Prairie View

Monday, March 23, 2015

Funeral Plans for Matthew Schrock

Matthew Schrock died this morning, shortly before 9:00.  Details of the calling hours and funeral are copied from the Facebook post of Matthew's oldest son, Joshua:

Calling hours:
Friday, March 27, 2:00-4:00pm and 6:00-8:00pm, John Quint Treboni Funeral Home, 1177 W 5th Ave, Columbus, OH 43212
Saturday, March 28, 9:30am-12:00pm, Messiah Amish Mennonite Church, 5237 OH-557 Millersburg, OH 44654
Funeral Service:
Saturday, March 28, 2:00pm, Messiah Amish Mennonite Church, 5237 OH-557 Millersburg, OH 44654

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sunday Wrapup--3/22/2015

I hardly know how to act with the prospect of a week of spring break ahead, starting tomorrow.  Do I even need to think about going to bed at a responsible hour?  Maybe not.

Shane's family spent the evening here--starting with an impromptu walk-around-outside-and-talk-about-growing-things activity, closely linked to a see-a-rabbit-and-shoot-it activity--twice this evening.

Before that we had a short admire-the-new/used-minivan session.  It was purchased in Texas, and pickup was accomplished while incorporating a visit to Craig and Rachel's family.  Dorcas and Rachel are sisters.

After we came inside Hiromi cooked up a big batch of fried rice, and that was our impromptu supper.

It was a gorgeous spring day.

The tiny blue scilla and one lone blue/purple crocus are in bloom, along with the Forsythia and Nanking Cherry bushes.  


I think we need help naming our cats.  So far we have only "Cat" and "Holstein Cat."  Hiromi declares that "Cat" thinks she's a dog.  He bases this on the begging and pleading she is capable of--sitting plaintively outside the patio doors and fixing a steady gaze on Hiromi in the dining room, and then mouthing a meow, which Hiromi understands perfectly to mean "Aren't you forgetting to serve my meal?"


There's not a lot new to report on Matthew's condition.  Clara says she thinks there continues to be decline, but not a steep decline.


Titus and Sherry's little Kole Lorne Yutzy was in church for the first time today.  His just-turned 2-years-old twin brothers and 4-year-old sister no doubt make getting to church quite a production.


Emily Y. is subpoenaed to appear in court next week on the day the man who entered their house and her room on New Year's Eve faces charges.  He fled in great haste when he discovered that the house was not empty as he thought.  Emily is not eager for this court appearance to happen, but has little choice in the matter.


Hiromi recently made a number of copies of an NHK (Japan TV station) Production that was filmed here in 1994--21 years ago.  The recording also included a number of the outtakes of the filming.  Already it's quite a treasure trove of memories, with a number of people shown active and well who have now passed on or become very feeble.  Another marvel is how the little children have changed.  Shane was eight and Grant was six.  The filming happened in a communion service on the day that my niece Megan was born, and I was caring for Christopher during church.


I've discovered a compelling reason to plant more of those white and green tomatoes that some members of my food production class tried last year.  I like a tall glass of fresh "green" juice as a major component of breakfast.  The usual ingredients are spinach and kale, with smaller amounts of celery and cucumber.  I pour this over some salted ice cubes and then top off the glass with some home-canned tomato juice--which makes a very tasty drink.  The red and green colors, however, combine to make the drink an unappetizing muddy brown.  No such problem with white or green tomato juice--all the goodness and none of the ugliness.

Aunt Ruby's German Green is one variety I want, and I'm still waiting to find out what the white variety was called before ordering that one.  The white was actually a very pale yellow, and the fruits were large and tasty.  Kristi, who grew the green one, said it had great flavor and was fairly productive.

I know I would love freshly-juiced fruits as well, but I limit my juicing to veggies only, because of concerns about overdoing the blood sugar "shot" and because I find it a lot easier to eat several fruits a day than to chew a half of a strainer bowl of fibrous veggies early in the morning.

I'm discovering that I really don't like drinking all my calories.  I want some chewing--but not too much.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

More on Matthew

My brother-in-law and former student, Matthew, is apparently near the end of life on earth.  Here, my niece, his daughter, Karen, wrote yesterday about the past few days.

While Matthew was still able to participate in the process, plans were made, in the event of his death, to have a service in Holmes County, followed by burial in the "Schrock Family Cemetery."

From Karen's post I heard this reassurance that his sense of humor was still intact within the past few days:

When we were talking about the changes that would have to be made to health insurance, car insurance, etc, he suggested that we try to get a refund on the health insurance since “it didn’t work.” 

In another excerpt from Karen's writings his faith and peace shone through:

Even as he was lying there in bed, he was continuing to share the quiet wisdom that has blessed so many. He spoke of the peace that came from not resisting those things which you can not change, something that all of us needed to put into practice as we wildly fought in our hearts against the very circumstances that he was so calmly accepting with the grace of God.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Comments on Old Posts

I've been wanting to return to the topics of several earlier posts.  First, I'll respond to a question someone asked about how to live like pilgrims and strangers.

I answered originally in fairly blase` terms, and completely forgot about mentioning the practice of hospitality as an important "pilgrims and strangers" practice.  Who understands the need for this better than a traveler?  And who is in a better position to extend hospitality than "travelers" who are temporarily in a stationary place while other pass by?

I have great admiration for those who do this so much better than I do.  It's one of the goals of my life to exercise this grace more effectively.

One of the insights I gained in considering the question about how to express our pilgrims and strangers status in daily life is that much of the expression is quite undramatic and ordinary.  Broad strokes and grand gestures are probably the least likely to qualify as pilgrim-and-stranger-friendly activities and choices.  Humble, plodding, make-do contentment is more likely to qualify.


I also want to comment further on the "Your Women Are Not Happy" post.  I will not attempt to declare emphatically how things really are, since I'm not quite sure what to say, but I do think it would be unwise to assume that all those who have observed the phenomenon in the title are delusional.  In other words, I'm guessing that a lot of women do, in fact, look unhappy.

While I'm not sure if all those people are actually unhappy, several reasons why this might be the case have occurred to me.  Take a deep breath here.

1.  Burdens of child rearing fall disproportionately on women because of what we have come to accept as necessities in a man's work world.  I believe this "normal" is, in fact, not normal at all in God's design.  Child rearing is a two-parent job, and when one parent is habitually absent during most waking hours, this burden is not carried on two sets of shoulders as reliably as it ought to be.  Lack of flexibility is often an accompaniment to this arrangement, and taking a child along or involving a child in the dad's work is often an impossibility.  For women, even a tiny bit of flexibility in the husband's schedule makes a huge difference.  Relief will show on her face if this can happen.

2.  Just when children are old enough to help lift many of the burdens of homemaking and childcare, they often go off to school, leaving Mom alone again with younger children needing a lot of care and not offering much help.  The hassles of transportation and dealing with problems the school environment presents can add to the challenge of this choice.  Homeschooling can prevent some of these problems, but schooling tasks can be demanding too.  This is another two-parent job.  I loved having my children close by day in and day out, but I often wished Hiromi were close by too.  I couldn't even reach him on the phone most of the time--company policy.  I'm positive that the frustration of being quite alone sometimes showed up on my face.

3.  Hormone fluctuations can set emotions on edge and sap energy, and women often experience these effects.   "Carrying on" is their only option, however, and sometimes it's barely manageable.  That strain can show up on a woman's face.

4.  Mothers are too often limited to custodial tasks (especially when they do not homeschool--see note on deep breath above).  No woman should refuse to do custodial tasks when needed--and that is exactly what is needed much of the time.  These tasks can be infused with meaning when they are offered as a service to our loved ones and as a sacrifice to God.  They can even be welcome and restful when mixed with other activities.  I heard Elizabeth Elliot say that this is her experience, and I know exactly what she meant.  I've felt the same way.  Doing head work and people work can be very draining, and having to do little more than make one's hands and feet move can seem really easy by comparison.  When no head work or people work is present, however, doing one mindless task after another, day after day, can really drain a lot of zest out of life.  This might be evident in a woman's countenance.

5.  This one almost makes me choke (I really hate sounding whiney), but I think I'd best be honest.   Women's ideas are often less valued than those of men in the "marketplace of ideas" in our church bodies.  I have argued at times that this is not typically the case, but I've heard a different story from men who listen to and observe the behavior of other men.  I find this possibility profoundly distressing.

6.  Women who feel loved, affirmed, and valued will almost certainly have an enlightened countenance.  Without further comment, I rest my case.

If you haven't read the comments others have made on the original post, I urge you to do so.  I loved reading them.

More thoughts?

Skywatching Addiction

Have you ever heard of being addicted to skywatching?  Neither have I, but I think if such a diagnosis existed, I'd be a clinical case.

In the morning, before I turn on any lights, and when only a dim light from a night light lets me find and swallow my thyroid pill, I stand at the patio door and gaze eastward into the dark--to see if this is one of the mornings I can see the lights of Wichita.  I even crane to the north and the south to see if I can see the mirage of those windfarm lights that Dwight talked about.  So far this has been fruitless, probably because I'm not even sure which direction I should be looking for them.  Maybe they're behind me.

When it's time to be looking for the sunrise, I can hardly turn away from the window to make a sandwich for my lunch or to check my email.

On my way to school I scan the skies.  That's one of the reasons I hate to drive fast--for how it limits this important activity.  

If I come home from school during the sunset I hurriedly park my car and walk out the driveway and to the west so as to get an unobstructed view.  I walk west till the sun sinks below the horizon, and then have inner permission to turn around and go home.  But what if this is one of those times when the color lingers long after the sun has disappeared?  Couldn't miss that. So I look over my shoulder a lot, and even keep looking through the cedar trees at the west edge of our property as long as I can see bright colors.

If I'm indoors, I hover around the west window near the computer to keep track of the sunset's progress.

I hardly know why I am compulsive about this.  Watching the sky often arouses worshipful thoughts, which both help keep me grounded and let me soar. I'm probably doing some pain processing at these times, but also reminding myself of reasons for hope.

I think sometimes of my brother-in-law, Matthew,  who has no medical recourse in arresting the recent steep decline of his health due to cancer.  Ever since his initial diagnosis he has made it a point to savor each moment and to be intentional about expressing his love and care for others.

Early on, I "saw" him one day, when I was praying for him, standing somewhere under a wide sky, wrapped in a "healing" blanket and looking up in delight and wonder.  I shared that image with him.  Much later he told me about an awkward and painful medical procedure he had which left him shivering afterward.  When he was making his way out of the treatment room, a nurse caught up with him and wrapped a warm blanket around him, and he thought of my "picture."  I'm sure he had to imagine the wide sky then, but to know it's there--beyond the clutter of the messy or mundane is symbolic of the hope that there's more to life than what is painful, messy, and mundane.  Even more profound is the hope of what is beyond this life--deliverance forever from the brokenness of a fallen world.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


My brother-in-law Matthew Schrock has metastatic cancer and is in the hospital with several health crises.  He had several mini-strokes last week, each one followed by prompt recovery, but the search for a cause has turned up further problems.

Apparently a mass/clot/infection (it gets called one of these things at various times, by various people)  has formed around one of his heart valves.  This is the source of the clots that have caused the mini-strokes.  Leaving it alone is risky and removing it would be risky also.

Matthew has pneumonia too.  Pain medication is helping now, but getting the pain controlled did not happen right away.    

Until the strokes began, Matthew had not spent time as a hospital patient since his initial diagnosis more than a year ago.  The prognosis was fairly grim, but he has had mostly good weeks since then.  He was here for my mother's funeral on January 17.

Matthew's wife, Clara, is my youngest sister.  Matthew and Clara's four children live nearby in Columbus, OH, except for Joshua, who is in school in California.  Matthew is 53.

Matthew was in grade 7 when he first entered the classroom where I was teaching in Ohio in the 1970s.  He was my student until he left school for good--until years later when he set out to become an architect.  Enrolling at Ohio State University took the family to Columbus from Holmes County.

Please pray for Matthew and Clara and their family.

Black and White

This post is another that has languished for more than a week on the composing screen, so the time references are off.


This is not about the best book for babies at three months of age.  The little board book Black on White has been nominated for that.  I bought it for my first grandbaby, and he liked it OK.

Neither is this about race.  In skin tones, black or white or a mix are just fine with me.  Or about photography.  No categorical preferences for color or black and white to expound on here either.

Nor is it about fashion.  Ever since I heard that contrast is all the rage in sweater-and-dress combinations, and lighter and darker hues of the same color are definitely out, I've noted that this necessitates a lot of black and white in either dresses (or skirts) and sweaters (or tops). I'm thumbing my nose at this bit of received truth and am not rushing to any black and white clothing racks or fabric tables.

This is about ideas.  I thought about the matter on Sunday when Oren, in a sermon from 1 John 2 pointed out that John made some really black and white statements there.  Yet, he was a loving and well-loved disciple, not known in the gospels primarily for cut-and-dried, controversial pronouncements, but compassion instead.

I wish I could remember what Oren said several months ago about people who see the world in black and white.  I don't think it was meant to be a compliment, but neither was it an unkind put-down. It was part of a message about working together when differences are present, and part of a plea for extending grace to people who see the world in black and white.  He's probably talking about people like me, I thought.  I think though it's a mistake to confuse certainty with seeing the world in black and white.  And I was off--busy processing a line of thinking that I'm not sure Oren ever intended.

Some of us arrive at black and white (certainty) only after traveling a long, gray, winding, torturous path.  In the middle of such experiences, the world looks mostly gray, with black and white shining through only after a lot of searching and tumult.  We greet those moments of black and white clarity with joy, and love to share what we've seen.  We know, though, that not everyone is much interested, so we try to be as brief as possible, distilling the matter to its essentials, skipping all the gray we've waded through, and hoping that by minimizing the time required to read, we can entice people to read long enough to understand.  It is a cruel irony that this act of consideration on our part often comes across as cut-and-dried, black-and-white, with zero shades of gray.


Today at school I spent a good part of the day preparing for a lecture in Home Environment class tomorrow in which I will highlight the main ideas from Patterns of Home:  The Ten Essentials of Enduring Design by Max Jacobson, Murray Silverstein, and Barbara Winslow.   The book draws on A Pattern Language, a classic volume on all kinds of essential principles for designing cities and kitchen cupboards, and a host of things between these two.

I've read the Patterns of Home book multiple times and browsed A Pattern Language often.  It's been three or four years though since I studied these things thoroughly.  Today I blinked back tears as I read and took notes.  Why?  Because I was remembering again where I learned some of what I believe about creating a secure, welcoming, and nurturing environment at home and at school--and I was remembering how utterly helpless I've sometimes felt in trying to convey those ideas.  Today I saw again how beautiful and right those patterns are and how much is lost when they're ignored.

The patterns are the "black and white" of what I believe about enduring design.  While not exhaustive, they represent the distillation of many pages and years of wanderings through gray areas.  It is within the framework of a few black and white reference points that the gray areas take form and contribute to an energizing, dynamic, satisfying environment.  I see in this process a parallel to what happened when God created the world, changing it from a formless void into an orderly world, through a series of  "black and white" separations, and by introducing new and distinctive forms and beings, crafting a home perfectly suited  for human habitation.  Enter Adam.  In him God instilled the capacity and desire to create.  By this, God insured that even in a later spoiled world, black and white could be found beneath deep layers and thick clouds of gray, and when "certainty" appeared, it could be cherished and not despised.


Today, of all days, I overheard a student ask rhetorically (or was it conversationally?) "Have you ever thought of how much a school is like a prison?"  Why, yes.  Yes I have.

Nobody would say that if every aspect of schools were designed as thoughtfully as they ought to be--in goals, in programs, and in physical structures.

I swallowed hard and didn't say a word.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Sunday Wrapup 3/1/2015

It's time for a new round of current events/issues reports at school, so I've been scrambling to prepare a framework for profitable inquiry, consideration, and reporting.  Unlike the typical approach, this month I listed twelve issues that came to mind from reading the local daily newspaper and several news magazines, and the students drew two topics--one for an oral report and one for a written report.  Since we have 23 students, each topic has two people designated for doing an oral report, and two people doing a written report (with one unclaimed topic in each category).  Some of the content in this post is related to those topics.


In Russia, Putin's public approval rating now stands at 86%, according to the Laveda Center of Moscow, which is considered the most reliable polling organization in Russia.  Putin's approval has soared since early 2014 when Russia seized control of Crimea in Ukraine.

This past Friday, Boris Nemtsov, a high-level and very vocal critic of Putin, was gunned down within sight of the Kremlin.  He had just announced that a protest demonstration was planned for March 1.  Earlier Nemtsov had reported on corruption surrounding the Winter Olympics, alleging that Russian officials and businessmen had stolen $30 billion during the preparations.  Corruption in the government gas company was also identified by Nemtsov.  In addition, Nemtsov was working on a report proving that Russia was directly involved in the military events in Ukraine--an assertion consistently denied by Putin and his cohorts. Abundant evidence to the contrary is being reported outside Russia.

Putin is calling for an investigation into Nemtsov's death, and extending condolences to his family--incongruous with what is known to many outside Russia--that Nemtsov caused Putin a lot of trouble, and having him gone would almost certainly be a relief to Putin. Today's Hutchinson News (p. A8, "Nemtsov a possible 'sacrificial victim,' investigators say.") reports this:  "In recent years, Nemtsov has been identified by Kremlin propaganda as among the leaders of a 'fifth column,' painted as a traitor serving the interests of a hostile West."  Clearly, Nemtsov was no friend of Putin.

Putin's 86% approval rating calls to mind what is commonly known--that the majority in any given population on any given issue can be wrong.  In Putin's case, behind-the-scenes maneuvering, massive misinformation campaigns, and ruthless squelching of opposition voices have almost certainly contributed to the 86% approval rating.  His "good-looking" numbers hide some deeply disquieting realities.

Here is a brief account from Time on Putin's approval ratings.


A Kansas legislator recently introduced a bill that would prohibit opinion columnists who also hold positions in a state university from having their teaching position publicized when the column is printed.


Here's how I see it.  Politics in reliably conservative Kansas have turned even harder to the right in recent years, especially since the election of Governor Brownback, who has impeccable credentials on moral issues and unimpeachable financial policies if you're Libertarian or Tea Party Conservative (a state income tax is being phased out, for example).  One group that is very likely to protest these recent government developments is political science academicians associated with our state universities, and "some people" are afraid that their arguments will sound convincing to readers.  We can't have that.  Better to let people think these opinions come from common blokes who don't know anything.

Unfortunately, the state coffers are emptying out fast, and some of the proposed compensations are proving painful.  Borrowing from the state highway fund has occurred, and the fund is substantially depleted.  Kansas' reputation for having the best roads in the country will likely take a hit.  Quadrupling the taxes on farmland is a proposal under consideration currently by the legislature, as is charging sales tax on farm equipment.  Agriculture is a big "engine" in Kansas, but stripping out elements of what constitutes an often narrow profit margin could, at the very least, force the farming economy further toward consolidation--a move that almost always promises increased efficiency, and almost always creates something too big to be really efficient in the long term.

To Brownback's great credit, he is actively engaged in addressing the looming water crisis in our state--to an extent unprecedented by any previous governor.  He is also protective of traditional marriage and unborn babies.

I have a lot of sympathy for any opinion columnist, however, who feels that the newly introduced legislation is grossly unfair--as if having studied a matter extensively somehow makes a person unfit for commenting on the matter, unless he hides the fact that he's studied it.  Not having the opinion columns appear at all would likely be the preference of "critics of the critics," but there's that pesky "Bill of Rights" list that would get in the way of banning the columns outright.


I heard this week from a former student who suggested that we study "water" again at school as a current issues topic.  We had done so while he was there, and it's apparently still impacting his viewpoint.  He registered concern about what he sees in agriculture, with the addition of many pivot irrigation systems in the area.


Dwight used the term "sound junk" this morning to refer to what people often resort to when they wish to avoid the discomfort of being alone with God and their own thoughts.  I don't remember having heard that term, although his reference to hearing what Chester Weaver said on the subject made me wonder if I had just missed it when he talked on it at the Shepherd's Institute.  I had heard that talk.  Dwight also described solitude helpfully as being in a place where talking in a normal tone of voice cannot be heard by others.


As I often do, given what my world is full of, I made some connections between Dwight's devotional at church and what I see in the classroom.  I wonder if a lot of what happens in a group learning environment constitutes "sound junk" for certain students.  Certainly no responsible teacher tries to teach "junk."  It's the mechanics of trying to make school "work" that concerns me--in a confined environment, with highly varied individual needs.  Anything that does not match an individual student's needs is unhelpful--cluttering junk, if you please. Explanations from a teacher are "junk"  to the student who is able to understand without all the explanation.  Information without sufficient explanation for an individual student's understanding is "junk" also if he's not able to absorb it.  Announcements that do not concern everyone may be junk.  The playing of recorded music during study time, while appealing to some individuals, is distracting to others, and falls in the "sound junk" category, no matter how good the music is.

Everyone having to listen while private questions or observations are being voiced publicly can be another "sound junk" generator.  For me, the most memorable events of this nature happened in college, and I often wished my professors would have been less tolerant of such time-consuming and devoid-of-profit activity.  We were all paying dearly for the privilege of being in that class, and I really preferred to hear wisdom from a professor to hearing ignorance from a student.  While it's possible for good to come from student questions and observations, and I certainly try to encourage both in the classroom, sometimes the label that fits best really is "sound junk."

Homeschooling doesn't solve all the "sound junk" problems, but being able to bypass many classroom conventions does have the desirable consequence of eliminating a lot of "sound junk"  students are subjected to otherwise, and it streamlines the learning process considerably.


I've been feeling deeply sympathetic lately for parents whose children behave irresponsibly or dishonestly in school.  This can happen even if all the adults involved have the same goals for children in school--responsibility and honesty.  Somehow, though, failures must be addressed, and that can be difficult and conflictive and painful.

I'm dismayed to realize that here also are some problems with the mechanics of making school "work" that create temptations to be dishonest or irresponsible.  While we make efforts to address promptly whatever surfaces, and we do tweak expectations or beef up enforcement if it seems necessary, I regret often that things can get this complicated this easily.

My own experience with homeschooling was not perfect and our boys were certainly not perfect, but dishonesty in doing schoolwork was never an issue I had to deal with.  I believe it was because many of the elements that make it tempting in school were not present at home.  Looking good in front of peers?  Peers didn't even know what my boys were doing.  Being able to get out of assigned work?  Not a chance, with a finger-on-the-pulse parent hovering nearby.

Those problems surfaced in other areas at home with our boys, and I'm glad we could deal with them promptly in a straightforward manner, without having to deal with the complications of them taking place in a public setting.


I want to write about several more things, but those matters will have to wait for another post.  It's time to head for bed.