Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Category Archives: Whimsy

Do you think wisdom comes with old age?

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That was the question my barber asked me yesterday. My answer was that I don’t want to believe I have wasted all 76 years of my life. I hope I have learned something from the things I have experienced.

BUT – If a man would spend his whole life trying to demonstrate that he is still young and with it – will he have attained to much wisdom there when he gets to his older years?

The zeal of youth is not the same thing as wisdom. Young people need mentors to open their eyes to see that there is more to the world than what they have yet experienced in their short lives.

When young people today feel they know what is right and it is their duty to prevent any contrary viewpoint from being heard, I must conclude that their mentors have lied to them. I can only learn to understand the world by listening to people who see the world differently than I do.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that what I believe is wrong and the other person is right. But how can I even begin to show the other person where he has gone wrong if I don’t understand the basis of his belief? Even when the vision of others is distorted it helps me to better understand truth if I can discern what is distorting their vision.

The greatest piece of wisdom that I have learned in my 76 years is that the truth is not dependent on me. Emotion and intellect can be either a help or hindrance in learning to understand truth. My perception is not infallible, I learn to see more clearly by listening to those who see what I have not yet seen.

A good understanding of truth makes a safe foundation for our lives. But truth without compassion is idolatry and that is a very shaky foundation.

Grasshoppers, girls and family gatherings

grasshoppers-1195909_1280Grasshoppers were everywhere that summer. Those of us who wore pants learned to be careful about where we walked, but I think we all still had the experience of trying to discreetly deal with a grasshopper who had flown up inside the leg of our pants. Those who wore skirts were even more circumspect and didn’t spend much time outside of a motor vehicle or a house. Of course, grasshoppers had ways of getting into those places as well.

Ladies didn’t have much reason for spending time outdoors, anyway. Grasshoppers had stripped gardens of all that had been green. One could only wait for fall and hope there might be some potatoes or carrots in the ground. As for lawns, they could disappear in an afternoon, eaten right down to the ground.

The annual family gathering at grandpa and grandma’s farm was still on. As we drove in the tree lined driveway I looked at the sheltered area where we usually gathered to eat and visit. Wood was neatly stacked beside the fire pit, but I doubted that we would be eating on the picnic benches this year.

I saw some of my younger cousins just outside the house, boys who lived in far away cities. Lisa, who lived on the farm just across the road from Grandpa’s place was just pedaling her bike down the driveway. Lisa was a farm girl, she didn’t like grasshoppers but she wasn’t going to let them spoil her summer.

The boys, having never seen grasshoppers before, were both enthralled and apprehensive.  Jared had brought a paper coffee cup from the house. He timidly held it on its side on the ground and used its cover to try and coax a grasshopper into it. Apparently he succeeded, as he stood up triumphantly, putting the lid on the cup.

Seeing Lisa just getting off her bike, he walked over and said, “I’ve got something to show you.” He held the coffee cup out to her as he removed the lid, then leaned over to look into it himself. That was a mistake. The grasshopper, seeing light above him, flew straight up and bounced off Jared’s forehead. Cup and lid tumbled to the ground as Jared jumped back, his eyes wide.

The grasshopper just sat there on the ground beside the cup, perhaps stunned from the collision with Jared’s forehead. Lisa stooped down, picked up the cup in one hand, picked up the grasshopper with the other and put it back in the cup. After replacing the lid on the cup she tried to hand it back to Jared. He backed up a couple more steps, then turned around and headed into the house.

As Lisa tossed the cup in a nearby garbage can, she looked at me and asked “Why do boys always have to be such show-offs?” I didn’t have an answer, not being all that many years removed from Jared’s age myself.

Lisa went on into the house and headed for the kitchen. I followed to look for cousins more my age and saw the young boys clustered by the basement stairs, probably trying to scheme up some excitement that wouldn’t involve grasshoppers. As I walked by them, Jared looked up and asked “Why do girls always have to be such show-offs?”

Four kinds of Christians?

In musing over the many directions taken by Christians I have encountered over my lifetime, it seems that they fall into four basic categories: ritualists; activists; survivalists and disciples. I don’t pretend that this is the nec plus ultra of analyses, but it is something that has helped me sort things out in my own mind.

Hmm, nec plus ultra, that says exactly what I am trying to say, but I wonder now if it helps anyone else understand what I am trying to say. It is Latin and means “nothing more beyond.” I think it would be understood if I were writing in French, which I’m not. What I wanted to say back there is that this explanation works for me but somebody else might be able to do a better job.

I’m not sure that I’ve found the best word to typify each category either, but here is what they mean to me;

  1. Ritualist. I would include here all those who feel the need to regularly sit in on a worship service at a certain day and time. This includes those who are strongly attached to a liturgical form of worship, but I would include all those who feel the important thing is to be there. They are not specifically drawn by the preaching or the fellowship, they just want to be part of what’s happening. Perhaps the best way to describe them is as consumers of spiritual food, rather than contributors.
  2. Activist. This includes all who feel they are called to change the world. this might include the Christian ecologist, the one who feels a burning call to enlighten the world about him about the need to prepare for the sounding of the sixth trumpet of the Apocalypse, or one who feels he has to share the message of salvation with every person he encounters, on the street, in stores, at football games.
  3. Survivalist. The opposite of category two. They have given up on the world and all their efforts are focused on just hanging on. They see danger everywhere, are suspicious of everyone. Sometimes they gather in  communities and protect themselves from outside influence by restricting social contact, sometimes even speaking a different language.
  4.  Disciples. To disciple means to teach. To be a disciple means to be a learner. This is a life-long process where one never gets to the point where he has nothing left to learn and no need of others. One cannot really be a disciple in isolation from others, or according to one’s own plan or schedule. Discipleship includes the idea of being part of a disciplined and orderly group where learning is possible.

Lest I be misunderstood, I want to emphasize that I have encountered true Christian believers in all four groups and I can recognize all of those tendencies within myself. Left to our own devices we all tend to go off on some tangent. As an elderly neighbour was wont to say “There is no moderation in the human race.”

The Great Commission is a call to make disciples of all peoples, including those next door if they are willing to listen. It is not enough to lead someone to salvation and then leave them to carry on as best they can by their own devices. The Great Commission is not fulfilled until there is a disciplined body able to function as a body, not merely a collection of disconnected body parts.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to paint a picture of a group of mindless zombies led by a dominating leader. Jesus Christ is the only Lord and Shepherd of the church. Yet He has called for the establishment of a servant leadership to watch over the spiritual health and growth of each assembly.

I mentioned moderation. It is listed as part of the fruit of the Spirit and is not something that can be taught. Yet it seems that we need to be taught the need for moderation. Part of the whole life of discipleship is learning how to relate to one another in a way that is supportive and encouraging for all and will maintain a purity of faith and life. This is what our Lord and Shepherd expects of us and the better we come to know Him, the better we will be able to relate to one another.

Be Reconciled

A moving testimony of finding spiritual freedom through contrition and confession.

Michael Conner

Have you ever felt you were wronged by someone? Have you been hurt? Have you held something against your brother? Do you have a broken relationship?

Let me encourage you to stop everything and go make things right. This is not an option but a command by Jesus himself. We shouldn’t be living in this type of pain and brokenness, especially with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Living in this state will eat at you, consuming you and make you ineffective in ministry.

Over a year ago, I had an incident with a friend/brother which nearly tore me apart to the core. When the incident happened, I was hurt and embarrassed and felt as though I was humiliated in front of a group of people.

There were several attempts at reconciliation by both parties; however, each attempt failed miserably and only turned our hearts further from each other. It…

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How to be happy

Forget about yourself. You will never obtain all the things you think are necessary for your happiness. If you could, they wouldn’t be enough anyway.

Think about others. Do some small thing every day that will boost someone else’s happiness. Start at home ­- but don’t stop there. Most of the good things you can do won’t cost money. Most of the time nobody else needs to know who did it.

The goal is not to make yourself happy, it is to forget about yourself. But happiness might just come sneaking in while you’re not looking.

Remember though, that happiness is just an incidental benefit. You can’t do something good for someone else with a selfish motive. If you do it won’t make either of you happy.

The genius of French

Yesterday’s word from Mot du Jour, a French word of the day app, was adulescent. It is one letter short of adult, one vowel different from adolescent and describes a young adult who behaves like a teenager. Another word used in the description was quincados, which means people in their fifties who try to appear much younger. Ado is the French equivalent of teenager.

I have met people like that, haven’t you? It must be a hard life, always trying to avoid confronting the reality of who you really are.

At 76 I am still very much alive, but I am not young. Seventeen was a long time ago and I don’t wish to go back. I have lived all those years, I don’t regret any of them, at least not the lessons they have taught me, but I have no longing to relive them.

That quality of being at peace with who you are is described in French as being bien dans son peau, comfortable in one’s own skin. Mine has a few wrinkles, that’s just part of being 76.

Boyhood fears

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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 they were all 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.

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. And my friends said it was half wolf. I was terrified. This went on for a couple years as passed fro 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 east of ton with a little creek running along the bottom called the Arm River. At most places the river was about ankle deep. But there was a spot several miles out of town that was wider and deeper and was used as a swimming hole. It was just 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 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 walked closer to the side of the road and he went by without paying any attention to me. 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 children.

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.

An abundance of geese

Greater Snow Geese (Anser caerulescens atlanticus), blue morphs in foreground, Alexandria, Ontario, D. Gordon E. Robertson, 2 April 2010

I asked my wife this morning if we should take today to go to the city for the things we needed, or if another day would be better. Then we got a message that the electricity would be turned off in our area from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. That was our answer. School was cancelled for the day too. When we got home in the afternoon we heard the electricity never had been shut off.

On our way to the city we saw huge flocks of geese overhead. Occasionally there would be a field beside the highway that was covered with birds, thousands of them, the majority white but many a darker colour. Snow geese: we are located on their flyway and this is the time of the year they drop in to glean in the harvested fields. Snow geese are abundant, definitely not an endangered species. It is estimated that the breeding population is increasing by 5% each year.

At one time it was believed that the dark coloured geese that flock together with snow geese were a different species. Further observation has shown that they always flock together and that they interbreed. Nowadays they are all called snow geese, with two morphs of plumage colour: white and grey-blue. Not everybody has caught on to that yet, many casual observers still think they are two different species.

Sadly, many people have also not caught on to the fact that there is only one race of humanity, homo sapiens, with a great variety in colour and size. The Bible says we are all of one origin; the apostle Paul reiterated that on Mars Hill, saying all people are of one blood.

Evolutionary biologists used to dispute that, saying that there were different races of humanity. Genetic science has caught up with them, confirming Paul’s statement. Can we all just accept that?

Apology

I want to apologize for posting a somewhat muddled English translation of the first part of the treatise on Antichrist. If you wish to go back and read it again, I believe you will find it much more coherent and easy to follow.

This is an important work and I regret making it somewhat incomprehensible by being too hasty in posting it.

The problem of age

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I was sitting in the food court with my 95-year-old mother. A young oriental lady rushed up to us, on the verge of tears, and wanted to meet and hold the hand of this old lady. I was startled at first, but as the young lady talked it warmed my heart to see her love for old people. She was from Calgary, in Saskatoon for a Youth for Christ rally. She had a grandmother, but she lived far away in China. Mom was in the middle stages of dementia and didn’t fully grasp what was going on. That didn’t matter to this young lady, she just felt drawn to my elderly mother.

The Bible says: “Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:32); and “The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness” (Proverbs 16:31).

Do we North Americans have that kind of respect for elders? It’s pretty obvious that we don’t. What’s wrong with us that we don’t have that kind of feeling for old people? The reasons are many and complex and I don’t pretend that the thoughts I give here explain everything.

Something happened when one room schools were closed and children began to be segregated by age in large classrooms. As parents accepted the idea that this was good for children, our whole society began to organize itself in age specific groups.

Parents began to believe that children learned best how to behave from their peers, rather than their parents. This was not a conclusion that they came to based on evidence. It was propagated by psychologists and sociologists. If we dare to look at the evidence, indications are that this has not been a good thing, for children, for families, for society as a whole.

The next development was the creation of youth. Neither was this an accidental development, it was the result of psychologists and sociologists downplaying the experience and wisdom of parents and discouraging children from respecting those older than themselves, or from even wanting to grow up.

Mandatory retirement was meant to make room in the work force for younger people. People were encouraged to look forward to the day when they could leave behind the drudgery of work and spend their time and energy on travel and recreation. That is, pretend you are still young and try to do all the things now that you didn’t get to do when you really were young. But life can’t be fun and games all the time, and many retirees find themselves once again pigeonholed by their age. They no longer have much in common with their workplace friends, since they are now out of touch with the things they once had in common.

Finally then, we are left with the problem of what to do with old people when they no longer appear to have anything useful to contribute to society. Too often we warehouse them in seniors’ homes.

With all the good intentions in the world, I wonder if we haven’t created places that are breeding grounds for dementia. There are many causes for dementia, of course, but when we see people who remain active and alert well into old age, most often they are people who have maintained interest in other people, especially people who are not just like them. Frequent interaction with younger people and people whose trajectory in life has been different stimulates the mind and keeps it from settling into a rut.

Interaction between old people and children can be stimulating for both. And I’m not just talking about grandparents being babysitters, although most appreciate those opportunities. Elders should be encouraged to talk about their lives, the good times and the bad, to make it real to the younger generation.

Elders should have advice to give, but not in a scolding way, or in a hopelessly idealistic way. By the time we have reached the three score and ten mark we have made an awful lot of mistakes, and hopefully learned something from them. We may not want to talk about all of them. But if we can reach back in our memories and tell where we have made a bad choice and the consequences we have experienced, the lesson we try to teach will have a much greater chance of sticking in the minds of the young.

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