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Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Word of God

During the first half of the seventies, a youthful Lozanne and I worked together summer and winter to complete my undergraduate and graduate degrees in education.  We spent every summer with my parents or in a rented home away from home with an ever increasing number of  very young children so that I could attend school.  
I continue to marvel at the stark differences in the way graduate courses were conducted in the decade that followed the very free and easy sixties.  Each summer I would take two courses for a period of six weeks.  During the summer of 1974, I took one course that was quite simply an afternoon group discussion held, believe it or not, at the Brunswick House, a well known pub just down the street from the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education. There was no credible written component nor examination to evaluate student progress for this Sociology of Education credit.     In stark contrast, that same summer I took an extremely traditional course in the History of Education in Ontario.  There was a formal ninety to one hundred and twenty minute lecture each and every weekday afternoon.  Half of the marks for the course were based on a formidable written examination and the other fifty percent consisted of a major term paper that could be completed from primary sources only.  It took the professor one full session to get us to understand that we could not use one source of anyone writing about any particular subject.  We could use original documents only for research, footnotes and quotations.
Since the computer and internet age had not yet dawned, I spent virtually every morning of the month of July, 1974 in the Archives of Ontario, at a microfiche machine pouring over the original writings of Egerton Ryerson.  Much of the material was written in his own hand with straight pen and ink.  What had started out as a much resented and forced academic imposition became a labour of love.  For once in my life, I was expected to read the original documents and make my own conclusions, completely separate from countless scholars who had written on the subject.  I came to recognize Ryerson as the father of modern public education in Ontario and most probably, Canada.  
Ryerson was a “saddle bag” itinerant Methodist preacher who was eventually named the Chief Superintendent of Education for Upper Canada in 1844.    He authored the three successive School Acts which made education available to all instead of the historical reality of only the privileged few.  I and many like me from working class backgrounds, who started school just seventy-one years after his death in 1882, owe reformers like Ryerson a very great amount of gratitude.  The provision of universal quality education is a very substantive gift to those who embrace it.
I will never forget the lessons from that summer and indeed I remember far more of that arduous course than any other I experienced.  I have come to realize that having to use the primary sources and not what others have to say about any given subject is far more valuable than the second hand alternative.  I have also come to realize in later years that the Holy Bible is just such a primary source.  Reading a commentary about the Bible is just that...another mortal man or woman’s comments about the Bible. The Holy Bible is God breathed and contains the word of God.  Hebrews 4:12 makes a very clear declaration about the word of God.
12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
The more you actually read and hear the word of God, the more you recognize the living power of it.  It indeed can cut through any subterfuge and and deceit.  Having said that, I have to give the final word to Jesus.
28 But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!(Luke 11:28)
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Monday, February 6, 2012

Little Doggies

As I reached the brow of the hill, I could see him waiting for me.  
He was actually waiting for anyone to walk in front of his property.  Daily he would protect what he considered to be his corner which consisted of a few rental cottages and a small confectionery store.  Even as a twelve year old, I found it odd that a business that depended on walk-in customers would keep an untied and ill-tempered full sized black Doberman pinscher on their property, not to mention the public road that led to my elementary school.  Passing this mean and at times vicious dog was a common noon-time challenge for the few kids who walked to and from school on Premier Road.  
Younger readers may find such a situation hard to imagine.  The best way I can explain the world of the fifties is a pervasive belief by parents that kids should learn early how to take care of themselves.  Anything short of requiring multiple stitches for a dog bite would not prompt adult intervention or indeed even a telephone call to the owner to complain about the situation.  There were simply no animal control agencies to call.  By the same token, protecting yourself in a physical manner did not elicit the actions of any animal protection agencies.  As a child, I well remember an upset neighbor shooting a purebred Boxer in the offending dog’s own yard.  The police gently admonished the man for discharging a firearm in a built up area. There were no other charges.
At the age of twelve, I had long since learned the art of either ignoring or blustering my way past this nasty waist-high beast that was always outside and blocking the road at 12:45 P.M.  On this particular day, his mood appeared somewhat darker than usual as I approached.  His tail was between his legs and his menacing growl was, well, more menacing than usual.  He was baring his teeth as he growled louder and louder.  Bluster would not work on this day, nor would ignoring him.  It was winter and in the fifties, pre-teens wore very uncool large and heavy boots called over-shoes in the winter.  I took very careful aim, kicked with all the strength I could muster and my right boot caught the Doberman right under the chin.  His head snapped back and his body arched in a sickening manner as he collapsed apparently unconscious to the side of the road.  Suspecting he would wake up soon in an even worse mood, I continued on my way to school.  The incident was so minor, I probably neglected to mention the encounter to anyone over the age of  thirteen.
The next day I approached the corner establishment with great caution.  Indeed I had spending money in my pocket at the ready for a purchase of candy.  My nemesis was sitting on his property well back from the side of the road and simply stared sullenly at me as I passed and entered the store.  He was never to approach me again.  
Anyone who has read more than three of my messages will know that I am a dog lover.  The exploits of our English Springer Spaniel named Marley are close to legendary.  Her picture has actually been published in my blog.  For this reason, I marvel at the reputation of dogs in the Bible.  The word “dogs” appears 23 times in the entire Holy Bible.  With the exception of one parable, the word “dogs” bring forth visions of those being thrown to the dogs or dogs cleaning up after a battle.  Dogs are associated with the wicked, the greedy, the fraudulent; not to mention murderers and idolaters. The singular word “dog” is present eighteen times and is used for a negative connotation each and every time.  The one parable where "little dogs" are presented in a more positive manner is in Matthew 15: 22-28.

22 And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.”
 23 But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.”
 24 But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
 25 Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”
 26 But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”
 27 And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”
 28 Then Jesus answered and said to her, O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire. And her daughter was healed from that very hour. 
One has to remember in this parable that Jesus is simply stating the fact that He came first to offer salvation to the Jewish nation.  This Canaanite woman, like me and perhaps you, is a Gentile.  Our time for salvation was to follow after His death on a Roman cross.  This woman shows remarkable understanding and humility.  Instead of being insulted by the reference to little dogs, she embraces the metaphor and by doing so shows her great humility and faith.  Jesus healed her daughter at that very moment!  Given the obvious bias against the word “dogs” in the Holy Bible, I find it all that more heartening that Jesus loved, before their time had come,  even the “little dogs”, especially those who showed Him their faith.
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