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Consider this quote from Abe Lincoln

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."



For regular readers of this column you know that one of my favorite sayings is “Be Still”. From a short verse in the Bible, suddenly sprung this idea that too many times we try to hit life so hard that we tend to miss many of the little things in life that really turn into the important things in the long run. I even have a sign that hangs in my kitchen reminding me of that phrase. This past week has been a rough one and in the middle of everything I found that there is another word that needs to be added to “Be Still.”

My friend Perry has been battling brain cancer for the last three and a half years, and the last update on his condition came in the middle of August when his dear wife informed those of us who followed them on caringbridge that the treatments were over and that there was nothing more that could be done for Perry. Although it didn’t come as a complete surprise when I received the phone call last Monday, it still stopped me in my tracks when I was informed of Perry’s death. At ten days past his 45th birthday his fight came to an end and he was rewarded with his ticket punched into heaven.

A flurry of phone calls took place that night as members of our FFA State officer team tried to reconnect, spread the news and figure out a game plan to get to tiny Lester, Iowa for the funeral on Thursday. Most of us are spread far and wide across the Midwest and many are busy with work and commitments especially with harvest just around the corner. Fortunately I was able to take off a day, and lined up a ride with my friend and college roommate Bill.

If you have never been to Lester, it is a wonderful small town of about 250 inhabitants in the far northwestern corner of Iowa. Bill and I found the easiest way there was to go up the Interstate into South Dakota then cut back into Iowa. In Lester there is a convenience store, bank, restaurant, a grain elevator and three churches. The joke that we heard was that the actual population changed on Sunday when the churches were in session. The community is a rural farming area, more rural than probably we are used to around here and was settled long ago by German immigrants and their way of life and influence is felt in that community even today.

The Apostolic Christian Church were the funeral was held was a fine brick structure that is the pride of the nearly three hundred members and hosts an average attendance of around six hundred people on Sundays. As is the custom, members must be eighteen years of age and must profess that they have been saved to join the church. Women dress plainly, most with hair in buns and wear little to no makeup. Most families in the area have around five children so as you can guess their congregations are made up of many “nonmembers”.

I’ve often commented on going to James family reunions when I was young and how my Uncle Paul would stand up and give the blessing in between the arguments over who was going to get the first piece of pie and the actual beginning of the meal. His blessings would drag on and on and he asked divine guidance for each member of the family by name who wasn’t present and for the blessing on everything from the green bean salad to the ham balls. Uncle Paul would be considered an amateur compared to the gentlemen of the church in Lester. They prayed openly and at great length, more of an actual homily or oration than the prayers that most you and I are used to hearing.

After a moving ceremony we convoyed a few miles south of town to a small country cemetery that was owned by the church and had been a site of the first church, before the current structure was built in town. The little graveyard was a very fitting place for Perry’s final resting place as his house is just a quarter mile up the road and the cemetery sits nearly in the middle of the farms owned by his parents and siblings.

Back at the church we shared in a feast of a meal in their fellowship hall which hand large “U” shaped tables with bar stools. After gathering our food cafeteria style we sat to eat and visit while one of the church ladies stood in the “U” and served us water and coffee and cleared our dishes. Our hostess Trela (Tree-lah) was quick and efficient and served us with a smile and visited with us to discover where these “outsiders” had come from. After finding out that we were former FFA officers that served with Perry she thanked us for letting her serve “the famous people” and made sure we visited with others in the congregation.

It was a long and emotional day for all of us there, and although we had only shared a brief part of Perry’s time here on earth, we understood just how much more important he was in this, his home community and just how special having that place called home can be to someone. It was as I was sitting and reading the tribute on the back of the funeral program that suddenly all the emotions of the week came full circle. In a tribute to Perry his wife Jess had written “Today I have no idea how I am going to carry on as I pick up the next cross, yet have learned through experience to “endure and be still” and believe that it is His good will for my life as hard as that is to understand.”

In her thoughts of grief, Jess had actually explained what I had been missing all along in my own thoughts of “Being Still”. The fact of the matter is that there are many things in our lives that happen when we aren’t prepared for them, or at a time when we really don’t think we can handle them, yet, those who persevere or “Endure” truly understand how important it is to keep hanging on and moving forward. Sometimes our frustration over circumstances beyond our control can be completely frustrating but we must remember that sometimes all we can do is to “Endure” and be there in the end ready to go on when the hard times are behind us. If we can do that and always keep in mind that we are genuinely loved by a God who is full of grace, and remember to “Be still”, then in the end we will be better prepared to handle things as they come and to enjoy every moment good and bad, because they pass in the blink of an eye and you will someday look back on them and wish you could have them back.

See you next week….Remember, we’re all in this together.