Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: little things

The power of little things

My mother was 10 when her family moved from south-east Manitoba to south-west Saskatchewan. Whenever she talked about that move she would say “The thing I missed was seeing the tees and the Indians.”

It wasn’t until I reached adulthood that I asked the obvious question: “Mon, I get the part about the trees, but what’s this about the Indians?”

“Well, whenever Indians travelled through our area, they would stop at our place for a rest and a drink of water.”

My grandfather was a Plautdietsch speaking Sommerfelder Mennonite, not very prosperous, blind, and the father of 14 children, of which my mother was number 6. Apparently he was blind in more ways than one.

Before he married, he had worked at Letellier, Manitoba. One of his coworkers was a black man who had made his way to Canada from the US South. My grandfather learned some old negro spirituals from him and then taught them to his children. My mother used to sing some of them.

My grandfather learned English while working there, and later said he wished he had learned French, too, as there were French-speaking people living there. Whenever my mother told about her father’s wish that he had learned French, she would add, “And if he had, I would have, too!”

I heard those little things when my mother talked about her earlier years. They made a lasting impression, and I believe enabled me to look at other people as being not a lot different from me.

In her late teens, my mother memorized the German catechism, and the bishop baptized her. I think the teachings in that catechism found a place deeper than just in her mind. The family spoke mostly Plautdietsch at home, and some English. The church was entirely German — Bible reading, hymns, sermons, prayers. My mother was the last of the children to learn German. As she grew older, she realized that in her church the language was more important than the teachings in the catechism; it had nothing to offer her 8 younger siblings who did not know German.

She left that church and expressed no nostalgia for it. Her mother, my grandmother, appeared to believe that I needed to learn German to be a Christian. She sent me a copy of the catechism and a German primer. I was curious and made a beginning in the primer. Mom would help me whenever I asked, but never prompted me to keep on trying to learn German. She had a large English dictionary that she had studied for years, learned to speak English with no trace of an accent, had a larger vocabulary than many whose mother tongue was English.

When Chris and I started to attend the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite, some members got all excited when they found that Mom’s mother tongue had been Plautdietsch. She was polite and friendly, but did not share their enthusiasm. I have wondered if she didn’t have a little fear that I was getting into the sort of thing she had left behind.

I am my mother’s son. She said nothing negative about anyone, but the impression she left was that Plautdietsch and German had nothing to do with being a Christian and were not anything I needed to pursue.

My father was from the USA, his mother was Franco-American and it embarrassed him when she spoke French to their neighbours here in Saskatchewan. I got a lot more encouragement from my mother to learn French than from my father.

That’s my personal history. I could say more about my father, but I don’t think it’s necessary. I’ll just say that my mother’s positive remarks about others had more influence on me than my father’s negative remarks.

Are there negative things that Christians say today that can have a harmful effect on their children’s attitude toward others?

How do we look at ourselves? 

We can’t change our ethnic identity, or the family into which we were born. But if we think that our family, or our ethnic group, has some innate quality that makes us more apt to be Christian, or a better Christian, than others, we are contradicting the whole message of the New Testament. Any hint of pride or exclusivity undermines our gospel witness..

How do we look at others?

Sometimes I hear Christians say that the people around us aren’t interested in the gospel. That implants the thought in the younger generation that there is no point in trying to share the gospel in our home communities.

How do we talk about people of a different skin colour, or who speak with an accent? Nigger, negro, darkie and coloured are not polite or respectful terms to use for black people. Sometimes we complain about the immigrants in our communities. It enthuses us to send missionaries to the countries they came from, but when they arrive here, we have a different attitude.

There is no 8 step program to break the problem I am describing. It’s a matter of the heart. Little changes in our attitudes toward the surrounding people, little changes in our speech, could add up to a big change in the way others see us.

Brought low by such a little thing

The flourishing African violets and other greenery in our home are testimony of my wife’s green thumb.  She grows new plants from cuttings and often has African violets to give away.  When she has too many little succulents she will take a few to a store in our nearest town that sells antiques, home decor and succulents. Richard usually gives her a plant or two in return.

Last Friday she came home with a tiny little plant in a 10 cm pot. At supper time, Chris noticed a scent in the air and wondered where it was coming from. I couldn’t smell anything, but my sinuses were becoming congested and my throat sore.

Chris finally traced the scent to that little pot that she had placed on the corner of our table. The tiny plant in there was flowering, tiny, tiny little flowers, but with a powerful scent.  Chris put the plant in a different location and put a glass cover over it with just a little gap for air circulation.

I turned on our air purifier and started taking decongestants and echinacea. I made it through the weekend with their help, attending a wedding on Saturday, Sunday morning worship and taught the intermediate Bible study in the evening. But the effect of the decongestants kept me awake most of Sunday night.Yesterday I took care of some needed business in the morning, then took it easy the rest of the day.

Today I feel like I’m almost recovered from that allergy attack. That little plant carried quite a punch for someone like me who is susceptible to allergic rhinitis. I suspect that I may have run a little short on sleep in the days prior to this incident, which compromises the immune system and makes me more apt to react as I did. But I’m quite sure it was those flowers that triggered the attack.

My mind remained active during the time I was trying to rest my body. I pondered where I was going with this blog, what is it that I felt a need to share with my readers.  You will start to see the results of that pondering tomorrow.

How to be happy

Forget about yourself. You will never obtain all the things you think are necessary for your happiness. If you could, they wouldn’t be enough anyway.

Think about others. Do some small thing every day that will boost someone else’s happiness. Start at home ­- but don’t stop there. Most of the good things you can do won’t cost money. Most of the time nobody else needs to know who did it.

The goal is not to make yourself happy, it is to forget about yourself. But happiness might just come sneaking in while you’re not looking.

Remember though, that happiness is just an incidental benefit. You can’t do something good for someone else with a selfish motive. If you do it won’t make either of you happy.

But rather giving of thanks

In Ephesians 5:4, the apostle Paul names a number of things that should not come out of a Christian’s mouth, then adds: “but rather giving of thanks.” How easy it is to forget that. In my last blog post, I mentioned the things that were stolen from us one evening almost twenty years ago. But the thief missed something – in one of the top dresser drawers there was an envelope containing several hundred US dollars. Two days later we left on a planned trip to Pennsylvania and we got to spend that money, not the thief.

Did I thank God for that blessing? I think I did, but I’ll have to admit that thankfulness doesn’t enter my mind as readily as it should. We experience so many little blessings. They seem like coincidences, but are they really? If they were only coincidences the results would be as often negative as positive. When so many little things happen that are positive, there must be an unseen hand behind it all.

I would naturally like God to do big things for me, provide instant answers to my problems. But wouldn’t that lead to confusion about who is the master and who is the servant in our relationship? If I choose to be patiently obedient, the little things do add up to something very big. I want to remember to thank God for every little thing that He does for me.

Someone who is not satisfied unless things go just right spreads discontent everywhere he goes. We are continually being told that we should not be satisfied, we are victims, everything around is going wrong. And so it seems. But joining the mass movement of discontent will not make things better. Those who are determined to be unhappy will be unhappy still.

What would our world be like if there was a movement of people determined to be happy? People who saw little acts of kindness about them and spoke their appreciation? People who woke up each morning thankful to be alive and have another day to serve the God who has planned good things for them? Giving thanks for the good we see enables us to see how much good there really is, and our thankfulness can be just as contagious as someone else’s complaining.

And out of them shall proceed thanksgiving and the voice of them that make merry: and I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will also glorify them, and they shall not be small — Jeremiah 30:19.

Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore — Psalm 16:11

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