantonly oppress me!
Yea, multiplied are they that rise to my dismay, and day by day distress me.
Though heavy my despair, they scornfully declare, to my humiliation,
That Thou, O God, no more, canst help me as before or come to my salvation

verse 3: I laid me down and slept; I waked, for I was kept, in His divine protection;
The Lord was at my side, my succor He supplied, whatever my affliction.
Defended by His hand, I shall undaunted stand, While thousands surge about me;
Though furious foemen wage their war with mighty rage, I know they shall not rout me.

Note: * A dog sits next to the body of a civilian, who according to residents was killed by Russian soldiers, in Bucha, in Kyiv region, Ukraine, April 3, 2022. Photo REUTERS/Stringer

Resurrection Gate and Putin War Rally

Soon we will celebrate Easter again!

At the entrance of the Red Square in Moscow, one must pass through the Resurrection (Iberian) Gate and with its Iberian Chapel. The Resurrection Gate has an icon on its wall which is a picture of the Risen Christ. In this picture the Risen Christ emerges victorious from a dark pit of dark despair, chains and destructive death elements. For Russians this is a symbolic picture promise of Mother Russia rising from the despair and shame of it past history.

The Resurrection Gate was re- established (rebuilt) in 1995 and is one of the most holy symbols for the Russian people. The Iberian Chapel contains an icon depicting the Mother of God, a symbol of the protector of Russia. In all Russian Cathedrals at Easter the Orthodox priest will shout out “Christ is Risen” and the congregants will answer “He is Risen indeed”. In the Russian mind there is no difference between Christ’s rising and the promise of a renewal risen Russia. That also includes Ukraine.

Religious passion and desire for seeing the ‘Empire’ restored is what drives Putin to do what he has done, even if the things that are now underway in the Ukraine are terrible, destructive of life and limb. This is a (national) holy war.

The leader of the dominant Russian Orthodox Church is Patriarch Kirill, a close friend of Putin. Kirill has described the invasion war in the Ukraine( according to AP report) – a conflict struggle against sin and pressure from liberal foreigners to hold “gay parades” justifying the war. The Ukrainians, he said, are exterminating Russians. He has refrained from criticizing the invasion and the bombardment of civilians. Ukraine must be cleansed. This has led to alienating many in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Meantime the voice of the Church worldwide is being heard. Many are praying for the people of the Ukraine and for the war to stop and peace to come soon. Letters signed by many leaders from various churches worldwide including the Reformed, Evangelical and World Wide Council of Churches have asked Kirill to mediate an immediate peace, and received this polite reply: “I pray unceasingly that by His power, the Lord help establish the lasting and justice-based peace as soon as possible…and that the religious world leaders will maintain an unbiased platform……” – ( Does he know people or being killed and cities are blasted with missiles and bombs? That Ukrainian refugees (up to 2 million, women and children) are leaving all behind for the safety of other countries?

On March the 18th, a rally was held at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow (seating 80,000) where a flag waving crowd listened to a ‘near Biblical’ speech by Putin: “The military action is to liberate the people from the genocide and sufferings. This is the goal, I recollect the words from Holy Scripture: ‘Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends’. Shoulder to shoulder, they help and support each other,” the Russian president said of the Kremlin’s forces in a rare public appearance since the start of the war. “We have not had unity like this for a long time,” he added to cheers from the crowd. (AP & NBCnews report) Meantime destruction and bombs are raining and pounding on civilian building and military installations and Russian young men are paying a deadly price.

We have seen through the media, discontent in Russia over this war but it is small and overwhelmed by the ‘holy war’ gospel and the misinformation being speud out of the Communist propaganda media machine.

Make no mistake, this is a Holy War, this has to do with the soul of Mother Russia’s revival and honor. This is religion with politics which is a religion.

Does the secular political ‘West’ understand this? Some of our church leader are talking that this may be the ‘end of times’ and so in a round about way almost legitimizing Putin role as the hand of God. Oh, how foolish, Jesus – when others speculated when the last days might come -, he said : ‘But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.‘ (Gospel Matthew, Chapter 24)

Can Putin be stopped, can the war end, can peace come, …….honorably?

Maybe it is time again for the ‘West’ to put into practice President’s Theodore Roosevelt’s (1904) advice: “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” (a West African proverb)

Pray for Truth to be told and above all, pray for Peace.

JS March 18, 2020

War, mothers and iPhones.

There is war again in Europe of all places. A cruel assault on a peaceful nation by their closest neighbour Russia. Ukraine has been attacked by the BEAR!

We are used to wars but not this close to home or even in our ‘Western’ world’s neighbourhood communities. A lot of immigrant Canadians have connections with the Ukraine. It is estimated that 1.3 million persons of Ukrainian origin are citizens of Canada. They make up the 11th largest ethnic group in our country.

The Ukraine already for years (as I was taught in primary school) has been the bread-basket of Europe. It is a country that emerged out of the disintegrated Soviet Union empire and struggled to gain it own independence with a forward looking mission hoping someday to be part of the NATO alliance. A nation of welcoming people and looking for a prosperous and democratic future.

All of these hopes and aspirations have now be dashed by their near friends and neighbour’s attack, at the behest of the President of Russia. He says he is afraid that the NATO influence on Ukraine will turn the heads of their citizens to look to Europe for nation building wisdom, rather than to him and Russia, a dictatorship. This is considered a threat!

So Ukraine was invaded 13 days ago (February 24th) by 200,000 fully armed Russian soldiers, with tanks and missiles, who are now encircling their cities. The Russian soldiers, through months of ‘propaganda’ have been sent – were told – to liberate the Ukrainians so as ‘to demilitarize and de-nazify Ukraine, as well as bring to trial those who perpetrated numerous bloody crimes against civilians, including against citizens of the Russian Federation.’ (report by NPR news) On an earlier attempt (2014), Russia had already annexed and occupied the Crimea and Donetsk regions on the eastern Ukraine border. However now, the continuing Liberation (read- ‘Occupation’) was met with strong resistance and was going slow. People are defending their homes! imagine that!

Many Ukrainian citizens are now escaping the bombing and killings and leaving the country (men aged 18-60 are ordered to stay and defend their homeland) fleeing to Poland, and other Ukraine western border nations. The estimate is that about 2 million (mostly women & children) have left.

At the present date (March 8, 2022) of writing there are some things that we can see that are different about this war:

NATO and allies are rallying around and forming a strong block with measures to hamper and damage the economic structures of the Russia regime by stopping and blocking Bank transactions, seizing assets belonging to the Russian president and his close advisers and oligarchs. (Bank accounts, boats, real estate, business assets etc; McDonalds, Starbucks and IBM and the major gas companies (Shell) are closing their businesses in Russia, Russia has also been banned from the SWIFT banking services.)

Russia travel and air traffic is banned from the NATO and NA skies.

Supplies of of all types of weapons (Stinger anti-aircraft defense systems and anti-tank missiles, small arms and ammunition, body armour (there are attempts to supply them even with warplanes) are being shipped to the Ukraine battle fields, even Germany for the first time has contributed weapons.

The Ukraine president spoke, via internet video, to a session of the UK parliament. He spoke of the Ukrainian people’s determination ‘to fight in the forests, to fight in the streets, to fight on the shores’. An expression that echoes the famous Churchill address during WW2.

Russian mothers (Russian prisoners are allowed to use iPhones and call home) are hearing news from their soldier sons that the propaganda about Ukraine is false and the mothers are asking ‘where can I go to get my son home, whose door can I knock on?’

This war will be the most recorded (videoed) and instant playback of events since the invention of war in history. Those iPhones the ‘prisoners’ are using are recording the willful destruction, wounding and killing and of everyday citizens and their homes by the invading forces. The iPhones are used to record and spread the news via internet and phone connections without limit to Europe and the rest of the world.

A solid block of support and unity is forming in the western world, marches, humanitarian fundraisers are springing up, unseen since the second world war. (1940 – 1945)

Support and medical supplies are coming from everywhere and the people of the western nations and good folk anywhere are watching on their ‘iPhones’, computers and TVs and seeing the unfairness and cruelty of this unnecessary and awful event.

There is the long lines of human traffic out of the country but there are also those who are going back to help and fight supporting the present Ukrainian freedom fighters.

The next few days and weeks will tell the tale of this unprovoked attack!

Awake, Awake! There is a BEAR in the glorious sunny garden! Rooting among the sunflowers and the grains of wheat. Quick! Gather the neighbours and let’s chase him out. Forever banished to the frozen winter fields of ice!


Lord have mercy!

……….for all those who habitually draw the sword will die by the sword. (Gospel of Matthew – Chapter 25 verse 52: Jesus’ warning to Peter who tried to defend Jesus, with his sword, from capture by the Temple soldiers)

JS March 8, 2022

Header Picture:

The ‘Groenies’

Celebrating 75 years (1947-2022)

There are many stories of immigrants who have found blessings and success in Canada, (the True North Strong and Free). THIS IS ONE OF THEM.

20 Limeridge Road East

The Cor & Sjaan Groenewegen family lived in a big house (actually it was a barn with massive limestone walls – there used to be a limestone kiln on the property) owned originally by the Dr. Bethune family, at Upper James and Limeridge Road. The barn and property was bought by Cor and Sjaan in 1951 for about $5,000.

‘De Hoop’ windmill (1887) in Rozenburg

The Groenies were a large family, orignally from the island of Rozenburg, just southwest and across the river from (Maassluis) near Rotterdam. Teunis Zent Groenewegen was a farmer, who it was told, never had a good farming year. He was always changing his crop growing plans but then the weather would turn bad again, so his success at farming was modest. He was married to Jaapje Kleiwegt, daughter of Piet Kleijwegt. (one of the builders of the windmill ‘De Hoop’)

Together they had 14 children. (6 sons and 8 daughters) Their son Cornelis born March 7, 1914 (7th child)  helped out on the farm but seeing his dad struggles in making a living decided to strike out on his own. He courted the local shoemaker’s daughter Sjaan (Adriana) Voorberg, born April 5, 1913, and they were married in February 1939 while Cor was already busy setting up a wholesale/retail produce business in De Hague. Cor had wanted to go to America already before the war but Sjaan had said, ‘if that is what you want to do, I will not marry you’. She wanted to stay close to her family in Rozenburg (4 sisters and 3 brothers).

All during the war years, Sjaan and Cor – after being discharged just before the War from the Dutch army – (he had earned a citation as ‘sharpshooter’) lived at 86 Bilthovenselaan [2] in De Hague running and growing his produce business, eager to better his sales [3].

But the urge to go to America stayed fresh in his mind. So at the first opportunity to leave, Cor applied in early 1947, for immigration to Canada [7] which gave the family only weeks to get ready. As Sjaan was now married her final response was ‘Cor, je doet maar wat je wilt’. (Cor, if this is what you want, then go do it!) and then resigned herself to going wherever he was going. (By this time they had 5 children from 6 years old down, the youngest Marian, was a couple of months old.)

Cor waving ‘goodbye’ Arrival in Montreal

The family arrived in Montreal [4] on June 26, 1947 on the SS Waterman [5] (the 2nd immigrant ship after the War) and at first settled in as farmer’s help in Bradford [6] then on to Queenston Heights and eventually settled in Hamilton. They were Article 31 (Vrijgemaakt) (Canadian Reformed) people and at first attended the Christian Reformed Church in St. Catharines, ON under the pastoral care of Rev. Persenaire. Eventually the family grew to 7 children, 3 boys and 4 girls of which my future wife Nellie was the oldest girl. (Ted, Nellie, Jackie, Marian, John, Louisa and Earl)

Cor Groenewegen having had experience with produce wholesale/retail in Holland, noticed, while driving to attend the Canadian Reformed Church on Catharine Street in Hamilton, ON, via Upper James, an empty stone barn at Limeridge Road, and made inquiries. It was perfect for what he had in mind, potato storage. He made an offer and purchased the old barn on the Bethune property at 20 Limeridge Road.

The family moved into the empty barn and Cor set up his retail/wholesale potato business which he had started while still at the Queenston Heights Larkin farm. [8] The Limeridge Road barn had a natural storage space ideal for potato storage during the winter. So Cor would buy in the fall in Leamington, Ancaster and Orangeville areas and store all winter. For over 20 years, he would run as a ‘huckster’, a Saturday morning operation from the Welland market to supply individuals and restaurants with potatoes and other seasonal produce.

The family prospered as the barn was transformed into their living quarters by Mr. Boot who was a carpenter. They became a well-respected family in the community, often the receivers of new immigrants as they landed in Hamilton from the Netherlands. Cor Groenewegen served his community well as member of local Church council and was a foundational supporter of the (Calvin) Christian School on West 5th starting in 1951 and serving as it chair for a number of years in the 1950s and 60s. Many times he would act as bus driver taking time off from his work to transport kids to and from school. Sjaan as ever was his loving wife and faithful helper in all things.

The Groenie’s place was a great gathering place for young people on Sunday nights. The family was popular with the boys of the Dutch immigrant community, as after all, they had four daughters.

Cor’s business expanded from potatoes, apples and vegetables, to the gathering of used produce crates and fruit baskets and reselling them to farmers and other produce marketers. He also got involved in the transportation of produce and fruits with tractor trailer units through connections with a transport firm in the Niagara area.

As the children grew older, the younger ones from Nellie down all went to college (Calvin College, Grand Rapids & Trinity College in Chicago) Ted worked for the business (he loved driving those tractor trailers) and Nellie stayed at home to help out and then took a Practical Nursing Course at St. Joseph Hospital in Hamilton. In 1966 Cor and Sjaan took a trip to Florida and from then on spent quite a (every) few winters in Florida or Arizona. Eventually by the early 70s they purchased a home in St. Petersburg, Florida and stayed all year around. Having obtained ‘Green Cards’ they worked part-time, Cor driving a delivery truck and later a small bus for senior citizens and Sjaan worked mending and adjusting clothing at the local dry cleaner.

Cor & Sjaan’s garden on Blind Line

In 1977 the 20 Limeridge Road property was expropriated [9] by the City of Hamilton and a new residence was bought on Blind Line in North Burlington. Cor took up hobby gardening on the property and they continued to spent winters in Florida.

By 1992 the Florida property was sold. Cor passed away (at Mount Nemo Nursing Home) in August 1994 from cancer which had lodged in his face and jaw.

Oma Sjaan (her family now totaled over 45 children & grandchildren) sold the Blind Line property in the Fall of 1994 and lived with daughter Nellie and her husband John in Burlington till her death in December 2002.

JS March 2, 2022

[2] During the war years Cor continued to increase his business but the German occupation caused numerous problems and instabilities. One which has been recited often is the time a ‘Razzia’ (round up of men for labour in Germany) took place and Cor hid under the floor in a hiding space in a cupboard; and while there for some time, left behind a spoon (no matter what; he had to have his dinner) which was returned to him sometime after his immigration while on a trip to Holland, by the then occupants of the house.

[3] He had a special sales promotion deal: 1 pound of potatoes for 5 cents and a kilo for 10 cents (a pound is ½ a kilo) as told to us in 1992 at DeSoto beach (St. Petersburg, Florida) with a chuckle and a smile.

[4] In the history of the national Dutch-American and Dutch-Canadian communities there are a number of dates and occasions important for everyone to know. High on the list ought to be June 17, 1947, when the Dutch troop transport ship Waterman made a special trip to Canada with the first party of 1,100 post-WWII Dutch immigrants. On June 26, 1947 newspapers across the country echoed the Montreal Star headline “1,100 Happy, Cheering Hollanders Arrive Enroute To New Canadian Farm Homes.” Note from the  Windmill Newspaper. (

[5] The Waterman was a ‘Military Troop Transport’ ship, freshly returned from the Dutch conflict with Indonesia and had not been renovated for transporting families. So the men and the women with children were housed in separate parts of the ship. Not easy for the wives with large families. Sjaan’s youngest daughter was just 6 weeks old.

[6] This farmer was an earlier Dutch immigrant but did not treat Cor fairly, so Cor travelled to St. Catherines to get his immigration contact (Mr. John vander Vliet) to find him another employer. There is a picture that shows the family on front page of the Hamilton Spectator (June 27, 1947) having been routed by train to Brantford instead of Bradford. This was probably due to Cor’s poor enunciation of the name ‘Bradford’.

[7] After the war was over, pre-war Dutch immigrants living in Canada (ON) encouraged the Canadian government to set up a program to sponsor farm-workers. Canada sent an immigration officer to the Netherlands in late 1946 to prepare for its immigration program – and cope with the immediate issue of resettling the fiancees and dependents of Canadian soldiers. So Canada passed new immigration regulations for the admission of sponsored farm workers on January 30, 1947. On April 30, 1947 the Christian Reformed Church congregations in Sarnia & Hamilton created a Committee to lay the groundwork for an anticipated Dutch immigrant influx into Ontario. (info from Cor no doubt knew this and seized his chance.

[8] John D. Larkin, a successful industrialist from Buffalo, started buying land in Niagara in 1900. He purchased Glencairn near Queenston and developed three farming communities in the township with over 1,700 acres of land. One group was built on “Upper” or “Mountain farm”, these were all flooded after the hydro dam was constructed in 1948. Another grouping was called “Middle Farm” about a mile north of Queenston heights. The third group or “Lower Farm” was later owned by Harry Larkin and became famous as a fruit and cattle farm.

[9] The planning of the Red Hill/Lincoln Expressway, already in the works in the late 1950’s created a long drawn-out legal battle with the City of Hamilton to ensure that the Limeridge Road property was being fairly evaluated for expropriation. Eventually this resulted in a settlement in 1977 of approx. half a million. The barn and the stately home on the property (which were unique in design including the square limestone (rounded inside) silo) were quickly torn down after the sale and is now the location of the Linc’s off-ramp to Upper James North. The Red Hill Creek eastern portion of this planned roadway became a long battle with property owners, Indigenous natives and Environmental groups and was finally opened in 2007.


The Oxford dictionary defines this word as meaning that a person/or (nation) is; aggressive, assaultive, combative, contentious, defiant, hostile, threatening, antagonistic, bull-necked, quarrelsome, hot tempered, battling, scrappy, warlike, militant, mean, fierce, having a bone to pick or having a chip on their shoulder…. anyway you get the picture.

There have been many instances like this in the past. Let’s name a few: the Pharaoh of Egypt when the Israelites asked for permission to leave; Goliath and David; King Ahab for Nabot’s vineyard; King Herod with the little children of Bethlehem; Rome expanding their Empire; the Spanish Armada threating the English; the US army war against the Native people (Seminole) of Florida; Napoleon’s wars against anyone; Hitler against Europe; America in Iraq; tragic power failures in Afghanistan; ISIS in Syria, Putin and the Ukraine crisis, and many others. All are examples of instances of belligerence. (the act of being belligerent)

All these were either personal or national in scope, for power (authority) and revenge or aggrandization couched in political or religious reasons. Usually a mix-up of both for politics and control (authoritarianism) is as religion is to faith.

And so we are there again, like the times of the ‘Munich agreement’: arguing , pleading, disputing, taking liberty with facts and history, refusing to accept the present status, pleading for peace, showing the fallacies of re-visioning the historic past to legitimize the new future. Followed by the usual responses of no, we are not interested in war, we are peaceful, we just want justice and freedom. But the telling and showing are not in sync, for in the meantime: I will show (off) to you what it takes to get my way: men and might; overwhelming numbers; guns; threatening of lives and lively-hoods, jail and taking away one’s freedom: destruction, war! and political slavery.

A little bit of that (belligerent) spirit we saw recently with the truckers convoy movement here in Canada. Ordinary people came together because they were upset with health (safety) concern mandates coupled with Government actions necessary to protect citizens from the deadly virus that was tearing through our neighbourhoods and communities. No one thought or felt this was (a lark) nice….. certainly all of us were frustrated, upset, scared, angry at times and very, very sad when this death virus brushed into our lives, family and friends. It turned our world upside down! What could we collectively do to stem the march of this unholy guest?

Well, use the smarts and knowledge we had at hand: keep our distance and if needed isolate, get medical help (develop vaccines) use stats to pin point the hives of outbreaks and use whatever protection necessary, communicate and inform, make life possible by economic assistance and if you are religious pray for the healing of our people and land.

In order to do all this you will need to disrupt (crack) the status quo, people and organizations will get hurt, curtailed in doing their business, loss of income with mental and bodily fatigue. Some (students) lost part of their usual social well-being. Lives were interrupted and accomplishments postponed or failed. Many dug into their life savings to survive and we all were affected. Not one of us escaped. You know the slogan: We are in this together!

So some of your freedom was curtailed and now you started to mope and blame the government, for what? manufacturing the VIRUS? mandating ways that perhaps could keep us all functioning by doing new things differently? Come on, get it straight! Are we now against the Canadian democratic system that we are so proud off. Did it slip? Well yes, a little out of necessity to get us where we are today, almost free of the severity of the disease! Have we licked it yet? No, but the effort has been unrelenting, would you not agree? Did we get it right and fine tuned from the beginning? No, but none of us have ever experienced this before. The Sars scare was maybe a river, the Asian flu like a creek but this was Niagara Falls 10 times over.

Be thankful your country took on the hard lifting (and was not indifferent) to keep you and your loved ones healthy and safe.

We are free (no war is threatening) and living in a jewel of a country envied by many in the world. Let’s rebuild even stronger! Hands together and held tightly. The world is watching!

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.” –Mother Teresa

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” —Susan Jenkins

JS February 23, 2022

Also for another view on Truckers Convoy and Vaccinations see www Reality Check by Elbert Donkersgoed

Clouds like Mountains

When it get -15 C or more we have noticed these early morning scenes. It is fascinating to see. This always reminds me of these Biblical instances.

@ Second book of Kings chapter 6: Then he (the King of Aram) sent horses and chariots and a strong force to Samaria. They went by night and surrounded the city. 15 When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked. 16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

@ Book of Psalms number 125 verse 2: As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore.

@ the Book of Hebrews chapter 12 verse 1:  Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.

Burlington Bay in winter when the temperature is -15 C or more

JS February 17, 2022

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread…..

There is a petition in the Lord’s Prayer (Gospel of Matthew chapter 6) that Jesus taught us to pray for our daily food & living needs. This petition is the fourth and sits between the third: that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven and the fifth: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespassed against us. Interesting that our Lord Jesus when he taught this prayer squeezed this petition between God’s will be done and us forgiving others so we can be forgiven by God for the sins we commit against God’s will on earth.

So why this thought today?

Well, we have some of our Food & Goods Suppliers transporters trucks occupying (blocking) the streets of our Capital Ottawa, other cities and important intersections of our highways through Canada. They are a small part (some say maybe 10% or less) of the larger Truck drivers industry but they are loud and noisy. They say, they are there for their (our) Freedom and the freedom of fellow Canadians. Many more are travelling to our Capital (Ottawa is bitterly cold) and other places with 1,000s cheering them on along the way. ‘No more mandates’ they shout and blare their truck horns to draw attention as they vow not to leave till the Government of Canada lifts all Covid restrictions. What are those restrictions?

Access to public places (locations determined by local authorities) is now restricted (as determined by medical community statistics and sickness intervention evidence) to those who have evidence of the following:

  • Vaccination evidence against the Covid-19; preferably 3 jabs.
  • Wearing masks in all public settings.

These 2 demands seem reasonable in light of the facts, as we now know (and that will continue to reveal to us as this Covid virus is still with us) that since the virus appeared in our country January 2020, 33,000 Canadians have died after catching this disease and that at this time Ontario alone is averaging 3 deaths per hour everyday for the last 3 weeks or more. And that there is proof that vaccinations has lessened the impact of this virus in many lives saved. However, at present our Emerg ICU services and medical care-givers are strained (drained) and almost half or more of these deaths are with unvaccinated people. The world (at least the Western world populations) have been reeling from the viciousness of this disease. We are now touching the 4th wave of variants of this virus and it has been devastating! judging by the death totals records; USA has 900,000 and almost 5,000,000 worldwide. Almost 400,000,000 people have been affected and many will be dealing with ‘long-term’ effects. There is sorrow and regret in many families.

When you add this up and then take note of the reason for all of these truckers to block roads in cities and towns, you say to yourself: This is not reasonable. The science by now has proven that vaccination lessens the severity of the virus and so protect you and your family. So come on, don’t be a chicken! get your shot! What! are you afraid of a little jab in the arm? But wait there is more…..

‘Nobody is going to tell me what to do’ …. ‘Mon corpse; mon ame’…’my body; my choice’. So this has to do with Freedom of choice and they do not want to be told.

The police and the authorities are pulling their hairs as they do not know what to do. The water is over dam. They are in the streets. Levy fines? against parking? Tow the huge tractors off the streets? The Freedom truckers and their supporters say they are not moving until the Mandates are lifted. Meantime the situation has become an ‘Occupation’ and neighbourhoods, businesses and neighbours are being held hostage by diesel fumes and loud honking of truck-horns and in some cases: destruction of property and just being a public nuisance by a fringe hooligans’ element which has joined in with the Freedom crowd. The 10 million dollars collected on ‘GoFundMe’ are in dispute, frozen. (see bottom note) The Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in Covid quarantine and has refused so far to speak to the protesters. Will he need to do as his father did, in the 1970 FLQ crisis insurrection, a ‘Pierre Trudeau’ – “Just watch me” action? How ironic would that be!

So how will it all end?

I think that this Freedom action (Covid fed-ups) restlessness, already smoldering for the last 2 months or so, has now burst into full flame. And not only in Canada but also in the USA as their Covid restrictions now also concerns the cross-border traffic for US truck drivers. The rules are now the same in both countries: you want to cross the border with your goods? get vaccinated!

But now people have had enough and are done with Covid. For 2 years authorities, who have been trying to use, as they saw fit, strategic methods of public protection techniques (mandates) that have hurt many with economic and mental stress issues and concerns. Businesses have failed and individuals have lost jobs. Let’s face it, it has not been good! and all emergency funding (as good as it is) do not make the virus and the BLAHS go away!

Are we being told what to do, yes! but this has not been punishment but rather a benevolence! A maybe bumbling, mumbling, stumbling attempt to limit a very bad disease from killing our neighbours, fathers, mothers, children and grand-parents. But we (authorities) are hopefully gaining wisdom and learning. As my mother-in-law used to say about unknown life events: “You learn from every deal!”

Now to get back to what I said at the beginning. The Lord’s prayer petitions before we get to ask #4’s ‘Give us this day our daily bread’; God tells us to make our communities as Jesus said; like his heavenly Kingdom on earth #3; then you may (ask) work to supply your daily (food) meal and living comforts #4; after that again in perfect order God tells us to petition in #5; to be thankful and tell each other, as you enjoy your meal, that you forgive and love your neighbours. Hard to do when we are all charged up with our own interests & ideas? YOU BET! But give it a try…….In the words of John Lennon- ‘Give Peace a Chance!’

And for Canada my petition is: “Under the king’s hand: May this land (Canada) of mountains and hills know peace and experience justice for all the people”. Book of Psalms #72 verse 3.

JS Pax vobiscum February 5, 2022

Note: Funds are instead being raised through the U.S.-based GiveSendGo, which describes itself as a “Free Christian Crowdfunding” website. CTV report.

Note: Bible text on Parliament building also quotes Psalm 72 verse 8 ‘He shall have dominion from sea to sea’.

No One Would Have Believed…….

No one would have believed…..’ Richard Burton voice is heard on Jeff Wayne’s ‘War of the World’ musical that I used to play on the 8 track in my Hornet American Motors car, whenever I took my kids out for a drive. Yes, no-one would have believed that 2 years after the first occurrence of Covid-19  (SARS-COV-2) (previously known as “2019 novel coronavirus”) in Ontario we would still be dealing with this terrible scourge that has affected everyone in the world today.

January 25th, 2020 was the recorded date (I noted) here in Ontario but already we had heard of it appearing in China, Europe and other parts of the world with devastating news. People dying everywhere. A Pandemic!

How did it start? There is much controversy about that and that is where all the misinformation, suspicions and conspiracy theories start. No one has been able to put these ideas to rest and many are still mesmerised by inflated tales and false news since the beginning. We have seen people who have denied the reports of sickness and death among those who have been affected as hoax and manipulations of the news media. No matter how many deaths we see reported (and also hear first-hand) among our friends and relatives, many are stubbornly resisting the evidence before their very eyes.

When the news broke out my choir practices were stopped (we have not yet restarted) church services were stopped, stores, restaurant, places of recreation, events and gathering were all forbidden. Governments locally and nationally issued health warning and asked us to follow policies that would minimize contact spreading. Signs appeared: practice the 6 ft rules; social distancing became a new word; classrooms were closed and students and teachers were thrown into a new media world of ‘zoom’ education. Businesses, especially the small entrepreneurs were heavily hit by mandated closures. People, especially service-industry workers, were laid-off from their jobs and had no income. We were on (that dreaded word) LOCKDOWN!

Your doctor would curtail office visits and you could talk about your illness symptoms over the phone or you went straight to the ER which was filling up with especially the vulnerable Seniors from Nursing Homes and Retirement centres rushing the medical doctors and nurses off their feet, taking up sparce IC beds, to save as many as possible from the dreaded Covid-19 virus that would plug up their lungs and slowly squeezed the breath out of them. Pictures on TV and newspapers showed cemeteries with ready dug burial sites for the next victims and barely keeping up. Respirator machines were in short supply and medical masks were depleted and hard to obtain.

Soon fake info news would rise up in our communities about who to blame and what would cure the and protect us from the virus. Some even suggested ‘horse medicine’ (Ivermectin) and other solutions (Hydroxychloroquine) could be the cure.

Although late on the uptake of realizing the devastation with economic rip-ups of our communities, Government bodies (our people’s representatives) swung into action to remediate the damage by making available grants, loans and income assistance to personal and businesses alike to keep us all in tack and stop the fall out as much as they could determine where the needs were.

While all of this was going on the medical community also sprung into action analyzing the virus and trying to get a handle on what type of preventive action could be considered to help stem the severity of this illness in people. Tests and research and history (think: insulin, small-pox, polio, measles, diphtheria, yellow fever, etc.) indicated vaccines might be the answer. Although this required much late-night laboratory efforts with short intensive guided trials, it was not long before some had at least developed a vaccine that could lessen the punch of this disease if administered in at least 2 doses. So Pfizer and Moderna and other pharmaceuticals created vaccines sprung to the foreground as medical helps to end this fast moving disease by getting it freely into human arms thereby quickly coming to a ‘herd’ immunity status in our neighbourhoods and giving the ‘bug’ nowhere else to grow. We breathed a sigh of relief and thought, I think we got it! This nightmare might just end by Spring/Summer 2021! News flash (January 17, 2022): A new pill Paxlovid by Pfizer which when administered within the first 5 days of contracting Covid may curtail the effects of the disease.

In the meantime, there were many who scoffed at the promised effects of the vaccines citing various claims and ‘expert’ inside knowledge and (conspiracy) theories that the stuff in the vaccine would harm you or your future children’s DNA. Crowds formed around hospitals demonstrating against hard working, sometimes sacrificing (dying) nurses and doctors busy saving lives in the crowded ICUs of our hospitals. Political figures and other notables fanned the flames of the anti-vaxxers rhetoric. Calling on ‘human rights’; ‘my body my choice’; and the BIG one ‘no government is going to tell me what to do’. Sadly many sincere people were led ‘around the bush’ by these tactics including some of my people in the Reformed Christian communities. (see letter to the editor The Hamilton Spectator – December 14, 2021)

Although we all thought by September 2021 we had seen the end of this pandemic and even after noting a variant ‘Delta’ had evolved prompting from a 3rd booster shot, we were again confronted with a new variant labelled Omicron. Very contagious and spreading rapidly around the world.

So two years in and we are still in LOCKDOWN hiding from the new variant Omicron. Already I have noticed there are scares (rumours) of another variant ‘DeltaCrom’?

So here we are then, at home in lockdown mode. Sparce visits with family in the last 2 years. Economic hardships for many. Children and students taking the brunt of the social pains. Limited community interactions for our teens and older seniors. Educators on edge. Cultural events scrapped or reduced. Controversies about treatment and prevention. Medical staff at their wits end. Religious communities and church congregations divided and unable to practice their beliefs in person. Supply and demand of goods and services in disarray. Everyone now needs a vaccination certificate qualify for travel.

Why? How? What now? Is there maybe a reason for all this to happen to us? Where is God in all this?

N. T. Wright (Bible scholar) wrote a little book in 2020 “God and the Pandemic” in which he says we should not jump to conclusion that God is angry because of our (sins) shortcomings and failings. Rather this all should teach us to be humble and caring people in the face of this struggle. There is more and you can read about it in this little book.

For me, I say, we do not know, but God still cares and understands our fears and failings. Perhaps this teaches us to be wise and compassionate in a time when we see and experience a lot of other earth shattering (warming and warring) events and problems. The second part of the unity command statement ‘Love God’ and ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ has certainly come into sharp focus.

This Pandemic is not yet over and we will see……….. However let me draw your attention to an old Hymn. One that we always sing when we as citizens, annually remember our national defense efforts in times of war and great crisis, a mixture of the bad and sacrifices in all the victories:

O GOD OUR HELP IN AGES PAST. (Text: Isaac Watts – Tune: ST. ANNE)

Verse 6:  O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
still be our guard while troubles last,
and our eternal home!

May the God of grace grant us delivery of this virus soon!

May you be blessed with peace and well-being!

JS    January 17th, 2022

NOTE: as of January 18, 2022 we see the following numbers of COVID deaths:

USA 846,000; Brazil 621,000; India 486,000; Russia 315,000; WORLD 5,500,000; CANADA 30,000; ONTARIO 10,700

Languishing 2022

As the year comes to a close we are again for the second time in the grip of Covid-19 through the Omicron virus, another variation of Covid. This time it appears to be affecting many more people and it seems that our health-care prevention network is behind the eight ball in this one.

Reading the New York Times daily update this week refers to a report that explores our present time as in a state of ‘languishing’; the mode ‘between depression and well-being’. No doubt this probably describes the feeling of many Ontarians at this time. When we think and dwell on Covid and its consequences for the past 21 months; we are in the BLAHS!

Just now with all the practice (experience) we have had in managing this Covid pandemic; this alone: There are long lines of people waiting to get a ‘test’ as they feel the need (are told) because of sudden symptoms or work/visiting requirements, giving assurance they have not been exposed to the virus. Self testing kits are few (‘they are on order’ we are told) and not easy to obtain. There is a list of sites on the Gov website but they are in different Ontario locations on different specific dates. Businesses can order free kits via this website and pick them up at Chamber of Commerce office in their local area. (not available right now!) Pharmacies can administer tests but they cost anywhere from $30.00 for self tests to $199 for Travel use tests (Antigen type) which are available in 24 – 48 hours. On website Express Rapid Test costs can be $145.00 for 5 tests with pick-up Test kits only at Steeles Ave. Toronto location and ready in one hour. Some people are even now questioning the need for self-testing unless one is a frequent visitor at places of work or for instance visits with elderly or other needy persons or has a job that could put others at risks. Those staying mostly at home do not need to self test as they are infrequently in contact with others.

The usual isolation time of 10 days has now been cut back to 5 days as it appears the Omicron variant although quite contagious does not appear to have severe health issues for those having had their vaccinations. (2 shots and a booster) They say 10 days will harm our ability to function as a society. Ther will be less workers especially health workers if we maintain the 10 day rule.

The experts have different takes on what will serve us the best in fighting this virus. There are many questions and sometimes it seems the answers are like: to quote a popular song ‘the answer is blowing in the wind’.

So what will the new year 2022 bring?

I believe there will be business flow as we have seen in the last 2 years. Full lock-downs will be fewer and people will take the mask-on and other distancing methods in their stride. It is hoped that the Omicron virus will slowly die out but there will be over-caution-ness in the Health-care sector well into the next year or so. ???? Will there be have many indoor events restored? Visits indoor with friends and relative in the usual way? Church meeting and worship services and other family and social gatherings in our usual accepted manner? How will school function? Can our kids manage with fewer and more difficult interactions needed for healthy Youthful living? Travel without restrictions and will vaccination proofs documents be obligatory? Shaking hands and hugs in public? Probably not much, at least till we are sure the cases of infections are mostly eliminated. Will we need to have proof of vaccinations in order to enjoy and enter certain venues? Yah, we probably will need to have those documents handy.

My hope is that our neighbourhoods and coming together events will slowly be restored but the practice of healthy cautions will be front and center for a while. May Covid develop into a mild flu like 21st Century nuisance.

Let, I say, the feeling of ‘languishing‘ be banned and let’s make an effort to look forward into the new year 2022 as a year of trust and well-being. As the slogan goes ‘we can do this together’.

May this enthusiasm for the new year for those who profess to be Christ followers not go without echoing and owning the words of the Heidelberg Catechism. This Catechism is a list of Questions and Answers from the Bible what Christians believe about our lives and our future. It always asks the BIG tough questions: What do you believe about the Providence of God in 2022?

Questions and answers 27 & 28: What do you understand by the providence of God? God’s providence is his almighty and ever present power, whereby, as with his hand, he still upholds heaven and earth and all creatures, and so governs them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, indeed, all things come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand. 

So how does knowing this help us to face issues in 2022? We can be patient in adversity, thankful in prosperity, and with a view to the future we can have a firm confidence in our faithful God and Father that no creature shall separate us from his love; for all creatures are so completely in his hand that without his will they cannot so much as move.

Happy New Year 2022 to all!

JS December 30, 2021

A Hymn that speaks of disconsolate people (sad, bleak and dismal emptiness, unhappy) and languishing (stagnation, weak, neglected) but yet believing in the the Lord’s goodness where ‘earth has no sorrows that heaven cannot heal‘. This can be sung for the 4th Sunday of LENT.

Treasure or Terror (or both)

Who would have believed that in ‘Mien Hogelaand’ of the province of Groningen in the Netherlands, they would find one of the world’s largest (10th) natural gas fields. So in 1959 near the village of Slochteren (after 2 unsuccessful tries) they discovered a well at a depth of 9,800 ft some 100 trillion cubic feet of gas, the largest gas field in Europe. Who would have believed it?

Production started in 1963 with around 100 billion cubic metres (3.57 trillion cubic feet) per year during the first first 10 years and gradually pared down to 35 billion cubic feet. So far 60% of the field’s capacity have been extracted with the remaining 39 trillion cubic feet lasting another 50 years it is estimated.

This find has won large volumes of profits for the Dutch Government and has contributed largely to the wealth of its population. It is estimated that revenues from this gas extraction since 1965 are 417 billion Euros and at times produced for the Dutch Mining sector a large share of the Dutch GDP (in 1985 it was 7.9% since then down to 4%) however even with declining extractions the revenue is significant for the Mining industry.

The Groningen gas field is operated by the Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij BV (NAM), a joint venture with Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobile and supplies 50% of natural gas needs for the Netherlands. The other 50% is harvested from wells in the North Sea. At the moment the Dutch extract every 10 days, comparable cubic volumes as large as the size of the ‘IJsselmeer’, a huge lake (area 1,100 km2) in the center of Holland.

As the revenues climbed in 1980 so did the earthquakes. Something was wrong in ‘Pronkje, Stad en Ommelaand’. The strong fertile clay was breaking up in frightening ‘events’ at several places and het ‘volk’ were rudely awakened by shocks and trilling of the earth. Cracks started to appear in structures and houses. Cracks were also now apparent in the euphoria of the win and winners for NAM and the Dutch government. By 1991 seismicity records kept showed a rate of about five (earthquake) events per year. Since 2003, the number of these events and magnitudes started to increase leading in 2012 to the largest ever recorded of 3.6 on the Richter scale causing lots of damage to houses and structures throughout the gas area. There was much damage. Studies confirmed that as the depletion of the gas field continued there appeared to be a close link between induced seismicity and reservoir compaction. In other words, the natural consistency of the ground under the farms and towns of Groningen had been shifted, modified and robbed of their native and consistent expansion abilities causing flows of substances on the move from various pressure areas creating upheavals and underground ‘streams’ grinding underneath the feet of the province’s citizens. And they were not only traumatized by the sudden ‘events’ but were losing their tempers as it seemed that NAM and the government traded accuses off against each other as to who was to blame and who should pay for the damage. Many houses and other structures needed to be shored up and walls re-enforced while the good citizens were losing their homes to being condemned unfit and too dangerous to live in. The ‘huis-vrede’ (home-peace) had been threatened and damaged.

Requests (applications) of remuneration claims for damages were discussed and in the beginning honored and approved although the ‘proper paper for filing’ the claims was a horrific nightmare. Claims boundary eligibility regions were set and reset because who could predict where the next quake would come. As the gas extraction was cut back claims limits were also scaled back accordingly leaving many people (especially since 2012) with being lost in the bureaucracy with many becoming tired of the fight for their rights even though they had no control over the ongoing quakes (these seismicity were called ‘events’). There were a lot of protests (fakkel en kaarsen) and a lot of ‘Blah, Blah, Blah’.

In the village of Overschild, with a population of 500, just east of the City of Groningen, over 80% of the homes will be demolished as they have been condemned to being unsafe to live in. New houses with ‘earthquake resistant foundations’ are now being built. A nightmare for the citizen experiencing the breakdown of their homes as they knew them. Although they seem to be the lucky ones, there are many who having lived in their homes for 40/50 years are giving up hope to ever ‘in their lifetime’ be compensated for their structural damages and losses. There are a registered 26,809 addresses that have noted instances of structural damage. Of these about 10,000 are waiting for a visit by inspectors from the ‘Staatstoezicht op de Mijnen’ government group who have a 7 year window to determine all damages.

Not only are there structural damages but even the teachers at school notice how the tremors are emotionally scarring some of the children who are experiencing these sudden terrifying shocks in their communities. It is affecting their school work and their relational family well-being.

It seems that the ‘Den Hague’ government is staying far away from the good citizens of Groningen. Demonstrations, protests and discussions only leave long pauses of getting ‘nowhere’ in providing an end to the gas extraction. Oh yes, there is a plan (2022, 2025 or maybe 2030) but it gets modified from time to time and yes, the premier Mr. Mark Rutte came to visit Loppersum but that turned out to be just a political token. Many told him to just ‘Oprutte’ a regional slang expression meaning ‘Get Lost!’ What will be next?????

JS November 26, 2021

And then………….on November 16, 2021 this news.

Anger reigns in Garrelsweer in Groningen after a heavy 3.2 earthquake

A shock – literally – went through the Groningen village of Garrelsweer last night. How is the damage after this massive earthquake? This is an article from ‘Trouw’ a dutch newspaper. Every day a selection of the best articles from newspapers and magazines appears on

Wim Vreeling was woken up at around a quarter to two last night by loud rumblings in his house. There was a bang, after which he almost rolled out of bed in the dark from the vibrations. Immediately the thoughts of the church steward of the village church in Garrelsweer in Groningen went to the golden weathercock on top of his church. “Imagine another blow like that,” he thought. “I have to have the church tower checked.”

Vreeling is one of the 450 inhabitants of the village of Garrelsweer, where one of the strongest earthquakes – with a magnitude of 3.2 – of the last two years was recorded last night. Residents were awakened in the pitch dark by clattering wardrobes or trembling bedsteads. A few who were still awake, such as the couple Ron Otte and Caroline Marang, were able to see the shock wave. Marang: “The walls and the ceiling danced, as if we were on a boat. The corner where the kitchen is located came up. I don’t know yet whether we have any damage, but I was completely shocked.”

Steward Vreeling too, and that is why he immediately reported his concerns about the church tower, on which the heavy golden weathercock rests on Tuesday morning. The engineers who immediately came to have a look confirmed his fears.

After the quake, which could also be felt (all the way as far as) in the city of Groningen, more than two hundred Groningen residents reported their earthquake damage to the Groningen Mining Damage Institute (IMG) on Tuesday evening. Eight of those reports, including that of Vreeling, indicate that acutely unsafe situations had arisen.

Feeling of insecurity

Because damage is certain. Resident Fenne Feenstra counted three new cracks in her house. She immediately makes it clear that the damage is not only about cracks, but also about the feeling of insecurity. Fearing that her trembling closet would fall on her Tuesday night, she froze. “The feeling that it is not safe here, you learn to ignore it, but on a day like today you are literally shaken awake.” She now tells this to a handful of other residents, who nod in agreement. They sit together at the table in the neighborhood center of Garrelsweer, where mayor Gerard Beukema invited them on Tuesday afternoon to share what happened last night. After all these years, he knows that an earthquake makes a lot of noise among residents. Around him, residents discuss fortification procedures for their homes, complain about communication with aid workers and describe how angry they are. The shock and fear that Feenstra still felt at night quickly turned into anger, she says. “After such a night you open the newspaper and you read that Shell wants to go to England because they do not want to pay dividend tax,” she says with tears in her eyes. “They’re evading their social responsibility, again.”

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Heading under top-picture: In Loppersum, considered the center of the quake zone, 80 percent of the first 200 homes that underwent government safety checks required demolition. Credit…Julia Gunther for The New York Times