Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Category Archives: Whimsy

How Do I “Bring People to God” Without “Shoving My Religion Down Their Throat”?

J.S. Park

caito8o asked a question:

How do you bring people to God without telling them that they are going to hell? Or “shoving my religion down their throat?” And how do you deal with people that tried Jesus and still don’t believe? I have issues with the way my church discuss these topics so I was wondering if you could bring some clarity. Thank you so much for your help!

Hey dear friend, I speak all this with absolute grace and love for you, and I’d like to go one further.

Hell is not a motivation for faith—but neither is heaven. If a punishment or a prize are the motivations for someone’s journey, then my assumption is that person hasn’t thought very far about why they’re on this journey at all. I’m reminded of that quote from True Detective:  “If the only thing keeping a person decent is the expectation…

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I wasn’t grown up yet

In the fall of 1959 I left home to go to university. The question of what I wanted to be when I grew up seemed to be settled – I would be an architect. During the last years of high school I began to pore over magazines with house floor plans and to draw my own. I dreamed of creating wonderful structures like those of Frank Lloyd Wright and le Corbusier. On the other hand, the cold glass and steel of Mies van der Rohe’s buildings left me cold.

I was accepted by the School of Architecture at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. My Grade 12 marks were good enough to win a $500.00 scholarship. Mom, as always, was supportive and encouraging. Dad didn’t say much but seemed satisfied that I was going to make something of myself.

It should have worked. I was grown up on the outside, maybe even reasonably close to intellectual maturity, but inside I was still the little boy who was afraid of the shadows on the walls. My wounded emotions were so thoroughly swathed with layer upon layer of protective bandages that I was walking through life like a living mummy, aware of what was going on around me, but never able to participate.

I had lost all interest in church and Christianity, yet had no interest in partying either. Girls were strange and frightening, unless their name was Joan. At each stage of  my years of schooling there was a girl named Joan whom I could talk to without stammering or breaking out in a cold sweat. There were four of them altogether, at different times.

I saw Coke machines dropped down the stairwells of the residence and various other shenanigans on campus. But I was a watcher, not a participant. I read or watched TV until late at night, then could barely stay awake through the lectures.

Two classes brought me to life. One was mechanical drawing, or drafting. That I enjoyed and did well at. The other was English. We spent that first semester studying three utopian novels: Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell; Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley and Erewhon by  Samuel Butler. Nowadays they would be called dystopian, but the word didn’t exist in 1959. I was intrigued and was able to analyze and comment on them to the professor’s satisfaction.

I failed the other courses because I drowsed through the lectures and didn’t study the textbooks. By the time I realized how far behind I was it was too late to make up lost time in that semester. Surely there would be some way to catch up during the next semester, but I had no plan on how to do it and was afraid to ask for help.

I obtained a student loan of $300.00 to cover my living expenses for the next semester. I cashed the cheque and put the money in my back pocket, intending to pay my residence fees the next day. Then I went down to the lounge in the residence and fell asleep watching TV. When I woke up the money in my back pocket was gone.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Sixty years ago that question was often asked of me and my friends during our high school years. The suggestion was being planted in us that we needed to become something important – to be Somebody.

Our parents had lived through the Great Depression of the 1930’s and wanted a better life for their children. They constantly encouraged us to “get an education, so you won’t have to work as hard as we did.”

Thus was planted the subliminal suggestion that work was not really a good thing. And the way to avoid it was to spend the requisite number of years in an institute of higher education in order to obtain a certificate designating one as someone who was above such a menial status.

It turned out that work was pretty much a necessity, a necessary evil one might say. So people my age did what they had to do and dreamed of that magical day of retirement when they wouldn’t have to work anymore and could spend time with their friends doing all the things they had dreamed of doing.

Reality stuck it’s ugly nose in here too. It turned out that our friends were the people we worked with. When we retired we had nothing in common with them anymore. Many retired men having, by virtue of being men, the conviction that they could fix most anything began tracking their wives around the house and advising them how they could do their work more efficiently. Finally, the wives reached the breaking point and  said, “Why don’t you go out and get a job?” Many men did and found more satisfaction in the work they did after retirement than they had in their careers.

Maybe work isn’t such a bad thing after all. Surveys say that employers don’t care much for fancy pieces of paper offered as proof of sitting through so and so many hours of tenured duty in a classroom. They are looking for people who want to serve. People who want to learn the specific skills needed by their employer to serve their customers. People who find satisfaction in contributing to the success of a team.

The robots are coming, you say? I suppose, but so far more jobs have been lost to Asia than to robots. A renewed appreciation for good workmanship would go hand in hand with a renewed sense of dignity in work.

Bean counters

People like myself (bookkeepers & accountants) are sometimes referred to as bean counters. The none-too-complimentary implication is that we spend hours at our desks sorting beans into little piles with no idea of what those beans represent. It isn’t necessarily so.

I used to work in the quality assurance department of a factory that made engineered rubber products for the automobile industry. The automobile companies asked for bids to produce parts for them. We had a team of engineers who would do a thorough analysis of the costs of producing a part and our company would bid on the ones we thought we could profitably manufacture.

One part that we contracted to make was produced on a very high tech, made in France, rubber injection moulding machine. The bid had been based on one person being able to load and unload the machine, hand trim the little bits of excess rubber and pack the parts in a shipping container. Once in actual production it was found that a second person was needed. The production management computer program showed that this skyrocketed the costs and we were losing a bundle on this part. After two years we did not bid on this part again.

Up to this point accounting had been done in an office in another city. Then an accountant was relocated to an office in our plant. She was intrigued by the huge cost overrun on this part and began to investigate. It didn’t take long for her to discover that when a second person was added for making this part, the computer program automatically added another expensive injection moulding machine and calculated the capital cost allowance and operating expenses for this second machine. When she removed that phantom machine from the calculation she found that the part had been a money maker, not a money loser.

At that point I left to become a missionary in Montréal, but I understand the company was preparing to bid on that part again the next time it became available.

Let’s eradicate Black Friday in Canada

In the USA, Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, the day that Christmas merchandise goes on sale for the first time. It’s a big thing, usually the highest dollar volume of sales for the year.

In Canada it obviously just  a crass copy-cat attempt to pry a little more money out of shoppers’ bank and credit card accounts. It has no relation whatsoever to anything in our calendar or culture. We celebrated Thanksgiving 46 days ago and Christmas merchandise has been on sale for several weeks already. Black Friday is a bizarre US import that should have been stopped at the border, much the way the province of Alberta goes all out to prevent Norway rats from crossing their border.

Here in Canada the coming weekend is Grey Cup weekend, the Canadian professional football championship. The actual game is on Sunday. I won’t be watching it, I have other things to do on a Sunday and I don’t own a TV anyway. Still, it would seem far less intrusive to me if retailers tried to profit from the excitement surrounding the Grey Cup by holding Grey Cup week sales.

Thanks-living

Unshakable Hope

Even though I cannot eat (by mouth) anymore, I still love the Thanksgiving Holiday. (I no longer have to worry about that gluttony thing).

Over my 21 year journey with this horrible disease called ALS, I’ve become a more grateful person. I also seem to notice ingratitude in myself and in others more than I did before ALS entered my life.

Through my observations, I’ve concluded that ungratefulness and unhappiness go hand-in-hand. Think about it, have you ever known a happy ingrate? Yeah, neither have I.

The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but the thankful heart will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings.” – Henry Ward Beecher

The Bible doesn’t tell us to be happy, which leads me to believe that not even God could teach happiness. However, the Bible repeatedly tell us to be thankful:

“...let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts…

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Minimum Requirements For Farming

  1. A wide-brimmed hat, one pair of blue jeans and $20 boots from the discount store.
  2. At least two head of livestock, preferably cattle, one male and one female.
  3. A new air-conditioned pickup with automatic transmission, power steering and a trailer hitch.
  4. A dog to ride in the bed of the pickup.
  5. A gooseneck trailer small enough to park in front of a cafe.
  6. A little place to keep the cows on land too poor to grow crops on.
  7. A spool of barbed wire, three cedar fence posts and a bale of hay to haul around in the truck.
  8. Credit at the credit union.
  9. Credit at the bank.
  10. Credit from your father-in-law.
  11. A good pocket knife, suitable for whittling to pass away time.
  12. A good wife who won’t get upset when you walk across the living room floor with manure on your boots.
  13. A good wife with a full time job.

[Author unknown, published 1985 in the Craik history book (my home town)]

Winter’s adventure lost

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Seventy years ago, when our family wanted to go somewhere in winter we used a cutter much like the one illustrated.  We dressed very warmly, heated a stone or two in the oven, placed them on the floor of the cutter and draped horsehide robes over our laps and feet. Nowadays, I push a button to start the car before we go out to the garage, get in the car, push the buttons to heat the car seats and the steering wheel, and we’re on our way without really feeling how cold it is.

Seventy years ago there was no equipment for keeping driveways and roads open when the snowdrifts got deep. Nowadays, we expect driveways, roads, streets and sidewalks to be as clear in winter as in summer.

Seventy years ago we got up to an icy cold house, got the wood fire going in the kitchen stove and dressed around the warmth of that stove. We shovelled coal into the big old furnace in the basement and the heat would gradually rise up to warm the rest of the house. Nowadays the thermostat automatically turns the heat up when it’s time for us to get out of bed and turns it down again when it is bedtime.

Seventy years ago we wore long underwear and heavy socks in winter. To go outside we put on a parka with a hood to pull up over the toque on our head, put insulated boots on our feet, a scarf around our neck and two layers of mitts on our hands. Nowadays, we put on a coat, and sometimes gloves, and walk out to the car that is warming up already.

Seventy years ago I enjoyed winter. Nowadays, not so much. What happened?

A rock of refuge

In 1951 the doctor told Dad he had an ulcer and needed to eat a very bland diet and find a less stressful lifestyle. Thus it happened that in October of that year we loaded all our possessions and left the land of hills and sloughs for a new home in a land of ravines and coulees.

It was mid-afternoon when we got to our new home just outside the town of Craik. I was just in the way when the trucks were being unloaded and I went to look around the yard. I checked out the barn, the chicken house and the garage for our truck. As I walked away from these buildings where all the activity was going on I discovered a ravine north of our house. It began with a large culvert under the road on the west side of the yard and seemed to get deeper as it went east. It was dry now but water must come through that culvert in spring. Soon I was called for supper and after supper it was dark and I was tired.

After breakfast the next morning I decided to see where that ravine would lead me. I hadn’t gone far when the ravine widened and I found myself in a coulee coming from the south. There was a cliff on the opposite bank that I imagined to be a buffalo jump where buffalo had been driven over and killed where they fell at the bottom. When I climbed up the bank beside the cliff and looked around I saw circles in the grass and was sure there had once been tents standing where those circles were.

At the old farm the pasture was a long way from the house, had lots of beef cattle and a few big horses. I had walked it a few times with my Dad and with my older cousins when they came for a visit, but I was a little boy with no permission to explore it alone. Here I was a big boy, nine years old already, and there was a new world to explore at my doorstep. The only cattle were a few tame shorthorns.

I walked further along the coulee. It curved to the east, back west and then north again. The bank inside that last curve was the highest in our pasture. There was a hollow depression halfway up that bank and that was where I discovered the most wonderful place in that whole pasture. There stood a giant rectangular block of pink granite with a step halfway along the top. One could imagine a giant doorstep or recliner. It was a buffalo rubbing stone, rubbed smooth by buffalo rubbing their itches for thousands of years.

The best part was that when I was beside this stone I could not see a fence, a road or a power line and could hear no sound from the roads or the town. I was back in the days before the settlers came and almost expected to see buffalo come along the coulee. This spot beside the big stone became a haven for me as I was growing up. I could walk away from the tension and anger that often existed in our house and find rest and quietness beside my rock of refuge.

There were many other wonders in the coulee. In one spot along the bottom there was a burial site marked by stones. There were wild roses, buffalo berry bushes (my father called them buck brush), Saskatoon berry bushes, tiny red flowers that I later learned were scarlet mallow. Not far from my rock was the spot where the first crocuses bloomed in spring. There were pools of water along the bottom where the cattle drank and frogs croaked. There were gophers and Swainson’s hawks that hunted them.

One time, just as I entered the coulee, a hummingbird flew up to me, stopped so close that I could have reached out and touched him, looked me in the eye for a moment, then zipped aside to let me pass. It seemed an invitation to enter the coulee where the atmosphere would spread a healing balm over me whenever I was troubled.

What’s in the bottle?

Once upon a time a family was given a wonderful elixir that would cure every disease of mankind. They bottled it in plain brown bottles and offered it for sale to others. The price was very high and it didn’t taste very good, but it worked.

As time went on the descendants of this family developed different points of view on how best to make this elixir available to others.

Group one was very careful to guard the original formula of the elixir. The size and shape and colour of their bottles varied from time to time and place to place, but it remained just as expensive and just as bitter tasting. And just as effective.

Group two thought the bottle was too old-fashioned, let’s make it more eye catching. And something needs to be done to make it taste better, so they added new ingredients. And the price is too high, it turns people off, so the elixir was made of less costly ingredients. There were many disagreements about the best way to make the elixir appeal to the greatest number of people and there began to be many variations of the product on the market.

Group three thought that they dare not tamper with the elixir, so they went to great efforts to obtain bottles that looked just like the originals. They thought they remembered what the formula was, but there was disagreement among them and soon there were many variations of the elixir on the market, all in bottles that looked pretty much the same, each claiming to be the original.

It didn’t take long for people to discover that the elixirs offered by groups two and three did not really work. Soon people began to doubt if there ever was an elixir that did work. They observed that those in group one seemed much healthier than others, but attributed it to factors other than the elixir.

This is an allegory of the churches of our day. Each one claims to be the most trustworthy steward of the faith once delivered to the saints. The world around us expects that if the faith is what Christians say it is, they should be able to see some results. Far too many have given up on Christianity altogether, deeming it to be a fraud that cannot deliver what it promises.

Nevertheless it does work for some. Why not for everybody? Isn’t it because so many who claim to be Christians seem to be more interested in how the bottle looks, the outward appearance, than what is in the bottle, the transforming power of the Holy Spirit?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. (Galatians 5:22-24)

Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. (Romans 8:9)

I believe it was G. K. Chesterton who said “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and therefore not tried.”

 

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