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pastoral epistles from peter plymley II.

My dear editor:

This may be the first Christmas season when the words "white powder" grab the attention of people other than skiers.

Pollsters have had lots of work lately, taking the emotional temperature of people and reporting back to them on how they feel. It appears people are least stressed in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Having more than a nodding acquaintance with both provinces, I am not surprised. I am positive it is not a question of insensitivity to, or blissful unawareness of, the world's predicament in the face of terrorism. Rather, I think people who have lived through drought, plagues of grasshoppers, the loss of subsidies while all about them are keeping theirs, and penitential winters (without the Jets and with the memory of another less than stellar Roughriders season) are better equipped to withstand stress than most Canadians.

Though the survey didn't break down the statistics province by province, I am equally confident the citizens of Newfoundland have a high stress-resistant quotient. If your lineage has fought for existence over 500 years, trying to coax a cabbage out of a thimbleful of soil left between outcroppings on the glacial rock-face; if now devoid of the fishery in the sea around the rock, equipped only with enough federally financed retraining programs to provide the entire country with beauticians and data-entry clerks -- if you can cope, then you can handle stress. (An interesting if unrelated statistic also reveals that, per capita, Newfoundlanders are the most generous Canadians in giving to charitable causes. I'll let you draw your own inferences.)

Quebec had the highest stress levels. Now that's curious. So curious, I phoned my resident unnamed source on matters pertaining to La Belle Province.

"Of all provinces that might be considered hardened to social uncertainty -- and even a dollop of terrorism -- you would think Quebec would head the short list."

"You might," replied Unnamed Source. "But you forget how thoroughly Quebecers threw off the embrace of Mother Church, exchanging it for the welcoming arms of the secular state and all it aspires to. The bare, wined choirs and the depopulated sanctuaries may have offered more real comfort in times like this than do sleek apartments and rent-share condominiums of Montreal and Florida. 'Maitres chez nous!' is less potent a rallying cry when no one seems to be master of his own house anywhere."

The newspapers also pointed to another stress-related phenomenon. Christian bookstores report sales of Bibles are booming. I wonder if such sudden interest can be all that calming to the soul seeking solace after years of indifference.

"I'd like a Bible, please."

"Certainly. Would you like the King James Version, the New King James Version, the Revised Standard Version, the New Revised Standard Version, the New International Version, the New English Bible, the Revised English Bible, Today's English Version or the Contemporary English Version, the American Standard Version, the New American Standard Bible, the Jerusalem Bible, the Living Bible or ... ?

"Stop! Just give me the most popular version!"

"Of course. Would you like it in morocco or calf leather covers, with or without a zipper closure, in hardboard or paperback? We have white (nice for ladies), blue, red, black (traditional) or denim (young people like this one). We have illustrated versions: Dore's engravings, the Great Masters, Salvador Dali, David C. Cook or..."

"Uh ... maybe I'll just look around a bit."

"Sure, Perhaps you'd like to browse in our best-seller section. The Coming Armageddon: How the Christian Can Make a Killing in Real Estate -- we can hardly keep it in stock. Maybe If I'm Raptured, Don't Say I Didn't Warn You! or how about Chicken Soup for the Very, Very Nervous Soul?, Prophecy for Dummies?, The End of the World as Revealed in Daniel and Revelation -- We Got It Right THIS Time! ... ?

You can see; dear editor, such an excursion in search of stress reduction through Holy Writ or semi-related literature (often very "semi") might have a counter-productive effect.

Ah, well, the faithful remnant, who know we have no enduring city on this earth, who know there will be wars and rumours of wars but these things must needs be, who know no one knows the day or the hour when the Kingdom comes ... and who know I have omitted the quotation marks in this paragraph, will take comfort. Especially at this time of year-- not the first troubled Christmas.

But I'll use quotation marks to close: "For behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people..."

Yours, sharing the hopes and fears of all the years,
COPYRIGHT 2001 Presbyterian Record
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Presbyterian Record
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Dec 1, 2001
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