Prairie View

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Critical Distinction

Just now in the process of tackling the paper monsters that are always waiting in the wings at our house,  I picked up the October Sword and Trumpet, leafing through it to see if I had read this one.  An article by Christian attorney David Gibbs caught my eye.  I had read it earlier, but this time I noticed an aspect of it that made sense in a context to which I had never applied it.

The article drew a firm line between two alternative kinds of religious belief--convictions and preferences.  This concept is not new to me.  I have not always been sure that it's a critical distinction, though.  It turns out that in the eyes of the law it matters a great deal.

Gibbs used the example of Wisconsin vs. Yoder, the court case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Yoder's favor, establishing his right to allow his children to attend school only through grade 8, and no further.  The case has always been of special interest to me for a variety of reasons, among them these:

1.  The case was wending its way through the courts at the same time that my father and others were involved in a similar case in Kansas.  When the case was settled regarding Wisconsin, the precedent in such cases was established, and the controversy was over in Kansas also.

2.  I kept encountering a record of this case in the textbooks for my college education classes and got a sense for what an important landmark this decision was.  It is to the Amish what Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education is to non-Whites (ending racial segregation),  in terms of how it changed the education prospects of the children involved.  

3.  Jonas Yoder is my mother's first cousin.  His mother was a Beachy, a sister to my Grandfather Beachy.  The children Jonas refused to send to high school are my second cousins.

David Gibbs made the point that only after a great deal of testing did the court accept Jonas Yoder's religious belief as a conviction that should be protected under the U. S. Constitution--because he would not change his mind.  Yoder was told that if he was sued and lost, he would go to jail and his children would likely be taken from him.  Jonas stood firm.  In the face of such steadfastness, the court was convinced of the need to protect his choice legally.

In our local discussions about facility matters, I believe it would help us if we made a clear distinction between preferences and convictions, and then got as comfortable with emphatic declarations of convictions as Cousin Jonas did.  We should identify preferences as such as readily as the law does.  All of us should work together as diligently to defend and protect convictions as the government says it will do.  All of us should surrender our preferences, even if it means re-evaluation and reversal.

I am terrified of a course of action steered according to preference. I weep at the sight of the train wreck my inner eye sees at the end of such a course.

The obvious question is how can we rightly identify our own beliefs?  A corresponding question is how can the brotherhood move together according to convictions only?  We'd all like to think that our own ideas can pass the conviction test, and we're likely easily convinced that others' ideas are mere preferences.

I crave certainty that we are proceeding on the basis of conviction and not preference, and believe that if we pass the following tests it will help us arrive at certainty:

1.  We're willing to take however much time is needed to work through things satisfactorily.  We do not act out of desperation to do something.  Conviction is unhurried, patient.

2.  We talk about everything before we act.  We do not act and then wait to see if there's a strong enough negative reaction to necessitate reversal.  We do not proceed according to preference and wait to see if others come along.  Conviction is not conniving.

3.  We pray about everything before we talk or act.  We are content to wait to talk or act until we are prompted by God to do so.  Conviction is prayerful.

4.  We don't make a big deal of where we are on the authority scale.  We see ourselves as servants of God who live it out by serving each other.  We particularly are conscious of our need to serve those who are more helpless than we are.  Conviction makes us willing servants.

5.  We apply Scriptural principles to our beliefs.  Conviction is an understanding of truth.

6.  We are ruthlessly rational in examining our beliefs, tracing them back to their origins with meticulous scrutiny.  Conviction is painstaking.

7.  We are willing to be ill-thought-of for our beliefs.  Conviction is willing to suffer.

That's it.  I can't think of anything more on this critical distinction.






Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Tzadik

The reading of the (autobiographical?) novel The Chosen by Chaim Potok has introduced me to the term tzadik.  In Jewish life, a tzadik is a spiritual leader who is revered by his followers as a particularly holy man.  He functions as one who represents God to his people, and who pleads the cause of his people before God.  In Potok's book, he portrays a tzadik as having another function--to carry the sorrows of his own people.

I considered the portrayal of a tzadik in The Chosen as an overdrawn picture created in the writer's mind--not something that makes much sense now.  Why would anyone set out to cultivate a martyr's complex,  to make of one's son such a person or to admire such a person?

Having thought of the matter over the past few weeks, my thinking is changing a bit.  The story of Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, is instructive.  Jeremiah wept over the sins of his people.  The hardships he experienced no doubt caused him sorrow also.  His own family rejected him.  He was beaten and imprisoned more than once.  The nation he was preaching to never repented in his lifetime.  Tradition says that he died by stoning.

Jeremiah sounds like a tzadik to me.  He was such because of the the call of God on his life, and his obedience to that call.  I doubt that Jeremiah liked his life very much sometimes.  He said things people didn't want to hear.  He said negative things often--the things his discerning eyes "witnessed" before they happened.  He  couldn't marry as most other men did.  He was resisted and attacked and hurt.  He stayed faithful though.

*****************

Very recently, Mark Driscoll resigned from his ministry at Mars Hill--yet another in the chain of once-acclaimed Christian leaders who has been recently discredited.  I know very few details, and am relieved that apparently no dishonesty or immorality was involved.  The problems were in the areas of relationships with his coworkers and in his leadership style, according to the reports I read.

I wonder if Driscoll was a prophet who  never became a tzadik.  Maybe he knew and proclaimed  truth, but never carried a weight of care for those he served.

Maybe being a tzadik is simply being called of God and serving while refusing or being denied a cloak of honor and acclaim--one who serves, even if it must be in sorrow and suffering.

Seen in that light, tzadiks are clearly needed in our time.

*****************

A prophecy of Jesus says that he was a "Man of Sorrows, and acquainted with grief."

Jesus is the tzadik Who is needed in Jewish life and in the life of every one who seeks to follow God.
I'm still not sure if it's possible to become a tzadik by desiring to be one.  I do know, however, that aspiring to serve as a tzadik is likely to result in effective service--far more so than desiring to serve, but rejecting the suffering and sorrow that such serving sometimes entails.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Getting It Right

Is it just me, or is it a hard thing for everyone to locate themselves with exactly the right amount of involvement and caring in relation to an issue?

A friend told me recently "I can't believe you have the energy to keep working at this.  I would have given up a long time ago."

I was incredulous, and thought I can't believe you don't care.  

When I care a lot, I don't mind investing a lot.

Sometimes I feel like I don't even choose what to care about, but a burden finds me and climbs on, unbidden.

I do understand the need to not make everything my responsibility, but I cannot simply turn away from a matter just because things seem headed for disaster with seemingly no hope of redemption.  I carry a great deal of sorrow over such a matter, and simply cannot stop caring--even when there's nothing more to do.  I tell God I give this to  you.  I do a lot of crying and praying.  The one thing I cannot do is "just forget about it."

If I resolved not to care--pushed away or pushed through beyond the burdens that find me--I feel like I would be saying no to what God is asking of me.  Walking in faith demands that I trust Him to keep working in every matter that concerns me--that I not give in to despair and a grim, heart-hardening sense of inevitability, that I stay willing to do my part, as another step is shown me.

I love that I'm not the only one in the caring business.  God cares for me--and you!

I also love that I do not carry my burdens alone.  They are not permanently mine, and not totally and unremittingly mine--only temporarily mine, and only partly mine, because the full weight of them rests also on God and on others walking alongside me.  

 It's a good thing that how much to care is not mine to determine.  I'll never be smart enough to get it right.

Later:  I posted this last night and read this this morning.  I've recently started following this blog, written by someone I've never met, but have had some email correspondence with.









Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Donkey-Donkey

Tonight in church the DLM family (that's us) was asked to conduct the service.  DLM's grandchildren did the actual planning, which may not have been an entirely safe setup, according to the patriarch.

Originally, I was to do a reading, and someone else was to do something for the children.  I wanted to have us do a reader's theater of O. Henry's "The Last Leaf," but others thought it was too sad.  So we all did Donkey, Donkey instead, for the children, which probably erred too far to the other side of the emotional spectrum.  I was appointed the narrator, after I had begged off from the other parts, because I thought I would be disqualified because of disability, mortification, or uncontrollable giggling.  As it turned out, the narrator's part did not spare me from all of the above.  I was midway through the introductions of the characters in the story when the ridiculousness of what we were doing overwhelmed me and I was rendered speechless because of giggling for a time.  Everyone just laughed with me while I tried to recover.   Heidi told me afterward that she thought all was lost when she saw how helpless her mom (Lois) and Aunt Judy were with laughter as well.  Thankfully our maturity reasserted itself in time to save the day.

Christy had made the most remarkable ears or beaks for everyone, and fastened each body part or pairs of body parts to a flexible plastic hair band, so everyone donned their ears or beaks and gathered behind me while I began the story with the introductions.  As I named each character, they made the appropriate animal noises, and oh my, wearing those ears and beaks--it was too funny.  There was Linda mooing like a cow, Benji braying like a donkey, Shane barking like a dog, Hannah oinking, Heidi baaing, Dorcas tweeting, Christy clucking, Joey neighing and snuffling (because he had a cold), Dietrich (the farmer) "howdying," Lois (the doctor) brandishing a syringe, Judy and Kristi being a mother and little girl, Carson pulling off  his "farmer's brother" ears, and Tristan beaming with his goat ears and horns.

Benji, who was the main character, dramatized each effort of the donkey's to improve upon his unsatisfactory ears.  One by one, the other animals gave him suggestions, each animal believing that his own style would also be perfect for Donkey-Donkey, and he obediently bent his own ears in whatever direction his friends suggested--down, forward, to the sides, etc.  (I think that fencing wire inside the ears may have been taxed quite a lot)  He also dramatized his great pain after having caught his sticking-out-to-the-side ear on a nail when he tried to go through a door into the barn.  He was not feeling well at one point, and felt even worse momentarily when the doctor gave him a shot.  All these carryings-on were quite  entertaining.

In the end, Donkey-Donkey decided that ears that stood straight up as his had always done were really the best ears of all for him, and, for the last time he bent then to the appropriate shape, and went back to happily eating thistles.

"And this story ends . . . "

******************

There was applause afterward--right there at Center Church, without permission and almost without precedent.

******************

I inadvertently did something else silly that made me laugh afterward.  On the spur of the moment, as I was starting to talk, I held up the children's book that was the source of the story and told the people that Vera Mae had given it to Joseph in 1975.  Vera Mae had given it to Joseph alright, but not in 1975.  Joesph was not born until 1998.  Vera Mae, thrifty Mennonite that she is, had apparently bought the book at a garage sale or acquired it in some similar way.  She had placed an address label over part of what was written inside the front cover, and had written the "to" and "from" information on the blank sticker.  The original owner must have written in the 1975 date.  That date was not covered by the sticker.

*******************

All the DLM grandchildren from Center sang "Shine on Me"--almost entirely impromptu, and by heart.  Actually, they had run through one verse just before the service.

Dad had an opening meditation, and spoke about what can be accomplished even with small beginnings.

Lowell spoke of the years when Center people first met at the Arlington church for about ten years between 1969 and 1979.  Our family attended there, and have fond memories of having done so.

*******************

All in all, it was not really a very professionally-done event, but it was surprisingly low-stress and fun.  Someone lined us up for a picture afterward, and now we have documentation of that sort as well--besides our memories.  I'm glad our turn won't come around for a very long time though.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Sunday Wrapup--10/5/14

We had a one-of-a-kind church service this morning, and I'm sorry that all our young people missed it because of being at retreat.  Arthur N. preached and shared from his heart about times when God is silent.  He also talked about the need to be open with others in our church family when we are struggling.  All of it was shared in the spirit of offering hope to those who are, as Job was, in a long painful interval, between times of feeling the nearness and goodness of God.  Those three sentences don't convey much about what made the service special, but trust me, it was.

This is the last day of the Nislys' furlough in Kansas.  

*******************

Dr. Jana is quite ill right now, and unable to care for her patients as usual.  She is going to San Salvador to be closer to medical help.  If there is a diagnosis, I don't know what it is.  She has determined that her liver function is compromised somehow.

Several of her coworkers are leaving on Tuesday to travel to China.  This makes Jana's absence at the clinic harder to compensate for.

*******************

In thinking about the variety of ways in which good Christian people see "things," I wondered if most of us can't be categorized in one of three camps:  the minimalist, the extravagant, and the "good steward."  A category for the sentimental probably ought to be there somewhere also.

Furthermore, I think it's possible that, depending on the specific item or matter under consideration, we move quite freely between categories.  Extravagance in the landscape, for example, may be paired with simplicity in clothing, or having a well-stocked condiments cupboard might be paired with driving a clunker of a car.

*******************

The past week has seen lots of periods when rain was in the forecast.  Unfortunately for some of us, the rain consistently skipped right over us.  Our property is very dry, as has been the case for a number of weeks.

********************

We're having the singing at our house next Sunday.   I hope people come with a lot of willingness to be flexible.  It might be more literally necessary than one would wish if we end up all having to crowd indoors to sing.  We're thinking of making it a stand-up event--or a sit-on-the-floor event.  A lot will depend on the weather, and it's too early to tell how it will be.

*******************

Two events that both fit under a Listing to the Left title involve bread and shoes.

I tried a new bread recipe yesterday and looked on in astonishment after my two very large and brown loaves sitting beside each other on the cooling rack slowly sank to one side.  I studied  my lesson a little more after that and realized that I should probably have added more salt to control the yeast growth, and I should have used larger bread pans.

On the shoes, let's just say I should have looked more closely at what I was sticking my foot into on that morning I hurried so fast to get to school for staff meeting.  My car was in the shop, so Hiromi had to drop  me off.  I attended the staff meeting and later walked over to check something on the church bulletin board.  On my way through the church foyer, I was aware that I was walking "straighter"  than usual, or something.  Then I realized that only one of my shoes was clopping while the other was stepping silently.  I had done it again--worn one shoe from each of two different pairs.  This time, not only did the color and style not match, but one was soft-soled and flat, and the other hard-soled with a low heel.

I tried to think how I could get through the day without showing anyone my feet.  Or should I just make it a point to show everyone, and laugh with them at my own expense?  Then I had a happy thought.  Hiromi had gone home to get ready to leave again for a doctor's appointment.  Maybe he could drop off the right shoe.  I called him, and, after he chuckled at my problem, he followed my careful instructions, right down to making the delivery in a grocery bag at the kitchen door.  I did a quick shoe swap outside on the sidewalk, and Hiromi went on his merry way with a different shoe inside the bag in his car.

What I'm really wondering is if I could have avoided that trip to the chiropractor if I had just worn that uneven-heeled pair of shoes a little longer.   You know how you often hear that you have a short leg?  Well, I really did feel like I was walking straighter on that mismatched-shoe day, and I'm wondering if the shoes compensated for my left-tilting skeleton.

Silly me.  

******************

The boys in our typing class won the last Scrabble game between them, the girls, and me, on three different teams.  We play just one round usually at our break times, so the game takes a while to finish.  This time the game seemed to move very slowly, probably since we were playing with seven tiles rather than nine.

Twice, the boys played words that I challenged and won (can you tell this is not a risk-averse group?)! So it's especially notable that they ended up winning the game.  I went the last number of rounds with only vowels, which puts a real damper on the scoring potential.

The game is a good vocabulary-building activity.  I played "id" and "fiat," with some disbelieving looks and comments from students.  "That's a car," someone said of "fiat."

"It was a word before it was a car," I informed him.

I pulled out more of my memories of studying Freud in college psych classes than anyone was really interested in probably--in explaining "id."

******************

Jordan has harvested the peanuts that he planted in his "food production" garden.  They did quite well.

Kristi's tomatoes got an all-around pruning during the hail storm near the end of June, but now they're churning out lots of tomatoes, and mine have slowed way down.

******************

Several people have left comments on some of my recent posts, which I have not taken the time to respond to.  Perhaps I can do so later when I don't have poems and written reports to grade, and don't have a singing to prepare for--all of which take thinking and focus that doesn't quite reach around as far as I would like.  (BTW, I hate to put grades on poems.  It seems a little obscene.)

I did read Hiebert's writing and found it very interesting.  If I'm not mistaken, I've read some of his work before on charismatic expressions.

*****************

Today in church when I went to escort Mom to our Sunday School class--

Me:  Let's go to Sunday School class.

Mom:  I was told to wait here for Miriam to come get me.

Me:  That would be me.  Are you ready to go?

Dear Mother.  It must not have been a good day for her.  She did call me by name, unprompted, one day recently.

****************

During the past year, our song leaders have featured a song-of-the-month from the Hymns of the Church, and we have typically sung it every Sunday and Wed. eve. service during the month.  This year, we are embarking on a slightly more ambitious project.  A group of singers have learned and recorded a number of new songs, and CDs are being made for us to keep in our homes.  We'll be able to listen at home and then be prepared to sing at least two new songs in church every month.

Repetition really does make a difference.  This morning, I really enjoyed the lovely harmony on the most recent song-of-the-month, even though our group was uncharacteristically small because of no young people being present.

******************

A cat has taken up residence here recently.  Hiromi is doting on her (we think we've identified the gender correctly) and even trundled over to Custom Mills yesterday to buy a bag of cat food.  Mind you, this is quite a step up from the dog food our cats usually have gotten--or kitchen scraps.  We're hoping that she doesn't get too lazy to hunt for mice.  That's one of the major reasons to welcome a cat to share our space, in  my opinion.

Right now I'm hearing coyotes yapping, and I'm hoping the cat is safer here than she might be in hunting the fields around our place.

*******************

Hiromi informed me the other day that we have a loner chicken.  When they're free-ranging, he often sees five together in a group and one chicken elsewhere.  We're not sure whose preference this is.  I saw the loner join the rest under the bird feeders today, and she was apparently welcome when she joined the others  She may have an independent spirit rather than suffering from being hen-pecked and ostracized.

*******************

The digging animal is back at work at the west end of the garden.  We have never once sighted an armadillo here, but we can't think of anything else that might be digging such holes.  A football could be stuffed in most of the holes, and would completely be underground in some of them.




Monday, September 29, 2014

More on Bites

Do you remember those mystery bites I wrote about last week?  I may have stumbled onto an answer.  It was buried in an email on turf management from Megan Kennelly at K-State.  According to this newsletter, Oak Leaf Itch Mites (OLIM) become active at this time of year.  They are not a problem every year--only when the pests they parasitize have infested the oak trees.  OLIM females eat the larvae of a pest that causes galls either on the margin of oak leaves, or perhaps on pockets along the veins of oak leaves.

OLIM bites have a small blister in the center, and when they're scratched, the bites become painful.  Secondary bacterial infections may occur.  They are different from chigger or mosquito bites.  Unlike chigger bites, these are not typically found in areas where clothing hugs the body.

The bites are most often found on the arms and upper part of the body, since the mites drop from the leaf canopy of oak trees.  They are microscopic in size and not visible to the naked eye.  They are small enough to pass right through window screens and into home interiors.

A four-hour time lapse may occur between the time the mites land on a person's skin and the time they begin biting or burrowing (not sure which).  This means that if a person is outside in the vicinity of an infested oak tree, taking a bath or shower promptly afterward may prevent the mites from causing painful bites.

Here are some links to more information:

http://entomology.k-state.edu/doc/Newsletters/2014/KSInsectNewsletter24.pdf


http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/bookstore/pubs/MF2806.pdf


http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/pcitchmites.htm

K-State people do not know that OLIM bites have become widespread this year, but they are aware of some who apparently have had bites, so they're putting out an alert.

I'd be happy to hear from anyone here who has information or an experience to share with the rest of us.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Past-Tense Amish

Over a period of the past ten years or so I've cogitated occasionally over what it means to be a Christian group or individual from an Amish background, but not currently living an Old Order Amish lifestyle.  Although it's not to my credit necessarily, I think sometimes I've focused on what I don't like seeing in ex-Amish people (or people formerly from another conservative Anabaptist lifestyle).  For example:

1.  A focus on what was wrong within the Amish group.  Usually this involves rehearsing  agonized growing-up experiences, with the story teller looking like a victim-hero--noble aspirations and longings squelched, while the Amish culture is cast as ignorant, unsympathetic, closed-minded or harsh.

2.  Flaunting elements of a newly-adopted lifestyle that are particularly offensive to the Amish.   On the flip side, someone told me recently how much they appreciate the respect it shows when such people dress modestly in the presence of their former associates.  Showing restraint with a host of other behaviors is similarly appreciated.

3.  An apologetic stance.  This is in contrast to a respectful stance.  Be nice to them because they don't know any better sounds a lot different than They take following God seriously and I respect them for it.

4.  A superior stance.  See number 1.  They'd be so much better off (happier, more free, more relevant) if they saw things as I do, and did things as I do.

Is there any right way to leave such a group?  I really wish I could point to a method and say This is it, or even These are right reasons for leaving such a group.  Right now I'm not prepared to go there.
Instead, I'll reference several general ideas that have been swimming back and forth in my consciousness over the past number of weeks.  They are related to how I think we should view our Amish background.

One is the repeated admiring references to the Amish way of life that I see in the writings of respected authors in a variety of fields.  An off-the-top-of-my head partial list includes:  Wendell Berry, Barbara Kingsolver, Gene Logsdon, and John Taylor Gatto.   Several of these people have clerical training, and at least one of them is an educator.  Some of them are particularly interested in responsible use of resources, community building, self-sufficiency, craftsmanship, and sustainability.  All of them have authored multiple books.

Almost certainly these people have a somewhat idealized view of Amish life, particularly in their farming, their community life, and their education.  In other words, they haven't lived inside of it long enough, if at all, to see its warts.  They are, however, people who do not have "baggage" (like that of many ex-Amish) that prevents their seeing what is truly laudable.  They are also people who can evaluate some things far more dispassionately and with far more training and practice in making rational comparisons than people can from inside the circle.

My growing sense is that we are acting foolishly when we pedal away from this heritage with "good riddance" sentiments.  Maybe what we really need is eyes to see and appreciate this heritage.  If wise people around us can see its value, why can't we?

Another perspective that guides my thinking about being Amish is the Anabaptist hermeneutics list (hermeneutics is how a text--especially the Bible--is understood and interpreted) I first saw while I was teaching an Anabaptist history class.  I really don't know much about the origin of this particular list, but I loved how it expressed concisely the things I "felt in my bones" about cherishing the way of life I had grown up in and now choose deliberately for  myself.  Six years ago I wrote a blog post on it here.    I suggest you read that post for better context, but I will repeat part of it here:

(1) The Bible as Self-interpreting--Any specific Scripture can be better understood through knowledge of and reference to other Scriptures. Each part harmonizes with the whole.
(2) Christocentrism--Christ is at the center of Scripture. The Old Testament points forward to Him, and the New Testament reveals Him.
(3) The Two Testaments--We understand the Old Testament through the lens of the New.
(4) Spirit and Word--The Spirit brings the Word to life. Lacking a proper respect for the Word, people can justify all kinds of excess by claiming the motivation of the Spirit. Lacking the work of the Spirit, the Word has little more life than any words on any paper.
(5) Congregational Hermeneutics--Understanding of Scripture comes by active participation in a brotherhood of believers--with strong relationships a prerequisite. This also provides the "staging area" for the practical outworkings of Scriptural norms.
(6) Hermeneutics of Obedience--People grow in their understanding of truth by being obedient to the truth they already understand.


The text following the dash in each numbered paragraph is my wording.  It is a summary of much longer text in the original document.

Hiromi and I have had some fairly intense conversations over some of these points.  His "a whole group can be wrong" is bolstered by a recounting of what happened in Japan before WWII when the whole country viewed their emperor as a god.  I counter with this: "When a whole group is focused on understanding and obeying Scripture, they're not likely to be wrong in any way that puts them at odds with the will of God.  Operating within the counsel of a church body is a protection against error--not an inclination toward error."  The "whole group" in Japan was united on a very different foundation than that of a Christian group.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am not always comfortable with the status quo.  I am deeply grateful, however, to be part of a church group that operates with an Anabaptist hermeneutic. In the Anabaptist hermeneutic we have common ground with Amish groups--more so than with many evangelical or mainline Protestant groups, and we should celebrate the link of that amazing gift instead of apologizing for it.

The third "fish" swimming in my sea of thoughts is the "memory" place occupied by the Amish.  By this I mean simply that their way of life provides for the rest of us a reminder of what following Christ might look like if we took it as seriously as we might.  It preserves a memory in other areas as well.

One example in the "other" category comes from the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas.  Wes Jackson, the founder and director, is well-known in sustainable agriculture circles.  He is a former Stanford professor and operates and writes on a decidedly secular foundation.  Guess where he looked, however, when he decided to experiment with tillage by horsepower on his land.  That's right.  The Amish, because of how they had kept alive the memory of this way of farming.  They were the experts.

Paul Yoder, who learned to know Christian people in Europe who had lived under Communist rule in the former Soviet Union for many years, has recounted what these people told him.  When new freedoms in recent years allowed a more open expression of faith, most people had no idea how to conduct church services, for example.  It was the grandmothers who remembered how it once was, and who could help provide guidance.  This is what the Amish can do for us also--provide a memory of how to do church.  For example, we have almost entirely departed from the pattern of preaching regularly on prescribed topics throughout the year.  What if we returned to that model, temporarily at least?  I suspect we'd find it a blessing.

I saw the memory-thing happen in a gathering I was once part of at Hesston college, following a talk there by David Kline.  I wrote about it here.  In short, Kline answered a question by suggesting to the gathered group that they consider the use of the lot in making congregational decisions.  Most of those present had shifted to a congregational practice of having salaried, professionally-trained pastors--a practice not without problems as I'm sure everyone present understood.  Here again, the Amish way provided a memory of how it once was that might be of help to church people in our time.

If we (and all who are no longer Amish) can note honestly the things to be appreciated in the Amish way of life, if we can identify and celebrate the things we share, and if we can look to the Amish to show us the way in areas that may not be working so well for us, then I believe we're on our way to benefiting from the ways in which our lives are linked to theirs, and we'll be enriched by it.  On the other hand, if we're convinced that allowing the Amish to influence us means nothing except "moving backward,"  we'll find ourselves influenced instead by something else, which may not be as honorable as the Amish way.  In any case, it's less likely to bear the gravitas of centuries of continued practice.