My Books Are Now at Rick's Place

I would like to thank Rick Saenz at Cumberland Books for featuring me as a new author at his site. He now carries all three of my self-published agrarian books and you can read about them there.

I mention this with a little hesitation because I did not establish this blog to sell my products. But I am very appreciative of the nice things Rick Saenz has written about me and my books and this blog, and I do want to encourage anyone interested in my books to purchase them from Rick. I've purchased several books and recordings from him in the past and I've always been very satisfied with the products and service.

By the way, while I'm on the subject of Cumberland Books, I ordered all the Plain Talk recordings last week and am anxiously awaiting their arrival.


Light in Our Dwellings

Dateline: 28 December 2005


Our modern industrial culture is powered by greed and lust and pride. Beyond the bigger issues of power and control, it is, for most people, all about the acquisition of money and stuff. Both of those things are necessary, of course, to some degree, but not nearly to the degree that Industrialism conditions us to believe and desire. Materialistic modern man is never satisfied. He never has enough. How much is enough anyway? A little bit more. Always, a little bit more. Like that modern bumper sticker says: “He who dies with the most, wins.”

One of the bitter fruits of this insatiable quest for more (and newer and bigger and better) has been the disintegration and near destruction of the family.

When fathers leave their homes each day to travel to a job and work many hours in a factory (or some facsimile of a factory), the family suffers. When a father’s work regularly takes him away from his family for days at a time, that family suffers more. When fathers come home, bring their office work with them, and further neglect their families, the problem is compounded. Children are shortchanged. Marriages are stressed, often to the point of breaking.

Worse yet is when mothers forsake their domestic calling and go to work outside their homes, often as the helpmeet of men other than their husbands. No daycare facility can properly substitute for a parent. Government schooling will never be able to compare to homeschooling. Television, video games, the internet, and other lonely, meaningless modern amusements are not a suitable substitute for daily parent-child interaction and family activity.

The plain truth, like it or not, is that, in order to succeed in this modern world, on its terms, you must sacrifice your family on the altar of Industrialism.

Yes, I know that is a harsh thing to say. Many people will disagree with me because the industrial model of family life is seen by the masses as normal and, therefore, good. But it is neither normal nor good. It is the spawn of 19th century Industrialism and a historical aberration. It weakens and destroys families. That is the truth and the truth can hurt. Believe me, I know.

The saddest aspect of this situation is that so many professing Christian families willingly buy into the materialistic hubris of our industrial culture. They fall for that big industrial lie, which is..... You can have it all! And in the pursuit of it all, they fall prey to the many curses of industrialism. Among those curses are perpetual debt, high stress, premature sickness and, more to the point of this missive, hurting, damaged, and ruined family relationships. When this happens, the light dims and the salt looses its savor.

I’m convinced that if God’s people are going to be an effective witness to those in the dying industrial culture around us, we must do more than believe in a personal savior, and we must do more than proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. It is imperative that we also live our lives set apart to God. That does not mean that we can simply Christianize the ungodly industrial model and, in so doing, somehow become immune to it’s pernicious evils. It means we must separate ourselves and our families from the ungodly culture of industrialism.

The only way I know for Christians to effectively separate from the culture of industrialism is to embrace Christian-Agrarian life and culture. Christian-Agrarianism (sometimes called Biblical-Agrarianism) is Christianity lived within an agrarian paradigm. It is trusting God, His word, and His promises more than the false promises of materialistic industrialism in all it’s manifestations. It is filtering every vestige of industrial culture through the sieve of a Biblical worldview and discarding that which does not please and give glory to God. It is fathers and mothers focusing more of their time and effort on their homes and family relationships and less on their own selfish desires. It is families physically working together to break away from dependence on the industrial providers and, in so doing, growing closer to each other while becoming more dependent on the Lord. It is Christian families reflecting the love of Christ in their churches and in their communities.

I can tell you that the fruit of Christian-Agrarian life is not bitter. It is sweet. For now, I remain tied to a factory job, but my focus over the past few years has dramatically changed from pursuing success as defined by the popular culture, to pursuing my calling as a father and leader of my family. In that time, we have, as a family, embarked on a great agrarian adventure here on our little 1.5 acre homestead. We are physically working together to provide for the needs of our family. We are learning the skills of self-sufficiency, which, for a Christian, is really God-sufficiency. We are discerning between needs and wants and making do with less. We are seeing and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation all around us. We still have far to go and a lot to learn but we are on our way.

As a result of our home-based agrarian lifestyle, our Christian faith has grown. We are a closer family, we are more content, more patient. Our little home has become a peaceful and productive haven in the midst of this troubled world. And the light in our dwelling has grown brighter....

”And the Lord said unto Moses, stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt.

And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in the land of Egypt three days:

They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days; but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.”
Exodus 10: 21-23


Please notice that the light was in the homes of God’s people. If those of us who call ourselves Christians are to positively impact the ungodly people around us, and confidently endure the increasing darkness of our dying industrial culture, we must have that light in our homes too. I’m not speaking of some neon glow from a faddish, feel-good, modern spirituality. I’m talking about the burning-white, holy lumination that comes from genuine, feel-humble-and-fear-the-Lord-God-of-Israel spirituality.

It is this light, shining from the homes of godly families, living simply and separately for His glory, that will have a far greater impact for the Kingdom of God than any well-funded, well-organized, topdown, Christian-political movement or parachurch ministry. God always works from the bottom-up. He uses the poor, the weak, and the humble far more than He does the rich and successful.

It’s something to think about as we enter this new year.


The Wife of My Youth

 Dateline: 18 December 2005

 Reception at the Old Grange Hall
Moravia, N.Y.

It all started back in Moravia high school, half way through 11th grade, in Miss Pelak’s typing class. It was the old days, when people still used typewriters. But it wasn’t the real old days because the typewriters were electric. As Providence would have it, Marlene Myers sat at the desk to the left of me.


Our typewriters were plugged into outlets along the wall. As Providence would again have it, my cord ran directly under Marlene’s desk and plugged into the wall outlet beside her. On the first day of class, she moved her feet, inadvertently snagged the cord, and disconnected my power.


After figuring out what had happened, I tapped her on the shoulder and explained the problem. She apologized for her clumsiness, re-plugged the cord, and gave me the sweetest smile I’ve ever known. It would happen again, several times in the days that followed, and Marlene admits now that it wasn’t always an accident when she unplugged my typewriter like that.


We developed a friendship in school that consisted of small talk, passing hellos in the hallways, and little waves across the cafeteria study hall where she would sit with her girlfriends. Thirty years later I can still recall how my heart skipped when Marlene showed attention in me and flashed that intoxicating smile of hers.


Summer vacation came and we did not see or talk to each other, except once, when I was waiting in the car for my Mother at the bank in Moravia. Marlene happened to ride her bicycle by and I yelled to her. She circled around and we talked for awhile. On her bike, with a summer tan and a healthy glow and the sweet smile, she looked so fit and fresh and beautiful. She was a fair maiden and I was smitten. There was an unmistakable chemistry between us. I informed her that I had recently gotten my driver’s license.


When my mom came out of the bank, I introduced her to Marlene. Never would my mother have imagined that, 27 years later, this young girl on the bicycle would so lovingly and faithfully help care for her as she lay slowly dying of cancer.


On the first day of our senior year of school, as soon as I saw Marlene, I told her I had permission to use my dad’s car and I asked if she wanted to “do something” the next weekend. She said yes. It was to be a first date of the kind for both of us.


I picked Marlene up at her house after noon on Saturday. The day was pleasant, warm, and sunny. I met her mother and then we headed out. We went to Bentley’s Knob. Not many people know about Bentley’s Knob. I knew about it because it was near my house and I had been there a couple of times on church hay rides. To get to the Knob you have to drive a few miles down dirt roads into Bear Swamp State Forest. Then you park the car and hike across some fields. The knob is an overlook that provides an incredible view down the length of Skaneateles Lake, which is the deepest and cleanest and coldest of New York’s eleven Finger Lakes. On a good day, you can almost see the other end, sixteen miles away. The land rises from both sides of the lake and it is a pastoral panorama of farms and fields and forests.


Marlene’s ancestors on her mother’s side were among the original settlers of this region. Her father’s family farmed the land hereabouts for several generations and he had made his living as a dairy farmer. So Marlene was a native and a country girl. She loved the outdoors, and I did too. We were comfortable in each other’s company and had a wonderful time together that day. After our hike we drove to the city of Auburn where we had dinner at McDonalds. Then we went to see a new movie by the name of JAWS.


Both of us now have the fondest memories of that first date. It was innocent and wholesome and magical. We dated for the next five years. Both of us now wish that we had not dated. We wish that we had a courtship instead. Having dated and then, later in life, learned about courtship, we can see that courtship is a far better way for young people to establish a healthy relationship. It also happens to be biblical. But courtship was not something we or our parents knew anything about. And if it were ever mentioned, I’m sure we would not have been very receptive. We were, after all, products of our environment, which was government schooling and the entire social culture that surrounds that.


Nevertheless, we were Christians and we knew the difference between right and wrong and we sincerely desired to do the right thing in our dating relationship. As a result, God was gracious to us. Our dating years were a good experience, an incredible lesson in delayed gratification, and an important foundation for the future. Looking back, we survived dating but, as Douglas Wilson says on the subject of dating, there are people who survive plane crashes too, some without a scratch.


After high school, a few years of college, and periods of separation from each other (absence did indeed make our hearts grow fonder), we returned to Moravia. Marlene got a job working for a local doctor in town and I got a job doing carpentry work. Each of us lived at home with our parents. The time was right for taking the next step in our relationship.


I formally asked Marlene to marry me in the spring of 1980. I recall the moment well because she was picking peas in her father’s garden. It was a pea patch proposal. I did not give her a diamond engagement ring. I was not flush with money and we were both intent on saving for the future. A November wedding was planned.


In the summer, we found a three-room apartment upstairs in an old house on Congress Street in Moravia. The rent was $155 a month. Marlene made curtains for the windows. To outfit the rooms, we went to auctions, bought old furniture and refinished it. I moved in to my temporary bachelor pad.


Marlene’s parents were married in a Reformed church but they had become Methodists, so we were married in the Methodist Church in Moravia. We had two sessions of marriage counseling with the minister. He stressed to us that marriage is a holy thing, ordained by God, and that when we took our vows, we would be entering into a holy covenant before God and with God. He told us that a covenant relationship is a lifetime commitment. The minister gave us good counsel.


Two high school friends stood with me on my wedding day. Art and Bill and I shared a lot of memories. Among the best of those memories was the one week we backpacked together on the Appalacian Trail, deep into the mountains of southern Vermont. Marlene’s childhood friend, Maureen, and a college friend, Peggy, were her bridesmaids. My little sister was the flower girl. The ceremony went off without a hitch.


Our wedding reception was outside town, at the Grange hall on Jugg Street. The big, white, clapboard building is old and plain, inside and out, but it served the purpose. Marlene and her girlfriends decorated the inside and the Grange ladies made a good meal, though I don’t remember much of it. There were no ice sculptures, limos, professional photographers, or anything like that. But we did have a live band and I, a man who does not dance, awkwardly managed my way through a few slow tunes with my new wife.


The reception went well, but there was one close call. Bill, my best man, came out of the men’s room and had neglected to zip up his fly. My grandmother noticed right off and waved me over to let me know. Bill was, of course, embarrassed but not nearly as much as he would have been a short while later when, with the whole room looking on, he stood to toast the bride and groom.


Our wedding day was clear and cool but snow was in the forecast. So, what better place to honeymoon than northern Maine? I wanted to show Marlene the land where my family’s roots went deep. I wanted her to meet my grandmother Philbrick, who was not able to make it to our wedding. What I remember most about that trip was getting within a few miles of my grandmother’s place and one of my tires went flat. It was a jet-black night on a deserted road in the middle of nowhere and the snow was coming “down” sideways. I had a flashlight and managed to get the tire changed but it was not easy (things like that stick in a guy’s memory forever).


Nevertheless, we were finally married, and we loved each other, and we had our whole life together ahead of us, and it was a beautiful thing.


===================


Twenty five years have now passed since Marlene and I were married and it is still a beautiful thing. We have had our ups and downs in that time, but the ups have far outnumbered the downs. Our love for each other has matured and deepened. The greatest expression of our love has been our three boys, each such an incredible blessing (and responsibility).


Our spiritual faith in the God of our salvation, the One we entered into the marriage covenant before and with, has grown stronger. He has worked in our hearts and continues to do so. We are wiser. We are more humble. We are more mindful of and thankful for His mercy and grace than ever before in our lives.


I do not know what the next 25 years will bring. I know what I would like them to bring. I would like my children to grow in faith and wisdom. I would like each to embrace Biblical agrarianism and find a life’s work that is not tied to the ungodly industrial culture or, at least, not tied too tightly. I would like my three boys to find godly wives, women who desire to serve the Lord by being mothers and helpmeets to their husbands, wives like my Marlene. I would like my boys to be men of God, warriors for Jesus Christ, exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit in their lives and exercising godly leadership in their homes. I would like, by the grace of God, for my sons and their wives to bring forth and raise godly seed for His glory... many godly seed! I would like to one day be able to afford land, woods and fields, that I and my children and my grandchildren can live on and care for and love as God’s stewards. I would like to grow old with the wife of my youth, in health, and be an influence for righteousness in the lives of our grandchildren and, in so doing, be an influence for righteousness in the lives of the generations that follow. This is what I would like. It is my earnest prayer.


Me and Marlene in 1980

===============

Looking back, it is interesting to note that a lot has changed in a quarter of a century. Miss Pelak retired a long time ago and I occasionally see her at the post office in Moravia. I walked out to Bentley’s Knob a couple years ago with my sons and was amazed (and disappointed) to see that trees had grown up so dense and high around the knob that we could see nothing of the once-magnificent view. The McDonalds we went to on our first date is gone. The old theater where we went to see JAWS has been closed for years and is in great disrepair. Marlene’s father, my mother, both my grandmothers, and my friend Art have all passed away. Bill works for the government in defense somewhere around Washington DC and I have lost touch with him. The Methodist church where we were married was torn down and the Methodists took over the old Congregational church. I assume the few remaining Congregationalists became Methodists, but I’m not sure about that. It seems that the only thing that hasn’t changed is the old Grange hall out on Jugg Street. Oh, there is one more thing that has not changed.... the smile. Marlene’s sweet smile. It still makes my heart glad and lifts my spirits, just as it did three decades ago when our love was fresh and new.

Diary of an Early American Boy

Back in the 1970’s I started buying and reading a variety of books with agrarian themes. Among them were several written by Eric Sloane. My cheap ($2.95) Ballantine paperback copy of Diary of an Early American Boy is in poor condition now. The pages are loose and the cover is held together with scotch tape.

Sloane’s book was inspired by the actual wood-backed, leather-bound 1805 diary of 15 year old Noah Blake that Sloan found in “an ancient house.” Along with the diary was a handmade stone inkwell and an almanac.

Using Noah Blake’s diary entries, Sloane weaves a wonderful tale of rural American life as it was two hundred years ago. It was not a life of drudgery. There was certainly a lot of hard work to be done but there was the joy of accomplishment, of holiday celebrations, and of living in close community with other like-minded people. Underlying the story is a clear acknowledgment of the Blake family’s Christian beliefs and the Christian culture that they lived in. Sloan’s numerous pen & ink illustrations are excellent and serve to explain such things as how Noah’ made his ink well to how a post & beam sawmill is built and operated.

You will like this book and learn a lot from it. If you have young boys, they will enjoy having you read this book to them. I know this because I recently read it to my 11 and 14 year old sons. They were very taken with it and that pleased me greatly.