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Saturday, 25 May 2013

Mathematical Providences

   My title may be surprising because the “p-r-o” word most people would expect to follow “mathematical” is “probability”.  This branch of mathematics deals with chance and possibilities that can be predicted with some level of certainty, from the flip of a coin to the probability of winning a lottery.
   However, some lectures by Professor Edward B. Burger in a DVD Course entitled Zero to Infinity: A History of Numbers, inadvertently (from his point of view) brought a new awareness of providence to my thinking about math. He explained the phenomena in nature of certain numbers and proportions being consistent.  It is called the Fibonacci sequence because it was first pointed out by a man of this name who lived in 12th century Italy.  The numbers are 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, and so on.  Spirals found in creatures as diverse as snails and uncurling ferns follow a pattern.  They are also found in non-living things like hurricanes and spiral galaxies viewed through a telescope.  This images may help to picture it.  The Fibonacci numbers are part of the blueprint for our universe, and they tell me something about the intelligence of its maker.

   During another lecture Professor Burger explained that if a number is chosen at random, it will NEVER be a whole number.  If a number were to be chosen randomly (using the digits 0-9), you would never get an infinite number of zeroes after the decimal place.  OK, you say, so what?  Well, our world consists of whole numbers.  We have two eyes, ten fingers, 46 chromosomes, and the list goes on.  The fact that our lives (except dollars and cents) consist of whole numbers speaks to me of the design of God.  We are not here by random accident.  

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Engagements: Long or Short

   On this date in 1935, my paternal grandparents were married after a five year engagement.  It was the Great Depression, so it took considerable time to save up the money for them to start a household separate from their parental homes.  Having known them, the furniture and appliances they would have considered essential would seem rather Spartan to us.
   Long engagements today are usually for different reasons.  In order to book a stylish venue on your preferred date, you need to book it 12 months or more in advance.  The couple wants to finish school first or buy a house first or live together first.  Sometimes couples become engaged without setting a wedding date because one partner is afraid to actually follow through.  It seems to me that maintaining the sense of anticipation until one’s wedding day is difficult to do when an engagement period exceeds a year.

   Long or short, the time before a wedding is more than just arranging for a one-day event that measures up to one’s dreams.  It is a key time for conversations about your plans for the future beyond the wedding and beginning to merge your different backgrounds into a new “us.” 
   Some valuable tools to accompany this journey include the following:
  • Meeting with the pastor who will marry you for "pre-marriage counselling."
  • Marriage Preparation Course by Alpha Ministries  This 5 session course offered in different settings across Canada gives practical advice for engaged couples and plenty of private talking time for each couple that attends.
  • Engaged Encounter.  This intense weekend of teaching and private discussion takes place.  Each Engaged Encounter includes Christian teaching about marriage from the slant of various denominations, from Catholic to Lutheran and Reformed. 
  • Read a book together.  I humbly suggest either Love for a Lifetime by Dr. James Dobson, which introduces some key topics for couples to consider, or Happily Ever After: A Real-Life Look at Your First Year of Marriage...and Beyond  by Toben and Joanne Heim. Each of its chapters closes with conversation starters. 

If you know someone at this stage of life, feel free to pass this on.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Why Queen Victoria Deserves to be Celebrated

The Monday in May that precedes May 25th is marked as the holiday of Victoria Day in Canada.  This “long weekend” is often celebrated by opening up one’s summer cottage for the season, fireworks, and consumption of beer.  The general population knows but little about Britain’s longest reigning monarch (1837-1901)
   When Princess Victoria became the queen of the British Empire she was only eighteen years of age.  She came to the throne in an unusual way because she was not a king’s daughter.  She was, instead, the niece of the previous king who left no legitimate heirs.  Despite her youth she brought a stability and morality to the throne that had been lacking in the three previous kingships.[1]
  • King George III ruled 1760-1820 but with bouts of insanity that meant his eldest son had to take over as a regent at various times.  During this period America declared its independence after a war with the British.
  • King George IV ruled as king from 1820-1830 but lived an immoral life from his youth onwards.  He was married to two different women but boasted of his numerous affairs and one night stands.  He left no legitimate heirs.
  • King William IV was George VI’s younger brother who reigned seven years.  He fathered illegitimate children, but no heir survived to take his throne.
   Victoria’s attitude towards her subjects and her Maker is expressed in this quotation:

“This awful responsibility is imposed upon me so suddenly and at so early a period of my Life, that I should feel utterly oppressed by the burthen [burden], were I not sustained by the hope, that Divine Providence, which has called me to this work, will give me the strength for the performance of it, and that I shall find in the purity of my Intentions and in my zeal for the public welfare that support & those resources, which usually belong to a more mature age and to longer experience.”
-         Excerpt of Queen Victoria’s Coronation speech, 1838.
   It was during Queen Victoria’s reign that Canada became an independent country (1867) but maintained strong ties with the Empire.

[1] In Eric Metaxas’ biography of William Wilberforce entitled Amazing Grace, (2007) one receives a glimpse of just how unfit the monarchs were who preceded Queen Victoria.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Walking Miracles

We are easily overwhelmed when bad news bombards us.  In the past week, I have been deliberately taking note of people around me who are alive and well after having faced some severe threats to their health or their very lives.  I’ll itemize a few of these walking miracles.  See if you can identify similar ones around you.
·        A little girl in Grade 2 smiling and doing her school work.  She spent the first year of her life in a hospital after surviving a severe infection of her digestive system. 
·        Two men in my church, who are active, one serving as an usher and the other singing with a praise team.  Years ago both of them (on separate occasions) fell from ladders and were severely injured.  While they still have lingering pain, they can walk.
·        My father and mother present for my daughters on Grandparent’s Day at their school.  My father was walking unaided when a few short years ago he needed a walker and experienced extreme pain.
·        A senior gentleman in my small group took a trip to the East Coast.  Just one year prior to this he nearly died from a severe infection.
·        A healthy teenager enjoying his food night after night at our dinner table.  During delivery his umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck.  Due to quick action on the part of the obstetrician, he was born healthy and well.
·        A sister-in-law who is always so thoughtful with birthday cards and phone calls.  When lightning struck the family home when she was younger and exploded the walls in her bedroom, she was elsewhere and therefore unharmed.
·        A young man picks up his daughter from the nursery after church.  During his youth he struggled with an addiction.  By God’s grace he has a new life.
·        A pastor preaching from the pulpit with love and conviction.  Once he had been driving a vehicle that burst into flames, but he was able to get out safely and lives to tell about it.

   I could go on with many more.  Sometimes we don’t know the story behind those we meet, but I would venture to say that most of them have something in their history that would qualify them as walking miracles.  May God give us the grace to see them that way.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Conscience: Sensitive or Seared

  This post is a response to an evil that has hit close to home.  A family man from a small town in Ontario was abducted from his driveway, and today it was announced that he had been murdered.  One suspect in custody was/is considered by some to have been incapable of such an act.  Among the reasons cited were that he is well-educated, lacked nothing materially and came from an upstanding family.  We wonder, how can any person stoop to such evil? 
   I apologize if the writing is not as polished as usual.

   From childhood one's conscience is guided in a certain direction.  Children are taught what is right and wrong and begin to develop self-control.  However, education, wealth or family connections are no guarantee that a person will develop a conscience.
   The way to cultivate a conscience is to listen to it.  A conscience guided by the truth that love is the highest value (love for God and and love for your fellow creatures) will alert you when you are stepping over a line.  That line may not be recognized by your society at large and may make you seem strange in the eyes of other.  Yet, when you heed this nudge and turn back from an action or a thought that you know is wrong, your conscience becomes more sensitive.  Doing right increasingly becomes more your natural way of life.  Your relationships will prosper.
   In contrast, a conscience can become "seared as with a hot iron" (1 Timothy 4:2).  By a series of small steps and self-justification, the conscience can be ignored.  Who a person is when nobody else is watching is the true self.  When selfishness instead of love becomes a person's highest value, there are multiple avenues to cause pain and harm to those around.  Then one who appears to be respectable can turn to doing great evils.

For an update on this story, see the post Conspiracy Uncovered.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

A Tribute to my Mom

   One of God’s great provisions is the design of a home with a mother and a father.  Yes, our homes have also been tainted by the brokenness of sin in our world.  Nevertheless there are many good things that I can celebrate today about my mother.  She is a wise woman who has set a good example for me to follow.  I will highlight just four qualities that set her apart.


At the age of 25 she accepted the marriage proposal of a man who lived across the ocean and came to live in Canada.  She spoke only Dutch at the time but trusted that God was guiding all these events.  She became a farmer’s wife and a valued partner in the business of raising livestock.


Her relationship with my father was marked with respect and love.  At times when she needed to be the strong partner, she was a source of care and encouragement.  She never let bitterness take over when there were disappointments and trials.  She and my father have been married over 43 years, and they are adjusting well to their retirement together.


Something my mom told me she learned early in her marriage was the need to be flexible.  Farm life is not always predictable; in the middle of the day your plans may need to be changed because something urgent has come up.  As well, people of all kinds regularly showed up at the farm without prior notice.  My mom learned to welcome them graciously, offering them her time and often a place around the table.


My mom is the queen of sharing.  When she receives something good, she does not keep it to herself.  When she comes to visit, she brings something out of love, not obligation.  When we visit with her, we never leave empty-handed.  She knows that you cannot out-give God, the true Provider.

This Mother’s Day go beyond the Hallmark clich├ęs and let your mom know at least one specific thing you admire about her.  If your mom has passed away, tell a good friend what she meant to you.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Never Too Young To Give

   I know that at least one of my children reads my blog, so today I thought I would more publicly honour my children for some of the different ways they show generosity.  I am so proud of their desire to be a blessing to others.  The schools my children attend and the youth group my son is part of have played a large role in cultivating this generous spirit.  The students are given the opportunity to be involved in service projects from a young age and see the impact they can have.


In the past few months each of my two daughters grew her hair long enough to donate 8-10 inches of it to an agency called "Angel Hair for Kids".  It provides wigs for children who have lost their hair due to illness or treatment for an illness.  My girls had seen others their age donate their hair; they, in turn, have been an example for others.


My children earn a weekly allowance and share a flyer delivery route that pays them a chunk of money each month.  Regularly, they are setting aside money to give to others in need.  Without being canvassed herself, one passed me a handful of loonies and toonies to add to neighbourhood donations for the Canadian Cancer Society.  Another pays for 50% of the cost of sponsoring a child in the Dominican Republic each month.  My children often ask what cause the church offering will be going to and then make their own contributions.


In Ontario, Canada high school students are required to do 40 hours of voluntary community service in order to graduate.  My son earned this many hours in his first semester of 9th grade because this is part of his way of life!  My younger daughters are not waiting until high school to give their time to those in need.  They take turns volunteering at my husband’s workplace when they have PD days.  Helping in the church nursery is another way one of my daughters gives of her time.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Weather Bulletin

Using the weather as a way to start a conversation is not a universal phenomena.  For example, in Korea people greet each other by asking if they've been eating well.  The idea that rainy days are depressing is likewise not a world-wide perspective.  I’d like to share a few points that may give us a different way of thinking about the weather.

1)      A delightful children’s picture book entitled A Country Far Away by Nigel Gray tells the same simple story of a child’s day.  One side of the page illustrates what the text mean for a boy in North America; the other side has pictures of an African boy experiencing the same story.  There is one page about weather: “It rained, so we went swimming.”  The North American boy and his dad brave the rain to get to the indoor public pool, while the African boy and his friends go swimming outside…in the rain.

2)      I grew up on a farm.  I know firsthand how dependent farmers are upon the weather in order to first grow and then harvest their crops.  Now that I live in the city I find myself irked by the weather reports prefaced with, “Today will be nice weather.”  Who says sunny is the only kind of “nice” weather?  Rain may be inconvenient for urbanites, but if they’d like to eat they need to be grateful for the range of weather God sends us.  Last summer our family went camping during a significant drought.  When it rained during our camping trip we had a good attitude about it and were prepared with tarps and a waterproof dining tent.
3)       There is a Scandinavian proverb I’ve heard that has been quoted and misquoted.  “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.”  I first heard this when an American presenter at a Kindergarten teacher’s conference shared it.  She found that many schools in the United States use any excuse to NOT send children outdoors to play.  She was relieved to hear it is not the same way in Canada.  When children and adults are dressed properly, the outdoors are a great and healthy place to be.

Do you have some words of wisdom related to weather that you’d like to share?  Leave a comment.