Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: spring

Snow, beautiful snow

It’s springtime in Saskatchewan and our yard has begun to emerge from the winter’s accumulation of snow. We were greeted this morning by more of the white stuff falling from the sky; by dinner time about 10 cm has accumulated. Beautiful, glittering, pristine white snow.

I had planned to go to the city this morning, but decided to rather stay home and contemplate the beauty of the snow. My decision was largely motivated by the knowledge that the city streets will be pretty ugly by now.

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A few minutes ago Pookie (who looks very much like the cat in the photo above) decided he wanted to go out. I opened the door and the sight of all that snow on the doorstep seemed very uninviting.

Well, why don’t I make the world outside a little more inviting for a kitty? A few minutes with a push broom cleared the heavy wet snow off the door step and the patio stones in front of it.

Pookie went out, walked down the steps and to the end of the patio stones. Then he gingerly stepped into the snow, excavated a spot, used it for a bathroom, covered it up and came back in.

There is a litter box in the house, but that is shared with two other cats. This is much more sanitary.

Bunny blues

rabbit-2414359_640.jpgIt was time to go back to school after the Easter vacation. I had put away my parka and winter boots. There wasn’t but a tiny bit of green here and there, but the snow was gone, the road was dry.

I crossed the highway and David came bouncing with excitement from the narrow pathway through the trees that hid his grandmother’s house from the road.

“The Easter Bunny brought me a whole bunch of eggs, red and yellow and blue, some chocolate, some filled with marshmallow and a chocolate bunny and . . . ”

He stopped and looked at me, “What did the Easter Bunny bring you?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing? Why didn’t he bring you anything?”

I had enough sense to know I shouldn’t tell this strangely immature eight year old that  there was no Easter Bunny. Just then an opportunity presented itself to say what seemed in my eleven year old mind to be the next best thing. We had come to the railroad tracks and there in the ditch lay a dead jackrabbit. I pointed to it and said “It looks like the Easter Bunny didn’t make it as far as our place.”

Well, I guess that was about the worst thing I could have done. David gasped, his eyes grew wide and his lips quivered. “But, but, who is going to bring me Easter eggs next year?”

What now? I didn’t want to be responsible for a red-faced sobbing boy appearing at school. A thought came to me. “You know David, I bet that there’s always another bunny ready to fill in if something happens to the Easter Bunny.”

David stopped beating the air with his fists and gasping for breath. Pretty soon we were talking about other things and all was well by the time we got to school.

Moving on, or pressing on

I really thought that spring would be here in just a day or two. The sun shone warmly on Saturday, the few patches of snow left were becoming smaller and smaller, we heard of birds coming back to a place just a few hours south of us.

Alas, it was but a dream. We awoke Sunday to a thick covering of fresh snow and rapidly cooling temperatures. Today the wind is blowing fiercely, cleaning the snow from open places and packing it into firm drifts in other places. The forecast doesn’t offer any hope of warmer weather until the 21st when spring officially begins.

No wonder the Romans named this month after Mars, their god of war. Many of the worst blizzards I have experienced arrived without warning during this month.

Wouldn’t it be better to live in a part of the world that never has winter? That sounds like a good idea on days like today. But – I have visited Arkansas and Mississippi at the end of March, when the weather was beautiful and I don’t know how I could survive a summer in those places. Besides, winter provides us with an all natural, ecologically safe barrier to things like fire ants, brown recluse spiders, Burmese pythons and other such creatures. Tornado season here is much shorter and less destructive.

I could go on, but you get the picture. I am accustomed to the hazards of living in this climate and know how to cope with the unpleasant aspects of it. If I moved somewhere else to avoid those issues, would I know how to cope with unfamiliar and unexpected aspects of the new locale?

A Saskatchewan politician visiting in British Columbia once said “A lot of Saskatchewan people move to B.C. because of the climate. Most of them move back because of the weather.” My father-in-law was one. He got so depressed by week after week of clouds, rain, and no sunshine in B.C. that he came back to Saskatchewan.

I think that applies to other aspects of our life. Someone grows frustrated in his job, his marriage, his church, the place he lives, and thinks a change will make things better. (I used the masculine pronouns because that is what I am and what I am most familiar with, not to imply that persons on the feminine side may not have the same temptations.) Most often the result is not what was anticipated.

Often a person will explain the change in one of these relationships by his need to get away from persons who are causing him trouble. Oddly enough, the same kind of persons, causing the same problems, are usually found in the next job, church, town, or marriage. And the next one after that.

If we take an honest look at ourselves, we are apt to find we have a full time job looking after the troubles caused by our own attitudes and actions. If we occupy ourselves with that, we will usually be quite content to stay where we are.

Sometimes there are legitimate reasons to move on, other than discontent with the people we have to do with. My wife and I tried out a number of churches years ago. We met a lot of fine people, but not the spiritual fellowship that we longed for. We have belonged to the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite for 37 years now. That doesn’t mean we have found nicer people, or better people, it just means that we are content that we are where God wants us to be.

Here in the Swanson congregation we have been trying for over a year to decide what to do about our aging church building. Such a situation provides endless possibilities for conflict. But it also creates possibilities for confession and apology when attitudes and words have been uncharitable. It feels like this process is drawing us closer together.

Prioritizing doesn’t work for me

My wife had her first round of chemotherapy on Monday and Tuesday. It went as well as one can expect this sort of thing to go – they were long, tiring days but she doesn’t appear to feel any worse from it. After another round or two (the treatments will be monthly) her energy level should start coming back up.

I was to my eye doctor today for a checkup on the macular degeneration in my eyes. Our daughter drove me into and around the city since I really shouldn’t drive when my vision is blurred from the drops they give to dilate my pupils. All was well and I had an enjoyable day with my daughter and youngest grandson.

OK, now we are done for a while with the things that others make happen to us and its time for us to make things happen. For me, that means catching up on the work I do for my bookkeeping clients, catching up on the writing that I have committed to doing, moving some bushes in our yard and getting ready for lawn mowing and other yard maintenance.now-1272358_1280.png

This brings up the perplexing question of what I should do first. I can spend hours trying to figure that out. There are some items on the list with fast approaching deadlines. Sometimes a phone call or text from a client will move me to action. Sometimes I start doing the thing that seems most important, but my mind seems more focused on another.  More often, I get frozen in dithering mode, trying to decide where I should begin.

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I think the light has finally dawned  – for me prioritizing is just another word for procrastination. I need to make a list of all the things that need to be done – otherwise I’m apt to do nothing until prodded into action by some outside force. Making the list takes a few minutes, trying to prioritize the jobs could take forever. The key is to start somewhere so I can cross one job off the list. Immediately, the load of all the other undone jobs becomes that much lighter.

Robins and skunks on O’Malley Road

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The songbirds are back: robins, meadowlarks and others – spring has come to Saskatchewan. Sometimes we can even tell it by the weather. Last Saturday was a beautiful sunny day with a high of 22° Celsius. That would be 72° in Americanese. This morning the ground was white again for several hours and the high for the day was 2°.

This is also tax season. The personal income tax deadline is April 30, but that falls on a Saturday which makes Monday May 2 the actual deadline. I am busy getting last years books in order for my business bookkeeping clients to take to their tax accountants. I only do a few personal tax returns, mostly for seniors. Last week that led to meeting two delightful ladies, both of them 90 years old and still going strong.

Saturday I attended a Christian writers’ “wordshop” in Saskatoon. This is an opportunity to get together with other writers for mutual encouragement and to hear talks that hopefully inform and inspire us to persevere, write and publish. It is also an opportunity to buy books from our fellow writers – I came home with five.

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For years we have been having problems with creatures resembling the cute little guy above getting under our mobile home. Most of the time they are quiet, inoffensive neighbours. There have been a couple of times when some other creature troubled them and we had to leave home for a few hours to let the resulting aroma dissipate.

I think we are dealing with one persistent pair. We have tried various means to let them know they are not welcome and/or to evict them. We try to limit ourselves to methods that will not cause unpleasant olfactory results for ourselves. Saturday we set up an ultrasonic sound generator that is supposed to drive them bonkers and make them want to escape.

Today one of them ventured out of the hole under the skirting of the trailer and into  the awaiting cage trap. They are not supposed to be able to spray when confined in this small cage, but our son-in-law had to step lively to avoid a direct hit when he came to take our guest away. One down, one more to go. At least I hope that is all there is.

 

Another sign of spring

This is income tax month in Canada, the deadline for filing is April 30. I am affected by this deadline in three ways. First, there are the people for whom I prepare and file personal income tax returns, then there are my business clients for whom I have to get files ready for their tax accountant, and lastly, I have to do my own income tax return.

And yes, that will come last — the shoemaker’s children go barefoot, and all that. I am too busy with other people’s book work to prepare my own tax return.

It would be a lot simpler if people running a business could establish a completely watertight seal between their business bank and credit card accounts and their personal accounts. Very few small business people are able to achieve this. They start out with the best of intentions, but a personal bill comes up and there is money in the business account. Or they go to a supplier and use their personal credit card. Money leaks out in various ways and the bookkeeper is left to figure out where the money came from and where it went. I do my best, but the client doesn’t get the monthly financial statement he wants (and needs) until I can trace some of those leaks.

Enough complaining. Perhaps I need to start an education program. That’s high on the list for inclusion on my business web site, once I get it going (after I’ve recovered from tax season).

The tax system is complex, but then so are people’s situations. Most people are healthy and may not grasp what is involved when one or more members of a family suffer from a disability, or the results of a debilitating accident, and needs constant care, but the tax system has provisions for such situations in the form of disability credits and caregiver credits.

A new provision this year is called the family tax cut. It is most beneficial to couples where one partner works and the other stays home to care for the children. The family tax cut allows them to split their income in order to calculate the lowest amount of tax. This calculation is made in the background and only the one working pays tax. It would be difficult to work out the optimum income split with pencil and paper, but tax software does it in an instant.

Not everybody believes that it is more blessed to give than to receive, but the generosity of many people is heartwarming. The extremes that I have seen in charitable giving over the years range from the young couple with a combined income of $100.000.00 who gave $200.00 in charitable donations, to the elderly couple with a combined pension income of $26,000.00 who gave $4,500.00. Bless their hearts.

There’s a twittering in the trees

The snow is gone, lawns are starting to turn green, but the trees still appear brown and lifeless. Yet there is definitely life among the trees. From the open window we can hear are loud and continuous chorus of bird songs.

There are robins, meadowlarks, blackbirds, juncos and others that we haven’t identified. The juncos will move on soon and their place will be taken by brown thrashers, goldfinches, yellow warblers, orioles, wrens and others. My wife saw the first swallows this morning.

The ravens have moved farther north and crows have taken their place. Soon we will be seeing eagles, both golden and bald eagles nest in this area, the golden eagles are seen more often. They are awesome birds with their huge wingspread, often seeming to hang gracefully in one place, with no visible movement of their wings.

We have been seeing snow geese and Canada geese for awhile and today as we drove to the town of Outlook and back home, my wife saw swans. Soon the sandhill cranes will be back. Most of these birds nest farther north and are only spring and fall visitors around here, but many varieties of ducks nest on the sloughs and ponds around us, as well as many kinds of shore birds.

In the evenings we hear the frog chorus. Three kinds of frogs are native to this area and together they can make a lot of racket. There are also three kinds of toads and perhaps they add something to the chorus, though it gets hard to differentiate all the sounds.

When I was young, I knew where to look for the first flowers of spring. The crocus blooms before the leaves grow.  When we lived in Ontario, I knew where to find the trillium. I don’t think I’m within walking distance of crocus flowers where we now live, yet I see evidence of life bursting forth all around me. Even the trees that seem lifeless, when I look more closely I see the swelling buds.

Soon farmers and gardeners will be dropping dry and seemingly lifeless seeds into the soil and those seeds will abundant growth both below ground and above ground. We know that is going to happen, so we sow the seed and we are not disappointed. The farmer and the gardener do not make those seeds grow, they simply plant them with confidence that those seeds have life within themselves that when placed in contact with the soil they will spring up into healthy plants and produce a harvest.

We have been given another kind of seed, the Word of God that produces growth springing up unto eternal life. Are we sowing it?

All of a sudden it’s spring!

In books the scenario goes like this: the trapper / prospector / homesteader (choose one) is shut up in his isolated cabin in the north country. The snow gets deeper and deeper, the temperature gets colder and colder, the wood pile gets smaller and smaller, his winter supply of food is almost gone. The days are getting longer, but the snowstorms are more frequent, there is no hope of getting out for more supplies. Hope is almost gone when he wakes up one morning to a different sound in the treetops. There is a gentle breeze blowing from the southwest, the clouds are gone and the sun is shining brightly. The snow begins to melt and in a few days there is open ground, open water, and he is a free man once again.

That’s how it reads in story books. Real life is not like that — the sun shines one day with a promise of spring, followed by another blizzard the next day, or at least by bitterly cold temperatures and sharp winds that lash your face with ice crystals and make it difficult to find your way. Warm days alternate with cold days until the warm finally prevails and we have spring.

Except that from time to time it does happen exactly as the story books describe. We had bitterly cold temperatures last week, up to and including Thursday. Friday the sun shone, the wind came from the southwest, the temperature went above zero and the snow began to melt. This is the fourth day and bare  patches are showing up on our lawn. If this continues, as it is forecast to do, there won’t be much snow left after the coming weekend.

(Here’s a primer on the Celsius scale for those still addicted to Fahrenheit: 0° Celsius is the freezing point; -18° Celsius equals 0° Fahrenheit; each degree on the Celsius scale equals 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit. Thus today’s temperature of 5° would be 41° F and Saturdays forecast high of 15° would be 59° F.)

Whether it comes slowly or quickly, spring on the Canadian prairies is a dramatic event. The increased hours of sunshine have already boosted our energy level. Even our cats have spring fever. Soon the robins will be here, followed by Canada Geese, meadowlarks and all the birds of summer. The first native flower to bloom will be the prairie crocus, usually appearing before the snow is completely gone.

A friend asked me recently, “Why are we living here?” That is not so easy to answer during winter when the days are short, the nights long and a snowstorm just made our driveway impassible again. But spring reminds us of the life and beauty that teems all around us when winter is past, and of those long, long, glorious days of summer.

While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease (Genesis 8:22).

Why wait for spring – do it now

A few days ago my wife and I got to talking about a catchy advertising jingle of fifty years ago that was heard incessantly at this time of year. My wife even remembered all the words and sang them. It was the theme song of a government of Canada campaign to help building trades people keep working year round.  It started with promoting the idea of homeowners doing interior renovations during the cold months, when carpenters, plumbers and electricians were readily available.

The idea of winter construction work took off from there. Nowadays the construction of new houses hardly slows down in wintertime. With the use of plastic sheeting and construction heaters it is even possible to pour concrete in sub-zero temperatures. The innovative campaign that began 50 years ago has been a resounding success, there is hardly a blip in employment for people in the construction trades during the winter months.

On another front there is still a need for some innovative thinking. It is said of Saskatchewan cities that they have the world’s most efficient snow removal system: it’s called spring.

It might have been better if my wife and I had never lived in Montreal. But we did spend four years in that city, which is reputed to receive the heaviest annual snowfall of any major city in the world. And they knew what to do when it snowed. It took an average of four days after a major snowfall to have all the snow cleaned up – major traffic routes, commercial streets, residential streets, sidewalks included. City crews and subcontractors worked in shifts around the clock; small tracked snowplows pushed snow from the sidewalks into the street, the snow in the street was plowed into a windrow down the centre of the street and then a loader would come along and blow the snow into a steady stream of trucks who hauled it to snow dumps. It was a marvel to watch the coordination and thoroughness of the job.

We had four inches of snow a week and a half ago. My wife and I were in Saskatoon four days later and the main thoroughfares had been cleaned fairly well. That was it, and the city seemed to feel they were doing a better job than in other years. Residential areas will probably not see a snowplow all winter. For most streets of the city the snow is left to be compressed by traffic into a rutted ice pack.

There was another eight inches of snow last Saturday and I have a doctor’s appointment in the city tomorrow morning. That will no doubt further my education on how to drive on icy, rutted streets.

I’m all in favour of reviving the old jingle and applying it to snow removal: Why wait for spring  – do it now!

Meditations on spring in Saskatchewan

For months our yard looked barren. Spring came, the snow melted, yet the weather remained cool and we waited week after week for signs of a change. The grass was brown; the trees were dry sticks. Very hesitantly, signs of new life began to appear. Last week warm weather arrived in full force, temperatures as high as 31°. Now the grass and the trees are green, the strawberries are not only green, they are flowering. The mountain ash and the lilacs are loaded with flower buds and my wife has filled her outdoor flower pots with flowering plants.

An incredible transformation in just one week. Isn’t this what Jesus was meaning when He said: “Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” (Matthew 6:30)

Do we doubt His power to transform us from dull lifeless creatures into children of the most high God? Or His ability to provide for all our needs?

The birds are back, too. We saw goldfinches and orioles for the first time last Sunday. At one point yesterday afternoon there were two dozen goldfinches around our bird feeder. This morning we drove into the church yard and as soon as we stopped a yellow warbler lit on the hood of the car, hopped around a bit, then perched on the mirror on my side of the car. This little bird, weighing at best 25 grams, less than an ounce, has flown 6,000 kilometres from Central America to brighten our lives for the summer.

How is that even possible? Yet it happens year after year. Jesus tells us that His Father knows all the little birds, where they are, what they are doing. “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6-7)

The glories of spring are evidence of God’s care for His creation, and promises of what He wants to do for each one of His children. How much does the yellow warbler understand about all this? I have no way of knowing, all I know is that he goes south in the fall, returns to the north in spring and trusts that he will find what he needs.

Jesus’ statement that not one of the little birds is forgotten by God boggles our mind. Such knowledge is far beyond our grasp. Yet it is so hard for us to trust. We want to understand God’s plan for us, not just for today but for tomorrow, all our tomorrows. Isn’t that why Jesus said “O ye of little faith”? Why not just trust our times into His hands, do the little things that He prompts us to do right now and see where that will lead us?

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