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Friday, January 31, 2014

Aaron's Civil War

I've had several requests for my books in digital form but I didn't know how to go about it. Now it has happened! Aaron's Civil War is available as an e-book through Upstream Books. This is a new website which specializes in books produced by Anabaptist publishers. You can see their store here.
Lured by the promise of adventure, travel, and a large bonus, Aaron Stauffer turned his back on his training and his mother’s tears and enlisted to fight in the Civil War. His heart swelled with pride and patriotism as he shouldered his newly acquired musket and marched behind the banner of his company. He felt powerful enough to win the war single-handedly and return in a matter of weeks as a hero. But things did not go the way he had dreamed. Army life was not what he had been led to believe. Euphoria turned to misery and fear and questions as the horrible realities of war brought him face to face with the enemy—and death. As Aaron looks for answers to the questions he can no longer avoid, he discovers the Civil War has become, for him, an intensely personal battle. (Author: Romaine Stauffer)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Here Is January

Do you like winter? It's not my favorite season as far as the weather goes, but there are other reasons why I like winter--at least now that I don't have to go out twice a day to drive school children. I don't mind looking at the snow if I don't have to drive in it. Winter was the pits when I had to go on the road in all kinds of weather. But now that my children's school days are history I am free to stay home when the roads are nasty. I can just say "I'm not going" and that's the end of it. Age has its benefits!
The part of winter I like is having time to do things that get ignored in the other months of the year. I have time to write, scrapbook, quilt, crochet, or work on whatever other wild ideas have roosted in my head. I haven't gotten to scrapbooking or quilting yet this winter but they're on the list.
But then, as much as I enjoy doing this kind of thing in the "off season," I'm always ready to shift gears and pick up the next season's job list when spring comes.
Here is a poem I clipped from a newspaper many years ago that expresses my thoughts.
Here is January
by Florence D. Brown
Here is January, partly done---
Not as rare as June with its warming sun,
Or soft like April with shades of green,
Or hot like July with mosquitos and screen,
It's January---cold and iced in pure white,
When the day seems so short, and long is the night.
January's good to the children around,
With its ice and good skating, and snow on the ground,
It brings to the feeders many colorful birds,
Whose beauty and swiftness defy written words.
It brings sunrises glorious over snow-covered rills
And breathtaking sunsets beyond the far hills.
There's beauty in January, and time to remember:
We're closer to spring than we were in December!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

1745 Martyrs Mirror

The Martyrs Mirror, first published in 1660 in the Netherlands, tells the stories of Christian martyrs, especially those who were Anabaptists.  It's author was Thieleman Jansz van Braght, elder of the Flemish Mennonite congregation at Dordrecht; illustrations were by engraver Jan Luiken.
Historically for Amish and Mennonites, the Martyrs Mirror has been the most important book next to the Bible.  The full title of the book is The Bloody Theater or Martyrs Mirror of the Defenseless Christians who baptized only upon confession of faith, and who suffered and died for the testimony of Jesus, their Saviour, from the time of Christ to the year A.D. 1660.  (The use of the word defenseless in this case refers to the Anabaptist belief in nonresistance.)
A prized possession, Anabaptist immigrants to Pennsylvania often brought along copies of the book on their ocean voyages to America.  The 1,100-page Martyrs Mirror continues to undergird Amish and Mennonite values today. 
Martyrs Mirror memorializes the godly lives and glorious deaths of thousands of early Christians, especially European Anabaptist martyrs between 1524 and 1660. The book shines a mirror on ordinary people who experienced a spiritual reality that few today can even imagine. Like the more famous Foxe's Book of Martyrs, this compilation attempts to trace the history of those through the centuries, beginning with the martyrdom of Christ's apostles, who were willing to stand alone for a simple, obedient faith.
The first American edition of Martyrs Mirror was a translation from the Dutch into German and was printed at the Ephrata Cloisters, at Ephrata, Pennsylvania, in 1745. There was a paper shortage during the Revolutionary War. After the Battle of Brandywine in 1777, American soldiers elbowed their way into Peter Miller's print shop at the Ephrata Cloister and, against his wishes, loaded several wagons with unbound copies of the Martyrs Mirror to use as wadding in their guns. They paid for the books and headed back to battle. The books which had been printed to promote peace were torn to shreds and shot from the muskets of the Patriots who were rebelling against British authority.
Apparently someone realized it was an improper use of the revered book and stopped the desecration before all of the books had been destroyed. Ten years later, the government offered "lovers of the volume" the opportunity to buy them back for the same price they had paid plus "cartage." The Mennonites took them up on the offer and bought back 175 books. Many of them were damaged or incomplete, but there were also some complete copies.
After the harsh taxation and harassment the Mennonites endured during the war, this was a generous offer. American money had depreciated to the point of worthlessness during the war. The value of the amount that had been paid during the war was much more than the same amount was worth in 1786 when the books were bought back.
John von Gundy wrote in the copy he purchased that he had paid sixty cents for it and invested another dollar in having a leather cover put on it. He bought a complete Martyrs Mirror printed at the Ephrata Cloister in 1745 for $1.60. I wonder what he would say if he knew that people now pay thousands of dollars for a book that he bought for less than two dollars! This generation was born 200 years too late!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

It Is Well With My Soul

Twenty years ago today our family was together for our 1993 Christmas dinner. In the evening, Steve left the house to go sing in a chorus program in a church and ended up singing in a heavenly choir instead. He was 18. We had no clue that was coming and it was like being hit with a ton of bricks.
As I worked through the grief in the weeks and months to come, I was tortured with wondering where he was. I so badly wanted someone at the viewing or funeral to say, "I know Steve is in heaven." Not one person did. Why not?
As the months went by, I became aware that I was hearing the song "It Is Well With My Soul" every day. I heard it in church, on the radio, in the grocery store. . . everywhere. . . and almost got to resent it. And then one day it finally dawned on me that this song was the answer to the question that was plaguing me.
It took me a long time to get it, but one day the words of the second verse finally registered.  "My sin, (oh the bliss of this glorious thought) my sin, not in part but the whole is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, oh my soul!" Steve was a teenager and had teenage struggles, but he was a child of God. His sins had been forgiven and it was well with his soul.
After that, I still heard the song every day and came to love it. The assurance that it was well with Steve's soul brought peace to my heart and then it was also well with my soul.