Friday, 27 November 2009

The day I knew God got it.

Throughout most of my life, various Sunday school teachers and radio preachers gave me the impression that we had to lobby God relentlessly with our prayers before he would give us our daily bread, let alone do anything nice for us. Dickens' Mr. Scrooge seemed positively generous compared to the tight-fisted creator they portrayed. Worse yet, certain legalistic church elders taught me that I didn't receive the sight I prayed so earnestly for because I had hidden sin, a lack of faith, or ancestral sin blocking the way. That all changed on June 18, 2000 when God lovingly answered one of my most heartfelt prayers, disproving the blasphemous assumptions of my former teachers. The following is adapted from my upcoming memoir, How I Was Razed, a story of my years in a cult church and my eventual discovery of the real God..
I sighed with pleasure as the long day of moving into the new house finally ended. As I lay in bed, I marvelled at hearing a chorus of frogs instead of the maddening rumble of Edmonton's traffic. "Thanks so much Heavenly Father for your awesome kindness to me," I prayed. I drifted off to the amphibian serenade and for the first time in four years, I slept without ear plugs. Waking up the next morning, I felt as jubilant as a child on the first day of summer vacation. "Thanks for today and this wonderful house, Heavenly Father," I rejoiced as I leapt out of bed. After racing to the bathroom and checking on my bunny, Gideon, to see if the move still upset him, I opened all the windows to let in the June breezes and then ate breakfast. The serenity of my new neighbourhood astonished me afresh as I munched my cereal. Everything I prayed for, God provided. I had asked for a place outside of a town, with no nearby neighbours, and with amenities. Now I lived in a three bedroom home in Radway, the sort of place that I had yearned so long and hard for. "Thanks Heavenly Father that you get it," I exclaimed as I walked to the kitchen window and admired the sunlit trees in the neighbouring field. "You actually get it about me. This place is a miracle. I used to think that you didn't care about my feelings but here's the proof," I said as I slapped my right hand on the counter. My eyes filled with tears of joy and relief as I realized how completely the Lord understood my need for quietude.
God still hasn't given me 20/20 vision but I see much better spiritually than all those physically sighted blind guides of the blind who once judged and condemned me. I hope to have How I Was Razed in print next year. In the meantime, please check out Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) and When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) at the Inscribe Writers Group site. The page has descriptions of my books, pictures of their front covers, and PayPal buttons for your ordering convenience.

Friday, 20 November 2009

"Why should the Devil have all the good music?"

Today's christian teens have access to a wide choice of God-honouring music. Thirty-five years ago, this genre was in its infancy. LPs by a handful of Christian rockers were often found only in a few specialty record shops. Apart from Sweathog and Ocean, the latter being a pop group, I heard no Christian acts on the local rock station. Through the Edmonton Public Library's record collection and a friend I met through the Full Gospel Fellowship International, I discovered that there were artists and groups who really rocked for the rock. Here are just a few of these pioneers.

Larry Norman, who passed away in February of 2008, has a website where his CDs are available for purchase. The stock keeps changing as his organization has limited editions of his albums pressed or burned to CD-R. Even so, Larry's music was ground-breaking and unique. He often received criticism from older Christians for his songs due to the popular belief that the beat was a Satanic influence on teens.

Resurrection Band, also known as Rez Band and Rez, started out as part of a larger band called Charity in 1972. When the Jesus People community in Milwaukee split into four groups, the members moved to Chicago. As rock music was thought of as the Devil's tool by many Christian record companies, they had difficulty finding one that would sign them. They released two independent cassettes of hard rock before being signed to Star Song Records four years later. After going through stylistic and personnel changes, they broke up in 2000. The Resurrection Band site is inaccessible to screen readers but it has pictures of the group and audio of the band's music.

Stryper burst onto the music scene in the mid-eighties as a "white metal" overtly Christian band. Dressed in yellow and black, they often tossed Bibles into the audience during concerts. The group broke up in 1992, reforming and touring in 2003. Two years later, they recorded the album called Reborn and in 2009, they released Murder By Pride. Stryper, at the time of this writing, is still performing and touring. Samples of the two newest album tracks can be heard at the Stryper site. Information and photos of the band are also there.

Daniel Amos Band, also called D.A. or Da, formed in southern California, playing acoustic guitar music at coffee houses during 1974. They released their self-titled album two years later. Their 1977 LP, Shotgun Angel, showed the band's shift from country to rock stylings. The band went on to record rock albums such as Horrendous Disc and ¡Alarma! until some of the members started a side project called The Swirling Eddies in the late eighties. Daniel Amos came together again in the nineties for several more albums and concerts. Their music is still available at the Daniel Amos site.

In my upcoming memoir, How I Was Razed, I tell of how the cult church elders criticized me for the music I loved and how a handful of Christian rock records strengthened my faith. I also mentioned my passion for secular rock music in my Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir. More information about it can be found at the Inscribe writers group page.

Friday, 13 November 2009

The principle of one principal.

Did you ever get punished for something that was not your fault, even when you tried desperately to explain yourself? I had the misfortune to be doing the wrong thing at the wrong time back in 1966. In those days, corporal punishment was still practiced in the educational system. Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind was no exception. From my memoir, Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), here is one example of when I was unjustly discipline.

In all my time at Jericho, only once was I unjustly strapped. One rainy November afternoon, a small riot broke out in Mrs. McMaster's class. As we waited for her to arrive, the noise level of our chatter rose steadily. Soon children began pushing each other off of their chairs. Mrs. McMaster stood in the doorway and tried to regain order. My classmates were making too much noise to notice her. She turned on her heel and fetched the principal.

"Alright you kids, whoever's standing - come with me!" Mr. Brice thundered. I had been pushed off my chair and stood looking for a place to sit when the principal rounded me up with the other rioters and sent us to his office. One by one, we had our hands slapped with the strap.

"I wasn't doing anything wrong," I protested through my tears. I started explaining why I was out of my seat when our principal interrupted. "Don't lie to me. I saw you standing in class. Go back to your room and behave from now on." I followed the other boys back to the Music Room, fuming at the injustice of it all.

Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. This 196-page paperback sells for $25.00 through the PayPal-equipped Inscribe writers group website. It also contains 6 black and white photographs.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Royalty in the rain.

Though my exile to Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind was a hardship, it did provide experiences that I may never have had. One of those was being in the presence of Prince Philip. From my Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir, here is the account of how it happened.

Jericho received a second important visitor that year, and his coming temporarily took my mind off my troubles. Prince Philip visited Canada and one of his many stops was in Vancouver. Though a steady drizzle fell all that day, everybody was in a state of heightened anticipation. Before the prince was due to arrive, a woman from the Administration Building knocked on each classroom door to brief us. "All of you kids must wait by the parking lot to welcome His Highness," she instructed. "None of you is to stand on the road. You wait on the sidewalk next to it. Here are some Union Jacks for you to wave when the motorcade comes." The woman handed Mr Lao a box of flags to distribute to us and left.

The same messenger returned a while later to announce that the prince was about to arrive. Everyone crowded around the parking lot's perimeter, waiting for the big moment. "He's coming!" the woman proclaimed. As we franticly waved our Union Jacks, two long black vehicles drove swiftly around the lot before stopping in front of the bowling alley and swimming pool. The Jericho staff had erected a covered podium on the lawn next to the building, where we all dutifully gathered, waved our flags, and listened attentively. Since I was at the back of the crowd, I could not see what our regal visitor looked like. After a school staff member introduced the prince, he stepped up to the microphone. "I see your weathermen must have known of my visit here today. All this rain makes me feel quite at home," he quipped. I failed to understand why everyone rocked with laughter, not knowing how habitually damp the climate of England was. His Highness then delivered a long speech filled with the sort of generalities which members of the Royal Family are wont to say at public appearances. My mind wandered as the prince spoke, so I am unable to recall specific details of his speech. All I remember was that some important person with a posh accent was droning on and on while we became increasingly chilled.

After Prince Philip finished and the school officials thanked him for visiting, His Highness' staff members gave all of us blind students a ride in their black limousines. I suspect the deaf children were given the same privilege. The size of the vehicle to which we were led astonished me. I had never seen any car that large before. It even had a set of grey folding chairs which were squeezed between the front and back seats, allowing many of us to fit in each vehicle. I was not in the car with the prince but my group rode with two other officials. As the chauffeur drove through downtown Vancouver, we were oblivious of the honour granted to us. My classmates and I became engrossed in chatting among ourselves while the men in the front seat discussed arrangements for His Highness' next appointment.

When we returned to our classrooms, Tracy, a platinum blond intermediate dorm girl with a bossy voice, came around to collect our flags. "We don't have them anymore. Some deaf kids yanked them out of our hands and ran away," several of us lied. I felt strongly tempted to hand mine back to Tracy and expose the deception we agreed to but my nerve failed me. I never heard if punishments were meted out to those unfortunate students who we blamed, but we justified our covetousness by thinking that we ought to have been given those flags as mementos.

Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. This 196-page paperback sells for $25.00 through the PayPal-equipped Inscribe writers group website. It also contains 6 black and white photographs.