Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Category Archives: Whimsy

Bird watching

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay 

We have three hummingbird feeders and enjoy watching the little guys zip to and fro. They are also very much aware of our presence and every once in a while one will come close to the window and hover there a few moments to get a better look at one of us.

Seldom Seen Saskatchewan fauna

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Image by Bernell MacDonald from Pixabay

I have hardly ever seen a live porcupine. They are nocturnal, reclusive and prefer wooded areas. We know they are around by the steady stream of dogs brought to veterinary clinics with their snouts full of quills. We occasionally see a porcupine lying by the side of the road, a result of trying to cross the road in the dark. They move slowly and wear no reflective gear. They never run from predators, their quills being an effective deterrent. Automobiles, however, do not know that and dogs appear to be slow learners.

The northern pocket gopher spends most of its life underground in its network of tunnels. We do not have moles in Saskatchewan, the mounds of soil that appear in fields, gardens and lawns are the work of this little guy. The underground activity of the northern pocket gopher provides ecological benefits to the soil, but at great inconvenience to farmers and homeowners. We only know of their presence by seeing fresh mounds of soil appear in our fields, gardens and lawns. And by the occasional one that falls victim to our nocturnal cats.

18,263 days ago,

on August 1, 1970, I married a young lady named Christine. The marriage took place in the St Barnabas Anglican church in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan; the church is gone, but Chris and I are still married. The days slip by one after another, then we wake up one morning and we are old folks.

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Early in our married life we drove a car that looked like this, different colour though. They don’t make Plymouths any more, but we are still happily plugging along.

Heart Health

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Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, health authorities have been telling us that elderly people are most in danger from the virus. Mortality counts appear to bear that out. However, studies of the data are refining that message, showing that heart health is the critical factor in whether or not one survives an attack of the virus. To be sure, the elderly are far more likely to have heart problems, but younger people with heart problems are just as apt to succumb to the disease, and the elderly with healthy hearts are likely to be survivors.

The heart is just a pump, but when the health of that pump is impaired the cells of the whole body no longer receive sufficient oxygen to function effectively. In some cases the heart is weakened by genetic defects or by disease, but most commonly it is harmed by poor nutrition and lack of exercise.

Proverbs 4:23 tells us there is a close parallel in our spiritual life: Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. No MRI will detect the heart spoken of here, yet the similarities between physical health and spiritual health are very striking.

  • Comfort food may taste good, but if that is all our diet consists of our health will suffer. We can subsist for years on familiar Bible stories and spiritual platitudes, but our health will go steadily downhill.
    For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:12-14)
    And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. (Luke 21:34)
  • Exercise is essential to our health
    But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8)
  • God supplies the “oxygen” to purify our hearts.
    Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. (James 4:7-8)
  • A healthy heart can resist invasion by a virus, or temptation
    But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. (1 Timothy 6:6-9)

Yesterday didn’t turn out as planned

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Image by cyberscooty from Pixabay

Our garage was new seven or eight years ago, the walls of osb panels which should have been covered by siding long ago. That never happened; finally I decided that at least we could paint it. So I bought the supplies and started to clean up in preparation for painting, trimming the grass around the bottom and removing everything screwed to the walls.

Yesterday morning our daughter called and said our granddaughters wanted to come and paint. And they did, along with their mother and younger brother. A couple of hours in the morning and a couple more in the evening, with their dad along this time. They applied undercoat to the whole garage and started with the top coat on the front. Those weathered walls have a whole new look.

All the other things I had planned for yesterday didn’t happen. A small price to pay for family time and a garage that looks new.

A more intense exercise

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The Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends aerobic exercise to improve cardiovascular health. That kind of exercise also improves energy levels, alertness, helps maintain a healthy weight, or lose weight if necessary, and avoid diabetes. Aerobic exercise can be any physical activity that raises your heart rate and is sustained for some time. Heart and Stroke recommends simple, low impact exercises, beginning with 15 minute sessions three days a week and working up to 30 minute sessions at least five days a week.

Is there a spiritual exercise that would do the same for our spiritual vitality? I wonder what kind of pictures pop into your mind in response to a question like that. More intense prayer and praise? I don’t know how to describe that, or just what it would do. Let’s start with something very basic.

The best way to increase our spiritual vitality is to get to know God better. After all, He is the source of spiritual life. I know of no better way to become better acquainted with God than to read His Word. Well, we do that already, don’t we? We also do some walking and other physical activity every day, too, but if we want to feel better we need to do more.

The Bible was not meant to be chopped up into little pieces and consumed one little bit at a time. That being said, most of us do read shorter passages during our normal devotional periods. But if we are looking for greater spiritual fitness, we must make a more intense effort to get the whole picture.

So here is the plan. Choose one book of the Bible and read it through in one setting. Don’t stop to analyse, just read it from beginning to end and let it sink in, a little of it anyway. Wait two days and then read it again. This time try to understand more of the big picture and how each part leads into the next. Wait two days again, then read it once more, out loud this time. Some things pop out when you read aloud that you hadn’t noticed before.

Not all books of the Bible can be read this way, but the New Testament epistles were intended to be read in churches from beginning to end. The Minor Prophets and many other shorter books should be read this way. The book of Job was probably originally told by shepherds around their campfires in the evening.

Later on, you may want to look at Bible dictionaries or commentaries, but forget them for now. Imagine you are back in the time the epistle or book was written and try to hear the message the divinely-inspired writer wanted you to hear.

If we only read short passages of the Bible, constantly skipping from one book of the Bible to another, we are like a person who looks at five pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and thinks he knows the whole picture. That is when the Bible seems obscure, mysterious, and not all that interesting. When we look at the whole picture we see details and aspects that we never knew were there. The Artist is speaking to us and we are revitalized.

Why Nit Picking Should Be Part of the Church

A touchy subject, introduced kindly. Why is it touchy? Wouldn’t most of us say we long for closer relationships within our church family? But the idea that someone might get close enough to notice a nit or two frightens us.

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The following essay was written as an assignment for a college course I took. My teacher was disturbed by the analogy (as I expect you will be) but appreciated the essay.After having lice twice (I share one incident here.) and benefiting from the patient nit picking of others, I have begun to see it as a positive thing. When one of our pastors encouraged accountability the other Sunday, I decided to post this as an echo.

In Cambodia, women perch together in doorways.  One sits patiently watching the world go past, while the other pulls her fingers through the hair of the sitting woman, occasionally pulling on a shiny dark lock, nit-picking.  They are relaxed and enjoying each other.

Unfortunately, Western culture has distorted the helpfulness of nit-picking into a negative unloving act. What changed nit-picking to something negative? Perhaps one person, being too proud to admit…

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Worthy of contemplation

While eating breakfast this morning, I worked at deciphering a page of cryptograms. It seemed to me that the these short thoughts were worth sharing. So, without further comment, here they are.

History will see advertising as one of the real evil things of our time. It is stimulating people constantly to want things, want this, want that.
-Malcolm Muggeridge

Liberty will not descend to a people; a people must raise themselves to liberty. It is a blessing that must be earned before it can be enjoyed.
-Charles Colson

One of the annoying things about believing in free will and individual responsibility is the difficulty of finding somebody to blame your problems on.
-P. J. O.Rourke

It took twelve years

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The photo is from Shutterstock, not from our garden, but we finally have a rhubarb plant worthy of the name.

We moved onto this yard in the fall of 2007. The house had been placed here a few years earlier and trees planted around it — poplar, caragana, lilac, Manitoba maple — the kind of trees that grow quickly and survive in our cold winters and dry summers. But there was no rhubarb, and a place can’t be called a home without a rhubarb plant or two in the backyard.

The next spring I bought a rhubarb plant at the Canadian Tire garden centre. I planted it in a back corner of the garden. It grew — but so did the trees. That poor rhubarb plant did it’s best, coming up every spring and trying to survive, but never amounted to much.  The trees shaded it and their roots sucked up the available moisture.

Last fall we prepared a new spot for it, in an open area far from the trees. I dug deep so as to get all the root and we transplanted it. This spring it rewarded us with prolific growth. This is what it had been waiting for all along.

Today we had rhubarb crisp for dinner dessert, and was it ever good! I’m not sure what variety this plant is, but it is the least astringent-tasting rhubarb that I have ever eaten. I wonder if I can find a second plant, so we can eat rhubarb all summer long in coming years?

Point of View, Paradigms and Prejudice

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Years ago I was stopped at a red light on Weber Street in Kitchener, Ontario. I was in the right lane, beside me in the left lane was a police cruiser. There were no other vehicles in sight. Then I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw an old black car coming around the curve and I knew he was coming too fast to stop. I yelled a warning to my wife and daughter just before the crunch. I glanced to my left in time to see the police officer roll his eyes. He turned on his flashing light and got out of his car.

The other driver was charged and decided to plead not guilty. I was called to appear in court as a witness. The driver’s defence? He had been trying so hard to avoid hitting the police car that he didn’t even see my car. The judge found him guilty.

We all make decisions based on what we see, and we are sure that we see things exactly as they really are. Or we catch a glimpse of something out of the corner of our eye and were sure we know what is happening. That is point of view. Sometimes reality intervenes to inform us that we missed seeing something that was there, or saw something that wasn’t there. An old adage says “Don’t believe anything you hear, and only half of what you see.”

The way we understand things that others do is influenced by the experiences of our life. A young lady grew up in a middle eastern culture where it was considered rude to immediately accept if someone offered you a coffee. You said no the first three times and then it was fine to accept the coffee, sit down and  visit. She moved to North America and got an office job. Her co-workers asked her a couple of times if she wanted to come with them for lunch and she said no, to be polite. They accepted the no and quit asking. She thought they didn’t want her company, they thought she didn’t want their company.

We develop mental patterns of what normal behaviour looks like and they help us to instantly understand the meaning of what the people around us are doing and saying. Those patterns can be called paradigms and they help us cope smoothly with social life–as long as we are with people who have the same paradigms, people of our own culture.
When we mix with people of other cultural backgrounds we are apt to feel disoriented, frustrated, or perhaps frightened. If we understand why this is happening, we can begin to learn and adapt and get to know these other people, who really are not a whole lot different from us.

If we are unaware that our misunderstanding is due to a difference in cultural paradigms, we are apt to judge other people as unfriendly, ill-mannered and untrustworthy. Now we have slipped into prejudice. We judge people’s conduct without understanding how they think. We decide that they are ignorant, uncaring, probably dishonest and even immoral.

Some of us do our best to avoid contact with such people and go through life in a protective bubble where we only have to do with people who think just like we do. That confirms and hardens our prejudices. I don’t believe those prejudices can be educated out of us. We might learn to say the right words, but our inner feelings will be the same. The only solution is to step our of the bubble and get to know people who are different from us.

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