Newsletter - Chips Off The Rock - May 2018

My mother was born in 1916 in Lawrence County, Ohio.  She grew up on a farm north of Ironton in the hills of Southern Ohio.   She had two sisters and one brother.  I was born in 1955 in Brown County, Ohio.  My brother Jeff arrived in 1947 and our brother Dan in 1950.  We lived about 100 miles west of my mother’s home.

We would periodically visit her family in Ironton and Wilgus, Ohio.  These were places steeped in lore that ranged from the mystery of the forests and hills of Southern Ohio to the secrets held about who these people really were.  Aunt Nini, Uncle Ronald, Larry, and all the rest.  They lived in these houses far from our little home place.  There on the hillsides of the Appalachian foothills we played together with our cousins that we saw only a few times a year.  My grandmother would sometimes come and visit.  We often stopped at her home.  The little house was surrounded with her busy gardens and the smell of the Solvay plant that served the city.  The odor arrived constantly from the chemical companies, cement manufacturing, and the production of coke, a dense fuel extracted from coal.

The coal fields of Southeastern Ohio were familiar to my mother.  I remember asking her why she never told me the name of the apparatus that miners used to fill trucks and train cars with the black stuff.  Coal tipples were something I had to learn about when I attended Berea College in central Kentucky.  Coal was everywhere in my mother’s growing up and I guess she did not care if her sons knew much about its rough life of acquisition and transportation.

Mothers are a source of much of our life.  The hills of Southeast Ohio always called her.  She would visit now and then but never was afforded the time to fully enjoy the comforting feel of the rolling landscape and the streams that drained the hillsides and fed the many rivers and creeks.  In later years she was not able to drive long distances.  We often traveled to Ohio from Northern Indiana and drove her to Lawrence County so she could see and feel and smell the land of her youth and childhood.  Her mother, Carrie Elcessor Shively Bruce, was born in 1887and died in 1995 at nearly 108 years old.  We visited her several times in a nursing home near Coal Grove located just east of Ironton along the Ohio River.  She welcomed us and especially enjoyed her great-granddaughter Carrie.  She later offered her blessing to our daughter Emily, whom she only saw as a toddler.

Mothers give us a piece of themselves in childbirth but also a portion of who they are and were as girls and young women.  My mother, Muriel, gave me a hankering for the rolling landscape and the trees and hollars of that place and every place that feels like Lawrence County.

Mothers’ Day.  With parents gone for many years, what can we do to remember them and celebrate?  Maybe we can appreciate the life and golden nuggets of God’s blessing that has come to us through the many places, people, and experiences they had and wished for us to cherish.  Who knows, maybe our mothers live with us forever even in the worst of times.

Most countries on this planet celebrate Mothers’ Day. It comes at different times and with different emphases, but still there exists the same nostalgia for a time when all seemed well and good and perfect.  We recall it then and there, away somewhere in a distant past, gone yet very real and alive in our memory and emotion.  The Bible says, For God so loved the world.  This was said many years ago by a mother’s son, forgotten by some and remembered by many.

How can we be so sure of words spoken so long ago?  The voices from then and the memory of them flow back in mysterious and unexplained reality beyond rational thought and above the methods of proof that we can muster from our paths of perfection.  Biblical promises come in packages of witness from long ago.  We live them into the future where our great-great-grandchildren can look and see and smell the presence of God among them.

Mother’s Day, can it make sense?  Maybe it helps us recall the smell of distant promises and faraway notes of a lover’s song given by God for you and me.



Minutes for Mission

May 6, 2018 – Norm Waggy led the congregation in prayer for various people in need around the world.  Specifically, we are encouraged to remember the following places where our denomination has ministries, remembering that other Christian denominations and ministries are at work in nearly every country in the world:

-Burundi in West Africa

-The Democratic Republic of Congo



-Central America


-The Dominican Republic




-North Korea


-South Sudan

-Puerto Rico






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