Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Category Archives: Whimsy

Where will the puck be?

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Image by skeeze from Pixabay

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.” Wayne Gretzky

That’s a great quote. One element of Grtzky’s success as a hockey player was his ability to read how the action around him was going to unfold and put himself in position to take control of the puck.

With that in mind, here are my best guesses of how the COVID-19 pandemic will play out in Canada, and where the puck will be a month from now. Remember, I am not a prophet, I claim no divine inspiration for these predictions, and even Gretzky wasn’t always right.

  • This week will see the peak in the number of infections. There will still be some deaths of those already infected in coming weeks, but new infections will hit zero by the end of the month.
  • People will be cautious at first when restrictions are lifted, but the pent-up desire to get out, walk the malls and go to a coffee shop or restaurant with friends will make those places busy again.
  • The rush to reschedule everything that has been postponed: medical appointments, surgeries, meetings and events will keep everybody scrambling to catch up.
  • Farmers will be seeding, construction projects pushing to meet deadlines, factories and distribution centres going full out to keep up with demand. Unemployment will drop to low levels.
  • Globalism has been wounded. We are going to rethink the advisability of having essential goods manufactured so far away, especially medical goods. This will lead to more jobs here in Canada.
  • The tools for teleconferencing already existed but their implementation in the medical and educational fields has expanded at breakneck speed during the pandemic, especially in Quebec and Ontario. These changes will remain and spread. Online medical consultations and online teaching will make specialized services available anywhere.
  • I hope that we will lose our taste for electronic church when this is all over and rejoice in being able to physically gather together to unite in worship.

Who is in charge here?

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A friend, thinking to reprove my affection for cats, told this little fable:

A dog, upon being given shelter, food and lots of affection, begins to worship his master, thinking to himself: “Wow! this man must be a god!”

A cat, upon receiving the same kind of treatment and affection, thinks to himself: “Wow! I must be a god!”

My reaction to the fable was the opposite of what was expected. “So, if I don’t want to get a swelled head and start thinking of myself as a god, I’m better off not having a dog. A cat will keep me humble.”

OK. Dogs and cats don’t have that kind of reasoning ability. But there is a distinct difference in their attitude towards humans. Dogs are dependent on people, having lost the hunting abilities of their wild kin, wolves and coyotes. Dogs who go rogue seem to kill for pleasure rather than because they need a meal..

Feral cats have remarkable survival skills; they are excellent hunters, stealthy and patient. Perhaps for this reason they are more independent in nature. There is reason to suspect that cats became domesticated of their own volition, way back when people began to farm. Stored crops attracted vermin that provided an abundant source of food for cats. A special relationship developed from there, with farmers providing protection for cats in return for services rendered.

However it happened, any cat owner will tell you that the cat believes he is the one in charge. In return he appropriates the best chair in the house, expects to be fed and groomed on his schedule and to be let in or out a dozen times in a day.

Yet he can be affectionate when it suits his mood and has a genius for cuteness, and appears to think he is taking care of us. My cat, who looks much like the one at the top of the page, gets a little antsy when it is time for me to go to bed. When I finally get under the covers, he lays down beside me until I am asleep, then gets up and goes somewhere else. At the first glimmer of dawn he come back to wake me up.

More signs of spring

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Image by WikimediaImages from Pixabay

Ever since I was a little boy I have had this urge to get outside and do something on these sunny spring days: dig a little trench to drain a puddle of water or clear snow and ice off walkways. It probably speeds things up by about a day.

Today I cleared our front walk, and we saw our first robin! Others nearby have reported song sparrows and bluebirds.  No wonder I feel energized.

Useful words

Here are a few common English words that are sometimes misused or misunderstood.

Elegant – tasteful, graceful, comely, beautiful. It does not mean elaborate or ornate. An elegant solution is one that is ingeniously simple and completely solves the problem. The root meaning is carefully selected. 

Eloquence – fluent and effective use of language, persuasive speaking or writing.  Eloquent and loquacious are from the same root and both indicate a love for words. An eloquent person knows exactly what a word means and how to use it to greatest effect. In the case of a loquacious person, one might have to try and discern what that person thinks he is saying.

Perfect – thoroughly done, complete. When used of people it means fully grown. It does not mean flawless. The perfect tool for a job is not necessarily the newest or shiniest. It may show the effects of years of use, but if it can be used effectively to do the job at hand we say it is perfect. A perfect person is not one who never makes a mistake, but one who is mature and takes responsibility for his actions.

Quality – fitness for use. I worked for years in quality assurance, was certified by the American Society for Quality Control as a Quality Engineer. Those three words were the official ASQC definition of quality. Quality is not defined by appearance, but by usefulness. A high priced car that loses 80% of its value in the first three years, because that’s about how long the motor lasts, is not a quality vehicle. A car that costs half as much when new, and is still running dependably after three years is better quality.

The Pride of Man

Fifty-five years ago I bought Gordon Lightfoot’s first LP record. Most of the songs were ones he wrote. One, The Pride of Man,  was written  by Hamilton Camp. The song is based on Biblical prophecies of the fall of Babylon. Every stanza ends with the line “Oh God, the pride of man, broken in the dust again.”

That pretty much describes our situation during this pandemic. My plans, your plans, the plans of people much more important than you and me, they are all broken in the dust. Everything has changed.

Can we accept that? I want to go out, work, visit, shop, go to a coffee shop. It is hard to abandon all those plans for however long this situation may last. Is that an indication that my pride isn’t broken in the dust yet?

The Bible says a lot about our need of humility,  but it also warns of the danger of voluntary humility. Voluntary humility is something produced by my own will. Voluntary comes from French, volonté is the French word for will.

It doesn’t work for me to make myself humble by the strength of my own will. Why not? Because, if I can make myself humble, I am going to think that I am doing a much better job of it than you are.  I won’t say it, but I will have this smug feeling that I’ve got the hang of this humility thing. That’s the opposite of humility.

What I see in the Bible is the instruction to submit. “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord.” “Humbles yourself therefore under the mighty had of God.” James is very straightforward: “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
submit yourselves therefore to God.” “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.”

I don’t want to submit, I want to do this humble thing by myself, my own way. Therein lies the problem. My pride needs to be broken in the dust.

I fight to retain my freedom, but I don’t know what freedom is until I give up fighting and submit. Them I find my heart and mind aligned with the plans God has for me.

“Oh God, the pride of man, broken in the dust again.” That’s a good thing. May we allow this season of confinement to bring us down to earth where we can think more of others than of ourselves.

Soar with the eagles

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Image by Flash Alexander from Pixabay

Somewhere in Africa, a hunter returning home spies in a rocky place a large nest of branches on which lies a beautiful egg spotted with red. Still warm from the mother bird who will soon come back.

Curious, the man examines the nest. Delighted at his discovery, he slips the egg into his pocket to take it to his house to hatch. Since yesterday, there is a hen sitting on her eggs in a corner of his kitchen. The big egg will find its place among the chicken eggs, under the mother hen.

Then comes the day of hatching: one by one, the chicks with yellow down come out of their shells. Among them, a big one, already covered with almost white feathers! Wow!
To see him pecking with the others, jostling between them to get the mash as best he can, you would take him for a young chicken.

But look up. Is that an eagle flying over the chicken coop? At the sound of his wings, a shiver of terror passes over the village. At his raucous cry there is general panic in all the yards, the dogs bark, the pigs hide, the cows moo. Roosters and hens cackle; all the chicks rush instinctively to find cover under the wing of their mother.

The danger? What danger? Alone outside while the raptor is soaring above, he has not moved, our big chick. Far from being frightened, he lifts his head. Motionless, neck extended, he listens. It seems that he recognizes the call, this one. The eaglet! Oh yes! So well adapted to this backyard life for which he was not made, he alone hears the call. The eagles up there, with their piercing eyes, also spot him, far below, in the yard of a hunter, under the banana trees.

Every time they make their rounds, his eagle gaze scans the sky. Until the day, his wings having grown, a large bird emerges from the clouds and begins to descend towards him in gliding flight.

Then, crying with joy, the young eagle rises towards the sun.

– adapted from a story in Les bananiers du miracle, by Flora Quintin. © 1987 Réalités de la foi, Montreux, Switzerland.

So here we are, cooped up in the chicken yard, other chickens around us crying “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” We are here, but our home is not here. May we remember that.

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

This has happened before

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Firenze (Florence) Italy. Image by Daniel Wanke from Pixabay

A careful observer who escaped the plague at Florence in 1617 describes the barricaded houses and empty streets, forbidden to all but food suppliers. Florence was dead: no business activities and no religious services — except for the odd mass  which the officiant celebrated at the corner of a street and in which the people participated from behind closed windows.

-Fernand Braudel, Structures of Everyday Life © 1979 Librairie Armand Colin, Paris for the original French edition. English version © 1981 Harper & Row

SPRING!

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Image by a-mblomma from Pixabay

We heard, then saw, Canada geese this morning for the first time this spring. A reassuring sign that the wild things are carrying on as usual and spring is on its way.

He who is his own doctor has a fool for a patient

I have paraphrased the English proverb that says “He who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.” I think the medical version is appropriate for our present situation.

For someone to self-diagnose themselves as having COVID-19 and then to proclaim to have cured himself through some novel procedure unknown to medical science is not only foolish, but dangerous. Following such advice could be deadly for others.

It seems that this is a situation where we should shun all bogus medical advice, but as always there are a host of charlatans out there telling us stories and prescribing cures.

The best antidote to this is to check out  https://www.snopes.com/collections/coronavirus-conspiracy-theories/

Return of the plastic grocery bag

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Image by janjf93 from Pixabay

Amazing new discovery! Reusable shopping bags may be good for the environment, but may also be dangerous to your health.

Actually this isn’t a new discovery, there are articles on the internet from up to ten years ago explaining that reusable bags can be a breeding ground for bacteria. I guess we are supposed to wash and sanitize those bags after every use. Did you ever think of that? Me neither. But there it is; once you think about it it becomes obvious.

How is the supermarket supposed to know whether you are bringing sanitized bags into their store? It’s impossible. For that reason, at least one Western Canadian supermarket chain has announced that they are banning reusable bags and going back to using plastic bags.

Plastic bags don’t have to be bad for the environment. Most of us reused them for garbage bags and other practical purposes. Which would be more effective, a massive campaign to educate people to sanitize their reusable bags , or a massive campaign to educate people to reuse or recycle plastic bags? I would vote for the latter, as I can’t think of any way to evaluate the effectiveness of the first option.

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