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Halloween is dress-up time


Halloween is just days away now and people have already begun decorating for the holiday, planning for parties, making or buying costumes and candy, and stockpiling the scariest of movies for the October 31st celebration. For those who read my editorial about how much I love Thanksgiving, well, Halloween is a very close second-runner-up for my favourite holiday.

Unfortunately, Halloween tends to get a bad rap from some, which leads me to ask, “Do you know the origin of Halloween?”

Halloween, the celebration not the name, originated from the pagan celebration of Samhain. It is a time to celebrate the end of harvest season. It is a time to take stock of the year that has passed. Sound slightly familiar? In my opinion, Samhain holds a little bit of Thanksgiving and a little bit of New Year’s Day themes. So, if this is how Halloween originated, why has it become the “day of the dead”?

Well, it is also believed that this is the one time of the year when the veil between the worlds, the dead and the living, is thinnest. It is also the day before All Hallow’s Eve, more commonly referred to now as All Saints Day on November 1st. (And in case you haven’t made the connection yet, it is believed that All Hallow’s Eve is where the term Halloween originated.)

Disregarding the history of masks and costumes being used to scare off evil spirits or demons, I believe that Halloween is another opportunity to give thanks. This time, we can thank those we love who have passed for being in our lives and for being who they were when they were here with us. It is a time to remember them.

It is also another opportunity to be thankful for what we have right now: family, friends, health and life itself.

So why do we dress up in scary costumes, collect candy or go to parties? Because it’s fun. Do you remember being a kid? Did you like dressing up? Well, we’re all still little kids inside and Halloween gives grown-ups (as well as children) permission to dress up and be silly.

So, on October 31st remember to be thankful for those you love, here in person or here in spirit, and celebrate by dressing up and having some fun. Take a page out of Mr. Dressup’s book and rifle through your Tickle Trunk for a fantastically original costume. 


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Perspectives by Rev. Clarence Witten

It may sound kind of dumb, but sometimes when I hear two sides to an argument I think that both sides are right. 

One person makes his/her case, and I think, “Hey, that sounds good to me.” Then the other gives his/her counter argument and I figure, “Wow. That’s true too.” 

Yet d’uh. They can’t both be right, can they, if they’re making opposite arguments? Or can they?

Where I experience this the most is in two of the political magazines I subscribe to. One is very left wing, the other writes from the perspective of the far right. Boy do they differ. 

The funniest thing is that they often cover the same topics at the same time. 

So I get my right wing paper and read a defense of the west’s involvement in a war in some far off place because of the good things that will come out of it.

Then a week or two later, I’ll get the left-leaning perspective of how the west has no business being in this war and should leave immediately. 

One magazine will blast a given government policy, the other will bless it.

At the present, both magazines are writing about the Occupy Wall Street protests that are taking place around the world. And of course they both have different takes on the issue. 

One whole-heartedly supports the protests and thinks it’s great that people are taking on corporate greed and the unfair distribution of wealth on our planet. The other magazine is of course not willing to do that. It will blame someone else or something else for poverty and the economic woes we’re facing.

So what do I learn from this?

First, if I am willing to look for it and be open to it, there is truth in both magazines. But I have learned something else. In so many of the issues that these magazines address, like who is to blame for the economic mess the world is in today, they all seem to want to blame ‘someone else.’ The right blames the government and their taxes while the left blames the corporations and financial institutions.

In this blame game I remember a famous quote by Solzhenitsyn the Russian dissident. He wrote that while he was rotting away in a Soviet prison “ it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts.” 

It’s easy to blame the ‘other side’ for what’s wrong, but it’s not that simple. There’s evil in us all, including greed, and we all contribute to the brokenness of this world.

Really, I learn this lesson best from one of the Bible’s most colorful characters, John the Baptist. When different groups of people came to him to be baptized, regular folk, soldiers, and tax collectors, he pointed out that there was evil or sin in each of their hearts. How they live it out may be different for them all, but none were exempt. 

In fact, he also goes on in the chapter (Luke 3) to point out the king himself is not immune from sin. Sin or evil simply are universal. But the coolest thing we learn from John the Baptist is what to do with this sin. Turn to Jesus he tells them all. Repent of your sin, and this Jesus will cleanse you and forgive you of it. 

Great truths still for today. We may see evil in everyone else, and want to blame this group or that for what’s wrong with this planet, but one of the wisest things we can do is face up to the fact of our own contribution to the world’s problems, our own greed maybe, or wastefulness, or indifference. The fact that there is wrong with us (this thing the Bible calls sin) and to go to Christ for the solution.

When we receive Christ as our personal Saviour, as the one who died for our sin, we discover that not only does Christ forgive our sin and evil, but he also gives us power to overcome it.

And if we’re willing he will give us a spirit of love, compassion, and justice to empower us to go into our broken world to bring healing and help.

This world does have problems, but instead of just blaming others for them, in Christ, let’s become part of the solutions.


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Sharing in South Dundas

I’ve learned a lot this week. I learned that October 16th is World Food Day. I learned that October 17th is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. I also learned that while there are many people working toward eliminating poverty and helping those in need, there are also those who are bent on spreading the false perception that everything is okay and what can be done is being done.

I’d like to point out that just because you don’t see poverty everyday, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. And, like breaking a law, we shouldn’t be able to claim ignorance for our blindness to those around us who are in need of help.

Since I started working for the Leader I’ve discovered that there really is a huge world outside my door. Like many others I hid behind that door “minding my own business” and “not getting involved.”

 While I’m definitely not encouraging anyone to become a Nosy Nellie, I do believe it is everyone’s responsibility to get involved in making life better for all members of our community.

I recently attended the Community Living Dundas County’s Ladies Night Out at Matilda Hall in Dixon’s Corners. During a short speech, Board Member Marja Smellink said, “I’m grateful to live in a very compassionate and generous region.”

She’s right. This is a very caring, compassionate and generous region. There are a number of people who share themselves and their time by volunteering in a number of causes. There are also a number of people who faithfully attend events and donate where possible.

What I’m asking is whether or not you belong to that group? In the last two years of living in this community I can honestly say that, until now, I did not. I’ve had to reassess my own priorities and ask myself, “What can I do to make a difference? Where can I best help out?”

I’m not suggesting that everyone run out and join every charity. I’m not suggesting that you give your last dime to charity. I’m also not suggesting that you commit yourself to things you can’t realistically do. What I am suggesting is that you ask yourself the same questions: “What can I do to make a difference? Where can I best help out?”

And, if you can, when you buy your groceries, buy something extra and toss it into the Food Bank bin for someone who needs it. 



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The Bible’s Relevance in 2011

On October 5, 2011, during the CNN Piers Morgan Show, Piers said to Rev. Joel Osteen, “Don’t you think you should bring the Bible kicking and screaming into the 21st century?” 

Piers question, which may actually be a statement of what he thinks, expresses an all too common perspective in today’s world and sometimes even in the Church. 

The idea seems to be that the Bible’s message is dated; that because it is an ancient document it is a necessary assumption that its message, truth claims and perspective of the world must be reinterpreted apart from the author’s meaning and in light of contemporary norms. (A discussion of the acceptance of homosexuality as normal, and not sinful as the Bible states in Romans 1:24-28, was the context within which Piers stated his question.

The folly in this perspective is made clear when we remember who the author of the Bible is and how contemporary norms are arrived at. We will consider the last first and the first last.

Norms are authoritative standards of conduct or ethical values, in some way binding upon the members of a group and serving to guide that group. Such norms are contemporary when they are arrived at by actual, fabricated or assumed consensus of a current population, and they are considered right because they are said to be what most people within that population do, or at least agree to be acceptable for someone to do. 

 It is assumed in contemporary norms that majority agreement or acceptability, confirms rightness among a given group. 

We quickly recognize that the fact that because most people participate in a given behavior, or agree that it is acceptable, does not confirm the rightness of any behavior since we can easily identify wrong behaviors that most people agree is acceptable or actually do in various groupings; which behaviors may be factually harmful like smoking, eating fast foods, exploiting slave labor, etc. 

Furthermore, if norms are to be arrived at in a contemporary fashion then we confirm them to be temporary and of questionable lasting value, since what is contemporary by definition is continually undergoing change.

As a necessary point of faith, Christians recognize God as the author of the Bible. So for all genuine Christians the Bible is a communication, the quality of which is consistent with the quality of its author. 

This means that those qualities of person necessary to the proposition of actually being God govern the quality of His authorship; qualities such aseternal self-existence, omniscience, omnipotence, absolute cogency and truthfulness, infallibility, impartiality and so on. 

Furthermore, as Creator He understands the creature perfectly, while the creature remains always in a process of self discovery through every contemporary context because he is limited by his finitude. 

Yes, the Bible should be brought into the 21st century, but not kicking and screaming because it was written for the 21st century, and every other contemporary context. 

It should be brought into the 21st century to provide transcendent norms for all societies, norms that are not subject to the frailties of the creature or his tendency toward sinfulness, but are the eternal wisdom of the glory of the Creator.



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As the seasons change…

I love October. I love Thanksgiving. I love autumn. Seriously, what’s not to love?  Nature becomes a treat for all the senses with the changing colours, the cool temperatures, the smells of roast turkey and pumpkin pie… the taste and touch of comfort. 

Every October I’m reminded of a famous Bible verse, which I’m almost positive most of you have heard at one point or another. It begins: “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under the sun.”

Autumn is a time for change. It’s a time when the earth takes a much needed rest, readying herself for a full period of growth in the coming spring.

This past weekend, with the Seaway District High School graduation and the Thanksgiving holiday we found “a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.” It was a time to reminisce over memories of yesterday and talk about our hopes for tomorrow.

Graduates have entered a new phase of their lives and, just in time for Thanksgiving, they were able to share their successes (and disappointments) with friends and family. Change has embraced them and they’re being challenged to step up and be their best.

As teens transition toward adulthood, residents in the SD&SG riding prepare to make a transition of their own: a political riding that has long been red has emphatically changed its colour to blue.

Conservative Jim McDonell is replacing retired Liberal MPP Jim Brownell. 

There is “a time to keep silent and a time to speak.” On October 6th, did you speak up by voting or did you stay silent? How did the choice you made on the 6th contribute to the outcome of the election?

Will our new MPP be able to meet the challenges of his new position? More to the point, will he be able to make things happen for this riding when he is a Progressive Conservative working in the shadows of a Liberal Premier? On that note, will our Liberal premier be able to work effectively with a minority government? 

With so many questions left unanswered, can we be sure of anything? Yes, we can. “To everything there is a season…”


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Around the Township.

Tomorrow, Thursday, October 6, we go to the polls to elect our provincial government. For some, it seems to have been an election that has garnered little interest…although some sources indicate it has been heating up in the last couple of days. Be sure to exercise your right to vote and choose the person you most feel will represent us the best. What is that term the kids use in their chats…oh yeah…lol. It stands for something like ‘laughing out loud’.

My gosh the days are getting shorter, aren’t they. Monday, the alarm went, and I was sure (completely and positively sure) something had gone wrong with the clock. In fact, with eyes still closed and curled up in the warmth of the comforter, I informed the hubby “there had to be something wrong with the clock.” It was still dark outside and there was no way it was time to get up. A quick trip to the kitchen to check the clock there finally convinced us. Why even the animals weren’t yet up and going, and for sure the cat is always ready for her breakfast as soon as the first alarm sounds. If we don’t move fast enough, she usually hits the bed and perches impatiently on a pillow above our heads until we do get going.

This weekend many of our young folks return home for Thanksgiving, (generally their first good meal since they left for school way back at the start of September) and for the graduation exercises  at ‘dear old’ Seaway High on Friday night.

That being said, it’s time to talk turkey. Roast turkey with all the fixings. Better yet, roast turkey with all the fixins and some pumpkin pie. Just a few thousand calories, but who’s counting. Following Thanksgiving, we have 74 days to work off a few pounds before the next big turkey time, with all the fixins, that takes place in late December. That’s right just 74 days until Christmas. Can you believe it?

That means we have to get going…squeeze in those last few games of golf, clear out the flower beds, put away the garden furniture, complete the fall house cleaning and re-hang the Christmas lights. And for some of us there is a lot of juggling as we are knee-deep in hockey and curling and all of our favourite winter activities.

Where does the time go. Any wonder we don’t believe the alarm clock when it sounds off to tell us it is time to get up. lol…..


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Stand up. Use your voice. Be heard.

The question most frequently asked to election candidates – in some form or another – is “What about me?”

Each and every person has their own story of how they’ve been affected (or more aptly, forgotten) by government and politics. Most often what I hear are people wondering why they have been overlooked by those people they helped vote into office in the first place. 

And, consequently, at election time people are often heard speculating on whether or not there’s even  a point to voting. Will it make a difference? Does this person care about me and my family? Will they work to ensure that I find a job? Will they work to ensure that I have a family doctor? Will they protect my children’s rights to a good education?

Basically, what we’re really asking is “Do I matter?” OR “Is my voice important?”

We, as members of a democratic society, elect fellow members – no better and no worse than we – who will represent us and our needs. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, it is really hard for one person to meet the needs of every single person, especially when many of those needs will inevitably clash.

However, the majority of people are the ones who aren’t heard. They’re the ones,  living in poverty, who seem invisible to government, to government officials, and oftentimes to neighbours. What about people on social assistance who want to work, but need help making that happen? What about people working minimum wage jobs who can’t afford to pay the rent or buy groceries? What about the single mom with three small children who is trying to work, take care of her children while maintaining her sanity, all on her own? 

There are so many people with so many stories from all backgrounds, culture, religions, age groups, and so on who need to be heard. Is it the responsibility of the elected representative to know what you – specifically you – need? Or is it your responsibility to come forward and ask for what you need?

Rather than sit back – complaining, moping and feeling victimized by the system – why not contact your representative, explain your situation, and ask for some help? Stand up. Use your voice. Be heard.


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A Time to be Thankful

It may be because my wife and I have been preparing for a Missions trip to Africa lately, and all the information we’ve been receiving about what we can expect to experience when we get there, but I have been really conscious lately of all the things I have to be thankful for.

Of course, this weekend is Thanksgiving and so it is timely to write about being thankful.

In my own life, I find that I do need to stop occasionally and reflect on the blessings of being in a country such as ours as well as taking the time to look around me and be grateful for family and friends.

Maybe you are not like me, but may I ask, when was the last time you turned on the tap at home and enjoyed a good clean drink of water? It’s easy for us to do that without even thinking about it. But, where we’re going in Africa, that is virtually impossible.

So, I’m thankful for clean water. I’m thankful for local government that sees to such things even though it may cost me more in taxes to enjoy that benefit.

While I’m at it, let me say I am thankful for my family. My wife is a great blessing to me as are my two sons and my daughter and their spouses. They have given me six grandchildren for which I am truly thankful. I realize that may be a bit personal, but I am thankful and we often don’t let them know.

I am thankful also for the church I pastor here in Morrisburg. I’m amazed at their love and care for each other and for people in general. I have been blessed to be with them over the past number of years.

Most of all, I’m thankful for the love of God. Ephesians 2:4-5 says, “But God is so rich in mercy and He loved us so much that even while we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead”.

David the great songwriter penned the words, “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord and to sing praises unto His name”.

Lloyd John Ogilvie, the wonderful Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood, in his book God’s Best For My Life, says, “God’s grace, plus our gratitude, equals greatness. When we give God the glory, greatness grows in our character”.

There’s an old hymn written by Johnson Oatman Jr. back in 1897. The words of the refrain are these:

Count your blessings name them one by one,

Count your blessings see what God has done.

Count your blessings name them one by one

Count your many blessings see what God has done.

Maybe this is a good time to stop and consider all the things you have to be thankful for. Maybe because of some loss or tragedy in you life you think you have nothing to be thankful for. 

May I encourage you to take a few moments to look around. I expect you too will be surprised at all that God has blessed you with. Why not give Him thanks this glorious Thanksgiving season? Blessings to you all!


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Maud Street Paving

Although at the time of the Seaway re-construction of Morrisburg, the above paving job was being done on Park Avenue on November 12, 1957. Today, this is the west end of Maud Street. Note: the side walk is in and some of the mature trees of today have obviously not been planted.



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‘Let them be kids’

Saturday, residents of the South Dundas community showed their true colours…their wonderful community spirit…when some 250 plus showed up at the Earl Baker Park in Morrisburg to assist with the building of the ‘Let them be kids’ playground that has now been dedicated to the SD&G Highlanders.

It was a wonderful, wonderful event for this entire community. In fact the whole project from start (in June) to finish (on Saturday) has really captured the interest and support of this community. It was a wonderful thing to see.

From the start those directly involved in the committee have kept a low profile and let the community step forward, and while we are in awe of the community response, we do have to thank those who launched the project, steered it through some very busy fund raising events, and then pulled on their gloves and went to work on Saturday.

In all events there are leaders, and in all successful events these leaders are exceptional people…they lead by example…they motivate…they garner support…and they organize…and in this case they did it all in a pleasant, inspiring way.

So we would like to thank each and every one of the committee members for all of their hard work, their long hours and their dedication to the project…Matt McCooeye, Ben Macpherson, Lois Casselman, Mike Domanko, Janet Martel, Joe McCooeye, Brian Shaver, Rosemary Laurin, John Morrow, Jack Barkley and Steve Morrow.

Also a big thank you to all of the people who worked so closely with this core group. You know who you are. We know who you are and the kids probably know who you are. So anytime you want to stop in at the park and swing a swing, or slide a slide, by all means you are most welcome.

South Dundas Community playground is up and running…for the whole community, young and not so young, to come out and enjoy.