Top columns for 2013, my New Year’s resolution for 2014

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, December 26, 2013

Over the 25 years that I’ve been writing weekly newspaper columns, there are two verses from the Bible that have been guiding lights for me, verses that have a great deal to do with the topic of last week’s Christmas column: peace and goodwill.

The first has to do with the kinds of stories I’m most comfortable with running. It’s found in the conclusion to the Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, chapter 4, verse 8:

“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about those things.”

Apparently, many of our readers share my feelings about the importance of these qualities, as evidenced by your choice of the top five columns for 2013.

(The calculation is based solely on email responses to each column, but comments I heard around town are consistent with these results. To review all my columns, see

In fifth place was my column for Feb. 13 on Pope Benedict XVI’s call for interreligious respect and understanding.

“The dialogue of religions is a necessary condition for peace in the world,” he said. “The shared responsibility for justice and peace must become the guiding principle.”

In this regard, I’m impressed that Benedict’s successor, Pope Francis, was named Time magazine’s 2013 Person of the Year, in part for the way he has been carrying out that mandate.

In fourth place was my column for Nov. 28 on the intriguing mosaic of cracks in the glaze on an old dinner plate. I shared a photo I took of the plate, colourized to show the image of Mary the Mother of Jesus at the Angel Gabriel’s announcement to her that she would bear the long-awaited Messiah.

In third place was my column for May 1 on healthcare professional Louise Callaghan, of Cochrane, who had a major confrontation with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma ten years ago. She shared with us her account of an event that rekindled the cancer-weary embers of her soul.

One morning while on her way to her scheduled chemotherapy appointment at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary, she saw out the car window a full rainbow. “To me,” she said, that rainbow “was a sign from God that no matter what happened, I would be fine. I ‘just believed.’”

In second place was my column for Jan. 30 on Cochrane composer Allan Bell’s gift of beautiful music contrasted against the ugliness of violent ignorance in the willful burning of a priceless library in Timbuktu and the attempted assassination of the then 15-year-old Pakistani women’s rights advocate, Malala Yousafzai.

To counter such ignorance requires real listening resulting in authentic communication, Cochrane author David Irvine said, and “to communicate you need conversation and dialogue,” not just each person saying their own thing without reference to what the other person hears, understands or feels.

Which brings me to our most-responded-to column for 2013, the one for Oct. 3 on my response to Quebec’s proposed legislation banning public-sector employees from wearing obvious religious symbols and identifiers while on the job.

This grew into a series of five columns that featured the views of prominent area spokespeople for Judaism, Islam, the Baha’i Faith, and Stoney Nakoda traditional spirituality, in addition to my own views as a Christian.

Their comments emphasized religious identifiers that no government could ever outlaw: justice with mercy, God-conscious righteousness, societal harmony, respect, and love.

The choice of love as a religious identifier that could never be made illegal was my suggestion. It’s actually part of a list referred to in Christianity as “the fruits of the Spirit.”

The fruits of the Spirit are listed in the second of the two Bible passages that have been guiding lights to me over the years as I’ve written these columns. They’re found in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians 5:22-23, where the whole list reads “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

In fact, when I combine these Bible passages that are guiding lights to me, I come up with a picture that has all the beauty of the peace and goodwill of which the Christmas angels spoke to the shepherds over 2,000 years ago and about which I wrote last week.

You’ll recall that in my Christmas column I cited Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama as modern examples of peace and goodwill – a goodwill that was characterized by massive doses of forgiveness.

Well, Cochrane reader Grayce Vanden Berg was so moved by that theme of peace and goodwill that she strongly suggested adopting it as a New Year’s resolution for the coming year. And that’s exactly what I will do:

With your help, to embrace more fully a lifestyle of peace and goodwill in 2014.


© 2013 Warren Harbeck

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