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Friday, October 28, 2011

Brooksyne's flower arrangements 10/28/11
The weather report called for our first frost last night so Brooksyne scurried to her garden to save as many flowers and vegetables as she could and covered the mums as well.  She made several arrangements* this morning to share with neighbors so I asked her to let me get a photo for our readers before she gives them away. (Click on the photo for a higher resolution version.)
It is a beautiful sunny day but a storm is coming in and weather reports call for 3-6 inches of snow tomorrow. We'll see about that!

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"You Are My Hiding Place"

"You are my hiding place and my shield; I wait for Your Word” (Psalm 119:114). "Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to You while You may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah.  I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you" (Psalm 32:6-8).

Amish buggy on rainy day in Lancaster County, PA 10/27/11
Yesterday in the course of our chaplain work we saw a lot of Amish buggies, one after another, on the rural roads in eastern Lancaster County. It was a rainy day and we considered why we might be seeing so many out in the inclement weather when it occurred to us that Thursdays during October and November are the time when Amish have their weddings. 

Several years ago we attended an Amish wedding. One of their customs is rooted in their history of being persecuted. At one point in the service we all turned around in our seats and knelt at our bench while the bishop read a prayer in German. The prayer lasted nearly fifteen minutes and was recited in a sing song manner.

Following the prayer the congregation rose from the kneeling position and we turned around to face the front.  That is, Brooksyne and I turned around.  However we immediately noted that the Amish continued to stand in silence facing the back which seemed especially peculiar to us. Of course we turned around quickly and joined them, although at the time not understanding the meaning of this custom.

We spoke to our Amish hosts following the service and learned that this practice is rooted in a tradition started centuries earlier when the Amish were heavily persecuted. Though we confirmed with an Amish friend that this tradition originated from their days of persecution he was uncertain as to what it means. (Isn't it that way with a lot of religious traditions?) However, one reasonable conjecture we have heard is that they were recalling a time when their ancestors kept an eye on the entrance where the persecutors could break through.

Probably the most fulfilling aspect of our online ministry is the relationship we have developed with persecuted believers and the knowledge that our messages are being read and passed around in places closed to traditional ministry. It's amazing that from our peaceful home office in rural Lancaster County we can instantly communicate with fellow believers all over the world. Through the years readers write us who are in places of persecution and we then establish a relationship with them both by virtue of sending our daily messages but also through personal notes of encouragement. We especially consider a regular reader who sent a testimony of his experience in persecution in a brutally oppressive country. (Sadly, even receiving our emails or otherwise accessing ours and similar materials on the web, can be dangerous for him.)

In our lifetime we have been spared the types of persecution many are experiencing and have experienced through the long history of the church. But I have a gut feeling that this could change very quickly, especially for true contenders who will not compromise, like the three Hebrew young men in Daniel 3.

Hiding Place
“You are my hiding place" is a wonderful descriptive phrase found in both daily Scripture texts. The Psalmist is speaking of God. Charles Spurgeon comments, "Terse, short sentences make up this verse, but they contain a world of meaning. Personal claims upon our God are the joy of spiritual life. To lay our hand upon the Lord with the clasp of a personal “my” is delight at its full. Observe that the same man who in the fourth verse was oppressed by the presence of God, here finds a shelter in Him. See what honest confession and full forgiveness will do! The gospel of substitution makes Him to be our refuge who otherwise would have been our judge."

Today we can rejoice that the ancient observation of the Psalmist, "You are my Hiding Place" remains a descriptive source of comfort and assurance for us all. Today we especially remember our persecuted brethren and pray that they will be filled with an assurance of God's steadfast love and care.  May it bring peace to their inward souls no matter the outward circumstances of their day.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, in the midst of danger and troubles, we find refuge in You, for You are our Fortress and our Deliverer. You are our hiding place when we seek security and safety from the troubles that surround us.  We are confident in Your protecting and guiding hand as You carefully watch over us all our days and deliver us from all our troubles.  We pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters, as they endure hardships and tribulation, that Your songs of deliverance will bring a calm and peaceful assurance to their weary souls. Your teaching and counsel is our guiding light in this very troubled world. Thank You, faithful and loving Father.  Amen.

Our experience at an Amish wedding

Parked buggies at Amish wedding 11/18/10
Buggies parked along a long lane at an Amish wedding In Lancaster County

We were invited to attend the Amish wedding of the sister of a friend of ours. The service actually began at 8:30 AM but it was suggested that we arrive at 10:00 since the service is long and entirely in German. We walked in through a huge makeshift kitchen where food was being prepared and opened the door into the large barn-like workshop (the bride's father had a business building prefabricated horse barns.)  We were escorted to a center seat in the barn facing the front along with five other non-Amish (English, as we're referred to by the Amish). There were about 400 guests present with the men seated opposite the women.

The bishop, an older man with a very long beard, was giving his message without any sound reinforcement at all. We were unable to understand what he spoke except "amen" though Brooksyne recognized the words from the book of Ruth, "Your people will be my people and your God my God." Though referenced in another language somehow the repetition of those words came through so she knew what the bishop was saying.  It's quite a challenge to listen to a 90 minute sermon in English, so you can imagine the experience of listening in a foreign language!  The service went on for another 1 ˝ after we arrived (which is about as long a service I normally attend including singing and preaching in English!)

Children and babies sat with either parent and overall were outstandingly quiet. One small girl must have folded her handkerchief about 100 different ways as she sat quietly next to her mother. Periodically a parent would have to take a crying baby out. And there were lots of babies!

The bride and groom sat in the front also facing each other with the groom having two unmarried men and the bride two unmarried girls beside her.

The bishop spoke earnestly it seemed but with very little of the inflection and verbal variety we associate with preaching in our customs. I watched for expressions I might be familiar with among the congregation such as a verbal "Amen" or even a nod of agreement but did not see any. The people merely appeared to be respectfully listening with very little emotion on their faces.  And, as you can imagine, there were quite a number (men mostly) who were "resting their eyes" off and on. The young men (teens) "rested their bodies" as several rows of boys slumped over with their heads in their laps sleeping soundly.

I am told the message, which is similar at all Amish weddings, is a recounting of the Biblical stories of weddings and marriages such as Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Boaz and Ruth and so forth.

After the message there was a brief time when the bride and groom stood up to face the bishop and I assume this was similar to the taking of the vows in our customs.

After this we knelt and had the long prayer I mentioned above. Then several of the men shared what I found out later were testimonies and experiences in marriage with the bride and groom (which I think is a great idea).

They then sang a very slow song in German which I found out later was a wedding song.  The song had 24 stanzas, I believe, and was sung acapella, as is all their songs.

When the service ended the church became a fellowship hall. The benches are designed to convert into tables and a group is assigned this task. The team work is outstanding and in a short time the room was transformed into a banquet hall. 

I went to another part of the workshop where all the men gather to wait their turn to eat and struck up a conversation with several of the other Amish guests, who by now were wearing their large black dress hats. I sure felt out of place!  (When you see hundreds of identical hats hanging up on posts you wonder how they keep from getting mixed up.)

I was called in to be seated and joined Brooksyne at a table set for the English. We all bowed our heads together and prayed silently. The entire room silences anytime seated guests fill a table and prepare to eat.  So this was repeated many times during the serving of the food; lively chatter grinds to a halt respecting the newly seated group of people. (We never determined how this worked.)

The food was served family style as both men and women brought out large platters which we passed from one end to the other. The main dish was a delicious stuffing that had pieces of chicken in it. It was very good along with the customary wedding food – and a lot of celery served which is very customary at their weddings!

We left at this point thanking the bride's father, who had invited us, as we departed.  But for most of the guests the day would go on with an afternoon hymn sing, the opening of the gifts, another meal and other Amish wedding customs late into the evening hour!

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"You Are My Hiding Place"  Video  Maranatha Singers

"Hiding Place"  Video  Selah

A touching feedback: "Thanks for the tribute you have provided to the world of Nelma Carpenter and grandson, Buck, the last few days. The Carpenters served as pastors to our family for 10 years in Jonesboro, AR and we know them to be people committed to Kingdom service. Even though my family and I attended the  memorial service yesterday, I was blessed once again to watch the tribute on your Daily Encouragement web site. Thank you for speaking encouragement into a world where there is no hope, unless the world knows Jesus."
(That tribute video is here.) Note: The first part of the tribute is to grandson Buck and the second part, beginning at 3:52, is to Nelma.

It's not over till it's over! I realize many of our readers don't follow baseball and international readers may not even know what baseball is, but last night's world series game sure demonstrated perseverance! It was one of the most suspenseful sporting events I have ever seen. We are not following any team especially but have relatives in both Texas and Missouri (Some of my Oklahoma cousins were able to attend some games in Texas.) Anyway the 2011 World Series winner will be determined this evening (game 7)!

A great testimony!!! This morning Brooksyne and Ester listened to an outstanding testimony on Focus On The Family reminding listeners that God heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.  Our God is a God of miracles.  Listen here.

Salvaged mum 10/28/11
*Final note from Brooksyne: The main flowers in the arrangements were taken from two mums our neighbors had tossed due to fact that they had broken in the center (as seen in photo above).  I was purchasing some mums from Annie, our Amish neighbor, and spotted some she had tossed to the side of the barn.  I asked if I could have them and she couldn't figure out why I wanted broken mums.  As you can see from the first photo today they make great cut mums and last for at least a week, if kept watered. They were a nice addition to the celosia and crackerjack marigolds that I cut last night before the frost hit.  So I will drop off an arrangement to thank her.

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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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