The White Rodent

February 2, 2013
by David Leggatt

Romans 8:35,37 – Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (NIV)

I live in Wiarton, Ontario, Canada, the home of "Wiarton Willie" an albino groundhog. Each February 2nd, they wake the poor creature up so that the mayor can speak "groundhogese" to this critter and find out if there will be an early spring.

This started out as a joke back in 1957 when a man invited a bunch of his close friends over for a party, to break up the winter.

Even a Toronto newspaper sent a reporter up to see what was going on. When the reporter asked about the groundhog, the man grabbed a ladies' white fur hat, threw it out on the snow, and made the first prediction. We now have statues in our park on the way into town and stuffed toys of "Willie" in almost every store because of this first get-together.

What began as a fun morning prediction at 8:07 a.m. on February 2nd with pancakes afterwards has how turned into a three-day festival. However, as I talked with the new Baptist minister in town, we both identified a concern that we think has emerged: many people have started to almost idolize the groundhog. About ten years ago, when they tried to wake up Willie and found him dead, they actually had a funeral for him. I know that many communities have statues and other things to mark their town or city as unique. When I lived in Alberta, various towns had a giant buffalo, a giant Easter egg, and even a replica of a flying saucer. These are fine, but they weren't idolized by the people. I'm all for a little fun in a cold, wintry climate, but to actually idolize anything other than God is sin.

Exodus 20:3–5a – You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God. (NKJV)

This command from God tells us about the nature of God. God is the supplier of all our joy, and through God, we can experience great joy no matter what situation we find ourselves in. But when we begin to idolize things rather than God, we lose our focus. When we idolize created things rather than the Creator, we commit idolatry. The second part of the command is all about idolatry. We can have authentic worship only when God is the only God we are bowing to. God and God alone is worthy of our worship. To sum things up, the first commandment requires us to love, desire, and find joy and hope solely in God, which naturally leads to an outward worship of prayer, praise, and meditation on His Word.

To join in some festivities is good, and God wants His children to have fun, but not to the point of forgetting that the fun comes from Him and that in our fun, we will glorify Him. The prediction and festivities surrounding Wiarton Willie should ultimately point us to Jesus, our God who made the seasons (hopefully an early spring) and groundhogs in the first place!

Prayer: Some love winter, and some hope for an early spring. Lord, help us to realize that You will give us what we need, not necessarily what we desire. Thank You for making the groundhog and all Your creatures. Thank You also for this chance to have some fun in a cold winter month. Amen.

About the author:

David Leggatt <leggattd@sympatico.ca>
Wiarton, Ontario, Canada

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    Thanks David for writing.


    I feel the wholew thing is ridicious!


    Good morning, David: Thank you for today’s message.


    Good to hear from you, David. Glad you came out of hibernation long enough to give us a word.


    Hello David,
    To some, it is innocent but to others — well you are right on.


    Hi David: I appreciate your sentiments about Wiarton Willie; Don’t over do a fun thing.
    It was good to hear your devotional. Thank you for it.


    Greetings, David
    Good to see/read your writing again. It’s been a long time. Hope all is well with you in retirement. Keep in touch and keep writing.


    Hi David,
    You are right on. I hate the way people have come idolize things and people and animals. Like you said, it was a “Fun” thing to start with, but as is the case with so many of these events, they take on a live of their own.


    Welcome Back!! Great devotional, great writing. I knew from the first sentence about living in Wiarton, that the devotional had to have been written by you.
    Funny thing, or perhaps not actually, just this week I was wondering how you and the family were doing. Perhaps this devotional came as an answer to an obscurely asked prayer in the form of wondering??
    Good to see one from you. Keep it up !!!


    Thank you David for the reminder about worshiping anything that is not God. As for Wiarton Willie’s prognostications, down here in Pennsylvania we have Punxsutawney Phil. Ostensibly, he didn’t see his shadow which we are told means an early spring. Obviously this is all very tongue in cheek. No one I know takes it seriously. Even the weatherman won’t yet say what the rest of the winter holds, but for Pennsylvanians, we know one thing for sure, it’s more than likely gonna snow. Blessings.


    Thanks David for the update on the history of Willie, and your reassuring homily on it.
    I came to Canada in 1958 and I have always enjoyed Groundhog day. Often the groundhogs were way off but our God endures unchanging on.
    I have not, being so far our west, heard the latest prediction but we are having a beautiful sunny day out here. As the old chorus goes “When Jesus shows His smiling face there is sunshine in my soul!”
    Blessings.


    Hi there David
    Long time no see.
    Since I haven’t had the radio on, tell me, did Willie see his shadow?
    Actually we haven’t had much of a winter — not a lot of snow.
    Was to so good to see you on the Daily. Lets have some more (please).
    God bless.


    David,
    This reminds me of the movie “Groundhog Day”!
    The movie is hilarious but has a true meaning; the main character must relive his Feb. 2nd over and over until someone else “purchases” his freedom.
    Of course, many faiths and religions have claimed the movie as their own, but no one can “purchase” us except Jesus Christ.
    He already had His “funeral”, said “enough of that”, and rose from the dead!
    God speed & keep writing,
    (Texas)


    Dear David,
    Thank you for a much-needed message. And thank you for keeping it balanced with your sanction of good fun.
    But when we begin to idolize things rather than God, we lose our focus. When we idolize created things rather than the Creator, we commit idolatry. The second part of the command is all about idolatry. We can have authentic worship only when God is the only God we are bowing to. God and God alone is worthy of our worship. To sum things up, the first commandment requires us to love, desire, and find joy and hope solely in God, which naturally leads to an outward worship of prayer, praise, and meditation on His Word.
    How true!
    Keep writing.


    Blessings in your day, David,
    Great Message. Thank you.
    Absolutely love these truths.
    This command from God tells us about the nature of God. God is the supplier of all our joy, and through God, we can experience great joy no matter what situation we find ourselves in. But when we begin to idolize things rather than God, we lose our focus. When we idolize created things rather than the Creator, we commit idolatry. The second part of the command is all about idolatry. We can have authentic worship only when God is the only God we are bowing to. God and God alone is worthy of our worship. To sum things up, the first commandment requires us to love, desire, and find joy and hope solely in God, which naturally leads to an outward worship of prayer, praise, and meditation on His Word.
    Blessings,
    (Australia)


    Happy Groundhog Day David,
    Thank you for reminding us how easily as humans we can cross over the blurry boundaries of fun to forms of worship. It seems to be a trap for this generation.
    As you point out, it is a long winter and this was created for fun to help break up the long white season. Our family has ties to your area since the 1930’s, and the hub-bub over Willy is all tied to drawing tourism dollars to a tiny Northern town. The statues (in cities and towns across the world) provide a photo opportunity for those folks who make the trek during their vacation time, since Willy is often sleeping. Willy put Wiarton on the map. It may be unsettling for some townsfolk to have the spotlight and flurry of activity invade their solitude for a few days during February, but rest assured, from a broader perspective, the rest of us are just having a little fun on a cold winter’s day. We like to talk about our weather, and in February the groundhogs add a bit more controversy and fun. So be grateful for all of the benefits the town reaps as travellers now stop and spend their money on their way to catch the ferry or camp along the Peninsula.
    A great message on a snowy winters day. Lets be the salt and light of this world.
    Blessings.


    It is interesting to see how the devotional develops insight. The feedback shows us the different aspects of the message. God is still working in mysterious ways – always to teach us.


    Good Morning David; Thank you for such a beautiful message reminding us of how soon we can get caught up in the hurry and scurry of life and make other activities and blessings God has granted us to enjoy more important, in our lives, than our devotion and dedication to Him. It is so very sad but we have only to set foot into our churches on a Sunday Morning and note the fact that many of today’s activities keep Christian families away from the beautiful opportunity they have of worshipping their Lord and Saviour due to the fact they have placed their outside interests as number one on their priority list. They are more dedicated to the things of this world than to He who loved them enough to sacrifice His life for them. Thus making the outside activities their idols. God’s word does tell us we are to have no other God’s before Him. He must be so very, very sad when He sees how soon we grab unto placing Him second place in our lives. God does want us to have fun and be happy, but He also wants us to place Him first in our lives. I loved this message, it was a devotional that was well done and caused me to search my soul and be more faithful in giving honor and devotion to He who gives provides me with everything, even the very next breath I will take. Thank you.

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