“What’s That Smell?” (Or, The Case Of The Unidentifiable Odor)

“What’s that smell?” our 2 ½ years old granddaughter asked as I carried her out the door of the church building last Wednesday night.

We were visiting our family in Wisconsin. The church building sits at the edge of a grain field owned by a dairy farmer. The dairy farmer had recently cleaned out his manure pit and scattered the organic matter on the field surrounding the meeting house. A swift wind blew across the field, carrying the odor directly toward us.

I laughed, because the smell brought back memories of my years on our family farm. But then I became a little sad. It saddened me that our granddaughter had heretofore never experienced this acrid smell. The odor was a natural part of life when I grew up. By age 2 1/2, almost every child in our rural area could have identified it because almost every farm served as home to a small dairy operation. It saddened me to realize that my granddaughter will not know so many of the wonderful experiences I knew as a child.

Our world is rapidly changing. The rural landscape and the face of agriculture is swiftly becoming totally unlike that which so many of us have known and loved.

One of the brethren who exited the building with us remarked concerning the smell, “That’s Wisconsin!” Wisconsin is known as the dairy state. Much of the state has relied upon all aspects of the dairy industry for its economy. For the residents of the small villages and townships which dot the rural landscape, the pungent odor of cow manure is like the smell of fish on a wharf. It is life and a natural part of making a living. That too is changing. I couldn’t help but wonder how much longer, “That’s Wisconsin!” would make sense, even to its residents.

It saddened me to ponder these rapidly changing situations and to contemplate the lost memories for my granddaughter’s generation.

But then I began to realize that experiencing certain lifestyles and reminiscing about old memories are not the most important things one can pass down to his grandchildren. On this night, my granddaughter learned her most important lessons inside the church building, not outside it. Inside, she had been taught the importance of faith in God. Inside the building, she had been taught the importance of studying God’s word, of worship, and of prayer. Inside, she had experienced the value of a loving fellowship with people of like faith.

There are many wonderful lessons every grandparent needs to teach his/her grandchild; lessons about how to make a living, how to work with his hands, and how to appreciate the beauty of God’s creation. But the most important lessons a grandparent can pass down to his/her grandchildren are the lessons about faith, love for God’s Word, and love for God’s family. Christian faith has well served peoples of every generation for 2000 years, regardless of the most recent contemporary culture or lifestyle.

Christianity, in all its beauty and love, was applicable when nearly every farm served as home for a dairy operation. It is also applicable now, even in the face of a swiftly changing agriculture. And Christian faith will be just as applicable if in the future, one of my descendants never experiences that “sweet smelling” odor wafting on the wind, prompting him to ask, “What’s that smell?”

“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children.” (Deuteronomy 4:9)

“1 Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! 2 I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, 3 things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. 4 We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.” (Psalm 78:1-4)

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What’s Down There? Is It Truly The Water Of Life?

Some people claim the ability to “witch” (divine) water. This is the practice of using a forked stick or two wires to locate underground water sources. As they are divining, some diviners claim the ability to distinguish between an underground water line, gas line, and/or electric line.

I have never tried using a stick, but I have tried to locate water lines by loosely holding an “L” shaped wire in each hand while walking over the area where a line is supposed to be buried. Don’t ask me to explain the physics, but at certain points along my path, the wires will cross and then return to their straight-ahead positions.

The questions arise: Is this truly the water line that is 2 feet deep? Is it a stream of water that is 25 feet deep? Is it even water or some other form of magnetic material? (I have walked a path where a wire fence once ran for years and the wires remained crossed.)

As long as no one digs down to discover the truth, I can tell them it is anything I want, and they nor I will ever know the difference.

So it is with that which is preached from pulpits. As long as the message appears mysterious and almost superstitious, containing some truth, but leaving much of the truth buried inside the covers of the Bible, the “diviner” can proclaim anything he wishes, and the listeners will be no more the wiser.

It’s not until we, ourselves, dig down 2 feet, 25 feet, 200 feet into the Word of God that we can know for sure where to find the Water of Life.

“This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. . .” (Joshua 1:8)

“With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:10-11)

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