Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Going paperless

In school we learned poems about log drives in Quebec. Loggers worked all winter in the forests and in the spring the logs were floated down the rivers to the paper mills.

That is history, nothing but folklore anymore. There are still lumber mills; there are mills producing tissue paper, computer paper, glossy magazine paper, but the logs are all hauled by truck. And the last newsprint mill in Quebec is closing.

I suppose I am part of the problem. I’m still pretty much a news junkie, but I don’t buy newspapers anymore. I read them on my cell phone.

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Now I can read the daily newspaper from our nearest city, a national English language newspaper, a national French language newspaper, a newsmagazine from France, a provincial French language weekly newspaper, pretty much anything I want to read is available to me on that little device in my pocket.

Paper newspapers are getting thinner, some have died, more will die. Montreal’s La Presse, the largest French language newspaper in North America, does not use paper anymore. It is all available on the internet, and only on the internet.

Think of the money that is saved in the cost of paper, ink and distribution. Not only that, but its reach has greatly expanded. Paper copies of la Presse were never available here in Saskatchewan, unless you wanted to pay for a mail subscription. But then the news would always be stale. And don’t let me get started about the reliability. or lack thereof, of our postal system. Now the news is constantly updated and available to anyone with a cell phone.

The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix will not longer deliver paper copies to rural areas. That’s fine, it’s right here in my pocket on my phone. The National Post ceased distribution of paper copies in Saskatchewan a few years ago. No problem. I can’t find l’Eau Vive , a weekly newspaper printed in Regina, anywhere in Saskatoon. I don’t care if they never print another copy, it’s so much handier to read it online.

Moose Jaw is the old home base for our family and I am still interested in what goes on there. The Moose Jaw Times-Herald ceased publication last year after 112 years of daily publication. There is still a bi-weekly newspaper, but something even better has appeared – the Daily Jaw, an online newspaper.

I’m an old guy, old-fashioned and resistant to change. But paperless news is change that I like.

Meeting God in His Word

I grew up in a home where the Bible was read every day and we attended the Anglican Church every Sunday. I became a member of that church when I was 11; a few years later I became an altar boy and continued faithfully until I moved away from home to attend university.

There was a time when God seemed very near, yet never did it seem like a connection was made. After I left home, I lost connection with the church and with the Bible. It seemed to me that most churches talked a lot about God, but followed a path that didn’t have much to do with God. The Bible was suspect, too. Perhaps some of it was inspired by God, but it seemed to contradict itself, most of it must be the opinions of those who wrote it.

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When I was 24, I borrowed a well-worn Bible from my parents and began reading it again to try and sort out what was really the Word of God and what was man-made additions. After several years I knew that was an impossible task. This book, written by 40 different people over a period of 1,500 years, was only one book. Every part of the Bible was connected to every other part. It was either the Word of God from beginning to end, or entirely a man-made fraud.

The second option seemed less and less tenable as I saw how the Bible explained itself as I read the whole thing. The so-called contradictions disappeared as I began to discern a purpose in them and see how God had revealed Himself step by step to recalcitrant mankind.

Then came the day in 1970 when I was reading the Bible and God pointed His finger directly at me and told me I was a sinner. And I knew it was true. On my knees I admitted to God that all that had gone wrong in my life was my fault and no one else’s. That was the point where my relationship with God began.

That relationship has grown over the years. I have read the Bible through many times, in both French and English. I don’t follow any Bible reading plan that leads me skipping hither and yon through the pages of the Bible. It is only meaningful when I read a book of the Bible through and get the whole picture.

From time to time God still points His finger at me and tells me “You’ve been struggling with that temptation, that bad attitude, or that unwillingness, for long enough. It’s time to repent of it, to clean house.” And He gives the grace to do it. I am constantly amazed at His patience, with the people of Bible times and with me.

The purpose of daily reading and meditating on the Word of God is not to learn about God, or to learn how to please God. Our motivation for opening the Bible must be to meet with God, to deepen our acquaintance with Him whose actions and purposes appear on every page, who inspired those 40 men over a millennium and a half to write the things that are in the book. We will learn about God and about how to live a life that is pleasing to Him, but that has to be a result of first learning to know Him in a personal way. The teachings of the Bible will not stick if we do not know the Author.

Poverty + Prejudice ≠ Hopelessness

Some years ago I read an article in Ebony magazine written by a man who had grown up in one of the worst black tenement ghettos in Chicago.Drug dealing, crime and violence were the everyday reality and the police felt the area was too dangerous to send in individual officers to patrol.

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Like almost all the other children in this ghetto, this man and his two siblings grew up in a single parent home without much money. Their mother wanted her children to escape the ghetto and the first step was not to give in to hopelessness. She introduced them to the library and to museums and did everything that she could think of that was educational and free. When they went to the store to buy something she let the children pay and then count the change to see that it was right.

All three of those children finished school, went on to university and established professional careers. And they moved their mother out of the ghetto.

The man who wrote the article was now a lawyer. He wrote about going back to visit his old neighbourhood and trying to look up the boys he had grown up with. Some were dead, others were in jail, all the rest had criminal records. None had escaped the hopelessness of the ghetto.

There are a multitude of government programs to help children escape the effects of prejudice and poverty. Billions of dollars are being spent. What are the results? A lot of well paid government jobs to administer the programs. Besides that – not much.

One mother with hope and determination made a difference. No government program can create a mother like that.

Now available from Amazon

Many years ago, Andrew Ratcliffe had a dream that helped him find his bearings in living as a Christian. He wanted to share this dream with others; the manuscript travelled from hand to hand and wound up on this side of the water in the hands of my wife. Chris has spent months editing and polishing the manuscript. Our son-in-law, Ken Klassen, did the cover layout and now it is available on Amazon as both a paperback and an e-book.

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Hari and Rudi, two teens in Lancashire, England, skip school one morning and happen upon a houseboat that’s been docked while the owners go shopping. They decide to explore the boat and have far more adventure than they want when the craft comes loose from its moorings and carries them down the river and into a whirlpool. The boat breaks up and the boys are about to be sucked down to a watery death when they are miraculously rescued and facing an adventure of a far different kind.

Waking up in a strange country, they meet the first of many beings representing the fruit of the Holy Spirit. They begin their allegorical journey through this curious land; they see Jesus and witness his death on Calvary; then, with the help of Joy, Peace, Love, Patience, Goodness and other fruit of the Holy Spirit, they learn important lessons in Christian life.

I’m back

Thank you to all those who kept checking this blog over the past two weeks, looking for some sign of life. I did give some small signs that I was sill around, but not as much as I wished to do.

In the beginning I was bogged down with fiscal year end catch up work for my bookkeeping clients. Then I was hit by a cold and sinus ailment. It wasn’t so bad, but it seems that one loses enthusiasm for doing all he wants to do when breathing becomes even a little more difficult.

Image associéeI am feeling much better now and back to daily sessions on my Needak rebounder, identical to the one shown at the left. (But I don’t look quite like the gentleman in the photo.)

This is the best investment I have ever made in fitness equipment. I have been using it for two years now and my stamina has increased, my abdominal muscles have strengthened, my balance has improved and I have lost 24 pounds. I think that increased blood flow has had good effects on my thinking, too, but the evaluation of that may vary depending on whom you ask.

The photo is copyright, I hope Needak will forgive me for using it.

Meanwhile, Chris has been having her own headaches helping someone in England edit a manuscript and prepare it for for publication. I believe that she is almost to the point of having it ready to publish as a paperback and as an e-book on Amazon. But it’s been a long hard slog. She has learned a lot about publishing via kdp (Kindle Direct Publishing) and a whole lot more about all the corollaries to Murphy’s Law.

The book is a Christian allegory based on a dream this man had. We’ll let you know more when it is available (hopefully the beginning of next week).

Our cats in winter

It is cold here, many mornings the wind chill has been -40° or worse. School has been cancelled numerous times as school buses do not go out when it gets that cold. Monday the temperature got up to -18° (that’s 0° Fahrenheit) and it felt positively mild!

Our two cats don’t like this weather any more than we do. They want to go outside, but even when they do gather up enough courage to do so, they don’t stay out long.

Each has chosen his favourite nesting spot in the house. Angus gets up on the washing machine. It’s located in the hallway in the centre of our house and he expects some attention every time one of us passes by.

Pookie likes it under our bed. The floor is carpeted and there is floor heat. He finds it nice and snug there, protected from drafts and warmth seeping up from below.

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Sunday we were invited to friends from our church for dinner. It was sunny and I noticed a couple of cats outside. I think they spend nights in the barn. I should have counted the cats when we left, because when we got home there was a piteous wail coming from under the hood of our car.

By the time I got a dish of cat food and went back outside the wailing had stopped. I lifted the hood and there was an orange tabby comfortably ensconced on top of the air cleaner.

He jumped out as soon as he was exposed, but didn’t go far.  He looked around this strange yard, trying to figure out where he was then ate some of the cat food. His owners showed up shortly thereafter to take him home.

Uncovering the well

When Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, she was succeeded by James Stuart, already King James VI of Scotland. He became King James I of England, uniting the kingdoms of England, Ireland and Scotland under his authority. James was a blend of imperious authority and humility. Tradition says that he told his portrait painter: “Paint me as I am, warts and all.” There is no historical record of those words being spoken, yet they must have been. The official portrait of James shows him with a prominent facial blemish, which would have led to the disappearance of both painter and painting under previous monarchs.

Two translations of the Bible were in use at the time. The Bishop’s Bible, used in worship services of the Church of England, was pompous, emphasized ecclesiastical authority and was not popular with lay people. The Geneva Bible, favoured by Puritans, was more readable, but contained notes and comments that were often critical of church hierarchy and the monarchy. The quirks of these translations, and the competing claims made for them, were in some measure hindrances to drawing the pure water of saving truth from the Word of God.

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James believed a new translation without the aggravating characteristics of the existing ones would ease tensions in the church. He chose the best scholars from both the traditionalists and the Puritans and commissioned them to create it. The Bible produced by this committee appeared in 1611 but James did not impose it on the Church of England as an official translation. It gradually supplanted the other two, but did not become the preferred translation until after the death of James in 1625.

That translation is referred to as the Authorized Version (AV) in England and much of the English-speaking world. The idea of calling it the King James Version originated in the USA. The notation on the title page, “Appointed to be read in churches,” may be mistaken by modern readers for evidence of an official status of this translation. Four hundred years ago, appointed meant furnished, arranged, perfected. In modern terms, the meaning would be “Optimized for reading out loud.” The goal of the translators was to produce the best possible translation for reading aloud.

Many people of that day were either illiterate or too poor to afford a Bible. The words read in church from this translation were retained in their minds and had an impact on the thoughts and intents of their hearts. It is still by far the easiest translation to memorize.

The translators were men of great scholarship. Lancelot Andrewes, Bishop of Winchester and director of the Company of Translators, was fluent in twenty-one languages, fifteen modern and six ancient. He was considered the greatest preacher of his time, a Lord of the church, yet he spent five hours in prayer every morning, with penitential tears confessing his great unworthiness. It was because of men like Lancelot Andrewes that a translation such as the AV was possible four hundred years ago and may not be possible in our day.

The translators were sticklers for accuracy, but that was not enough. After the six companies of translators had finished their work, two men from each were chosen to sit together as a review committee to bind it all together. They came with copies of the Hebrew, Greek and Latin Scriptures and translations in French, Italian, German and other languages. The translation was read aloud, sentence by sentence, while they listened to judge the accuracy and the aptness of the words, and how they would sound to the people in the pews. If anyone thought something did not sound quite right, he would speak up and the passage would be adjusted until all were satisfied.

The result is a Bible that retains the essence of the wording in the original languages, yet speaks majestically in a simple English. The language is not the English that was commonly spoken in that day; it is a reverent language meant to convey the holiness of the subject matter. It is remarkable how much of this translation is done with words of one syllable, yet those words are arranged into a cadence that captures the attention of the ear, mind and heart of the hearer.

Modern translations claim to be more accurate, or easier to read, or both. Yet they sound singularly flat beside the words of the AV. The insipid nature of these translations, and the constant introduction of new and “better” translations, makes Scripture memorization seem almost pointless in our day.

The original long preface of the AV described the purpose of translation in these words:

Translation it is that openeth the window, to let in the light; that breaketh the shell, that we may eat the kernel; that putteth aside the curtain, that we may look into the most Holy place; that removeth the cover of the well, that we may come by the water.

This is what the AV has done for generations of English-speaking people.

Morning Coffee 2/8/19 “Even Till The End Of The Age!” (Poem)

Morning Coffee Devotions

Even when government rises against government. He is with you.

Even when there are wars and rumors of wars, He is with you.

Even when the elect are fooled and turn away in there blindness.

Even then God will not abandon those who truly seek is guidance.

Even as heaven and earth pass away and the mountains turn to dust. He is with you.

Even when they put you on trial because of His name, He is with you.

His thoughts of you existed before the foundations of the world.

He is faithful and will complete the work He started in you.

Be still and know that He alone is God, And He will not abandon you.

He will present you faultless in the presence of His Glory.

He will wipe away every tear and all sorrows will fade.

Your steps are ordered of the Lord. He guide you.

Do…

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How to choose a religion

“Fightin’ is no way to make converts; the true way is to win them. You may stop a man’s mouth Sam,” says he, “by a crammin’ a book down his throat, but you won’t convince him.  It’s a fine thing to write a book all covered over with Latin, and Greek, and Hebrew, like a bridle that’s real jam, all spangled with brass nails, but who knows whether it’s right or wrong?  Why, not one in ten thousand.  If I had my religion to choose, and warn’t able to judge for myself, I’ll tell you what I’d do: I’d just ask myself, Who leads the best lives?

-Thomas Chandler Haliburton, The Clockmaker, published 1836.

(Mr. Haliburton was a Nova Scotia judge and the author of humorous books  featuring Sam Slick, a fictional Yankee peddler, and his observations on life in Nova Scotia.)

How Old Wives Lake Got its Name

When one travels south from Moose Jaw one soon enters a vast upland area rising from the flat prairie. This is the Missouri Coteau. The water in the streams and rivers east of the Coteau flow into the Assiniboine River and eventually into Hudson’s Bay. Streams and rivers of the Coteau flow to the Missouri River, then the Mississippi and finally the Gulf of Mexico.

Many years ago this was all grassland, with water in all the low spots between the hills. There are a few larger bodies of water, the largest being Old Wives Lake, just north of the town of Mossbank. Wildlife is abundant in the hills; the lake is a migratory bird preserve. Buffalo no longer roam these hills; they are now partly cattle country, partly grain-growing country.

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But for hundreds of years the Missouri Coteau was home to vast herds of buffalo and prime hunting ground for indigenous people. The Lakota people inhabited an area that extended from Old Wives Lake south into Montana. The Lakota medicine man Sitting Bull always claimed to have been born on the north side of the Medicine Line (the USA-Canada border). I don’t believe there is any reason to doubt the accuracy of his memory.

The Nakota people, closely related to the Lakota and speaking the same language, lived further east but also came to these hills to hunt buffalo. The Cree people who lived northeast along the Qu’Appelle Valley also hunted in this area. These people all respected each other and made no trouble for each other.

The Blackfoot people lived far to the west and did not come to these hills to hunt. However, sometimes a group of young braves ventured into the hill to seek an occasion to prove their manhood.

And so it happened on a day many years ago that a Cree hunting party had set up camp not far from the body of water now known as Old Wives Lake. The buffalo hunt was a family affair. The men killed the buffalo and brought them back to the camp. The women and children busied themselves scraping and drying the hides, collecting wild berries and pounding the meat and berries into pemmican.

Toward evening a scout returned to camp with the chilling report that a large group of Blackfoot braves was encamped in a nearby valley. Everyone knew that at the crack of dawn the Blackfoot’s braves would come galloping over the hill and slaughter everyone in the camp. The Blackfeet had done this many times before and their hidden presence left no doubt as to their intentions.

The men gathered around a campfire to plan a way of escape. There was a small chance they could drive off the Blackfeet, but many lives would be lost, especially of the women and children. To slip away during the night would silence the drums and let their campfires go out; that would send a signal to the Blackfeet to attack immediately. Their situation seemed hopeless.

Then the old women approached the men and said: “We have been talking. There is no hope for us all to get out of here alive. We will stay, keep the campfires burning, beat the drums and sing all night. You take the young women and children and slip away in the darkness. By morning you will be far from here and you will be safe.”

At first the men refused to consider this idea. But as they talked it became clear that this was the only way to save their young women and children. So they slipped away silently in the night, heading back toward the Qu’Appelle Valley.

The old women remained, kept the campfires burning, beat the drums and sang all night. In the morning the Blackfoot braves swept over the top of the hill, attacked the camp and killed the few old women who had stayed behind.

Soon the story was being told around campfires all through the west of how  mighty Blackfoot warriors had bravely attacked the camp of a Cree hunting party and killed a few aged women. The story reached the Blackfoot elders and they told the young braves “You have brought shame to our people, You shall not go into those hills again.”

From that time the lake and the small river that flows into it have been known as Notukeu (old woman) by the Cree. When French-speaking people came into the area and heard the story they translated the name to la Vieille. On English language maps the river is labelled Notukeu and the lake is Old Wives Lake.

The Bible tells us that God loves us the same way that these old women loved their children and grandchildren: “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee” (Isaiah 49:15).

In the New Testament, Jesus compares Himself to a mother hen: “ how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37).

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