Prairie View

Friday, November 30, 2012

Image Envy

I've been poking around on a stunning site mostly filled with more than 5,000 bird photographs taken by three men, Bob Gress, Jud Patterson, and David Seibel.  Gress and Seibel have collaborated with others in writing a recent book on Birds of Kansas, and the old Audubon photo field guide pales in comparison to this work.  See for yourself at the Birds in Focus website.  It's not important, I'm sure, but I note that all of these men look like the kind of people I might like to know.  One of them has a PhD from KU in ornithology.

On the site, be sure to do a search for any bird that you're fairly familiar with, and you'll quickly see that these pictures give detail more clearly than would be possible even if you could sneak up as close as possible to get an in-the-flesh perspective.

Last summer, on July 2, when I took my niece and nephews to Quivira to see the previously-unheard-of-in- Kansas Red-necked stint, several people with telescopes and telescopic camera lenses were there at the same time.  Those of us with modest equipment got a chance to see the bird when they offered access to their equipment.  We're still laughing about the fact that I almost walked off with someone else's expensive binoculars around my neck.  The owner pursued and caught up with me just before I got into the vehicle to go home.  It was a typical absent-minded stunt on my part.

The Red-necked stint image on the Birds in Focus (BIF) site was captured on July 2, the same day we saw it.  I began to wonder if these men were among the birders and photographers we saw at Quivira.  Joseph says no.  He knew the names of the ones who were there because of encountering them on the Kansas birding forums he and they hang out on.

You can see a picture of the Red-necked stint here.  Be sure to click on the small pictures to see a larger version with accompanying data.  Also, if the account of our birding trip to Quivira on July 2 interests you, you can read about that here.  (Check immediately below this post after you click on the link.)

I'm sure that I don't have enough years and money left to accomplish nature photography like that on the BIF site, but maybe I can manage to buy a better binoculars to compensate for my compromised eyesight, and maybe I can get that Birds of Kansas book.  On the Brewer's Blackbird page, Hiromi's and my name appear as the only people in Kansas who ever reported seeing that bird.  The listing for that marvelous book on Amazon is here.  I've looked at Lowell's family's book and salivated over it, but so far, it's just on my Amazon wish list.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Black and White Dictionary Entries and Gray News

The dictionary that lives beside my desk at school is a hard worker.  It comes willingly at my summons--often multiple times a day.  Rarely a day goes by without it leaving the shelf at least once.  Good old Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary.  The students seem to have been fooled into thinking I just know words.  If they use a dictionary as often as I do, they'll learn words too.


Several times recently when I've read aloud to the students from a magazine or newspaper, I've had the uncomfortable feeling that what I was reading was going right over their heads.  Mind you, this was not my language going over their heads; it was the language of popular media.  When I see this happening, I try to insert some explanation, and I don't apologize for exposing them to language that requires a bit of mental stretching, but I'm a little troubled by the disconnect also.

I wish for enough curiosity on their part to delve into material on the editorial page of the newspaper, and enough interest to read feature articles in the news magazines we get at school.  I'm pretty sure that nothing I can do will be enough to insure that they will exit high school well-informed and literate in the best sense of the word, unless they expend some effort in this regard.


I read aloud two articles today from The Week during the break in the middle of typing class.  If you're familiar with this magazine you already know that it features compilations of writings from a variety of other sources.

For example, today I read one collection of snippets on the recent flareup of conflict between Israel and Gaza.  At least one writer thought Gaza clearly gained ground (figuratively), another thought Israel is in a better place than ever since they were able to achieve "peace" without a ground offensive, and another writer thought nothing much had changed.

The other article had several writers holding forth on whether or not objectionable social media posts, especially by young people, should be preserved on a separate site (, with the potential in the future for haunting the people who posted them.  It's obviously intended as a deterrent to disrespectful (especially racist) posts.  Poor posting judgement could negatively affect college admissions and job prospects.  As you'd expect, some writers thought it served "them" right, and others thought it was wrong to be so vindictive toward "them."

One student who had already expressed an opinion before all the viewpoints were read aloud, said, when I was finished, "How are you supposed to know what to think if you read all those different viewpoints?"  Obvious question, but it hadn't occurred to me that someone might ask.  I love it though when a student practically plops a soapbox down in front of me.

I said some version of the following:  It's important to know that most issues aren't black or white.  There are a few such things, and the Bible tells us what they are, but they aren't these two things (referring to the articles I had just read).  If you get all your news from only one source, you're likely to think that's the only right viewpoint out there, but that's usually not true.  Almost always people with a variety of perspectives all have a piece of the truth, and maybe a piece of error as well.  Things come out looking more gray than black or white.  If you have to write a paper or make a speech on the subject, you'll have to choose a position you can defend, but you'll always need to keep in mind that other people can speak on the same subject and defend a different position.  You don't have to hold a black or white view of these things.  Staying sane and being rational often requires being at peace with uncertainty and mystery.

How would you have answered?


In comp class we've been having fun talking about brothers Sam, Dan, and Noah, who all lived in this community many years ago.  I remember Dan and Noah, but not Sam, who died in his 40s.  Sparking  discussion on this subject is our work on the community writing project for the year--also, an insightful comment from my friend Marian last Sunday.  She puzzled a bit over why the children of these men did not seem to have maintained a strong relationship with their cousins, although they all grew up within one mile of each other.  She identified the extended families of each of these men as having distinct and distinguishing characteristics.  One was intelligent.  Another had a plethora of ministers and missionaries among the descendants.  The third had good business sense.    Marian also referred to a bit of friction she knew about between several of the women married to these brothers.

Some of the students in comp class are descendants of these men.  For the first time, they realized that we have several third-cousin combinations among members of the class.  Trust me, I didn't point this out--too risky among high schoolers who may not want or may too much want connections like this.  Best to let them decide whether or not to wade into the minefield.


In one of those dictionary consults recently, I was much relieved to find this definition for "cow": a domestic bovine animal of any sex or age.  While it will almost certainly grate on the sensibilities of any farm kid or grownup to refer to a young male bovine strolling around in forbidden territory as "that cow that's always getting out,"  it's good to know that whoever says that has the aforementioned Merriam-Webster on his or her side.

I've already noted that I need to moderate  my view of Hiromi's recent announcements about #57, one of the animals in Shane's small beef herd--the animal we've seen at various times across the road in Tim's milo field, strolling around the bend of our "U" driveway by the house, and exploring among the big round hay bales waiting their turn at the winter hay feeder.  Hiromi has called "it" a "cow," a "calf," and a "he."  Such confusing terms were really beginning to annoy me.

"Figure out what it is, so you can use the right term," I suggested pointedly one day.

"What do I know?" he answered--his stock answer when he really means "It doesn't matter and I don't care and you're being slightly annoying."  Nevertheless, the next time he called Shane about the errant bovine individual, he said into Shane's voice mail "and Mommie wants to know if #57 is a boy or girl.  I don't know why she needs to know, but she's been asking me."  He even opened the door where I was showering to make sure I heard him say it into the phone.  I had to laugh but he didn't see it, hidden as I was behind the shower curtain.

"It's a heifer," Shane told us both the other night.  I hope I don't have to explain "heifer" to Hiromi.  This silliness has gone on long enough.


Shane is sure that the electric fence is "smoking hot," so on Sunday night he was picking Myron's brain for clues about why #57 keeps getting out.  "She's not a bit wild," he said.

"It's too dry," Myron said.  "The cattle can walk right through an electric fence without getting shocked when they've got a thick winter coat and there's not enough moisture in the air or soil to create a good 'ground.'  I couldn't keep my cattle inside a small pen once when it was dry--until I laid a soaker hose around the perimeter of the pen and let it run for a whole day."

Sigh.  Rain would be so much simpler than soaker hoses.  Plentiful sunshine is what we have instead.


Tomorrow is the funeral for Barbara Nisly, who died Sunday at age 84.  She was the last Nisly in the Old Order Amish church in Kansas.  Earlier many dozens of people by that name were part of this group.

Barbara's body will be buried at the West Center cemetery--the fourth burial there in as many weeks.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Story of our Church's Motto

Note:  In the post below, I'm using the term "motto" exactly as I would "wall hanging" in cases when the wall hanging has important or memorable words on it.  It's how I heard the word used as I was growing up, but I'm aware that it might not be quite a standard use of the word.  Let me know if you can tell me whether others besides Pennsylvania German language speakers use the term in this way.


About a week ago I embarked on a quest to learn the history of the well-crafted wall hanging at the front of our church.  It's an engraved wooden motto about four  feet wide and a foot high.  Vines, berries,  and flowers twine colorfully around the upper "shoulders," and the first line of text curves up and over a short horizontal chain of larger blue flowers and leaves.  It's framed by darker wood stain outside a darker-still etched line around the perimeter.  The motto contains the words of Psalm 91:1 & 2 which reads like this: "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most high shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress:  my God; in Him will I trust."

The letters are actually formed against a natural-wood varnished background in the decorative Fraktur script  using the following letters:

91:1 Wer unter dem Schirm des Höchsten sitzt und unter dem Schatten des Allmächtigen bleibt,

91:2 der spricht zu dem HERRN: Meine Zuversicht und meine Burg, mein Gott, auf den ich hoffe.

It's German, of course.

Last week at our Wednesday evening service, Judson S. from South Carolina spoke about the work at Fair Play Wilderness Boys' Camp, and it occurred to me before the service that he has a connection to our wall hanging that I wonder if he knows about.  I couldn't quite put it together, but the connection was through his grandmother, whose name is Anna.  I thought maybe Anna herself had talked to me about this wall hanging.  That was all fairly nebulous in my mind and no one I talked to here could tell me what the connection was.  What I knew was that Anna and her young son Marvin had spent an extended period of time in Kansas.  She was from Ohio, but had first cousins here--the children of Noah Mast.  When her husband became mentally ill and had to be hospitalized, she apparently relied for a short time on relatives who could provide some normal family experiences for her son.  She spoke to me very warmly of the time she spent in Kansas.

Judson looked at the motto in the front of our church and said he remembers one much like it hanging in his grandmother's home.  He didn't know where it had come from.

As I recalled it, she gave the motto in our church to the Kansas people as a token of friendship and appreciation.  My father, however, who usually remembers things like this, said he thinks Raymond Wagler--not Anna--gave the motto to the church.  He also remembered that Anna and Marvin had worked for and lived at Raymond Waglers during part of the time they stayed in Kansas.

The more I thought about it, the more likely it seemed that Raymond Wagler had purchased at least two mottoes.  One had been given to the church and the other had been given to Anna while she was here.  Raymond's daughter Ruth did not know about Anna's connection with our church's motto, but she thought too that her dad had given the motto to the church.  She very faintly remembered Marvin and Anna having lived in Kansas.  She thought they had gone back and forth by the week between Raymond's place and Fannie's parents' place, Noah Masts.

Yesterday I received an email from Marvin in which he cleared up the mystery of Anna's connection to our motto.  Raymond Wagler and his wife Fannie, who was Anna's cousin, had given a motto to Anna for Christmas when they were in Kansas in 1954.  Marvin says her motto has Psalm 37:4.  "Delight thyself also in the Lord and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart."  It, too has the German Farktur script, and the way Marvin describes it is very similar to how I would describe the one in our church.

The memory took a while to float to the surface, but I believe I saw Anna's motto hanging in her home in the 1970s when I lived in Ohio while teaching school there.  I don't remember why I was in her home or whether she or I first started talking about the motto, but my information could only have come from her, given the fact that no one around here seems to know anything about her having had it.  I have a mental picture of her sitting in a chair in the corner of a small room (in a trailer perhaps?) with the motto on a section of wall to her right.  The motto took up most of the width of the wall--perhaps adjacent to an opening from the living room to other parts of the house.  

Marvin says further that on the Christmas when His mother received the motto, he got an air rifle from Fred and Katie Mast.  He also says "1954 was one of the richest years of my childhood memories."  Another vivid memory is the first time he saw fireworks--from the roof of Fred Mast's chicken house.

To my knowledge, Anna's husband never recovered enough from his illness to be restored to his family.  I'm glad that in that hard time Anna and Marvin found a refuge here briefly among relatives and friends.

When Judson was here, he talked about another kind of refuge in a wilderness setting for troubled young men.  He is the director of the "refuge" at Fair Play.  With his coming here to speak, the strong cords of friendship, generosity, and service which threaded their way from Kansas to Ohio to South Carolina looped back to Kansas again--taking over 58 years to make the circle.  Two similar lovely German wall hangings remind us and the Schrocks of how we're all linked together in this work of extending a helping hand to those who need it.

Raymond Wagler and his wife Fannie and Fred Mast and his wife Katie are all gone now, but today I celebrate who they were and what they did in 1954.  Yesterday was Anna's 91st birthday, and her mind has begun to fail, but I celebrate her too for living with courage in difficult circumstances and passing on to her son and his family a legacy of faith.

A Sunday Sermon Subtext

Two days ago Dwight preached from I Samuel 8 where the people of Israel demanded of Samuel a king.  Dwight's focus was on understanding that we are complete in Christ and should not make selfish demands of God for more than He has offered us--a good emphasis.  I couldn't help, however, thinking back to a time several decades ago when I  read this passage and saw in it parallels very different from those Dwight talked about.  I won't defend the soundness of my exegesis, but I'll share it anyway.

In the Old Testament story, Israel had been led by judges, but the most recent appointees, Samuel's sons, weren't doing a good job.   The people decided the old system was flawed, and they wanted a governing system like the nations around them had.  They wanted a king.  Samuel wasn't so sure this was a good idea, so he asked God what He thought.  God told Samuel to go ahead and grant the people's request.  Samuel was not to take personally the people's rejection of the judges as leaders.  God made it clear that the rejection was directed toward God and not Samuel.

The people thought it would be a great blessing to have the king go out before them and fight their battles for them.  Ah, but that wasn't the whole picture.  Samuel was told to warn the people of certain things that would transpire if they insisted on following their intention to have a governing system like the people around them.  The king would demand things of them.  He would lay claim to their sons and daughters, and he would extract a great deal of money from the people.  The people would cry out in desperation as they suffered under this new system.  God would allow all this, because He knew that His people would learn some things through this trying experience that they were not prepared to learn otherwise.

I saw in the story in I Samuel 8 a picture of what I believe happened over a period of a century or two in education among Christian people in America.  The old system was home education; the new system was classroom education.  The people wanted the new one when they saw how convenient it was--someone else would go out and fight the education battles every day.

God let the people have what they wanted.  If they had listened, they might have realized that this decision would require much of them--their sons and daughters would no longer live and learn and walk with their parents all day.  Instead  they would be obligated to accomplish what the new education masters required--not only while they were gone, but often in the hours they spent at home.  The people would have to pay money to support the new system of education.  They would eventually feel overwhelmed by what was demanded of them, and they would cry out to God.  God would allow all this to happen.

It all came to pass.  As they cried out, God showed some of the people a way to extract themselves from the new system--all except for the paying money part, which seemed to have permanently replaced the old system.  A few other requirements from the new system remained as well, but many of the benefits of the old system began to return.  Parents began to spend their days with their children again, and they decided what their children would accomplish each day.  Head work and hand work came back into balance for the children.  Play times were usually creative, cooperative activities rather than regimented, competitive activities.  Children could grow up confident, creative, and competent.  They usually loved to learn, although they didn't always love the "school" part of their day.  Evenings were free of school work, and the whole family was free to participate in church and community events whenever they had the opportunity.

It wasn't all roses, especially in households where the father had to leave home each day to go to a job, and the mother was left with most of the work of child rearing.  That piece of the old system (home-based ways of earning a living) was not easy to restore, and without a widespread vision for seeing it restored, very little help was available for accomplishing it.  Returning to the old system in that regard would  have to wait for another day.

God did not forsake His people during their struggle.  Nudging here, encouraging there, He brought circumstances into their lives that would turn their attention to Him.  For everyone who gave heed, God showed a way to  move forward.  The answer was not entirely in a perfect system.  Many battles still remained in every system.  But to those who listened, God showed that the battles were His--not the Kings, not the parents', not the classroom teachers'.  In the strength of Almighty God--the Leader, Father, Teacher, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, moving forward was possible.


In the testimony time after the Sunday sermon LaVerne said that someone his age who is suffering from cancer has in Psalm 106:15 found direction for dealing with her condition.  It says there that God gave Israel their request but He sent leanness into their soul.  The person with cancer sees that demanding healing from God would not be worth the price of experiencing leanness of soul as a result.

In matters of health, education, and governing, a stance of humility before God accomplishes His purposes as no demanding attitude possibly could.


Today's weather forecast:  sunny, calm, and a high of 70 degrees--perfect, in other words.  Most of the week promises similar temperatures.  Tomorrow will be windy though, so today is the day for volleyball outdoors at school.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Third Kingdom and the 1960s

If you're Anabaptist, you've probably heard about the "Two Kingdom" concept.  It's a way to make sense of  knowing that we're part of both an earthly and a heavenly kingdom.  It also helps us think through what our responsibilities are in each of those kingdoms, and what our "separated unto God" identity in the heavenly kingdom means for our participation in matters that involve earthly nations and governments.

This morning in the shower I thought of a third kingdom that Christians really need to consider:  Israel.  That's hardly news to some of you, especially depending on your view of eschatology.  Having never gotten particularly wrapped up with thinking about how end-time events might unfold, I'm content to watch what goes on in Israel with the same concern I try to cultivate for everyone in that "neighborhood" who is part of the turmoil that has often threatened them.  Right now, with lethal objects flying fast and furious between Gaza and Israel's major cities--Jerusalem and Tel Aviv--I grieve for all of them.  No one is safe, and surely many innocent people fear for their own lives and that of their loved ones.

Reading Elias Chacour's story in Blood Brothers makes it impossible for me to see this conflict as being only a Muslim/Jewish conflict, although it's a fact that most of those in Gaza are likely Muslims and those in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are mostly Jewish.  Among both of those populations, however, are some Christians.     Almost certainly, in every one of those populations are many who are willing to live peaceably with those who are different from themselves.  On a one-to-one or neighbor-to-neighbor basis, this may still be possible for some, but they can hardly help being swept along in the turmoil created by aggressive actions taken by their leaders.  What should American Christians think and how should the American government act in this situation?  I really don't know.  I'm praying that those who must decide will do so with Godly wisdom.

In relation to Israel as the third kingdom, a few ideas that seem important to me are these:

The modern nation of Israel is not necessarily equivalent to the Biblical nation of Israel.

The Biblical nation of Israel was how God chose to reveal Himself to all the world of that time.

The Christian church is how God chooses to reveal Himself in our time.

In Old Testament times, Israel was a family, a nation, and a religious group, with God as the leader for all of those groups.  

The United States has never had and will never have the same status in God's eyes as Biblical Israel did--as the sole conveyors of God's truth to the world.  

The nation of Israel, since rejecting Jesus, no longer has the same status with God as they once had--as the sole conveyors of God's truth to the world.  

Neither the ideas of American and Israeli Exceptionalism are defensible from a Christian perspective.

American and Israeli solidarity are no more and no less God's will than solidarity between any two sovereign nations.

Under each of the above points, caveats and softening statements would be possible of course.  I'll let you fill them in yourself rather than try to cover all the bases.


Lydia Yoder is in the hospital.  She is 96 and was taken there to try to get ahead of an infection she had contracted.  The infection has been arrested, but she is weak and uninterested in eating.

Edith Stutzman, who has been at Mennonite Friendship Communities for several years, may have suffered a stroke within the past few days and has not been eating since then.  Her brother Perry from our church was the father of Julia, who died last week.


Loyal and Arlene have a newborn son named Alex Logan Miller.  He was born at Lyons Hospital early yesterday.


  Lorne K., in his devotional this morning, focused on a phrase from last Sunday's SS lesson:  "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I."  He emphasized the "lead me" part, and, with several stories, tied it to events from the 1960s and to the pervasive search for meaning present in many young people of that era.  As he put it, people like himself who were teenagers in the 60s are now in their 60s.  While he acknowledged that teenagers have challenges no matter when they grow up, the 60s were especially full of turmoil.

I was, of course, also a teenager in the 60s, and I have never tried to describe in writing how it was to be a teenager then.  Last year, when one of my composition class students did a research paper on the hippie movement, I realized that this era is much more full of mystery for my students than it is for me.  Although the student who wrote that research paper did a good job, I'd like to add my personal perspective.

These observations and memories will not be comprehensive, but I'll record a bit of how it was, from my perspective.

The following elements were part of the mix:

The Viet Nam War.  Many anti-war protests took place.

Civil Rights for Blacks.  Martin Luther King led peaceable marches and Malcolm X advocated violent protest.  Both of them were assassinated, as was Medger Evers, another peaceable black rights advocate.

Dissatisfaction with the status quo.  The materialism and complacency of many Americans disgusted young people who saw their lives as devoid of meaning.  Many of them became hippies--people who dropped out of society and its normal expectations.

Experimentation with drugs.  Timothy Leary, a UCLA Berkley and Harvard professor, advocated the use of LSD and other psychedelic drugs.  Many hippies became drug addicts.

Rock and Roll music.  The Beatles became popular during this time, and they popularized this music.

Women's Liberation Movement.  Strident feminism came to the fore, but part of the movement emphasized workplace reform such as equal pay for equal work and freedom from sexual discrimination or harassment.

Eastern Mysticism.  Many hippies traveled to India and other places in Asia in search of religious experience.  Americans often traveled by way of Amsterdam and Afghanistan, with stops along the "trail" in places where free sex or hallucinogenic drugs were readily available.

Riots.  Many of the protests became destructive and violent.  Fires, looting, and shootings occurred in cities and on college campuses.  At Kent State University in Ohio, police shot several student protesters.  This created great turmoil among students.

Sexual promiscuity.  It was often referred to as "free love" but could  just as accurately have been called bondage to immorality.  Woodstock, a Rock and Roll festival in a New England (or was it New York?) town by that name became known for the accompanying debauchery in drugs and sex especially.

If you lived through this era or know something about what transpired, feel free to add to the list or clarify or modify it as needed.

The Winner

The winner of Tea and Trouble Brewing is Sue Beachy Kauffman.

One little detail I forgot when I posted other contest details is that I would need to know how to contact the winner to get a mailing address.  Fortunately Sue has a Xanga blog I could backtrack to.  Unfortunately, Xanga never likes my attempts to sign in, so my nice comment on her last post did not post.  I sent her a message via Facebook.  Unless she knows to check the "other" tab on her message list, she will not likely see my message.  I learned about the "other" tab only this evening and didn't realize that any messages from non-friends automatically go there.

Sue, if you're reading this, email me at with your mailing address, and I'll get the book mailed out to you.  If one of Sue's friends sees this and wants to let her know, that would be wonderful.

Thank you to all who entered the contest.  I had a lot of fun reading your family history notes and learning a bit about you.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tea and Trouble Brewing

The part of Dorcas Smucker’s newest book Tea and Trouble Brewing that tells about her performing midwifely duties for one of her father’s milk goats caught my high school students a little off guard when I read it to them last week.  The story was buried in the chapter called “Discovering Dad’s Past” and they never saw it coming.  To their credit, they laughed aloud, and in the process, caught exactly what I wanted them to catch. Well-written family history is fun to read.

Before I read the story I told my composition class about several of the little connections we Mennonites love to uncover, share,  and celebrate.  I said that Dorcas had grown to adulthood in Minnesota, in the church and community where our school’s principal, Mr. Schrock, lived as a child.  The chapter I read aloud told the story of Dorcas having traveled to speak at a meeting in Oklahoma where I had gone to hear her.  On that same trip she visited the windswept farm on which her father lived as a child.  Dorcas’s Uncle Jonny, who 80 years ago planted the water lilies Dorcas saw still growing in the stock tank on that farm, now lives several hundred yards down the road from our school.

There’s more.  My father and Dorcas’s father, Amos Yoder, were friends as young men–both college-educated anomalies among the Amish people whose faith and lifestyle they embraced.  My mother grew up in the Iowa community where Dorcas was born, and some of the people who still live there are related to both of us.  At least 50 years ago, for one day, I visited the one-room school my mother used to attend, and Dorcas’s father was the teacher.  

My students were spared some of the details with which I have just inundated you.  The main point of reading the story to them was to provide a picture of how they might carry out an assignment I’ve  given them.  They are to write narratives taken from their own family history.  Dorcas, with whom I hope they now feel some connection, showed them how it’s done and saved me the trouble.

Most of Dorcas’s book, while often reflective and thoughtful, zeroes in on the varied Smucker family events of last week or the week before that.  Her farmhouse has windows on a very wide world–from floating among the hippos in Lake Victoria in Kenya to fishing in an Oregon River, wearing up-to-the-armpits waders, because it pleased the son who used to live in an orphanage in Kenya.    Dorcas learned to fish in Ontario lakes when she lived there in an isolated Indian community when her oldest children were small.

On the homier side of the farmhouse windows, animal babies are sometimes nurtured indoors, and rambunctious boys and an inquisitive husband can’t resist experimenting with fire and explosives and air under pressure in a big canner.  Arguments between opinionated family members erupt regularly without apparent damage to anyone’s psyche.  Interspersed throughout Dorcas’s stories are bulls-eye lines like this one, after Dorcas unwittingly embarrassed her son in front of a stranger: “Ben looked deflated, his teenage-macho-meter points plunging into the negatives.”  All of us who have raised boys or who associate with high school students recognize this description as being precisely on target.

Prior personal family-and-friends connections with Dorcas are clearly not essential for squeezing lots of pleasure from her writings.  One story after another is fertile enough for such connections to sprout and grow a little stronger with every encounter. Dorcas’s life is the ordinary stuff of our lives as well, highlighted in her case with skill and grace and humor.  Her piercing perspective gives us eyes for the significance of events in our own experience, and her reflections prompt us to look for meaning in those events and circumstances.  I hope you decide to buy a book and see it all for yourself.  

Courtesy of Dorcas, I’m giving away an autographed copy of Tea and Trouble Brewing to one of the people who responds to this post in a comment.  Please include one detail, snippet, or story from your own family history, along with anything else you’d like to say.  You should know that all comments are routinely moderated and will not appear instantly on the blog–my way of avoiding spam or inappropriate content.  I’ll do the drawing on Sunday, November 18, probably around 5:00 CST, announce the results on this blog, and mail the book out after that.

Anyone who wants a book and fails to win it here or elsewhere can order it directly from Dorcas by mailing $15.00 to 31148 Substation Drive, Harrisburg, OR 97446.  This price includes postage.  All four of her books can be purchased from Dorcas for $40.00, again including postage.  If you wish to pay by credit card, Amazon is the best option.  Here’s the link.  


My granddaughter, Arwen Elizabeth, had the amazing good fortune to arrive last evening, hearty and hungry, just in time for the announcement to be appended to this post.  She was born to Joel and Hilda, their first child, our second grandchild.  Her arrival is an important milestone in our family history and in our nation’s history (OK, that was over dramatized.) because, according to credible personal research, she is the very first female Iwashige ever to be born on American soil–a Virginia Dare born right in our own family.

Arwen weighed in at 9 lb. 2 oz. and measured 21 inches long.  Unlike our first grandchild, who is astonishingly blond, this one has the black hair one would expect from a baby with Asian ancestry.

Arwen’s first name is of Welsh origin.  With a Tristan and a Shane already in the family, you might suspect family origins in the British Isles rather than on the European mainland and in Japan, but no.  Cosmopolitan, I’d like to think.  The name means fine, fair, noble maiden.  Those who are Lord of the Rings literate will recognize the name from that story.  Joel is a great fan of such literature, and the baby’s full name wonderfully reflects her parents’ characteristics–knowledgeable, classy, a little edgy, and rock-solid all at the same time.  My mother’s middle name is Elizabeth, so the name choice echoes family fealty also.


And now that you’ve seen a bit of “Babies and Bragging Brewing” please turn your attention back to the first subject of this post: Tea and Trouble Brewing.  Buy it, read it, and be inspired and entertained.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

A number of years ago, in a big stack of homeschooling magazines I plucked out of the free box at the public library, I found many glowing tributes to a homeschooling  mother named Susie.  Susie had just died, and many, many other homeschoolers lauded her accomplishments and encouragements.  In a celebration of life after her death (From this distance I can't remember how it corresponded to a traditional funeral.) one dear friend got up and explained that she was afraid Susie's halo was getting uncomfortable by now, and she just wanted everyone to know that Susie died with a messy house.  That apparently provided some emotional release for everyone.  The room exploded in laughter.

I've thought often of that "testimony" about Susie--maybe because I can imagine something similar happening after I'm gone, and I'm glad to know that I'll be beyond blushing or feeling shame if that happens.  I've thought of it for other reasons as well, especially when I contemplate how I feel after the death of someone whose record is publicly known to be significantly flawed, depending on whether that record is acknowledged or not.

When death occurs, some of us feel compelled to extract meaning from the life just past.  Others struggle to find healing from hurts inflicted by the one who has died.  Perhaps others would like to see, once-and-for-all, vindication for someone who was misunderstood, treated unjustly, or marginalized in life.  Maybe for those who lived with the deceased person, there's a desire for understanding and affirmation of what they experienced.  All of the above desires might be mixed together, with an overwhelming desire as well to have godly responses to all that life and death have brought.  To me it seems clear that all of these desires are met most predictably when "the good, the  bad, and the ugly" regarding the deceased person's life are all laid out as clearly as a love for truth requires.

Recently, someone who is typically a paragon of restraint in word choices expressed to me a deep dislike for "making a saint out of someone after they die when everyone knows they weren't."  Well said.

I can't speak from personal experience about having been extremely close to someone who has died after having hurt me deeply, or who was in special need of vindication, or in whose care or company I have toiled and suffered long,  but I do know what it means to desire to find meaning in the record of lives lived imperfectly.  I've concluded that I can far more easily appreciate the good that was present if I can separate out and freely acknowledge and reject what was not praiseworthy.  Doing that requires humility about my own flaws, recognizing that others have as much right to examine my record as I have to examine theirs.

"I'm glad we were able to be honest . . . " a family member of the deceased said after the death of someone with a flawed record, acknowledging that such honesty has not always been the case.  I'm glad too.  That's the best way to make sure a life past does as much good as it possibly can.

Labels and Lists

This morning in church one of our patriarchs prayed that President Obama would receive Jesus and become a Christian.  I think the president would have been surprised to hear this prayer.  I don't think the Lord was surprised, based on the fact that He is never surprised at what people do.  I also believe that the Lord heard in the prayer a desire to bless the president and intercede for our country.

The president describes himself as a baptized Christian.  In a book which he wrote long before he became politically active, he describes his turn toward Christianity, which represented a dramatic shift from how he was raised.  He describes a spiritual experience in about four pages of the book Dreams from my Father.
No water baptism record can be found and the church where Obama first became a member apparently has membership rituals that do not necessarily include water baptism.  Membership classes and walking to the front during a public meeting afterward are part of the ritual.

One of my overwhelming impressions from reading his life story as he wrote it is how irreligious his upbringing had been.  There were a few religious schools in his background, however.  For a time he attended a Catholic school in Hawaii.  Later he attended a Muslim school when his mother married an Indonesian man and moved there with her young son.  Most of the time he attended public schools.

Obama's American grandfather was a restless man who moved his family from Kansas to one or more other mainland states until finally moving them all to Hawaii when their daughter, Obama's mother, was still at home.  It was there, in college, that she met and married Barack's father, who abandoned the family before long to attend school in the northeastern part of the U.S. mainland.  Later he returned to his homeland, Kenya, and, when Barack was ten years old, he came to visit his ex-wife and son.  It was the only time Barack remembers seeing his father.  When he visited Kenya much later, his father had already died.

Obama's mother deliberately turned away from Christianity to secularism as a youth.  His birth father was a secular Muslim.  When Barack's mother remarried in Hawaii, the family moved to the new husband's homeland, Indonesia--a largely Muslim country.  Young Barack loved his first few years there, but eventually became dissatisfied, so he was sent back to Hawaii to live with his grandparents, who were nonreligious.  His mother followed some time later, after her second marriage failed.  It was after college, while working as a community organizer in Chicago, that he began to work with local churches on social projects and apparently reconsidered his "default" rejection of Christianity.  He began to attend church and, it was there that he experienced a spiritual  awakening.

In search of further information about Obama's faith, I just now read a seemingly well-researched piece that declared that Obama could not be a Christian because he had not received water baptism, either as an infant or as an adult.  Hmmmm.  I don't think that was exactly the logic the aforementioned patriarch from our church was employing this morning.

I think it's far more likely that he had heard pre-packaged, pre-election, second-hand political rhetoric painting the president with broad "enemy-of-Christianity" strokes.  His positions on gay marriage and abortion lend some credence to that characterization, because they do not reflect truth as found in Scripture--the Christian guidebook.

How do you see it?  Are you inclined to believe someone who self-identifies as a Christian?  Do you distinguish between a Christian-by-association or a born-again Christian?  How is it with Muslims?  Do you assume that anyone who associates with Muslims is therefore himself a Muslim, or do you distinguish between association or personal commitment?  How about Communism or Marxism?  The piece I just read included that in the list of religious beliefs to be examined and labeled.

I'd rather not make pronouncements about Obama's standing with God.  In the personal commitment department I see more evidence for Christianity than Muslim faith or Communism.  I do desire for him a personal relationship with Christ--the kind that finds a friend in Jesus, but also a Savior and Lord.  I desire to see love for others, commitment to honesty, integrity, kindness, generosity, and humility before the King of Kings.  I also desire to see him affirm the sanctity of all human life and the masterful, holy design of marriage as created in the Garden of Eden.  In my private prayers I will be likely to pray along such lines.

After the election last week, I made a handwritten list with three headings:

Things I'm Sad About (Things I think would have been better if the other presidential candidate had won.)
Things I'm Glad About (Things I think will be better with this candidate.)
Things I Feel Neutral About (This list contained items that I thought would likely have been similar regardless of who had won the presidential election.)

I'm not a glutton for punishment, and feel no desire to wear political labels of any kind, so I'll let you guess what might have been on those lists--or which list was the longest.  Better yet, I encourage you to make your own lists.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Stressors and Cows

Last night over supper with Hiromi, in the process of telling him how much I was enjoying the evening at home and the prospect of an unscheduled day today, I listed all the things that I have found stressful of late.  Until I named them, I had very little idea of the size to which this pile of stressors had grown.  He listened agreeably and sympathetically, which, as we all know, is most likely to happen when the list does not include anything that could possibly be construed as blame directed toward the listener.  It was the straightforward unedited version too.  Editing would have taxed my tired brain unduly, so it was a good thing the "spilled" version worked.

Unstressed for the moment, I can count my blessings--

1.  Two funerals one week apart involving the families of teachers at our school are past.  The schedule disruptions involved are history, and the emotional energy of the events has mostly been expended.

2.  We know now who will fill our government offices for one more term.  I'm happy that this is decided, and happy that our immediate duties toward office-holders are clear, especially the praying one.  I'm especially happy that some of the lead-in rhetoric is behind us.  Loyalty to a candidate doesn't bother me, but rancor, black-and-white-open-shut-take-it-from-one-who-really-KNOWS words and attitudes really stress me, especially when it comes from someone I'm responsible for or close to.

3.  Some urgent and sticky situations at school are closed cases for now.

4.  The plan for comp class for the next few weeks is on paper and has been communicated to the class.

5.  The small-comforter-like play mat I'm making for Joel and Hilda's baby got knotted before the baby arrived, thanks to help from Hilda, Susanna, and Susie Peters--after a lovely meal at Susie's house.  We finished Tristan's AFTER he arrived, so this is progress.

6.  I decided to order Menumailer again.  My meal planning skills have gone down the tubes in the presence of the aforementioned stressors.

7.  Troubling aspects of situations involving  family friends seem to be moving in the right direction, after some risky input on my part actually worked out well.

8.  The salad I made for yesterday's funeral was delivered on time and the bowl came back clean and empty.

9.  The book I kept forgetting to take to school for Marsha for her research subject was delivered to our church mailbox where she will pick it up today when she helps clean the church for a Spanish class fundraiser.

10.  Lowell and David have presumably arrived at their destination in India.

11.  I feel agreed with and affirmed in several small ways, which no one but Hiromi knows I noticed.  (He doesn't accuse me of bragging or gloating when I tell him such things--which is very nice of him.)

12.  I finally got my bone-dry house plants watered.

13.  Marian is coming today, which is a good thing, given the fact that our regular housecleaning day got displaced two weeks in a row with funerals.

14.  Barbara H. from Iowa brought me a half a suitcase full of tuberoses bulbs or corms or whatever they are, when she came here by train for Ervin's funeral.  She was here a month earlier for a wedding and told me then that she was sorry she hadn't thought to bring them along for  me.  This has been one very beneficial fellow cutflower grower friendship.

15.  I've dug and stored the Calla lily bulbs for this year.

16.  Twice, last night, when there were unexpected knocks on the door while Hiromi was gone, it was friends, Josh and Darrell and Karen, and they needed things I could point them to--a little gas for Josh to get home on, and the black freezer for the young couple hosting a big family event today.  They had talked to Shane about where his discounted meat could be found.  Much better than scary strangers with strange requests.


I've gotten some additional details on an earlier post.  Louisa was present after the disaster involving a trailer load of cattle; she was busy harvesting the bounty the Lord provided after she and Sheldon had prayed for a cow--to eat, presumably.  It gets better.  She left her husband at home, asleep in bed while she did this, because he had to get up at 3:00 AM to go to work for Abner, making peanut brittle.  It must have reminded her of an earlier era when she and her brother Levi would collaborate on various ventures, before Sheldon was in the picture.

Levi was all over this one--calling for help, rounding up the corral to confine the cattle still on the hoof,  clearing everything with the driver of the truck, who was also the owner of the cattle.  Levi had come upon the accident right after it happened.  He is a farmer who is fond of his animals and the sight of this measure of distress for the animals and the farmer acquaintance who owned them propelled  him to swift action.  He talked to me about some of this one evening last week after school when he was apparently helping to finish up the MCC canner project.

The cow (I always agonize over this term.  How do I know it was an older adult female bovine, after all, instead of a young female bovine, or instead of a male bovine--one of several types, depending on the intactness or alteration of certain body parts?)--the cow on the road was one of the casualties, and I'm no longer sure whether there was a steep bank involved, although I'm sure Jonny said there was.  The truck and trailer traveled into a roadside field, at any rate--actually a very specific uncontrolled rate, probably, but I digress again--and the cause of death for the animals that did not survive was suffocation.    There now.  That covers the details I can remember at the moment.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

A Perspective on the Election

Two death messages in one day very effectively provide perspective for the significance of this election day.  What happens today in the election might make a difference for two years or four years or six years (and maybe it won't make much difference at all), but for those who died today, it was the first day of an eternity on the other side of the Great Divide.  For those left behind, life on earth has changed forever. 


In our community, Julia Stutzman (40) died this evening.  I've written about her before.  In her trusting, childlike way she proceeded confidently toward this event.  Five days ago she was present at another viewing, and nine days ago she was in church on communion Sunday.  She's been on morphine for some time, and that helped make possible her participation in whatever she felt like participating in.  

Punctual and methodical, Julia filled her place reliably.  To the little children, she was known for possessing a ready supply of candy, and she often rocked a baby after church.  Like others in her family--Lyle, for example--she sang effortlessly--far less trained than Lyle, but possessing a good deal of the same natural singing ability.  

With Julia's passing, her parents, Perry and Judith, will be empty-nesters for the first time since Julia was born.  Because she was mildly mentally handicapped, she did not leave home, although she had her own living quarters in a basement house next to her parents' house.  


I did not know Rachel Witmer, who also died today in an accident which took place in the community in Colorado where she had gone to help prepare for her son's wedding this weekend.  The prospective bride's family was here this past weekend to attend the funeral of the 94 year old family patriarch, Ervin Miller--father and grandfather.

Rachel's death seems untimely and ill-placed in the extreme--several days before a family wedding, several states away from her present home, and likely much farther away than that from her community of origin.    I suspect it will take a long time for anyone to  make sense of this.  I know though that there will be a determination to believe that God has good purposes in mind for all involved, and this tragedy will not thwart His purposes.  


Julia's death seems good by contrast to Rachel's.  She was in her own home, surrounded by family and friends.  Preparations could be made ahead of time, and advancing illness made release from suffering a welcome prospect.  The sorrow I know is present, however, makes me wish it didn't have to happen this way.  Death just isn't pretty, no matter how "ideal" we want to believe it can be.  


I'll probably check in on the election results before I go to bed.  If it looks like Romney's winning, I'll sleep well.  If Obama wins, I'll sleep just as well.  Winning and losing when the stakes are as piddley as a presidential election probably isn't that big a deal.  

I'll make sure though that I spend some more time praying for the Stutzman and Witmer families.  That feels like a big deal.  

Monday, November 05, 2012

Elections, Eyelids, and Ervin Miller Stories

I laugh to myself every time I read or hear someone say, "If you don't vote, don't complain about how things turn out."  This usually comes from someone whom I perceive to be defensive both about voting and complaining.

To me the injunction comes across as high-octane bloviation.  I don't need a commandment to "get" that message.  I already live that way.  At least concerning the presidential elections, I don't vote and I don't complain about how it turns out.  There's plenty to be glad about and plenty to be concerned about regardless of the outcome.

I fully expect to wake up on Wednesday morning with exactly the same measure of optimism and pessimism about the future as I did this morning--unless the results of the election are not clear, in which case I will allow myself a sigh.


My right eyelid is maddeningly itchy this evening next to my nose, apparently on the same course as the skin around the outer corner of the same eye, which started out itchy this morning and is a little sore this evening.  I don't expect it to interfere with my vision, but I am not enamored with the prospect of a narrow-slitted, puffy-lidded eye for all  my students to have to look at tomorrow.


I posted on Facebook this morning a link to an excellent article that Joel alerted me to in one of the comments on an earlier post.  I'm going to re-post the link here in case we're not connected on Facebook and you happen to be interested in the subject.

The link below is to an outstanding treatment of subjects swirling through discussions in our churches. Two warnings: The article is 31 typewritten pages long, and will take a bit of time to read. I had to wait to do so till I found some time, 
but it's well worth the effort. The other warning has to do with a recurring misspelling: "hearing" instead of "healing." I feel very good about Hiebert's treatment of a sometimes controversial subject. 


Several years ago, Ervin Miller gave me a handwritten document in which he reminisced about the past.  He wanted it "written up" properly.  Because I couldn't always decipher it, Hiromi suggested that I type it first exactly as he wrote it and ask him then to mark corrections on a printed copy.  When we gave him the printed copy, he was horrified at how incoherent it was, and we never got back a corrected copy.  Several of Ervin's sons read the copy and corrected some of the details they had knowledge of.  I now have the uncorrected copy in my electronic files, but have lost track of the corrected hard copy.  I remember a bit of it, however.

As a favor to the family, I'd like to write some of those memories here.  They are often more nearly like snapshots than stories.  I run the risk of getting a few of the details wrong, and I will invite any family members who know the details to correct them.

Ervin had dementia at the end of his life.  It's not clear to me how much his mind was affected at the time he wrote the paper he gave me.  A note I wrote him after I had typed it is dated December 19, 2009.  My impression is that some things were not clear in his mind at that time, but most of his childhood memories may have been clear.


Memories of His Mother's Family in Illinois

Ervin traveled  with his mother to Illinois by train when he was three years old.  A ticket cost $20-30.00 at that time.  This was a trip Ervin's mother Josephine (Feeny) made every three years.  During their time there, Ervin remembers asking his mother for a piece of bread with "lotvac" (apple butter).  She prepared a piece for him and then unthinkingly started eating it herself.  Ervin's tears brought her back to her senses, and she gave Ervin the rest of the piece.  He remembers his aunts laughing at Feeny's mistake.

Feeny's brother, who was quite young, (Ervin remembers him as being 12 or 13) built wagons and a variety of other items from wood.  The child Ervin tagged along with his uncle and enjoyed their time together a great deal.

Perhaps at later visits, Ervin witnessed his grandfather's diligence in reading his Bible daily.  For the last six of his 82 years he had slowed down to reading only 4 or 5 chapters a day.  Ervin may have been 12 when his grandfather died.

After Ervin's grandfather died, his widow lived in a Dawdy (Grandpa or Grandparent, in this case) house by herself.  Every morning she had to have a few eye drops put in both eyes.  She died one Sunday evening when Ervin was 17.


Childhood Illness

Ervin was a sickly child.  When he was 13, he was able to attend school only six days that school year.  He spent 30 days in the hospital at Weatherford, OK.

One morning, in preparation for the nurse's visit, he got up and made his bed around 7:00 in the morning and then lay down again on top of the covers.  When the nurse arrived and found him there, she asked why he hadn't slept under the covers.  "I did," he answered.  "I already fixed my bed.  I expected you to come sooner."  She believed him.

At the age of 16, Ervin's tonsils were removed in the doctor's office on Main Street in Thomas, OK.  While waiting for the anesthesia to take hold, the nurse asked him who his girlfriend was.  That was the last thing he remembered until he woke up after the surgery.  On the way home, only a short distance from town, sudden bleeding made his father turn around quickly to go back to the doctor's office.  The doctor got the bleeding stopped soon, and to his father's surprise, Ervin was allowed to go home that day yet, although it was dark by the time they got there.

To be continued.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Long Exhale

This week my life included frantic finishing up of grade cards, two long evenings of parent-teacher conferences, a lot of time spent designing  a current events study on zoonoses--not zoo noses, but zoe-uh-noe-ses, teaching four composition and typing classes and one Bible class, attending a funeral, reading a very intense book on reactive attachment disorder (RAD)--Dandelion on My Pillow, Butcher Knife Beneath, listening to CD's on the book Heaven is for Real, and trying out the treadmill.  I also cogitated further on a book I read last week, How to Set Boundaries with your Adult Children--not because I feel that I'm in a crisis with my children, but I know others who are in crisis with theirs, and I'd like to be able to help.  For the first time in a number of weeks, I don't have anything to go to or any immediate deadline hanging over my head, although I need to get caught up with some grading.

My compressed brain is beginning to bloom again--not to be confused with blinking again.


Last week the results of a recent ballot were announced, in which the vote carried by a 4% majority to do any school construction on a site separate from a church.  Ervin Miller's funeral today reminded me of one reason why that makes good sense--perhaps the best reason of all.  The grade school had to clear out for calling hours yesterday afternoon and the funeral today because they could not both carry on at the same time in the same space.  The high school continued in a slightly altered format, with any students who attended the funeral being freely excused, and Wesley being the only teacher for much of the day.  Ervin was the grandfather of my co-teacher, Norma, so  not all classes continued as usual.  If the funeral had been at CCC, the high school would have had to be dismissed.  

With more than 40 people in our area churches age 80 or older,  we all know that funerals will be frequent in the years to come.   It would be nice to be able to continue with school when that happens.  

I heard from several people who voted in favor of doing school construction at a church--probably Center.  The reasons I heard for doing so included these:

1.  Economics--cheaper than starting new
2.  Simplifying the preservation of a distinctively religious character in education
3.  Minimizing a sense of entitlement for children--deliberately not choosing the biggest and best and forcing a certain level of accommodation for all involved
4.  A desire to see less money invested in local infrastructure and more invested in evangelism

On the other side of the question (building at a different site), in my circle of contacts, these reasons were given in favor of doing so:

1.  Potential awkwardness of building at a church if the sponsoring churches do not continue in exactly the same configuration as they are now
2.  Complications of building at a church if the grade school and high school are ever to be combined at the same location
3.  Clouding the lines of responsibility by building at a church because of how it reinforces the idea that education is primarily a church duty instead of a parental duty
4.  Keeping the school separate from other large gathering places makes a desirable statement about the value of education as distinct from recreation or socializing, and helps preserve a reverent atmosphere for places of worship and other milestone ceremonies.
5.  Better potential for accessing a rich natural environment at a separate location.  (Yeah, that last one was mine, although the shelterbelt across the road is a nice feature at Center.)

If you're interested in this discussion, feel free to weigh in with what seems important to  you.  


The high school boys have a campout planned for tonight.  I'm glad the weather is beautiful, unlike last weekend when the young people nearly froze at their retreat in an unheated facility.  Wesley plans to stay with them.


The expected arrival of Joel and Hilda's baby coincides with the time of year when deer/car accidents reach their peak.  I hope the deer stay far away if there's a need for a night time run to the birth center.


Jonny came to school last week with a tale of having spent a very unusual night just before the day when he told me the story.  He and a group of other men had spent most of the night--till 3:00 AM, gutting and presumably skinning about 13 cattle that had been severely injured or killed in an accident.  

Jonny had missed some of the earlier excitement when a big truck pulling a huge gooseneck trailer encountered a bovine on the hoof in the roadway.  He swerved to avoid hitting it and, as a result, he lost control and his truck and trailer went down over a very steep bank.  Somewhere along the line the trailer twisted upside down and came to rest against a power line pole, with severely scrambled cattle inside the trailer.  Before Jonny arrived officers and emergency workers had used the "Jaws of Life" to wrench an opening into the trailer to allow the live cattle to exit.  Apparently one irate animal that did so injured a firefighter before the cattle were all confined in a temporary corral.  The firefighter was the only one who had to go to the hospital.  Amazingly, the driver of the truck escaped injury.

The meat cooled naturally overnight, and plans were made to tackle further processing today.

The term "roadkill" just acquired an expanded definition in my mind.  Before, the fate that that bovine on the hoof escaped is what I thought the term meant.  I hope the term doesn't expand further in other people's minds during the consumption of a meal that includes beef.

The accident happened several miles south of Jake Kings in the Arlington area.


Random fact:  Ervin Miller's parents were Joseph and Josephine.  I sat across the table from Josephine's niece and namesake during the meal that followed the funeral.  From her I learned that they used to call Ervin's mother "Feeny."

How many such couples do you know--with the wife's name being an elaboration of the husband's?  I know Don and Donna, but surely somewhere a couple has one of the following combinations:

Glen and Glenda (or Glendora)
Daniel and Danielle
Carl and Carla
Gerald and Geraldine
Henry and Henrietta
Harry and Harriet
Paul and Paula
Joel and Joelle
Eugene and Eugenia
Loren and Lorene
Ken and Kendra


And now I am officially going to bed without setting an alarm.  

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Re-Post in Honor of Ervin Miller

Thanks to my sister Linda for suggesting that I re-post this in honor of Ervin J. Miller, who will be buried tomorrow.  I wrote it five years ago in honor of his wife Mary, and Ervin loved the piece.

How to Bury a Saint

Yesterday I attended the funeral of Mary Martha, who has been part of our church community for 88 years. Her seven children, 40 of her 46 grandchildren, and all but eight of her 33 great grandchildren gathered to bid their final goodbye, along with hundreds of friends. One of her sons came from Romania for the funeral and a daughter came from El Salvador. A grandson in Thailand and one in Bangladesh were unable to be here.

She lived in the tradition of the Biblical sisters Mary and Martha--like Martha cooking generous and tasty meals for housefuls of company, and like Mary, putting aside her duties regularly to fellowship with her Lord.

One of her sons, when he was a child on his way to the bathroom at four o'clock in the morning, found her sitting at her sewing machine. She wasn't sewing. "Mama, what are you doing?" he asked.

"I'm praying," she answered.

"Why are you praying?"

"Because I have five boys and I don't know how to raise them. I'm asking God to show me." she replied. Now, nearly 50 years later, it's clear that she heard from God and followed up on what she learned. Three of her children work full time in Christian ministries. Another son is a pastor in our church. All her children are faithful Christians.

I remember when I was an adolescent and Mary Martha taught our Sunday School class, she asked us one day if we knew the song "How Beautiful Heaven Must Be." Shy in the presence of our peers, none of us admitted to knowing the song, so she proceeded to sing it for us. I thought of her singing yesterday and reflected on the fact that she had been anticipating for many decades the beauty she is enjoying now.

All these happy reminisces and bright thoughts of heaven collide cruelly however with the earthy realities of needing to dispose properly of a dead body when someone dies. I understand why in many cases a casket stays safely perched over an open grave till the crowd disperses and the heavy equipment can be brought in. But I like the way Mary Martha was buried, and I hope our way of burial never changes.

Mary Martha's grandsons were pallbearers. They helped some of the brothers from the church carefully lower the casket into the hole in the ground beside her mother's grave. Then, as carefully as husky young men are capable of, shovelful by shovelful, the cavity was filled in around the edges of the casket. And then the parade of assistants began to step forward to relieve the pallbearers. One by one they took a shovel and helped to bury Mary Martha's worn-out body. Sons, granddaughters, pastors, nephews, nieces, friends, even a very small great grandson who noticed a few clods that rolled off the mound when the job was nearly finished and picked them up carefully and tossed them onto the pile--no one labored sad and alone, or hurriedly and mechanically to finish the task. Children looked on and learned about caring for each other when death visits. Hymns filled the air as the crowd softly sang along with the appointed singers. Mourners huddled shoulder to shoulder to break the force of the stiff and hot south Kansas wind to keep dust from blowing into the eyes of the family members seated downwind in the shade of a tent. Passing traffic droned and roared by turns. (The new highway turned aside for the cemetery, but the traffic intrudes nonetheless.) The pastor's voice rose above it all. Dust to dust, ashes to ashes. . . the spirit has returned to God Who gave it. . . death is swallowed up in victory. . .

"Does death get any better than this?" one person asked during Mary Martha's funeral.

By helping each other around her grave, all of us together helped answer that question with a firm "no."