Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Category Archives: Canadiana

Confused churches

Louis Riel, the 19th century Métis leader, was troubled by the things he experienced from the churches of his day. He read in the Bible about a Church of Jesus Christ that was characterized by love and peace. What he saw in both the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches was oppression and pride. The churches seemed to be the source of the mistrust and prejudice that separated native and white, French and English, Protestant and Catholic.

He saw the problem: neither Catholic nor Protestant embodied the true faith in Jesus Christ that worked by love and compassion. But he could not find a solution.

Over the years since then a majority of people here on the Canadian prairies have given up hope of finding such a church. Yet there are still hundreds of denominations and small independent groups claiming to embody true Christian faith, indicating that some people still have a longing to experience the loving fellowship promised by Jesus: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (Gospel of John 13:15)

How does one find such a church? I am going to give a list of characteristics of the true Church of God as given by Menno Simons in the 16th century. But this is not an intellectual exercise. The multiplicity of churches is the fruit of people trusting to their own reasoning. It is only by trusting fully to the leading of the Holy Spirit that one can find a way through the conflicting claims. It helps to remind ourselves that the boasting of men does not enhance the truth – and is not a characteristic of the truth.

The true signs by which the Church of Christ may be known.
By Menno Simons, written in 1554

  1. By an unadulterated, pure doctrine.
  2. By a Scriptural use of the sacramental signs.
  3. By obedience to the Word.
  4. By unfeigned brotherly love.
  5. By a bold confession of God and Christ.
  6. By oppression and tribulation for the sake of the Lord’s Word.

I plan to write a little more about each of these signs in upcoming posts.

So Send I You

After the resurrection and before Jesus departed from this world, He told His disciples “As the Father hath sent me, so send I you” (John 20:21). Just a few simple words, so clear and plain that we are apt to miss their implication.

The Father sent Jesus into the Jewish nation to teach and portray the kingdom of God, a kingdom of truth, righteousness, peace and love. The political and religious forces of the day could not stand the message and conspired to get rid of the messenger.

Jesus rose victorious from the grave and now expects people who have experienced his grace and salvation to carry the same message into a world that is just as hostile. The whole world is in a mess and the Christian will be tempted to get sidetracked into fixing the world. But that has never worked and never will work. It cannot work because the problem with the world is not corrupt and misguided people, though there are enough of those, but the real problem is the powers of darkness which manipulate the affairs of this world.

Christians are called to teach and portray a different kingdom, with different values. We should not expect that to go unnoticed by the ruling forces of the realm of darkness. There will be opposition, attempts to deflect the Christian’s efforts to a different approach that will not be a threat to the realm of darkness. Persecution is not a barbaric relic of the past, it may well be the lot of Christians today who bear witness to the light in a world that loves darkness.

Hymn writer E. Margaret Clarkson understood this reality when she penned the poem So Send I You, which was later set to music by John W. Peterson. Here is the fourth of the five stanzas:

So send I you to to leave your heart’s ambition,
To die to dear desire, self-will resign,
To labour long, and love where men revile you,
So send I you to lose your life in Mine.

-copyright 1954 by Singspiration, Inc.

E. Margaret Clarkson was born 1915 in Melville, Saskatchewan and grew up in Toronto, where she taught school for 38 years. She wrote So Send I You in 1937 at the age of 22.

Weather complaints

Image by Nobis from Pixabay 

Have you noticed how apocalyptic weather reports have become? “Unprecedented Siberian cold blankets the prairies!” “High risk of frostbite and hypothermia.”

Those of us who are native to the prairies love to complain about our weather extremes. I used to tell people that when I was a boy we had days every winter when the temperature went down to 50° below zero Fahrenheit and every summer we had days of 105° above zero Fahrenheit.

Sifting through my memories a little more realistically, I believe that 50° below zero happened twice during the years I attended school. I had a half mile walk to school, I was bundled up in layers of winter clothing and still had to keep clapping my hands together to keep my fingers warm. And the coal-fired boiler at school had a hard time getting steam up to the registers in the second floor classrooms.

As for the 105°, that happened at least once. We were having a family picnic beside Plaxton’s Lake in Moose Jaw, I was wearing swimming trunks and it took a few days to recover from the sunburn.

Yesterday we cousins had a get-together on Zoom to exchange New Year’s wishes. A cousin in Portugal said that they hardly went out to a café because it was raining all the time. She grew up in Saskatchewan, the high here was -27° Celsius yesterday, what was she complaining about?

I have concluded that we here in Saskatchewan love to complain about the weather because it proves how tough we are. We can handle it.

It helps, of course, to have a warm house, a car with heated seats, a heated steering wheel, all wheel drive and enough clearance not to get hung up on snow drifts. And a grandson who comes over with a big machine to clear our driveway.

Image by Franz Roos from Pixabay 

Smoked sinus syndrome

British Columbia is having a very bad year for forest fires. People have lost homes and property, a whole town is gone, several lives have been lost. Thousands more have had to flee their homes and businesses as the flames advance, not knowing if anything will be left when the fires are out.

Image by WikiImages from Pixabay 

My woes are not on that scale, they hardly bear mentioning at all in the face of such tragedy. Yet the smoke from those fires are having an effect on people a thousand kilometres east of the fires. The smoke has hung in the air for weeks, we have breathed the resinous smoke of burning conifers and it does carry health risks for those who are allergy prone, elderly or immune impaired.

There have been frequent air quality warnings. I’m sure many people are more seriously affected than I am; all I have is some allergic reaction in my sinuses and my eyes. That is treatable, yet those effects will persist as long as the smoke does.

Are forest fires preventable? No. Sixty percent of forest fires are caused by lightning, others by activities that would not be problematic in ideal circumstances and only a small percentage by outright carelessness.

Lets not fall into the trap of trying to find someone to blame for forest fires. Wood burns. If we enjoy the beautiful side of forests we need to accept that occasionally there will be an ugly side. Can the effects of forest fires be mitigated by better forest management and increased safety measures? Certainly greater efforts can be, and no doubt will be, made in these areas.

Springtime in Saskatchewan

Image by GeorgiaLens from Pixabay 

Spring comes with a rush here. In a few weeks we go from brown grass and lifeless trees to an explosion of green, populated by a profusion of songbirds. Last to arrive are the swallows, wrens and hummingbirds. The little guy in the picture is a Carolina Wren. They don’t come here, but the house wrens in our yard are almost the same except the eye stripe is not as pronounced. They are very active, very vocal. heard more often than they are seen.

Summer here is short, but it is intense. Today there are 16½ hours between sunrise and sunset, which explains the explosive growth of trees, lawns, gardens and field crops.

Yet this is dry country, almost desert. The Palliser Expedition 0f 1860 described a large part of southern Saskatchewan as unfit for cultivation. There have been years of drought, but the development of drought tolerant grain varieties, along with improved tillage equipment and methods that disturb the soil as little as possible have made this an immensely prosperous farming area.

The prairie landscape was treeless, except along the rare water courses. the people who settled here planted trees around their farmyards and in their towns. Many of these trees, like poplar, Manitoba maple and caragana, might be considered weeds elsewhere. But they grow quickly and survive our harsh winters.

There are native wildflowers, like the prairie lily, crocus, scarlet mallow and wild rose pictured below. You have to look for them, though; because of the climate many grow close to the ground or only in sheltered areas.

Pr

Nurseries have selected and developed a great variety of flowers, vegetables, fruits and ornamental shrubs that are hardy for this area. So, for a few months every summer, our country blossoms like a rose.

WASP to Woke

In my school days, over 60 years ago, I learned that anyone who wasn’t a WASP was less than the ideal Canadian. WASP stood for White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant. I could check all the boxes, and felt good about it.

What I received in school was an indoctrination into the Orange Order perception of Canada and Canadian history. The Orange Order frequently resorted to riots to get their point of view across to governments. They believed that people who were not white, Anglo-Saxon protestants should have no influence on Canadian society. They did not share the moral values or the nobility of character that was characteristic of WASPs. Perhaps it was not stated so blatantly, but that point of view permeated our curriculum. The books we read portrayed WASPs as noble and true, other people were shifty-eyed and untrustworthy.

There is a segment of our society that still thinks that way; I don’t anymore. One reason was my mother’s quiet influence. She was much more open-minded and that gradually undermined my tendency to be dogmatic in my attitudes. I read a lot, from many points of view, including books in French, that challenged the Orange Order view of the world that I had learned in school.

Woke is the correct way to think nowadays. The woke perception of Canadian society and history now permeates our educational system, the media and the political parties. The term originated among African-American people in the 1940’s to refer to those who were awake the the social injustices inherent in the structure of society.

The meaning has grown to encompass every perception of injustice and the need for a revolutionary restructuring of society. To those who are woke, it seems imperative to erase all prior history. The views of those who are not woke should not be allowed to be disseminated in any form to the public. In other words, we are now facing an ideology that is every bit as intolerant as the Orange Order, right down to the riots.

As Christians, we must not let ourselves be drawn into such ideological strife, either for or against the prevailing attitudes. We are part of the heavenly kingdom, a kingdom of peace and love; we serve the Lord Jesus Christ. The devils must laugh with glee when Christians get emotionally involved and make statements that do not come from the Spirit of Christ.

Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but [is] earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace. (James 3:13-18).

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.

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!

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.

My Jesus, I Love Thee

My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I love Thee because Thou has first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree.
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

William Ralph Featherston, 1864

These words were written by a teenager! Very little is known of William Ralph Featherston, except that he lived in Montreal, attended a Methodist church, wrote this poem at the age of 16 and died when he was 27. Adoniram Judson Gordon set the words to music in 1876 and it has become a much loved hymn. William Featherston did not live long enough to hear his words sung as hymn or to have any idea how many people would be inspired to a greater love of Jesus by his words.

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