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Monday, June 14, 2010

Rural scene in central New York
Rural scene in central New York

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"Remembering Our Roots"

"Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past" (Deuteronomy 32:7).

Late Thursday afternoon I drove our Amish friends to central New York for a visit with their relatives.  Due to Brooksyne's severe reaction to poison ivy she was unable to make the trip. 

To get a feel of the area Ester and I went to the Farmer's Museum near Cooperstown, New York.  We experienced a bit of "living history" as I spoke to a blacksmith, pharmacist and others who explained how life was lived in the mid 1800's in a rural village in upstate New York. I enjoy living museums that takes historical documentation and brings it to life both orally and visually in the form of a townspeople who bring a community to life during a different time period. When living in New England we often visited Old Sturbridge Village. 

In a sense we also experienced a form of living history as we stayed with the Amish group in a very rural setting over a couple of days. Being accustomed all my life to having electricity it took some mental and physical adjustment to acclimate myself to living as people did in past generations. (A fuller account of our visit follows today's message.)

That brings to mind a long sermon Moses preached just prior to his death and just before the Israelites entered the Promised Land under Joshua's leadership.  In fact Bible commentators consider the book of Deuteronomy to be a single message.  In Bible College we were required to read all 34 chapters of the book in one sitting to get the feel of it being a sermon rather than a book divided into chapters. In today's text Moses gives two commands:

"Remember the days of old."  Our roots are so important. I believe this verse refers to a recollection of how God has worked in the past as recorded in the Scriptures. In the specific context it likely refers to the history we read of up through that time in the Bible and more recent history for those people such as their long 40 year sojourn in the wilderness.  But it also has an application for our own walk with the Lord and our own "days of old". As we look upon our individual past it is important to consider the milestones in which the Lord has brought us along on our earthly pilgrimage.

"Consider the generations long past." The people of God had a powerful oral history with accounts carefully passed down from generation to generation. Since Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch) all we have recorded prior to his commissioning was passed down orally or by divine revelation.  We now have the benefit of the Holy Bible and thousands of years of inspired written material.  We need to consider each one of these generations and learn from their example, both good and bad.

Each of us has roots. Some memories that co-exist with these roots are pleasant while others are not. But as we look back we see God's faithfulness in His provision, His direction, and His tender care. This gives us a faith lift for the situations we are currently facing and the various uncertainties that may come to us from many different directions. May the Lord help each of us to see the presence of His hand along our earthly journey till we enter the Promised Land.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer:
Father, as we consider the days of old we see Your faithful hand guiding us along life's pathway, in our own lives and in the generations that precede us.  Deliverance from our sins, provision for our every need and guidance for our every step keeps us firmly anchored like a tree planted by streams of water. Keep us faithful and trusting until we cross over to the Promised Land.  In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

For those who may be interested these are some photos and reflections of our experience with the Amish this last weekend.

Bucking hay on an Amish farm 6/11/10
I helped the men out in loading the hay loft in the barn with hay. The first summer of our marriage in 1976 I worked for a hay bucking crew in Southwest Missouri and handled thousands of bales like this over several months! That was when I was young, strong, and very healthy!

Since the Amish don't drive they rent vans and hire drivers to take them on long trips but I did this as a token of our friendship.
We took a full van up with seven adults and seven children. We left Thursday afternoon and got up to the settlement in New York about 11:00 PM. We saw the gas lanterns in the home slowly come on as the family awoke to greet us.

They had a guest cabin that Ester and I slept in but it didn't have electricity of course so it was quite an adventure. They did provide us with a gas lantern. 

It was rural farmland where many of the farms are abandoned or dilapidated. However it's very good cropland and the Amish are restoring the land in their characteristic diligence.  Lancaster County Amish are moving to new settlements due to overcrowding and high land prices here in Lancaster County.

Friday morning we had breakfast with 22 around the table, including the family of eight we stayed with. It was quite a meal and there's just something about being in the country air that seems to make you extra hungry! 

After breakfast Ester and I made a special excursion to nearby Cooperstown NY. Some of you can imagine what we went to see! (We'll share more about that tomorrow.)

Friday evening they wanted to go see a new family that had just moved up from Lancaster County so we piled 22 people in the van and excitedly drove (slowly and carefully) through the country roads to see them. These folks just love to visit with one another; men with men, children playing energetically outdoors with one another and the ladies together looking at flowers or working in the kitchen.

Saturday morning at breakfast they talked excitedly about wanting to go and see what they called the "Nebraska Amish", a group that is more
conservative in regard to their lifestyle than the Lancaster Amish, who comparitively are more modern and are probably looked on by the Nebraska Amish as "liberal".

I ended up taking the men so the kids could stay home and play. We crossed the Mohawk River and entered into the Nebraska Amish settlements in an area interestingly known as "Stone Arabia" (which they got a kick out of referring to it as Saudi Arabia) Note: I am quite sure there are no Amish in Saudi Arabia.

We were not disappointed. Their homes were much plainer than the Amish in Lancaster County and they had what seemed even to my Amish friends some rather peculiar religious and lifestyle customs.  The men looked out the van as we slowly drove through the area with the same wide-eyed inquisitiveness as someone from New Jersey driving through their settlements in Lancaster County!

One of their most interesting restrictions is that they don't believe in having any refrigeration on the farm whereas the Lancaster Amish run generators to keep their milk cool.  So they only milk about ten cows and place the milk in old-fashioned milk cans and then drive the milk in a horse and buggy to a nearby community tank maintained by the milk co-op.

At one point Moses, the most senior member of the group, said, "I would sure like to get out and take a picture of this." I said, "Moses, what I would like is a picture of you taking that picture!"  Moses is one year younger than me but has eight children and 23 grandchildren (all under age 10)!  His wife passed away this last winter so he is going through a major life transition. We sure enjoyed visiting with one another.

We had plenty of humorous moments. As we drove through the area we thought we had passed the last house in the settlement when we saw some horse emissions on the road, indicating a horse and buggie was ahead of us. One of the young fellows suggested jumping out of the van and seeing if the emission was still warm!

We left about 2:30 on Saturday afternoon for the long drive back to Pennsylvania. The kids were amazingly good travelers and were so excited about stopping at the "Flying J" truck stop, which apparently is their custom. All along the way they kept talking about the "Flying J". with the same degree of excitement as many English kids would about going to Disney World! We actually ate at a McDonalds next to the truck stop after fueling up and the kids feasted. By the time we got them home and then dropped off the rental van and trailer and returned home
Saturday evening it was about 11:00. It was sure good to sleep at home even after just two nights on the road!

Ester on Amish scooter 6/11/10
Ester rode an Amish scooter. The Amish use these to get around on rather than bicycles.

Red barn and hay loft on New York farm
I like the look of an old red barn and open hay loft!

Horses on New York Amish farm
The farmland is beautiful with lush green forests right up to the pasture.

Amish children playing on hay wagon
With my interest in photography it's hard for me not to take or show photos of the people. But in sensitivity to their customs I will not use any photo in which the face might be recognizable.  However the mothers requested I take a photo of their kids so they could remember what their children looked like when they were little, something I am occasionally requested to do. I took this photo of the children playing on a hay wagon from the hay loft. They played hour after hour, making forts and hiding places with the hay bales, and were as happy as could be.

Australian Cattle Dog puppy
Please take me home!
(One of two Australian cattle dog puppies left from a litter of eight)
Ester took this charming photo!

Chihuahua puppies
Chihuahua puppies
The kids just loved playing with these puppies!

Brooksyne's Note:  If I were to show photos of my three days while Stephen and Ester were in New York it certainly would not be as colorful or interesting.  Poison Ivy doesn't make for pretty pictures. Thanks to all who sent suggestions, well wishes and prayers.  I finally went to the doctor on Friday, 8 days after the rash started.  He told me I had a severe reaction to the Ivy and prescribed prednisone.  It is working for which I am very thankful.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

Click on the link to open and play.
(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.) 

"When Its All Been Said And Done"
 Video  Robin Mark

"Faithful One"  Video  Selah

The Farmer's Museum

Information about the Amish in Stone Arabia, New York. Based on my research I don't think they were actually the Nebraska Amish, but another group. I suspect that my friends used the term Nebraska Amish in a generic sense to describe Amish groups apart from their own. Here's an interesting article.

Location in New York state where this Amish settlement is (Google map)

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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