Friday, December 11, 2009

Geese: crazy, lazy or smart?

Winter is well settled in Lethbridge, and the Canada geese are still around. This is not unusual; it seems to be the same every winter. They hang around, perhaps waiting for the last dog to be hung, and now find themselves hung out to dry, freeze, starve . . . I see them now on the grain field opposite, hundreds hunkered down, their dark bodies against the mottled stubble and snow covered field.

Earlier, I watched them fly in, coming in many large and small flocks, all making for the same destination. They glide in, more gracefully than a space shuttle, their wings with a characteristic droop, sometimes making a half circle into the wind. A sharp fluttering of the wings and they are down; no runway needed for these space travellers!

With the ability to fly to warmer climes that we can’t without a lot of fuss, why stay around here? Are they fooled by all the talk of global warming and expect Arizona in Alberta? It’s not just the cold and shortage of food, the frozen ponds fool them. The elegant glide to water finishes up as an inelegant slide on ice, with nothing but their companion’s bodies to provide crash stops. I wonder what they make of that!

Of course, for some they are a pest. Vancouver’s beaches and walks become covered in what they no longer need, and they make occasional concerted attacks on inquisitive, defenceless humans who venture too close. Can’t (perish the thought) cull them, they are protected like the sturgeon, although I’m sure they’d make good eating. After all, it is Christmas, it’d give the turkeys a rest and we could get our goose cooked!

For all that, I can’t think of any Albertans that would be glad to see them go—either south for some sunshine, or onto a dinner plate. They are an elegant bird, more so than the ungainly big beaked pelicans we see here in the summer. They probably fly south, their feathers may be white but I’m not sure that makes them amenable to snow. Are they more sensible than the geese?

But why fly when you don’t need to? Birds, apparently, don’t fly for fun, or so I learned at a recent visit to a local bird sanctuary. They fly for food or migration, but apart from that, they’re happy to laze around. But these geese may not have heard that. They gear up their autumnal bodies for a long flight, their V-shaped formations passing my window like streamers on a windy day, and then decide not to go. All that wasted effort.

But then, Ann has me walking every day, not to go somewhere, but just to walk. And I don’t walk (or fly if I could) for fun. Apparently, it helps keep my body healthy. Perhaps that’s what the geese are after—more smart than lazy; no flies or fat on those birds! So perhaps crazy is out as well. I have to accept they know what they are doing, just like us . .

At least we think we know what we’re about, but sometimes I’m not so sure. We are probably more lazy and crazy than smart, and if we could get into those little goose heads, we might learn a thing or two. That’s unlikely, so let’s just watch the geese; it’s good for the soul.
Friday, December 11, 2009

And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed,” Luke 1:46-48

There is a world of cultural distance between Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Barack Obama, president of the United States. Yet they have one thing in common: peace! Mary gave birth to the Prince of Peace, and Obama obtained the Nobel Peace Prize. In addition, both Barack Obama and the Prince of Peace also have one thing in common: recognizing the existence of evil!

The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama is controversial. He must be the first person to receive a noble prize of any sort in hope of what he will do, rather than for the little he has done. Furthermore, his acceptance speech was far from peaceful, warning that war will always be possible, if not inevitable, as long as evil exists.

In this, he is probably closer to George W. Bush than he, or his followers would like to be. Bush’s phrase, “axis of evil” referred to the nations of North Korea and Iran, which remain a thorn in the American president’s side. Even more dangerous, the Islamists pose a worldwide threat that even Obama claimed in his speech could not be tamed by negotiation.

The difference between tyranny and Islamism is the difference between life and death. The leaders of rogue nations, usually tyrants must maintain life to accomplish their goals. Their death frequently ends confrontation. The danger from Islamism is greater because life is less important than death. Not only is death preferable if it will achieve what they consider God’s goals, martyrdom serves to reinforce and perpetuate the belief in others.

Tyrants will negotiate if it furthers their cause in some way. Note the on again, off again, overtures of North Korea and Iran to inch their way to their goals; for them, negotiation is a verbal war, not a means to peace. But for the Islamists, negotiation with the enemy is apostasy, death the preferred alternative. They must universally enforce their version of God’s will. To achieve it, any sacrifice of themselves or any device against the infidels who thwart that will is acceptable and necessary.

The liberal concept of evil is simply a correctable human defect (recall the name of the Canadian prison system: “Corrections Canada”!) This idea is naive, for it assumes that evil men are reasonable at heart and can be talked out of their intentions. Too often, as history has shown, the talk of rogues is simply a smokescreen to cover continued preparation toward their goals.

Christianity teaches us two things about evil. First, evil is a spiritual force to which we are all susceptible and thus available to the evil one’s manipulation; especially if his goals coincide with our desires. This dictates that evil is always present. Secondly, the Prince of Peace will only bring about peace on earth by force, not by softening hearts, Psalm 2:8–9 and Revelation 19:14–15.

That does not make the returning Christ a tyrant who enforces his will upon all. He will finally deal with the source and manifestations of evil in order to ensure a permanent and stable peace for those who genuinely desire it. His rule will ensure that, "Every man will sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid,” Micah 4:4.

In the meantime, we have the comfort of peace in our hearts because we have peace with God. We join the chorus of generations thanking Mary for her commitment, which enabled the birth of the Prince of Peace. He is Immanuel, God with us, come to dwell in the hearts of all who seek him.