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Monday, November 28, 2011

It's Here!

Aaron's Civil War is now available from Christian Light Publications. Click on this link for a description of the book and ordering information.

The book should appear in bookstores shortly. If you don't want to wait or do not know of a bookstore that handles my books you can order on line now.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Give Thanks With A Grateful Heart

 Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
I couldn't figure out how to embed this link so just click on it and enjoy.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Unser Leit

Last evening we went to a historical meeting where Leroy Beachy, from Holmes County, Ohio, introduced his new two-volume set of books entitled Unser Leit (Our People). In these books he traces the history of the Amish from Europe to the present day in Holmes County. In addition to writing the text, he drew by hand all of the pictures in the books. Since my ancestors were pretty solidly Mennonites rather than Amish, I did not go to buy the books but to hear what he had learned in his research.
Almost every source you find will tell you the Amish separated from the Swiss Mennonites in 1693 due to a disagreement between the leaders of the Mennonites and Jacob Amman who led the Amish. In the Archives in Bern, Leroy Beachy found some documents which do not fit that story. He has a document which lists the "Amish" in Switzerland who were taxed half the value of their properties in 1673 for being Anabaptists. Their leader was Ulrich Muller (Miller). He also has a court record from 1674 showing Ulrich was imprisoned at Thun for 16 months on a diet of bread and water. The surnames of Ulrich's followers are "Amish" names although they did not begin to be called Amish until later when Jacob Amman became their bishop. This group of Anabaptists came out of the Reformed Church in Switzerland,  independent of the Mennonites in Switzerland and Holland. They had some different practices (such as shunning and feet washing) from the Swiss Mennonites. They never were part of the same group and the Amish did not form as the result of a church split.
Amos Hoover says we should have known by their surnames that the Amish and Mennonites always were two separate groups of Anabaptists. If they formed from a church split the surnames on both sides would have been fairly equal. But the surnames among the Amish are distinctly different from those of the Swiss Mennonites. Common surnames among the Swiss Mennonites are Weaver, Martin, Sensenig, Hoover, etc. while Amish surnames are King, Glick, Zook, Hostetler, Stoltzfus, etc.
Changing a story that has been believed for more than a hundred years is not easy. But it has been done before when documents surfaced which proved the previous story was based on assumptions rather than facts.
In his book Leroy tells how he became interested in the history of the Amish when he was eleven years old. This is how it happened.

Leroy's parents invited Felty Burkholders for dinner one Sunday. After they finished eating Felty pushed his chair back from the table, tipped it on the two back legs, and said (in PA German), "You know, it always wondered me where the Amish came from." None of them really knew but Elsie was there and she knew something. She said:
Long ago the only people who lived in America were Indians. They were always fighting and killing each other so they never amounted to much and there weren't many of them. In Europe it was just the opposite. The land was full of people and there was not enough land to go around. To alleviate the overcrowding they decided to send some people to America. The ones who were chosen to go were called Pilgrims. In 1492 they got on three ships called the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria and sailed to America. John Smith was their captain. One ship load was Amish, the second Conservatives, and the third Mennonites. They settled in Lancaster County and from there they spread across America.
Felty considered her story and had another question. If all the settlers were some kind of Mennonites or Amish, where did the auslanders (non-Mennonite) come from? Elsie said, "Oh they were people who defected from the Mennonites."
With this as his starting point, Leroy Beachy has come a long way in sorting out fact from fiction.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hilarious Giving

The holiday season is rushing to meet us. Thanksgiving Day is just one week away and merchants are already pushing Christmas. It is appropriate that we pause to count our blessings and give thanks for them before we dive into Christmas when the focus all too often is on getting rather than giving.
Our church has always collected donations for needy families the Sunday before Thanksgiving. It is usually a grocery shower but sometimes a money shower is more practical. That is the case this year with at least one of the families living in another state. We will be collecting money on Sunday for three families who have had large and on-going medical bills this year. The father of one family died recently after a battle with cancer and just after his wife was also diagnosed with cancer.
Last evening we were discussing the money shower and how much we should contribute for each family. Leroy named a figure and my immediate response was (to my shame), "Where are you going to get that kind of money?"
He said, "If we wanted something for ourselves we would find the money."
Gulp. He's right. The amount he suggested is small in comparison to what we have spent on oursleves this year. We have replaced our car, freezer, and refrigerator. All three were 20-44 years old and/or inoperative, so they really did need to be replaced. We have been greatly blessed and could do it without financing. We could give the amount he suggested without hardship. Why did I bulk?
I don't like to admit I'm selfish but it sticks out all over, doesn't it? Be honest. Is it true that I can't afford to give or do I just not want to?
And that's what too often makes the holidays a headache. It's the season of greed and all about ME. What I want for myself is more important than what I am willing to give to someone else. I need to learn to be more Christ-like. He had all the wealth of heaven but sacrificed it to come to earth and be my servant.
At Thanksgiving and Christmas (especially) our focus should be on what we can do for others rather than what we want to do for ourselves. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7). The Greek word translated cheerful is hilaros, from which we get our word "hilarious." Am I going to give just enough to soothe my conscience because it is expected or will I give sacrificially, hilariously?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Silver Lining

We reached a milestone on Sunday. Eighteen years ago Steve had his eighteenth (and last) birthday on November 13. I can hardly believe as many years have passed as he was with us. I can't quite picture him being 36. In my mind he is forever 18. God has him in His keeping, we have him in our hearts.
Although we never would have chosen for Steve's life on earth to end when it did, there are some benefits we never would have if things had been otherwise. One of those blessings is the "addition" of Steve's best friend to our family. He has since married and has five children who call us Grandpa and Grandma and consider our other grandchildren their cousins. "Every cloud has a silver lining."

Last week was a very full week with church every evening plus running to and fro on the face of the earth three days. I had very little time to get things done here at home. All these activities made it an interesting week but I am ready for the pace to slow down this week. At the same time, I am realizing the holiday season is rushing to meet us and there will be no lack of things to do the rest of the year.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Baby Shower

Yesterday we had a baby shower for Gene and Amy. They are eagerly waiting for their little firstborn son to arrive a few days after Christmas. Amy was told about the shower the night before so it was not a surprise. We had a brunch before she opened her gifts. She got a lot of nice, cute,  and useful things. I gave a blue onesie I saw weeks ago and couldn't resist.

It says "If you think I'm handsome you should see my Daddy." I thought it was appropriate for the father's mother to give that. It was only a token gift. In the bag was a note telling them to come to our house and pick up their rocking chair whenever they are ready for it.
We're planning to have our Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. This little fellow could interfere if he should arrive a few days before the due date. But babies come when they are ready and we'll just have to adjust as needed if that should happen.
The closest I came to having a Christmas baby was the middle of November. I thought that Christmas was especailly meaningful as I thought how Mary must have felt when she held her Son in her arms. Babies are sweet any time of the year but a newborn at Christmas adds a special touch to the holiday. If this one should come 10-12 days early he could even share the birthday of his grandpa or grandma Stauffer. We can only wait and see whose birthday he will share or if he'll pick one of his own.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


The great October blizzard is now history and I am glad. Only a bit of snow remains piled in secluded places and the grass is green again instead of white. Here are a couple pictures.
This one was taken Sunday morning soon after sunrise which accounts for the blue color. The branches of the trees were hanging to the ground on Saturday (and quite a few broke off) but by Sunday morning the snow had fallen off the branches and they were back in place. This one give you an idea of the depth of the snowfall. The previous record for the month of October was two inches and we topped that by at least 3.5 inches.
This one was taken Sunday afternoon when the snow had already begun to melt. (The good thing about October snows is that they don't last long.) The brown strips in the fields are soybeans that had not been harvested. I'm afraid the snow threshed the beans right into the ground. I have never seen the landscape this white with so many colored leaves still on the trees.

Our electric was off four full days---96 1/2 hours, to be exact. We managed to keep warm with a kerosene heater, kept our food from spoiling in the frig and freezer with a generator, burned a gas lantern for light after dark, and bummed water and showers from our son a couple times. In August we were out of electric five days and I sure was hoping we wouldn't have a repeat performance. It came too close for comfort.
The weather this year, and especially in the last half of the year, has been extreme. We had a record 106 in July, earthquake and hurricane in August (which caused flooding), record rainfall in September, and now a record snowfall in October. What will happen in November? I don't even want to think about it. Let's just have a "normal" month for a change! I guess God's just reminding us He is in control and man is no match for His power.