Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: family

The other epidemic

Image by picman2 from Pixabay 

There is an epidemic stalking our land, people are dying, others are left incapable of working or maintaining relationships. No, I’m not talking about COVID, this is an epidemic that was around before COVID and will probably still be afflicting people long after COVID is gone. Since this epidemic only affects people hooked on street drugs, the rest of us may think we can ignore it.

Last Sunday my wife’s sister was found dead in a city several hours from us, with drug paraphernalia on the table in front of her. She had no phone, no one in the family knew where she lived. My wife had been able to locate her and visit a few times in recent years, but she kept moving and did not keep in touch with any of her family.

Sometimes the opioid epidemic ceases to be just an item in the newspaper, comes this close to us and robs us of a beloved family member. The people selling street drugs are not pharmacists or chemists, the drugs they sell are not uniform in effect. When a person uses such drugs for years they are sooner or later going to get something that gives them a bad trip or something that turns the lights out for good. Naloxone reverses the effects of opioids, but it appears no one was with my sister-in-law when she took her last hit. No one to rush her to the hospital or to find a street worker with a Naloxone kit.

What can we do to help such people? We feel compelled to do what we can to fix broken lives. The tough reality is that we can do nothing to rescue people against their will. They made choices, choices that seemed small and insignificant at the time, that led them into being trapped in a lifestyle where nothing: family, job or home, means as much as getting another hit. They must start making small choices to break free from that web. No one else can make those choices for them.

What can we do to help such people? We can pray. We must pray. We cannot manipulate God, God does not manipulate people. But we can pray that at some place and moment a connection can be established between God and the person we are praying for. We can do our best to maintain a connection with that person. It won’t be easy because addictions lead to broken connections, or connections solely for the purpose of getting money to buy drugs.

Above all, we must keep ourselves in the love and peace of God, without anger or bitterness. A loved one who is an addict has probably betrayed our trust, lied to us, maybe even blamed us for his or her problem. But this addict is still a person whom God loves and so must we. If we feel angry or bitter, our loved one will know it and that will be a barrier between us.

“Finders keepers” would have been the wrong choice

[First posted November 14, 2013]

Noah Muroff, an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi, and his wife Esther went shopping online for a desk for the study in their home and found a cherry wood executive desk that they were able to buy for $150.  When they got it home, they found it would not fit through the door of the study.  The only option seemed to be to take it apart and then reassemble it inside the study.

Image by kalhh from Pixabay 

When Rabbi Muroff pulled out the file drawer, he noticed a plastic shopping bag had fallen behind it.  Inside the bag was $98,000 in US $100 bills.  When they bought the desk the middle-aged woman they bought it from said she had bought it at Staples and assembled it herself, so there was no doubt where the money had come from.

The Muroffs say they didn’t need any time to discuss what they were going to do.  Although it was 11:30 at night, they called the woman right away.  She was shocked by their honesty.  She told them that if they had decided to keep the money she would have been none the wiser.

The money was an inheritance from her parents who had died, one shortly after the other.  She had been too overwhelmed to make any decisions about the money at the time and had simply stuffed it away in a safe place.  Later she had looked in the desk and it was not there.  She reasoned that it must be somewhere else in the house and put the desk up for sale, not realizing the bag had fallen behind the file drawer.

The next day the Muroffs returned the money, taking their children along to show what to do when one finds something that does not belong to him.  The woman gave them $3,500 for their honesty and also returned the $150 they had paid for the desk.

Rabbi Muroff is 28, a Torah teacher at the Yeshiva high school in New Haven, Connecticut.  He and his wife have four children.  The oldest is six.  The Yeshiva cannot afford to pay a big salary and the family is used to careful budgeting.  Still, the money they found in the bag was not even tempting.  “If God wants us to have the $98,000,” Esther said to her husband, “He’ll make sure He gets it to us in some other way.  God is not limited.”

Connecting the dots

In our small town school, there was a two shelf bookcase in the Grade 11 and 12 classroom. That was our library, and I read every book in those shelves during my last two years in that school. During the reading of one of those books, a historical book, I had a moment of enlightenment. This was over 60 years ago, thee name and subject of the book have vanished into the mists of time, but I remember that it dealt with the same period of history that we were studying in class. It named the same people and places, the same events, but the narrative was different. That was when it dawned on me that the way history is told depends upon the point of view of the writer.

After that I looked on historical research as a page covered with dots, some small, some large. Different historians studied the information provided by those dots and each one connected the dots he felt to be most important to produce a recognizable picture. Some may do it with the intent to deceive, but I believe most are honestly trying to create a clear picture for their readers.

Even the Bible has examples of histories told from different points of view. There are two histories of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. The first, 1st and 2nd Samuel and 1st and 2nd Kings, was written before the Babylonian captivity by Jeremiah, or by someone else under his direction. The unity of purpose linking these books with the book of the prophet Jeremiah is underlined by the fact that the same four verses form the conclusion of 2 Kings and Jeremiah. Jeremiah consulted the records of those kingdoms and pointed out the episodes of disobedience and idolatry that led to the judgment of God.

The second history, written by Ezra after the people returned from their captivity, is drawn from the same records as the first. But Ezra points out how God was faithful and had often poured out blessings upon His people. He tells how King Manasseh, the most evil king Judah ever had, repented and spent the last years of his life labouring to undo the evil he had done. The link between 1st and 2nd Chronicles and Ezra is evident in that the two final verses of 2 Chronicles are repeated in the beginning of Ezra.

In the New Testament we have four accounts of the life of Jesus. The Gospel of Mark is an eyewitness account, generally understood to have been told to Mark by Peter. Matthew was writing for Jewih readers and pointed out in great detail how the life of Jesus fulfilled the prophecies about the Messiah. Luke, wrote as a Greek historian and told a coherent, well documented story of Jesus’ life from beginning to end, including the resurrection. John put more emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit. Each writer told the story in a different way, sometimes choosing different dots. There is no contradiction, we are enriched by having all four.

We need to be very careful in accepting all that we read in the news of current events. News reporters often choose the dots that fit a predetermined point of view. Here is one instance. We are often told that the income disparity between black people and white people in the USA is positive proof of racism. But if you look at the incomes of married black people and married white people, that disparity disappears.

That should cause us to look for the causes of the difference in the number of stable marriages among black people and white people. Then we see the same forces working among all groups of people to undermine the family. There is a war on the family in the world today. This war is not going to be won on the battlefield of politics. It is a matter of faith.

Changes in the weather

Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay 

It is mid-winter in the great white north country, but yesterday morning the temperature shot up to 6°C and it rained. The rain stopped by dinner time, then the wind came up. It started snowing in the afternoon and the wind came up higher – gusts up to 100 km/hour.

We were cosy and warm in our home, even with the wind howling around us. Then the electricity went off at 9 pm. I started a fire in the wood stove, then bundled up and went out to the wood pile in our back yard to get more. I made it to where the wood pile should be. I am sure it is still there, but now it is buried under thick, hard-packed snow. I came back inside and decided there wasn’t anything else to do but go to bed.

The electricity came back on at 10:30. That means there was a SaskPower crew out there in miserable weather, working hard to take care of us. Thank you folks.

In texting with our daughter this morning I mentioned that we couldn’t open our front door. The storm door opens out and the snow was packed tight against us. It didn’t take long until our oldest grandson was here shoveling the snow away and shoveling the front walk. I could have done it myself, maybe I need to be careful what I say to his Mom. Thank you Nathan.

I’m feeling kind of pampered this morning.

What went wrong?

Some reports say that 75% of the deaths from COVID-19 occurred in long-term residences for seniors. I don’t find that hard to believe. Here is Saskatchewan there have been 130 deaths so far this year, 25% of those deaths occurred during one recent outbreak in one residence. I believe everyone did the best they could with the situation as they understood it, but resources and personnel have been overwhelmed by the spread of an invisible attacker.

At the beginning of the pandemic there was a fear that hospitals would be overwhelmed. In some cases hospitals were able to make more beds available by transferring elderly people to long term care homes. In retrospect, that does not seem to have been a good idea. Here are some of the problems that have been identified.

  1. Many of the larger homes had multi-patient rooms, up to four beds in one room. When one person in that room became ill there were no private rooms available to isolate them. You could draw a curtain around the bed with the sick person, but the virus spread by airborne particles over, under and around that curtain.
  2. Most homes had a large contingent of part-time workers. In larger urban centres that often meant that many of those workers were employed at more than one home. When the virus arrived in one home those workers carried it to the other home where they worked before they realized they had been infected.
  3. Elderly people often do not present the same symptoms of COVID-19 as younger people, leading to delays in diagnosis.
  4. Long-term care homes were closed to visitors. Workers who were unknown to the patients were brought in to replace those who were sick. Cutting off the elderly from family, faith communities and familiar caregivers caused loneliness, confusion, and fear. Those emotions have physical consequences.

    With all good intentions, we have largely botched the care of the most vulnerable among us. It will serve no good purpose to find people to blame this on, but perhaps some lessons can be learned for the future. One lesson may be that bigger is not always better. Perhaps the ultimate lesson is that we are all to blame because we thought it was a good idea to separate the elderly into large institutions where their physical needs could be provided, which has resulted in isolating ourselves from them.

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.

Is this the best way to spend your final years?

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Most of the people dying from COVID-19 are in nursing homes. Families, friends, pastors, priests, rabbis are not allowed to visit in those places. Many of the staff members that the residents have grown to know have contacted the disease and been replaced by strangers. Is this the way things are supposed to be?

Right now there is a single-minded focus on physical health. But the virus is not the only factor that impacts a person’s physical health. Don’t we understand that denying someone of emotional, mental and spiritual support undermines their physical health?

Yes there are risks in allowing visitors to those whose health is fragile. Aren’t the risks in denying such visits just as serious?

The problem is that we live in an era where things that can’t be measured and quantified are deemed to be non-existent. This is an inhumane world.

I am not suggesting that we defy rules put in place by government. But perhaps today’s circumstances should lead us to rethink how we care for the most vulnerable members of our society. When that care is delegated to large corporate entities or government agencies, it is inevitable that decisions about how to care for people will be made in offices far removed from those concerned, and those decisions will be made on the basis of what is most efficient.

How many of us look forward to spending our last years in an institution like that?

Only an empty box

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Agnes grew up 100 years ago on a farm in southwestern Saskatchewan. Her parents were members of a church which called itself Mennonite and worshipped in the German language. At home the family spoke a Low German dialect called Plautdietsch, and English.  There were 14 children in the family, spaced about two years apart. Agnes was number six.

The church claimed to hold to the original Mennonite faith. In her teens Agnes memorized a summary of the teachings of that faith, a German catechism which dated from 1792 and the bishop baptized her. She was the only one in her baptismal class to memorize the whole catechism, yet they were all baptized. The catechism said that they needed to be born again to become Christians and eligible for church membership, but the bishop said nothing of that.

Agnes was the last child in the family to learn German. As time went on, she realized the church had nothing for her younger siblings. Really, it had nothing for her. The catechism told of a faith that had once been, might yet be in some other place, but had died in this church. All that remained were traditions that could only be taught in the German language.

The church was like a box with ornate German lettering claiming to be the faithful remnant of the ancient Mennonite faith. But when Agnes had opened the box, she found it empty. So she threw it away. She remembered what the catechism said about Christian life, but did not found that life in the box.

Agnes was my mother; I am my mother’s son. That is why I have never found the “Mennonite culture” to be attractive. I didn’t want the box, I wanted to find the faith. In my adult years I searched for a place where the ancient Mennonite faith was still a living thing, not just words in the ai in a language I couldn’t understand. And I found it.

Report on a drive-by shouting in our community

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A newspaper in a small Saskatchewan city recently reported on a shocking rise in drive-by shoutings. That trend has now come to our tiny hamlet of Swanson.

In this hamlet there is a seniors’ residence; yesterday two of the residents had a birthday. Melvin was 86 and Wilbert was 91. With no visitors allowed, a birthday party was out of the question.

The families hatched a scheme. Since my wife was cooking supper they enlisted me in the conspiracy. At 7:30 I urged those two residents to come to the lounge area. A siren began wailing just as the birthday boys got to the large west-facing window. The fire truck of the local volunteer department hove into view. Two firemen got out and carried a ladder onto the driveway opposite the window and placed it on its side across the driveway from the window. When they walked away, we saw a poster fastened to the ladder saying: “Happy Birthday Wilbert and Melvin!”

Then came at least two dozen pickups, vans and SUV’s, many with birthday greetings fastened on the doors, all of them with people leaning out the open windows and shouting Happy Birthday. An honest to goodness drive-by shouting.

A surprise ending to a drab birthday. Both men were delighted with the event.

School at home

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Man homeschooling young daughter – shutterstock_283575290 (2)

It looks like children will have to learn at home at least until the end of April. Does that seem overwhelming? Here are a few thoughts that might make it easier.

  • Begin the day with God. Read from the Bible and pray with your children.
  • Children have more time in the day now, since they don’t ride the school bus. Don’t let them sleep in. They should get ready for the day as usual, do their school work, and have more free time later.
  • If Mom is now the teacher, the children should help more with the meal planning and preparation, house cleaning and laundry. Home Ec is a legitimate life skill.
  • If there are multiple children, in multiple grades, the older ones should help the younger. This is also a valuable life skill.
  • Improvise. Age segregation is not needed for all subjects.
  • Don’t try to replicate the setting of a school classroom.
  • Do establish a schedule.
  • Don’t let Dad off the hook. If he is home, the children will be thrilled to have him help with their school work.
  • Learning to learn is an essential life skill. Let the children figure things out for themselves and do their own research as much as possible.
  • Don’t forget to have fun; children need recreation and physical activity to keep their minds clear.
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