Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

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Requiem for Tuffy

Tuffy came to us unexpectedly November 17, about a week after our first heavy snowfall. Chris opened the door early in the morning, a four month old kitten walked in, explored our home and decided this was his home. We delighted in his lively presence all winter, then he left us just as unexpectedly March 26, before our snow was altogether gone. He went out the night before and never came home. I found him lying by the roadside in the morning, stiff and cold, no doubt a victim of a passing motor vehicle and his own trusting nature.

He was friendly and fearless, curious and cuddly. The other two cats in this house hissed and growled at him that first day, he took no notice. In time they realized he meant them no harm and accepted him as part of the family. He loved to explore outside, climb trees, chas mice. Indoors he came running when the computer printer began to whir and watched in fascination as sheets of paper appeared in the output slot. When his enthusiasm went too far and he was scolded, he promptly sat flat on the floor to consider this new information. He learned not to walk on the table and to wait his turn when treats were being given out.

He grew rapidly. His size, his colouring, the shape of his head, his long hair, all pointed to mostly Norwegian Forest Cat ancestry. So did his congenial nature. No matter what we were doing, he could come along, jump on our lap to be cuddled and loudly purr his appreciation.

A few weeks ago two neighbour cats were in heat at the same time and came to our yard every day, trying to attract the attention of our cats. By then Tuffy was a eunuch, like the other two. Angus avoided the two females, Pookie chased them away, but Tuffy loved the attention. Looking on, we saw that he had no idea why they wanted to be close to him and no clue about what they expected from him.

He made several visits to the Vet clinic with me: to check for a microchip; to be immunized; to be neutered; and one last time to be cremated. A little later in spring I could have buried him here at home, but the receding snowdrifts of winter still occupy much of the yard.

Tuffy quickly found a place in our hearts and brought us much joy. We miss him. Do we expect to meet him again in heaven? No. Yet I believe that all the beautiful and lovely things that bring us joy here on earth are a foretaste of heaven. The Bible may describe heaven as being made of gold and precious stones. Hard and lifeless building materials do not warm my heart or make me long for heaven. I don’t believe that is all that heaven holds for us. God has endowed the earth with wondrous living beauty: the subtle fragrance of Sweet Williams; the cheery song repertoire of Brown Thrashers; the shimmering of Saffron Winged Meadowhawks on the lawn; the purring of a cat on our lap. Won’t we find beauty and joy beyond any of these in heaven?

I wonder – if I believed an animal unworthy of my love, would I then believe that people needed to fulfil certain conditions to be worthy of my love? I have no regrets about loving a little four-footed creature. We always knew it would only be for a time, yet never expected it to be such a short time.


(The Saffron Winged Meadowhawk is a mosquito-eating dragonfly with a red body and wings of translucent gold.)

Pookie the Policeman

There are five residents in this house, two humans and three cats. The humans are seniors and two of the cats are getting close to that stage of life. The third is a kitten, a bright-eyed, affectionate, fearless and hyperactive bundle of fluff.

Experts say that cats are capable of more than 100 vocal sounds. Angus, our oldest cat, uses them all. Pookie, the second oldest, hardly uses them at all. He showed up on our doorstep almost ten years ago, just sitting there and staring at the door. When I opened the door, he walked in. He seems to believe in telepathy. When he wants out he sits and looks at the door until one of us gets up and opens it. If he’s desperate he will reach up and tap one of us on the arm. When he’s outside and wants to come in, he sits by the door and stares at it. That always works for him, though sometimes he has to wait awhile.

It’s a mystery to me how Pookie communicates with the other cats. He’s not a scrapper, he doesn’t ever make much noise, but they know not to mess with Pookie. Tuffy, the youngest cat, often jumps on Angus and they start wrestling. Nobody gets hurt, but it can get noisy at times and sometimes they chase each other through the house. It looks like Angus enjoys it, up to a point, but it’s a little like a 10 year old boy always wanting to wrestle with his grandfather.

Lately Pookie has taken on the role of policeman. Several days ago Tuffy and Angus were noisily wrestling on the living room floor. The disturbance awakened Pookie and he came to investigate. He didn’t make a sound, yet they stopped their scrap and looked at him. First he fixed Angus with a glare and Angus slunk off to hide behind the recliner. Pookie then fixed his glare on Tuffy, who slunk off in the other direction.

They were at it again this afternoon. Pookie came along as they dashed down the hall. Pookie sat down on the dining room floor and waited. Tuffy came strolling back, on a path that would have taken him in front of Pookie, then veered off and went behind him, Pookie eying him all the time. Tuffy walked over to the couch, reached up and started scratching on the arm. Pookie walked over and gave him a swat. Tuffy stopped, walked away and lay down on the floor. A few minutes later all five of us were enjoying a peaceful Sunday afternoon nap.

Scaredy-cat

Image by JL G from Pixabay

We used to have a nice screen door. We still have the door, but it’s not so nice anymore. The wind slammed it against the railing, more than once. I tried to straighten it, but it will never fit right again. Then the latch mechanism wore out. It would cost a lot to replace the latch and the door is no longer worth that kind of repair. So I installed plain handles inside and out and an old-fashioned screen door catch that goes snap! when we open the door and snap! when we close it.

One of our cats has always been wary of doors. Angus is afraid there might be something scary on the other side; he approaches with caution and peers to see what might be out there before stepping through the open door. The snap! the door now makes has unnerved him. He comes to the door and meows to come in. Before I even open the door, he has run halfway down the walk. I guess it’s the back door for Angus from now on. At least until he gets used to the snap! of the front door.

Pookie, our other cat, trusts that whatever we have done to that door is not any danger to him. He is not going to let a snap! stop him from going through an open door.

This has got me to wondering – when God shows me an open door, am I like Angus? Or am I like Pookie?

Affection deficit syndrome

The photo is from Shutterstock, but looks very much like our cat Pookie.

Remember how Charlie Brown used to say that he wished he could stay home from school and dedicate his life to making his dog happy? Sometimes I think that’s what Pookie expects from me. Of course, he likes to sleep most of the day. Come to think of it, that fits quite well with working from a home office.

This morning both cats wanted to go out as soon as I was out of bed. Angus disappeared for three hours, but Pookie soon wanted in again. I gave him some treats and some food, but that wasn’t enough to satisfy him. All the time that I was eating my breakfast he wandered around grumbling to himself in the soft, mournful way that he has.

When I was done breakfast I went to sit in one of the recliners and put my feet up. Pookie was soon sitting on my chest facing me. It took ten minutes of petting to satisfy his affection deficit. Now he is asleep on the bed in the far corner of the house and I can get on with my day.

How I stay sane during a time of confinement

(Or at least try to)

  1. Talk to my cats. I know this probably sounds like I’m already losing it, but if there are not many people to talk to, cats are not a bad substitute. They are not persons, but they do have personalities, often a little eccentric, Both of ours are largely Siamese and they like to talk. Pookie is my Plautdietsch cat: he has blond hair, blue eyes and speaks a language I don’t understand.
  2. Drink coffee. I like A. L. van Houtte French Roast, from k-cups. I didn’t really like coffee before we went to Montreal in 1993, but driving by the van Houtte roastery on the way to church and inhaling the aroma changed that.
  3. Talk to people. That involves picking up the phone and dialing their number. It used to be hard to find my friends at home, but now they are in the same boat as I am and ready to pick up the phone and talk.
  4. Write to people. I get lots of impersonal emails and texts every day, I wish for more personal messages. Maybe other people do, too. There’s no better time than now to send a personal note.
  5. Exercise. I have a pedometer app on my phone and try to get 10,000 steps four or five days a week. At this time of year most of those steps are from jumping on my rebounder.  If our driveway ever dries I’ll do more walking outdoors.
  6. Try not to think about how late spring is this year. Complaining isn’t good for the state of my mind.
  7. Be thankful for every little spark of beauty in this dreary time.
  8. Be realistic about the Covid-19 virus. Ignore stories about conspiracy theories and quack cures.
  9. Find something interesting to read that takes me to a place and time where there is no Covid-19.
  10. Use this time to strengthen and deepen my relationship with God.

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.

Spring musings

Spring is coming, even here in the Great White North country.  Nothing is green yet, but there’s a lot less of the white stuff. No song birds yet, either, but our bird feeder isn’t emptying quite so quickly, which means the birds must be finding something  else now that the snow is receding.

Our cats have spring fever. They love these sunny days. So do we, the time from sunup to sundown is increasing at the rate of four minutes a day. That’s pretty much half an hour every week. I’ve been exercising on  my rebounder every day in the winter months; as the temperature climbs I will start going out more often for a walk.

I think I bought the last container of hand sanitizer in the town of Outlook  yesterday. Our small senior’s home needed more, but that was all I could find after visiting three stores. I’m sure there will be more on the shelves soon. Kudos for kijiji for refusing to carry any ads for COVID-19 supplies, in order not to be an enabler for those trying to profit from the current situation. (Kijiji is the major online classified service in Canada.)

Malls have been posting signs in their washrooms saying how many tons of paper are diverted from landfills by using blow driers. They may have to rethink that message. Hot air driers are great at blowing germs onto your hands. Paper towels are far more sanitary.

Our country may be more open to rethink globalism after this crisis. Maybe not everything needs to be manufactured in some far away place across the ocean. Having a local source would give us a little greater sense of security.

François Légault, Prime Minister of Quebec, is recording daily message for the people of Quebec. There is something reassuring about his calm demeanour; things are being taken care of and he is giving good advice about protecting each other, especially the aged and infirm.  Those people are the main reason all these restrictions are being put in place. Children and young people are not in much danger, but they should be concerned about the grandpas and grandmas.

Winter grumbles

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Image by WordWarrior2 from Pixabay

It was -36° when I got up this morning, wind chill -47°. Those numbers are on the Celsius scale, but the Fahrenheit numbers don’t look any better: -33° and -52° wind chill. This is the depth of winter, the whole week is supposed to be like this.

There can be advantages to days like this.  Several years ago we were renovating our kitchen, dining room and front bathroom and the time had come to pick out new flooring. We drove into Saskatoon on a day like this and checked out the selection in four stores. In each place the parking lot was close to empty and  we had the undivided attention of the sales person. We found something we both liked, and it was on sale.

First thing every morning when I get up  I go to my office and  plug in my phone. This morning it was charging very slowly. After an hour and a half I unplugged it, took it to the kitchen and plugged it into my wife’s charge cord. In half an hour it was fully charged. Must be the electrons were flowing sluggishly in the office.

Or maybe the charger is dying. Does that mean it’s time for a new phone? The protective case I put on this phone when it was new is now missing two of its corners. Maybe that’s another sign that it’s  time to trade it in. Or maybe not. Maybe these are just idle thoughts on a frosty morning.

Even our cats have shown no interest in going outside this morning. They were out for twenty minutes yesterday afternoon and that seems to have satisfied their taste for adventure.

Nevertheless, we have reason to hope for better days. Today we have two minutes and 15 seconds more daylight than we did yesterday. Tomorrow will be two minutes and 20 seconds longer. Soon the daylight hours will be increasing by more than three minutes a day.  We know the sunshine is going to win this battle, but we will have to endure weeks of cold and snow before the glorious springtime.

Where is global warming when you need it? Some very smart people are saying that the temperature in Canada is rising twice as fast as the rest of the world. I hadn’t noticed. The first summer we were back in Saskatchewan we had a few days when the temperature reached 37° (that is body temperature in Celsius, 98.6° F). That was in 1998 and we haven’t had temperatures that hot since.

Turns out that the temperatures in Kazakhstan, Nicaragua and every other country in the world are also rising twice is fast as the average for the rest of the world. How is that possible? The rest of the world includes the oceans.

© Bob Goodnough, January 14, 2020

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.

The Wise Old Mother Cat

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On this International Day of the Cat, it seems an opportune time to clear up some misconceptions about the relationship between cats and humans.

From the human standpoint the relationship seems frustrating. We can’t train our cat to do anything, she won’t even come when we call.

From the cat’s standpoint, the relationship is working out well. We open the door for her when she wants to go in or out; we provide the kind of food she likes; we give her a warm place to stay when it’s cold outside, and all the other amenities for a good life.

You see, we humans tend to understand this relationship all backwards: humans have never domesticated cats, they have domesticated us.

It goes back thousands of years to when our human ancestors in the fertile crescent began to plant crops and build houses. The ancestors of our cats lived there too and soon realized the opportunities these human innovations provided for them. Mice and rats foraged in the fields and especially loved the places where grain was stored. And when humans stayed in one place for any length of time their dwelling places became magnets for mice and rats. Wherever humans lived there was a constant supply of food for cats.

During this time, a Wise Old Mother Cat gathered the many generations of her offspring together and began to teach them how to make the best of this opportunity.

“These two-legged creatures are taking notice of the way you reduce the number of mice and rats that eat their food and trouble their homes. If you act wisely, they will become your friends and protectors.

“Be wary of them at first, all are not kind. But if one of them acts kindly toward you, show your appreciation by purring. They love that sound. Don’t use your claws and teeth to protect yourself unless your life is in danger. They will learn that you intend them no harm and will begin to trust you.

“When that happens, don’t be afraid to enter into their homes and show that you trust them in return. It will take many years, but in time they will become your friends. If you act affectionately to them, they will do the same to you. Little by little, over time, you will be able to train them to provide everything you need for your comfort and happiness.”

OK, I admit it, the Wise Old Mother Cat is a legend (created by yours truly). But can anyone deny that something much like this has happened?

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