Wednesday, November 25, 2015

"Some Random Thoughts in a Radicalized World"

This world is a very scary place these days. I guess it always has been, but somehow it seems like the scariness is at a whole new all-time-high level.

I will not be giving you a treatise on how to fix all the world's problems. I will leave that to Donald Trumpet and the rest of the politicians. And while I'm on the subject, I will say that while I don't know if Ben Carson is the best choice for president, he sure is a breath of fresh air with his mild and respectful manner.

I realize also that the Christian church is not the same as the government and has a vastly different role. I acknowledge that part of the government's role is to "keep our country safe" while the church's role is something else entirely.

Like I already said, I don't have the answers on how to "fix" everything but I am troubled by a lot of what I hear, especially pertaining to the refugee crisis. In light of that, here are several things I think we need to remember when we go about making our grand statements. I'm not saying that my thoughts are anywhere near the whole of what needs to go into making some conclusions, but I think they need to be part of the discussion.

1. Unless we are Native Americans, we are all from "immigrant" stock somewhere in the relatively not-so-very-distant past. Isn't it a little hypocritical to rail against immigrants when we are immigrants also? Are we justified in doing so just because we got here first?

2. When Jesus said to "love your neighbor as yourself", that means something. I would say that the scope of who is our neighbor has increased  dramatically since Jesus' day. I feel like if we as Americans turn our backs on the suffering people of the world we will do so to our own downfall and hurt. It seems like some people are saying that as long as we (Americans) are "safe", who cares about the suffering in the rest of the world.

3. I know full well that none of us want terrorists wandering around in our cities. (Long Island, VA is looking better all the time; I doubt any terrorists will stop by here unless they're lost on the way to somewhere else) I know it seems like most of these terrorists are so brainwashed that they are beyond changing for the better and to be honest, I don't have much hope for them either. But I would remind us that the majority of the New Testament epistles were written by a former terrorist. (check out Acts 9:1)

4. I'm really afraid of being misunderstood on this one. I'm in no way saying that the people that died in the Paris venue were "judged by God" or deserved to die. I would echo the story Jesus told about the men that were killed when that tower collapsed on them. He asked the question, "Were these men sinners above all others?" And the implied answer was no. He went on to say that we must repent or we will likewise perish. But did you catch the name of the band that was "entertaining"at the Paris club when the terrorists came in and started shooting? Well, how does the "The Eagles of Death Metal" strike you? I'm not acquainted with their music but the name certainly has a nice edgy ring to it. Somehow the edginess loses most of it's appeal when ISIS shows up with the real thing. It just seems to me that there is a real measure of hypocrisy here; glorifying violent music (in this case) on one hand and then being horrified when someone does honest-to-goodness violence in real life.

As Christians, let's be sure we get our direction from our Leader. I guess we're remembering that following Jesus trumps (sorry for the choice of words) all national and racial allegiances.And so many of Jesus' teachings run counter to the popular rhetoric of our day.

Let's keep a sweet spirit. Some of what you hear on Talk Radio sounds like they drank battery acid for breakfast instead of orange juice.

Let's be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves.

Now that's radical.

Friday, September 11, 2015

"Terms of Endearment"

Okay. I got fussed at three times in the space of about that many days by people who said they keep checking my blog and nothing new is ever there. Well, I certainly apologize for wasting your time but look at it this way.

You click on the blog link and there's nothing new there. Time wasted, maybe 5 seconds. Now let's say you click on the link and lo and behold there is something new and you read it. Now you've more than likely wasted 20 times as much time as you did the first time. Now, this isn't the subject for discussion on this post, but just a little introductory food for thought.

I'm thinking this evening about what we normally call nicknames. I couldn't find where the term "nick" came from, but we all know what we are talking about. And we may have very different opinions on whether nicknames are good or bad. Mostly depending on our own experiences. I've heard of families that insist that their children only be called by their proper names. And then there are other families that have multiple nicknames for everybody that's a member.

I certainly realize that nicknames can be used to make fun of people and I despise that at least as much as you do. There was a girl in high school that everyone called "Space Goose"; I'm not sure how that got started (maybe there was a cartoon character by that name?) but I never figured that it was meant to be a compliment. Then there was a guy in the grade above me whose nickname was "Mole". At the time he never acted like he minded, but looking back now I wonder.

And then I have a cousin whose nickname was "Turbo", which actually was a derivative of the larger nickname "Turbocharger". What's so bad about that, you may wonder. Well, the problem was that while this would be a fine nickname for a boy, this cousin I'm speaking about happened to be a girl cousin and I'm pretty sure she didn't appreciate it. Honestly, cousin, if you happen to be reading this, I didn't have anything to do with this; I think it was your brother.

So, I'm saying that nicknames can be degrading and even cruel. Let those kind of nicknames never be  once named among us.

But there is a beautiful side to nicknames as well, where they truly are "terms of endearment".

One that comes to mind from childhood (and continues to this very day) is my Uncle Bud. His real name is Ernest, but to us he was always "Bud". It never dawned on me as a child growing up that this was the same term you could use with anybody, as in, "Hey bud, can you tell me how to get to Kalamazoo from here?" He was OUR Uncle Bud, spelled with a capital B.

And then there's my cousin Sonny whose "real" name is also Ernest. He was the youngest of five brothers and I remember his brothers used to call him "Bum" and it would make him mad. So "Sonny" was a definite improvement. And to this day he still signs his name Ernest "Sonny" Yoder.

How do nicknames get started anyway? And what makes some of them "stick" for life? Sometimes they're  just a shortened version of the proper name. Like my grandsons.  Ashten became "Ash". Caleb has become "Kabe" and Clifton has become "Kiff". Clifton's nickname got started when Caleb was just beginning to talk and would pronounce Clifton, "Kiffen", which then got shortened to "Kiff". Although if you pronounce it right,(Southern like I do), it's still a two syllable word. Think "Ki-yuff". And then the youngest grandson's name is Carlton. And at this point he is called "Little Tan" or just plan "Tan", taken from the last half of his name.

And the granddaughter. Our favorite granddaughter we call her because she's the only one we've got. She had multiple nicknames growing up. "Smurf" and "Monster" are two that come to mind. And I promise you that these are truly terms of endearment; ask her if you don't believe me. But we seemed to have settled out on "Treas", which is a shortened version of "Treasure".

Our children had nicknames that stuck as well. We still call our daughter Laurie, "Bize"sometimes. But I can't for the life of me remember how that got started. And son Myron is still at times called "Munk". And I can explain that one, (and it doesn't have anything to do with monkeys). When granddaughter Alexis was little she would put an "M" on the front of uncle as in "Munkle Myron". Then of course that got shortened to "Munkle", which then got condensed down to "Munk".

Sometimes a nickname starts from some physical characteristic. I'm thinking just now of "Big Boy" Boyd. Big Boy isn't exceptionally tall, he is just BIG all over. Huge arms and chest and a neck at least twice as big as mine. I met him once in the local Chinese restaurant and something was said about not eating too much. I forget what I said but he said, "I ain't makin' no promises!"

And then sometimes a nickname comes out the opposite of some characteristic. Now I'm thinking of "Tiny" Vassal. Now Tiny is TALL, maybe 6 ft. 6 or in that neighborhood. And talking about BIG, at his heaviest he weighed about 650 lbs. At some point he had that stomach surgery and was down in the three hundreds somewhere. But he was a gentle giant. A friendlier man you would never meet. He had a sleeping disorder as well and at one time couldn't sleep more than a hr. or so at a time. So he had about 12 to 15 buddies and he knew when each of them needed to get up to go to work and every morning he would give each of them a wakeup call at the proper time. I haven't seen him for several years; he moved to Lynchburg so he wouldn't have to drive so far for his dialysis treatments.

And then there are names that get started from something that happened to the nicknamed person. I'm thinking now of "Bushwhacker" Booker whose real name is David. I can't remember the details of the story, but it has something to do with a truck he had parked on a hill and when he wasn't aboard, it rolled down into the woods. Or I could tell you about "Guardrail" whose real name is Eddie and who is among other things, a log truck driver and a Baptist preacher. I can't remember all of his story either but it had to do with interaction between his truck and a guardrail.

My favorite nickname of this type belongs to "Snook" Shelton, a log truck driving friend of mine. I don't even know his real name. I asked him once where his name came from. He said he decided to be born during a Christmas blizzard while his daddy was out in the blizzard trying to get the doctor rounded up. So his parents would tell people that he had "snook" up on 'em, and came into this world before they were quite ready.

In the local black culture, nicknames prevail. Almost everyone has one. I cut a piece of timber once for a lady named "Tunnie".  And it was thru those circumstances that I made friends with Theodore whose nickname is "Dowbie". Honestly, I don't know how it is spelled, but it is pronounced "Doughbie". I never asked him how the nickname got started but I'm pretty sure my theory is right. Anybody care to tell me your theory?

With all these warm and fuzzy feelings floating around me due to all these terms of endearment, you would think I would be supremely happy right now. But actually, to be honest, there is one great big empty feeling in the pit of my stomach.

You see,I NEVER REALLY HAD A NICKNAME! There, the truth is out. Counselors  say that's always the first real step in finding help, coming out with the truth no matter how awful and terrible and gut-wrenching it is. I mean, I have thoughts like, "What was so dreadfully wrong with me; was I not endearable enough to merit a nickname?" And, of course, it's probably a little too  late to acquire one now, seeing I will be sixty on my next birthday.  I suppose I should just grow up and get over it, but I will tell you, it's extremely difficult to grow up when you're almost sixty.

So sometimes in the quiet of the night I do wonder. What could I have become, (that I'm not now)if I would have had some great nickname?

If I'd have had a nickname like, let's say, "Turbocharger".

Saturday, March 21, 2015

"Mennonite Sins"

I'll bet I've got your attention now. Well, just hear me out before you get in a huff or blow a gasket somewhere.

Let me start by saying that I am unashamedly Anabaptist. When I read of the early leaders in the Anabaptist movement my heart is deeply stirred. When we toured Menno-hof in Indiana years ago I would have liked to spend some time alone in the dungeon room where I was very nearly moved to tears. I embrace the Anabaptist movement and to be honest I can't imagine I'll ever be anywhere else.

Of course, it is sort of a shame that the movement had to end up being labeled "Mennonite" after church leader Menno Simons. Although I wasn't personally acquainted with him, I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have wanted it that way. Sad to say, it didn't stop there.  (churches getting named after men) I was just thinking today about the Wislers and the Hornings, the Joe Wengers and the Swartzentruber Amish, the Holdermans and the Hutterites. And they're only the ones I thought of in the first minute or two. The one the closest home to me would be the "Beachy" church. While I have never been Beachy myself, this church group was named after my great grandfather Moses Beachy.

But all that aside, there is a tremendous lot of good that goes on in our circles. But as I said, we've got a few sins. Now I'm not throwing stones, I love my people. It's just that we have a few things that we are "known" for, and they aren't complimentary.

Sin 1. "A Feeling of Superiority"

Maybe I'm overly sensitive about this one. I'm always thinking about how something sounds to someone who isn't Mennonite or maybe is now but didn't grow up in the culture. And maybe things said at times aren't meant the way I'm taking them but they sure sound that way. Things like "even in our conservative Mennonite churches" we're having this or that problem. To me it sounds like we're considering ourselves as the very pinnacle of Christendom.

I know some people love genealogy and it is interesting to find out how someone is kin to someone we know, etc, etc. But I've seen people have long conversations with a stranger over that type of subject and then the next stranger shakes their hand and his name is John Doe and the person says "Nice to meet you and have a good day". End of conversation. How do you suppose that makes John Doe feel? Inferior, that's what.

We met a couple once in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan the one and only time we "Mennonited Our Way" while on a trip. Their names were John and Mary Miller. Contrary to what you're thinking, they were NOT from Mennonite background. Some years before they had become interested in the Mennonite church and decided to go to some retreat or conference put on by a Mennonite group. When they were registering for the conference, they of course gave their names. The man at the desk threw back his head, "John and Mary Miller", he said, "Fine Mennonite names! And what church do you come from?" They told him it was St. Paul's (Lutheran or Catholic, I can't remember) That really threw the registering guy for a loop and was the end of that conversation.

People, we need to be thankful for our heritage, but please oh please! We are NOT superior! We are only sinners saved by grace alone. When we develop a superior attitude we are becoming dangerously close to becoming first cousins to the Pharisees.

Sin 2. "Pride"

Ouch, that hurts. How can this possibly be true for a people who take such pride in their humility?

Pride is a sneaky thing. It's very much related and a part of Sin 1. One of the things that I think is so sad about pride is that it keeps us from being "real". I'm a huge fan of being real; I think it's the only way to go. Now I don't mean we have to tell everyone every last thing.  But what really gets to me is the thing of trying to act like we "have it together" at all cost. I mean, the worst thing to happen would be for everyone to find out that we aren't as perfect as we want everyone to believe.

I've been pretty free the last number of years to admit my doubts, fears and struggles. Sometimes I think people worry about me and think I shouldn't talk about doubt, etc. But some of my doubt provoking circumstances everybody knew about anyway so I might as well be honest. Last Sunday evening I was in charge of a song service at church and once again some of "the struggle" came out in what I had to say.

Later that evening there was an email in my inbox from someone who was at the service. They wrote in part- "Thank you so much for the song service tonight. Your honesty about the struggles of life is always encouraging."

I wrote back in part- "You are welcome for the song service. I guess I don't know how to be too much other than who I am, which is very imperfect and full of doubts and struggles. If the people that "have it all together" want to have their song service that's fine with me, but I'll have to have mine my way."
We do no one a favor (ourselves included) by trying to hold up the "having it all together image". It's pride, plain and simple.

A few months ago Myron and Heidi had a non-Mennonite family for Sunday dinner and we were invited as well. I knew this couple had learned to know Myrons thru Ben Waldners somehow. (Ben and Myron are married to sisters Lucy and Heidi) And Ben is a marriage counselor at Deeper Life Ministries in Ohio. So at the dinner table I had the conscience thought that this was a delicate subject about how they learned to know Ben and Lucy and then in turn Myron and Heidi.

Not to worry. Their candor and openness was beyond refreshing. They told of how they struggled in their marriage. How things got so bad they separated. And how they went to Deeper Life to try to piece their marriage back together. "Oh yeah," the husband said. "We've been to Deeper Life a number of times. In fact we take vacations FROM Deeper Life!"

That is so not the Mennonite way of doing things. I can rather imagine a quiet Midwestern vacation trip that might have landed the Mennonite couple at Deeper Life, but nobody back home is ever gonna find that out!

 People, please! We need to be more real! It's pride that holds us back.

Sin 3. "Stinginess"

Oh, but we're just thrifty. Yeah right, we're thrifty and stingy both. I know there is a fine line between the two but we get across the line enough that we are known for it. We can sniff out a bargain a mile away and watch out you don't get run over in the crowd if the freebies are being given out somewhere.

Some years back someone told me a Mennonite joke. Now what makes a joke funny is if there is enough truth in it to touch a nerve. (or maybe it makes it not funny)

It goes like this: There was a little barber shop in town and one day a Catholic priest stopped by for a haircut. When the job was done he asked what he owed and the barber said he didn't owe anything, that he was a man of the cloth and he wasn't going to charge him. The priest thanked him and left. The next morning when the barber got to work there was a box of five cigars on his front step.

That day a Baptist minister came for a haircut. When it came time to pay the barber told him the same thing. The Baptist minister thanked him and left. And the next morning when the  barber got to work there was a box of five fried chicken pieces on his doorstep.

Later that day a Mennonite preacher stepped in for a haircut. When it came time to pay the barber gave his same speech. "You're a man of the cloth, I'm not going to charge you", he said. The Mennonite preacher thanked him and left. And the next morning.................................................?,
there were five Mennonite preachers on his doorstep.

I've heard business people from areas of the country with large Mennonite populations say that the people they dread dealing with the most are the Mennonites. They always try to drive the hardest bargain. Especially if they know you.

One business owner I heard of said that all his "friends" come in his shop and expect to get a discount because they are his friend. He said he never could figure out why it never works the other way; why they don't come in, look at their bill, and say, "I see the bill is this much, but since you are my friend I want to pay you a little extra." I've never forgotten that story and while I don't nearly always do it, there have been times I have paid extra. Especially when I was suspicious that someone had given me an good deal in the beginning.

People. We have work to do. Let's try our dead level best to make sure we are not known by these behaviors. None of these sins I've mentioned are ones that we would even in our wildest dreams sit down and make an effort to teach and pass on to our children and grandchildren. But we do teach them in how we live.

There are more sins I'm sure. But that's enough for one dose!

People. Jesus is pleading with us.

Go and sin no more.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

"A Tribute"

A little over a month ago the world lost a good man. Not necessarily famous or wealthy by the world's standards, but then, it doesn't take those things to make a good man.

One of my first real jobs was helping Dan milk cows after school in the evenings when I was maybe fourteen. Dan's barn was a stanchion style barn, with about 46 stalls. I remember at one point milking about 90 head; we would milk half of the cows, turn them out, and get in the other half.

I got three of my front teeth busted off in that barn when I got kicked by a cow when Dan and I were clipping udders one evening. We knew the heifer was high strung, so Dan was holding her tail up in the air while I clipped. (this is supposed to put a cow's kicker out of gear) Well, somehow she managed to kick anyway and she knocked the clippers back into my mouth.

Times were hard on the farm in those days.I'm pretty sure they were way harder than I ever realized at the time. Dan drove truck part time to supplement his income. Legend has it that he kept his boys (Milo and James) back a year from starting first grade so they could help on the farm when they couldn't afford a hired man.

 And there were other pressures too. Enough of them if you would put them all together would be enough to break down a man of lesser caliber. But Dan always seemed to plod on,putting one foot in front of the other and making the best of his circumstances. And he didn't bellyache about things either. And most of the time had that smile shape on his sort of round face. Pretty much exactly like you see in the photo.

Dan was born in upstate New York and moved to this part of Va. along with his parents when he was a young man. He had graduated from high school in New York and his history teacher insisted that he should go on to college and become a history teacher himself. Dan told me that someone asked him once, how he had ever settled in this God-forsaken part of Southside VA. He said he told them that he had moved here in the beginning and had always stayed too poor to move out.

When I was a youngster, Dan sang in a quartet along with my dad and my uncles, Bud and Robert. Dan singing 2nd tenor, my dad baritone, Uncle Bud first tenor, and Uncle Robert bass. Us young guys called them the "Old Fogies Quartet". I thought they made the sweetest music this side of heaven. It was my first introduction to men's quartet music and listening  would send shivers up and down my spine. I can still hear  Dan singing the melody on "Have you waaandered  awaaaaay from your Father's care, heavy hearted and sad do you rooooam". He would slide just a little from the first note of "away" to the second, but he always landed square.  And he always had a little tin container in his suit coat pocket with some mysterious little brown pills of which he would pop one when he was singing. I never found out what they were.

Dan was one of the steadiest truck drivers you could ever see. Back in the day when I thought the only way to run something was  wide open, he would ease up the road shifting gears as smooth as silk. He told me a story once from way back in the days when trucks had (compared to today) ridiculously small engines.And mind you, vacuum brakes which operated off of the intake vacuum of the engine. So what would happen is that you would lose your brakes if you let your rpms get too low.

On this particular occasion he was hauling a really big load of lumber to somewhere in Pennslvania. He had hauled loads of this size before but the loads were at least partially dry. This certain load was green lumber. To make a long story short, he got on a long uphill grade somewhere between Hancock, Maryland and Breezewood, Pennsylvania. He kept going down in the gears until he was in the lowest one he had. And it soon became evident that "grandma gear" wasn't up to it either and he was going to stall. And that's just what happened. To make matters worse the engine started to turn backwards letting the truck start back downhill. And also, of course, no brakes.

As he started to roll back down the hill,  he turned the wheels so the trailer would head into the bank on the side of the road and then jumped out.

Many, many years later on a run north he stopped at a truck stop near this same spot and got to talking with another old trucker while eating his meal. Swapping war stories, I guess you could call it. This other guy told Dan that the funniest thing he had ever seen happen was many years ago there was a trucker trying to get up that big hill just up the road there a little and his truck wouldn't pull it and it started to roll back and the driver jumped out. Dan said he didn't tell him that he and the chap in the unfortunate circumstances were one and the same. (and by the way, Dan continued to drive his beloved old cab-over International for several years after he turned 80)

Dan loved John Deere tractors. He had a 435 with a two cycle  Detroit engine. And a 720 poppin john with a hand clutch. But along about the late 60's he took a big step up and bought one of the first 4020's to come out. Now as far as I'm concerned the 4020 was the best tractor ever made. Six cylinder engine, a sweet running thing it was. Dan was the talk of the neighborhood. A 4020 was the biggest tractor ever to get used on any farm in these parts. A few people wondered why you would ever need such a huge tractor. (of course now a 4020ish size tractor would be viewed as small)

There was once he did something with his 4020 that looking back seems a little out of character. Jack Poindexter, who farmed on Long Island had a huge old steam engine he had restored and that he would fire up on occasion. Dan was probably down on the Island chopping corn silage with his 4020 when they decided to have a pulling contest. I was misfortunate enough to have not been there, so I'm not sure how this got started. Maybe it goes to show that even grown men deal with some peer pressure.

Anyway, they parked the steam engine and the 4020 back to back, hooked a chain between them and commenced pulling. The 4020 spun but couldn't budge the steam engine. The steam engine had the weight and traction advantage but didn't have the power to pull the 4020 backward either. So I guess it was called a draw.

Dan made me feel worth something when I was young and pretty worthless feeling otherwise. He would shake your hand an extra long time and ask how you were doing. Maybe not much more than that, but it meant something to me at the time and looking back now it means a great deal.

I thought of him again this evening as I was driving truck myself, hauling a load of chips. Dan, may you rest in peace from all your labor and may the Lord reward you mightily for your faithfulness.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

"The Devil of Doubt"

Ok, I looked back and it's been almost exactly four months since I last appeared here. So where have I been??

Let me explain it this way. I have to feel a certain level of inspiration before I can write. I can feel it start to tingle in my bones and finally after several days of building intensity I have to sit down and put it down on paper.

Well, it hasn't happened. Several times I thought it was getting close and then the feelings went away.  And also there are things like stress and discouragement (ahem, depression maybe?) that can pull you down until you feel like you don't have anything in you to give.

  Let's put it another way; on that often used "scale of one to ten". (Which I hate because it oversimplifies things, and plus, the stress of trying to figure out where I am on the scale can knock me down one number just in itself.)

Let's just say, for oversimplifing's sake, that I need to be a "5.5" on the scale before having enough "energy" to write. Now let me be honest here; I don't have many days that get that good on the scale. Melancholy runs strong in the Yoder clan; we're steady but not given to emotional highs.

I meet in a small group with three younger guys who have either a mom or a dad that are  double first cousins of mine. And all four of us are melancholies. I said recently when talking about our group, that sometimes when we get together the melancholy is so thick you could spread it like peanut butter.

I've always sort of envied the people that seem to have those "great" days. (Of course I've also always been suspicious that somewhere there's a dark part of the picture that they're not seeing)

We once had a young lady that boarded with us while she taught at our school and she had a marvelously upbeat personality. I remember well hearing her come in the door after what (as I recall) was a fairly normal school day and Mary asking her how her day had gone. "Oh, it was WON-DER-FULLLLL!!," she said. I was in the background thinking to myself  how I would like to, just even once, experience a day like that to see what it would be like. (Thinking back now, maybe this was one of those days when she might have had two Mountain Dews before breakfast and that kept her cheered up) Seriously though, she was almost always like this. Except on rare occasions  when she was sad, and then she was frightfully sad.

So where she had a delightful range of emotion (from 0-10.5), I tend to be steady in the 3.5 to 4.5 range. Stinking boring, I know.  Especially for the people that have to live with us.

But I used to be higher on the scale. It seems the cares of life have worn me down and the last number of years I've struggled more and more with doubt. When God allows some things to happen that you really, really, really, really, really can't understand, that creates a fertile field for doubt to grow.

I used to laugh and make jokes about the atheists and agnostics. I don't anymore.

Now don't get me wrong, I don't believe they are right. It's just that I now sympathize a little more with people that look down inside themselves and just can't seem to find that germ of faith to reach out and believe.

I've been somewhat honest about my struggle with doubt. A number of years ago I stood up to teach our men's Sunday school class with the lesson  including the verse "Without faith it is impossible to please God". I told the class if I did what I felt like doing, I would quote that verse and then walk out. (I didn't. So maybe that shows a germ of faith)

I've been thinking of a quote lately that goes "There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds". I had in mind it was a C.S. Lewis quote but looking it up this evening found out it came from Alfred Lord Tennyson in a long poem he wrote after his best friend (who was engaged to his sister) died suddenly from a brain hemorrhage. I think what he's trying to say is that a person who is grappling with the issues is closer to faith than the person who glibly quotes a creed before having to face the hard questions of life.

Some of my favorite lines in the poem were these:
                                            I falter where I firmly trod,
                                            and falling with my weight of cares
                                            upon the great world's altar stairs
                                             that slope thru darkness up to God.

I came up with a poem myself recently entitled "Fear and Doubt". Now both can destroy your faith and your joy, but of the two, I think doubt is the most insidious.

                                              "Fear and Doubt"
Verse 1- (with loud bravado)
Now fear, he comes a bustin', right up to yer door
A rattlin' at the winders and a shakin' the floor
A bluffin' and a threatnin' to blow yer house in
It's like the big bad wolf all over agin.

Verse 2- (in a sneaky whisper)
But doubt, he comes a creepin' on some sly fox feet
Like a fog up the holler while yer fast asleep
A slippin' and slidin' thru forest and glen
Till it feels like darkness with the sun shine-en'

/Verse 3
So whatever yer a facin', whether tiny or tallish
Whether blowin' in big or sneakin' in smallish
(If the fearin' and the doubtin's got you driv up the wallish)
Keep yer eyes wide open in front and back sections
And yer ears perked up in most every direction
And last but not least, the most important of all
Let yer faith run deep when fear and doubt come to call.

I've resigned myself to the idea that I'll probably always have trouble with doubt. Maybe you think I'm like so pessimistic.  But I also plan to keep putting one foot steadily in front of the other one and keeping my name signed on the dotted line of "I believe".

And just a couple days ago I was thinking of what it would feel like to embrace the philosophy of an agnostic. I let the feeling sink in just for a little and I realized something. I would have DOUBTS! I would have big time doubts wondering if I was right. Way bigger doubts than what I have now.

And those thoughts gave me great  joy and pushed me all the way up to, let's say, a 6.5.

Friday, September 5, 2014

"The Gospel Truth"

Carlton Dwayne Yoder
There's a brand new little human being in the Yoder household across the road. "He's beautiful!" "Beyond cute!"

And there you have it. The gospel truth according to the two grandmas.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

"For the Love of Work"

For the love of WHAT, you say? Well actually, I said work. And honestly, that's how I feel. And I guess that's my privilege, right?

It seems like in today's world, work is a four letter word. It's what you do because you have to get your hands on a few dollars to pay the bills and buy the groceries.

Now I realize, I love my job. (most of the time; more on that later) Some people's jobs aren't as pleasant as mine so that colors their thinking. I have a friend that works in the grant department at a prominent VA university and he says he dreads going to work because he has to work with a bunch of grouchy old women who want to rule the world. That would sorta take icing off the cake now wouldn't it?

Of course every job, no matter how great, has it's downsides and bad days. Before I took up logging and then later joined forces with son Myron, I managed a dairy. It was a wonderful job. There were a few downsides like cows getting mastitis, not getting enough rain, getting too much rain, the milk check not being big enough to cover the bills, the well pump quitting in the middle of a snowstorm, the mix wagon breaking down late Sat. night,etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

I remember well one of the worser starts to a day on the farm. It was in the winter sometime and when I got up to milk it was just above freezing and raining that absolutely miserable VA winter rain. Oh yeah, that reminds me; getting up to milk. That was the daily downside to life on the farm. I hated getting up that early. I would set my clock a half hour fast so that when the alarm went off I knew I still had some time to sleep. Besides that I would set the alarm maybe 45 minutes early and hit the snooze every ten minutes until time to get up. Drove Mary crazy.

Back to the miserable, cold, rainy morning. I headed to the barn, started the sanitizer cycle for the milk line and stumbled out into the cold to get the cows in from the pasture. I hadn't gone too far until I came on a cow that had freshened during the night. In other words, she had calved.

Which was all normal, well and good. But she had milk fever. Cows with milk fever can't get up; it's like they loose muscle control or something. The cure for milk fever is to give them IV dextrose with calcium and often a few minutes after you've given them one bottle they are ready to get on their feet.

But there was more. She had also pushed her uterus out. Sometimes after cows calve they continue to push until they turn their uterus inside out and push it out of themselves. If you've never seen the uterus of a cow, you have missed quite a ponderous sight. You've gotta remember, a 80 to 100 lb. calf has just come out of this thing. Suffice it to say, the uterus of a cow looks considerably better on the inside of her rather than out. And if you've seen one on the outs, you have wondered along with me, "How in the world will all of that fit back in??"

So I trudge back to the milk house, get my IV kit and a bottle of treatment. I don't remember which procedure I did first. Probably the IV. You need at least three hands for this. One to hold the light so you can see to find the cow's vein in her neck. Another to press down on the vein to make it bug out; and the other to insert the needle. Then hook it to the bottle of dextrose and watch the bubbles as the fluid flows slowly into her vein.

Then start on the other job at hand. A nasty one it is, too. You have to lay down on the ground because that's where the back end of the cow happens to be. You gently start to shove some of the uterus back where it came from. The cow doesn't usually take kindly to this and pushes mightily back so five minutes of progress can be undone in one big push. So you start over and finally after you are exhausted and wishing your arms were a foot longer, the thing slips back into it's place.

Then it's time for a few stitches at the back end to keep the cow from pushing it out once again. And then it was time to go get the rest of the cows in and finally start milking, probably at least an hour late by now.

As I said, all types of work have their downside.

But the other evening, after putting in a full day of work already, I came home and got a bite to eat and then went back over to haul a couple loads of mats to another yard. These mats were in the way where I was stacking logs and I was too busy during regular working hours to get them moved.

Now I've always enjoyed working outside the regular hours. It's peaceful. You don't feel the same pressure as during the regular hours. I will have to say, though, that there is a little downside to this as well. Mary has the idea that I'd don't like to be with her at home. She says it's good practice if she ever has to be a widow; she'll be used to it.

Anyway, I was driving the truck, pulling a trailer load of mats. After a very hot and humid day, the temperature had dropped and the breeze felt quite pleasant. The sky was lovely in the west with the scattered clouds and the setting sun. The truck sounded mellow and sweet in the evening air. I let out a long satisfied sigh and wondered what else in the world there could possibly be to do that would be better than this??

But did I mention downsides? The very next day towards evening Myron called me. He said a truck is here to pick up those mats you just moved the night before. I told him I'd lead the driver down to the other yard   ( 7 miles away) and get him loaded up.

I was positively sure I knew which mats Myron meant. I mean if I were a swearing man, I would have swore to it. Plus, a bad thunderstorm was threatening and I was in a hurry so I didn't ask to see the driver's paperwork. He was Hispanic and didn't speak English very well and who knows if he had looked at his paperwork either.

I got him loaded and headed home. Along about the middle of the next day Myron calls me again. The driver is sitting at the job site (somewhere in upstate New York) and he has the wrong mats on his load.  Oh brother did I ever feel sick and helpless.

I guess you've got to give it to the cow, at least with her you had something to push back against.

Oh well. As they say, it's all in a day's work. Speaking of which, the truck driver got about two more day's work out of this job than he had counted on.

Needless to say, at our expense.