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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Joint Efforts

I just finished listening to a speech Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough gave on architecture and history to the American Institute of Architects National Convention in Washington DC in May. He talked about the influence of European culture on architects and architecture in the United States. That may sound like a strange subject for the likes of me and he talks a lot about France that I know nothing about. But his perspective on history and what we get from studying it was well worth hearing.
In this speech David McCullough said, "Great works are done as joint efforts, not just joint with people who are present but those who came before us."
Think through that and you will have to admit it is true. The writer of the book of Romans said essentially the same thing. "None of us lives or dies to himself alone." (Romans 14:7) We are the product of all those who came before us and the influence of those living with us. 
McCullough said that the great cathederals in Europe, some of which took hundreds of years to construct, were great works of art but the architect worked jointly with the masons, sculptors, painters, and other skilled workers to produce them. The architect only designed the building which was then produced by joint efforts.
Think about the things you do or have done. How have others contributed to make it possible for you do accomplish what you did? The technology that makes is possible for me to write this blog was the work of more than one person. A teacher in high school taught me how to type. It is not morally wrong to feel a sense of accomplishment when we see a job successfully completed, but we need to remember that it was a joint effort. All those who came before and live around us contributed to the project in one way or another. Looking at it from that perspective makes me feel rather small.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Are You Writing Another Book?

As soon as a new book is published I am back to being asked the same old question everywhere I go, "Are you writing another book?" Since Aaron's Civil War hit the market last December the answer to that question has been "No. I'm just doing short stories and historical articles." The short stories are a series for children 6-8 and are being published in our church papers. I can do one of them in a day when it fits into my schedule. The historical articles are a different story.
Last fall I started tracing the first four generations of the descendants of Ulrich Burkholder. I got stuck and dropped it for a couple months. This spring I got a tip that was the breakthrough I needed to continue so I picked it up again. Developing a genealogy is an on-going process that takes months and/or years to complete. There are a few blanks that need to be filled in yet but I am getting close to completing it.
Ulrich Burkholder was born in Switzerland in 1737. He arrived in Philadelphia on the ship Phoenix on October 1, 1754 with his widowed mother and five siblings. He had two younger brothers, Peter and Christian. Peter later moved to Virginia and Christian became a well-known bishop in the Mennonite church in Lancaster County.
Ulrich settled in the "backwoods" of Lancaster County in the 1760s and married Anna Musselman. He was ordained minister for the Mennonite churches in the Muddy Creek area, which later became known as Bowmansville. His will indicates he had six children but mentions only three by name. Very little was known about Ulrich and Anna's children and no one ever troubled themselves to trace his descendants. Therein lay the problem.
Another Ulrich Burkholder immigrated on the ship Samuel in 1732, which was twenty-two years before Ulrich of Bowmansville arrived. The first immigrant Ulrich was married to Esther Sherer. They lived in Lancaster County but then moved northwest a bit into what is now Lebanon County. They lived there the rest of their lives. Their descendants moved south to Cumberland and Franklin counties and later some migrated to the Midwest. If someone from Franklin County has a Burkholder ancestor they are most likely a descendant of Ulrich and Esther, not Ulrich and Anna.
These two Ulrich Burkholders are constantly being confused. I've had more than one person tell me they are a descendant of the Bowmansville Ulrich when I know they are from the "other" Ulrich. I am hoping my outline of the first four generations of the descendants of Ulrich of Bowmansville will help resolve the confusion. When will it be finished? I don't know. The last blanks are the ones which are most difficult to find the information to fill. And as long as I'm working on it I can honestly answer the annoying question with "historical articles" even if I do start another book.

Monday, July 9, 2012

My Sanctuary

When we built our house in 1968 we said someday we would add a patio behind the house. It didn't happen until 1986. Then we poured a concrete slab which was furnished with a picnic table and charcoal grill. Leroy said someday he wants to enclose it but I was satisfied with it as it was. But he has this thing about bugs flying around his head and kept alive the dream of enclosing the patio. It finally happened in 1995.
After it was finished I had to agree with Leroy that it was a big improvement over the open patio. The roof keeps it cooler and the screens keep the bugs out. My plants, which would have died in the direct sunlight, thrive there all summer.

My favorite seat is this hammock chair we got in Nicaragua in 2011. I often sit out there to watch the sun go down and the fireflies come out.

Yesterday I was sitting in this chair with my morning cup of coffee watching the world wake up. The neighbor's rooster was crowing and the birds were twittering their good mornings. It was so peaceful and I felt very blessed. By the time I went back in the house to get ready for church, I had already worshiped from the hammock pew in my patio sanctuary.