Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday after Quinquagesima

Just a quick post, then clean house for supper guests...

I just want you and Bror to know that I'm also reading his translation of Bo Giertz's devotional. It's a great book. I read it in spurts. Each devotion is quite fully packed and does give one enough to think about for the time. The prayers are quite amazing and another devotion right there. So, you can't read right through the book. You have to let each devotion sit and work.

I don't always know exactly where I am supposed to be. It does not really matter too much, but today I know where we are: the Friday after Quinquagesima (the spell checker does not know the word). If you don't know what Quinquagesima is, I looked it up on Wikipedia:

Quinquagesima is the name for the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. It was also called Quinquagesima Sunday, Shrove Sunday or Esto Mihi. The name originates from Latin quinquagesimus (fiftieth), referring to the fifty days before Easter Sunday using inclusive counting which counts both Sundays (normal counting would count only one of these).

There, probably more than you wanted to know, but still good to know.

Today's devotion (Friday after Quinquagesima), has this first paragraph about some outrageous sad events that people wanted Jesus to comment on (read Luke 13), (does one need copywrite permission to copy something like this here?):

Only Luke wrote about the events we read about in today's Scripture reading. On the way to Jerusalem, people told Jesus about Pilate's recent outrageous action. He ordered an assault on some Galileans and mixed their blood with their sacrifices (Luke 13:1). Luke does not record why Pilate took this action. Those who reported the terrible news probably wanted to hear what Jesus had to say about it. Jesus bluntly replied that the same would happen to us all if we didn't repent. He reminded them of another tragic event. A tower had fallen in Jerusalem and took eighteen lives. The people wondered why things like that happened. Did the victims deserve to suffer for some reason? No more than anybody else, Jesus answered. If we don't repent, we will all perish.

We ourselves in this family and many others have wondered and cried out why a young person had to die tragically when the old folks homes and hospitals are full of old people ready to die. Why does this happen? --We can try console ourselves with this thought or another, but none of the answers are totally helpful or satisfying.

I note here, too, Jesus does not give much of an explanation. Not far off from Job. Why them and not others? Not because they were better or worse than others. All we are supposed to worry about is our own repentance. Blunt answer? Helpful answer? Unhelpful answer? It's all that we get to know. We will die too, and if we don't repent and turn to Christ, we will all perish, too.

When the outcry reaches me in our own circumstance: why the young man? I can only just say something similar: life is very brief, anyways; brief, fleeting; we will soon be there, too. Watch for yourself and who is left in your family. Repent and believe the Good News. That's it. And we're told that's enough to know.

My mother died at 44, and that was too young. My father-in-law died right after he retired. He never got to enjoy it. That was too young. 18, is way too young. But we don't know where our hour glass is at. We just know it's running. Let's think about it and get wise.

So much for the Friday after Quinquagesima.

Here is also the prayer that goes with the devotion:

Lord, dear Father in heaven, how many times have You come, looking for fruit and not finding any? And yet You let me remain in Your vineyard. Lord Jesus Christ, I thank You for interceding. I know what would have happened if You hadn't taken me on Your shoulders. Help me seize the day today, tomorrow, and every other day as a day of grace and a gift from You. I know there is a good reason for it because You gave it to me. Help me to do and be whatever You wanted when You gave it to me.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Heaven/lying in front of the door

With the loss of our two boys (young men), naturally, a lot of talk centers around heaven and that's good.

There is a lot that gets said about heaven, but to me it is always God centered. Someone once gave this analogy of the picture of the dog wanting to get into the room where his owner is. I am this dog. I want to be this dog.

I was thinking about that when I stumbled over our border collie, Molly, several times the other night, as she was sleeping in front of the bedroom door. Usually, she sleeps in the garage. But it was getting so cold again and we had been gone all day and I did not have the heart to put her in the garage. But instead of staying on her carpet, she had to lie in front of the door. Now, I know, she could not have cared the least about the room, itself; she just wanted to be close to us. She is a very clingy dog.

The dog never wants to leave your side. She is single-mindedly focused on you (when it's not about getting food and drink.) She is not happy about any distance. So, we too long for heaven for the relationships. Firstly, this relationship is our "adoption as sons (daughters)". This adoption has already happened (the dog is in the house--big step), but now we are still lying in front of the bedroom door.

Paul puts it so much better:

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Luther writes about the waiting, too:

We should learn to bring our eyes, our hearts, and souls to bear upon yonder life in heaven and in a lively hope await it with joy. For if we would be Christians, the ultimate objects of our quest should not be marrying, giving in marriage, buying selling, planting, building--activities that Christ says the wicked will be engaged in especially before the Last day. To be sure, we, too, must use these things in order to satisfy the needs of the body. But our ultimate quest should be something better and higher: the blessed inheritance in heaven that does not pass away.

Luther also writes about the way, not by works but by Christ, himself.

For when Christ became man, entered the ministry, and began to preach, the heavens opened; and they remain open. Since that time, since the Baptism of Christ at the Jordan, when heaven was opened it has never been closed, nor will it be closed, although with the eyes of the body we do not see it open. That heaven stands open and that God the Father speaks with us we see with spiritual eyes only.
Before the coming of Christ heaven was tightly closed, and the devil ruled with might. But through Christ and in Christ heaven is opened again; and Christians now see the open heaven and constantly hear God, their heavenly Father, speaking with them; and the good angels are constantly ascending and descending for us. For the word "this is My beloved Son" God is still speaking to us; and He will not cease to speak it, and heaven will not be closed, until the Last Day. When you come to Baptism or receive the Lord's supper or get absolution or hear a sermon, heaven is standing open, and we are hearing the voice of our heavenly Father; and all the acts that are performed come from heaven, which is open above us. For God is speaking with us, is governing us and taking care of us, and Christ is hovering over us, though in a manner invisible.

Yes, heaven is open,-- that must be being in the house and lying by the crack under the door. Awfully close to God. Well, so far the analogy with our dog. The point is a different one, here. All of God's gifts are available freely by his doing to all who would partake and take seriously his provisions.

And with this heaven open, we have already received it:

Eternal life begins here, in our hearts; for when we begin to believe in Christ, after we have been baptized, then, according to faith and the word, we are liberated from death, from sin, and from the devil. Therefore we have the beginning of life eternal and its first fruits in this life, a sort of mild foretaste; we have entered the lobby; but soon, divested of this flesh, we shall fully appreciate all.

It is all a very serious matter and not just about what will be nice and what is sentimental. This is not about cute stuff. Mrs. St. Nicolaas and I take much comfort that both Matt and Stefan were baptized and we had a good talk about that. Thanks, Tracy, I hope you don't mind me mentioning it here.

Heaven and Hell/ Atheism

Yesterday, I was going to make a post about heaven, and ended up reading some stuff on hell, as well.-- What shall we start with?

I ended up mentioning this (quote below) to Rev. Dr. Strand at Lenten supper last night. So I'll start with with it. Dr. Strand was talking about a book he would like to write in his sabbatical on philosophy, a kind of popular guide. The main point would be that atheism is immoral. I did not quite catch the way the argument was going to go. (Maybe, Ruth you can summarize it for us!)

This is what I contributed to the conversation. Luther writes about how man has always resented the teaching about hell. When you are talking with atheists, this does keep coming up. Christianity stinks just for the threat of hell. And God's remedy they don't like either.

It does seem incredible and unworthy of God's wisdom and goodness that, in addition to all the discomforts of this life, one must also fear eternal death, and do so because God is angry with men, who are miserable enough as it is. Such thoughts reason cannot approve without engaging in blasphemy. Therefore Epicurus advises: Become either insane or incredulous, and thus rid yourself of this feeling of wrath and sin when you find yourself in the throes of miseries and death. Oh, what frivolous advice: for suppose you are unable to be incredulous and you fear that what you now disdain you might, after this life, experience to be true? Or suppose you are unable to become insane, so you are unable to become insane, so that it is impossible for you not to give thought to this impending peril?

Therefore man, as he is by nature, cannot do otherwise than become obsessed with fear and be indignant at the thought that after death God, of whom one must be afraid, still rules over us. We are reminded of what Cicero has Velleius say: Thus he imposes on our necks a timeless tyrant."

It reminds me of the famous bus campaign: "There probably is no God, so go ahead and enjoy your life." Well, there is that timeless tyrant: "probably". What if in your heart of heart you can't be "incredulous" after all? What is it with hedging, as Ezra Levant wrote, there "probably" is no God? What if there is? You don't have the choice to be insane or to be incredulous. Something/ someone is talking in your head/heart.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Event at Bethel

Today, I received this e-mail from the secretary at Bethel Lutheran Church, Sherwood Park. I have never heard the speaker, before. I do think the deluge of media poses special challenges to Christian families, today.

A reminder that Rev. Roger Sonnenberg will be presenting a workshop on Monday, March 2nd 7:00 p.m. here at Bethel The workshop will involve a special discussion on some of the present-day parenting challenges, especially in the area of the internet. There is no fee for the workshop. All are welcome!

Monday, February 23, 2009

What about X-box?

We had this story in our newspaper this weekend: (Canwest News Story)

SOFA BOY is a new children's book trying to "uproot console potatoes".

The author, Scott Langteau, spent a huge amount of his childhood playing video games and went on to become a leading video-game designer. So this really qualifies him to write a children's book that is a cautionary tale about "game-hooked" children who refuse to get off the couch.

His solution for families: "I have no idea about developmental science, but addiction is a pretty obvious affliction. The only thing you can do is teach moderation, and have very strict rules around how long the kids can play, and what they have to do before the box gets turned on."

Oh, so much easier said than done.

This past weekend I spent some time with my quite young nephews. The greatest interest they had was playing with Stefan's extensive collection of X-box games.

My sister-in-law said that all the young children are playing these days and that she won't have it in her house. Her son can only play it at other houses.

This poses quite a dilemma, with which I have been very familiar.

If you are the parent that tries to control this thing and puts the time and effort into having "quality" time (reading, music, skating...), your children end up at the houses that have the unlimited X-box time and parents are not interacting much with their children. The permissive parents get your child as a playmate in their house and you have no idea what's going on.

I wonder, too, if all the crashing of cars, planes, helicopters, etc. makes them less careful when it come time to operate vehicles and equipment.

Any experiences and solutions?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

poking around youtube for some Bach

I need to cook and bake something, but here I am poking around the internet looking for Bach cantatas. It's amazing nowadays. You print off scores, etc.

I thought this Japanese performance of "Jesus, joy of man's desiring" was very good. Like the trumpet. I've never even really listened to the German text before. Found that on the internet, too.

Wohl mir, dass ich Jesum habe,
o wie feste halt' ich ihn,
dass er mir das Herze labe,
wenn ich krank und traurig bin.
Jesum hab' ich, der mich liebet
und sich mir zu eigen gibet,
ach drum lass' ich Jesum nicht,
wenn mir gleich mein Herze bricht.


When my sister comes, I'll make her sing with me. She is a fabulous alto. The children will think we are crazy, but they'll remember. Her children are half Japanese and speak German, English and Japanese. Maybe they'll like these Japanese singing German Bach.


My younger sister is coming with her children to stay with us for the weekend. She has really tried to look after me during this time and been a good witness. God bless her.

Also, I will finally see some of my very good girl friends for birthday lunch. They've been very patient with me.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Grief work/books/death/marriage breakdown

People have given us a number of books to help us deal with "grief".

Personally, I feel I have enough things to work with, help me, with what I have all the time: my Bible, my hymnbook, my Luther.

I keep coming back to Job's story, where no real answer is offered, except: "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised."

I think this, too, in relation to some relatives and relationships and things that have have been quite wrong: "They've given and they've taken; may the Lord bless them."

And I just about forgot this one: "I've given and I've taken; may the Lord and the others forgive me, too."

This sounds kind of pious or fatalistic, but there is really no choice. If there were choices, it would be a different matter.

On the other hand, it is not about us. It is for the young man we grieve. It is for what was good and right, that is gone, for which we grieve, and for what could have been. He is not with us. He could not work on his dreams. Still, it is like my brother-in-law Herbert told me: "It is we who are left behind who still struggle." So, it's about us, too.

We have our memories and they are like that famous two-edged sword; they comfort and they cut. They make us laugh and they make us cry. They hit us out of nowhere, like a ton of bricks or a ray of light.

Like Gerald said, your memories cannot sustain you. In fact, I would say--they can also very well slay, you.-- No condolence card ever says that.

Since, the last post I made earlier today, on marriage, I am thinking of my dear friends who have suffered marriage break-down. Marriage-breakdown does not seem so much an "act of God". Therefore, individuals would be more prone to blaming themselves. Individuals may never get a condolence card or presented with a book on grief. Surely, memories would not sustain a person, either.

There is this basic pain, sin, wrong, death, however, in everything that is suffered. We all need forgiveness, in different ways, the same. We all hurt, in different ways, yet the same. You might benefit from a grief book. Maybe.

These are the books that have come into our house:
--A man (who's son was involved in a group killing at a party) gave us: "When Life Hurts. A Three-Fold Path to Healing" by Brian C. Stiller. I find it a good book. It broadens one's outlook and puts you on a biblical understanding. But it is said to be out of print.

--An atheist gave me "The Shack", which everyone has heard of. I started reading it. I find it basically too weird, so far. I may or may not finish it. Certainly, I'll ask the atheist what he got out of it. There may be some nuggets, since so many people think it's so great.

--Andrea bought a grief devotional book, that deals with a Bible passage every day for one year. She likes it. We may get some for others. (see pic. above) I haven't read much of it, because she's got it. Does Concordia Publishing House have anything like this? (Not that anyone has mentioned it or given it to us.) (Actually, I don't know anyone else who buys things from Concordia Publishing House besides myself. It's not too well promoted here.)

I think reading those books, might be a bit like joining a support group (which is what others have recommended). You hear the pain of others and the way they've coped. You get a little out of your own navel and see and hear others. You are certainly not alone in your grief. And you must trust God and let him work it out.

Some data on moral behavior

This is a newspaper clipping I've kept kicking around for a while. It would be interesting to get the whole report, but I'm not sure how. I think you have to pay for it.

I'll just type off the whole newspaper article. It won't take long.

I don't know if this is any comfort to any who have alreadly lost a marriage. There are so many factors. I do find it encouraging that most Christian groups as a whole, have more stability than average.

Churchgoers less likely to run around.

Conservative believers most faithful to spouses.(Shannon Proudfoot, CanWest News Service)

Where you worship--and whether you worship at all--could be connnected to your likelihood of straying from your marriage vows.

People who identify with a faith group are less likely to cheat on their spouses than those with no religious affiliation, a new study has found. but even among the religious set, the odds vary according to denomination.

"What matters the most is being involved in a religious organization", says Amy Burdett, co-author of the study and a post-doctoral scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "those who attend church more are less likely to cheat, and those who have more conservative views of the Bible are less likely to cheat."

Baptist are one-third less likely to wander than those with no religious affiliation, researchers found, and Catholics display similar odds. Moderate Protestants such as Presbyterians and Lutherans have 37 per cent lower odds of cheating than the unaffiliated, while liberal Protestants such as those in the United and Anglican churches are 31 per cent more faithful.

Non-traditional conservative groups such as Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses display no less likelihood of cheating than people with no religious affiliation.

"That was little bit surprising, considering you think of these conservative religious groups as having stricter teachings about sexuality" Burdette says.

Those belonging to "other" faiths, such as Judaism and Islam, also carry the same odds of infidelity as non-religious people, the researchers say.

The study, published in the December issues of the Journal of Family Issues, categorized faiths according to the American spiritual landscape. The Canadian denominational examples provided here are approximations.

All faith groups tend to emphasize family life and promote strong marital relationships, Burdette says, which may partly explain the results.

"I don't think there's any church that would say extramarital affairs are OK, even churches that are less strict on premarital sex, for example," she says. "There's a blanket condemnation of extramarital affairs."

Regular church attendance and faith-oriented events may leave people with less time to frequent environments conducive to cheating, such as bars, she says. The authors also suggest that religious participation may lessen the risk of infidelity because members are more likely to move in social circles that "lower opportunities for extramarital sex and raise the likelihood and cost of detection."

The researchers considered the possibility that people lied about adulterous relationships. However, Burdette says previous studies have shown that religious people are no more likely to give "socially desirable" answers.

The study used date from the U>S. General Social Surveys of 1991 to 2004, analyzing the responses of almost 8,00 people aged 18 to 89.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Is Youth Culture worse than before?--evidence

We've had this little discussion recently, here, if the youth culture is worse than before, at least when we are talking about our own local area. My sense recently has been that things are much, much worse around here than before.

Yesterday, I read some stats that would back up the opinion that things have indeed changed. The Edmonton Journal was reporting on the gang shootings in Vancouver, happening in broad daylight and the alarm they cause. Essentially, it all has to do with the drug trade. The drugs (and weapons) that come into Alberta come via Vancouver and drug use in all of Canada has doubled in the last 10 years. Doubled! That's up 100%. That's a lot in a short time.

I remember reading something: even the Pope said that the drug culture is putting tons of young people out of reach of the church. Well, I hope that's not so; but it is a very devilish thing. I think we need to be even more alert.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Gerhard Forde

Got a chance to talk to a theologian about Gerhard Forde today. He thinks he's great and said the book I ordered (On being a Theologian of the Cross) is excellent. He also said there is no "third use of the law" and Chemnitz put it in. I said, it did not read too badly to me in the Book of Concord, but he says, yea, that would work under ideal conditions (such as the garden of Eden). (You can probably guess who I talked to).

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cindy writes

There is a young woman, Cindy, with whom I work, who had this true story (the one below, not the one in the picture) published in a "Chicken Soup for the Soul" book. The foster mom written about is well known to me, too, and lives a mile from our house.

Having raised adopted children, I have often wondered what it has been like for them, at different times. But the story resonates with me also on a theological level, which I mention after the quote.


I grew up as a foster child from the age of eight. Unlike most children I know, I never really had a biological mother. I never got to experience the unconditional love and wonderment a mother gives her child. So growing up was a bit harder on me that on most other children. A drastic change came suddenly when I was in the eleventh grade. I was now in my second foster home and had been there for the past five years. I was surrounded by a warm and caring family. But still something pained me deeply. I felt "out of place." I wasn't her birth child, so I remained distant, not allowing myself to love her as much as I could.

In one night, things changed for the better and forever. I was doing homework while waiting for the rest of the family to return home from their events. It was a daily routine. I spent most of my nights by myself finding things to keep me busy. As I was reading a paragraph for English I heard the closing of the back door and my foster mom calling for me. I walked into the kitchen where she was holding a hardcover children's book that she had borrowed from work. "I want you to read this," she said excitedly. "It's absolutely wonderful." She handed me the book, and I glanced at it with curiosity. "The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. I was just about to question her when she smiled at me. "Trust me. You'll love it!"

Reluctantly I grabbed a stool and made myself comfortable at the counter and began to read the book. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a touching story of a raccoon mom who places a kiss in the palm of her child's hand to remind him that if ever he should get scared he just has to press his Kissing Hand to his cheek. That way he can always remember that his mommy loves him. I wondered why my foster mom asked me to read it. But I shrugged off the unknown answer and headed back to my room to complete my unfinished homework.

Later that night, I was sitting at the same spot where I had read the book and talking with Mom when suddenly she did something totally unexpected. She ever so gently took my hand and put a warm loving kiss in the center of my palm. She then quietly closed my hand and held it between hers and spoke words that I had dreamt of hearing for so long. "Whenever you get scared or sad, remember that your mommy loves you."

As the tears began to form in my eyes, I began to understand, and so I smiled a smile that touched the very depth of my once-wounded heart. I truly do have a mother. No she wasn't biological, but she was mine just the same.


The story touches me also in this way: when one becomes a member of a family other than by a natural birth, another event may be extremely helpful to make the new member know that they belong and are completely accepted, such as this little ceremony of the kiss on the palm.

It makes me think of how we Lutherans see sacraments, how we know that we belong and are completely accepted. In both stories, the adoptive parent takes the initiative to make a promise and seals it with a physical event. I don't know, it seems kind of analogous to me. If I'm not entirely sure about my relationship with God, I have his promises and sacraments to make me sure.

Monday, February 9, 2009


This is a good German compound noun meaning "Sorrow-fat". The people at CURVES think I should get weighed again. I don't know if I'm ready for that. I think there has been too much sitting around and too much funeral lasagna. I am frightened. Frightened enough to make more vegetable soup.

No, no, I love the vegetable soup. As I said, start with some butter and onions and it tastes fabulous. See the pictures, get inspired!!! Eat it anytime.

Going back to the funeral/comfort

It is still nearly impossible to think and talk about anything else besides the tragedy, the funeral and the community in relation to it.

Last night I went for a long walk with my neighbor Jill, in the dark by the full moon light (not so dark, with the reflection off the snow). She is more like a sister to me. We've known each other well for a long time. Her children are really suffering now, as they were close to Stefan. They see the truck on the driveway and the light is never on in his room.

She told me again, what I hear all the time, that Stefan's funeral was very "comforting". I don't know if people say this to families of the bereaved all the time, or if our funeral was particularly comforting.

My opinion is that it probably was particularly comforting for a number of reasons.

(I am thinking about what I should say, when they tell me it was so comforting. Usually, I say, it was just a simple Christian funeral service from the service book with hymns from the hymn book, with the emphasis on "Christian". Now, I'm thinking maybe I can come up with something a little more in depth than that saying something more about our faith. Or maybe I can find out from them what it was they found comforting.)

Martin and I had made a number of deliberate choices about the funeral. First of all there was, of course, the service itself, the hymns, the readings and the sermon.

Some of the other choices: first of all we did not have a power point with pictures of the deceased's life. We wanted the service to be more about Jesus Christ than Stefan and our family. Secondly, we did not have a pile of teary tributes. Just one read by Auntie Dagmar with enough emotion showing we are actually grieving. Thirdly, we did not have an open casket to avoid having a lot of hysterical teenagers. (People wondered if the body was in too bad a shape. No, the body was in ok enough shape.)

We did have pictures in the large entry way, where people could look at them at their own pace with their friends. We also let the young people take all the roses home with them. I chose all red roses for the casket spray and the sides, so everyone could have a rose. It did not make sense to any of us to take all the flowers out at 30 below.

Andrea has fielded a few sad and angry comments on the tribute page on Facebook about the unfairness of life/God, etc. , and has sent those commenters to Dr. Krispin's sermon posted also on Facebook. That seems to have "comforted" them, as well.

All in all, the funeral, even with the stresses was a comfort to us, too, as it was "Christian", beautiful and dignified, with lots of time to share and cry afterward, as much as you needed. I am very grateful to everyone who helped, which were many hands and voices, indeed.

And, yes, now I feel I should say or write something more in depth about our faith. It would have to be something like: without Christ, there is no real comfort at a time like this; without Christ, this fleeting, passing life makes no sense, anyways; without Christ death would be only devouring horror; without Christ, there is only unfairness, sorrow and guilt. Only in Christ is there anything like comfort, meaning, hope, forgiveness, yes, even gratitude for the gifts that were and remain.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Shopping at Costco vs. the Working Poor Diet

This week there was this article in the Edmonton Sun. Some people are trying to live healthily one month on $80.00 per person for food costs. That's their challenge. I am watching their blog (see sidebar). Maybe, I'll try and make my own taco's some time.

Of course, one notices a lot of beans and lentils, which obviously are very good for you, but can be too much of a good thing fairly quickly. I have been through a phase of cooking pots worth of beans and freezing portions, which ground-up even went into cookies (actually was very good). Too bad family always has to rebel against such diets. (What is their problem?)

Instead, I shopped at Costco today (it has been a while) and I won't tell you how much I spent. But the only junk was diet Pepsi and frozen pizza, in case Andrea has company. Oh, ya, and chocolate chips for cookies.

We eat a lot of pureed vegetable soup in the winter. You can keep a few liters in a container in the fridge. Start with a little bit of butter and onions and then add all the rest of the vegetables. Very tasty. However, Martin does get tired of this, too, and what happens next is, he goes and does his own grocery shopping. Then we get a lot of German wieners and other sausage. -- Now a little bit of the wieners would be good in a pot of lentils...

Friday, February 6, 2009

Beautiful performer

Tonight, I'm listening to Stefan singing at his grad several times over, crying the way I did when I fist witnessed his performance. He was very, very good. He always loved performing. It did not matter to him if he had practiced his piece to perfection, but he still performed with flair and joy.

One of his welding buddies wrote a very sweet condolence card telling us that he was convinced that if the welding had not worked out, Stefan had a second career path open as a singer.

The Winspear Center is a great facility and the equipment made it sound so much more fabulous than it did coming muffled from inside his room with the door closed. It was so beautiful and astonishing. If you haven't listened to it yet, it posted under family music.

What else is sad, is that his birthfather only got to know him via these kinds of postings and clips on facebook. Now he is sorry he did not get himself involved in his life. I wrote to him and invited him to come and bring his children.

What's so Amazing about Grace? -- Visual Edition, Yancey

If you have not seen this little book, "What's so Amazing about Grace, the Visual Edition", you should look for it next time you're in a big bookstore. It is breathtaking. Or order one now. Or two or three.

Andrea wanted to give this to the truck driver who hit the boys accidentally. (We haven't yet talked to him.)

Actually, we ordered twelve copies of the book, because we kept thinking of more people. The books are mostly given away already.

You can read a couple of short reviews here

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A friend sent me this

Watch and read to the end. Kind of cool. Any and all of it, only by the grace of God, though.

Dreams from my Father 2

Role of Faith in Activism.

I don't seem to be able to summarize what Obama writes. He can barely summarize himself. He shows. He does not explain as much.

In Chapter 15, we have him trying to organize the churches. He is speaking with Rev. Phillips.

Rev. Philips nodded and said, ‘You may be right, Mr. Obama. You have some interesting ideas. But you see, the churches around here are used to doing things their own way. Sometimes, the congregations even more than the pastors.’ he opened the door for me, then paused. ‘By the way, what church do you belong to?’ “I…I attend different services.’ ‘But you’re not a member anywhere?’ “Still searching, I guess.’ ‘Well, I can understand that. It might help your mission if you had a church home, though. It doesn’t matter where, really. What you’re asking from pastors requires us to set aside some of our more priestly concerns in favour of prophecy. That requires a good deal of faith on our part. It makes us want to know just where you’re getting yours from. Faith, that is.”

… “Was that all that had brought me to Chicago, I wondered—the desire for such simple acceptance? That had been part of it, certainly, one meaning to community. But there had been another meaning, too, a more demanding impulse. Sure, you could be black and still not give a damn about what happened in Altgeld or Roseland. You didn’t have to care about boys like Kyle, young mothers like Bernadette or Sadie. But to be right with yourself, to do right by others, to lend meaning to a community’s suffering and take part in its healing—that required something more. It required the kind of commitment that Dr. Collier made very day out in Altgeld. It required the kind of sacrifices a man like Asante had been willing to make with his students.

It required faith. I glanced up now at the small, second-story window of the church, imagining the old pastor inside, drafting his sermon for the week. Where did your faith come from? he had asked. It suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t have an answer. Perhaps, still, I had faith in myself. But faith in one’s self was never enough.

Obama was asked this question about faith over and over and he was asking himself, too. Can you be about organizing churches into community activism and not belong to one yourself? Can you even truly care without faith? Or was it just about his search for belonging?

… You have some good ideas, they would tell me. maybe if you joined the church you could help us start a community program. Why don’t you come by on Sunday?

And I would shrug and play the question off, unable to confess that I could no longer distinguish between faith and mere folly, between faith and simple endurance; that while I believed in the sincerity I heard in their voices, I remained a reluctant skeptic, doubtful of my own motives, wary of expedient conversion, having too many quarrels with God to accept a salvation too easily won.

A similar question echoed through the atheist's Matthew Parrish's article, where anyone whom he recently observed doing something helpful in Africa was at least unofficially there as a Christian.

Obama might have ended up with a different definition of faith than some of us have. But it is interesting to note that we often talk about "what are our works in relation to our faith", where he asks, "what is my faith in relation to what I'm doing". In a way, the same answer should apply.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Read Ezra's post

"Brave atheists tackle the peril of... Canadian Christianity." Ezra usually hits the nail on the head.

Benefit Concert for Concordia

See the info here
Anyone going? Friday evening. $20.00.

There is also the president's dinner tomorrow night. I'm not sure I'm up to it, yet. If my cold is much better, maybe.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Winter Driving Info/ Advanced Driver Training

I phoned one number, and they gave me another number and then another and then I left a message, but Andy got back to me right away. So, here it is:

in Edmonton the training is provided by CTEC (Canadian Traffic Education Center). The course costs $550.00. Go to their website.

Included in the course is classroom instruction, practicing emergency procedures with obstacles, working with a simulator with individual help, and the use of skid vehicles.

You would think this would make an excellent gift to a young person from anyone who loves him/her. Andy offered me a two for one deal on the spot, if Martin and I went with the idea of becoming advocates. (I should push him, maybe, it will be free?!)

For Jeff

From John Chrysostom and yesterday's T of DP.

"Let us then return from the table like lions breathing fire, having become terrible to the devil; thinking on our Head and on the love that he has shown for us.... Our Lord says: 'I feed you with My own flesh, desiring that you all be nobly born, and holding forth good hopes for your future... I have willed to become your Brother. For your sake, I shared in flesh and blood, and, in turn, I give you the flesh and the blood by which I became your kinsman.'"


Often, I find I contradict myself with what I write. I suppose it's good to find out where you're inconsistent. Or maybe, after you've explored one side, you then move on to the other side.

For example, the other day I wrote that I've let a sheltered life. Of course, that's a relative thing. I've moved from one continent to another at age 15, adjusted to a new culture. I went to public High School. I lost my mother right after that. I got married pretty soon. Then in more mid-- life it seemed everyone around us was having divorces of varying levels of nastiness. Some very nasty. And so on. People kept their drug use quiet.

Now, the awareness of the prevalence of drug use, violence and partying around us, is new to me. At first, it seemed random and outrageous, now I'm shocked by the prevalence and in-your-faceness, the normalcy. The kids say, Gibbons was a good town to grow up in. Everyone took and believed in the drug awareness program (DARE course). They all knew drugs were very, very bad, but once you hit the grade 8/9 onward, it's a different world.

What is it that's new to me?
-- that I see things that were there before, but I did not know about or did not pay attention to
-- that are new
-- that have changed in character and frequency?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Barack Obama's book

All weekend, it's been me with the flu and Barack Obama on the living room sofa (Dreams from My Father).

There is much detail, much evidence, so that we can make our own independent judgments. That must have been the lawyer's approach. Tedious but effective in its own way.

There are four things that are sticking with me the most: 1) the changes in the youth on the Chicago South Side; 2) the search for home and identity; 3) the role of faith in working for change; 4) polygamy in African society.

this is from chapter 14, which did not help me sleep the other night.

"No, it was more a change of atmosphere, like the electricity of an approaching storm. I felt it when, driving home one evening, I saw four tall boys walking down a tree-lined block idly snapping a row of young saplings that an older couple had just finished planting in front to their house. I felt it whenever I looked into the eyes of the young men in wheelchairs that had started appearing on the streets that spring, boys crippled before their prime, their eyes without a trace of self-pity, eyes so composed, already so hardened, that they served to frighten rather than to inspire.

That's what was new: the arrival of a new equilibrium between hope and fear; the sense, shared by adults and youth alike, that some, if not most, of our boys were slipping beyond rescue. Even lifelong South Siders like Johnnie noticed the change. 'I mean, things ere tough when I was coming up, but there were limits. We'd get high, get into fights. But out in public, at home, if an adult saw you getting loud or wild, they would say something. And most of us would listen, you know what I'm saying?

'Now, with the drugs, the guns--all that's disappeared. Don't take a whole lot of kids carrying a gun. Just one or two. Somebody says something to one of'em, and --pw!--kid wastes him. ... After a while, even the good kid starts realizing ain't nobody out here gonna look out for him. so he figures he's gonna have to look after himself. Bottom line, you got twelve-year-olds making their own damn rules.'"

"The idea of physical assault just never occurred to me. Same thing with the distinction Johnnie made between good kids and bad kids--the distinction didn't compute in my head. It seemed based on a premise that defied my experience, an assumption that children could somehow set the terms of their own development... Where did he sit along the spectrum of goodness? If he ended up in a gang or in jail, would that prove his essence somehow, a wayward gene...or just the consequences of a malnourished world?"

"That night, well past midnight, a car pulls up in front of my apartment building carrying a troop of teenage boys and a set of stereo speakers so loud that the floor of my apartment begins to shake. I've learned to ignore such disturbances--where else do they have to go? I say to myself. But on this particular evening I have someone staying over;... As i approach the car, the voices stop, the hears within all turn my way. 'Listen, people are trying to sleep around here. Why don't y'all take it someplace else.'

The four boys inside say nothing, don't even move. The wind wipes away my drowsiness, and I feel suddenly exposed, standing in a pair of shorts on the sidewalk in the middle of the night. I can't see the faces inside the car; it's too dark to know how old they are, whether they're sober or drunk, good boys or bad. One of them could be Kyle. One of them could be Roy. One of them could be Johnnie.

One of them could be me. Standing there, I try to remember the days when I would have been sitting in a car like that, full of inarticulate resentments and desperate to prove my place in the world. The feelings of righteous anger as I shout at Gramps for some forgotten reason. The blood rush of a high school brawl. The swagger that carries me into a classroom drunk or high, knowing that my teachers will smell beer or reefer on my breath, just daring them to say something. I start picturing myself through the eyes of these boys, a figure of random authority, and know the calculations they might now be making, that if one of them can't take me out, the four of them certainly can.

... The engine starts, and the car screeches away. I turn black toward my apartment knowing that I've been both stupid and lucky, knowing that I am afraid after all."

I think, as a female, I really cannot understand anything about this testosterone driven stuff. I can listen and try.

Have things changed? Are people more or less bad or good, more or less violent, more or less out of control?

My opinion: yes, things have changed. There are things going on that are very sinister.

I don't know much about the United States, except I'm sometimes scared to go there.

But my own town is developing a side that's similar. Maybe part of it is that a lot of army personnel lives here now and many have seen action in Afghanistan. They are said to have had personality changes. I think that's a minor side issue, but it has resulted in violence. Even Stefan had taken a hit on the side of the head and a broken driver's side window on his truck by an out-of-control father. Maybe the father was scared/mad at a truck full of perceived punks.

Martin was beat up when he tried to write down licence plate numbers at the party next door, when the neighbor was gone. They pushed him down and took his glasses. I went over there and told them, he was the dentist and he needed his glasses. They gave me his glasses. Maybe they did respect the fact that he was the dentist.

A boy I taught at Lutheran school was involved in the beating death of a young man. One group had been excluded from a party. This group returned with weapons and killed the young man who answered the door.

Enough examples of that. Sorry, I never heard of stuff like that when I was growing up in Germany or here. In Canada, there were bush parties, drinking, noisy kids on camp grounds, but not beatings of adults and killings.

PS: I'll get to the other subjects in the next post.