Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sparkle Like a Jewel

Dear Readers:

Sometimes I feel insecure and wonder what I have to offer others to make them think about changing their lives. What would another person see in me that would draw them to my wonderful Savior and friend?

I think I found the answer in two verses in Zechariah 9. They are the following:

Zechariah 9:9

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

and Zechariah 9:16

The LORD their God will save his people on that day
as a shepherd saves his flock.
They will sparkle in his land
like jewels in a crown.

The first verse identifies the source of why the people of Zion can rejoice. The second identifies what can happen to persons whom God saves and becomes their shepherd. They can sparkle like jewels.

See you next time,

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mennonite Boys Don't Dance...Do They?

Dear Readers,

I ask you, did you ever have the urge to burst out in song and dance in the local grocery store, walking down the street, or even while sitting or standing in church?

There is a phenomenon in America called a flash mob. It is defined by Wikipedia as the following: “A flash mob (or flashmob) is a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and sometimes seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment, satire, artistic expression.”

Movie musicals and Broadway plays have long used a “flash mob mindset”, if you will. I’m no expert why musicals have long been popular, except that they are enjoyable to watch with their sometimes inspiring songs and dance routines. Who can ever forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers routines, or Gene Kelly “Singing in the Rain”. One of my favorite musicals of all time is “Fiddler on the Roof” with the tug of war between religious change and “Tradition”. The younger generation can likely name more contemporary musicals that had an impact on them where one singer or dancer starts, and then finally a whole “mob” of singers and dancers join in.

I'm a boy that who grew up Mennonite with Amish roots that has had the urge at times to break out in song and dance, sometimes in public places. My wife and son laugh when I talk about it. I know a bystander would not encounter ballet-like dance moves emanating from me, and they might clap their hands over their ears to stop the noise. But the urge still remains.

Where does this urge come from? I think it is the same type of feeling that some of us felt as kids when we dreamed of flying like a bird, or floating up in the air like a balloon.

I have a hypothesis. I’m not much into science, but it seems to me like the desire to break out in song and dance, to fly, and even lift our hands in praise comes from an innate desire to ascend into heavenly realms. Perhaps it is God calling us to Himself.

Lest a person thinks a Mennonite boy with Amish roots should be a picture of humility and not succumb to such foolishness I ask them to look up in the Bible Jeremiah 31:12-14, Luke 7:32, or the story of David dancing with all his might when he brought the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:14).

Perhaps someday some of us will lose our inhibitions and break out into our own impromptu flash mob or musical for the Lord.

See you next time,

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

God Really Likes You!

Dear Readers,

On Sunday our pastor made a statement that has really stuck with me. He said, “You know, God really likes you!"

I’m not really sure why that statement packed such a punch to me. My wife and I were discussing it last night, and I admit that I’m still in a little bit of a fog why it struck me so deeply.

I think it has something to do with the fact that all of us want to be liked. Ever since I was in grade school when a classmate told me that someone else liked me I immediately felt a boost of self-esteem. It was usually followed with a tinge of doubt that it was really true. After all, what could a person see in me, a tall, skinny kid who had an inferiority complex?

In high school I was made aware of several girls who said they were interested in being friends with me. I always held them at arm’s length, because I was afraid if they got too close they would see me for the insecure person I was.

Here, a varsity basketball player who could put the ball through a hoop and grab a rebound did not have the self-confidence to even talk to a girl! I was flattered, however, with the thought that a girl might see something in me that I didn’t see in myself, and that perhaps they really did like me.

Numerous places in the Bible there are quotes about God’s love for us. I’m not sure why it is, but the term has become somewhat impersonal to me. I know that God’s love is real, but somehow it seems “out there somewhere”, if you know what I mean.

When I heard the statement from our pastor on Sunday that “God really likes you” it seemed more personal somehow. It made me feel God is my personal friend who likes me and wants to spend time with me. He's a friend that does not care about my foibles; he likes my character, my sense of humor, and even my idiosyncrasies. I'm a unique person who He deems worthy to call His friend.

"I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you
." John 15:15 (NIV)

See you next time,

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Porcelain Doll

Dear Readers,

Last week I was shopping at Save A Lot grocery store when I saw some people that really struck my interest. You see my Dad grew up Amish and I have many Amish relatives. I have lived around and among Amish people all my life.

Lately, however, when I see an Amish person or family I try to think in my mind what their lives might be like. I think what might make them excited or happy? I think what might make them depressed or sad? Don’t ask me why I do it. I don’t even really know myself.

In Save A Lot what I saw was a really young conservative Amish couple and their baby. I know they were from a conservative sect by their apparel and the man’s haircut. The man was wearing a long coat and the woman a long shawl.

What really struck me, however, was the little baby. She was bundled up in dark outer clothing with only her tiny face showing. The face I saw looked perfect with its flesh and pinkish glow. The mother carried the little girl with ease in her strong arms as she looked for food bargains. The baby rested still as she turned with every move of the mother. I kid you not the first thing I thought of was that the little baby girl looked just like a porcelain doll that might be purchased in a store.

When I came back to reality I thought to myself, the baby in front of me is not a porcelain doll. She is a real person, full of promise and hope. Her whole life is ahead of her. What will her life hold? Will it hold happiness? Will it be filled with sadness? Will she get married and have a family? Will she have many brothers and sisters? Will she have people around her that try to understand what makes her feel fulfilled?

Many questions yet unanswered for this beautiful little living porcelain doll.

See you next time,

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Become an Action Hero!

Dear Readers,

Kids emulate sports and action heroes. They practice incessantly the same moves as their heroes.

At the workplace there is an ongoing call to take action to get work accomplished to produce a product or service to make money.

As a parent sometimes we get stern with our son or daughter when we perceive they are becoming lackadaisical about taking action toward completing school work, chores, or a career pursuit.

One of my pastors about twenty years ago lamented the fact that he was up in front of the church Sunday after Sunday pitching what he felt were meaningful sermons. But one Sunday he threw us a changeup when he urged us to not focus on just the words of the sermon, but to “do something!”

God used Jeremiah to talk a little about action. It starts in Jeremiah 31 and carries over to Jeremiah 32 (NIV). Jeremiah the prophet wrote in 31:33: “This is the covenant I will make to the house of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law into their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people.”

God goes on in chapter 32:38-39: “They will be my people and I will be their God. I will give them singleness of heart and action….”

The message of Jeremiah is that when we are called by God, He puts His law in our minds, gives us singleness of heart, then He directly gives us action to take. This truly is the best way to become an “Action Hero”!

See you next time,

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Staggering Toward Slaughter

Dear Readers

"Rescue those being led away to death;
hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?"
Proverbs 25:11-12

The topic "staggering toward slaughter" seems pretty morbid. It sounds like a meat slaughter house with cattle going toward their doom without realizing it. I don't like thinking about where my meat comes from and how it got on a plate in front of me. I likely think the meat industry also does not want consumers thinking too much about it. It might affect the sale of meat.

What was Solomon trying to say? Proverbs 1:1-3 state that Solomon wrote Proverbs to Israel to help them in "gaining wisdom and instruction" and to learn how to proceed "doing what is right and just and fair".

I can't read Solomon's mind but I will make a logical guess what he was trying to say. He was concerned about the Israelites and their relationship to God. He perhaps likened them to cattle that were unable to perceive that doom awaited them.

My Dad, now deceased, grew up in the Amish church, and my family and I are involved with Mission to Amish People (MAP). Amish people, and people of many other denominations, emphasize works and following rules. Acceptance of God and salvation by faith in His Son Jesus Christ is oftentimes not a point of emphasis. I myself grew up in a Mennonite church and was baptized and taken in as a member when I was about fourteen years old, but I know I was not saved by faith in Jesus Christ.

First question: Can many of these dear and beloved Amish people, others, and myself before I was saved by faith in Jesus Christ, be likened to cattle staggering toward slaughter?

Second question: Is Satan behind the staggering, and does he want people to think about the fact that they might be headed toward slaughter?

Third question: What is our role to "hold back" persons headed toward slaughter?

Fourth question: What is God's perspective on us if we do not make an effort to "hold back" persons staggering toward slaughter?

See you next time,

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mose Yoder Reunion

(Note: I am departing my current blog trend to update on the reunion I attended on Saturday.)

Dear Readers,

I had a great time on Saturday, September 17, 2011 at the Mose Yoder reunion. I am so blessed to have such a wonderful family and a great heritage.

Two of my uncles got up front to tell stories, many funny, of Grandpa, Grandma, and their travels between Kansas, to Ohio, back to Kansas, and finally back to Ohio for good.

Uncle Eli is the oldest living brother of my Dad’s family. He is a very friendly, gracious man, and the love of Jesus just emanates from him. At 93 years old Uncle Eli said that he still goes out and uses a weed-eater and does some other outdoor work. He was Amish for many years but now attends a Conservative Mennonite church.

Uncle Henry was the youngest member of the family and he and Eli are my only remaining uncles on my Dad’s side. He is 85 years old, but he is still full of energy and fun. When my son was still very young Uncle Henry gladly took him on his first buggy ride and Uncle Henry smiled the whole time. Uncle Henry was the main storyteller at the reunion. He remains a member of the Amish church.

One story was about Grandpa who was a “slater” that installed slate roofs on buildings. Uncle Henry told how Grandpa fell head-first off a roof onto the ground below. He said a man saved Grandpa's life by literally pulling his head back up from between his shoulders. That story made me cringe.

Cousin Mel, a son of Aunt Elma, my only aunt, showed us a picture of Dad with a strange woman. Dad traveled quite a bit and his sister Elma jokingly said that instead of having "a girl in every port", Dad had a "girl on every porch". I never knew Dad to be such a ladies’ man, but I did often hear he was full of wanderlust, always looking for the greener grass on the other side of the hill. He left the Amish church for good at the age of 22.

Uncle Eli told me that Grandma was hurt by Dad leaving the Amish church, but Grandpa did not seem adversely affected. As I was growing up Dad visited Grandpa or his brothers and sister at least a couple times per month. Unlike so many others leaving the Amish faith Dad was never shunned by his family, and I am really thankful for that. I wish that many Amish leaders would learn the lesson that it is not necessary for Amish parents to shun their children that leave the Amish church, and that the Lord can bless a family that has open arms to all members of the family in various stages of trying to find out what the Lord has for them.

Cousin Paul, who is still Amish, shared with me how he started a hardware store in Mt. Hope, Ohio in early 60's after he was newly married and still in 1-W Service (a Military Selective Service status for conscientious objectors). The former hardware store in Mt. Hope had gone out of business and had a poor reputation of not paying its debts. Paul said he started the new hardware business with very little money but made it grow so much that Lehman Hardware of Kidron, Ohio, which was well known in the area, bought him out to make a satellite store. Lehman Hardware hired Paul to manage the store. Paul managed it for many years until recently, and now only works about two days per week. Paul asked me about my involvement with Mission to Amish People (MAP) and the "Amish boys" that come to a Bible study at my home. I had spoken to him last year about the Bible study.

Cousin David, one of Eli’s middle sons, moved his family from a long time living in West Virginia to a Conservative Mennonite community in Maryland. He said he and his family moved there because the community in West Virginia was changing too much to suit them. He was friendly and I appreciate him a great deal. We talked about our common faith in Christ being the most important thing in life. I am not sure what he thought of me, a person that is no longer even Mennonite, being a born-again Christian.

I spent a long time talking to Roy, who was the host. I enjoyed the time I spent with him a great deal. He is the production manager for what used to be called Wayne-Dalton garage doors, and he rides his bicycle six miles to work and six miles home every day in rain, snow, sleet or sunshine. He said that about the only time he drives his buggy is on icy days. He was very humble how he became the production manager, and he is looking forward to the day when he can retire and just farm. It is interesting to think of an Amish man being a production manager of a major company with all the technology it uses....and he rides his bicycle six miles to and from work!

My cousins Steve and Verna seemed interested in the involvement of my family with Mission to Amish People. They were especially interested in the story I told about Mose Gingerich from Missouri who was in the television show “Amish in the City” about ten years ago. They smiled widely when I said that Mose gave his heart to the Lord during a National Geographic filming in our house about three weeks prior.

I did not talk very much with my cousin Ernest from Kansas, but my wife and he were engaged in conversation about MAP and his daughter Rhonda Shrock who lives in Indiana with her family and has become a well known writer for several newspapers, blogs, and colleges. My wife is also a writer so they had something in common to talk about.

I could go on and on talking about all the relatives I visited, and the ones that are gone whom I learned more about. I really missed talking with my cousin Ed who is my age. But all in all we had a really blessed day! I pray that many of my relatives that do not know Christ come to Him and find the joy and happiness of serving our wonderful Savior.

See you next time,

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Comeback King

Dear Readers,

(Note: I hope you enjoy this series of blog posts. I designed the posts to try to encourage you. They are written in story format, and I took some literary license to tell “how it might have been”. This story is based mostly on 2 Chronicles 33.)

King Hezekiah was such a good king in Judah, so I’m not sure what happened to Manasseh, Hezekiah’s son, to turn him into such a scoundrel. I had a first-hand look at both being a military commander. I almost worshiped the ground Hezekiah walked on. He made such a difference in our lives. He gave hope to thousands. Manasseh, however, was a different story.

As I wrote previously I was a young man in my twenties when King Hezekiah appointed me to be a military officer when Sennacherib, king of Assyria, had all his forces situated on the hillsides surrounding Jerusalem. Looking down over the wall at the masses of enemy soldiers made most of us cringe with fear.

But King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah were undaunted as they cried out in prayer to the Lord God of Israel. Then from the wall in the darkness of night we all saw a bright light hovering over the enemy encampment. Then we heard shrieking cries of terror. King Hezekiah and Isaiah did not even watch as the angel of the Lord cut down the enemy. They were absorbed in their all night prayer vigil to the God of heaven.

When King Hezekiah died the news spread far and wide among the surrounding nations. He made some mistakes at the end of his life, but Hezekiah was beloved by all of Judah and Jerusalem, and the mourning at his passing was great. Manasseh, Hezekiah’s twelve year old son, inherited the throne.

I was still a fairly young commander of approximately thirty years old when Manasseh became king. I had high hopes at the beginning of his reign. I thought surely he would follow in his father’s footsteps of being a good and godly king. I was very wrong.

He started slowly in changing the religious life of the people of Judah. It started with building a high place to a foreign god. He built it, if you can believe it, at the exact location his father had torn it down. What was he thinking? Then to make matters worse he ordered more high places to foreign gods to be constructed and he openly consulted mediums and spiritists. But nothing can compare with the depravity of Manasseh sacrificing his own children in the fire of the Valley of Hinnom.

I was attributing this lack of godliness to his youth. After all, Manasseh was not born yet during the time when his father and Isaiah prayed and Jerusalem was saved by the hand of an angel. But he persisted with these evil deeds into the twentieth year, then the thirtieth, and even into the fortieth year of his reign. There seemed a deep sadness and a foreboding darkness during that time. The presence of the Lord, so vividly felt during the time of Hezekiah, felt very distinctly missing.

The Assyrians sensed the departure of the Lord from Jerusalem, and they became less and less afraid. They had heard rumors of the angel’s destruction of their armies at the time of Sennacherib, but now it seemed far removed and almost not real. They surrounded Jerusalem just as they had in the past, but the outcome was different. They captured the city and took Manasseh as their prisoner.

I was an old retired soldier by this time and the Assyrians knew I was not a threat to them. They let me and my family alone. But there were stories that the Assyrians humiliated Manasseh by putting a ring and hook in his nose and that they led him around like an animal. They took him to Babylon, as well as the remaining soldiers not killed in the battle.

Several years passed and the Assyrian king assigned a governor and a small regiment of soldiers to rule the city and surrounding lands. Things were relatively peaceful, but there was unrest among the remaining people of Judah as they still felt oppressed by the void of not hearing God’s voice. Several of us elderly former leaders who remembered the prayers of Hezekiah called an assembly. We prayed fervently to the God of heaven.

We did not know what to expect and the spiritual darkness persisted. But we did not give up. After a week of daily prayer we saw a group of about a hundred men walking on foot approaching our city. They had no weapons and did not seem to be a threat to our safety. The man at the front of the group looked vaguely familiar, but I could not distinguish him with his long beard and disheveled clothing.

As he and his companions entered the city gate the straggly man announced himself. He said he was Manasseh; our king who we thought likely dead. I looked closely and it was indeed Manasseh, albeit a scrawny version. Why had he come back? He was an evil king and was the last person I wanted to see return. Manasseh tried to convince us that he was a changed man. He said that he prayed to the God of heaven as did his father Hezekiah before him, and God gave him favor with the Assyrian king. The men accompanying Manasseh confirmed his statements. They said that he had in fact prayed loudly and fervently for the past week from his dungeon. They said Manasseh had no regard whether he would be so annoying to the Assyrian king that he would call down harm upon himself and his men.

They said within one week the Assyrian king had enough. The king reported having a dream with orders directly from God to release Manasseh and every one of Manasseh’s men. The Assyrian king said the dream was so vivid that he knew that he would be destroyed if he did not obey.

So here was Manasseh again in our midst. He seemed different, but time would tell, and I fully expected him to go back to his evil ways. But he didn’t. He started doing things reminiscent of Hezekiah, his father. I never thought I would see a day when King Manasseh would tear down an altar to a foreign god instead of building one. After he tore down the first one he continued to tear them all down and throw the remains outside the city. Then he restored the temple and the wall. He was also often seen lifting his head and his hands to heaven to pray, and he entreated all Judah to do the same.

I was in my eighties when King Manasseh came back on foot to Jerusalem. I thought I had seen the last of God’s glory at the end of the days of Hezekiah. I was gladly mistaken. Where there is prayer to the God of heaven there is always hope.

Monday, August 8, 2011

My Beloved King

Dear Readers,

(Note: I hope you enjoy this series of blog posts. I designed the posts to try to encourage you. They are written in story format, and I took some literary license to tell “how it might have been”. This story is based mostly on 2 Chronicles 32, 33.)

I remember my first personal meeting with King Hezekiah. I had seen him from afar, but never up close. I was a fresh graduate from military training. I expected to move up the ranks at some point but never in a thousand years did I dream it would come so soon.

The day started normally. I awakened and began my morning routine. Then I yelled out with surprise at the abrupt, loud knock on my door. My commander on the other side seemed almost in a panic as he barked out orders to open the door immediately. I didn't know what might be the emergency, but there were rumors that Sennacherib, king of Assyria, with all his forces were on the move, and Jerusalem might be his next target.

The summons was from King Hezekiah himself for me to meet him in his palace. I felt honored, but I also felt a tinge of fear. Perhaps I had done something dreadfully wrong. I knew if I had done something to displease the king I could immediately face the fate of others before me who offended the king’s honor. My life that morning starting so much like many others could now be ended in a second of time.

I was heartened when I saw four of my comrades in military training also present. At least I wouldn't be alone with whatever was about to happen. Perhaps they were feeling the same sense of honor mixed with trepidation.

The king, to my relief, thanked us for coming and asked us to relax as we sat down. He explained the nature of our visit. He wanted each of us as young newly trained soldiers to be his personal liaisons between him and the troops. He was appointing us each to be a military officer and assigned us to a regiment of soldiers. He ordered us to be present with our regiment the next morning at the open square of the city gate.

I met my regiment that evening. My insides were shaking, but outside I tried to keep a calm, cool demeanor. The soldiers in my regiment were informed the king had personally appointed me to be in charge of them. That was good enough for them. They revered the king and would be willing to break through a stone wall if he requested it. They verbally assented with a shout of confidence in their new leader. They came one by one, greeted me, and expressed their loyalty to me. Their smiles of approval made my insides settle a bit, but my outside appearance belied the fact that I felt like an insecure youth.

The next morning King Hezekiah spoke like I had never seen anyone speak before. He spoke with such passion, just as if he was speaking the very words of God. He said, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us to fight our battles.” I and my soldiers shouted in agreement with our great King Hezekiah that the Lord indeed was stronger than any earthly king, no matter how vast an army that king assembled.

It's amazing what happened the next few days. King Sennacherib sent envoys to try to discourage the soldiers and the people in our besieged city. I hate to admit my cowardice, but when I looked from the top of the wall down to the huge army ready to invade, and heard their taunts, I cringed inside and wondered if we should not just surrender to our powerful enemy.

But my way was not the way of King Hezekiah. He saw the urgency of the matter. But instead of calling it quits he summoned Isaiah the Prophet to pray for our people and city. Sennacherib’s soldiers heard their cries, mocked them, and called the pair mad. But that did not stop our beloved king and Isaiah from crying out even louder to the God of Heaven.

The next thing that happened was only something I had heard about in stories about our ancestors like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and King David. There were a few recent rumors of miracles at the hands of some of the prophets in our land, but I had never seen anything like this up close. From the wall in the dark we saw a great light enter the midst of the enemy. We heard screams of terror pierce the night. I had never heard anything like it before and never since.

The next morning we saw in astonishment a hillside littered with dead soldiers. All the enemy fighting men and commanders were killed, not one was spared. But Sennacherib retreated to his own land in disgrace. It is rumored that he was so despondent that he went into his temple and prayed night and day to his foreign god. His god did not answer him, and some of Sennacherib's own sons saw an opening to gain power, so they entered the temple and killed their father by the sword.

In my later years I told the story of King Hezekiah often to my children, grandchildren, and anyone who would listen. He was a godly king and beloved by all his people. But the thing I will remember the most, even over the angel annihilating the enemy, was King Hezekiah and Isaiah crying out to the Lord at the top of their lungs, not worried about what their enemy, or friends for that matter, would think.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Priest

Dear Readers,

(Note: I hope you enjoy my next series of blog posts. I designed the posts to try to encourage you. They are written in story format, and I took some literary license to tell “how it might have been”. This story is based mostly on I Chronicles 22, 23. )

Our King David wanted to build the temple, but he said that God told him directly that he had too much blood on his hands. I know that King David is loved by God, so I don’t pretend to understand why God didn't let him do it. Well, God knows best, and I learned a long time ago not to question Him. Look at what happened to Uzzah when all he did was reach to steady the ark so it did not tip over. Uzzah instantly fell over dead. God has an order and a plan, and I know as a Levite that it can't be thwarted, even innocently.

God said that Solomon was going to build the temple instead. King David has so many sons, so I'm not sure why he chose Solomon to become king after him, and to build the temple. Well, again I think of God’s plan…..

Has King David gone mad in his old age? He's like a man possessed. He's been gathering foreigners all over the place! What's he doing? They're mostly stone-cutters and craftsmen beyond number. He's contracted with them to supply vast amounts of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone. Even though King David seems almost obsessive-compulsive about the temple building, I've rarely seen him so excited about anything. During his years of fighting he was much more serious. Now he's like a child making delicacies. At his age I hope he doesn’t have heart failure.

He's also been organizing us Levites. There are thirty-eight thousand of us and twenty-four thousand of us he said will be in charge of the temple. He then separated us into divisions. I'm in the division of Kohath. I'm proud of my ancestry being a direct descendant of Aaron who was the brother of Moses. What an honor! I hope I can live up to this great heritage. I sometimes doubt myself.

David sat us down and gave us detailed instructions of what we're going to be doing in the new temple when it is finally built by his son. It was an exciting time. We were instructed to sit down on the hillside by division and King David and the appointed leaders of our respective families yelled out our instructions.

Again the king seemed more excited than I have ever seen him, save the time when he brought the ark back to Jerusalem. Nothing can compare to how happy he was then. He danced with joy like I have never seen before.

Well the instructions are set for each family of Levites. All we have to do is await the final stone being laid and the temple dedicated. I'm sure there will be many practice runs to make sure we carry out our instructions properly. Some of my fellow Levites in other families will be in charge of temple preparation and maintenance. Some will prepare sacrifices and take care of the altar. Some will get the utensils ready. Some will bake bread without yeast. I'm glad I won’t be doing that. I always was a terrible cook.

Guess what my job is to be? In a way I'm honored, in a way overwhelmed, and in a way almost embarrassed that I don't have to do more. While some others are slaving away with sweat dropping off their brow, I have a completely different duty. My job, and the job of my family of Levites is to praise the Lord. Yes, you heard it. My main responsibility is to stand at attention in the morning and thank and praise the Lord for His goodness. Then again in the evening I will stand at attention and praise Him for His goodness for the second time. Also we'll repeat the process at the special New Moon feasts and appointed festivals.

What does all this mean, praising the Lord? Why is it so important? Why would David appoint a family of men to just praise the Lord, and that is the bulk of their task? It seems exciting now, but will praising the Lord each day eventually become a mundane and boring routine task? I don’t know. Only time will tell.

Also, where's all this leading? David seems so excited and I 'm not sure exactly why. He's getting old and won't be with us much longer. Why would an old man, almost ready to pass away from this earth, put so much energy into this temple and priest thing? Is there something I'm not seeing? Does he know something I don’t know? I do know there has been some talk of a future Messiah. Is that what this is all about? Again, only time will tell.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

An Old Dog

Dear Readers,

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. How many times have you heard that saying?

Now that I am approaching sixty years of age the saying hits closer home. A few weeks ago I was with my son registering for college where I saw numerous young people, mostly still in their teens, in the process of registering. I wondered to myself “what separates them from me?” All of a sudden I had the urge to register for classes myself just to show everyone, and myself, that I am not washed up. Plus the urge to learn was re-inspired within me. The college bulletin board had all kinds of study tips and things that an employer is looking for, things that I never even thought about before after roughly forty years of employment.

There is also a recent trend in the church whereby I have heard pastors and others say when they want to go to more modern way of worship with a stage-like appearance, colored stage lights, etc. They said there is proof that the younger generation is where the future of the church lies. They went on to say there is proof that old persons without the Lord in their lives are much more likely to never give their hearts to the Lord.

While I agree that the future of the church might lie within the lives of the younger generation, I bristle when I hear church leaders and others tout the fact that older persons will never give their hearts to the Lord, so there is no need spend much time or energy trying to reach out to them.

I prefer the saying, “You’re never too old to learn.” And I especially like the Bible verse in 2 Peter 3:9 (NIV): “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promises, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” “Everyone” means even “old dogs”.

See you next time,

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Father's Thoughts, From the Mariemont Inn in Cincinnati

Dear Readers,

I am sitting here in Cincinnati, Ohio, in the historic Mariemont Inn. My wife and son are sleeping and everything seems peaceful on this Father’s Day 2011. I await the adventures of going to the Union Station Museum tomorrow morning to see the various museum pieces, the train tower, the large model train exhibit, and the main event of the day which is the IMAX theater movie “Tornado Alley”.

What is my purpose as a father? How do I instill a sense of security in my son that will help lead him in the way to go? You may notice that I said “help lead him in the way to go”. A couple weeks ago my wife and I helped lead our son in a prayer to give his heart fully to the Lord. I now realize that Joseph is in God’s very capable hands, and the most I can do is to try the best I can to be a good father and take the needed time with him to “help” teach him things that he can learn from me as his earthly father.

Actually I am greatly indebted to Jim Brown, Joseph’s late natural father, my wife Dee, and especially God that I have a son. Joseph, however, is now God’s adopted son, and I can only pray that Joseph follows Him down His paths. I pray also that Joseph listens to the input of Dee and myself, but the ultimate decisions from here on out are ultimately between he and his heavenly Father.

What a relief, to know that God our heavenly Father loves Joseph even more than me as his earthly father.

See you next time,

Thursday, May 19, 2011

House That Contains Great Treasure!

Dear Readers,

Sometimes I feel unsatisfied, like I am missing something important in my life. I wonder when my ship will come in, or if I will ever own a business that I have long desired.

My dissatisfaction seems like a great chasm that can never be traversed. It is not dissatisfaction with people, or even things. I have long known that things can never bring happiness to a person.

It is more a general feeling of loss of direction and focus. When I was a young Christian I was constantly trying to think of ways to share God’s love with others. Now, besides an occasional devotional writing on this blog, Mission to Amish Persons discussion board, or Facebook, my sharing of God’s love with unsaved persons seems somewhat stagnant.

What can I do? Does anyone have the answer?

I recently came across the verse that I think has at least a partial answer. It is found in Proverbs 15:6. It states, “The house of the righteous contains great treasure,…”

When I married Dee and became Joseph’s stepfather I moved into a house that was originally purchased by Jim Brown, Dee’s late husband and Joseph’s late father. Little did I know the blessing that this house, or household, would be in my life.

You see, my wife has the gift of hospitality. With her as the gracious hostess we have had many family and friend gatherings in this house. The work seems difficult at the time to get the house ready for the gathering, and I sometimes complain about getting everything “just right” for our guests. But to see the guests and listen to their comments about how welcoming our home is makes it all worthwhile.

Just last week a Public Broadcasting Station crew from Boston came to our home to film part of a documentary about Amish because we host a Bible study with former Amish young persons . Callie Taintor Wiser, a well known PBS documentary filmmaker commented to my wife and I what a welcoming, nice home she thought we have.

So while I wait for my ship to arrive and my long lost business to materialize, I can take great pleasure, and “treasure”, from our house which God has graciously given us.

See you next time,

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Royal Wedding

Dear Readers,

William and Kate are now married. The wedding was spectacular and the cathedral majestic. No expense was spared. The total cost was $60 million dollars with over one half of that for security. An $80,000 cake and an $800,000 flower and greenery bill seemed lush and extravagant.

The wedding was a fairytale come true. We might wonder why we were not born to be the grandson of a queen, or to meet a prince to sweep us off our feet.

But wait! There is hope for each one of us. Royalty is not just meant for a certain few. There is a Prince ready and willing to sweep us off our feet, to lavish us with lush and extravagant gifts in this life and at a wedding to come.

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” I Peter 2:9-10 (NKJV)

See you next time,

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A New Day!

Dear Readers,

How many of you ever moved into a new house, to a new area, or started a new business? How did you feel about the move or the change? Did you feel apprehensive, did you feel full of hope, or did you feel both?

I can remember as a four year old boy my family’s anticipation of moving into a brand new home built by my parents in the beautiful countryside near Berlin, Ohio. Before our move we temporarily occupied the cramped quarters in the back of my uncle’s abandoned store in Bunker Hill.

I have fond memories of our vagabond experience in the apartment in Bunker Hill. My brother and I had fun rolling balls up and down on the sloped living room floor. We along with our cousins frequented the old storefront where we played with the cash register and found various sundry treasures like old squirt guns and bubble gum. Many hours were spent playing basketball with the hoop on the side of the old feed mill. The pungent grain odor and a rumor of many rats residing inside the mill is a distant but distinct memory.

Finally the day came for the move. No more visits to the mud puddles, large dirt piles, and make-shift ramps into the unfinished new house. We packed our belongings and left our year-long vagabond existence to go to a land of spaciousness and a shining, brand new home. What hope and promise we felt. A new day had arrived!

It reminds me of the story of the Israelites after Moses died, and with Joshua they cast lots to see which family would receive a specific tract of the “promised land”. Their fighting was almost over, and they were going to finally move into their new land. What hope! A new day full of promise had arrived. I can almost sense in my spirit their anticipation.

It also reminds me of the spring season and the Easter holiday. Jesus’ crucifixion was a time of great sorrow. Everyone close to Him may have felt like vagabonds not knowing what the future held. They may have shared fond memories of the Messiah and perhaps pondered what the purpose was what they just experienced in the last three years with Jesus.

Then it happened! Jesus was alive! How did it happen? They saw Him die? But here He was, appearing to one person, then another, and finally to many persons!

Then the unthinkable happened! Jesus ascended into the clouds! Before He ascended He told His followers to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) and to wait until they were “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). His followers were filled with great joy and they told everyone they met about the news. A great new day had arrived!

See you next time,

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"For My Yoke Is Easy, and My Burden Is Light"

Dear Readers,

In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus is quoted as saying, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (NKJV)

This can’t be right, can it? I thought our life in Christ is supposed to be hard? I thought we are to suffer persecution? I thought we are to toil to reach a standard of perfection?

I am not a theologian, but it seems Jesus is saying to us that before we come to Christ we labor and are heavy laden with sin and condemnation. He then bids us to “come” to Him.

After we come He says He will give us “rest”. He then says to take His “yoke” because He is “gentle and lowly in heart”. I thought yokes are meant to be confining and perhaps even cruel when we try to pull a heavy load?

He goes on to say that His “yoke is easy and his burden is light”. A yoke cannot be easy and a burden light, can they?

These are just some thoughts to ponder. What do you think?

See you next time,


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Time Marches On....

Dear Readers,

The clock keeps ticking. The days on the calendar keep turning over. Change keeps happening.

The hit country song “Time Marches On” by Tracy Lawrence talks about difficult things that happen to a family as time marches on. The family starts out with fairly innocent beginnings. As the years march by the family winds down a path of separation and heartache.

“Sister cries out from her baby bed; 

Brother runs in feathers on his head. 
Mamma’s in her room learning how to sew; 
Daddy’s drinking beer, listening to the radio.

Mamma is depressed, barely makes a sound; 

Daddy’s got a girlfriend in another town. 
Bob Dylan sings “Like a Rolling Stone”; 
And time marches on, time marches on.”

The last verse:
“Sister calls herself a sexy grandma;
Brother’s on a diet for high cholesterol.
Mamma’s out of touch with reality;
Daddy’s in the ground beneath the maple tree.
As the angels sing an old Hank Williams song;
Time marches on, time marches on.”

As I journey toward being sixty years old I am ever closer to my inevitable end. I am not trying to be morbid, but realistic. With my Dad and Mom’s families I had nineteen immediate relatives. Of these nineteen only three remain living. 

I firmly believe that most of my family members had hope from a source that Tracy Lawrence left out of his song. I also firmly believe that I will see most of them again in the future. I also want to fervently pray for the generation remaining and the generations to come that they have hope and joy… “As Time Marches On”.

Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:5 (NKJV)

See you next time,

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Look! Up In The Sky!

"Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound."

"Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s Superman!"

Dear Readers,

Many remember the famous intro to the Superman television show. Every Saturday morning sandwiched between Sky King and Roy Rogers was the dream of almost every boy…Superman. My brother and I pinned capes (blankets or sheets) around our necks and “flew” to the rescue of people in distress.

During our monthly shopping trip to Millersburg, Ohio, the Holmes County seat, we occasionally entered Dewitt Drugstore where my brother and I went like magnets to the comic book section. We would try to scrape together the needed 12 cents to get a written and colorful dose of our favorite hero. We were little boys oblivious to our Amish and Mennonite heritage of peace and non-resistance.

As children we did not analyze too much whether Superman was real or make believe. We were drawn to his exploits of heroism and the ways he used to counteract evil.

Do we need superheroes today? Do we have the zest of a young boy or girl to pin on our capes to “save the day” from the likes of the dastardly Lex Luther who used green kryptonite to render Superman powerless?

And are we like the citizens on the streets of Metropolis who eagerly point to the sky to the real Superhero who is flying to the rescue?

Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire;…. Jude 22, 23 (NIV)

See you next time,

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Where Does It Come From...Where Does It Go?

Dear Readers,

This morning I felt a deep and meaningful presence of the Holy Spirit. I was at home in my basement, not in church. I was by myself, not with other people. I do not often feel His presence as I did this morning, in fact I can probably count the number on two hands when I have experienced Him so strongly. Which begs the question, “Where does the Holy Spirit come from, secondly where does it go, and lastly why don’t I feel Him more often?”

I am not an expert in theology to excavate the depths of the scriptures to discover the answers. Also, I am not a scientist to lay everything out on the table and by use of repeated experimentation hypothesize a formulary.

I would label myself an “experiential person”. Answers to questions do not come very easily to me. I basically experience feelings. If the feelings are good I want them to come more frequently. If they are bad I pray for them to stay away.

The scriptures do reveal, however, some insight into my questions, although I will never fully understand it. John 3:5-8 (NKJV) quotes Jesus in a conversation with Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I say to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

I understand that I cannot somehow conjure up the feeling that I had this morning, and I cannot just wish it upon others. The only thing I can do is apply another scripture found in James 5:16. It states that “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (NKJV) All I know to do is to pray fervently to the Lord that he sends the wind of His Holy Spirit to me on a more frequent basis, and especially for Him to send it to my family members and friends that do not know His wonderful love.

See you next time,

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Go Home

Dear Readers,

I sometimes question why God does not put me directly in ministry work. Living for Jesus is my passion, or I want it to be. I sometimes think I could do a lot of good ministering to others in some capacity as my full-time occupation.

I think I found the answer this morning in my devotions. It comes in Mark 5:18-19. It reads as follows: As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with Him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” (NIV)

These verses let me know that not all can be in full-time ministry. God needs many of us to go home to our own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for us, and how He has had mercy on us.

See you next time,

Friday, February 18, 2011

Formula for Success

Dear Readers,

What do you think of the many formulas out there to bring you success? Kevin Trudeau hawks “Weight Loss”, “Natural Cures”, “Anti-Aging”, “Mega Memory”, “Debt Cures, and “Free Money” formulas “They Don’t Want You To Know About”. He is the ultimate multitask master, and dupes countless Americans who line his pockets with millions for his many formulas for success.

Anthony Robbins touts “Power Talk”, “Strategies for Creating a Compelling Future”, “A 7-Day Program to Transform Your Life”, “Harnessing the Power of Your Six Primal Needs”, and “The New Science of Personal Achievement”. He uses the insecurities of people to “Awaken the Giant Within”. I will give it another title: “Awaken Your Pocketbook to Pay Me to Awaken the Giant Within”.

Where can you find true formulas for success? Do you even know they exist?

If you want true success please read Psalm 37, especially verses 3-6. Then go on to read Matthew 7, especially verses 7- 8.

I believe these verses have unlimited power to transform you and bring you success.

See you next time,

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Poor Jud is Dead...

Dear Readers,

The musical Oklahoma portrays Jud Fry as maladjusted brooding hired hand who is infatuated with Laurey, the young lady on the farm. Curly, a handsome cowboy, finds himself also in love with this farmer’s daughter, much to the chagrin of his cowboy counterparts who are enemies of the farmers who have invaded the open range with their fences and strange ways. 

Jud tries to come between Curly and Laurey, but when he finally realizes that Curly is winning the courtship battle he becomes more and more menacing. It becomes evident that he is planning some dire consequences if Laurey spurns him.

Curly then tries to focus Jud’s attention off Laurey by enticing him to think about the benefits of committing suicide. He breaks out into song:

Poor Jud is dead

Poor Jud Fry is dead
All gather around his coffin now and cry
He had a heart of gold
And he wasn’t very old
Oh why did such a feller have to die?

Poor Jud is dead
Poor Jud Fry is dead
He’s lookin’ so peaceful and serene
He’s all laid out to rest
With his hands acrost his chest
His fingernails have never been so clean.

The song goes on to tell how much the community would make Jud into a hero if he died, and lulls Jud into joining Curly in the lament. Jud finally breaks out of his trance-like state and reverts back to being revenge-minded.

The story reminds me of myself, and how I will be perceived when I am gone, and why it seems that good things happen after I depart a scene. Some examples would be when I left Berlin, Ohio to live in Mansfield. Berlin soon became a prosperous Amish tourism haven. Also, Hiland High School sports vaulted into statewide prominence. And Martinscreek Mennonite Church, my family church home, went from having a new pastor every several years to having a steady one now for over twenty years and the church has experienced exponential growth.

If I had stayed in Berlin I might be rich now working in the tourism industry. If I had bought a house I looked at in downtown Berlin I could have sold it for a virtual fortune. I could have remained a Hiland sports booster and cheered our teams to about four or five state titles. I could have been a part of the growth of my family church. Why did good things happen after I left? Why? Why? Why?

I am like Jud Fry being lulled into a dirge chant. I am so enthralled with “what could have been” that I forget “what is”, and “what will be”. I moved to Mansfield to go to college, got my degree, have worked at one location for over twenty years, met my wife and son, got married, live in the wonderful home purchased by my wife’s late husband, my wife is an author who just has been accepted by a Christian literary agency to pursue publishing her first book, my son is an eighteen year-old aspiring graphic designer, our family is involved in Mission to Amish People (MAP) ministry, we have an “adopted” former Amish daughter… I could go on and on.

I still have a few aspirations that I desire before people sing over me at the end. I aspire to have many relatives and friends know and pursue a relationship with the wonderful Saviour that I know. I want myself and my family to continue to fulfill God’s calling on our lives, and I want Jesus to say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share in your master’s happiness!” Matthew 25:21.

See you next time,

Saturday, January 29, 2011


Dear Readers,

John Lennon of the Beatles imagined “living life in peace”, with “no heaven”, “no hell”, and “no religion too”. He was a self-proclaimed “dreamer” that “the world will live as one”.

Is it productive to imagine things? Ephesians 3:20 would indicate it is. Paul wrote, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, …”

Imagining things is also closely tied to hope, and most of us are familiar with the fact that “hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:5.

So John Lennon was justified to “Imagine” the earth with world peace. It will occur. The way it happens and the source of peace, however, is where he went wrong. It only happens when Jesus lives in our hearts by the Holy Spirit...and when Jesus returns to the earth to rule.

See you next time,

Sunday, January 16, 2011

"What Should I Do?"

Dear Readers,

This summer Lebron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team to sign with the Miami Heat. Cleveland sports fans felt betrayed as he finally gave us the best chance to win a championship...and now he was leaving. He made a Nike commercial mimicking the difficulty he had making “The Decision”. The commercial was called, “What Should I Do?”

I am still upset with Lebron’s decision, and many other Cleveland sports heroes that “take the money and run”. I also never liked the fact that Lebron had tattooed on his back “Chosen 1”. My opinion is that no person except One should ever take on that moniker; I don’t care how good he or she is in a given profession.

I do, however, empathize with Lebron’s stated dilemma of making an important decision, and questioning “What Should I Do? Each of us faces life-altering question marks throughout our lifetime. Choosing a spouse, education direction, job or career changes, and moving to a new home are examples. Even seemingly less important choices such as choosing friends or changing churches can affect us dramatically. More recently my wife and I have been made keenly aware of former Amish young men and women making a critical decision to leave the Amish life and move into the strange new “English” world.

I am so thankful and in awe that we have a caring God and His Holy Spirit to consult about life-changing decisions. The Bible is chock-full of promises about us asking, and Him answering our prayers regarding the decisions we make!

I am also very thankful for the many sports stars that do openly acknowledge God and ask Him for divine guidance. They are the ones I want to come to Cleveland to finally bring us a championship.

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” Ephesians 1:17-19 (NIV)

See you next time,

Friday, January 14, 2011

How Will People Read Me?

Dear Readers,

Hal Lebovitz of the Cleveland Plain Dealer died about five years ago. Before he died I greatly anticipated reading his weekly column to hear what he had to say about my beloved Cleveland sports teams. Occasionally he had a week off and I found myself almost in withdrawal.

Great poets, authors, and newspaper columnists use words to great effect and seem to have an understanding of what their readers long for. Their passion about what they write is evident and their words almost pop off the page and into our minds and hearts.

It didn’t matter to me how long Mr. Lebovitz’s column was, I read every word. I was greatly interested in his opinion about the newest coach, manager, or player and how they would fare during the season. He got my juices flowing about the possibility of a stellar season, or occasionally he brought me back to the reality of another season of perpetual rebuilding.

I want people to read the story of my life like I used to read Mr. Lebovitz’s column. I want them to see the passion in which I live life, and try to figure out the source of it. Finally I want them to seek the source of my passion…and find it.

"Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him." Proverbs 30:5

See you next time,  

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Ask, Seek, Knock!

Dear Readers,

“Ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be open to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV)

Wow, I need these verses often! I don’t think any more comments are needed.

See you next time,

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Become a Celebrity!

Dear Readers,

Growing up in the 60’s and early 70’s I had questions how rock band members, movie actors, TV stars, and especially sports heroes were vaulted into celebrity status. What could I do to become one of them? Did I want to become one of them?

I began my road to celebrity status by watching and emulating my favorite basketball and baseball players on TV. For hours I practiced driving to the lane and pulling up for patented fade-away jump shots to win games like John Havlicek of the Boston Celtics. I pulled down rebounds with the ferocity of Willis Reed of the New York Knicks. I raced to catch liners and sizzling ground balls like Woody Held, Max Alvis, or Rocky Colavito of the Indians.

My road to stardom was thwarted, however, by a lack of talent. I was a fair basketball and baseball player and was in the starting lineup in both sports in high school. My claim to fame was playing against and spending a little time at a conference choir event with Bob Huggins, the now-famed college basketball coach of the West Virginia Mountaineers.

But to thrive and become successful in either sport one had to be more than just good…one had to be ultra-good. I soon came to the realization I was not in that league.

Entertainers for the most part also have an extreme amount of talent. They are either prodigies, or have made themselves prodigies in their given field. In some cases their rising star results from who they know, or having celebrity relatives.

Being a somewhat despondent “wannabe” I recently came upon a Bible verse that I had never seen before that might raise my star appeal. It will not result in my becoming a “household name” in most families. But it may result in my becoming a household name in a few families.

The verse is found in Zechariah 8:23. It states the following: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’ ”

I was not born Jewish, but I am by adoption one of God’s chosen people. Therefore I can draw close to God, and the Bible clearly teaches that if we draw close to Him, He will in turn draw close to us. Then other persons will surely see it and grab onto our sleeve to “come along for the ride”… to heaven.

See you next time,