Monday, May 28, 2012

THE STORY OF JOHAN ANDERS BLOMBERG

I do not think that I have ever before put on my blog a sermon that I have preached, but I am doing this today. This week we celebrate Memorial Day in the United States. It is a time when we especially remember those who have served our country in the military. Here in our town, Memorial Day has also long been a homecoming time and the time when we remember all in our families.

I have also felt that it is good to remember our spiritual heritage, and to remember those who have gone on who have been of great influence in our spiritual lives. It is for this reason that in this sermon, I tell part of the story of my great-grandfather, Anders Blomberg who immigrated to Wisconsin from Sweden in the year 1881.


LEARNING FROM THE CLOUD OF HISTORY

One of the major reasons that we progress in our lives with Christ (or that we do not progress), is how well we have learned the lessons of the past. I am not only talking about lessons that we may or may not have learned individually in our own lives, but also what we may have learned or have failed to learn from history.
We see this fact both positively and negatively in the Bible. One of the most obvious examples is what can be taken from the times of the early kings of both Israel and Judah. During these days, the reigns of the kings and the morality of the societies cycled either positively or negatively depending on how well they had learned past lessons.
The Apostle Paul also reaches far back into the history of the Jews when he was making a point to the Corinthian people about lessons to be learned.

For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.        Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. (1 Corinthians 10:1-6 ESV)

When Paul spoke of the people all being under the cloud, he was speaking of the cloud of the Shekinah Glory that led them out of Egypt and through the wilderness during the time of the historical Exodus of the people of Israel. This cloud was the representation of the very presence of God as He led them through times of victory and times of trial.
Not only did God demonstrate His presence by the cloud, but the people all had the similar experience of passing through the Red Sea on dry land, eating the manna that formed on the grass like dew, and drinking water that flowed from a crack in a rock. All of these people had the exact same experiences, yet most of them, Paul tells us, learned nothing from all of these things about themselves or about God. Because of the failure to learn, they eventually died in the wilderness and were prevented from entering the objective of their destination, the land of promise.
Scripture also speaks of another cloud of our spiritual history. This cloud is not a representation of the glory of God, but, as the writer of the book of Hebrews says:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)

This cloud of witnesses consists of the people that the writer spoke about in the previous chapter of Hebrews. These were people such as Abel, who offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, like Noah, who prepared an ark for the salvation of his family, and like Abraham, who, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance. Abraham went out, not knowing where he was going, and by faith lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land (Hebrews 11:4, 7-9).
These were people like Sarah, who received the ability to conceive, even after she was well beyond the time of life when she should be able to have a child. The reason was because she considered God as faithful, and it was God who had promised the child to her. These were people like the parents of Moses, who were not afraid of the Pharaoh’s edict and hid their baby so that he would not be killed, and like Moses himself, who, when he had grown up, refused to take advantage of his position in the Pharaoh’s household, but rather chose to endure ill-treatment with the people of God. This, the writer says, was a choice to forgo “the passing pleasures of sin.” Moses considered “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt” (Hebrews 11:11, 23-26).
This is the great cloud of witnesses that the writer of Hebrews says “surround” us. By speaking like this, the writer does not intend to say that these people are in some way present around us in their spirits, witnessing everything that we do, but only that these are some of the ones that we can look to as examples in our lives. Neither does it mean that every single thing that these individuals did was positive or good, but in the moments when it was the most important, they chose righteously.

The writer of the book of Hebrews wrote in the first century and had the perspective of history from that time. However, did you ever think of what individuals he may have mentioned if he had written from today’s perspective? We could guess at a few, perhaps, and perhaps the individual that I will mention now would not even be one of them. However, if you would allow me, I would like to do something a little unusual this morning at tell you about one of my own ancestors. My cousin Neil Blomberg has been doing a lot of research on our Blomberg heritage, and in my spare moments, I have been putting together much of that research and putting it in story form.
The following is what I have written as if it were from the perspective of Anders Blomberg, my great-grandfather who emigrated from Sweden to come to Ogema, Wisconsin. The source of the stories came mostly from his eldest daughter and my great-aunt, Hulda Marie, and is accurate as far as I know. Only one location is difficult to pin down and also I changed the name of the scoundrel in the story because, well...just because.
In this story, you will learn some of the reasons that Anders Blomberg came to America. He is speaking as an old man now, near the end of his life. He is reminiscing about the past, as old men sometimes do:

************************
There was great joy in my life when I began to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.  This, however, did not come without cost.  Like others who sought to follow Christ, I and my family were ridiculed and scorned. In certain ways, we were in a sense considered traitors by some, because we had dared to question the state-run church. The state church was, in the eyes of most in Sweden, the true church, and anyone who claimed to follow God must be devoted only to that church.
But I was more interested in following Christ. There were many positive things that could be said about the state church, but for all really practical purposes, it had become like a branch of the government whose role was mainly to record births, deaths, marriages and other civil matters. I, instead wanted to grow in my life in Christ, and tell others about this as well.
There was one blacksmith who greatly opposed the work that I was doing.  I actually forget his real name, because I came to call him Demetrius, the silversmith of Ephesus that opposed the apostle Paul.   My Demetrius also worked with metals, and had equal scorn for the gospel. What is more, he was also able to stir up others against me.
One evening I had a meeting in a place about seven miles from our home.  My wife Betty, little Hulda, and our baby Hjalmer were also with me, along with Betty’s younger sister Augusta.  It was pitch dark by the time we were on our way home and we were guided by a small lantern that hung from our carriage.  About half way home, we began hearing drunken singing over the crest of a hill that we were approaching.  I thought it might be trouble.  I even reckoned that it was Demetrius and his intoxicated followers, but we really had no choice but to go forward.  Betty and I looked at each other but did not say anything.  We did not want to frighten the children.  I simply prayed silently that the Lord would allow us to arrive at our home safely, no matter what we encountered on the way.
As we crested the hill, our lantern must have become visible to the drunken mob ahead, but we could not yet see anything.  However, we could hear them.  I could distinguish Demetrius’ voice.
“Now we will stone the preacher Blomberg!”
Well, if I had hoped to keep the children from being frightened, that was all gone now.  Hjalmar was only an infant, so he had not sense of what was happening, but Hulda began to cry in fear.  Augusta held on to her, while Betty wrapped the baby in a blanket in her arms.  Now Betty could keep silent no longer.
“Dear God!” Betty called loudly, “Please deliver us from the hands of these intoxicated fools!”
I drove ahead, knowing that it would be useless to stop or to turn around.  We still could not see much of what was happening, but we did begin to see the forms of men alongside the road.  We saw them throwing what we assumed were rocks, but none of us in our carriage cried out from being hit by any stone, nor did we hear any hit the wagon or the horse.  We did not know what was happening.  However, we continued on ahead until the shouting of the inebriated blacksmith and his bunch of hooligans died off in the distance.  No rock struck us and we arrived safely at our home.
It was not until the next morning that we heard what had happened.  On the night before, when the first stone was thrown, it missed us and instead hit one of their own gang.  This enraged the person who got hit and he crossed the road to take his anger out on the fellow who had thrown the rock.  A general mob fight ensued, and before any of them knew what had happened, we had disappeared into the darkness.

There was another man who had a particular hatred for the gospel, and thus also for me and my family.  This was a man by the name of Oscar Scoglund.  One night he learned that I was to have a meeting in the home of one the workers.  Because of what happened with Demetrius and his gang, I did not take my family with me on that night, and instead of taking the wagon, I walked alone.  Scoglund gathered a group of men and came up with a plan to seize me on the way home, drag me into the woods and stone me to death.  They would not make the same mistake that the first group had.
As Scoglund and his men were on their way to their place of ambush, they passed our house and saw that my family was still at home.  They decided to stop and terrorize Betty and the children.  The mob came to the house and pounded on the door, demanding that Betty send out a housemaid that we had hired.  Betty, of course, refused and locked the door to them.  This angered them, so that they went around to the window to grimace their faces through the window panes and thrust out their tongues.
Scoglund cried out to her, “You will die before my very eyes for this!”
Betty was pregnant with our third child, Esther Elizabeth.  When Scoglund said these words to her, Betty told me that she began to tremble like a leaf.  She became very pale and sank to the floor, moaning in great turmoil.  The trauma that she had endured from the evil faces staring in the window at her was very great, besides the threat of death from a very evil man.
As for Scoglund and his gang, after terrorizing my family, they continued on with their plan to capture me and stone me to death.  The men prepared their ambush by lining the road with cans of stones that they were to use to hurl at me.  As I approached them, I could see their plan. This time it was I who lifted my voice loud to the Lord.  I continued to walk in between the two lines, and just like the first time, no stone touched me, nor did any of the men.  Once I had passed the area, I turned around to see what had happened. I saw all the men fighting among themselves.
I returned home praising God for what He had done.  When I arrived at home, I also learned what had happened in my absence, and how Scoglund had terrorized my family, but Betty told me that in the end, it all turned out well.  However, I could see that it had been a great trauma and time of distress for my wife. Despite Betty’s words of assurance, all was not well.
It was not long after that night that little Esther Elizabeth was born.  From the very beginning we knew something was wrong.  Little Esther did not cry like babies normally do.  Her sound was like she was moaning in pain, the same kind of moan, Betty’s sister said, that Betty had made that night that Scoglund had terrorized her.  Four months after little Esther was born, she died, giving out that same moan until the moment that she passed into eternity.  The poor little girl could only find peace in the arms of her heavenly Father. We did not see Scoglund again after that night for a long time.  However, we were to encounter him again some years later.

Betty and I sold our house, packed up our belongings, and with Hulda and Hjalmer in hand and in arm, we mounted the train to return to Värmland.  This was a difficult move for us, but it would not be the most difficult one that we would be faced with.  The trip up to Värmland was one that both tested and strengthened our character.
As we rode the train north, it rattled its rhythmic sounds over the iron rails, Betty and I mostly sat in silence.  You might have thought that she would be excited about returning to the land of her childhood, and I am sure that in some ways she was.  It is just that I think that she knew that even though this was a return to the area of her childhood, this was not to be a return to those happy and care-free days of her early years.
I, myself was glad for the silence.  The rhythm of the sounds of the train was almost hypnotizing. I began to listen to it as if it were the ticking of a clock, marking off the moments of my life.  As my mind ticked back to my own early days, I remembered my own father as he lay dying, and how sad that he was to leave his wife and young children.  He felt as if he were failing in his responsibility to care for those whom the Lord had given to him.  None of us felt that way, however, and despite the trials that our family had to endure since father’s death, I could see how our heavenly Father had remained true to His promise to never abandon the orphan and the widow.
The train clattered on.  I remembered how, after having to first try to make some money so that I could send some back to mother, I spent many lonely days and lonely nights.  There were many times when I felt I did not have a friend in the world, and being the eldest son, how the responsibility that father had for his family had been laid upon me.  At least this is the way that I felt.  I was determined to carry out this responsibility, but I had no skills, little education, and few resources to help me to fulfill this role.  I did what I could, but it fell far short of what I had hoped.  I understood better what father must have felt in his last days upon the earth.
But no one would ever dream of criticizing father because he died at a young age.  He did well with the time and the resources that God had given to him.  I know also that no one would criticize me, and yet, all of those years, there was a growing sense within me that I was leaving something very important undone.

The train was now rounding a bend.  Up ahead, I could see that we would be crossing a bridge.  Just a moment!  I recognize that bridge!  I had been so deep in my thoughts that I had not noticed that we were passing by an area where Betty and I once lived.  I had worked several months building the very foundations of the bridge that we were about to cross.  I roused Betty from her own deep thoughts.
I placed my hand on her shoulder.  “Look Betty,” I said, suddenly feeling a little excited.  “We are passing through Småland near where we once lived.  And look!  We are about to pass over one of my bridges!”
I called every one of the bridges that I had worked on “my bridge.”  I was very proud of each one.  In fact, I took personal pride in all of my work.  My pride was, I thought, with some justification.  I had constantly taken on the initiative to learn new skills in order to improve or expand my capabilities.  I was also conscientious in my work.  It was for these reasons that my name was known among the construction industry in southern Sweden and why I was called upon to do contract work.
The train was now passing over one of my bridges.  This clicking of the rails held a special pleasure for me.  I remembered working here.  I remembered the friends that I had made and the good feeling that I had when I finished a good day’s work or a good week’s work.  I remembered the satisfaction that I had when we had placed the final stone.  It was a job well done!
But then I remembered something else.  In fact, this was the thought that had come into my thinking just before I noticed that we were coming to the bridge on the train.  It was also in this place that there was great emptiness for Betty and me.  The time when I worked on this bridge is when we lived in Emmaboda, and it was here that we were searching for a spiritual truth that evaded us.  The only counsel we were able to find at the time was to work hard at morally improving our lives until we reached a point where we would have peace with God.  The advice that we received was lacking in real truth and left us feeling only more empty and in a more hopeless situation.
Yes, it was this that I was thinking about when we were approaching the bridge.  This is what I had felt I was leaving undone during all of those years.  I may have steadily been improving in my work and business skills, but my relationship with God was not improving.
Betty looked at me as we passed over the bridge.  Her eyes smiled at me because she knew that I was remembering my work here, but she soon slipped again into her own thoughts and memories.  It was just as well, because as we passed over the bridge, I was also already into my own thoughts.
It seems as if the Lord had to bring us even to the depths of despair before He sent His true word to us.  We had to know that tradition, ritual and good works were not what would give us true peace with God.  It was in Karlskrona, when we were living in what we thought was the most Godless culture that we had ever seen, that God had sent his angel to teach us the way to know how to have true peace.  We had to experience utter blackness before we could see the light.
But why then, after we found the way of salvation, did our difficulties increase?  Before that time, we perhaps had little inner peace, but we had no great difficulties with the world. We were getting along fine in the world and I was finally making a good living.  It was only after we had given our lives to Christ that we began to experience great opposition from the people of the world.  These were the Demetrius’ and the Scoglunds.
These were of the spirit of Cain.  The apostle John told us that Cain murdered his brother Abel because his own deeds were evil and his brother Abel’s deeds were righteous.  Neither then should we be surprised if the world hated us.  It was because of this that these men hated me.
It was not that my deeds were completely righteous, but certainly the deeds that Christ did through me were righteous.  When Demetrius and Scoglund tried to kill me, it was not really against me that they felt rage.  It was against Jesus Christ.  It is only because they saw Christ in me that they sought to vent that rage.
However, it was interesting to me that these men cast their stones at us only to have them fall upon themselves.  This, of course, is what will happen to all who oppose the gospel.  There own works of darkness will turn around and condemn those who did these evil deeds.

(Here, I am skipping over several years of the story to come to the place where Anders and Betty arrive with their family in America. They arrived on ship to Philadelphia.

In Philadelphia
We sat for a time on a long bench at the wharf, waiting for our train to arrive.  There were immigrants from many countries.  It was so strange to walk through the crowds and hear languages that we had never before heard.  I could pick up the Norwegian and the Danish, but there were Italians and Russians, Jews, English, and I don’t know how many nationalities.  I could not recognize what languages they were speaking.
Trains would be leaving for many destinations, but most of the Swedes that I talked to were going to Chicago.  There was already quite a large Swedish population in Chicago.  Most of us knew someone who lived there and even though it was not the intention of all the immigrants to stay in in that city, it was the place from where many of us began the final leg of our journey to arrive at where we would settle.
It was my intention to go to St. Paul, Minnesota.  Some of the men that I had worked with in Sweden had earlier traveled and settled in St. Paul, and they informed me that there would also be work for me there; work of the same sort that I did in Sweden.
After sitting on the bench for a time, I decided to go and see to our baggage, thinking that by this time it must have been unloaded from the hold of the ship.  In the office at the wharf, I inquired as to where I would find it, and soon saw it stacked all together, with my name plainly visible on every trunk.  As I was standing there by our baggage, a policeman walked up to me with another gentleman.
“Hello Mr. Blomberg,” the officer addressed me.  “Do you know the name of this man at my side?”
I looked at the man.  He looked vaguely familiar, but I could not put a name to him.  Certainly he looked like he was Swedish, but not like a recent immigrant.  He was so well dressed and stood in such a dignified manner that I knew he certainly had not come over on the boat that day.
“I am sorry, but no, I do not know who this man is,” I replied.
Now the man broke his silence.  He spoke with his head slightly downward and had a little difficulty looking at me in the eye.  “Anders, I am Scoglund - from Karlskrona.  I am the one that threw stones at you and frightened your wife.”
I was in shock.  Now that he told me his name, I of course recognized him, but he had a much different demeanor than when I knew him in Karlskrona.  I could not speak.  I just stood there and looked at him.  It is not that I did not know what to say; I was not even looking for words.  It was more that the ability to speak had temporarily fled from me.
Scoglund continued: “After you left Karlskrona, I realized that the things that you were preaching were correct.  The Holy Spirit convicted me of my sin and I became born again.  I was saved.”
Now he swallowed hard. I could see the lump in his throat move up and down.  I could tell that he wanted to say more, but he was finding it very difficult.  Yet, I could also tell that he was excited and even relieved to say the words that he was about to say to me.
He continued.  “After you left, I also learned of your little daughter’s death.  Everyone said that I had been the cause of it, since I had so severely traumatized your wife on that fateful night.  This was an enormous grief to me, and continues to be so to this very day.  After I was saved, I would often go to the grave of your little Esther in Karlskrona.  I would bring flowers to lay there and sit and weep for what I had put your family through. I often asked little Esther for forgiveness and prayed to God that I would not die until I would have the opportunity to also ask the forgiveness of you and your wife.”
After he had said this much, I could tell that a huge weight had been lifted off of his shoulders, but he was not completely free from what he wanted to say.  And now I could see that Scoglund was waiting for me to speak.  He wanted to know if there could be forgiveness.
I put my hand on his shoulder, the same shoulder that had borne that burden for so long.  “I forgive you brother.  I forgive you and thank you for visiting the grave of our little Esther when we were not able to do that.”
But now Scoglund asked if he could also seek this forgiveness from Betty.  As we walked together to where my family was sitting, I could see the quizzical looks on their faces.  I asked Betty the same question that the police officer had asked me, “Do you know who this is?”  As I suspected, she did not.
When I told Betty that it was Scoglund, she reacted with shock.  Now that she knew who it was, the vision of that face in the window that night came back to her.  The face that shouted at her, “You will die before my very eyes!”
I was very soon able to calm her however, and asked that she listen to what Scoglund had to say.  Scoglund said much the same words to her as he had said earlier to me, and like he did to me, he asked for Betty’s forgiveness.
Betty not only forgave him, but upon hearing how the loss of her little daughter had a part in the bringing of this once evil man to the Lord, began to rejoice that little Esther’s life had had an impact for the kingdom of God.  In many ways, some of the grief that Betty had born all of these years had been lifted.  In fact, with this confession and forgiveness, all of us present felt a great relief.  It was only our first day in America, and we had already experienced freedom from some of the burdens we had wished to leave in Sweden.  This particular burden, we could now leave at the feet of Jesus.

***********************

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

WHAT HAPPENED 30 JUNES AGO


Yesterday, as Vivian and I drove down the road in our pickup, in the distance we saw a deer with her newborn fawn cross the road. The mother deer ran into the woods as we passed (Which in itself is unusual. Most of the time they try to run in front of your car). However, the little fawn stayed in the ditch and watched us as we passed by.
I stopped, backed up the pickup, and when I got out, the little deer came running up to me. I petted his little head, and then it turned and followed his mom.
Such a cute little deer - bright white spots dappling his back, big eyes and ears, and legs about as big around as one of my fingers. Petting such a little fawn reminded me of something that happened on our farm about 30 Junes ago...

***************************

FALINE

The sickle blade of the hay cutter snapped and snarled closer and closer to the little deer fawn lying in the hay field.  The tractor, with its hay mower, began cutting the hay in the field by making a circle around the outside perimeter of the field and continued by making ever smaller circles in toward the center.  The fawn, lying about one third of the way into the field from the edge, could hear the tractor as it circled around her.  With each pass, as the tractor drove around the field in ever smaller circles, the baby deer grew increasingly frightened.  My Dad, who was cutting the hay, did not know of the fawn laying in the tall hay.  He was simply doing what was part of the work of a farmer – the annual ritual of putting up the hay crop so the cows would have food in the winter.
But the little whitetail deer fawn knew nothing of this.  She had never even seen a winter and did not know what a winter was.  Her life had begun only a week or so earlier and all she knew of eating was the warm, sweet milk from her mother.  Other than that, she knew to lie still when her mother was not near.  Whether this important part of her preservation was something that was in some mysterious way communicated to her by her mother, or an instinct placed into her by God, we cannot tell.  In whatever way the knowledge had come to her, the baby deer had learned that a small, white-speckled fawn lying still as a stone in the sun dappled shade of the grass is very difficult to see, even if one knows where to look.
But the little fawn was getting increasingly nervous.  At first it was not difficult to lie still as the roaring monster thundered on by.  It did not pass very near to where she lay in the grass and it seemed to go away.  But then it returned.  This time a little closer, as if it were looking for her.  It kept going away and returning, but every time it came nearer to where she was lying.

Dad guided the tractor and the hay mower.  His eyes were at once on the edge of the uncut hay and on the sickle bar.  The right wheel of the tractor had to be kept just at the edge of the long grass so the sickle would cut every strand.  As he watched the rattling knives, the cut hay fell neatly back as the sickle bar passed just above ground level.
The dew was still clinging to the grass, leaving the sickle knives shiny and slick.  It was a beautiful day – a good hay day.  After the mowing of that field there was another field that was ready to be baled as soon as the sun had dried off the dew.  There was a lot of work to be done while the sun was in the sky.  “Gotta make hay while the sun shines”.

The little fawn began to find it difficult to lie still. The monster was returning!  This time it seemed to be coming even closer!  Every fiber of the little fawn’s body was telling her to get up on her wobbly little legs and flee the best that she could.  But that inner terror was being countered by the instructions of preservation that she had understood.  Her best protection was to lie as still as a stone.  God, in His love for little fawns, had even provided that they would not have the scent of a deer until they were older.  Huge monsters could roar on past within grabbing distance and not see nor smell them.

Dad’s eyes were fixed on the sickle bar, but far in the corner of his eye something registered that was out of place.  Something was in the grass.  A stone!  Oh great!  Stones dull the teeth of the sickle and might even break one of them.  And he wanted to finish mowing this patch so that it would be ready to bale the next day.
But no, it isn’t a stone!  Both of Dad's feet moved at once.  One foot to press the clutch of the tractor to stop the engine from powering the wheels, and the other foot to hit the brakes as hard as he could.

The little fawn was trembling now.  Which voice should she listen to?  Flee or lie still?  This monster seemed to be devouring everything in its path.  Its jaw was enormous and its noise hideous.  Flee or lie still?!  She started to rise to her frightened and wobbly legs…

Dad saw the little fawn just as she started to move.  His foot was pressing hard on the brakes but the momentum of the tractor still carried it ahead.  As he was trying to stop the tractor, the fawn could no longer control the internal call to flee and began to rise to her feet.  The two met – the monster and the fawn.  The point of meeting was the unknowing and unforgiving sharp blade of the hay cutter, and the front left leg of the little fawn.  The tractor was now stopped, but the damage had been done.  The green grass was stained with red.

The goals of the work day were now forgotten.  Dad picked up the little life and cradled her in his arms.  Blood was coming out of the stump of a leg that remained and it ran down the front of his shirt.  He gently brought the little fawn back to the house where the wound could be cleaned and bandaged.
My Mom and my younger sister were home.  “Why was Dad walking in from the field?”
“He must have broke down.  Just when there was so much to do.”
“But he's carrying something in his arms.  What is it?”
The mother and daughter at once became nurses and veterinarians in an emergency ward.  They got warm water and a gentle soap to clean the wound.  They cut up an old shirt that could be used for a bandage to stop the bleeding and tried to invent a way to keep the bandage from coming off as the fawn struggled.
Mom spoke, “The little deer, (or maybe she meant dear) does not know that we are just trying to help!  Go get one of the calf pails with a nipple and I'll warm up some milk.   We’ll see if we can get some food in this little one.”

But the fawn did not understand any of this.  Back near where her mother had left her in the field she had felt the cold hard teeth of the monster.  To her amazement, the roaring giant did not devour her instantly as she saw that it had done to the grass.  When the monster had stopped, the little fawn thought that it was her chance to escape.  But the pain!  Besides that, her legs were still those of a wobbly little deer, and now she was without one of them.
When the coldness of the monster’s teeth ceased, another part of the monster caught her and lifted her from the ground. Unlike the cold and unforgiving teeth that had cut her, this one had arms that felt warm.  The little fawn struggled to get loose, but the arms were strong and held her firm. 

****************************
I, myself was at my own home.  My wife, Vivian, our little boys, and I lived on our little farm about four miles away.  We had just moved there and were not farming but we helped out the folks when there was work to be done.  It was a good hay day.  By now, I was sure Dad should about have that field cut and I should get over there so we could get the hay that was ready into the barn before nightfall.
My red pickup billowed up dust from the road as I pulled into the yard at my Dad’s.  “Why was everyone standing out on the lawn?”
I joined them and tried to help in the attempt to get the little fawn to take the nipple of the calf bottle.  We all knew the teaching process.  We all had done it countless times with countless calves.  Some calves took to it almost immediately and some were very reluctant to trade the soft, warm, natural nipple of their mother for the cold rubber of the bottle.  But all eventually learned.
But the fawn was not a calf.  She was hurt and she was frightened.  She did not know where her mother was and these new creatures seemed to be becoming more numerous.  They were not eating her but their actions were strange and sometimes pained her.  “Why are they trying to put this smooth stick into my mouth?”

Vivian and I did not have cows on our little farm.  We did have a few goats.  The only reason I can give you for this is because Vivian thought they were cute.  As far as I could see, they just kept getting into trouble and eating the little trees I had planted around our house and barn.
We had one goat that had just given birth to a little kid goat a couple of weeks earlier.  That night before we had suffered our own little tragedy on our farm.  The little goat had gotten himself entangled during the night and had strangled himself.  I had put its lifeless little body in the ground earlier that same morning.  I didn’t want Vivian to see it.  She would be sad.

Over at my Dad’s, as we tried to get the little fawn to drink from the pail, a thought came to me.  “I wonder....”

****************************
The mother goat’s name was Daisy.  She was always ornery, but was so especially that day.  I think she somehow blamed me for her little kid’s death. She fought me when I walked up to her, but after some rather forceful convincing, into the back of the truck she went.
“Come on, Vivian.  You’ve got to see this.”
Our oldest son, Jesse, was only a little boy and Matthew just an infant.  We four in the cab, and Daisy in the back, our truck sped down the road toward Dad and Mom’s.
“Do you think Daisy will let her drink?”

By the time we got to Dad’s, the little fawn had received a name from my sister.  “Faline.”   I thought it sounded like a cat’s name but she told me it was the name of Bambi’s girl friend.
Daisy, too, had had a bad day.  She was accustomed to be the one giving trouble, but on this day everything was going wrong for her and she was upset in every way. Now it seemed like everyone was expecting her to nurse this little deer.  “Are these people so cruel that they think that they can take the life of my own little kid and then try to force me to accept this other little creature, whatever it is?”
Daisy’s udder was laden with milk.  By this time of day the goat kid would have normally sucked her dry.  But that morning there was no little goat.  Daisy struggled and kicked at the prospect of having this strange little one take the milk of her own kid.  But she did not have much choice.  I straddled her and held up her hind leg on one side so my sister could try to get the little deer to take to the surrogate mother’s milk.

Faline was feeling a little better.  After the bandage got on she saw that it offered her wound some protection and it did not hurt quite so much.  She was actually feeling a little hungry.  By now she, too, would have eaten a hearty breakfast from her mother.  Where was her mother? she wondered.
Faline was about to meet another strange creature that day.  The first creature was hard and cold and had sharp teeth.  This one seemed strangely familiar.  It was not a deer, but there were some similarities.  One of the similarities suddenly became very obvious.  Although this new creature did not seem completely agreeable to the idea, it had milk in the right place and dispensed it in the correct fashion.  Not as good as mom’s, but warm and sweet in its own way.

****************************
That was how it began.  Faline seemed very content with the new arrangement, but Daisy never did warm up to her role as surrogate mother to a little whitetail deer.  In the midst of the heavy work schedule of a summer on the farm, several times during each day someone would have to hold Daisy still so Faline could drink.
Faline grew healthy and strong.  She began to eat clover and grass from around the farm and I think Daisy must have taught her also how to occasionally get into a bit of mischief.  As Faline got older she would run in the fields.  When she walked she of course had a very noticeable limp, but I was amazed at how swift and smooth her gate was when she ran.  Watching her run across an open field one would never suspect she was missing most of one leg.
Some evenings we would see her running and playing with other deer who had come out from the woods to eat and romp in the fields.  It was like kids from two different neighborhoods getting together to play.  Their backgrounds were different, but their games were the same.  At the end of the play, the other deer would disappear into the woods and Faline would come back to the farm.
As she grew older, Faline would sometimes disappear for a couple of days.  We would wonder if she had gone to live with the rest of the deer and if she would ever come back.  She did.  While she was out in the woods, she must have had some memory of her strange family background and came back to see us.

****************************
One autumn day I was over at my Dad’s doing the evening chores.  Mom and Dad had gone someplace that evening.  In the past weeks we had noticed a young buck sometimes hanging around the farm, and sometimes had seen him and Faline together.
The big barn door faced the woods.  In moments when I was waiting for the milking machines to finish milking the cows I would stand at the door and look out across the field to the woods.  The maples were in full color and here and there a tall pine tree stood up to proudly display its deep green that it refused to give up for the coming winter.
As I looked out over the open landscape, I saw two deer run across the field to the woods.  One of the deer had the spiked antlers of a young buck.  The other, even though one would not notice it, I knew had one front leg that had been cut off by a mower.  The two deer disappeared into the dark of the trees.  This time, Faline did not return.  She had remembered her true beginnings.
“Good-by Faline.  Good-by girl.”
A happier ending one could not imagine.

Friday, May 18, 2012

CHORE TIME

If you have ever milked a cow by hand, this poem may bring back a few memories.

********************************
CHORE TIME
                                      by Donald Rhody

I think it must no longer be common –
It was the last generation’s chore,
But what has been gained in efficiency
Has been lost in what I value more.

My growing up years were as a farm-boy.
Ours – a simple and small dairy farm.
But what our farm lacked in proficiency
Was gained with the compensation of charm.

I think it must no longer be common –
A gift as rare as one could endow.
With a bucket as one’s only machinery
To sit quietly milking a cow.

The chore is one of complete contentment –
Squirting warm, foamy milk in a pail.
And the cow, slowly munching her greenery,
Only rarely switches you with her tail.

The barn cats have returned from their hunting.
They’ve grown tired of their diet of mice.
So they busy themselves with explaining
That a warm squirt of milk would be nice.

And I am more than glad to oblige them –
They open their mouths and I take aim.
Our farm dog is patient – not complaining.
He considers their behavior a shame.

The dog knows that when chore time is finished
I pour some milk in the old iron griddle.
And some days he is even persuaded
To let those begging cats have a little.

And then I must also feed the new calf
That was born the middle of last week.
The mother could barely be dissuaded
To let me bring the calf home from the creek.

Now I am teaching the new calf to drink.
For the first week she nursed from the cow.
But small calves jump into maturity,
And before long she’ll eat hay from the mow.

My cow with her calf, the dog and the cats,
All may sometimes long for a life in the wild.
But our barn offers them security –
A motherly barn, who cares for her child.

Our barn was a home of nourishment –
Like an extension of the mother’s womb.
Much different than modern factory-farms,
That seem more like precursors to the tomb.

That which was once entirely common,
Has in these days become all but dead.
And despite my growing sense of alarm
We continually choose the lifeless instead.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

THE MEANING OF GRACE

Today is Mother's Day in the United States. We said good-bye to my mom about ten years ago. Somehow, I managed to read the following words at her funeral.
After ten years, I still miss you mom.

GRACE
Back in the Old Testament times, parents would often give their children names that fit their character.  I was never sure how they were able to do this, nor am I sure how George and Lillian Blomberg came to name my mom “Grace.”   But never was there a person who so fit the character of her name.
Words and language have a greater purpose than we often give them.  Words are meant to express more than simply a set of facts that are to be understood correctly.  We must go beyond mere and meager communication to know the person who is speaking.  When we know the words and language of the One who has spoken in the Bible, we are progressing from the cold, hard facts of the Old Testament Law, to knowing Jesus Christ Himself, who is God’s fullest expression of His Word.
So it is with the word Grace.  If we can, for a moment, put aside any strictly theological definitions of the word, we will know my mom better.  Grace does not mean that one ignores what is bad, but it is instead making a conscious choice to act with favor toward someone, despite what they may deserve.  Grace is knowing that the good that exists so outweighs the bad, that in the end, it is the good that will prevail.  Understanding these things, we can begin living by grace. By living in grace, we can also know my mom.

Grace is kissing the cheek of a grandchild for some stemless flowers that he has just picked from her best planter on the porch to give to his gramma.

Grace is enjoying the way the sun shines through the window and not commenting on how the sun shows how dirty the window glass is.

Grace is standing in the barn door during chore time and singing to the morning; not allowing oneself to be brought low by the drudgery of milking cows.

Grace is genuinely enjoying unexpected company, even when the pain in your knees begins to become unbearable.

Grace is being very hesitant to believe something bad about someone, but very quick to believe something good.

Grace is reminding someone of how, in the end, all things will be made right by God.

Grace is reciting lines of poems learned long ago, just for the joy of hearing the words.

Grace is facing a busy day, but taking time to enjoy listening to the birds singing in the morning.

Grace is encouraging you to “look-up my cousin’s family,” when you pass through their town; even though you have never met them and think you have no time.  (“You might make a new friend”)

Grace is writing a letter to someone that you think might be missing his home.

Grace is wearing old farm clothes that smell of cow barn, when your natural beauty deserves the finest clothing and richest perfume.

Grace is taking more pleasure in the achievements of others than in your own.

Grace is reminding someone to think in terms of what will seem important about today, 80 years from now.

Grace is knowing that there is good to be found in every situation.

Grace is singing and singing ... and singing.

Grace is having that quality which makes others always feel better about a difficult situation after they have had a cup of coffee and visited with you.

Grace is appreciating so much the smallest thing that another may do for you.

Grace is knowing that to give grace to others, you must also know how to receive it.

Grace is also knowing that the originator of all good things is God.

Grace – despite wanting to hold on to someone you love so much – is letting that person go into the care and the love of Jesus.

We can let you go, mom.  From you we have learned grace.

All who knew my mom have touched the grace of God, because she knew how to live within His grace.  It was with purpose that the Apostle Paul wrote to the churches, “Grace and Peace to you.”  The two go together.  Where there is grace, there is peace.  When we learn to live by the grace of God, we will also know peace.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

LIFE FROM DEATH


Vivian and I have been enjoying what for us has been a rare treat in the past several years. We have been in Wisconsin to welcome the early spring. Our time here has again reminded me of one of the great life lessons from living in this particular corner of the world. It is a lesson that must have, as a prerequisite, a cold and dark winter, for it is out of this darkness that the message emerges.
The winters in Wisconsin are ones in which nature is in a deep dormancy. We might even say that it is a winter in which all has appeared to have died. A walk through the woods in the winter is one of stillness. There are very few signs of active life. Of course winter has its own unique beauties, but the point that I wish to make here is that there is more about winter that speaks of death than there is that speaks of life. The trees are not growing, and many have even dropped whatever green signs of life that they once had. There are no new little plants emerging from the forest floor. Even many of the animals have entered into hibernation, which one could call a semi-death.
But then spring arrives! The trees, which once looked completely dead, begin to show a swelling on the tips of their branches as they begin to pump life back into their nascent leaf buds. The bears and other animals that once appeared to be lying dead in their dens, gradually begin to stir and rouse themselves. Then soon, everywhere you look you see life. New little plants are emerging out of what was lifeless soil, many of them so eager to grow that they do not even wait for the snow to be completely melted. All that was dead has again come to life!
Those of us who are from Wisconsin understand the difficulties of living in an area that has such a deep winter, but sometimes I think that there are relatively few of us who have appreciated the great lesson that comes from watching life spring out of death. Certainly we are all glad to see spring arrive. No longer do we have to bundle ourselves with many layers of clothing and plow our way through the snow to get out of our driveways. No longer do we continually have to throw wood into our furnaces or pay the heating oil man. Warm weather has arrived and we are excited to enjoy the fine summer months.
But we must not be so wrapped up in our playing in the sun that we miss the great lesson that we have just experienced. Life has emerged from death. It is one of the great themes of the Bible. If we would take time to notice, nature itself, as God’s creation, also gives us a lesson on this subject.
“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” This is how Jesus explained to His disciples concerning the lesson of life coming from death (John 12:24). He was preparing them for His own death, which, without this lesson, would have appeared to be a defeat. However, understanding this principle of life emerging from death teaches us that death may instead be the means to abundant life.
All life is ultimately connected with Jesus. He also said, “He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24).
Notice that Jesus did not say that this eternal life is something that will happen some day in the future when our physical bodies die, but if our confidence and hope of living is in Him, we have already passed out of death and into life. As Jesus had said, His death has brought about much fruit.

Although there are many more aspects to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles concerning life that emerges from death, the very first lesson is found in these words of Jesus: “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).