Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: home

A series of coincidences?

We wanted to have children – and definitely more than one. I was an only child and my wife had been raised as an only child by her aunt and uncle. We didn’t think that was the ideal way to grow up.

We had been married less than a year when another young couple from the church we were attending mentioned that they were planning to adopt. We had never thought of adopting before, but the idea became more and more interesting as we talked about it. We contacted the agency and were invited to take part in a series of evening meetings for those preparing for adoption.

In my mind, adoption was about finding a child who would match the parents who wanted to adopt. I was wrong. We were told that it is natural for children in a family to differ considerably in looks and personalities. We were also told that the less we knew about the background of a child the better things would work. If we know too much about the personalities of parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, we would look for signs of that in the adoptive child. “This is your child,” we were told.

We have seen the wisdom of that in later years. Some mothers knew way too much about the background of their adoptive children and never tired of talking about it.  I could see in the eyes of the children that it was not healthy to hear constant reminders that they were misfits in this family. That was never the mother’s intention, of course, but it had that effect.

After the series of meetings, we were given the application form to complete. Most of it was straightforward questions about ourselves and our ability to provide for a child. But one question gave us pause. “Are you willing to accept a child of another race?” Several options were given, other races, mixed-race, pure white, no preference. We talked about it, prayed about it, and the only thing that felt right was to check the no preference box.

The application was accepted, a social worker came to visit our home, we began to gather the things we would need, thinking we had lots of time to get ready.  We never guessed that checking the no preference box moved us to the top of the waiting list. A call came just two weeks after the home visit saying that a baby girl was available.

We drove to the city where the agency office was located, were led into a private room and soon left alone with a 15-day old girl. She slept, we looked at her, took turns holding her, and when the worker came back she would have had to pry that baby away from us.

We signed some more papers and drove home with the baby sleeping peacefully on the seat between us. This was long before child car seats; cars back then didn’t even have seatbelts for the adults. Cars had bench seats, not bucket seats. We used a clothes hamper, they were smaller then than they are now, put a blanket on the bottom for a cushion, placed the baby on top of that, another blanket on top, and drove home.

That was almost 45 years ago. We never had any other children. Our daughter had an advantage that we did not have – we were part of a close-knit church family with many other children her age.I’m sure the influence of her friends’ parents had a tremendous impact on her becoming the fine young woman that she became.

Now, we don’t just have a daughter, we also have a fine Christian son-in-law and four wonderful grandchildren. Was it all a series of coincidences, chance happenings and pure dumb luck? I don’t believe that. I believe God was there every step of the way, opening doors and nudging us toward them.

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A man looks at the Proverbs 31 woman

Perhaps it is foolhardy to attempt a fresh look at this ground that has been turned over many times by better men than I, yet I confess that I am not altogether convinced that they have found the true treasure hidden in this field. Parts of it have been unearthed and displayed for our edification in such a way as to appear unattainable by any mortal woman.

Let me say at the beginning that I believe that Lemuel is Solomon and that this chapter contains the teachings of his mother, Bathsheba. That is the ancient Jewish tradition and the modern attempts to find a better explanation are not convincing.

Verses 10 to 31 form a poem written in acrostic style where each sentence (verse) begins with succeeding letters of the Hebrew alphabet. There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet, thus 22 sentences in this poem. I will give my thoughts on four points in this the description of a virtuous woman.

First, this woman is a person in her own right. She is not the property of her father, her older brother or her husband, though no doubt each are important to her. Neither is she the servant of her children, though they are precious to her. She is not a person living her life in subservience to others, yet her life finds its meaning in her relationship to others. Her freedom, and the use she makes of it, is the most surprising aspect of this poem.

Secondly, though her family is the main focus of her life she is a leader, not a slave. There is nothing said about the meals she prepares but I would perceive her to be like the modern French woman who says “C’est moi qui décide.” “I am the one who decides what my children shall eat. They need nutritious and varied meals served at regular times and I wouldn’t dream of catering  to a desire for sugar laden snacks at all times of the day.”.

She knows that she is the teacher that her children will learn the most from and she does not waste the opportunities to teach them respect and kindness and the other important lessons of life. She enjoys watching her children play and have fun, all the time knowing that she has the authority to let them know when their fun is in danger of going too far.

She sees to it that her family has suitable clothing for all weather and all occasions. She makes the home a place of warmth and security.

Thirdly, she  contributes to the family income. She is described here as one who buys wool and flax, weaves them into cloth and garments to sell, then uses the proceeds to buy a field and plant a vineyard. This is a revolutionary concept. I believe that women in Canada did not have the legal standing to purchase property in their own name until about 100 years ago.

But note that none of her work takes place outside the family setting. Today we have gotten our priorities turned upside down. A woman who does not have a career outside the home is often made to feel that she is useless, a parasite on society. Go ahead and have children, our society says, but give them to the experts to raise. Well, the “experts” are not doing a good job of it. A mother is the true expert at raising her own children. To scorn the value of the things she does in the home to raise useful and productive members of society is entirely wrongheaded.

There are many things that a stay at home mother can do to contribute to the family income. Farm wives have always been an integral part of the farm workforce. The wives of small business owners contribute in many ways to the success of their husband’s business. Others have found ways to bring in income through home based businesses. There are many opportunities, but home and family are always the first priority of a virtuous woman.

Fourthly, she is known for her wisdom. “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.” A wise husband will readily admit that he learns much from his wife. She often has sound advice in how to deal with difficult situations. She draws inspiration from the Word of God and applies it to life from a perspective that he would not otherwise see.

She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea she reacheth forth her hand to the needy.” This also is wisdom, the wisdom of compassion that is at times lacking in men. We live in a day of government programs to help the needy. They do much good, but no program can perceive a broken heart and give the personal touch of compassion that will help it heal.

What I see in these verses is not a list of requirements that a woman has to measure up to in order to be considered virtuous. They are rather a general description of the nature of a virtuous woman and a list of possibilities for her to explore.

What is marriage?

The first marriage took place between Adam and Eve. There was no certificate issued, no record in the government bureau of vital statistics and no ceremony, there having been a notable lack of preachers and witnesses at the time. Nevertheless, a precedent and a principle were established: ” Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

Another notable example from the Old Testament is the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah. This was an arranged marriage, but if we follow the account closely, it is evident that it was God who did the arranging. And when the two finally met: “Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death” (Genesis 24:67). Here again there were no ceremonies or formalities, yet a monogamous relationship was established that lasted a lifetime.

Nowadays governments find it necessary to record and govern every major event in our lives, including marriage and divorce. In most cases God is not involved and the results bear little resemblance to the relationship between Adam and Eve, or Isaac and Rebekah. More than 100 years ago, a leader in the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite wrote: “Circumstances arise in the world which cannot be governed on the gospel basis of marriage” (John Holdeman, Mirror of Truth, page 414).

I doubt that brother Holdeman could have imagined the circumstances around us in the 21st Century. Yet there are people who have grown up in these circumstances, become thoroughly entangled in the chaos and confusion of the present era, and then turn to God. They get converted and then want to regularize their family situation so they can have a truly Christian home. This raises many questions. As Christians, we cannot recognize everything that the world calls marriage, whether religious, civil or common law; nor can we recognize everything that the world calls divorce. Neither can we make a one size fits all rule for these circumstances, for often they occurred while the persons involved were quite ignorant of God’s perfect will for their lives.

There was a lengthy period in the history of the Anabaptist people when they could not be legally married. The only marriage that was recognized by most European nations was a marriage performed by the Roman Catholic Church. Of course, had the Anabaptists wished to have their marriages legally recognized, they would have put their lives in peril by identifying themselves to a priest. Anabaptist brethren of that era considered the wedding vows made in their circles to be sacred, but since their ceremonies had no legal standing this led to many scurrilous, and untrue, accusations from the priests.

In their defence, Anabaptists made statements such as the following: “That marriage properly consists in the consent or agreement of union between man and woman” (Martyrs Mirror, page 346, part of the confession of three brethren executed at Norwich, England in 1428).

This is a return to first principles. It is good for wedding ceremonies to be public affairs, but those who witness the making of the vows should consider themselves bound to support the couple in being faithful to their vows. This commitment of a man and woman to one another is the essence of Christian matrimony and is the thing to be looked for when considering the situation of those who began married life in questionable circumstance.

Peace in time of war

There are four main religious groups in Lebanon: Maronite Christians, descended from the old Syriac church and united with the Roman Catholic Church, yet maintaining some of the old ways, including a married priesthood; Shiite Muslims; Sunni Muslims and Greek Orthodox. A power sharing agreement was worked out after the Second World War that worked well for a number of years. Lebanon prospered, became a major tourist destination and Beirut became the banking and financial centre of the Middle East.

That changed in 1975 with attacks by radical Muslims, PLO and Hezbollah, and a civil war ensued that lasted until 1990. Peace has never been fully restored.

Our friend Helen, from a Maronite family, was attending university in Beirut in the 1980’s. She told us that practically every building in the city had suffered some damage from the war. She rode the bus to the university every morning, carrying with her a bag with extra clothes and supplies in case she wouldn’t be able to get home that night.

Her parents home was a peaceful haven amid the strife and turmoil of the war. Her father’s presence in the home gave her a feeling of security and peace. He told his sons that they were never to think of enlisting in the army, or of getting involved in the conflict in any other way. The war was to remain outside, thee should be no strife in their home.

When she finished university the economy of Lebanon was in ruins. There seemed to be no hope of finding work, no future at all in this war torn country. She applied to immigrate to Canada and was accepted. She obtained a passport, but could not seem to obtain the document needed to leave the country. By this time the Beirut Airport was controlled by a Muslim militia. She left for the airport with her documents and ticket, praying that somehow she would be able to get on the plane.

As soon as she walked though the doors of the airport a man approached her and asked for her documents. She handed them over, then panicked as she realized how foolish that was. The man asked her to come with him and she followed in an almost dream-like state. He led her through every step of the way, ticket counter, baggage check, security and so on, always going directly to the head of the line and getting her passed through with hardly a glance at the papers. Finally she was to the boarding ramp of her airplane; he handed her papers back to her, wished her well and was gone.

It wasn’t until her plane was airborne and she was safely on her way to Montreal that it sunk in how wondrously her prayer had been answered. She has no idea who the man was, or why he helped her. Her family has no idea either.

The only hope

A few days ago Montreal daily La Presse published a cartoon by Serge Chapleau, with two frames, entitled Teenage Crisis 2000 and Teenage Crisis 2014. Both frames picture a young man with a surly, vacant expression, wearing cargo pants that appear in imminent danger of descending to his ankles. In the first frame he is holding a skateboard; in the second he is holding a Kalishnikov and wearing an ammunition vest. It is an apt comment on the distemper of our times.

Young people are conscious that something is rotten in the state of our world. They feel an apprehension of a great conflagration that will sweep away the detritus of our corrupt world. Some opt to make as much money as they can before the fire reaches them, others opt to have as much fun as they can, and still others feel compelled to take an active part in bringing on the conflagration.

Several generations ago, communism was the great hope of those disenchanted with the emptiness of materialistic society. Communism promised the great hope of an intense class struggle which would be followed by a reborn humanity and a classless society. Alas, communism only produced more of the same envy, greed and class consciousness.

Now the same sort of disillusioned young people are turning to Islam as the great hope for righting the wrongs of our world. Eventually they will learn to their sorrow that Islam has no power to produce a better kind of person. The savagery and cruelty of the groups waging jihad should be sufficient evidence to show that jihad is not going to make the world a kinder, gentler place.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Jeremiah identified the root of the problem – the depravity of the human heart. No philosophy, political ideal, or religion that does not admit this problem, has a hope of improving our world.

Ezekiel foretold the solution: “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). The birth of Jesus Christ was the first step in God’s plan to make it possible for mankind to be transformed from the inside out – one person at a time.

There are no shortcuts. Forced conversion makes no change to the depraved heart. Watering down the cost of redemption makes it ineffective. The depravity of the human heart could only be dealt with by the crucifixion of the only man whose heart was not depraved. The depravity of our own heart requires us to deny ourselves (the natural inclinations of our depraved heart), take up our cross daily (dying daily to those inclinations) and following Jesus. We must deal with our depraved heart to allow the Holy Spirit to take control of our lives and incline us to live as Jesus lived.

There is a very real danger that, after we have become a Christian and been set free from the compulsions of our depraved heart, we will begin to see ourselves as somehow superior to other people. This is part of the deceptiveness of our heart that Jeremiah spoke of. We cannot help anyone else find their way to freedom if we forget that we are no different than they are. The only difference is that we have washed in the blood of Jesus Christ and allowed the power of the Holy Spirit to govern the thoughts and intentions of our hearts.

The failure of communism and Islam to provide any real benefit to humanity should be evident by now. The world is waiting for something that does work. Many will find it too hard. The gate into the kingdom of God is narrow, but it is still the only real hope of mankind.

Things I am thankful for

I know that it is still three weeks until Thanksgiving Day, but there are many things to be thankful for every day and I want to tell you about the things that I am thankful for right now.

My wife arrived home Thursday from a nine day stay in Edmonton where she was helping an elderly cousin who recently moved there from Saskatoon. I was glad she could go and help, and even more thankful when she came home. I was working while she was gone, plus taking care of the household chores. Some of the ways that she does things that seemed odd to me before make a lot more sense after having to do them myself.

Our youngest grandson had surgery to correct a lazy eye that same day. I am thankful that went well.

Pookie, our little white cat who had an encounter with a dog is back to his normal energetic self. He doesn’t look too good yet, but the wounds are healing with no more sign of infection.

A young couple whom we have not seen for ten years dropped in on us Saturday evening. They live in Québec and are out for a short visit with their oldest son who is working on a farm here. I said young, but that is from my perspective, Kevin must be 45 and there is some gray in his beard. We have known both of them, and their parents for years and it was a special treat to have them in our home, even if only for an hour.

There was a welcome at church this evening for a young couple, Renaldo and Brenda, (mid-thirties this time) who are moving back here after spending the past eleven years in Alberta.

Renaldo spent time in voluntary service in Montréal when in his youth, during the time that we were missionaries there. We had been living in Ontario before going to Montréal. Three young brethren from the Swanson congregation came to visit him. One of the three was Ken Klassen who first laid eyes on his future wife during that trip. He is now our son in law and the father of our grandchildren.

Brenda doesn’t remember the first time we met, as she was not yet four years old then. In January of 1981 her parents and their little children made a stop in our home in Ontario. At that time I had always counted on my wife to cut my hair, but she had undergone surgery a couple weeks earlier and wasn’t able to do it. Somehow it was mentioned that I was getting a little shaggy and Brenda’s father offered to cut my hair. We got out the clippers and the job was quickly done. Brenda doesn’t remember that, but her mother was there last night and she does. Then Brenda put me on the spot and asked if I remember the time she had been in our apartment in Montréal when she was 16. I had to admit that I had forgotten about that.

I am thankful for all the little things like this that bind us together as our paths cross and recross over the years.

Why a child should not be king of the home

There are widely divergent views on child training in North America – ranging all the way from a laissez faire attitude (let the child alone and she will figure things out on her own), to the harsh disciplinarian (if you want a child to learn how to behave you need to spank him once a day, and twice on Sundays). Actually, neither extreme can be called child training, both imply that the parents have abdicated from their role as parents to become either neutral observers or the administrators of a punitive law.

Child training means teaching and the teaching needs to begin in the first weeks and months. There is no harm in getting used to explaining to a baby what we expect of her when she is very small. This is a habit that we need to develop early, so that when a child is older we don’t leave our explaining until after she has done something wrong.

Parents in France start by teaching their babies to sleep through the night. They do this simply by learning to discern the sounds a baby makes when he wakes up in the night. We all go through many cycles each night of deep sleep and light sleep where we are awake or almost awake. A newborn does not know how to connect these cycles and if a mother jumps up at every whimper to comfort her child, she is actually hindering the child from learning. If the child’s cry is a cry of distress, then the mother knows the child needs help, but a few little whimpers between sleep cycles are normal. By not running for every whimper, the mother is also teaching the child that parents need sleep, too, they are not just servants who are at their child’s beck and call.

This is part of the essential task of teaching a child that she is not the one in charge, the parents are.  As soon as possible, a child should be expected to greet adults when they come to visit and to greet the adults in a home where the family visits. This is good manners, and makes the child more aware that other people matter.

Most of us in North America grew up being ordered to eat everything on our plate and threatened with no dessert if we didn’t. Sometimes we were told about the poor starving children in China who would love to eat what we were leaving on our plate. Today there is an epidemic of obesity in both North America and China, and North American children are still very picky eaters. A better plan is to teach children that they don’t have to clean their plates, but they must eat at least a little of every food on the table.  Treats should be limited to once a day, perhaps an after school snack. If this plan is explained and adhered to without exception the child will learn that begging for a treat is useless. (This plan needs to be explained to the grandparents, too.)

A newborn baby understands only his own needs, but small steps such as these make him aware that other people have needs, too. This is child training and much of it can be accomplished without much fuss or stress. The goal is to teach the child that he is not in charge, the parents are. This does not mean that there might not be a need for stronger measures on occasion, but I am convinced that a lot of corporal punishment is simply an attempt to compensate for a lack of child training.

The child who grows up in a home where parents constantly yield to his wishes and whines is going to have a hard time adjusting to real life as an adult. It seems that some people today never really reach adulthood. We are doing our children a favour if we teach them in such a way that they are spared from a life of perpetual spoiled childhood.

Marriage – is it still a good idea?

Time was when almost all young people saw marriage in their future, and expected that marriage to be a lifelong arrangement. Times have changed — most young people today are wary of committing to a long term arrangement. Some may long for a more stable relationship than the one they are now in, but doubt that they can find a partner with the same longing. And then there are those who do not want any kind of arrangement with someone of the opposite sex.

Pat of the reason for the change is that a large portion of the young people growing up today are not acquainted with anyone who is in a stable and happy marriage relationship. They don’t even know that such a thing is possible.

My wife once worked with a young lady whose marriage had fallen apart. When she married two years earlier she had meant every word of the vows she made and looked forward to that ceremony being a stepping stone into a blissful future. The young man may have made promises, but at the dance after the reception he disappeared for awhile with another young lady. On his wedding night! Evidently the promises meant nothing to him. Can you even call that a marriage? That may be an extreme example, but it reveals an all too common attitude among many who go through a marriage ceremony. Is it any wonder that young ladies are wary of young men making promises?

But what are the alternatives? A young lady from a good home moves in with a decent, considerate young man. Both expect this to be a long term arrangement. All goes well until the young lady announces that a baby is on the way. The young man is just not ready for that level of responsibility and he disappears. Commitment and responsibility do not seem to be part of the vocabulary of a large part of today’s society.

Making a marriage work is not easy.  Marriage infringes on our freedom; we can’t both do everything we want, the way we want. Some of the things that once seemed important to me are simply not compatible with this new reality of couplehood (not really a word, but it says what I want to say).

If we enter into marrige thinking only of the short term benefits, it won’t take long until it looks like there may be more benefits on the other side of the fence. It’s not fashionable today to think of the long term, but we’re all going to get old and then we might begin to realize that we have missed something. My wife and I will celebrate our 44th anniversary in two days. We have lived through many trying times that could have torn us apart, but now the victories won in those struggles bind us together.

We are fortunate to have united with a body of Christian believers with a strong belief in the sanctity of marriage. A few marriage breakdowns do occur in this church, there are a few homes that could be labelled dysfunctional. But the success rate of marriages among our brothers and sisters in this church is astoundingly better than in the society around us. There is strength to be found in such a setting where the principles of a happy home are consistlently taught and lived.

It may happen that someone witnesses the happiness of our homes and joins the church, hoping to find this same happiness. Hoping and wishing aren’t enough. The adjustments are often painful. The former self-centred and shortsighted priorities have to be abandoned and replaced by new priorities, seeking the happiness of another person rather than my own and keeping my eyes on the long-term goal.

As the years go by, I am more and more certain that marriage is still the best arrangement for the happiness of mankind and womankind. After all, it was instituted by our Creator, who lnows better than we do where to find true happiness. When the children have grown up and married and are now trying to teach their children the things that we hardly knew how to teach them, the picture looks sweeter and sweeter,

Not as easy as it looked

There is a little Christian bookstore in Sherbrooke, Québec that we used to visit when we lived in that province. I would buy a book or two and we would visit with Priscille, the lady who managed the store. I’m not sure if she worked there full time,  occasionally there would be someone else there.

Priscille was a wife and mother, also a writer. I have a book entitled Un chant nouveau (A New Song) containing mostly short songs and choruses for use in worship and Sunday School. Priscille wrote the words for six of the songs.

She also wrote verses for a greeting card company. There was a greeting card company in Ontario that also had a line of French language cards with spiritual messages and she wrote for them. Her teenage boy would sometimes remark that this was such easy money – Mom would write out a number of short messages, send them away and in a few weeks a cheque would come back. It seemed to him that Mom was taking money for not doing much at all.

There came a snow day when school was cancelled and there wasn’t much to do at home. Priscille gave him a pad of paper and suggested he try his hand at writing greeting card verses, promising that if he could come up with something good she would send it to the company so he could share in the easy money.

He eagerly sat down at the table and began to write; his mother went about her work. He wrote a few lines, crossed them out, wrote some more, crossed it out and wrote again. He tore off that sheet of paper, crumpled it up. threw it in the waste basket and started over.

Sheet after sheet went into the garbage and finally a plaintive wail was heard: “Mom, this is hard work!

Music to his mother’s ears, no doubt. Evidently though, the young lad did have a feeling for what good writing should be. One would hope that he didn’t give up on writing.

Love, motherhood, joy

Anne Cloutier has a doctorate in socialogy, but chose to be a stay at home mom to her three children. She has recently published a book about her choice, entitled Aimer, Materner, Jubiler. The title of this post is a rough translation of the book title.

Anne Cloutier is not an all-out anti-feminist, but in an interview in the Montréal daily la Presse,  she points out a basic weakness in the arguments of the women’s movement. It’s all very well to champion a woman’s right to be free and independent, but children need their mother. Many women find themselves torn between the needs of their children and the noble sounding theories of feminism. Anne Cloutier’s message is that for a woman to choose to givie herself to the needs of her children is a noble choice.

She says the bond between mother and child is so powerful that it should not be denied in the name of equality. The daughters and grand-daughters of militant feminists are taking stock and realizing that they may be missing something. Women who are not in the work force and not so much in the public eye, are also making real contributions to the well-being of society.

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