Fish Care 101

We accomplished a big task this week… we cleaned the fish tank. Aquarium enthusiasts be warned, I have had fish for years and know that tanks need regular maintenance… but I am not the person to follow if you need good fish advice on how to clean an aquarium. But, let’s back up a bit shall we? We have a tall tank that sits in our living room — I’d say it’s about 35 gallons or so. We’ve had it for years and have done goldfish, tropical community fish and slightly more aggressive ones. My brother kept cichlids for years, but I am too “frugal” for that hobby favourite. Which brings me back to this week. A few years back we picked up some cheap show guppies — an easy-to-care-for community fish that is pretty enough to look at. Check out my facebook page if you wanna see the video of our fancy guppies! Fun fact about show guppies is that they are also live bearers (which means they breed well and have live babies). So, needless to say, our stock grew from 6 fish to about 80. Yes, 80. We also had some living duckweed and some other live aquatic plant in there… and an aggressive green algae that soon took over. ( I told you I wasn’t someone you should take advice from). Alas, here we are in the tail end of a global pandemic with nowhere else to go, so we decided to take the beast on!

You see, cleaning a green monster is no easy task when you still have about 80 fish… many of which are teeny tiny babies. You can’t just dump and pour. Fish tanks have delicate balances of good bacteria and things that fish need — not to mention our city water has a lot of bad chemicals that fish don’t need! And so we began the task of categorizing fish and separating them out to other balanced tanks. We even saved the littlest one which is about the size of “l” with eyeballs. We “traded in” quite a few to our local pet store (which was an ordeal in itself — self distancing with our bucket after sloshing the original container around in the car. Sorry about the seats, darling.) We knew we might lose a few to stress. Overall, though… a fairly successful fish move after their small tank “vacation” as the youngest referred to it as.

The tank itself wasn’t too hard to scrub out… and years of thrifting and pet ownership provided a nice selection of accessories to choose from, but we needed a new background. Did I mention I am “frugal”? Which means I wasn’t about to pay for a new fancy piece of glossy paper when I could print, laminate and creatively tape together my own… let’s just call it crafty, okay? So… after a week or so of scrubbing, fishing, waiting and bucket patrol… Volia! Happy fish and a clean tank!

The “After”

The week long task had me musing about fish, of course. And there are lots of examples of fish references in the Bible: the fishers of men miracle, Jonah and the giant fish, five loaves and two fish etc. Margaret Feinburg’s “Taste and See” book has some good thoughts on the “fishy” parts of scripture, so I encourage you to see my review about that here. However, my internet travels took me to another fish that I found interesting to read about: The Jesus Fish or ichthys. I’m sure you’ve seen it on jewellery, bookmarks or the back of someone’s bumper.

What I didn’t know was that the ancient Greek symbol was an acrostic of ΙΧΘΥΣ (ichthys), which translates into ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, [Our] Saviour’.

Iota (i) is the first letter of Iēsous (Ἰησοῦς), Greek for “Jesus”.

Chi (ch) is the first letter of Christos (Χριστός), Greek for “anointed” (of the Lord).

Theta (th) is the first letter of Theou (Θεοῦ), Greek for “God’s”, the genitive case of Θεóς, Theos, Greek for “God”.

Upsilon (y) is the first letter of (h)yios (Yἱός), Greek for “Son”.

Sigma (s) is the first letter of sōtēr (Σωτήρ), Greek for “Saviour”.

Pretty cool, eh?

Apparently the symbol was used by the early church as a “secret” symbol during the Roman persecution of early Christians. It helped to identify whether a stranger was a fellow follower or an enemy. As the story goes, the greeter would draw the first half of the fish, and a friend would complete the reciprocal line if they understood the initial drawer’s reference. If not, the stranger would just appear to be drawing arches in the sand. The symbol was also spotted on secret meeting places or worship gatherings. It made a comeback in the 1960’s as Christians began to use it as a “logo” for Christian merchandising. Do you have it somewhere?

I hope you liked that little tidbit of information on such a simple idea. In these strange times of identities and isolations, I’m reminded that I too, have conversations to start about my identity as a “fisher of men (and women)”. That I belong to a bigger world of people who follow Christ, and that by doing so I may be persecuted for my own beliefs. Like our aquarium, I can get overcrowded, choked out and clouded up without regular maintenance. And it can be a big job to clean it up and get our lives back to looking sparkling again.

So, next time you see an ichthys on the back of someone’s car, send me off an email to remind me to change my fish tank’s filters okay? Be blessed, my friends!

Taste and See

Can you believe July is almost gone?! Here we are, half way through summer, and I have been completely lazy! So much for cleaning, organizing and purging the house. And you, my friend? Have you accomplished all your summer time goals? Have you enjoyed the fruits of your labours? If you follow along on my social sites (please do!) then you will see our garden tour and the little harvest we have been enjoying. The rest? Not so much. However, such is the journey, so I will not fret.

Recently, we have also enjoyed a few backyard bar-b-ques with friends and family. It’s a good, Canadian thing to do in our short summer months… burgers on the grill, potato chips and watermelon. Which makes me wonder: Why do we enjoy shooing bugs off edibles all in the name of celebrating scorching heat? Whole other muse, I suppose. But. We have indulged in our fair share of shooing this summer already.

Which brings me to this week’s muse. A book review for “Taste and See” by Margaret Feinberg. Hoping to “discover God among Butchers, Bakers and Fresh Food Makers”, I devoured the book in about 2 days straight. It’s a quick read. Margaret takes us on her journeys (literally — she travels) to discover more about six of the foods Feinberg says have “spiritual significance” in the Bible: fish, figs, bread, salt, olives and lamb.

I quite enjoyed the journey, and each chapter brought on a whole new appreciation for the basic biblical staples. I especially loved the bread baking tour… my adventures with sour dough have given me a whole new appreciation for the art of baking and how complicated bread actually is! It would be an excellent small group study. Especially if you are a foodie! I encourage you to visit Feinberg’s sites (here) should you wish to see more about the book.

I love food. Which can be a curse and a blessing, but that, too, is for a different muse. I was eager to slice open the book and taste the adventure of the Israeli staples, and Feinberg’s insights into how the Bible uses food as a way in which God nourishes us… more than just physically. He wants to “…nourish our souls with transcendent joy and supernatural community and divine presence.” (pg. 22). Plus, there are recipes!

I’ve been learning and growing and thinking about this whole idea of “wholistic” spirituality…mind, body, soul, community. I often don’t take the time to consider how great food is a part of this. Can you image what a piece of chocolate is going to be like in heaven? Or what it will be like to have a cup of coffee with Jesus? Or bar-b-ques with the master priests of old? (okay maybe not that one… they tended to burn everything).

But you get it… God gave us this wonderful commodity and diversity of tastes to enjoy ! And sharing meals with others is a way to bond us in community, in conversation, and in care. I am reminded that we should always be thankful for such blessings. I am learning to take a deeper look at the bounty before me and the things it represents. Land, weather, growth of tiny seeds. Hard work, passion, patience. We take it for granted and mock His blessings with our “God is goods” and “Johnny Appleseed” prayers.

I’m about to clean out our fridge. My son just informed me the last bag of milk has curdled. We are having leftovers for dinner. I am not the next home cook about to be drafted for Master Chef … but this book has been a good reminder to “Taste and See” that God is good, His mercies endure forever, and He is the master of my world. I pray that you, too, will be welcomed to his banquet table with others and share in the community of Jesus followers, as we shoo a few flies away together at the picnic table this summer!