Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Old Farmer and His Son

I saw them both at a distance, looking at the commercial displays at Yellow Medicine County Fair in Canby. It would be obvious to any observer that they enjoyed each others company. The old man, in his seventies, was a big man with a big smile (and a handshake to match) was wheelchair bound. The younger man pushed the wheelchair.

“What a beautiful day” he said unsolicited as he shook my hand. The young man just smiled.

I asked the old man, “How long ya' been in the chair?”

He said, “Since 1953.”

I was stunned, in a wheel chair over 53 years and yet upbeat and positive. I asked, “What happened?”

He said, “I came home from the Korean War, made it through all that stuff without major injury. Then I found myself a Danish girlfriend from Tyler; our young lives were busy. We were at a roller skating rink having a good time, when I got so hot I could not cool down. It was late fall, I told my girlfriend I would lie down in the car to cool off. The next thing I knew, I woke up at the Sister Kenny Institute in Minneapolis. I was paralyzed from the waist down with polio…”

He spoke with no bitterness or regret. The young man, who was the youngest of his four sons, smiled and nodded in agreement as dad told his story.

I asked the old man, “What did you do in your life?”

He smiled a broad smile and said, “I farmed 850 acres.”

“What?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said, “The only reason I pulled it off was because I had a good wife and good sons.” As he told his story, all three of us had tears in our eyes. He told how they made provision for him to work while the wife and boys bore most of the brunt of the hard work. Over the years some feeling and minimal use has returned to his legs. “I can get around on “Kenny Sticks” (crutches to us) he said with a sly smile.

I said, “That’s quite an accomplishment.” His reply was that all the credit goes to his wife and boys and to the Lord.

The old farmer said he could never borrow money from the bank so his wife would always go to ask for the money. The banker told his wife they had to get on a computerized accounting system to continue borrowing money from the bank. The wife told the banker, “Forget about that; I don’t understand that stuff.”

The banker replied, “You’re right, I don’t understand it either; the hell with it” and gave her the loan. The old man said they still borrow money from that bank. He laughed and smiled. I could see he enjoyed every little victory in life…what an attitude! What an inspiration.

The old farmer said, “Doc told me we have to change some things. I’ve walked all these years with my one crutch and my hand on my wife’s shoulder and now her shoulder is wearing out. Getting old, I guess, but some things have to change,” he said with a smile on his face.

The old farmer said to his son, “We better get going or Mom will think we’re out chasing women.” The son threw his head back, rolled his eyes, smiled and said, “Yes Dad, we’d better get going.”

What a privilege to meet these two; what an example, an inspiration. Oh how I’d love to meet his wife! In the midst of darkness and trial some people rise and conquer. They have. In Romans it says, “We are more than conquerors.” I think I just met two who are more than conquerors and they don’t even know it. To God be the glory for lives well lived!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Excerpt from Erwin Raphael McManus

The following is an excerpt from Erwin Raphael McManus’ book entitled: an {unstoppable force}.

The Ten Commandments are not heaven’s standards. They are not the standards by which the angels live. They are not God’s attempt to pull us up beyond the human into the spiritual. The Ten Commandments are the lowest possible standard of humane living. Stop and consider what they demand of us. Maybe it would help if we just rephrased them in everyday language. Here goes: “Hey, could you stop killing each other? Oh, yeah, by the way, could you not steal each other’s stuff? And it would be really helpful if you wouldn’t lie to each other, either. And here’s a thought, could you not take other people’s husbands and wives and just, sort of, like, keep your own?”

Upon reflection, these are unreasonable, right? How could anyone be expected to live up to these? Only God could do that, right?

Why don’t we get it? Anything below these standards is choosing to live like an animal, a barbarian. The Ten Commandments don’t call us to the extraordinary spiritual life; they call us to stop dehumanizing one another. The law is the minimum of what it means to be human. The reason the law condemns us is not because of our inability to live up to an extraordinary measure. We couldn’t even pass the test with a D. When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, he was establishing a nation for himself. God was giving them the tools to form an ethos that, through honoring him, would result in the nurturing and elevation of the human spirit.

Can you imagine a nation in which simple things like honoring your parents actually happened? A nation in which people were honest and upright in their business endeavors? Can you imagine a nation in which you could leave your possessions outside and no one would take them? In which you could leave your wife with a friend and he would not take her? Can you imagine a society in which no one is slandered, gossiped about, or falsely accused? And that’s without even looking at the first four commandments.

God gave us a map for a healthy society, and the map was not a picture of the ideal but a definition of the minimum. The same was true for the church. God was establishing a new people, a new nation. In the same way, he established a basis from which this new culture would draw its ethos. In a word, it could be summarized as grace. Grace deals with the generosity of God, his gracious work in the hearts of those who would turn to him. Yet many times grace is misunderstood or even cheapened at times. Grace has been seen as the liberty to live beneath the law rather than the capacity to soar beyond the law.”

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Old Soldier Talks

On Saturday we had a family reunion in Danube. The descendants of the five Seehusen brothers who came to Minnesota from Germany met to tell stories and visit.

One of my aunts was “Gustie”; she had three sons who served in World War II. Gustie’s biggest worries were that her sons would be killed or that they would kill some of our relatives. We were told she prayed fervently and all three sons came home.

One of hers sons was Gust. He served in the infantry, spent 4 months in combat and was captured by the Germans. Gust never talked about his experience much, not until yesterday. Gust said he never talked about it and still has dreams about fighting Germans (he is 82) but now understands it’s important to talk. You see, Gust’s grandson lost an arm, part of his other hand, and suffered many shrapnel wounds as a result of his service in Iraq.

Gust doesn’t brag or pound his chest with trumped up bravado but his sharing was to the point and blunt. He was in a battle for 4-1/2 days for a town. He was one of six who survived out of 118. He was later given the Bronze Star for his efforts in this battle. As a P.O.W. he was insulted because of his very German heritage.

His 21st birthday took place during those 4 months but he didn’t realize it until he was getting his first shower and shave in a month. When he felt his face and realized he had a mustache, he decided not to shave it off and has that mustache to this day. That mustache serves as a reminder of God’s goodness and protection. Gust said, “God was with me all the way.” Words of a warrior, former P.O.W., husband, father, grandfather, farmer, policeman…grateful to be alive and free. Gust has a lot to teach us—I hope he keeps talking.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Burger Stand Discussion

This weekend I worked at the American Legion burger booth at Danube Fun Days. The men who are active in the Legion are Viet Nam era guys. Many of us have sons in their 20’s and 30’s.

We had many interesting discussions during the slow times that night. My wife had been in Willmar and called me on the cell phone to tell me she witnessed the military escort returning the body of Kyle Miller to Willmar. I shared this with the guys and it became very quiet.

Miller, who was killed last week in Iraq, was the 40th person with Minnesota ties killed in Iraq. One man said that even though 40 young men have died, and each life is valuable, it seemed like that wasn’t very many people to die in this war.

Now the discussion picked up speed. One man said 40 men to die is 40 too many. That is true. Another man said, “We get shook up about 40 men dying yet each year in Minnesota 14,000 plus babies are aborted and no one seems to get shook up about that.” More eyebrows were raised; and a man whose son just received his Master’s Degree but has no military service told his son, “I’d rather bury you in a coffin draped with the American flag than bury you because you got drunk and died in a car accident.” (Alcohol related driving deaths in Minnesota were 567 in 2004.)

That’s what I like about Western Minnesota, German, Dutch and Czech farmers and veterans-- they get to the bottom line really quickly.

Yes, it is something to think about. May no more young men have to die. In the meantime, may we value each life so highly that none born or unborn would be brutalized or forgotten. Please don’t forget!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Weekend Home Makeover

This past extended weekend was declared a “home makeover attack weekend” at our daughter’s town home in Orono. We patched, painted, and mounted a mirror, handrails, towel racks, set up a bed, rearranged rooms, made new TV. cables, and more. A good weekend.

The neighbors were interested in what was going on. One of Katie’s neighbors is Sarah, a nurse practitioner, a Wisconsin dairy farmer’s daughter who happens to be German. Knowing this fact, I feel it is appropriate to mention she dropped by with a 12 pack of Leinenkugel Beer early in the weekend to aid in our weekend tasks. It was appreciated.

She stopped by on “the 4th” to see if anything was possibly accomplished (she is an optimist). Possessing this great sense of humor, I asked her what was the best lesson she learned from her childhood on the farm. When she answered, she did not hesitate to say “I learned how to work hard and do it all with a sense of humor.” You can take the farm girl out of Fond du Lac, but you can’t take Fond du Lac out of the girl! She went on to tell us of growing up on that farm and how no matter how hard they worked, her dad made it challenging yet fun. As parents we all want our children to be good workers. Work is a rewarding part of our life. It was instituted before The Fall (Genesis 2:15). Work is a blessing. A mistaken idea is that work was the curse after The Fall but it wasn’t; the soil was cursed (Genesis 3:17).

As parents, oh how we want our children to be good workers. But what did they hear from us—constant complaining, whining about our work. Forgive us Lord for our petty whining nature. To have work is a blessing; may we not forget it.

The old German dairy farmer had it right. Work hard; enjoy it. That’s a blessing. It must have because his daughter said it’s the greatest lesson she learned. She is a hard working, competent nurse-practitioner with a sly sense of humor and an iridescent attitude. If she was here, I bet she’d say “Thank you Dad.”

Monday, July 03, 2006

A Quote from the cover of my Bible

This is a quote that I've written inside the cover of my Bible. I can't say it any better than this.

"We give ourselves to prayer. We preach a gospel that saves to the uttermost, and witness to its power. We do not argue about worldliness, we witness; we do not discuss philosophy; we preach the gospel. We do not speculate about the destiny of sinners; we pluck them as brands from the burning fire. We ask no man’s patronage. We beg no man’s money. We fear no man’s frown; let no man join us who is afraid, and we want none but those who are saved, sanctified and aflame with the fire of the Holy Ghost."

Samuel Chadwick