What’s new?

Cogitation Saturday 6 January #1.2018.127   I’ve made a small change in nameplate or masthead, most notably selecting Cogitation as the standard name henceforth for each post. While not earthshakingly new or newsworthy, it’s my way of simplifying and organizing my blog for the new year.

I’ve posted 126 blogs. This, then, is number 127. As the first post of 2018 it’s #1.2018.127. The next ones will be #2.2018.128; #3.2018.129 and so on. The bigger question of how long and where these cumulative cogitations will take me remains to be seen.

I enjoy writing Cogitation and, at the end of the week, glad to call it a wrap. Not all of these cogitations reflect deep thinking or contemplation worthy of the word, but that’s no reason to stop trying, especially by looking for such revelations in other people, nature, books, and, for me, the faith community where I am at home. From various readers I’ve heard appreciation for the photos from our walks and travels.  On with it!


At the clinic on Friday, an annual visit, I overheard one pensioner ask another, “Are you doing anything anymore?” I didn’t hear the reply; I just took it as a good-natured jibe. Had he asked me, I’d have said, “Sleeping in, having fun, staying busy.”

It’s fascinating how doing equals work equals worth. Work gives us our identity long after it has been the mainstay of our lives. Even thoughts of the ups and downs, the pleasures and pitfalls, of one’s past remunerative years can make doing superior to being. Being and doing belong equally together at every stage of life.

Featured photo: Beauty in winter; Gerbera daisies and other flowers received as a hostess gift on New Year’s Eve.

Reminded of uncle Harold

I have my late uncle Harold to thank for the repeated query, “What’s new?” Harold not only knew what was new–he took two daily newspapers–he reveled in recounting what was amiss in the world of politics, and in other areas, in North America and beyond.

Harold was one person who could recall every US president in the order of their time in office. He held strong opinions and was not shy about expressing them. What didn’t come out in words showed in facial expression and sometimes in hearty laughter. At times his frown was worthy of the final word on the subject.

As a youngster I helped hoe corn, look after piglets and chickens, mucking out cow stalls, and helping with harvest on Harold and Marie’s farm in southern Ontario, Canada. Harold and Marie modeled independent thinking, decisiveness, hard work, creativity, humour, love of books, choral music, Christian faith, and gracious hospitality. Marie now lives in the continuing care living community, Greenwood Court, in Stratford, Ontario. Happy New Year, Marie!

Marie and Harold Bender. Photo in Marie’s room at Greenwood Court, a continuing care living community.

The real world our elders experienced could not have been as chaotic as the one we see now, eh? When it seems that one chaotic moment on local, national and international scenes leads from one to another, and another, and another perilous state of affairs, one longs for something refreshingly new, enduringly new, timelessly new, truth-infused new, guiding light new.

I long for a deeper sense of the newness that bridges our secular and spiritual worlds. I find solace and inspiration in the everyday routines and encounters with family, friends and the public, as in the music, meditation, and prayer of worship. I take this as God’s universe, filled with wonder and awe, a universe that calls us, in Albert Schweitzer’s term, to have “reverence for life.” If only we could put that in our  peace pipes and live out the new reality of the new earth and new heaven that God provided in Jesus.

I refer to the hymn by Harris J. Loewen: “New earth, heavens new, Spirit of God moving; new seed, creatures new, Spirit of life moving; new man, woman new, image of God moving. Sing a new song to the One who has said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.'”

A task at church

On Sunday 7 January I will serve as worship leader at Prairie Street Mennonite Church. It’s Epiphany, Three Kings Sunday.

Here are two Epiphany prayers I’ve abridged, from The Complete Book of Christian Prayer, (Continuum, New York. 1997). The first is by Francis Brienen, titled: NEW YEAR

“God of all time, / who makes all things new, / we bring before you the year now ending. / For life full and good . . . for love known and shared, / we thank you. . . .

As we begin again / and take our first few steps into the future, / where nothing is safe and certain, / except you, / we ask for the courage of the wise men / who simply went and followed a star. / We ask for their wisdom, / in choosing to pursue the deepest truth, / not knowing where they would be led. / . . . Hold our hands as we journey onwards / and may your dream of shalom, / where all will be at peace, / be our guiding star.”

In the worship service I’ll excerpt a prayer by Jan Berry, from the same book of Christian Prayer: “God of gold, we seek your glory: / the richness that transforms our drabness into colour, / and brightens our dullness with vibrant light; / your wonder and joy at the heart of all life.”

The other two parts of the same prayer deal with incense and myrrh for “our search for your mystery deep within” and “we cry out to you in our suffering.”

Another Epiphany prayer is from the Church in Jerusalem and Middle East: “O God, who by a star guided the wise men to the worship of your Son; we pray you to lead to yourself the wise and the great of every land, that unto you every knee may bow, and every thought be brought into captivity through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Furry friends

A flock of American Finches have been feeding on the seed pods on our white birch tree. It’s such a pleasure to see them flitting and feeding and plumed against freezing.

The American Goldfinches in their winter coats find food in our seed-bearing white birch.

Passage to the new

Our New Year’s Eve celebration went “swimmingly.” I use “swimmingly” advisedly, with a fond memory of a tradition, some years ago that lasted for five years, of taking a New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge in Oliver Lake in LaGrange County. As I said, it’s a fond memory, captured swimmingly in the word, invigorating.

On New Year’s Eve six of us sat down to table at 7:30 and coursed our way through a delicious meal and heartwarming conversation. Each person shared deeply from reflections of the past year and anticipations of the new year. We got up from the table at midnight, more than sufficiently satisfied in body, well-nourished in spirit, and freshly encouraged in mind to “enter the new year giving blessing, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honor, power, and might to our God for ever and ever.”

A neighbor did the fireworks honors at the start of 2018..

Leftovers become a first recourse

The week has seen left-overs disappear one serving by one serving. The tuna tahini, and crab stuffed mushrooms disappeared. The pork loin with sauerkraut and broccoli stuffing bake and sweet potato rounds lasted the longest, but the strawberry spinach salad disappeared at the New Year’s Day brunch. The white chocolate cheesecake with triple raspberry sauce ran out on Wednesday. The curried carrot soup and cheeses have a number of servings left. The supply of Reo Thompson mint smoothies pack many, one at a time, future delights.

Made by Margaret Cartwright; a welcome taste for brunch on New Year’s Day 2018.
New Year’s Day relaxed brunch time.

Tidbits from the ‘sweep-clean’ pile and file

With the New Year comes new resolve to tackle tasks that have been biding their time, such as clearing out stuff, getting rid of old clothes, equipment, whatever. I’ve done a lot of that and a lot more waits to be done. I have been bold enough this week to clear out a bunch of old newspapers that took up a whole shelf in the basement. Whee! thank you for shredding and recycling services.

Before it hits the shredding pile, here’s a bit from The Stratford, Ontario Beacon Herald (Saturday Aug. 3 /1974), “Some real humor revealed in epitaphs on gravestones.” The news article begins, “Like the business it is part of, the epitaph is dying.”

“Early Canadian settlers’ tombstones offer clues to the hardships they suffered, as a gravestone from a Hamilton area cemetery indicates. The pioneering Rymal family is buried there, and from the grave of Frances Rymal we learn of a hard winter in 1865: The winter of trouble is passed / The storm of afflictions is over / Her struggles are ended at last / And sorrows and death are no more.”

John Penny, who is buried in Wimborne, England, has this epitaph: “Reader–If cash thou art in want of any / Dig four feet deep and find a Penny.”

Lester Moore, buried in the American west, has this epitaph: ” Here lies Lester Moore, / Four slugs from a 44, / No Les, no Moore.”

What else is new?

Last of the almonds and walnuts in the shell. Have you played the game based on finding a double kernel almond?

What’s new, again, for me, is an old game we played as youngsters at Christmas. I just found out its real name is Philopena. We called it Phil-ab-ly. When we found an almond with a double kernel we gave one to a sibling, cousin, parent. Next morning, or next meeting, whoever said, “Philabiy” first was to be given a gift. Now I read that a greeting could be gift enough, short of a more elaborate gift. In 2018 I’ve already found a double kernel almond–a hazelnut (filbert) would do, too–and used it to set a philopena, I won. The name is new, the game is not.

On Sunday night, 7 January, at 9pm, on Showtime, a new television series starts, called Chi.  It’s a gritty look at a Chicago neighborhood. “This is a place where a generation of hardworking black folks built a strong community only to see it weakened by another generation ill-prepared to preserve their legacy,” wrote Mary Mitchell in the Sun Times online (12/29/17).

I learned about the new show from Amber Heydon, who grew up in our church and is part of the Chi production crew.

What’s new? I look to the New Testament book of Revelation for this present tense word: “And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.'” (Rev. 21:5).

The Wolf Moon, so named by native people 

The Wolf Moon, full on 1 January, not full here since I took the photo on the 2nd. Leaves still clinging to our maple tree frame the shot, taken from indoors. I’ll be watching for the coming rare supermoon, a Blue Moon, on 31 January.

I love the hymn, “‘Twas in the moon of wintertime” in one of our hymnals. The text is by St. Jean de Brebeuf, ca. 1643. Stanza 1: “‘Twas in the moon of wintertime, when all the birds had fled, the mighty Gitchi Manitou (the mighty Lord of all the world) sent angel choirs instead. Before their light the stars grew dim, and wondering hunters heard the hymn: Jesus your king is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.”  In the third stanza “The chiefs from far before him knelt with gifts of fox and beaver pelt.”

Revel in the new and renewed.


10 thoughts on “What’s new?

  1. John, you’re going to have to start including recipes when you write about food! The White Chocolate Cheesecake with Triple Raspberry Sauce – OH. MY. And the crab-stuffed mushrooms also sound like something to salivate over!


    1. Oh yes, after consuming all that good food I should be able, with a digestive pause, to come up with a recipe or two. More snow to you and Ken.


  2. Your description of the New Year’s Eve meal leaves our mouths watering — and reminds us of many similar celebrations at your table in the past. Fun to read the account of the disappearance of leftovers. Though we thought fondly of what we were missing in Elkhart, we were asleep before midnight this year. Do keep warm in the frigid temperatures. We’re off to a festive Epiphany celebration this evening at church, followed by a potluck. Marlene and Stanley


    1. NY Eve already a week ago? The New Year stops for no one. Good memories makes me think of the comment of a great niece with whose family we used to spend a fall week in Brown County State Park. In the journal we keep she said, “We have a lot more memories but we just can’t remember them.” So we pause with gratitude for all good things past and all good things in prospect, and all good things now.


    1. Yes, once the blog is done the rest of the time is gravy. I like that it can serve as a journal as well as think piece. Best!


  3. A new year, a new masthead! Your New Year’s Eve gathering sounded peaceful and spiritual. We arrived in Ellenton that evening and opened up our winter home. The first week in January has been unseasonably cold with many nights in the 30’s F. and daytime highs in the 50’s. The Tampa TV stations were reporting Iguanas falling out of the trees from the cold! Still, not as bad as up north where sub zero temperatures were widespread.

    Happy Three Kings Sunday! Hope you have a good worship service today. It won’t be long before your Cogitations turn to Cornwall and long winter hikes!

    Monty & Ginger

    My iPad says that a smile always increases your Face Value!



    1. Weather forecast is for warmer temperatures turning to freezing rain overnight. Glad to be home, as you are in Ellenton. Enjoy your stay. Keep your hat handy.


  4. The taste of leftovers, almost as good as when they were first prepared. I too ate the last mint smoothie from Stratford. Around this time I remember fondly the lovely bake shops in France filled with les galette des rois to celebrate Epiphany. The tradition of tirer les rois (find the king) has survived the fall of the Roman Empire, the Middle Age and the French Revolution. The traditional galette is cut in a very specific number of slices, one for each person at the table and an extra slice for the first poor person passing by. I still have in a little tin several les feves, the lucky charm from eating galettes in the past and I remember once being king for the day!


    1. Thanks for the memory from France. AT fellowship meal today we had songs and cake for Three Kings Day as celebrated in Puerto Rico and Mexico.


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