Month: August 2007

A Day of Sheer Calm

We went out to the Margaret Ann for the afternoon and evening to do some small fixes and tune the rigging. This means adjusting the steel cables that hold the mast and the foresails in place. We’ve been having some trouble getting things tight enough, as the cables are quite stretched out. Some of the adjustments will probably require taking the mast down and adjusting some things at the top.

We’ll only have her in the water another week or so, and so we’re not too worried about getting it all perfect right now. However, it’s not good to have the rigging too loose, as sudden gusts of wind can smack the mast around and really wrench on the boat where the cables are attached.

It was dead calm. We took the dinghy this time, and the kids spent a good 5 hours puttering around the lake. It’s a decent-sized critter, with a 2 HP outboard. We put Spazz in charge of navigation, and the four of them went out together.

It felt like a rite of passage to me. They always stayed in sight, but they went almost all the way across to the far shore. (Granted, our “lake” is really just a ravine full of water, not even as big as some rivers.) I watched them experiment with the excitement of being so independent, and at the same time, cling somewhat close. I saw the responsibility we’ve been trying to teach them actually get exercised.

We decided to let the sailboat be a motorboat for the evening, and took supper out on the water. It was like glass, and we just let her drift. The kids pulled up alongside, to parental cries of, “Oh, no! Pirates!” We bribed the raiders with sandwiches and juice boxes. Then we gave them a bag of chips and let ‘em loose. They were very careful not to get any garbage in the lake.

Dave snoozed on one of the cockpit seats, while I watched the clear sky, the drift of the boat, and the children whizzing in a large circle around us. The fun was finished when Brat Boy decided he needed to go potty. It is hard spending half a day in and out of a dinghy when you’re 5. Spazz poured it on when the girls started shrieking, “Oh, no, he’s dribbling! We’ve gotta get back there fast!” This turned out to be hyperbole, for which the girls are infamous. However, it ended Dave’s nap.

We came back ashore feeling very satisfied with the relaxation of the day. It really did feel like a day off.

Ship Log of the Margaret Ann Aug 26th

We were out on the lake for about 2 hours this afternoon. We sailed up the lake this time, where it was broader but shallower. There were a few times the depth alarm went off. However, the wind was easier to work with up there, because it wasn’t gusting off the hills or blocked by patches of trees.

We were about to turn around when we saw a powerboat coming up behind us. We decided to wait till they’d gone past, but the boat headed toward us, slowing. We soon realized it was our friends from north of town. they had a camera with them, and took several pictures of Margaret Ann over the course of the afternoon.

We greatly enjoyed seeing the jaw-drop effect among some of the fishermen on shore as we sailed back past the launch. The boat generates a certain amount of excitement.

The kids had great fun riding on the bowsprit today. We had just the right wind direction to allow us to reach up and down the lake with almost no tacking needed, so they were able to perch right under the staysail without having to get out of the way every few minutes.

I had the pleasure of hauling and furling the sails today. I like having the chance to get to know the boat better.

We measured our time, and with a leisurely jib dropped here and a mainsail there, it took us about 25 minutes to furl and prepare to dock. We were not scrambling, by any means–the jib came down and we ran her sloop-rigged back towards the docks, saving us some hassle while trying to park and roller-furl the boom in the midst of all the fishing craft that were out today.

Introducing the Next Great Chef

The kids loved that TV cooking competition when it aired–Canada’s Next Great Chef contest. The participants were students and graduates from chef schools, seeking professional recognition in their field.

This evening, I cooked a “different” meal. It involved frozen vegetables–winter mix (broccoli and cauliflower). I used a pack of instant noodles–fettucine alfredo, with a mix of spinach noodles and a parmesan-flavoured sauce. I took a chicken breast and sauteed it with random amounts of salsa and taco sauce, plus a couple of pared apples. There would have been some asparagus spears, but they were done cooking early, and I kind of ate them while I was doing the chicken.

To make it more appealing, I said to the kids, “Let’s play Next Great Chef!” Three out of four said, “Yayyy!!!” The oldest sulked and muttered, and was banished from the kitchen.

We laid a bed of winter mix on a Corelle serving platter. We made a hollow in the middle where we placed the pasta. Then we used tongs to lift the chicken pieces from their mushy-apple-and-salsa sauce and arranged them in a sun pattern.

This sparked much creative imagination. “It looks like a sun.” “It looks like a sundog!” “It’s spring, and there’s snow and grass, and the sun is coming out.” “Mommy, what’s a sundog??”

We then took pictures of our bee-yoo-tee-full creation, amid admonishments not to ogle it too long, or it would be cold. The oldest walked through and muttered disgustedly, “That’s weird.” He was consigned to wait to eat until everyone else had finished.

The girls were disappointed that we had to make it all ugly in order to scoop it onto our plates. However, they liked the taste of it very much. Score one for Mommy–much more successful than Monster Soup.

Ship Log of the Margaret Ann

We met at the launch as David came off the day shift, and set sail immediately. I had the tiller for a bit, but found my mate to be an incorrigible backseat driver, so I went below, informing him that he was welcome to drive. Supper was served on board, consisting of salami sandwiches. Snacks this time were apples and carrots, as I spent 5 hours cleaning out the boat on Tuesday.

Granted, some of that cleaning involved the nastiness of disinfecting the head area and mopping up the remnants of bilge water in the saloon area. However, nary a pretzel shall ever set foot on my ship again.

After supper, I took the tiller again, courtesy of a repentant Only Mate (calling him my First Mate will only spark another tiff over who is in fact the captain). The evening was calm and cool. There was almost no wind, and it was coming across the width of the lake, making steady sailing a little difficult. We found out some wonderful technical aspects about our boat. First, she can reach incredibly close into the wind with all sails up. Second, she really does find wind where there is none. We made our way towards the dam, struggling to find a good angle to the poor wind direction. But on the way back to the launch, she glided along in the tiny breeze, making her way about 30 degrees off the wind.

We brought warm jackets, and ended up thankful for them. Dave went and sat up in front of the mast, greatly enjoying the view and the feel of the boat from there. He helped each of the youngest three kids take a turn riding the bowsprit. They found that completely cool.

As I tacked back up the lake, I faced the occasional helpful comment from my less-experienced Only Mate, who was convinced we could round the point back to the launch with shorter tacks than I was inclined to take. I knew full well this wasn’t true, but humoured him. The more tacks, the longer it would take to dock.

We loosened the sheets and let the boat drift in the middle of the lake, opposite the dock, as we practiced roller-furling the mainsail on the boom. The staysail is on a furler, a spring-loaded contraption that rolls the sail for us. The jib (second sail, directly in front of the mainsail) comes with no such luxuries.

Spazzerific sat at the tiller and attempted to keep the boat’s nose into the wind while we furled the main. Having the jib up and the main essentially reefed resulted in a fair bit of lee helm, and the boat wanted to turn with the wind. This made Spazz a bit nervous, but he did fine.

With the sails furled and the keel raised, Dave started the outboard and took us in to the dock. We discovered that the keel was not fully raised when the boat grounded. However, this was not a major emergency, and was easily fixed.

Banana took the following photo of me standing on the foredeck as we prepared to dock. I love riding in to the dock Jack Sparrow-style.

That Useless Cat Again

I sat down to upload a blog post, and heard a rustle. It was in the homeschool room. There is no mistaking that sound–it’s the sound of an invading army, which, unchecked, will take over the entire house.

I went to the door and called, “Kittykittykitty!” I expected either that slaphappy grey furball, Tommy, or nothing at all.

I got Cloudia. (more…)

Ship Log of the Margaret Ann

We launched the Margaret Ann around 9:30 this morning. It took us some time to step the mast, but was much easier than our dry run ashore yesterday, as all the grey Great Lakes sand had fallen out of its hollow core. Without the sand pouring out and jamming the bottom, fastening the front stay was a relative breeze.

We began by sailing with the mainsail only. When we raised the clubfoot jib, we quickly realized how much of a difference it made to the balance of the boat. No more fighting the helm. Dave insisted on trying to install the bimini overtop my head and in the midst of the rigging as I was attempting to pilot the boat, which resulted in a few territorial words being exchanged.

We allowed the kids to have snacks on board–Doritos and pretzels. Never again. The whole cabin was littered with them. The boat is just not big enough for that kind of mess to be even a bit bearable.

The kids decided that they loved sailing, until it began to rain; the wind died; and the boat threatened to drift aground in a shallows while Dave struggled to get the outboard going. However, they were able to shelter below while Dave and I got a soaking. The bimini provided some protection, but shed water right onto my seat so that I ended up wet from the waist down. I didn’t care. It was too much fun.

In spite of thunder and lightning, Dave was determined to sail her back to the dock. It took a lot of convincing to talk him into putting it under motor power, and a few good cracks right overhead.

We went back to town and got permission to moor her at the launch, and also a padlock for the cabin. We were able to store rudder and outboard below and tie up over at the pilings, off both the docks and away from the beaten paths. This made us a bit nervous, leaving her there, but she’ll be coming out for the winter next Tuesday.

I went through two changes of clothes (foolishly thinking the worst of the rain was over, when in fact it was yet to come) and spent the evening shivering under a blanket, but without the slightest discontent. There truly is nothing better than mucking about in a boat.

Why I Don’t Buy

I don’t buy when I can’t be persuaded that the product is a genuinely valuable addition to my life. Or, perhaps, that something about it will add some value or meaning to my life, such as showing support to someone whose message is worthwhile, and who has taken the time to present it in a quality format that doesn’t interfere with the message’s delivery.

The same is true for faith matters. I don’t buy into people-messages, simply because people aren’t God. They’re not perfect. I appreciate and value worthwhile work of quality, but odds are my raspy side will find something that grates against me, and I won’t take emotional ownership of the whole thing.

Emotional ownership is a huge key to the faith industry. It’s that knack of getting people to “buy in.” For North America’s pampered pets of God, this usually means a lot of superlatives, a transcendent goal, and a tangible benefit to self.

Let’s take a stroll through Matthew 7 today, and really, really think about it.

Vv. 1-2: Do not judge, lest you be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.

I do not buy into the idea that this means I’m to check my brain at the door, and simply think the best of everyone no matter what they say, do or lead others to believe. What I take this to mean is that God gave me grace; He imputed my sins to His cross, and imputed His resurrection life to me. He did not turn a blind eye to my sheer hostility towards Him, but He did offer me a reconciliation without punishment falling on me.

In dealing with others, I think I should try to do likewise, since God usually comes up with the best ideas, being omniscient and all. It’s hard, and I don’t do it well or often enough, but I’m trying to practice the art of remembering that everything each person does is paid for by the blood of Christ.

Not so for the Calvinist–Christ’s blood is effective only for those who are pre-chosen (elect) by God. How does forgiveness operate between an elect, redeemed person and a depraved sinner, if there’s no remission of sin available for one of the parties? How am I to treat that person as God does? By following His example of withholding their deepest need and turning my back on reconciliation with them in order to prove my graciousness to those whom I do choose to forgive?

Actually, there are plenty of churches out there which provide weekly demonstrations.

Or, we could legislate that they live according to God’s rules, since it’s not going to come from their hearts. In that sense, Calvin’s Geneva was perfectly logical. There is a nice mesh between the idea that the larger part of humanity is never going to be capable of turning to Christ, because Christ isn’t going to sovereignly make them capable (read on in Matt. 7 for just what a percentage of humanity we’re talking about) and the idea that God’s kingdom on earth must be a human-legislated theocracy.

It’s not the theos part I contest, it’s more the -cracy, at least in the sense of it being a human-established government with Christ at the head. I mean, look; several years back, there were a bunch of people who felt almost that way about having Dubya as a president. After all, the guy said he was a Christian, and he made some of the right-wing gestures that American Christians do. Surely God was blessing America…but I digress.

Kingdom Now doesn’t need Calvinism–some of its niche supporters would claim that a last-days revival is taking place, and all the earth will be saved before Christ comes. Likewise, Calvinism doesn’t need Kingdom Now. In fact, I’d argue that anyone who takes any care to read the multiple portions of Scripture dealing with the thousand-year reign of Christ is not going to come away trying to make it happen, because they’ll have noticed all the calamity that precedes it.

Ultimately, though, my problem with both is the way they judge humanity and the way they judge God. Both theologies have a small God. I had plenty of those before I came to Christ. None of them were a valuable addition to my life, nor did they add meaning and purpose to my existence.

I’m only interested in an infinite God. Because, y’know, it’s funny how such a finite being as myself can have such an infinite need for forgiveness.

Kingdom Now: A Glorious Naivete

It came up in an online search for “Kingdom Now Theology.” Now, I’m vaguely familiar with this curious distortion of Christianity’s message and purpose. I recognize it when it pops up in people’s jargon–phrases like “kingdom authority” or talk of “the kingdom within us” are the tells at the poker table. But I wanted to know more, and this is a snippet of what I found.

I got a sad sort of chuckle out of the Chalcedon Foundation’s website. Now, let me just allow them to explain to you what they hope to accomplish:

We believe that the whole Word of God must be applied to all of life. It is not only our duty as individuals, families and churches to be Christian, but it is also the duty of the state, the school, the arts and sciences, law, economics, and every other sphere to be under Christ the King. Nothing is exempt from His dominion. We must live by His Word, not our own.

That’s adorable. I wonder if anyone has noticed how well this type of theory works, just in a church of a few hundred people. Never mind an entire nation of independent-minded, stiffnecked sots such as we North Americans can be.

They go on to talk about Christian educational institutions and homeschooling as being the most influential cultural forces in reversing the tide of humanism that is sweeping America. Yeah, I heard that at the homeschooling conference this spring too. From an American. Thank you for coming and sharing your version of the dream of world dominion–we’ve come to expect no less. Nod, smile and run.

Perhaps one of the most disturbing things I’ve heard lately is the idea that the age of the gospel of salvation is over, and we’re now in the gospel-of-the-kingdom age, whatever that distinction is intended to mean. I have to say, language like that frightens me, as a relative of a large majority of non-Christians.

It frightens me for many of the same reasons Calvinism does: There is a notion in some quarters that, regardless of whether a person is truly in relationship with God, they should live as though they were. In fact, as Rick Miesel of Biblical Discernment Ministries points out, Calvinism and Charismatism meld harmoniously in the Kingdom Now. Though without the much-vaunted advantage of speaking in tongues, as far as I’ve heard, Calvin tried to enforce the kingdom of God in Geneva, and the resulting dictatorship was worthy of a Middle Eastern regime. [1]

And this is the problem. Much as Chalcedon claims that a theocracy is a nation where everyone responds to the leading of God, [2] they seem to have forgotten that human nature–and, arguably, the devil himself, if you take a Christian worldview–have not left the building.

Except for the biblicism, that should be fine with the United Nations, really. They’ve been trying to establish a global religion for decades already, and any effort Christians lend to the globalist cause can only help. Mind you, any excuse Christians can give the rest of the world for reactively choosing global power over American power can only help too.

[1] Dave Hunt, What Love is This? Calvinism’s Misrepresentation of God, 2nd edition (Bend, OR: The Berean Call, 2004), Chapter 5.

[2] As Rushdoony states, theocracy is a “radical libertarianism” because it advocates the rule of God over every man, woman, and child. Not by the direct tyranny of a religious elite—that would be “ecclesiocracy”—but by the rule of God in the hearts and minds of people as they govern themselves in terms of Biblical law instead of autonomous reason, and without coercion by the state or church. Naturally, this would result in a vast reduction in the size of civil government, as obedient people would provide their own retirement, care for their own elderly, educate their own children, and provide for the poor in their communities.” Cat sez: Uh, right. What about disobedient people? Have these folks read Matt. 7?

Spontaneous Bursts of Chess

We were out partying last night, and didn’t get in till midnight. (By partying, I mean roasting marshmallows and stargazing with a bunch of friends.) Today is what I call a “non-day”–everyone got up late and has accomplished very little, while the time just seems to glide by.

The kids have been watching parts of a favourite movie, Pride and Prejudice – the 5-hour-long, A & E version. Having finished with Mr. Darcy’s horrendous proposal and Lizzie’s rejection, they chose to turn to the chess board.

For some reason, the 5-year-old was playing against the 11-year-old. I have no idea if Brat Boy even knows how the pieces move. Spazz, of course, trounced him, and was revelling in his own ego rather than showing any concern over having his little brother in tears.

Spazz capped off his bad behaviour with, “Well, I expected him to play better than that.”

And with that, I was quite fed up. I threatened to sit him down and embarrass him thoroughly at a match if he didn’t smarten up, and asked him how he’d like it if I were to make him feel that way. He said he “probably” wouldn’t like it too much.

“A little more than probably,” I growled at him. “Sit down and work on endgame together.”

In practising their endgame, they are not to be playing against each other as such, but strategizing co-operatively. They dug out their Chess for Kids book. They chose a few pieces to work with, and started reading. Banana Brain is now flipping through the book, while the Littles are setting up pieces. The Spazz has sulked off to his room to read, which is the best place possible for him when he’s tired.

At times, they’re great at creating their own learning experiences like this. At others, their undeveloped personalities create less-than-gracious situations, and that’s where I come in. My job is to redirect, to draw lines regarding courtesy, fair play and rules, and to ensure things stay enjoyable. If they don’t, I shut it down, and we move on.