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Saturday Selections – Dec. 10, 2022
Bugs with gears? (1 min)
What the narrator here credits to evolution Christians can enjoy for what it reveals about God's ability – His amazing engineering on the smallest scale – and God's personality, how He has packed the world with marvels like this, undiscovered for thousands of years, but just waiting there for us to uncover.
Leaders need to be readers
...and, as Dr. Wes Bredenhof writes, it isn't just a matter of reading lots, but reading deeply.
5 new stats you should know about teens and social media
Every teen seems to have a phone, Tik Tok is huge, and kids need parents to control their own habits so they'll be better able to mentor their own children...
One way the KJV is better (1o-min read)
While I won't be switching to the Authorized Version (AV, also known as the King James Version or KJV), I did find this quick debate, for and against, illuminating. It highlighted that in one respect the KJV does what any modern English can't do: it distinguishes between the plural and singular usage of "you" by offering thou (singular you) and ye (plural you).
Or this might be making the case for a Texan Version (TV) where we'd distinguish the singular from the plural by using "you" and "y'all."
The first two minutes after church is over
Tim Challies, on the importance of those first two minutes after the church service is done.
Jordan Peterson on whether gov't COVID overreaches could lead to a "social credit" system (2 min)
China has been implementing a "social credit" system in which citizens are scored on their compliance, and citizens who have committed no crime might still be denied rights others with higher social credit scores enjoy, like the ability to take flights. In Canada, the government has attempted this on a smaller scale in initiatives like denying pro-life groups money for student job creation that went to other organizations with higher (not in name, but in fact) "social credit" scores. You can click on the title above for the whole interview.
Report from the front lines: pros and cons of teaching in a Reformed high school
KINGDOM WORKERS WANTED... for frontline role
THE APPEAL IS REAL: This ad may not be genuine, but it's still been ranked among the be...
Amazing stories from times past
Four days in the life of Albert Tenfold
What you'll find below is a Reformed Perspective tradition that started back in the winter of 1991 – 31 years ago! Each year since then, at year's end, and just in time for Christmas holiday reading, Christine Farenhorst has gifted us with a longer short story, and what follows below is her latest edition. We've also included links to reviews we've done for seven of Christine's books, so that when you're finished, you'll know where to go to find even more of Christine's stories. “I’m going out tonight” "Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have..." Albert always felt slightly uncomfortable reading this passage. He ran his hand over the thin paper of his Bible page and cleared his throat. "What's the matter? Do you have a sore throat?" "No, mother." His mother sat across from him, regal and straight, in the red, high-backed plush chair that had been his stepfather's. She peered at him through her bifocals. "Shouldn't let your thoughts wander, Albert." He cleared his throat again and continued to read. "...should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband." His mother's voice picked up where he had left off. They took turns reading two verses each after meals. He regarded her for a moment as she read, ring-fingered hands resting in her lap. It was one of the few moments he could observe her without her knowledge. Her rather coarse face had an equally coarse voice. Loud it was, and monotonous to the point of dull. She hadn't gone to school here, so perhaps the English.... But then, come to think of it, when she read in Dutch there was no inflection either. The voice was always flat and without feeling. Her gray, rheumy eyes suddenly met his. "Albert, where are your thoughts tonight? Verse five, child." He found the place and read on. "Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent...." As he read, his thoughts smoothed out, smoothed out ridges which he occasionally tripped over and when he later breathed the words: "for it is better to marry than to burn with passion...," he was able to keep his mind on Paul without focusing on the lack of passion in his own life – a passion he occasionally desired. **** Before Albert cleared the table, he helped his mother to the couch. "Do you want the paper? Or shall I turn on the television for you?' She shook her head to both questions. "I'm a bit tired, son. I think I'll have a small nap while you do the dishes. In that way I'll be fresh for Scrabble when Mrs. Dorman comes later. Be sure to set out the cups for tea and the cookies..." He stopped the avalanche of words with "I know, mother. I know." There was a certain resignation in his voice as he pulled the afghan over her body but a thin thread of irritation unraveled in his hands and a sudden clumsiness overtook them. **** Christine serves up biographies of six very different men: Martin Luther King Jr., Albert Schweitzer, Rembrandt, Samuel Morse, Freud, Norman Rockwell. Click the cover for our review. In the kitchen Paul's words swam about as Albert placed the dishes in the sink. "It is better to marry than to burn with passion..." Had Paul known more about passion than he did? Had Paul been married? Had he taken a wife with him on his missionary journeys? Or a mother? If Paul had had his mother... He suddenly grinned at the suds but then became serious. What did he, Albert, know about marriage anyway? His expertise lay in being single. He scrubbed at the potato pan with vigor and frustration. The small kitchen surrounded him with apathy. There was nothing new. Coffee mugs hung on a small rack in the same way that they had hung for years and years. A birthday calendar, with numerous Dutch aunts and uncles enshrined on separate dates, hung beside it. The white refrigerator stood squarely and the patterned tiles on the floor reflected cleanliness and care. The wooden plaque on the wall spoke to him in Peter's voice. "Cast all your care upon Him for He careth for you." "But what are my cares, Peter?" Albert questioned the apostle out loud and repeated: "What are my cares?" "What's that, Albert? I can't hear you." "Nothing, mother. Just go to sleep." "I'm sure I heard you say something." "No, mother." He folded the dish towel over the rack and walked into the living room. "Are you sure you didn't say something, Albert?" "Yes." He stood in the middle of the room, undecided as to what to do. "Sit down, son, and read the paper." "I'm going out tonight, mother." "Out? But Mrs. Dorman..." "She's your friend, mother. She's coming to play Scrabble with you." "But you always play with us. She..." "I'm going out tonight, mother." His voice was firm. "Where are you going?" She half sat up, reaching for her bifocals on the side table. "I'm going out." It was all Albert could manage. "But..." "You'll be all right. And I'll be home in good time." He was out in the hall before she could formulate a reply. ''Albert?" Opening the closet door, he took his coat off a hanger. "Albert?" Her voice was growing in intensity. "I'll see you later, mother." The door handle felt cold under his hand and the hinges squeaked. "Albert?" It was more of a shout this time and he shut the door firmly, feeling both guilt and relief. Into the night Albert Tenfold lived on the fifth floor of a high-rise apartment building with his widowed mother. He was thirty-five and she was seventy. His stepfather had died when he was a teenager. Cast into the mold of male provider at an early age, he had never really been young. Fiercely dependent, his mother had leaned on him heavily, and he had settled under the weight. To the outward eye, they were a model family - a stalwart son providing constant love and care for an aging, frail mother. And it had seemed that way to Albert also - had seemed that way until this last month. Perhaps because he was rapidly approaching his thirty-sixth birthday, he had been doing some thinking. Ten years from now he would be forty-five, almost forty-six, and his mother would be eighty and then, ten years later, he would be in his mid-fifties and she would be ninety. Unless she died - but somehow he could not envisage his mother dead - even though deep down he sometimes wished it. He would be her son forever, her son and not someone's husband. And then guilt would flood over him like a wave of hot wind and he would break out into a sweat. How could he be thinking such thoughts? The hall was empty. As he plodded heavily towards the elevator, Albert awkwardly buttoned up his coat. It had all been very well to tell his mother that he was going out, but the truth was that he had no inkling as to where he would go. He had few friends - few friends outside his mother's circle, that is. There were a great many Mrs. Dormans; widows who delighted in visiting back and forth; who excelled in speaking of rheumatism and the weather; and who always commented on how fortunate his mother was to have him. The elevator had brought him down to the first floor. He legged it towards the front door. It was raining outside and he stood for a moment, contemplating the sidewalk through the heavy glass panels. He could possibly go to the library. As he resolutely opened the entrance, both the sound of the rain and the fresh air comforted him. Raindrops were a sound he had always enjoyed. Sighing deeply, he pulled up his collar and struck out. It was quiet outside and almost dark. The faint glow of streetlights reflected and trembled in the puddles. He wished he were going somewhere - somewhere where someone was waiting for him. It began to rain harder as he passed Mary's Dome, the large Roman Catholic cathedral. Although he had quickened his step with the downpour, he stopped for a moment to contemplate the cathedral’s colossal size and grandeur through the sheets of rain. Stone arches glistened in their wetness. He suddenly shivered and coveted shelter. Perhaps he could sit inside for a while. Just until the rain stopped. Turning, he climbed the stone steps which led to massive wooden doors. Gingerly pressing down on a wrought-iron door-handle, he pushed. As the door creaked heavily, an aperture appeared and Albert stepped inside. Flickering candles The cathedral foyer was dark and smelled slightly musty. Behind him the massive wood fell heavily into place, the sound echoing and re-echoing. Hesitantly he walked on through the foyer into the lighted sanctuary. It was huge compared to that of his own church - and comparatively quiet. There people talked and whispered behind their hands when they walked in. They rustled bulletins and took out peppermints. But perhaps because there were so few people here... He inhaled the quiet and relaxed. Three or four people were present in the front pews, heads bowed and silent, praying, as far as he could tell. Albert stood for a moment and then slowly made his way toward the middle of the church, sliding into a seat on his left. The pew was small - almost too small for his bulk. He grinned to himself. What would his mother say? Or his ward elder? Or Mr. DeVries, his employer and an avid commentator on false churches? After a while the quiet had embraced him to such a degree that he felt as if time had stopped. Did it matter to God whether you sat in a Reformed church or a Roman Catholic one? Of course it did, he knew that. But it was raining proverbial cats and dogs outside and the state of one's heart, was that not what God considered? He pulled out his handkerchief and wiped his face dry. If a church happened to be on your way in a rainstorm and that church was Roman Catholic, well then... Well then, what? It certainly was peaceful here. He cautiously examined the stained-glass windows on his right. Impressive and grand, they made the raindrops outside them glow with color through the matted glass as they danced their way down in rivulets. He shifted his frame somewhat and his foot knocked against a wooden slat beneath the pew in front of him. He contemplated the kneeling bench with interest. Padded with red leather, it appeared comfortable. He glanced about again. There was no one present except the few worshippers at the front and the only one staring at him directly as he peered about was a statue of Mary in the aisle next to him. Clad in a sky-blue stone robe, she eyed him serenely. Cautiously he slid his knees onto the padded red leather and bowed his head. "Our Father..." He could not recall ever before having knelt for prayer in church. He did kneel for prayer when he went to bed. It is not a matter of knees or kneeling, the minister had told them in catechism, but a matter of the heart. And yet, kneeling always made his heart more submissive. Was it submissive now? So many thoughts.... Could you be submissive with so many thoughts running around in your head? "Hallowed be Thy name..." There was a strange smell here. It reminded him of... What was it? Christmas was the time when mother brought out the candles. It was the scent of sweet tallow. Mary's statue, just ahead of him in the center aisle, had a number of candles in front of it. Several of them were burning. Luther had knelt in such churches and so had Calvin. But he was neither a Luther nor a Calvin. Imagine people four centuries from now saying that they were Tenfoldian or Tenfoldistic. He ran his hand over the wood in front of him. The grain was smooth. Sometimes he was not even sure of the truth he stood for. Was the truth always smooth? He went to church, had gone to a Christian school, read the Bible at mealtimes and before he went to bed, prayed at set times and was able to recite a fair number of the catechism questions and answers. Did those matters encompass the truth? And if he heard a lie, would he be able to detect it? He sighed. All of life, all of life... was it not one confrontation after another? Were simple problems not large ones in miniature? And each spoken word... Were you not judged for it? "Thy kingdom come..." Most times, he admitted to himself as he shifted his knees on the red leather, he had no thoughts of God's kingdom at all. There were only the day-by-day affairs of coping with small things, of pleasing his mother and of doing his work properly for Mr. DeVries. "Thy kingdom come...." He moved his body back up onto the bench again and rubbed his knees. In heaven there would be no marriage. The statue of Mary smiled at him benignly. The Roman Catholics believed that she was immaculate, pure, undefiled; and that she had never had relations with her husband Joseph. The figure certainly seemed flawless. There was one thing he had never doubted about her and that was that she surely must have loved her Son. But then, Jesus would have been easier to love than an Albert. Contemplating the statue, he began to whisper confidentially. "I know that you were highly favored, but you were human - you did have sin." Mary kept on smiling. A dozen candles shone brightly at her feet. He imagined lighting candles at his mother's feet, imploring her to intercede, begging her to help with some problem. Did candles have to be made of tallow? Did he not often light candles at his mother's feet in other ways? Did he not do it by always deferring to her and conceding that she was right; by asking if he might do this or that; by permitting her to take a role that somehow made him weak and ineffective, even though it seemed to all the world that he was the provider and the man of the house. Tonight was actually the first time that he could recall that he had actually done something without asking her permission. He regarded the statue again. The sky-blue of the robe was peaceful and Mary’s eyes were pensive, as if she was thinking deeply. But there was a hair-line crack along the folds of her stone robe. He knelt down again on the leather and rested his forehead against the pew in front of him. He did love his mother. Hadn't he taken care of her all these years? Perhaps, perhaps he just didn't like her. Did she love him? Had she reason to not love him? His forehead rubbed against the smooth wood and slipped just a bit as sweat trickled past his eyebrows. He could not recall that she had ever said, “I love you, Albert.” There had been phrases like “I'm proud of you, Albert,” when he had graduated from college, and if he donated money to the church or Christian school, she would say, “The Lord loves a cheerful giver,” but that was about as close... “You are a priest, then?” A slight noise to his right startled him. He raised his head and saw a woman standing by Mary's statue. She fumbled with her purse and Albert watched her take out a wallet, fish out and fold a ten-dollar bill before depositing it into a slot. She made the sign of the cross and lit two of the candles. Hunching down, her clasped hands almost touching the carpet, she was evidently praying. Her blue raincoat dripped water onto the carpet staining bright red. He watched her for a long time. She was motionless but he could see that her lips were moving. What petition, he wondered, was worth ten dollars? What question so burned her heart that she had to kneel down on a faded, red carpet in front of a lifeless statue? Had Eli watched Hannah in this manner? She rose and turned and he could see that there were tears in her eyes. Ashamed to be watching, he bowed his head down on the pew wood again. "...a rare treasure, a must for all parents!" click the cover for the rest of our review. "Excuse me. Could you tell me what time it is?” He opened his eyes. The woman was standing by his side. "I'm sorry to bother... to bother you." She stuttered a bit in embarrassment and he pulled up his coat sleeve to check his watch. "That's all right. It's a quarter after nine." "Thank you." Her blue raincoat was still shiny with rain and black hair curled damply around an oval face. She was fairly young. He would guess her to be around twenty-four or five. "Are you the... the priest?" She looked at him rather anxiously and he wondered if he had put on his collar backwards. The statue of Mary silhouetted behind her and compassion overcame him for her misplaced faith. "The priest?" "Yes... He was to meet me at nine. I thought... thought that you ...?" Clearly, within the chambers of his mind, he heard Peter's words, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him Who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light." The girl continued to stare at him. Her dark blue eyes were pensive and he smiled at them. "I'm not the priest. That is to say, I'm not the priest you're looking for." "Oh, but you are a priest then?" "Well..." He looked for words to explain to her that as a believer he reflected the glory of God and... His thoughts got no further. "If you're not busy, maybe you have time to speak to me for a moment?" He saw the statue smiling at her back and got a whiff of the tallow. "I'm not Roman Catholic." For a small moment looking into her dark, blue eyes, he was sorry he was not. The girl blinked and took a step backwards. "You're not?" He shook his head. "No, I'm sorry if my being here misled you." "You were praying." She said it defensively. He felt a trifle foolish and stood up. "I came in out of the rain. It's very peaceful here. Yes, I was praying." "I'm not Roman Catholic either." She suddenly smiled up at him and he could see strong, irregular, white teeth. "Oh?" "If you were praying," she was earnest again, "maybe you know about God... about prayer…?” “You might be a king, but…” Albert Tenfold had led a very structured life. It had been drilled into him that organization and discipline were next to godliness. When he was growing up, his mother had always made sure that he had porridge for breakfast, drank milk with his lunch and went to bed at a set time after dinner. Christian grade and high school were givens and catechism lessons a must. There were always two services to attend every Sunday, regular Young People's meetings, and occasional youth rallies. After he had made a public confession of his faith at age seventeen, he had tithed, celebrated the Lord's Supper every two months and attended study weekends on various Bible topics. "About God...?" he answered the girl slowly. "About prayer?" She nodded at him. During his entire thirty-five years of Christian living, Albert had never been confronted with questions of this sort by anyone outside of his church circle, and they hung in front of him like an unused banner. He played for time. "Do you want to go for a coffee and talk for a while?" She considered him for a long moment and he wondered if she felt that this cathedral was a safe place, a place where strangers could be approached without fear. "I'd talk here but it's just that..." He stopped abruptly and made a small gesture towards the front pews with his head. There were still some people there and Albert's whisper carried. "Sure, I'll go for a coffee." Turning her back on the statue, she walked down the aisle ahead of him and he followed. **** 74 short stories make for great devotionals with your kids! Click the cover for our review. The rain had eased off considerably. There was a smell of sweetness in the air and in the distance a dog barked. "What's your name?" She asked the question almost as soon as they reached the pavement. "Albert. What's yours?" "Victoria, but my friends call me Vicky." He grinned. "Why are you laughing?" "Albert and Victoria." She looked at him blankly. "You know," he explained, "the king and queen of England." She grinned too. "Well, you might be a king but I'm not exactly a queen." He awkwardly offered her his arm as she gingerly edged past a puddle on the sidewalk. She took it lightly. He barely noted her touch. Out of the corner of his eye he saw that her hand was small and that her fingers had well-rounded, clean nails. He could not help but think of how his mother would cling to him in this sort of weather. His mother who always wore gloves. Her voice bounced off the sidewalk now and he heard her command clearly within the chambers of his mind. "Your arm, Albert! Give me your arm!" He sighed and quickened his step. She looked up at him questioningly. "You probably have other things to do, right? Actually you don't..." He didn't let her finish. "No, no. I'm sorry if I've given you the impression that ... that I'm not enjoying myself." He finished the sentence rather lamely and almost blushed. **** The coffee shop was crowded and the noisy atmosphere fell about them like an intrusion. They stood in line for a while behind one another, not speaking, studying the pastry behind the glass. "I'll pay for my own." She spoke curtly and avoided looking at him. "No, please..." He didn't really know what to say but went on hesitatingly. "I'd be honored to pay for your coffee and..." "Maybe," and she interrupted in a low voice, "maybe you won't be honored after we talk." He felt unsure suddenly. Maybe this girl was a prostitute; maybe she had committed a murder; maybe... He got no further with his thoughts. "Can I help you, sir?" "A glazed donut, please, and a coffee." "To go?" "No, we'll eat here." Vicky ordered the same and allowed him to pay. “Sometimes, you want to redo time…” Providentially there was an empty table by a window. It had begun to rain again and the sound eased the tension between them. Albert stirred his coffee and wondered how to begin the conversation. But he didn't have to. "Do you still want me to talk to you?" she said. He looked at her. She was fingering her donut without eating it. Damp hair clung to her forehead. "Yes, of course... but if you'd rather not…" His spoon sploshed some coffee over the side of his cup and she reached for a napkin from the holder on the table. "Oh, I'd like to talk to someone. Actually I have to talk to someone or..." She stopped and rubbed the brown puddle on the table fiercely, small fingers white with the pressure. "Well," he said, matter of factly, "well, I'm here and at your service." She took a small sip of her coffee, smiled nervously at him and began. "A year ago I was a student at the university here in town. I was enrolled in Political Studies..." She lifted her coffee with both hands and stared out the window. He waited. He didn't have to wait long. She no longer seemed to be speaking to him but, considering her reflection in the window, addressed it. "I resented most things... rich people, styrofoam, male chauvinists, acid rain and apartheid. I joined Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and Amnesty International and talked about a lot of things without really understanding any of them. I said that I was an agnostic and I was flattered when I raised eyebrows." She paused for breath, put down her cup and crumbed off a piece of her donut. Not eating it, but turning it over in her hand, she went on. "All my friends were saying the same sort of things. One of them... One of them..." She picked up her coffee, sipped again and returned to her reflection in the window. "To make a long story short... Well, I became pregnant... The father was someone I hardly knew... and the baby I conceived was just another thing I didn't really understand." Albert had been watching her face. He had been listening to the sound of her voice thinking that it didn't really fit in the story. She had a child's voice and her hands were a child's hands. "The group I hung around with all advised me to go for an abortion. So I did what was expected of me. I scheduled an appointment for an abortion at a health clinic." Albert sat up straighter and took a bite out of his donut. His heartbeat increased and he felt sweat trickle down his armpits. "But my friends... they suggested that I try a new abortion technique. It was a drug. So I... I looked into it. There was a special clinic and it was close to where I lived. I went to it." **** Some people passed their table and Vicky stopped talking. She gulped down some of her coffee and coughed. Albert cleared his throat. He racked his brain for Biblical texts - prayed for some homily to come to him which he might deliver here at this coffee shop which would relieve the tension and which would both teach error and convey compassion. "I... There was a staff." Vicky seemed not to notice his discomfort. Engulfed in the past, her voice kept on confessing. "They examined me and had me sign two documents. One was a release form and one was a government something or other. Then a nurse came and she had this small suitcase. She explained things... like how this drug would work. I didn't understand it all but didn't let on. I was scared." Albert took another bite of his donut. It tasted bland and he had trouble swallowing it. "Was I sure I wanted to go ahead? That's what the nurse asked. And I said, yes... yes, I was sure. And then she opened the suitcase and gave me a small box. There were three pills in the box, just three little pills. She brought me a glass of water and then I... I swallowed those pills. Just like that... just like that." Her voice broke and Albert took a swallow of his coffee and cleared his throat again. Vicky pushed her donut towards the center of the table and picked up her napkin. "Sometimes you want to redo time, to relive just one moment. Have you ever had that?" She turned her face to him fully for the first time and he noted that her eyes were blue with small flecks of green in them. He answered slowly. "I've had that. Yes... I've had that lots of times. It's because we continually do things that we regret later. We always..." "Yes," she interrupted, "but what if the thing you do is so..." She stopped again and then went on. "The pills made me sick. I had cramps, nausea and diarrhea and I bled... I just bled and bled. I phoned the clinic and they told me not to worry but I felt so ghastly. I could barely get out of bed to make it to the bathroom. There was so much pain and I couldn't focus properly. I finally phoned for an ambulance. They came and took me to the hospital." "Did you... Had you..." Albert couldn't help but ask, "Had you lost the baby?" She stared at him with her blue eyes. "Lost it? You don't understand. If you lose something... Well, you can maybe find it later. I failed to abort with the pill but it had done the job. The child in me was dead and, as a result, I had to have a surgical abortion and... And during that surgical abortion my uterus was punctured. There was infection, a bad infection, and then I had a hysterectomy." "Oh." It was all Albert could manage. He played with his cup and noted that it had stopped raining. Were these the words Vicky had prayed to Mary? Was this what her silent lips had been speaking of to a mere statue? Had she lit a candle to atone for murder? He shivered. “I have to apologize to someone” "They didn't tell me that I would be feeling such guilt. No one ever mentioned the fact that I would feel such a..." She stopped and tried again. "No one explained. You see, I know for a fact that it was a child... not just a nothing... and I killed this child... my child. My friends didn’t understand when I tried to explain how I felt... and I was so lost." “Your family..." Albert got no further than two words. She laughed. "I have no family. That is, my mother died when I was seven and my father is living with wife number four. I haven't been home for years and don't plan to go there now." "Oh." Again, it was all Albert was able to say. How would his mother react to a Vicky? "Mother, may I introduce you to Vicky. She just had an abortion and is feeling a little down." "I... I realize that whatever it was that I was trying to be or say last year and before that, was a fraud - was not real. But I know that there is something real. There has to be! And I'm trying to find it. So I wanted to ask the priest about God and then he wasn't there. But you were there." **** There are 9 short stories here, and “I was a Stranger” is reason enough to pick it up. Click the cover for our review. Albert was suddenly calm. "You see," she went on, staring out of the window again, "if there is nothing, then I wouldn't be able to live. I... I... I don't know if you understand, but I have to be able to apologize to someone for... for killing this baby." There was a sudden clap of thunder outside and the rain resumed with thick drops splattering the sidewalk. Vicky shivered. Albert began to speak. Cautiously his voice crept across the table. "I think I understand what you mean," he said. "Can I tell you something about myself - something I haven't told... something I have never told anyone." He stopped. She turned her eyes towards him. He could read neither approval nor disapproval in them. "Sure." Her passionate voice had become flat. It had turned bland, disappointed perhaps. Maybe she wanted a quick answer. But he wouldn't be able to answer quickly. He looked her full in the face. "It isn't easy for me to speak actually. I'm more of a doer than a speaker." She didn't respond and he went on hesitantly, choosing his words with care. "I was born during the first year of the war. We lived in a small village somewhere in the north of Holland. I don't remember much." His hands crumpled the napkin he was holding. "It’s funny, the things that I do remember though. Things like the creaking of the cradle I must have slept in; things like a horse pulling the milk cart passing our house every morning. My mother says that my first word was horse." He looked at her, waiting for some sort of response, but there was none. And his intuition told him that she wasn't really listening because the words meant nothing to her, nothing at all. But he went on all the same. “My father had a good job. He was a lawyer, a very good lawyer my mother tells me. He conducted a lot of business and people liked him very much. When the war came, he helped people. He helped Jews in particular. The strange thing is that I don't remember my father's face but I do remember that he was tall, very tall. Perhaps I remember that because he used to throw me up into the air and catch me in his arms." “My heart accused me…” Vicky was still not reacting to his story at all. If anything, she was slightly uncomfortable. But Albert persisted. "During the first years of the war my father lived at home. He was not suspected by the Germans of any subterfuge even though he was involved in the underground. His specialty had something to do with illegal documents. But later on he had to leave our house and go into hiding. My mother and I only saw him on those few occasions that he deemed it safe to come for a short visit. On one of those visits the Gestapo must have been tipped off because shortly after he arrived they surrounded our house. My mother was frantic and father hid behind a secret panel in the living room. When they came into the house a moment later, she and I were in the kitchen. They didn't ask where he was but simply began searching." Albert stopped and stretched his legs under the table. He wasn't looking for a reaction in Vicky's eyes anymore. He had actually almost forgotten she was there. "And then... What happened then?" Her voice called him back and he saw that she had become genuinely interested. "Then? Well, miracle of miracles, they didn't find him." He stopped and stretched his legs again. "What was the point of telling me that story?" "The point? I'm still coming to that. You see, after their combing of our entire house, one of the officers hunched down by me, small boy of three that I was, and began to play with me. He had a chocolate bar in his pocket and even though my mother frowned, I took it when he gave it to me. He helped me unwrap the candy and I began to eat... and all the while my mother was glaring. But it tasted wonderful and the man seemed so friendly. When he took me on his lap a moment later, I completely ignored my mother and freely smiled at him. He joked with me and then asked if maybe my father was maybe playing hide and seek. I laughed out loud, greatly amused that he would ask such a question. He laughed too and asked where my father, who must be very clever indeed, might be hiding. I slid off his lap, walked into the living room and stood by the panel. When they discovered my father a few moments later, I remember that I did not feel quite right about it but didn't really understand why. When I ran to my mother for comfort, she spat in my face. Then they... they took him out into our yard and shot him, right in front of the house. The soldier who had given me the chocolate said, 'Danke schön,' bowed to my mother and myself, and left. He was mocking us. Afterwards, my mother made me go out to look at the dead body of my father... and I screamed and screamed until the neighbors came and took me away." "You didn't mean it," Vicky said. "You didn't know what you were doing. You were only a little child." "Yes," Albert answered thickly, "you are right. I was only a child." The thunder rolled in the distance and Vicky's eyes were sympathetic when she said, "How did you... How did you manage? What did your mother...?" "She... I lived with the neighbors until the end of the war. She didn't want... me." "Oh." She drummed her fingers along the table edge and regarded Albert seriously. "You were praying in church. You told me that you were praying. So, what did you do with your guilt? Or, didn't you pray when you were little? Or, what I'm trying to say is how did you deal with the fact that you caused...?" 7 stories from the 2 World Wars. Click on the cover for our review. She stopped abruptly. He smiled at her. The fact that he now felt forgiven for the death he had caused did not make it any easier to speak of this time. "No one really spoke to me about my father's death. The neighbors were very kind. But as I grew older I felt, also because of what other children said to me at school, that I was solely responsible for the fact that my mother was a widow. When my mother remarried in 1946 I had been living with her again for about a year and my stepfather made plans to emigrate to Canada. We never spoke of my own father. As I grew older my mind told me that I had only been an ignorant child during the war, but my heart accused me of murder every day. We went to church, yes, and we read the Bible." Vicky's eyes were wide with affinity. Albert went on. "What finally saved me from this terrible guilt feeling, Vicky, was the fact that God allowed me to see that He was totally in control of all things." He was quiet and for a moment saw himself earlier that evening, kneeling in the pew. He had been thinking about truth, the truth that God controlled one's life, the truth that God's tender, loving control had always drawn him with cords woven throughout everyday life. Vicky continued to look at him and he went on. "God was in control of my father's life. He had stipulated when and where my father would die. And, I was also led to see that, but for my father's death, I would not have been as drawn to study the Bible so thoroughly to investigate the mighty God I worship, the God Who forgives when we are truly sorry." Vicky stared at him unblinkingly. He wondered if she had understood what he was saying. "I think that if you are looking for God, Vicky," he finally ended, "it's safe to say that He is making you look, that He has used this very tragic thing that has happened to you, this abortion, to make you look for Him." “I can tell you where to look” A waitress stopped by their table. "How is everything with you folks? Anything else you need?" "No, thank you." Albert was quick to answer but then amended, "Maybe you would like some more coffee, Vicky?" "No, no thank you." Her voice was thin and lifeless. The tables around them were almost empty. The waitress smiled. "All right. We'll be closing soon. It's after eleven." Albert glanced at his watch. He imagined that his mother would be livid by now. He took out the small notepad and pen he kept in his pocket and jotted down his church address. "I can't give you faith, Vicky. I can't give you forgiveness either. But I can tell you where to look for it." "I know God is there." Vicky whispered the words. "I know... but I don't know how I know." "Do you have a Bible?" "Yes, I bought one last week." "Then you must read it every day." The lights in the restaurant dimmed and they automatically stood up. The rain had let up again. "I'll walk you home." "No, no... I live very close by." "Well, then it shouldn't be a problem." "No, no... please, I need time to think and be by myself. Thanks." The waitress eyed them impatiently as they walked past her to the door. "Thanks again, Albert." "Goodnight, Vicky." He watched her walk away, small and slight in a coat the color of her eyes, and felt some pain. “It’s your mother…” In the elevator ride up to the fifth floor, Albert rehearsed what he would say when he walked in. There was no doubt in his mind that his mother would still be awake. "Albert?!" "Yes, mother." "Where were you all evening?" "Out with a girl, mother. She'd had an abortion and felt rather miserable. So I took her to a coffee shop and tried to tell her about the forgiveness we can have in Christ." He contemplated the elevator buttons and continued his conversation. "Do you know about forgiveness, mother? You don't, do you?" "Albert, what kind of way is that to speak to your mother?" "Sorry, mother, but I had to say it sooner or later. Even though God forgave me for inadvertently causing father's death you never let me forget that I made you a widow. You never let me forget that I was the one who..." The elevator had reached the fifth floor. The hall was quiet and Albert's inward voice dissolved. **** He took out his keys as he walked towards the apartment. They jangled and he stifled a yawn, hoping against hope that his mother would, after all, be asleep. Before he could fit his key into the lock, however, the apartment door opened. Mrs. Dorman stared up at him. "Albert, you're finally home." "Yes, but what are you still doing here, Mrs. Dorman?" "Your mother, Albert... It's your mother." "What about my mother? What's the matter with her?" They were still standing in the doorway and he moved past the small, dark woman into the apartment. "Maybe you should sit down before..." "What's the matter with my mother, Mrs. Dorman?" "She felt ill, Albert. She had a pain in her chest. So I called an ambulance..." "Yes?" A strange feeling came over him. "They came within five minutes of my calling and the attendant said that it was her heart." He stared at Mrs. Dorman. The woman was nervously twisting her hands together. "It was a heart attack, Albert. I rode in the ambulance with her to the hospital. They took her to intensive care. But before they took her there I promised that I would come back to the apartment and wait for you." "Thank you, Mrs. Dorman. That was kind of you." "Are you going down to the hospital now?" She looked at him, her eyes wide and helpless. His mother was her best friend. "Yes, I will and I'll phone you in the morning to let you know how things are." "Thank you, Albert. Thank you." She walked towards the door and then turned. "Wasn't it too bad that you were out just tonight of all nights?" "Yes. Goodnight, Mrs. Dorman." **** After he closed the door behind her, Albert walked into the living room. A just-begun Scrabble game lay on the table. The words apple, tax and problem stared up at him - three words made by his mother and Mrs. Dorman. He ran his fingers through the word “problem” and then tilted the board, emptying the letters back into the Scrabble box. Maybe his mother had already felt ill when he had left. She had looked just a bit off color. He closed the box and sighed. A great weariness crept over him. But greater than the weariness was the feeling that he had failed somewhere - again. He sat down and cupped his face with his hands. If he was really honest with himself he had to admit that he had no great affection for his mother. “Honor your father and mother - which is the first commandment with a promise - that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” He didn't really know at this precise moment whether or not he had honored his mother. Holding him with invisible ropes as it were, she had made him aware of the past in innumerable ways. The small clearing of her throat, for example, when the minister read the sixth commandment. It had always made him edgy, nervous, countless times as a child, and still caused him to squirm. Not because God had not forgiven him, but because she had not. He sighed again and slowly stood up. Better go to the hospital and see how things were. “Forgetting what is behind…” It was still raining when he drove the car through the streets not five minutes later. The windshield wipers beat a soft rhythm and the quiet of the hour calmed him somewhat. He could not stop thinking about his mother's life. She had been happy, as far as he could tell, with his stepfather. His stepfather had been a good husband, a kind father, a gentle and hard-working man. But his mother had always been reserved, had always held back. Albert could not remember that he had ever seen her kiss his stepfather. Neither had she ever kissed her son for that matter. He could not remember either, that she had ever sung spontaneously or laughed genuinely at something silly. On the other hand, she had always cooked good meals, had provided adequate clothing and had kept the house very neat. She had led an ordered existence, an ordered existence that would now, he went on to think, maybe come to an end. What could he say to her as she lay on her hospital bed? If he could never speak to her again but this one time, what was it he should say to this woman who had, after all, borne him in her belly for nine months and who must, it seemed to him, have harbored some love for him. But he could not feel that love as he sat in the car and drove through the dark. **** The streets were deserted but he stopped punctually at every red light, playing for time, having no particular desire to get to the hospital quickly. He thought of Vicky - a compassionate, young woman who had wept because she had killed her unborn child. Perhaps Vicky had more compassion for her dead child than his mother had ever had for him. No, that was a ridiculous thought, an unfair thought. He rubbed his forehead with his right hand and, returning it to the steering wheel, found it wet with sweat. He should not be unfair. What was it he had said to Vicky? Nothing, he had said, nothing is outside of God's control. God had used the tragedy in his life to make him realize just how dependent he was on God. What was it the minister had preached on last Sunday? Oh yes, forget what is behind and strain toward the goal for which God has called us. Another red light - he brought the car to a slow stop. His mother had been unable to forget what lay behind her. They had never really talked about his father and what had happened - never. Would they be able to talk about it now? If they talked about it, would she be able to forget - to forgive? Was it hampering her road to heaven? He should have talked to her at some point. The light turned green. He stepped on the gas and began to drive faster. Was it not also true that, if she had maintained a grudge against him all these years, he had also nurtured a grudge against her? He drove through the next red light. **** The hospital entrance was quiet. The glass doors opened silently under his push. "Can I help you, sir?" The nurse at the desk looked efficient. "My mother was admitted earlier this evening - a heart attack. I've just heard and now...." "What's your mother's name?" "Drooger." She consulted her book and peered up at him from her swivel chair. "She's in intensive care, sir. Fourth floor. You'll have to ask at the desk there." "Thank you." He walked on towards the elevator. “Perhaps it was a blessing” The fourth floor corridor had a red carpet - red, the color of blood. He walked over it quickly and with some trepidation. Two nurses presided at the desk. They both looked up at him and smiled. "Yes?" A unique look at Luther and his times - click the cover for our review. "My mother was admitted earlier this evening with a heart attack. I understand she's in intensive care." He eyed the double doors behind their desk to the intensive care unit with some degree of dislike. They appeared so grim, grey and dismal, as if they only let in and not out. "Your mother's name, sir?" "Drooger." He spoke with some impatience. "Drooger?" "Yes." There was some hesitation on the nurses' part before one of them responded, "Could you wait in the waiting room, sir? I'll ring for the doctor on call to speak with you." "The doctor?" He spoke cautiously, tripping over the word. "Why must I speak with the doctor? I just want to..." "He'll be with you directly. You can sit down over there, sir." They indicated a small lounge behind the desk and smiled at him. "All right." He walked towards the lounge, clumsily scuffing his feet on the red carpet, uncomfortably aware that both nurses were eyeing him behind his back. **** There were three brown chairs and a leather couch. Indecisively he stood for a moment and then sank down heavily into one of the chairs. The table sported magazines - colorful editions featuring smiling men and ladies. The clock on the wall told him it was 12:01. He picked up one of the magazines and then laid it back down. "Mr. Drooger?" A young man had materialized at the entrance of the lounge. Albert stood up. "My name is Tenfold, Albert Tenfold. Mrs. Drooger is my mother." "Please, remain seated. I'd just like to speak with you a moment." "My mother..." Albert was afraid to phrase the question. The young man came closer and bending down, offered his hand. "I'm Dr. Ellis." "Glad to meet you." Dr. Ellis sat down on one of the other chairs and Albert waited. "Your mother was admitted around nine o'clock this evening. I happened to be on duty and so I attended her." "It was a heart attack?" Albert began searching out the pieces of the puzzle that lay between him and a finished picture - pieces that the doctor held. "Yes," Dr. Ellis nodded and queried, "You live in town?" "I live at home with my mother. I was not there tonight when she became ill." Albert's voice was meticulous and short. "Ah." "My mother..." Albert began again. "Yes, your mother did have a heart attack." It was now 12:05. The clock, Albert thought, seemed to move faster than this young man. "How is my mother?" Dr. Ellis reached out a thin and long hand and placed it on Albert's knee. "I'm sorry, Mr. Tenfold. Your mother passed away about an hour ago." Albert sat very still. The doctor removed his hand and regarded him solicitously. "Is there something I can get for you - a coffee?" "No, no, thank you." "It may sound callous, Mr. Tenfold, but perhaps it was a blessing. You see, it was a massive heart attack. There had been extensive damage - several organs were not functioning anymore." "May I see her? May I see the body?" “Perhaps milk and honey” The room in which his mother's body lay was very quiet. The doctor had offered to come in with Albert but he had refused, saying that he wanted to be alone. As the metal door fell shut behind him, he stood leaning against it for several moments, breathing in the nothing odor of the room. His mother’s form scarcely made a dint under the covers of the bed. For a moment he thought he saw the sheet moving, moving up and down as if his mother was still breathing. But it was fool's gold, because when he moved closer there was only stillness, unbroken stillness. **** Might be Christine's best. Click the cover to read our review. He stood at the foot of the bed and held onto the railing. "Hello, mother." Moving to the side, he pulled up a chair and sat down. "I've been gone most of the evening, I know," he went on, "but I didn't know. I really had no idea that you would die tonight." She didn't answer and he looked down at his hands. "You know," he went on, looking up again, "I thought that I might get a chance to talk to you tonight about the past. As I drove down in the car I was thinking about all the things that I would say to you. And now it's too late." He stopped and pulled his chair a little closer to the bed. "But maybe it's not too late, not too late for me, that is. You see," and he looked up again at her dead form, "you see, maybe if I had brought it up, maybe if I had told you that I was sorry, the way I told God that I was sorry, you might have forgiven me. Now you died without forgiving me." His voice caught and he lay his head on the edge of the bed's steel railing. But the words flowed on, the words tumbled out past all the years of stifle, hitting the floor with their vehemence. "Yet maybe this evening you did forgive me. Before you died, perhaps you thought, ah, I should have told my son that I love him. I should have..." His voice broke again but still he went on. "I do not know that you did. I cannot judge that. God will judge that... and this is what I want to say to God and to you - I forgive you, mother. I forgive you for haunting me, for never allowing me to have my own life outside of yours all these years." He wiped his face with the back of his sleeve, before he went on. "... and yet it was my own fault too. Because I let you do it and I could have stopped it." **** He stood up and regarded her face. Smooth and unperturbed, she lay silently. It was almost as if she would open her eyes in a second and say, "Albert, is the tea ready yet?" "No - no tea, mother," he whispered, "but perhaps milk and honey -perhaps that." Then he left the room, not stopping to turn for a last look. “It’s been three days…” Three days later there was a funeral. Although Albert accepted myriad condolences at the funeral home, he was not quite comfortable with the “I'm sorry about your mother...” remarks. Was it necessary, he reflected, as he sat in the left front pew, flanked only by the three church members whom he had asked to be pallbearers, that others knew how he felt? Was it necessary that someone understood? The minister read from John, unperturbed by Albert's thoughts. "When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. 'Lord,' Martha said to Jesus, 'if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now...’" **** There was no clock in the sanctuary. The coffin stood directly beneath the pulpit. His mother had always sat in the ninth row from the front. Albert turned his head slightly and almost expected to see her there, smartly dressed in her green summer coat, straight and dignified with her eyes on the minister. There were a lot of people behind him and his gaze passed over them impersonally, passed over them and then suddenly stopped. In the exact place where his mother had been wont to sit, was a slight figure in a blue raincoat. “‘If You had been here,' Martha said to Jesus, 'my brother would not have died.’” The minister's voice rose and fell about his being. "These words of Martha tell us a lot about what she was actually thinking. She was thinking, if you had been here, and you could have been because we sent you a message, then you could have prevented Lazarus' death." Albert turned again and saw that Vicky's face was turned towards the pulpit with studious attention. Why would Vicky be here? He'd given her the address of the church, of course. But it wasn't Sunday and... "Jesus’ direct statement, 'Your brother will rise again,' evoked an earthly response from Martha. 'Yes, I know that he will rise again on the last day.'" Albert eyed the coffin again. His mother would rise again. The lid of the coffin would open and she would climb out, maybe jump out. "Martha wanted an immediate resurrection - she wanted a 'now' answer, brothers and sisters. We all often want a 'now' answer and we forget that God has His own agenda, His own way of working things out for good." Albert shifted his feet and listened, listened with his own ears and also with Vicky's. "‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?’" A shaft of sunlight fell through the window at the right and a pool of brightness bathed the front section of the church. "The question is not, brothers and sisters, whether Martha believed Jesus' words. The question is, do you believe them?" He walked out behind the minister. The pallbearers walked with him and the people from the funeral home pushed the coffin sedately ahead of them all towards the door and on to the parking lot. The small figure in the blue raincoat reached his side before he reached the hearse. "Albert - wait." Scores of heads turned, turned and listened. "It's been three days - and I've been reading and looking. I just wanted you to know." The pallbearers had stopped walking and Albert smiled broadly as he gestured to them to move on. You can read some of Christine Farenhorst's other Christmas stories here....
Teaching your kid to appreciate broccoli
or, Cooking up a recipe for contentment ***** One of the most common complaints I hear from other parents is how they have been unable to get their children to eat certain types of food. As you will no doubt guess, I am not talking here about burgers, or candy, or other items packed with sugar or fat. Somehow the problem most of us seem to have with those sorts of foods is getting our children to understand the idea of moderation. But when it comes to green things that have come out of the ground, or things off a tree or bush that contain Vitamin C, somehow many of us struggle. I have watched more than one parent giving up. The battles took their toll and the child won. And so they have a whole list of things that they “can’t” give to their children: They won’t touch broccoli, they can’t eat parsnips. They won’t touch carrots, they can’t eat peas. They’ll eat potatoes, but only as long as they are roasted or fried. If they’re boiled or mashed, you can forget it. Our kids eat everything So this is going to sound like boasting, or that we just happened to have been blessed with a bunch of abnormal children – it really is neither – but in my six-child household, every child eats everything we put in front of them. Okay, that’s not strictly the case. There are one or two foods maximum that they really, really don’t like, and we accept this. However, whilst we accept that there may be the odd food item that they really, really struggle with, this is a far cry from tolerating the kind of food whining that leads to a great long list of don’ts and can’ts. As I say, I hope that doesn’t come across as boasting. It’s not that we haven’t gone through the same battles that most parents seem to go through – it’s just that we were determined to win those battles, rather than pandering to the whims of a two-year-old who will gladly eat another chocolate pudding, but won’t touch their tomatoes. More important than we might believe I believe that this battle is a far more important one than we might be tempted to think. It is not simply a case of physical health, though that is important. Nor is it just a case of establishing parental authority, though that is crucial too. Even more important than that, the meal table in our formative years is very much a training ground for how we will end up coping with the things that providence will throw at us over the course of our life. Why is that so? The Scriptural route to contentment is to cultivate thankfulness, and so in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul says that we are to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Even more pertinent to this discussion, the Scriptural route to contentment around the table is to give thanks for the food that is set before us: “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Timothy 4:4). Which would exclude fussing! The key to getting our children to eat without fuss is to therefore to instill thankfulness in them. However, this might well seem to be somewhat of a paradox. If they won’t eat, how can they be thankful? And if they’re not thankful, how then can they eat without fuss? The Scriptures get it backward; so should we The Scriptures are often quite counter-intuitive on issues where we are exhorted to do something that we don’t really want to do. Take the end of Psalm 31, for instance, where we read this: “Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.” That sounds counter-intuitive because it seems to be the wrong way around. Surely if we’re lacking courage, we need God to strengthen our heart first. But no. It actually says that if we want our heart to be strengthened, we first need to be of good courage. A similar pattern is found in the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Again, it sounds to us a little upside down. Surely our treasure follows our heart. Well maybe it does, but in this passage what Jesus is emphasizing is that where we put our money, our effort and our resources, there our hearts will be. In other words, if we want to be strong in heart, we are exhorted to be courageous. If we want to have more of a heart for, say, the overseas missionary work our church supports, the best thing we can do is to contribute more money to it, which will have the effect of engaging our hearts. The same principle is true of thankfulness. If we don’t feel like being particularly thankful, the biblical antidote is to be thankful. And the more we strive to be thankful in the little things, the more we will find it easy to be thankful for all things. This is the secret of contentment. It starts with thankfulness Which brings us back to the fussy food issue. Children often have a natural disposition to fuss, whine and complain about food. What happens if we indulge that? We are not only teaching them that they can have a list of foods they don’t have to eat, but far more importantly we are teaching them to be unthankful and discontented. Or to put that another way, we are teaching them that “everything created by God is not good, and many things are to be rejected and not received with thanksgiving.” But if we strive to instill thankfulness in them, even for the things they say they don’t like, they will be far more likely to imbibe a spirit of thankfulness, which in turn will make them far more likely to eat what is put in front of them. If we indulge their discontentment, do we suppose that this spirit will stop at food? Unlikely. I have no empirical evidence for this, no great studies that I can turn to make an explicit case for cause and effect, but I do know that I live in a generation that is far less contented and thankful than previous generations. It is a generation that fights for its perceived rights, and is often unable to accept when it doesn’t get those “rights,” or when it doesn’t get stuff now. Our grandparents survived Where was this learned? I think a lot of it was learned around the meal table, and by that I don’t just mean whether or not a child actually gets to eat around the table with their parents – though that is of course a crucial factor. No, I’m talking about intact families, but families where everybody is eating something different, because the fussiness has been indulged and there is a long list of stuff that won’t be touched. A few decades ago, this wouldn’t even have been an issue, since there was far less choice of food and most people could only dream of being able to afford the kind of stuff we have now. The family would eat the same food because that’s all there was. Today, we have so much more at our disposal and children are usually very much aware of that. How do we tackle it? A mistake I have seen many make is to assume that when children say they don’t like this or they can’t eat that, that they really don’t like this or they really can’t eat that. More often than not, this is a trick and what they really mean, although they won’t express it this way is, “This isn’t on my list of 10 favorite foods, and so I’m not going to touch it.” I’ve listened to more than one parent who has fallen for that tactic, and who has sounded like an ambassador for their child and their fussiness by reeling off a long list of food their children apparently just cannot have. I’m sorry, I don’t believe it. If there were any truth in it, children decades ago who had no alternative choices given to them would have starved. But they didn’t. Conclusion None of that is to imply that this is easy. In my house it has, at times, been extremely difficult. In fact, it still is. However, I believe that the rewards for persevering and for insisting that your child eats the same food as the rest of the family are huge. The ordeal of seeing that two-year-old resist eating that green stuff can be extremely trying. However, it is nothing compared to the joy of seeing them finally come to terms with the fact that they are going to have to eat it, but even more than that, then seeing them slowly coming to like it. In fact, this is the best way to train your child for a life of thankfulness and contentment that I can think of....
Saturday Selections – Nov 26, 2022
Gender is fluid until you bring up this... (2 min) It's becoming the norm to pretend that men can become women and vice versa. And some are up for pretending white can become black and vice versa. So who can we expose this for the silliness that it is? Well... keep going further, as Mark Spence does below. You can watch the 20 minute version of this video on YouTube by clicking the title above. A struggling society is one ripe for the Gospel This. We mustn't despair at the state of the world; we must seize the opportunity God's placed in front of us. Evolution invokes a "god of the gaps" When ancient Vikings didn't know the natural laws and forces at work that produced lighting they offered Thor, a god of thunder, as an explanation. Evolutionists say Christians are doing the same for how the universe and life came to be – we only credit it to God because we are ignorant. But someday, the evolutionists say, we'll figure out a way to explain the universe's origins and life's beginning without reference to any god. Evolutionists equate "God as an explanation" as simply a way to fill in gaps in our knowledge – this is the "god of the gaps" accusation. And, they say, the gaps we need a god to explain away are always shrinking as our knowledge grows. But it's not ignorance that has us pointing to God, but wonder. And as this article explains, it's actually evolutionists who most invoke their deity – in this case almighty "evolution" – when they have no explanation. Why we can't be uncontroversial John Stonestreet writes: "Pastors need to prepare their congregations to join believers throughout the centuries who were labeled 'controversial.' ....I’m not suggesting we should go looking for trouble. I am suggesting that, in this case, the trouble has come to us." The 7 most destructive Western philosophers Despite the seemingly weighty topic matter, this is a quick read. I don't know if I'd list Plato as high on my list, but I appreciated the author's reasoning. I also appreciated being introduced to a couple of big bad philosophers (the last two) that I wasn't familiar with. Growing up Christian in Egypt (7 min) As the World Cup begins, here's the story of a Christian boy who in Egypt who would love to play for his national team... but who has to be brave just to try out for his local club. This 7 minute video highlights the persecution Christians have faced in Egypt, but does so in a way that is age-appropriate for even elementary students. ...
Getting used to a new church
The time may come when you must leave the church you grew up in and become a member elsewhere. Let me be clear: I’m not encouraging people to withdraw or change their denomination/federation. I’m referring to church changes that are made because of marriage, affordability of location, employment, or desire to live near loved ones. It’s a huge life change, so I’m offering some suggestions to help you get used to your new place of worship and fellowship. When will I feel at home? It helps a lot to know that you are going to feel weird for the first few Sundays, or possibly the first few months. You knew every nook and corner of your old church, when to stand or sit, and most of the faces were familiar. You had friends there. Suddenly, the rooms, the faces, and maybe even the music are different. But after a while, you will adjust to the new situation. You will recognize a few faces, begin to build new friendships, and get used to the differences. One of the benefits of being in a new church is that you come in with a clean slate. Nobody knows about the silly or awful things you did as a teenager or young parent, or pre-judges you because of them. As we mature and grow in grace, we (hopefully) leave behind some of our follies and sins, and learn to treat people with more kindness and patience, “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Col. 3:13). We progressively learn how to love one another (1 John 4:7-8). Sometimes it’s easier to “turn over a new leaf” in a new location. How not to choose a church What characteristics should you consider in a new-to-you church? What if you actually have 2-3 or more choices? On one of our moves, there were two excellent churches that were exactly 8 miles from our home. Which to choose? There are lots of ways that people make their final decisions about this – and some are better than others! Some folks might want to choose a church based on which one has the nicest facilities. While I have had wishful thinking for a large fellowship hall and useful kitchen, in over 40 years of marriage, those amenities have always been at the churches that we didn’t choose. When my husband enrolled in Westminster Seminary, he had no vehicle, and therefore planned to walk up a fairly steep hill to Calvary Orthodox Presbyterian Church. His dormmate Leigh had a crush on a girl who attended a smaller OPC about 8 miles away. He offered Dennis a ride, which sounded much better than hiking up the hill – especially in poor weather conditions. Though the ride was important, for Dennis it was a mixture of the pastor’s friendliness and his excellent sermons that kept him attending that small church in Blue Bell, PA, and led to my membership as well for over 25 years (most of which were after it became Canadian/American Reformed). So far, we have seen that great facilities, desire for love, and convenience might be subjective reasons for choosing a particular church. But more should be said about the “friendliness factor.” Friendliness is important. Countless times, people have told me that they didn’t choose Church A or Church B because when they attended for one or two Sundays, nobody said hello to them. As the visitor, you will initially feel awkward and out of place and a friendly welcome could help to alleviate that emotion. On the other hand, you shouldn’t judge a church by that – friendliness can be overrated as a standard for choosing a church. In fact, I have two friends who had opposite experiences within the same church! Perhaps there were reasons why no one greeted you. Maybe they were rushing to deal with their children, or frustrated because their car broke down, or ill, or grieving. Maybe the official greeters were greeting someone else when you walked by. Don’t think that they don’t care about you; maybe they just don’t care about you – yet. And on this topic, just a word to church members: please do reach out to people you don’t know at church with a welcome and a desire to learn more about who they are! Don’t be so caught up in your own usual group of people that you neglect to include people who want to be an asset to your church! Wouldn’t it be nice to have more people to share all the responsibilities? So, how do you choose? First and foremost, you need to choose a church where you will find the pure preaching of the Word of God, the proper administration of the sacraments, and the appropriate use of church discipline. Not all buildings with the designation of “church” preach the truth, and you need to carefully research before attending. Secondly, consider the location. When you are choosing where to worship, it is best to live close to your church if at all possible. Make living close to other church members a priority when you are house or apartment hunting. Why? Because we have found that visiting other members, and having other members visit us, is much more likely to happen if the distance between us is short. When you live 30-60 minutes away, there will be folks who don’t want to drive to your house. And people are more likely to drop off a meal 5 minutes away than 30-60 minutes away. We all get very busy in our lives, so if you can make fellowship and caring more convenient, why not do so? You don’t want to use “distance” as an excuse to not participate in the life of the church (or the Christian school). Jump right in The way to feel a part of a new congregation is to get to know people, and the way to get acquainted is to get involved with smaller group meetings/service projects of any sort. In fact, this is probably the best way for introverts, especially, to begin feeling at home. Consider these examples that we have observed: Show up and work hard at a church maintenance day. One couple did this before they even officially joined. What a great opportunity to converse and demonstrate that they were serious about serving the Lord along with us. Attend the ladies’ and men’s Bible studies and take your children to youth meetings. Note the requests for meals for new mothers and shut-ins and sign up to help. Join the choir. Attend a baby shower even if you do not know the new mother – it’s a great way to get acquainted, and your attendance and a small gift are always appreciated. Shake the pastor’s hand and tell him who you are. Introduce yourself to one of the elders, or if they have cards in the pews, fill one out and place it in the offering plate. If you don’t want to be called, just give an email or home address. In my lifetime, I have noticed that churches are always happy to gain new members, and some of them will send you information about their church. Send get well or encouragement cards to people who are shut-ins or recovering from surgery. The inspiring Bible verses in them will be uplifting even if they haven’t met you yet. Knowing that someone cares and is praying for them is always appreciated. So what if they don’t know who you are – they will soon! Don’t sit back and wait for everyone to reach out to you. God calls all of us to help and encourage one another. Pray and ask Him to help you see ways to participate in your new church life. In Hebrews 10:24 we read, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” Your efforts will bless someone. Conclusion Although you will feel out of place during the first few times you worship in your new location, gradually you will begin to feel at home. Serving the Lord – “Blooming where you are planted” – will bring you into contact with fellow members, and after a while, friendships are likely to form. Following some of these suggestions might just move things along a bit quicker....
Saturday Selections – Nov 19, 2022
We kill because we care? Abortion brings to mind Proverbs 12:10: "A righteous person has regard for the life of his animal, But even the compassion o...
In a Nutshell
Tidbits – November 2022
Chesterton saw it coming… A hundred years ago, in the Aug 14, 1926 edition of the Illustrated London News, G.K. Chesterton wrote a column that coul...
The “couldn’t be my kid” delusion
Sexual temptation caught up Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived; Samson, the strongest man who ever lived; and David, a man after God’s own heart. Our kids are not immune. ***** I gave my first presentation on the dangers of pornography eleven years ago at a United Reformed youth camp in Alberta. At the time, as Internet use became ubiquitous and smartphones were becoming the norm, the availability of digital pornography was beginning to become an increasingly dangerous problem. Pastors and community leaders were noticing that porn use was becoming increasingly normal. Nobody, however, suspected just how prevalent it would become over the next decade. I have given presentations to Reformed audiences – high schools, churches, youth camps, and other events – of nearly every denomination, and in the past several years I have reached an awful conclusion. Pornography use has increasingly become normal. Reformed kids are getting addicted I know this is difficult for many Reformed people to believe. We would like to think that preaching, parenting, and education have made us at least partially immune to this scourge. Unfortunately, as I have written in this publication before, we underestimated the extent to which the digital age would make this tremendously addictive sexual poison a nearly omnipresent temptation to nearly everyone with access to a digital device with Internet capacity – and the ways in which the porn industry works to place these images in front of every Internet user, young and old. I have spoken to hundreds of Reformed people who were exposed to pornography by accident, and ensnared as a result. I’ve now spoken with many kids who have been hooked on pornography prior to the age of ten – something I almost never encountered just a few years ago. One young man was fifteen, and had been addicted since the age of five. Several others first encountered porn at the age of 7 or 8. I’ve lost count of the number of kids who say that they began using porn in Grade 6. Many of them got addicted by using one of the unused cell phones lying about the house, which they used to connect to Wifi and access porn – circumventing any protections their parents had put in place. (Indeed, many of the kids I spoke to came from homes where the Internet was monitored and parental efforts had been made to keep the home porn-free.) Many young men who have reached out to me have shared that because their addiction started so young – indeed, profoundly impacted the brain development – they have been rendered incapable of viewing women and girls in a pure way. One, in desperation, told me that he badly wanted to ask a girl to graduation, but that he couldn’t even look at a girl without pornographic images surging through his mind. Young men – and increasingly, young women – are pumping hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of sexual toxins directly into their minds for years. They are taking these images into their relationships. Young women too A key development that I have noticed over the past several years is the spike in porn addiction among girls and young women in Reformed communities. Pornography addiction among young women has always existed, but has generally been different than male porn addiction – pornographic books, for example. But the sheer prevalence of porn addiction and its common usage amongst many teens has changed that. At one Reformed school, every girl in high school had at least watched it. Some were struggling with several addiction issues. Accompanying this trend is sexting – personalized pornography. Most Reformed schools have had to deal with this issue at least once, and the young ages of some of the participants highlights the extent to which this problem has exploded. I’ve also lost count of the stories I have been told by young men and women who entered marriage with an undisclosed pornography addiction (and very frequently, a consequently deformed view of sexuality), causing their spouse tremendous pain. Many of these couples struggled to heal their marriage for years; therapy is often necessary to do so. “Betrayal trauma” – which psychiatrists compare to post-traumatic stress disorder – is becoming a norm for young spouses in the first years of marriage (or, if the addiction remains hidden for years, later on.) Pastors and church leaders have told me that porn use within the Reformed community is a leading cause of marriage strife, pain, and in the worst cases, divorce. The “couldn’t be my kid” delusion I know there are many parents who will read this and think: This couldn’t be my children. This is other people’s kids. I had one mother come up to me after a presentation and tell me how glad she was that her sons hadn’t struggled with this poison; both of her boys had talked to me about their struggles with porn. A father told me after a parents’ evening on the porn problem that he didn’t think it was that big of an issue, but he supposed it would be worth it if one kid quit. At least one did quit as a result of attending – his son. Because pornography is everywhere, all kids have access to it – and “good kids” get hooked just as often as rebellious ones. The Scripture warns us never to think that we will not be susceptible to sexual temptation – to say this would be saying that we are wiser than Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived; stronger than Samson, the strongest man who ever lived; and closer to God than David, the man after God’s own heart. Job was called a perfect man, but he knew his own heart well enough to commit to making a covenant with his eyes to avoid sexual sin. Parents, we need to talk After presentations at high schools, I take questions from the students on pieces of paper (so that they will be willing to ask whatever is on their mind). Over and over again, I get the same question: How can I get help? There are hundreds – very likely thousands – of kids in our communities who are struggling with this, too scared and ashamed to ask for help; too nervous that the adults will not be able to handle their struggles. Many have sought and received help, but many struggle alone. It is essential that we have these conversations in our homes first, but also in our schools and our communities. The teenagers are ready. Couples struggling with this are ready. It is time for us to start fighting in earnest—and begin rebuilding....
Can two denominations become one? What are the state of CanRC and URC unity talks?
This is an overview of an episode of Lucas Holtvlüwer and Tyler Vanderwoude’s Real Talk, a biweekly podcast under the Reformed Perspective umbrella. It features great guests talking about a host of issues affecting our Reformed community, ranging from social and economic, to theological and educational. If you haven’t checked it out already, you should. And you can, at www.RealTalkPodcast.ca. **** The Oct. 10 episode of Real Talk was all about church unity. Hosts Lucas and Tyler were talking with a couple of pastors representing two denominations working towards being just one. Their guests were Rev. Steve Swets, pastor of the Rehoboth United Reformed Church (URC) in Hamilton, and Rev. Dick Wynia of Lincoln Canadian Reformed Church (CanRC). The conversation covered the history of both the CanRC and URC, as well as the current and potential future status of the two federations’ relationship. Two pastors, three denominations Both pastors were uniquely suited to the conversation. Rev. Wynia grew up as a member of a Christian Reformed Church (CRC) in St. Catharines, but studied at the Canadian Reformed Theological College in Hamilton, prior to being ordained in Aylmer CRC in 1987. He then helped to lead a Calgary congregation out of the CRC federation and (eventually) into the newly formed URC federation. And for the past fourteen years, Rev. Wynia has served at Vineyard CanRC in Lincoln. With his experience serving churches in three different federations, he brought a unique perspective to the conversation. Rev. Swets calls himself “an American serving in Canada”: he was a minister at Abbotsford (BC) URC for over seven years, prior to taking the call to Rehoboth URC. Rev. Swets grew up in the south Chicago area, and as a teenager, was part of a church split out of the CRC that resulted in the formation of a new URC. Rev. Swets is the secretary of the United Reformed Churches’ Committee for Ecumenical Relations and Church Unity, and has preached in many Canadian Reformed churches over the years too. A little history to start To begin, Rev. Wynia gave a general outline of the history of how and why the Canadian Reformed Churches were founded, with a helpful explanation of the main reasons that many immigrants from the Netherlands who were members of the “liberated” churches, could not find themselves at home long term in the CRC congregations, nor in the Protestant Reformed Churches they found in Canada. (The CRC had not taken much interest in the church split that had happened in the Netherlands in 1944, with “liberated” churches on the one side, and the GKN church federation they’d been driven out of on the other. But by not taking a side, the CRC effectively supported the GKN. In addition, church leaders in the CRC did not want to bring any of the controversy from the Netherlands into churches in North America, and did not want immigrants to speak about these issues. But such a restriction couldn’t be acceptable to “liberated” believers – they couldn’t be somewhere where they weren’t allowed to talk about the stand they’d thought so important they’d taken it at the cost of friendships and family relationships too..) Prof. K. Schilder, one of the leaders of the "liberation" had warm regard for the Protestant Reformed Churches (PR), so some of the "liberated" immigrants formed PR churches in Hamilton and Chatham, Ontario shortly after arriving in Canada. However, the PR Synod of 1950 required that their churches subscribe to a specific view of the covenant. This restriction on covenantal views was the very reason the "liberated" members had left the GKN, and so they could not live with a condition like this after their significant struggles in the Netherlands. After this CanRC history lesson, Rev. Swets summarized how the United Reformed Churches came to be founded. They were begun largely by former members of the CRC who disagreed with that denomination’s views and decisions on the authority of the Bible: “It really came to a head around 1995, when the CRC opened all the church offices to women… and there were issues of theistic evolution, and practicing homosexuals in good standing in the church. There were a lot of peripheral issues but really what it came down to is the Scripture.” As Rev. Swets explained, by making the Scriptures and Biblical teaching limited to the culture or time of Paul or Moses (as the CRC was doing), “you start to undermine the authority of the Scriptures: The Bible does not actually say what it means… all of a sudden you’ve kind of knocked the foundation out of the authority of Scripture. I’d say that is the real reason why these churches left the CRC.” Rev. Wynia also recalled the controversies regarding the teaching of Calvin College professors like Harold Dekker, who denied limited atonement, and Howard VanTil, who held to theistic evolution. They held views that were not Biblical but which were being tolerated. Why didn’t CRC exiles join the CanRC in the 90s? Holtvlüwer asked if those who left CRCs in Canada during this period considered joining with the Canadian Reformed Churches. Rev. Swets answered that although he wasn’t involved personally at that time, his understanding was that “the URC needed to be established, and we needed to figure out who we were…. Dr. DeJong, and Dr. VanDam’s advice (to us) was to get ourselves established first, and then we’ll meet… and we can figure out a way forward of how we can become one that makes sense… So the advice was to become your own federation first.” Rev. Wynia recalled asking Dr. Jelle Faber, his former professor from the CanRC seminary, for advice: “I remember as a pastor in Calgary saying, ‘What do I advise my congregation to do; you know, there’s a true church in Calgary: should we start a new church, or should I say to (our members) that we are obliged to go there?’ And (Faber) said, ‘You have to be the shepherd of your sheep; if you advise them (to join the CanRC in Calgary), they will scatter, and this way you hold them together.’” Some of the history of personal relationships and acquaintances was also a factor in the new federation forming. Rev. Wynia remembered that “at that time, you would have had members who remembered the Liberation (in the Netherlands), and… that was a bitter thing… I mean, they had their conflicts in the Netherlands, and to some degree in Canada, and they remembered.” The group also discussed the impression that especially twenty-five years ago, some CanRC members would have considered their federation the only true church. While this was never an official position of the federation, enough CanRC members may have defended that idea to make former CRC members hesitant about getting together. Rev. Wynia brought up the counterpoint that whenever this issue was raised at the level of consistories talking to one another, the issue was quickly dealt with. As one CanRC consistory put it to Rev. Wynia, “If we didn’t think you were true churches, we wouldn’t be talking to one another.” “There’s a lot of personal issues (in the past), and the pastors and leadership knew this,” said Rev. Swets. Some of these issues, dating back to the 1950s were still, in 1995, remembered by older church-goers. But not any more, 25 years later. As all four gentlemen could agree, there is excellent cooperation today between churches from the two federations. Three obstacles to unifying In 2001, the two federations accepted one another as “sister churches,” and there were some fairly aggressive timelines proposed for an official joining together. These discussions stalled for a variety of reasons (including a lack of enthusiasm from many of the URCs in the United States). The three main obstacles seemed to be: a Proposed Joint Church Order which neither federation could entirely accept, the issue of federational or independent theological seminaries for the training of ministers, and a non-theological issue that still is close to members’ hearts – what songbook could be used in the worship services. This last issue highlights a difference in the decision-making process within each federation. The URCs overall prefer that a matter like which songs may be sung in worship services would remain within the purview of the local elders. While agreeing that Christ’s authority rests with local elders in local churches, the CanRCs have traditionally decided many things together at their General Synods. Rev. Swets stated, “There is a perception from the URC that the Canadian Reformed (church order) is too hierarchical, and that Synod has too much authority; Synod says too much.” With the URC’s history, coming out of the CRC denomination where the problems started at the top, this is a particularly understandable concern. We have grown closer The first half of the podcast might have had listeners believing that there is no foreseeable path towards unity for these two church federations. However, much of the second half of the podcast highlighted the progress that has been made over time. In Canada especially, there’s all sorts of cooperation between churches: in education, in mission work like Streetlight Ministries in Hamilton, and in recognition of one another. In 2016, the URC took a six-year hiatus from further unity talks with the CanRC. But this year, in the URC Synod Niagara 2022, unity efforts will resume. The Synod will hear reports from the URC Committee for Ecumenical Relations and Church Unity, including the results of a survey that the committee put out to each URC. (This podcast was recorded about a month before Synod Niagara took place.) The results of this survey suggest that a small majority of the 58 URCs that responded are in favor of federational unity with the CanRC. As might have been expected, a higher percentage of the Canadian URCs are in favor, while less than half of the American URCs responded positively. Only eight of the churches surveyed indicated they had any “theological concerns” regarding a potential union. One of the theological concerns brought up is the fact that the CanRCs have not made a federational statement on the Federal Vision movement, although professors from the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary have participated in meetings and forums to explain the CanRC view of the covenant, and of the Federal Vision. Looking further at the survey, Rev. Swets pointed out that “Twenty-eight of the 58 churches said they perceive the Canadian Reformed to have a hierarchy.” He personally disagreed with this perception, and stated that the URCs could also be perceived as having structures that are hierarchical. “We actually have a Stated Clerk of the URC; we elect him every Synod… he’s an employee of the URC.” Rev. Wynia reminded the group that both federations “have some diversity of views when it comes right down to it… Professor Schilder, before the Liberation in Holland, would say that he could live in the same church federation as Kuyper, (despite their) different views of the covenant. We can tolerate theological divergencies. There’s an acceptable range that we would judge as within the bounds of the confessions and live with those differences.” Rev. Swets shared one possible route to unity, by the CanRCs accepting the URC church order: “Since the URC church order is broader than the Canadian Reformed, the Canadian Reformed church order can fit within the URC church order… The way that would work is that you would have to introduce regional synods into the URCs, or have the seminary under the oversight of, for example, Regional Synod Canada, and therefore it still has church jurisdiction, still has professors appointed by and overseen by a church ecclesiastical body. That would be the fastest way forward that… If you did that, nothing would have to change in the life of a Canadian Reformed Church: you aren’t forced to have the Trinity Psalter Hymnal if you don’t want, it’s up to each church. You can keep the Book of Praise… Whereas if the URCs become Canadian Reformed, we’d have to throw away our Trinity Psalter Hymnal for corporate worship, and we’d have to sing out of the Book of Praise… There would have to be more changes for the URCs to become Canadian Reformed, whereas in practice there wouldn’t be changes for the Canadian Reformed to become URC. The things you’d have to change are behind the scenes, like the oversight of the seminary, and how does superannuation work for ministers, but in the life (of the average member) nothing would have to particularly change.” In his concluding remarks, Rev. Swets said, “When you talk about church unity, there’s a lot of issues to deal with. But at the very foundation of all unity is that it has to be given by the Holy Spirit. It can be frustrating because it takes time; you have to be patient in it, and pray, pray the Holy Spirit will work in this way…” Rev. Wynia expressed thankfulness for the unity that the two federations do have already, and for the progress made so far, in these discussions together. Readers who would like to listen to more are encouraged to download the 90-minute podcast at www.RealTalkPodcast.ca, or watch the video version below. ...
Saturday Selections – October 29, 2022
The miracle of the human heart (4 min) God's fingerprints are all over your heart not simply in its abilities – it may beat more than 2 billion times in your lifetime – but in the suitable environment it needs to operate (photosynthesis for oxygen, water for circulation, etc). Teacher challenges students to ask, "How is this video game shaping me?" Few of Andrew Barber's students have ever examined their video game play critically. The primary questions they have used to navigate life are the consumer-based ones: is it permissible? and is it pleasurable? In this realm, only a psychologist, medical doctor, or scientist has any real authority. If it doesn’t affect your mental or physical health too much, then eat and drink for tomorrow we die. But using the question “What can I get away with?” as your guiding star in modern America only ends in some level of addiction. Taking the virtue-ethicist tack – how is this activity forming me? – is a new one many of my students have never considered. To boo or not to boo? Parents trying to think through how to approach Halloween will appreciate John Stonestreet's column. He urges Christians not to throw in with celebrating what God condemns – murder, witches, immodesty, etc. – but also notes that "Halloween as we know it has more to do with department stores than druids." Complementarianism should be the toughest against spousal abuse “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord" (Eph. 5:22). As the author writes, "these holy words have been misused to justify horrible abuse. But using complementarian theology to justify abuse is like defacing a 'Do Not Enter' sign until it says, 'Enter.'" The answer to such biblical manipulation is not to turn from God's Word, but to dive down deeper to discover the way God – Who loves us and knows what is best for us – has created different roles for husbands and wives in marriage. We can see some of that love in the "five reasons why complementarians, of all people, should have the least tolerance for spousal abuse." Help! I'm 13 and addicted to porn! The folks at Covenant Eyes have written this article that might be intended for teens, but is important for parents to read. Canada's poor and desperate are opting to be euthanized Once death is seen as a treatment to be offered and not a foe to be fought, what reason will there be to withhold it from anyone? It's the solve-all with just one dose and no need for follow-up care! The only counter to this murderous ideology is the truth – God's Truth – about our value and worth, and about whose life it is (His and not ours). We need to spell out where His Truth takes us, and standing that in sharp contrast to the slippery slope we're on where murdering disabled children is proposed in the name of caring. The "Missing Tile Syndrome" (5 min) Dennis Prager gives a practical explanation of how our human nature will so often focus on what we don't have, rather than all that we do, and that'll always leave us unhappy. God says it another way, commanding us to turn from envy (Ex. 20:17) and encouraging us to thank Him for our blessings (1 Thess. 5:18, Ps. 103:2, Ps. 118:1, etc). ...
Science - Creation/Evolution
Masters of disguise!
“Poppa! Have you seen the Mimic octopus?” My oldest granddaughter’s question was lit with excitement. I had been mentioning a presentation I was working on featuring animals with incredible design features, highlighting that some of them were incredibly difficult for evolutionists even to begin to explain. When I mentioned squid and octopus camouflage, her question above popped out. My response of “I don’t think so” initiated a frantic scramble for a nearby phone and a hasty search on YouTube. What I watched for the next minute and forty-nine seconds1 left me with my mouth agape and led eventually to a salt-water aquarium in my home with one of those very creatures inhabiting it. (It’s amazing what homeschoolers learn about!) Like a second skin Even the “average” octopus species is truly incredible, capable of rapid color changes a chameleon could only dream of. Like a pixelated video screen, flashes of light can erupt from their skin surface, sometimes pulsating and other times creating waves of shadowy patterns that make them almost impossible to spot along the ocean floor among its corals and sea plants. They are capable of texture changes to their skin that are downright eerie, which means not only can they simulate the color of objects in their surroundings but also the shape of them to an extent. Rather than describing these creatures’ sophistication and complexity as simply a reflection of the brilliance and glory of their Creator, some naturalists have attempted to explain some of their intricacies as being alien in origin. So “advanced” are these creatures’ abilities (and yet so early do they appear in the evolutionary timeline, supposedly 296 million years ago2), some evolutionary scientists have seriously suggested they perhaps had biological input from alien lifeforms at some point in their “evolution”!3 The mimic octopus’s most impressive copying act is its take on the flounder. It even undulates across the ocean floor just like the founder does. Why do you act that way? But as amazing as “regular” octopi are, the mimic octopus is in a class by itself: it’s the first living thing ever observed to impersonate the shape and behavior of other aquatic species along with color and texture changes. Discovered in 1998 off the coast of the island of Sulawesi (Indonesia), it’s been spotted now as far as the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, so may be more widespread than originally thought.4 Many of the creatures it imitates are venomous, so it fools predators into thinking they are encountering a dangerous adversary rather than a sly cephalopod. The exact number of creatures it’s able to mimic is unknown, but watching video of one hide its body and six legs in a hole, change the color of its two exposed arms to the distinctive black and light stripes of the banded sea snake, and then waving them in opposite directions to impersonate a striped serpent is unnerving to say the least! Known “avatars” the mimic imitates include flatfish, crabs, jellyfish, mantis shrimp, stingrays, lionfish, and sand anemones. The uncanny thing about these octopi is that they seem to be able to make accurate and intelligent decisions as to what creature they should imitate depending on the environment they are in or the predators they encounter. For example, because damselfish are hunted by banded sea snakes, mimics often adopt their “snakelike” form, color, and behavior when they encounter damselfish to frighten them away. When traveling across a seabed with little cover, mimics may transform their tentacles to look like the poisonous barbed fins of a lionfish and imitate its pulsing, distinct movement so as to ward off predators. The mimic octopus will burrow down, leaving just two of its tentacles visible, to do a decent impression of the banded snake eel, on the right. The quick-change artist When considering this creature’s day-to-day activity, you quickly realize it has several sophisticated abilities that depend on accessing and activating tremendous amounts of coded, genetic information. Sensor array: Obviously, the mimic must be capable of monitoring and analyzing its current environment constantly. Response analysis: It must also have the ability to determine an appropriate response(s) needed in different environments or when encountering specific predators it interacts with. (I.e., if A, then B; if X, then Y, etc.). Catalog of aliases: Once a specific creature to mimic has been decided upon, it must then access other detailed “files” for all of the abilities, features, and behaviors of the different creatures it can possibly mimic. Immediate response: The mimic’s systems must then correctly activate commands to alter its shape, color, texture, and movement, which of course requires a body that has the capability to expand or contract, become smooth or rough, rigid or soft, multi-textured, multi-colored and/or precisely patterned almost instantaneously. The pic on the left doesn’t capture the mimic's best lionfish imitation but gives a feel for how it can masquerade as the poison-tipped predator on the right. Meet “Morph” I named my own mimic, procured from a local pet store, Morph. Morph lived for eight months, but he exhibited spectacular behavior and executed many brilliant performances during that time, with nightly “light shows” being commonplace. Although very shy for the first three days I had him, he became more comfortable, and I was able to hand-feed him shrimp for his supper eventually. Because octopus aquariums are typically a one-species environment (either the octopus eats whatever else is in there or they get eaten by what is), he only “mimicked” once, as there was nothing in the tank to react to. Upon entering my tank for the very first time, Morph impersonated a jellyfish, slowly pulsed down, and then switched to his regular form once he had cover. This made sense, because upon entry he was at the top of the tank with nowhere to hide and didn't know if there were predators in that environment. Note that his mimicry involved imitating another creature not immediately present in his environment (rather than simply blending into the background), which leads to the question, how did he “know” what to do? Mimic octopi are only thought to live nine months (the longest-living octopus live for a maximum of five years), so scientists don’t believe they are simply observing and copying other creatures’ behavior; they are born with it. Which means all of that programming is already present and passed on to each subsequent generation. But how could that have come about? Masterful design Consider this: If a person today were to create and program a mechanism that could perform half the functions this creature does, they would likely receive all of the accolades the scientific community could possibly bestow upon a human being, and probably hail them as the most brilliant scientist on the planet. Their creation would be highly esteemed as an incredible example of intelligent design. However, despite the obvious evidence of design in nature, naturalists seem bound to evolutionary interpretations. One evolutionary blogger from Nature.com tried explaining the mimic this way: "In this species we see the evolutionary 'perfect storm' in which a species with flexibility in their skin and body shape is consistently exposed to a predator-rich environment that contains toxic or venomous species such as soles, lionfish and banded sea snakes. This combination provides both the selective pressures and the opportunity to these otherwise vulnerable animals to evolve into the world's greatest masters of disguise!"5 But that isn’t a real explanation of anything. It’s like saying because evolution is true, evolution happened. But design requires a designer, and programming requires a programmer. Natural selection or genetic mutation are simply not sufficient explanations for what we see in creatures like the mimic octopus. And despite evolutionists concocting many “just so” stories to attempt to explain how so many precisely coordinated and irreducibly complex mechanisms could have arisen in creatures without a designer, for those with eyes to see, the conclusion is obvious. "But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?" (Job 12:7-9) The master designer, the God of the Bible, created these along with all of the other magnificent sea creatures on day five of creation. As much as evolutionists try to mimic God’s creative power through the story of evolution, creation declares its Creator, even in an insignificant octopus! Be sure to check out the 3-minute video below. Footnotes 1 Most intelligent Mimic Octopus in the world, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-LTWFnGmeg 2 Rachel Nuwer, “Ten Curious Facts About Octopuses,” Smithsonian Magazine, October 31, 2013, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/ten-curious-facts-about-octopuses-7625828. 3 E. Steele, et al., “Cause of Cambrian Explosion—Terrestrial or cosmic?” Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology136 (2018):3–23, doi:10.1016/j.pbiomolbio.2018.03.004. 4 “The Mimic Octopus,” National Geographic, www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/m/mimic-octopus. 5 Sarah Jane Alger, “The Mimic Octopus: Master of Disguise,” October 28, 2013, https://www.nature.com/scitable/blog/accumulating-glitches/the_mimic_octopus_master_of. Picture credits from top to bottom: VelvetFish iStockPhoto; VelvetFish iStockPhoto.com; FtLaud Shutterstock.com; Stephan Kerkhofs, MariusLtu, Jenhung Huang, and Vitalii Kalutskyi, all iStockPhoto.com This article was written by Calvin Smith , is published with permission, and originally appeared at https://answersingenesis.org/blogs/calvin-smith/2020/09/07/masters-disguise....
Say what? Insights from the "Devil's Dictionary"
Ambrose Bierce (1842- circa 1914) was an American satirist best known for his Devil’s Dictionary. In it he sought to “improve” on Noah Webster�...
Aging in hope!
I am 68 years of age and retired, so I suppose I am considered old. In our politically correct times, I am called either a “senior citizen" or "chr...
CD Review, Music
Why you, too, should listen to Jamie Soles
I like Jamie Soles! From his music telling Bible stories for kids to his versifications of the Psalms, there is something for every Christian in his r...
G.K. Chesterton on the difference between reformers and deformers
As a young man I had questions about how my denomination conducted services: Why did we have an organ and the style of music we had? Why did we sing so many psalms, and so few hymns? Why did we have two services? Why did we have Heidelberg Catechism sermons? Why did we get so dressed up for services? And I thought that because I had questions, and because answers were not always at the ready, that clearly meant we should do away with all these practices. Not so fast However, just because an answer isn't easy to come by doesn't mean it doesn't exist. And Chesterton had a caution for young guys like me when it came to doing away with old practices - old "fences": “In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, 'I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.' To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: 'If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.' “….Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious. There are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease.” (The Thing, “The Drift From Domesticity”) Seek out that other side Now, no denomination is perfect, so there will be practices that could be improved, and maybe some that will need to go. But before any change is made, a properly humble Reformer is going to want to first find out why things are being done this way in the first place. This is living out Prov. 18:17 – only after we hear "both sides" can we then evaluate whether a change is truly needed....
Witnessing without knowing it all
Ding dong! The doorbell goes and through the peephole you can see two young men clad in dark conservative suits. Fortunately you’ve recently read an article or two on Jehovah's Witnesses so you're feeling at least a little prepared to talk. Smiling, you nervously open the door. But as the conversation begins, you quickly realize these aren’t the Jehovah’s Witnesses you’re ready for, but are instead Mormons – and you don’t know anything about Mormons! So what are you going to do? What are you going to do?!?!? The burden of proof Don’t panic! Understand the battle in front of you: ignorance vs. error. You don't have answers at the ready, but because you serve the one true God you can be confident that there is truth to be found, though it might involve some digging. Meanwhile, these gentlemen at the door might be more knowledgeable about their beliefs than you, but they are utterly wrong. Digging will help here, too, but instead of uncovering truth you'll be uncovering their error. So you’re actually in a great position here. You don’t know anything about Mormons? Well here are people eager to teach you. What a great arrangement! Consider, also, that the pressure is all on them, not you. They’re here to make their case, and provide evidence and reasons for why you should be a Mormon. The burden of proof is right where you want it…on them. In other words it is up to them to make their case and defend it, while you are free to go on the offensive and challenge their assertions with good questions. Maybe that doesn't sound like it's going to be all that effective – how can simply asking questions help you evangelize to Mormons? The key is the burden of proof. Even a four-year-old can confound her parents as long as the burden of proof is on the parents, as long as they have to answer her questions. “Time to got to bed dear.” “Why?” “Because it’s dark out.” “Why?” “Because the sun set.” “Why?” “Um…it has something to do with the earth’s rotation I think…Hey, honey! Where did we put the encyclopedia?” The point, of course, is not just to ask questions, but instead to ask questions with purpose. The four-year-old’s purpose is to stay up a little longer while your purpose will be to expose the errors and weaknesses in Mormon belief. Questions are key In his apologetics book Tactics, Greg Koukl outlines some questions that can be used in just such an occasion. The first is a question of clarification. When you’re first learning about their beliefs you should be sure you understand what they are saying. You might ask them, “What do you mean by that?” or, “So are you saying…?” Clarification is important because it forces the Mormon (or Jehovah's Witness, or atheist, or whomever) to restate and explain what they really mean. They’ll have to drop their script and actually think about what they are trying to say. And more than anything, what you want to do is force them to think. Clarification also allows you to learn from this encounter and start to understand what their beliefs are, which could help you the next time you end up in a similar situation. Secondly, question their assertions. The Book of Mormon is the revealed word of God? “Now how did you come to that conclusion?” The explanation may lead to yet more assertions that you can again challenge. After a while you may learn enough and feel comfortable enough to try and make a few points of your own. The questioning technique works here too. Instead of telling a person why they are wrong, ask them, “Have you ever considered…?” The use of a question here is a more gentle challenge to their beliefs, and more likely to get a thoughtful, rather than reactive response. Shifting it back It’s a simple approach but there is one thing to watch out for…the dreaded switch back! The non-believer answers your question with a question of their own and before you even realize the burden of proof shifts back to you. “So you don’t think The Book of Mormon is God’s word? And yet it seems you think the Bible is. Why is that?” If you’ve got an answer this is a great opportunity to provide them with some information. But if not, don't worry. Remember they’re the ones who've come to your door to make their case, and so it is up to them to back them up. Just play it straight, admit your ignorance, and repeat your original question, “I’m not the one making any claims here. You said The Book of Mormon was God’s word and I’m just wondering if you have any reasons for that.” Study still needed This technique can be used in any number of settings, with all sorts of people: it might be an atheist professor in your university classroom, or maybe a Muslim friend at your local coffee shop, or maybe an encounters with door-to-door cultists. Any time someone is trying to prove a point to you, the burden of proof is theirs. Don't mistake the point being made here. That we can witness without knowing it all doesn't mean we should neglect to study God's Word. To do so is to neglect God. And, of course, evangelism and apologetics will be easier when we know our Bible. It's also true that this same questioning technique works even better if we know a little something about the beliefs of the person we are talking to. Then our questions can become directed, and we can direct the non-believer towards the weaknesses in their beliefs. Then, if the Lord blesses our efforts, this person will see those weaknesses, and start looking elsewhere for answers about God. He may just ask you why he should believe what you believe. And as unprepared as we can be for any of their other questions, this is one we really must be ready for. But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence. (1 Peter 3:15)...
Saturday Selections – October 1, 2022
Loud for the unborn (3 min) On Sept 3, in New York, abortion defenders showed up at a pro-life protest. And this gentleman saw it as an opportunity to speak truth to people who need to hear it. The marijuana emergency This US article is an alert to all parents to understand that marijuana is more dangerous than is commonly presented. It also shows a way that Christians in Canada and wherever marijuana is already legal can still help their neighbors by pushing for limits on the THC potency of the marijuana being sold. REAL Women of Canada has also detailed some of the problems. Why your "Christian" friends have become LGBTQ... allies "When a loved one says their sexual sins are an intrinsic part of who they are, they’re suggesting that if we do not love their homosexuality or transgenderism—then we do not love them. That is a powerful, manipulative argument that many parents, siblings, and friends do not have courage or integrity to resist." Meet Italy’s new pro-life, pro-family prime minister Giorgia Meloni is being denounced by the West's mainstream media as "far-right" and "facist" for saying things like this: “Yes to natural families, no to the LGBT lobby, yes to sexual identity, no to gender ideology, yes to the culture of life, no to the abyss of death.... Chesterton wrote more than a century ago: ‘Fires will be kindled to testify that two and two make four. Swords will be drawn to prove that leaves are green in summer.’ That time has arrived. We are ready. Thank you.” Kevin DeYoung on patriarchy Christian supporters of "complementarianism" will often use that term to distinguish themselves from "patriarchy." But as DeYoung notes, many in the world would regard complementarianism as synonymous with patriarchy since both espouse male leadership in the church and home. 9 ways to flee from lust John Beeson offers up "nine practical ways to battle lust in our lives..." Vivi's life under socialism (7 min) Socialism is a violation of the 10th commandment and runs up against the 8th too, so we shouldn't be surprised that it doesn't bear good fruit. That's evidenced in this PragerU video about the Venezuelan government's socialist turn. ...
ENJOYING GOD! RP's photo contest, the youth entries
This summer we asked RP's readers to send in photos showing how you were enjoying your Creator. It was a photo contest, with two categories: one for adults, and one for youth under 18. There were so many fantastic entries that we wanted to do online what space didn't permit in the print issue: we wanted to share all of them. What follows here are all the youth entries, beginning with the winner and the runner-up. There's so much to see here, so take the time to look, but also linger, and share in some of the enjoyment that was had in so many different ways, experiencing God's goodness, His brilliance, and His power too. And then click here to check out all the adult entries as well. ***** WINNER It's amazing to see the power God displays through storms. Jordan L. (13 years old) RUNNER-UP The boat's going too fast for my nephew, and his Dad told him to hang on, so what's he supposed to do with his cookie? He enjoyed God as he fished with his family and is now heading back to the campsite. He is also now enjoying the God-given talents of his Oma's baking abilities. Deborah D. (12) Seth B. (14) Seeing the world close up and admiring the intricate things God has made. Miriam P. (14) In this photo my sister is standing on the deck of a windy ferry. She is enjoying God and His beautiful creation. The golden sun is setting and reflecting off the ocean. God made his creation beautiful for us to enjoy. Krista D. (12) Every relationship for a Christian is an opportunity to love another person like God has loved us. Darci W. (14) Times like this shows the beauty God is capable of. Danielle L. (14) Standing on the path, under the trees, looking out across the lake at the forest on the other side of the water. Hiking is a great way to enjoy God's creation and see the unique ways in which He shows his love. Darci W. (14) This beautiful photo shows how God takes care of his creation and how we can enjoy it. Danielle L. (14) We went kayaking during a storm and hid out under a cliff watching the rain hit the water and then captured a picture of the storm clouds rolling away. God is truly powerful! Abby B. (13) We went backpacking and me and my friend were sitting there thinking about how great it is that we can enjoy this awesome creation that God has made. It is absolutely beautiful to look at all his creation!! Seth B., (14) Enjoying watching the cows on a peaceful and calm summer morning. Josiah C. (10) I enjoy God's world by spending time watching Rufous Hummingbirds dart from flower to flower pollinating. Deborah D. (12) My nephew, with my Dad are enjoying God as they fish on Babine Lake. He likes fishing, catching, and hanging out with Grandpa. Krista D. (12) Nature proclaims God, and when we enjoy nature, we enjoy God. Leah P. (9) This is a photo of my sister having a fun day in the pool during a hot summer day. I like the sister that God made and the water that God also made. 🌊 Hannah P. (12) This photo shows us enjoying God by enjoying his creation. On hot days we like to go outside and have fun in the heat. We are also enjoying God by enjoying each other's company. Seth B. (14) Watching in amazement as a beautiful summer, evening storm rolls past. Danielle L. (14) We went for a hike through the woods and walked under cliffs and in caves. The rocks were beautiful and it was really amazing to see the way that God shows His power and creativity to us. It's humbling to realize that God is so much bigger than us. Brett V. (7) A hummingbird moth feeding on a bee balm flower. Zachary V. (9) I enjoy God when I go kayaking. I can hear the birds sing, and the fish splash. I can see the majestic cliffs and the towering trees. It brings me peace when I spend time in His creation. Rozlyn V. (11) I enjoy God when I go for walks in His creation. I can see His care for even these trees growing on rocks and how He gives them life even on the edge of a cliff. Lydia V. (14) I enjoy God by the ways he shows His power, whether that is in a great storm or in the crashing of the mighty rapids. Lydia V. (14) I enjoy God's handiwork and splendor in the creation He made. The sunsets He paints in the sky each night, the mighty pines and the peaceful waters are just a few ways can enjoy each evening He give us. Kara V. (12) I can see Gods power in many things. In this picture can see his handiwork and his power in lightning and the beauty it displays. I enjoyed watching the storm and in this am reminded that God is always with us. Josiah C. (10) I enjoy how God created all the details in the feathers of a Wood Duck. Deborah D. (12) My brother is enjoying God as he snowmobiles in God's beautiful mountains. Josiah C. (10) I enjoy God as I watch a Surf Scoter and a seal pup resting together. Darci W. (14) This lovely photo shows us the amazing parts of God's creation....