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Monday, 29 October 2012

Finding a way to "Celebrate" Hallowe'en

Warning: My position on Hallowe’en is rather extreme.  I do not expect everyone to agree with me, nor do I judge those who allow their children to go trick or treating.

   My children are 14, 12 and 10 years of age, and they have never dressed up and amassed candy from our neighbours on October 31st.  Maybe I am too serious about this kind of thing, but I believe a “holy-day” should point to something “Holy”, not something macabre.  Increasingly, this is what Hallowe’en is about—the celebration of death and gore and horror.  It can also promote gluttony and greed as children are taught to knock on people’s doors and ask for things that are not even good for them.
   So, what does my family do about Hallowe’en?
  • We talk to our children about the reasons we have chosen not to celebrate Hallowe’en the way most people do.
  • We point out that October 31 is also called “Reformation Day”, marking the date that Martin Luther nailed 95 theses (comments about corrupt church practices) on the church door of Wittenberg in 1517.
  • Some years we turn off our porch light and play a family game.
  •  This year, we have decided to give out a CD sampler of “Adventures in Odyssey” instead of candies.
  •  This year my daughters asked if they would be allowed to dress up in tame costumes and collect non-perishable food in a campaign called “Hallowe’en for Hunger.”  My husband is going to accompany them in our neighbourhood.

Saturday, 27 October 2012


Wow!  This is my 50th post on providenceplace.  I hope my readers continue to be encouraged by the stories I share.

On the rare occasion that I watched a Disney movie at my home, I discovered a gem of a film.  This animated flick was released in 2009 and is called “UP.”  I heard about the movie when it first came out, but all I really knew was the far-fetched element of a house floating around on helium balloons.
   Yet this film is so much more!  It is fresh and original in a medium where plots have become predictable.  It is artistic and yet simple in a medium where special effects often overshadow any meaningful message.  It affirms what is good in our world.
   Three messages shine through:
  • The seemingly ordinary, everyday things we do are ultimately more memorable and important than “the one great adventure” we may be living for or saving up for
  • The priority of human connections and doing the right thing
  • “A house is just a house”
   If you have not had the opportunity to see “UP,” it is worth watching.  If possible, view it with someone you care about!

Monday, 22 October 2012

How Two Traditional Introverts Found Each Other

   This weekend marked 17 years since my husband and I first met.  We were both in our 20’s at the time, quiet by nature and serious about our faith.  He was a volunteer at his church with a boy’s club, and his friend teased him that he would never meet someone spending his time there.  I was relatively new in town, but the eligible bachelors in my church never asked me out.
   My work colleagues were twin sisters, and they had a cousin in the same town that they thought I should meet.  After a few months of thinking about it, I agreed.  A while later, I got a phone call from a man I had never met asking me to go out for supper with him.  He later told me that this phone call was not as nerve wracking as it would otherwise be because he already knew I would say, “yes.”
   After we got over the initial awkwardness (because introverts are not so great at “small talk”), we began to discover we had all kinds of things in common and most importantly our Christian faith.  It turned out that his dad was born in the same hometown (in the Netherlands) as both of my parents had been.  By Christmas time we met each others’ families.  By April of the next year we got engaged.  One year and 13 days after meeting on a blind date, we were married.  We’ve never looked back, except to marvel at God’s plan to bring us together.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

"Friendly Fire" Close to Home

One of my uncles in the Netherlands has asked me to work on translating his testimony from Dutch to English.  In it he refers to a pivotal event in his childhood.  He was not quite five years when on March 18, 1943 the house he was living in was destroyed by a bomb dropped by the Allies who had been aiming for a German military target.
   This incident, which occurred about one year before my mother’s birth, has been part of a story of providence carried by the family since World War II.  Every one of the family members was guarded from the catastrophe. 
   Both of my grandparents were at home at the time, since my grandfather was dealing with an illness.  Shortly after my grandmother had taken their eight month-old daughter out of her crib to sit her with “Papa” on the couch, the bomb fell on the house and pieces of debris landed in her crib.  The family, including my uncle, fled the house without injury. 
   One older brother had been sent to the store with a ration coupon for cookies, but he heard a plane overhead and was afraid to go inside.  That store was leveled and all inside perished. 
   Two other children were at school, which was untouched.  Arriving home at the end of the day, they found the ruined remains of their house and were sure they had become orphans.  Bystanders were able to tell them where the family had fled and they were again reunited.
   Why were some spared and not others?  This is a question that cannot be answered except that God does not play favourites.  His purposes for the individuals who were spared was not finished yet.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Gratitude: Weakness or Strength

As we pass between Canadian and American Thanksgiving, I’d like to give voice to some things I’ve been pondering about gratitude.
   How can gratitude be viewed as a weakness?
Ø      To be grateful means you need to acknowledge a level of dependence on others.  Some people have a difficult time with this because they consider themselves self-sufficient and in control of their own destinies.
Ø      Niccolò Machiavelli wrote a book entitled The Prince in the early 1500’s.  In it he asserted that a ruler must be feared instead of appreciated because gratitude is a fleeting emotion that is “forgotten the moment it’s inconvenient” (17.5). 
   How is gratitude a strength?
Ø      Being grateful puts you in your proper place.  Humans are interdependent, and gratitude puts a positive spin on that fact.  Expressing gratitude is a key ingredient that causes any relationship to flourish.[1]
Ø      For Christians of the Reformation, our life and good works spring forth from gratitude to Christ, the one who saved us from a life of misery.  We do not live motivated by guilt or fear or the need to earn our way into God’s favour.  Gratitude overflows into service to both God and our fellow human beings.

[1] With thanks to Rev. B. DeJonge for pointing this out in a Thanksgiving Day sermon (October 8, 2012).

Monday, 8 October 2012

Sparrows are not Celebrities

“God sees the little sparrow fall
It meets his tender view
If God so loves the little birds
I know he loves me too”
            -Maria Straub  (1874)

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?  Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  Indeed the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”         
 -words of Jesus Christ recorded in Luke 12:6-7

   A short time ago my family went to a bird banding station.  Migrating birds fly into humane nets, which are checked periodically.  Each bird is carefully extracted, placed into a cloth bag and brought into the station.  Here volunteers reach in to see what has been caught.  A band is placed around one of the bird's legs,  measurements taken and then the bird is released. 
   The public is allowed to watch this process at set times, and it is just as exciting for them to see what comes out of the bag.  We saw a golden crowned kinglet, a Magnolia warbler, a purple finch and a gray catbird among others.  Only one was a sparrow--a white throated sparrow.  We were excited for a close-up view of the less common birds, but if all of the bags had contained sparrows we would have quickly lost interest.
   Therefore, it’s so interesting that Jesus chose the common sparrow as the creature to highlight as the one God cares for.  If he cares for the ordinary and plain birds, we humans don’t need to become celebrities to catch his attention!

Friday, 5 October 2012

Pumpkin Cookies and the Story Behind Them

Here is a recipe for pumpkin cookies that have more of a biscuit-like texture.  They are egg-free and dairy-free.  I received the recipe from a woman who grew up in the former Yugoslavia.  Her mother invented these cookies because all she had available during a time of poverty was pumpkin, cornmeal and vegetable oil.  This recipe has been modified a little from the original.
   Since these ingredients continue to be plentiful in the fall season, you might like to try them.
                        Pumpkin Cookies
4 cups cooked mashed pumpkin
2 cups flour (whole wheat or combination of whole wheat and all purpose)
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup margarine or shortening
1 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp. cinnamon

Cream together the margarine, sugar and mashed pumpkin.  Mix together the other ingredients and stir well.  Drop batter onto a cookie sheet.  Flatten slightly and bake at 350 degrees until golden brown (about 15 minutes).