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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Giving Thanks


As we pause to look back at the past year, I have many things to thank God for. To name just a few:

  • The leg that caused a problem last year is 95% improved. This summer I was able to resume my two-mile daily walks. 
  • My husband is 70 years old, in good health, and not ready to retire.
  • I have climbed the hill of raising a family and now have time to enjoy my twin hobbies of history and writing.
Many years ago I felt called to serve in some kind of mission work. I distinctly remember the moment I told the Lord I am willing to be used wherever He chooses. I had no idea what that might be or where it might take me. I went on, just doing the next thing, and the one after that. I was never called to go anywhere else so I just kept on with what I was doing. Eventually, as I looked back, I saw that God did not need to send me somewhere else to do mission work. I was doing it from my house in my "spare" time without being aware of it.
This morning I received a request for another of my short stories to be printed in the magazine published by Christian Aid Ministries. About 150,000 copies will be distributed in the Romanian, Polish, Russian, and English languages. They also requested permission to use some of my articles in two other countries which are basically closed countries.
I am humbled to think that from the back room of my house I can reach around the world to people I will never meet. It isn't much, but maybe it will help one person turn to God.  I am grateful for the opportunity to be involved in promoting God's work in this way. And on top of that, writing stories is FUN! I am abundantly blessed.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The End Is In Sight

Things have continued to progress in the church remodeling project during the past month. We are nearing the finish line now and hope to be able to resume our normal schedule by the first Sunday in December. Here are a few pictures of the progress in the past month.

The benches were put back in place after the auditorium was painted and new carpet installed.
 New lights were also installed in the auditorium.

The nursery was painted and updated.

The old men's anteroom now houses the mailbox and opens into the addition.

A new kitchen was installed in the old basement.

The walls in the entire basement were replaced with new insulation and drywall. The clumsy old wooden doors between the Sunday school rooms were replaced with lightweight folding doors.

The addition contains two new Sunday school rooms on both the main floor and basement.

The addition also includes two new his 'n hers bathrooms on the main floor.

The library has been moved to the basement of the addition. Since we are on the library committee, all the library materials have been stored in our garage. This morning we took everything back and put it in place. I have a few details to take care of yet but we should be able to open for business again in December.

An elevator was installed in the new main entrance to provide handicapped access to the main floor.

The stone which had been the cellar wall of the dismantled house was laid around the bottom of the addition to match the stone basement wall of the old building.

It's been a long haul. Work began in April to dismantle the house that used to stand on this spot. But the end is in sight and we will soon be going in and out of these doors every week. Good things take time!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Burkholders In Stone

It's always a good feeling to see a project completed. I was privileged to have that happen again on Saturday when this memorial stone was officially unveiled in the Groffdale Mennonite cemetery. (Click to enlarge)

Several years ago some Burkholder descendants erected a memorial stone in this spot which contained a lot of incorrect information. They were going by the old, often-published story that the parents of this family were Christian and Elizabeth; the father died in Germany just before they were ready to immigrate; and their son Peter was buried here when he died in 1799. All of those stories have proven to be incorrect. 
Some of the Burkholders in Pennsylvania were unhappy with that memorial stone which was circulating false information. In June, we began a movement to remove and correct that stone. After securing the permission of the Burkholders in Virginia who had erected it and the approval of the cemetery, the work was authorized. The stone was removed from the base and taken to the shop. All the lettering was ground off and replaced with what you see in the photo above. Then it was returned to the base and reattached. 
Being concerned that we do not repeat the first mistake and write things in stone which later prove to be incorrect, this time we included only facts which can be proven by documents in Switzerland and America. For example, there is no document to confirm Barbara's death date so it was not included. Of Ulrich and Barbara's six children, only Christian has an existing legible gravestone. It stands next to this one. By including the names of all the children on this stone, they are recognized here even though they are buried elsewhere. The names were placed at the left margin, leaving room to add more information on Barbara and Anna if anything is ever found on them.  
On Saturday, in conjunction with another meeting at Groffdale, the stone was officially dedicated as we gathered around it to sing the first four verses of a hymn Christian Burkholder wrote in 1804. To me, that was a meaningful tribute and proof of the value of written words. "He being dead yet speaketh."

Christ is full of love and power
Full of glory, light, and grace; 
He refreshes those who sorrow,
Fills their hearts with joy and peace. 

Giving Him our heart's affection,
True and upright we should be;
This way leads us to perfection,
Leads to God with certainty.

May I ever, till life closes,
To my Maker faithful stay;
Nevermore with unhoned conscience,
Insincerity display.

May I never shrink nor waver
From the words of Christ so true;
Unto righteousness they lead us,
Granting us salvation, too.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Cultural Pressures Facing The Church

Last evening concluded a week of revival meetings at our church. We heard eight excellent messages. I would like to share what (to me) was the cream of the crop on Sunday morning, "Cultural Pressures Facing the Church."

A. Seven Things That Influence Culture
1. Religion (belief system, Christian, Islam, Buddism, etc.)
2. Economy (lifestyle is affected by the economy)
3. Language (can be a barrier or asset to development)
4. Government (culture changes as laws change)
5. Social/Ethnic groups (subculture can influence a community)
6. History (learning from the past is what keeps a culture or subculture alive)
7. Arts (music, literature, fashion, films have a great influence on culture)

B. Cultural Pressures Facing the Church
1. Advancement in Communication and Social Interaction
In the past, communication was limited to neighbors, church and family with snail mail and telegrams to reach beyond that circle.
Today, with TV, Internet, cell phones, Facebook, etc. the circle has broadened to reach around the world. One of the effects of a world culture is that the authority of a nation deteriorates. Russia's invasion of the Ukraine was denounced by other nations not otherwise involved. 
Danger to the church---with a larger circle of friends within instant reach, the church family is not vital and its authority is undermined.
2. The Women's Liberation Movement
This movement gained momentum in the 1950s and 60s. Women were created with equal opportunity for salvation. However, God clearly defined the authority structure when He designated men as leaders and women as helpers. By doing so, He did not make women subservient but put then under PROTECTION. The Women's Liberation movement throws off that protection and seeks to be equal in authority with men.
Danger to the church--Women first throw off their symbol of the authority structure by removing their head coverings. Then they take on positions of leadership God never intended them to fill and burden themselves with loads they were never intended to carry. 
3. Toleration of what was once shameful
Divorce was once so shameful it happened only when something was radically wrong in a marriage (like abuse) and the couple was disgraced. Today it is accepted even in "Christian" churches. Romans 7:1-3 tells us God's standard and it has not changed with the culture. The same is true of homosexuality (Romans 1:21-28), and other moral transgressions such as living together without marriage or children born out of wedlock which were once shameful.
Danger to the church--Sin has lost its shame, we can get used to it, and then start to accept it. 
4. Observance of the Lord's Day
In the past, stores were all closed and no one worked on Sunday. Today, business goes on as usual and Sunday is just another day.
Danger to the church--This can lead to a casual view of God and worship. Respect for worship is lost. It can be easy to go to the mountains or lake etc. and skip church or ease our consciences by having "home church." Doing a little work or shopping does not seem so bad.
5. Integrity
In the past, a deal could be sealed with a handshake. Today, we need to sign a stack of papers to seal a contract because people are not honest and cannot be trusted.
Danger to the church--Culture has taught us not to trust. We become skeptical and don't trust each other which results in a loss of brotherhood accountability. We can begin to fudge on our own honesty, not reporting all income on taxes, taking advantage of others in business deals etc.
6. Respect for Authority
Our culture undermines respect for authority in music, videos, and even children's books where Mother Bear is smarter than Father Bear who is always doing something stupid. 
Danger to the church--We don't follow God's directions in our homes, child training, etc. and respect for authority is gone.

C. Things That Do Not Change
1. God "I am the Lord, I change not."
2. God's Word "His Truth endures to all generations."

I will add just one verse all this brought to my mind, "Do not let the world press you into its mold." Romans 12:2

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Seasons of Life

We had our first hard freeze this morning and growing season 2014 is over. We really can't complain because we had an extra month of grace this year. October was generally warm and we were actually able to eat lunch at a picnic table in warm 79 degree sunshine one of the last days of the month. But the laws of nature are still in control and we can do nothing to prevent winter from coming. 
I don't go sledding and skating anymore so I don't enjoy winter as much as I once did. Still, I am glad I live in a place where we have four distinct seasons. Winter is a time for me to hole up in the house and get some things done that I don't have time for in the other three seasons. It's the best time of the year for writing, scrapbooking, quilting, and crocheting. I'm ready to shift gears and get started on my winter projects list in another week or two. 
Here is one photo from my 2014 file for each season of this year:

Winter (don't need another one like it!)




"While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease." Genesis 8:22
That's a promise that has never failed and never shall.