June 26, 2015

Traveling Mercies…

Category: News — Ira @ 5:57 pm


Have you not opened your dark door for us who
never found doors to enter, and given us a room
who, roomless, doorless, unassauged, were driven
on forever through the streets of life?

—Thomas Wolfe

It was probably about as ordinary a day as I could have imagined, right at three weeks ago. Nothing particular going on. I was busy at work, my mind drifting a bit now and then about the finishing touches to the blog that I planned to post the following night. The Maggie blog. The phone rang, off and on. And then it rang again. I heard Rosita answer. “Yes, he’s here. Who may I say is calling?” When that happens, there’s about a fifty percent chance or so that the call will be for me. There was a pause. And then my phone beeped. Yes? And she spoke the caller’s name. I didn’t recognize and can’t remember it. But the guy asked for me. And then she transferred the call. This is Ira, I said. Can I help you?

“Yes. Ira?” The voice was as unfamiliar as the name had been. And the guy launched right in. “You don’t know me. I live in North Carolina, and I’m a fan of your blog. (He didn’t have much of a Carolina drawl, I have to say.) And your blog’s been down all day. I’m just calling to make sure you’re OK.”

Well. Whatever else I was expecting, it sure wasn’t that. What do you do with such a thing, coming right at you out of nowhere? Wow, I said. Hey, I really appreciate that you called. I didn’t know my blog was down, I wasn’t on it today, yet. Let me see if I can get on it now. And I tried, there on my computer, and couldn’t. The little wheel spun and spun, and just sat there and spun some more. I can’t get on it, either, I said. It must be down for maintenance. Seems strange, though, that it’s been down most of the day. I hadn’t noticed. I’ll contact my webmaster, to see if he can get it back up soon. I know they take it down for maintenance sometimes, but they usually do that during off-hours. Thanks for letting me know.

And then we just chatted for a moment, the man from North Carolina and me. I thanked him again. Thanks for reading my blog, I said. I appreciate that very much, and I appreciate that you called. (I thought about it later. How in the world did the man get the number to my office? And it came to me. From my writings. I’m always writing about Graber Supply, and the things that come down there. He probably just googled the number.)

He chuckled. “Not a problem,” he said. And he went on. “When I was reading your book, I kept saying, ‘Lord, please let this man find Jesus.’ And I was so happy at the end, when you did.”

And what can you say to such a thing? Wow. Thanks, again. I said. And thanks again, for reading my blog. I just write from where I am, and sometimes that’s from a real dark place.

I don’t’ remember his exact words, but I heard something like this. “That’s what I like about your writing,” he said. “You say it like it is, and it don’t matter what anyone else thinks. You write honest.” He paused. And I remember verbatim the next thing he said. “I pray for you often.”

For the third time in about as many minutes, I thanked him. And then that was it. We said good-bye and hung up. And I sat there, floored, and absorbed what had just happened. Absorbed the closing words the man had spoken, words I had never heard before from any total stranger. I pray for you often.

It was a wild thing, any way you look at it. All of it. A stranger, calling me out of the blue, from way down south. Concerned for me, because my blog was down. Who would ever have thunk such a thing could happen? And I thought about it, too. A phone call like that just makes it all worth it, the hours and hours of blood and sweat and toil that go into the writing of each blog.

But still, it was what he said there at the end that made me reflect, that struck me deepest. “I pray for you often.” I mean, who says that to a total stranger? I don’t doubt the guy. I know he was telling me the truth. And to him, I guess, I’m not a stranger. He feels like he knows me, from my voice on this blog. And I certainly have written from pretty much where I’ve been, including some real dark places. I have done that, never even thinking much about the people I might reach, the people who hear my voice.

I pray for you often. I could not shake it, the wonder of those words. I mean, I barely remember to pray for myself, every day, let alone pray for others. Don’t get me wrong. I commune with God a lot, in my heart. It’s a continuous thing, for me. And I tell Him, what I’m feeling. I tell him when I’m grateful. A place I try to stay in, as much as I can. And I tell Him when I’m sad, or brooding, or just plain angry. I talk to God from those places, all the time. Not so much in words, most of the time. But always from my heart. From the heart, you can talk to God without speaking a word. It’s pretty simple. And it’s the best way I’ve ever found, to talk to Him.

But when it comes to talking to Him about others, well, there I have to say I’m lacking pretty sadly, I’m afraid. Sure, I pray for specific situations, specific people. Like my sister, Maggie, and her pain on this earth. And Dad, too, as he approaches the setting sun in his life. I talk to God about all that. But I don’t know that I have ever been in the place that caller was, when he spoke to me, a stranger wandering the earth. I can’t remember that I’ve ever prayed for any stranger, at least not often.

I am grateful, though, that the man who called me that day prays often for me, a stranger. And I thought about it, later. Thought about it a lot. How many other people out there are doing something similar to that? I guess you reach people sometimes with your writing, when you never had any idea you were reaching them. That’s where this stranger came from. How many others are out there, like him, praying for me often? I have no idea. The Lord knows, I suppose, because He hears their prayers for me.

It makes me feel pretty small and humble, the thought of any number of readers out there, praying for me, however sporadically. And I can’t help but think about this, too. It was a dark time, a lot of the last year was, culminating in March. A real dark time, mostly because I chose to walk into the darkness, chose to invite it in. Chose to welcome it into my heart. I wonder how much worse it would have been, how much deeper the darkness that enveloped me would have been, had this guy and others like him not been out there, lifting a total stranger up to the Lord in prayer.

I don’t know how much darker it would have gotten, that little time frame in my life. I have a pretty good idea, though. There were times when I stood on the edge of the abyss and peered down way deeper pits of ever more infinite darkness. But somehow, I stepped back from the edges of those pits, somehow I struggled my way back to the light with strength I could never have found on my own. I have no doubt that such strength, weak as it was, was prayed in on me by people I do not know. People like the stranger who told me. “I pray for you often.”

And today, I am grateful to God, for traveling mercies such as that.
This has been one strange week. I hadn’t figured to write about any of it, but it insists on coming out, so here goes. What we saw this week, with the huge uproar about the Confederate flag, was nothing less than the vilest lynching I have ever seen. Or at least it’s the vilest lynching since poor Joe Paterno was murdered at Penn State by the bloodthirsty mob a few years ago. It was just awful, this past week. The whole thing just made me ill, right down to the bottom of who I am. It was all just pure madness, and it still is.

And no, I’m not defending the Confederate flag. I’m not defending any flag. I don’t even like flags. I’m an anarchist. I will never salute any flag of any state. Or any country.

But I won’t join the madness of the roaring mobs, either. I will not do it. I won’t fall over myself to vilify a person or an object just to prove how pure and holy I am. I will not do it.

I don’t pretend to know all the fine details of what the Southern Cross means or doesn’t mean to various groups in the south. I wasn’t born there, and I figure the people who were have the right to mind their own business, when it comes to flying or not flying that flag. And make no mistake about the attack that was unleashed this week. It was birthed and coordinated by the rabid, radical Left. Don’t ever let any political opportunity slip by, from any tragedy. That’s their motto. And boy, did they ever swoop in and crush any dissenting views.

You think about it, and it’s just flat out insane, the notion that the flag caused a young lunatic to enter a black church and murder nine innocent people. There is one factor that connects all the lunatic shooters these past many years. They were all, without exception, on psychotic drugs. Every one of them. But that fact is studiously ignored as the press lapdogs bray and bray about the evil of guns. And now, it’s a flag that is evil. A flag, that must be purged from the annals of this country’s history. A flag.

The insanity is not stopping with the flag, and every reference to it. Next will come the purging of monuments, and the renaming of schools and towns, as all memories of the evil Confederacy are wiped from the historical record. The Leftists on the forefront of this assault simply seethe with rage and venom. Nothing will stop them. They are no better than the Taliban, blowing up ancient Buddhist statues carved in stone on a mountainside in Afghanistan. We have now entered the subjective world of make-believe, where nothing is real or concrete. Old culture must be torn down, destroyed. It has no value. Today this is truth, tomorrow that will be, and this will be false. Just because. We are in an Alice in Wonderland world. We are not getting there. We are there. And these are dangerous, dangerous times.

And I keep hearing it said. You don’t know what it’s like, to come from slave roots. A statement designed to shut you up, right there. Well, no. It’s true enough. I don’t know what it’s like to come from slave roots. And people from slave roots have no idea what it’s like to come from Anabaptist roots, either. Their ancestral memories revolve around slavery, and the evil that it was. My ancestral memories are a whole lot different. My people were hunted down like animals, not enslaved. And they were killed when they were caught. Drowned. Burned at the stake. Beheaded. Those are my deep ancestral memories.

And yes, I despise the state to this day, because of all that. I will never, never trust any government on this earth. I know a lot of you are tired of hearing me keep saying that. I’ll say it again, anyway. The ancestral memory that is the evil of the state is burned deep into my psyche. I will never, never quit speaking that, I will never stop calling evil what it is, when it comes to what the state is.

But I will never call for any state icons of those days to be destroyed, either, because of all the wrong that was done. I’ll make a pilgrimage, instead, and I’ll write my name on the castle walls, where my ancestors were imprisoned and killed. I won’t call for the castle to be torn down. I don’t want it to be torn down. I want it standing there, right where it is, as a silent witness to all the innocent blood my ancestors shed for holding on to what they believed.

Most of us come from hard places, somewhere way back there in our ancestral memories. And banning a symbol of that hard place ain’t gonna make a lick of difference about anything. All it does is make you a whole lot less free. That’s how I see it. And that’s how I’ll say it.

Moving on, then, briefly, to what I was going to talk about. Last weekend, I traveled on down to South Carolina again. It was an important trip. My sister Rhoda’s oldest son, Justin, got married, down there in Fair Play. To a beautiful young lady named Jessica Miller. And it was a little hard for me, to justify going down that far twice in three weeks. I mean, I work for a living. I’ve got a job to go to. But in the end, I told Rhoda and Marvin. This is your first wedding, in your family. I will come, because that’s an important thing. And I went.

The wedding was on Saturday afternoon, at five. I got down there early, and stopped by Ray and Maggie’s house, to hang for a few hours. Janice was there, and we connected, for the first time in a while. And I just sat there and hung out. Maggie is looking pretty good. Still way too thin, of course. But she’s supposed to be in all kinds of pain, and she’s not. Her blood counts are supposed to be tanking; they are not. They are improving. “I’m still here, I’m still alive,” she told me as we hugged. And indeed she was, and indeed she is. What all this means, no one knows. It could be the calm before the storm, or it could be something more. We expect nothing, as family. We simply rejoice and celebrate, for every day she remains with us on this earth.

And then it was on over to Fair Play, for the wedding. Maggie couldn’t make it, so we hugged good-bye for the second time in the last three weeks. And my nephew, John Wagler, and his wife, Dort, took me. It was an outdoor affair. Simple. Beautiful. And touching. I don’t know my nephew Justin that well. I don’t know many of my nieces and nephews that well. But he looked all strong, and his bride looked all beautiful. I wish them all the best. And I told Rhoda and Marvin. You sure have a real nice family. Beautiful daughters and real strong, manly sons. They beamed and beamed.

And it’s only a few days away, now, my big trip over the pond. Late next Wednesday afternoon, I’ll be boarding a big old plane to Germany, and points beyond. I’ve been in contact with Sabrina, and she claims they are all looking forward to hosting me. I sure am looking forward to getting over there. Looking forward to leaving my drab everyday life behind, for a few days. Looking forward to hanging out with my friends at Leuphana University. And maybe not looking forward all that much, to my keynote speech on Friday night. I think I’ll be good, though. I usually talk for half an hour or so, then open up for questions. It’s always real interesting, the questions that come. You talk about what people want to talk about, not what you want to drone on about on your own.

I’ve talked to the tenant and told him where I ‘m going and why. He looked all wise. I have no idea if he ever got my book read; I’ve never asked him. He’ll keep an eagle eye on the place, when I’m gone. And my Amish neighbors, next door, too. They keep an eagle eye on the place all the time, anyway. They’ll do that all the more, now that I invited them to, while I’m gone. They are happy to be of service, and I’m sure they’ll be peering over at my house, nonstop.

It’s all pretty crazy, all of it. The fact that I’m heading to Germany, because of my book. Again. The second time. I have to pinch myself sometimes, to make sure it’s all real. And no, I won’t be posting again on this blog, not until I get back, and I get a mind to. It’ll be three or four weeks or so.

I am beyond grateful, for all the blessings the book has brought, almost more than I can count. And I am trusting the Lord for traveling mercies on this journey.



  1. I enjoy reading your blogs and I enjoyed reading your book. The thing I am troubled about is your feeling for our flag.If you live in America, you should have love for your country. I know things are going on that we don’t approve of in our country,but that is not our flags fault. Just sayin’.

    Comment by Judith Chaffin — June 26, 2015 @ 6:40 pm

  2. 1984. Orwellian. If people have not read that novel, they need to. I once told my wife she couldn’t understand me unless she read it. So once, I leveraged her into reading it with me, and at the end, she cried. “I can’t believe you had me read that book!” Well, but now you understand why I am concerned about law, and restraining Statism – because I love you and our children, and want them to live free.

    The response at Charleston was beautiful. Forgiveness. And 10,000 (some thought 20,000) on the bridge that first Sunday afternoon after church service. Black, white, police, and all – everyone peaceful, Love Conquers Hate, and so on. But I noticed the “news” tries one thing and another to stir up negative emotions. Even with the Court ruling today also, I will keep blessing and not cursing. We win in the end, but not by strategies this world can understand. And that’s kind of the point – real, spiritual, change is needed. Charleston AME church scored a victory, even if “news” won’t say it, and we need to keep that in mind, and follow the example.

    Comment by LeRoy — June 26, 2015 @ 7:31 pm

  3. I pray for you also. You sharing your life creates intimacy, and a desire in me for you to be all that God intended you to be! So, I pray for that, for a Godly wife for you, for you to have children, and other good things.

    Comment by Kathy Dean — June 26, 2015 @ 10:06 pm

  4. Well, Ira, I have no idea why my postings don’t go to your blog! I put my name and e-mail in, write my response to you and put in code and submit it. Always end up repeating process until I give up. Which means I have to start all over from beginning. Sorry for being a pain!

    Just wanted to let you know I am excited you get to go abroad again and am looking forward to reading about your trip and people you encountered. Have a great adventure!

    Comment by Martha, copied over by admin — June 26, 2015 @ 11:43 pm

  5. Well that makes at least two unknown personal prayer warriors for you – my friend’s husband (neither of them have met you, nor do they have internet) told me he prays for you daily. I was flabbergasted. Daily prayer for a friend is a huge commitment; for a total stranger whom you’ve never have contact with it’s off the charts amazing.

    Comment by Ava — June 27, 2015 @ 12:30 am

  6. Not only monuments it’s the red white & blue that’s in there cross hairs next since some founders ownend slaves.I proudly fly the flag on all holidays because I still can. Not because of slavery but of freedom that we all have and is slipping away daily at a rapid pace.I’m afraid America has lost Her way JL DUB

    Comment by John L Wood — June 27, 2015 @ 12:39 am

  7. Very lovely, indeed

    Comment by pizzalady — June 27, 2015 @ 12:56 am

  8. I enjoyed reading your blogs & been your friend in FB
    And I too Pray for you.
    Through your Writing you reach a lot of people
    And although we all come from different backgrounds
    We all come together and Have different opinions but we
    Respect one Another.
    If we all thought alike & Agree how boring would this world be.
    Have a safe trip to Germany Ira…
    We will be here waiting for you!!
    Hugs my friend!

    Comment by Melissa Golden — June 27, 2015 @ 2:59 am

  9. This is one of your best blogs…ever…my heart goes with you…and understand a lot of your feelings.

    Comment by Lena — June 27, 2015 @ 7:59 am

  10. I agree totaly about the flag (and the left). How many Native Americans were killed unjustly under the American flag? Should we banish that flag as well?

    Enjoy your trip to Germany. I look foreward to reading about it!

    Comment by Nate Miller — June 27, 2015 @ 8:37 am

  11. I am another one who prays for you in my daily prayers. I wish you a safe journey and a fruitful experience in Germany. I, too, am going on a journey this weekend, by plane, to bury a loved one and I have another one on her deathbed. Life can be sad, indeed, especially as we grow older. I totally agree with LeRoy and his comments about Charleston. What a witness to this country and to the world. True Christian people who not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. I read somewhere a statement that while other cities would have been burning and looting, Charleston was forgiving and praying. We are capable of love. The media should push that instead of their own ugly agenda.

    Comment by Rosanna F. — June 27, 2015 @ 9:07 am

  12. I always appreciate your insight. We must pray for our nation!

    Comment by Linda Ault — June 27, 2015 @ 9:13 am

  13. Please take me off your mail.

    Comment by Flo — June 27, 2015 @ 9:53 am

  14. Randall Terry (I did prolife Rescue with him) said that someday the American flag will hang next to the Nazi flag in a museum, for regimes known for their bloodshed. Even as we were arrested to stop the child-killing (which is protected by the statists), I had trouble with that one at the time.

    Comment by LeRoy — June 27, 2015 @ 10:58 am

  15. If this uproar over the Confederate Flag was at the vilest lynching you’ve ever seen, consider yourself lucky. Had you been born a few decades sooner, you might have seen even viler ones. Things that would have made you cry or throw up if you had witnessed them in person, things that, once seen, would have refused to lie down and die and would have continued to haunt you and made you feel ashamed to be a member of a species that could do such unspeakable things to one of its own. If a flag is just a flag is just a piece of cloth, then you probably won’t bat an eye if you see a Nazi flag outside some town hall in Germany.

    Comment by Cynthia R Chase — June 27, 2015 @ 9:57 pm

  16. Ira, have a great trip! Will want to hear all about it when you return. Godspeed!

    Comment by Rhoda — June 28, 2015 @ 9:35 pm

  17. I just finished reading your book. It took me three nights. I could not put it down. It was so eye opening about life with the Amish. I felt, by your descriptive language, that I made the journey with you and was moved. The tears came with the break with Sarah. I had read the book a few years earlier but never finished it and then my heart was not even into it but now I’m glad I did. The last mention “I prayed for you” from a stranger. If I see a person walking in the heat, the rain, I thank God for my car and pray for them. If I see someone bent over, obviously needy as I drive by, I pray for them or read about some soul I pray for them. I ask for guidance every day and I think this was from guidance, not on my part but this is a thought too, something like “praying it forward” for our blessings. I will now read your blogs too. God bless!

    Comment by Wanda Hockbein — July 1, 2015 @ 4:56 am

  18. Yes, it’s easy for us to be concerned for you. Good writing garners emotion from the reader. I believe many of us were very worried about you this spring. So, I’m not surprised people are admitting to praying for you. The fellow you mention must have had good intentions but as a woman I must admit it creeped me out a tad. I really like your take on our world today. I totally agree. Alice in Wonderland. Down is up. Whats important is dismissed and small things are overblown. It’s kind of exhausting really. Less and less freedom… P.S. Have a good trip. You’ll do fine speaking. Stand tall. Oh, and wear something navy blue. It’s a take charge color. (Now I’m being creepy. HA)

    Comment by Lisa DeYoung — July 3, 2015 @ 12:15 am

  19. Have a great trip Ira, can’t wait to hear about your adventures, you manage to tell such great wonderful stories . Why would someone want to be taken off your mailing list? I saw nothing offensive. You are just being truthful and saying things that most folks won’t say out loud, Be safe and have a wonderful trip, g.

    Comment by Georgia — July 3, 2015 @ 6:08 pm

  20. I’m so sorry you don’t see what utter hurt the confederate flag brings, hurt that is there to see every day of the week in some locations. Why offend when it’s just as easy not to do so?

    I hope you have an enjoyable trip to Germany, Ira. I look forward to reading about it.

    Comment by Erin — July 5, 2015 @ 12:15 pm

  21. I stuck the flag up in its little holder on the facer board on the west end of my garage this past Fourth of July.I’m not sure why now,the flag had been standing,rolled on its pole for years in a corner.Maybe it had been there since my ex wife had gotten it,well over a decade ago.I even had to move the holder,take out 3 screws,because the Chinese elm had grown so much.Maybe the women,a retired Air Force vet,influenced me.It looked good ,the way the sun colored off the red,white,and blue.Then I took a picture of it with my digital camera.When the sun was almost gone,I took it down…peace to all…

    Comment by lenny — July 15, 2015 @ 7:14 pm

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