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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

I Owe the Lord a Morning Song

The forty-five minutes I spend walking each morning is my prayer and praise time. This morning I was singing "I Owe the Lord a Morning Song." This hymn was written by a Mennonite minister in Lancaster County, Amos Herr (13 February 1816-19 June 1897).
One Sunday morning in 1890 when the snowdrifts would not permit even horseback riding to church, Amos worshiped at home by writing this hymn. It has lasted longer and blessed more people than any sermon he might have preached had he been able to be in church. Although it is often sung at the beginning of a Sunday morning service, it is a good song for any morning of the week.

  1. I owe the Lord a morning song
    Of gratitude and praise,
    For the kind mercy He has shown
    In length’ning out my days.
  2. He kept me safe another night;
    I see another day;
    Now may His Spirit, as the light,
    Direct me in His way.
  3. Keep me from danger and from sin;
    Help me Thy will to do,
    So that my heart be pure within,
    And I Thy goodness know.
  4. Keep me till Thou wilt call me hence,
    Where never night can be;
    And save me, Lord, for Jesus’ sake—
    He shed His blood for me.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Hot Air Balloon

Leroy was saying for quite a few years that he'd like to go for a hot air balloon ride. It seemed like a luxury like that should be for a special occasion. We decided to save it for our 50th wedding anniversary. Our oldest son had some birthday money he was saving for a balloon ride so we agreed to go together. To fit all our schedules we agreed on July 14 which is the day before our anniversary and three days after their 19th anniversary. The weather was the unknown factor but we booked our tickets and hoped for the best.
Yesterday the weather forecast didn't sound good at all for our 6 p.m. ride. The pilot suggested we switch to the 6 a.m. ride so that's what we did. It rained early in the morning but had stopped by 4 a.m. so he let us know the ride is on. 
We had an hour's drive to the launching site and when we got there the balloon was inflated and ready to go.

The hardest part was getting in the basket. I didn't expect it to be so deep. I needed a step stool and a boost from Daryl to get in and out. And then my chin just cleared the rim of the basket. I stood on my tiptoes to take this picture before we left. The basket held ten passengers and it was fully loaded.

The Lancaster County farm land is lush and green with the regular rains we've had this year. It looks like a patchwork quilt from above.

We were up in the air about an hour and then the pilot said his radar showed rain coming again and we have to bring it down. We landed in a hay field that had recently been mowed. The ground crew deflated the balloon and stuffed the 675 pounds of fabric in a big bag.

After the bag and basket were in the back of a trailer, they brought out some champagne to toast our successful flight. We said, "just the orange juice, thank you." The goblets were ours to keep. 
After that, we and Daryls went into the Bird-in-Hand restaurant for breakfast. Before we had our food it was pouring again. We didn't get a crystal clear day but the Lord held back the rain until we were through.
One more thing checked off our bucket list!

Monday, July 10, 2017

300th Anniversary

No, not mine. We're married a mere 50 years. I mean the 300th anniversary of Groffdale.
Hans Groff emigrated from Germany to Pennsylvania in the late 1600s or early 1700s. The first written document for him in Pennsylvania is a deed dated 1704 which shows he purchased 84 acres of land north of Germantown. By the time he sold it in 1715, he was living at Strasburg in what is now Lancaster County. He warranted (claimed) 300 acres in 1714 which he sold in 1718 after he warranted 1150 acres in West Earl Township.
According to the often-repeated story, while Hans was living in the Strasburg area, his horses wandered away. In his search for them, he found a spring in a fertile valley north of his home. He determined to live there and in 1717 moved his family to what became known as Groffdale. A few years later the Weaver brothers followed him north and began another settlement a few miles east of Groffdale that is known as Weaverland. These two settlements were the nucleus of the Mennonite community north of the city of Lancaster.
Hans Groff built a log house near this spring which is still strong today and the stream that flows from it is stocked with trout.

The Groffdale Mennonite Church was established with the arrival of Hans and his family. More settlers soon followed. Worship services were held in the homes of the members on a rotating basis until 1755 when the first log meetinghouse was built on some of Hans Groff's land. 
Church divisions in 1893 and 1927 resulted in three Groffdale Mennonite congregations. The first Groffdale congregation remained on the same spot and is part of the Lancaster Conference. The first division in 1893 formed the Weaverland Conference and the group that left Lancaster Conference erected a new Groffdale Mennonite meetinghouse a mile or two away from the first one. The second division in 1927 formed the Groffdale Conference. Rather than build a third meetinghouse, the Weaverland and Groffdale Conference congregations use the same building but on alternating Sundays. So one Sunday the parking lot is filled with black cars and the next Sunday with horses and buggies.
The three Groffdale Mennonite congregations joined hands on July 7-8 to commemorate their shared 300-year history at Groffdale. A meeting was held on Friday evening, July 7, in which all three congregations led in singing from their respective hymnals. Then historian John Ruth spoke on the history of the area. After his presentation, the minister of the Lancaster Conference church presented a great gift to the Muddy Creek Library which is operated by the Weaverland Conference. 
In preparation for this anniversary, the Lancaster Conference church opened their safe and found in it a 1748 Martyrs Mirror and a 1763 Saur Bible. They decided these books are no good to anyone while locked in a safe and should be somewhere that they will be preserved and accessible to others. So they gave Muddy Creek Library the choice between the two books. After some deliberation, Muddy Creek decided to take the Bible. This is the large German Bible that would have been kept on the preacher's table for the minister to use while preaching. 
My ancestor, Christian Burkholder, was ordained as bishop at Groffdale in 1778 and would have used this Bible. It is in very good condition and I was thrilled to be able to see and touch something my ancestor used in the 1700s. I'll get a picture of it someday.
There was an all-day bus tour of Groffdale on July 8. We started at the Lancaster Conference church and then went to the Weaverland/Groffdale Conference church. From there, the two tour buses drove in opposite circles in a five-mile radius around Groffdale to see some of the notable spots in Groffdale's history. Here are a few highlights.

Hans Groff's Ausbund
1742 Ausbund hymnbook owned by Hans Groff which contains his signature and was passed on to his son Samuel Groff. The handwriting at the top of the page says "This book belongs to me Hans Groff. It cost six shillings."

 Peter Summy's house. 
Hans Peter Summy arrived in Philadelphia in 1733. He was a minister at Groffdale. It is believed this house at 207 Wissler Road on Jacob Summey's property was his home. It is probably the most unchanged dwelling in the Groffdale area. 

Christian Wenger's barn. 
Christian Wenger worked for Hans Groff and then bought 289 acres to the west. At 317 Brethren Church Road, the original house still stands, but addidions were built to every side. The stone part of the barn is still original. This is a very unusual construction with three stone arches on the ground floor. Two of the arches on the end have been closed up with cement blocks. One of them now has a door and the other a window, but they were originally like the one that is still open on the back side of the barn.

Samuel Groff's house
In 1738, Hans Groff sold 219 acres to his son Samuel Groff. There are two old houses with arch cellars and steep roofs on this tract, but both have been reconstructed. This farm at 357 Hershey Avenue was sold to Samuel's daughter Mary married to Joseph Horst. The date stone on this house says "Rebuilt 1854 by Jacob and Magdalena Hoover." The date stone on the second house says "Rebuilt 1847 by Jacob and Magdalena Hoover." 

Samuel Groff patent
A patent is a deed granting land from the Penn family to the first European owner. This is an original 1743 sheepskin patent for 64 acres from the Penn family to Samuel Groff. The Penn seal was attached to the blue ribbon at the bottom of the patent. These big round clay seals are often damaged, broken or missing. This one is damaged.

Christian Burkholder's land as seen from the Fairmount hill. My ancestor, Bishop Christian Burkholder, owned the entire Fairmount hill as well as the land on three sides of it. He married Hans Groff's granddaughter, Anna, which makes me a descendant of Hans Groff.
Lloyd Weiler wrote, "When Hans Groff purchased a large tract of land, he was investing in and directing the future of his children and their descendants. By believing in the virtues of family life, bearing responsibilities and vigorous labors, and staying close to the soil, he and his friends transmitted a legacy that has been maintained to this day." May we, his descendants, never forget and cease to appreciate our heritage.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

God Bless America

If this was 1776 I could be hung as a traitor for what I am about to say. I've been thinking about this a long time. While studying the Revolutionary War to write my newest book I became more convinced that it was the result of political and religious struggles rooted in Europe. The immigrants didn't leave their feelings behind when they sailed away from Europe but imported their prejudices and opinions along with their bodies when they stepped ashore in North America. 
The English and Irish have been feuding for centuries and it continued into my lifetime. The Scots-Irish Presbyterians were the hot heads who stirred up the rebellion in New England that spread down through the colonies. The Episcopalians were the American version of the Anglican Church of England that formed because they refused to swear allegiance to the king. The Presbyterians and Episcopalian ministers preached independence from their pulpits with such fervor they were called "the black regiment."
We were taught in history class that King George III was a tyrant and the cry for independence was raised by the majority of the colonists. That is simply not true. The majority of the general public was satisfied with British rule. The loud organized voice of the minority drowned out the voice of the unorganized majority, much as we see today with the gay and transgender "rights" movement.
Our founding fathers were not deeply religious men of God nor was the nation solidly founded on Christian principles. Benjamin Franklin was not a member of any church. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams maintained membership in the Episcopal and Congregational (Puritan) churches in which they were raised but embraced Unitarian theology which denies the Trinity. George Washington’s diary contains no references to God and shows he did not attend worship services regularly. When he did go to church, he refused to kneel for prayer. The Declaration of Independence mentions God but states that government gets its  authority from the people (rather than from God), who have the right to alter or abolish it and form a new government which seems to be in their best interest. The Constitution makes no mention of God or acknowledgement of Him.
We have been fed a line in history class that is skewed and littered with myths of things that never happened. Two examples of embroidered history commonly repeated are George Washington kneeling in the snow to pray at Valley Forge and Patrick Henry’s famous statement, “Give me liberty or give me death.” Both were conceived many years after the fact, and there is no historical evidence to support either story.
Canada stayed and still is under British rule. Would we really be much worse off if we were like Canada? If we were, we would not be having this big political battle over health care because it would be nationalized. Was King George III really a tyrant? Was he any worse than some of the ungodly and inept presidents the United States have elected in the past and present? I'm not about to move to Canada, but if I had been living during the Revolutionary War might I have been part of the exodus that went north to stay under the crown?
I do appreciate the freedom we have in this country. I pray for our leaders, pay my taxes, and obey the laws. And I pray that America will repent of her evil ways and be a truly Christian nation. Then God will abundantly bless America.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Medical Witchcraft

The visiting minister who preached at our church this morning said something that was new to me and got me to thinking. He read Galatians 5 which I had often heard before. In this chapter the "works of the flesh" are contrasted with the "fruit of the spirit." 
In the list of the works of the flesh is witchcraft. That word immediately flashes on my mind the image of a voodo witch doctor who uses spells, potions, and charms for physical healing. Think again! The Greek word translated witchcraft is pharmakeia  (far-mak-i'-ah) and is where we get our word "pharmacy." It means medication, i.e. (by extension) magic (literally or figuratively). This is what Wikipedia says about witchcraft:
Witchcraft often occupies a religious, divinatory or medicinal role, and is often present within societies and groups whose cultural framework includes a magical world view. 
Now I am not about to say that all medication is witchcraft. There are certainly legitimate reasons for taking medicine when we need it. But there are some kinds of medication that are witchcraft. The most obvious one is illegal drugs or drug abuse. People turn to drugs to try fill the void in their lives instead of turning to God and putting their faith in Him. It's just a different kind of witchcraft. 
How far can we take that principle of putting our faith in medicine instead of God? What about all the alternative and holistic methods of healing? Products like Plexus and Essential Oils (and many others) that claim to be good for whatever ails you (and IMHO mostly benefit the wallet of the seller)? Foot rubs and a host of other kinds of alternative therapies that gullible Christian people get involved in practicing? Many of these are rooted in idolatrous Oriental religions.
I can't say it any better than Wikipedia:
Alternative medical diagnoses and treatments are not taught as part of science-based curricula in medical schools, and are not used in any practice where treatment is based on scientific knowledge or proven experience. Alternative therapies are often based on religion, tradition, superstition, belief in supernatural energies, pseudoscience, errors in reasoning, propaganda, fraud, or lies.
I remember when I was a girl I saw an old Indian who was handling snakes and selling bottles of something. It looked creepy to me. I asked my mother what he was doing and don't remember her exact words but she let me know we don't even listen to that talk and we definitely don't buy their snake oil. I know now that it was a form of witchcraft. But how many things like that are we falling for today without realizing we are dabbling in witchcraft? 
 2 Peter 3:17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.