Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Pookie the Policeman

There are five residents in this house, two humans and three cats. The humans are seniors and two of the cats are getting close to that stage of life. The third is a kitten, a bright-eyed, affectionate, fearless and hyperactive bundle of fluff.

Experts say that cats are capable of more than 100 vocal sounds. Angus, our oldest cat, uses them all. Pookie, the second oldest, hardly uses them at all. He showed up on our doorstep almost ten years ago, just sitting there and staring at the door. When I opened the door, he walked in. He seems to believe in telepathy. When he wants out he sits and looks at the door until one of us gets up and opens it. If he’s desperate he will reach up and tap one of us on the arm. When he’s outside and wants to come in, he sits by the door and stares at it. That always works for him, though sometimes he has to wait awhile.

It’s a mystery to me how Pookie communicates with the other cats. He’s not a scrapper, he doesn’t ever make much noise, but they know not to mess with Pookie. Tuffy, the youngest cat, often jumps on Angus and they start wrestling. Nobody gets hurt, but it can get noisy at times and sometimes they chase each other through the house. It looks like Angus enjoys it, up to a point, but it’s a little like a 10 year old boy always wanting to wrestle with his grandfather.

Lately Pookie has taken on the role of policeman. Several days ago Tuffy and Angus were noisily wrestling on the living room floor. The disturbance awakened Pookie and he came to investigate. He didn’t make a sound, yet they stopped their scrap and looked at him. First he fixed Angus with a glare and Angus slunk off to hide behind the recliner. Pookie then fixed his glare on Tuffy, who slunk off in the other direction.

They were at it again this afternoon. Pookie came along as they dashed down the hall. Pookie sat down on the dining room floor and waited. Tuffy came strolling back, on a path that would have taken him in front of Pookie, then veered off and went behind him, Pookie eying him all the time. Tuffy walked over to the couch, reached up and started scratching on the arm. Pookie walked over and gave him a swat. Tuffy stopped, walked away and lay down on the floor. A few minutes later all five of us were enjoying a peaceful Sunday afternoon nap.

Thank you Howie

In the summer of 1978 I drove east to Ontario, looking for work and a home for my family. In a few days I was working in a factory that made engineered rubber parts for the automobile industry. The first week I worked with Larry who was assigned a few presses on the press line where rows of hydraulic presses produced vast quantities of rubber parts.

The presses we worked on were making sheets of 64 to 100 body bolt cushions. These parts became obsolete when automobiles switched to unibody construction, except for the monstrous body bolt cushions used in pickup trucks. The moulds had to be maintained at temperatures above 300° F to cure the rubber. We sprayed the moulds with a release agent, inserted 64 or 100 metal rings into the mould cavities, inserted slabs of raw rubber, closed that press and moved on to the next one. The Ontario summer was already oppressively hot and humid for this prairie boy and it was even hotter and more humid working over those moulds. It was a shock to my body, but that shock seemed to help me quickly become acclimatized.

For the most part we worked quickly and quietly, but the quiet would periodically interrupted by angry yells, bangs and thumps coming from Howie. I observed that this uproar happened every time parts did not release from the upper portion of the moulds as they should. Howie would have to reach in with a brass tipped bar to pry those parts down, making as much noise as he could to let us all know of his displeasure. I decided I would do well to keep my distance from Howie.

The second week I was given presses to run by myself. The first time I had parts stick to the underside of the top part of the mould and began trying awkwardly to get them down, Howie appeared beside me and took the bar from my hands. He got the parts down and then showed me once again how much mould release to spray on that part of the mould. Then he was back to his own work leaving me to meditate on how mistaken a first impression can be.

As the days went by, I realized that Howie was intense in his work, probably the best and fastest worker in the plant and got frustrated when things didn’t go right. But his anger was never directed at the people around him. He was easy to get along with, liked by everyone, and the first to help the new guy who was floundering in his work.

I worked in that plant for 15 years and learned how to operate those presses and every other machine in the plant. The most useful lesson was to not jump to conclusions about what a person was like. Thank you Howie for that lesson.

Changes in the weather

Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay 

It is mid-winter in the great white north country, but yesterday morning the temperature shot up to 6°C and it rained. The rain stopped by dinner time, then the wind came up. It started snowing in the afternoon and the wind came up higher – gusts up to 100 km/hour.

We were cosy and warm in our home, even with the wind howling around us. Then the electricity went off at 9 pm. I started a fire in the wood stove, then bundled up and went out to the wood pile in our back yard to get more. I made it to where the wood pile should be. I am sure it is still there, but now it is buried under thick, hard-packed snow. I came back inside and decided there wasn’t anything else to do but go to bed.

The electricity came back on at 10:30. That means there was a SaskPower crew out there in miserable weather, working hard to take care of us. Thank you folks.

In texting with our daughter this morning I mentioned that we couldn’t open our front door. The storm door opens out and the snow was packed tight against us. It didn’t take long until our oldest grandson was here shoveling the snow away and shoveling the front walk. I could have done it myself, maybe I need to be careful what I say to his Mom. Thank you Nathan.

I’m feeling kind of pampered this morning.

The most popular snack food of Canadians

By Bondolo – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18761126

These are Cheezies, the favourite snack food flavour of Canadians. Other snack foods come in a variety of flavours, but W. T, Hawkins Ltd. has never seen a need for ranch flavoured, barbecue flavoured or salsa falvoured Cheezies. This is the only product made by the Hawkins company, a family owned business in Belleville, Ontario.

The Hawkins company has been making Cheezies for 70 years. They do no advertising, yet Cheezies are found in every convenience store and supermarket from one end of Canada to the other. Cheezies are not available outside of Canada as the company sells everything they can produce in a production run of four and half days per week. Friday afternoon is devoted to maintenance and cleaning in preparation for the following week.

It is a simple recipe, extruded corn meal deep fried in vegetable oil and sprinkled with powdered aged cheddar cheese. The irregular shapes may be part of the appeal. Other companies produce similar products that are uniform in shape, but Canadians still prefer Cheezies.

The drama of Jesus

Image by santiagotorrescl95 from Pixabay 

Somehow or other, and with the best intentions, we have shown the world the typical Christian in the likeness of a crashing and rather ill-natured bore–and this in the Name of One who assuredly never bored a soul in those thirty-three years during which He passed through this world like a flame.

Let us, in Heaven’s name, drag out the Divine Drama from under the dreadful accumulation of slipshod thinking and trashy sentiment heaped upon it, and set it on an open stage to startle the world into some sort of vigorous reaction.

Official Christianity, of late years, has been having what is known as a bad press. We are constantly assured that the churches are empty because preachers insist too much upon dogma–dull dogma as people call it. The fact is the precise opposite. It is the neglect of dogma that makes for dullness. The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man–and the dogma is the drama.

Now, we may call that doctrine exhilarating, or we may call it devastating; we may call it revelation, or we may call it rubbish; but if we call it dull, then words have no meaning at all. That God should play the tyrant over man is a dismal story of unrelieved oppression; that man should play the tyrant over man is the usual human record of futility; but that man should play the tyrant over God and find him a better man than himself is an astonishing drama indeed. Any journalist, hearing of it for the first time, would recognize it as news; those who did hear it for the first time actually called it news, and good news at that; though we are likely to forget that the word Gospel ever meant anything so sensational.

Perhaps the drama is played out now, and Jesus is safely dead and buried. Perhaps. It is ironical and entertaining to consider that at least once in world history those words might have been spoken with complete conviction, and that was upon the eve of the Resurrection.

-Dorothy Sayers, excerpts from Letters to a Diminished Church, Passionate Arguments for the Relevance of Christian Doctrine. This is a collection of 16 articles, mostly written during World War II, collected and republished in 2004.

Gentle Mary laid her Child

In 1919 a weekly Methodist paper announced a contest for the best new Christmas Carol. The winning entry was the following poem from Joseph Simpson Cook, a Methodist minister in south-western Ontario. The tune is Tempus Adest Floridum, composed in 1582 for a Latin hymn, adapted by John Mason Neale for an English hymn in 1853, then in 1930 Ernest MacMillan, the most renowned musician in Canada of that day, created a new arrangement for this hymn.

Gentle Mary laid her Child
Lowly in a manger;
There He lay, the undefiled,
To the world a stranger:
Such a Babe in such a place,
Can He be the Saviour?
Ask the saved of all the race
Who have found His favour.

Angels sang about His birth;
Wise men sought and found Him;
Heaven’s star shone brightly forth,
Glory all around Him:
Shepherds saw the wondrous sight,
Heard the angels singing;
All the plains were lit that night,
All the hills were ringing.

Gentle Mary laid her Child
Lowly in a manger;
He is still the undefiled,
But no more a stranger:
Son of God, of humble birth,
Beautiful the story;
Praise His name in all the earth,
Hail the King of glory!

Have you left your first love?

“Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” (Revelation 2:4).

When Christians discuss this verse they often take it to mean that Jesus is saying “I am disappointed in you because you’ve lost that loving feeling.” The question then is how to tell if we’ve lost that loving feeling and what to do if we have.

What if it really means “I am disappointed in you because you’ve found somebody new?” What if love for Mammon has become more important than love for our Saviour?

It happens so subtly. Mammon offers immediate gratification and we don’t consider what this short-term benefit might do to the long-term relationship with our Lord. The first time we do it, it doesn’t seem like much has changed, so we go on, getting deeper and deeper into this adulterous relationship with Mammon.

Soon our attention is wholly taken up with the pursuit of wealth, pleasure, honour and pride and we forget the reason why we first entered into a relationship with Jesus.

The apostle Paul wrote: “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:2-3)

Who has control of your heart, Jesus or Mammon?

Wimpy evangelism

Forty-five years ago there was a city-wide outreach in our city based on the theme “I found it!” The slogan was purposefully vague so as to engage all churches who called themselves Christian.

The purpose of the slogan was to prompt people to ask “What did you find?” To which the answer was “New life in Jesus Christ.” This answer encompassed a wide range of possibilities of what the new life could be or how it could be attained.

The campaign was ambitious, including billboards, bumper stickers, radio and TV spots, mail outs and a newspaper supplement with testimonials from the whole Christian spectrum. Members of all denominations made a door to door campaign to distribute New Testaments to every home. They were ready to answer people’s questions and to ask them if they had found it or were interested in hearing more about finding it.

The whole effort was so vague, like a gray fog over the city, whose origin or meaning could not be discerned. The slogan was deliberately vague to get past the resistance of the populace and the media to all things Christian. So vague that we couldn’t clearly articulate what we were trying to get past their resistance.

“I’ve found it!” just didn’t resonate with people like another well-known slogan of the day: “Things go better with Coke!” We knew it was all over the day we saw a bumper sticker that read: “I stepped in it!” and laughed. We had tried so hard to appeal to everyone that there was no message left.

Evangelism that talks about Jesus but doesn’t try to make disciples, what good does it do? Discipleship means discipline. People willingly discipline themselves for a sport or a cause that they believe in. If Christian faith is not worth self-denial and discipline, why should anyone be interested?

If we are so afraid that people will find Christianity offensive that we try to water it down, it has no power to change people’s lives. Perhaps we should consider the success of Buckley’s Mixture cough syrup. W. K. Buckley freely admitted that it tasted awful, but said it worked. They have used advertisments that showed a bottle of Buckley’s Mixture and proclaimed: “You’d have to be really sick to take that stuff!”, followed by the question “Are you sick?” That is effective advertising.

Jesus didn’t try to sugar coat his message. He was gentle to the sinner who repented, yet blunt with the self-righteous. He seemed to look for ways to confront the scribes and Pharisees with the emptiness of their law, it’s lack of power to make a difference in the lives of sinners.

The result of wimpy evangelism is not wimpy Christians, it is make-believe Christians or outright atheists.

The first car my mother saw

My mother, who was born in January of 1908, told me that the first automobile that she ever saw was a Gray-Dort. Her uncle bought it when Mom was still a little girl and it was a sensation in their little community in south-western Saskatchewan.. I don’t know what colour or model her uncle’s car was, but it would have looked something like the picture below.

Gray-Dort Motors of Chatham, Ontario produced 20,000 automobiles from 1915 to 1925. The company was a successor to the William Gray & Sons carriage company which was founded in 1855.

About my last post

Earlier today I re-blogged an article entitled 14 things you (probably) don’t know about Christianity, but really should. The article came from the British magazine Premier Christianity and I decided to pass it on, for two reasons.

The first reason was that it illustrated a non-confrontational way of responding to the ideas that people have about Christianity. We are living in a post-Christian era where most people really do not know much at all about the faith we hold dear. Rather than writing them off as stupid we need to learn to talk about our faith in language they will understand.

The second was that the article demonstrates that clear-headed thinking by Christians does not only occur on this side of the pond (in North America).

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