February 8, 2013

Tobacco Road…

Category: News — Ira @ 6:08 pm


Some things will never change, some things will always be the same.
Lean down your ear upon the earth, and listen.

—Thomas Wolfe

I get those calls, oh, maybe half a dozen times a year or so. From some Amish guy, usually a farmer. Hey, I need some advice on a project. Maybe you can help me out. Any way you could stop by sometime? And usually I say, sure. We figure out a time that works, Saturday afternoons, most often. And I’ll drive right on out to the farm to see him.

Which is what came down, a few weeks ago on a Saturday afternoon, when I headed out to a farm in the Leola area. A little snow squall had swept through the night before, and the roads were a slick and treacherous. But navigable. I nursed Big Blue along, off the main highway and up the hills and around the curves of the narrow ribbon of a side road. More like a path, really. Someone told me years ago that some of the roads around here were born as cow paths. Never found any reason to doubt that tale. I slowly crept up a long hill, keeping a sharp eye out for a little country school house. And there it came. I passed it, then turned onto the long drive that led to an old farmstead tucked away almost out of sight. Lancaster has quite a few of those. Old farms set so far off the road that it’s like another world in there.

The lane was unplowed, but something had tracked in, probably the milk truck. I drove in, parked my truck, and got out. Not a soul around. It had to be the right place. I walked up to the house. Knocked. A teenage girl appeared, broom in hand. Cleaning time on a Saturday afternoon, I figured. She opened the door and smiled at me. Are your parents home? I asked. I’m supposed to be here around one. The girl smiled some more and invited me in. I stepped inside. She disappeared into another room, and her mother emerged a moment later.

The woman was very pleasant. And quite apologetic. “I’m sorry you drove all the way over here on those snowy roads,” she said. Not a problem, I said. I have a truck, and it’s not that bad. “My husband’s working out in the barn. I can take you out there,” she continued. Sure, I said. I waited as she bundled up, and we walked out across the drive and yard toward the massive old barn.

It was an old place, this homestead. The original stone house had been expanded and extended with a new wing here and there over the years. Daudy house, no question, part of it. The outbuildings, too, were big and old. This land had been farmed by Lancaster County Amish for a hundred years, probably more. And it showed. Everything was maintained, kept up, cleaned up, spic and span. We approached the barn, and she tugged open the large hinged door. We walked in.

The interior was a classic stanchion cow barn. Two long rows of Holstein cows stood there, facing each other. The feeding aisle connected them. The cows were clean, the barn was clean. These people milked, and they took care of their livestock. My mind flashed back to those Bloomfield days, back when I was trapped and hapless on the farm. Milking cows by hand. My memories in no way connected with what I saw before me now, though. This place was just spotless. The cows were groomed and gleaming and, well, clean is the only word I can use to describe them. Clean and content. Munching their feed and hay. The odor of animals permeated, sure, but it wasn’t that strong. Not overwhelming, like I remembered from my farming days.

And I wondered fleetingly. Would I have liked farming, or at least tolerated it, had we been raised with a setup like this? Maybe it wouldn’t have been all that bad. But nah, I thought. I still would have hated it. Especially milking. I always hated milking. You’re stuck. No freedom. You have to be there twice a day. No exceptions. And we walked through the connecting aisle, toward the back of the barn.

The goodwife led me to a door on the far wall. Opened it, and disappeared inside. I stood there with the cows. Still marveling. The Lancaster Amish milk with mechanical milkers, not by hand. I have never milked a cow, other than by hand. How much easier it would have been, I thought, if we could have used milkers. A moment later, the Amishman emerged with his wife. He looked a trifle stern and grim, but he was really quite friendly. He walked up to me, shook my hand and smiled. We exchanged greetings and a few pleasantries. Then I peered back into the room he’d been working in. What are you doing back there? “Come on in and see,” he said. I followed him into the room. And walked into a scene that has remained unchanged for over two hundred years.

The barn was old. And this room was old, too. A wing, kind of fit into one corner and flung out. The only light came from rows of large windows on two walls. A table lined those two walls by the windows. In the center of the room were four large cardboard bins. A little crackling wood stove sat over close to the opposite wall. The room was comfortably warm, warm enough to work in shirt sleeves. Four or five children, ranging from teenagers to a five-year-old, stood there by the tables, working. Well, except the little guy, the five-year-old. He flitted around, half working, half playing. And I just stood and stared. This was a scene I’d heard told, but had never seen before. And what I was seeing could have come right out of the early 1800s. The way the room was laid out, the way the people were dressed. Even the air smelled the same, a rank but not unpleasant odor. An Amish father and his children were working in that room, doing what fathers and their sons and daughters have been doing for many generations in these parts. They were stripping tobacco.

I stood there and just drank it all in. I was seeing a slice of Amish life that was totally foreign to me, growing up. Sure, I knew the Lancaster Amish raised tobacco. And I had seen many stages of how tobacco is raised and harvested. I had seen the farmers planting in the fields, in spring. Seen them out there hoeing and trimming in summer. I had seen them in the fields in the stifling August heat, cutting the plants by hand for harvest. And I had seen the bundles of tobacco hanging from barn rafters, drying in the natural air. All that I had seen in the past, just driving by. But I had never seen this process, the final process. The stripping of the dried tobacco leaves.

The thing is, seeing it all from the road, driving by, is a lot different than actually being there. A lot different. Here, in this room, I could not only see it, I could sense it, feel it, smell it. What it was, this ancient tradition, and what it meant.

And I told the man. Wow. That is just fascinating. I’ve never seen this before. How do you do it? Why are there four bins, here? How long has the tobacco dried? How much does an acre produce? Doesn’t it deplete the land, raising tobacco? That’s what I’ve always heard. And he beamed and smiled, very pleased at my interest. I was in his world. And he was eager to tell me the things he knew and lived.

“Every tobacco stalk has four different grades of leaf. So we have four bins,” he said. And he showed me the different grades, from rough to fine. The children all looked at me with large eyes, but kept right on working. Stripping leaves and throwing them in the proper bins. Soon, though, they paused and gathered around this funny English man who could talk PA Dutch. Smiled at me and my questions. They could not imagine how I could be so dense and ignorant of the things they had seen and known from the day they could walk and speak.

And the Amishman chatted right along. “It’s a lot of work, from seeding to harvest to stripping,” he said. “It keeps the children busy. They’re getting a little tired of it right now, but we have to have this shipment ready by next Tuesday. They’re doing pretty well.” And he told me of how they bale the loose tobacco into great 600 pound blocks. “The baler is set up over there in the other room,” he said. “No one wants to use the old tobacco presses any more. Too much work, cranking the press by hand, and tying the bales by hand. The baler does it a lot faster, in bigger bales. They come out with their trucks and load the bales.” To my next obvious question: “It all gets shipped down south somewhere. We contract in the spring, to produce a certain amount.”

“And no,” he said. “The things people say are wrong. Tobacco doesn’t deplete the land. Alfalfa takes more from the soil than tobacco does. Of course, we rotate the crops every year. This year, we raised six acres of tobacco.” Wow, again, I thought. Six acres. Six acres of heavy labor-intensive work. Six acres of planting by hand, harvesting by hand. Six acres of tobacco leaves, to hang in the rafters to dry. Six acres of tobacco to strip. Yeah, he keeps his children busy, all right.

And time was winding down, in that room. I could feel it. I pulled out my iPhone. I want to take a picture of the tobacco bins, I said. If the children need to move out of the way, that’s fine. And all the children kind of edged off to the side. Except one. The little guy. He stayed there, unmoving. Didn’t budge. I quickly lifted the phone and snapped the pic. The little boy looked right at me. And his father did not scold him.

And I thought a good bit about it later, absorbed it, turned the thing over in my mind, why that simple scene spoke to me so deeply. The father and his children, out there on a Saturday afternoon, laboring at a job the Amish have done ever since they settled here in the 1700s. Providing a cash crop for the market. Thinking nothing of it, really. Perplexed by my fascination.

Coming from where I came from, the experience put a human face on an activity that was always taught to me as evil. Tobacco. The devil’s weed. Everything we hear in our time screams condemnation of anything associated with the word. I grew up hearing that condemnation. Grew up reading it, from my father’s writings. I heard it preached from countless sermons in church. It’s bad stuff. It’s evil. No Christian could ever raise or sell it. No Christian could ever use it. There can be no understanding of it. And there can be no defense.

And yet, here are people from the same culture that birthed me, raising and selling tobacco. Just as they always have. A different sliver of that culture, sure. These are the offspring of the blue bloods, the first wave of Amish to come over from the old world. The second wave came later, around a hundred years later, and that wave included my ancestors. People who pushed on out west, restless people who tended not to stay too long in one place. Not so the Lancaster Amish. Most of them were content where they had settled, and they’ve always raised tobacco. The mortgage lifter, they called it. Because they considered that money as extra, as a bonus, that could go to pay off the farm.

They’ve always raised tobacco, and they’ve always withstood criticism from within from people like my father. And they’ve stood strong against criticism from the outside world, too. In recent decades, the winds of public opinion never bothered them one bit. The market has, though. A decade or so ago, the bottom dropped out of tobacco prices. For a few years, it wasn’t worth raising. Their crops sat unsold in their barns for years, or they sold it at a huge loss. And a good many Amish farmers in Lancaster County quit tobacco and went to raising “truck” crops, vegetables and such. But when the market prices rose again, quite a few of them returned.

And there are some farmers, too, who have quit raising tobacco because of moral reasons. Because they decided it’s wrong. Maybe they read my father’s writings way back, some of them. And got convinced. Maybe there were other influences. Whatever the case, some local farmers decided it’s wrong and don’t do it anymore. But those are a minority, I think. And either way, it’s fine. To each his own conscience, to each his own choices.

I have no moral qualms about tobacco use of any kind. None. It’s a choice, that’s all it is, and what you do with that choice is none of my business. I’m not saying, go start smoking cigarettes. But I am saying it’s not the evil it has been portrayed to be, an evil that will cost your salvation if you are a Christian. And any church that claims otherwise is preaching a message based on fear and not the true freedom the gospel brings us.

I’m not saying anyone should raise or use any form of tobacco, or approve of it in any way. I am saying, stop judging those who do. And please spare me that tired old “Your body is a temple” song and dance. Let me ask this. Are you overweight at all? 10 pounds? 20? 50? 100? Do you eat the poisonous junk they serve at fast food joints? Do you use refined sugar, or any of a host of artificial additives in your food and drink? If so, why? Your body is a temple. Stop judging others. Judge yourself instead. Honestly, I mean. And learn what it is to live.

I enjoy the occasional pipe or cigar, mostly in the summer months when I can sit outside and relax and puff at leisure. I smoked cigarettes pretty heavily off and on for ten years, a long time ago. That was a choice, too. A choice I made back then. I might still die from lung cancer because of that choice. If I do, I do. I wouldn’t dream of blaming anyone but myself.

Certainly I wouldn’t blame God for being unfair or blame the big tobacco companies for producing a product I enjoyed. The tobacco companies have been blatantly robbed of billions of dollars by sniveling plaintiffs in frivolous lawsuits, egged on by greedy shyster lawyers, the massive verdicts handed down by idiotic, brain-dead juries. The shame of that stain, how the courts collaborated in flat out “legal” theft, will one day be told for what it is in the story of what was once passed off as law in this morally bankrupt society.

I resent and detest the nanny state that demonizes smoking to hysterical heights and relegates smokers to leper status, all while grabbing more and more of their rights and freedoms. All the while inflicting increasingly onerous taxes on tobacco products. All the while inflicting ever heavier burdens on the poor, many of whom tend to smoke and can least afford the ridiculous, state-mandated cost of a single pack of cigarettes.

I deeply resent the anti-smoking Nazis who have created a world where the tobacco companies make around 30 cents a pack in profit, while the state, which produces nothing but force and fear, imposes a tax of several dollars per pack. That’s just outright theft. It’s all “for the children,” of course. And for public health. It never was about health, and it never was for the children. It was always about money and control. Follow the money, and follow the threads of control, any time the state prates about the good it will do for anyone or anything.

I am proud that one segment of the Old Order Amish has kept it right, when it comes to tobacco. By holding on to what they have always done long before the fickle winds of state-orchestrated public opinion derided and demonized this particular tradition. They keep this tradition as they have always kept it, as a family unit on the family farm. These people have not been moved, they have not been swayed. Instead, they quietly and stubbornly insist on being who they are. Which can be a bit frustrating, sometimes, depending on the situation. Maddening, even, when you’re inside trying to break out. Believe me, I know all about how that can be.

But now and then, their quiet stubbornness shines like a beacon in the darkness because they are standing for something bigger than themselves. And that is always a beautiful thing.

And how about that Super Bowl? Wild, wild game. And, ahem, if you go back and check my last blog post, you’ll see how I called it. Ravens by a field goal. Which, by some miracle, is exactly how it all came down. I’m no prophet, and will not claim to be one. But still, it feels good, to have called the game right on.

Someone in New Orleans should get fired. Period. Of course, the NFL is way too PC to acknowledge that. But there was and is no excuse for the power to go off during the most watched sporting event in the world. For more than half an hour. That delay almost cost the Ravens their hard-fought win. But the football gods stood tall, and justice was meted out. In one of the best Super Bowl games in history. Congrats to the Ravens and Ray Lewis.

All that said, I loathe the Ravens just a shade less than I loathe the Patriots or the Steelers, or a handful of other teams. All are evil. And I’m happy to go back to my normal settings. Go, Jets, next season. Ah, what the heck. Who am I kidding?

And finally, a note about the blog. I am getting dangerously close to my 500,000th hit. I figure it might come before the next post. That’s not a huge number for the big boys. But for a guy just walking around out there, sometimes living intensely, sometimes not, a guy who throws out a story and some thoughts every couple of weeks, it’s not bad. I’m getting between 3500 and 5000 hits between posts. And to me, it’s pretty wild, that the half-millionth hit is coming right up.

As always, I’m grateful for every reader. I know full well there are thousands and thousands of other sites you could be checking instead of mine. I take nothing for granted. So, thank you. Without you, the numbers would not be what they are. Thanks for reading my stuff.



  1. I love this tobacco story, I truly do; so vividly told.

    Comment by pizzalady — February 8, 2013 @ 6:33 pm

  2. When I was young we drove to Lancaster a lot and always saw the tobacco hanging in the huge white washed barns. I always wondered what those slits in the barn walls were for. I guess it was to keep a good air flow and not to shoot through during the Civil war as I was told. I also thought that first football game I watched was very exciting and plan to keep watching.

    Now that I have said all that; Why are you not writing another book? This piece was as good as reading a James Herriot book about his experience in the dales. Those of us who have never been in a barn before could be there through your written words.

    Comment by Carol Ellmore — February 8, 2013 @ 6:37 pm

  3. It amazes me that whatever subject that you write about, it is always so very interesting. I like how you put it into exactly how you believe about it. Thank you for your stating your take of what the subject is.

    Am I making sense, I hope so, I have been sorta in a fog this past week. I lost my mother 1-31-2013. She was the total of 99 years and 26 days old. I’m just trying to sort out my feelings about it. The one thing I can say with as much surety as anything, I will see her in Heaven as well as my father.

    Thanks for being such a blessed, good writer. Linda

    Comment by Linda Morris — February 8, 2013 @ 6:46 pm

  4. I just love reading your stuff!!!

    Comment by Robin — February 8, 2013 @ 7:50 pm

  5. Enjoyed very much reading about the barn and milking. It took me back to my own childhood, only my parents were not Amish, but Old Order River Brethren. And we lived in Franklin County, not Lancaster County.

    Comment by Wilma — February 8, 2013 @ 9:05 pm

  6. Hope you have a book in the works. You are an amazing gifted writer. Always look forward to your posts. Thank-you.

    Comment by vicki — February 8, 2013 @ 9:14 pm

  7. I recently read that around 1630 women started smoking the pipe or whatever. In the early 1900’s Amish women were smoking, this was in my great-grandmother’s time. My grandpa Honsamony Jeck went to see his doctor because of health reasons, nerve problems. The doctor told him to smoke tobacco in order to calm his nerves and he will be able to relax, which he did. It was no big deal. It was no sin. It was just smoke to stay calm, relax and get some sleep. My grandpa did die at the age of 50 but it was not because he smoked. He had cancer but not because he smoked. My Dad smoked for 60 years and quit cold turkey, and eight years later he died of old age. It was just a way of Amish life.

    Comment by Katie Troyer — February 8, 2013 @ 9:21 pm

  8. I agree with your comments about tobacco. Thanks for bringing back some good and bad memories of my childhood. I grew-up in N.C. raising tobacco and later working for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.


    Comment by Jane M Goforth — February 9, 2013 @ 6:39 am

  9. I admit to enjoying a cigar or two during my Jack Daniels Days…..I believe it was the Apostle Paul who stated that as Christians, we are all free, but that some choices were not as beneficial to us as other choices…..and we were to judge for ourselves which choices these were.(A paraphrase) (I hope the GOVT. doesn’t “step in” here like they have done with the raw milk issues). I often remember the phrase, “The more things change, the more they remain the same.”

    Keep on writing. You fill a need within my soul. Thank you.

    Comment by Maggie Newman — February 9, 2013 @ 7:04 am

  10. There are almost entire countries full of poor ethnic farmers who depend on another often smoked plant or cocoa leaves to make a living. One can look at it from their point of view, romantically. But the misuse of things God created is the essence of falling short of the glory we were made to manifest on the earth. It becomes obvious, if one is truly concerned about injustice, that this goes beyond personal piety to systemic problems. If one wants to put leaves in their mouth and light them on fire, who can stop them? But there are much larger questions as to why people do these things. The Native Americans introduced this to the colonists, and it became so popular, that was the early currency (things were priced and paid for in pounds of tobacco).

    Comment by LeRoy — February 9, 2013 @ 8:40 am

  11. Your description of the cow barn had me experience it again. I milked cows twice a day from the age of 12 to 21, only escaping the task a few times during those ~9 long years. Like you said, maybe if.., but probably not. I did it without complaint, but I hated it.

    For a long time afterwards, being free to do other things during the hours of 5 to 7 am/pm felt like such a luxury.

    You have the gift of turning words into pictures. I look forward to reading your postings.

    Comment by Kurt — February 9, 2013 @ 1:58 pm

  12. I really enjoyed this paragraph in your blog, you hit it right on the nose – I’m not saying anyone should raise or use any form of tobacco, or approve of it in any way. I am saying, stop judging those who do. And please spare me that tired old “Your body is a temple” song and dance. Let me ask this. Are you overweight at all? 10 pounds? 20? 50? 100? Do you eat the poisonous junk they serve at fast food joints? Do you use refined sugar, or any of a host of artificial additives in your food and drink? If so, why? Your body is a temple. Stop judging others. Judge yourself instead. Honestly, I mean. And learn what it is to live. –

    This is something everyone should have posted on their mirror & read every morning before they head out for the day. Thank you Ira for another wonderful blog.

    Comment by Cristy — February 9, 2013 @ 2:25 pm

  13. I grew up in a home among some heavy smokers. I have never been a smoker but I have a “smoker’s cough”.

    Ira, you had a choice. I didn’t. My children have a choice because I have chosen to be part of a church where we all choose to avoid the use of tobacco.

    Yet, you say it is not about the children.

    Ira’s response: You made your choices, based on bad choices that were made by some of the adults in your childhood. And that’s your right. It’s “not about the children” when the state claims that slogan as an excuse for higher taxes, more intrusion, etc. I thought I made that pretty clear.

    Comment by marion zehr — February 9, 2013 @ 9:05 pm

  14. The way you felt when you went in that back room of the barn is how most of us feel when we encounter the Amish doing just about anything. They say, “We’re just like everybody else,” and that’s true but it’s just interesting seeing things done differently than what we’re used to or have never known about.

    I wonder if those children will look back on their days of stripping leaves the way you do about milking the cows by hand? I’ve never actually seen anyone milk a cow by hand except on TV. I’ve got “raised in the suburbs” written all over me. Have a great week ~

    Comment by Bethrusso — February 10, 2013 @ 1:06 pm

  15. Ira, congratulations on your upcoming 500,000th hit. Your smoking article reminds me, when you could still smoke in restaurants, the hostess would ask you smoking or non-smoking. I would comment that I’m here to eat, it makes no difference. Take Care.

    Comment by Warren — February 10, 2013 @ 6:32 pm

  16. Your first few paragraphs are really poetry. For all I know, so are those that follow, but then I got swept up in your story. Back when you could still smoke in restaurants, a friend of mine and her child were seated very close to a smoker. His cigarette smoke bothered her and she had the nerve to ask him not to blow it their way. His reply: “People like you should stay out of restaurants.” Then he blew smoke in her face.

    Comment by cynthia r chase — February 12, 2013 @ 7:19 am

  17. All lifestyles merit their own tale. How blessed you are to have lived the story of Amish. Because God gave you the gift of writing and you have been faithful in sharing it with others. And we are blessed to see it unfold in the telling. Your words are fascinating.

    Comment by Diane Bridgman — February 14, 2013 @ 4:10 am

  18. I am against tobacco, smoking of it is addiction, so there is nothing positive to me about it. I think degrades Amish, into the growing tobacco & production of products. And smoking of any tobacco product, by Amish, to me goes against grain of religious beliefs.

    This is just my opinion!

    Comment by Lee Nelson Hall Junior — February 14, 2013 @ 7:21 pm

  19. We were the upstart Amish living beyond Tillsonburg back in the days when you were at Aylmer. We allowed the use of tobacco and some of those other vices that Aylmer Amish are famous for opposing. Dad and many of our people used to rent out horses for tobacco harvest in the days before automated harvesters. The wealthiest farmers around were always the tobacco farmers. It was for many years a strong driver of industry.

    When I left the Amish, I experienced for the first time milking with a milking machine. And I didn’t mind. I could milk many cows in a short time. I actually preferred washing up milkers afterward greatly compared to hand milking.

    Then after a few years being a farmhand, I got a job welding. My very first job involved making machine parts for a new tobacco processing plant being built near Tillsonburg. It was almost impossible to have a job in the area that did not involve tobacco in one way or another. We installed a lot of machinery at the plant which took the whole winter. And I agree the smell of tobacco is not unpleasant.

    Would a good Amishman approve of such work, I wondered? Maybe not. But you soon begin to see the human side of the whole thing. I met fellow believers working in the machine shop also making parts.

    Yet at the same time some smokers were quite rude using their right to smoke in spite of anyone else’s objection. When legislation begin to come down, I said serves you right. Being courteous and thoughtful would have put me on your side.

    The world we live in is as it is because courtesy and giving others the benefit of doubt failed to govern sufficiently. Compelling others to share your smoke never was a good idea.

    Much as I dislike big brother interfering, the world is not about to change to less interference any time soon. You would think being raised Amish would prepare you for a totally controlled life. But I have to leave it there or my comments will exceed blog size. Thanks for sharing that story!

    Comment by Eli Stutzman — February 15, 2013 @ 11:42 pm

  20. But Ira, have you ever considered the toll in healthcare $$ those cigarettes have cost? It’s unbelievable to me that in this day and age you see nothing wrong with smoking. Or did I read this incorrectly? And what right does a smoker have to give an innocent non-smoker cancer, etc. through second-hand smoke?

    I love your writing style, but will never understand the vehemence of your beliefs in Evil Government. I suppose it comes from your stringent upbringing…. You are an interesting study in dichotomy, to me. I mean no offence and wish you well.

    Comment by Erin — February 17, 2013 @ 6:22 pm

  21. Thank You for bringing me into the quiet Amish world. I pass Amish homes and barns in the summertime when I visit from California and have no idea what life is like there.

    Comment by Susan Lance — February 18, 2013 @ 11:59 am

  22. Remarkable story! Go Bills!

    Comment by Kim — February 19, 2013 @ 12:56 pm

  23. Interesting blog as usual, congrats on your half million hits.

    It doesn’t make me a great moral paragon of virtue, but I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life, and to this day when I smell second hand smoke I’ll get a bit of a headache. Yet I remember as a young lad, our Old Order Amish neighbor smoked a pipe and that aroma was quite pleasant. He was a nice man, too.

    Some religions are rather quick to eternally condemn if someone smokes. There are plenty of human snakes that don’t smoke, and I’m convinced there are people in heaven that have used tobacco. It’s probably not good for our health, but which one of us have not indulged in over eating a time or two. Or more. Especially sugar and pork, etc.

    The Lord even said, “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.”

    Bottom line, God’s chosen people have eternal life and go to heaven, not by what they did or did not put in their mouth, but by the redeeming Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. He eternally paid their sin debt– past, present and future. And none will trust or boast of their own “good works”. God will have all the glory, because salvation is of the Lord.


    Comment by e.s.gingerich — February 19, 2013 @ 2:20 pm

  24. Addendum

    Of Course, the mature Christian is careful what he puts into his God-given body. And he tries to avoid extremes, like Pharisaical asceticism on the one hand, and unbridled wantonness on the other, which can lead to abuse and addictions. Rather, the true disciple seeks for moderation and temperance, because he wants to please his Master, the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Comment by e.s. gingerish — February 20, 2013 @ 12:41 pm

  25. Good is nearly always accompanied by evil in this world. I see it in myself as an individual and I see it in us collectively as a society. I agree with your views regarding the self-serving intrusiveness and unrestrained theft of the state. But alongside that evil stands the good exhibited by people who realize the damage tobacco use does to people and, unwilling to sit back and let the tobacco companies have it all their own way, work hard to keep society informed and children from being sucked into addiction. The gov’t will always be self-serving. In this case, their sails are catching the prevailing winds of the anti-tobacco movement. The movement is good. The state’s manipulation of that movement is evil. We live with both.

    You brought up diet. I’ve watched several documentaries showing the efforts of groups in the medical community working to educate people and to have them provided with realistic options to improve their health. Trying to stem the increase in obesity and its accompanying diseases. People do have the right to choose their own lifestyles (to an extent) but without knowledge and options, you can’t really say they have a choice. Of course the food companies are fighting these efforts as the tobacco companies do. And you can bet that, whichever way things go, the government’s net will be spread to catch all it can.
    There is indeed much evil, tyranny, abuse, and irresponsibility in our country. But there’s also much virtue, compassion, equity, and integrity. We need to keep our eyes on both.

    Comment by Eric — February 28, 2013 @ 11:30 am

  26. Been thinking about this article a bit more over the past couple of days. Still thinking about the children and how you mentioned the 1800’s and how while I was reading it I thought of sweat shops. Sometimes things are hard for me to grasp without putting some sort of somber connotation upon them. I looked more closely at the little boy’s face. I would say he’s about 7. Cute as a bug’s ear. Innocent, sweet, unknowing. So much goes through my mind with all this new knowlegde I have of the Amish. What do he and his brothers and sisters dream of? Do they look out into the yard while working and wish they were someplace else? Do they know how much God would love them even if they left this way of life? Do they hunger and yearn for something that is forbidden? People amaze me and this includes children, of course. Little spirits, little personalities, all with a call from God neatly tucked away in their little hearts.

    Did you happen to ask the farmer if he used tobacco?

    Oh, how I loved smoking. I was always a closet smoker, though. Afterall, good girls don’t smoke. I had an image to keep up though at times I did a poor job of it. As I sit here I can smell the sweetness of a fresh pack and the instant “ahhh” after the first exhale.
    You can always tell a bogus smoker. They don’t inhale all the way, into the lungs. I’d snicker when I watched them at the club or bar I was frequenting. “Sissies”, I thought. And I hated it when they asked me for one. What a waste of a good cigarette.
    Yeah well, those days are over and have been for over 13 years. I would never even consider smoking in front of my kids, yet at the same time, I don’t freak out when we come in contact with a smoker, like my mother. When we visit her I simply open a window or door to let out the overwhelming smell. I ask first since we are in her house. It burns my nose and throat. But I must admit, when I’m out and about and I get the whiff of expensive perfume mixed with cigarette smoke a warm feeling comes over me as I’m reminded of the only smell I ever knew of my mother as a child.

    Comment by Francine — March 4, 2013 @ 12:21 am

  27. Just finished your book and wanted to thank you for the glimpse of life in the Amish community. So thankful that you came to know Jesus and His power to save us from ourselves, regardless of our background. May He continue to use your book to tell others. Many thanks and much love to you, my brother in Christ.

    Comment by Mary Hanson — March 14, 2013 @ 2:29 am

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