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Monday, September 27, 2010

Weep With Those Who Weep

We tend to go through life assuming things will continue pretty much as they are until something unexpected suddenly happens. Then we are abruptly forced to take a reality check and are reminded that the only thing certain about life is that it will not continue as it is.
We bumped into one of those roadblocks on Friday night when we got a call at 10:30 p.m. that a 23-year-old nephew had died in an accident. He was alone and for some unknown reason his car crossed the road, went airborne, flew over a meadow fence, and nosedived into a signpost. He died instantly.
The accident happened just a short distance from the spot where our 18-year-old son died in an accident sixteen years ago. As soon as we could, we went to be with Leroy's sister and her husband because we knew all too well what they are and will be facing in the months and years to come. There is nothing we can do to put things back together but we went again yesterday just to be with them. They know we understand the shock and grief they are experiencing. They apologized for being so insensitive when our son died. No problem. I knew they just didn't understand. I didn't either until I was in those shoes.
One of the questions they asked yesterday is if they will always feel the way they do now. I assured them that the grief will soften around the edges with the passing of time and it will not always be such a sharp pain. But the empty spot will always be there and there will always be times when something will trigger the ache. Grief is not something you "get over" but you do learn to live with it.
How can you comfort a grieving person? Just be there to weep with those who weep. Continue to remember them in prayers and expressions of sympathy and caring long after the funeral is over. The day of the month the death occurred will be a fresh reminder every month for a least the first year. That's a good time to send a note or do something. The person's birthday and holidays are also good days to let them know you are remembering with them. Share memories of their loved one. Memories are treasures when they are all you have left. Don't be afraid to mention the person. You won't be reminding them or stirring up their grief; they are thinking about it anyway and it is a comfort to know you are thinking about it too.
At a time like this, people say a lot of nice things and quote verses you already know. I'm not saying there is no value in that but the words don't mean as much unless you know they have gone through the same thing. The most comforting thing that was ever said to me came from God Himself. One morning when I was crying (again!) God very clearly said to me, "I know how you feel. My Son died too." When it seems everyone has gone on with their life and forgotten, we can always turn to Someone who understands. God has been there. His Son died too. He understands!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Here I Go Again

After I finished transcribing and correcting the cemetery record for the neighboring Host church I said I will never tackle another one that large. I haven't, but somehow I got sucked into doing the cemetery at the Stauffer (Pike) Mennonite church at Hinkletown and it's going to come in second.
It started out innocently enough with taking photos of Leroy's ancestors and relatives who are buried there. Nearly half of his ancestors from the first six generations are in that cemetery. I also have some ancestors there, some of which are our common ancestors.
Anyway, I started adding those burials to the FindAGrave website. On my trips to the cemetery I shot photos of some of the interesting and German stones which I then added as well. By then I had several hundred burials and figured that must be about half of them. I decided I might as well barge ahead and do the whole cemetery.
I managed to get a copy of the cemetery record from one of the trustees which lists the burials by rows. But I soon discovered it was transcribed in 1992 and contained a lot of errors. Back to the drawing board! I wound up going to the cemetery and photographing every stone in each of the 29 rows. Since then I've slowly been working through it, using both the cemetery record and my photos.
Once again, it's turning out to be a bigger project than I thought when I started. At the moment the first 18 rows are completed and there are quite a few I entered earlier when I started hopscotching through the cemetery. There are currently 692 burials listed, so the final count could approach 1000. I'm not a quitter and I'm in it too deep to back out now. So here I go again!
If you are interested in the Pike cemetery, you can visit it here

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Kleenex Sign

I've known for over a year that I was heading for a point when I would have to make a difficult decision. It was easy to ignore as long as it was in the dim future. But now it is looming larger on the horizon and I will have to deal with it in the next month or two. How can I know what is the best choice?
Gideon put out a fleece and asked God for a sign. Zacharias found himself suddenly unable to speak when he asked for a sign. I'm fresh out of sheepskins and am not interested in being speechless. So I packed up my questions and went for a long walk. Somehow walking seems to help straighten out the kinks in my thinking.
I was not far down the road when I realized I could use a Kleenex. All my pockets were empty. I kept on going, sniffing and trying to make the best of a bad situation. And then! Believe it or not, there was a clean white Kleenex caught on the weeds beside the road. I grabbed it and used it, and a few steps further on I found another one.
The Kleenex did not give me the answer to the choice I must make but it did give me some reassurance that I need not rely on my own resources to make the decision. God provided a fresh Kleenex along the way when I needed it and one to spare. Surely He will show me which way to take when I stand at the fork of the road and the choice must be made. Whether it's a big decision or something as small as a Kleenex, what a comfort and blessing to know God is with me and will not let me down!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Family Wreath

If you're a Mennonite or have Mennonite roots, I'm sure you know what "The Mennonite Game" is. I played it on Friday when a couple dropped in to have me sign one of my books for them. In the 24 hours between his call and arrival I had forgotten his last name. As soon as he was inside the door I asked him what his last name is. He said "Hostetter" and the game began. We did not even try to figure out if we were related but it didn't take us long to place each other. I knew some of his cousins, he knew some of mine, and around we went talking freindschaft.
The more I study genealogy, the more I am convinced that all the Mennonites born or with roots in Lancaster County are related one way or another. The ten or more generations that have populated the area since the 1700s have intermarried repeatedly. Some family lines crisscross multiple times. Leroy and I have common ancestors in the Stauffer, Martin, Brubaker, Weaver, and other lines.
At the dinner table on Sunday we were discussing some unusual relations caused by the marriages between two families. Someone said, "That's not a family tree; it's a family wreath."
I have often said my family tree is not very interesting. My maternal grandmother was a Stauffer who married a Burkholder. My mother was a Burkholder who married a Burkholder. I was a Burkholder who married a Stauffer. Leroy was a third cousin to my mother through the Stauffers. That makes me a fourth cousin to my own children. I guess we don't have a family tree after all. We have a family wreath.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Birthday Boy

Gene turned 30 on August 30. Months ago we schemed with Amy to plan a party for today. I made an appointment with a photographer to take family pictures at a nearby park this morning. Taking family pictures would explain why Cheryl came for the weekend. Amy made arrangments with their small group to have a bike ride at a park near Reading this afternoon. They rode the trail and (surprise! surprise!) rode right in to the party.
The weather cooperated and gave us a perfect day for all the outdoor activities. It was neither too hot nor too cold. The wind was still and the sky was a lovely blue. We couldn't have asked for a nicer day.
It's two weeks after the fact, but Happy Birthday Gene!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

One Shining Moment

I volunteer at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society every other Tuesday. For reasons I won't bore you by explaining, this time it was three weeks instead of two since I was there. I never know what I will be doing and no two days are alike.
Three weeks ago I had the most frustrating day ever. Someone had mailed in a request for a 14-page booklet and some old photos. The request was very specific as to where the material was supposed to be. Steve (one of the staff) had searched without success so he turned the job over to me. I searched about five hours in every imaginable place. Nothing. Finally we gave up.
I hadn't heard anything and wondered if the missing materials had ever been found. As soon as I got there today Steve said several of the staff had looked and it was still missing. He wanted me to have another go at it. He said he'll pay me double if I find it. (I am an unpaid volunteer. Double nothing. Ha!)
I painstakingly went through all the boxes again and was about to conclude it cannot be found---when! I opened a yellow envelope and there it was! The lost was found! At last!! Everyone cheered and I was proclaimed a hero. One shining moment of glory! I don't get many of those.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

His Glory Paints The Sky

When I stepped out of the house before 7 this morning I couldn't help but notice the gorgeous sky in the east. I went back in the house for my camera but the picture only captured a portion of the glory painted across the sky. As I stood there in awe I had to repeat what my little niece once said, "Good job, God!"

I returned the camera to the house and set off on my trail. Within a few minutes the clouds had dissipated and God's paint brush was creating a new scene on the canvas of the sky. As I walked I remembered a quote I read last week. "Nature speaks in a universal language declaring the existence of God."
No intelligent, thinking person can look at the immensity of the universe or the microscopic details and the precision with which everything works and coordinates and honestly deny the existence of God.
How can anyone believe the world just happened or evolved by itself? Suppose you put all the pieces of a watch in a box. How long would you have to shake the box to make all the pieces fall together into a working watch? And if it did happen after a hundred million years, you would still have to explain where the pieces came from and what shook the box. No intelligent person would believe a working watch can be made by shaking the pieces in a box. So why would anyone believe in the evolution of the universe?
George Wald, an evolutionist, states, "When it comes to the origin of life there are only two possibilities: creation or spontaneous generation. There is no third way. Spontaneous generation was disproved one hundred years ago, but that leads us to only one other conclusion, that of supernatural creation. We cannot accept that on philosophical grounds; therefore, we choose to believe the impossible: that life arose spontaneously by chance!" ("The Origin of Life," Scientific American, 191:48. May 1954).
In other words, "I do not want to believe in God, therefore I choose to believe something I know is scientifically impossible."
Why would anyone not want to believe in God? Because if I acknowledge that I am here by His design and creation, then I am accountable to Him. I do not want to be accountable to Him, so I will not believe in Him. What a delusion!
We do not destroy God or His claim on our lives by denying His existence. A day is coming when "every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord." Refusing to believe in God or acknowledge His Son as Lord only postpones the inevitable. You can live your life according to your own rules but you will not be excused from giving an account to God. We are His creation and the game of life is played by His rules. No exceptions. No escape. How much better to acknowledge His claim on my life now and then be able to face Him without fear when the day of reckoning arrives!