“Decumulation”

May 23, 2017

Front porch of Ressler family home 5/18/17
Front porch of the historic Ressler home, Mascot, PA

“Decumulation”

Message summary: Are you unpacked for heaven?

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“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart” (Job 1:21). “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (1 Timothy 6:7).

We’ve lived in Lancaster County over 16 years now, longer than anywhere else we have ever lived. But we still find new things to explore. For many years we have passed a mill in Eastern Lancaster County that looked interesting. We recently read in a travel magazine that they give tours so last Thursday we took a free tour of the Mascot Roller Mill and Ressler family home.

Three generations of the Ressler family operated the mill and lived in the home from 1865 till 1977. The second generation Ressler couple had 8 children but only one married and that one had no children so there were no heirs when the third generation passed away.

So they did something very interesting. For many years the two siblings, Franklin and Anna Ressler, lived in the home and managed the mill. When they got up in years each of them packed all their belongings in a single suitcase and moved to a local retirement community, Landis Homes. They established a foundation to manage the property with a stipulation that it be maintained exactly as they left it the day they packed their bags to leave. And forty years later that stipulation has been followed scrupulously.

Franklin Ressler worked at the mill the day he moved to the retirement home. His coat and hat are hung on the wall, just inside the back door, just the way he left them that day. The tour guide pointed to a bar of soap near the bathroom sink and said that is the same bar they left behind, unmoved since last used by the Resslers. (Using bar soap to wash our hands is nearing antiquity for many of us these days!)

The tour is free, paid for by the foundation. During our tour we were the only ones present and of course had a lot of questions. The home not only is as they left it in 1977 but their lifestyle was more like people who lived in the early part of the 1900’s. They did not have a TV or refrigerator. The food was stored in the root cellar at a year round temp of 50 degrees. The phone was out on the porch so it wouldn’t distract from family life and so their Amish neighbors could use it, which they did until about two years ago.

Having shared the amazing story of elderly siblings who took none of their household treasures with them as they left their childhood home that day let’s consider a spiritual application of “Decumulation” for the believer. Yes that is a real word but we don’t use it much. It simply means “disposal of something accumulated” (Merriam-Webster) We normally say downsizing. When we are born we have nothing. But we very quickly begin to accumulate!

Today’s verses teach the transitory nature of life and the futility of anchoring our hope in temporal things. They call to our attention two universal bookends we all experience as part of life’s journey; birth and death.

We experience contentment when we focus on the eternal, not the temporal.

Newborn baby“For we brought nothing into this world.” Bible teacher David Guzik writes, “A baby is born not only penniless, but even without a pocket to put pennies in!”  Henry Alford comments… “The meaning appears to be,—we were appointed by God to come naked into the world, to teach us to remember that we must go naked out of it.”
Hearse with U-haul“And it is certain we can carry nothing out.” We regularly receive news of some notorious person dying but of course scores of people die every day, mostly unnoticed apart from their family and friends.

When attending a believer’s funeral it’s not unusual to see a Bible placed in the hands of the deceased in the coffin, testimony to what he or she really valued in this life. In recent years we’ve seen baseball gloves, Nascar caps, cowboy garb, etc. indicating what that person valued. But one thing is certain; they really aren’t taking the items with them! The material things that bring pleasure in this life or make a person wealthy hold no value in the world to come.

When we have a heart of contentment we view our material possessions and resources from an eternal perspective. We can’t take material possessions with us no matter how much we value them, but Jesus taught that we can start building our treasure chest there by unpacking for heaven, even while we live here below: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

Steve ColeA person’s lasting wealth should be measured by the treasures he or she has stored up in heaven, not the treasures amassed on the earth.

Our material treasure will not pass from this life to the next, but the investment we have made to the kingdom of God through our service and use of our material resources will last for eternity. We can carry nothing out – but we can “send ahead” eternal blessing and reward through the wise use of our time and resources right now!

Bible teacher Steven Cole in his commentary on 1 Timothy observes, “If you are living for the eternal, not the temporal, you will experience three facets of contentment:
* Freedom from greed;
* Freedom from anxiety; and,
* Freedom from circumstances as the basis for happiness.

Today we encourage our readers to live for the eternal!  Are you unpacked for Heaven?

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying womanDaily Prayer: Father, would You show us through Your Holy Spirit, through the Holy Scriptures and by the examples of committed believers what it is to live for the eternal. It seems that we indulge with the world far too much and it prioritizes our time, finances, and interests. As we love You more, we love the things of the world less. We see them for what they really are – temporary, broken, and often sin-ridden. As we fix our eyes on You the things of this world grow strangely dim. We want to spend more time with You which will direct our thoughts and affections toward heaven. We want to deposit our investments there so that our treasure chest is growing with rust-proof, moth-proof, and thief-proofed treasures that last for all eternity. In the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

“Decumulation” in Merriam-Webster

The word is often used as a retirement strategy of spending down your assets.


Mascot Roller Mill and Ressler Family home

Mascot Roller Mill sign 5/18/17

Mascot Roller Mill and Ressler house 5/18/17
The home from the front entrance of the mill

Mascot Roller Mill and Ressler house 5/18/17
The house and beginnings of the seasonal garden with mill in the background.

Ressler barn 5/18/17
The barn

Mascot Roller Mill tour guide 5/18/17
Our tour guide for the mill was a colorful member of “The Old River Brethren”, a small group, with some similarity in appearance to the Amish. As we conversed we realized we had worshiped with his congregation on a couple of occasions in our neighborhood. The River Brethren do not have church buildings but meet in barns or houses.

Mascot Roller Mill storage area 5/18/17
The storage room in the mill

Mascot Roller Mill and Ressler house 2010
Here’s a photo of the house and mill I took in 2010, unaware of the story behind the structures.


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

Mascot Roller Mills and Ressler Home website  We certainly recommend this to local readers and to guests of Lancaster County!

They did not allow guests to take photos in the house. But some photos inside the family home can be seen here.

“Can’t Take It With You”  Video  Bluegrass Christian Disciples

“Godliness With Contentment Is Great Gain”  Video  A song based upon 1 Timothy 6:6 written and sung by our friend Mike Book. We find it so helpful when Scripture is set to music and in many cases this becomes the basis for memorization.

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