Monday, May 31, 2010

what a trip

We've had a blast in Oberammergau and Bavaria over the last 2 weeks. Take a look at the pictures.




click picture to see the whole album

Monday, May 24, 2010

schnitzel, spätzle, und sunny skies

So beautiful today. We went shopping for lederhosen and tyrolean hats (no purchases), and enjoyed a really nice meal at the Hotel Alte Post: a classic Bavarian dinner. Then, strudel for dessert. These are indeed my favorite things!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

oberammergau

We arrived just a few days ago in the Bavarian Alps in Southern Germany, where sits the small town of Oberammergau, to enjoy the beautiful May weather, and to see the once-a-decade passion play that this town has been performing since 1634. This town is just perfect! Beautiful old houses and buildings, and we're surrounded by the Bavarian Alps, mountains with their heads in the clouds, mist weaving through like pipe smoke around a grandpa's beard.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

43rd birthday

Celebrated my birthday today by gigging like a fiend. (Weekends, musicians, you know.) Rode a roller-coaster this afternoon, 3 times in a row, doing the kiddish thing of running straight around and getting back on. Sea World's Great White, which hangs you from the tracks, so there's nothing under you and it feels like you're flying. On the ramp-up the 2nd time, I heard a kid behind me say, "I love this world."

Friday, May 14, 2010

3rd infusion

Catherine just had her 3rd infusion of Remicade today; it's essential for her health, but its effects are unknown in pregnancy. Everything seems to be going just fine (and plenty of pregnancies have gone without incident with Remicade); but we would nonetheless appreciate your prayers.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

self-defeating names

Recently, I've run across a number of incredibly stupid names for things: products, businesses, services. I just read an article in which the author talked about getting Amelia Earhart Luggage; just saw a commercial for Cyclops Security; spotted a Phaeton RV on the road; and all this after having a funny discussion about Trojan condoms. Why on earth don't people think about who they're naming their brands after?!?!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

Today, Mother's Day is all about honoring our mothers. That seems so obvious that it's stupid to say. I'm so glad I was born to my mom; as the years have passed I've discovered more and more about the good that she's brought to my life.

It hasn't always been that way, though. Mother's Day started out going the opposite direction. It wasn't about the love and gratitude that we direct toward our mothers; it wasn't any action at all from us to our mothers; instead, it was something that emanated from mothers themselves.

Right after the Civil War, as groups sprung up all around the country bringing together mothers of men who had died on opposite sides of the war — a remarkable phenomenon in itself — a woman named Ann Jarvis got a holiday going whose point was to reunite families that had been divided, brother against brother or father against son, in the war. It was called "Mother's Friendship Day."

Meanwhile, another woman, named Julia Ward Howe, spearheaded a holiday she called "Mother's Day," in which mothers were to come together and oppose the more senseless acts of war: not the legitimate defense of country, but the wasteful foreign adventures that did nothing but decimate generations and bring loss and destruction. It was a way for women to protest in the only way they were allowed, these citizens who could not vote.

Howe's Mother's Day Proclamation, written in 1870, will blast the carnation right off your lapel:

Arise, then, women of this day!

Arise, all women who have hearts,

Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!


Say firmly:

"We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,

Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.

Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn

All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.

We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country

To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."


From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own.

It says: "Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."

Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.

As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,

Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.


Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.

Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means

Whereby the great human family can live in peace,

Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,

But of God.


In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask

That a general congress of women without limit of nationality

May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient

And at the earliest period consistent with its objects,

To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,

The amicable settlement of international questions,

The great and general interests of peace.

Friday, May 7, 2010

shield your joyous ones

Catherine and I were talking a while back about how, while we pray for people in need or pain, we should also pray for those who are happy and fulfilled, because that is an often precarious thing.

Lo and behold, this insightful article by Gretchen Rubin, author of "The Happiness Project."

Here's an excerpt.


A prayer attributed to St. Augustine of Hippo includes the line, Shield your joyous ones:


Tend your sick ones, O Lord Jesus Christ;
rest your weary ones; bless your dying ones;
soothe your suffering ones; pity your afflicted ones;
shield your joyous ones.
And all for your love’s sake.



At first, it struck me as odd that among prayers for the “dying” and “suffering” is a prayer for the “joyous.” Why worry about the joyous ones?

Once I started trying to give positive reviews, for the first time, I began to appreciate the people I knew who are joyous. I understood how much effort it takes to be consistently good-tempered and positive.

We’re sometimes provoked to try to shake the joyous ones out of their fog of illusion — to make them see that the play was actually stupid, the money was wasted, the meeting was pointless. Instead of shielding their joy, we blast it.

In his outstanding biography, Samuel Johnson, W. Jackson Bate describes how upset the moody, temperamental Samuel Johnson became when his joyous, enthusiastic supporter, Hester Thrale, turned her attention away from him.


It is a common mistake to assume that those who have a giving and ebullient character are what they are only because they cannot help it — that they are fed from a spring that will never stop rather than a reservoir that can be exhausted. Hence the feeling of stark disbelief or unpleasant shock on the part of others when the reservoir of effort and energy is almost gone….the principal reward for those who give lavishly rather than meagerly is the expectation that they remain true to form and continue to give.



We depend on the joyous ones, and we need to remember that their joy isn’t inexhaustible or unconquerable. Now I’m making a real effort to use my own good cheer to support and protect the enthusiasts I know.

Shield your joyous ones.



Monday, May 3, 2010

prayer and politics

I rarely bother with the forwards, as you know. In general, the value of an email is inversely proportional to the number of times it says "Fw:" in the subject line.

However, sometimes I just have to answer one of these things in detail, especially in an age where misinformation and disinformation have turned out to be such an important part of the landscape.

A friend had the good sense to shoot this one my way, not because he believed a word of it, but because he knew I wouldn't be able to resist. Here we go.

This is chilling

In 1952 President Truman established one day a year as a "National Day of Prayer."

In 1988, President Reagan designated the first Thursday in May of each year as the National Day of Prayer.

In June 2007, (then) Presidential candidate Barack Obama declared that the USA was no longer a Christian nation.

This year President Obama, canceled the 21st annual National Day of Prayer ceremony at the White House under the rouse of "not wanting to offend anyone"

On September 25, 2009 from 4 am until 7 pm, a National Day of Prayer for the Muslim religion was held on Capitol Hill, beside the White House. There were over 50,000 Muslims that day in DC.

I guess it doesn't matter if "Christians" are offended by this event - we obviously don't count as "anyone" anymore.

The direction this country is headed should strike fear in the heart of every Christian. Especially knowing that the Muslim religion believes that if Christians cannot be converted they should be annihilated

This is not a rumor - Go to the website to confirm this info: http://www.islamoncapitolhill.com/

Pay particular attention to the caption on the left of the page, under the caption "Islam on ..... Capital Hill": "OUR TIME HAS COME"

I hope that this information will stir your spirit.

The words of 2 Chronicles 7:14
"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

We must pray for our nation, our communities, our families, and especially our children.

They are the ones that are going to suffer the most if we don't PRAY!

May God have mercy...IN GOD WE TRUST.

Please pass this on, maybe someone, somehow can figure out a way to put America back on the map as it was when we were growing up, a safe place to live and by the Ten Commandments and Pledge of Allegiance, etc!



Wow.

I don't know where to begin on this one — such a powerful blend of fact, fiction, and innuendo. Let's see:

In 1952 President Truman established one day a year as a "National Day of Prayer." In 1988, President Reagan designated the first Thursday in May of each year as the National Day of Prayer.


It's true that Truman recognized the NDP, but it was actually established by Congress, as a floating holiday, right during the same era that we started putting "In God We Trust" on all our money, and inserted "under God" into the Pledge. The idea was that our mortal enemy as a nation was Russia, a Communist country that was specifically atheist; so we could differentiate ourselves and protect ourselves from Communism if we affirmed our faith in God. (That's an argument put forth by, among others, the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic league who was behind many of these efforts in the 50s.)

Congress did indeed change it in 1988 to be on one specific day.

But there had been NDPs before. John Adams declared May 9, 1798 as "a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer," during which citizens of all faiths were asked to pray "that our country may be protected from all the dangers which threaten it." (Keep in mind that we have no record that Adams was sworn in on a Bible; his son John Quincy Adams refused to be sworn in on a one: he took his oath on a book that contained the Constitution.)

In 1863 Lincoln issued (in response to a request from the Senate) a declaration of a National Day of prayer, in a very moving statement that suggested that our sins in slavery and civil war might be visited upon us in future generations if we didn't humble ourselves and confess and ask forgiveness. He, too, actually called it a day of humiliation.
link

Can you imagine what the response would be if Obama suggested that America confess its sins and ask forgiveness? You don't have to imagine: he's been attacked, virulently, many many times for his forthright admissions of America's wrongdoings.

Anyway, back to 1952, when Truman said this was a day to pray "in our churches, in our homes, and in our hearts." No mention of official state functions: just churches, homes, and hearts. This is perfectly in keeping with Christ's instructions in Matthew 6 about how to pray.
link

From the very beginning, this was conceived as a prayer in a nation where a majority were Christians, but by no means all were Christians, and people of all faiths were to join in. This was not to be an affirmation that we are a "Christian nation," but rather that we are a nation that honors freedom of religion, and we can each individually and freely pray in our own way.

Eisenhower's declaration in 1954, for instance, was quite broad: "whatever our ancestry, whatever our religious affiliation."
link

Johnson in 1964 said, "Under our laws,
—every man has the right to pray;
—no man can be told how he must pray;
—each man prays as his own conscience dictates.
I call upon all of our citizens, therefore, to observe the National Day of Prayer in accordance with our custom-each in his own way and in his own faith."
link

Reagan in 1987 said, "Our land today is more diverse than ever, our citizens come from nearly every nation on Earth, and the variety of religious traditions that have found welcome here has never been greater. On our National Day of Prayer, then, we join together as people of many faiths to petition God to show us His mercy and His love."
link

George Bush Sr in 1990 said, "invite the people of the United States to gather together on that day in homes and places of worship to pray, each after his or her own manner"
link

Bush Jr in 2005 said, "I ask the citizens of our Nation to give thanks, each according to his or her own faith, for the liberty and blessings we have received."
link

So, compare those to this one by Obama, and see whether you think there's any change. (There may be a change in the way these people actually think and pray, which we'll never know. But the issue according to our email-writing friend is an issue of official actions and proclamations.)
link

And none of those presidents had a yearly ceremony at the White House before 2001. None. Reagan had a single one-off event, in 82; Bush had one, in 89, and that's it.

Then the National Day of Prayer Task Force set itself up as a group, totally apart from government organizations, by conservative Christians, and began having events in Washington on the NDP. During George W. Bush's presidency, he began having a ceremony in the White House in conjunction with them. The ceremony was headed by Shirley Dobson and included her husband Dr. James Dobson and other evangelical leaders. Catholics and mainline Protestants, as well as other people of faith, protested that this narrowed the focus of the NDP too much.

In 2009, Obama returned to not having that event at the White House, and issued a proclamation. The Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding said at the time:

Basically, President Obama is hitting the reset button and going back to the way previous presidents handled the National Day of Prayer. Under previous administrations, such as President George Bush Sr. and President Ronald Reagan, proclamations were issued but there was no White House event.


If it's so horrible for Obama to have behaved this way, then was it horrible for Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr, and Clinton?


With that history in mind, back to our emailer:

In June 2007, (then) Presidential candidate Barack Obama declared that the USA was no longer a Christian nation.


Right. We've already dealt with that issue: I as a Christian believer and a Bible-believing Baptist agree with what Obama actually said, that we have many people of different faiths in our country, and we've promised not to establish one. We are, very largely, a nation of Christians, not a "Christian Nation," in the theocratic sense that some want us to be.


This year President Obama, canceled the 21st annual National Day of Prayer ceremony at the White House under the rouse of "not wanting to offend anyone"


So. Let's dissect what's being said here: YES, he did cancel the White House ceremony; NO, it wasn't the 21st annual ceremony, because only Bush made it an annual event, and only two other Presidents even had a single event; NO, he didn't say anything at all about "not wanting to offend anyone" — that last bit is just a speculation about his motives from someone who doesn't know how to spell the word "ruse."

Without any break, the email continues:

On September 25, 2009 from 4 am until 7 pm, a National Day of Prayer for the Muslim religion was held on Capitol Hill, beside the White House. There were over 50,000 Muslims that day in DC.


So, the casual reader may think that Obama cancelled a 21-year Christian tradition and instituted a Muslim one instead. [a] He didn't cancel the 21-year tradition: he issued a proclamation just like every president since Truman. [b] It wasn't a Christian tradition per se: others had made it clear that this was for people of all faiths, even in a country where most are Christians. [c] He didn't institute a Muslim ceremony: first of all, he's a United Church of Christ member; second of all, he had nothing to do with the Muslim thing on Capitol hill at all.

The Muslim thing was done by a private organization, led by an American who had been challenged by Obama's stirring words in his inaugural speech:

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.


Ho! Spiky words, especially in an inaugural address. Why do people who think of Obama as a softie on terrorism never mention this passage? Meanwhile, a patriotic American Muslim by the name of Hassen Abdellah decided to stage a day of public prayer at the Capitol, asking Muslims to come together and pray for America.

As you know, anyone can march on Washington: civil-rights protestors, the Ku Klux Klan, Christians, Jews, Wiccans, white supremacists, blacks, Hispanics, Tea-Partiers, anyone. That's our right.


I guess it doesn't matter if "Christians" are offended by this event - we obviously don't count as "anyone" anymore.


And what if Christians were offended? Aren't followers of Christ offended by white supremacists as much as by members of another religion? This person concludes that Christians "don't count"? Are ya kidding me? When we elect an avowed atheist as president, we'll talk about how "Christians don't count." No one can look at 21st-century American politics and wonder where in the world the Christians are. What has happened is that someone dared to say anyone else counts: these people are peace-loving, American Muslims exercising their rights to march at the Capitol. Good for them. Why is it so "chilling?"

The event's organizer himself said, ''Most of the time, when Muslims go to Washington, D.C., they go there to protest some type of event. This is not a protest. Never has the Islamic community prayed on Capitol Hill for the soul of America. We're Americans. We need to change the face of Islam so people don't feel every Muslim believes America is 'the great Satan,' because we love America."

We love America: somehow that quote got left out of the forwarded email.


The direction this country is headed should strike fear in the heart of every Christian. Especially knowing that the Muslim religion believes that if Christians cannot be converted they should be annihilated.


Uh-huh. It says that somewhere in Muslim scripture. But things are said in Christian scripture as well.

Exodus 35:2 says that anyone who works on the Sabbath should be put to death. Any Muslim could point to that scripture and be very chilled. There it is in black and white. You can't say the Bible doesn't say it, and anyone who believes that the Bible is inspired by God will have to have some answer as to why we don't do something that's so plainly stated. No doubt you and I have just such reasons, and there are plenty of examples of Muslim scriptures, also written in a long-ago age, that sound just as barbaric to us, especially if we don't know the context. Yes, some Muslims do want to kill every non-Muslim; but there are Christians who are just the same way, and, not too recently in this world, lots of Christians were the same way.

Leviticus 24:16 says that anyone who blasphemes the Lord will be put to death. That would completely wipe away most TV shows and movies. (Hey — maybe not such a bad idea.) Again, any non-Christian or non-Jew could point to that verse just as we point to Islamic verses in horror. Maybe non-believers email this to each other in horror and fear.

Meanwhile, there are lots of Muslims — a large majority of Muslims — who, like most Christians, are peaceful. Even in Saudi Arabia, arguably the epicenter of the Muslim faith, plenty of people, including scholars, don't believe that's really how to interpret the writings of Muhammad.

We braid our hair, eat shrimp, work on Sunday (and for that matter call Sunday the "Sabbath" instead of Saturday, which we also work on), and do tons of things that go against the writings of Scripture, and yet we're quite willing to completely ignore context and history and how other religions are actually practiced when it comes to reading their writings.


This is not a rumor - Go to the website to confirm this info: http://www.islamoncapitolhill.com/


I love this little coda here: once again, we need to dissect it, and ask what the person who wrote it thought they were referring to when saying "this" is not a rumor. YES, that website exists; YES, it does refer to an independent organization wanting Muslims to pray; NO, it makes no reference to killing all non-Muslims, and in fact has lots of evidence showing peaceful intent.



2 Chronicles 7:14
"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."


The main thrust of the email is over by now, but this is a nice addendum; it's a pet peeve of mine, and it shows that people really do have a tendency to select phrases and verses entirely out of context, and apply them in odd ways. The context of the entire passage here is that Solomon has built his temple, and God appears to him and says, "When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land."

So, "their land" doesn't mean their polity, their nation, or their government. It means the land — where it can rain or not rain, and locusts can devour it or not. It's an awful stretch to think that this applies to the nation any group of Christians are living in.

Maybe it is the case that if American Christians pray then God will bring healing to our polity; I believe that can happen, and that we must indeed pray. But that's not what's being promised in 2 Chronicles 7:14.

Some would say that such prayers over the years have indeed been answered in the positive, and that America is far better off today than it was when, say, my parents were born, and black people were barred from voting, or when my grandparents were born and women couldn't vote or sit on a jury, and higher education was something for a very small group of people.


maybe someone, somehow can figure out a way to put America back on the map as it was when we were growing up


Ah, the America of yore. Maybe we should go back to 1808, when Thomas Jefferson said, on exactly this subject:

Fasting and prayer are religious exercises; the enjoining them an act of discipline. Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the time for these exercises, and the objects proper for them, according to their own particular tenets; and right can never be safer than in their hands, where the Constitution has deposited it. ...civil powers alone have been given to the President of the United States and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents.


Or maybe we should return to the glory days of 1822, when James Madison wrote:

There has been another deviation from the strict principle in the Executive Proclamations of fasts & festivals, so far, at least, as they have spoken the language of injunction, or have lost sight of the equality of all religious sects in the eye of the Constitution. Whilst I was honored with the Executive Trust I found it necessary on more than one occasion to follow the example of predecessors. But I was always careful to make the Proclamations absolutely indiscriminate, and merely recommendatory.


If they could only see us now!


The actual event went off just fine. There's an article about it here:
link

The article is worth reading. Quite inspiring, what some of these folks said. Naturally, this being America, there were protestors, and it's instructive for us to hear them in the context of this email:

"They say it’s a prayer event, but it’s a political action," said Daniel L. Adams, a leader of the SIOA group. "Folks have their own places to worship. They’re called mosques, synagogues or churches. But when you come to the Capitol of the United States, it becomes political, because it’s a demonstration."


Listen to yourself, man!! This hits right to the very heart of it. What he said was absolutely true — it's just that it's true of everyone and not just people I disagree with. It's true of me, in the way I pray. I worship in a church or home or meeting-place: but when I come to the Capitol of the United States, it becomes political, because it's a demonstration. This is exactly what Jesus was talking about when he instructed his followers in Matthew 6 not to engage in public prayer at all. No football games, graduation, school assemblies, Congress, inaugurations: go into your private room and shut the door.

Oh how I have prayed that we would have someone as our nation's leader who understands this concept. Though Obama had ministers give benedictions at the inauguration, and though he was sworn in on a Bible, unlike his predecessor John Adams, there is some encouraging news. Maybe my prayers will be answered. Obama's spokesman, when asked about the National Day of Prayer, said, "Prayer is something that the president does everyday. I think the president understands, in his own life and in his family's life, the role that prayer plays. And I would denote that the administrations prior to the past one did proclamations. That's the way the president will publicly observe the national prayer day. But, as I said, privately, he'll pray as he does every day."

To that, I say, Amen.