January 29, 2010

Esau’s Birthright…

Category: News — Ira @ 6:52 pm

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And Esau said: Behold, I am at the point to die:
and what profit shall this birthright do to me?

Genesis 25:30
____________

They never told us why.

Everything was preached from a solid foundation of what had always been. Amish this. Amish that. You live this way because that’s the way it is. You live this way because it’s where you were born. You live this way, you walk this path because it’s the only way, the only path we’ve ever known.

It was our birthright. And we were special. The special people. The chosen ones who preserved and honored the only true way. With some prodding, there might be a reluctant admission that yes, others not of our particular faith might make it to heaven. But only because they didn’t know any better and were not born Amish. But those who were born in the faith had better stay.

Better stay, or surely face a terrible Judgment Day in the afterlife.

That’s what we heard. What we were told. By our parents. And in the sermons we heard in church. From our earliest memories.

But other than that, they never explained why. Why we were special. Why we alone knew the only true path. Why we were born special. Only that we did and we were.

It sure made for some messed up minds. And messed up lives. Not for the drones, the dense ones who accepted without question what they were told. But for anyone with a speck of spirit, it got a little crazy.

Think about it. You are in a little box. A comfortable box, but a pretty confining one, when it comes right down to it. You wonder what’s outside. Peek out a bit, now and then, and peer around. But deep down, you know that if you step outside that box, you are speeding down the highway to hell. And could arrive at any instant. Boom, just like that.

It’s a brutal thing. A severe mental strain. And it’s the reason that in every community (except Lancaster County), when Amish kids run wild, they usually run hard and mean.

It’s because once that line is crossed, there are no others. And nothing you can do, absent returning, can make any difference. Believe otherwise, like the Mennonites and the Beachys, who drive cars and prate about being saved, and the devil’s got you right where he wants you. That’s what we were taught and what we believed.

In Lancaster, somehow, it’s different. The youth don’t have that wild driven look in their eyes. Not even the “wild” ones. Not sure why that is. Maybe because overall, the community here has a more relaxed attitude about such things. That’s my conclusion, at least, from where I am.

And it seems to work here. A large majority of the youth that drive cars while running around ultimately settle down and join the church. Marry. Raise families.

But still, if you dig around a bit, it’s not ideal.

In a recent conversation with a young local Amish man, we discussed the Amish culture, lifestyle, heritage. He was quite progressive in his thinking. Many of his close friends had left in the last few years, he told me. And he had to make a choice. Join them or stay.

He stayed. Not because his friends were necessarily wrong. And certainly not because they weren’t Christians, believers. He decided to stay because of all the positive things the Amish have and hold. Family. Culture. Tradition.

What he was really saying was that he valued his “birthright” too much to let it go.

And I respect that. Told him so. But then:

“What about your children?” I asked. “What if they choose not to stay?”

He hedged. “I would hope they would. I try to show them, teach them by example.”

I had no doubt. But I persisted. “I’m sure you do,” I said. “But what if one of your sons decided not to stay? Could you bless that? Or would you use guilt to try to change his mind?”

I don’t think anyone had ever asked him quite that question before. He hedged again. Repeated himself. “I would hope my son would choose to stay.”

“And there you have it,” I said. “When it boils right down to it, what you’re telling me is that the Amish church is based on a foundation of fear. How can that possibly be a good thing? It’s unsustainable.”

But I left it then. Didn’t push it. We meandered on to other subjects. He was a good guy. Maybe he hadn’t thought things through quite to the end, but who among us has?

In another recent conversation with a reader, I was asked about my own experience. How I made it to where I am today. As a believer. A Christian. It got me to thinking, and resulted in this post (in case anyone wonders where I came up with this week’s subject).

My writings have never been overtly religious. And I abhor didacticism with a passion. Where each story ends with a sweet little prepackaged lesson. Figure it out for your- self, the deeper meanings. And the lessons, sweet or bitter. There are plenty of preachers out there. I’m not one of them. But the reader’s question got me to thinking. I have never told the story of how I became a Christian, not on this site. And at some point, my readers deserve to know where I’m coming from.

I think we’ve reached that point. So here goes. But be forewarned. If such things make you uncomfortable or queasy, turn off the radio, as Rush would say. Stop reading. Now. Because I don’t want to hear your griping.

The reader’s question got me to thinking. Remembering. Reliving. Triggered a rush of vivid scenes in my mind. Of how I made it. How I survived.

I almost didn’t.

Between the ages of seventeen and twenty, I left home three times. Each time I returned, determined that now this was it, that this time I would stay. It wasn’t fear alone that brought me back, but a host of things. Family. Relationships. Friends. The comfortable world I knew from birth. And fear.

After the third time I decided this was it. No more. The time was right. To settle down. Join the church. Live a quiet life of peaceful simplicity.

So I did. Joined the church, that is. Began dating a girl. My friends were getting married. So I figured that was the logical next step. The relationship got serious.

But always, something wasn’t right. I fretted, restless. And at twenty-four, I realized I could not do it. Could not make it work. Depressed, I brooded. The mental strain was almost unbearable. Waves of turmoil and doubt engulfed me. That period of my life was probably the closest I ever came to actually losing my mind.

About then, my horse died. Collapsed and keeled over, for no apparent reason. From some rare brain disease. At least that’s what the vet claimed. It seemed like a sign.

My father, sensing my traumatized state, offered to buy me another horse. So I would stay. I turned from him in gloom and silence.

And so I boarded the bus in Bloomfield and left. Again. For the fourth time. Leaving in my wake a shattered landscape strewn with the wreckage of broken relationships. I moved to Daviess. The land of my fathers. Restless, I traveled. Went west and worked on the wheat harvest. To Florida then for the winter. Back west to help with spring seeding in the same fields I had harvested a few months before.

To a point, I unwound from the tension of recent events. But I was not at peace. And once again, something pulled me back. To the fold of the Amish church. This time I was double determined. I would make it. But not in Bloomfield. I moved to the northern Indiana Amish settlement. Lived in the Topeka area for awhile, then Goshen. Worked in a trailer factory. This time it would work. I would make it work.

It didn’t, of course. And I couldn’t. I recoiled from the vapid provincial banality that surrounded me. There was simply no way I could stay. And this time I knew it was the final time. That I was lost. And that if I left again, there could be no hope of salvation. Ever. I sank into quiet desperate despair.

Like Esau, I was exhausted, famished, approaching death. And my “birthright” could not sustain or save me.

And somewhere from these depths, I finally did what I should have done long before. I cried out to God. Not that I figured He’d hear me. I wasn’t sure He even existed. But I prayed. For the desire to do right. I didn’t even have that much. I had no hope what- soever that my prayer would even be heard, much less answered.

But it was. Both.

In less than a month, he walked into my life. A young Amish man who had joined from the outside. He had not a speck of Amish blood in him. He’d married a beautiful Amish girl; they had a family. A couple of energetic young sons. He sported a long black beard. Was more Amish than the Amish. But we connected. Big time. He understood my frustrations. My despair. And my fears. I spoke to him as I had never confided in anyone before. I trusted him.

And gradually, gently, the man calmed my spirit, gave me hope. Led me to realize that my rough and rowdy past could be forgiven. That all the pain, all the wounds could be healed. My own. And all that which I had inflicted on so many others in the past.

By showing me Christ’s love, my friend led me to Him. For the first time, I grasped that Christ had died for me. Suffered. Bled. And that I could be His. Through faith. I was amazed at how simple it really was.

And so I was reborn. Spiritually. A huge load was lifted from me. Replaced with a deep quiet sense of joy and internal peace beyond anything I had ever known.

It wasn’t a really emotional thing. And I don’t get that emotional about it now. Guess it’s that old reserved Amish blood in me. Live your beliefs, speak if someone asks, but don’t babble nonstop about them. Anyone can claim anything.

But the experience was intense and it was real.

With my spiritual birth came an entirely new freedom. It did not take me long to realize that much of what I had been taught, implicitly or overtly, had been flat out wrong. The cultural box might provide some protection, but it could never bring salvation.

And once I really truly grasped that fact, I left the Amish church for good.

I have never looked back. Except to reminisce, remember, reflect. On how it was. Including the good things. Things you have read on my blog, if you’ve been with me for any length of time.

I have no desire to return to that lifestyle. Ever. I respect those who do, however, and those who have chosen to stay. Like the young Lancaster County father who hopes his sons will follow in his footsteps.

Sadly, after I made the choice to leave, my friend took it pretty hard. He had high expectations for me. That I would cherish my heritage, the same one he had adopted as his own. That I would follow my father’s footsteps as a defender of the faith. And so much more. He saw it was not to be, that all his expectations were dashed, never to be fulfilled.

He chose to turn his face from me in sorrow and anger. I have not spoken to him in more than twenty years. But he was and remains one of the most important people I’ve ever encountered. When the chips were down, he did not hesitate, but waded into the darkness to lead a lost soul to the Light.

He will always be my friend. Perhaps one day we’ll meet again as brothers.

In the years that have passed since I last saw him, I have tried to do to others as he did to me. Meet people where they are. As they are. To reflect Christ’s love in the messy details of everyday life. And it’s not like my own life hasn’t been messy since then. It has been, brutally so at times. Mostly as a result of my own choices.

But God is who He is. Forever. Unchanging. And always there, even when He doesn’t seem to be. This I have learned. And this I know. Ultimately, I rest in that knowledge.

And if there is only one thing my readers glean from my writings, I hope that’s it. That God is there, even when He seems far away.

Some (not all) from my background would, if pressed, conclude that I, like Esau, have squandered my birthright for a mess of pottage. Because I walked away from it all. All the traditions. The structure. The blessings. The cultural identity. And left it all behind. And, from their perspective, for what?

But they are wrong. It is not true. For all Christians of every denomination, including the Amish, there is a far more important birthright.

We are joint heirs with Christ in our Father’s kingdom.

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(44 Comments) »

  1. “It wasn’t a really emotional thing. And I don’t get that emotional about it now,” you say. But what I cannot quite figure out, then, is how such an “unemotional” story can be so mesmerizing? (And I have even heard it before in person). Calm, passionate, beautiful “unemotional” intensity. Thanks for sharing the love of Christ via your lovely writing gifts.

    Comment by Mark Graham — January 29, 2010 @ 7:26 pm

  2. Very interesting and encouraging ~ thanks for sharing your journey. Sure hope you have the opportunity to meet your friend again – brother-to-brother!

    Comment by Amos Smucker — January 29, 2010 @ 8:11 pm

  3. Thank you for sharing this part of your life.

    Comment by Katie Troyer — January 29, 2010 @ 9:13 pm

  4. I wonder how many times this same story gets repeated throughout history.

    Comment by Ava S — January 29, 2010 @ 9:13 pm

  5. You may claim to be unemotional, and pretty much are, from what I have seen. But your writings go very deep and paint great pictures that affect the emotions below the surface. Thank you for using your gift.

    Bear

    Comment by Bear — January 29, 2010 @ 9:27 pm

  6. I thank God for that testimony and for the brother that understood salvation; then wasn’t afraid to show you that better way. May we be faithful in showing others that are also as blind as we were…

    Comment by Iva — January 29, 2010 @ 9:28 pm

  7. Thanks for the beautiful testimony!

    Comment by Amy — January 29, 2010 @ 10:48 pm

  8. Thank God that we can be joint heirs with Christ! It was much the same for me in my search. God sent faithful people exhorting me to believe that through the shed blood of Jesus my sins are forgiven, repent, believe, and be baptized. It really is simple and wonderful!

    Comment by Gideon D. Yutzy — January 30, 2010 @ 12:14 am

  9. Great blog….Refreshes some memories, good for my spirit again… Tennessee Stud’s death was ironically the last time I heard you say anything positive about ANY horse.. In many ways I think that was the last straw binding you & Amish society (at least Bloomfield Amish).

    Comment by Nate Wagler — January 30, 2010 @ 1:14 am

  10. I appreciate your openness. I have often wondered/marveled at the Amish brand of stoicism, my “English” hot blooded welsh heritage cancels mine out. I suppose it stems from the tales of the martyrs who without a “blink” went to their death at the hands of an unjust tyrant. Any “blinking” at a circumstance less than that is perhaps just vanity or “thinking more of one’s self then one ought”,… good grief. Christ changes the human condition not the condition of being human.

    You sir, are not “unemotional,” you feel and see everything broadly and deeply, as evidenced above. We should all be careful not to confuse emotions and histrionics.

    Comment by Glo — January 30, 2010 @ 8:45 am

  11. In my opinion, this is the top of all your blogs. Maybe because we get to hear the most important thing that can ever happen to a human being. Being “reborn, regenerated, saved”, or whatever else you want to call it when you receive the free gift of salvation.

    Maybe too, it’s because I can identify (somewhat) of also having to make the choice of walking a different path from that of my parents and the emotions that go with it.

    Thank you for sharing this part of your life.

    Praise God that we can be joint heirs with Christ!

    Comment by Doris Vetter — January 30, 2010 @ 10:14 am

  12. Amen! I wish everyone would see the true gift of a heritage by God’s Kingdom, like you do.

    Comment by Monica O — January 30, 2010 @ 10:16 am

  13. My story is very similar, you put into words the things I can’t even put into thought. Thanks for this post, your gift of writing is ministering to people you don’t even know. In ways you don’t know. I guess that’s why you will be so clueless when you get to right hand of God. I would like to meet you someday; if not here I’ll see you there, Brother.

    Comment by paul — January 30, 2010 @ 10:21 am

  14. The beauty of Calvery told again. God is good all the time.

    Comment by Dana W — January 30, 2010 @ 11:29 am

  15. Thanks so much. I’ve been reading your web site and find it truly refreshing. I do a lot with the Amish in my area; always wondering if they are true belivers. It seems like we tend to judge Amish more than other church goers.

    Comment by Paul — January 30, 2010 @ 12:27 pm

  16. My Amish heritage birthrights’, seems to include a host of Amish genetic disorder, from the Amish religious practice of intermarrying, only amongst each other in the Amish faith.

    As far as them drawing me to their bosom and making me feel part of larger Amish clan, unless your born and grew up in Amish ways, than your relative Amish blood is as thin as ice water and kin or not their is no brotherly love for outsiders.

    I had no personal choice when I was I was infant baby, whether I was raised English or Amish, and my Amish biological father did not out of righteousness or loyalties make claim to me as his heir offspring.

    Now that I have found out on my own, I am at least half Amish by an Amish male relative of the Schlabach line of Mennonite/ Amish leaders, my previous close ties with my Amish seem to be strained by the harsh reality impurity of my existence to religious code.

    I feel more like some one with leprosy approaching my Amish relations, than prodigal returning son I falsely hoped I be warmly welcomed, rather I never got a inheritance from my step fathers nor as it looks will I be treated with kindness Amish show their own.

    Not to be mean, so what does it mean to be be born Amish, if the Amish do not reach hand out to those in outside world.

    Comment by Lee Nelson Hall Junior — January 30, 2010 @ 4:21 pm

  17. Wow. I am honored that you let us into your life like that – things I had not known about you.

    If you don’t mind, I’ll make a couple comments. You mention it is “not ideal.” But there is no church or fellowship that is ideal this side of heaven. Even the fulness of the millennium, with that great River from Ezekiel’s Temple, has salt marshes still around. “Ideal” is an idol. It seems to me that, like a vineyard (or garden) what God is training us to do here is provide places for growth.

    Probably, that is what you meant in your questions to that young father, that the community does not allow for enough growth. It’s a question I ponder (not being OO, but having grown up in Lancaster County, which in a large measure partakes of the same mentality, and now considering myself a conservative Christian) – what about my children? What if they listen to other music, what if they wear different clothes than I approve of? What if they do not hold to the doctrines I’m convinced of? Etc.

    I’m now becoming of age to be among the “fathers” (I am shocked to discover.) But am still growing. I’ve lived long enough to see for myself that changes are inevitable. I also am beginning to perceive that Christ is big enough to make Himself known (through faithful, heart-devoted people) in the midst of every “world” that is created, as the ages roll along. I think God even rejoices in winds of change, and the occasional devastating storms of this life, because it gives the opportunity for we ourselves to grow. After all, He is making us into His image, not asking us to keep the talent preserved by burying it until He comes.

    So my hope lies in the heart of my children. Not trusting their heart, of course. They could go to church all their life and remain unchanged and dead as a doornail spiritually. But that if their heart can be wed to God early, and they can see and hear the mighty acts of God (through the Bible, and in present day situations), this is the Rock that will bring them standing through the storms.

    Ira, your story makes me reflect and wonder how often your father was exercised in prayer for you.

    Forgive me long-windedness. I am perhaps more emotional than you (but I doubt it).

    The point I was leading up to is this. In each age, in each culture (and sub-culture) a healthy expression of following Christ and His Word has a community expression. While I realize this is at present mixed among the Amish, they nevertheless have one legitimate expression of a way to live a life of community and discipleship. I haven’t lived there, so I can’t speak to the inner realities. But I can see a cohesive community with many Biblical values. My prayer, as I was home and drove among the fields to an ordination in an Amish-Mennonite church, was that they would again recoup the faith of their fathers, the true and holy zeal for an on fire personal relationship with Christ, determined to change the world as they “love not their lives to death.”

    Comment by LeRoy — January 30, 2010 @ 4:30 pm

  18. Thanks for this. I need this… and really it’s hard to feel connected to God if you feel like you have failed and messed up the bond.

    How much does Jesus forgive? Just enough to a certain point? And then you’ve emptied the basket?

    How far does God want us to go? Or suffer?

    I don’t know. Still wrestling with us being called out as separated by one group myself. I am glad another group still loves us and doesn’t see us as separated. I want my family to all go to heaven.

    Would Jesus hang around with stodgy Pharisees? Or drunken lepers? Or reformed drunken Pharisees?

    Not sure what else to say. Still searching for the perfect answer that will help me get back to my place of peace I found when I struck gold and got God 11 years ago and seemed to have drifted from 10 months ago. I won’t completely let God go. I want God to have me. And I think perhaps that God does still have me. And perhaps our messups or long paths do help us to be compassionate to those who don’t or can’t easily reach. Its easy to be judgmental and so full of “wisdom” .. But really if all you do is sit around and bicker about a comma, aren’t we missing the boat that just floated by?

    Forgive the randomness…Should start journaling again regularly.

    Keep it up.

    Comment by Anonymous. — January 30, 2010 @ 5:14 pm

  19. Thank you for sharing your personal story of how God drew you to himself. Very inspiring post! Have you thought of giving your Mother’s prayers some credit for it?

    Comment by cricketsong — January 30, 2010 @ 6:06 pm

  20. Thanks, Ira;

    Well said and so beautiful to hear.

    I believe most of us have a journey to relate. I won’t clutter your blog with mine. I just want to say to those who would like to “belong” to this culture, or any other, tell me how we indicate our dismissal of newcomers? I am very distressed about this and plead guilty as charged. Also, I beg your forgiveness.

    I have known a few people who have come from the “outside” and succeeded to “Amishize” though there aren’t many. A few more who are successfully absorbed into the Beachy and Conservative Mennonite culture.

    Some years ago I was installing pews in a church in south Chicago, and was asked by the pastor about our “denominational affiliation” Of course, I told him we were Mennonite. The next day, about mid morning, a stranger showed up at the church we were working at, and was immediately introduced to me. I don’t remember his name, but his appearance I will never forget: He was HUGE, about 350 pounds, at least 6 ft tall, and black! Yep, you got it, he is a Negro.
    I was told this fine specimen was the pastor of the local Mennonite Church.
    Talk about culture shock! I stuttered a little bit and wanted to say something like, “But this can’t be the same kind of Mennonite,” but realized this would be inappropriate under the circumstances. Then he began a process which put my heart at ease. He began to try the Mennonite Game on me, “connecting the dots” or “freundshaft exploration” We did not make connections but then he did something which left no doubt he was a likeminded Mennonite! He invited us to stay at his house for the duration of our stay in Chicago! I declined his invitation some way, but I am still persuaded we would have had wonderful time at his house.

    Is it fair and theologically correct to diagnose our relationship with God as we would one with a mortal?

    If I say I love a woman, would I not be anxious to spend time with her? Would we not exchange ideas? Would I not ask her to explain things to me which no one else can? Would I not answer if she asked me where and why. Would I not look for ways to bring her happiness? Would I not wish to know her in more and more ways? If I became aware some habit of mine diminishes her happiness, would I not hasten to cease and desist? If she called me from another room with some exciting discovery, would I not go promptly and marvel with her? If she works long hours for the sole purpose of blessing me with another adornment for my life, room, or person, would I not thank her from the bottom of my heart?

    If she loves me, won’t she listen and respond if I speak and vice versa?

    Now place the Creator of the Universe in place of the woman, and ask all the same questions. He has left a wish list of gifts He desires from those who love Him. He has a large document to tell us what He is like, and how He wants to relate to us.

    Perhaps this is sorta simplistic, but seems reasonable to me.

    Comment by Dan Schmucker — January 30, 2010 @ 7:48 pm

  21. Thank you for this.

    Comment by katherine — January 30, 2010 @ 7:58 pm

  22. That was the deepest, most heartfelt…….I could go on and on, but it was the best you’ve ever written. Your feelings go so deep. I’ll bet you were exhausted when you were finally finished. Hope you slept well afterwards, too. Thank you for that.

    Comment by Debbie — January 30, 2010 @ 8:07 pm

  23. Ira, it is good to connect with you again even if it’s just reading your story! And I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post.

    I pondered on my own journey and that of my parents who left the Amish church when I was 7. I believe you’ve caught the emotional turmoil that goes with those who leave–being shunned at the dinner table of an Amish wedding, or being told that you are going to hell if you leave, etc. But by God’s grace, my father rose above that and always had an assurance of salvation that went beyond the “grossa hofnug” and just hoping you’d make it if you kept the rules and regulations. And in reading your story, I’ve come to appreciate more deeply my parents allowing me to go a different denominational direction than they had chosen. Perhaps their own experience gave them that grace. Thanks for your story.

    Comment by Amos Stoltzfus — January 30, 2010 @ 8:39 pm

  24. Thanks for sharing your testimony of God’s work in your life, a sinner saved by His grace. Clearly it has and will continue to touch lives as the Gospel is shared. Keep on writing!!

    Comment by John Yoder — January 30, 2010 @ 8:41 pm

  25. Wonderful post.

    “Joint heirs with Christ in our Father’s kingdom,” a TRUTH worth celebrating…

    Comment by Ivan Gascho — January 30, 2010 @ 9:01 pm

  26. I think you really hit a note with everyone, you know it? I really enjoyed reading that and feel like we know you a lot better. I found it ironic that the person who showed you that “(you) could be His. Through faith.” did not have enough faith to believe it to be true unless you were Amish, and he turned away from you. He showed you that it was your relationship with God and His with you that was your salvation, and that He died for YOU. Amen. It sounded like your “label” here on earth was not as important as your faith, and yet when you didn’t wear his label, then he didn’t like it. I still think the outcome was wonderful for your faith life! My sincerest desire is that everyone who is struggling will meet people like that man who will show them the true path to salvation and that their hearts will be as softened as yours was.

    The fact that you cherish so many of your Amish memories and don’t “bash” how you were raised says a lot about you and shows your level of respect for them. Thanks for that great read, I know that was personal and like you say, “It is what it is”, and that, my friend, is so true. Have a good weekend ~

    Comment by Beth — January 30, 2010 @ 9:09 pm

  27. I really appreciate your testimony of becoming broken before the Lord and accepting His gift to you of an eternal inheritance!

    Comment by Dusti — January 31, 2010 @ 9:40 am

  28. Thanks for sharing this. I enjoy your posts, your writing style. It ministers.

    Comment by Juanita Jutzi — January 31, 2010 @ 11:58 am

  29. Vapid provincial banality?!! I’m still chuckling over that one!

    Comment by Marvin — January 31, 2010 @ 7:02 pm

  30. Bless you, Ira, for sharing this!!!

    My story is different, as I was mostly satisfied in the little box, obedient, “good boy”, loved the praises I got……until later, because of my “good boy” status, I struggled for years with assurance of salvation…then finally recommitted my life to Christ.

    God is faithful!!

    Comment by Ray — January 31, 2010 @ 10:36 pm

  31. Thanks for sharing your story. God used a dead horse to draw me to himself too. Actually I was born again but really not wanting to leave the security of everything that I knew, had just gotten a beautiful young mare, went out to the barn after the singing to go home and found she had hung herself. I knew God had something in it, He used it to turn my heart back toward Him. It wasn’t long after that I left the Amish to serve my Jesus and WOW what an exciting life, I have found.

    Mark 10:29 & 30 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s.

    But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

    To be very true. Thank you, Jesus.

    Comment by David Troyer — February 1, 2010 @ 8:54 am

  32. Touching and I can identify with your story. Thank you for sharing.

    As a kid growing up Amish I was not allowed to cry….it was considered shameful…..weak. I learn early on not to cry or show emotions. This is maybe not every amish person’s experience but for a large number of you……you know what I’m talking about.

    We are emotional beings and it’s okay to feel, recognize, and express our emotions. Laugh when you need to, cry when you need to, be sad or happy….and most of all just be you and be present. That was a tough thing for me to learn how to do…..and I’m learning everyday.

    God has been so merciful to me……I thank Him everyday for showing me His love and for making me complete in Christ Jesus.

    Comment by June — February 1, 2010 @ 9:20 am

  33. Amen to your post, Ira. Praise God for the way He works!

    Comment by David Brubacker — February 1, 2010 @ 1:03 pm

  34. Thanks for your willingness to take us on your journey. You are an inspiration.

    Comment by Rachel Hochstetler — February 2, 2010 @ 10:03 am

  35. Esau’s Birthright-sad but beautiful. Sad-the first part of the blog. Beautiful-Christ’s love revealed, the huge load lifted, joy and peace beyond anything we had ever known.

    Biased opinions – Minorities steal. Americans are greedy capitalists. According to “Family Life” all pretty girls are selfish, conceited etc. etc. -all ugly ones are oh so virtuous. Get the picture. Please don’t put all Amish people in one basket.

    Then again it is your blog. There are Amish ministers who stress peace, freedom, spiritual birth through faith and do not preach about obedience to Ordnung or staying Amish.

    Comment by O O Anonymous — February 5, 2010 @ 4:21 pm

  36. Beautiful testimony. Thanks for taking the time to share it with us.

    Comment by Been There — February 5, 2010 @ 4:56 pm

  37. Thanks for sharing. You are a blessing!

    Comment by Abbigail Starr — February 6, 2010 @ 11:40 am

  38. Thank you, Ira, indeed. Now I am hankering for another installment… what do you miss most about the old ways? I know, I know… always wantin’ more… ;)

    Comment by Vera — February 6, 2010 @ 4:42 pm

  39. Ira, I enjoyed reading your story! May your life continue to be blessed as you share with others!!

    Comment by Twila — February 10, 2010 @ 8:58 am

  40. One thing stands out; when someone shows the downside of Amish life, the protesters of “labeling or painting them all the same” inevitably pop up. But there are lots of websites and books that paint the Amish as pure white. No one dares to protest them as “unbalanced.” The whole truth is hardly ever found in a narrow choice of reading material.

    Ira, I commend you for presenting both the good and bad. I pray for your inspiration.

    Comment by Eli Stutzman — February 11, 2010 @ 5:38 pm

  41. It has been a couple of months since I have read your blog. This post was beautiful and significant enough that I had to read it twice. Thank you.

    You mention what you hope your readers get out of your blog, so I thought I would share a little of what I have gotten and why it is important to me.

    Twenty years ago, my family left a progressive (Mennonite Church USA) church in Lancaster where we had attended since the original settlement. We moved to another state where we attend Conservative Conference Mennonite church with “Amish Mennonite” roots. I guess I used to think those were labels that described nothing more than history or origins. Now, because of a big church conflict, I am seeing that those roots effect how we see God and do church. Some of your descriptions of things like pastors as keepers or defenders of the faith and how you have described some Amish families as moving to another community to avoid conflict have been instrumental in helping the transition committee that I am on understand our church conflict and how we view God and church.

    Your story of how you became a Christian has many universal features that all of us who know Christ and follow Him have experienced. Your story also has unique features based on Anabaptist beliefs and history and Amish culture. You know that there are huge differences in all the branches of the Anabaptist family, but there are also some cultural features that seem universal across the branches, like the stoicism that comes from living faith instead of talking about it etc.

    Thanks for your lovely blog and the lessons I have learned from your writing in relating to the particular Anabaptist group I am a part of and the kind of Christ-follower I am.

    Comment by Stephanie — February 23, 2010 @ 9:33 am

  42. Thank you for your wonderful, spiritual post.

    I am neither Amish nor was I raised around any Amish communities. Nevertheless, I find your insight and spiritual transformation applicable to anyone, regardless if one is Amish, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Muslim, or associated with any other religion affiliation.

    I would only add one word:Submissive, for the fact that a woman is born a woman.

    The world is full of religious people, but the world is not full of spiritual individuals. These are rare and only a handful at best. Congratulations, Ira, in my opinion, you are in the right track.

    Comment by Maria Lopes — March 21, 2010 @ 10:25 pm

  43. Just read your book “GROWING UP AMISH ” I enjoyed it so much…..but kinda disappointed at the end…..I was hoping you would get married….you never mentioned another girl except Sarah…..so are you married now ? I just found your blog and skippiing thru it…..the writing is so small, kinda hard to read…..but I do hope to read it all…..I’d say you probably could put all this in a book….or have you ? Do you have any more books out ? I’m hoping you do decide to write more…..this one was very enjoyable….. Thanks

    Comment by Mona Greer — November 11, 2011 @ 9:33 pm

  44. Ira,
    You write so very well. Sometimes, when I read some of your stories, my breath becomes shallow so it won’t diminish, in the slightest, my level of concentration. I simply become one with your story. Ridiculous, I know. I don’t like writing such things, well… for a couple of reasons, but I must. I must because it is in me. It just is and it must come out. You have a great gift, my friend. So great, there is no doubt it’s from our God.

    Comment by Francine — January 17, 2013 @ 1:49 pm

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