Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Visit To Harvard

What does it mean to a guy balanced on the slippery slope of being over fifty and looking down at what might be the shortest half of his life, to visit Harvard, the Ivy League school? I asked myself that question a few times over the course of our visit to Boston and over the weeks before we left on our trip. My wife Rose and I decided to go to Boston, “for the fall foliage” but really there were quite a few underlying reasons. One of the biggest ones was this, “it is well at any price to have peace in the home”. I believe it was Agatha Christie who said it through Hercule Poirot in one of her novels. Whoever it was who first said it, I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment!

I went because my wife wished to go. Also, the new Sony A77 DSLT camera was supposed to be available at that time and I was hoping to persuade her that I needed the new camera to photograph the lovely fall foliage. She would have fallen for it to, but as fate would have it, because of production problems and a flood in Thailand, I had to use my old camera, can you believe it!

Rose spent her early years in Eastern Canada, Newfoundland and Ontario, kicking around various army bases with her parents, her sister and her dog Sporty. She always goes on and on about the red leaves of the trees down east and I finally decided that if I could get a new camera out of the deal and it would end the “red leaves are soooooo beautiful” talk, then it would be well worth whatever it cost.

By the way, Alberta may not have red leaves (except along 97 Street North of 137 Ave.) but when it comes to dog stories, it has way smarter dogs. All of her stories about Sporty involve washing him with tomato juice because a skunk sprayed him, or pulling porcupine quills out of his nose or some other goofy thing like that. But in Alberta we breed amazingly smart dogs like “Duke” who was our family dog when I was a kid. Duke was a cross between Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, and that lovable little dog named Lou from the film, Cats and Dogs. He was an action figure of a dog, if he was a people, he would have been GI-Joe or Rambo, (but with a heart of gold). He was a German Shepherd and a very big, smart and opinionated dog from all of the stories my dad told. First off, he didn’t like policemen. I don’t know where he got that, I really don’t, well OK maybe I do, but I’m getting off track here so I’ll only tell you one story today about Duke.

Duke was so smart that while a certain eastern dog was still wondering why the sight of anything black and white, even a cat, made him cringe involuntarily and run for the hills, Duke would patiently wait on the little rug by the back door for his wet feet to dry so he wouldn’t get water on the hardwood floor. I kid you not, even though it must have bugged poor Duke that we kids ran all over like monkeys and he, the dog, was the one with manners.

But we didn’t go to Boston to talk about dogs and the rivalry between eastern Canada and the west doesn’t have a lot to do with dogs, or leaf colour for that matter. We went to Boston because it is steeped in history and it is one of the oldest cities in North America and it is beautiful and we thought it would be fun, and it was!

There was a lot to love about Boston and if I had to pick one thing, red leaves would not be it! As it turns out, it wasn’t a great year for “colour” as the tour bus driver called it. Oh Francis, what a character you are! This guy referred to himself in the third person, “Francis” he would say, “you have a heart of gold” or “Francis tries very hard for you folks, to find some color, yes he does.” He sounded a bit like Gollum from “Lord of the Rings” actually, if you can imagine Gollum saying, “Move that car, ya bum!”

Like most places that I’ve visited, it was the people that were the icing on the cake. All of the wonderful museums and restaurants and attractions and old churches and parks would mean very little if they weren’t peopled by “folk”. I may love to take pictures of the buildings and natural beauty of this world around us, but it really is the people who make it come alive, and the dogs and cats of course.

There are real live people who we interact with as we go about our business and move from place to place who make life special, but there are also those people from the past who made history and who are the soul of those places. Boston is a place like that, populated today and throughout the years with bigger than life people involved in bigger than life events.

You can’t go ten steps in Boston without hearing about Paul Revere and his midnight ride and, “The shot heard around the world.” If I hear one more reference to “the minute men”, or “the Boston Tea party” or “Bunker Hill”, euuuahhhh!!!!

I love history and all of this is fascinating, it really is, and I get tourism, I do, but as with all else in life we need a balanced approach. Boston has a great history and a great story with a place in American lore as a city fuelled by movers and shakers, but that’s the past. Today matters too!

Harvard, in nearby Cambridge, is an amazing place and for me it had a kind of magical aura that lingered and permeated every building, statue, museum, church and cobblestone that we stepped on, visited or passed by. It's steeped in history but still vibrant and alive today.

Sure MIT is newer and cooler in some circles, but HARVARD, what more is there to say? Harvard to me, is a special place and I’m not even sure why, but I loved it. I loved the atmosphere of clever, rushing students, clutching their Starbucks cups and talking with their heads together. I loved the fleet of bicycles that were everywhere and the tweed jackets and scarves and messenger bags of the Professors and students. I loved the Harvard Yard and the maples turning colour as the people sat under them reading or working on their laptops in one of the hundreds of brightly coloured chairs that looked like they could stand up to just about anything.
Harvard Yard
Harvard University, which celebrates its 375th anniversary in 2011, is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Maybe I’m just a bit of a romantic when it comes to Harvard, and the reality would fall far short of the fantasy and the anticipation of being a part of something with so much history, that’s probably it I suppose. But one thing is sure, it makes you think! What if?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

An e-mail to a friend

I really think I need to tell this story. A few years ago we were out at Moose Lake Gospel Camp and it was part way through the week and one night after the evening service had ended, (it wasn’t really over, but you know what I mean, a lot of people had wandered off for mug up or whatever) something special happened.

See if you can imagine the scene:

It was a hot summer night, so hot that in the old Tabernacle they had raised the sides up, they were on hinges so that when it was hot you could prop them open and let the cool evening air into the building. It was an absolutely perfect summer evening, not even any mosquitoes!

Rose and I and April were standing along one side where the walls were propped up and the worship team, which happened to be from NECF that year, were still playing. Many people had left and the worship team was very tired, but there was obviously something special happening, you could just feel it. I should say here that many times in the past I had a hard time really entering into worship. I was often distracted by what people were doing, what they were wearing, how the music sounded or noises or just what was going on in my own life and in my own head, or what the worship team looked like, you name it and it distracted me!

But that night God did something, he gave me a gift, (one of many over the years) that totally changed my concept of worship. Of course I knew intellectually what worship was supposed to mean, that we worshipped God because He asked us to, that it is an important part of our relationship with God and it’s one of the ways that we communicate with Him. Worship is one thing that we can do that we know pleases God. I knew all that, but I don’t think that I really got it, if you know what I mean.

As I said, it had turned into a bit of a marathon worship session and maybe 25 people were still left when I began to sense something happening, it was no longer the same old worship for me in the sense that I wasn’t completely still me. It was the weirdest thing, I felt like I was seeing the worshippers and the worship from god’s perspective. Not completely of course, but I got just enough of a glimpse that I think I gained an insight into just why we are called to worship God in that way.

You’ve probably seen those dramatic re-enactments of near death experiences when the sick person hovers up by the ceiling looking down at themselves? It was kind of like that. I saw the absolutely pure and beautiful faces of the worshippers, without the distractions that would normally cloud things. I could sense the pleasure that God felt as he received and communed with His people. I could see what worship should truly look like and how it was designed to be. It was a truly remarkable and wonderful and beautiful experience and back then I had no idea why I had received such a precious gift.

Of course I told Rose later that night and a few other people at camp, (Rose made me tell) but I have never put down in writing exactly what happened until now. Often we don’t know why God chooses to put people in our path, or why circumstances seem to throw certain people together. 

I know that The Alpha Course has brought many special people into my life. God has richly rewarded me through my participation in the Alpha Course in so many ways. It was through Alpha that I was nudged out of the pews, (so to speak) and into a position of leadership through service, and I will always be thankful for that. God could have used anyone to reach out to certain people, but He brought them to me and somehow, despite my weakness and inadequacies he spoke to them and brought them into a relationship with himself. It was such a blessing, and it gave me such confidence to write the eulogy for my dad and to be able to deliver it with faith and compassion. I feel God used even that to reach out to people in my family.

I love God. He loves us all and He wants each one of us to experience fully what it means to be in relationship with Him. That’s why He does these amazing things for us when we just can’t seem to get it on our own. Maybe God showed me that little glimpse of what worship means to him, partly so I could share it with you now. Maybe He wants you to be able to push past whatever barriers prevent you from really entering into the beauty of the full worship experience. I can’t say for sure, all I do know is that I felt compelled to send this out to you!

I wish you all the best, all the blessings that God has for you, all the adventures and all the abundant life that is God’s wish for those who Love Him and follow Him and serve Him. May you be counted among them!

Copyright - Doug Petry

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Room 1219 - An Appointment With Jesus

Jesus entered the room at 1:07 am.

I felt him come in, accompanied by a freshening of the air, like that quality that follows a light spring rain. It was almost like a mist in the air, but without any moisture. Imagine walking through an herb garden, with dew on the grass and the crisp, clean, healthy smell of mint surrounding you, that’s as close as I can come to describing what it was like. I didn’t really speak to him- at least not out loud, but I welcomed him, and he knew that I was aware.

What passed between him and mom was a private thing, only for those two to know the details, but I could tell that it was alright. It was another incidence of the graciousness of God, that he allowed me to be in the room and aware of his presence that night. For some reason, he loves me, and I guess he wanted me to be a witness. It is beyond my understanding, but I am eternally grateful. At the time I wasn’t really aware of the purpose of his visit, or much at all except for those two things: Jesus was there with mom, and it was okay.

Looking back now (five hours later) I think that’s when he took her away. Sure her body kept on breathing for a few more hours until she drew her last breath at 5:58 am, December 3, 2008, after an eleven year struggle with cancer. But I believe that she was long gone from the shell that she had worn for 76 years. She had left sometime after 1:07 am, in the company of a Great, Just, and Merciful God, and it was going to be all right!

A True Story

Bernice Petry (Mom)
In Her Lakedell High Sweater

Copyright - Doug Petry