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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Peppernuts & Christmas

As a child, Christmas Eve was filled with expectation. And the expectation heightened when we gathered around the Christmas tree in the living room. The potato soup awaited our Daddy who finished delivering packages and parcels to make other families happy, no matter how late it was. My two brothers and I had our baths and dressed in our sleepers (pajamas).

When the moment arrived, Dad came home and finished supper. He cleaned the grime of the day and joined us. It was an expectation that grew into a tradition and a memory through the years. Dad read Luke 2, the first Christmas story and we prayed - each one of us. Then we sang "Away in a Manger" and "Silent Night".

I didn't know then, but Dad's post office job kept Mom from celebrating Christmas with her family. In the expectation of the gifts, I didn't see Mom's tears, but I know now, that it was more than the Christmas tree lights that reflected in her eyes.

When she withdrew the package that Grandma Suderman had mailed us, I could feel her expectation, and love. She opened the box slowly. The first thing she drew out of the box was a gallon jar of peppernuts. I can imagine now, how she ate each tiny crisp morsel of the pepper nuts (


) how the memories of home and Christmas celebrations past crowded her mind. The memories include the Christmas tree's pungent odor that mingled with the aroma of a clean house, potato soup and peppernuts.

More than seventy years later, Christmas peppernuts nudges memories of Christmas - not the presents - they are forgotten. When I make peppernuts now, nostalgia brings pictures of home on Christmas Eve.

Recently my brother Gene asked if I knew the history of peppernuts. I drew the book, Mennonite Foods & Folkways from South Russia by Norma Jost Voth from my shelf and shared part of the history. As I looked in this book I saw a story that intrigued me. Plus recipe after recipe of different kinds from the very earliest.
Twelve-year-old Tina Epp, sleeping on a cot in the corner of a large family kitchen, dug her head deeper into the soft featherbed. It was Christmas Eve, 1881. The house had long been still, except for the tiny fire that flickered in the brick oven. Tina could not sleep, this was the most difficult Christmas Eve, for things were different. Mother said there would be NO presents, or enough food to make their usual Papanat (peppernuts), or their lovely peppermint Christmas cookies. Finally Tina drifted off to sleep, only to awaken at midnight. Who was in the kitchen at midnight? Mama? Tina pretended to be asleep. Before long the sweet, familiar aroma of syrup peppernuts baking filled the room. Tina peeks from one eye. Papa was ever there. Her Mama whispered, "Go, put one in her mouth." Tears of quiet joy trickled onto the featherbed as she tasted the peppernuts. Mama had found enough flour, eggs and syrup to make peppernuts. It would be Christmas after all. Tina always remembered her dear mama baking peppernuts at told by Frieda Lehn Neufeld in Norma Jost Voth's book - Mennonite Foods & Folkways from South Russia!
Is there just one recipe? Where did the recipe come from? How long has this delightful Christmas cookie been handed down?

Again, I turn to the book above - Old recipes frequently called for black pepper. Used in cautious amounts - pepper blends quietly and enhances the other spices. In medieval times, ginger and pepper were used together. The basic ingredients - honey, eggs and flour - were made for centuries. When trade routes opened across Europe in the 14th century -spices from distant lands came to Germany and France and created a baking revolution. During the Middle Ages, a pound of ginger would buy a sheep. Pepper was the most coveted of all spices. In medieval France, a pound of pepper could buy a serf his freedom. Pfeffer means spices Thus came the names of Pfefferkuchen (pepper cookies) and Pfeffernusse. Papanat (pay-pah-nayt) was the low dutch word, and the word I learned as a child.

There is more history in this book, that declares that Hillsboro, is the Peppernut Capital of Kansas. 267,000 are prepared each day. Four kinds were made - raisin, nut, gumdrop and anise. As a child, Mom had the three of us roll 'snakes' of dough, cut with a knife in small pieces, and then place in a pan for baking.

There are approximately 30 recipes for peppernuts from Swedish, Danish connection, Dutch, Danzig, Friedrichstadter (made for Duke Frederick), German and Russian types of Peppernuts

Although there are many recipes in America, Grandma (Anna Daisy Suderman) Siemens recipe appears in the California Holy Cross Cookbook.
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup butter
4 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
2 T milk
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 T lemon rind
1/4 tsp lemon extract
4 1/2 cups flour (or more)
1 T baking powder
3/3 c finely chopped pecans

Mix in order, roll into 'snakes'. Cut into 1/2 inch pieces, bake at 325 to 350 for 10 minutes.

Memories are invoked in many ways - through our senses. Think of favorite things to touch, see, hear, taste and smell....and each memory is associated with people or events. We are a forgetful people. Yet God has provided us with ways to remember what is important....and to remember Him. As we begin the New Year, what is worthy of being remembered when this year, 2010, has ended?

"But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you." John 14:26

Peppernut Links on line:
Pepernoten (Dutch Peppernuts)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What Do You See When You Look Into the Manger?

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Through the curtains of time, Isaiah looked into the Manger and saw a Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. A child is born to us.

This child would be special, what new mother looks into the face of her child and sees what he or she will become or in what way the child will impact others? New mothers look into the faces of their newborn child, and see the needs of the child, count their toes, hold their fingers. When Mary looked into the face of her son, Jesus, what did she see? As she sat near the manger where her child lay, what did she see? When the shepherds came from the field to find the babe to worship Jesus and told all they heard from the angels, it is no wonder that the Scripture says, But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19)

The Wise Men came from the far east, how far, no one knows. Yet they came, mile and mile. What did they see when they looked in the manger? They saw King Jesus and worshipped Him. They gave gifts fit for a king to the baby boy. The wonder and amazement and worship of their child must have made Joseph and Mary take a second look into the manger, even as we do in this season.

As Jesus' brief time on the earth unfolded, Joseph and Mary saw their son, the Son of God, teaching, greeted with praise and adulation, they saw him arrested, persecuted, dying on the cross, a most horrible death. They saw his closest companions desert their son. Did they wonder why? Ord did they know?

When I was a child, I learned about the baby Jesus. I saw a sweet baby child as I looked into the manger. I saw my family celebrate Christmas on their knees, praying to Jesus. Later I looked into the manger and I saw the price my family paid in order to have the freedom to worship Jesus many generations ago. They traveled many miles, for they knew that in Jesus is the freedom of more than the body, a freedom of the soul. When they looked into the manger, despite heartache, hunger, physical fear, hard labor, they saw with their hearts the babe, the Savior of the world, the everlasting Father.

When I look into the manger, I see more than earthly governments, or comforts of the body, I see everlasting life and the fruit of the spirit that comes only through seeing in the manger with the heart.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

During this season, what do you see in the manger? Do you see selfishness or greed? Do you see fear, lies and hate? Look again, with your heart, look into the manger and see the Christ Child, your Saviour, Comforter, Shepherd, the one who died on the cross for our sins. Do you see the Giver of Life Eternal?
When I Look Into the Manger, I See....

I see rainbows and fireflies,

joy and tears

Sorrow and suffering,

whales and seals

I see freedom and laughter,

an abstract of color and emotion.

A window into heaven,

the past, and my future

I see stars and rivers,

shadows and light

What life can be

when Jesus was born that night.

I see truth that slays lies.

Honor that defies evil,

Hope that gives life,

Trust that holds me from strife.

What do you see

What do you see?

With more than your eyes,

When you look into the manger.

What do you see

What do you see?

Look with your heart

When you look into the manger.

EAC 12/21/09

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Home, Sweet Home

No home is complete without a needle point of this phrase, Home Sweet Home, hanging on the wall. I remember Mom hanging this phrase on the wall with a satisfied sigh. Always there is a search for home. Visitors to our house, when I was a child, always heard the phrase, "Make yourself at home!" This phrase was always spoken just after, our visitors heard, "Come on in...." This welcome, only three words long, always seemed like more than three syllables long. Perhaps it was the smile, the hug, and the warmth with which it was spoken.

Grandmother Suderman, Anna Loewen Suderman, wrote in her journal how she made her first dwelling a home. I am so glad she did. For her 'nesting' brought such beautiful memories and lessons for making a new home for her young bride and groom and for the family that followed. Her dreams, her longings and desires come through her journal writing. Did she write for publication or for a great literary tome? No, those were not her aspirations. Her focus was more family/home oriented.

When her youngest daughter recently wondered about remembering the old days as being good, she wondered how good they really were. Does time blur the memory of hardship and the struggle just to live? Why is it that we are drawn to 'the way things were'?

What makes a home? What does it look like? What does being home smell like, sound like, taste like? Did my two Grandmothers know? Did they read books or magazine articles that told them how to make a home a home? No. Did they have television shows that showed them how to decorate, what furniture to purchase or what delectable foods to prepare? Grandmother (Grosmom)Emilie Brunn Siemens did not write a journal, yet, I know hunger was never far from the door for her five children in western Oklahoma in the 1900's. When I see the picture of my grandfather and his five brothers - each wearing suits and starched collars - in that era, I wonder at all the was it entailed to prepare for the picture.

Grandmother Siemens cared for her children and then for her husband, Jacob V Siemens, who became paralyzed. Grandmother Suderman lost three young boys and one young girl, beloved children all in her young life. How did these Grandmothers survive the hard times? They knew their final Home in Heaven. Home was not a stop-over before the next destination here on earth..

Grandmother Suderman left a new beautiful five bedroom family home for a small old rented home on a rented farm. March 8, 1900 was their wedding day...there was no honeymoon in a far-off exotic land or even a hotel. They spent their first night in the home of the bride's parents. In Grandmother Suderman's journal she wrote, "We knelt at our bedside for prayers that first night and have done this throughout our years together."

The next morning, after cleaning the mud that was left after the wedding guests departed the night before, Grandmother (Anna) and Grandfather (Gerhard) gathered wedding gifts, some food from canned and smoked Loewen larder, some chickens and placed them in the wagon. Anna's father tied a milk cow to the back of the wagon.

They were young and love covers all. What were Anna's thoughts as she viewed their old dirty small home. Did she mind making the home a place where field mice and dirt were not welcome. Anna scrubbed with brushes and homemade soap the three room house - walls, ceilings and the floors. Then Anna pressed the wrapping paper from the store and cut intricate designs, and hung the 'curtains' at the windows. She loved beauty and she loved Gerhard. She was making a home with what she was given. The dirt gave way to cleanliness and a feeling of home.

When the first tax assessor came, he wrote a list of their possessions...two horses, one cow, a wagon, a topbuggy and a sulky plow. When I considered what we owned when we were married, in 1952, it seemed unbelievable.

In 1952 when we married, we moved to a farm, with no running water, wood stove heat, a 3/4 bed, a table and 3 chairs. Our transportation was a beautiful blue two door coupe Desoto. We moved many times in our early married life. I made our new house a home, by baking a chocolate cake. I baked bread and made a beef vegetable stew and this made our new dwelling smell like home.

Yesterday our Anna found the scripture - Psalm 90:1-2. After reading this scripture, Home Sweet Home took on a new meaning. Three hours after Anna shared this scripture, she shared her new blog - Love is Home - God Is Home ( The scripture began to grow in meaning. What is it about the word, Home? Especially at this season, when songs evoke memories of home. "I'll Be Home for Christmas" is one song that captures being home here on earth, and a reminder of what is to come when we finally arrive at home with our Lord! Home!

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

So many things come together when we consider that God is our dwelling place, our home, before the beginning of time, before the mountains were created, before we were born - we have a home. When is 'all well'? When we are at Home in our relationship with our God. Our home with God is not made with hands but with our attitudes and our relationship with God. Our hope-filled home is encapsulated in this verse - In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. John 14:2

A friend asked, "Why is it that even when all the family is around, I feel lonely." It isn't our earthly family that completes us and makes us feel at home - that contented feeling of completeness. It is when God is in our hearts and our earthly home, when we bow to Him and claim his Son as our Lord and Savior. Only then can we have peace.

"His master replied, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness." Matthew 24:21

Home. Sweet. Home. Come on in and make yourself at home!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Ebb & Flo of Seasons

Every season has its peaks and valleys. What you have to try to do is eliminate the Grand Canyon.”

Andy Van Slyke

The four seasons follow in the world about us year after year and the seasons of life follow ever faster, or so it seems.
God provided the seasons of life when He created the earth. He created the sun and the moon, the tides of the ocean, the seasons that have many names on His earth. In our lives we have the four seasons.... I am in the winter of my life - a season of remembering and reflection. A family has seasons going from generation to generation - and a marriage has seasons. We encounter many joys and many challenges that make us who we are, season after season.

Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand. Mother Teresa

The moon marks off the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down. - Psalm 104:19

I remember the farmers, I have known, who stand on the porch or in the field and foretell the seasons of the strength of the wind, plowing, planting, harvest - without the benefit of modern weather prognosticators. Gerhard Suderman, Jacob Loewen, Jacob Siemens, Jacob Brunn were all farmers. They did not attend farming classes in agricultural colleges. They learned farming from their fathers and grandfathers who reclaimed land in the Netherlands, West Prussia and in Russia, before they came to this country. Then they came to America with Red Winter Wheat packed carefully in their small storage trunks.

These hard-working Mennonites could give us many lessons today - by helping each other in planting, harvesting, and sharing what they had with their neighbor. They didn't wait for the government. Their security and insurance were in the Lord and His commands to love one another. There were often three generations living in one household - the wisdom of the Grandparents was handed down to their grandchildren.

Esther Vogt, my second cousin, wrote a children's book, Turkey Red, about living in a new country, learning a new language in Kansas - 1877. The Mennonites were a community. They encountered rattle snakes, Indians, harvesting wheat with scythes, and bundling by hand, a prairie fire raging through the ripe wheat field challenged them. A blinding blizzard caught two young girls going home after school. The seasons of fear and faith, heat of the sun and a freezing blizzard, and always a season of work. This book gives an accurate picture of their lives.

My Dad, Herman Bennie Siemens, was born the year his father made the run from Inman KS to Washita County in Oklahoma to stake a homestead. It was a season for change for the family:
"Most of the Washita County Mennonites came from Reno, Harvey, and Marion counties in Kansas. All had been in the United States for less than twenty years; a few for less than one year. One group came from a further distance—continuing an unbelievable trek that had taken them from their homes in the Ukraine, the Kuban, and the Volga to Turkestan, and then later to America. ........Thirty-eight families .... came to the United States in 1884, settling in Kansas and Nebraska. Ten years later a number of them took up homesteads near Shelly. Thirty-six became charter members of the Herold Mennonite Church, located southwest of present Corn. Michael Klaassen, a veteran of the Great Trek, served as minister. With their own land and a church, they thought that finally they could settle down for good.
(Found on the internet)

Dad told me that there was hunger, tornadoes, on this flat land with few trees and red dirt. They attended the Corn Mennonite Church, which still stands. Here they experienced seasons of childhood, marriage, widowhood, hunger and doing without. They also had strong family ties. Dad told many stories of the rock hard cookies his sister made; the 'string' saddle for their mule that skinned their toes; taking a load of wheat to town and backing up several times to make a run to get up the hill. Hard work was always laced with love and laughter.

No matter how challenging these seasons were - faith in God was stronger and sustained them. My Grandfather and Grandmother Siemens are buried in the cemetery south of Corn, along with their daughter who died before she was two years old.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

What is the secret of making it through a season, a temporary period of time, that challenges our hearts?
We know that it is temporary and we know that each season - seasons us for Coming Home to our Heavenly Father for an eternity - a forever - in the fullness of time.
The journey has been long! I'm almost home
with vehicle worn out and spent through use.
Although my energy is low, my heart
is full. My body aches but why complain?
God's richest blessings have been mine thus far.
In retrospect, I see how He designed
my pilgrim journey on this orb called earth.
A few more weary miles and I'll be home.

Written by Anna Daisy Suderman Siemens a year before she arrived Home.
She has been Home for eleven years.
Comments? Email

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Meaning of Discovery

The meaning of the word discovery took shape in my heart last Sunday when I heard that Discovery is seeing with new eyes. At 80 years of age, life can be 'same old, same old'. Yet, it isn't for me. Life has its plateaus when I catch my breath and seek a new mountain to scale. New thoughts, at least for me, show me insights about life and the people about me.

Discovery is a word children know well as they see, taste, hear everything in their world with new eyes. They are curious about everything about them. I was often amazed at how quickly our oldest son could take apart a see just how it worked. Other parents had toys that their children played with by the hour - always the toys were in pristine condition. And yet the toys in our house were usually in pieces. Little did I know how this was a natural progression of curiosity and discovery.

After the recent visits from our four children, I began to see the many faces of compassion in action in their lives. I discovered the depth of our children's faith in God as they encounter so many economic and health bumps in their path through this life. Their struggles become the cloth of my prayer life as God lays so many needs and victories in their lives and their children and their children's children on our hearts.

I often think about Grandpa Adam or Grandpa Abraham, and their joy in their grandchildren and beyond. Did they pray for their children's children's children? Did they have the sweet joy of seeing generation after generation of new babies that bring promises beyond measure and understanding?

Other thoughts I have concern those who have forsaken God, and become enemies of God here on earth. Those who deny Christ, deny God and infest our lives with evil. I have discovered that hatred breeds death and love provides life. There are none so blind as those who cannot see beyond their own needs and wants.
For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, und
erstand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them. Matthew 13:15

The word, bored, often appears on Facebook from young teens and preteens. Dorothy Parker quipped -

The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.

I have an insatiable curiosity...that usually begins.....I wonder...... I wonder if I could write a song, a poem, a story....I wonder if I could paint a picture....I wonder how I can teach this child to play the piano....I wonder how we learn....I wonder how my great grandparents lived.... I wonder how they dealt with hurts of life. I wonder....leads to many avenues of learning about God's creation.

One October day, as I drove down the street in Rogers, NW Arkansas, I stopped the car and drank in the fall
colors of the trees. "God, how do you do that?" That was the day I realized how God loves beauty - the kind we can see - the colors and the variety of all creation. I discovered, too, my frailty in not being able to paint His Creation and fully grasp the shapes and the colors He uses. The painter's palette is not equipped for such beauty.

I wonder about God. I continue to learn what it is to live for Him. I remember clearly when I was 8 years old, and it was Easter season. Our minister, Emory F. Gasaway, preached about heaven and hell and choosing. I knew what I chose, and went down the aisle to accept Jesus Christ. When I rose from the baptism waters, I still remember that glorious feeling of peace and knew I had made the right choice. When our children were born, and grew to accountability, I remember the joy of seeing our children making the choice to belong to Jesus Christ.

Last Saturday, I witnessed a wedding. The scripture read, again gave me a time for wonder, for new discovery...from Colossians 3:12 - 14....I turned each word over in my mind. Will I have enough days in my life to learn more fully how understand God's desire for my life: Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise
The city of our God, the holy place
The joy of the whole earth
Great is the Lord in whom we have the victory
He aids us against the enemy
We bow down on our knees

And Lord, we want to lift Your name on high
And Lord, we want to thank You
For the works You've done in our lives
And Lord, we trust in Your unfailing love
For You alone are God eternal
Throughout earth and heaven above.
Steve McEwan wrote these words that gives me great joy! Great is the Lord

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Life's Expectations

In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. Psalm 5:3

This verse began a mental excursion on the path of Expectations. Yes, we have many expectations in this life. Our 'hand' is always out. But what does God expect of us? He also has expectations. Are we aware of Him? Does our heart sing Revelation 4:8? "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come."

Expectations can be unrealistic. I grew up on a series of fairy tales, carefully chosen by the worn covers and the number of quotation marks in the book (my expectations). I understood from these books that every fair maiden will have a Knight astride a white horse who will swoop the fair maiden off her feet and they would ride off into the sunset and into the Forever Happy.

When I met my Knight, I recognized him right away, he rode a horse, although it wasn't white. Then reality shattered my fragile expectations of girlhood. I learned that the 'Forever Happy' was filled with expectations of my Knight for me. Coming together through the birth of four children in rapid succession created a happy time with fulfilling the expectations of four little ones. It was an investment. Now the 'Forever Happy' kicks in with the love of grandchildren and great grandchildren compounded many times over.

When I think of expectations I think of my mother. At her death, two of the ministers she knew, commented on her 'look'. I knew it well but didn't know she shared it with others. That 'look' could make me re-think my behavior and direction. When I was 65 years old, I got that look. And then Mother suggested I read this verse:

" - Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." Colossians 3:12-15

Mother was right. No matter where I am in this life, her expectations, aligned with God's expectations of me, echo in my heart. They guide my life's path and nudge me back on the straight and narrow when I begin to wander away.

When Mother was five years old, 1912, her family moved into 'castle' farm house. (Castle to her young eyes.) Her mother, with the help of her two daughters, papered the upstairs southeast bedroom. The room had a large south window where they could watch the birds and the sun warmed the room as the cool central Kansas breeze fanned the room. Her mother added the picture that comforted Mom through the years...a guardian angel that God sent. It taught her God's care. Her trust in God's wisdom grew through the years. Discerning right from wrong was her second sight. In her last years her daughter-in-law and I found a copy of the picture and hung it in her bedroom.

Searching for more meaning of the word expectation, I learned that in the synonym list were the words - anticipation, hope and trust. I learned in Colossians 3:12-15, God's expectations of me - and His expectations are living holy - even as He is holy. Where I falter, the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, covers me.

If we but ask, He will give us much more than we expect or could anticipate. This requires hope and trust on our part - dependence upon Him.

In the past few years I have learned a bit about painting. My friend and I discovered Donna Dewberry method. By coating the brush with several colors of paint - the result is always astounding. It is much more than expected and creates depth of light and shadow. Watching His creation on earth, the depth, the colors, the variety of creativity continues to astound me. Just as He created non-ending beauty with His hands here on earth, when we trust Him and are sensitive to His Look and Touch, He forms in us His expectation of beauty of holy living.

Always we remember the verse that gives us hope and anticipation of eternal life - "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12.

This is our ultimate expectation of our relationship with Jesus Christ - Salvation - Eternal Life.

In this season of Thanksgiving, let us remember the expectation of God from Colossians 3 - "And be thankful." I Thessalonians 5:18 - "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

"Thanking God helps us to see Him more clearly in our lives!"

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Psalm 23 in Hymns

The LORD.....

  • Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee, How great Thou art, how great Thou art. my shepherd,

  • Gentle Shepherd, come and lead us. For we need You to help us find our way.....
  • Shepherd of love, You knew I had lost my way. Shepherd of love, You cared that I'd gone astray...

I shall not be in want.

  • I need Thee ev'ry hour, Most gracious Lord.....I need Thee, O, I need Thee. Every hour I need Thee! O bless me now, my savior, I come to Thee.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, 

  • Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father. There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not; As Thou hast been Thou forever will be.

he leads me beside quiet waters,

  • He leadeth me, He leadeth me, By His own hand He leadeth me. His faithful follower I would be, For by His hand He leadeth me.

.....he restores my soul. 

  • When peace like a river attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll, What ever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, "It is well, it is well with my soul."

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

  • Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah, Pilgrims through this barren land. I am weak, but Thou art mighty, Hold me with Thy powerful hand......

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

  • Precious Lord, take my hand, Lead me on, help me stand, I am tired, I am weak, I am worn; Through the storm, through the night, Lead me on to the light....Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home!

I will fear no evil for you are with me; 

  • Our Father, which art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is, in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power and the Glory forever.

your rod and your staff, 
they comfort me.

  • Under His wings, I am safely abiding. Though the night deepens and tempests are wild. Still I can trust Him, I know He will keep; me. He has redeemed me and I am His child.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. 

  • He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock - That shadows a dry, thirsty land. He hideth my life in the depths of His love, And covers me there with His hand, and covers me there with His hand.

You anoint my head with oil; 

  • Grace, grace, God's grace; Grace that will pardon and cleanse within. Grace, grace, God's grace. Grace that is greater than all our sin. cup overflows.

  • Fill my cup, Lord - I lift it up, Lord! Come and quench this thirsting of my soul. Bread of heaven, feed me til I want no more...Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole.

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, 

  • There's a sweet, sweet Spirit in this place, And I know that it's the Spirit of the Lord....Sweet Holy Spirit, Sweet heavenly Dove. Stay right here with us. Filling us with Your love. And for these blessings We lift our hearts in praise: Without a doubt we'll know that we have been revived, When we shall leave this place.

.....and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

  • Beyond the sunset, O blissful morning, When with our Savior heaven is begun. Earth's toiling ended, O glorious dawning, Beyond the sunset, when day is done.
  • In the sweet by and by, We shall meet on that beautiful shore; In the sweet by and by, We shall meet on that beautiful shore.

This is a tribute to 'those who have gone before' and are experiencing the Forever! Especially to
my Grandpa Gerhard Wiens Suderman. I remember rehearsing the song based on the 23rd Psalm I would sing the next day (March 12, 1950) on Grandpa and Grandma Suderman's anniversary. Grandpa sat in a rocking chair nearby, and listened quietly. After I finished, I heard him say, "Beside the still waters, that is where I want to be...." Mother (Anna Daisy) wrote in her book, "The Lines are Fallen". Three days after this day my Grandpa received the desire of his heart.......and dwells with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Going home, going home. I'm a goin' home. Quiet like, some still day, I'm just going home. It's not far, just close by. Through an open door; Work all done, care laid by, Going to fear no more. Mother's there, 'specting me. Father's waiting, too. Lots of folk gathered there, All the friends I knew. All the friends I knew. Home, home, I'm goin' home! (Fisher and Dvorak)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What is a Promise?

A promise can be a noun or a verb, a vow or a hope. It is a vow or a bond, or a giving his word as affirming, assenting. It is a relationship built on trust.
A kept promise in this day and age has lost its truth a
nd intenseness. A man is as good as his word...a promise. There is no deviousness, no ulterior motive or words spoken for the purpose of manipulation or ulterior motive.

As a child I remember giving my word and
saying, "Cross my heart and hope to die." I often wished I were a boy, so that I could say "Scout's honor", too, while holding up two fingers. A promise is not given lightly. A promise is a 'cross my heart' statement.

I recall my father-in-law saying that in West Texas, "A man's bond is as good as his word!" This is when he wanted to buy mules with no money. He was told by the rancher to take the mules home and when the crop in, then he could pay him, the early nineteen hundreds. When Rufus Edgar Combs told his Uncle about the business transaction, his comment was...."If a man’s word ain’t no good, and his name ain’t good, what’s the use of wasting all the paper (for an agreement of purchase)?" (More of the memories of Rufus Edgar Combs)

He knew that an honorable reputation is built on kept promises, not broken promises. He knew that a kept promises result in hope and trust.

I return to my first question - "What is a promise?"

We have an extraordinary fall, that crawls into mid-November. Yesterday I was greeted by the sun, a soft chorus of birds, the rustling of walking through leaves - and knew the promise-kiss of a new day. The robins, confused, extend their time with us. The New Day! I thanked God for His blessing and I knew that each day in His Love is like Spring.

Ask the young bride and groom as they exchange wedding vows 'until death do them part'. As I looked into the eyes of my prospective son-in-law, Brent, I saw the adoration in his eyes as he gazed at Anna, I saw the promise of the fruition of their love. The kind of relationship that lasts at least 50 years and beyond.

Ask the young mother, who gazes into the face of her newborn and sees the promise of this life to be nourished an
d grow. When we moved to Howard, Kansas, and I looked at my three young sons at the breakfast table, waiting like little birds trusting to be fed, I was overwhelmed. I felt the responsibility for their well-being, I knew that only through God's help, could I care for these children.

Ask those who are in search of freedom in this country and have enjoyed it for more than one hundred years. Freedom that is built in the Constitution of United States of America. It was a promise, and still a promise for those who uphold the tenets of the constitution under God. It is not just a manuscript on parchment, but the heart's cry for freedom.

What is promise? A promise is hope for the hopeless. A promise is a possibility of encouragement, a glorious outlook on life that motivates and provides understanding of God's Promises.

Matthew 23:16 gives the importance of a promise, no matter where or when it was made.
A promise is a promise. What difference does it make if you make your promise inside or outside a house of worship? A promise is a promise. God is present, watching and holding you to account regardless.

A promise, lightly given, is still a promise "until death do us part". Proverbs 30:5 - The believer replied, "Every promise of God proves true; He protects everyone who runs to Him for help. So don't second-guess Him; He might take you to task and show up your lies."

Believing a promise that demands faith. From the beginning God has promised eternal life on the basis of faith of all his children in Him. Genesis 9:12 - I'm putting my rainbow in the clouds, a sign of the covenant between me and the Earth. From now on, when I form a cloud over the Earth and the rainbowappears in the cloud, I'll remember my covenant between me and you and everything living, that never again will floodwaters destroy all life. When the rainbow appears in the cloud, I'll see it and remember the eternal covenant between God and everything living, every last living creature on Earth."

When is that gift coming for God's children? The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. Ii Peter 3:9

A promise is a promise! A promise is an unpaid debt. A promise is a statement laden with God-import. "I am clinging to the promise of a lifetime" (

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Peace is a Person

Growing up during the Great Depression could have been frightening. My world, as a child, centered in a small house, one living room, one bedroom and one kitchen/dining area. If you stood at the front door, you could see through to the back door. When my little brother, Gene, was born, Dad made a trundle bed that fit underneath Dad and Mom's bed for Jim and me that was pulled out each night as part of the bedtime routine.

A Singer sewing machine sat in the bedroom that Mom used to sew clothes for her family and others. I don't know how she managed, listening for baby Gene with Jim hanging on one side of her and me on the other side. The upright piano stood in the living room overshadowing anything else in the room. There were two wooden rockers that were mobile - determining which room they were to be used.

The kitchen contained a tall metal cabinet. The gas stove stood by the metal cabinet and across from that was the table. A bench was placed behind where Jim and Gene sat. Two wooden chairs were there for Dad and Mom and my place wa
s on the flour barrel. It was just right.

Outside, bordering the driveway were a row of poplar trees. I pretended they were giants and protected our home. They were watered with wash (laundry) water once a week. It was here I felt peace. I knew peace. I knew I secure and protected. Discipline gave us boundaries of behavior and added to the security. Mom tried to spank me once once when I was about four. I ran away. She pronounced the grim words, "When Dad comes home, he will do it."

I cried. I went to the bathroom just off the kitchen and grabbed the razor strap and began whipping myself. Then I didn't feel peace. I felt fear for I knew if Mom said, I would have a spanking. She didn't listen to my tears, or accept my self-punishment. I suffered more. When I disobeyed in rebellion and torment stormed my mind, I tried to punish myself. I dreaded Dad's home-coming and then facing Dad. I don't remember the spanking. I only remember the shame for my actions, and knew that disobedience wasn't worth it. I learned that lesson over and over....

I wondered if my ancestors had peace in their hearts. The genealogy tells the story of births and deaths, but accepting Jesus is not always included. This spiritual 'birth'day gives peace for an eternity. As I read some of the happenings in the family, I wonder about their source of peace:
  • When the Grandparents Leppke decided to leave for America, their friend and neighbors tried to discourage them with tales of crossing the Mississippi River that Indians would rob them, burn their homes and possibly scalp them. Grandfather Leppke said that God protected Daniel in the lion's den, and He could protect them as well.
  • Jacob Loewen was born in Russia on October 5, 1844 and grew to manhood on the Ukrainian steppes. When their religious and political freedoms were threatened, he, his parents, two sisters and three brothers plus a host of Mennonite friends and relatives migrated to America in 1874, settling in Marion County, Kansas.
  • Jacob Suderman was born December 28, 1841 in Ladekopp, Molotschna Colony, Russia. His father died soon after he was born, leaving his mother to raise six children. He married Aganetha Wiens November 27, 1862. Aganetha's family migrated from West Prussia to the Molotschna Colony. In 1870, the Mennonites lost their military exemption in Russia. In 1878, according to information from a Santa Fe Railroad brochure, they knew they must leave. Major expenses were ship passage, train fares, and $80 per family. They left on the long trip to America in 1878 with their five children.
  • Jacob Siemens II, born in West Prussia, 26 December 1795, died in Kansas, September 28, 1881, after living in America for seven years. He came to this country, via Russia. The passenger list included Jacob Siemens II - 79 years, Jacob Siemens II - 49 years, Wife Elisabeth - age 45 years, Jacob Siemens IV - 25 years and wife Anna - 20 years and infant daughter. Anna Siemens - 22 years, Elisabeth Siemens - 19 years, Johan Siemens - 16 years, Abraham Siemens - 14 years, David - 11 years, Agatha Siemens - 4 years, and Heinrich Siemens - 1 year.
  • Emilie Brunn was born in Norka, Saratov Russia, in 1867. When she was 16 she came to this country, leaving her parents (1883). She worked for her sister in America for 5 years to pay for the passage ticket. She never learned English but always spoke low German/Dutch. We loved to talk in our own languages and were able to comprehend the meanings. A small woman, with big brown eyes, black hair combed into a bun on the back of her head, who later married Jacob Siemens V, and bore six children.
These ancestors lived a lifetime on this earth and questions arise. What kept their families together? What gave them hope as they traveled so far? When I think of the preparations and planning that it took to leave their homes, I am overwhelmed. How were they able to know what to pack? Young parents today fill the car with baby belongings to transport themselves for several hours, and it is overwhelming to think of the anxiety they may have felt....and yet their faith in Jesus remained steadfast.

If we had to uproot our lives as we know them it would be so difficult. The cost alone plus the fear of not being able to find a place to live for their families takes a great deal of faith and trust.

As they traveled by train and by boat for weeks, as they dealt with sickness and discomfort, did they know peace? In other writing of the Siemens family, I read, "We must know where we come from, if we want to know where we are going." The underlying faith is in the person of Jesus Christ.

Who is this Jesus Christ that He gives hope and peace (Peace that passes understanding.) Only the presence of Jesus will give us true peace even in the midst of turmoil. For peace is not the absence of is the eternal hope to hold on to.

Peace is a Person? Yes. Ephesians 4:12-14a - remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For He himself is our Peace!

The path to Peace, the Person, is a process and an ongoing learning in our lives. May He be the Cornerstone of our Lives. John 14:6 - Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

As these people from long ago believed in Jesus and it gave them hope in overwhelming odds, I pray that my faith is strong in Jesus. Not only for my life, but as a testament to my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Prince of Peace by Michael W Smith.....
He is Lord of Lords
He is King of Kings
He is mighty God
Lord of everything

He's Emmanuel
He's the great "I AM"
He's my Prince of Peace
Who is the Lamb

He's the living God
He's my saving grace
He will reign forever
He is ancient of days

He's the Alpha, Omega, Beginning and End
He's my Savior, Messiah, Redeemer, and friend
He's my Prince of Peace and I will live my life for you.