Weekly Photo Challenge: Sea

Sea. What kind of emotions does the sea or ocean make you feel? Do you remember the first time you went in the water? Had a wave crash on you? Felt the sand burn your feet? Do you feel more peaceful around water? Do you hate the beach? What’s the most interesting thing about the sea for you?

Pacific Ocean

Pacific Ocean

When I think of the sea or ocean, I am reminded of God creating them, and God’s Spirit [the Hebrew word can also refer to God’s wind or breath] “swept over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2) So I think of God’s immense, creative powers to fill these huge bodies of water with mystery and a beautiful array of life-forms. I also think of the vastness of these seas and oceans, and that reminds me of infinity, and eternity, life without end, life transcending time, which again is a gift from God and alludes to God’s creativity and love. When I think of the sea or ocean, I also think of two amazing works of Western literature: Mock Dick by the 19th century writer, Herman Melville, and his Captain Ahab, who was obsessed with chasing old Moby Dick, a huge sperm whale. The tale introduces a lot of themes, including interfaith relations, the meaning of life or life-quest for meaning, good and evil, God and humankind, and humankind’s place in the universe, etc.  The second work, of course, is Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s epic poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” which again addresses themes such as high adventure on the sea, and humankind’s place in creation, as well as the beauty of creation, which the Mariner finally realises and the curses of his dead sailors are lifted, and the albatross falls off from around his neck into the water. My favourite lines in the poem are: “Water, water, every where,/And all the boards did shrink;/Water, water, every where,/Nor any drop to drink.”

Sea Shell

Sea Shell

Another Sea Shell

Another Sea Shell

These sea shells were photographed on Vancouver Island, one of our favourite places to vacation in Canada, with many wonderful sandy beaches. They remind me not only of the beauty of God’s creation, but also of the fun child’s word game: “She sells sea shells by the sea shore.” Don’t you remember trying to compete with other family or friends by seeing who could speak these words the fastest, without making a mistake? 🙂  Thanks for visiting, and please visit the other entries here.

CBC Man Alive Host Roy Bonisteel dead at 83



Former CBC television host and journalist Roy Bonisteel has died at the age of 83. Bonisteel hosted the current affairs program Man Alive from 1967 to 1989 and became a public speaker, writer and citizenship judge. You can read the Winnipeg Free Press news item here.

Man Alive was definitely my favourite T.V. program for several years! The show’s name was based on second century church leader Iraneus’ quotation: “The glory of God is in man [sic] fully alive.”

Roy Bonisteel was a most gracious, kind, and thought-provoking host. Over the years he interviewed a wide array of some of the most interesting saints and sinners. Too bad CBC could not find a successor to continue with the program on a permanent basis.

Roy’s book, although published in 1980, In Search of Man Alive is well worth reading. In it you can read Roy’s conversations with such people as: Malcolm Muggeridge, Elie Wiesel, the Berrigan brothers, Claude Ryan, Sondra Diamond, Gordon Sinclair and George Johnston, Barbara Ward, Robert McLure, Mother Teresa, Viktor Frankl, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, Germaine Greer, and others.

My favourite chapter is “The Witness,” Roy’s conversation with Holocaust survivor and author, Elie Wiesel. Each chapter begins with a quote, here’s the opening one from Elie Wiesel: “Silence to me is the soul of the world. It is what cannot be said that is important.” (p. 49) Yet, ironically, Wiesel believes himself to be a witness, to speak of the unspeakable tragedy of the Holocaust. His closing words summarise it well: “I really see myself as a witness,” he told me. “I bear witness to the past through tales and story telling. I try to reach out, especially to the young and say ‘look what happened. Listen.’ It’s not that awful. It’s not to be sad about. It’s a privilege and a curse at the same time. To live today is to remember. So listen to my tales and spread them.” (pp. 55-56) True to Wiesel’s word in this conversation, I highly recommend his books, and encourage readers to visit his website here.

Thanks to the contributions of people like Roy Bonisteel, the church and the world is more liveable and sane. God grant Roy Bonisteel eternal peace.

Sermon 14 Pentecost Yr C

You can read my sermon for August 25, 2013 here: 14 Pentecost Yr C

Weekly Photo Challenge: Focus

Focus. This week’s challenge is inspired by Matthew George’s post on focus, in which he introduced us to the basics of depth of field and aperture. He explained what an image with a shallow depth of field looks like (or conversely, a photo with a greater depth of field), and how the aperture setting on your camera affects it.

For this challenge, get out there and take a picture demonstrating the concept of focus. Depending on your skill level or type of camera, tinker with the manual settings, use the auto focus feature, or play around with an app.

Blur shot of tree

Blur shot of tree

Same tree, more distant shot

Same tree, more distant shot

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.
-Martin Luther                                                                                                                 
Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing. -Abraham Lincoln
The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself. -William Blake                       Check out the other entries here.


Sermon 13 Pentecost Yr C

Read my sermon for August 18, 2013 here: 13 Pentecost Yr C

Weekly Photo Challenge: Carefree

Summer memories make everything feel magical to me — carefree and untroubled.

Even on the trips where everything went wrong, I look back and smile at the narrow escapes, or the long walks on a beach while I sorted out and righted the world.

Whether a good memory was made in years past, yesterday, or only moments ago, I love letting the nostalgia wrap me up — like a borrowed sweater on a cold summer night. Even more, I love making new memories: a carefree summer at the lake, a stroll through the park, dancing in the rain… then all I need to do is remember, and the same carefree feeling washes over me.

BC Ferry Ride

BC Ferry Ride

“Summertime and the livin is easy…” This photo was taken while on the ferry from Vancouver to Nanaimo, which we’ve travelled on several times over the years to visit family and friends.  Check out the other entries here.

How many books do you read?


Where do you fit into this picture? I wouldn’t say that I’m “an international expert” and I’ve definitely read for more than 7 years in my field!

Is there a right of return?

Sometimes we wrestle with the truth of issues for years ethically, spiritually, and politically. We live with more ambiguity than we would like as we seek to be a people of faith and life and love. Recently I came across this article, which, for me, shed light on this question, which I had thought rather ambiguous until I read it. Hope you too find the article helpful.  -Dim Lamp

Is There a  Right of Return ?

We often hear and read statements asserting that the Palestinian Refugees from 1948 now have a right to return to the state of Israel —   the so-called “right of return.”   This phrase has a good deal of superficial appeal and sounds like a benign call for justice — but upon close scrutiny it is revealed as a call for the destruction of the Jewish homeland.

The Modern State of Israel was founded to be the homeland of the Jewish people.

•           After the collapse of the ottoman Empire, the area that includes modern day Israel, modern day Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza was given to the British, under the Articles of the League of Nations, to hold in trust for a Jewish homeland. This was the British Mandate for Palestine.

•           In November1947 after World War II, the United Nations General Assembly recommended a partition of the British Mandate for Palestine into a specifically Jewish state and a specifically Arab state.  The U.N. partition plan was based on population demographics — majority Jewish areas would be part of Israel, majority Arab areas would be part of a new Arab state.

•           The Jewish Agency (the precursor of the Israeli government) accepted the U.N. partition plan. The Arab League met in December 17, 1947 however, and announced that it would prevent partition by force if necessary.  The Arab nations did resort to force, jointly attacking the new Jewish state after it declared independence in May 1948.

The 1948 War created both Jewish and Palestinian refugees

•           Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948. Over the next few days the Arab States surrounding Israel (Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq ) each invaded the new Jewish state, vowing to wipe it off the face of the earth. The resulting war lasted from May 1948 until February 1949.

•               There was a lot of dispossession on both sides as a result of this war. Arab and Jewish and in roughly equal numbers. People dispute the exact numbers, but some 650,000- 800,000 Palestinians left their homes in 1947-48 and for a variety of reasons.  Some Arabs were forced out by the Israelis — especially Arabs living along supply routes and borders. Thousands of wealthy Arabs left in anticipation of a war. Once the war started some left to get out of harm’s way. Others left not to appear to be traitors. Many Arabs left after being told by the attacking Arab nations that they would destroy the Jewish state and then the Arabs could go back. Jews were likewise forced out or fled from both the Arab nations and what became the Palestinian Territories after they were seized by Jordan and Egypt.

The Jewish refugees were absorbed by Israel, but the Palestinians that fled or were forced out became refugees

•           The Arabs that stayed in what became the borders of Israel became Israeli citizens. The Arabs that left, for the most part,  were never resettled and the United Nations maintained and continues to maintain them as refugees in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and in the Palestinian Territories under a special agency created only for Palestinian refugees — United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA).

There is no such thing in International Law as a “right of return” for refugees

•           Throughout history, war and conflicts have produced refugees.  Nowhere has a “right of return” been recognized for any of these refugees.

•           Millions of people were displaced after the partition of the Indian subcontinent into India and Pakistan in 1947.  It resulted in the largest human movement in history, an exchange of 18,000,000 Hindus from Pakistan and Muslims from India.

•           In November 1975, the Moroccan government coordinated the Green March invasion, and  forced Spain to hand over the disputed, autonomous semi-metropolitan Spanish Province of Sahara to Morocco.  This resulted in the creation of thousands of refugees.

•           More than 15 million Germans were expelled from Czechoslovakia and Poland at the end of World War II.

•           In 1974, following a period of violence between Greek and Turkish Cypriots and an attempted Greek-sponsored coup, Turkey invaded and occupied one third of the island; this led to the establishment of a separate Turkish Cypriot regime to govern the invaded area in the north and the displacement of thousands of Cypriots.

•           None of these or countless other refugees has raised a “right of return” and the International Community has never recognized such a right on their behalf.

To read the whole article go here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: One Shot, Two Ways

For this challenge, capture two images — a horizontal and a vertical version — of the same scene or subject. There are no concrete “rules” here, but a) it should be evident that both shots are of the same place/location or person/thing, and b) your photographs should ideally have been taken during the same shoot — where’s the challenge if you’re just plucking out pictures of a particular location or person from your archives? So here is my contribution this week. To view other entries go here.

World's Largest Chess Set, horizontal shot

World’s Largest Chess Set, horizontal shot

World's Largest Chess Board, Vertical shot

World’s Largest Chess Board, Vertical shot

I took these shots earlier today. For more information on the World’s Largest Chess Board/Set, visit the Medicine Hat Chess Club’s website here.


Book Review: “We Are Going to Pick Potatoes”


“We Are Going to Pick Potatoes” Norway and the Holocaust, The Untold Story

Author: Irene Levin Berman

Publisher: Hamilton Books A member of The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, 2010

185 pages, ISBN 978-0-7618-5011-3, Paperback

Reviewed by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

The author, Irene Levin Berman was born in Norway to Jewish parents, and her grandparents on both sides of the family immigrated to Norway from Eastern Europe—mainly Poland and Lithuania.

   The book has its beginnings in the author’s quest for her identity and realization that she too was a Holocaust survivor.

   Each of the chapter titles orient readers to the themes addressed and the sense of the work’s flow and continuity. The titles are as follows: Acknowledgments—5 pages in length; Introduction: Why Norway Wasn’t Too Small (i.e. as a country with only about 1,500 to 2,000 Jews, and about 771 perished in the Nazi death camps. Some mistakenly thought the Nazis would not be interested in rounding up, arresting and deporting them to the concentration camps. The author also emphatically makes the case that even though 771 Norwegian Jews died in the Holocaust their lives were equally as valuable and important as the millions of others who also perished during World War II—one should not employ numbers to try and minimize what was done by the perpetrators, and the long-term repercussions for their surviving loved ones); 1 The Escape; 2 Refugees in Exile; 3 Those Who Came First – The Levin Family; 4 Those Who Came First – The Selikowitz Family; 5 The Family That ‘Disappeared’; 6 War and Holocaust; 7 The Silence; 8 Return from Exile; 9 Learning How To Be a Norwegian Jew; 10 Marrying a Jew; 11 Life in America; 12 The Myth about the Danish King (according to the author, he did not wear the Star of David armband in public); 13 Identity; 14 The Journey into the Past. In addition to the text, it includes several photographs—mainly of family members; as well as the Selikowitz and Levin family trees.

   For this reader, the chapter addressing the author family’s escape into Sweden, thanks to the assistance of the Norwegian underground resistance is very dramatic. The family escaped in the nick of time on November 25, 1942; the day before the Gestapo began to make mass arrests on November 26. Those Jews who were not able to leave prior to that day were all eventually deported to the concentration camps.

   In Norway, unlike Denmark who did not resist the Nazis; according to Levin Berman the nation’s police assisted the Nazis in arresting the Jews. Of course the Norwegian Jews felt betrayed by their own police for such horrendous action having tragic consequences. Levin Berman states that she was aware of only one police officer who refused to obey the Nazi order and he was subsequently shot for his defiance. The author also suggests that the situation was somewhat different in Denmark than in Norway—since in the former nation the Danes had information more in advance on the Nazi’s intentions concerning the Jews and therefore they had more time to assist them in fleeing to Sweden than did the Norwegians.

   Much of this volume is focussed on the author’s coming to terms with her family history and identity. She sees herself as having three identities inside one person. She is proud of being born in Norway and appreciates many of the cultural traditions and values of the Norwegian people—including the celebration of Constitution Day on the 17 of May, and the reading, study, translating and attending the plays of Henrik Ibsen. She is also very proud of her Jewish heritage and ancestors who were hard working and devout people; most of them ran well-respected businesses and also contributed to community organisations—including the synagogue in Oslo. Levin Berman chose to marry a Jew and to raise their children in the Jewish faith. However, she married an American Jew and by now has lived most of her adult life in America—therefore she has adjusted to the customs of American life, including the celebration of the 4 of July and Thanksgiving. Nonetheless, she made many trips back to Norway for lengthy periods of time to both vacation and provide care and support for her family there.

   In this volume, Levin Berman also provides bits and pieces of the history of the Jews in Norway. For example, Jews immigrated to Norway later than in Sweden and Denmark. It was only in 1851 that they were able to immigrate to Norway; after the “Jewish clause” in Article 2 of the Constitution was repealed. Norwegian poet, Henrik Wergeland was one of the most influential advocates campaigning to have the “Jewish clause” repealed.

   Most of the Jews in Norway settled in Oslo and Trondheim; with a few scattered in other Norwegian communities. The author’s paternal grandparents, Leib and Henriette Levin, settled in Rjukan, a small town in the middle of Norway, in Telemark county. Here grandfather was given the honour of delivering the keynote speech on the Norwegian Constitution Day of 17 May, 1914. One of his pivotal sentences in that speech reflects how Leib Levin understood his identity: “Om vi ere jøder i religion hindrer de oss ikke av vaere nordmaend i nation” (If we are Jews by religion, this does not prevent us from being Norwegian by nation). (p. 29)

   The process of this volume coming to birth in its English version is interesting. In 2008, the book was published in Norwegian, in Norway as “Vi skal plukke poteter,” Flukten fra Holocaust. (“We are going to pick potatoes,” the Escape from the Holocaust). However, the author, being gifted and trained in linguistics; and wanting to tell the story in America; undertook the task of translating her work into English.

   The phrase, “We are going to pick potatoes,” was a euphemism to tell others they were fleeing from the Nazis into neutral Sweden to live in exile until after the war. One of the conditions of being accepted in Sweden was that the Norwegian immigrants were required to find work in Sweden as soon as possible. Levin Berman’s Far (father) was able to do some very significant social work in settling the Norwegian Jewish refugees.

   Ultimately, I think it is Irene Levin Berman’s passion to tell this untold story of Norway’s Jews and the Holocaust that will surely prove beneficial to those living in the present age and for generations to come—for to honour those who perished in the Holocaust is to remember them.

   I encourage readers to visit the following website for more information concerning the book and the author here.