08 August 2020

Per chance, what turns up on the farm...

A few months ago, I sat down with a new friend who has a real thirst for history as I do. Not long into our conversation, he mentioned how he used to hunt for arrowheads, then mentioned finding a few at a farm somewhere about where I lived. He said the barn's roof had "1865" on it. I said, well, that's MY farm. He said he found the arrowheads and a clay pipe bowl about 20' from the barn. That was 22 years ago.

Our farmstead was developed in 1865. The barn was built first and is situated into a high hillside with an open basement facing south. One winter, I went cross-country skiing into the field north of our property and while in the low area north of the hill, I realized that the hill was really part of a ridge that wrapped a large depression, possibly a glacial kettle, that wrapped the bowl to the east and north, then flowed into what was a natural creek, known as Brush Creek, to the west that runs through our property. This is prime ground for looking for arrowheads. It's sandy, and before no-till, the ground along the ridge would reveal artifacts turned up from the plow and erosion. We looked a few times when we first moved here in 2010, but without tilling, nothing "turns up." The first land surveys in the county, dating to about 1830, show remnants of a Native American settlement almost directly west of my farm, about a half mile away. This would be just southwest of Higbee Corner, along the westernmost ridge of that glacial bowl; our property being its southeast corner.

The arrowheads are pretty cool. I've only found 2-3 in my lifetime, on my grandfather's property. But the clay pipe bowl pushed me to research its origins. I found an exact match that was produced by Cornwall Kirkpatrick in Ohio during the 1850s. Kirkpatrick bought William Lakin's pottery in Point Pleasant, Ohio in 1849. The "elbow diagonal ribbed bowl" was produced by Kirkpatrick during the 1850s out of this little one-room cabin purchased from Lakin in 1849. The most interesting part about the cabin is that it was the birthplace of Ulysses Grant in 1822. Kirkpatrick moved on to Anna, Illinois by 1860 and continued to produce the ribbed bowl into the 1860s-the bowls being popular among soldiers during the Civil War.

The founder of our farm, Robert Schroeder, nor his son or son-in-laws, served in the Civil War. And based on Schroeder's anti-liquor sentiments (he was a minister), I also doubt his family smoked tobacco. However, a timber-frame expert that assessed our 1865 barn, thought that it likely was built by a professional barn builder rather than the family because of the skilled joinery and more sophisticated features on the barn. Could the barn builder have left more than his barn behind when he built it in 1865? I can imagine the barn builder pounding in wood pins into the mortise and tenon joints with this pipe held firmly in his mouth, only to set it down and be lost a mere 20 feet from the barn as he and fellow laborers raised the bents into place.

While I was asked, no, I don't plan to smoke it.

18 July 2020

Room at the table for better Democracy

Department of Health and Human Services, 1986
My good friend and me with Bill Gee, intern Milan Petrovik, and Secretary Bowen

I had a phone call yesterday from a friend on the "opposite side of the aisle" to let me know that death had claimed another, probably the last, of the old generation of Republicans in our community. "Old" here means the old way of doing things, what the party used to be, the party of civility, wisdom, and doing the right thing for the community. Bill was so kind when I came back to town after college, wrote an endorsement for me, and helped with the honorary renaming of a street in town to Bowen Avenue in 2018. I think democracy and leadership meant something different to that generation. I know it means something different to me. Democracy means compromise and joining of ideas and voices to create a more perfect union. Democracy is not excluding people from the table, eliminating voices, or marginalizing others.
But that's what our democracy has become.

I recall attending monthly Republican breakfasts and listening to our party chair proudly exclaim that we've all but made Democrats extinct in our county. Which of course is not true, they represent roughly 35% of the population. What he meant was that our party had found a way to exclude them from the table, to eliminate their voices. There's no need to compromise, no need to entertain ideas other than your own, and no need, really then, for democracy. One-party rule in this county has been the rule for decades, and what has it gotten us? Just a desire to steer harder to the right, and little to take pride in.

A good friend told me once that I was a non-conformist. That was the first I had been called that, and it was in relationship to church leadership. He meant it in a good way, but as the reason for exclusion. I do question reasons behind decisions. I don't go along with ideas because they are politically popular (secular or religious). I stop and ask "why" because others, probably in the minority, would certainly have the same concerns. We lose something of community/collaboration when we push aside ideas or individuals in order to maintain power, to not be questioned, or to ensure we get our way. It goes against gospel-oriented living. I've seen it plenty in churches, in politics, in community planning. Frankly, it's why I can't get excited about our county's Stellar designation....."the table" could've been so much more representative.

Civility before party in this holiday gathering.

I have a type A personality and it tends to be my Achilles heel. Because I've recognized that, I try harder to give all voices around me equal time. People who identify as Democrats can have great ideas. People who identify as Republicans can have some really terrible ones. Personally employing democracy, leadership, is listening to both and making decisions that are best for the community. It's bringing minorities of any kind into decision making to make the whole better. It would help us heal as a nation.

27 June 2020

To the unknown god: toppling statues in our hearts

As a historian, I've been asked my thoughts on statues being toppled. Usually one word comes to mind: conflicted. Watching the events of 2020 unfold before us is remarkable indeed-and it's only half-over. Again, I think much of what we are witnessing is from years of built-up anger and rage that's been unaddressed in our churches (previous posts) and in our politics where compromise, or the unwillingness of, has become the litmus test for what qualifies a party loyalist. Failure to address the nation's original sin, slavery and Indian removal, from pulpits and platforms has led us to this time. We are reaping what has been sown.

As I watched one statue toppled from its massive granite base, left looking naked and no longer able to convey its purpose, I thought of that altar that Paul came upon in Athens, dedicated to the unknown god. And at that point, I understood why my response has been conflicted. At work in my own heart is a conflict between historian and Christ-follower. We see two dominant sides emerging in this debate, and both are worshiping the unknown god. One side is seeking justice by the elimination of reminders of oppression, however far-flung the connection to that may be. The other side, in its most devious words and actions, is looking to benefit from the propagation of holding onto statues, however divisive they may be. Both are in search of something they haven't been able to find: justice and justification.

     "So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything."

As an architectural historian, I realize many of these statues and monuments are placed in such a way to honor an event or individual, and often become part of the urban fabric in communities that embrace good planning and celebrate their past. We do neither of these well in Indiana, so Hoosiers are largely removed from this debate. As I mentioned to my intern the other day as we stood beneath it, Monument Circle is the one thing we did really well here. There are exactly two public monuments of statuary in my county. One is of Lincoln, seated in the main entry of the former high school that bears his name. The other is dedicated to Chief Menominee and the Trail of Death from the forceable removal of the Pottawatomie. I think we should also understand statues as monuments in terms of their development. Statuary became en-vogue at the turn of the 19th century when classical architecture rebounded and was primarily embraced in government building programs. Coupled with the "City Beautiful Movement" which employed urban design concepts of vistas and axis, monuments, typically topped with statues, hearkened ancient Greece from which the classical movement found its precedents. When you realize many of these statues were erected during the first few decades of the 1900s, and that practice is largely gone now, it begins to separate purpose from pride and patriotism.

Critical thought is in short supply these days, well heck, so is common sense and empathy. I am a fan of Teddy Roosevelt, with all of his flaws. I watched as New York decided the statue of him, mounted on a horse, with a Native American and African-American "in subjugation" should be removed. I understand the thought process, but I also point to the poignant reminder the statue provides of the way in which we saw our brothers as less than equals, in need of "saving" by the President. And I think what a great way to demonstrate the error of our thinking if interpreted correctly. This is where critical thinking needs to prevail. But then there are the statues that glorify the oppression of a people, the finger in the eye to our Union, and for some, justification of their deeply-held racist ideology. And for others, the hurtful reminder that others have that ideology. In that light, is the erection of a statue-or keeping it-a sin? I believe it is. Maybe this is part of the reason God covered it in His first two commandments: have no other God before me and make no image to which you ascribe worship. I think we are witnessing a lot of statue-worshipers today.

As Paul did, let me also introduce you to the real God, "he is actually not far from each one of us, for in him we live and move and have our being." He is not in statues, but we find Him if we seek Him in our hearts.

13 June 2020

Anxious Soul

I don't typically write in poetry, like rarely, and anyone who has read the few lines I've written, also knows what follows is not my style. I awoke from a nightmare last night. These are the words that came from the imagery at 3:00 a.m.

The Anxious Soul

It does not sleep like those around him,
Eyes wide open
to the crash.
The mayhem that ensues
from the riotous thunder

Walking in the dark woods-
comfort of his own making.
His breath pushed down
Holding on.
Can't see what the beast sees
out the window.

It circles, still violent
Who's face is this
Do not look-
fear it's your own.

Righteous White America-
windows broken,
going in circles,
head slumped over,
while the beast is howling.

30 May 2020

So goes the church, so goes America: blunt terms for institutional reform

There is something bigger going on here. Our country is crippled by a growing virus of anger and hate. Not to dismiss the reality of racism, but that is just one vein in which it runs. I'm heartbroken over how it must feel for a segment of our society to be in a constant feeling of loss of justice, of fear.

I've seen a few articles and posts written about the need for institutional reform in order to root out racism. Well, what does that mean in Midwestern white America? We can pray that God changes hearts, or pray for justice. I found myself typing out the words on a post shared that I was done praying for justice and am seeking what it means to pray for judgement. Justice cannot be delivered by an unjust system or institutions occupied by people who themselves are part of the problem. And if we cannot right the ship of justice because of our partisan divide (I don't think we can), then maybe it is time for God to bring judgement.

Proverbs 29:2 says when the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn. Proverbs isn't stating prophecy, but wisdom-facts. So I think we must ask ourselves in a democratic society, what responsibility do we have in delivering institutions that provide for justice? And where, in the spectrum of Proverbs 29:2, are we? We can each search our hearts and try to root out racism and hatred. We can "stand up" for those that are suffering because of it....but what does that really look like? The theology that there will always be a "sin problem" must not be an abdication of our responsibility, or guilt.

Let me break it down in the most blunt of terms.

If you vote for people who stoke hate in the hearts of racists, you are guilty of supporting the institution of racism.

If you confirm an elder at your church who you know tells racist jokes, you are guilty of bringing that institutional condition into your church.

If you are dismissive of seeing people hung in effigy because they are of the opposite party, you are guilty because you view the "other" as lesser.

If you see a tweet by Jerry Falwell Jr. about face masks and still support his ministry, you are guilty.

If 100,000+ is an acceptable loss, you are guilty of valuing "rights" over the right to life.

You are guilty if you subscribe to the division being created in this country, and even more so if you are the one tweeting it.

This has also infected all levels of society, and while the political scholar in me finds it fascinating, it is incredibly disheartening. What has happened in national politics with leaders tapping into unrest and anger has happened-is happening-on the state and local level. I should know. The base of support for politicians is what ultimately shapes the institutions we say are in need of reforming (geesh, if we really are saying that at all). Bluntly: corrupted people who vote for corrupt people result in corrupt institutions. I don't care what letter is in front of your name at the ballot box (or what letter your name begins with).

Anger stems from a perceived attack against one's well-being or ideals. The more you are being told that you are a victim of these attacks, the angrier you will become. Conservatives and evangelicals (I am both) are constantly told  by religious and political leaders and media that their values are under attack. They who know exactly how to craft it in a way to garner votes, dollars, or an audience. The remarkable, maybe prophetic aspect is seeing cult-like devotion take precedence over wisdom and Biblical values.

I began posting/commenting over the growing rage in our society about 10 years ago and how it must be addressed in churches. It feels like the fuse to the powder keg is rapidly growing shorter. I accept responsibility for what institutions I can influence with my vote, for what dialogue is had, or should be had, in-person and through social media. But I square the responsibility for real change, from the heart, on our religious leaders. They cannot mince words or scratch itching ears. As I posted earlier, America is in need of a prophet. Religious leaders who are part of the problem, who stoke division, have yielded themselves to political leaders for influence, are leading the flock away from truth and are by definition false prophets. It's time to remove the god of politics from church altars and hearts.

Maybe the institution in need of reformation is the church itself. God help us, but maybe the call for justice must be against the church in America. So goes the church, so goes America, and it's not going so well right now.

09 May 2020

Prophet Needed: Apply within the American Church

About the beginning of this year, I kept feeling prompted to read through Jeremiah-a book I've not spent much time in. I started March 16, the day before the essential-only travel and stay-at-home orders began. Unplanned, I ended reading on May 1-the day it was announced there would be a loosening. Jeremiah became my pandemic quarantine devotional.

Jeremiah has a number of passages that we often hear quoted, such as "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you" and "even a fool, when he holds his peace is counted wise" and one that is often spoken as encouragement, and is on a sign atop my desk "I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" Jeremiah 29:11. This brings a great deal of comfort in tough times, doesn't it? But Jeremiah's message was that God's people had turned from Him, "the fountain of living waters" and created their own cisterns "broken...that can hold no water" (Jeremiah 2:13). They turned to worship things created from their own hands, and were found with the "blood of the lives of the poor innocents" on them. In the 21st century American church, what does this look like? What are the things we now worship, and where is our guilt in innocent blood that is shed?

I can start listing the things that have become a source of "worship" by starting with what I've seen on the steps of state capitols across the country. And I can show you a video of an innocent black man who lost his life earlier this year to what has become all too acceptable. And where are our church leaders? Why is it easier for Franklin Graham to stoke angst over religious liberties being jeopardized due to COVID-19, than it is for him to speak out against murderous racism?

I had mentioned to a friend last week that I had finished reading the book and debated blogging on it. I said what America needs is a Jeremiah. America needs a prophet of that caliber. Or maybe I should be more pointed and say that the church in America needs a Jeremiah. I think that too many of our pastors and so-called spiritual leaders are part of the problem in this age. Too many have stoked the rhetoric fanning flames of anger and animosity, in the name of God. But not knowing the power of God. Too many of our Christian leaders have grasped political power, which is what had happened in Jeremiah's day, and in Christ's day. And in so doing, led the people of God away from truth.

My friend sent a message a few days ago asking if I had written my thoughts out about Jeremiah. I hadn't, but I also conceded that no one listened to Jeremiah anyway...I'd anticipate the same would be true today.  Indeed, "oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those sent to her" (Matthew 23:37). Those Christians leaders who have spoken out against the political charms and chains the church has been wrapped in are quickly disregarded. Those who benefit financially and with access to power only double-down on leading the church astray.

Do we need a prophet for this age? Indeed. We need someone who will speak truth to power.

02 May 2020

USS Indianapolis

A project in Indianapolis had me traveling to the Circle City on Friday.  When I searched the address, I saw that it was a mere stone's throw from the U.S.S. Indianapolis Memorial on Indy's cultural trail.  I arrived with my helper a little early and we documented the outside of the building. While waiting for the owner to unlock the doors, we walked the half-block to the memorial. I had heard about the monument while researching for a project in Jasper County. The architect for whom I was researching had worked with his son on the design of the monument, which features a granite ship-shaped slab surrounded by a plaza on the canal. Frank Fischer, the father, was a master at modern architecture and had served in WWII. I assume this is the reason his son, Joseph, included input from his father on the monument. The monument was dedicated in 1995. Frank Fischer died in 2008.

The U.S.S. Indianapolis was built between 1929 and 1931 when it was launched. It was commissioned in 1932. The contract price was nearly $11 million. In July 1945, the ship made a secret delivery of parts to build the first nuclear weapon used in combat. After the delivery, it headed to the Philippines and on July 30 was hit by Japanese torpedoes.  There were 1,195 souls on board. Approximately 300 went down with the ship. Of the remaining 890, only about a third of those, or 316 sailors survived. The wartime disaster was the largest single loss of life in the sinking of a ship.

Many of those 900 were victims of exposure, dehydration, starvation, saltwater poisoning, and shark attacks as those sailors in the water were there for five days waiting for rescue. Imagine watching your comrades being picked off one by one by sharks, or finally succumbing to the conditions. And some people want to cry about sitting on their couch and not being able to go out to eat for a 45 days.

18 April 2020

Palm Sunday Tornado in Marshall County

Last Saturday marked the 55th anniversary of the Palm Sunday Tornado outbreak that tore through the Midwest.  One of those tornadoes cut a path northeast through the top of Marshall County, entering from Koontz Lake and exiting as it crossed Old U.S. 31 north of LaPaz.  Then-Marshall County Sheriff Harold King said he saw the tornado "on its way toward the LaPaz area where it touched down, causing death, injury and destruction."  He said he drove into the direction of the town "to get there to warn the people" but in a short time "the twister cross the road ahead 8-10 blocks."

Marshall County's private damage estimate was $1.5 million and damage to roads and debris removed added another $200k to that number.  There were "only" two deaths of county residents.  Findley Patterson's farmhouse, southwest of LaPaz, disintegrated under the weight of the twister and claimed his life.  Bob Halt watched this unfold and put his family in his car to attempt to drive out of the path, but the tornado blew apart a barn nearby and the timbers tore through the automobile, killing his wife and injuring their daughter.  Two children, 3 and 8, from the Clark Farm in St. Joseph County were taken to Bremen Hospital where they died from their injuries.  There were 12 in the house and four died.  Six-year old Richard Clark ran for help since he was the only one who was able to escape the debris.

Possibly the most extensive damage in the county was done where the tornado crossed Old U.S. 31 north of LaPaz at County Line Road.  The County Line Brethren Church, on the east side of the highway, had just dismissed a gathering prior to the twister's arrival.  It blew the small church apart.  LaVille High School, under construction on the west side of the highway, suffered the collapse of a 16" thick masonry wall, over 100' long, and materials including blueprints were strewn thousands of feet.  The bricks from the building "appeared like birds in the air" said the late Richard Mangus, who watched the event unfold.  Several homes at this intersection were destroyed by the tornado, including the King, Hale, and Gillis homes.  Mrs. Gillis was found laying in a field a distance from her home.

I was born more than three years after this tragic event that left such a devastating mark on the psyche of those who lived through it.  The Halts and the Hales were frequent customers of ours at the truck stop, and my parents often retold the tale of being at my grandparents' home on 1st Road and watching the tornado pass to the north east of LaPaz.  I have often thought that the event should be memorialized at the intersection of Old U.S. 31/Michigan Road and County Line Road.  In all, 137 Hoosiers lost their lives that day.  To put this into perspective, over 500 Hoosiers have now lost their lives to the corona-virus in just a few weeks.

The following are articles and photos (sorry for the quality) taken from the South Bend Tribune April 12, 1965.  I hope that they load easily for you to read.  My focus was the impact on Marshall County.

04 April 2020

Let this cup pass from us...

Like many of you, I'm sure, I gave little thought to Passover growing up in my Evangelical church.  It was part of the story of Moses, part of the story of freedom for the Israelites.  I had a very compartmentalized, child-like view of what it must have looked like when God told Moses to have His children to secure themselves in their houses, struck by sacrificial blood on doorposts and lintels.  And finally, after death took so many, they safely exited their homes and started toward the Promised Land.  And generations later, Christ became the sacrificial lamb for us.  No need to observe Passover, there it stays in our children's stories and (for you older ones) felt boards.

But this year, so upended by events never seen before by those living, my mind has been going to Passover again and again.  As we, should anyway, hold our distance from others and stay in our homes, I think about Passover in a new way.  I think about God's protection and His instruction during that time.  I think about those Egyptians who suffered loss, and those who saw what the Israelites were doing and joined in for fear of the plagues that had already befallen them.  I think about the Israelites who didn't take the message seriously and suffered loss.  I have to believe there were both Egyptians who were saved, and Israelites who were lost.

When Jesus sat with His disciples for the last supper in the upper room, they celebrated Passover together.  He changed the sacraments to reflect what was about to happen-His body, torn; His blood, shed.  And when they left and went on to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus went up to pray.  And three times He prayed "let this cup pass from me."  Jesus, himself, was praying for Passover because He knew He was about to drink from the cup of death.

I suppose in our own way, as Christians, we have celebrated the dawn of a new kind of Passover at Easter.  We celebrate that there is no longer death when found in Christ.  But I wonder if we consider, really ponder, that act of Passover Christ Himself would not partake in for our sake.  As we all formulate how to celebrate this Easter, apart from our local fellowship, let us consider two things. 

First, let's just sit and meditate what it means to be protected "inside" our homes.  Let's consider our core unit, our families, spared like the family units spared in Egypt.  Let's also consider those who have no option but to come dangerously close to the "cup".  Instead of waging a campaign about the Gospel not being quarantined, or that our rights are infringed upon, can we just allow THIS Easter to be about meditation on the curse passing over us?  And who accepted the cup on our behalf.  Can we be introspective instead of, what I admit myself feeling, a prideful jubilance?  The Gospel was never under quarantine, you just  may feel pressure to spread it now because there's some feeling your rights have been impeded.

Second, as we are removed from our local houses of worship, can we think about the church universal?  Can we begin to consider those Christians in Africa, Haiti, South America, and other locations who may experience this pandemic in far greater sorrow than we do?  If there is one thing that I find heartening, it's the acknowledgement the church isn't the four walls we meet in.  That's great!  But what does that really mean?  If it simply means that you're zooming services and exchanging texts with the people that are normally in the four walls....well, you may be at home, but you're still trapped in those four walls.  Take this time to reach out to other believers, outside of your church, outside of your denomination, maybe outside of this country's borders.  Let the body of Christ celebrate in unity unlike any Easter before because we aren't compartmentalized into thousands upon thousands of four-walled chambers throughout the country, and world.

This Easter, let's understand Passover in the context of our circumstances.  Let's meditate and, honestly, lament as we are often called to do in Scripture.  Let's connect, pray for comfort, extend hope, be the light in these dark days.  If we aren't, then who can be?  Passover begins at sundown on Wednesday.  Would you join me in praying that God protects us, and others, as we stand within the doorposts of our houses?

28 March 2020

Glory to be Restored for 150th

Proposed restoration drawing of courthouse tower with window
Marshall County Commissioners embarked on a rather impressive vision for a courthouse that would grace the public square for the next 150 years when they hired Gordon Randall, an architect of Chicago, in 1870.  According to an expert in Indiana courthouses, Marshall County's courthouse was the very first example of a "county capitol" building that shifted the tower to the center of the building.  Up until that time, Indiana courthouses had their bell-clock towers centered on the front or in a front-corner of the building.  Randall, a native of Vermont who providentially landed in Chicago prior to the Great Fire, also designed the courthouse in Benton County with a similar look, but with the traditional tower and Second Empire style (1874).  Randall did extensive work in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa.

Original appearance of the Marshall County Courthouse, taken shortly after construction
(note the tower window and that the clock face is missing its hands)
What many people don't realize is that the internal organization of spaces and some minor exterior changes were undertaken that changed Randall's original design.  Inside, some rooms were reorganized and the basement became offices for the county.  Generally, interior finishes were upgraded with marble and tile, and the building received a new marble staircase that was lit internally with a stained glass skylight.  The architects for the renovation project, which occurred in 1913, were Freyermuth & Maurer, a noted South Bend firm.  The renovations cost $30,000.  During that renovation project, windows in the courtroom (south end of the building) were shortened and stained glass installed.  And it was also during this renovation, we believe, that the building's iconic tower was changed to eliminate windows centered in the portico-like belfry on each side.  Likely due to maintenance, the windows were replaced with louvers to match those flanking the opening.

Argos Republican, August 14, 1913
Most people also would believe that the tower is constructed of stone or iron.  It is not.  It is wood.  Remember, this was a new technology for 1870 and Randall no doubt considered the weight and rocking of the bell when he engineered a most-unusual heavy timber system that includes a tall chamfered post that extends into the spire.

The bell that will become visible once more
In 2018, in response to the need for restoration work on the tower, we applied for funding to complete an engineering analysis and preservation drawings of the building and tower.  Those plans include restoring the original design of the window openings in the tower, which would allow Marshall County residents to once again peer up and see the massive iron bell in the belfry when lit at night.  I personally am excited to see this design feature come back to such an important Indiana landmark as a "first of its kind" and in anticipation of the building's 150th anniversary coming in 2022.  The cost of the building when completed in 1872 was $109,254.  That's about the same amount now anticipated to extend a sprinkler system throughout the roof and tower.  Few buildings can represent the collective will and pride of a people than their public courthouses.  This is the best we have in Marshall County and we owe it to past generations, and future generations, to prepare it to serve another 150 years.

Clockworks level
Clock face

21 March 2020

Faithful in Little Things: Coronavir-US?

Typically on my weekly posts, I try to include historical perspective on today's headlines, or maybe vice versa.  A few weeks ago, I posted about the 1918-1920 Spanish Influenza epidemic when the Coronavirus was still only in China.  Strange how things can change in such a short time.

I've seen a number of posts about how Christians should respond.  We are not given "a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7), so we should keep our cool, restrain our conversation, and maintain a calm head.  Anxiousness should not define a Christian's response "be anxious for nothing" (Philippians 4:6), nor should we label it something that stirs a racist or angry response "a soft answers turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger" (Proverbs 15:1).  All these deal with how we allow our spirits to respond to this situation.  But what about our actions?  We are called to "obey all those who have authority in this world because that will make the Lord happy." (1 Peter 2:13).  This should give us the parameters, the boundaries, for our actions during this time.

But there is another verse that I have been thinking about during this time, one spoken by Christ in Luke.  "He that is faithful in very little is also faithful in much; and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much." (Luke 16:10).  Why this?  Because as Christians, we are being called to be faithful in something very little.  We are being called to stay home.  Greater generations than ours were called to far greater things, far greater sacrifices.  While our current situation is no small thing, what we are being called to is indeed little.  I fear that in not being faithful, not obeying those in authority, that if and when bigger things come, we will be found wanting:  our disobedience, a result of our selfishness.

I have family members and friends engaged in the health care industry.  I have friends who are at risk.  By "not being faithful in very little", you put your own interests above theirs.  While that message applies to all, it should apply most to Christians.  If you are continuing to meet and gather together in groups of 10 or more, you are failing the most basic thing, the little, that is being asked of you.  And by doing that, God can't trust you with the big things.  If you are providing a forum for that to happen, thinking that it's up to the individual to make a decision of obedience, think again.  It would be like handing a drunk their car keys and hoping they don't kill anyone.  Honestly, if your judgement is that impaired, I can't trust you to do the right thing.  

When I served as county commissioner during the Flood of 2018, we asked the public's help by staying off the streets.  This was done for two reasons specifically.  It was done for their own safety, but it was also done for the safety of emergency responders.  We did not want selfish actions on your part to put our responders at greater risk.  We are being called to this today-your health may not be in jeopardy, but you may put others, exponentially, at risk.  And now, as more counties and states raise the level of emergency to essential travel only, the Christian response demands obedience.  Furthering the spread will only aggravate the health care system, potentially causing more deaths, and extending the situation where people are losing jobs.

The Christian response?  This is bigger than "us".  Stay home.  Be faithful in little, so that you can be trusted with much.

Per chance, what turns up on the farm...

A few months ago, I sat down with a new friend who has a real thirst for history as I do. Not long into our conversation, he mentioned how h...