Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My server's overloaded

I can't get on the internet after 10:45 AM, while everyone is on holidays, it seems.

Who is Matthew Parris?

Everyone else has linked or posted on this, also, but I want to keep it and think on it some more. I've never heard of Matthew Parris.



From The Times
December 27, 2008
As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God
Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa's biggest problem - the crushing passivity of the people's mindset
Matthew Parris

Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland. Today it's Malawi, and The Times Christmas Appeal includes a small British charity working there. Pump Aid helps rural communities to install a simple pump, letting people keep their village wells sealed and clean. I went to see this work.

It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I've been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I've been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.

Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

I used to avoid this truth by applauding - as you can - the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It's a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.

But this doesn't fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.

First, then, the observation. We had friends who were missionaries, and as a child I stayed often with them; I also stayed, alone with my little brother, in a traditional rural African village. In the city we had working for us Africans who had converted and were strong believers. The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world - a directness in their dealings with others - that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.

At 24, travelling by land across the continent reinforced this impression. From Algiers to Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and the Central African Republic, then right through the Congo to Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya, four student friends and I drove our old Land Rover to Nairobi.

We slept under the stars, so it was important as we reached the more populated and lawless parts of the sub-Sahara that every day we find somewhere safe by nightfall. Often near a mission.

Whenever we entered a territory worked by missionaries, we had to acknowledge that something changed in the faces of the people we passed and spoke to: something in their eyes, the way they approached you direct, man-to-man, without looking down or away. They had not become more deferential towards strangers - in some ways less so - but more open.

This time in Malawi it was the same. I met no missionaries. You do not encounter missionaries in the lobbies of expensive hotels discussing development strategy documents, as you do with the big NGOs. But instead I noticed that a handful of the most impressive African members of the Pump Aid team (largely from Zimbabwe) were, privately, strong Christians. “Privately” because the charity is entirely secular and I never heard any of its team so much as mention religion while working in the villages. But I picked up the Christian references in our conversations. One, I saw, was studying a devotional textbook in the car. One, on Sunday, went off to church at dawn for a two-hour service.

It would suit me to believe that their honesty, diligence and optimism in their work was unconnected with personal faith. Their work was secular, but surely affected by what they were. What they were was, in turn, influenced by a conception of man's place in the Universe that Christianity had taught.

There's long been a fashion among Western academic sociologists for placing tribal value systems within a ring fence, beyond critiques founded in our own culture: “theirs” and therefore best for “them”; authentic and of intrinsically equal worth to ours.

I don't follow this. I observe that tribal belief is no more peaceable than ours; and that it suppresses individuality. People think collectively; first in terms of the community, extended family and tribe. This rural-traditional mindset feeds into the “big man” and gangster politics of the African city: the exaggerated respect for a swaggering leader, and the (literal) inability to understand the whole idea of loyal opposition.

Anxiety - fear of evil spirits, of ancestors, of nature and the wild, of a tribal hierarchy, of quite everyday things - strikes deep into the whole structure of rural African thought. Every man has his place and, call it fear or respect, a great weight grinds down the individual spirit, stunting curiosity. People won't take the initiative, won't take things into their own hands or on their own shoulders.

How can I, as someone with a foot in both camps, explain? When the philosophical tourist moves from one world view to another he finds - at the very moment of passing into the new - that he loses the language to describe the landscape to the old. But let me try an example: the answer given by Sir Edmund Hillary to the question: Why climb the mountain? “Because it's there,” he said.

To the rural African mind, this is an explanation of why one would not climb the mountain. It's... well, there. Just there. Why interfere? Nothing to be done about it, or with it. Hillary's further explanation - that nobody else had climbed it - would stand as a second reason for passivity.

Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosphical/spiritual framework I've just described. It offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.

Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted.

And I'm afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.

Personally,when I have spent time in Japan visiting my sister, I've noticed similar changes in people. The Japanese Christians looked you in the eye, seemed natural and open. The regular Japanese reacted in two different ways: if you were not introduced, you did not exist; if you were introduced you became part of the hierarchical system of politeness (as white foreigner, vs. other Asians, for example, you were treated with much deferential bowing and politeness. We bowed back and behaved very politely, too. The women generally looked down or away, or held their hands before their mouths in way that seemed like they were embarrassed.)

The Treasury of Daily Prayer




The Treasury of Daily Prayer........ finally came in the mail. Too late for Christmas. Oh, well.

I am still finding out exactly what it is and how it is used, though Martin and I prayed a Compline and used all the readings and songs. We even did a section out of the Book of Concord, as suggested from the Large Catechism. It is strange that something like this should be new to us. Pastor McCain's intro hints at why we are not familiar with this discipline.

Have you ever been frustrated trying to juggle multiple books as you attempt to have a daily, structured, time of prayer and meditation on the Word of God? Have you ever wondered why it is that Roman Catholics and Anglicans have such fine books for daily prayer, called breviaries, but that Lutherans kind of/sort of do, but don’t—almost, but not quite there? Have you wondered why most one-volume prayer resources that are now out there are so complicated, complex and vexing to use, requiring you to turn pages until you are dizzy? Are you looking for a resource that will allow you to dwell richly in the Word, and engage in the ancient practice of lectio divina (divine reading)? Have you been looking for a daily resource for a full, complete life of prayer and meditation on the Word that reflects the rich heritage of Lutheranism with its keen focus on Christ and His Gospel? Well, your wait is over.


It seems to me both a completely novel thing and yet ancient and natural thing to join in the old liturgies and assigned readings, prayers, hymns for the day.

One of my doctrine professors had said that the unity of the church may be built on the liturgy. That's food for thought. Surely, we can agree on singing and praying the ancient texts.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas






Did you get something interesting for Christmas?

My daughter gave me Anne Rice's newest book, since I was blogging about her. It was most thoughtful of my girl.

I finished Rice's book in an afternoon. Not a hard read. She describes her very Roman Catholic upbringing in 1940/50 New Orleans in great detail. This was picturesque and interesting and I could relate to it, having gone to Catholic school myself, in Bavaria. She skips most of her 38 years as an atheist, which I found disappointing. She does speak highly of the secular humanists, the secular and religious Jews she got to know and all their conscientious efforts. Then she concludes with her return to Catholicism. What struck me about her return was her need for the Lord's presence in the sacrament. I can relate to that, too. When everything else gives way, there is the only sure ground, the Lord coming to you. When everything seems deader than a doornail, there is the life infusion.

Speaking of life infusions, something else we learned this fall and practiced this Advent and Christmas was to pray the Compline (Prayer at the close of the Day, LSB p. 253), at night. I think this started from reading Pastor Weedon's blog and Bo Giertz and from all the distressing news this fall.

We did this last night with our relatives before they headed out as well, and sang several hymns (though my nephew was insisting on Jingle Bells, which we did not sing. :) We take turns being "L" and sometimes I chant for everyone and sometimes we just speak it. I like to sing the Responsory:

Into Your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit. (L)
Into Your hands I commend my spirit. (C)
You have redeemed me, O Lord, God of truth. (L)
Into Your hands I commend my spirit. (C)
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. (L)
Into Your hands I commend my spirit. (C)

Anyhow, this has been a blessing, and I try to catch the news whenever I can, but not just before bedtime.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Cold Sunday in Bruderheim

The Delusion of Disbelief



Yestday, I bought a book at Chapters: "The Delusion of Disbelief", by David Aikman. I'm about half way done and have found it informative. His four New Atheist horsemen (Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris and Dennett) are introduced in a readable fashion. I am familiar with them and what they have to say from videos on the internet. I hesitate to spend money on their books, several of them available in the religion section, I noticed, so I am grateful for Aikman's review and response. Alister McGrath's "Dawkins Delusion" was not available at this Chapters.

I am concerned about the tone taken by atheists on the blogosphere. It seems positively hatefilled and abusive at times. These atheists, especially our four horsemen, seem to come mostly from the English speaking world--people who have not lived through Communism and Nazism.

This worries me. I grew up listening to stories about the horrors of Nazism and the Second World War. The English speaking world has spent too much time reveling in its glory and not enough time taking lessons from how the evil arose and affected civilian populations. They have not felt the horror of the populations whom they liberated. Think, people, think.

I grew up watching weekly documentaries about human rights abuses behind the iron curtain, about dissidents sent to psychiatric hospitals, about the Gulag, about churches turned into swimming pools and priests sent to labor camps. I went to East Germany and felt the oppression like lead hanging over everything, experienced the meanness of small people with a job that lets them intimidate and harass others. You don't want this Orwellian world. Don't minimize what atheistic ideologies have done to people. Millions upon millions have been affected. A recent statistic I learned from the Truth Project: 180 million dead by a handful of dictators.

You can believe or disbelieve what you like, but don't see fit to be on the offensive other than with reasonable arguments and proper dialogue. Be mighty with the pen, only.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Michael Behe


Michael Behe wrote among other books "The Edge of Evolution". Via mathematical calculations using the malaria parasite, he demonstrates, in my mind quite convincingly, how limited genetic mutations and variations are in producing various types of changes. There are some things that can happen, and some things that just cannot happen, as in -- zero percent chance. ZERO.

When you listen to evolutionists discussing books that try to shoot down macro-evolution, you end up getting comments like: "This and that book was so stupid, I just could not get through it." "Oh, Behe's book is already in soft cover, it never sold well." "They've discussed this and that so many times, it's not worth rolling out the argument again." It's not so easy to hear anyone refute the mathematics, etc.

I will be glad to read more about it in the places suggested by the folks at Proving the Negative. I would like to see what can be said against Behe's arguments that has any substance.

But, I do have to say, whatever may be just spiritual about Genesis, I just cannot believe that humans came down from one-celled organisms. It seems to me the ultimate in preposterous--especially after looking at the three dimensional model of a protein and studying cell biology. If one little group on the protein is rearranged the whole thing does not work. And the the whole fancy chain reaction does not work. And then nothing works right...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Gentlemen at the Atheist blog/Reason/Luther


I'm working at lot this week and I don't have time/stamina/interest in debating the gentlemen at the atheist blog, just this minute. Plus it's almost Christmas.-- I should have my head examined.

However, you will find below some quotes from Luther re: the roles of faith vs. reason. The picture is from Matt Harrison's blog (without permission, hope it's ok). He took the picture of a wall in the town of Schmalkalden.

1. Reason has its sphere: In temporal things and human relations man is rational enough; there he needs no other light than reason. So God does not teach us in Scripture how to build houses, make clothing, marry, wage wars, sail on the seas, and the like; for there our natural light is sufficient. But in divine things, that is, in those which pertain to God and which must be so performed as to be acceptable to Him and obtain salvation for us, our nature is so star-and stone-blind, so utterly blind, as to be unable to recognize them at all. Reason is presumptuous enough to plunge into these matters like a blind horse.


2. Reason is a candle: Reason is also a light, and a beautiful light. But it cannot show or find the way or the path that will lead from sin and from death to righteousness and to life; it remains in darkness... Thus God's Word is a real sun, giving us an eternal day to live and to be glad. We find this Word very richly and beautifully given in the Psalms. Blessed is he who delights in it and gladly sees this light, for it loves to shine. But moles and bats, that is, the people of the world, do not like it.

3. Everyone knows that he is right: Because of sin everyone of us is, from the days of his youth, accustomed to think that he is right, that his head is the best, and to dislike giving way to another person.

4. You may reason in non-religious subjects: the Holy Scriptures requires no controversialist. God has given other branches of learning: grammar, logic, rhetoric, philosophy, jurisprudence, and medicine. Be wise in these subjects; controvert, search, and ask what is right and wrong.


5. Wrong methodology of reason in religion: We find many who have never heard Christ preached, coarse and wild people, who curse and swear as though they were full of devils; yet they begin their religious thinking by trying to determine Why God does this or that. With their blind reason they rise to the light and measure God by their reason. But we should adopt as our mode of procedure the method which God gave St. Paul and should begin at the foundation. The roof will then take care of itself. Let God rest with His hidden counsel, and do not climb up to the roof with your reason. He does not want to have you come up there; He comes down to you. He has made a ladder, a way, and a bridge, to come to you, and says: I descend from heaven to you and become a man in the body of the virgin Mary. I lie in the manger at Bethlehem. I suffer and die for you. So believe in Me, and have the confidence to accept Me as Him who has been crucified for you.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Quote

In my clean-up efforts, I've found another yellow piece of paper, which will go in the garbage, but I'll keep the quote on it here. I don't know the author, though.

VANITY:
We want to prove to ourselves that we are lovers on the grand scale, tragic heros; not just ordinary privates in the huge army of the bereaved, slogging along and making the best of a bad job.


This seems a little depressing, but it helps us deal with the fact that life is often difficult and we don't live up to the heroic standards we may have for ourselves, that in fact these heroic standards may be vain. It can be a letting go of self-righteousness and self-chosen works, which can be healing.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Practicing for playing at the old folks home

Hear us play "Lo, how a rose is blooming", today, third Advent.

video

Friday, December 12, 2008

LSB #348


Bror's suggestion #348 has a lovely, picturesque, poetic text about the coming of Christ the King.

The poetry almost asks for an art song by Beethoven or Schubert...
I like speaking it; the melody seems a little too heavy.
The King shall come when morning dawns and light triumphant breaks,
when beauty gilds the eastern hills and life to joy awakes.

Not as of old a little child, to bear and fight and die,
but crowned with glory like the sun that lights the morning sky.

Oh, brighter than the rising morn when Christ, victorious, rose
and left the lonesome place of death despite the rage of foes.

Oh, brighter than that glorious morn shall dawn upon our race
the day when Christ in splendor comes and we shall see his face.

The King shall come when morning dawns and light and beauty brings.
Hail, Christ the Lord! Your people pray: come quickly, King of kings!

Klaus und Irmi sent greetings with 3 verses of this song


My parents had a plaque with the first verse of this song.
I know the melody to this song, too, even though it is not in
the hymn books.

Von guten Mächten...
von Dietrich BonhoefferDieses Lied mit Tiefgang schrieb Bonhoeffer im KZ kurz vor Seiner Hinrichtung


Von guten Mächten wunderbar geborgen
erwarten wir getrost, was kommen mag.
Gott ist bei uns am Abend und am Morgen,
und ganz gewiss an jedem neuen Tag.

Von guten Mächten treu und still umgeben
behütet und getröstet wunderbar, -
so will ich diese Tage mit euch leben
und mit euch gehen in ein neues Jahr;

Noch will das alte unsre Herzen quälen,
noch drückt uns böser Tage schwere Last,
Ach Herr, gib unsern aufgeschreckten Seelen
das Heil, für das Du uns geschaffen hast.

Und reichst Du uns den schweren Kelch, den bittern,
des Leids, gefüllt bis an den höchsten Rand,
so nehmen wir ihn dankbar ohne Zittern
aus Deiner guten und geliebten Hand.

Doch willst Du uns noch einmal Freude schenken
an dieser Welt und ihrer Sonne Glanz,
dann woll´n wir des Vergangenen gedenken,
und dann gehört Dir unser Leben ganz.

Laß warm und hell die Kerzen heute flammen,
die Du in unsre Dunkelheit gebracht,
führ, wenn es sein kann, wieder uns zusammen!
Wir wissen es, Dein Licht scheint in der Nacht.

Wenn sich die Stille nun tief um uns breitet,
so laß uns hören jenen vollen Klang
der Welt, die unsichtbar sich um uns weitet,
all Deiner Kinder hohen Lobgesang.

Brazil/winter

There is someone who checks this blog from Brazil. Do you want to say hello? Hello to you! What is new there?

It's getting very cold here. The TV news seems to be reporting on the weather minute by minute right now, along with the car manufacturing bail-out discussions... One is supposed to keep one's animals inside, especially cats and short-haired dogs, take a coat along when you travel in a car, etc., etc. -- As if we've never had a winter here, before. But common sense is not so common and better nag the people into being safer.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wed. Truth Project

Yesterday, I made it to the Truth Project, once more. I so appreciate spending time with Christians from other denominations. There are some amazingly committed family men and women at my table. God bless them all and their families. Would the clergy find it compromising to sit and pray together? Is it unorthodox?

I am wondering if this kind of lecture series is what Michael Spencer at internetmonk.com calls the "culture war" and how he seems to find it distracting from the Gospel.

I find it valuable and would call it being more prepared to witness and hopefully being salt and light.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

more on music


Michael Spencer has a "beautiful" post about his childhood experience singing "Lo, how a rose is blooming" in school. Read it here.

I've known this song all my life, and Michael's telling of it, touches me. I'm not sure I've ever thought it about it much. I will try and re-appreciate it here.

First in German:

Es ist ein Ros entsprungen aus einer Wurzel zart,
wie uns die Alten sungen, von Jesse kam die Art
und hat ein Bluemlein bracht mitten im kalten Winter
wohl zu der halben Nacht.

Das Roeslein, das ich meine, davon Jesaja sagt,
hat uns gebracht alleine, Marie, die reine Magd;
aus Gottes ewgen Rat, hat sie ein Kind geboren,
wohl zu der halben Nacht.

Das Bluemelein so kleine, das duftet uns so suess;
mit seinem hellen Scheine, vertreibts die Finsternis.
Wahr Mensch und wahrer Gott,
hilft uns aus allem Leide, rettet von Suend und Tod.

O Jesu, bis zum Scheiden, aus diesem Jammertal,
lass dein Hilf uns geleiten hin in den Freudensaal,
in deines Vaters Reich, da wir dich ewig loben;
o Gott, uns das verleih!

In English:
From LSB #359

Lo, how a rose e're blooming from tender stem hath sprung.
Of Jesse's lineage coming as prophets long have sung,
it came a flow'ret bright, amid the cold of winter,
when half-spent was the night.

Isaiah 'twas foretold it, the rose I have in mind;
with Mary we behold it, the virgin mother kind.
to show God's love aright, she bore to us a Savior,
when half-spent was the night.

This flow'r, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,
dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere.
True man, yet very god, from sin and death he saves us
and lightens every load.

O Savior, child of Mary, who felt our human woe;
O Savior, Kind of glory, who doest our weakness know:
bring us at length we pray to the bright courts of heaven,
and to the endless day.



What strikes me today is the repetition of the phrase: "Wohl zu der halben Nacht", or "when half-spent was the night". There is this darkness, this mid-night, this winter, this blindness--in the very depth of which, this root of salvation began to bloom.

And still we pray, in the last verse, to be brought into the brightness of the courts of heaven. There will be endless day. Then the night will be completely spent. Indeed, Lord, bring us.

You can listen to it here.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Singing

Ok, I (we)'ve sung #510 three nights now. It's doing me good.
Give me another one. :)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

About Anne Rice

I've never heard of this author, nor read any of her books, but this newspaper article this week intrigued me. Any comments? I can't imagine it being a major theological work. However, her saying how difficult the atheist path is because there is no reason for anything, makes me think. God's reasons are often quite hidden, too. But, indeed, atheism, in contrast, has no reasons for anything at all.

Who needs Vampires when You've found God?

Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession by Anne Rice. In her first non-fiction book, the 67-year-old creator of the vampire Lestat traces her journey from Catholicism, through atheism, the death of her daughter and, in the '90's, back to God. Atheism, it turned out, was for her not a true expression of logic and reason but an emptiness, even a torment, and rice now thinks her vampire series was a spiritual response to her loss of faith. Atheism, she declares, is "a more strenuous path than the religious path, because... there is no reason for anything.... Rice is candid about her past and her failings, as any confession requires: She describes the chaos after the death of the Rices' young daughter, Mechele, and the importance of their son's birth and the pain that church laws caused her. Three years ago, she shocked some with Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, a novel about Jesus. A sequel, The Road to Cana, was published to good reviews this spring.

Friday, December 5, 2008

LSB # 510 (Lutheran Service Book)

Bror sings #510 at night. I looked it up. Completely unfamiliar to me. I see it is Swedish (Der Mange Skal Komme). That's why.

It is lovely and simple. I will try to learn it.

A multitude come from the east and the west
to sit at the feast of salvation
with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the blest,
obeying the Lord's invitation.
Have mercy upon us, O Jesus!

O God, let us hear when our Shepherd shall call
In accents persuasive and tender,
that while there is time we make haste, one and all,
and find Him, our mighty defender.
Have mercy upon us, O Jesus!

All trials shall be like a dream that is past,
forgotten all trouble and mourning,
all questions and doubts have been answered at last,
when rises the light of that morning.
Have mercy upon us, O Jesus!

The heavens shall ring with an anthem more grand
than ever on earth was recorded.
The blest of the Lord shall receive at His hand
the crown to the victors awarded.
Have mercy upon us, O Jesus!

Food info from Mary


Mary sent me this. I'm posting it because the apples I bought today start with "4". Personally, I'm not worried about the genetically modified.


For anyone interested: Today I learned the stickers with codes on them found on fresh produce, or on the bags, or ties around greens contain information:

If the PLU # begins with a 4 then the produce is grown conventionally ie. pesticides, synthetic fertilizer, etc.

If the PLU# begins with an 8 the produce is genetically modified

If the PLU# begins with a 9 the produce is organically grown ie; naturally, no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.

I have checked a couple of internet sites that confirm this. As of yet have not been able to locate official gov't information on this yet.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Ethics/Morals/Government/Law/Truth Project

Yesterday, I worked a long day at the dental clinic and then went to the Truth Project at the Alliance church, again, straight after. Hubby was prepping for his Concordia Board meetings meanwhile. I am trying to get him to come to the Truth Project once, but as they say: "If you love your husband you leave him at home." Other people even manage to bring their children, at times.

The topic was obeying the government, as in Romans 13. There were quotes about the State from Hegel and Nietzsche and the danger of turning the State into your Savior.

What stuck with me most was the statement that if you have no God, if truth is relative then morality ends up being relative.

I've had this conversation with people. It is true, if they have no God, if everything is relative, their morality becomes quite flexible, and they become quite smug and unapologetic about their flexible morality. They are willing to give up nothing for what is right. Me first, and foremost, and only.

This may not be true for everyone. There are "good" atheists. But it is true for many. And they are quite hypocritical about it, too. All the other people they know, follow no laws, are greedy, etc. That's what they complain about. Then why should they behave morally if everyone else they are pointing their fingers at are crooked? It becomes one nasty business with a fake, smiling front.

This one person I was talking to, even told me the ten commandments did not make much sense. However, he admitted right away not remembering what they were. He claimed all the moral demands are made just to keep the herd in control while the top brass indulges in corruption.

I told him that the rule of law is a blessing in a country and certainly, he would not want to live in a lawless society. I wish I had asked him, which he wanted to be: one in the herd trying to live morally, or one on the top involved in corruption for himself.

It's a good question for me, too. Some of me wants to be the privileged top.

Pray for the Canadian government, or rather the lack thereof. We might finally break apart.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Issues' webcast

I just finished listening to Rev. Bror Erickson's interview on Issues, etc., for December 2, 08.

http://www.issuesetc.org/ondemand.html

It's very interesting to learn about Pastor/Bishop/Author Bo Giertz and his times.
Personally, I read the "Hammer of God" recently, and was amazed at how clearly and skillfully Giertz fleshes out a proper theology in the novella format.

Monday, December 1, 2008

What a day.


The wind is howling. There will be no more a few degrees above zero. Whoever has not changed his oil and put on his winter tires has only himself to blame. Tomorrow, I have to drive to Edmonton; hope it will be ok. Martin is cleaning up the garage, so more cars fit into it.

Canada is experiencing a coup d'etat. What will it bring?

The stock market is down lots more. Those who say: sell into rallies, are probably right.

I found my advent wreath and four huge tall candles. Tonight I will sing. I sing well and I have not felt like singing. Very bad form.

We always had to sing before we got our cookies, when we were children during advent. We sang: "Macht hoch die Tuer, die Tor macht weit, es kommt der Herr der Herrlichkeit." One of my mother's favorites. In English: "Lift up the gates". I can't say, the English words come to me.

My mother was a good singer; my dad, too. My siblings sing well. The entire extended family sang lots. It's a German thing. We know all the verses, because we had to memorize them in school and for religion class. And it was the time before all the electronic media.

I wonder if they still memorize and sing over there. They might. They still teach Latin and Greek in High Schools like they used to. Stefan's Polish cello teacher would tell me how the Germans she knew would sing on and on and one more verse. They knew all the verses. That is true. The Polish will sing a line and then go "la la la, how does it go?" That's what Gazjina said. I know many verses, myself.

It's a problem for the hymn book over here. Nobody has memorized all the verses and can sing a much with gusto from memory. That's why there is so much repetitive pop. That's my theory.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advent 1


It's the first of advent and I can't get myself to put up any lights. I still worry about the world, the economy, my kids, my extended family...

What worry there must have been at Christ's coming with the Roman occupation and all. Violence, oppression, poverty, hypocrisy, fears.

The message is: "Fear not. There is news of great joy!"

I will go get my wreath. But no tree and no strings of lights, yet. I'm not in the mood. I'm not ready.

Love Life videos' feedback


"Thank you so much for making the 'Love Life' videos available to us on the Internet. I have been hoping for a long time that we would get special lectures at the seminary and at CUCA on the computer so that those of us in the boondogs could participate at least by seeing and hearing it. This is an invaluable outreach."

From a pastor in British Columbia via e-mail to district office.

http://www.lccabc.ca/video

Friday, November 28, 2008

From the commentary on Galatians

p. 11

Let us learn, therefore, to distinguish Christ as completely as possible from all works, whether good or evil; from all laws, whether divine or human; and from all distressed consciences. For Christ does not pertain to any of these. He does indeed pertain to sad consciences, not to trouble them even more but to raise them up again and to comfort them when they have been troubled. Therefore if Christ appears in the guise of a wrathful judge or lawgiver who demands an accounting of how we have spent our lives, we should know for certain that this is not really Christ but the devil. For Scripture portrays Christ as our Propitiator, Mediator, and Comforter. This is what He always is and remains; He cannot be untrue to His very nature. Therefore when the devil assumes the guise of Christ and argues with us this way: " At the urging of My Word you were obliged to do this, and you failed to do so; and you were obliged to avoid that, and you failed to do so. Therefore you should know that I shall exact punishment from you." this should not bother us at all; but we should immediately think: "Christ does not speak this way to despairing consciences. He does not add affliction to those who are afflicted. 'A bruised reed He will not break, and a dimly burning wick He will not quench' (Is. 42:3). To those who are rough He speaks roughly, but those who are in terror He invites most sweetly; 'Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden' (Matt.11:28); 'I came not to call the righteous, but sinners' (Matt 9:13); 'Take heart, My son; your sins are forgiven ' (Matt. 9:2); 'Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world ' (John 16:33); ' The Son of man came to see, and to save the lost' (Luke 19:10." Therefore we should be on our guard, lest the amazing skill and infinite wiles of Satan deceive us into mistaking the accuser and condemner for the Comforter and Savior, and thus losing the true Christ behind the mask of the false Christ, that is, of the devil, and making Him of no advantage to us.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

For Bethel's newsletter

Love Life Conference, Nov. 15, 2008

Here is a contribution for all who missed the “Third Annual Love Life Conference” at Concordia College on Nov. 15th! About seventy registered attendees heard a number of excellent speakers on serious subjects dealing with health, life, medicine and law in relation to Christian faith. Fellowship was enjoyed while lingering over several exhibits and a lovely lunch kindly prepared by the seminary guild. Thanks be to God for an enlightening and challenging day.

You will be happy to note that three lectures have been videotaped and can be viewed anytime at the Lutheran Church Canada’s website (www.lccabc.ca/video). Please, if you can, take some time and view them, especially if you are involved with medicine or law. Our main speaker, Dr. John Patrick, a distinguished and stimulating international speaker, was visiting from Ottawa to lecture on Christian pro-life medical practice and the clashes with different world views. The physicians’ freedom of conscience is feared to be under increasing attack. All those among us who have Christian physicians are asked to encourage them to become members of the Hippocratic league. (See Dr. Patrick’s website at: www.johnpatrick.ca). Below is a quote from his site:

“Dr. Patrick supports the Canadian Registry of Hippocratic Physicians. The objective of which is to provide a mechanism for identifying practitioners who practice or are preparing to practice Hippocratic medicine, and to bring together practitioners who have an ethical consensus. It also enables practitioners to group together in order to have more influence and impact in their practices, their hospitals, and their communities.”


Dr. Patrick asks serious and stimulating questions and in the end leaves even hostile audiences to silently ponder the answers to questions like “What kind of world would you prefer to pass down to your children?” Please, view his site for more lectures, institutes for medical students and doctors to deepen their faith in relation to medical practice, and more insights.

Our other morning speaker was our own ABC district president Rev. Don Schiemann. He challenged us to think about the pervasiveness of criminality in our society and what might be a biblical response for the government (as opposed to the church). He questioned how statistics are collected and kept. In essence, he believes that crime is underreported and punishments are not meted out effectively, thus encouraging more crime. This talk is also available at the LCC website.

In the afternoon we heard several more speakers. There was a presentation on the Rock ministry to the inner city, which is now feeding up to 500 individuals several times per week, a seemingly immense task for the small facility. Erin Holtslag spoke for the Back Porch ministry, located next to the Morgenthaler abortion clinic. Rev. Mohns gave two different sessions on ministry in palliative care, which were very professionally and empathetically presented. Dr. Greg Schoepp spoke on dealing with stress. I missed this session, but was told it was very helpful.

All in all, everyone who came was pleased they had taken a day out for looking at these subjects and meeting together, as well as for networking with individuals who are involved in different kinds of work. Certainly, there is much to pray for and ask from our gracious God. Various ways of getting informed and involved became apparent.

To conclude, we might remember that Dr. Patrick challenged Christian congregations to form public policy groups/committees who would meet together occasionally to share reading and recommendations and move them forward to impact the culture and support Christian practitioners in the world. (See the lecture on “What Hippocrates knew and we’ve forgotten”.)

My recommendation for the ”Forth Annual Love Life Conference” would be that we have an even better attendance and that we consider taping more of the lectures for wider availability! Keep some time free for November next year!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Love Life Confernce Video lectures available on-line

http://www.lccabc.ca/video

Dr. John Patrick's lectures in Edmonton are available at the above link.
Rev. Don Schiemann's lecture is also available.


One point Dr. Patrick made was to encourage Christian and other Physicians who believe in the Transcendent (like Hippocrates) should join the Registry of Hippocratic Physicians for lobbying purposes, especially as related to challenges to conscience legislation or pressures.

Here is a quote from his site:

"Dr. Patrick supports the Canadian Registry of Hippocratic Physicians. The objective of which is to provide a mechanism for identifying practitioners who practice or are preparing to practice Hippocratic medicine, and to bring together practitioners who have an ethical consensus. It also enables practitioners to group together in order to have more influence and impact in their practices, their hospitals, and their communities."

http://www.johnpatrick.ca

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Extended Family

Martin's gone off tonight to bring Stefan a suit to the hotel where he lives while laboring on the pipelines. (3 hr drive one way).

Stefan's birth--mother's sister (a half-aunt), only recently reunited to the family that placed her for adoption, tragically lost a son (17) to suicide this week. Stefan's birth mom invited him to go to the funeral (in another city), as the young man was his "cousin" and he's met him. At least Stefan asked for his suit, so he is not going in pipelining clothes.

You may say a prayer for all concerned, as blending adoptive families and birth families has its unique joys and challenges (mostly joys) and as not all are churchgoing and certainly the days are difficult for many.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Love Life Conference III


The Love Life Conference was great. The attendance was even better than in other years. Our main speaker Dr. John Patrick was phenomenal. Some other time I'll write more. Thanks to all who helped. Thanks, Leanne, for inviting me for supper with Dr. Patrick, a most memorable event.

One thing I'd like to mention, at once though, is that the Augustine College, which Dr. Patrick runs in Ottawa, bears some similarity to Focus on the Family's Truth Project, which I wrote about several entries ago. All of it is kind of a Christian response to the post-modern culture we live in or see growing stronger. Patrick speaks 400 times a year all around the globe.

http://www.johnpatrick.ca

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Anti-legomena

Moderation is off again. So go ahead and write.
This seems to be a good short article on what Luther said about James, Jude and Revelation.

http://www.bible-researcher.com/antilegomena.html

Here is a little quote:

Though this epistle of St. James was rejected by the ancients, 1 I praise it and consider it a good book, because it sets up no doctrines of men but vigorously promulgates the law of God. However, to state my own opinion about it, though without prejudice to anyone, I do not regard it as the writing of an apostle; and my reasons follow.

In the first place it is flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture in ascribing justification to works. It says that Abraham was justified by his works when he offered his son Isaac; though in Romans 4 St. Paul teaches to the contrary that Abraham was justified apart from works, by his faith alone, before he had offered his son, and proves it by Moses in Genesis 15. Now although this epistle might be helped and an interpretation 2 devised for this justification by works, it cannot be defended in its application to works of Moses' statement in Genesis 15. For Moses is speaking here only of Abraham's faith, and not of his works, as St. Paul demonstrates in Romans 4. This fault, therefore, proves that this epistle is not the work of any apostle.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Ist Gott fuer mich so trete
gleich alles wider mich.
So oft ich ruf und bete
weicht alles hinter sich.
Hab ich das Haupt zum Freunde
und bin geliebt bei Gott,
was kann mir tun der Feinde
und Widersacher Rott.

Last night we used our new LSB's at home. We sang hymns and used the close of day section. It's nice to have it all in one book. Should look over the LSB more.

Stefan was home

Stefan was home for the weekend, sort of. I saw him for about 15 min. The rest of the time was dedicated to getting his truck going, putting new tires on, new lights...

I hugged him, fed him, told him I was happy to see him, told him I pray for his safety every day on my knees, gave him two warm work shirts and he's gone again.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Reformation Day



It's Halloween and we're not handing out toothbrushes and sugarless gum.

It's also Reformation day and we are going to a church service instead. What a nice change. In some other years we've been to a "Reformation party", to which Martin and I appeared as the Pope and his housekeeper. (How nasty.)

At this time of worry, I admire the courage and steadfastness of those who stuck their necks out to promote the reformation, foremost Martin Luther, himself. In reading: through the Psalms with Luther, you can get a sense of how he applied the Psalms to his own time, struggles and settings. Lord keep us all and bring us to a good end. May the freedom of the Gospel and the Christian person be spread far and wide.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hindu man



Today, I met a Hindu man while standing on the upper level of the mall looking down at the flu shot clinic below. He asked whether flu shots were a good idea or whether they ruin your immune system. Of course, I wanted to encourage him to get a flu shot.

We started talking, or rather he did. He went on and on and on, touching on culture, ethnicity, friendship, Buddha, Sikhism, sustainable agriculture (you can live off 2 acres in India), the positive energy under domes and towers... I was praying to get a word in edge-wise and witness to the man, but it was tough, he was such a talker.

In the end, I was only able to say that I was a Christian, that unlike Buddha we believe in an existence with God after we die and that we believe in the forgiveness of sins.

Now the "forgiveness of sins" did hit a nerve with him. He replied with: "Well, why do you sin? You should not sin!" So, I got to say how we sin in thought, word and deed and attitude. That there is rarely such thing with us as true humility... He knew exactly what I meant, (unlike some Methodists on the internet).

He gave me a card with his name and number. He sells diamonds to jewelery stores. His name is, you guessed it, Mr. Singh. I won't be phoning him, though.

Focus on the Family's Truth Project, Wed. nights.



The last several weeks, of an on, I have joined the local townspeople attending the "Truth Project" at the local Alliance church. (Our Lutheran church is not local.)

It has been a very interesting and positive experience. There are a lot of people attending whom I have not seen in years, good friends even, who attend different churches. Also, I see many of our patients, again from different churches and walks of life. The discussion around the table is frank and good.

This is how is happened. There were big professional quality signs posted ahead of time along the highway. Then there was a professional quality flier in the mail. Then I ended up talking with two people who were thinking about going. Then I went to check it out.

Everything is very well organized and moves along at a tight schedule as people have babysitters, etc. Actually child care is also provided here, too.

At 7:00 pm there is a standing up food time. People bring things. And coffee, etc.
Then we move into the main hall, where the round tables have been set up with table cloths and a candle. Then there is the viewing of the video lecture (ca. 1 hour). Then there is discussion time and prayer. Then there is a short "teaser video" to get you ready for next time. At 9:00 pm it's all done and you visit a bit with your townspeople if you have time and inclination.

The contents has been mostly ok, and I think most Christians would benefit from most of it.

There are several things that amaze me about this experience: the open discussion, the seeing of a diversity of local people in one place (and it's not a funeral), the hugs and reunions, and the willingness of people to sit through 1 hour lectures that are slightly demanding. Everyone helps out. The tables are organized into weeks for set-up and take-down, etc.

The other amazing thing is the growth of this Alliance church from non-existent (when we first moved into town a pastor was just starting to try and organize people), while our three not that far away Lutheran churches rather have seen decline in the same time period.

What's the conclusion? We could provide similar lecture series and congregational learning from a Lutheran perspective, maybe the catechism, or the reformation. As our institutions are not all very well funded and it is tough to maintain schools, provide enough catechesis, I'd like to see more work done at the congregational level. Media is so pervasive and can be used effectively with ease, these days. We must think about using it to save money, time, travel costs and provided resources at the local level.

We won't have money like the LDS to link everything via satellite. But we can develop distinctly lutheran resources that can be utilized locally. Would the pastors feel supplanted by this approach? It should be seen as a supplement and a way to broadbase the work load. As long as there is electricity, it should work.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

From the Globe and Mail--Swedish Lutheran Style minimalism

"With credit harder to obtain, mortgage costs rising and unemployment growing in the United States, Europe and Japan, clever advertising may not be enough to persuade those who can still afford it to part with their money.

"In grim times it becomes distasteful or simply unfashionable to spend money on bling or what you might call conspicuous consumption," said Rory Sutherland, vice-chairman at advertising agency Ogilvy.

"There will be a trend toward Swedish, Lutheran-style minimalism," Sutherland predicted, referring to the modest, even austere, lifestyles favored by Lutherans and Swedes by reputation."

Or did they just mean to say IKEA?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Problems

Still, I'm not sleeping very well, waking up too often, unsettled in the morning.

What came to me last night was that I've been often very harsh, not understanding, not indulging; although, I have to say, there have been many towards me that way, also. We all empathize so little.

Usually, this lack of understanding is focused on those who care the most and stick out their necks the most: parents, teachers, pastors.

As time goes on, I understand some things and some people better. As I become older and less strong and sharp in comparison to former years, maybe I can become more sympathetic. Well, I hope I can hang on to that, as aging gracefully would be a laudable goal.

I am sorry now for situations in which I have been too blind. Really sorry. In these troubled times, there grows a deep desire for reconciliation.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Excellent book


Just now I'm reading Bo Giertz's "The Hammer of God".

This is a review stolen from Amazon.ca. I think it's good.

THE HAMMER OF GOD [Original: STENGRUNDEN (1941)] has been rightly called "the best Law/Gospel narrative ever written" (The Rev. David Mulder, Director of Leadership Development for the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod). At the tender age of 36, and as an associate pastor in rural Småland, Sweden, Bo Harlad Giertz wrote a book which battles those forces which would seek to destroy historical Confessional Lutheranism then and now. Through the stories of three young pastors from different time-periods, he "earnestly contend[s] for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (p. 321, see Jude 3). As such, Giertz fights heterodoxy through three novellas and in three foms: neology (p. 40), New Evangelicalism/Pietism (pp. 147-148), and Liberalism (pp. 267-268). With Henric Schartau's (1757-1825) doctrine of the Order of Grace as the foundation (see the first novella, pp. 3-131 [especially pp. 116-117], as well as pp. 202ff., p. 267, p. 295, p. 334, etc.) and Augsburg Confession IV & V as the backbone, Giertz shows what it is to be a "rätt präst" ("true/right pastor"): one who is a believer himself, preaches the Gospel in its purity, and administers the sacraments according to the Lord's Word (Augsburg Confession VII). A "true pastor," standing firm in the time-tested Holy Word & Holy Liturgy of the Church (p. 201, pp. 210-211, p. 332), is equipped to care for souls by rightly dividing Law and Gospel (p. 124). To be such a pastor is the prayer of Pastor Torvik in the third novella (p. 335; an autobiographical character?) and should indeed be the prayer of every pastor. The theology of the book is summarized in a fantastic & powerful sermon (pp. 313-320) that every pastor could fruitfully borrow for some Sunday morning Divine Service ("gudstjänst"). Also, every pastor (and lay person) should read this stunning work regularly.

Mainly due to his writings, such as THE HAMMER OF GOD, Giertz went on to become the Bishop of the Göteborg Diocese (1949-70). Both due to his age and position, this was a shock: bishops were commonly selelcted from among Cathedral Deans and University Chairmen of Theology. He also became the leader of the Confessional movement in Sweden ("Kyrklig Samling Kring Bibel o. Bekännelse" ["Churchly Gathering Around Bible and Confession"]) and served as vice president of the Lutheran World Federation (1957-63).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Love Life Poster one more time


Went to Curves. Went to see Mary. Went to see the Dr. . Gotta go to the last meeting for the Love Live Conference III

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Jehova's witness

That was funny. No sooner, had I posted about believing in the triune God, that I had a Jehova's witness at the door.

He jumped from subject to subject, but I just kept telling him about God and who he is, whether you want to use the word "triune" or not.

The fool says in his heart: there is no God

Lately, I've been feeling stressed out. There are a variety of reasons, some of them pretty compelling, at least to me. It does take a toll on one's spirit. You wonder about a few things, when things hit you or others.

But I have to say that I do believe 1. in God, the Father, Creator (I have absolutely no doubt that macro-evolution is non-sense. Creation speaks. ). 2. in Christ (He is the best. His message is the best. His story is compelling. He is the only hope, anyhow. His love is what I need and am to share.) 3. the Holy Spirit (forgiveness of sins, communion of the saints; it's real and essential). So I believe in the triune God. I will decline and pass away, but he stays the same.

My younger sister witnessed to me today. Bless her. She put me on the hunt for a Paul Gerhard cassette, we used to have. Hope I can find it.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Explanation to the second article of the Apostle's Creed

“What does this mean: I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord,
who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver but with His holy precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death,
that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness,
just as he is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.

THIS IS MOST CERTAINLY TRUE.”



And from Bror Ericksons's sermon:
Collect: "Have mercy on us that with you as our Ruler and Guide we may pass through things temporal that we lose not the things eternal."
Amen to that, too.

Where are the Propers in the LSB? I can't find them. We always get them printed out. Yesterday, I went to a Lutheran church that had no collect.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Das Reich muss uns doch bleiben

Das Wort sie sollen lassen stahn und kein' Dank dazu haben;
er ist bei uns wohl auf dem Plan mit seinem Geist und Gaben.
Nehmen sie den Leib, Gut, Ehr, Kind und Weib:
lass fahren dahin, sie habens kein' Gewinn,
das Reich muss uns doch bleiben.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Susanna

We fixed Susanna's teeth.

She must be nearly one hundred. She is proud of having all her own teeth. She is on oxygen for her emphysema. She could barely breath, or sit back, or hear, or keep warm, or talk.

But she has this sense of humor. She was still trying to tell us jokes. She also thought she might "kick the bucket" before her next appointment. She was not sure she would see us again. Martin told her we would see each other in another place then. She said, yes, and her teeth won't need fixing.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Panik


I can't begin to write down the things that my subconscious works on these days when I sleep. I just know I get more and more uncomfortable the closer I get to the morning and I wake up with a knot in my stomach and no appetite for breakfast. No appetite is a highly unusual thing for me.

During the day, I'm ok, but tired, sometimes more distracted than usual. I miss the work I used to have. I miss the people I used to interact with. I am sorry we sold the business. But I'm ok. I read some psalms, I go to church, we listen to nice music and I'm uplifted. But my subconscious keeps churning at night.

I now understand Martin's grandmother Mueller in Poland. Aunt Gertrud writes: why did she leave the farm to flee the Russians with her nine children on a wagon at -30 without the benefits of going in an organized trek with her neighbors. Why did she leave so quickly and all by herself? (husband was away stopping tanks by digging ditches--Volkssturm, stupid work for defense purposes)

Panic. Adrenalin. Got to go or I'll burst.-- of course, she jumped the gun.

It does not mean you're not trusting the Lord. It means there is stuff you have to do, to work through, to change, to arrange, to run, to fix. The adrenalin was given for a purpose. Yet, even while the adrenalin is working you have to try to stay calm and sane. Even accept the adrenalin. Yes, I've got the adrenalin rush, the panic, but not now--you have to think--and pray.

The Chinese, currently, say this: let this situation heighten our sense of peril, so that we will act more appropriately.

I read something like that in the paper. Let it heighten our sense of peril, not let us relax and hope for the best.

As a Christian I also may have a heightened sense of peril, when there is peril. I am supposed to trust the Lord, but I also must let this sense of peril guide me into appropriate discussions and actions.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

How England is affected by the crisis



A dear friend sent me this picture.
Good comic relief.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Exercise/Diet


From our newspaper: "We eat more sugar and omega-6 fatty acids, and less vegetables and omega-3. Sixty per cent of out calories come from white flour, sugar and bad fats. There are studies that show increased omega-6 in blood is linked to higher risk of breast cancer.

Not surprisingly, exercise--or a lack of it--also contributes. Several studies, notably a recent French paper that tracked the health of school teachers over 30 years, show that as little as 30 minutes of exercise six times a week halves the relapse rate of breast cancer.

We know that exercise stimulates the immune system, which is key to keeping cancer cells at bay and stopping them from developing into tumors. Exercise reduces inflammation, which is the bed of cancer. it also reduces the overall fat stores, which is where all of the environmental contaminants are stored. So if you reduce the fat cells, you reduce your exposure to carcinogens. Obesity is one of the strongest risk factors for cancer. It combines all of these things.

And while the human body is designed to handle reactive stress, a recent study of 514 Australian women by the University of Sydney suggests that a combination of chronic stress and lack of social network is a serious risk factor."

A bunch of important information in this little quote. I should memorize the whole thing.

This week I rejoined Curves. They now have this computerized system to give you feedback as to how you are doing and how much more or less you are working than last time.

I set a goal of losing 20 lbs. That would really help. I'd also like to get up earlier and get the Curves done in the morning instead of pushing it in front of me all day. I'd still like to walk and do some of the interval training and functional exercises in the Revised South Beach book.

Monday, September 29, 2008

"No Longer Lonely"

The Lutheran Hour sent me this little booklet in the mail: "No Longer Lonely". I'll probably give it away. There are scripture selections and at the end some other quotes.

The scriptures are: Psalm 118:4-9, Psalm 23, Hebrews 13:5, Psalm 139:7-10, Psalm 27: 4-5, Isaiah 43:2, and Psalm 18:2-6.

The other quotes are new to me. I'll post them here, so I have them to keep.

Saint Augustine: "O holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there thy cheerful beams."

Arthur W. Pink: "Afflictions are light when compared with what we really deserve. They are light when compared with the sufferings of the Lord Jesus. But perhaps their real lightness is best seen by comparing them with the weight of glory which is awaiting us."

John Milton: "Loneliness is the first thing which God's eye named, not good."

Saint Augustine: "God loves each of us as if there were only one of us."

Thomas Watson: "God sweetens outward pain with inward peace."

Charles Kingsley: "It is not darkness you are going to, for God is Light. It is not lonely for Christ is with you. It is not unknown country, for Christ is there."

Dag Hammerskjold: "Pray that your loneliness may spur you into finding something to live for, great enough to die for."

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Reading Tim Kimmel's "Raising Kids Who Turn out Right"


A quote from the book that resonated with me:

"Add to any list (of pressures) the pressures of rearing kids in a media-oriented environment that can deprogram and reprogram our children's values faster than ever, and we find ourselves fighting a well-armed opponent."

First there was the radio... and then TV... But now there is also the computer and the internet, and the cell-phone and the text-messaging and all of it around the clock...

Things have changed. And it is harder to raise kids who turn out right, I think. There is indeed a well-armed opponent (sounds like a line out of "A Mighty Fortress")

Kimmel's answer is to be very deliberate about the activities you engage in with your children and what about you want to instill in them, to the point of providing detailed planning sheets to go through with your spouse on a special planning weekend away from the children. I think he is correct. It probably is a useful exercise. There is a lot of food for thought here, yet we realize without God's help nothing will turn out right.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Thankfulness

"This is the virtue characteristic of real Christians; it is their worship of God at its best. They thank God and do it with all their heart. This is a virtue unattainable by any other human being on earth... to thank with all your heart is an art--an art which the Holy Spirit teaches. And you need not worry that the man who can really say Deo gratias (to God be thanks) with all his heart will be proud, stubborn, rough, and tough, or will work against God with His gifts."
(from Luther's exposition of Psalm 111:1)

"To begin with, we must rejoice at the less important good things (exiguis bonis) which we enjoy according to the Second Table of the law in that our bodies an possessions are protected. For these gifts are of minor importance when compared with those which we enjoy according to the First Table: that God has revealed Himself, has made known what He intends to do with us, gives His Word, grants faith and the Holy Spirit, hears prayers, daily increases His church, etc. These things are so great that no tongue is able to amplify and praise them as they deserve.. to this David turns his eyes; on this he meditates, and so he is moved to gratitude... For only those are truly thankful who receive the gifts of God joyfully and rejoice in the Giver." (on Psalm 122).

Financial Crisis 08

One million homes in the US are in foreclosure. On TV we see weeping mothers stand in their back yards with their husbands holding them and the children playing nearby. Retires have lost their savings. Heart-breaking.

And yet, in my horrible selfishness, it is my own retirement portfolio losses that bother me the most. I've been feeling sick and depressed and now I have the flu.

And now we're not sure we are getting the oil upgraders in Alberta. The bitumen is going to Texas (where they need to work, too, we guess). However, today Stephen Harper said that the bitumen can't just be sent out like that. We still wonder about the projects that had been announced for our area.

When are the Americans going to do something about their oil dependency? When are their elections going to be about issues instead of personalities? When will common sense prevail instead of partisan politics? We will pray for the elections here and there.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

More Magnificat


"He has put down the mighty from their seats."

"The learned, saintly, mighty, great and rich, and the best that the world has must fight against God and the right, and be the devil's own. As it is said in Habakkuk 1:16: "His food is rich and choice"; that is to say, the evil spirit has a most delicate palate and is fond of feasting on the very best, daintiest, and choicest morsels, as a bear on honey. Hence the learned and saintly hypocrites, the great lords and the rich, are the devil's own tidbits. On the other hand, as St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:28, those whom the world rejects, the poor, lowly, simplehearted, and despised, God has chosen, causing the best part of mankind to bring suffering upon the lowest part, in order that men may know that our salvation consists not in man's power and works but in Gods' alone, as St. Paul also says (1 Cor 3:7). Hence there is much truth in these saying, "the more men know, the worse they grow"; "A prince, a rare bird in heaven"; "Rich here, poor yonder." For the learned will not surrender the pride of their hearts, nor the mighty their oppression, nor the rich their pleasures. And so it goes." (Luther's commentary, vol. 21)

Monday, September 22, 2008

man-made "Bubbles"


Still finishing Luther's Works, Volume 21: Sermon on the Mount and Magnificat, p. 340.

Mary says: "He has shown strength with His arm, He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts."

"On the other hand, God lets the other half of mankind become great and mightily to exalt themselves. He withdraws His power from them and lets them puff themselves up in their own power alone. For where man's strength begins, God's strength ends. When their bubble is full blown, and everyone supposes them to have won and overcome, and they themselves feel smug in their achievement, then God pricks the bubble, and it is all over. The poor dupes do not know that even while they are puffing themselves up and growing strong they are forsaken by God, and God's arm is not with them. Therefore their prosperity has its day, disappears like bubble, and is as if it had never been."

For Giovanni on the "church"

In case a conversation from i-monk comes here, I'm making a spot for it.

Here is something on the church from Luther's sermon (July 12, 1539) on John 3:29.

"The devil is alert and not only rages openly against Christ but also comes to seduce people in the form of the Lord Christ. Therefore let the church beware lest she be deceived by the form of the voice of the Bridegroom, the Lord Christ. For if He will not have the prophets or Moses or John, who really are of God, far less can He endure those who preach something without, or contrary to, the voice of the Bridegroom and who under the semblance of the divine word speak something else. Therefore we should see to it in the church that we preach or hear nothing but the voice of the Bridegroom--not an artificial or imitative voice. For Christ alone is to be He who takes away sin and overcomes death. Therefore believe no one, whether he comes in impressive majesty against Christ or without Christ or for Christ."

I don't want to be rude, but it is of essence to be grounded on Christ and his Word, and not on something else.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

God and Mammon/ Jesus and the Stock Market

What a week in the stock market! How is your retirement nest egg looking? How is our heart looking?

It amazes me how many financial newsletters are out there, how many people need make sure they have the right fund manager. If the right fund manager leaves the fund, the fund is in trouble. They are the financial "saviors". We will follow whoever makes us money, to the end of the earth.

I have to watch this, too. We have to manage our finances, and save for the future, our children's education... We know it too well.

Yet, it is incredible how we can be so serious about this, and yet not realize we need another "Savior". What about not just following the stock market, but following the Lord? Should one not be much more serious about that!? The stock market does what it wills. The government does what it wills. For sure, we will die and leave it all behind.

We don't want to win the world and loose our souls.

"What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew: 16, 26)

I don't want to be too pious about this. I did not sleep well this week. In fact, I woke up every hour, even during what's usually your three first deep hours. But as the whole world saw the stock market pretty much crash, the whole world will see Him come in glory. That event will be incomparably more momentous.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Duerer exhibit




On Sunday, we went to see the Albrecht Duerer exhibit downtown Edmonton. Of course, the art gallery is under construction and you had to find the exhibit a few blocks away on Jasper Avenue. What can I say about the exhibit? Some of the really famous pictures were not there: the "Praying Hands" and the "Young Hare", for example. There were the woodcuts and what I noticed most was the Devil and Death lurking everywhere. Death has this hour glass with him, always reminding, that your time is running out, no matter what station you are in. There is the beautiful young couple and there is Death and his hour glass. The Knight, in the picture above, however, is not deterred from his road with his dog at his side, which is his faith, as a dog is faithful (that's what the the gallery's description said),-- no matter the Devil and Death.

It does put one in a different mood and perspective to be so made aware of the fact that life is brief and fragile.

One could say that it was a lovely diversion to go downtown on a glorious fall Sunday, but it was no diversion, at all. :)

Medical Dental Mission to China



On Saturday, we went to a dinner put on by the CMDS (Christian Medical Dental Society).
A number of Edmonton area physicians and dentists go to China once or twice a year to perform needed services and teach local medical/dental staff and give evangelistic presentations (many of them are ethnic Chinese).

In China, Christians get up daily at 5:00 AM to go to church to pray. It's a good time, that early, because the police is not up, yet. So they are not molested or prohibited. (Perhaps we should not be putting that on the internet. Presumably the police know this, but rather not get up, yet.) The mission teams are also under "surveillance", but still seem to get their work done.

We also learned that in Tibet, you cannot become a Christian without getting into severe persecution, getting expelled or killed. (I find that ironic, since Tibet is so vocal about its own rights under the Chinese.)

I would not mind going on such a trip, if I knew I would not wilt from the heat and other conditions.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Birthday

It's my birthday, today. And my thoughts center around how little control we have. We did not chose to be born. We did not chose to become who we are. We did not chose to get older with sagging faces and other parts. And looking at others, they did not chose to get old and be in a wheelchair. We have no idea how and when we will depart.

We are creatures. Finite, practically impotent.

But God saw us. God knows us. When others could care less, he cares. Whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. He sees us still. He is at our right hand. He will carry us through. He is our entire help and comfort.

Friday, September 12, 2008

In relation to the previous post



Regarding what good fruits really are--not self-invented, self-chosen, self-righteous, un-mandated, unhelpful works, I started to wonder: how does this apply, today? Who promotes those kinds of works, today? Maybe, this does not happen any more.

Truly good and kind works are always called for. Loving work begins in one's station in life, one's calling. That's not what's being criticized.

Then I saw the pictures of Pope Benedikt visiting France. On an historic occasion, trying to mend fences with an entire nation,--it was imperative to visit Lourdes!

I find that really sad. Why? It seems like so much medieval non-sense. Are we not in a different era?

That, plus the Pope meeting with the Sarkozys. Bruni does not believe in monogamy and the Pope believes in celibacy. Neither is right. Neither is biblical or following Christ's teaching. Would it be too much to hope for that they all return to the Bible?

Finishing up Luther on the Sermon on the Mount--Fruits



You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? So every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.

Luther connects this to the previous section, applying it to false teachers.

"Having warned His followers to hold fast to His teaching and to be careful that they are not seduced by others who are ravenous wolves under sheep's clothing, Christ, the Lord, now uses another warning to teach them how to recognize such people by their fruits. He cites an example in plain and simple words that even a child can understand. The most important thing is to understand what he calls a good or a bad tree and good or bad fruit. It is easy to say that this is a fig tree or a thistle or a good apple tree or a sour plum tree... But what Christ is pointing to here cannot be located except by a spiritual understanding on the basis of the Word of God. We heard earlier that these same false teachers put on such an appearance and are so glib in their speech that reason is not capable of evaluating them or of defending itself against them. As a matter of fact, this sort of teaching springs from reason and is completely compatible with it. Naturally it pleases us, for it teaches about our own actions and works, which lie withing our understanding and our capacity.

A brief definition of "a sound tree that bears good fruit" is this: one who conducts his life, existence, and behavior according to the Word of God, pure and unadulterated...

Thus the words "You will know them by their fruits" are set down as a distinguishing mark and a standard for judging and recognizing these prophets. If we are taken in, that is no one's fault by our own... You may say: "all right, but how do I recognize these? they may fool me too." Answer: You know what God's commandments are. See whether they agree with them. I will guarantee that no schismatic spirit will come without making his own special mark and leaving a stench behind so that you can tell that the devil has been there. No false teaching or heresy has ever arisen without bringing along the distinguishing mark He points to here: that it has set forth works different from the ones which God has commanded and ordained. The world is seduced simply because it follows insane reason and leaves the Word of God lying under the bench. It does not notice what He commands, and meanwhile it stares at the masks in the hope of seeing something special."

Luther wants to make the point that any of these false preachers will set up rules/commands/works that are not commanded. They will always go beyond God's word and ignore it, doing their own thing. This is their bad fruit: doing things they themselves invented to set themselves apart.

"It all depends, therefore, on really knowing and maintaining the definition of what Christ calls good works or fruits: a good work is one that is required or commanded by the Word of God and proceeds on the basis of that commandment. So a wife who is pious and faithful in her marriage can claim and boast that her station is commanded by God, that it is supported by the true, pure, and unadulterated Word of God, and that it heartily pleases God. Hence her works are all good fruit... Since they despise the real fruit and works for their lack of any special show, He despises the rotten works that they undertake so ostentatiously in their presumption that they are improving on what He has done...

If you measure them up against the commandment of God and ask whether God has commanded and required such works and whether they have served and benefited the neighbor, it is clear that they are valueless and only a hindrance to the genuine good fruit. The other stations, by contrast, put on no special outward appearance by glittering and glistening. Still they yield the finest and best fruit and are the most useful things on earth--but in the sight of God and of those who are illumined with spiritual vision so that they can see correctly and judge correctly... The regrettable thing is that this ghostly invention of the devil deceives and seduces even the sharpest mind that does not have the Word of God and a sound understanding. It follows its own supposition and devotion, and it imagines that if it find these pleasing, God must find them pleasing too. But this should be reversed so that I find pleasing what I hear is pleasing to Him, even though all of God's stations have their annoyances and many bad people in them who corrupt this fruit, just the way the bad worms do.

... The purpose of Christ's saying is to comfort and strengthen people who are in the stations that conflict with the feelings and attitudes of reason--stations which have many annoyances and evil incidents in them so that people are taken aback and regard them as dangerous and as unsuitable for the service of God.

Nothing but good fruit can come from the station that God has created and ordained, and from the man who works and lives in this station on the basis of the Word of God. With this you can now comfort your heart against thoughts like these: "Oh, it was this person or that who got me into this station. It causes me nothing but disgust and trouble." I have often been tempted this way in connection with my own office, and still am. If it had not been for the Word of God, I would have stopped preaching a long time ago and would have said farewell to the world, the way the monks used to do. It is the devil himself doing this and making everyone's station hard for him. Though God has assigned this office and work to us and is heartily pleased with it as the good fruit of a good heart, the devil so confuses foolish human reason that it fails to recognize this and thus destroys its own station and fruit. Because it does not see that this is a good tree and a good station, it is an obstacle to itself and therefore cannot yield good fruit.


And everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it.

The outward masks of special works and worship are so dazzling that an ordinary Christian life seems pale by comparison. So they have no shortage of doing, teaching, and believing. "The difference is,' Christ says, "that they hear My teaching, but all they want to do is what they themselves have invented. I cannot keep them on the track of doing what I teach them." If we Christians were as diligent in our works as they are in theirs, we would be nothing but saints. Still neither side really gets anywhere: we are lazy and indolent; they are entirely too active, but never in doing genuine works. And so, thank God, we still have the advantage, in that we have started believing and loving a little and are on the right track, however weak our progress may be.

Now He closes this with a beautiful analogy, showing the final outcome of both: "Everyone who hears and practices My teaching is a fine, smart builder, who does not build on sand but first finds a strong rock as a foundation. Once he has this, he builds on it so that his house may last and stand firm. Then when the storms and rains strike around it and above it, and when the floods and wind strike beneath it to wash away the ground and upset the house, it stands immovable against all of them as though it were defying them. But everyone who erects his building on sand will discover that it will stand only until the rain and the floods wash it away and the wind upsets it, so that it lies in a heap or collapses by itself." With this analogy He intends to give us faithful warning to be careful that we hold tight to His teaching and do not let go of Christ in our hearts, as our only sure Foundation (1 Cor. 3:11) and the Cornerstone of our salvation and blessedness (1 Peter 2:6), ans St. Paul and St. Peter call Him on the basis of Isaiah 28:16. If we stand grounded and built on that, we shall remain impregnable."