My Jacket

Going from having no home or occupation to creating the bakery we did for 5 years was the grand miracle.There were many smaller ones along  the way like the tale of my jacket.
On our first family Christmas at Little River   I could tell that Sarah was very excited about the gifts she had prepared for us. With eyes sparkling  and a smile on her face she handed them April, Melody and urged us to open them  first. We were soon delighted to try on lovely jackets with Little River Bakery embroidered on them  They have served  us well since both as coats and reminders of our Bakery days .
On a warm day last September  while working outside, the heat beckoned me to shed my jacket. Hanging  it on a nearby  fence  post  I continued working…..At the end of the day when I went to retrieve it…. it was gone….The loss was not just the jacket but all it represented. of the bakery and an oven full of memories ……Our opening day snow, free donuts, over one hundred customers. Our last day while loading our final item on to the moving van, a lady drives up and walks purposely towards the door.Upon seeing the empty room sighs and disappointingly says I guess you don’t have any bread or cinnamon buns today.She was  the final symbol of how loyal and dedicated our customers had been.I was reminded of Mrs.Mitchell, almost 90 who came 1/2 a mile with her walker to p/ u  her favorite loaf and treat! My oh My. Our baked goods crafted by hand received by our customers who left us with love⁰Then came the last Wed….. of this March.The next day  l was doing a speech on Little River Bakery. . I finished another days labour and I had a small hand full of litter to dispose of. Being hungry I could have just put in my pocket and gotten rid  of it another time…..
Have you ever watched a movie where the climax will turn out well if the character does something at the moment. While watching you shout into the TV,   “come on, come on, open that door”!!!!!….I heard you !!!!… and went to the garbage room and walked towards the three bins….. Upon opening the lid of the first bin I saw  something that looked warmly and wonderfully familiar.
The grand audience and “the giver of all good gifts” whispered intimately and lovingly to me,…. “Michael it’s your jacket”….and so it was!

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Lasting Value and Enduring Quality

Lasting value and enduring quality is not only the buzz line of the home builder’s ad I heard the other day. It testimony to what was built into my life 44 years ago and has sustained me in the ebb and flow, highs and lows, triumphs and challenges of my existence since. Let me tell you how this came about.

In the spring of 1974 my friend Ron and I were in an on-going debate about existence and life in general. Ron would mention at times the return to his Christian faith. It irked me when he did and I stated that after all the things we had been involved in together, “this religious thing” would separate us. To the contrary, he boldly stated that it would bring us closer together than anything else would. After some further back and forth, he had had enough. In the mail I got a note from him, it said: “Michael, get off your but and get up here.” Ron, after finding work at a saw mill owned by his second cousin, had been urging me to join him for some time. Included with the note was a one way bus ticket from Vancouver to Crescent Spur, the mill site, along the Fraser River between McBride and Prince George. Two days later I was on my way. Getting off the bus on an early spring afternoon with the sun shining and the snow sparkling like diamonds, I walked down the valley road to the Spur.

Coming across the house owned by Ron’s cousin, Bill, I stepped up to the porch and knocked on the door. It was soon answered by his Bill’s wife, Sylvia. As I introduced myself the smile on her face got larger. “Well Michael!” she said, “We’ve been waiting for you for a long time.” And so it began the next day as I started working in the mill and became a part of the community.

A community anchored in love, fellowship, friendship, care, compassion, discipleship, encouragement, faith, fun, joy and delight. I recognized that the under-girding bedrock aspect of the life of these people, who so lovingly welcomed me into their midst, was their Christian faith and how they daily lived it out. Ron’s bold statement came fully into being as I became united with the community through becoming one with them in their faith. To this day this has been of lasting value and enduring quality.

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Virtue and Ability

“The virtues of men are of more importance to society than their abilities and for this reason the heart should be cultivated with more diligence than the head” Noah Webster-lexicographer

While reading a book by Antonin Scalia, Supreme Court Justice, this quote jumped out at me. It was the lynch pin and inspiration for this speech. Virtue and Ability are both of great importance. The former is the foundation for the latter.

Scalia as with any Supreme Court justice was loaded with ability. He and fellow Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg were polar opposites: he being a bed rock conservative and she an ultra liberal. However they had such love, respect and appreciation for each other that she wrote the forward for his book. Their mutual ability was a source of consternation when on opposite sides of written opinions. In this current age of acrimony it was their shared virtue that brought them together so warmly.

Ty Cob was a ball player of great ability in the early 1900’s who spent most of his career with the Detroit Tigers. He was a mean and often miserable son-of-a-bitch who would have spiked his own grandmother to get to first base. The players on his team did not like him, never mind those on opposing teams.

Jose Fernandez was a young star pitcher for the Dodgers. A Cuban refugee brought to the states by his loving mother who instilled virtuous qualities with him. With his exuberance that he brought to every game, he was not only loved by his own teammates but by players and fans alike throughout the league. Thinking of the two ball players, who would you rather be?

There was a shooting recently where a whole family was killed except for the fifteen year old son. Initially he claimed to survive by hiding in the basement. Further investigation proved him to actually be the shooter. Here was a case of obvious ability in committing the crime and then claiming innocence. The total picture shows someone bereft of virtue, much to society’s loss!

There is a loss when something of quality produced through ability is not built on virtue’s foundation. Many movies in the Christian genre are full of virtue and good intention without being well made. Audiences are not attracted and the message is missed. So both virtue and ability are vital parts of the equation towards having a positive affect on society.

Let me close by looking at Ebeneezer Scrooge. My favourite Christmas tradition has been watching the 1951 version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ with Alistair Sim. Here was a person with great ability to make money but really lacking in societal virtue. Generosity in any form was emphatically humbug. Then with intervention of spirits and other characters a transformation takes place. Forgiven for being “an old fool with no eyes to see with and no ears to hear with”, Scrooge becomes a generous provider and celebrant in a wedding of financial ability and virtuous giving.

I am by no means perfect in this way. Indeed, it is many failures and their consequences that compel me to personally improve. In case, fellow toastmasters, you consider this a testament to good works alone it is not. I cannot sustain the effort on my own but only as I imitate and give way to the One who said: “Follow me.”

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Shalom 2019

Last year one of the many woodworking projects Michael enjoyed creating in his woodworking shop at our daughter, Melody’s house in New Westminister was a door box for our apartment door. I lettered “shalom” on it and a sunflower which we grew that year in our community garden out in front of our apartment building entrance. It reflects 2 of Michael’s passions: woodworking and gardening.. We have had shalom (which includes the peace that only Jesus can give …. not as the world gives) through the challenges and joys that we lived last year.
The door box receives notices, invitations and messages inviting us to participate in the many community activities here at City Heights. Where-in we have been getting to know our neighbours including the Temporary Modular Housing building for the homeless that was installed almost on our door step last fall. Michael now cooks a dinner meal for them on the weekend.
This has brought about us attending a local Church (Christ City Church South Van..) It is such a delight to walk to this community oriented church early enough to allow Michael to start work at 10:30.

He has a 30 foot commute to work. His wages and an inheritance April received gave us a bright red 2017 Honda Fit. This little roomy economy car transports salvaged wood and other redemption finds in the city.
We also traveled in the summer to cook for CFO camp and visited with family and friends on Vancouver and Quadra Island. (during the week pensioners travel free!). Michael had his 50th grad reunion in Terrace where my Mom and brother and family live. We drove up in our FIT in August enjoying the beautiful scenery and history, friends and family in Kelowna and McBride as well as a wonderful reunion with Michael’s class-mates and April’s family. This little red car we will take to bring in the new year with dear Quadra Island friends. The car was parked though, when we took a re-positioning cruise to L.A. on the Star Princess in October. What a wonderful way it was to see Michael’s favourite mission: Home-Boy Industries in Los Angeles.
April painted this nativity scene and has dabbled in a few other artistic endeavors this past year. A trip to Spokane Washington to the Healing Rooms Summit was a highlight for her. It is a great joy to be so close to our children and grandchildren. Daniel, Sarah-Jane and grandson Isaiah live in East Vancouver. Many games, Movies and dinners together have been enjoyed. Sarah, Jonathan, Callie and Sylvestor live in a co-op on the New West Quay and lots of walks along the Fraser River has brought precious memories to keep. Melody, Forest and 14 month old Elaina see Granpa often as he helps with their garden and makes sawdust in his shop at their house in New West. Thanksgiving, Christmas and other family gatherings are often in their beautiful home.

April went to get her eyes checked last year and where she previously was prescribed glasses, she was surprised to find that she now has 20 -20 vision. Thinking about the year to come and all the turmoil and loss of stability, confusion of what is true and not and what to base truth on in the world this past year. Next year may you have 2020 vision and Shalom which comes from the Prince of Peace, Emmanuel!

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“I Sure Miss Those Cinnamon Buns!”

Cinnamon Buns doz

   “Hey Dad, can you bake some bread to send me to Uganda?” And so it began, with tin foil pans, two regular ovens and an arm-strong mixer. Sarah got to Uganda and I was in the dough.
   Trout Lake Farmer’s market needed a bakery stall and Conchie Creations was born providing bread, cookies and muffins on a weekly basis from April to October. The weekly bread was the means of our daily provision. With three ovens and a baking table in the basement our production increased as the demand grew. By the time we moved to the last place in Vancouver we had gone from basement to garage, arm strong to Hobart and from 3 domestic ovens to 2 commercial gas convection ones. We were selling up to 400 loaves in 3 hours after having baked from Friday morning to Saturday morning.

Bread Stand

   When we had to move from our garage we left the city and set up our bakery on a 5 acre hobby farm in Comox. For the first year there we baked, sailed and sold to our Vancouver customers. We had the van loaded at 3 am, caught the 5:15 ferry from Duke Point and were set up by 9:30. Realizing the grace extended and the potential perils of continuing after the first successful season, we said goodbye to the Vancouver market and became vendors at the Nanaimo market on Friday and the Comox Valley market on Saturday. Baking all night Thursday for Friday’s market and all night Friday for the Saturday market we stretched grace to the limit again and realized the short-term sustainability of this endevour.

In February with a few months to go before the market opened the idea came to stop the market and open a retail bakery. Having built a local clientage through the market we set up a display counter, shifted things around and advertised the grand opening of Little River Bakery. With the allure of free donuts along with fresh bread and cinnies, we had over 100 people who came to our grand opening. A year later Sarah returned the favour of raising money for her African trip by writing a “First Year in Business” article for the local newspaper, and for Christmas giving us Little River Bakery Jackets.


It was a wonderful 5 years of rewards, equal to and greater than the work we put into it. Our regular customer base drew from Campbell River to Union Bay some 50 miles south, along with visitors from around the world. Shortly after our 5th anniversary of business it was time to move on. We had left our mark though as the new people on the property for a long time after had to put up signs saying “The Bakery is no-longer here”.

 In the early spring, 10 years later, I was in the doctor’s office in Campbell River with a fellow staring at me from across the room. With a look of recognition and a smile, he said: “Sure miss those cinnamon buns!”

Bakery 2006
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Tall? Yes! Tales? Perhaps Not.


Bound for glory

   They say truth is stranger than fiction as the following seeming exaggerations are actually absolutely true. “This body is bound for glory, yes sir this body is bound for glory”


     The mile run, grade eight. Short one for the mile run. No problem! Sure I’ll enter. The inspiration for Roger Bannister? No prior running experience … ready – set – go! Leading in a great quarter-mile. Half mile –  the view from behind. Three quarter mile – lapped and exhausted. Finish line – last by a mile – crossed like a winner – arms held high.

        On to grade nine. Vaulting horse somersault. Attempt after attempt. Finally, with fellow students lining both sides and our coach spotting. Success – wild cheers – hair tousled – “Michael, we knew you could do it.”

        Labour Day,  Friday,  early seventies. Flush with cash after a summer of fruit picking,  buy a blue beauty of a ten-speed. Peddle off from Penticton to spend the weekend with friends in Kelowna. Tuesday morning, leave  Kelowna bound for Vancouver. Multitude of adventures along the way. Two wheels on my bike just rolling along until coming across a bridge into Kamloops, my front wheel sinks between the planks – away I go – another somersault – this time over the handlebars! A car stops – takes me to hotel and bike shop. Wheel straightened – night of good sleep. By Friday have arrived in Vancouver after walking, rolling and cruising through the Fraser Canyon and Valley. Monday off to Campbell River via Horseshoe bay.  Arrive in time for dinner at my folks place.

       Chariots of fire, the story of Eric Liddel, the great Scottish racer who loved to run, champion Olympian who attributed his success to God. Saw the movie, bought the Reboks, ran the course, a mile from the house, around the track three times, back to the house. Lasted for some months until one runner went missing. Striding ceased.

      Winter Olympics, years later. Canada behind a couple of gold in the medal  count. My daughter and I on the rugged snowy hills of Quadra in a Cool Running’s revival in tandem team tobogganing on our handcrafted Canadian Tire cardboard steed. Dual gold brings the metal count over the top.

      And now a mulch based badminton/volley ball court prepared and ready for play. Game anyone?

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shekina Dove_Marked

Turning Point 

I was struggling with depression around the age of 17 and with a silent cry of my heart and my parents being moved to pray for me: God “smiled” at me! I experienced Shekinah Glory: ( the visible manifestation of the presence of God. It is the majestic presence or manifestation of God in which He descends to dwell among men ) and I experienced Shalom: completeness, wholeness, peace, fullness, harmony, safety …… Heaven! Jesus was the bodily presence of God on earth; the Shekinah Glory Cloud that covered the tabernacle of God, the Glory Cloud that entered Solomon’s temple is now here with us!
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God ……. John 1:14 The Word became flesh, and lived among us. We saw his glory, such glory as of the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth”. Jesus said in John 14:26-27 “….the Counselor (or in some verses Comforter), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and will remind you of all that I said to you. Peace (Shalom) I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, give I to you.” God, Jesus sends His Spirit, to live in those who choose to receive Him …. we are now His dwelling place … His temple.

And so He smiled … smiles at me. I cannot paint or describe the experience …. it is beyond illustration or description! Here in this painting I have given somewhat of an impression.

In Psalm: 69 verse18 King David says: “Draw near to my soul, and redeem it. Ransom me because of my enemies.” This is what Christ did for me …. for us all!
In Colossians: 1:26-27 Paul says: “the mystery which has been …. revealed to his saints, to whom God was pleased to make known what are the riches of the glory …. which is CHRIST IN YOU, THE HOPE OF GLORY;”

Spurgeon says “The near approach of God is all the sufferer needs; one smile of heaven will still the rage of hell. It shall be redemption to me if Thou wilt appear … to comfort me”.


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Looking Up

Michael and I have been awestruck at how God moved us to Vancouver from beautiful Quadra Island in July of this year. Despite our declaration: “We will never move to Vancouver!  last Christmas in the car inching along for two hours from the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal to our family in the city, we have been marvelling at and talking about the blessings of being here adinfinitum. 

Howevever yesterday I was struggling. We had just enlisted a new family doctor who on our intial meeting seemed very impersonal. Now I was on my way to his clinic to attend to some hives that were appearing all over my body. I had lived with them thinking it was the clorine in the water or ant bites I was reacting to. But when I woke up in the morning with two big blotches on my face I panicked and headed to the bus stop.

Once there I settled on the bench remembering a very difficult first trip to the clinic on this same bus with Michael in a wheel chair and the frustrating time trying to get his staples out on his broken leg …red tape and run around. How blessed we were to have had our friendly attentive Quadra doctor. 

While I was sitting there looking down at my feet a sweet voice said: “It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it!” I looked up surprised, to see a little old round face smiling at me. “The bus will be here shortly” she said, nodding towards the digital sign doing a bus arrival count down. 

“Yes, it is!” I replied …. this was like Quadra Island where you greeted and talked to everyone you met.

“It is God who controls the weather.” She said eyeing me and pointing up to the sky “Do you believe in Him and He’s there?”

I said: “Yes!”and right then tears began to run down my face. Her sweetness and faith were melting my pent up anxiety. I quickly assured her that they were tears of happiness, the bus arrived and she motioned for me to board first. I walked down towards the end of the bus until I found a seat. 

“Why are you going to the end of the bus? I wanted to sit by you and talk some more.” 

“Oh!” Familiar island friendliness again. We  sat together and chatted about our children (she has 6 , two in heaven). We talked about Heaven and our hope in Jesus. The tears were still running down my eyes. At my stop she patted me on the shoulder and said: “Your going to be all right … keep looking up!”

And I did. I walked into the clinic and in the room our new Dr. smiled at me and examined my spots with kind eyes. I think we have a future with him, the hives are healing and I will always remember the little old angel God sent to remind me of His presence and care for me just when I needed it most.

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Cooking it’s what I Do

I started cooking in Mom’s kitchen making my favorite things.

Since then I’ve: Chased a bear away from the cook tent door … catered a banquet for Vancouver’s mayor and help the Canucks get to the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Final round.
Roasted a turkey for my neighbour …. served 2000 people hot-dogs and hamburgers for an anniversary street party.
Prepared meals for RCMP officers in Vancouver and gold miners in the Yukon.
Produced a multitude of cakes for all occasions … Thousands of loaves of bread …. a whole lot of cinnamon buns.
Worked in the best equipped urban kitchens … Over a camp stove on the tundra.
Baked alone through the night … Directed numerous teams in creating the finest of feasts.
Dealt with mishaps, break downs and break ups of every sort and still managed to get the meal served.
Have worked in kitchens of every size and description from movie sets to lake side lodges.
Have transformed miscellaneous supplies and goods on hand into tasty delights, satisfying the appetites of many men, women and children.

Short term, respite interim or relief. A special event, a weekend or two, whatever your need, I will take you from hunger to happiness. Cooking, it’s what I do.

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Expect the unexpected

Camera Uploads “Expect the unexpected” was a phrase we saw in the late 80’s scrawled on a sign beside a voxwagen crushed under a huge log as we travelled on the road to Zebellos and then onto Esperanza. As many unexpected events were experienced there and in our life thereafter I should not have been surprised by the recent turn of events in our time here at Pioneer Pacific Camp on Thetis Island. I began in the spring wondering what my role would be here at this beautiful place and the Lord promptly told me it was not about me but about Him.

We were enjoying the quiet of the camp in June and preparing for the summer when we received a call from my daughter thence I found myself in Vancouver while Michael stayed here at Pioneer cooking for Staff training week. While I was praying with the pastor of our Vancouver church about my situation I received a phone call from the program director at Pioneer that while Michael was on a prayer walk he fell and broke his right leg in 3 places.  Thus began a month which Michael and I journeyed through together (yet 2 ferries apart) via nightly telephone conversations.

While I was a mom to my youngest daughter in need and enjoyed the beaches and Vancouver summer events, wonderful times with my children and their families, two lovely ladies who I lived and prayed with, reconnected with friends and most impacting of all learned that He was there with me and my daughter every step of the way… unexpected as it was.

After an operation to put tubes in his leg and a week or more of recuperation, Michael encouraged by an amazing, loving and gracious community of staff at Pioneer took his place as head cook in the kitchen. An office chair that we were inspired to bring with us became his vehicle from which he learned to delegate and teach an enthusiastic kitchen crew.

At the end of July after much urging and reports of the amazing things that were going on at Pioneer, Melody and I arrived at this Christian camp where it was hard not to see what God was doing and who He was.  Michael has Sydney,  a young fellow as an assistant cook who majored in and is very gifted in logistics. They make a very good team and we missed him when after three weeks Melody returned to Vancouver, Sydney with her for a weekend with his family.

Unexpected as it has been this summer we have discovered a place where we can see the Lord working in many ways in the leaders, Leaders in Training, Pioneer Youth Campers, Summer Staff, campers and guests and Thetis Island neighbours. It is an exciting place to be. Everywhere as I walk around the camp I see young people reading God’s word, demonstrating and living God’s word, teaching God’s word. I have learned that He is our strength… that is the strength and the joy that is here …. for it is about Him. “In Him we live and move and have our being”

In two weeks, two camps time we will be looking at what we will be doing, where we will be living and what God is doing.  Right now we are not thinking about that but we know and have confidence that our future is safely in his hands….and we know that we can expect the unexpected and it will be OK! Go to our webpage for more info.

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