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Friday, December 30, 2016


We all know the stories of miracles in the Bible---two loaves and fishes multiplying to feed 500 people, the pot of oil that did not run dry until the famine ended, an iron ax head that floated, and many more. We say we believe those things happened and that we serve a God who can do the impossible. But do we really believe it? Do miracles still happen today? 
Let me answer that question by passing on to you a story I read this week on Lucinda Miller's blog. She is a conservative Mennonite writer in Wisconsin. Here it is, in her exact words.

The second answered prayer I want to praise Him for happened to my brother in law, Jeff.
Recently, on a cold winter day, his three little daughters stayed at our place while their mom was gone. Jeff came by to pick them up after work. He was near the village of Tony, about 10 miles from our place, and already running late, when the gas light went on. I’ll make it, he thought.
But later, pulling out of our place with 15 miles still to drive, he started to worry a little. So cold out. And he had the girls.
“Pray we have enough gas to make it home,” he told them.
So they did. As little girls do, taking it for granted that of course God would answer.
They arrived home without trouble, and he pulled right up to their gas tank to fill the car. But when he stuck the nozzle in–glug, glug, glug. Three glugs, and gas was running out the top. The car was full.
Impossible. It took time to get gas from this tank–it was gravity-pulled. And this had been only seconds, anyway. Not enough time to fill any car from any tank.
“What does the gas gauge say?” he asked his oldest, MacKenzie.
“Oh, it’s close to full,” she said.
He looked himself, and the gauge was full up.
It couldn’t be a glitch in the gas gauge. He’d driven the car four hundred miles yesterday and knew it was empty. And there was no way anyone could have filled it in the twenty-five miles between Tony and home.
The only explanation: God.
But why?
He could have gotten them home easily enough without filling the tank.
“I think it was to show me it was really Him,” Jeff said. “I’m usually pretty skeptical about stories like that.”
He’d had a conversation only recently with a man who didn’t believe in God. “The only reason you do,” he told Jeff, “is because you were brought up that way.”
And Jeff had wondered if he was right. 

If God had answered their prayer by merely making the gas reach to get them home, they probably would have said, "Thank God we made it. That was close." But God proved He was real in a way that could not be doubted or denied by filling the tank. How can that be? The things that are impossible with men are possible with God.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Fame Is an Illusion

The most prominently displayed news item in this morning's paper was the death of Carrie Fisher. I never heard of her but learned she was famous for her role in the Star Wars movies. I never saw any of the movies and don't know the story line in any of them. I certainly don't feel like I missed something of worth. According to the article, Carrie Fisher struggled with addictions and mental illness all her life. Fame and wealth did not bring her happiness or inner peace. She was to be pitied, not envied or idolized. 
This got me to thinking. Carrie Fisher was famous but I never heard of her. How many more people are there like me in the world who never heard of her? What percentage of the world's population knew her name or what she was? Maybe not as many as she thought.
Pride was the original sin and caused the downfall of Satan. He dangled the temptation of pride in front of the first people on earth, suggesting they could be as wise as God. And they fell for it--and because of it. The consequences of that choice have reverberated through history and people today are still doing the same thing. 
We are tempted to pat ourselves on the back and think we're greater than we really are. When that happens, we should consider the true measure of our importance. How many people are there in the world who never heard of me? Do they feel like they are missing something by not knowing me? Probably not. 
Fame is an illusion. Michael Jackson said, "Success, fame, and fortune are all illusions. All there is that is real is the friendship that two can share." He would know. He had success, fame, and fortune and found all of them were hollow. He was a global superstar who became a sad figure haunted by lawsuits, paparazzi, and failed plastic surgery. He had no intimate friendship that was real and satisfying and died at the age of 50 from a drug overdose.  
The majority of the world's population never heard my name nor do they care. By the world's standards, I am not a success or famous or rich. And yet I am richer than Michael Jackson and Carrie Fisher because I share a friendship with One who is closer than a brother. That is real and satisfying. I don't need to resort to drugs and alcohol because my Friend fills all the needs of my heart. That is the greatest fortune possible and true successful living. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Merry Christmas

Max Lucado is one of my favorite authors. Here is a Christmas quote from him.

"He came, not as a flash of light or as an unapproachable conqueror, but as one whose first cried were heard by a peasant girl and a sleepy carpenter. God tapped humanity on its collective shoulder. "Pardon me," He said, and eternity interrupted time, divinity interrupted carnality, and heaven interrupted the earth in the form of a baby. Christianity was born in one big heavenly interruption."

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let every heart prepare Him room and heaven and nature sing!
Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Security Blanket

A Charlie Brown Christmas is one of the most iconic Christmas movies ever released--there's no doubt about that!
Even though it's been viewed millions and millions of times, by people all over the world, there's a scene that often goes unnoticed. Unknown to those watching the movie, this special scene is one of the most important!
As most people know, Charlie and friends spend a majority of the movie trying to get Linus to stop clutching his blanket. But Linus refuses, despite the fact holding it causes him embarrassment, harassment and anguish. He won't let go of his safety blanket, no matter what they say. 
But that comes to an end when Linus steps on stage to recite a Bible passage, Luke 2:8-14---one that he says embodies the true meaning of Christmas.

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 
And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon then, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

When he says, "Fear not," Linus releases his grip on the blanket, lets it drop to the floor, and finishes reciting the passage without it! Then he goes over to Charlie Brown and says, "That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."
Linus was right, Luke 2:8-14 is the true meaning of Christmas. God's presence gives believers a feeling of hope when they need it most, strength when they're struggling and the power to overcome fear in times of worry.
Letting go of the blanket is a symbol of Linus' faith in God---the seemingly afraid little boy knows that He is with him every step of the way. And in that moment, he has the strength to drop his safety blanket! That scene was deliberately placed in the script to convey a message, and just like the miraculous birth of Jesus, the world missed it.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Monday, November 21, 2016

25th Anniversary

 My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle (Job 7:6). That verse popped into my head as I reflected on the weekend. Almost twenty-five years ago we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. This weekend we went to Ohio to celebrate our daughter's 25th anniversary. First observation: How could 25 years pass so quickly? Second: Do they feel as old as they thought we were at our 25th? Probably not, although they do wear genuine silver threads in their hair.
We went out Saturday morning so we could help set up things for the party. Unfortunately, Cheryl was suffering with a sore throat, aching, and dizziness. She stayed home Sunday morning and swallowed medicines to try pump herself up enough to attend the party in the afternoon. It would have been sort of lame for Richard to go to the party alone. By lunch time the dizziness was gone and some of the aching. So she dragged herself out to the party and tried to smile.

Their three children and one daughter-in-law did a good job of setting up pretty tables and hosting the party. Some of Richard's sisters helped by making cupcakes.

All but one of their bridal party was there so they lined up in the same order, showing what 25 years will do to hairlines and waistlines. The missing girl's place would have been on the end.

We left before the party ended because we wanted to drive home yet. The ground was white and it was snowing more than half of the way home. Crossing the mountains was the worst but even there the road was just wet and not icy. Once we were on the east side of the mountains it was clear and dry. We were mighty glad to get home without incident or accident, although we did see some of those along the way.
So now Cheryl and Richard have gotten the silver medal and started sprinting toward the gold. Believe me, it will be here sooner than they thing possible. And we wish them joy for the journey.

Friday, November 11, 2016


I have always loved to read ever since I was in first grade. My house is forever full of books: new books, old books, hard covers, paperbacks, fiction, and nonfiction. My two end tables and two shelves of bookcases are full of photo albums and scrap books. I have books in my closet, books in the bedroom, and a drawer of children’s books loved by my children and grandchildren. I have two versions of Bible I read every day. I have even more books including the ten I wrote on the shelf above my computer. This summer I donated a box of books to a nonprofit organization in an effort to clear some space on one of my bookshelves. But then I found myself buying a few more books.
Books make it possible for me to travel to places I'll never go and backward in time  which is impossible to see in any other way. I may wear the senior citizen label but I'm still learning from reading books. They keep my mind young, my heart warm, and my soul bright. They bring me learning, laughter, and joy. They connect me with the wisdom of the past and the new ideas of the present. My Bible keeps me moving on the right path as I journey through life.
I have learned that people are a lot like books. Some have bright and shiny covers but don’t have little to say inside of them. Others are old and musky but so full of wisdom and light that reading them can change your whole life. One difference between books and people is that while a book can have an ending, the writing inside of us goes on forever.
Take care when writing the book of your own life. Fill it with God’s love for you. Fill it with your love for God. Fill it with love for others and this world. Fill it with all the wisdom you have learned, goodness you have done, kindness you have shared, and joy you have spread. Keep writing it everyday. Make it everything you are and everything you want to be and then open it to everyone. It will be a wonderful read.

All mankind is of one Author and is one volume,
When one dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book,
But translated into a better language; 
And every chapter must be so translated;
God employs several translators;
Some pieces are translated by age,
Some by sickness, some by war, some by justice;
But God's Hand is in every translation,
And His Hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again,
For that library where every book
Shall lie open to one another.
John Donne (1572-1631)

Friday, November 4, 2016

Evolution of Mennonite Dating Practices

This month our daughter and her husband will celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. We're just that many years ahead of them, so do the math. That led me to think about how dating practices in our youth compared to theirs and then look back at the generations before. I'll begin with my grandparents. 
I don't know exactly how Grandpa asked Grandma for their first date. I've read that in that era the guy usually sent a letter to the girl to ask for a date. I don't know if Grandpa did that or not, but I do know they were from two different branches of the Mennonite church and met at a popular neighborhood swimming hole in the Conestoga creek. Grandpa's father operated a mill on this creek and one of his employees was dating Grandma at the time. I inherited a small clock that boyfriend gave Grandma. In those days, getting a clock from a boyfriend was often an engagement gift. So I believe Grandma and this boyfriend had a serious relationship. But then enter Grandpa. When he met Grandma he decided he wanted her and "stole" her away from her boyfriend. They were married at a minister's house in October 1908. She wore a gray dress which was the correct color for a wedding dress at that time. Years later, that old boyfriend was living in a retirement home. One of my aunts went there to visit someone and met him. When he learned who she was he said, "Your Pop stole my girlfriend." He never forgot that injury.
Grandpa and Grandma had four children. The youngest was my mother, born 13 years after the others. That put enough difference between her and her siblings for dating practices to change by her teenage years. When my aunts were dating (in the 1930s) they dated multiple guys and kept a date book to keep track of who had asked for the next date. They might have a date with one guy Saturday night and another Sunday night. If they decided to cross a guy off their date list and told him she was not accepting another date with him, he could ask for a "back date." One of my aunts said when the guy she eventually married asked her for the first date she accepted but said not until after she fulfills the "back date" she had with another guy. He had no problem with that and they started dating after she was "free." If a couple dated each other exclusively it was called "going steady." 
My mother's dating years were in the 1940s. Someone was waiting for her to turn 16 which was the acceptable age at that time to begin dating. From the time she turned 16 until she was married there were only two nights when she didn't have a date, and she said those two times someone asked to take her home but she refused because she didn't want him. She dated quite a few guys but never more than one at a time. Grandpa wasn't impressed with any of her boyfriends until Daddy came along. He was wishing to ask Mom for a date but never had a chance because she always had a date with someone else. Daddy asked his brother (husband of Mom's sister) for advice. His brother said, "You have to get your foot in the door if you want her; you can't wait until she's free." So Daddy went to her house and asked her for a date for that Sunday evening. She agreed and then felt terrible because she had a date with someone else on Saturday. She was determined not to date more than one guy at a time so she knew she has to break up with the other guy Saturday night. She and her best friend had arranged to go on a "double date" together Sunday night. The girl and her boyfriend were there waiting for mom's boyfriend to arrive and were shocked when a different guy came in the door. And the rest is history. Mom never dated any other guy and married Daddy in her home in October 1944. She wore a blue dress. 
Twenty years rolls around pretty fast and my generation was dating in the 1960s. Date books were a thing of the past and we never dated more than one guy at a time. Dating multiple guys would have smeared a girl's reputation. We had a very large youth group but no youth leaders. Dating was the way we learned to know each other. Couples often broke up after a couple weeks. We didn't take a relationship seriously until a couple dated about three months. Sometimes a couple broke up, both dated others, and months later got back together. If it was the second time around we usually considered it a lasting relationship. The age of 17 was the accepted norm to be allowed to date.
We usually went to church somewhere with our friends both Saturday and Sunday evenings. Since I was the only one in my circle of four girlfriends who had her own car, I was usually the driver. That prevented anyone from asking to take me home. Guys usually came to the girl's house to ask for a date. Mom had strictly warned me not to accept a date with any guy who sat in his car and blew the horn. If he wasn't enough of a gentleman to come to the door he wasn't worth dating. She need not have worried. That was a relic from her generation that had faded away in mine. My rule was that the guy had to ask me himself. I would not accept a date with a guy who sent someone else to do the asking.
After church on Sunday nights my group of girlfriends usually went to one of our homes to eat and talk until it was time to go home (midnight). On Saturday nights we often went to get something to eat at a drive-in and see who else was there. One Saturday night three guys who were together met my group of four girls. We decided to get into one car and go somewhere (I don't remember where). It was a tight squeeze for a Corvair with four in the back and three in the front. Someone had to sit next to the driver so I decided to be brave and got in. That was the beginning of a mutual attraction. For the next month we managed to be the same place every weekend and then he officially asked me for a date. 
Our dating years hit a speed bump when he was drafted during the Vietnam war and moved out of state to serve two years of alternate service in a hospital. We wrote letters which are still in my attic as out-of-state phone calls were much too expensive except in an emergency. On one occasion he did call me and took advantage of the newest direct dialing technology. That meant he did not have to speak to an operator to make the call but simply dialed my number (rotary dial) and it rang in my house. Amazing!
When his two years of service were nearly up, he asked me to marry him. I said, "yes, but you have to ask my dad first." He did and daddy said yes. We were married in the church where I was a member. I wore a white dress. We went to California on our honeymoon but called home once a week in case something important had happened that we should know about. We took our marriage certificate along as proof in case a clerk in a motel questioned whether we were married. No one did so I guess we looked old enough to be married.
Another 20 years rolled around and my oldest children were dating age in the 1980s. Eighteen was fast becoming the acceptable age to be eligible to date. The church had fractured into several parts which resulted in smaller youth groups. My children had youth leaders to plan and oversee activities. Young people learned to know each other in this way without dating. They often married  the first and only person they dated, which was very rare in my generation. And the guy secured the father's permission before taking the girl out for the first time. Young people went to Bible School or into voluntary service where they met young people from other states. The gene pool widened as they married and moved out of state. It became rare for a family to have all their married children living within a short drive of home or even attending the same branch of the church as their parents. 
This fall we were the grandparents at a wedding for the first time. Our grandson's dating experience was vastly different from ours. With cell phones at their fingertips, they didn't have to make plans for the next date a week in advance. Writing a letter would have cost more than a phone call. He traveled to California and could talk to his girlfriend from anywhere with the phone in his pocket, text, send pictures, etc. The clerk in the motel would have laughed in his face if he had waved a certificate as proof of marriage on his honeymoon. In fact, the general society would consider them odd for not living together before the wedding. 
Times change and customs change, some for the better and some for the worse. One thing that stands unchanged is the absolutes of right and wrong in the Word of God. What was sin in my grandparents day is still sin today no matter how the laws of the land may be changed to accommodate the moral decline of society. There is more than one way to do the same thing but there is only one way that is right.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Be Not Blind

Be Not Blind to the Shining of His Face
by Amy Carmichael

Far in the future lieth a fear;
Like a long, low, mist of gray,
Gathering to fall in dreary rain;
Thus doth thy heart within thee complain.
And even now thou art afraid, for round thy dwelling
The flying winds are ever telling
Of the fear that lieth gray
Like a gloom of brooding mist upon the way.

But The Lord is always kind;
Be not blind, be not blind 
To the shining of His face,
To the comforts of His grace.
Hath He ever failed thee yet?
Never, never. Wherefore fret?
O fret not thyself, nor let They heart be troubled,
Neither let it be afraid.

Near, by thy footfall, springeth a joy, 
Like a new-blown little flower
Growing for thee, to make thee glad.
Let thy countenance be no more sad,
But wake the voice of joy and health within thy dwelling,
And let thy tongue be ever telling,
Not of fear that lieth gray, 
But of little flowers beside the way.

For the Lord is always kind,
Be not blind, be not blind 
To the shining of His face,
To the comforts of His grace.
He hath never failed thee yet.
Never will His love forget.
O fret not thyself, nor let Thy heart be troubled,
Neither let it be afraid.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Max Lucado: My prediction for November 9

We are really ready for this presidential election to be over. We’re ready for an end to the rancor and tackiness.
Voters on both sides feel frustrated, even embarrassed by it all. There is a visceral fear, an angst about the result. What if so and so wins? When we wake up to November 9, post-election, when the confetti is swept away and the election is finally over, what will we see?
I have a prediction. I know exactly what November 9 will bring. Another day of God’s perfect sovereignty.
He will still be in charge. His throne will still be occupied. He will still manage the affairs of the world. Never before has His providence depended on a king, president, or ruler. And it won’t on November 9, 2016. “The LORD can control a king’s mind as he controls a river; he can direct it as he pleases” (Proverbs 21:1 NCV).
On one occasion the Lord turned the heart of the King of Assyria so that he aided them in the construction of the Temple.  On another occasion, he stirred the heart of Cyrus to release the Jews to return to Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar was considered to be the mightiest king of his generation. But God humbled and put him in “detention” for seven years.  “The kingdom is the Lord’s, and He rules over the nations” (Psalms 22:28).
Understanding God’s sovereignty over the nations opens the door to peace. When we realize that God influences the hearts of all rulers, we can then choose to pray for them rather than fret about them. Rather than wring our hands we bend our knees, we select prayer over despair.      
    Jeremiah did this. He was the prophet to Israel during one of her darkest periods of rebellion. He was called “the weeping prophet” because he was one. He wept at the condition of the people and the depravity of their faith. He was so distraught that one of his books was entitled Lamentations. But then he considered the work of God. Note the intentionality of his words:
This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
The LORD’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
(Lam. 3:21-23)
Imitate Jeremiah. Lift up your eyes. Dare to believe that good things will happen. Dare to believe that God was speaking to us when he said: “In everything God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28).
Many years ago, I spent a week visiting the interior of Brazil with a long-time missionary pilot. He flew a circuit of remote towns in a small plane that threatened to come undone at the slightest gust of wind. Wilbur and Orville had a sturdier aircraft.
I could not get comfortable. I kept thinking that the plane was going to crash in some Brazilian jungle and I’d be gobbled up by piranhas or swallowed by an anaconda.
I kept shifting around, looking down, and gripping my seat. (As if that would help.) Finally, the pilot had had enough of my squirming. He looked at me and shouted over the airplane noise. “We won’t face anything I can’t handle. You might as well trust me to fly the plane.”
Is God saying the same to you? If so, make this your prayer:
Dear Lord,
You are perfect. You could not be better than you are.
You are self-created. You exist because you choose to exist.
You are self-sustaining. No one helps you. No one gives you strength.
You are self-governing. Who can question your deeds? Who dares advise you?
You are correct. In every way. In every choice. You regret no decision.
You have never failed. Never! You cannot fail! You are God! You will accomplish your plan.
You are happy. Eternally joyful. Endlessly content.
You are the king, supreme ruler, absolute monarch, overlord, and rajah of all history.
An arch of your eyebrow and a million angels will pivot and salute. Every throne is a footstool to yours. Every crown is papier–mâché to yours. No limitations, hesitations, questions, second thoughts, or backward glances. You consult no clock. You keep no calendar. You report to no one. You are in charge.
And I trust you.
Circle November 9 on your calendar and write upon it the words: Our good God rules the world.

Max Lucado is a San Antonio pastor and best-selling author. His latest book is Because of Bethlehem: Love is Born, Hope is Here.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Potomac Eagle Scenic Railway

We don't go on bus trips very often because we are too independent. No bus load of people wants to go the same places we want to go and see the same people we want to see. But yesterday we broke the code and joined a bus load of people on a day trip. We left home at 6 a.m. and got home at 10:30 p.m. It was a long day and one I don't care to repeat on a regular basis, but we did have a good time. It was a nice group to travel with and we saw some nice scenery.

We traveled in a comfortable coach to Romeny, West Virginia, where we got on a passenger car of the Potomac Eagle Scenic Railway.

Our tour group nearly filled one of the cars.

We took a three-hour ride through the mountains and spotted some eagles along the way. The leaves were not as colorful as I hoped but still mostly green. The train went through a gorge that was just wide enough for the river and railway.

It was not as sunny as I hoped but at least it didn't rain on our parade and we were able to ride in an open car through the gorge to look for eagles.

One advantage of a bus trip is that someone else did the driving and we could nap on the way home. It was interesting to see who was on the bus. I didn't know everyone but was surprised to see an old friend and able to catch up with her over our meal in the restaurant. Elvin and Elaine Martin are capable tour leaders and if you like bus trips I'm sure you'll enjoy travelling with them.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Milestone Weekend

We reached another milestone in our lives this weekend when we witnessed the marriage of our grandson. He is not our oldest grandson but is the first to marry.
Joshua Steve Miller was born January 2, 1996, exactly two years after our son Steve died in a traffic accident. His mother did NOT want him to be born that day but God knew what He was doing. His birth changed January 2 from a day of sadness to one in which there was happiness. And every year since we have said "Happy Birthday!" The years passed by so quickly and before we knew it Josh was dating and engaged to be married to Angie Mast. 
The wedding was held in Ohio (where they both live) on Saturday, October 8. The theme was a mixture of his outdoors hobbies of hunting and fishing with delicate flowers and other feminine touches. I'm no decorator and would not have thought burlap and deer antlers would go with peach roses and Baby's Breath but it looked very nice.

Josh and Angie Miller

 This welcome display (on a pallet) stood under a fishing rod arch outside the church sanctuary.

Josh's only sister, Arianna, was one of the bridesmaids and these are her flowers.

Josh made the bridal and serving tables from pallets and scrap lumber. The bridal party sat on an assortment of old chairs. Rustic enough to fit Josh but beautified with flowers and greens. 

The table below was the dessert table which held a variety of cheesecakes (a favorite of Josh) and ice cream with toppings. 

Although Josh never knew Steve, he was well aware of his connection to this uncle who was next younger than his mother and why his own middle name was Steve. He wanted to honor Steve's memory at his wedding and did it in two ways. First, Steve's picture was displayed on a memory table everyone passed as they were being seated at the reception.

Second, Josh used Steve's car to drive away from the wedding. Gene has kept the car and was happy to allow Josh to use it. He got it all spruced up and drove it out to Ohio for Josh to drive away. 

Before we headed home on Sunday, we took another picture of the car. Here are our five living children with Steve's car. Behind the car--Cheryl, Gerald, Daryl; in front--Gene and Dale. Cheryl is Josh'smother and by birth order is in the middle of her four brothers. Thanks to both Josh and Gene for making this special memory for us to treasure. It meant so much to me that Josh honored Steve's memory on his wedding day. Steve will live in our hearts forever! Memories never die.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Grandma Privileges

Generations of school children from Berks and surrounding counties have gone on field trips to see Roadside America at Shartlesville, Pennsylvania. It is a miniature village and railway created by Laurence Gieringer that covers 8,000 square feet. The village was first displayed to the public in 1935 and placed in the current building in 1953. The current display is beautifully maintained; exactly the way Mr. Gieringer left it when he passed away in 1963. It is operated today by his granddaughter and her family.
Unfortunately, the building has aged and is in need of a new roof. The business generates enough income to support itself but not enough to pay for a new roof. If the funds are not found, it may be forced to close.
All of our children went to Roadside America on school trips and I thought Grayson should not miss the experience. So I took him to see it today. He was very impressed! I told him we're going to see some trains and when we walked in he said, "Wow!" 

He was fascinated with the trains until he discovered the buttons that make the display interactive. Then he went from button to button, pushing them to see what would happen. Some made trains and trolleys run, turned windmills, rang bells, moved wheels, ran elevators, and all kinds of interesting things.

We circled the display three times before the night show began. Then we sat on benches at the back of the room while the "sun" went down and all the lights in the little buildings turned on. After a period of darkness and stars (while an airplane circled the center), morning came and we returned to daylight. Grayson loved the night show. We circled the display for the fourth time and then he decided he was ready to go. We were there at least an hour or more.
It was lunch time when we left and I decided we should top off our field trip with ice cream. So we stopped at a dairy store and got cones. When we got out of the car Grayson said, "Mommy says I must eat my hot food first." But grandmas operate by different rules so I told him we're going to do it backwards today and have our ice cream first. Grandma Privileges! 
Being a chocoholic, Grayson didn't consider anything other than chocolate and I had raspberry. But you can guess what happened. By the time he had eaten his cone he didn't need hot food when we got home. 

I enjoyed watching him as much as he enjoyed pushing all the buttons. I can remember things that happened when I was four. Did we make a memory today that will stay with him all his life? I hope so. It's moments, not things that usually make the longest-lasting memories.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Hitlerian Thinking

This editorial by Richard Coehn in yesterday's Reading Eagle makes some good points.

The Economist magazine is rarely wrong, but it was recently in strongly suggesting that the casual disregard for truth that is the very soul of Donald Trump's campaign is something new under the sun. The technology--tweets and such--certainly is, but his cascade of immense lies is not. I'd like to familiarize The Economist with Adolf Hitler.
I realize Hitler's name has a distractive quality, and I cite it with reluctance. Hitler, however, was not a fictional creation but a real man who was legally chosen to be German's chancellor, and while Trump is neither an anti-Semite nor does he have designs on neighboring countries, he is Hitlerian in his thinking. He thinks the truth is what he says it is.
Soon after becoming chancellor, Hitler announced that the Jews had declared war on Germany. It was a preposterous statement since Jews were less than 1 percent of Germany's population and lacked the ability to make war on anything. In fact, in sheer preposterousness, it compares to Trump's insistence that President Barack Obama was not born in America--a position he held even after Obama released his birth certificate.
At the time, people tried to make sense of Hitler's statements by saying he was seeking a scapegoat and had settled on the Jews. I know of no instance where Hitler confided that his statements about Jews were, as we might now say, over the top. He remained consistently deranged on the topic. He was not lying. For him, it was the truth.
Just as Hitler's remarks about Jews were deeply rooted in German anti-Semitism, so was Trump's birtherism rooted in American racism--with some anti-Muslim sentiment thrown in. Trump's adamant insistence on it raised issues not, as some have so delicately put it, about his demeanor, but instead about his rationality. It made a joke out of the entire furor over revealing his medical records. I'm sure that Trump is fine physically. Mentally, it's a different story.
In a purloined email, Colin Powell called Trump's birther fixation "racist." But the former secretary of state has never done so publicly and his hesitation about Hillary Clinton is no excuse for being AWOL in this fight. Like some other GOP grandees, he has retreated to a neutral corner. They all have their qualms with Clinton, but not a single one of them can possibly believe America and its values wont' survive her presidency. A Trump presidency is a different matter.
It's a mistake to make the unreasonable compatible with the reasonable--to think, say, that Trump cannot be serious about this birther stuff or building a wall. That was the authentic Trump, a man totally unburdened by concern for anyone else.
There is no lie that cannot be believed. Even after Germany had murdered most of Europe's Jews, allied investigators at the end of World War II found that many Germans believed that their country's defeat only confirmed the power of world Jewry. Germany was not some weird place. At the advent of the Hitler era, it was a democracy, an advanced nation. It had unique history and cannot easily be likened to the contemporary U.S. But it was not all that different, either. In 1933, it chose a sociopathic liar as its leader. If the polls are to be believed, we may do the same.

"When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts" (Romans 1:21-24).

Thursday, September 8, 2016

In Everything

Thirty-eight years ago, on September 8, 1978, we had a stillborn little boy. He was born three months before his due date but died because the cord was wrapped across his chest and around his neck. We knew he would be stillborn because an ultrasound told us he had already died. Today, in such cases they let nature take its course and the baby will be born naturally in about two weeks. But at that time they induced labor immediately and it was a long, difficult 12-hour labor. Before it was over I began to think I would die too. But here we are, 38 years later and I'm still alive.
The grief and period of mourning that followed that baby's birth was not understood very well by others and I struggled for a year to accept what had happened. But eventually I worked through all that and came out on the other side to go on. Not long ago I heard someone say, "You have not fully accepted a situation until you can thank God for it." It took me a year to accept it but much longer until I could thank God for the experience, although I certainly never wished for a repeat.
Today I think about other disappointments I've had in my life and the lives of my children. Doesn't the Bible say, "In everything give thanks"? How can I thank God for hopes and dreams that were not fulfilled? For things that took a wrong turn along the way?  Things that don't seem right or fair? 
Look at that verse again. It doesn't say give thanks FOR everything, but IN everything. In the midst of disappointments and sorrow I can still thank and praise God because of who He is and because I trust Him. He understands what I don't and knows what He's doing. That doesn't mean I don't go to Him in prayer telling Him the desires of my heart. My asking is in itself an expression of faith and trust because I believe His power is unlimited and He can do the impossible in His time and in His way. My faith is not dependent on circumstances; it is dependent on God. I can still thank Him in the midst of every circumstance whether it's going the way I hoped or not.
"Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation" (Habakkuk 3:17-18).

Monday, August 29, 2016

Once to Every Man and Nation

Once to every man and nation,
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision,
Offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever,
’Twixt that darkness and that light.

Then to side with truth is noble,
When we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit,
And ’tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses
While the coward stands aside,
Till the multitude make virtue
Of the faith they had denied.

By the light of burning martyrs,
Christ, Thy bleeding feet we track,
Toiling up new Calv’ries ever
With the cross that turns not back;
New occasions teach new duties,
Time makes ancient good uncouth,
They must upward still and onward,
Who would keep abreast of truth.

Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet the truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow,
Keeping watch above His own.

James Russell Lowell wrote these words as a poem protesting America's war with Mexico.
The poem was published in the Boston Courier on December 11, 1845. The original poem
was 90 lines long. The words above were arranged by Garrett Horder in his Hymns 
Supplemental to Existing Collections, 1896, and can be sung to the tune of Oh The Deep,
Deep Love of Jesus.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Henry and Peter Burkholder

Three Burkholder brothers immigrated from Switzerland with their widowed mother in 1754. One of them is my ancestor, Christian Burkholder. Several years ago I traced the first three generations of his descendants. 
Christian's oldest brother, Ulrich, is often confused with another Ulrich Burkholder who immigrated from Germany in 1732. I decided to trace the first three generations of "our" Ulrich in an attempt to resolve some of the confusion.
This leaves one more brother, Peter. He moved to Virginia and no one down there ever published a Burkholder book. Some of Peter's descendants are found in other family histories such as the Brennaman Book, but there is no book to find all of them in one place. It didn't seem fair to leave Peter in obscurity, so I took on the challenge of tracing three generations of his descendants. 
I had pretty well completed it but lacked information on Henry, one of Peter's sons, and Peter who was a grandson. Genealogy research is much easier since a lot of documents can be found online, but there are still some things found only in county courthouses. I had exhausted all resources and would not be satisfied until I had a few more documents to confirm what I had written. I don't want to publish anything on a presumption because serious mistakes have been made that way. So the only thing left to do was make a trip to Virginia.
My sister went with me on Tuesday and visited a friend of hers while I dug out the documents in the Rockingham County courthouse. Found 'em!
Two entries in the 1834 Minute Books confirm that grandson Peter Burkholder died in 1834 and left two minor children, Enos and Leah.

Leah has disappeared from the pages of history. She either died young or married and changed her name. Enos never married and died in Elkhart County, Indiana. The story of Enos' life was written by his cousin and was included in John C. Wenger's book The Mennonites in Indiana and Michigan. Peter and his wife both died young and Enos lived with his aunts and uncles in Ohio and Indiana. 
Peter is buried with his parents, David and Barbara. His wife, Anna, is buried behind him in the next row. She died at the age of 27. My sister and I went to the cemetery and found their stones.
The things I needed on Henry Burkholder were in Augusta County. I thought I wouldn't have time to go down there. When I finished in Harrisonburg by 1p.m. and discovered the Augusta county courthouse was only a half an hour south, I decided to make a run for it. 
We arrived with an hour and a half until closing time at 5. I found a will that identified Henry's wife as Margaret Hildebrand, daughter of Henry Hildebrand. We also found two documents related to the settlement of Henry's estate. The first one appointed an administrator for his estate in 1838 and the other named his minor children in 1839. 
The 1830 census lists two males and six females ages 19 and under in  Henry and Margaret's home. By following census, I found Margaret living with her son, Ulrich, and moving with him to Illinois. In tracking the family through census and other documents, I have identified six of Henry and Margaret's children: Magdalena (ca. 1815-aft. 1880; never married), Elizabeth (ca. 1817-aft. 1883; never married), Margaret (b. ca. 1819), Susanna, and Barbara (minors in 1839, b. 1825), and Ulrich (ca. 1828-Oct. 6, 1877 in McPhearson County, Kansas).
Ulrich had a son William Henry Burkholder who remained in McPhearson County, Kansas, and had 11 children. Some stayed in Kansas and others moved as far west as California.
This is one of my favorite hobbies---finding a family no one else has traced. But there are still a lot of unanswered questions. I don't know where Henry, Margaret, or any of their children are buried. They seem to have fallen through the cracks of the paper work. Maybe someone will be able to take what I've found and develop it further someday. But I've had the satisfaction of digging out a family that had been lost in history.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Did you Notice?

My grandson has been spending one day per week with me since he was just a few months old. He's four now and is learning about the world in which he lives. He recently had a conversation with his parents who were trying to explain the cycles of life and death, old people pass on and new people come as babies. 
Shortly after he arrived today he shared this new knowledge with me. He said to me, "Grandma, did you notice you're getting old and you might die soon?" I assured him I had noticed but I didn't think I would die today. He was satisfied and no more was said on the subject.
I remember very well when I was four and sat on the lawn waiting for my sister to come home from school. I wanted to go to school so badly I could taste it. And I had to wait SO long until I was old enough to go to school. A year is long when you are four. 
I finally did go to first grade when I was a little shy of six years old. As soon as I could read, I devoured every reading book as soon as I got it. But then summer came and it was a long time before school started again. I had forgotten some things over summer and needed to refresh my memory, especially in math. 
After that, time moved a little faster and I marched through ten grades. My parents wanted me to graduate from high school but I was having problems with Algebra and gave up. I said I can sit in school until I'm forty and never pass Algebra. Two more years of school seemed like a long time, so I quit and got a job.
I had just turned seventeen when I started dating the guy I eventually married. The Vietnam War was going on and he was drafted a few months after we started dating. He moved out of state to serve two years of I-W service (alternate service for conscientious objectors). I still thought two years was a long time. But those two years eventually passed and we were married two months after he finished his service.
After that the pace picked up and the years rolled along faster and faster. With a growing family and work load there was never enough time in a day to get everything done. Before we knew what happened we had been married twenty years and had six children. We were never in the habit of going off by ourselves to celebrate anniversaries, but that year we did. We went to the New England states and had a wonderful break from responsibility.
We came back, shouldered the load again, and time moved faster than ever. I wondered why I thought two years was long. Two years were nothing and went by in a flash. Five years was short and I only stopped to mark the decades when the numbers on the calendar or in my age rolled over. 
Ten years went by, and another ten, and we were married forty years. The nest was starting to empty as our older children had married and established their own homes. When I looked at the family pictures we had taken through the years, the change was obvious. My hair had changed color without any help from me, and I looked like my mother. Yes, I noticed I was getting old but life was still full and busy and aging wasn't hurting me. 
Now another nine years has passed faster than ever before and the aches and pains of aging have set in. Next year we will mark our fiftieth anniversary, Lord willing. I remember when my grandparents had their fiftieth anniversary and thinking that was really unusual. Fifty years seemed like a very long time and Grandma didn't tell me how short fifty years can be. 
Also, at the end of next year I will reach my "threescore years and ten." Whatever time I am given beyond that is a bonus. The signs are all in place that I am getting old and might die soon. I doubt I'll ever reach the point of being able to say I have done everything I want to do because time goes faster and faster, and I keep getting new ideas for things I should do. But I do want to be a good steward of whatever time I have left and use it wisely. The road isn't as long looking back as it is when you're looking ahead.

 Ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. James 4:14

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Northwestern Ontario Vacation

My brother Merle has lived in northwestern Ontario for 38 years. We went up several times to see them but had not been there since they moved into the town of Sioux Lookout three years ago. We decided to go this summer and set the dates which fit both our schedules for July 20-26. It takes two long days of travel to drive there. We didn't feel up to that so we flew and made the trip in one long day instead of two. 
We got up at 4 a.m. on July 20 in order to catch our 8:30 flight from Newark NJ to Toronto. It was delayed an hour and our connecting flight to Thunder Bay was also delayed. Merle and Edith were there to pick us up when we arrived. Then we had a 4.5 hour drive to their home in Sioux Lookout. We stopped at two scenic points along the way. One was a mountain range known as The Sleeping Giant which has an Indian legend behind the name. The other was Kakabeka Falls.

It was difficult to get a full shot from top to bottom of this roaring falls.

We stopped for supper so it was time for bed when we got to the end of the day's journey. We thought we will be in the cool north but it was 91 that day. However, it had cooled off by the time we went to bed and a ceiling fan was sufficient. After that, it was cooler and usually in the low 80s. The residents thought it was hot but we were comfortable. During the week we got news from home that it was in the upper 90s to 100 so we escaped the worst heat wave of the summer.
The purpose of this trip was to visit my brother and his wife and help them with whatever they were doing. Leroy helped Merle with some work on his property. I helped Edith finish two small comforts, pick raspberries and currents in their garden and tried to make myself useful. 

Of course, no trip to northwestern Ontario would be complete without going fishing. I went along the first evening Leroy and Merle went fishing. We canoed all around the lake without catching anything. Then they fished from the bank under a bridge. We went home with the grand total of one Northern Pike (or jack) fish. It wasn't what Merle wanted but was enough for a meal.

The next time they went out they came back with absolutely nothing. Merle said this was the worst fishing he had in a long time. But on the third try they brought home a bass and three jacks.

And the last day they hit the jackpot. They caught about a dozen fish but threw most of them back because they were jacks and only kept their limit of walleyes. Then Merle was happy he had taken Leroy on a real fishing trip. 

While the men were fishing, Edith and I went blueberry picking in the bush. Edith was on alert because this is the time of year bears are eating berries but I was blissfully ignorant of the danger. We picked for an hour and brought home a good two quarts of berries. That evening we feasted on fish and blueberries, like natives eating off the land.

One evening two couples Merle and Edith know took us out on the lake on their pontoon boat. It was a beautiful evening. The highlight of that little excursion was seeing the eagles feasting on the scraps the fishing camp throws out on the edge of the lake every evening. The eagles know when and where the free food will be available and begin to congregate. It was hard to get an accurate count, but we estimated about twenty or thirty of the Bald Eagles made use of the fly-through lane of their favorite fast food restaurant. Some were young ones whose heads had not yet turned white but there were many mature birds in the flock.

On Sunday the church had their annual morning service in the park followed by a church picnic. It was a lovely day and the mosquitoes were not disturbing the peace. Some black flies came uninvited and bit our ankles but the mosquitoes must have been off in hiding somewhere. In case you wonder, I'm not complaining!
We helped Merle serve a soup and sandwich meal to the street people in the church basement from 4-6 pm. About twenty-five men and women came and went in two hours. Merle serves them every Sunday and knew most of them by name. The leftover hamburgers and sausages from the church picnic were sent with us and were a special treat for our guests. We first served a pot of chicken rice soup and when that was gone resorted to the standard mushroom soup. One man came in and asked what kind of soup we had. When Merle said it was mushroom he said he'll take some. He had been in earlier but knew if he waits a bit he might get his preference of mushroom soup. Leroy and I made sandwiches (quite a few "to go") and helped wash dishes. 

Sometimes "washing feet" is wiping dishes. 

Merle and Edith thought they would take us to see Fort William at Thunder Bay when we arrived, but our flight was delayed and then it was too late. Our flight home didn't leave Thunder Bay until 2pm so we decided to leave early enough to squeeze it in before we go to the airport. That meant getting up at 4am again. We left the house at 5 and got to Fort William at 10:30. The two hours we had to see the place was not enough time to see everything but we got a good overview of the fur trade during the end of the 1700s and early 1800s. 

Fort William was where east met west. There was some rivalry between the Hudson Bay Company in the east and Northwest Company in the west. Northwest harvested furs as far west as Alberta and brought them to Thunder Bay. Trade goods were brought in from the Hudson Bay Company and furs were shipped from Thunder Bay as far east as Montreal. 
Fort William was more than a trading post. It was actually a complete village with all the tradesmen needed to sustain life in the north at that time. Before we went in the gate two natives told us to remember it is 1816 and there is danger. One of the officials from the Hudson Bay Company was there and had been drinking too much. It was not good and there was likely to be a skirmish later in the day. We didn't stay long enough to witness that but all the native guides kept talking about the danger.

The mosquitoes were terrible at Fort William. Merle ran back to the car to get the insect repellent. While we waited, the natives who lived in this summer home showed us the pelts they were drying and told us a beaver pelt is worth one credit. Three beaver pelts would buy a blanket. They like the blankets and cloth they can buy with the furs. We kept swatting mosquitoes and told her we are waiting for Merle to bring the insect repellent. She said she never heard of that but we could rub bear grease on our skin to keep the mosquitoes away. We said we didn't have any and unfortunately, they had used all of theirs so we just had to wait for our spray bottle.

We went through several buildings where the fur business was conducted. This was the warehouse where furs were stored until shipment. We saw anything from grizzly bear to wolverine, mink, otter, white fox, raccoon, to you name it. If it lives in the North, it was there.

This is part of the trading post where furs could be exchanged for blankets and other goods. The guide asked if we have a contract with the Northwest Company. When we said we didn't, she apologized for not being allowed to let us buy anything. Only those who have contracts with the company can buy from their store. And then she let us in on a secret. The voyagers sign three-year contracts They can buy from the store without paying until the end of the contract. Then they are paid as much as is left after their store bill is deducted. What they don't know when they buy the supplies they need is that the company uses different money and the goods they buy from the store costs double what they would have to pay elsewhere. At the end of the contract when the accounts are settled, if they owe more to the store than they earned they can sign another three-year contract. It's a trick the company uses to keep the voyagers working for them.

Along the wall in this building are bales of furs ready to be shipped out and blankets and other goods which have been brought in. Imports and export records were kept to keep the business running.

A birch bark canoe was being constructed in the canoe shop. These canoes were made completely of natural products with bark for the shell supported by a framework of wooden ribs on the inside and sewed together with the roots of spruce saplings. It took about a week to make a canoe. Voyagers made their living paddling these canoes all the way from Thunder Bay at the top of Lake Superior to Montreal. I cannot imagine doing that!! When you consider how much a canoe could carry compared to an 18-wheeler, it was a lot of hard work for a small amount of goods. But that was the only way to do it in the eighteenth century.

Partners lived more elaborately than some of the others in the village. The most important people dined with fine china, glass, and silverware. This is the accounting office where the records were kept. Each box on this shelf is labeled with the name of the location to which it belongs and I suppose held the records and money that belonged to that account. A few of the names are Fort Dauphin, Lower Saskatchewan River, Upper English River, and New Caledonia.

We could have spent all day at Fort William but we had a flight to catch so we left at 12:30 and headed for the airport. Our final taste of Canada was at a Tim Horton's in the airport after we had checked in. Tim Horton's is THE fast food Canadian restaurant. The food was very good. 
Our flight from Thunder Bay to Toronto was about twenty minutes late and the one from Toronto to Newark, NJ was an hour late. We landed in Newark at 7:30. It took an hour to go through customs and get to our car and another two hours to drive home. It was a good trip and we enjoyed our Northwest vacation, but it's always good to be home again.