About life

Sunday’s Muse 2/24

Lazarus is dead — so are we without Jesus

“The Master . . . calleth for thee” — He still does

“I am . . . Life” — He still is

Jesus wept; they say, “He loved him” — His love is still immense and free

(You) Come forth! — Walk into newness of life. Reawaken into His Grand Purpose for your life. Live in His presence

Musings from John 11: 1-46

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On Trust and Strength For Questions


We trust you for sight, for we don’t see clearly,
We trust you for strength, for we are weak,
We trust you for calmness of soul, for our own are shredded by emotions,
We trust your for peace, for this world is buffeted by Adam’s fall and the effects of sin,
We trust you for understanding, for we are confused,
We trust you for wisdom, for earthly philosophy fails us,
We trust you for healing, for we see physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual anguish daily,
We trust you to mend our hearts, for they are broken,

Our trust, rather than minimizing the questioning, allows us to ask more plaintively,
why . . . Why . . . WHY???
Why the turmoil? Why the pain?
Why the weakness? Why lack of understanding?
Why the anguish? Why the confusion?
Why the loss?
why . . . Why . . . WHY???

Bereft, yearning for closure, and confused at the senselessness of a dear one’s passing, our souls echo Job’s words:

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!

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What’s in Your Row?

Last Sunday’s commencement address was entitled “What’s in Your Wallet?”. Obviously, the speech centered around Capital One’s ad campaign of the same name (personally I prefer cash to be in my wallet but that’s a post for another day). As a group of graduates, we were told that as a result of our studies, we had what we needed to succeed in life. This is partially true. While education and training can prepare for a life of success, more frequently what’s inside of us is what determines our level of success.

Allow me to move to tonight and I promise I’ll tie all of this together. It was an idyllic evening. At one point, I asked myself how I’m privileged to live the beauty of the evening. We were planting the family garden (one way to pay this month’s rent, right? 😉 ). I couldn’t help but paraphrase the commencement speech’s title to “What’s In Your Row?”

Here’s where I try to tie it together. There is a local acquaintance of mine who’s activity I see from time to time in my Instagram feed. His chosen name for that form of social media leaves my wondering every time I see it. Why? Because subconsciously he’s internalizing the very name he gave himself. While it may have been a joke at the time his account was created, every time he posts, he sees it again. Is it any wonder he eventually starts living the name he gave himself? What he fills himself with is what will be shown in his life eventually.

Currently, I’m in this weird transition stage. I have my career lined up and ready to start next week which leaves me this week to do what I want. I dislike sitting still. I need action and something to do (here is where Mom suggests cleaning up my room or personal file cabinet). I actually lined up some temp work with a construction crew I worked for four years ago. Unsurprisingly, during this time of wide-open, flexible schedule, the Enemy has been actively working at creating stumbling blocks in my spiritual path. No one is perfect; I’m not. Probably now, more than any other time, I am acutely aware that the personal habits I form now will be the personal habits I will carry into the coming months, if not years. It produces this urge to “get it right”, which I know is a myth. It makes what I do no less important. Do I allow the Enemy to be successful in his attacks or do I develop the discipline to resist? What habits can I create to safeguard my future self? The reverse of this is what habits do I currently have which expose me to attacks from the Enemy?

Words, music, friends, books, and more all add to our lives. In ways minute and large, they form the mosaic of our lives. Given that these impact our success or are responsible for the lack of success, is it worth tolerating those influences that don’t lead to the success we want?


So the question is, what’s in row? What are you planting? If you can answer that, you’re well on your way to forecasting what will grow. Cuz I can tell you this: the row in the picture above has sweet corn in it. I know; I planted it. And what will grow is sweet corn(so many puns leap to my mind but I won’t make any).

Ignite the discussion,



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When this posts, I should have my diploma in hand. For a conservative Mennonite kid whose culture is hesitant about higher education, it is a bit of a dream-come-true moment. Yet as an older student, I find the emotional-social aspect different than what many of my academic colleagues are experience. Yes, I’ll miss university life but there’s some elements I won’t miss. Let me compile a list of what I will not miss and what I will miss from university life.


What I won’t miss:

Language – college students can possess a rough vocabulary. Whether the use of salty language makes them feel larger, more in control than what they are, I don’t know. Maybe to impress their friends or to appear “in”? It’s possible. Regardless, language is formative and shapes our personalities and our futures. For that reason alone, language should be used with care.

Students not fully engaging in classes or appreciating the effort that goes into teaching. Hand-in-hand with this is disrespect, which is shown in many different ways.

This next one is hard to quantify. What I won’t miss is not feeling truly at home socially, culturally and even in faith practice with others here on campus. That alone can be rough. Yet, when I spend time with others from my home community, I feel a level of estrangement as well. I’m not pointing fingers (I know community members read this blog); I’m stating what is reality for me. Granted, part of that is my fault. Over the past 7 years, I have lived all over God’s globe. In those 7 years, the amount of time I have lived in my home community is probably 8-10 months. So yeah, I’ll take the brunt of feeling estranged.

The constant travels to and from school. The thirty minutes between Bluffton, Ohio and Elida, Ohio gets old. Quickly.

The boring terrain of western Ohio.


What I will miss:

People. I have met so many wonderful folks who I otherwise wouldn’t have met. Professors and administration members who have encouraged me through my studies. Customers of my fry pies and granola bars. Students who have a vision for their life (this is rare; I’m privileged to know a few of these). Others who have become friends from various interactions around campus. People with whom meals, coffee, and conversation has been shared. I’ll miss all of them.

The opportunity for rigorous study. Yes, this can happen beyond school yet it will take much more focused intensity to learn about a subject (and I have a deep distrust for Google).

Singing daily in choir. Ah, this one brings tears. I thoroughly enjoyed both University Chorale and Camerata Singers. And Dr. Suderman has become a special friend. 

The culture and community of western Ohio towns. Yes, I dislike the terrain but I do enjoy the people and culture.


Looking forward to:

Dare I say it? Simply being at home and not having obligations academically. Yes, I see people snickering. Sure, life will get busy but it will only be as busy as I let it. Give me a cup of tea and a campfire with family or friends, I’m ready for it. I want normal life to happen. Yeah, including the 40 hour workweeks. Gotta pay bills, right?

Being normal, as much as normal can be normal without being a setting on a dryer.

Experimenting with food and production methods. Along with this, starting my own business.

Catching up on my book reading list. I have books on my bookshelf to read and a “to read” list that is quite lengthy.

Pursuing personal goals (see last post).


Chapters end, doors close and others open, and time moves on. My Bluffton experience has ended. And I’m grateful. Grateful, that along each step of the way, people were there to encourage me. Grateful, that God was present through it all. Grateful, for opportunities. Grateful, simply to be alive.

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Almost There

I often wonder why I maintain this blog. I do horribly with posting. Every now and again I get on a schedule but something always happens to knock me out of rhythm. I won’t promise anything in the future. Graduation is this weekend and I believe my thinking capital has been used to get through school. Now with my undergrad studies over, maybe, just maybe, I’ll have the time to get back to writing and thinking about life.

Cuz trust me, I still do that.

One thing Bluffton University has helped shape in me is a greater vision for a restored Earth. My personal vision is seeing this done through agriculture. Maybe I’ll write about that. I still enjoy music and making music. Maybe that will get some writing attention. My friend, Anita, mentioned something about conservative Mennonites not having a comprehensive theology about the body and physical fitness. I may have a thought or two about that as well. Life is lived in relation to others. Relationships matter. As an older single in conservative Menno-dom, maybe a few thoughts could be conjured up on that subject (or a lot). I could publish my essay on dating, though it would look like I’m stealing Doug Kauffman’s material. The content of our essays is very similar. Or maybe some satirical fantasy about dating?

Where are we by now? Restorative agriculture. Music. The body and fitness. Relationships from a conservative single perspective. Food. Friends. Personal projects (Ultimate Frisbee league, book club, inter-church choral society to name a few). Personal finance. Yes, there could be more thoughts coming. And hopefully in small, bite-sized chunks.

I really don’t know. All I know as of right now is that graduation is tomorrow at 2:00 P.M., my degree of Food and Nutrition with a concentration in Business Administration will be completed, and I begin my new job in food safety and product development in two weeks. Beyond that, if I have lived or can live such a life that in future months, someone will say, “I wish Eric was here” or is blessed by a memory of some action of mine or is challenged to think deeply and critically or to give life their all, I consider myself having lived life well. That’s what I strive for.

And besides this, God walks with me.


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The Depth of Beauty

Beauty. That ethereal, undefinable quality which we instinctively recognize yet fail to capture with words, music, or photography. Both enigmatic and subtle as the smell of a campfire, as well as loud, boisterous, the pounding of surf on a wild shoreline.

If I lay aside my Christian lens, I would say at humanity’s core lies a deep hunger to experience beauty. But beauty won’t be purchased, can’t be objectified. It demands to be respected, honored for the embodiment it takes. We chase it, yet like an open hand in water, we know it but upon withdrawal, find it still away, somewhere over yonder. We only have the memory, dripping away from us, a tangible reminder of “what once was” and “what might be” again. This “what might be” is our pursuit.

Beauty’s greatest gift to us is its demand for respect according to the measure with which we give its embodiment. A leaf, intricately amazing, is only that . . . a leaf. We ooh and aah over the firestorm of color that Autumn brings us; soon it passes. A bouquet of flowers, comprised of multiple leaves and colors, calls us to pay attention more deeply, more thoughtfully. Its beauty is different than that of a single leaf. The beautiful essence of a kitten is something more intangible, more alive than that of a leaf.

Humans take beauty to its ultimate form. (can we just say that nieces are perhaps the most charming things to grace this planet?) The innocent trust of a child is beautiful, the glittering eye, clear of malice and envy, purer than any precious stone. Yet a child, for all its natural innocence, lacks that final quality. I know of nothing finer on earth than this: a soul, anchored in its self-knowledge and awareness, subsuming its identity into a larger calling and confidently radiating an attitude of humble contentedness while fulfilling its given role. THIS is beauty. It calls to another soul and, in a unique way, demands to be seen. Not in an aggrandizing way for true beauty never calls overt attention to itself. But it does. When you see it, you know it’s there.

I’ve seen it tonight. I’ve watched from afar. Like the stimulating salt air, it invigorated my soul. It called. I . . . hung up. See, beauty is scary. It’s nerve-wracking. We view it, desire it, and unfairly equate it with perfection. Beauty is not synonymous with perfection. Beauty is scary in driving us to believe we must be perfect to appreciate it, to interact with it, to handle its varied forms. Beauty needs not perfection, it invites honesty.

Beauty . . . from afar inspires. In close, it calls us to be real. Its presence stimulates; its absence makes the lonely night darker, more depressing. No matter its guise, it must be respected. Any other response does beauty a disservice.

(imperfect thoughts on beauty recently encountered and how lonely the night is when we leave the presence and essence of beauty. we mourn the sunset because of beauty lost and anticipate the morning when its restored.)

Ignite the discussion,


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Since Love is Lord of Heaven and Earth

Yesterday, on my commute homeward, I again realized music’s power to touch the soul.

The past week was a rough one. Interspersed with early morning and closing-at-midnight-work shifts, was an exam plus a head cold which I struggled to cure. Lingering over all this was a malaise birthed from a severe case of senioritis(that intense longing to finish the last year of school) and combined with a sudden, strong tripartite realization of how much of a non-traditional student I really am. It was affecting my psyche, even after working the Saturday morning Bluffton farmers market which usually is a mood-booster. Really, I had all the ingredients to throw a pity party for myself.

As I drove east through Ohio’s golden plains, one of the songs that Camerata Singers is singing this year started playing through my mind. It’s the Quaker text for “My Life Flows On” but rearranged by Z. Randall Stroope. I was drawn to the piece from the very first time we rehearsed the piece, yet yesterday was the first time it spoke to my soul’s needs. The song climaxes with the line, “while love is lord of heaven and earth . . .” Stroope did an excellent job of creating both suspense and a moving line that resolves in a peaceful close to the question posed by the text with “. . . how can I keep from singing?”.

As that line ran through my head, I thought of my week, the tiredness, the mental straining, the internal questioning of life and this pursuit of education. Contrasting my personal efforts of living life to the immutability of God’s position as Supreme Love and the ruler of both Heaven and Earth, I was humbled. The God I serve, the One to whom I owe my existence, is Love. He delights in being love. He is waiting for me to recognize that He loves me. And on the heels of mentally reviewing Stroope’s version of “My Life Flows On”, He spoke deeply into the core of my being. It was a simple line: Eric, I love you. You are Mine. Allowing that enter my heart, last week’s exhaustion and worries melted like a pat of butter on a stack of flapjacks. Immediately, I asked myself questions. If indeed, Love is Lord of both Heaven and Earth, why worry? Why do it on my own? Why not surrender and allow Him to lead? Why not sing? Because no matter what happens, He is still Lord.

Enjoy this YouTube recording of the piece. May it bless others as well.


Ignite the discussion,



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The Vagabond Years: Part 2

This post is a follow up to yesterday’s post. The purpose of these posts are twofold. First, it allows me to explain my path over the past 7 years. I’ve had this discussion with many people and I myself have often wondered what’s next. Secondly, I find it beneficial to look at my personal history. Seeing how God has led helps me trust more fully in His current, ongoing provision. Maybe in some small way, my own story can help you trust God with your story.


One day, shortly after I began teaching school, I got to thinking about the things I research in my spare time. Going through my mental rolodex, I realized sustainable agriculture and other food ideas were the things I researched in my spare time. The first thing that came to mind was a book I had read. My friends from Belleville, Pennsylvania had introduced me to Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma and I thoroughly enjoyed reading Pollan’s take on the state of America’s diet.

That was the first thing I thought of that day but it wasn’t the only thing. I sat there, thinking further. During the recent recession, our family delivered honey to a local chain of grocery stores. There is a certain, early morning camaraderie that exists among the various vendors and delivery drivers who supply food stores. From time to time the discussion would circle around to the economy and if it was affecting sales. The snack food companies, with their preserved cheap calories, did not see a visible slump. (Bear in mind this is what we observed on a ground level. Actual numbers might reveal another story.) Thinking about this revealed something to me. It doesn’t matter what the economy is doing or in which country, people will have to eat. To use the phrase of a neighbor of mine, “People wake up hungry.” Add this to the things that are certain in life: death, taxes, and hunger.

Taking these interests in sustainable agriculture and food being a relatively recession-proof industry and add another factor: the involvement of my extended family in food and business. The majority of my mom’s siblings are in the food business either in manufacturing and wholesale or in retail; maybe even in both! Wrap these three things altogether and it seemed clear what I should study: the business of food. And out of those three colleges that I had been accepted to, only Bluffton had a Food and Nutrition program. And one by one, those items on my personal checklist for college were met. There was one catch; I was still teaching school. I had told the school board  that I was seriously considering college and that I most likely would only teach for one year. But what a year it was! One big memory I treasure from this year was the music I was blessed to be involved in. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed that year (a big THANKS! to anyone from there who might happen to read this). So many interactions with a lot of great people. It made it difficult thinking of not returning as a teacher, but I felt now was the time to finish my degree. So, after another European choir tour, off to Bluffton, Ohio and Bluffton University I went as a student.

It is now early in my second year, and I anticipate graduating next spring. Where and what my initial career field will be, I don’t know. However as an Anabaptist I want to pursue a career or a business that ties community, faith, stewardship, and helping the impoverished together in a business model. Again, I don’t know what shape that will take but I trust God can work through my dreams and make them reality. I’m excited to complete this year, and with heart-in-my-throat trepidation, I look forward to stepping out of the tunnel of these vagabond years.


Ignite the discussion,


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The Vagabond Years: Part 1

This is the first of two planned posts (there might be a follow up third post). These two tie in with my last post, but these two are unique. Why? It is a brief history of what I call my vagabond years; years spent in a handful of countries and two states. They were years of wondering “What’s next?”. Years of pursuing God’s will; years of learning more about myself and how my gifts and passions can benefit the Kingdom of Heaven. Who knows, maybe these posts encourage you to look at your own past story and see how God has directed your own story. Enjoy.

January, 2010:

The anticipation of legally becoming an adult! There is a great thrill about this. After all, now I can do what I want, right? In the home I grew up in, we children received our age at 21. This meant we were expected to stay at home until that time. If we wanted to do any time of voluntary service, we did this after we turned 21. There would have been a few exceptions. For example, with my birthday being in January, I could have begun teaching the school in the fall of 2009. My brother worked for his company in eastern Europe when he was 20. So there were a few exceptions but we were expected to hold to this rule. In fact, to this day, there is a saying in our house, “He/she is 21” and that is short hand for “He/she is an adult; they can choose to do what they want.” While it worked so well for my two older brothers, Neil, my younger brother, and I find it doesn’t work so well as a way of getting out of work and responsibility. 🙂 But in January of 2010 is really where my vagabond years begin. I call them vagabond years because I have lived in five different locations since 2010. The end is in sight, but I am still in those vagabond years. In 2010 I left for a two year term in the small South American country of Paraguay. It ended up being closer to 27 months than two years. Understandably, it was a very formative 27 months. I learned a new culture and a new language. I met many wonderful people from different nationalities. I had the opportunity to travel to Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay. And, most of all, I learned about myself. That was probably the hardest part of those months away from home. Seeing my own selfishness and pride and learning to submit that part of me in deference to the community of people I worked with. In many aspects I wish I could go back and re-live those days with the knowledge I have today about myself. Yet those days and those experiences have shaped the person I am today so I don’t know how much of that would be beneficial. Those days in Paraguay came to an end May 7 of 2012 when I came home.

May, 2012

Even before I had left for Paraguay, I had a strong desire to study and earn a college degree. At the time it was a mere wish. I didn’t know what field of study I would enter. While I was in Paraguay, Gordon Goertzen and his wife, Emily, visited their daughter who also served at the same mission where I was. He and I did some work together and in the course of conversation, we discussed college. He mentioned the General Studies course at Faith Builders. Fast forward to that day in Paraguay to May of 2012 and two weeks after I came home, the FB Chorale gave a program at my home church. I knew some of the guys and hosted them at my place. In the course of the evening, they found out about my wanting to go to school and of course, began encouraging me to consider FB. To make the story short, I “asked for information” which the registrar kindly provided. August found me heading to northwestern Pennsylvania for a two year study program which finished May of 2014. Even at graduation from FB, I still didn’t know exactly what I wanted to study at college. At the least, I would have studied Accounting or Business. I applied to three different schools and was accepted into all three. My personal criteria for school was quite strict. First and foremost, the school had to accept my FB studies. That was a must! I wasn’t going to spend another 3 – 4 years studying if I could help it. Secondly, they needed to have the major that I wanted to study. Next, I wanted to stay in the state of Ohio. This third item I added to the list as a way of narrowing the pool of colleges and universities to choose from. Fourth, I wanted to find a college near a conservative Mennonite community OR being close enough to home that I could be home on weekends or even stay at home while attending college. Lastly, a Christian school was a plus, though not a requirement. This list seems constraining but I figured if all of these came together, that would be one sign that my path to college was open. Yet, even though I was accepted to three Ohio colleges which fit the bill, I still didn’t know what I wanted to study. So I took a year off from my own studies and instead taught school in Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania. Yet before teaching, I travelled for three weeks with the Hope Singers choir, touring Poland. One word of practicality: do not combine jet lag with the first week of teaching school. I had less then 48 hours from when my plane landed in Cleveland to the start of school. Understandably those first two weeks of school are a blur in my memory.

part 2 coming tomorrow.



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One Last Year

Driving onto campus, I struggled finding a parking space. I grinned to myself. Yep, it’s the first day and everybody will be in class. Give it two weeks, and there will be more parking spaces. This attitude of anticipation and new beginnings was felt in the various hallways and classrooms. Friends meeting up after a summer away from studies. Discussions revolving around classes, classrooms and professors. Remarkably enough, it was even felt in the way the students dressed. I thought it was just my own perception, but I overheard a few conversations that confirmed this. One female student assured her friend that she wouldn’t be dressed this well tomorrow. Put it all together and it felt rather festive. However, give it three weeks and there will be empty seats in the classrooms, students will show up looking like they rolled out of bed, and conversations will revolve around the irritating people in their life.

For myself, I’m excited this year is here. Greater than this excitement is the sense of wanting this year behind me. I’ve shared this with people I’ve spoken to over the summer. On the one hand, I need to sit and wait for the year to move; on the other, I’m raring to put these vagabond years behind me and move into a career field.

I’ve met old acquaintances this past summer who have asked what I am doing with my life or if I’m still teaching school. When I tell them that I’m not teaching and I am actually prepping for my senior year, they get this blank and puzzled look on their face. I sympathize with them. Even I’ve had to work at keeping track of myself the last seven years. Furthermore, when I tell people that my major is Food and Nutrition with a Business minor, many automatically ask, “So you want to start your own restaurant?” Well not really (sorry everybody who wanted to see a Chick-fil-a store in the Holmes County area). So maybe I can elaborate a bit more on my personal journey the last few years and what I project the next few years, Lord willing. Look for that in the next post.


Ignite the conversation,



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