Monday, August 21, 2017


The Human Touch

’Tis the human touch
in this world that counts,
The touch of your hand and mine,
Which means far more
to the fainting heart
Than shelter and bread and wine.
For shelter is gone
when the night is o’er,
And bread lasts only a day.
But the touch of the hand
And the sound of the voice
Sing on in the soul always
by Spencer Michael Free
Our visiting minister shared this classic poem in his message yesterday.
It says a lot in a few words.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Martyr to Muppy Mennonites

Martyr to Muppy Mennonites
    Last evening we heard a challenging speaker using the above title for his topic. The main question being asked, "How did the Anabaptists go from being willing to die for their faith as martyrs to being assimilated into main stream society?" (Muppy = Mennonite Urban Professional People) The Mennonite Church in the Netherlands was strong and true, but today it is a dying church. What happened? What can we learn from them? And I've been pondering...
    When you think of the Netherlands and Holland, you may think of canals, windmills, wooden shoes, Delft blue, Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates and dikes. But the story of the Mennonites in the Netherlands is largely unfamiliar.
     The story actually began in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed the 95 thesis to a German church door which has become known as the onset of the Reformation. There was great resistance from the Catholics at the very beginning. Then in 1525, several men in Zurich, Switzerland took a bold step away from the Reformed Church and infant baptism to a believers baptism. They were persecuted severely by both Catholic and Reformed groups. There were some radicals who made  a bad name for the Anabaptists at Munster, Germany. But eventually,  as separate entities, the Dutch Anabaptists and the Swiss/German Anabaptists came to a unity  of faith. Menno Simons, a Dutch Anabaptist became one of the strong leaders and through his writings helped bring a cohesion to the persecuted Anabaptists. Thousands lost their homes, possessions, loved ones and even their own lives in the persecution that followed. You can read many accounts of Mennonite believers dying for their faith in the Martyrs Mirror by Thieleman J. Van Braught. It is believed the last martyr in the Netherlands was a woman who died for her faith in 1597.
    The doctrine and practice of the Dutch Mennonites was similar to what we hold to be true today in our own congregation. They practiced the seven ordinances, communion, feet washing, baptism, marriage, anointing with oil, holy kiss  and headship veiling for women. They were more radical about the use of the ban than we are today. But they appointed elderly, single women as deaconess to move among the congregation to be of assistance to the poor and needy. These women did not speak publicly but were a great blessing and encouragement in the community. The lot was used to ordain a three-fold ministry. Psalms were sung in church, hymns were sung in the home. They organized and conducted schools for their children. The Dutch Mennonites not only dressed simply, but their homes, diet and whole lifestyle was modest and simple.
  But already in Menno Simons lifetime, two sides developed among the believers. The differences were mostly over small matters and a division took place in 1566. Some wanted to maintain a more simple lifestyle while others began to take on the ways of their urban neighbors. The Swiss Anabaptists were largely rural farmers but the Dutch Mennonites lived in the cities. They became the professionals - the engineers, business men, doctors, artists and more. Some Dutch cities were comprised of 25% Mennonite residents. They became rich and famous for their accomplishments in their professions. In more recent years, a Mennonite engineered the long dike from Holland to Freisland.
      During the 1700's, persecution eased and the Dutch Mennonites were respected citizens making a significant contribution to society.  They chose to be quiet about their faith which was still not looked on with favor in the general society.  Possibly to appease their conscience for their compromises, the Dutch Mennonites gave freely of their abundant wealth to help those in need, including their Swiss Anabaptist brothers and sisters. You can read about some of their generosity in the volumes Documents of Brotherly Love by James Lowry.
    But the differences continued to abound and more divisions took place, usually over minor details. They began to practice open communion, baptism became optional , and children were sent to the public school. Eventually, a non-denominational church opened where people could go regardless what they believed. Individualism blossomed and grew - my religion is between me and God- it is none of your business! They became involved in politics and government programs. At the same time, they admired the simple lifestyle of the Swissers who were coming to their ports and aided them in gaining passage to the New World for religious freedom. Yet, they did not want to retrace their steps and give up their worldly involvements.
    What are the parallels to our Mennonite world today?
 #1- Religious freedom and being socially accepted in the community. We can worship in freedom, move any where in the USA and establish a church or business place. Many people in our society of far-flung faith and location are pleased if they can find an Anabaptist in their genealogy! They are fascinated with our cooking, our quilts, barn raisings, and disaster service.
#2- Economic prosperity - We can provide for our needs and even many of our wants. We are among the privileged in the world who have electric and running water. We are known to make a valuable contribution to the economy of a community by honest business dealings and innovative ideas.
#3- Religious confusion. They had so many different groups, it was confusing. Some were not affliliated with any group.  It was difficult for young people to find a stable, satisfying church life. The church that had once been willing to risk their lives to spread the Gospel to others, now were too involved in the local tensions to be effective in evangelism. There were schisms and splits everywhere.
    Today the average age in the Netherlands Mennonite churches is at least 80 years old. A friend pointed out something very wrong in a picture he took at a communion service in their church. Every member had gray hair! It is a dying church! The Netherlands is known to be one of the most liberal and ungodly nations in the world. The Dutch aided our people during the persecution age. Is God calling us to help them in their dilemma now?
    How can we remain faithful until Christ returns in our setting? We need to maintain distinct lines of separation from the world - not only in our dress, but in our homes, entertainment, social contacts and more. There are Biblical principles of  modesty and simplicity but beyond that is the value of identity with the people of God. It is important to support our own schools that the next generation "may know and value truth."
    Be careful with professionalism. Personally, I have seen devout, sincere believers use an education to further the kingdom in significant ways. They have used their education to produce good quality literature, minister to the sick and dying, prepare the next generation for service, etc. But when faith is sacrificed to further the profession, it is another step toward assimilation.
     Are we radical or rational in our goals and decisions? One man who was making a compromise (with a muppy attitude) said, "But we do need to live, after all." His friend (with the martyr spirit) replied, "Do we? We can die."
    I am not saying we all need to go back to being PA Dutch farmers living in isolation. But we do need to consider where our choices are taking us. Are we more like a Muppy with an independent Me-spirit? Or are we crucified with Christ - willing to give up all we are and have -even life itself - in surrender to Him?  Jesus told us to go into the world and evangelize, not assimilate! We are called to be in the world, but not of it!
     It is not one giant leap to go  from martyr to is a series of small choices - maybe over the span of several generations! Still thinking...


Friday, October 16, 2015

Unexpected Answer

Unexpected Answer
by Grace Dorothy Lehman
The broken bread, the cup of wine,
We take with trembling hand,
As we consider once again
Salvation's wondrous plan.
The bishop lingers yet a bit,
And says in kindly tone,
"Has anyone been overlooked?
If so, please make it known."
"Yes, we've been missed!" say voices
In a hundred different tongues;
We never knew the Savior died;
We never knew He's come.
You've missed us many, many times;
You've missed us centuries long.
Will you not share with us the Bread,
The Living Bread of God?"
Taken from Missionary Messenger Supplement Oct. 1956

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Spring Days are coming!

Wash Day
The clothes are washed all clean and bright.
They are lying in a pile.
They're very wet and very still.
But just you wait a while!
The minute they are on the line,
Held down with wooden pegs,
You ought to see what happens to my pajama legs.
They dance and twist, then turn around and puff out big and fat.
I'm sure that when I have them on
They do not look like that!
The pillow cases flip and flop,
The stockings make me laugh
I am afraid the big wide sheets will tear themselves in half.
Now Mother is coming for the clothes
too bad to spoil their fun.
I'm sure they'd like another day to play in wind and sun.
author unknown

Sunday, January 4, 2015

What Does an Older Woman Do All Day?

You've heard much about mothers of toddlers and the chaotic times. You have read of mothers of teens who struggle with all the ups and downs of raising teenagers. But older women are tired, lonely and bored, right? Want to hear the details of a recent day in the life of one old woman that lives at my house?
5 AM get up, grab a house coat & slippers, and throw a load of towels in the washer.
           Wash my hair
            Spend some time with my Maker and prepare my Sunday School lesson to teach while all is
            quiet and still.
7:30 AM  get dressed. Make breakfast for three. And the day begins:
                check the obits in two newspapers. None of my friends or relatives died yesterday.
                check emails and respond as needed.
                receive text from Daughter #4- What is the name & phone # of the dentist we have use for
                a  root canal.
                receive email from Daughter #2- what dimensions are allowed for carry on luggage?
                receive text from Daughter #4- Can I get airport parking cheaper if I pay in advance?
                Phone call from cousin - Would you take a box of dried hash brown potatoes along with
                you on an upcoming mission trip ?
                Take a box of hash browns to spare room and add to the stash to be packed in suitcase.
                Next call - Make that two boxes of hash browns. Go get 2nd box and place near box #1.
                Copy addresses and phone numbers in 2015 planner book.
                Shake two rugs- I really need to get to cleaning the downstairs.
                Add passports to the growing pile of travel stuff - before I forget.
                Fill a small container with shampoo to put in suitcase - before I forget.
                Receive text from Daughter #4- we have a brand new grand-nephew.
                Send emails to Son #1, Daughter #2 and #3. Attach a thank you  for Christmas gifts last
                week. Tell the baby news to Son #2. Call Daughter #1 with the  baby news.
                Reminder to pray for Grandson #3 who is traveling to MN today.
                Get a sympathy card ready for new widow at church.
                Man of the house says "Could we have lunch a bit early today?" Sure why not?
                Use leftover fresh mushrooms from Christmas Day to make a kettle of cream of mushroom
                soup and throw some stale bread in the oven to add garlic bread to the menu. Good there is
                 some leftover mixed berry cobbler for desert.
                Read Grandpa's diary from October 1948 to husband while he eats his lunch to help me
                refrain from eating a second helping and dessert that I really don't need.
  12 noon  Just noticed - the towels never did get hung on the line. Oh well ! It is sunny and breezy.
                 They will probably get dry before dark this evening.
                  Water flowers, clean living room and laundry. Dust kitchen & dining room furniture.
                  While cleaning, look for the wallet Grandson #2 lost when he was here on Christmas Day.
                  Meet the auctioneer's photographer to go do a photo shoot at our cabin for the brochure
                  and virtual tour being prepared for the upcoming auction next spring.
                  Enjoy the relaxing one hour ride each direction, and making a new lady friend.
                  Stop at the Dollar Store to look for a new 5 subject notebook to record 2015 household
                  expenses and my daily diary. They had none. But I found a bag of nice gift bows reduced
                  50% and a nice, fuzzy, warm scarf for a birthday gift for d-i-l #1.
   4:30 PM Mop kitchen & dining room floor.
                  Fry 20 hamburgers - have hamburgers & chips for supper - with more of the mixed
                  berry dessert. Pack the leftover hamburgers in individual sandwich bags for son #2 to use
                  to use for meals when he house sits for us in a few weeks.
                 Wash dishes while hubby dries them
                  Take towels off the line and fold them.
                  Upload cabin pictures and email to the auctioneer's office.
                  Start writing my installment in a  circle letter to my mother's aged cousins.
                  Look up Face book pictures of new grandnephew.
                  Discuss possible trip to TX with hubby. Also consider possibilities and ideas for adding a
                 garage to our house. No flighty or concrete ( pun intended) decision made on either one.
                 Just reviewing options.
                 Finish writing circle letter.
                 Write up this list.
                 10 PM

I love being busy and needed by the people around me. That is what makes an older woman feel loved and fulfilled.
Although as has been said and my own expanded version is-  "I just never seem to have enough time to think all the thoughts I want to think, read all the books I want to read, pray all the prayers I want to pray, take all the walks I want to take, visit all the friends I want to see, write all the letters I want to send or travel all the places I want to go."
Some days I am weary, and maybe  I will experience loneliness and boredom in the future. But today  I am grateful for all the opportunities and blessings that are mine! Thank you for enriching my life with your friendship and love!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Wait-Watchers Club

Ten days ago our 44 year old son-in-law had a massive stroke which is more clearly defined in medical terms as a basilar artery dissection. We are very blessed that he has survived and is becoming more stable. He will remain in ICU for another day or two before he can begin the grueling process of rehab and recovery. We are spending a lot of time at the hospital and many hours in the ICU waiting room. We are learning to know some of the other families who have a loved one in the ICU too. Barbie and I are learning to know each other better every day. yesterday she said, "We need to come up with a name for this group that meets here every day. With a little more thought she came up with the name "Wait-Watchers Club". Ah! I like it!

We wait:
for the Great Physician to heal;
for the doctor team to come examine our loved one;
for the  meds to help decrease pain levels;
for any signs of improvement;
for the brewing coffee pot;
for results of the latest CAT scan or MRI;
to be moved out of ICU;
After we have curled up in a blanket and stretched out on the waiting room chairs for the night, we wait for morning to come.

We watch:
while a loved one suffers extreme pain;
for visitors to come around the corner;
the vitals monitor by the bedside;
when other families cry after receiving bad news about their loved one;
and pray for other families who have even more serious situations than our own;
the clock tick away the hours;
the nurses administer gentle, caring services;
the doctors huddle in discussion;
for any signs of improvement;
the roller coaster of emotions in various situations.
and pray for our loved ones who are fighting to live.

Lord, join us for the Wait-Watcher Club meeting tomorrow! Your presence is the comfort and joy of my soul!