Thursday, December 27, 2007

Yes, Merry Christmas late

Christmas was our best ever, I think. All the kids were home, with spouse/significant other and one without, for the first time in a few years. The grandkids were here; we met one of them for the first time. We took a lot of pictures and ate a lot of food, which was prepared by everybody pitching in! We took the grand-boy sliding, which was a blast.

We went to church together twice, which was wonderful. My kids were raised in this church which gave them a great faith background. The people here are so genuinely supportive and friendly to the kids that I know that they feel especially welcome when they attend.

Grand-boy was excited about "Jesus' birthday" and doesn't know a thing about the fat guy in red, so we kept it that way.

My oldest may well be ordained in the new year, meaning she will be working on Christmas from now on, so getting home this year for Christmas was especially important to her.

And, yes, we had a white Christmas! Hooray! But the Christmas letters didn't get written (again x 4). Maybe I'll have New Years Letters.

Friday, December 21, 2007

What was it like for my mom when....?

We will be going from empty nest to having three adult children plus a son-in-law, plus son's girlfriend, plus two grandchildren, home for Christmas, if the snow storms don't mess up the driving. This will be the first time that all are home at the same time, and the most we've ever had here for several days.

We are quite happy with our usual solitude in this house, so having everybody here will be an adjustment. If they all pitch in, even the meals will go well. Of course that means that certain adult children can't revert to childhood patterns. :-) In any case, it will be an "adjustment."

My own mom isn't up to traveling these days, so she'll be alone. I started to think about her and my dad, and what it must have been like when I came home from college (and reverted to some childhood patterns!) Or later when she was a widow and we came home with the kids. She was about the same age I am now when I had my first child and when we had three, she was pushing 70 already.

I'm sure that I had NO CLUE in those days that any one had to adjust when we breezed in. We just took it for granted that if we said we were visiting, all was well. Oh, the obliviousness of youth!

My prayer for our family and for yours is that you will be aware of the blessings of togetherness, that this will be greater than the work involved in caring for all who come home for Christmas, and that you make many good memories together.


I follow a couple of blog analysis sites to see what gets people to my blogs. I'm sometimes amused and sometimes a bit perplexed at what constitutes a key phrase to steer someone in my direction. For example, a commenter might use one word or phrase because of disagreeing with me, so my blog comes up when Googled. Other times, a person making the inquiry neglects to use quotation marks around a slightly long phrase. The individual words, but not the phrase, matches several words in a blog post and in my side bar.

Today my blog got a hit because of the phrase Nude--amateur--photos. The post that was referenced was about how I look at the sky each morning. The word starting with N wasn't even in the post. Probably not in my whole blog. I'm hoping that putting in the dashes will prevent further hits. Probably not.

It might be fairly easy to comment on blogs so as to steer unwanted traffic in that direction or get someone on a list of unwanted associations.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Evil doesn't pay - or - You always get caught if you don't pay attention to God's gift of snow.

This made me laugh. And sigh. How stupid can some people be? Haven't these kids ever played outside before?

The local news reported this morning that the security alarm went off at a local house. The police were notified. The officers were able to trace the footprints 2 1/2 miles through the fresh snow to the home of one of two juveniles who admitted that they had tried to break into the house!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Essays on Africa

Well, between "catching up," following up with some things we promised our Ugandan friends, and the visit last week from Mr. Flu and all the other hustle and bustle of the holidays, these will have to wait until after the New Year. Don't give up on me yet. Anyone who wants some links to lots of my pictures can email me for that.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Funeral crossing the boundaries of denominations

This news article, about the funeral of slain Youth with a Mission missionary, Tiffany Johnson, relates that the service took place in the Catholic Church in Tiffany's hometown, conducted by an Assemblies of God Minister, and her home church in another city is the Cedar Valley Church.

Praise God when groups can cooperate in the face of tragedy.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Rural, Private, Primary School in Uganda

More pictures, description in the other 12/06/2007 post.

Pictures of a rural, private, primary school in Uganda

I've been meaning to write some essays about our trip to Uganda, but, well, you know how it goes. These pictures are of an Seventh Day Adventist primary school in rural Uganda. The pictures speak for them selves. We were at the school for about three hours.

Only a short amount of that time was spent looking at their three buildings for about 90 students.
The church building, the brick buildings, and even the one with just the boards, were classroom structures. The "kitchen" was the lean to structure.

The rest of the time, the children entertained their Dear Visitors. Their singing and dancing was extremely well done. One thing I can say about the Ugandan school system is that they train leaders.

These pictures are not of the Royal College of Kamuli. See the side bar link for that school.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Snow and Music

Our daughter, the last child, in her last year of college, was part of the choir this past weekend at her college, one of the great ELCA colleges. We traveled quite a way to attend Christmas in Christ Chapel. This is the annual worship/concert, held in the beautiful center building of the campus.

We had to leave home on Friday evening, driving part way, because of a predicted snow storm. This allowed us enough time on Saturday to have lunch with our daughter. Driving to the Chapel was challenging because of the snow. During the service, we could see that the snow had ceased. What we couldn't see was the freezing rain that was falling. We had to scrape our car and drive quite slowly to our daughter's apartment. She didn't get home until 4 hours later, as there was another performance, 5 total for the weekend.

On Sunday, it took at least 30 minutes to scrape the ice off the car before we could leave and about 8 1/2 hours to drive home due to slippery roads at times. We didn't attend church. I had been scheduled to give the Stewardship Talk in my home church. Synopsis: If you are spending money and giving gifts just because it needs to be done, consider giving a gift of money to our home church in honor of your giftee. There, that was short and sweet.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The world as a village of 100 people

Statistics made easier to grasp.

Friday Five: Grumpy Holiday Edition

I’m not a member of the Revgals, but this meme caught my attention:

Parishioners pushing for carols before you digested your turkey?
Organist refusing to play Advent hymns because he/she already has them planned for Lessons & Carols?

Find yourself reading Luke and thinking of a variety of ways to tell Linus where to stic
k it? (Lights please.)
Then this quick and easy Friday Five is for you! And for those of you with a more positive attitude, have no fear. I am sure more sacred and reverent Friday Fives will follow.

Please tell us your least favorite/most annoying seasonal....

1) dessert/cookie/family food

Least favorite: fruit cake and other breads with the hard little “fruits.”

Favorite: Cookies, any kind without nuts. Yummy! Especially if they have almond flavoring.

Christmas morning: Grapefruit with special sweet rolls.

How about taco salad on Christmas eve? It is an easy, colorful supper to have half prepared before attending church.

2) beverage (seasonal beer, eggnog w/ way too much egg and not enough nog, etc...)

I don’t drink enough to have developed a favorite, although I like white wine anytime. Eggnog even looks bad to me.

Warm spiced cider is always comforting, especially when coming in from the cold.

3) tradition (church, family, other)

Biggest pet peeve: The common question asked in early December, "Are you ready for Christmas?" Well, yes, I am ready for Jesus. No, I haven't started any of the shopping, decorating, or cooking.

Dislike: being too too busy in December, so that we don’t even have anyone over before Christmas.

I love attending church together on Christmas Eve. Singing hymns on Christmas Eve.

I love the sun pouring in the windows on Christmas morning as we gather with the family around the tree.

I like having only a few presents/person, but savoring opening them and sharing meaning rather than “things.”

4) decoration

Don’t like: early decorating, I like to get at the decorating slowly, then savor it until at least Ephipany.

Wanting to buy some new decorations but seeing how commercialized Christmas is in the stores.

I like: A real tree we cut ourselves from the woods, a Charlie Brown tree on which you can really “hang” the ornaments so that they show. Remembering who gave me some of the ornaments.

Looking at the Christmas tree without my glasses on! Hey, when you are this near sighted, you take your jollies where you can find them!

5) gift (received or given) I’m happier with a simple gift that shows a connection between the giver and me than with something that costs a lot.

BONUS: SONG/CD that makes you want to tell the elves where to stick it.

I don’t listen to commercial radio during the Christmas season if I can help it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Royal College of Kamuli, Uganda

I just started a new blog about the secondary school we visited in Uganda called The Royal College of Kamuli. Royal means "The Royal Reign of Jesus." I'll be posting about the school on the new blog and more general posts about my trip to Uganda, East Africa, on this blog. Stay tuned!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Personality Profile

Your Personality Profile

You are dependable, popular, and observant.

Deep and thoughtful, you are prone to moodiness.

In fact, your emotions tend to influence everything you do.

You are unique, creative, and expressive.

You don't mind waving your freak flag every once and a while.

And lucky for you, most people find your weird ways charming!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Safely Back!

We have returned, safe and happy, with much to tell, but too tired to write and reflect right now. I met people of great faith, and I was inspired. I’m looking forward to some time to organize my thoughts and share my pictures. Thanks for your prayers!

May God richly bless you this advent season. Check back in a few days for some of my “travelogue.”

Friday, November 02, 2007

a Trip

Tomorrow I fly “across the pond” and then I’ll fly to the Equator by Monday. Once there, I’ll be working and learning with other people on a Global Village house build (see map at link). After seeing a national park and the source of the Nile River, I’ll be visiting an email friend at a Christian secondary school, then home with a stop in London. I hope I can post some pictures and commentary at the end of November.

Please keep us in your prayers!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Civilian Deaths During War

In my previous posting, I was recalling, from memory, a retired government official I had seen on TV who stated that the military had a policy that it was OK to kill a certain number of civilians to get at a specific enemy person. Reader SO questioned me, was this really the "official policy?"

Since I couldn't recall the name of the official and I haven't been able to pull up specifics on a 'net search, I shouldn't really be making that bold of a statement. The context of the interview I saw had to do with the inevitability of civilian deaths during war, and how many might be "acceptable."

I have done a search on Google, CNN, MPR, and ABC without finding the specific reference I wanted. If you put "civilian casualties" in a search engine, you will see larger numbers than you might imagine. One website, the IBC claims to have crossed checked numbers.

Maybe we could think of this as though we were in the Iraqi or Afghani shoes: How many incidental deaths would we think are acceptable when caused by someone who is supposed to be helping us?

Of course, there are complex happenings and causes in many of the situations. But a dead person's relatives grieve with real tears.

Monday, October 29, 2007

another murder

News article here.

I am pondering the questions about people that are “evil.” Or apparently evil. Why isn’t this more evident? Or perhaps most of us are capable of such evil????

I used to watch Roy Rodgers on TV when I was little. I truly thought that when we grow up, we would kill people. Roy was the good guy and he killed people. When I was an adult, I saw an early Roy Rodgers TV show. He “solved” every problem with violence. Yet in “real life,” he was a Christian.

I saw an interview on TV regarding bombings in Iraq. The policy is that it is OK to kill 30 civilians to get at one bad guy. However, the person interviewed said that they had killed hundreds in this way without ever getting even one bad guy.

I’m sick……..

ed. note: Due to SO's comment, I decided to slightly edit the above comment, since I didn't provide the name of the official who said that.


I’ve packed a suitcase for a trip at least 18 times in the last year and a half. I thought I had that down to a science. Well, not really, but there always was the backup plan: There are numerous stores, such as the mega grocery store, the variety store, and the big box stores, within a few miles to fill in any gaps in my packing, to satisfy any whim, and also to entice me to buy way more than I’d ever need.

Now we’re packing for a trip to Uganda. The airlines have weight and size limits on checked baggage. That wouldn’t normally be a problem, but we received donations of clothing to take to a school for needy children, so we are carefully weighing our three duffel bags. We hope that we can share the remaining suitcase for our personal items.

We don’t have to bring cold weather jackets for Africa, but on the way back, we’ll be stopping over an extra day in London, so that undoubtedly means cold, damp weather and appropriate clothing.

In Uganda, we’ll be doing physical labor, and we’ll be attending church and visiting a national park. I understand that someone will be hired to wash our clothing, except our underwear. We’ll spend all but about 4 nights in areas where there is no electricity and no running water.

We’ll be bringing our own “luxuries:” flashlights, ‘Sun Showers,’ shampoo and soap, toilet paper, bedding, peanut butter, books. We actually need hardly any money.

There will be no backup plan.

Friday, October 26, 2007

100 Truths in 30 Years with Christ

Dan Edelen posted an interesting and inspiring list at the blog Cerulean Sanctum.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Saving Marriages

Roland Martin writes that Americans tend to work hard when they want to accomplish something or overcome problems. Why do so many people not apply this same ethic to marriages?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Living in the Questions

“If you had to choose one thing that you believe your church or tradition does the best, or one contribution you believe your church body makes to Christendom as a whole, what would that be? “

Weekend Fisher posed this question for this month’s Christian Reconciliation Carnival. I’m late with my entry; I should know better since I was a previous host.

When thinking of what the Lutheran Church brings to the "Christian Table," I started thinking of what our Parish Nurse calls “living in the question.” Other words that come to mind are “tension” and “paradox.” I started making my own list of concepts that Lutherans might say that they can hold on to at the same time, and then I turned to the web.

From the Fall/Winter 2002 Ministry Link reports on a sermon by Bishop Hanson: “Lutheran tradition is rich with examples of representing real-life experience by holding opposite concepts in tension. We see that creation is both good in God’s eyes and fallen, he said. Each of us is both saint and sinner. God’s work in the world is both hidden and revealed.

“Our “consumptive, multi-taking” culture, presents a challenge to the Lutheran tradition of seeing these dialectical tensions in faith and life, Hanson said. ‘Folks want a roadmap to life. They don’t want the paradox of life and God’s grace revealed in weakness,’ he said. Yet that understanding is one of the Lutheran movement’s great gifts to the Church, he said, calling for Lutherans to engage in ‘public prophetic speech’ and to present a Lutheran understanding of Scripture to counter the ‘fundamentalist’ interpretations that are prevalent in the culture.'”

Certainly Lutheranism isn’t the only tradition to think about some of the paradoxical tensions in faith, but this way of thinking is certainly in contrast to some of the prominent statements that come from some churches (or perhaps independent preachers) that use the media better than Lutherans do. In my mind, being somewhat comfortable with living in these tensions is a recognition that we humans can’t grasp the fullness and complexity of God. We’re not trying to pin God down to the finite words in the Bible, even as we believe that God is indeed revealed in the Bible. We recognize that God’s ways are not man’s ways; they can’t be reduced to formulas or simplistic statements.

And yet…..I will mention a few more of these paradoxes or tensions, summarized with some simplistic phrases.

The Kingdom is both Now/Not yet



In the World/Not of the World

God is both transcendent/Immanent

Jesus is both True God/True Man

The communion elements are both the True Body and Blood/in the form of the bread and wine.

I’ve often thought that life would be so much easier to deal with if everybody thought the same way, my way. There would be more predictability. I’d feel less anxiety. But perhaps because I’ve been steeped in Lutheran thought, I can be more realistic about what life is all about. There will always be tensions between life and death, guilt and innocence, slavery and freedom, and good times and bad times.

Ok, I’m supposed to just write about one topic that is a strength of my denomination, but in the research I did for this essay, I came across this statement by Bishop Hanson, “It’s a well-kept secret that the largest provider of social services in this nation is Lutheran Social Services.” see here and here.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


This article about Undoing Plastic Surgery

struck me as both sad and, well, not exactly funny, but..., hmmmm, ironic???I saw a TV program about a newly retired couple who both went through plastic surgery as a sort of new start to their new life. The camera showed them at the doctor's office. Even the doctor looked "altered." That wasn't a compliment.

A few days ago, a friend noticed that I didn't look so great. I was very tired. I'm not sure that surgery could fix that look.

I wasn't sure what category to put it in either, so I chose "God's World." Maybe, just maybe, the Creator knows best.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Lots of Typing

We've all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the internet, we know this is not true.

Note: not original

Monday, October 15, 2007

The New Hymnal Has Arrived!

Our congregation started using the new Evangelical Lutheran Worship (ELW or Cranberry Book) last Sunday. The council had asked for donations, with the goal of 225 hymnals. Enough money was donated to purchase 244 hymnals, along with 5 accompaniment books.

The pastor has a plan to ease us into the new hymnal. For the first Sunday, we used a liturgical setting that was almost identical to one of the settings in the green book. We also sang hymns that were old favorites. The sermon traced the use of music and singing in the Bible story of our salvation, and we sang portions of hymns that carried this theme.

For the second Sunday, we sang some hymns that might be new to Lutherans but were actually old favorites for the Choir. For several years, the choir has used an number of hymns that have been published by Catholic music publishing houses. Now many of these are in our hymnal.

So far, there is nothing new there for me. And I do hope we soon try other liturgies since I never did care for the melodies of the green book liturgies.

The Lady and the Haircut

Or random thoughts after being back home.
Where’s the grace?

I was away starting 9/28, for 9 days. Nine long days and about 1300 miles of driving. I’ve been both emotionally and physically exhausted since I got back home, so I haven’t had the energy to write. Unfortunately, that means I also don't have the energy to fly "out east" to see the new grandbaby.

The trip started with a drive through 75 miles of pea soup fog and a stop at a clinic so I could get an immunization. The doctor determined that I needed three immunizations which probably caused the fatigue I started feeling the next day. Then I had lunch with my best friend. I think of S as “grace.” I know she has and will accept me as I am, and she has been honest with me when she thought I’ve been off the deep end on some things.

Then I drove to an annual gathering of relatives. Seven of us spent two days laughing, eating, remembering a recently deceased aunt, and just enjoying each other’s company. Every year we wonder if and when this group will change since one of the members is 91 years old and one is very debilitated by a disease. We also went out to eat and to a museum, where we took in the “Omnitheater.” I really have a hard time with seeing the “you-are-there-flying” movies. I got stopped by a cop who told me that I had caused a car to swerve. This was unnerving. Actually, I had been forced to go back to my lane when that car was driving up on my so fast that I wasn't able to change lanes. I was also accused of "fleeing" from the cop. Hey, I was going about 5 mph for one block before I found a place to stop!

Then I drove east through rain, across the neighboring state, to visit three other elderly relatives. It is always a challenge to figure out when I can visit each one because they all take naps and go to bed early. I run a few errands for them, if necessary, and for one, I check on the care being given at the facility where she resides. I let myself get too anxious about this aspect of the trip.

I also attempted to deal with the insurance company, since I’m listed on the power of attorney papers, but they wouldn’t talk to me since I’m the alternate. HIPA rules, you know. The alternate is supposed to take care of business if the primary POA is unavailable. Well, that was exactly the case, but they wouldn’t deal with me without a notarized paper regarding the situation. However, the primary can’t leave her home to get a paper notarized due to serious illness. So, the insurance company was supposed to FAX some papers to deal with this in an alternative way. How long should a FAX take? That is a rhetorical question with no answer in this situation, because even after being told that they would FAX the papers on two different days, it never arrived during the week.

At least I had the files to review and I was able to make copies and write a letter to try to get the bills paid. This same insurance company had sent multiple letters saying that the claim was in process and we didn’t have to do anything. Yeah right. How about telling us that they were missing multiple papers? I sent them 26 pages of copies.

I took a longer-than-usual way home so that I could visit my sister, who has recently had serious surgery, but seems to be recovering, and see her daughter and her grandbabies. Going home, I had about 100 miles of fog again.

Where’s the haircut? Here it comes:

About 3 months ago, I got my hair cut shorter because I just didn’t have time to get appointments very often. I don’t like fussing with my hair at all. Since that time, wherever I’ve gone, people have commented on how much they like my hair. It is a nice, though odd, feeling to receive so many compliments, dozens actually, for so long a time.

I’m not responsible for the type of hair I have; I only do wash-and-wear hair dos. I’m not the one who cut my hair. I just smile and say, “Thank you.”

These compliments are somehow like grace: UNDESERVED. But I’ll take them!

The Lady and the Haircut part two: One of my relatives recently got a new pastor at her church. She hasn’t yet met the lady pastor, but has talked to fellow council members about her. It seems that the not-so-young pastor has short hair, so some of the people were “wondering” about her. Code word alert. Ah-ha. They found out that she has a husband; relief was felt by all.

So is “this” sort of thing the first thing that pops into people’s minds these days?

Monday, October 08, 2007

Thank God this happened at home.

Yesterday, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the car going backwards on our driveway, faster than normal, for backing up. Since my husband is Mr. Cautious when it comes to driving, this was definitely unusual. Then I looked out another window, and saw that the car had backed into a small tree. The brakes had gone out! Fortunately, the brakes failed at home. And fortunately, thanks to Mr. Columbus, my husband has today off to take care of this. And the car dealer has an opening this morning.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Just a peek.

ND one half day old.


I received a picture, thanks to the marvels of the 'net, but, sorry, I'm doing the sandwich generation thing today, so no picture uploaded yet. Plus, this computer and internet is a POS, as my kids would say. The sandwich was smushed today. I am hoping for a nap.


New grandson, yesterday! But he is "out east" and I'm in the Midwest visiting my elderly relative and helping out here. Too many miles between family members in this family.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

I've arrived... a town on the shore of Lake Michigan after a lot of driving today and a
lot of driving on Friday. Friday, my first stop was at a clinic in a city on
the shore of Lake Superior. Who would have thought that a clinic visit for a
few "shots," scheduled for 10:30 am would not be done until 12:15. I wonder
what THAT will cost! But what a gorgeous view from the third floor windows of
that clinic!

Driving pet peeve: driving on a four lane road, not too many cars near me,
being passed by another car, which then proceeds to pull over right in front of
me so that I have to slow down. Grrrr. Made worse when it is raining and the
passing car has no mud flaps, so that it is followed by a mini cloud which
impairs my vision.

Second driving pet peeve: being stopped by a cop in a suburb because when I
attempted to move to the left lane for a left turn, I looked over my shoulder
and saw a car approaching too fast, so I straightened out back to the center
lane. At the very most, my left front wheel touched the white line. The cop
told me that I should do a better job of watching where I'm driving. "YES
SIR!" Why wasn't that other car, which was traveling twice as fast as anybody
else, the one stopped? The cop also told me that I was "fleeing" from him.
Ahemmmm, I was driving 5 mph, looking for a safe place to stop. My
"witnesses," the passangers in the car, said I did nothing wrong. They were
alertly watching the road with me because they were giving me directions.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Away, away, I'll be away!

Family doings, lots of driving by myself……..

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Autumn and the end of the drought

Last week I took a drive south for 30 miles, across the continental divide, where bedrock sticks out of the ground. The maples were in their glory. They are always beautiful, but even more so when they are in contrast to the dark green of pines and spruces. All three species love to grow on high ground and rocky soil. Isn't amazing how what seems to be the worse ground can produce such beauty? Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera along that day. But I did take a picture this past weekend while I was at a retreat.

The mushrooms are growing in my yard. We've had about 4 -5 inches of rain in the last few weeks, slightly making up of the prolonged drought. However, east and north of here, several places had that much rain two different times. The lakes and rivers are again full. Our lawn has been mowed a couple of times this month, but not since early July.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Who's the biggest Lutheran?

Hmmmm, I am dyed in the wool Lutheran, but I only got 130 points on this quiz.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

blog pause?

My sister has serious surgery yesterday and I will drive to see her today (100 miles.)  And I’m supposed to be ‘retreating’ this weekend, starting tomorrow.  We’ll see, as I don’t feel like I’m going to be able to relax much.  Actually, it is a working retreat, not spiritual or intellectual, but never-the-less, a time away.  I hope it will be artistically inspirational for me.



Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Link corrected for the CRC

Christian Unity in Appalachia

This is the correct link for # 7. I'm having trouble getting the correct link to "take." Thanks for the correction.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Christian Reconciliation Carnival #8 – September links posted.

Throughout my life, I have strongly identified myself with my denomination, so much so that when I’ve moved, I automatically joined the local church of my denomination without checking out other churches. Now I’ve been a member of the same church for 30 years. I LIKE my church, but I don’t look around much because I’m in a rut. A rut can certainly narrow one’s view so that the rich variety of the Christian Church in the world isn’t even in sight.

Occasionally I’ve met people who identify themselves by the name “Christian” rather than with a denominational title because they’ve moved around and attended a variety of churches. They know from experience that they attend Christ’s Church, not a denominational church, no matter where they are. It is, of course, legitimate to ask the question, “Is it possible to be so broad minded as to have no depth?”

The question of the month speaks to the richness of the Church, and it invites readers to think about times they have looked at something in a new way when they’ve stepped out of their own tradition.

How have you experienced Christian worship and practice in another culture or country or denomination that expanded your view of God, worship, or how to live the Christian life? This might include how encountering a different practice led you to a new/different interpretation of some Bible verses. Did you see your own traditional ways with new eyes? Have you actually changed the way you live or work?

While we may also encounter practices that we reject, this is intended to focus on Christian expressions which broaden our horizons in a positive way.

1) D. W. Congdon at The Fire and The Rose asks the basic question,
“How do we define the church?” He takes us on a time travel trip with answers from the Gospels, early church fathers, various creeds, as well as modern denominations.

2) Mark Olson at Pseudo-Polymath discusses visited Roman Catholic Churches in The Philippines which opened his eyes to practices he hadn’t observed before. He goes on to discuss Eastern Orthodoxy.

3) Weekend Fisher at Heart, Mind, Soul and Strength vividly recalls a trip to Mexico when she was 18. “The old saying ‘there’s more than one way to do things’ became less of a cliché and more of a living reality to me as I spent some time worshiping alongside Baptists. The lines dividing Christians seemed to me an unfortunate thing” This experience may be the beginning of her heart for reconciliation.

4) The Lutheran Zephyr describes encounters with three Christian groups: Evangelical Christianity, Roman Catholicism, and Latino Lutheranism. “I am grateful for the saints of God I have met in these traditions, and give thanks to God for the ways in which I have seen the Holy beyond the walls of my own tradition and culture.”

5) I (PS) recall the blessings of interdenominational Bible Study

6) Andy at Sinning Boldly posted Mother Russia: A Reminiscence. There he had “an experiential knowledge of what is meant by worshipping with the whole Church” and observed (and tried to participate in) the physical movements of the orthodox worship experience.

7) D.P. nominated a blog post by the Internet Monk (Michael Spencer) about Christian Unity in Appalachia. He describes both the pros and cons of a kind of “ground level ecumenism” and cooperation among many Christian groups. For example, he says, “The result is a remarkable amount of unity among diverse Christian communities as they work against the common enemies – drug use and corruption – with a common strategy at the core: the eventual conversion of dealers and user to Christ.”

Perhaps the rich variety of the Christian world could be viewed as menu choices at a wholesome restaurant. We love our comfort food; we occasionally try new foods; and we’ll be fine as long as we don’t eat just desert. We might be surprised by the joy of a new taste treat, even as we are nourished by the main entrée, the Gospel.

Quite some years ago, our pastor invited some musicians, Roman Catholic relatives of the church secretary, to do the Polka Mass for our church service. I went, even though I was prepared to hate it. I was surprised by joy. The Gospel message was expressed in such simple, straightforward language that it moved me anew. The link has music and pictures of Pope John Paul II and Father Perkovich.

Why do we so often make this all so complicated and set up barriers?

Other Submissions:

8) Joel Spencer at The Double Edged Sword takes a new and deeper look at Romans 12:2, which talks about the renewing of our mind. “We have been given a Helper, the Holy Spirit, to assist us, convict us, and enable us to be transformed, but we must daily, instance by instance choose to renew our minds.”

Ed. Note: I’m wondering if this is the same thing I’ve heard expressed as “making a daily decision for Christ” in my own tradition?

Three sequential blog posts by three authors discuss “Innovations For Your Church!”

9) Jared at The Gospel-Driven Church posted first.

10) The Internet Monk added several more "shocking" points.

11) Dr. Platypus added a few ideas of his own.

Ed. Note: The comment sections are interesting. A couple of the readers, myself included, thought “HUH? Your church doesn’t already do these things?” I told you I was in a rut. I didn’t know that there were churches that don’t have Bible reading, communion and preaching of the Gospel. Did I understand this all correctly? Is it sarcastic?


Jeff Pinyon at The Cross Reference and Weekend Fisher contributed a diablog discussion of what “having Christ” means and how one becomes “worthy.”

12) “Having Christ” Meriting Eternal Life and

13) Christ, Eternal Life, and Merit

Other Submissions:

14) PrincipiumUnitatis gives a number of links to various discussions on the unity or reunion of Christians. “We have to believe that we can tear down those walls that now divide the Body of Christ. Protestants and Catholics are ten years away from being separated from each other for five hundred years. Catholics and Orthodox are forty-seven years from being separated from each other for one thousand years. Come, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us tear down these walls, for the glory of Christ, and the sake of His sacred pierced heart that continues to cry out for the peace and full unity of His covenant people.”

Two blogs discussed where Christians can agree about Baptism.

15) Adrian Warnock cites Lig Duncan and

16) Reformation 21 posts 17 statements that were agreed upon by Dever and Coffin in 2001.

17) And lastly, Pseudo-Polymath discusses how ecumenical differences may be approached.

Ed. Note: If there are problems with the links or my interpretations, please post a comment or email me.

Any other submissions on the topic of the month could be considered for future publication of the CRC. I KNOW that some of you have previously posted about your cross-boundary worship experiences.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Bumping up against other Christians

My faith journey has taken me down the Lutheran path. I started on this path because my mother and her family were Lutheran. I know I’ll stay on a Lutheran path because of the strong emphasis on God’s saving grace and because Lutherans are comfortable “living in the tensions” of life.

Looking back on my faith journey, I can see that there were some strong influences that occurred when I bumped up against other traditions.

I was raised in a church in Milwaukee with year round Sunday School and a strong memorization program in Confirmation class. I am grateful for what I learned! However, there was no mention of spirituality or putting faith into practice. In fact, in my confirmation classes, we recited. We NEVER discussed the meanings of the passages, nor did we question anything. [Is this really how it used to be elsewhere or was this an extreme case???] The term Frozen Chosen could have applied to this church. I was never taught that other churches were wrong, but somehow I got the strong feeling that we were a “little more right.”

I had a strong faith, nevertheless, but untested.

My first memory of encountering another tradition was when my neighbor invited me to a Christian youth group she attended. This group still exists as VCY America, a Christian radio network. I still remember hearing the sermon on John 3:16 and the altar call. Of course, I didn’t know about altar calls. We were asked, “Who needs Jesus in your life? Raise your hand.” Of course I needed Jesus in my life; what would my life be without Jesus? My friend made be go forward because I had raised my hand. I was flustered, to say the least. Maybe I even felt that I had been “had.” I didn’t understand that they were really asking people who had no faith to step forward in faith.

This might seem an odd recollection to put forth in a Reconciliation Carnival, but I think it sets the stage for some of my later thoughts.

Ten years later, I was in a new place with a new job and a new roommate. It was a very down time for me due to my father being in his last illness, among other things. The Lutheran pastor invited a few people from several churches to a Bible study that was to be discussion, not a class. He wanted to study with a group of faithful people from various denominational backgrounds without being the leader. This was a rich and heart-opening experience.

Our slightly different takes on some verses and our different prayer styles enriched our time together. The most important lesson I learned was about putting faith into practice and serving others even when it costs us something. I was greatly served by a couple in that group at a difficult time. I also read some inspiring books about prayer and praise that were new concepts to me. Later I was married by that Lutheran pastor in that church, even though I had moved back to Milwaukee.

After we moved to our present location, I was invited to join an informal Bible study in a senior citizens housing apartment. This also was a group with a mixed background, denominationally. I found it a joy and blessing to study with Christians who had been through the valleys of life and come out the other side with great faith. My daughter tagged along to these meetings when she was a preschooler. She learned a great deal about prayer just from observing these faithful older women.

A few years later after I had a health crisis [minor on the grand scheme of things, but important to me.] my faith became pretty “thin.” I was invited to a study group of young mothers which hired a baby sitter to watch the kids while we studied. This group met at the Baptist church, but was “independent” and mixed. The woman who invited me was of Baptist background, but she was the long time organist at my Lutheran church. She knew the Bible at least as well as any pastor I’ve met and had a gift for leading small groups. Later our pastor encouraged her to begin studies, and she went on to become rostered by the ELCA. Another woman in the group was raised on an Indian reservation because her father was a Baptist mission pastor. She had a gift for taking a Bible passage and showing us how we could put it into practice in our daily life.

Again I felt that having people of mixed denominational backgrounds lead to a richness in our discussions. Our prayers were “enlarged” by our various styles. I learned about some faith-life disciplines that I hadn’t yet encountered. I learned anew that our faith is in Jesus, the son of God, who saved us. That this binds us, no matter how differently we might express some of the points of doctrine. I also learned that sometimes when we think we aren’t agreeing, we may be just using different language to express the same thing. I’ve learned those groups that so easily ask, “Are you saved” teach their people a sincere desire to spread the Gospel. I’ve learned that some of the meanings of the words used when one talks about “being saved” varies by denomination and culture.

I’ve also been visited many many times by the Jehovah Witnesses, one woman in particular. During the first few visits, 30 years ago, I quickly found out that my Bible knowledge had no depth. I had memorized a lot of verses and doctrinal statements, but I didn’t know “why” I “believed” them. I was challenged! I read books about some doctrinal issues, and I read about the JWs. I now view the visits of the JWs as a mission field which steps right into my house. I tell them about how God is working in my life.

Windows to View God

About 18 years ago, I was in a class taught by H. George Anderson. A metaphor he used has been very meaningful to me. He said something like: Doctrine should not be a hoop that one jumps through in order to belong to a church group. But rather, good doctrine is like a window which helps one see God more clearly. I have expanded this metaphor based on what it is like to view a mountain, which represents God.

When I first saw the mountains, say, across the plains of Montana, they were small and distant, but they were real and enticing. When I was finally closer, I was in the foothills, which at times hid the view of the mountains. I came around a curve, and then I saw one very large mountain. I drove closer to where I could get out and hike. By then I could no longer see the peak, only the road and the path and the trees rising up the mountainside. I walked up through those trees, until I was above the tree line. Finally the peak again came into view. What a magnificent view, but how limited. I could see just one side of the peak. I could not see much in the lateral directions because of the trees and I could not see the base of the mountain.

Each of our doctrinal “windows” allows us to view God, but God is too big to be seen wholly and understood wholly. Some of the windows give a view of God from the north, some from the south. Some are wide picture windows, but God is quite distant through that viewpoint. Some windows are narrow, but hold a closer, more limited view. There might even be an aerial view, but from that vantage point, the contours are flattened out.

In my life, I’ve learned more about God because for 30 years I’ve had the privilege of attending a midweek Bible study with people of a variety of denominational background who know that loving the Lord is central to their life. I’ve been able to appreciate several views of God beyond that of the Lutheran doctrinal window. Praise God!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Christian Reconciliation Carnival

Any more submissions for the carnival?  See topic and guidelines below.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Rain - Respite!

We had 3.75 inches of rain on Thursday!  Hooray!  We are still 8 or 10 inches below normal, but the fire danger is over. 

Monday, September 03, 2007

Christian Reconciliation Carnival: Call for Submissions

The Christian Reconciliation Carnival was started at Heart, Mind, Soul and Strength in January, 2007 as a forum for Christian bloggers to post contributions, as W. F. put it: “It's intended as a "Road to Reconciliation" Carnival, a place where we do not expect too much of ourselves except humility, and a Carnival that is a cease-fire zone.”

See below for this month’s topic, but blog postings on other topics related to Christian Reconciliation may also be nominated (see guidelines). You may nominate blog articles by other writers, as long as the guidelines are followed. In the spirit of reconciliation, how about asking the writer’s permission, please!

To take part in the September Carnival, please send an email here, by 9/10/2007, with your blogging name, topic name, etc. (see guidelines), and a link to the URL of the blog post. Don’t send the links or emails directly to my email address. Please feel free to let your blog friends in on this and/or post a link on your blog.

I’ll compile a list of the postings, which will appear on this blog on about 9/15/2007, God willing, and if my really slow internet connection cooperates.

We reserve the right to not post links to articles that are very similar to another writer’s contribution, and, of course, any that are detrimental to reconciliation.

I chose this month’s topic because I realize that I am really comfortable with my denomination, perhaps stuck in a rut in it, yet over the years I’ve had ah-ha moments when studying the Bible with Christians from other groups. And, I’m looking forward to a trip to Africa where I anticipate worshiping with Christians who will do things quite differently than I’m used to, not to mention, worshiping in another language.

Topic for September, 2007:

How have you experienced Christian worship and practice in another culture or country or denomination that expanded your view of God, worship, or how to live the Christian life? This might include how encountering a different practice led you to a new/different interpretation of some Bible verses. Did you see your own traditional ways with new eyes? Have you heard some Bible passages with new ears? Have you actually changed the way you live or work?

While we may also encounter practices that we reject, this is intended to focus on Christian expressions which broaden our horizons in a positive way.

May God bless your reflection on this topic!

Those wishing to host future CRCs, see guidelines and email here.

Friday, August 31, 2007

And then I cried.....

Yesterday, one of the blogs I read, peaked my interest in NSF Gruntvig, so before sleeping, I was reading the texts to a few of his hymns. I'm a person with wide ranging curiosities, so reading faith related blogs has brought me in contact with many "new" topics.

Then I slept hard for 7 hours.

Then I awoke, I walked stiffly to the bathroom.

Then I thought, "The most well thought out theology and philosophy just doesn't cut it when someone is murdered."

And then I cried.
(See previous two posts.)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Grieving, Grieving

Ed. note: the number in paragraph 5 was revised upward after I remember three friends who drowned some years ago.

All God's children are precious and we should grieve for anyone who dies, no matter how they die, yet there are circumstances that hit harder. We are more upset by violent deaths. We grieve even more when a young person dies. We attach deeper significance when there are multiple deaths. In a small town, death seems to hit harder because if you don't know the deceased, you may know the family, relatives, neighbors or friends.

My daughter called to say that a 20 year old woman who was in the same classes all the way through school was found dead yesterday. The circumstances haven't been made clear on the news, but the police are looking for "persons of interest." They are saying to be careful and lock the doors.

The girl's father comes from a very large family, so I know a number of the relatives and my son is good friends with several of the cousins.

My daughter mentioned on the phone that it seems that our town is cursed. I don't know if the number of young people who have died here is above the statistical average, but it is certainly true that there has been a lot of tragedy, deaths among young people, and accidental deaths in the last 7 years. Or maybe the numbers just seem so high because this is a very caring small town, and we all know the interconnections between people. I told my daughter that I wouldn't have known this young woman in the least if we had been in a city. I do, however, very often think about any victim being somebody's son or somebody's sister, etc.

Here are some personal numbers: my 23 year old son has had 7 friends or acquaintances die in the last 7 years. I've lived here 30 years; I can think of 22 people our family has known from this little town who have died of unnatural causes, accidents, etc.

I know that this will be extra difficult for so many families who have lost children. Please keep all these people in your prayers. The funeral will be at my church, so please pray for the pastor and church people as well. Thank you.

My previous essay on this topic is here.