Prairie View

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sunday Reflections

This morning in church I reflected on how many women were missing who used to be part of our gathered group.  They've all transitioned to the afterlife.  Some of them were personal friends, and others were the mother of friends.  As I named them to myself and "seated" them on the rows in front of me, I realized several things:  those people would almost fill three benches, and many of them shared a given name with another church sister.  In our tradition, I'll pair many of them with their husband's name.

First I thought of the Marys:

Enos Mary, Noah Mary, Henry Mary, Freddie Mary, Ervin Mary, and David Mary.  Every one of those had Miller for a surname, except Freddie Mary and Noah Mary, who were Nislys.

Fannies:
Fannie Miller (widow from Kentucky who moved here with family), Mervin Fannie, Eli B. Fannie, and Fannie Viola Nisly

Ednas:
Menno Edna and Harvey Edna

Others:
Ed Lizzie, Ed Laura, Edwin Nellie, Emma Stutzman, Mandy Nisly, Marian Yoder, and Anja Miller

A few of these died several decades ago, but at least three have died in the past year.  Three others died the year before that.

I miss several of these people a great deal.  For every name on the list, however, someone else who misses them deeply faithfully keeps coming to church, no doubt carrying a bit or a lot of sorrow in their heart each time.  Yet there's room for joy in our gathered times too.

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The first "half" of Daniel 11 was our SS lesson for today.  Before it happened, Daniel knew about centuries' worth of events involving Persia, Greece, and the two kingdoms in Syria and Egypt, headed by two of the generals among whom Alexander the Great's kingdom was divided after his death.  (Whew.  Are you still with me?  Afraid not.)

The thing that did not occur to me as I read this prophecy and read about its fulfillment was where Israel was in all of these events.  Our teacher, Rose, pointed this out.  Geographically their land was situated between Egypt and Syria.  Those two kingdoms fought repeatedly, each time raking their armies across Israel, with the victor attempting to rake Israel into its political fold.

Understandably, the nation of Israel wearied of this turmoil.  Some wished, for the sake of peace, to simply acquiesce to whichever power was in charge at the time.  Others, however, held fast to worship of the true God, maintaining allegiance to that King above all others.  Much of the record of these events is found in the Apocrypha.

I was impressed with the parallels present for our time.  Political realities wash over us, and they often do not feel friendly.  Rather than being swept along with whatever tide is rising at the time, we do well to maintain allegiance to God above all.  Personally, I feel that is best done by not associating ourselves with any political party.

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The Supreme Court decision interpreting the Constitution to allow the term "marriage" to mean almost anything at all is a disappointment to all who love God's laws as revealed in Scripture.  I don't have much to say on this topic.  I do appreciate some of what others have said, and will link to some of what I consider good words on the topic.

This one is by John Piper.  His tone is somber, and his heart is pained for the reaping that must follow.

Several other writings speak of what I have often referred to--the incongruity of Christians assuming that the state can be made to honor Christian principles by the exerting of "force" from Christians.  Although neither of the following links expresses my thoughts exactly, they contain much truth, in my opinion.

Here is one written by someone from England, as he observes and evaluates America.  Here is another--this one with more advocacy for retreat and seclusion than I idealize.  The element I affirm in each of these writings is that church and state should not be wedded to each other, and Christians have often acted foolishly in trying to walk hand in hand with the state--when some of its elements have looked appealing.  The ruling by the Supreme Court is a forceful reminder that the two institutions are basically incompatible, and we do well to live as though we believed that.  We are perhaps entering an era when no other option will allow us to maintain our identity as Christians.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Political Havoc and Private Opinions

I read a little blurb today summarizing the pope's encyclical on climate change.  He said people have a moral obligation to do what they can to mitigate climate change, because there is very consistent scientific consensus that global warming is caused above all by human activity.  (Some phrases are direct quotes from The Week, June 26, 2015, p. 6.)  He also sees an urgent and compelling need to reduce greenhouse gases and develop sources of renewable energy.

Reading this makes me smile because of the masterful way the position of the Catholic church plays havoc with what many conservatives see as Christian viewpoints.  When Catholics talk about sanctity of life and traditional marriage, they're on the conservative Christian side.  But this encyclical?  Liberal for sure.  Helping the poor through social programs?  Bleeding heart liberal again.  How can they do this?

In my estimation, this is simply how it always is when Christian people put loyalty to the word of God and the way of Christ above political loyalties.  They're not really at home in any political party.  And no political party will be able to claim Christians as their own "trophies" because Christians will end up breaking rank sooner or later if the way of Christ comes first.

To label one party as a distinctly Christian party reveals a serious misunderstanding of both political and spiritual realities.

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In other news, someone called again this morning from the Japanese TV station that wants to do a story on Hiromi, the "Japanese Amishman."  He talked English to me, but the conversation switched to Japanese as soon as I handed the phone to Hiromi.  Hiromi asked him to send an email about what he proposes--his way of being non-committal, and insuring that he's not held up on the phone tomorrow morning when he wants to work outside before it gets unbearably hot.

I'm praying about the proposal and keeping my opinions to myself otherwise for now about whether this is a good idea or not.




Monday, June 22, 2015

Good Communication

First, I'll repeat here something I wrote this morning in a comment on a friend's Facebook post (with minor editing).  Then I'll follow it with comments in addition to the original writings.

The original post I responded to lamented the inability of some people to disagree without feeling threatened, or even to listen well and learn from disparate views.  One person who commented made it clear that he disliked disagreements on Facebook because of how it made reading non-verbal signals impossible.  He left all discussions the minute he sensed an argument brewing.  My writing was a reply to this commenter's viewpoint, but related also to the original post.

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________________, I don't know you, and from what you write here, I think I'd find you easy to converse with. Your perspective has validity. Non-verbal communication is important and often helpful. I do, however, have a bit of a beef with the idea that in-person discussions are always far superior to in-writing discussions. I hear this often, but it's not always been my experience. 

In writing, I have a lot more time to think ahead about what I'm "saying" than in a personal conversation. I can organize it to make it understandable. I can edit it to make it less offensive. I can swap out words to make sure that they are easiest for others to understand--if not necessarily the first words that come to my mind. 

For me, perhaps one of the biggest benefits is that what was "said" is document-able. I've suffered in the past from more-powerful-people-than-I saying "you said . . . " --things I can't believe I said, because that's not how I felt. I can only assume that I conveyed something erroneous unintentionally, or they misunderstood my words. It's the powerful person's perception that stands, however, if the conversation is ever recounted by the other person. 

If others in a conversation sense feeling in my words, they sometimes assign labels to those feelings that are very different from the ones I would use. What they see as anger, for example, might be my desperate efforts to keep from dissolving in tears of hopelessness and grief. In writing, anyone can see what I "said," minus the interpretations of other "listeners."

While writing takes more time than talking--for the writer, it takes less time for the reader than a spoken conversation. I like that about something I wish to communicate. In writing, I can do it at my time expense--without demanding time in the other person's schedule to hear me out. They can read my writing at their convenience.

Perhaps only in ___________'s online "living room" would your and my contributions to this conversation even be possible. Since it is someone else's living room, however, and not mine, I apologize for taking up this much space for this long, and I will try to exit gracefully now.

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I note that the apostle Paul made much use of written communication, even on sensitive and personal matters.  Some of the time he did not have the option of personal communication--when he was in prison, for example.  At other times,  he must have done it for efficiency's sake--when he wanted to communicate the same things to people who were geographically scattered.  Although it's hard to imagine that Paul had any idea that his words would still be known and cherished almost two centuries after he wrote them, he may have idealized his words having more permanence than if they had simply been uttered verbally.

One of God's primary ways of communicating with us is through the written word.

I've learned a lot from hearing about the communication difficulties that people with Asperger's Syndrome face.  These people blend far more easily into a crowd than do people who have autism, a condition on the same spectrum as Asperger's, but they have significant challenges nonetheless.  For them, non-verbal cues in conversation are entirely unintelligible, unless their awareness has been intentionally and painstakingly developed.  I can identify with some of that difficulty.

I think some of the teaching we've heard in recent years about the importance of face to face communication and the inferiority of written communication is yet another unfortunate Bill Gothard legacy.  From his bully pulpit we heard scriptures freighted with personal elaborations that gave face to face communication out-sized importance. That he personally failed miserably to heed the concerns of people who approached him personally--to his great detriment, and the detriment of many who trusted him--adds no credibility to his particular spin on the matter.

In spite of what may seem to be my downplaying the importance of face to face communication, I can think of only a very few circumstances under which I would choose not to participate in a verbal discussion or conversation if invited to do so.  Part of the reason for that is simple courtesy.  Not everyone finds written communication easy.  For them, it's likely as hazard-prone as I view face to face communication to be.  It's fair for me to accommodate their preference when possible.  I can think,  however, of times when refusal to talk makes some sense.

With only a few exceptions (I have to feel very safe) I refuse to talk to a man about a disagreement without Hiromi also in on the conversation.  Even then, I won't likely do it if no one else is close by.  Written communication takes away much of the awkwardness of communicating across gender lines.

Hiromi has been known to refuse to meet for a conversation on sensitive issues because he knows his English-as-a-second-language limitations almost guarantee that he will miss a lot of what goes on, and he will find it impossible to express himself clearly.   He prefers written communication for this reason.

Maybe we would all do well to appreciate efforts to communicate honestly, kindly, and constructively, without becoming unduly opinionated about how it happens.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Confessions for Others' Sins

I've added something at the end--6/22/2015.

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We're studying the book of Daniel in Sunday School right now, and just recently were assigned chapter nine, where Daniel confesses to God the wrongdoings of the people of Israel.  Thirty-two times in that chapter, he identifies with the sins of the people, despite the fact that he personally was not guilty of most of them.

In reading that prayer of confession, I was awed at Daniel's humility.  I had never considered the possibility that being the public confessor for a group is part of the job description of a leader, or perhaps for any single member of the group.  I'm still not quite sure about all the implications of this.

Daniel knew about the prophecy of impending deliverance for God's people, by way of an end to captivity.  Yet, as he surveyed the situation, he realized that the people were no more ready for deliverance than they were at the beginning of their captivity, because they had not yet repented and turned to God.

Apparently Daniel did not beg the people directly to repent.  Instead he acknowledged the truth of how things were, sought God's forgiveness, and begged for mercy.  God heard his prayer and sent his messenger Michael to tell Daniel that his prayer had been heard and God was already acting to answer the prayer.  This tells me that Daniel's prayer was appropriate, and did, in fact, move the hand of God.

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I am no leader--certainly not a political leader, but I feel like as a citizen of the state of Kansas, I should perhaps be confessing that we in this state have behaved shamefully.  I'm glad if you haven't heard of the fiasco involving our budget and tax situation, but if you have, and wonder what on earth people were thinking, I want to let you know that many people here are figuratively wearing sackcloth and ashes.  One legislator dissolved publicly in tears as he tried to apologize for what had happened.

I'll spare you many of the details, but anyone could tell something was amiss when the regular legislative session went on and on and on--till 23 days of overtime had accumulated, for a salary cost to the state of about $900,000.00.  It was the longest legislative session in Kansas history.

Lawmakers had to stay until a budget had been approved and fully funded as the law requires, or, as of July 1, the state would no longer have been able to pay any of its employees, pay its bills, or provide its services. Furthermore, the governor had made it clear that he would veto any budget and tax bill of which he did not approve, and if a bill did not reach him before the end of the day last Friday, on Monday he would initiate funding cuts in all departments to insure that the state could continue to function without the $400 million that was still needed to balance the budget.

With a massive shortfall in the state treasury (following a surplus when the present governor came into office), either taxes needed to increase or the budget needed massive cuts.  A tea party majority in the legislature could not bring themselves to do either one.  One called for breaking a promise and the other looked like political suicide.  And so they dithered--until 4:00 AM last Saturday morning.

Part of the backstory is that some legislators were elected in a wave of tea party fervor on the strength of promises that they would never vote in support of any new taxes.  In 2012, under the present administration, in a rammed-through, somewhat underhanded way, the state income tax had been abolished on both individuals and businesses.  The theory was that if people and businesses could keep more of their earnings, it would be a huge stimulus to the economy, and this increase in economic activity would somehow result in more money in state coffers.  Part of this was to come from people having increased purchasing power, which would result in additional sales tax revenue flooding into the state treasury.  The theory is known as supply-side economics.

Tax cuts are always popular with people, and it seemed like a good deal--till it didn't. The results didn't develop as advertised.  The economy did not roar to life, and the sales tax revenue didn't increase by any appreciable amount.   The long and short of it was that the tax cuts resulted in a major state revenue shortfall.  People who know about such things declared that it was inevitable, since income tax, one of the three "legs" that provided state revenue, was cut off--the other two being sales tax and property tax.

What to do?

Legislators and common folk began to see that many cherished government services (like funding for good roads and schools and hospitals) would not survive the governor's threatened budget cuts unscathed, and the people would not look kindly on the legislators on whose watch these cuts occurred.  Thus the political suicide specter.  But there was also the specter for some of having to renege on those earlier promises if these cuts were to be avoided.  Enough bitter pills were being manufactured in that cauldron of misery for every legislator to swallow a massive dose.  And so they did.

What they decided to do was to raise the sales tax rate across the board, and increase some "sin" taxes by massive amounts--50 cents tax increase on the purchase of a pack of cigarettes, for example.  This means that, in the city of Hutchinson, where most of us do our shopping, the combined special taxes, city, county, and state tax on purchases will be as high as 10.1% (at the Hutchinson mall).  In other words (unless you're buying cigarettes, in which case one pack will cost more than a dollar in taxes), if you make a $10.00 purchase at the mall, you will pay $11.01 at the cash register.  At 6.5 per cent, the overall state sales tax rate is the second highest rate in the nation.  It was a plan the governor would not veto, since his prized "no income tax" initiative was preserved.

The cause of a great outcry, and the sackcloth and ashes response, however, is the fact that these elevated sales taxes apply also to food, as they have in Kansas historically.  In most states that is not the case.  Only Mississippi charges a higher tax rate on food than Kansas.  It is for this reason that lower-income people are said to be bearing the brunt of our state's tax policy.  A large portion of their income must be spent on food and other necessities, on which they pay a high tax rate.  It's true, of course, that their income isn't taxed either, but in many cases it was too little anyway to put them even into the lowest of income tax brackets.

The already-wealthy are said to benefit because their already-high income is not taxed at all, per se, and this formerly significant revenue stream for the state has run dry.  The amount the wealthy need to spend for food is only a small portion of the whole of their income, so the great majority of their sales-taxable spending can be assumed to be for nonessential items.

It's more complicated than I'm able to explain here, and I don't claim to know what is best overall.  This I regret, though:

1.  Lack of foresight on the part of some state leaders
2.  Lack of enough humility in some state leaders to say "I'm sorry.  I was wrong.  I will do all in my power to correct the problem in an equitable, compassionate way."

No confession of sin (or even errors in judgement, simple mistakes, etc.) on the part of the most responsible leaders seems to be forthcoming.  For them, I apologize, beg forgiveness and plead for God's mercy.

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Added later:

The Week magazine (June 26, 2015, page 5) gave this story space on their single page that gives the U.S. News at a glance.  It was one of only six stories.  Their assessment did not enhance the image of Kansas.  They noted that the governor insisted that taxes were not increased, and that in totality the average person's tax rate has fallen since 2012.  Here are some excerpts from the short news article:

"GOP lawmakers in Kansas have approved the largest tax increase in the state's history in an effort to close a $400 million budget deficit.  . . . an analysis from Washington's nonpartisan Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy showed that the poorest 20 percent of Kansans will now pay 1.5 percent more in taxes than in 2012, while the wealthiest 1 percent will pay 1.9 percent less."  The last statement directly counters the governor's claim.



Tuesday, June 16, 2015

More on Elisabeth Elliot

In a piece by John Piper and posted on Facebook by my friend Esther (King) Troyer, I found words for more of what I admire about Elisabeth Elliot (EE) and reminders also of truths I've learned from her.  Here's the link to that article.

Piper describes EE like this:

1.  Blunt — not ungracious, not impetuous, not snappy or gruff. But direct, unsentimental, no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is, no whining allowed. Just pull your britches on and go die for Jesus--

2.  She was allergic to anything that smacked of mushy, mawkish, sentimentalistic emotionalism.

3.  [She had a] tough take on feminism and . . . [a] magnificent vision of sexual complementarity.

4.  Whether it was the spears of the Ecuadorian jungle or the standards of American glamor, she would not be cowed. “Do not fear anything that is frightening.” 

I'm indebted to EE for much of whatever sense I've been able to make of suffering.  I've often talked about her observation that Jesus himself did not wish to suffer.  (From one of Elliot's less well-known books These Strange Ashes) He asked God "if it were possible" to "let this cup [of suffering] pass from me." Yet, because it was not possible, in choosing to put aside his own will and choosing the Father's instead, ("Not my will, but thine be done.") he stayed his suffering course according to the Father's will.  Seeing this helped me put to rest the idea that I should have no will of my own.  What I need to do instead is recognize my own will, and then be willing to put that well-examined will aside in favor of the Father's will if it differs from mine.

Only after reading the "Peaches in Paradise" article above did I recall that I first learned from EE another precious truth about suffering.  Experiences of suffering can become our offerings to God. She helped supply me with an image of an altar on which our precious things or our painful circumstances--our offerings, are placed.  Our act of sacrifice, in the mystery of God's transformative work, rises to God as a sweet-smelling savor, just as the burnt, meal, and peace--all savor offerings--of the Old Testament did  (the sin and trespass offerings were described differently--because they contained contamination).  With this background I began to see that sufferings are good for something RIGHT NOW:  They're good offering material.  No one has to wait for the long interval of time before other purposes for suffering are finally revealed.

For me personally, Elisabeth Elliot's insights on suffering are perhaps her most enduring legacy.  It is no small legacy, and I'm very grateful for it.





Monday, June 15, 2015

Elisabeth Elliot (1926-2015)

Elisabeth Elliot died today at the age of 88.  Her third husband, Lars Gren, survives, along with Elisabeth's only child, Valerie, and her husband and eight children.

I told Hiromi over supper tonight that when I grow up I want to be like Elisabeth Elliot.  He grinned and asked, "How?"  How indeed?  I had trouble answering.  She has been one of my favorite authors for years.  I first borrowed her books from the church library.  I can't remember all the titles, but I know I've read at least a half-dozen books written by Elisabeth Elliot--some of them written and read long after the early sixties when I read the books about missionary life in the Ecuadorian jungle.    

Today I listened to two of her speeches, recorded long before dementia in recent years stole much of her ability to think and speak.  I loved hearing her clear voice, her careful enunciation, and her easy-to-follow language.  Especially, I loved thinking about the simple truths from Scripture and from life that she shared.  Here is the link to those speeches.

Elisabeth Elliot has always seemed sensible and down-to-earth to me.  I met her personally once and spoke briefly to her, so my impressions are not entirely second-hand.  Somehow, in spite of her having had experiences far outside my own realm of experience, through her writing, I often found it easy to identify with what she was feeling and learning and how she viewed the world and other people.  That is certainly more a credit to her writing ability, humility, and honesty than an indication of any similarity between us.  I'm sure that many others felt the same way about her as I did.

Today, on the recordings, Lars spoke up in answer to a question from the audience.  Only then did it dawn on me that Elisabeth and I do have one thing in common--marriage to an American immigrant.  Lars is from Scandinavia--Norway, to be exact.

Elisabeth was old-fashioned in many ways, much preferring hymns to other kinds of Christian music, and supporting traditional gender roles all the way.  While she often spoke to  audiences of mixed genders, she did not believe in having women preach.  When she was introduced as Elisabeth Elliot in Wichita, where I heard her speak, she clarified that she uses that name primarily in writing--because that's how her publishers want it.  In private, she is known as Elisabeth Gren, and she signs her name that way, and it appears that way on her stationery.  None of this modern business of women keeping their old names after marriage.  She ended up with quite a list of consecutive surnames:  Howard, Elliot, Leitch, and Gren, but apparently claimed each one gladly.

I read several paragraphs today written by Steve Saint about "Aunt Betty."  His own father, Nate Saint, died in the same attack by Auca Indians that claimed the life of Jim Elliot, Elisabeth's first husband.  Steve wrote this on Facebook about Elisabeth:  She was usually very formal with the public (I think she was shy), but I remember telling her something about a boarding school we both went to and she laughed so hard I thought she was going to injure herself. She loved a good debate and could be somewhat argumentative.  This little snippet of information from someone who knew her well reinforces my impression of Elisabeth as being very down-to-earth.

Today Elisabeth has left behind all that is earthly, and no grief or infirmity can touch her.  I don't know for sure how all this works, but maybe she and Mom will get acquainted and enjoy each other's company.  That thought gives me comfort.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Silly Sides and Other Sides

I'm afraid my silly side is showing today.  On Facebook, I happened across the news that American Pharoah had won the Triple Crown, and I took time to watch the three-minute race in which he clinched that distinction by winning the Belmont Stakes horse race.  Within the past five weeks, he has also won the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby.  It's been 37 years since any horse has won all three of these races, and American Pharoah is only the twelfth Triple Crown winner since 1919 when it happened for the very first time.

Later I also watched the race online in which Secretariat won the Triple Crown in 1973 by twenty-some horse lengths--setting a speed record that still stands for the Belmont 1 1/2 mile track.

As a child, I loved reading book-length animal stories, and read many horse stories.  I remember only Little Vic and Black Beauty at the moment.  Somehow, through these stories, I gained an appreciation for the interplay between horse and jockey and trainer, each one's hard work essential to success on the track.

The owner of American Pharoah is Egyptian-born.  The horse's name was selected in an online contest, and no one noticed the misspelling of Pharoah (suggested by a woman from Missouri) till the official papers had been filed.   The final "o" and "a" are reversed in the correct spelling.

American Pharoah was bred by Ahmed Zayat and sold as a colt.  Later, Zayat bought the colt back for $300,000.00.  I don't know much about the money connected with horse racing (except that betting thrives in this environment), but I suspect that buying back American Pharoah was a smart business decision on Zayat's part.

I admit freely that the ethics and stewardship implications of this whole horse racing enterprise are hard to justify, and I certainly won't attempt to do so here--or anywhere.

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Tonight, again, large hail has fallen in Kansas--baseball-sized in the area north of Salina.  Here, we are also in an area of the state where large hail and high winds are most likely to occur during the night, as identified by the National Weather Service.  The wheat is either greenish-gold or gold, and I pray that we are spared so that a harvest can commence in the next weeks.  Having the major crop of the area wiped out in a hail storm would be devastating.  It's happened before, even later in the crop cycle than this.

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I've heard within the past few days that "Andy Esther" is not doing well.  She's hospitalized in Colorado Springs in an effort to manage her pain.  She's less than a year younger than I am and was diagnosed with cancer four? years ago.  Andy grew up here and Esther in Iowa--at Leon, in my memory.  They lived in Washington, D.C. for many years before moving to the Canon City, CO area.
Rhoda and Rachel Yutzy's sister Maggie is also quite ill with cancer.  She lives in South Carolina.

Hearing about these needs makes me feel really grateful for every bit of good news I've heard concerning my health recently.  My problems seem small.

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Today's sermon was about the role of women according to God's Word.  I especially appreciated hearing the connection made between the passage in first Peter that references Sarah's submission in a positive way--juxtaposed with the two accounts in Genesis when Abram lied about his wife's identity and put her in harm's way by it.  Seeing God's deliverance for submissive Sarai in these trying circumstances was a blessing.

I daresay that no one in today's audience in church has ever been in circumstances exactly like Sarai's.  Obviously, if we are to learn from Old Testament stories like hers, we need to search for principles and apply them elsewhere when the situation calls for it.  Maybe this simply reflects  my preference for inductive-style reasoning over deductive reasoning, but I feel a lot safer when I think of applying principles to individual situations than I do when people identify specific actions in specific situations and attempt to assert unequivocal general "truths" about what is right in all such situations.  No two situations are ever exactly alike--which is partly what makes blanket-style assertions unhelpful--beyond those which are present in Scripture.

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My five sisters and I were all at the same place twice this year before the end of May, but the third time (last weekend) was the first time we had not gathered for a family funeral.  If I can figure out how to do so, I might post a picture of the six of us in a separate post.  It was taken at the end of a busy day after a short night--less than three weeks after my surgery, and I think I look a little tired and feeble on the picture.  We didn't plan ahead for this picture-taking session, but Heidi seized the moment and lined us up.

The day we all scattered would have been my mother's 87th birthday, if she had lived that long.  We used the Sunday before to eat several family meals together, choosing foods that Mom especially liked.  The noon meal was a fairly traditional meal, with turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn-on-the-cob, sliced tomatoes, tossed salad, and pecan pie and ice cream for dessert. The evening meal was a lot less traditional and featured some foods that Mom used to eat a lot when she was growing up, but which we sampled only occasionally while we were growing up.  I'll list them here for the record:

1.  Buttered bread topped with sweetened, stewed rhubarb.  Some of the family remembered better eating stewed rhubarb with cream.

2.  Honey bread topped with cottage cheese.

3.  Peanut butter bread topped with bread-and-butter pickles.

4.  Applesauce topped with crushed saltine crackers and then covered with sweetened whipped cream.

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My niece, Maria, graduated this spring from an online school with a physical campus in Wickenburg, AZ.  Her family traveled there from their home in North Carolina so that Maria could participate in the graduation ceremony.  On their way home, the extended family gathered on Saturday evening to celebrate.  We had a really nice evening at Marvin and Lois' place, beginning with a garage party and ending around a bonfire in the yard.  It was chilly enough for sweaters and jackets, and cool enough for the mosquitoes to leave us mostly alone.

Maria's mother is my sister Dorcas, and her plans to be here is what inspired us to arrange for Carol and Clara to travel here as well so that all of us could be together, briefly, at least.  We sisters slept at Marvin's Partridge house on Sunday and Monday nights.  During the day on Monday we were out and about a good bit, with others joining us part of that time, so our alone time actually happened mostly late at night and in the wee hours of the morning on Sun. and Mon. night.

It whetted our appetite for doing this some more.

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We didn't really spend time analyzing the constancies and the variations in our relationships with each other as sisters, but it occurred to me that, while the level of understanding and no-need-to-explain is really rock-solid because of our shared family experiences, we have taken on some varied identities by our diverse paths in marriage and residence and life work.  These things have shaped us into a more diverse group than we were before.  Marriage especially has changed us, as each of us has sought to adapt ourselves to the man we married.

There's where the diversity really shines--in those husbands.  Bill and Roberto are pastors, but only Bill is a Mennonite by ethnicity and affiliation.  Roberto, who is Hispanic, is the pastor-in-charge of the Nazarene denomination's 1,000 or so Hispanic churches.  Marvin and Matthew were the children of Beachy preachers (as was Bill), but only Marvin stayed Beachy.  Matthew moved his family to a big city and found a church home in a charismatic group.  Hiromi, of course, is a Japanese American, former Buddhist, who became a Christian and married a Beachy woman.

In Clara's experience, with the recent death of her husband, Matthew, we're all realizing that things change again when the life developed over years of living in marriage suddenly is open to re-evaluation in the spouse's absence.  It's obvious to all of us that things change, but how?  Especially, how can they change in the best possible way in the middle of loss and grief, honoring the life of the departed one, while charting a course that might make sense now, but which never did before.  Most important of all, how can God be honored in all?  How can His purposes be accomplished?  We really didn't get into discussions about this.  Maybe another time.

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On Monday, all the ladies in our extended family were invited to eat together at our cousin Eileen's restaurant--Downtown Sampler's.  After that we did some leisurely shopping at the Et Cetera shop--managed by Jane, married to our cousin Eldon.  Then we stopped for ice cream and cold drinks.

After that we headed to Yoder, intending to shop for fabric, but finding the store closed because of a death in the family.  So we stopped at several other places instead--at a little greenhouse, and at the discount grocery.

Then we headed to Marvin's house again where the girls of the younger generation served us a delicious meal of Indian food.

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Bill and Dorcas' family took my Dad along to Labette County where they visited my brother Ronald's family.  Dad is staying for a week-long visit while Bill's family headed home to North Carolina the next day.

My sister Linda traveled to Virginia to the Faith Mission Home reunion, flying out on Wednesday.  Linda had served there for more than 20 years.  When Linda arrives in Wichita on Tuesday, someone from Ronald's family will bring Dad to meet Linda and they will drive home from Wichita together.

Marvin left on Tuesday to attend a funeral in Holmes County, OH--the father of someone who works in the Ohio travel office.

Carol and Andrea and her son Micah left on Tuesday for the KC area (home), with Clara and her daughter Victoria as passengers.  Clara and Victoria flew home to Ohio from there later in the week.

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My nephew Bryant was baptized today--in the pond at Richard Graber's place.  Some of our family left church at Center in time to witness the event.

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I proved today what Hiromi suspected--that Elmer's Glue will dissolve if exposed to water for an extended period of time.  I tried to plug a hole in an unglazed clay flower pot  by gluing a plastic patch over the hole.  It looked great and felt solid as long as it was dry, but I needed it to hold water.  I filled the pot and placed it in a bowl this morning.  By this evening the pot was empty, the patch was loose, and the bowl had lots of water in it.  Hiromi thinks silicone would do the trick.  A cork might also work, but I don't have either a cork or silicone.  I wrote silicone on the shopping list.

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I had to buy a 2 1/2 inch terra cotta flower pot, and it pained me to do so.  Here's why:  I remembered standing in the garage at the farm with others in the family hovering nearby, eager to throw anything into the dumpster that I consented to part with.  I grudgingly gave permission for someone to trash a whole stack of small clay flower pots, saying that I probably would not find a use for that size.  And now that's exactly what I needed, and they were nowhere to be found.

Sigh.  I don't think I'll ever get this getting-rid-of-things quite right.