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Monday, 30 April 2012

Saving Energy Costs

Because I see the world in which we live as a trust from the Creator God, I have a passion for taking care of it by living in a way that is sustainable.  Some Ontario residents have become upset at the introduction of SMART meters, which track household energy use by time of day and charge a higher rate for “peak” times.  Their hydro bills have gone up unless they have taken some steps to shift their energy use patterns.
   My family has been trying to reduce our energy use in a number of ways even before the time of use pricing came into effect.  Our hydro bill comes every 60 days, and on average it costs us less than $2 per day to power our lights and appliances, even less in the summer months.
   Two of the largest energy users in most homes are the clothes dryer and the hot water heater.  We have dealt with the clothes dryer by not having one at all.  There is room in our small backyard for an umbrella-style clothesline, and we have lines suspended from the ceiling of our laundry room when the furnace runs in the winter anyways.  Yes, the odd time we are stuck with a garment someone NEEDS right away.  Did you know a hair dryer has more than one use?  Still, planning ahead usually works fine.
   We have an electric water heater that turns itself on throughout the day to maintain the water temperature even if it is not being used.  We discovered that in Australia, water heaters are allowed to run only at night and are automatically turned off during the daytime.  We are manually turning off the breaker weekdays at 7 am and on again after 7 pm.   By taking five-minute showers and washing dishes after 7 pm, we have yet to run out of hot water.   

Monday, 23 April 2012

The Accuser Foiled

I wrote this poem as a way of coping with a trial my family faced when I was a young adult.

On the ancient scroll of Job is written
Of a man whose ways and deeds were upright.
Indeed Job was blameless in the Lord’s sight,
Yet he was by Satan’s evil smitten.
Satan, then, mocks Job’s faith and righteousness,
“Of course he serves you—look how you bless him!”
God gives him leave but limits Satan’s whim.
As death comes near, will Job’s faith survive? Yes!

“Have you not seen my servants once again?
Their love and giving spirit have no bound.”
So too does Satan’s bombardment resound:
Amid grief and stress, faithful they remain.
The accuser brings ill to God’s elect,
Yet Christ will present them without defect.

Friday, 20 April 2012

The Uttermost Parts of the Sea

In my April 14th post, I told of Sir Ernest Shackleton and the amazing survival of his entire crew on an Antarctic expedition.  At the opposite point of the globe and about 60 years earlier, Sir John Franklin set out to find the Northwest Passage through the islands that dot North America’s polar regions.  Franklin and his team of adventurers, however, were all lost.  Although they have been credited with finding the Northwest Passage, they did not live to share this knowledge with others.
   Can there be a faith angle in a story like this?  John Franklin’s desire to explore was motivated by faith in the God of the Bible.  Where maps had previously denoted uncharted areas with words like “There be giants,” Franklin actually wrote, “There is God.”  To uncover these places that God had established and over which he ruled, Franklin set out.
   Funded mainly by John Franklin’s wife Jane, numerous expeditions were sent to find what had become of this devout man.  It is reported[1] that Psalm 139:9-10 was underlined in his Bible found on a ship.  In the King James Version, it reads, “ If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.”
   Franklin’s expedition may have been doomed, but the God he held onto never abandoned him.  This is one of the mysteries of life.

[1] As told in On This Day in Christian History by Robert J. Morgan on the entry dated April 16.  According to Frozen in Time by Owen Beattie and John Geiger, a boat was found on Cape Crozier, on the western extreme of King William Island.  It contained six books, "including a Bible in which most of the verses were underlined" (page 86).

Saturday, 14 April 2012

When Endurance Is Not Enough

I love true stories about explorers and survival in harsh environments.  One such story is that of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his expedition, which departed for Antarctica in August 1914.  After their ship The Endurance was crushed by ice, Shackleton and his crew abandoned it and survived by camping on the ice.  They then used three salvaged lifeboats to find land, the barren and frigid Elephant Island.  Because Shackleton cared about the lives of each of the other 27 men with him, he was determined to find a way for all of them to be rescued.  He and five others sailed a lifeboat 800 miles to South Georgia Island, the nearest human settlement.  Once on this island, three of their party traveled 36 hours over mountains and glaciers to reach the whaling station.  From there a Chilean boat was used to rescue the men stranded at Elephant Island.  Not one man was lost.
   I first learned about these events from a video documentary, and I felt as though there was part of the story left untold.  How could these men march so long over a trackless wasteland to reach help?  How could all 28 men on this expedition survive when their resources were so limited?  I sensed there was a faith angle overlooked by the video.
   By reading Caroline Alexander’s book The Endurance I found what I was looking for.    Shackleton wrote about this trek: “it seemed to me often that we were four, not three.  I said nothing to my companions on the point, but afterward Worsley said to me, ‘Boss, I had a curious feeling on the march that there was another person with us.’  Crean confessed the same idea.”[1] 
   At times when our human resources have reached their limit, God can show up in a dramatic way.  His providence can lift us up in the most dire of circumstances.

[1] From Shackleton’s memoirs quoted in The Endurance by Caroline Alexander, 1998, page 169.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Good Friday-Easter Message

Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea at the time of Jesus’ arrest asked the crowds
a question, trying to show them that Jesus was not deserving to die.  He asked,
“What shall I do, then, with Jesus, who is called Christ?”  Different people in the story of Jesus’ final days answered this question in different ways.  Some of them wanted to serve Jesus and did so in very special ways.  Others wanted nothing more than to get rid of him to keep their power and position.  Still others, full of fear, ran away from the question.
     First we have Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus.  Mary loved Jesus and liked to
sit at his feet as he was explaining things about the kingdom of heaven.  On a certain day,
she wanted to show Jesus just how much he meant to her.  She took a jar full of
expensive perfume and poured it on Jesus feet and then wiped his feet with her hair.
What shall I do with Jesus, who is called Christ?  Mary’s answer was to worship him
with everything she had.  Jesus said that her story would be told wherever the gospel
would be preached to honour her deed.
     Judas had a different answer.  Eager for money, he made a deal with Jesus’ enemies.
He promised to lead them to Jesus if they paid him 30 silver coins. He kissed Jesus to
show them which one to arrest.
   The chief priests and elders arrested Jesus in the garden.  What would they do with
Jesus?  They would tie a rope around his hands as they led him to the city. Pontius Pilate
asked Jesus questions and realized he was not a criminal deserving to die, but he listened
to the crowds.  He tried to say, “What happens to Jesus is not my fault” by bringing a
bowl of water to wash his hands.
     The soldiers, who were used to dealing with prisoners with the power and weapons
they had, did not see in Jesus anything special.  Maybe he was called Christ, but this was
more of a reason to make fun of him than believe in him.  They mocked him with a
purple robe and thorns. 
     When he was on the cross, the soldiers wanted the one thing that belonged to Jesus,
his robe.  Instead of ripping it in pieces, they rolled dice to see who would win this
     Even though Jesus closest friends ran away when he was arrested, there were two
secret followers who acted bravely after Jesus had died.  Joseph of Arimathea asked for
Jesus’ body so that it could be buried with respect and honour.  Nicodemus brought 34
kilograms of aloes and myrrh, along with strips of cloth.  Together they wrapped Jesus’
body and placed it in a tomb near the garden.
     Two thousand years later and with the recognition that Jesus rose again from the dead,
the question still stands:  What shall I do, then, with Jesus, who is called Christ?  

Monday, 2 April 2012

Evolution of a Sandwich

   My grandmother had a phrase for the sandwiches she ate during her childhood in Holland.  She called them “contentment sandwiches”: a slice of bread with a thin layer of cheap margarine.  She grew up in a large family, and this was the meal they had for breakfast and supper from Monday to Saturday.  On Sundays, they sprinkled coarse white sugar on top as a special treat.  Only when someone had earned some extra money or had accomplished something at school would they splurge and buy 50 grams of cheese to share.
    My mother told me about the “sliding cheese sandwiches” that she ate growing up.  The children received a slice of cheese to go on their first slice of bread, but after that it would only be margarine.  Her sisters and she liked having cheese so much that they found a way to savour it.  They put it on their sandwich to look at it, then they slid the cheese off and ate the bread plain.  Their next slice of bread they did the same thing.  When they knew it was their last piece of bread for that meal, then they ate the cheese and bread together.
   When I was a child, a variety of toppings filled the table.  My parents were not stingy, but there was a limit to how thickly we spread our peanut butter or how many pieces of cheese belonged to one slice of bread.
   More recently, I was at a submarine shop and the employee was piling on all the layers of cheese, lettuce, tomato and meat.   I was overwhelmed by the amount of toppings as I saw him grab another pile of meat slices to load on, and I asked him to stop.  “That’s enough meat,” I said. 
   Sandwiches are just one way to track the abundance that has come over a few generations, but what has happened to contentedness?