Generational Rivers Run Deep

Tent and Log Shelter at Camp Ford. Tyler.Texas
Tent and Log Shelter at Camp Ford, Tyler, Texas

Generational Rivers Run Deep

Who Am I?

In the musical version of Les Miserables, Colm Wilkenson as Jean Val Jean sings an incredible rendition of a song called Who am I?  This is the fundamental question confronting the heart and soul of every Border Child.  Torn between conflicting poles of identity, Border Children are forced by the circumstances of their existence to piece together a patchwork quilt of self-understanding, to choose a snatch of history here and a thread of heritage there, weaving it all into some meaningful sense of place and worth.

A Heritage of Culture and Biology

The Border Child’s genealogical heritage, both of culture and biology, can provide a rich source for answers to the existential “Who am I?”  By discovering life-changing events experienced by former generations, and the traceable influence of those events from generation to generation, Border Children can begin to recognize some of their own personality traits, habits, and attitudes.  What happened to great-great-grandfather may very well bear fruit in our own lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren.  Generational rivers do run deep.

Three Generations of Our Fenton Family Line

The Civil War Generation

The American Civil War created profound influences in the Fenton family line.  During the war Thomas W. Fenton (b: abt 1832, Guernsey, Ohio) enlisted in the Iowa Infantry and was wounded in the right leg during the Battle of Mark’s Mills in Arkansas.  Thomas was captured along with the entire remainder of the 36th regiment and held prisoner at Camp Ford, Tyler, Texas.  When the war was over he returned north to Iowa and married Amelia Martin, who tragically died giving birth to their fourth child. (Click here to continue reading.)


Once You’re a Farm Kid . . .

The Retired Preacher Who Was a Farm Kid Once-Upon-a-Time

She said she’d like me to go help pick some prunes for canning. Our pantry supply is running a little low. Prunes are on right now. Gotta go pick while the pickin’s good!

Okay. So we headed out to Brosi’s Sugartree Farm at Winston, Oregon to their “you-pick” orchard. Trees LOADED with purple fruit! With both of us filling buckets hung around our neck by small ropes we soon had our tubs and boxes filled. One-hundred-fifty-five pounds worth!



In verity, it was a wonderful outing which we both thoroughly enjoyed.

The whole experience got me thinking, however. Reflecting on life, etc. I got to wondering why I enjoyed that little excursion so much. I think I know.

You see, in my early years (pre-college) I grew up on a farm near Outlook, Washington. We didn’t have a fruit orchard, but some of the neighbors up the road a ways did. I related to Ruth how I had picked prunes for that neighbor and got paid 25¢/box. If I filled 40 boxes/day I would earn $10.00. I could usually get my 40 boxes filled in about 8 hours, making $1.25/hour. That was good money for a teenager in the early ’60s, and I was happy to get it!

Farm work was my life, and the life of nearly everyone I knew. Every season had its own tasks that came around every year. Summers were filled with haying, irrigation, weeding, trucks, tractors, and machinery. Fall brought harvests of corn, sugar beets, mint, onions, and other crops. Winter also often found us in the fields husking field corn and filling our corn crib with the harvest. (I don’t think I’ve ever had colder fingers!) Early Spring signaled the time for plowing, discing, harrowing, and seeding the fields for the new crop year. Asparagus season began in mid-April and lasted until the end of June.

And, of course, caring for the animals (horses, cows, chickens, and an occasional sheep) was a year-long, every day responsibility. There was always something to do!

I’m old now. Well, getting there at least. I’ve retired after 40+ years of ministry. I’ve been a pastor, evangelist, missionary, youth leader, and gospel music vocalist. I have few regrets regarding my choice of life’s vocation. But the old adage is absolutely true: You can take the boy off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the boy!

And I realized that again yesterday in the prune orchard. I was completely surprised by the emotion I felt as I carried our fruit from the trees to the boxes in the trunk of the car. I walked on real dirt on a real farm, doing something akin to real farm work. Yes, I know, that tiny slice of time hardly qualifies to be worthy of notice compared to what real farmers do every day all the time. But the experience seriously felt good to me. Farming is in my blood, and there’s still an echo of familiarity somewhere deep in my soul that aligns with the fields.

It feels like home.


Freedom of Moral Choice – A Gift From God . . . and Parents

Freedom of choice beach pic
What Will You Choose?

A Sacred Gift From God

The most sacred gift God gave to the human race, following the gift of life itself, was the freedom of choice.

The very moment the Creator breathed the breath of life into Adam’s nostrils He bequeathed a power not unlike that of His own.  God had freely chosen to make the planet we call Earth to be Adam’s home.  When it was complete He then said, “Let us make man in our own image” (Genesis 1:26).

Both male and female human beings were “made in the image of God” (v. 27), capable of choosing a course of action, making decisions, determining their own future and fate.  This awesome power of freedom was given unconditionally, without reservation or restriction.

And it is ours yet today.  Even when Adam and Eve chose the way of sin and rebellion God honored His gift of freedom to the human race, He Himself choosing the route of sacrifice and redemption rather than obliteration for the disobedient pair.  God chose the way of love.

A Sacred Gift From Parents

The most sacred gift parents can give their children is to help them develop foundational skills for healthy, positive choices.

Every individual has a life to live which no other person can live for them, be they parent, teacher, pastor, friend, or foe.  We all make myriads of choices every day.  Strong abilities for making good decisions form the most important resource in a child’s survival toolkit.

A parent’s task is to equip the child for success by training the freewill muscles through exercise and loving discipline. This is done by allowing children to wrestle with issues important to them, coaching them in the decision-making process, honoring whatever decisions the child makes, and standing by them as they live with the consequences – positive or negative.

Following this practice is often nerve-wracking and stressful for parents!  Nevertheless, the fruit resulting from this parenting protocol is that whatever the challenge in life beyond the nest, children are thus empowered to live productively within or across the cultural boundaries of their world.