Prairie View

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Fire and Ice*

Today is the day we've been awaiting for almost three years.  Our Far Eastern family members are coming home.  They're in the air now on their trans-Atlantic flight originating in Qatar and terminating in Dallas.  Then it's on to Wichita with an expected landing just before 8:00 PM.  We've never seen the 21-month old, and the three-year-old was eight months old when we last saw her.  We're e-x-c-i-t-e-d!

For the next 3 1/2 months they plan to live in the apartment at Hilda's parents' place--2 1/2 miles from our house, although part of that time will be taken up with traveling elsewhere in the USA.

We're following their trip with prayers for safety and for endurance for everyone on this very long journey.  Airplane cabins were clearly not designed with toddlers in mind.


I haven't written here about the biggest wildfires in recorded Kansas history--which raged over nearly 400,000 acres of land last week.  It was range land, for the most part.  Because of a massive effort from at least 100 fire-fighting districts in the state, and the mercy of God, no human  lives were lost, and fewer than a handful of residences were destroyed.  Some livestock perished, many miles of fence posts burned, and farm structures and stored hay are gone.  There's obviously nothing left for livestock to eat on those charred landscapes, so hay for the livestock is one of the most immediate needs.  Moisture to fuel regrowth of the prairie grasses is another crucial need.   Fences need to be rebuilt, and strayed livestock needs to be gathered up and sorted.  Cattle need to recover from the effects of smoke inhalation.

Brutal winds--sometimes as high as 60 MPH--blew day after day last week.  The air, the land, and the vegetation were all tinder-dry, and many Eastern Redcedars (invaders in the prairie) provided easily-torched, hot-burning fuel.

On Easter Sunday, we always remember the great gift of salvation and victory in Jesus.  This year Kansas had another great gift--four inches (here) of wet snow overnight.  That merciful gift of God allowed most of the firefighters to go home for a day of rest and worship and recovery on Sunday, leaving behind a pure white landscape instead of a charred black one.

After having had almost no snow and very little moisture last winter, this snowfall was an occasion of great rejoicing.  Besides that, the wind had gone down overnight, and the wet snow melted where it fell--after first clinging to and transforming every tired brown weed and twig into a sparkling thing of beauty.  By noon most of it had melted under the bright sunshine and balmy temperatures, and by evening snow remained thinly only in all-day deep shade.  Our morning temperature was 31, so even flowers came through our quick "winter" unscathed.

Unfortunately this week the wind is back and the moisture from the snow is no longer in evidence.  Later today severe thunderstorms are possible.  Large hail and tornadoes could develop.  The "best" chances for that to happen are east of us, so we're not too worried here.  It looks like we're back to business as usual--schizophrenic Kansas spring weather.

That's OK, but pleeeeease, let's not have a delay in flight schedules today.  

*Fire and Ice poem by Robert Frost here.   It's only marginally applicable here, but I like the poem, and the words popped into my mind when I was trying to think of a title for this post.  


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Amish College Portriats

I have a most extraordinary artistic record in my possession.  It features hand-drawn portraits of 62 individuals who are part of "Amish College," according to the identifying title.  I have unfortunately forgotten who created this work of art, but I assume it was one of my former students.  The portraits cover the front and back of a single sheet of pale pink paper.  I don't remember when I acquired it, which would tell me whether the creator was a resident of Ohio or Kansas.  If anyone can help out here I'll be glad to credit the artist properly.  Calling all former students . . .

Each portrait offers a side-view and is identified by name.

Coverings are apparently strongly encouraged for the women at this college.  Only Kathy Fender is missing one.  She must be a non-ethnic Amish College student who was given leeway.  Ways of wearing those coverings vary considerably--from Edna Overholt's perched-high covering to Jackie Graber's small barely-hanging-on one.  Jackie Graber is clearly the out-lier, however.  Most of the coverings sit comfortably on the head, with the upper leading edge roughly vertically aligned with the ear.  Hair buns of various sizes and shapes are visible inside the coverings.  Some coverings sport a lot of empty space "back there" and some buns fill nearly all the available territory.  Some "fetta-dales" are wide, as are some "boahdahs."  All coverings are tailored, with precise pleats--except for Malinda Wengard's.   I think hers has gathers.   The hair-dos--oh my! Puffy and swooped and draped softly and winched back and drawn downward.  Straight hair and curly hair.  No side parts are visible.

Among the young men, there are a few side parts.  Mutton chops and other prominent sideburns seem popular.  Not beards so much.  Only Crist Spiher, Roman Shwartz, Meno Creer, and Levi Rader have full-grown beards.  Amos Zook has stubble only.

One feature of interest on these portrait pages is the novel name spellings.  I can't tell whether the person who labeled the pictures is unusually creative or unusually ignorant of how these names are normally spelled.  I'll share the gems below:

Katie Birkshire
Julia Kiem
Malinda Wengard
Lidy Sherman
Mahalah Bixler
Saidy Putt
Murna Kauffman
Matie Swartzentruber
Crist Spiher
Lizzie Petershime
Pery Glick
Magie Gingrich
Lena Iher
Leona Kuns
Luke Kippher
Meno Creer
Birtha Bear
Jemimah Nicely
Anna Coblenze
Levi Rader
Gladas Shetler
Fannie Kiem
Hommer Dommer
Cledas Bender
Birtha Miller
Jake Curtz
Eli Detwilder
Francy Kline

The grins and chuckles from this paper helped compensate for my teeth-gritting hours of sorting through papers in boxes--the nemesis of my efforts to be orderly.


Monday, March 28, 2016

Israel Frenzy

From an article on the recent Anabaptist Identity Conference in Holmes County, OH comes this excerpt on a topic that I addressed much more mildly in teaching my SS class on Sunday:

‘Israel frenzy’
Bercot took on what he acknowledged was a contentious topic when he spoke about the role of Israel in prophecy.
He critiqued “the Israel frenzy within the evangelical churches” associated with the theological system of dispensationalism, which he said is “totally incompatible with Anabaptism, with the doctrine of two kingdoms.”
Dispensationalism, a system of interpreting biblical history, emphasizes God’s separate plans for the church and for the nation of Israel.
Bercot had strong remarks on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
“Do we have the blood of Palestinian Christians and Muslims on our hands when we cheer Israel on and approve of what it does?” he asked, referencing the unconverted Paul, who approved of the killing of Stephen (Acts 8:1). “[Israel] has pushed Christians out of their villages and keeps slaughtering people and taking their lands — not just Christians but Muslims who have lived there for hundreds of years.”
He challenged his listeners with the question of why they would choose to support a secular state instead of their brothers and sisters in Christ.
Rivka Pratt of Manchester, Mich., a woman in the audience with an Orthodox Jewish background, voiced her agreement with Bercot on dispensational theology.
“Dispensationalism keeps us from witnessing to my Jewish brothers and sisters,” she said during a question-and-answer period. “Jesus says, ‘None shall come to the Father except through me.’ If we fall into this deception that the Jewish state of Israel is something special and that God has a separate recipe for my Jewish brothers and sisters, then they’re going to be lost.”
The above quote can be found here.

A number of years ago when we were studying Revelation in Sunday School, I remember raising a question about whether official US policy favoring Israel is warranted, based on Scripture.  Israel's rejection of the Messiah and the formation of the Christian church by Jesus Christ seems to me to suggest that becoming God's people or experiencing God's favor is not now based on having natural Jewish bloodlines.  I mentioned the "don't mess with Israel" idea that people generally seem to think is the Christian political view.  To my surprise, Suzie O. said that's exactly what her dad used to say.  He was a WWII veteran and not a professing Christian, to my knowledge.  It suggested to me that "don't mess with Israel" was actually a pervasive American view--not limited to Christians.

I also mentioned in Sunday School yesterday Hal Lindsey and his Late Great Planet Earth Book which became extremely popular in the 1970s.  I suggested that his writing seems to have sparked a lot of interest in current events as fulfillment of prophecy according to the pre-millenialist, dispensationalist view.  Israel had a central role in these events, in Lindsey's thinking.  I wondered whether we have been more influenced by Lindsey than we realize.  

Cursory research just now supports the off-the-top-of-my-head impressions I shared in Sunday School.  PBS's Frontline says here that Lindsey's book became the all time non-fiction bestseller of the decade of the seventies.  Lindsey himself spoke of having met with important government officials, presumably to provide input on how America should act in world affairs.  Conservatives, Christians, and the American government (at least in the seventies and eighties) all seem to have generally fallen in step behind Lindsey.  How did this happen?

Elias Chacour in Blood Brothers also gives a sobering first-person account of being greatly wronged as a Palestinian Christian in Israel.  A few in my Sunday School class have read that book, and I daresay that Bercot's reference to Palestinian Christians above will recall images of Chacour's life for anyone who is familiar with the powerful story.  

I am not promoting an anti-Israel stance.  Even on purely humanitarian grounds, any people who have suffered as the Jews have should be regarded with compassion.   I have no desire to criticize America's friendship with Israel and am happy that we're friends.

I've heard harsh criticism of our current president for not being sufficiently supportive of Israel.  As I'm sure is also true of David Bercot, I have no desire to take up that critical mantra.  

Thanks to Bercot for articulating clearly some of the niggling thoughts that have been floating fuzzily to the top in my own thinking.  

Reading this almost makes me wish I could have accepted Sharon N.'s invitation to go with her to the conference.  

Friday, March 25, 2016

Hostility--Part 2

This promised post has been churning along out of sight inside my cranium--in search of a starting point and logical connections, while other urgent matters received attention.

I finished an earlier post with this summary:  "Believing the hyped-danger-rhetoric hypes the fear which hypes the hostility."  The statement came at the end of telling about the second of two recent local incidents when a resident attacked a person who installed a new electric meter at a private residence.  I believe the two people who acted with hostility feared that the new electric meters were causing harm of various kinds.  I'm making a connection between these fear-based events and some of the otherwise-incomprehensible behaviors of supporters of a certain candidate in this presidential election campaign.

Caveat:  In order to communicate as clearly as possible, I'll skip many of the balancing qualifiers that would normally be inserted as I go along.

I believe loyalty to a "savior" candidate is a logical result of loyalty first to fear-mongering media commentators who have been riding high on the talk show airwaves since 1996 when Fox News came live.  Never before this, while reaching this large an audience, had so many public and political events been painted in such sinister terms.    Loyal listeners came to believe that every media story had a darker backstory--one that the "liberal media" didn't want you to hear.   Those brave souls who told the dark stories became heroes to their admiring listeners, serious moral failures in some of the heroes notwithstanding.   The internet era has brought additional "heroes" to the fore--in the form of print sources that pop up relentlessly in social media news feeds, at least for those who have clicked on those links in the past.

Against that background, a presidential candidate who promises to confront all those dark things looks like a hero too.  Never mind that he has no rational plan in place to actually do more than speak boastful words about the force of his own personality and power to influence.  Never mind that hostility is expressed in copious amounts by that candidate.  Never mind that the candidate incites acts of violence.

I have seen professing Christian loyalists offer no answer when pressed to say what evil characteristics or actions would mark a threshold beyond which they would personally withdraw support for this candidate.  Why can't they see that reasonable and responsible and Christian thresholds have long ago been crossed--with no apparent effect on the loyalists' adulation?  

Matt Walsh may be right when he cites two heresies that serve as blinders for many such Christians:  the prosperity gospel (God wants you to be rich) and the compartmentalization of life into sacred and secular (life outside of church need not be affected by matters of faith).  It's true that if you believe you are entitled to wealth and that a leader's morals are irrelevant, an immoral person who promises you wealth will hold a lot of appeal.

Do you see how it works?  Once enough fear has been generated, people are willing to overlook almost anything otherwise troubling in a person who promises to protect from those fearful prospects.   If he promises also that good things will happen for you under his leadership, so much the better.

People loyal to the DDT/TNT candidate (or however the mix of explosives and poison is properly labeled) protest vociferously when anyone draws parallels between Hitler and the afore-mentioned presidential candidate.  The comparisons between the German citizenry during Hitler's rise and the American citizenry now are, in my mind, the truly frightening similar aspect between 1933 Germany and 2016 America.   I'll leave the Hitler personality for others to parse, but as we all know, citizens believing his fear-mongering speech vilifying the "other-ness" of anyone (Communists and Jews primarily) who is not "us" (the Nazis) reached unthinkably horrible measures in Germany.  I note too that one of Hitler's campaign slogans was "Freedom and Bread"--very appealing in an era of widespread joblessness  and poverty following the Great Depression and the German humiliation of World War I.  People believed that Hitler would be "good for business."  This link tells the story credibly.  If you click on the next part of the story at the bottom of each page as I did, you can keep on reading for quite a while.

"Don't ever forget what happened [during the holocaust]," an elderly survivor told Marvin and Rosa N. recently in Israel.  Part of what happened then was that an entire citizenry believed the rhetoric of a leader who vilified those who were not Anglo-Saxon by "race."  Americans who do the same thing today are indeed forgetting or doing something worse--remembering, while embracing the attendant hostility.  That's a grim result indeed of something that began several decades ago when people began to embrace fear-inducing rhetoric and allowed it to poison their minds and hearts.

"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."  2 Timothy 1: 7.

A Local Connection to Brussels

Today one of our church families, Paul and Edith, received confirmation that a friend of theirs was among the people killed in the recent terrorist attacks in Brussels, Belgium.  Paul and Edith's family lived in Belgium for a number of years.  Bart, the 21-year-old man who died, was the son of dear friends, Philip and Debbie.  When Philip needed to be away from his family, Paul and Edith prayed with Debbie and the children every week while both families lived in Belgium.

Bart was on his way to visit his girlfriend in Georgia.  He had called her after he left home, just before he boarded the train for a 2-hour ride to Brussels, and then no one heard anything from him after that till today.  Checking hospitals had turned up no knowledge of his whereabouts.  Bart and his girlfriend were both Christians.

Here is a link to a CNN interview with Bart's girlfriend.  It was recorded before anyone had received final word that he had died.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Backstory of Meter Incidents?

Yesterday in Hutchinson another utility company employee was held at gunpoint by a resident, after the employee had installed a new meter on the resident's property.  I wrote earlier that I could make no sense of a similar incident involving a person I knew.

Since then I've begun to understand some of the likely backstory in both of these incidents.  Apparently, in a "documentary" (which I have not watched) and from other sources, the word is that smart meters in use by some utility companies emit a great deal of harmful radiation and are capable of spying on residents.  They also are inaccurate and because of this consumers are charged unfairly.  They are not secure, and hackers can gather information from them. Besides that, they increase the hazard of fires and explosions.  The old meters were analog instead of digital.  A summary of the issues surrounding smart meters can be found here.

I believe that the meters being replaced in our area were analog meters being replaced by smart (digital) meters.

Obviously, most people would put the information in the documentary in the category of conspiracy theories.  My sense is that there may be a grain of truth in each of the supposed hazards, but the overall threat is vastly overblown.  For example, using a cell phone for 15 minutes a day would expose the user to more radiation than a smart meter would in a day.

Apparently, one of the people sounding the alarm about smart meters slept beside a bank of meters for an extended period of time and subsequently began to experience health problems.  The connection between those two facts may not have been scientifically proven, but it sounds reasonable to me on the basis of anecdotal evidence--and based on what I've read elsewhere about the physiological effects of being immersed in an electromagnetic field.  Typical residential customers, however, don't sleep right next to their meters, and there is usually only one on the property.  Both of those factors could mitigate whatever radiation danger a smart meter poses.  Everywhere I've lived has had a meter on a pole a short distance from the house.

My takeaway from thinking about all this is that I will never allow our analog meter to be replaced by a smart meter.  In fact, if any utility company employee attempts to do so, I will unzip Hiromi's over/under shotgun from its padded case and accompany my deprecations in the employee's direction by brandishing the shotgun.  Just kidding.

My real takeaway is that the hostilities we've seen locally of late are likely fear-based.  The fear is rooted in believing alarming messages about sinister forces operating around us.  To summarize:  Believing the hyped-danger-rhetoric hypes the fear which hypes the hostility.

If you see in that summary a foreshadowing of the content of an upcoming post on hostility, I congratulate you on your prescience.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Accidental Profundity

We had communion today.  My four-year-old grandson sat with me since his daddy was leading the singing and his mother was at home because of illness.  I explained to him what the procedure would be when we received the emblems of the broken body and shed blood of Jesus and gave him a choice about whether he wanted to follow the line around the front with me or wait on the bench till I got back.  He wanted to go with me.

Earlier he had asked me what was under the cloth on the table at the front and I had told him it was something like soft crackers and grape juice.  He had one more question:  "Is there enough for everyone?"  Amazing social acumen there little buddy--in that politely oblique question.

Little ones have looked longingly for years at what the adults do during communion and wanted to get in on the goodies.  My younger siblings remember gathering around Deacon Mahlon Wagler's car after church on communion Sundays in hopes of getting in on what was left over.

If I hadn't just had a conversation about closed communion with someone else, I might never have noticed that Tristan's question could involve more gravity than a mere child's wanting to share in the good things others are enjoying.  Is there enough for everyone?


Tristan has the quiet whispering thing down pat--so  much so that I sometimes don't understand him the first time when he whispers something to me.  Today I asked him to repeat something several times.  I finally got it.  He was saying "I didn't say anything."

Too funny--and a real test of this grandma's ability to maintain proper decorum in church. I think I flunked.


Today was Lydia Yoder's funeral.  If both chuckles and tears can be part of a good funeral, this was good.  It was a bright sunny day with a cool breeze.  The soil from the grave was moist--not dry clods and not slippery mud.

Joe told us in a brief conversation after the burial that three or four years ago when it appeared that his mother was near death during an exceptional drought, he knew that digging a grave would be very difficult.  He decided to take some precautions.  The plan was to fill a 1,000 gallon tank with water at home during the day.  At night he was going to haul the tank over to the cemetery and let water trickle onto the spot where the grave would be dug--next to Melvin's, her husband who had died earlier.

As happened several other times, Lydia rallied that time, and the grave was not needed.  We haven't had a great deal of moisture this winter (hardly any snow), but just enough to moisten the soil nicely.

Here is a link to Lydia's funeral:


My brother Lowell, who is one of our funeral directors, is still in Nigeria.  Leroy H. is his substitute, and has needed to fill in several times of late.


Today I met Mary, Lydia's niece.  I knew her when she was one and I was three and both of our families lived in the same community near Jerome, MI.

My family moved back to Kansas, and a few years later, their family moved to Hicksville, OH.

With Mary was Mandy Coblentz.  The two women used to teach school together.

Later today I went back to visit some more with Mandy and learned that she and her husband had just moved to Kansas to work for Choice books for the next 18 months.  They have a son Mike who is married to Wanda.  They have lived here ever since they got married and go to church at Arlington.

More trivia:  Rebecca told me after church that Mary asked her who the song leader was (Shane) and who his mother is (me).  When Rebecca told me that Mary was the daughter of Anna (Lydia's sister), I knew immediately that she must have been that little girl from Michigan.  So I went to talk to her and said that Rebecca had tipped me off to who she was.  Somehow Shane's name came up when Mary and I talked, with Mandy also present and being part of the conversation.

"So the song leader was Shane!" Mandy exclaimed.  "My son Kevin knows him.  He lives in Paraguay now and asked us to send out his Christmas mail.  Shane's came back [old address apparently].  I should have brought it along!"

In our later conversation, Mandy told me that her mother was an Italian Catholic when her parents first met.  Her father was an Amish boy in 1-W service at the same hospital where her mother worked as a secretary.  They married and were part of an Amish church and community.  Her mother learned Dutch and added that language to the English and Italian she already spoke fluently.

Our little Amish world is not really so small.  The three of us in our little conversation group have lived or had family members who have lived in at least four countries and three states:  Paraguay, Italy, Japan, Bangladesh, Ohio, Kansas, and Michigan.

Lydia would have been pleased at how many people made new acquaintances or renewed old ones on the occasion of her funeral.  Those were her delights as well.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Hostility--Part One

My Facebook feed turned shocking yesterday when the face of someone I've served with on a board of directors appeared in a post from the county sheriff department.  The name given matched the face I recognized.  He was charged with aggravated battery, aggravated assault, and criminal damage to property.  All of the charges were related to an altercation between a resident and a utility company employee who was changing an electric meter on the resident's property.

None of this makes sense to me.  I knew the arrested person (the resident) as a reasonable, hardworking man who was active in his church.  His wife is a sweet lady.  The comments on Facebook were overwhelmingly hostile to the resident.  Then again, the resident's behavior was apparently outrageously hostile toward the workman.


Hostility came up often in my thoughts today.  Election era politics is full of it.  While I intentionally distance myself from most of the rhetoric, I can't help hearing it repeatedly.

I've also been reaching for an article I read recently about where the "hostility era" began.  I'm pretty sure it was somewhat oversimplified, but it made some sense to me.  Further comments will be based on what I remember from the article, what I remember from life before and after the "hostility era" and what I dig up from research now.


The resident I mentioned earlier is close to my age.  His appearance when I first knew him suggested loyalty to tenets of the hippie era.  I suspect that in later life those tendencies morphed into other kinds of anti-establishment ideals and expressions.

In the American public milieu now, anti-establishment rhetoric comes predominantly from strident conservatives.  I suspect that's where the "resident" found fodder for his gun-rights, property rights, and personal rights ideals--presuming that his actions were based on ideals of any kind.

Another possibility is that the "resident" was "off his meds" as one person speculated in the Facebook comments.  I do know that after working well at the same job for many years, he was laid off from that job for reasons that did not seem justifiable to him or to me when he told me about it.  I don't know anything about his employment since then.  I only know that he aspired to grow produce, which he had done successfully earlier.


Further elaboration on the hostility era will have to wait for another post.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Thoughts on a Monday Morning

When Hiromi chuckles while reading Japan Yahoo News (in Japanese, of course), it's worth asking "What's funny?"  The answer might be a story.

Hiromi read an article this morning about how expensive it is to equip a high school student to begin a school year in Japan.  It costs about $700.00, and includes school uniforms, slippers to wear inside the school building (because shoes are always taken off upon entering), and a backpack.  The part that caught his eye was mention of the fact that siblings cannot share supplies since each class uses a different color.  "Do  you  know who started that?" Hiromi asked.  Here's the story.

When Hiromi was in high school, the older students had a nasty habit of reinforcing their superior position in the school hierarchy by stealing slippers from younger students.  As student council president, Hiromi suggested that a strip of colored paint be applied to each slipper.  Colors would vary by class.  That way if a senior was wearing a slipper with the wrong color stripe, his "sin" would be obvious.  The idea was implemented, and many years later, when he and I went back to that high school, Hiromi saw that the practice was being maintained.  This morning he saw that it is being practiced "everywhere" in Japan.

Hiromi did not foresee this particular consequence (making school more expensive), but he is pleased that others liked his original idea.


Our church learned of an unexpected tie to the shootings at the Excel Plant in Hesston several weeks ago.  Several years ago a couple from our church had a young foster child named John (Jon?), who  was placed elsewhere after several months.  John is now four years old and was living with his father.  The father was one of the three people killed by the shooter on that terrible day recently when four people died and fourteen more were injured. The shooter was killed by a policeman.


 Yesterday we heard about an online student of Kathy T.'s who ran away from home.  She lives in the Abbyville area.  Abbyville is about three miles from our home.

Kathy solicits prayer warriors who would like to "adopt" one of her 95 students to pray for regularly.

My brother Lowell is headed to Nigeria next week to help conduct a pastor's seminar.  He requests prayer for the preparation, the logistics, and the event itself.


I read an article recently that asserted that trauma is processed differently in the brain than other kinds of experiences.  My takeaway (seen through a decidedly non-professional lens) is that other experiences can be piggy-backed onto knowledge gained through past experiences--resulting in true learning, but trauma is senseless and cannot be successfully integrated into what is already present in the brain.  So it's walled off instead in a compartment all by itself, and left unprocessed.

Reminders of the trauma can resurface later and, since the trauma has never really been processed, it can have unexpected and devastating results.  One of the books I'd like to read for further insight is: The Body Keeps the Score:  Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk.


When I was a freshman at Sterling College, one of the two upperclassmen who led the orientation group I was part of was Paula.  She lives in the Newton, KS area and we keep in touch through Facebook.

Paula's father died recently at the age of 94.  He was a retired physician in Oklahoma, and a devout Christian.  Many, many of his friends and former patients speak very highly of him.

What I did not know till Paula posted a picture on Facebook today is that the doctor who died recently was also the son and the father of a doctor.  In the picture, the youngest  doctor in the Graves family was being "hooded" by both his father and grandfather in an academic ceremony.

When Paula posted news of her father's death, she said this: The man who delivered me (literally), took care of my owies, took care of hundreds of other people's owies is in the presence of the Great Physician. What about you? Do you know where you will spend eternity? John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son; whoever believes on Him shall have eternal life."

My sense is that faith and service have run through this family's veins for generations, and humanity is better for it.  What a legacy!


Several weeks ago I read a piece on authoritarianism in relation to the present political climate in America.  Today I read a more extensive article on the subject here at  I recommend the article, which was published on March 1, 2016.

I see authoritarianism in a generally negative light.  Just now I realize that this has been the case for me ever since I heard the distinction made between authoritarianism and authoritativeness.  Being authoritative is a good thing, as I see it.  The first definition for "authoritative" that popped up on Google is this:  able to be trusted as being accurate or true; reliable  In contrast, "authoritarian" has this first definition:  favoring or enforcing strict obedience to authority, especially that of the government, at the expense of personal freedom

As a governing principle, authoritarianism is expressed most authentically in totalitarian dictatorships--certainly not in functioning democracies.  Authoritativeness can be expressed in government by individuals in a wide variety of roles by anyone who is accurate, true, and reliable--operating with integrity, in other words.


I have not been able to make sense of the Donald Trump popularity phenomenon at all.  I've read dozens of news and opinion articles and listened to some Trump speeches and candidate debates.  The image that comes to mind is that of a loose cannon, careening wildly about, discharging volley after volley of lethal projectiles, at every twist and turn trailed by a cheering crowd--even when the cannon balls land in crowds of horror-struck and panicked people.

The biggest mystery for me has been the support Trump has found among Christian people, some of whom I love and trust in matters other than politics.  In what Christian universe does Trump loyalty make even the tiniest bit of sense? This man boasts about his own immoral behavior, spews vulgarities on a public stage, advocates violations of international law, belittles others while bragging insufferably about himself, and advocates banishing whole classes of people from America.  This is only a sampling of the most-easily documentable behaviors.  In families, churches, and schools, these characteristics would disqualify any candidate aspiring to leadership.

Another mystery is how seemingly intelligent people find the man's candidacy appealing.  Words seem to fall out of his mouth completely unfiltered.  He announces bizarre policy positions that don't have a remote possibility of being implemented (having Mexico pay for that 20-foot-high wall that is to be built along the entire 1,933-mile Mexico-US border) and he flip-flops regularly between one announcement and its exact opposite.  Teachers of debate or graders of research papers would assign failing grades to students who presented ideas like this.

Grand promises like insuring safety and prosperity require a lot more than the force of a leader's personality to accomplish--which seems to be the sum and substance behind Trump's guarantees.

Careful linguistic analysis has pegged Trump's speeches at a sixth-grade level, based on evaluation of his vocabulary and sentence length.  Even when the content is not reminiscent of a three-year-old's temper tantrum, this man's expression is child-like. Such expression is not a problem of course if you're actually twelve years old.  It's not evidence of suitability for the presidency though.

What is it that makes people willing to set aside Christian values and ordinary standards of credibility and rationality in support of a rogue political personality?

One glaringly obvious thing that occurred to me recently is that when people listen only to others who support one's presuppositions, they can easily leap to the conclusion that the "whole world" thinks like this, or at least anyone who is like me thinks like this.  I see big red flags if a person hears and trusts only a single news or analysis perspective.  Accessing a broad spectrum of sources has great value in getting at the truth.

The article referenced above identifies another possible revelation of the mystery.  It turns out that Trump support correlates strongly with a bent toward authoritarianism.  A population with a bent toward authoritarianism has implications not only for this election but for many substantive issues which have far-reaching repercussions, even beyond this time and beyond this country's borders.   Furthermore, in the presence of a significant threat, the appeal of authoritarianism is strengthened.  What we have now in the US is a lot of fear-dominated responses--thanks in part to a plethora of fear-mongering rhetoric from news networks and elsewhere.  In the late 1930s, the situation in Germany was very similar.  Shudder.

One quote from the article sums up what I've often thought and sometimes heard from others about this election cycle and the Trump candidacy:   ". . . what's scariest is not the candidate, but rather the extent and fervor of his support."  

Who we are and what we value matters a great deal.  If we are to be salt and light, our security in Christ, our love for truth, our generosity toward other people, and our commitment to living lives of integrity must be valued above any political purposes or positions.  May God help us remember.