My First Time

Pastor Bob Knowles preached as sermon on Sunday in which he asked us to think back and recall the first time we set foot in New Minas Baptist Church, and consider the discomfort and fear that accompanied of that moment The point being that we often forget what it felt like to be “stranger,” so we should refresh our memories so that we can better reach a hand out to those who are experiencing that same apprehension of entering NMBC for the first time.

I remember that moment clearly. I was an unrepentant atheist/humanist, and the only reason I was there was because I was dating someone who went to church there. We sat about five rows from the back on the far left as you walk into the sanctuary. A young boy with very very VERY red hair was sitting directly in front of me, and there were three teenagers up on the stage - one guy on guitar and two accompanying young ladies, singing a song about a secret, quite place where they wanted to meet Jesus. The upbeat, contemporary style made me think that hanging out here wasn’t too bad. Good music is good music, whether it’s religious or not. After they left, some guy who looked a little like Will Riker from Star Trek:TNG started talking about something or other - I really wasn’t paying attention.

Then another singer took the stage, and when he started singing, he blew me away! He sounded a little like a cross between Kenny Rogers and Phil Collins. And like Phil Collins, he played the drums while he sang. I was extremely impressed. I leaned into Marsha’s ear and whispered something like, “This guy’s REALLY good!” I definitely wasn’t expecting that much talent at a church, and he just reinforced my thought that coming here on Sunday mornings wasn’t going to be such a pain after all.

Then the minister hit the stage, and asked anyone who was visiting for the first time to raise their hand so someone could bring you a pamplet or something, and a free pen. I though to myself, “Wow. A pen. Big whoopity ding.” I didn’t put my hand up, and I gave Marsha a poison glare when she started to put her hand up on my behalf. She quickly put it back down.

There followed some praying, and a sermon about who-knows-what. I just sat there counting how many times he said “friends.” Just about ever second sentence began with “Friends….” “Friends, we are here to bla-bla-bla.” “Friends, the world is a scary place.” “Friends, I want you to understand something or other.” I also started counting the number of times he asked himself a hypothetical question and answered himself with, “Absolutely.” “Friends, are there going to be rough seas? Absolutely. Friends, do I say ‘friends’ too much? Absolutely.” I had stopped listening to him at around 64 “friends” and 42 “absolutelies.”

When the show was over, we met the minister at the door. He asked how Marsha was, and that he hadn’t seen her for a while. He also asked about Marsha’s friend, Tammy. “How is your friend - what was her name? - How’s Tammy doing. I haven’t seen her in a VERY long time.” Marsha made some excuses on Tammy’s behalf, and then introduced me to the pastor. Good to meet you, come again, have a good week, bla-bla-bla. I was anxious to get out of there and make a Tim’s run.

And thus ended my first service at NMBC. Over the years following my conversion/baptism, I came to know and love those strangers I’d seen that day. The young man on guitar, that morning, was Nick Schofield, and he was accompanied by Becky Hildebrand and Pam Jamieson. The love child of Kenny Rogers and Phil Collins turned out to be Paul Fowler, who sings as great today as he did 9 years earlier. Will Riker’s name was actually Chris Austin, and the minister was Terry Atkinson. The woman I was with was, of course, Marsha who became my wife some two years later

I hope that recollection doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings. I came to love Pastor Terry’s preaching style, etc - those were just my thoughts at that time.

So, what was your first time like? If you can think of anything the people could have done to make you feel more comfortable, then that’s what we need to do for others.

My Stupid Driveway

I’m gonna go off for a few minutes here, so skip this post if shallow bitterness is not your thing today. I want to rant about my stupid driveway. You see, my house is on a secondary highway plopped conveniently close to the major shopping & educational centres of the Annapolis Valley, yet far enough off the beaten path to be relatively peaceful and serene… except for one bloody problem. My stupid driveway.

Here’s a photo of the road I live on, and there on the left you can clearly make out my driveway.

Now, though you can’t see them, there’s actually two more homes (with driveways of their own) on the left of this photo. Driving along my road, though, all you see is a forest wilderness on the other side of my driveway. That thar be uncharted territory! We be lost, dear! Goodness gracious, we best be turnin’ around before we get mauled by bears or skewered by rabid porcupines.

So that’s just what they do. That’s just what EVERYONE does. Because it looks like my driveway might be the last one for a few miles, everyone pulls into my yard to turn around and head back to the pseudo-civilization of Port Williams. DRIVES ME BONKERS!! So much so that I thought about putting up some sort of sign on the telephone pole you see there… something to mess with people’s heads. I want to put up a big sign that says something like, “GONE TOO FAR? WHY NOT TURN AROUND HERE!” You know, a little reverse psychology.

Actually, my beef with the driveway-turners is actually because of something else I hate… sort of a “friend-of-a-friend-beef.” That thing is the much-despised “Drop In.” You know… Joe & Mary just happened to be driving by, and decided to pop by, because surely you have nothing better to do with your Monday evening than to sit in eager anticipation, yearning to have someone to entertain. Not that I hate having company, but how about at least a phone call? Give me a chance to change out of my Masters of the Universe underoos into something a tad more presentable.

So, because of my hatred for drop-ins, every bloody driveway-turner is a potential drop-in… and we sit there and wait… are they getting out of the car? Yes, no, maybe so? Crud… where’s my pants?

The Newfie Accent Explained?

A suprising Canadian medical headline today may shed light on the study of linguistics.  An Ontario woman, with no personal ties to the Canadian Maritimes, began speaking with a Newfoundland accent after suffering a stroke.

Following her stroke in 2006, Rose Dore checked herself into a Hamilton, Ont., hospital where staff assumed she was from the East Coast based on the way she spoke.

It wasn’t until her family arrived that health-care workers realized they had a special case on their hands. Staff contacted speech specialists who mapped Dore’s language patterns and concluded she was experiencing foreign-accent syndrome.

A new report, published in the July issue of the Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences, found that although the 52-year-old woman’s accent isn’t identical to that of a Newfoundlander there are striking similarities.   [full article here]

So I guess it’s possible that Newfie’s don’t talk that way for cultural or historical reasons, but because they’ve suffered neurological damage.  Many Canadians have always suspected that very thing.

Idiot Wind

It’s been some time since I had any respect for the mainstream news media since most major news sources degenerated into the capitalistic “sweeps week all year long” sensationalism that currently plagues them, (especially among our American cousins).  Here’s just another tiny example that caught my eye only because it’s about my man, Bob Dylan.  Bob has an art exhibit running right now, and Times writer Alan Jackson interviewed him about the art show (article here).  At the tail end of that interview, Jackson writes:

My time with Dylan is up and we stand in preparation for my leaving the room. As a last aside, I ask for his take on the US political situation in the run-up to November’s presidential election.

“Well, you know right now America is in a state of upheaval,” he says. “Poverty is demoralising. You can’t expect people to have the virtue of purity when they are poor. But we’ve got this guy out there now who is redefining the nature of politics from the ground up…Barack Obama. He’s redefining what a politician is, so we’ll have to see how things play out. Am I hopeful? Yes, I’m hopeful that things might change. Some things are going to have to.” He offers a parting handshake. “You should always take the best from the past, leave the worst back there and go forward into the future,” he notes as the door closes between us.

Sounds innocent enough, right?  Just your typical (albeit unusually optimistic) political chit-chat that you might overhear anywhere.  But wait… BOB DYLAN said that.  He’s a poet, the voice of a generation, an ideological prophet, an American legend… that’s no simple chit chat!  That’s, to quote the article published the same day about that brief parting conversation, a “ringing endorsement.”  The article goes on to draw some strange, anachronistic parallel between Bob’s comments on Obama and the lyrics of his song “The Times They Are A-Changin’.”  Dylan’s relationship with the media has been tenuous at the best of times, and this kind of sensationalizing foolishness is likely a contributing factor.

While Jackson may have had The TImes They Are A-Changin’ on his mind while writing the article, a different Dylan number dominated my mind while reading it:

People see me all the time and they just can’t remember how to act
Their minds are filled with big ideas, images and distorted facts.
Even you, yesterday you had to ask me where it was at,
I couldn’t believe after all these years, you didn’t know me better than that

Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your mouth,
Blowing down the backroads headin’ south.
Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth,
You’re an idiot, babe.
It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe.
(”Idiot Wind” by Bob Dylan)

USA 2008 vs Canada 1993

George W. Bush is arguably the least popular American president ever.  He certainly has the lowest approval ratings in the 7 decades the Gallup Poll has been in use.  As a Canadian, there is a vague sense of the familiar in all of this, as we look back and consider our own country’s past leadership.  Most political observers and historians here in the Great White North look back on the 1993 Federal election, where the Conservative party went from holding a majority government to losing all but two seats in parliament, and normally lay the blame for that political implosion at the feet of then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.  While there’s no doubt that Kim Campbell, the seated prime minister (after Mulroney’s retirement) running during that election year, made enough gaffs to place the final nails in the party’s coffin, most would agree that the national upsets and unpopular initiatives that plagued Mulroney’s tenure as our Prime Minister offered the bulk of those nails, the hammer, the coffin, and perhaps even dug the hole.  The GST, the Meech Lake Accord, Free Trade, closing the fisheries, all very visible and unpopular initiatives, alienated most Canadians, making Mr. Mulroney one of the least popular Prime Ministers in Canadian History.   The subsequent election and destruction of the Progressive Conservative party was the most devestating loss ever in Canadian political history, and even resulted in a Quebec seperatist party, the Bloc Québécois, filling the Conservative void in becoming the official opposition party.  (Yes, a party that was commited to seperating from Canada was the official check/balance to the Canadian governement.  Wacky, huh?)

Yet, the spots on Mr. Mulroney’s record pale in comparison to those that stain the record of George W. Bush.  I’m not going to bother listing them, everyone knows them, and whether you agree with their validity isn’t nearly as important as recognizing the alienation they’ve caused among large swaths of the voting public.  So here’s my question: Do you think that Bush’s unpopularity could result in a near-destruction of the Republican party in November 2008 as it did here in Canada with the Conservative party in 1993?  Why or why not?