Meadowvale (a prequel to ‘A Time to Mend': Chapter 40

Link back to Chapter 39

This is the first draft of a work of fiction; it will probably be revised in the not-too-distant future. It tells the story of Tom and Kelly’s marriage; readers of A Time to Mend will know that it will have a sad ending, but hopefully it will be a good story.

Note that this is Chapter 40 of 47.

Chapter 40

From: temasefield@sasktel.net
To: becca.lynn.masefield@yahoo.co.uk
Date: August 12 1997 9.47 p.m.

Hi Becs: All home, safe and sound. Going to bed now. Please pass on to Mum and the rest. Going to miss our late night hot chocolate talks. Love and hugs from all of us.  Tom xxoo

*****

From: temasefield@sasktel.net
To: owenneilfoster58@hotmail.com
Date: August 13 1997 5.42 a.m.

Owen: We’re home, flight was good, Krista met us and took us back to their place where we picked up our car and drove home. She’s cut her hair short! Weather here is very warm, 31ºC when we landed. Kelly goes back to work today, Emma and I are going up to Jasper for a few days tomorrow; we planned it on the plane. She said, “We need to go to the Misty Mountains, Dad”. I said, “Shouldn’t we spend a bit longer in the Last Homely House first?” She said, “I want to see mountains, Frodo!” So that was that! As you can tell she’s rather taken with LOTR! I’m still contemplating what on earth would be a Christian response to my dad. No, I know what a Christian response would be, but my confidence in my ability to do it is at an all-time low. Any thoughts you have would be much appreciated. Loved seeing you and Lorraine and Andrew and Katie of course. We’re going to a BBQ at Will and Sally’s tonight (big surprise!). Love and hugs to you all. Tom

*****

From: becca.lynn.masefield@yahoo.co.uk
To: temasefield@sasktel.net
Date: August 14 1997 8.32 p.m.

Hi Tommy:

Thanks for your email – I did pass it on to everyone and they all send their love. Rick told me to remind you that he has an email address too: rsmasefield@masefield.marlowe.co.uk.  I doubt if Mum and Dad will ever get onto email!

I’m writing this on Thursday evening; I had my first day back at the practice yesterday, and the last two days have been quite busy. Everyone has been very helpful, and of course I was very familiar with the place after a year as a registrar, but somehow it feels different now that I’m got that ‘M.D.’ after my name. Not that I always believe it of course!

Tommy, I know that this was a difficult visit for you, especially as far as things between you and Dad went. I hope that Joe and Ellie weren’t put off England forever; I was really, really glad to see them, and I hope they know how much I appreciated them coming. Dad – well, I really don’t know what to say. He hasn’t mellowed at all over the years, in fact, I think he’s more domineering and pigheaded now than he ever was. But old age is adding extra complications – hearing loss, and I think some arthritis pain too. Not that he’s said anything, especially about the hearing loss, and when I bring it up he says we’re all just talking too quietly. I’m lucky in that most of the time he leaves me alone; it’s very rare for him to go after me. But with you, he seems to be in an adversarial rut, and I just watch it and feel completely helpless. I’m really sorry, Tommy; I know it wasn’t the holiday you were hoping for.

I’ll try to write as often as I can, but I think things are going to get busy, so usual rules apply: if you need to talk and don’t hear for a couple of days, pick up the phone. I love you, big brother.

Becca

xxxxx

*****

From: owenneilfoster58@hotmail.com
To: temasefield@sasktel.net
Date: August 17 1997 10.04 p.m.

Hi Tom, we just got back from Fiona and Ed’s where we spent the weekend; my little sis is always glad to see her niece and nephew, with or without their parents! Double income, no kids, so they’re pretty comfortable in their pad by the sea in Essex. Andrew and Katie loved the beach as always. Swimming, sand castles, donkeys, and sticks of rock!

I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to love your dad, but I know that’s hard right now. Praying the imprecatory psalms would be very easy! And perhaps that’s alright; it’s no good trying to deceive God about how you feel. By the way, I hadn’t seen your dad for a long time, and the first thing I said to myself when I saw him get out of a chair was ‘arthritis’ – which didn’t surprise me. You may have noticed that my mum’s going deaf too.

Have fun in the Misty Mountains, watch out for orcs and trolls! Love and hugs from us all.

O.

*****

From: temasefield@sasktel.net
To: becca.lynn.masefield@yahoo.co.uk
Date: August 21 1997 7.45 a.m.

Hi Becs:

Emma and I just got back last night from Jasper; we went up there for a week of camping and hiking. I thought we should try to squeeze it in before the school year starts, and I’m glad we did; the weather was mainly good, although the nights are getting pretty cold up there, and we had some glorious days. Em’s getting to be a real mountain goat on those trails. I took her whitewater rafting for the first time, and she loved it.

Kelly, sadly, wasn’t able to come with us as she had to go straight back to work. She was glad to see all the family again; Will and Sally had us over for a barbecue the day after we got home –  they had been travelling a lot during the summer. Krista met us at the airport, as we’d left our car at her place. She’s had a busy summer with their various projects, although they did get away camping with the kids for a while. She was up to visit Kelly on Saturday while Em and I were in Jasper. She’s had her hair cut short. Oh, and she and David have been on the news with regard to their caribou study; just do a web search for ‘Krista Reimer Janzen Saskatchewan caribou’ and it should be the first thing that comes up.

And in other news, Brenda Nikkel is starting a coffee shop! As you know she’s been working at the Co-op since she moved back to Meadowvale in 1993; she’s been managing the Deli, and she’s also been doing the bookkeeping for the whole place for a couple of years. I think Blaine was hoping she’d become the Co-op manager when he retired, but she wants to be her own boss again. She’s still got that entrepreneurial spirit, I guess.

I don’t think I’ve kept you up to date on everything that’s been going on with Brenda. As you know, she and Gary split up, but it was complicated because not only were they joint owners of their house, but they had a business between them as well. Gary wanted to keep it, but he wasn’t keen on buying Brenda out, and so there was a complicated legal scrum that actually went on for a couple of years, and it delayed their legal separation. This didn’t seem to bother Gary, as he and his girlfriend didn’t seem to be in any hurry to get married anyway; living together was just fine with them. Anyway, eventually it went to court in the summer of 1995, and the court mandated a settlement that included Gary buying Brenda out. So she finally got her share of the business and the house, which made it possible for her to move out of Hugo and Millie’s and get a small house here in town. Now she’s bought the old Hannigan’s restaurant on the east end of Main Street, and she’s converting it into a coffee shop and café; she says she plans to serve good quality coffee and tea, as well as sandwiches and light lunches and all that. It’s going to take her a few months to get it cleaned up and converted – she says it’ll take her that long to get the smell of hamburgers out of the place – but she seems pretty excited about it. She’s still running the Deli while the work’s going on, so of course she’s very busy. Ryan’s turning fourteen this year, and Jessica’s nine. We see a lot of them, as you can imagine.

The lawsuit against Leanne and Brad is still proceeding; Glenn was hoping to persuade them to negotiate a settlement, but Wally and Jim seem determined. It’s a shame, as it’s all good money down the drain. I know it weighs on Leanne. Also, her grandma has gone downhill quite a lot over the summer; I don’t think she’ll be with us much longer. I’ll be sad; Wilf and Mabel were very kind to me when I first moved to Meadowvale.

John Rempel is still struggling; Kelly says she thinks the heart attack did more damage than they thought at first. He gets tired very easily, and this just irritates him; he goes out and does a couple of hours’ work, and then he has to lie down for an hour to get his strength back. He’s very dependent on Dan’s help, but of course he and Dan don’t see eye to eye on how the farm should be run, and if Dan takes it into his head to do something a certain way, there’s not much John can do about it. Dan, to his credit, is being extremely patient and helpful, or so Erika tells us, and of course they’re all trying hard to keep John from getting upset about anything, but it’s inevitable that there will be friction sometimes, because no-one ever does things quite the way John thinks they should be done.

I haven’t actually seen Dan since we got back, but I expect I will before too long; last year he’d gotten into the habit of dropping by our place from time to time for a coffee and a conversation, usually when he’d gotten so frustrated with his dad that he felt like he was about to burst. He’s pretty young to deal with all the responsibilities he’s taken on – he turns 19 in October. Mind you, his sister Jen turned 17 this year and she’s a real farm girl too, so he’s got a willing helper, and of course Hugo keeps an eye on them, although he’s starting to slow down a bit.

Well, I’d better go, Becs. Emma and Kelly send their love; Kelly says she’ll write to you soon. I’m back at work next week, after which, the usual rules apply for me too! Don’t worry about Dad and me; yes, he got under my skin, but I’m used to it. We had a great time with you, and you went above and beyond the call of duty to make things good for Emma and Jake and Jenna. So – no need to apologize, Dad is not your fault! However, I can’t deny that I hope you and Mum will think of coming to visit next summer, because I don’t think I’m going to be too keen to come back to England for a while.

I love you too, Small One.

Tom   xxoo

*****

From: temasefield@sasktel.net
To: rsmasefield@masefield.marlowe.co.uk
Date: August 21 1997 9.17 a.m.

Hi Rick:

Becca passed on your email address to me – I don’t know if I had it before, or if I even knew you had one (rather silly of me – you’re a lawyer, of course you have an email address!).

Emma and I just got back from a week of camping in Jasper. Kelly had to go back to work as soon as we got home to Meadowvale, so she unfortunately wasn’t able to join us. As you may know, Jasper is where Kelly was living when she and I first met; we’ve camped up there lots over the years. The scenery is amazing and Emma’s becoming a real mountain goat; she loves hiking the high mountain trails, as well as canoeing and trail riding. This time I took her whitewater rafting for the first time. Now of course she’s just a few days away from going into Grade 7, which means she’ll be going to school with me every morning. They grow, don’t they? Yours are getting big too. I’m sorry we didn’t get to see more of them; Emma enjoyed herself when they came over on that last Saturday.

How are your renovations going? It sounded like a big job. When we fixed up our place it took us a few months, but then, we were doing a lot of it ourselves. Hard to believe that’s ten years ago now – it seems like just yesterday. I hope you’ll come to see it one of these days.

How are things at work? And how long is Dad planning to keep on going? I noticed his hearing has deteriorated, and he seems a little stiff. Becca says she thinks it’s arthritis, which I suppose isn’t a surprise for a sixty-six year old.

Well, I’d better get going; I’ve got some jobs to get done around the place this morning. Love to you and the family, write when you get the chance.

Tom

*****

From: temasefield@sasktel.net
To: owenneilfoster58@hotmail.com
Date: August 21 1997 9.45 p.m.

Hi Owen:

Emma went whitewater rafting for the first time in her life. We both got wet through, but she loved it. We hiked Wilcox Pass and she had more energy than me! Weather was good for the most part, but cold at night. We had a couple of lovely camp fires, and we finished LOTR. I left my guitar at the repair shop on the way back through Saskatoon; the bridge is starting to come away from the soundboard. Twenty-seven years old, she’s getting a bit frayed around the edges.

Brenda has bought Hannigan’s and she’s converting it into a coffee shop! She hopes to open by late November but we’ll see. Mabel Collins is looking really frail; John Rempel still struggling too. That’s your prayer list for today, along with Dad and me. I liked the idea of the imprecatory psalms: ‘Break the teeth of the wicked, O God’ and all that. I liked that we prayed the psalms when we went to church in Northwood; we Mennonites don’t tend to do that very much. Love to Lorraine and Andrew and Katie.

T.

*****

From: owenneilfoster58@hotmail.com
To: temasefield@sasktel.net
Date: August 23 1997 8.21 a.m.

Tom: Whitewater rafting sounds amazing. Here we’re busy getting Andrew ready for school, he’s excited and nervous as well. Lorraine’s down with a cold, a real storm of a cold actually. Did you know you can drink Marmite? She just boils water and dissolves a teaspoon of Marmite in it. I never thought of that before, did you? Ouch, poor wounded guitar! Will she survive the surgery? Yes, we’re not as liturgical at St. Clement’s as some Anglican churches and I wish we prayed the psalms more. Do you like Psalm 104? I thought for an outdoor man like you it would be a good fit. Lorraine’s reading the life of St. Francis right now (she started him a couple of days ago in the middle of the night when her cold was keeping her awake); she’s already making a list of things we can give away. I’m hiding things so she won’t notice we’ve got them. Is Kelly like that? Love and hugs from all of us,  O.

*****

From: temasefield@sasktel.net
To: owenneilfoster58@hotmail.com
Date: August 26 1997 12.32 p.m.

Owen:

Writing this during lunch hour at school, the kids aren’t back yet but the teachers have started work. Mary Stonechild just spent an hour telling me about plays by aboriginal playwrights that we could do this year. I really like Mary, but she can be a little intense sometimes! She and Russell came over to our place for a wiener roast last night. That boy has grown over the summer! He’s a couple of months older than Emma and of course they get on like a house on fire, as do Kelly and Mary.

Yes, Kelly read St. Francis a few years ago and said he was like the first Mennonite! She doesn’t give stuff away, she goes one better than that, she stops me buying it in the first place! But of course she’s right; she looks me in the eye and says, “What part of ‘Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth’ don’t you understand?” I know I’m beaten when she starts quoting Jesus to me!

Emails will be short now that school has started but I’ll try to make them frequent. Love to you all from all of us.

T.

P.S. Yes, Psalm 104 is one of my favourites.

*****

From: owenneilfoster58@hotmail.com
To: temasefield@sasktel.net
Date: August 31 1997 9.02 p.m.

Tom:

I suppose Kelly has a point. I find it a struggle, knowing just how far we should go with regard to simple living. I’m a doctor so I’m fairly comfortable financially, not as rich as a specialist, but then, they work longer hours than me, too. But you do your best for your kids, and you try to be responsible about savings and so on, and then you read Kelly’s verse about not laying up for yourself treasures in heaven, and you wonder what you’re supposed to be doing. My dad says it’s about an inner attitude rather than specific details, but I sometimes wonder if that isn’t an easy cop-out. I suppose in the long run the important thing is to keep asking the question.

Andrew’s pretty excited about school tomorrow. Lorraine’s already got visions of his leaving home to go to college, so she’s a little stressed. I’m sort of in-between, Katie’s blissfully ignorant. She’s got this little dance she does when I’m playing music, sort of a cross between a dance and a high-jump. Usually it’s okay, but sometimes she doesn’t quite judge it right and she hits something or falls. Yesterday she fell and banged her head, and Andrew looked at her sobbing her three-year old heart out and said, “Don’t cry, Katie, it’s not really so tragic”.

We should be writing them all down, shouldn’t we?

Cheers,

Owen

*****

From: becca.lynn.masefield@yahoo.co.uk
To: temasefield@sasktel.net
Date: September 13 1997 7.45 a.m.

Hi Tommy:

Well, that was a long time between emails! Sorry; work has been busy, and I’ve been doing some on-call weekends too. You folks must have been busy too, as I didn’t hear from either of you. But then, I wasn’t really surprised; I know the beginning of the school year can be a bit frenetic for you.

I’m going to ring you in a little while, but I just wanted to let you know that Uncle Roy was taken into hospital last night. As you know, he hasn’t really been strong since he had his heart attack, and I think his heart is just about ready to give out. Mum was up at the hospital ’til late last night, and I expect she’ll go again this morning. You know how close she is to Auntie Brenda and Uncle Roy. I’d suggest you call the John Radcliffe Hospital and ask to talk to him, but I don’t think he’s strong enough to talk on the phone, even if they could bring one into his room.

In other news, I was out at Mum and Dad’s last Sunday for a meal, and Rick and Alyson and the kids were there too. The children were as cheerful and noisy as ever, but Dad got a bit irritated with them during the meal; he just can’t hear what people are saying to him when they’re making even a normal amount of noise at the table. He doesn’t handle that well, as you know. They (the children, that is) were asking about Emma; I think they had a good time with her the day they came out to Northwood – and with Jake and Jenna too, of course, but it was Emma they were asking after.

Work is fine, I’m enjoying it. By the way, did you know that your friend Owen is pathologically cheerful? Honestly, how do you put up with it? Surely everyone has to get depressed at some point, don’t they? I’ve known him for years, but I’ve never noticed it until I started working at the practice last year. Is there some place I can let the air out to deflate him?

I’ll ring you in a little while, Tommy, and bring you up to date on Uncle Roy. Love and hugs to all of you.

Becca  xxxxxx

*******

From: becca.lynn.masefield@yahoo.co.uk
To: temasefield@sasktel.net
Date: September 14 1997 4.45 a.m.

Dear Tommy:

Uncle Roy died an hour ago. I’ve just come from the hospital to pick up a few things, and then I’m going out to Mum and Dad’s for a while. We’ll ring you from there, but I thought I’d send you the email in case you checked it before I got hold of you.

Talk soon. Love, Becca  xxxxx

******

From: temasefield@sasktel.net
To: becca.lynn.masefield@yahoo.co.uk
Date: September 14 1997 9.15 p.m.

Hi Becs:

Thanks for your emails and the phone call today. I’d been expecting it, of course, but it was still a bit of a shock. Kelly and I will try to call Auntie Brenda in the next couple of days.

Talk about memories flooding back – Christmases they spent with us, visits to Grandma and Grandpa Campion’s when we were little, and they were there too – times when they were at our house and Uncle Roy seemed like the calmest person there. And the smell of his pipe tobacco – Gold Flake, if I remember correctly? I’ve had plenty of conversations with him, strolling in our garden while he was puffing away on that pipe. ‘Comfy’ – that was one of his favourite words, wasn’t it? And I think it described him pretty well. Did you know that he was a big Winnie the Pooh fan? And Alice in Wonderland, and Tom Sawyer too. He was the one that introduced me to Mark Twain when I was about sixteen.

We’re all well here, just busy. School year startup, as you say, is always a little frantic, and I’ve been helping Don with some other stuff too. We haven’t officially appointed a new vice-principal since he took over from Will a year ago, but I think he’s giving me the job by default. I’m resisting, and I’ll have to have it out with him sooner or later; I don’t mind being Head of English, but I don’t want to be VP.

Speaking of Don, apparently his oldest daughter Amy is now living together with her boyfriend Luke Bernard, who we met at Beth’s grad back in 1996. He seems like a nice enough guy, although he can be a little crazy sometimes. They’re both pilots, so I guess they can’t be crazy all the time. They’re living in Yellowknife and flying charters all over the Northwest Territories. We saw Beth before she went back to Saskatoon; Kelly had a long talk with her one night. I guess this thing with Greg is serious. She told Kelly she’s not pulling away from her faith and she’s going to church in the city whenever she’s not in Meadowvale. I don’t know; something feels ‘not right’ to me, although I can’t really put my finger on it.

Another reason why we’ve been busy is that we’ve gone over a few times to help Brenda; she’s hired John Janzen to do the work at her future coffee shop, of course, and Kelly and I get along okay with John, as you know, so we’ve gone over on a couple of Saturdays to give him a hand.

By the way, I did send Rick an email, about three weeks ago, but so far I haven’t heard back from him. Somehow I’m not surprised. That thing about his drinking is worrying; no, I hadn’t picked up on it.

Thanks again, Becs. We’ll call Mum every two or three days for the next little while, and we’ll keep in touch with Auntie Brenda, too. If you see them, give them hugs from us.

And love and hugs to you too.

Tom xxoo

*****

From: temasefield@sasktel.net
To: owenneilfoster58@hotmail.com
Date: September 14 1997 9.47 p.m.

Owen:

Just wanted to let you know my Uncle Roy died, although I imagine you’ve probably already heard it from Becca. As you know he hadn’t been well for a long time. Becca emailed us and then she and Mum called a bit later. Mum was very weepy, which is rare for her. She’s very close to Brenda and Roy. Just letting you know, in case you wanted to call or send a card or something. Other than that, all well here, but school is frantically busy right now.

Love from us all,

Tom

*****

From: owenneilfoster58@hotmail.com
To: temasefield@sasktel.net
Date: September 15 1997 8.05 p.m.

Tom:

Yes, Becca told me. I’m very sorry; I know you were all very close to him. I rang your mum and talked to her for a few minutes; she told me the funeral is next Monday. I’ll give her another ring after that. Lorraine and I will keep you all in our thoughts and prayers. Love and hugs from us.

Owen

*****

From: becca.lynn.masefield@yahoo.co.uk
To: temasefield@sasktel.net
Date: September 15 1997 7.30 a.m.

Hi Tommy:

I knew about Winnie the Pooh but not the others. And the pipe tobacco, yes! He was still puffing away on that pipe until he went into hospital. As a doctor I disapprove, of course, but it was so much a part of him! They’re talking about the 22nd for a funeral; it’ll be at St. Giles’.

Mum is doing alright. She’s past her weepy times now, and she’s being strong for Auntie Brenda. You know what I mean. Me, I feel a bit like a little girl. If you were here, I’d suggest toast and marmite, and tea.

I’ve got to go to work now. Love you lots, Tommy. Ask Kelly to give you a hug for me.

Becca xxxxxx

P.S. Sorry about Rick. Oh well; you tried.

*****

To: temasefield@sasktel.net
From: rsmasefield@masefield.marlowe.co.uk
Date: September 20th 1997 9.23 p.m.

Tom:

Sorry I’ve been slow replying – really busy. No sign of Dad slowing down and he’s given no hint that he wants to retire. Sometimes I wish he would, but I think there’s a good chance he’ll die in office. The children enjoyed Emma too. We had Eric’s birthday party last week – eleven now – hard to believe – thanks for your card and gift. I know I’m not good at that stuff so admire people who are organized about it. Work on house still not finished, but end is in sight. Sad about Uncle Roy – funeral is on Monday of course. All the best from all of us.

Rick

*****

From: kellyruth58@yahoo.com
To: becca.lynn.masefield@yahoo.co.uk
Date: September 21 1997 9.35 p.m.

Hi Becca, Kelly here. It’s Sunday night, the kids didn’t come over this week, and Tom’s down in the basement working on his classes for the week. He’s finding this new year very busy, but he assures me it’ll get a little more rational in a week or two.

Thanks for your little phone calls keeping us updated about your Auntie Brenda. I think Tom really wishes he could get over for Uncle Roy’s funeral tomorrow, but of course it’s just not possible. I’ve got so many aunts and uncles and it’s easy for me to forget sometimes that you two really only had Brenda and Roy, because your dad’s siblings really weren’t that much involved in your lives. I know you must be grieving too, Becca. Love and hugs through the internet aren’t that much of a comfort, but I send them anyway.

By the way, Tom finally heard from Rick – one paragraph of abbreviated sentences. It was quite funny actually. Tom’s comment was ‘He’s obviously used to billing by the line’.

I asked Tom a couple of weeks ago for some recommendations for books I hadn’t read, and he got me started on Sir Walter Scott. Have you read him? I’m finding him kind of heavy going; I don’t quite have Tom’s passion for descriptive writing, I guess. I liked Ivanhoe, but I’m finding Waverley to be much harder work. I’m going to stick with it, though; I don’t like to give up on a book half way through. Oh, and I’ve finally got Brenda hooked on Jane Austen movies; sometimes she brings the kids over to our place for a sleepover (why do they call them ‘sleepovers’ when no one sleeps?), and when they all go to bed she and I sit down and watch a movie together. We just finished the ‘Pride and Prejudice’ miniseries, which we really liked. Some of the ones we’ve watched are old and a little cheesy!

Emma’s really enjoying being in high school and being able to go to school with Tom in the morning. I honesty can’t believe how much she’s grown up; she and Tom have really become close to each other in the last year or two. They always were close, of course, but they’ve become really good conversation partners about all kinds of things. They’ve finished reading The Lord of the Rings now, and one day I came in from doing some shopping and found them discussing Tolkien’s view of violence and whether or not it goes along with our Mennonite take on war and non-resistance – in other words, is Aragorn really a hero?! Not bad for an eleven-year old, don’t you think? An eleven year old with a twelfth birthday coming up before too long, of course.

Okay, Becca, I should go; Tom’s going to be up from the basement in a few minutes and it’ll be time for prayer and hot chocolate.

Love you. Call any time you need to talk.

Kelly   xxxxxooooo

*****

From: becca.lynn.masefield@yahoo.co.uk
To: kellyruth58@yahoo.com
Date: September 23 1997 7.29 a.m.

Kelly:

Thanks for all your kind words. Yes, I really loved Uncle Roy, and I’ll miss him lots. Every now and again I find I’m shedding a few tears. The funeral was lovely; it was at their church, of course, and even though I’m not especially religious I found the prayers and the hymns very comforting. Owen and Lorraine were there, which I didn’t expect; it was a real comfort to me.

I’ve read Ivanhoe but that’s it for Scott; in a reading competition between Tommy and me, he’d win hands down. I’ve seen the ‘Pride and Prejudice’ miniseries, but I must confess (don’t tell Tommy, he’ll disown me) that P&P is the only JA novel I’ve read! Sorry!

I must go now, Kelly; I’ve got to get to work. I love you; thanks for being there for me.

Becca

xxxxx

P.S. I’ve got Saturday off this week if you guys want to talk on the phone. Really missing you.  B. x

*****

From: temasefield@sasktel.net
To: rsmasefield@masefield.marlowe.co.uk
Date: October 13 1997 10.37 a.m.

Hi Rick:

Thanks for your email which was rather short and cryptic. But at least you wrote!  It’s Thanksgiving Monday here; it’s what you call in the U.K. a ‘bank holiday’, so I’m home, hence this email during normal working hours.

We had our usual Thanksgiving gathering at Will and Sally’s (Kelly’s parents, that is), and the whole family was there for it. I don’t know if I ever told you that Kelly’s sister Krista has been in the news. She’s a wildlife biologist (you knew that, right?), and she and her old prof David Gustafson (they both teach at the University of Saskatchewan) are working on a four-year study of the viability of our Saskatchewan northern caribou herd, especially as regards their habitat. It’s almost done now, and they’ve been sharing some of their preliminary findings. They’re quite worried about future forest depletion and its effects; caribou need lots of space, apparently. Our governments are all pro-development, of course, no matter what political stripe they wear, left or right (it’s the new orthodoxy), so Krista and David have been getting some attention in the media.

Our five kids (Steve and Krista’s two, Joe and Ellie’s two, and our Emma) have gone for years by the collective description of ‘the Pack’, and it’s kind of fun to see how they’re growing up; they don’t run around as much as they used to, but they still make a lot of noise. Steve and Krista’s two are Mike and Rachel; Mike will turn eleven a few days before Emma’s twelfth birthday in December, and Rachel turned nine in June. Jake and Jenna you know about. Steve and Krista are both really busy, and they both looked tired to me. Ellie and I played some old bluegrass tunes after supper; the weather was amazingly warm and we were sitting out on the deck.

Kelly’s cousin Brenda is going into the restaurant business; she bought the old Hannigan’s restaurant at the east end of Main Street, and she’s converting it into a coffee shop and café; she tells me she’s going to call it ‘The Meadowvale Beanery’. The work’s going pretty well, and she’s hoping to have a grand opening early in the new year. John Janzen’s doing the carpentry (he’s the guy that worked on our house), and we’ve helped out a little.

Of course, Kelly and I had our thirteenth wedding anniversary on the sixth, which was a warm day, much as the wedding day was. It was a Monday, and we actually went down to Saskatoon for the Saturday and Sunday – we left Emma with Joe and Ellie, stayed at a nice hotel, had a nice meal out and so on. All very enjoyable.

Okay, time to go. Write again when you have time.

Tom

*****

From: temasefield@sasktel.net
To: owenneilfoster58@hotmail.com
Date: October 18 1997 11.41 a.m.

Hi Owen:

I forgot to tell you that Becca says you’re pathologically cheerful. You haven’t been going through your entire collection of bad jokes with her, have you? She asked me if there was a valve she could open to deflate you. Just warning you.

The guitar has finally come back from the repair shop, as good as new. Cost a bit, but it was worth it. I can’t deny that I really missed it. I spent a lot of time listening to records; got the old Nic Jones albums out, and found myself thinking of the first time we heard him when he came to the Plough in the Michaelmas Term of 1977. Do you remember that? I’d never heard anyone play guitar like that before.

Updates: work’s going well on the coffee shop (did I tell you Brenda plans to call it the ‘Meadowvale Beanery’?), but it won’t be open until January. Also, a little bird has told me that Gary (Brenda’s ex-husband) and his girlfriend have broken up. Brenda told us she saw it coming; she sees quite a lot of him, of course, because the kids spend every second weekend with him. But she hadn’t breathed a word to any of us, not even Kelly, so it came as a surprise to us.

The lawsuit against Leanne and Brad has been settled in their favour. They’ve also been awarded costs, so as Glenn says, all is as it was, except that Wally and Jim are poorer, not richer. He says he’s going to let the dust settle and then initiate a conversation with their lawyer about a negotiated agreement, as Leanne and Brad have always wanted to find a way to share more of their inheritance with the rest of the family. But I think right now Leanne’s attention is rather taken up with her grandma, who I think is getting close to the end.

Kelly and I had a nice anniversary down in Saskatoon, stayed in a hotel and went to a nice restaurant and a movie and so on and so on, all very enjoyable. When we got back on Sunday afternoon and went to Joe and Ellie’s to pick Emma up, she frowned at us and said, “I thought you guys weren’t coming back ’til tomorrow”. Obviously really missing us, don’t you think?

Got to go, we’re going out to Hugo and Millie’s for lunch and a ride on the horses.

Love and hugs,

Tom

*****

Posted in Fiction, Meadowvale, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Christian Leadership

This week the English Anglican world has been all astir with the news that the Church of England is about to appoint (strangely, they don’t elect them over there) its first female bishop. This is old news in Canada, but not so in the C of E.

Also, stop press, since a couple of dozen of the English bishops are also members of the House of Lords, and at the moment they’re all men, a bill has been proposed to make sure we get some women in there too (some people, including yours truly, think that the presence of bishops in the government is a compromise of gospel principles, but apparently that point of view is not currently being considered by the British government or the C of E).

Meanwhile, the Church of England is apparently floating a proposal to identify 150 potential top leaders and groom them for the job with MBA-style training. Reports, and many comments, at Thinking Anglicans here.

Of the many responses, I liked Steve Tilley’s the best. I especially liked the last bit:

For the last eight years I have been doing missional stuff back in the front-line and at grass roots as minister of a planted church which is now hoping to plant again.

Every post has involved investing time and energy in future leaders and growing the Church of England’s talent pool. I can, off the top of my head, name eleven people in ministry and leadership as a result of this work – roughly one every three years.

Think how good I would have been if groomed for future major responsibility? That’s right. Not at all. Those who are worth giving further responsibility to have already invested a considerable amount of time and money in their own development.

By the way, I am really happy in my work.

Meanwhile, I leave you with some words from our sponsor:

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to (Jesus). “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”

“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”…

When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:35-37, 41-45, NIV 2011)

Carry on.

Posted in Anglican Church, Gospel, Ministry | Leave a comment

Is My God Better Than Your God?

Well, my little post ‘My God doesn’t kill kids’ has attracted a little attention, both here and at the Edmonton Ecumenical Peace Network site. I’m grateful for the positive comments, and have carefully considered the criticisms (expressed mainly on Facebook). There are two main ones.

First, some have questioned my wisdom in titling the post ‘My God doesn’t kill kids'; it smacks of superiority, the idea that ‘My God is better than your God’. To quote one commenter:

As revolted as I am by the massacres in Peshawar, I don’t think we move forward with headlines that say, “My god is better than your god.”

And another says,

We need to steer clear of anything that even vaguely hints at Christianity putting itself above other world religions. Also, our Conservative government has sent F-18s to drop bombs in Afghanistan. How can we be sure that no children have been killed there as a result?

My response is to say that I am of course a monotheist, so I can’t literally believe that ‘My God is better than your God'; I believe there is only one God. You don’t have a different God than I do; we actually pray to the same God, we just believe different things about him. So when we say (as I did not, actually, but let’s assume I did), ‘My God is better than your God’, what I’m actually saying is ‘I think my ideas about God are more accurate than your ideas’.

Now this may sound arrogant and outrageous, but is it actually? Let me be crude for a moment. Surely we would all agree that it is better to believe that God wants us to live lives of love and compassion, rather than that God wants us to fly aircraft into tall buildings and murder thousands of men, women, and children, or bomb abortion clinics, or drop atomic weapons and wipe out hundreds of thousand of people? Can we really say that it doesn’t matter which of these two pictures of God is the right one? Is it really a level playing field, with those who say ‘God is love’ on the same level as those who murder in his name?

And yes, of course Christians have done this too; I freely admit that. I would submit, though, that when we Christians do this, we are being unfaithful to the vision of Jesus, who taught us to love our enemies and pray for those who hate us. I have no idea how that is connected with the idea of the Conservative government of Canada sending F-18s to drop bombs in Afghanistan; as far as I know, the government of Canada does not claim to be a Christian government or to be acting in the name of Jesus (the idea that there is or ever could be such a thing as a ‘Christian country’ is very problematic to me; the New Testament everywhere assumes that Christians will be a persecuted minority!). But crusades? Conquistadores? Abortion clinic bombers? Yes, of course; we have much to repent of.

However, if it’s reprehensible to think that it’s better to follow the way of Jesus (compassion, caring for the poor, loving your enemies, living simply, seeking the kingdom of God) than the way of someone who says God is pleased with the murders of children, then I’m guilty as charged. I do believe it’s better.

The second criticism is related to the first; it’s the idea that Christianity is ‘putting itself above other world religions’. My response would be to say that that pluralism is not the same as relativism. Pluralism means that we live in a society where everyone has the right to believe and practice their own religion, and I am not going to attempt to use force to compel you to go along with my beliefs. Pluralism is a friend to Christianity; it gives me the right as a Christian to follow the way of Jesus, unlike in some other places in the world, where I would be taking my life in my hands to do so.

But it is possible for me to believe you to be completely mistaken about something – to believe that my ideas about God are more accurate than yours, for instance – and not to resort to force to try to impose my ideas on you. This is what the early Christians did. For the first three centuries Christianity got no help from the empire; the Christians had no political or military power, but were a defenceless band of missionaries taking their message all over the Mediterranean world. Yes, they believed that Jesus was the incarnate Son of God and therefore had the most accurate picture of what God is like. They did not believe that he was just another human prophet; they believed that in him, God had come to live among us in a unique way. And they were glad to argue and debate this in any forum available to them, but not on the battlefield.

This is true pluralism, and I welcome it. Of course I believe that where Christianity and Islam disagree, Jesus is right and Muhammad is wrong; if I didn’t, I’d be a Muslim, not a Christian. Muslims believe the same thing in reverse! To state this idea is not Islamaphobia; it is simply to recognize that when one religion says, ‘Jesus is the incarnate Son of God’, and another says, ‘God has never had a son, nor could he’, you have to pick which one to believe in; they can’t both be right.

But pluralism is not the same as relativism. Pluralism says ‘Everyone has the right to believe and practice their own philosophy of life’. Relativism says, ‘All philosophies of life are equally valid’. With respect, no one believes that, not even the relativists! Get them into a political argument and see how quickly they abandon that idea!

Right – back to Christmas service preparations!

Posted in Core Convictions, Following Jesus, God, News, peace | Leave a comment

My God doesn’t kill kids

In the light of today’s outrageous attack on a school in Pakistan, I think it’s vital for people of faith all over the world to stand up together and say very clearly, ‘Our God doesn’t kill kids’.

In no way do I judge the whole of Islam by the acts of the Pakistani Taliban, who have claimed responsibility for this act. This year, at the prayer service for peace organized by the Edmonton Ecumenical Peace Network, we were joined by several people from the Muslim community in our city. I know that they are people of compassion and love, who pray and work for peace as much as I do.

But we have to stand up – all of us who claim to believe in a loving God – and say to the whole world, ‘We cannot do this kind of thing in the name of God’. I say this as a Christian, one who believes the things that Jesus taught about God and what God asks of us. Jesus taught us that little children are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, that the way we treat a little child is the way we treat him, and that the children’s angels in heaven always see the face of his heavenly Father. Furthermore, he called on all his followers to love their enemies and pray for those who hate them, to turn the other cheek, and to imitate God who pours out his love on good and bad alike. To murder a child in the name of God is completely incompatible with these teachings of Jesus.

It is not, however, incompatible with some of the stories in the Old Testament, in which God is purported to have commanded his people to destroy cities and kill all their inhabitants – men, women, and children. I think we Christians have to face those passages honestly and say, “Jesus taught us a better way”. There is a reason why the writer to the Hebrews tells us that the new covenant is better than the old. There is a reason why, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said… but I say to you” (see Matthew 5:21-48). We Christians believe that the Word of God in all its fulness is found in Jesus Christ; everything else in the scriptures is seen in the light of his life and teaching.

I am not familiar with the sacred texts of other religions in the same way that I know the Bible, but I am aware of many Jewish and Muslim people who say that they, too, interpret their holy books in such a way as to emphasize the love of God for all people. I hope that they will stand together and say, as I want to say, ‘Our God doesn’t kill kids!’ Those who are murdering children in God’s name must stop misrepresenting the God of love who hates nothing he has made, but loves everyone and wants everyone to come to him and live by his love.

My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Pakistan tonight. As my Facebook friend Steve Martens says, ‘I judge a person’s religion by the amount of love they show everyone’. I pray that the people of Jesus will be faithful to the teaching of Jesus, and that the followers of all religions will proclaim the love and compassion of God for all people, and God’s desire that all people learn to live together in peace and justice.

Cross-posted to Edmonton Ecumenical Peace Network

Posted in Core Convictions, Following Jesus, God, News, peace | 5 Comments

In the Bleak Midwinter – Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

Boy, you can tell when a carol is written by a real poet. Christina Rossetti could write a lyric.

Posted in Christmas, Christmas Music | Leave a comment

A Witness and a Voice (a sermon on John 1:6-9, 19-28)

I’m not sure which school for aspiring politicians John the Baptist had attended, but he sure had a lot to learn about how to grab the limelight. We can imagine him participating in a modern election and being questioned by journalists at a press conference:

      “So, John, are you the one we’ve been waiting for, the one who will defend our nation from terrorists and keep our streets safe from crime?”

      “I am not”.

      “Oh. Well, then, are you the one who who’ll solve the problem of poverty, who will make our society prosperous again, and do away with excessive taxation?”

      “I am not”.

      “Ah” (awkward silence). “Well, are you the one who will bring our nation back to traditional values? Are you the one who’ll remind us that we’re a Christian country, and enforce Christian standards in government?”

      “I am not”.

      “Well, John, what exactly are you planning to do if we vote for you?”

      “Voting for me isn’t important. I’m the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord’. He’s the one you really should be voting for; I’m just here to point you to him. He’s so much greater than me that I’m not even worthy to kneel down and tie his shoes for him”.

      “Ah. So where’s his press conference, then?”

Now you might think this is a far-fetched comparison; after all, John was a prophet and a preacher, not a politician. But the truth is, that distinction would have been lost on the Old Testament prophets. They lived in a world in which religion and politics were completely intertwined, and they regularly meddled with issues like caring for the poor and needy, and trusting in God rather than wise foreign policy.

The Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent, which we used last Sunday, goes like this:

Almighty God, who sent your servant John the Baptist to prepare your people to welcome the Messiah, inspire us, the ministers and stewards of your truth, to turn our disobedient hearts to you, that when the Christ shall come again to be our judge, we may stand with confidence before his glory; who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Notice the royal language in that Collect: ‘to prepare your people to welcome the Messiah… when the Christ shall come to be our judge’. ‘Messiah’ is a Hebrew word, ‘Christ’ is Greek, but they both mean the same thing: ‘the anointed one’. It was the custom to anoint kings with olive oil at their coronations as a sign of God’s power coming down on them to equip them for their role, so in a sense every king of Israel was a ‘messiah’. But like us, the Israelites got tired of crooked politicians who only ruled for their own benefit; they looked back to what they saw as the golden age, when David had been their king; they longed for the day when God would send them another king like him, who would rule in righteousness and justice, care for the poor and needy, defend Israel from their enemies, and truly set up the Kingdom of God on earth. This king would truly be ‘the Messiah’.

What were their expectations around his coming? It would be a day when the nations of the world would turn to the God of Israel and come streaming to Jerusalem to learn to live by his laws – a day when nations would beat their swords into ploughshares and there would be no more studying the arts of war – a day when the lion would lie down with the lamb – in other words, natural enemies, like Israel and Assyria, would be reconciled and live together in peace. Israel would be free from tyrants, the land would enjoy peace and prosperity, and orphans and widows and marginalized people would be safe under the Lord’s just and loving rule.

It would also be a year of Jubilee. The Torah says quite clearly that every fiftieth year, there is to be a Year of Jubilee in Israel: all debts are to be forgiven, all slaves set free, and – most importantly – all land is to revert to its original owners. The goal of this was to prevent one family accumulating great wealth at the expense of another; when God originally distributed the land, he did it equally, and every fifty years, it was to become equal again. Of course, you can guess that those who were at the top of the power structures in Israel did not like this law, and in fact there is no evidence that it was ever followed. But it was right there in the Law of Moses, and the prophets reminded people of it regularly. It was right there in our Old Testament reading for this morning. Let me remind you of it:

‘The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn’ (Isaiah 61:1-2).

Did you hear it? ‘To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’. That’s the year of Jubilee, the year when the captives are to be set free and the oppressed are to be liberated.

It was an attractive and compelling vision; who wouldn’t vote for a politician who promised all that! No wonder the crowds were so excited when John the Baptist announced, ‘the Kingdom of God is at hand’! The easiest way to get followers in the time of Jesus was to start using this kind of language. It was such a tempting way to gain power; you can be sure that if someone in those days was asked, ‘Are you the Messiah?” it would be rather unusual for them to say, “No”!

Even today, of course, there is no shortage of Messianic candidates for political office, people who are sure they’re on a mission from God to save the world. Our politicians tend to use Messianic language at election time, and we have Messianic expectations of them. In fact, it would be hard to get elected these days without using that kind of language. Just think about the kind of things that were said when Barack Obama was elected as the first black president of the United States; King Arthur himself couldn’t have measured up to that set of expectations! And even in our quieter Canadian political climate, aspiring governments on left and right constantly imply that if we vote for them, Camelot is just around the corner, but if we vote for their opponents, it’s the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse!

So the first thing John the Baptist wants us to know is this: “there’s only one Messiah, and I’m not him”. The writer of the fourth gospel is very clever about how he uses language, and this is a good example. In this Gospel, Jesus is always saying, “I am”. “I am the Good Shepherd”, “I am the Light of the World”, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”, “Before Abraham was, I am”. People who were familiar with the Jewish scriptures would have seen the significance of this right away; in the Old Testament, the name of God is ‘Yahweh’, or traditionally ‘Jehovah’, which means, “I am”.

But in the Gospel of John, Jesus is the only one who uses this language; he’s the only one who can say, “I am the Messiah”. Everyone else says, “I am not”. John the Baptist says, “I am not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet”. The only one who is qualified to be the true Messiah is Jesus.

That’s why Jesus used that Old Testament reading from Isaiah as his text in his first sermon in Nazareth. Do you remember it? Luke tells us that he stood up in the synagogue in his hometown, the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him, and he read these words:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour”. And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:16-21).

In other words, he is the one who can truly say he has come to change the world.

Back in the 1970s Bruce Cockburn wrote a song called ‘Laughter’. One of the verses went like this:

Let’s hear a laugh for the man of the world
who thinks he can make things work.
Tried to build the New Jerusalem
and ended up with New York.

The ‘man of the world’ has always done that – tried to build the Messianic Kingdom without the true Messiah – tried to build the Kingdom of justice and peace by using injustice and war. The true Messiah is too demanding, so we need to find someone else who’ll do the job in his place, someone who won’t demand that we sell our possessions and give to the poor, or love our enemies and pray for those who hate us. But it’s a very rare leader who has the courage to say, “No, I’m not the one. Let me point you to the true Messiah, the one you really need to be following; his way is the only way that’s really going to change the world’.

We Christians are called to follow the example of John the Baptist: to insist that there is only one Messiah, and it’s not us or any other earthly leader; it’s Jesus. John was not the Messiah: he was a witness, and a voice. Look at what he says about himself in today’s gospel reading; quoting from Isaiah 40, he says,

I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord’ (John 1:23).

Earlier on in the chapter we read,

(John) came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. (John 1:7-9).

John was a voice crying out in the wilderness, and he was a witness to testify to the light of the world, Jesus himself.

So we go back to our collect for last Sunday: ‘Almighty God, who sent your servant John the Baptist to prepare your people to welcome the Messiah’. That’s what we’re being called to do this Advent, and every Advent: to welcome the true Messiah. We do this in three ways.

First, we refuse to listen to false Messiahs who propose alternative ways to find peace and happiness. The truth is that war and politics won’t solve the problems of the world. Those problems will only be solved by love in action, and that’s not a political program, it’s a program of transformation that asks every one of us to change our hearts toward God and our neighbours. That’s what Jesus taught us.

At this time of year we are bombarded by the voices of economic messiahs telling us to buy, buy, buy, because that’s the way to be happy. But it’s our role as Christians to say ‘no’ to this enormous commercial hoopla. This is not the way Jesus taught us! How did we get the idea that the way to celebrate the birth of the one who told us to sell our possessions and give to the poor was to go out and participate in an annual festival of extravagance and greed?

So we refuse to listen to these false Messiahs. Secondly, we give our obedience to the true Messiah, Jesus. By his life and teaching, he has shone a brilliant light into the darkness of the world. Our role as his followers is to let that light transform us, because the same Jesus who said “I am the light of the world” also said to his followers “You are the light of the world”. He taught us to quit concentrating on things, and to seek first the Kingdom of God instead. He taught us to forgive those who sin against us, love our enemies and pray for them. He taught us to live simple lives with only a few possessions, and to give generously to the needy. He taught us to speak the truth, keep our promises, love God with all our hearts and be a neighbour to all in need. This is the program for us disciples of Jesus. To become a Christian is to enrol in a school of discipleship. The gospels, and especially the Sermon on the Mount, give us the curriculum. Do you think there’s enough there for us to work on? I think there is!

So we refuse to listen to false Messiahs, and we give our obedience to the true Messiah. Lastly, like John the Baptist, we give our witness about Jesus to others.

He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. (John 1:7-9).

My witness to you today is that the only way I can make sense of life in this crazy world is to follow Jesus. In his words and his example, I find the light of God. And so I want to share his story with others and encourage them to come to his light as well. That’s my role as a disciple of Jesus. Jesus says, “Follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people”. The first part, ‘follow me’, leads inevitably to the second part, fishing for people; it’s an integral part of being a follower of Jesus.

I am not the Messiah, neither are you, and neither is the Church. The only Messiah is Jesus. So let’s give our allegiance to him, live by his light, and spread it to others. Amen.

Posted in Advent, Following Jesus, Gospel, Jesus, Sermons | Leave a comment

Gabriel’s Message

We used to sing this one when I was a choirboy, and I always loved it.

Posted in Christmas, Christmas Music | Leave a comment