Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Category Archives: Stories from my life

Requiem for Tuffy

Tuffy came to us unexpectedly November 17, about a week after our first heavy snowfall. Chris opened the door early in the morning, a four month old kitten walked in, explored our home and decided this was his home. We delighted in his lively presence all winter, then he left us just as unexpectedly March 26, before our snow was altogether gone. He went out the night before and never came home. I found him lying by the roadside in the morning, stiff and cold, no doubt a victim of a passing motor vehicle and his own trusting nature.

He was friendly and fearless, curious and cuddly. The other two cats in this house hissed and growled at him that first day, he took no notice. In time they realized he meant them no harm and accepted him as part of the family. He loved to explore outside, climb trees, chas mice. Indoors he came running when the computer printer began to whir and watched in fascination as sheets of paper appeared in the output slot. When his enthusiasm went too far and he was scolded, he promptly sat flat on the floor to consider this new information. He learned not to walk on the table and to wait his turn when treats were being given out.

He grew rapidly. His size, his colouring, the shape of his head, his long hair, all pointed to mostly Norwegian Forest Cat ancestry. So did his congenial nature. No matter what we were doing, he could come along, jump on our lap to be cuddled and loudly purr his appreciation.

A few weeks ago two neighbour cats were in heat at the same time and came to our yard every day, trying to attract the attention of our cats. By then Tuffy was a eunuch, like the other two. Angus avoided the two females, Pookie chased them away, but Tuffy loved the attention. Looking on, we saw that he had no idea why they wanted to be close to him and no clue about what they expected from him.

He made several visits to the Vet clinic with me: to check for a microchip; to be immunized; to be neutered; and one last time to be cremated. A little later in spring I could have buried him here at home, but the receding snowdrifts of winter still occupy much of the yard.

Tuffy quickly found a place in our hearts and brought us much joy. We miss him. Do we expect to meet him again in heaven? No. Yet I believe that all the beautiful and lovely things that bring us joy here on earth are a foretaste of heaven. The Bible may describe heaven as being made of gold and precious stones. Hard and lifeless building materials do not warm my heart or make me long for heaven. I don’t believe that is all that heaven holds for us. God has endowed the earth with wondrous living beauty: the subtle fragrance of Sweet Williams; the cheery song repertoire of Brown Thrashers; the shimmering of Saffron Winged Meadowhawks on the lawn; the purring of a cat on our lap. Won’t we find beauty and joy beyond any of these in heaven?

I wonder – if I believed an animal unworthy of my love, would I then believe that people needed to fulfil certain conditions to be worthy of my love? I have no regrets about loving a little four-footed creature. We always knew it would only be for a time, yet never expected it to be such a short time.


(The Saffron Winged Meadowhawk is a mosquito-eating dragonfly with a red body and wings of translucent gold.)

Rulers are not a terror to good works

I received my first injection of COVID-19 vaccine this morning. That means that I have chosen to ignore the warnings of well-intentioned friends who send me emails revealing the malevolent conspiracy behind the vaccination program. That means I have chosen not to live in fear.

Image by DoroT Schenk from Pixabay 

I have chosen to believe the information provided by Moderna, Health Canada, the Saskatchewan Health Authority and other competent authorities showing that the vaccine is safe and effective. I have chosen to do what I believe will protect my health and the health of those around me.

What good do conspiracy theories do? Do they help us live happy and productive lives? Do they helps us to comfort and encourage those around us? Jesus said “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 9:32). Conspiracy theories claim to be the truth, but they lock us in a prison of fear, a prison that we build for ourselves.

My current reading list

Your Life is a Book – How to Craft & Publish Your Memoir, Brenda Peterson & Sarah Jane Freymann- Kobo e-book
Everyone has a story to tell. However, most of us are not naturally endowed with the ability to select the parts that may be most interesting to others and how to tell them without appearing teachy-preachy. I found this book informative and encouraging, albeit a touch New-Agey.

The North-West is our Mother, Jean Teillet , copyright 2019, published by HarperCollins, Toronto.
A history of the Métis nation of Western Canada, written by a Métis historian. This is a wholly different perspective than histories written by those who viewed all indigenous people, including Métis, as ignorant and irresponsible savages. Ms. Teillet has done meticulous and thorough research and the result is a book that takes all points of view into account and includes details unknown or deliberately omitted by other historians.

Defying Jihad, Esther Ahmad, copyright 2019, published by Tyndale Momentum, Carol Stream, Illinois.
A young Muslim lady in Pakistan meets Jesus in a dream and her life is forever changed. This is her story of escape from her father who is disgraced by her rejection of Islam, her confrontations with Muslim clerics, her marriage, how they lived in hiding in Pakistan, then as refugees in Malaysia and finally found a home in the USA.

Le roi des derniers jours, Barret & Gurgand, copyright 1981 and published by Hachette, Paris.
.This is a well-researched account of the city of Munster from 1534-1535. This was a Roman Catholic city that turned to a radical form of Anabaptism. They grew more and more radical, feeding on dreams and visions, believing that Jesus was about to return and establish His kingdom at Munster. They prepared to defend themselves from the surrounding forces, made Jan of Leiden their king, adopted community of goods and polygamy. They were defeated in 1535 and most of them perished.

Cathares, la contre-enquête, Anne Bresson & Jean-Philippe de Tonnac, copyright 2008, published by Albin Michel, Paris.
Anne Bresson is one of the leading authorities on the history of the medieval Albigenses or Cathars of southern France. She has drawn much information from the records of the testimonies of the Albigenses before the Inquisitors and is favourably inclined toward their faith. This is a difficult area of research and so little information is available, and I’m afraid that some of what she has discovered may have come from individuals who had accepted divergent teachings and who were somewhat connected to, but not part of, the Albigensian faith.

Beyond Order, 12 more rules for life, Jordan Peterson, copyright 2021, published by Random House Canada.
Jordan Peterson is a Canadian psychiatrist, university professor and public intellectual. His first book, 12 Rules for life, has sold five million copies. This is a follow up, offering counsel for how to face life when it is chaotic. Jordan Peterson is the polar opposite of the woke sensibility that is creeping over our world. He does not explicitly call himself a Christian, but finds in the Bible the best guiding principles for a fulfilling and useful life.

Hills of Zion, Andrew Lambdin
I don’t even have this book yet, but it is a novel about the Waldensians set in 1208-1209.

Day one of my eightieth year

Image by M W from Pixabay 

Another birthday, this one is number 79. That many candles on a birthday cake would set off the smoke alarm; perhaps I should feel more alarmed than I do.

In my younger days I couldn’t comprehend the world being able to withstand the impact when all those 9’s in 1999 would rotate to become 2000. It seems I wasn’t alone in having irrational fears about that date, but it is 21 years behind us now. So many years are behind me now that I begin to wonder how many remain in front of me.

I had my annual physical checkup yesterday and the doctor found my heart and lungs were sound. I complained of sciatica in one hip and he thought it was probably arthritis. After checking out the range of pain free movement in my legs he dismissed that idea. So I am hale and hearty, with twinges of discomfort here and there to tell me that my body remembers all those years that are behind me.

As I grow older it becomes clear that I need to choose to become the kind of old guy who is interested in the people and goings on around me. There are enough complainers already, saying how the world isn’t what it used to be, mainly because no one cares about them anymore. Some old people are story tellers, they are more interesting, but eventually you have heard all the stories and they’re not learning new ones.

Story telling isn’t a bad thing. Every person has a story that is interesting and instructive to others, but some folks get into a rut of telling and retelling just a small part of their story. It believe it would be a good school project for upper grade children to interview the elderly, try to draw out their stories and write them down.

The really delightful older people are those who want to hear your story, and those who ask you what you want to hear about the things they have done and seen in life. It seems to me that people like that usually don’t develop dementia so soon as others. There are many causes of dementia, but medical experts tell us the brain is a plastic organ, able to develop new paths of memory in people with an active curiosity.

I consider myself to have an active mind. At times my curiosity leads me to information that causes me to change my mind about something. That is a healthy exercise for the mind. Another helpful exercise would be to become more of an active listener to other people. Not an aggressive listener, but less of a passive observer. Just as I have to choose to get physical exercise because my work no longer involves much physical activity, so I must choose to do things that exercise my mind, to keep it fit and healthy.

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.

Asphalt cowboys

Image by fkevin from Pixabay 

Our oldest grandson obtained his 1A license yesterday, which means he is qualified to drive a tuck like the one illustrated above. That brought back memories of when I worked in the Post Office in Moose Jaw almost fifty years ago.

Most of the time I worked the night shift, which was when most of the semi-trailer trucks came in. These trucks had to come down a narrow back alley with power poles along one side, pull into the loading area behind the Post Office , make a U-turn and back up to the loading dock. Chief (not very respectful, but that’s what indigenous men got called) came from Calgary. He came down the back alley geared down but full throttle, made the U-turn and backed up to the loading dock. The trailer was always square on to the loading dock with no gap to trip over when unloading. Pop came towards morning with a full load from Winnipeg; he drove more quietly and slowly, but he also got square to the loading dock the first time, every time.

Chief and Pop were the only 100% reliable drivers, none of the others could ever get square to the dock in those close confines. Occasionally a driver would make several attempts, but still leave an open angle between the trailer floor and the dock. We were thankful that those trucks never had large quantities of mail for us. None of us ever got hurt taking bags and packages out of those trailers, but the danger was there. Usually one of us would get into the trailer and throw stuff out to the others.

Extra truckers were called into service during the Christmas rush. I remember one who wouldn’t even venture into the alley. He looked it over and then decided to park in the street in front of the Post Office. We wheeled a cart out to the street and he handed the mail bags out to us from the side door of the trailer.

How did we make it this far?

shutterstock_100042940

Nothing has been heard from this corner for ten days. I don’t have a good explanation for that, except that my mind has been elsewhere. Our 50th wedding anniversary is coming up in a few days and I have been contemplating how we got here and where do we go from here. In between all that heavy thinking I have been able to get some useful things done, like finish painting the garage and clean out much of the accumulated detritus inside.

When Chris and I married on Saturday, August 1, 1970 I was 28 years old, had a good job and a place to live; Chris was 17. I think in some ways she was the more mature person. I had grown up walking on eggshells is dread of the next explosion of anger from my father. He was never violent, except with his tongue, but that left me with a fear of anything that might lead to conflict.

But I found a new Father a few months before the wedding day. In the spring of the year I was facing a crisis, several of them in fact. A feeling of doom was building up inside and I didn’t know what to do. I took a drive around the countryside to consider that dark cloud in the fresh air and sunshine. When I got home I knelt and confessed to God that all of my troubles were of my own doing, they were not the fault of anyone else, and asked Him to forgive me and help me find a way out. Then I made a very open-ended promise: I would do anything He asked of me for the rest of my life.

It didn’t seem like anything much happened, yet the feeling of doom was gone and I was able to make rational decisions. Several months later it dawned on me that my life had changed, my interests and my goals were leading in a totally different direction and that change had begun when I prayed. Up to that time I had taken a very cynical view of people who claimed to be born again; most of them were not any more honest or honourable than others who made no boast of knowing God.

But I could not deny that I had changed, was still changing. That must be what the Bible calls a new birth, the beginning of a new kind of life. It’s not so much that I know God, but He knows me and remembers the promise I made back in the spring of 1970. Every once in a while He asks me to do something, often it is a habit or an attitude that needs to go, and reminds me that this is part of what I promised. I believe that is a big part of the reason I am still married to the same lady after 50 years.

What are we afraid of?

wolf-1284276_1920.jpg

I was afraid of a lot of things as a boy, the two main ones being girls and dogs. Girls were different, mysterious; they didn’t look, talk or act like boys. The thought of actually speaking to one crippled my mind and my tongue.

Yet there was always a girl or two that I could talk to without stammering like an imbecile. For some reason most of them were named Joan. Thinking back, it might have been because Joan was the most common girl’s name for that era, just like Robert was for boys. There were two grades to a classroom in our school and three Roberts in my class. In order to distinguish between us we were known as Bob Dixon, Bobby Adamus and I had to be Robert Goodnough.

There were two girls with whom I never had a problem visiting and they weren’t even named Joan. But they were cousins and that was even better. By now I think I have pretty much gotten over my fear of girls, of any age. I finally plucked up enough courage to ask one to marry me. Then we had a daughter to raise and by now we have two teenage granddaughters.

Dogs were even worse than girls. Not all dogs, but any big dog that barked was surely some kin of the Hound of the Baskervilles. I had a half mile to walk to school, straight down the west side of town. Halfway between home and school there was a house set well back from the street with a dog chained up outside.

Every day, when I walked by that house, the dog would bark. It was a big, dark coloured dog. My friends said it was half wolf. I was terrified. This went on for a couple years as I passed from nine to ten to eleven. I didn’t pray much in those days, but every time that dog barked I prayed that God would protect me from that evil wolf dog and give me the courage to keep on walking.

There was a wide coulee several miles east of ton with a little creek running along the bottom called the Arm River. At most places the river was ankle deep. But there was one spot that was wider and deep enough for children to swim in. It was an old-fashioned swimming hole, completely unsupervised, the nearest house a half mile away.

I didn’t go there often, it was too far and I couldn’t swim. I was afraid of water, too. But I knew that I was in no danger of drowning in that swimming hole; if I stood up in the deepest place my head was well above the water.

One day as I was walking home from school I saw that evil wolf dog trotting down the road toward me. I took to the opposite side of the road and he went by without paying me any attention. I noticed two things as he passed – he was dripping wet, and the pupils of his eyes were rectangular horizontal slits, not like the eyes of any dog I’d ever seen before. He was a wolf dog for sure.

The next day I heard that he had been down at the swimming hole. A young boy who couldn’t swim had gotten into the deep part where the water was over his head. He was floundering, gasping for air and calling for help. The dog had jumped in, the boy had grabbed his long fur and the dog had towed him up and out of the water. Apparently the dog was quicker thinking than the boys.

Thus ended my fear of the evil wolf dog. What had I been afraid of anyway? It wasn’t the dog, it was the overheated thoughts in my own mind.

Isn’t that how it is most times? Often, the things we fear the most have no existence outside of our own minds. Those thoughts can paralyze us. I wonder if, in our present circumstances, fears like that might not be doing more harm than the virus. I don’t mean to suggest that we should act as though the virus is not dangerous; let’s take all necessary precautions. But at the same time, let’s pray to God to be set free from irrational fears that hinder us from reaching out to those who are lonely, or in any kind of distress.

Only an empty box

shutterstock_298396817

Agnes grew up 100 years ago on a farm in southwestern Saskatchewan. Her parents were members of a church which called itself Mennonite and worshipped in the German language. At home the family spoke a Low German dialect called Plautdietsch, and English.  There were 14 children in the family, spaced about two years apart. Agnes was number six.

The church claimed to hold to the original Mennonite faith. In her teens Agnes memorized a summary of the teachings of that faith, a German catechism which dated from 1792 and the bishop baptized her. She was the only one in her baptismal class to memorize the whole catechism, yet they were all baptized. The catechism said that they needed to be born again to become Christians and eligible for church membership, but the bishop said nothing of that.

Agnes was the last child in the family to learn German. As time went on, she realized the church had nothing for her younger siblings. Really, it had nothing for her. The catechism told of a faith that had once been, might yet be in some other place, but had died in this church. All that remained were traditions that could only be taught in the German language.

The church was like a box with ornate German lettering claiming to be the faithful remnant of the ancient Mennonite faith. But when Agnes had opened the box, she found it empty. So she threw it away. She remembered what the catechism said about Christian life, but did not found that life in the box.

Agnes was my mother; I am my mother’s son. That is why I have never found the “Mennonite culture” to be attractive. I didn’t want the box, I wanted to find the faith. In my adult years I searched for a place where the ancient Mennonite faith was still a living thing, not just words in the ai in a language I couldn’t understand. And I found it.

%d bloggers like this: