December 27, 2013

The “Witness”

Category: News — Ira @ 6:36 pm

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And, lowering his voice to an ominous and foreboding whisper,
he said mysteriously, “Beware! Beware! Do not be deceived!”

—Thomas Wolfe
______________

I know it’s the end of the year, and I certainly meant to write about all that. I’d sure planned to start off about how great the year was, and how so many blessings rained down all around me. But then something happened at work last Saturday, where a lot of odd stuff keeps coming at me. And now that’s what wants to come out.

I don’t like to work on Saturdays, any more than I have to. We’re open until noon, and only lightly staffed. One guy in the office, one in the yard. It usually comes out to about one Saturday a month, for me. And last Saturday, the weekend before Christmas, it was my turn. I dragged myself out of bed, not really feeling sorry for myself, but just a bit grumpy. At least the weather had warmed up, and all that awful snow was sinking out of sight. And right at eight, we arrived, one of my yard guys and me. It would a be slow day, we figured. Couldn’t be much going on, not on a weekend like this. Christmas was too close. I fired up my computers and settled at my desk.

The phone rang, now and then. And there were a few walk-ins. But overall, it was very slow, just like I’d figured. I puttered around, caught up on some quotes that had piled up the week before. And then, around 9:30 or so, the bells on the front door jingled. And I looked up, from what I was doing. A man walked in. And he was dressed distinctly. Plain Mennonite. You can tell, pretty easily, those people. Normal dress, mostly, for the men. Except they tend to wear those funny little pointed hats with a real narrow brim all around. They’re clean shaven, at least the ones around here. In the Midwest, it might be different. Unlike the Amish, Mennonites never had any particular conviction about beards. Well, they do have convictions, just opposite from the Amish. A lot of them take a pretty hard stand against beards. And their hairstyle is always a certain way, too. The women wear cape dresses and usually a pretty good-sized covering. Overall, those groups are just a little too clean-cut to be real. But that’s just me, saying that.

I have some good friends among those people. They’re fine and upstanding and honest, mostly. My friends all are, of course, but I mean the Plain Mennonites as a group. They consider themselves a light to a dark world. But overall, it’s just a bit wearying, to think of them. They’re about as diverse as the Amish, all sorts of levels and factions. Nationwide. Fellowship. Eastern. Mid Atlantic. Charity. Pilgrim. And a whole lot of other groups I never heard of or can’t remember. All doing two things, mostly. Fiercely erecting walls to keep the evil “world” from encroaching too close to where they are. And fiercely judging each other. They don’t think of it that way, about judging each other. But that’s what it is, when you refuse to break bread and drink communion wine (Grape juice, of course, in those groups. The first miracle of Jesus is just explained away as if it never happened.) with each other. They make all kinds of nonjudgmental noises when I talk to them and ask them about the other groups out there similar to them. But there’s a bottom line. We’re just a little better than they are. Because we follow the law more closely, and we got it all figured out, how to work our way to heaven.

I have a little bit of an inside track to how it can be (Not saying it always is, so don’t get all defensive if you’re in that world.) because of what Ellen told me she saw and experienced, growing up like that. All kinds of ruthless power trips and all kinds of heavy, heartless ruling going on. I heard what she told me. And from what little I saw of the people she told me about, it was true, pretty much, what she said. And I’ve thought about it all a lot since. It’s a hard place, to come from. A real hard place to break out of. I’d rather have grown up in the world I grew up in, than that world.

The guy was real nice, last Saturday morning, the guy in the funny little short-brimmed hat. And I got up and greeted him. He was about my age, probably, maybe a few years older. And he was wondering about the cost of a pole building, a little garage his Dad wanted. It just depends on the size, I told him. And what all you want on it. Add stuff, it costs more. Get a basic building, that keeps the cost down. And he told me, “Dad is 80 years old, and he’s determined he wants this building for a shop. And of course he wants his boys to take care of all that for him.” And I kind of scolded him about that attitude. Good naturedly, of course. Be grateful your Dad is active when he’s 80 years old, I said. My Dad’s 92. He doesn’t have the energy anymore to even want such a thing. Be thankful your Dad does. And he made the appropriate noises, agreeing with all that.

And we just talked along. I helped him figure out what size building he wanted, and got to working on the quote. We got along real well. And I asked him, as I was finishing up. Where would it be shipped to? That makes some difference in the cost. I totally expected a local address. Lancaster County has all kinds of Plain Mennonites. I figured he came from over on the north side, somewhere. And I really didn’t figure I had much chance of actually selling it to him, anyway.

And he told me. A town down by the eastern shore in Maryland. About 150 miles away. I was startled, and told him so. I had no idea there were Mennonites like you down that far. What group are you with? And it was his turn to be a little startled. What in the world did this English man know about Plain Mennonites? Are you Nationwide? I asked him. “No,” he said. “We’re Bethel Fellowship. (I think that’s what he said. I didn’t write it down. It was “Bethel” something.) We’re not connected to the Nationwide groups, or any of the others.” That’s real strange, I said. Never heard of you people before.

And it could have all ended right there, and would have ended right there, in any kind of normal day. But this was the Saturday before Christmas. Things were slow. And I just got to visiting with the man. All while working up his quote. He asked for a printed copy, and I stayed busy getting that together for him. And I asked him. So what are all your rules? Do you listen to the radio?

“Oh, absolutely not,” he settled right in, too, to tell me. “We have no instrumental music, filtered internet only, and no TV. We’re not like those liberal Mennonite churches out there.” And I asked him a bit about the size of the community he’s in. “Twenty-five families,” he said. I asked how many youth they had, and at what age they usually joined the church. “We have about twenty youth,” he said. “And they usually join when they’re twelve or thirteen years old or so.” That’s a lot of pressure, there, to join at that age, I thought. That’s how they rope them in. I didn’t say that, though.

And we just kept chatting. I told him I had come from the Amish. By then, he’d figured that out, and wasn’t surprised. He kept going off about instrumental music, and how that was always the first step that leads churches right down the wrong road. What do you listen to when you’re driving down the road? I asked. “All a capella singing,” he said. I bet that gets pretty old, I told him. He claimed it didn’t. He got a little loud, saying all that. But he didn’t mean to, I don’t think. He just had an English guy listening and asking questions about what he believed. Nothing wrong with talking a little loud when that happens. But I kept asking all kinds of questions. And the next one came.

You don’t have radios, I said. How do you know your youth aren’t sneaking around listening to all that evil music when no one’s looking? He looked genuinely shocked. I don’t think he’d ever even considered that possibility before. “No, no,” he half sputtered. “We don’t feel that happens. And if one of them got caught doing that, strong discipline would follow.” And what if he’s still rebellious? I asked. What if the guy won’t put away his radio? “Then he would be excommunicated,” was the answer.

We were talking about his building quote right through all this. I showed him from our little model in the showroom. How a sliding door works. The components we sell. I figure our products are just about the best out there in the market, I allowed. He seemed impressed. And always, the talk drifted back to what his little group believes, because I kept nudging it there. And somehow we ended up over by the counter by the front door. No other customers came. The phone didn’t ring. And soon, an hour had whooshed right by. And we still stood there, talking about a lot of things. The people we came from, the Anabaptists, and how deeply our roots affect who we are. I respect my people a lot, I said. But I could never live like that. And off and on, he kept slamming all those liberal Mennonites out there, so worldly, all of them. Their women wear pants and cut their hair, pretty much an abomination in his book. And it just slipped out of me. That all sounds like a whole lot of judgment, what you’re saying there. Why is any of that stuff your business? And again, he looked a little dumbfounded. “We know them by their fruits,” he spoke as if talking to a child. And I asked him. Do you get many outsiders joining up? People that come from the English?

“A few,” he claimed. I bet there’s not many, I said. “No, because they have too much to clean up in their lives,” he said. And it was my turn to gape. And I grasped at last that the man was “witnessing” to me. He was telling me all the rules you needed to follow for salvation. I can’t remember that he ever even mentioned the name of Jesus at all. Just the things you had to do, to get to heaven. And how messy it was out there, in the world. “Take divorce,” he said, starting down another little trail. And I interrupted without even thinking. That’s where I am. I’m divorced. I figured I wouldn’t mention anything about going to bars and such, because that would just be too much. So I didn’t. He smiled at me benevolently and a little pityingly. I can’t remember his point about it all. But he kept going back to how it’s so much easier when people have their works all lined up, when they come to join his church. “That way, they have far fewer problems with the rules, because they’re already used to it. And there aren’t many from the outside who can ever get their lives in order,” he explained.

I smiled at him. There was nothing hostile in the air that I felt, not from him. He was just talking. I certainly wasn’t hostile at him. He was a nice, friendly man who was just telling me what he believed. He got a little loud, but that was OK. I was the one who made the conversation happen, because I wanted to visit. I did keep nudging him along, though, into ever more horrifying places for him, I suspect. I asked him. OK. Suppose you look at a woman and lust after her. That’s a sin, the Bible says. What if you do that, and then get killed right that instant? Are you lost forever? He leaned in instantly across the counter, and he actually shook his finger at me. And he spoke strongly, unhesitatingly, adamantly. “If you don’t repent, yes. You must repent from that sin.” We all do it, I shot back. You know we do. He didn’t deny that. And he went off again, into all his formulas about works. It all starts with that instrumental music, back there. He just couldn’t keep from going back to that foundational point about that evil music. “Read your Bible,” he told me. And again. “Read your Bible. You have to repent from every sin, or you are lost.”

And right there you have it. Talking to Christians, here. You can be saved and lost and saved and lost a hundred times in a single day, depending on how much you’re sinning and “repenting” in your heart. And in your mind. It’s whiplash. And there are all kinds of formulas out there, to minimize the impact of such beliefs. But it still always boils down to a whole lot of guilt. And a whole lot of fretting about losing your salvation, and trying to hang on to it by your works. It’s whiplash, to have to always be on mental alert like that. It’s torture, is what it is. That’s the same box I broke free from, except I think this guy’s box was even worse. There has to be some better way. Otherwise, all of life is drudgery, not worth living with any joy, but always with forced words and forced smiles. And lots of rules and lots of loud talking. There can be no joy in such teaching, in such beliefs, in such “faith.” There can be none. Not real joy.

And I had never planned to say such a thing, but it just popped right out. It’s like I couldn’t help myself. That’s bondage, right there, I said. And no, my voice wasn’t near as loud as his. I think it even shook a little. But I said it. You are in bondage. It’s impossible to walk in such righteousness, that we keep track of every sin, and make sure we repent. And all those rules won’t do a thing to make your heart one bit purer before God, either. It’s bondage, to believe that. You’re in bondage. Not exact words, there. But that’s what I hope he heard me saying, one way or the other.

I don’t think anyone had ever even suggested something like that to him before. And here stood an English guy, who came from the Amish, saying that. A guy who listened to all that detestable instrumental music, and had a TV. And worse still, a guy who was divorced. It was almost more than he could take. And he struggled. Still, he kept it polite all the way through. As did I. And he rattled off his long complicated formula one more time. You work, to clean up your life. Only then can the church accept you. I told him again. It’s bondage, what you’re saying. “I have to get going,” he said then. We’ve been talking for an hour. I enjoyed it, I said. And I meant that. Let me know if you want that building. “I will,” he answered. Then he walked out.

But not far. I returned to my desk behind my counter. And the door bells jingled again. The man stuck his head inside, and spoke in a pretty loud voice. I don’t think he was hollering, just talking loud so I could hear him from clear across the room. “Read your Bible.” And then he was gone.

At a little church house behind the clock tower in Gap, PA, Pastor Mark Potter keeps right on preaching, keeps right on insisting that the church is a hospital, not a country club. And it’s not a walled fortress, either, to keep the wounded out. It’s a place for broken people with messy lives. And I will say this. From what I’ve seen of country clubs and walled fortresses and such, I have found the hospital far more welcoming. And far more healing. But that’s just me, talking from where I am.
******************************************************

And that brings me to the season again. Christmas. Getting repetitious, here. It was different this year, but real good. On Christmas eve, it all went like I thought it would. Well, almost. Paul and Rhoda and Cody and Adrianna welcomed me into their home. Moments before, the electricity had inexplicably gone off. And their house was lit with candles and lamps. Some stupid drunk had probably hit a telephone pole somewhere close, Paul and I figured. It was a special evening, anyway. We’ll always remember that night. We ate, made merry, and exchanged gifts. And it was just simply a joy to be joyful with that family at such a time as this.

I wasn’t sure how the actual day would go, though. And that’s what was most different, this year. I wasn’t invited anywhere. My brother Steve and his family had other plans, which was fine. It just meant they weren’t serving food in their house that day. So I didn’t have anywhere to go. And no, I didn’t make it known, much. Only mentioned it to a few close friends I could trust not to give me a “sympathy invite.” I don’t want to get invited to Christmas dinner unless you think of it on your own. And besides, I’d probably turn down even such an invitation, anyway, if it’s a large gathering. I’m pretty shy around any large family that’s not my own.

But then something did turn up, something good. I got a message from my friend Allen Beiler. Our good friend from Missouri, Dave Beiler, had returned to see family. And he had some time to get together on Christmas Day, late afternoon into evening. Would I like to come? Of course I’d like to, and I’ll be there, I told him. Yours is the first invitation to anywhere I have that day. And the whole day was calm and joyful. I putzed around at home, fried up some real good natural organic meat I had just picked up the week before. And made a little party by myself. And around six o’clock, I went and hung out with Allen and Dave and a group of other friends. Allen even had some Glenlivet in stock just for me. It was a very merry Christmas.

A quick glance back over the past year. It simply was one of the most exciting and joyful years of my life. I saw so much. And I learned so much. About what it looks like, in other worlds than mine. This country boy ventured out, not only to the big cities, but to the big cities in Germany and Switzerland. I look back and remember all the people I met along that road. People I now treasure as good friends. I remember how they all stepped out and made me welcome. Took the time to show me around. And seemed honored that I was there. It was all pretty astonishing.

I remember, too, what it was to go see my Dad and tell him all about it. What it was to be invited home. What it was to sit and eat with him. That trip was probably the one that stands out above all the rest.

And the angel emerged, too, this past summer. That little event was a huge deal, looking back now. Things haven’t been quite the same since. It seems strange, how such a thing can be. But it’s true. I can measure a lot of things inside my heart in a different way, ever since that happened. I am grateful that it did.

Mom’s still with us, still clinging to life in the dark fog of a world we cannot ever know, unless we enter it. At which point we won’t be able to tell about it. And our prayer remains the same as it was last year at this time. Lord, call her home in the coming year. She is loved and cared for here, and she will always be, for as long as she remains. But You can love and care for her so much better than any of us ever can here. We accept what comes or doesn’t. But please call her home to You.

And this is where I am, in my own heart. Whatever 2014 brings, I think I’ll be fine. Even guardedly happy. I don’t think I’ve ever conceded to just being happy in my daily slog through life. And it’s not like I’ll ever quit grumbling about the small annoying things. I’ll keep doing that. Always have. And if the vile slime that is ObamaCare slithers in and cancels my health insurance, I’ll be more than grumpy, trust me. I’ll be livid. But way down deep, I can tell you that I’m good to go, whatever comes. And I’m looking forward to whatever it is that life may bring.

Happy New Year to all my readers.

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(34 Comments) »

  1. Great blog, Ira. But I repeat myself. They’re all great.

    Our mutual Lancaster friend told me that the problem with the O.O. Mennonites is that they wrote their rules down. “Our Amish rules aren’t written down, so there’s a little grey area there.” Then he laughed.

    This was also a great year for me. Prisons, a bicycle trip, concert tour to Ireland… and like you, even a trip to Germany! Found the home town (village?) of my great-great grandfather, Adam Schmid and his wife, Eve! Can you believe those names?

    And of course, a few good times with you.

    We’re still waiting for NYT best-seller number two. Have a blessed, happy new year!

    Comment by John Schmid — December 27, 2013 @ 7:18 pm

  2. Ira:

    Fantastic entry. Often as I drive through Lancaster County and see the beautiful, well-tended farms and pass the horses and the buggies, especially when I see the children, I think, “What bondage.” We who are free in Christ who have not had that upbringing can’t even begin to feel what it is like to be in that kind of legalism. We’ve been in the grip of sin, but usually it’s been to our own hearts’ desires or to the world. It’s easier to be saved from that: Jesus told us that Sodom and Gomorrah would fare better in the day of judgment than the cities lorded over by the Pharisees. Legalism kills the soul because it fills it with one of two things: pride or despair. It can make you think that you don’t need the Holy Spirit or that the Holy Spirit is too weak. It’s death. Thank you for bearing witness to this gentleman. May he find peace in Christ.

    Comment by A. Martin — December 27, 2013 @ 7:35 pm

  3. Post par excellence!

    I totally agree about rather having grown up in an OO world than the sort this man was from, for various reasons. But they both can play with your mind and impact your thinking long after you have left even when you believe vastly different.

    Re church as a hospital versus a country club: “How many deaths will it take till [they] know that too many people have died?”

    Thanks for all your hard labor to put words around the thoughts and feelings in your soul for your readers. It blesses more than you know.

    May your New Year hold more good roads and much peace.

    Comment by Ava — December 27, 2013 @ 7:36 pm

  4. Thanks, for again sharing another encounter, with those “other” folk. If I’m not amused by your encounter & your discussion with this person then it’s a bit sad that this is all that “living the good life” consists of for him. But who am I to judge, if this is ok for him? Looking forward to many more interesting/challenging blogs from you in 2014….. Sorry, but I did quietly chuckle a few times reading this blog. It is a very small world, we live in. The way the discussion went has happened many times before, not only with you & him where you are, but even over here on the West Coast, far removed from where you are, but dealing with the same issues/questions/doubts about the Anabaptist/Mennonite Way that has been presented to myself.

    Comment by Peter Klassen — December 27, 2013 @ 7:55 pm

  5. Recently I have taken an interest in the O.O.Mennonites who have no Amish roots. There are some in Pinecraft during the winter months I am planning to edge up to…

    Comment by Katie Troyer — December 27, 2013 @ 8:00 pm

  6. Minus the coverings you described the exact church environment I grew up in. The long list of rules. The never-ending judgment. The guilt. Losing and begging for salvation repeatedly. The power plays. The weight of that world was more than I could bear. I still have the scars from it. But scars are good. They are evidence of healing. They’re no longer oozing sores.

    Comment by Tracy — December 27, 2013 @ 8:20 pm

  7. Ira, it is not only in the Mennonite groups that are so legalistic. I was raised in a church that taught you had to clean up your life before you could make it into their church. I now know that I just have to accept the finished work of Jesus Christ, to believe in Him to have eternal life. It is a blessing to know the freedom IN Christ. I also am trusting in Jesus Christ to care for me in the future.

    God Bless you in 2014.

    Linda

    Comment by Linda Morris — December 27, 2013 @ 8:40 pm

  8. That would be like you’re too dirty to take a shower, you have to wash up first!

    Comment by Rich Miller — December 27, 2013 @ 9:31 pm

  9. Jesus gave us salvation as a gift. This is the truth that we shall know that will set us free. Free to live our lives with joy. It is amazing how some people make salvation so complicated when God did not. Perhaps, Ira, you have planted a seed in this fellow’s mind and he will mull things over. You never know what this seed will grow into. Have a very blessed, healthy New Year, with many joyful new adventures. Thanks for another great blog.

    Comment by Rosanna — December 27, 2013 @ 10:19 pm

  10. Back when I joined the Weaverland Conference(Black bumper, Horning), a phrase often said in our class meeting was “The church doesn’t need you, you need the church.” Back them it all sounded good, especially it reinforces that you needed to be part of a body of believers. Today, while I see that Christians need to be part of a fellow of believers, I now see that the first part of that statement is a total lie. Why be part of something that don’t need you?

    Comment by Ken — December 27, 2013 @ 11:58 pm

  11. Happy New Year, Ira. As usual, your writing prompted a humorous memory. One time I was watching a Nazarene preacher on TV. He was preaching against jewelry of any kind whatsoever and bragged that he didn’t even wear a wedding ring. I think he took his text from HOSEA, who likened Israel to a whore wearing tinkling rings and a scarlet dress. On and on he went about the jewelry. After his sermon, a ladies’ quartet sang. And they were wearing identical red dresses!

    Comment by cynthia r chase — December 28, 2013 @ 8:26 am

  12. hrmm, interesting, some people under that system don’t find it bondage at all. I was with the Church of God Guthie and COG Restoration for 24 years and they had a similar system with many many rules and one sin and you lost your salvation. But I do think this system produces sin-reductionism. You start making excuses for your sins and make them into not being sins any more, so you can claim to be in good standing and sin free. Perhaps the COGG/COGR are worse doing that, than other sects as they are a Wesleyian no-sin or “Holiness in doctrine.

    I am currently with Charity and they are a very mild version of Conservative Mennonites. I do find that there are a lot of self-righteous people in plain-clothes groups, that seem to rate their spirituality based on there natural strengths and then go around tweaking other members in those areas.

    Any way saw a link on FB to this article and as usually the read is good.

    Happy Hanukkah

    Bob.

    Comment by bob mutch — December 28, 2013 @ 9:07 am

  13. Ira—I often say to others “the Joy of the Lord is my strength”, and Barry and I are so content to know that we are free from living in that bondage, because of Christ dying on the cross for our sins. We wish you a Blessed and Happy New Year—and we look forward to your future blogs. Your Aylmer blog readers-The Kinseys.

    Comment by June Kinsey — December 28, 2013 @ 11:16 am

  14. I grew up in the same church that Ellen did so I can connect to this. They are my people and I love them. But I am grateful to have been set free from the bondage of living in that fear. I got thrown out on my ear. Three times. I guess some of us learn hard. At the time I thought it was devastating. Today I realized that it was a precious gift and I have no idea why God loved me enough to give me that gift. I am grateful.

    Comment by RAM — December 28, 2013 @ 1:36 pm

  15. Good blog Ira. I also grew up Amish and now I am an Elder in a so called Charity Church. One thing I would add about your little church where the Pastor says the church is a hospital. I believe that the church is to be an Army, but all good armies have a hospital because they take care of their wounded. I like that a bit better. As for the fellow with the little hat. Yes I was there also on my journey. It all made sense back then but not anymore. Too bad.

    Comment by John Weaver — December 28, 2013 @ 4:47 pm

  16. For many years I have made the same observation of the various Mennonite groups judging one another, but rarely bother to put it into words because unless you come from that, have lived that, it’s hard to understand. But it is an astute observation, and very true. It’s done from their pulpits, too.

    Awesome post.

    Comment by Monica — December 28, 2013 @ 5:01 pm

  17. I rarely interject. But I will, here. The church is a hospital only, if we acknowledge our own idols. We all have them, and that idol worship is as abhorrent before God as anything you’ll ever point out at someone else. Nah, no Army there. Armies kill. Hospitals heal.

    Comment by admin — December 28, 2013 @ 7:17 pm

  18. I enjoyed reading about your conversation with Mr. Mennonite.
    Great blog as usual.
    Is the church only a hospital? Hmmm…I certainly don’t want to spend the rest of my spiritual life in a hospital.

    Comment by Marylou Hurst — December 28, 2013 @ 8:55 pm

  19. I’m in the hospital. You are, too.

    http://www.gospelinlife.com/free-sermon-resource

    Comment by admin — December 28, 2013 @ 9:57 pm

  20. Oh, so allowing stringed instruments is the point where it all starts to unravel. As I was growing up I was taught that once churches allowed tractors they had crossed the point of no return.

    Comment by Ed Yoder — December 29, 2013 @ 9:41 am

  21. Very well written!!…agree the church is a hospital!!

    Comment by Elam — December 29, 2013 @ 10:12 am

  22. We need to become nurses and Doctors also, not forever a patient:)

    Comment by Lena — December 29, 2013 @ 10:26 am

  23. I have a cold and stay home from church this morning, I seen on FB that you posted on your blog. The reading meant alot to me. I Hope you have a Blessed New Year.

    Comment by Warren — December 29, 2013 @ 11:06 am

  24. “Sing to the Lord a NEW song.”
    ~David

    Which means you need something to sing about.

    To the Lord.
    (Amos 5:21-6:7 is commentary to how the real heart affects this.)

    Comment by LeRoy — December 30, 2013 @ 1:07 pm

  25. Your thoughts on bondage and Mennonites are interesting. I recently wrote on similar lines. I find the ‘we are the perfect blend of obedience without legalism’ to be insanely frustrating. http://notthelifeidreamedof.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/spiritual-emptiness/

    Comment by Rachel — December 30, 2013 @ 2:26 pm

  26. This post made me so sad and brought back memories of that “whiplash”. I am so thankful to be set free from that, I just wish I could show some people dear to my heart that this is NOT the way God wants us to live…it IS bondage!!
    Thanks for sharing!!

    Comment by Twila — December 30, 2013 @ 9:04 pm

  27. Thanks Ira. Great read! Food for my soul..

    Comment by Luke Mast — December 30, 2013 @ 10:14 pm

  28. Interesting read, Ira. I went to the very church where this man is a member. By your description of him, I’m 99.9% sure I know him. This church was not always characterized by this level of conservatism….they were one of the only churches in their fellowship that allowed musical instruments. When they decided to “take a stand against them”, they lost some of their long-standing members. I am one that decided to move on. I’ve had to wonder if “the sin that so easily besets us” sometimes is the easy judgement and knee-jerk enacting of “standards” to “protect” everyone from the “world”. It seems that Jesus (the One we’re supposed to be following) spent more time with what most Mennonites would consider the “world” than they would be comfortable with. It doesn’t make much sense to me to be born into the world for the purpose of tending perfectly-manicured lawns and living down long lanes to keep our families away from the “world”, while they look at “Plain People” as curiosities and quaint reminders of simpler times, instead of real people with real problems, who can help them discover Grace.

    Comment by Rob — December 30, 2013 @ 11:00 pm

  29. Hello Ira , thank you for sharing. If I may ask, are you re-married ?

    Comment by James Peight — December 31, 2013 @ 9:17 am

  30. “You can be saved and lost and saved and lost a hundred times in a single day, depending on how much you’re sinning and “repenting” in your heart. And in your mind. It’s whiplash.” …To believe this way one must think God stands by the Lamb’s Book of Life constantly writing in names and erasing them, writing them, and erasing them.

    Do we really think God’s work, through Jesus’ perfect obedience and then death on the cross, is not powerful enough to save and keep? I am so grateful for this truth: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand” (John 10:28-29).

    The first 25 years of my life were characterized by the diminishing of my sin and the evilness of my heart…otherwise how could I live? I now see my sin for what it really is (more so, anyway) and realize that I am worse than I can “fix”. And though I still fight against works-based salvation thinking, I trust in Christ alone for my salvation, and cling to Him.

    Comment by Maretta — December 31, 2013 @ 11:54 am

  31. There is no other name whereby men can be saved. I am thankful for the simplicity of Jesus. It took many years to accept that salvation comes through faith and not by works. What a pleasant place to be after years of struggling to be acceptable in God’s eyes. I enjoy reading your offerings. They are a reminder that there are others seeking a healthy relationship with God and that God does receive and embrace us as we seek Him with integrity and openness to Him, not men’s interpretation of Him.

    Comment by Emelda Kerkhoff — January 6, 2014 @ 7:27 am

  32. I really enjoy your writing a lot. Just finished your book. How happy I am to be free of the bondage of rules and the Ordnung and all that worrying…I love your insights. I am going to start following your work more. I do have to say that I didn’t appreciate or agree with your comment about Obamacare. I was just able to get health insurance for myself, that I couldn’t get before due to having cancer some years ago. Now I don’t have to worry anymore about not having coverage if I ever get sick again. It was very affordable too. I think there’s a lot of lies out there about the affordable health care act. It’s easy to belieave lies. Every Ex Plain Person knows that. :)

    Comment by elam zook — January 13, 2014 @ 10:07 pm

  33. I don’t blame the guy for not having tv in his house. I haven’t had outside stations coming into my home for about 17 years. I do pick and choose DVD’s, however, for my kids and my husband and I from the library. If there’s one thing I enjoy at the end of a hectic day it’s watching a mindless BBC murder mystery. Makes everything just shut down; I feel my muscles relax.

    Does that make me a better person? No. It’s just a decision my husband and I have come to to avoid things that could take away from…life. A woman with her boobs showing, sassy teens that think their parents are dumb, a whole lot of swearing, no thanks. I don’t want my boys being bludgeoned with that on a daily basis. Of course, there are good programs out there, some of which I miss. I’d like to see Macy’s parade on Thanksgiving and have a Super Bowl party, but…

    Psalm 98: 4-6
    “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,
    burst into jubilant song with music; make
    music to the Lord with the harp, with the
    harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets
    and the blast of the ram’s horn- shout for
    joy before the Lord, the King.”

    Well, I must say you did a fine job presenting your views to the good Mennonite man. Working to clean up our acts first? Man, that is bondage. Big time! I ask, “And just why did Jesus die on the cross?” Read your Bible, indeed! Poor fellow. He’s in bondage.

    Hey, Ira. You’re all right.

    Comment by Francine — January 16, 2014 @ 2:18 pm

  34. Great writing..come from Old Order.was a member of 3 other church’s
    .and none of them helped and was not the church’s fault.there is such a divide between religion and spirituality for me..what I and my friends do with Gods help sets us free and it is so simple if we keep it that way.I have not been a member of organized religion for well over 20 years and have never felt more at peace or closer to my God.There is no debate for me with anyone about religion..to each his own..Lenny..Phx

    Comment by lenny — January 24, 2014 @ 12:30 am

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