Wry Bread

Posted by Missouri Rev on Nov 17th, 2006

The Lord has blessed our small community with Jan Wyller, a resident poet and native Missourian, no less. The two make a great combination. I am pleased to announce that her first set of poems — Wry Bread – Uncommon Thoughts on Common Themes — has been published. As her pastor and editor, it is a real joy to see her faith and God given talents bear fruit. Here is one of my favorites:

No vagrant graces
caught by each alone,
These, and more,
from His Providence come down:

Invincible gratitude,
locked-in peace,
Sewn fast forever
in the hearts
Of those He owns.

James 1:17, 3:17-18

If you would like to purchase a copy for $10 you can write Jan at PO Box 196, Rayville, Missouri 64084.

Book Review

Posted by Missouri Rev on Jun 14th, 2006

Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian

by Herrick Kimball

I particularly enjoyed reading this book like one enjoys a summer evening with a friend on his quiet, country porch. You are there to enjoy the fellowship and deeply take in the delicious country air of the “good life,” not to study the engineering of his porch in relationship to the countryside. In the same way, this refreshing book is not an in depth treatise on the subject of Christian agrarianism, but rather a series of stories and anecdotes about Herrick Kimball’s transition into a biblically agrarian life, including the painful lessons and exhilarating triumphs. One can smell the garden soil he works with his family and taste the strawberries grown from it, while also smelling the coppery scent of blood and the wet feathers of the chickens he raises and slaughters. There is a hearty earthiness to the book that awakens the reader to the realities of being a steward of God’s creation.

By weaving his faith and practice, his fears and joys, into these earthly realities, he gives us a glimpse into the daily life of a family making the difficult and often snail-paced transition into a Christian agrarian lifestyle. One can feel the emotional journey and relate to the trials he and his wife have undergone in finding their agrarian roots while also establishing them in the lives of their sons. The stories of his grandfather and the humble, down-to-earth role he played in shaping his worldview are truly encouraging. Not that the book does not deal with the issues, as there some very succinct chapters devoted to very important issues that face us today like My Debt-Free Home and a Personal Testimony, the Industrial Providers, and the Theology of Food Independence. There is literally a world of difference between pontificating about agrarianism and living it; Herrick has done a good job in giving us a taste of what he has experienced thus far in seeking the “good life” of biblical agrarianism. One can contact Herrick at his website The Deliberate Agrarian.

Flower O’ The Heather

Posted by Missouri Rev on Mar 2nd, 2006

Though meteorologists in our neck of the woods consider March 1st the beginning of spring, the real proof came yesterday when I drove past a local slue. There on various logs were dozens of painted turtles sunbathing in the beautiful 75 degree weather. Frog orchestras are soon in coming . . . can’t wait.

I have been enjoying a great though mostly unknown historical novel, Flower O’ The Heather – A Story of the Killing Times, written in 1922 by Robert William MacKenna. It’s the story of the conversion of a young man to the Covenanter’s faith through the trials he endured during the savage persecution of the Covenanters around 1685. Having joined the King’s army (English) after being expelled from college, Walter de Brydde soon deserts it because he cannot stomach the various crimes he is required to participate in to punish those who will not take the “test oath.” Without food or a place to lay his head, he is rescued by an old Presbyterian pastor who, having refused to take the oath, was forced into the Highland moorland to live quite primitively so that he could continue to lead worship on the Lord’s Day during open air meetings in the fields called Conventicles. Eventually they are surrounded by soldiers and the faithful pastor gives his life for him, so that he escapes. Through many more severe trials and wonderful blessings he comes into full faith as one who suffers for Christ and for his fellow Covenanters. The names and historical events woven into the story are historically accurate. The author, in giving it such a robust Scottish flavor, uses the heavy Scottish brogue in many places, which is sometimes hard to follow. Here are a few bonnie quotes that I thought you lassies ane laddies woohhd anjoh.

During the night the Reverend Alexander Main would often play haunting Scottish tunes on his flute. One night there was noticeable silence for which young Brydden inquired of the pastor, “Well,” he said. “it is Saturday, and ye’ll no’ hear me playing the nicht. On such a nicht one is too near the threshold of the Sabbath day lichtly to engage in sic worldly amusement. However, if ye’ll come around to my side of the loch about the usual time, we’ll take a bite o’ supper together—after that ye’d better leave me to my meditations in view of the Lord’s Day, for I am preaching the morn.” “In which church, may I ask?” I said, forgetting for a moment where I was. “In the kirk of the moorland,” he answered, “which has no roof but God’s Heaven, and no altar but the loving hearts of men and women!”

The glorious death of Rev. Main: “I heard the jangle of bridle chains, and the creak of stirrup leathers: I could hear the heavy breathing of the horses—they were closing in upon me from every side. One minute more and I should be discovered, and then, death! And I, because I had learned to love, had grown afraid to die. Suddenly, clear and shrill, the sound of a flute came from the far side of the loch. What madness was this? Did not the old man know that the troopers were upon us? In the very teeth of danger he was calmly playing a tune that I had heard more than once in the moonlit hours of the night. O fool! What frenzy had seized him? . . . And then the truth flashed upon me. It was not madness: it was sacrifice! He had seen my danger, and to save me, with no thought of self, he had done this thing. . . . Would he take the oath? I knew that to him allegiance to his God was more precious than fealty to an earthly king. I could see the whole scene: he, calm, in the circle of his accusers, with the firing party charging their weapons. I could hear the bullying voice of the commander trying to break his spirit, and then I knew—for I had seen it—that he would be given five minutes to make his peace with God. Little need for that! . . . The crash of muskets tore the silence and I knew that Alexander Main, hillman, and Saint, had won his crown of glory at the last.

Young Brydden, upon waking from a coma after several days, the result of fall that broke his leg while fleeing his pursuers, discovers the care that was given him by the mother and daughter of a humble covenanting family, the Patersons. “Can ye feed yersel’, or maun I feed ye like a bairn [child] ?” She gave me a horn spoon, and with a shaky hand I fed myself. She sat watching me, but did not speak again till I had finished my meal. “That’s better,” she said. “You’ll soon be yersel’ again. It’s the prood woman I am. I never yet knew a man sae ill as you ha’e been pu’ through. Man, but for the grace o’ God and our Mary [the lady’s daughter that discovered him injured and risked her neck to rescue him], the craws on the moor ha’e picked yer banes white long ere noo.”

Mrs. Patterson discusses the finer points of milking the coo. I listened eagerly. She [Mary] was singing a love song! The old woman heard her too, for she said: Dae ye ken ocht aboot kye?” I hastened to tell her that I knew nothing. “Weel,” she said, “It’s a queer thing, but ye can aye get mair milk frae a coo if ye sing at the milkin’. If ye sing a nice bricht tune you’ll get twa or three mair gills than if ye dinna sing ava. Noo, that’s Meg she’s milkin’, and Meg has got near as muckle sense as a human being. On Sabbath, ye ken, it would be a terrible sin to sing a sang to the coo when ye’re milkin her, so I’ve got to fa’ back on the psalms. But ye’ve got to be carefu’. For instance, if ye sang the ‘Auld Hundred’ to Meg, ye wadna’ get near sae muckle [so much] milk, because it’s solemn-like, than wad if ye sang her a psalm that runs to tune o’ ‘French’. Forby, I aince had a servant-lass that sang a paraphrase when she was milkin’ Meg, and the puir cratur’ was that upset that shw was milked dry before the luggy was a quarter filled, and when I went masel’ [myself] to strip her, she put her fit in the pail—a thing I’ve never kent her dae afore or since.”

Mrs. Patterson explains herself when she chases the chickens away while referring to them as covenanters. “Shoo! Ye wee Covenanters!” she cried. I laughed, as I said, “Why do you call them Covenanters?” “Weel,” she replied, “I often think that chickens and the hill-men ha’e muckle in common. Ye see maist Covenanters tak’ life awfu’ seriously. They ha’e few pleasures frae the minute they come into the world. A kitten will lie in the sun playin’ wi’ a bit o’ oo’, and a wee bit puppy will chase its tail for half an hour on end; but wha ever saw a chicken playin’? They denna ken the way. It’s scrape, scrape, pick, pick, frae the day they crack the shell till the day their necks are wrung. And your Covenanters are muckle the same.”

I ope’ ye foond these quotes anjoybl’. — The Missouri Rev.

A Delightful Book

Posted by Missouri Rev on Jan 10th, 2006

Herrick Kimball in one of his recent blog postings mentions a delightful book, Diary of an Early American – Noah Blake 1805, by noted author/illustrator Eric Sloan. I was able to pick up a used hardback 1st edition (1962) for a couple of bucks on the Internet and have come to be very pleased with this great book investment, as quaint as it is. The book is based upon an old, leather-bound diary that the author found in a barn, which had the following inscription on the flyleaf:

NOAH BLAKE, my book
March the twenty-fifth,
Year of our Lord 1805
Given to me by my Father Isaac Blake
And my Mother Rachel
upon the fifteenth year of my life.

The actual diary is fairly terse, though incredibly enlightening, especially with the research and illustrations the author adds to it to bring it to life. From the inside cover we read this: The result is an intriguing combination of elements—quotations from Noah Blake’s diary, Eric Sloan’s descriptions of nail-making, bridge-building, shingle-splitting, and everyday occupations of a century and a half ago, nearly a hundred illustrations—which bring the year 1805, and Noah Blake, to life again for us. This description is quite accurate, but it doesn’t tell the whole story – the incredible knowledge our ancestors had of one of the Lord’s most blessed, living technologies — wood, that’s right, wood!

I have often made the ignorant assumption that our modern industrial technologies in wood-making were a vast improvement upon the “antiquated” ones from centuries ago. Though in some areas this may be true in improved tools and related manufacturing products (glues, etc.), though some of these have created new problems, there are several areas where the corporate, debt-based industrialism (that rules supreme over our pagan culture and economy) has created technologies that serve the short-term, monopolistic aspirations of the international corporate and banking empires rather than the long-term, generational needs of individuals and families. Witness the plethora of garbage plywoods and simulated wood products, the inferior doglegged 2×4’s and other structural products, the glued sawdust furniture stapled together with cheap plastic hardware, the expensive though quickly grown and poorly seasoned furniture and cabinet making woods, the crudely made Taiwanese screws, the list goes on.

What I didn’t realize, however, was that there were very good reasons why our agrarian founders used wood only in making certain products and structures, rather than combining it with metal (screws, etc.). They understood the technology of wood, its various task specific qualities and useful combinations, which they found could make a more durable, longer lasting product. Homes and bridges made of logs and carefully constructed stones were made to last for generations, imagine that! I am very impressed with this simple book. It has stirred in me all the more the Lord given desire to not only farm, but to steward a hardwood forest in a biblically sustainable manner while using it to properly supply wood products for various needs. I not only recommend this book for the homeschooling library, but also for us adults that need a brief journey back to a more godly culture and time. If you have other books along these lines that you can recommend, please present them in any comments you may have.