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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lineage and Family

As I watch the freezing rain turn our bit of visible world into ice-covered scenery, I ponder lineages and families. What keeps the family intact and strong through many generations? What makes our family pictures such treasures? What makes the family stories familiar and precious?

Even as I watched the limbs fall from the trees, like fall leaves, because of the weight of ice, I have seen families fall apart because of the weight of the death of unconditional love in a family. Just as we slip and fall in an ice-covered world, we slip and fall in our lives because of the lack of support and unconditional love from and to our families. Where does that love come from? How can we forgive and love when we have been hurt?
This morning I read from John 15, these words -
"I've loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you'll remain intimately at home in my love. That's what I've done—kept my Father's commands and made myself at home in his love
How can we be 'at home' in love? What gives us 'roots' and strength? This strength comes from experiencing and giving unconditional love. And forgiveness, 70 times 7. Forgiveness and love are the two sides of the coin called joy and peace.

Four lines from Anna Daisy Siemens:
Involve yourselves to live And to be blessed, you give... For lives that overflow, Shine with a happy glow.
For the past two weeks, we have received emails from two cousins who are tracing the Combs genealogy back several more generations to another country. How exciting to learn about more family. It has been several years since I first looked at the picture of John William Combs and asked, "Who are you?" "Where did you come from?" "What were you like when you lived on the earth?"

In generations to come, will my great- great - grandchildren wonder about me and what kind of a person I was? Will they wonder what I thought about, what I believed in? Will my faith in Jesus Christ speak to them through the ages, just as Abraham's faith speaks to us from God's Word? This is what I wonder about the many generations of our families.

Mom's prayer encapsulated my thoughts in rhyme, as I consider my family.
Our family ties are wonderful,
When love is used as 'tying string'

With here a tug and there a pull,
It soon becomes a lovely thing.
Each morning when I plan my day
I vow to make another start;
I'll pray for extra strength and grace

To tie family with a loving heart.

Proverbs 11:28-30 A life devoted to things is a dead life, a stump; a God-shaped life is a flourishing tree. Exploit or abuse your family, and end up with a fistful of air; common sense tells you it's a stupid way to live. A good life is a fruit-bearing tree; a violent life destroys souls.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Passion and Hope

One fall day, we received a letter from Uncle Sol Loewen containing a request and several pieces of litmus paper. I knew this was my great-uncle, baby brother to my adored Grandma Anna Suderman. He asked that I record the sweet or sour taste resulting from chewing the paper. I have forgotten which taste our four children Dan, Paul, Tim and Anna experienced, as well as mine and Ed's. I returned the information to Uncle Sol. He wrote a letter in reply and thankfulness for our participation in one of his theories in genealogy.

At that time I did not know much about Uncle Sol except through my Mom. I knew he taught biology at the Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kansas. I knew he looked very much like my Grandma. I also knew that Biology is not my forte. I 'took' it for the second time at the Junior College in Dodge City about the time I received the request from Uncle Sol. Needless to say, Biolody was not my passion.

Dr. Solomon Loewen taught biology, and since that word was unfamiliar to the Plautt Dietch speaking community, they called it 'bug'-ology. How did this man begin an interest in biology in the middle of Kansas? He had an inquiring mind that wanted to process everything he saw. He studied a reference book with many pictures of small and large creatures and bugs that his father had.

Solomon Loewen was born on December 23, 1898, to Jacob and Justina Leppke Loewen, the first child, the 9th son, born in the brand new 5 bedroom house built to be home for the family. He attended the one room Ebenfeld school, across the road from the Ebenfeld Mennonite Brethren Church. My grandmother, Anna Suderman, told her friends that she received a baby brother that year for Christmas.

When Solomon was about five, his father took him on a Rock Island train to Elbing and Whitewater, KS. His father, Jacob Loewen, a self-taught doctor, treated folks for tooth aches, sore muscles and other ailments. His first train ride was the fastest ride he had ever experienced. Later, Solomon became a Ford man, and Loved to Drive (LTD) and he loved to travel. Later, his travel adventures included Mexico, South America tour, Paraguay, El Salvador, Guatemala. He also traveled to Russia, Warsaw Poland, Leningrad, Amsterdam, Dniepr River, and other areas of Russia. Always curious and wanting to know, every trip was a learning experience for Solomon.

In 1916, he attended Tabor College. It was here he met his wife-to-be for almost 69 years. As I continued to read his many memories, I was struck with his kindness, his bent for teaching, his curiosity, and enduring passion for learning. His memoir contains his drawings of crayfish, stinger of a honey bee, a drawing of a his right wrist, and his wife's broken hip, Extended Hydra with bud, the Wing of a horse fly, bugs of various kinds, and the creatures he studied. He also made a study of the behavior of farmyard animals and Teratology.

After he retired, he bagan genealogy writing in earnest, employing the computer - taking a course at the age of 92. He taught senior citizens many different kinds of hobbies as he learned them. He defined a hobby as doing something you have interest in without being paid for it.

During his last hospitalization, he realized that his walk has spoken louder than his talk. "This experience has reduced me to dust, and I have been impressed what God can do 'with dust'. He makes the mighty mountain ranges with beautiful snow covered peaks, turns dust to rock, creates broad fertile valleys moistened with the most unique liquid water, as it comes down from the mountain. Man is the most remarkable creation of God. The Psalmist says it so well in Psalm 139: 13-17."

He died at the age of 97 years.

His passion and his joy in living was learning of our Lord's Creation. His hope was in Christ from the time he was a young man. He lived vibrantly with the Fruit of the Spirit qualities in his life, seeing God's creation as his classroom for learning. Uncle Solomon said, "The greatest truth Scripture gives us is that God became man in his son Jesus Christ, who gave his love to us in his sacrifice on the cross, rose again triumphantly, thereby paying for our sins."

Colossians 3:15-17 (Message) Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

Hebrews 10:22-25 - So let's do it—full of belief, confident that we're presentable inside and out. Let's keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let's see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The True Love Story

Time is a quizzical creation.

There are my young years when I looked forward to adding another year to my life, always wanting 'to be old enough' to attain my next goal. I didn't realize that even when I was in my 60's, my Mother would still view me as her child. I didn't realize the responsibilities that would be added with each year I acquired. Impatiently, I waited for 'my own life' as a married woman when I could make my own decisions. Even minor decisions as to how I would wash the dishes, when to clean the house, to how I would raise my children.

Now we watch the passing years as a gift from contemplate His goodness, faithfulness and unconditional love.

Somehow, Mother's voice followed me, not in person, but ingrained, as I washed the dishes one day and I realized that I followed the same procedure she taught me long ago. Not only did she teach me about the dishes, she taught me love by her examples....of selfless love for my Dad, her obedience to our Lord, and her respect and love for her parents and grandparents. And helping others was always a part of her life, as well as Dad's.

What lies beneath this love? What is the foundation? How long will it last? Can it be forever?

My Dad and Mother's love story is chronicled here. A bit about Anna Loewen Suderman is here.
Our 56th anniversary story is here.

I found an invitation to my Loewen Great Grandparent's 50th Wedding Anniversary. What a treasure. It seemed that the spectre death separated these participants in their love story. Fifty years for my Suderman grandparents, and fifty years for my parents.

This February 1st, Ed and I will be married for 57 years. We look at each other in wonder at the added years with thanksgiving and celebration. And yet, even as our children and grandchildren write their own love stories in time, there is a greater Love Story that motivates us all.

Tears came to my eyes, as I read from John 10:27 - 30. Yes, I knew John 3:16, I knew Matthew 28:18-20 (And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world). John 14:1-7 and other verses. But the reality of the picture presented in John 10:27 - 30,captured my heart.

Never before had I realized how huge and encompassing is our Father's love for each of us. No matter which part of the globe we happen to live. It is THE motivator to live life for Him. It brings a security as no other in this world today can give. No insurance policy, no savings account or nest egg, not the number of friends on Facebook (yes, I am there), or attaining great riches can bring the assurance of our very being, as a belief in and dependence and trust in our Father in Heaven and His only begotten Son, Jesus.

Long I have wondered how and why my family has been so steadfast in their lives in following Jesus over the many transitions from country to country, from language to language, from government to government. Their acceptance of fewer comforts that we consider 'our right' is amazing in 2009. Their acceptance of the deaths of their little ones, failures of crops that could have provided food puts us to shame in our world of handouts from the government and super-complaining prowess which we consider our right - rather than faithfulness.

No matter how we celebrate earthly love stories, the ultimate celebration is The True Love Story.
"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one."
How big is our God? Are we sheep, who knows our Shepherd's voice? Do we believe? If so these verses provide security and an assurance of eternal life.


Tuesday, January 06, 2009


I heard my sons clatter down the stairs on their way to school on a cold day in Illinois. Their conversation became evident.

"Have you got your confidence?" Paul asked Tim.

The reply came quickly. "Yes, I have my confidence, do you?"

My usual morning thought processes were interrupted. Well, arrested. I asked, "What are you talking about, confidence? How do you get your confidence?"

Paul, his usual calm tone, I'll-explain-it-to-you-Mom, waved his stocking cap, "This is my confidence!"

Tim chimed in, "Yeah, Mom, and here is my confidence." He waved a red and blue stocking cap.

They laughed, placed those two clumps of yarn on their hair, and knew they had confidence. Such an easy way to acquire confidence.

I grinned at these two high school-aged boys, ready to embark on yet another day of preparation for their futures. I shook my they donned their confidence(s) as they left the house.

Soon my thoughts were tuned in to my classroom of children that I would teach. Later, I thought about that blip of conversation when I read the following verse of scripture:

Ephesians 3:12 - In Him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

Mike Chambers, Paul and Tim's youth minister, must have taught them that concept. And the others I found in my search.

II Corinthians 3:4 Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God.

Psalm 71:5 - For you have been my hope, O Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth.

Proverbs 3:26 - For the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared.

Later I thought about the word - confidence. Where does confidence come from? How can we learn and experience new things with a feeling of confidence? Does the confidence come from the unconditional love our Father in Heaven has for his children? Is this why children who are loved unconditionally are willing to see things differently?

I thought about all the decisions my great grandparents made in coming to this country. Did they have confidence? And in whom did they have confidence? In what? Was it the economy, luxury, having their every whim satisfied? Did they have confidence in their decision to leave their homes, families, and leave Russia to come to America? In mid-journey, as they struggled with the living conditions on board the ship, did they question their decisions to leave the familiar for the unfamiliar? Was their confidence shaken?

When I look at the pages of the German Bible that was handed down, search the old family pictures for clues in their eyes, or in the many stories I have heard, I see their confidence in the leading of God in this journey and through life.

I hear Grandpa Suderman sitting at our breakfast table reading God's Word in German and then in English so his grandchildren could understand. I hear his voice raised in singing, "In the Sweet By and By." Did he waver when four of his young children died, when he was maimed by a circular saw, or the wheat harvest was not enough to feed his family? No, he gained his confidence in reading God's promises and singing praises to Jesus, lifting his beautiful tenor voice as a testimony of faith.

I saw the same confidence in my parents and the road that they traveled. And now my dear husband Ed and I are the great grandparents and the grandparents. Are we displaying our confidence in our Lord Jesus Christ? In this uncertain time and place in time, we have confidence and the trust in our Lord for safe keeping. The safe keeping that is not paid for through insurance premiums, stocks or bonds, or the laws of our land but in our allegiance to God.

Thank you, Dan, Paul, Tim and Anna, for teaching us this confidence that is of God, is more precious than fine gold! We love you, children.