Sunday, November 25, 2012

Baby S on the Way!

My wife Courtney and I are happy to announce that Courtney is due at the end of June!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Hot Dog!

Teachers usually begin the school day by putting out fires.  Students come off the bus and realize that something has been left at home.  This can be caused by forgetfulness or, more commonly, because the student had to rush out of the door because the bus was honking the horn and in their haste they forgot their homework or worse yet, their lunch.  The usual “good mornings” are dispensed with, and students get right down to business:

“I forgot my schoolbag!  Can I call my mom?”
“I forgot my project on the kitchen table!”
“I forgot my lunch!” 

I am generally understanding in this area as I have experienced first hand how frantic school mornings can be.  I had my fair share of rushed mornings, but I never made a habit of rushing around in the morning.  My sisters Alison and Becky on the other hand made a science of rushing around in the morning like two whirling dervishes.  Alison has shown me in particular, that when the bus is coming and you are not ready, homework is the last thing on your mind.

Practical jokes were a big part of our lives growing up.  Alison and I especially had an unofficial contest going to see who could pull off the best prank.  We became quite covert and clever – not to mention suspicious and paranoid.
I came home one day to find Alison sitting in the lazy-boy chair reading a Ted Dekker book with a funny little smirk on her face.  Her eyes furtively glanced up as I headed down the hallway to my bedroom.  I opened the door to my room and flipped on the light.  Suddenly the ceiling fan kicked into full gear and began to throw pennies everywhere.  I hit the dirt as these copper projectiles were thrown all over the room.  Alison had carefully placed hundreds of pennies on top of the ceiling fan blades and had set the ceiling fan on high.  When I walked back into the living room, Alison was still in the lazy-boy, but her smirk had blossomed into a full blown smile as she pretended to read.

I was not to be outdone though.  I racked my brain to find a way to pull a sneakier and better prank.  The next morning I found her Achilles heel – her frantic morning routine.  That night I found some hot dog buns and squished them into the toes of her shoes.  I knew that Alison and Becky always spent a lot of time in front of the mirror before school which meant that they were always sprinting to the bus stop.  
The next morning came, and I parked myself down on the lazy-boy and pretended to study.  I had a perfect vantage point of the front door where her shoes were waiting.  The far off sound of the school bus grew louder as it came nearer to the house.  The girls were in full panic mode as they desperately tried to get ready.  The finishing touches to the hair and make-up were made as Mom frantically urged the girls to get outside.  I felt my smirk grow into a grin as Alison reached for her shoes.  By this time the bus had pulled up and had sent out a warning honk.  Becky flew through the door in a blur while Alison tried to slip on her shoes.  
Her feet would not slip into her shoes though no matter how hard she tried to jam her feet in.  She reached inside one of her shoes and felt the hot dog bun.  The bus driver by this point was honking “hurry up” in Morse code.  Alison was like a frantic animal.  She stuffed her feet as best she could into her hot dog bun filled shoes and ran for the bus.  It wasn’t until she got to school that she could finally claw the hot dog buns out of her shoes. 

 It can easily be said that schoolwork was the last thing on Alison’s mind that morning. Alison would have had a good excuse for forgetting her homework on the kitchen table, though I doubt many teachers would have believed her.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Garbage Day on Brown Drive

In the Slingerland household, it has historically been the husbands job (aka ‘me’) to take out the garbage and recycling on Wednesday nights.  When Thursday mornings dawn, the household wakes to the peaceful cooing of mourning doves and the rumble of the waste management vehicles (aka ‘garbage trucks’).  This narrative did not exactly happen this week.
Thursday Morning:

The mourning doves began their beautiful ‘ode to morning’ on the sill outside of our window on this fine frosty November morn.  The husband finds the gentle cooing of the doves melodic and soothing.  What a great way to wake up in the morning!

The wife is not an ornithologist, but rather an ornithophobic.  The wife does not like birds (though she does like the golden roasted varieties that come out of ovens).

“If those birds wake me up again tomorrow morning, I am going to glue their beaks shut!”

The husband chuckles at his wife’s sense of humour – what a kidder he married!

The wife’s school starts earlier then the husband’s school, which means that she is out the door earlier.  As the husband got ready, his wife kissed him goodbye, glared maliciously at the majestic dove on the sill, and left.  

The husband was knotting his tie when he heard a dragging sound.  He wondered what that noise could be.  He then heard the far off rumble of the garbage truck.  The husband looked out the window and noticed with great alarm, that the wife was dragging the garbage out to the curb.  The husband had forgotten to take out the garbage and now the wife, who was nicely dressed (and had smelled nice up to this point), was bringing the garbage out.  The husband felt bad not only because of the wife doing the husband’s job, but also because she was already running a little late.  The husband thought of ways to make it up to the wife.  He racked his brain.  He looked around and finally spied the dove on the sill.  He imagined his wife’s delighted face as he presented her with a stuffed dove in a shadow box or something.  The dove seemed to sense the change of mood and flew off.

The husband’s attention turned to the plight at the end of the driveway.  The wife had put the garbage in place, but was now staring at something at the end of our driveway.  During the night, the wind had blown the neighbour’s garbage bags over to our driveway and were now blocking the wife’s way out.  The husband briefly reflected that maybe it was blessing in disguise that he forgot to put the garbage out seeing as how the wind wreaked havoc on the neighbours’ garbage.

The husband probably should have run out to help clear the garbage bags from the end of the driveway, but he was paralyzed with suspense.  What would the wife do?  

The wife turned and headed back to her car with a determined look on her face.  The husband had seen that determined look many times before.  Her car roared to life and the headlights flamed brightly.  The husband held his breath as he watched the wife rocket out of the driveway.  The garbage bags put up no resistance as the car backed over them and plowed them out of the way.  The husband noticed that one of the bags was flattened like a pannekoek and the other one was caught in her front wheel-well.  

The husband could almost see his wife’s slender foot stamp the gas pedal to the floor.  The venerable car shot forward like an Atlas missile.  The garbage bag stayed with the tire for a couple of revolutions and then was discharged into the air.  It flew from the car and came to rest on the curb (albeit quite a ways away from the intended place on the curb).  After the cloud of exhaust smoke cleared and the wife’s green machine careened out of sight, all was as it should be in the peaceful neighbourhood.


Moments later, the garbage truck lumbered up to the curb and the garbage collectors retrieved all of bags and emptied the various receptacles.  The dove, who had been watching all of the proceedings in open-beaked awe, resumed his melodious cooing.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Rev. Donald Caskie

    The prisoner was thrown into the musty cell.  He landed hard on the stone floor.  As he rolled onto his back, the guard threw a plate and a rag of a blanket at his feet.  “Don’t cause any problems Vallet,” the guard warned before slamming the cell door.  Captain Vallet was depressed, lonely, hungry and tired of interrogation and prison.  He was tired of this French prison.  He was tired of life.  There was no way out of here except death.  He knew why he was brought to the Villa Lynwood – this was the prison of interrogation and torture.  He was about to cut his wrist open, when he saw something etched into the wall.
“Thus saith the Lord... Fear not for I have redeemed thee... I have called them by name.  Thou are mine.  When thou passeth through the waters, I will be with thee, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee.  When thou walketh through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee...”

Vallet read the words and gained comfort, consolation, and strength.  Thoughts of suicide left him, and he was filled with peace.  Months passed, and Vallet was transferred to the prison at St. Remo.  Again, he was thrown into a cell.  This time he was helped off of the floor by a Scotsman.

Vallet wiped the dust off his hands on his pants extended his right hand.  

“Captain Vallet’s my name.”

“My name is Donald Caskie.  Rev. Caskie to be exact.”

The two men sat down and Vallet told Rev. Caskie about his ordeal in the torturous prison of Villa Lynwood.  Caskie remained silent as he listened to Vallet’s account, but hardly dared to breathe as Vallet finished.

“As I was thrown in that cell,” Vallet said, “I couldn’t endure anymore.  I didn’t want to sit through any more interrogations, or listen to the screams from the cells next to mine.  I almost killed myself that day.  Just as I was about to cut my wrist, I looked up and the words from Isaiah were inscribed on the wall.  I knew then that God would help me through.  I’ll never forget those words.”

Rev. Caskie was silent for a moment, but looked intently at Vallet.  With his voice thick with emotion, Caskie said:

“I wrote those words.”

Tears streaked down Vallet’s cheeks.  Rev. Caskie leaned closer to Vallet and began to tell him how he had ended up in the prison of St. Remo.

“I was the Scottish minister of the Scots Kirk in Paris up until the Germans invaded France in 1940.  When the Nazi’s entered the city, I closed up the church, gave the keys to a neighbour, and decided to flee to Scotland.  A couple of opportunities came and went and I decided to stay in France.  There was work for me to do.  I began helping Allied soldiers and airmen trapped in Nazi territory.  Some of those men were so clueless when they found themselves in occupied territory.  They seemed unaware of the danger surrounding them and went about Paris as if they were tourists.  Other men were much more cunning and were able to blend in, adapt, and escape much easier.  As time went by, the need became greater and greater.  I became one of the leaders of the Allied escape routes.  Eventually our mission in Marseilles was betrayed, and I was arrested and brought to the Villa Lynwood.  As you can imagine, Captain, it was very difficult for me to go from helping men escape, to being a prisoner – completely helpless.  Those were dark days, as they were for you.  It wasn’t until I inscribed those words on the walls, that I knew Christ had gone before me and was with me.  Time passed slowly at Villa Lynwood, but eventually I was transferred and brought here.”

Several weeks later, Rev. Caskie was transferred from the Italian prison of St. Remo back to France, where he was transferred to yet another prison just outside of Paris.  It was in Paris that Rev. Caskie was tried for his crimes against the Third Reich.

“You are a spy, agitator, agent for escaping soldiers, prisoners-of-war, and friendly disposed towards that hated race the Jews.” ranted one of the judges. 

“I have aided Jews because they are human beings and because of your country’s policy they are in need of help.  But I never have aided them against anyone!” replied Rev. Caskie.

After the judges on the panel repeatedly accused Rev. Caskie of lying, they brought in a witness.  Rev. Caskie recognized him as Pierre, one of the guides that took Allied escapees from checkpoint to checkpoint.  Rev. Caskie was repulsed to see that the man was a double agent, and even more disgusted that Pierre refused to make eye contact.

Pierre identified Rev. Caskie and reported to the panel the activities that Rev. Caskie had been involved in.

One of the judges asked Rev. Caskie if he knew Pierre.

“I should think I do know him.  Even before I suspected him of being what he has now proved himself to be – a double agent – I regret to say I associated him in my mind with Judas Iscariot.  His purse was his god.  His every word and action sought to magnify it alone.  He had no other aim in life... You may agree that he a is most interesting witness.  Someday he may give evidence against you.  He is a professional.”

As the trial progressed, Rev. Caskie knew that the outcome was decided before the start of the trial.  He was resigned to being declared guilty, and was also ready to be taken home to glory.  Guilty was the sentence, and death was the sentence. 

The sentence, however, was never carried out.  Due to the intervention of a German pastor, and some political intrigue surrounding the judges on the panel, the sentence was lifted on January 7th, 1944.

Rev. Caskie continued to serve at the Scottish Kirk on the Rue Bayard in Paris after the city was liberated.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

(Psa 23:5-6)