Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: Saskatchewan

The Legend of the Qu’Appelle Valley

by Emily Pauline Johnson

I am the one who loved her as my life,
Had watched her grow to sweet young womanhood;
Won the dear privilege to call her wife,
And found the world, because of her, was good.
I am the one who heard the spirit voice,
Of which the paleface settlers love to tell;
From whose strange story they have made their choice
Of naming this fair valley the ” Qu’Appelle.”

She had said fondly in my eager ear —
” When Indian summer smiles with dusky lip,
Come to the lakes, I will be first to hear
The welcome music of thy paddle dip.
I will be first to lay in thine my hand,
To whisper words of greeting on the shore;
And when thou would’st return to thine own land,
I’ll go with thee, thy wife for evermore.”

Not yet a leaf had fallen, not a tone
Of frost upon the plain ere I set forth,
Impatient to possess her as my own —
This queen of all the women of the North.
I rested not at even or at dawn,
But journeyed all the dark and daylight through —
Until I reached the Lakes, and, hurrying on,
I launched upon their bosom my canoe.

Of sleep or hunger then I took no heed,
But hastened o’er their leagues of waterways;
But my hot heart outstripped my paddle’s speed
And waited not for distance or for days,
But flew before me swifter than the blade
Of magic paddle ever cleaved the Lake,
Eager to lay its love before the maid,
And watch the lovelight in her eyes awake.

So the long days went slowly drifting past;
It seemed that half my life must intervene
Before the morrow, when I said at last —
” One more day’s journey and I win my queen!”
I rested then, and, drifting, dreamed the more
Of all the happiness I was to claim, —
When suddenly from out the shadowed shore,
I heard a voice speak tenderly my name.

” Who calls?” I answered; no reply; and long
I stilled my paddle blade and listened. Then
Above the night wind’s melancholy song
I heard distinctly that strange voice again —
A woman’s voice, that through the twilight came
Like to a soul unborn — a song unsung.
I leaned and listened — yes, she spoke my name.
And then I answered in the quaint French tongue,
” Qu’Appelle? Qu’Appelle?” No answer, and the night
Seemed stiller for the sound, till round me fell
The far-off echoes from the far-off height —
” Qu’Appelle?” my voice came back, ” Qu’Appelle? Qu’Appelle?”
This — and no more; I called aloud until
I shuddered as the gloom of night increased,
And, like a pallid spectre wan and chill,
The moon arose in silence in the east.

I dare not linger on the moment when
My boat I beached beside her tepee door;
I heard the wail of women and of men, —
I saw the death-fires lighted on the shore.
No language tells the torture or the pain,
The bitterness that flooded all my life, —
When I was led to look on her again,
That queen of women pledged to be my wife.
To look upon the beauty of her face,
The still closed eyes, the lips that knew no breath;
To look, to learn, — to realize my place
Had been usurped by my one rival — Death.
A storm of wrecking sorrow beat and broke
About my heart, and life shut out its light
Till through my anguish some one gently spoke,
And said, ” Twice did she call for thee last night.”
I started up — and bending o’er my dead,
Asked when did her sweet lips in silence close.
” She called thy name — then passed away,” they said,
” Just on the hour whereat the moon arose.”

Among the lonely Lakes I go no more,
For she who made their beauty is not there;
The paleface rears his tepee on the shore
And says the vale is fairest of the fair.
Full many years have vanished since, but still
The voyageurs beside the campfire tell
How, when the moonrise tips the distant hill,
They hear strange voices through the silence swell.
The paleface loves the haunted lakes they say,
And journeys far to watch their beauty spread
Before his vision; but to me the day,
The night, the hour, the seasons are all dead.
I listen heartsick, while the hunters tell
Why white men named the valley The Qu’Appelle.

[This poem about the origin of the name of the Qu’Appelle valley in Saskatchewan was written by Mohawk poet Tekahionwake (1831-1913), also known as E. Pauline Johnson.]

The dinosaur question

In 1991 an archaeological research team discovered dinosaur bones in the Frenchman River Valley of south-western Saskatchewan. Over 20 years of painstaking work by hand uncovered the almost complete fossilized skeleton of a T. Rex and then removed it from the rock in which it was embedded.

Named Scotty, the massive reconstructed skeleton is now on display at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Regina. Scotty is the largest T. Rex ever discovered, 50 cm longer and 400 kg heavier than the Chicago Field Museum’s Sue.

The R.S.M., formerly known as the Saskatchewan Natural History Museum, displays 3-dimensional scenes of Saskatchewan flora and fauna, both of the present day and of the past. This includes lifelike re-creations of smaller land-dwelling and water-dwelling dinosaurs.

I know there are Christians who recoil at the subject of dinosaurs. “The Bible never mentions dinosaurs, so I don’t see why I should believe they ever existed,” some say “It’s just a story made up by evolutionists.”

People who say, or think, things like that aren’t as common as they once used to be. But if you are one of those who still has qualms about the dinosaur question, here are a few points that might calm your fears.

  1. It’s hard to argue with a pretty much complete fossil skeleton. Fossils are being found all over the world. Those as complete as Scotty are uncommon, and it’s possible that sometimes bones have been assembled incorrectly, but that isn’t enough to explain away all the evidence that has been discovered.
  2. Richard Owen coined the word dinosaur in 1842 after bones were discovered in various places that did not match any creature now living. It combines two Greek words and means “terrible lizard.”
  3. The Bible speaks of dragons, sea monsters, behemoth and leviathan. These could well be descriptions of the beasts we now label dinosaurs. Bible commentators in the past thought the description of behemoth in Job 405-24 sounded like a hippopotamus. They were doing their best to match it to some animal that they knew existed. Does it really match? I don’t think so. The hippopotamus is a fearsome beast, but this sounds like something even bigger and more fearsome. “He moveth his tail like a cedar,” cannot describe a hippopotamus which has a tail like a rope that is less than 20 inches long. Leviathan also sound like something bigger and more fearsome than a crocodile. 
  4. Many folktales about dragons are too fantastic to be believable. Yet the great number of such stories, and the fact that the dragons they describe are a lot like dinosaurs, leads one to believe there is some underlying truth. It’s not necessary to believe every detail of these stories, but neither is it wise to dismiss them altogether.   
  5. The book of Job appears to have originated as oral history some centuries before the development of a phonetic writing system. Behemoth, leviathan and the unicorn (not a cute cousin of the horse, more likely something like a humongous rhinoceros), likely describe animals which later became extinct and whose bones we have been digging up over the past two centuries. 

Breakdown on the information highway

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Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

I had planned to write something else yesterday evening, but found myself in a position much like the young man in the photo above: the vehicle with which I cruise the information highway had broken down.

We live on an acreage in a sparsely populated part of the Saskatchewan prairies where there are not enough homes to interest a big telecom in laying miles of fibre-optic cable. I had service from a satellite company for years, but clouds kept interfering with the signal. A year ago I switched to a service that captures the signal sent from the nearest cell phone tower; it is faster and pretty much problem free.

Except that there was a thunderstorm in the area the night before last that knocked out our power for awhile and when I got up in the morning the modem showed no signs of life. We had to leave for the city and were gone most of the day. When we got home it was too late to contact the dealer who installed the service. I checked everything out and concluded that the modem was truly fried. In the process, I discovered that in rearranging all the cords I had plugged the modem power supply directly into the wall outlet rather than the surge protector. No wonder it didn’t survive the power outage.

This morning I went to the dealer, Thorstad Computer, located in the nearby town of Outlook. They thought that it was probably the circuit protector that had failed, not the modem. They gave me a new circuit protector and a new modem to take home and try; they didn’t even ask me to pay for them until I knew for sure what I needed.

I went home, plugged in both new parts and soon the internet was working again. Then I swapped the old circuit protector for the new one: after a few minutes the internet was up and running again. Next, I swapped the old modem for the new one: once again, after a few minutes all the lights came on and we have internet – with the old parts!

What happened? Did the road trip do good things for the modem? Was there an electronic healing atmosphere in the computer shop?  I think it just needed a rest. I did disconnect the power to the modem for half a minute while trouble-shooting last night; evidently that wasn’t long enough.

The good folks at Thorstad say to keep the new parts over the weekend and if there are no more problems bring them back Tuesday (Monday is a holiday here).

We are having the hottest weather of the summer right now. The power was off again some time last night, again this morning (twice) and very briefly again as I was typing this.

The computer is on a battery back up to prevent data loss and get me through incidents like this, but it looks like my confidence in the old modem was misplaced – it was knocked out again by this last blip in the power. I’ve got the new one hooked up again.

There you have it: a play by play account of what it has taken to get back to travelling down the information highway.

Midsummer rambles and rumbles

I spent the past few days visiting the brothers and sisters of the congregation at Roxton Falls, Quebec and worshipped with them last Sunday. The purpose of the trip was to wok on the editorial revision of a church history book recently translated into French.

The other three members of the French editorial committee are members of the Roxton Falls congregation. We have frequent on-line sessions but it boosts our productivity if we can get together once a year and actually sit around the same table. We did that last Friday and Saturday.

Nature produced some impressive sound and light shows while I have been away. My plane landed in Montreal last Thursday evening just as an impressive thunderstorm hit the area. Other planes delayed their takeoff until the storm abated, we sat on the tarmac for 15 minutes until our plane could move up to the loading ramp and we could disembark. A tornado associated with that storm system hit Saint-Roch-de-l’Achigan, north of Montreal, and caused major damages.

Late Sunday evening my wife informed me that a thunderstorm with strong winds that passed through our area and produced 18 mm of rain. Later, we heard that a plow wind from that storm system had earlier struck the town of Eston, about 150 km southwest of us, destroying the hangar at the local landing strip and one house and damaging many more. Still later, we heard that lightning had struck a shed on the yard of a cousin who lives west of Saskatoon.

Yesterday afternoon, before I arrived home, another thunderstorm went through this area and left as much rain as the one Sunday evening. No reports of damage this time. Despite the destruction caused to buildings by these storms there have been no people injured.

Prairie fire!

Just before supper time today my wife smelled smoke. We went outside and saw the fire behind the buildings of our neighbour. Our son-in-law was the first to see it while going home for supper. He turned around to get the fire engine from the village six miles away, sending out the alert to  other members of the volunteer fire department as he went. He called the closest farmer and he drove his tractor over there right away to make a fire guard in the stubble.

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Image by skeeze from Pixabay

This is spring time in Saskatchewan; Quebec is having floods, we are having fires. They happen most often around the Easter weekend; people clean up their yards and want to burn the trash. If there is a little breeze, the fire gets away on them and spreads like wildfire in the dry grass, stubble and brush. A week ago our son-in-law spent the whole day going from one fire to another, three in all.

Today’s fire may have been caused by spontaneous combustion. Our neighbour makes doors for cabinet makers. I am guessing the fire may have started in a pile of wood scraps, rags and empty paint and glue containers. He was not aware there was a fire until our son-in-law called him.  It took two hours to put the fire out, a couple of trees and some dry grass and stubble burned, but the fire was away from the buildings. 

There is a spiritual parallel in the way so many churches are disappearing in rural and small-town Saskatchewan. The town where I grew up once had five churches; only two are left. Of those two, neither has roots in the Word of God. One teaches salvation through the sacraments, the other teaches that it is society that needs salvation, not people.

What happened? I think they dried up from the roots. Many people used to read the Bible daily. Perhaps their understanding of what they read differed somewhat from the way those in another church believed. Yet they all had a basic trust in the truth of God’s Word. Many preachers were pretty down to earth men who were willing to get by on meager fare to bring the gospel to their people.

Denominational leaders thought they could make the gospel more effective in providing more education for preachers. Once these better-educated preachers went out into the rural churches, the people discovered they hadn’t really understood anything about the Bible. The new preachers brought new insights, but people didn’t trust themselves to read the Bible for themselves any more.

Then too, better educated ministers deserved a better salary. Soon the smaller churches couldn’t afford a minister. They amalgamated to pool their resources. That meant people had to drive further to church and sometimes they just couldn’t make it every Sunday. That often led to another round of amalgamations. Today very few small communities have any kind of gospel preaching church.

A prairie fire mostly just burns dead grass, leaves and bushes. Before long green growth appears amid the ashes and by summer’s end there will be little evince of the fire.

The spiritual prairie fire that destroyed our rural churches burned underground, destroying the roots. People forgot that it is not well-paid, educated ministers and big buildings that make a Christian church. It is people, individuals and families, who read their Bible every day and pray to God to help them live what they read. Once that faith has withered and died, there is no need for buildings and preachers.

Still, something will grow in that burned over ground. We say we don’t like what we see growing around us, so let’s be like the sower in the parable Jesus told and scatter the precious seed wherever we go.

Feeling a bit groggy this morning?

Maybe you should move to Saskatchewan. We ditched Daylight Saving Time more than 50 years ago.

More and more studies are  demonstrating just how useless is this business of turning the clocks ahead one hour. It does nothing to reduce energy costs, which has been its stated purpose from the beginning.

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What it does do is cause more heart attacks, strokes, accidents and depression due to sleep deprivation. Numerous studies show that tomorrow and throughout the coming week there will be a statistically significant uptick in all the unfortunate phenomena just mentioned.

Don’t listen to those who say it must be right because everybody is doing it. India, China, the Philippines and South  Africa have stopped doing it, leaving Europe and most of North America as thee main practitioners of this bizarre practice. Isn’t it time they saw the light and dropped it, too?

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).

Who am I?

It was in a little church near St Marys, Ontario, that my wife and I were baptized and became members of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite. After the service, the minister who had baptized us advised us to “Just be yourselves.”

That was a very kind and generous welcome, but I didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t really know who I was. I have spent the forty years since that day sifting through the baggage I have picked up along the road of life and trying to discern which of those things have a place in defining who I am.

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My mother’s ethnic and religious heritage is not part of who I am. Her mother tongue was Plautdietsch and her second language German, the language of the church her family attended and which she joined in her youth. After some years she realized that German was the faith of the church and the things she had learned in the catechism were only decoration. This church had no message for anyone who didn’t know German, including Mom’s eight younger siblings.
She left that church and married my father, a very determined step away from her background. My grandmother sent me a German primer once, I suppose in the hope that I would learn German so I could be a Christian. I mean no disrespect to my grandmother, I loved her, but that was how she had been trained to think. I was intrigued by that German primer, but Mom showed no enthusiasm for teaching me German. If I asked questions she would answer them, but that was all. I soon stopped asking questions. I have no interest in cultural Christianity. That is part of who I am.

My father was from the USA, of Puritan descent but Wesleyan Methodist by faith. That denomination got swallowed up in the social gospel and church union movement. My father had no use for anything to do with the social gospel, in religion, politics or business (the co-operative movement). I have no interest in Christianity as a social movement. That is part of who I am.

My father’s mother spoke French. Dad had some pride in his French heritage but found it embarrassing that his mother actually spoke the language. He wished everyone would speak one language, namely English. Mom talked about how her father had wished that he had learned French when he had the opportunity in his younger days and wished that she could have had the opportunity to learn French. I listened to Mom more than Dad.

I have had allergy problems since I was a baby. That has limited the type of work that I can do. Little by little I have learned what I can do and what I can’t do and am coping quite well, but allergy awareness is still very much part of me. I am a vegetarian, but not because of any religious or philosophical persuasion. I really don’t know why, but I quit eating meat 65 years ago. Maybe it had something to do with my allergies. Maybe it had more to do with the butcherings I saw as a boy.

When we were away from home my father would go up to complete strangers and ask: “What do you think of Jesus?” It embarrassed me terribly when I was young, now I wish I could be more like that. I’m not as bold as my father, but then neither am I as argumentative. Those who know me might wonder about that last statement, but trust me, it’s true. You didn’t know my Dad.

English was Mom’s third language. She had a large dictionary that she had been studying for years and spoke English with no trace of accent. I come by my love of dictionaries honestly. I learned to read when I was four years old and have never stopped. I have been putting my thoughts into writing for a long time now and a desire to communicate is very much part of who I am.

I lived on a farm in the hills of the Missouri Coteau in southeastern Saskatchewan until I was almost 10. There are scenes in my memory from that time that seem almost like heaven. I have lived many other places since then: five provinces, rural areas, towns, villages and cities large and small. I am living on an acreage at this time, but would really prefer to live in a city where there are people around.

I went to a small town school and had read every book in the school library before I finished high school. I learned something important in that reading: two historians can write about the same events and refer to the same dates, the same people, yet come up with different versions of what had really been going on. In my school days, history was taught from the point of view of the Orange Order. I didn’t really understand it at the time, but that point of view has had a negative effect on relations between English and French, Protestant and Catholic, white and nonwhite people in Canada. I am not one who thinks that Christians would be better off not knowing anything about history. I believe that we can’t really understand what is going on today if we don’t know anything about history and the biases created by different perceptions in the past.

I have worked in occupations that encouraged my natural tendency to be detail conscious: like grain buyer, quality assurance and bookkeeper. I probably tend to overdo it at times.

In addition to my parents, I have been influenced by my wife, my daughter, her husband, our grandchildren, brothers and sisters in the faith, preachers, teachers, co-workers. Everybody I have ever met has probably left some small trace on my character.

So who am I? I am a born-again Christian and a Mennonite, not by heritage, culture, language or philosophy, but by the call of God and my response to that call. I am a Canadian, by birth, by education, by life experience. I am a native of Saskatchewan, it is home to me but I have been able to feel at home almost anywhere in this country. I speak both of Canada’s official languages and no others, but occasionally make a stab at learning Italian. I see myself more as an urbanite than as a countryman. And I am a writer. I’ve hesitated for years to admit it, especially to myself, but writing is what motivates me more than anything else.

Stony ground

Matthew 13:5 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:
6 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;
21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

Jesus told a parable about a man who went out to sow his grain by hand and didn’t seem to be all that particular about where the seed landed. Some landed on hard packed trails, some on stony ground and some among thorns and thistles. I was a Saskatchewan farm boy, I got the picture, he was just throwing his seed away. Some even landed on soil that was cultivated, weed and stone free, and it grew to produce more seed for the man to throw around the next spring.

Preachers loved to read this parable to us and urge us to get out there and break up that hard-packed soil of our hearts, pull the weeds and thistles and clear away the stones, so the good seed of the Word of God could take root and grow. It all made sense to Saskatchewan preachers and farm boys.

Stones seem to grow on about half the farm land in Saskatchewan. You go out in the spring and pick stones on a field and by next spring there is a fresh crop of stones on the field. Where did they come from? Long, long ago stone boats were invented to help move stones from fields. They were flat sleds made of planks nailed to timber runners and pulled by oxen or horses. Later, tractor drawn wagons were used, but the actual rock picking was done by hand.

I picked rocks one day with a helper who was physically capable, yet unable to decide on his own if a stone was big enough to be picked or small enough that it would cause no harm if it was left. He was a willing worker, but had to ask me about every stone he saw.

About 60 years ago a farmer somewhere in Saskatchewan built himself a tractor-drawn machine with heavy duty teeth on the front, spaced so that smaller stones would fall between and the bigger ones would be scooped into a pan as it was pulled through a field. It was equipped with hydraulic cylinders to dump the load of stones at some location off of the field. Before long there were farmers all over the place working in their shops to build their own version of rock picker; some of these farm shops developed into industrial operations.

That pretty much eliminated the back-breaking labour of rock picking. The reason the rocks had to come off the field was because they damaged farm equipment. When cultivator shovels and other tillage tools are continually bouncing off of rocks it reduces their life span. The shaking and rattling doesn’t do good things for the frame of the implement either.

I knew of a father and son who didn’t ever bother to pick rocks, or make any attempt to control the weeds in their fields. It seems strange to call guys hillbillies when they lived on the flat prairie, but I can’t think of a better label. Their home was pretty basic and there was never any sign of a woman around. I wondered if they might have some source of income other than the pitiful crops they produced on their land.

One spring they announced that they were going modern. They bought registered seed wheat and fertilizer. The weeds grew super high. The wild mustard resembled another parable of Jesus, with birds perching on the branches. They still had to maneuver their equipment around the rocks when they seeded and harvested, I wondered if they didn’t leave as much grain in the field as they put in their bins.

But what do stones have to do with hindering root growth? That was what Jesus talked about in his parable and I guess I missed it for years. You know, you hear a story repeated for years and just take it in the way it is told. But then you go back to the source and read the words of Jesus, and all of a sudden it just doesn’t add up. What does that part of the parable mean?

About that time, my wife and I took a trip to St. Lawrence County, New York, where my grandparents grew up. This is straight south of Ottawa, not far south of the St. Lawrence River. We visited several of my second-cousins. They were all dairy farmers, or retired dairy farmers. That seemed to be the only kind of farming that was viable in that county. As we drove around, we saw areas of exposed bedrock and were told that most fields had only six inches of soil, below that was solid bedrock. They could grow hay and silage crops, but grain crops would dry up before they matured, because the summer heat would dry the soil down to the rock.

The light went on. This is what Jesus was talking about. There are probably many fields like this in the areas where He walked. Comparing this to Christian life portrays the person who receives the gospel with enthusiasm, but the enthusiasm is only superficial. When the heat is on, it becomes apparent that the good seed never took root in the hardness of their heart.

Is the state of such people absolutely hopeless? I don’t believe it is. There are trees growing in St. Lawrence County. Their fine roots find tiny fissures in the rocks, take hold, find what nourishment they can and grow. As those tiny roots grow, they split the rocks and more fissures develop. Finally you have a tree that is firmly rooted and grounded and immune to pretty well anything nature can throw at it.

Grasshoppers, girls and family gatherings

grasshoppers-1195909_1280Grasshoppers were everywhere that summer. Those of us who wore pants learned to be careful about where we walked, but I think we all still had the experience of trying to discreetly deal with a grasshopper who had flown up inside the leg of our pants. Those who wore skirts were even more circumspect and didn’t spend much time outside of a motor vehicle or a house. Of course, grasshoppers had ways of getting into those places as well.

Ladies didn’t have much reason for spending time outdoors, anyway. Grasshoppers had stripped gardens of all that had been green. One could only wait for fall and hope there might be some potatoes or carrots in the ground. As for lawns, they could disappear in an afternoon, eaten right down to the ground.

The annual family gathering at grandpa and grandma’s farm was still on. As we drove in the tree lined driveway I looked at the sheltered area where we usually gathered to eat and visit. Wood was neatly stacked beside the fire pit, but I doubted that we would be eating on the picnic benches this year.

I saw some of my younger cousins just outside the house, boys who lived in far away cities. Lisa, who lived on the farm just across the road from Grandpa’s place was just pedaling her bike down the driveway. Lisa was a farm girl, she didn’t like grasshoppers but she wasn’t going to let them spoil her summer.

The boys, having never seen grasshoppers before, were both enthralled and apprehensive.  Jared had brought a paper coffee cup from the house. He timidly held it on its side on the ground and used its cover to try and coax a grasshopper into it. Apparently he succeeded, as he stood up triumphantly, putting the lid on the cup.

Seeing Lisa just getting off her bike, he walked over and said, “I’ve got something to show you.” He held the coffee cup out to her as he removed the lid, then leaned over to look into it himself. That was a mistake. The grasshopper, seeing light above him, flew straight up and bounced off Jared’s forehead. Cup and lid tumbled to the ground as Jared jumped back, his eyes wide.

The grasshopper just sat there on the ground beside the cup, perhaps stunned from the collision with Jared’s forehead. Lisa stooped down, picked up the cup in one hand, picked up the grasshopper with the other and put it back in the cup. After replacing the lid on the cup she tried to hand it back to Jared. He backed up a couple more steps, then turned around and headed into the house.

As Lisa tossed the cup in a nearby garbage can, she looked at me and asked “Why do boys always have to be such show-offs?” I didn’t have an answer, not being all that many years removed from Jared’s age myself.

Lisa went on into the house and headed for the kitchen. I followed to look for cousins more my age and saw the young boys clustered by the basement stairs, probably trying to scheme up some excitement that wouldn’t involve grasshoppers. As I walked by them, Jared looked up and asked “Why do girls always have to be such show-offs?”

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