Thursday, July 27, 2006

Verse of the Day

"I lift up my eyes to the hills
from where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth." Psalm 121:1-2 (ESV)

This has long been one of my absolute favorite psalms. Partly I think this comes from growing up in Kentucky where there are hills to lift my eyes to. I think it is also because of the image of the fullness of the Lord's protection. This psalm is the second of the Psalms of Ascent that the people would sing as they went up to Jerusalem for the various festivals. The opening verses could be interpreted as the pilgrim looking ahead to the hills leading up to Jerusalem and anticipating coming into the presence of the Lord at the temple. A more likely interpretation is that they are looking at the hills and mountains around them, hills on top of which are "high places" where pagan gods are worshiped and rejecting them for the worship of Israel's God. I've heard a number of settings of this psalm over the years. We sang one antiphonally as a response to readings my senior year in the Cantorei. On his album "The Way of Wisdom", Michael Card has a setting of the first four verses in Hebrew and English. Eden's Bridge has a nice one on their "Celtic Psalms" album. My favorite version though is by the Chicago Christian Celtic/Folk group The Crossing on their album "Dochas". The song is simply named "Psalm" and is inspired by Psalm 121.

I lift up my eyes and I look to the mountains
And see by their shadow I'm nothing at all.
The hills tower over me black and forbidding;
The tangles of forest bid me come and fall.

No light may enter those caves, a great fortress,
Their darkness defended by cavern and wall.
A torrent, a flood, crashes over the rocks and
The thundering falls drown a voice still and small.

Listen my child for I made these great mountains,
The sky far above you, the rocks and the falls,
The tangles of forest, the caves and the crags
And whatever dwells in them; my hand formed them all.

The shadows are emptied of threat for I'm in them
As I am in you when you follow my call.
So lift up your eyes and look over the mountains
And walk in my shadow; I'll not let you fall.

Listen my child for I made these great mountains,
The sky far above you, the rocks and the falls,
The tangles of forest, the caves and the crags
And whatever dwells in them; my hand formed them all.
--words and music by Jennifer Ingerson and Duncan Johnstone

When I was a security guard I used to sing that on rounds at Hewitt on overnight shifts. I'm a little scared of the dark and I found it very comforting.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Vacational Verse of the Last Week

"You are good and do good.
Teach me your statutes." Psalm 119:68

One of the highlights I forgot to mention was that I started Psalm 119 Tuesday morning. Reading 24 verses a day, 32 on one, it takes almost a week to read. Therefore for most of my vacation I was hearing about the goodness of God's word. That's a good thing to hear, sweeter than honey on a dosa. It's an acrostic psalm of 22 stanzas of 8 verses each. Each verse of a stanza starts with the same Hebrew letter. For instance my verse of the day is from the Teth stanza and starts with the Hebrew word "tov," "good." Something I enjoy doing when I read this psalm is to try to guess which English word translates the Hebrew word that started the verse. Obviously it helps that I've studied Hebrew but I think someone who hasn't could do it some. When you read a stanza look for recurring English words. This works better for some letters than others. For instance in the Teth stanza, vv. 64-71, the word "good" or "better" predominates because there aren't many words in Hebrew that start with teth. It's harder for Aleph or Pe but when you're reading the psalm someday give it a shot. It might be fun. Even if you don't try to guess the words, try to enjoy the interplay of the different words for God's law and the psalmist's delight in them. Sweeter than honey and better than thousands of gold and silver.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

What I did on my Summer Vacation

Hopefully this entry won't create the same social upheaval as Two Flower's book of the same name. I don't want to topple empires or play into the hands of a despotic maniac. So this will be pretty simple, maybe a highlight from each day. Since the major details have been covered by Mom and Ann the outline of the vacation has already been sketched.
Friday, 7/14. I already blogged about Friday. I do want to note The Lost Dogs again. I had just gotten their album "The Nazarene Crying Towel" and it's a good one. They were once a cool band of 4 friends each from different Christian bands who came together to make folk rock/country music together. One died tragically in 1999. As they sing on their album "Real Men Cry" released after his death, "He's a three legged dog but he's still pretty good." The three legged band (technically six, I suppose) still put out some good stuff.
Saturday, 7/15. I had a good time riding down to Nashville with Mom and Daddy.
Sunday, 7/16. I enjoyed our time at the Northgate Vineyard. It was a nice service and good to hear the pastor's determination to follow what he feels God is leading him to in planting the church there in Hendersonville. It helped me picture a little of what my church must have been like 6 years before I came when there were just a few people gathered in the faculty lounge at Mundelein High School. It was also good to pray for someone's healing and annoint them. I started Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner this afternoon. It was good to read after seeing her at ATLA. Too bad she's married.
Monday, 7/17. Mmmm. Cabbage curry and chapatis. They might not ought to be an art, but they sure were good. Ann and Daniel fed us well all week. As I recall this was also my first Chick-Fil-A experience. The chicken strips were okay but not thrilling. If I ever go again I'll try a sandwich.
Tuesday, 7/18. I think I liked best the Chineses acrobats at the Opryland Hotel. They were pretty amazing. The water show was nice also.
Wednesday, 7/19. We got to search for lamb across Madison and Hendersonville. No luck. We did also get to go to a nice little used bookstore in H'ville, Ms. B's. I didn't buy anything but there was some good stuff. It had one of the best philosophy sections of a store that size that I've seen. Also, Mom picked me up a copy of Artemis Fowl. We had Daddy's goulash. That's some good eatin'.
Thursday, 7/20. The highlight was definitely the Marty Stuart show at the Ryman. I'm not gonna be dissin' the Moong Dal and rice, tasty and filling. Nor am I down on Dosas with coconut chutney, not bad once you accept the coconut won't be sweet like in a mounds bar. I won't scoff at the art in the Parthenon, even if the replica chryselephantine Athena was kind of tacky the painting downstairs were nice. Jack-in-the-Box had a good patty melt and the Nugent girl who opened for Marty had some nice stuff. But it was Marty all the way with his mandolin pickin', bluesgrass, discograss, Rolling bluegrass Stone covering ways. That was a fun show. That Stubbs fella can fiddle, Cushman can banj, Cousin Kenny can pick some great bluesgrass guitar, and Leroy Troy can spin a banjo and a funny song with equal ease. The highlight of the show for me I think was listening to Marty and Kenny imitate dueling bluesmen on a couple of pieces. Maybe it was the gospel stuff. Maybe it was the 6 song encore set with Stubbs, Cushman, and Marty pickin' and fiddlin' in a huddle. I felt sorry for the banjo player that was playing with the band most of the night. He seemed to be outside all the fun. It was a good show.
Friday, 7/21. Good French Toast and fairwell to Dan and Anniel. Actually Daniel was gone when I woke up so he didn't get fairedwell. Hey Howdy to Lydia and Geron. I think today's highlight fell somewhere in between Geron's good grilled food, losing two games of Settlers of Cataan (I should probably rethink my strategy for playing with Sip and Geron, 4 games this trip, goose egg wins for me), and starting Artemis Fowl. That was a fun book
Saturday, 7/22. If we consider the Settlers games and Artemis holdovers from the day before, today's highlight was eating supper at Ichiban and having dinner cooked in front of me. Steak, chicken, and fried rice. There's virtually no way to go wrong with that, assuming you can cook. Add in some exciting Japanese cookery and good company and you've a got a meal. I'd eat there again. Breakfast at Lillie Mae's was also not to be sneezed at. Nobody should sneeze at a good slab of country ham. I can't get it here so it's always an important culinary part of going home.
Sunday, 7/23. The highlight might have been sleeping in a bed after a week of air matresses or the nice service at Sip and Geron's church but I think it was lunch with Lydia, Geron, Mom, Dad, Ann, and Daniel. Geron says his barbecue wasn't very good so I've got to get back down there sometime when he's on his game. Pity they'll probably be too busy for barbecuin' the next time I'm down. McKay's bookstore was also not without it's charms in a bludgeoning kind of way. That many used books puts me in a state of euphoria that makes it hard to register much. I did grab a copy of Good Omens by Pratchett (source of the opening allusion) and Gaiman. This way Jenn will know her nagging, though it seemeth barren, some fruit hath born. Unfortunately said fruit was born into a long q, what with the Winners, Fowls, Dekker Circles, and all else begging to be read. As I mentioned a week earlier in this post I like riding with Mom and Dad and we had a good trip home.
Monday, 7/24. The vacational highlight here was listening to about half of The Hobbit on cd as I made good time back to the land of Lincoln and not getting caught in any traffic jams except for the inevitable 80-94 bottle neck. Even that was only merely slow for about 10 minutes, or Thorin and company getting chased up trees by the Wargs. The real highlight of today was probably LifeGroup but since that was post vacational it'll get mentioned later.

As a final point I'll note that nobody submitted a potential post so we'll go back to our regular randomly scheduled mixture of long winded, abrupt, and Monday sabbatarian.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Vacational Blog

Nashville. Ann and Daniel. Homemade Indian food. mmm....biryani. Naps. Memoirs. Deflating air mattresses. Parthenon. Little Vineyard church. Worship. Good trip so far.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Driving South and Psalm of the Day

In keeping with traditional vacation departure patterns I planned to leave the apartment yesterday at 7:30 a.m. I got out at about 9. Fortunately by the time I got to work the Friday morning break had started and there were Krispy Kremes eagerly awaiting my teeth. I rocketed off from Trinity at about a quarter to 2 cdt and got in to Georgetown at about 20 to 11 edt. In between I got to see lots of rigs, smell some fresh northern Indiana manure, see a beautiful sunset through my rearview mirror, listen to Dallas Willard read his book about spiritual formation, and listen to my new Lost Dogs cd. It was a pretty good trip. Today we will continue in my southward journey by heading to Nashville to visit Ann and Daniel. There will be much fun had even if I have to drive a Ford to get there. As you can imagine I may be a little more irregular in my blogging for the next few days. Perhaps you'll want to go back and reread all my previous posts for a fix. Or maybe you can imagine the posts I might otherwise have written. Email any hypothetical posts to me. If their up to our rigourous editorial standards, i.e. written with confused punctuation, extraneious parenthetical remarks, dubious spelling, and copious run-on sentences, we'll consider publishing them. Otherwise read some other blog or post to your own. Psalm of the Day:
Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol him, him all peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD!" Psalm 117 (ESV)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Verse of the Day

"Whoever works his land
will have plenty of bread
but he who follows worthless
pursuits lacks sense." Proverbs 12:11 (ESV)

The Bible has a few things to say about following worthless pursuits and they almost always convict me. I waste a lot of time in my life doing stuff that if I could only see objectively I'd immediately know there were several things that I valued more highly. I'd like to be able to look at a day from the start as I'll see it from the end and evaluate things before I begin them as I would once they were complete. I'd like to think about something, "I'm pretty sure I'll enjoy doing it, but will I enjoy having done it?"

6 Dekaseconds=1 minute

I've got to title the post something and I was thinking about metric prefixes, prompted by the observation that my connection is 2kbps slower than usual. Nano and milli are about the only prefixes you come across in regard to seconds, and milli is pushing it.
I had the typical fun weekend. Just as Batista was about to return and call out Mark Henry on Smackdown Friday night, the Mormons visited them. I didn't want to miss the return of the Animal after a 6 month absence so I asked them to come back on Wednesday. Then I canceled that appointment. I've not gotten very far in my BoM reading so I figure I'll talk to them after vacation sometime. Steve and I watched Hoodwinked after he got home. It was pretty funny.
I spent Saturday sleeping in and working. In the outside bookdrop Friday morning were 40 or so books that were not checked out. A little investigation revealed that most of them had been gone from the library since 1999 or 2000. There was evidence that at least one may have been missing since at least '97. Someone's been studying the philosophy of David Hume for a long time. Many of the books had been declared lost and a few had even been replaced. Some, of course, nobody had ever noticed they were gone. I processed most of them Saturday afternoon and worked on some other books as well. Saturday night Steve and I watched the World Cup consolation game, Germany vs. Portugal. We saw 4 actual goals scored in game play. Germany won 3-1 though one of the German goals was scored by a Portuguese player. After the game I met up with some friends at a restaurant in Antioch and we caught a midnight showing of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Sunday morning we heard John S. preach on Isaiah 53:4-6 and how Jesus takes the penalty for our sins. Ryan put together a brilliant set for the music after the sermon. We sang a beautiful song I'd never heard before during communion and then followed it with "How Deep the Father's Love for Us," probably my favorite contemporary hymn. The other songs also focused on God's goodness and grace and his mercy toward us. It was a really moving time and fit very well with the sermon. I need to email him and get the title and lyrics to the first song. We lunched at Panera and then played a great game of Settlers of Cataan which was only marred by Steve's victory. Steve, Steph, and I watched Superman Returns for $2 at the Libertyville theatre. The movie was okay but a little too slow for my taste. At times it almost felt like the actors were just going through the motions. Kevin Spacey is a great Lex Luther though. I watched the World Cup final that night while talking to Jenn over the phone. That was a fun way to watch the game. It was in Spanish and Jenn had about a 4 second delay, definitely an amusing experience.
Monday night was a good time at LifeGroup. There were 15 of us and almost as many women as men which has been a rarity for our group this year. We studied Genesis 1:26-31 and what it means to be in God's image. We talked particularly about our responsibility to care for the earth and to live in relationship with God and one another. We also looked at a few New Testament passages that focused on growing into the image of Christ. Jason led worship and almost everybody provided snacks. It was a good time.
Tuesday we had a good time at 3-D. Nathan taught about Jonah and the danger of caring more for yourself than other people. Jonah was so concerned with his hatred for the Ninevites and with his petty luxuries that he ignored the people God desired to save. Nathan challenged us not to focus so much on ourselves that we fail to share the good news of salvation with people around us. Afterward Steve and I saw Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest. I really liked it. I think you could take the music from that movie and set it to anything and I would enjoy it. I was imagining briefly watching The Devil Wears Prada with the PotC soundtrack. I'm pretty sure I'd like it. I especially liked the use of Davey Jones' organ and the hornpipe in Tortuga in addition to the main theme. I'm much looking forward to the final installment of the story in May.
Work is challenging. As of last Wednesday I am the Senior Cataloging Technician and Head of Cataloging for the Rolfing Library. That means that a lot of decisions and problems that I could blithely pass on to Cindee or Matt in the past I am now responsible for. I liked just being able to focus on my books, DVD's and cd's and letting other people deal with questions about the future of the division or what the procedures had to be. I had input before and was usually involved in most decisions but I didn't have to make them. In addition I've had trouble focusing in work in the last year or two. I like soaking up new knowledge and ideas. I like reading blogs. I like playing computer games after lunch. I like researching and solving cataloging problems. It's been a huge struggle to focus on the actual work of cataloging. Now we're in the midst of a huge project to get our Florida Campus library cataloged and online. That's a great thing and it's getting us a trip to Florida next month, but there's a long way to go before we get there. I become Senior Tech because Cindee moved into a different position in the library. This means that we've lost much of her productivity as she starts learning and focusing on the systems position. She'll still be doing some cataloging but she won't be able to devote the kind of time and concentration that she used to. That also means that I'll be training a new cataloging tech. It takes a while to learn to catalog, to get the hand of all the rules and to be able to see not only what is in the record, but what should be there as well, and to learn to think about subject headings and how they are structured. There's a lot to learn and it's all seems fairly esoteric. The rule book has been compared to the Bible with a few other supplements like the Talmud. It can be very rewarding and it's nice to be able to see if the library has the book you want but it's a long road to get there. Anyway since there's all this pressure I'll be taking next week off to go to Tennessee. It'll be fun but it won't be fun to come back.
That's about all I've got to say about that.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Dear Old Buffo's and Chicago Pizza

When I was a first year seminary student back in the fall of 95 one of my co-workers in the library invited me to come to a group that met at a restaurant in Highwood, a little Hispanic/Italian community nestled between Lake Forest and Highland Park. The group was called Stammtisch, a German word for a table reserved for regular customers or a club table (or a "table of cronies" according to my German-English dictionary). The group was very loosely organized by one of the seminary professors and was devoted to sitting around and talking theology or philosophy or whatever, over pizza, beer, and clove cigarettes. I didn't like beer then and don't smoke, but the pizza was incredible. It was double decker; basically two thin crust pizzas laid one on top of the other with the crust rolled together at the back of the slice. To this day my favorite pizza is a double decker from Buffo's or from Bill's Pub in Mundelein. I really prefer Bill's because of the decor and ambiance but Buffo's is nice for the memories of eating there every Thursday for about two years. Eventually the Stammtisch migrated to The Silo, a restaurant in Lake Bluff that served more traditional Chicago-style pizza, and then disbanded. When I lived at the synagogue I was just a few blocks from Buffo's and occasionally we'd get takeout but we didn't eat there often. Since I moved up to Vernon Hills in 2000 I've probably not been to Buffo's more than twice. Tonight I joined Kit and Robyn and Corban, their 7 month old, former roommate/synagogue boy Steve R. and his girlfriend Natalie, and a couple of Kit's family friends and their daughter. It was like old times sitting around basking in the glory of double decker pizza and buckin' hot sauce with Kit and Steve and few friends. We ate outside, which was different from old times, and I had Leinie's Red instead of pepsi, also different, but it was great. The weather was sunny and cool, just nice. Kit got a Buffo's t-shirt to go along with the other t-shirts he's been amassing on vacation and a good time was had by all.

Regarding Jenn's question about pizza we've got all the basic national pizza chains up here. We've got Domino's, Pizza Hut, Papa John's, Little Caesar's, Chuck E. Cheese. As far as I know none of them are hurting for business. But the real pizza power around here is with places like Giordano's, Gino's East, Lou Malnati's, Rosati's, The Silo, Pizzaria Uno or Due that serve the authentic Chicago Style deep dish. Obviously people have their preferences maybe liking Uno's personal size pizza or Gino's unique crust or Lou's sheet of sausage that covers the face of the pizza beneath the sauce. It seems like they've all won awards, enough so that I have at times wondered if there are just so many pizza cookoffs that everybody gets to win one. But they're definitely all good. Like I said in the earlier comment thread, the typical deep dish Chicago pizza has a thick bready crust overlaid with toppings and cheese and then topped off with crushed tomatos. My guesstimate is that it's 2-3" thick and is cut in wedges. There's also a thin crust Chicago style that has a very thin crisp crust overlaid with sauce, toppings and cheese and cut into little squares. It's usually very greasy. This is the typical thin crust pizza that you will get in bars or regional chains around here and it's also very good. As for Jenn's question of whether she'll get up here, eat at Gino's and be ruined for Pizza Hut, I think that's a risk well worth taking. Nevertheless I still like almost any style pizza from the cafeteria pizzas we had in school to frozen pizzas to Papa John's or Domino's to something classic like Gino's or quirky like Bill's or Buffo's or the Basil's special at Bill's Pizza in Northfield. If you say to me, "Let's go get some pizza for supper. It's on me and money's no object," sure we're going to Bill's or Gino's or The Silo. If it's late and we're hanging out and want to order a thin crust pizza to snack we're calling Kaiser's or Pizza Italia, but if somebody says, "Hey! Let's go to Pizza Hut!" I'm fine with that. It's not all it could be but I like what it is. A place like Domino's won't make your mouth as happy as Buffo's or Kaiser's but it won't give you quite the same greasy cheese lump in your stomach either. Sometimes there's a price to pay for the deliciousness that goes beyond money. Ambience also plays a large part in my pizza preferneces. It's not quite as much fun to eat at Gino's in Libertyville where you can walk in and be seated right away as it was to eat after waiting in line on Ontario St. to get in and be able to sign your name on the wall of the Gino's downtown. There's something about throwing peanut shells at your friends and looking at the stuffed animals in Bill's Pub, drinking oatmeal stout in the loft of The Silo, discussing free will and determinism while watching the Bulls play, sniffing the clove smoke, and eating a chocolate chip cookie as big as a scone at Buffo's, an associative memory that makes the pizza that much better. For that matter the same thing happens when you eat at an old synagogue/church at Joe Bologna's in Lexington or getting a Bill's Special at Basil's and the next week getting a Basil's Special at Bill's while you teach someone to hair wrestle at midnight on a Wednesday in Northfield. Pizza's pizza and among the chief of things for which we should thank God regurlarly. The way it is around here is what it should be but that other stuff's okay too. It's pizza.

Verse of the Day and Surprise Visitor

"I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your steadfast love is great above the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the clouds." Psalm 108:3-4 (ESV)

Yesterday around noon I was sitting at my desk at work when a stroller with a cute baby was pushed into my office. I looked at the stroller and baby and the arm sticking in the doorway wondering who in the world it could be. I looked at Cindee, who could see the person, but she wasn't saying anything. The arm was tan enough to be Asian but the baby wasn't. After a suitably dramatic pause my friend Kit poked the rest of himself through the door. Apparently as he had approached the door he had his finger over his lips so Cindee wouldn't give him away. I was stunned but very happy. Kit lives in Australia but is on holiday with his wife and their 7 month old son. When he's not surfing or fishing he teaches theology at a college in Australia and is beginning work on a Ph.D. Cindee and I went out to lunch with Kit and his family at Dominick's and we had a good time getting caught up. Kit, Cindee, and I had all been security guards together and Kit and I had lived together at the synagogue. It was a good time. Tonight I'll be joining Kit, Robyn, and another former synagogue boy, Steve, at Buffo's in Highwood for some double decker pizza. Before he had gone back home to Australia 4 years ago Kit had threatened to kick my butt if I transferred from the M.Div. to the M.A.R. program. I finally figured I was safe, made the transfer, and graduated. He was in Australia, what was he gonna do, right? Then he shows up in my office. Fortunately he didn't make good on the threat. I'm looking forward to pizza tonight.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Prayer FADES

This is the last post about my weekend and then I'll move on with life.
Sunday morning we went to Berean Community Church where Jim is an elder. The sermon that morning was on prayer. Pastor Kevin began with Romans 12:12 and the command to be devoted to prayer and proceeded to tell us why and how to be devoted. We should be devoted to prayer because it is a command from God and He is to be obeyed, because life is too hard for us to handle on our own, and because "God can do in a moment what would take us an eternity." Kevin then spoke about how to pray and mentioned a couple of acronyms that can be useful for prayer. One that I've heard a lot and used often is ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. Another was CREPE: Communion, Repentance, Engagement, Praise, Empowerment. CREPE was new to me. He focused on FADES:
-Freely and Form: we should pray freely but we should also use forms for prayer. Some of the forms suggested were to use the prayers of the Bible, scripture commands (I found this one intriguing, to pray through commands from scripture asking God's forgiveness for our failures and for strength and opportunity to obey), warnings and promises; pray through prayer lists; pray through prayer books like Operation World; pray using patterns from scripture like the Lord's Prayer or Acts 1:8.
-Alone and Assembled
-Desperate and Delighted
-Explosive and Extended: i.e. short, quick prayers like Nehemiah 2:4 or long like Daniel 10:2-4, 12-14.
-Spontaneous and Scheduled.
It was a good message and went along well with the sermons I heard in May and June in my own church as part of John's series on How to Grow Spiritually.
I enjoyed the musical portion of the service though I found it amusing that during Kevin's prayer for our country the keyboardist was playing the hymn "Be Still My Soul" which is to the tune of Sibelius' Finlandia hymn. Berean has a much longer time for people to shake hands and greet one another than other churches I've been to. I appreciate that.
After service was Sunday School. Jim is teaching a four week session on the Reformation. When I talked to him on the phone before going up he had told me this and suggested I might want to be a guest lecturer. He often tries to draft me to teach when I visit. I'm always reluctant to do so but he talked me into it this time. I was reading a book on vocation by one of the religion professors at St. Olaf and Jim suggested I talk about that since that was an important emphasis of Luther. So we ended up doing a split session. Jim talked about Luther's life and accomplishments and I talked about three Reformation emphases/innovations that are important today. I talked about Bible translation, congregational singing, and vocation. Even though the early church had eagerly translated the scriptures into vernacular languages with particular highlights in the Syriac Peshitta, Jerome's Latin vulgate, Ulfilas' Gothic translation, and Cyril and Methodius' development of the Cyrillic alphabet in order to translate the scriptures into the Slavic languages, by the Reformation the Bible in the West was locked in Latin. The reformers believed so strongly in the power and place of the Bible in the Christian life that they made the effort to translate it into vernacular languages so common people could read the scriptures in their own languages. The two best known examples are Luther's German translation and William Tyndale's English version. The way for this was paved by the printing of Greek texts by Catholic scholars like Erasmus and the producers of the Complutensian Polyglot Bible. Also during the late Middle Ages western congregations didn't sing. Music in worship was reserved for professionals like the Roman choirs that sang Allegri or Palestrina's masses and priests and monks. Luther and Calvin realized that singing in worship was something for the whole people of God to participate in. So Luther began writing hymns set to German folk tunes that the people could remember and join in and that also served as a means to teach about doctrine while worshipping. One of Calvin's early achievements in Geneva was commissioning a musical arrangement of the Psalms in French for singing in worship. Luther and Calvin also developed the notion of life as a calling, or vocation (from the Latin vocare, to call). The belief of the time was that God called people to religious vocations such as priesthood or monastic life, possibly to lay orders like The Brethren of the Common Life, but that there were no secular callings only duties. Luther emphasized that cobbler had as much of a vocation as a priest. He was to work hard and make good shoes and so contribute to the life of God's people. If he was a husband and father as well as a cobbler then he was also called to serve and lead his family. Luther saw that we were each called to serve God and our communities and families in different ways, the minister to preach the word, the farmer to produce food, the mother to teach and raise her children, the children to obey their parents and learn their way in the world. Each calling was equally from God and equally for service. He understood that primary calling is from scripture and is "in whatever you do, do it to the glory of God." Even in Protestant churches today this has often been obscured or lost by our emphasis on callings to pastoral ministry or missions but it is something we should regain.

Vers"e and Quote of the Day

Verse of the Day:
"Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love
for his wondrous works to the children of men!
Let them extol him in the congregation of the people
and praise him in the assembly of the elders." Psalm 107:31-32

Quote of the Day:
"So that was when he was about your age?" Me
Nicole mentioned that she had sent fan letters to actor Elijah Wood when she was in middle school. Oddly enough she and Elijah Wood are still about the same age. I felt foolish.

3-D Fireworks

I spent yesterday puttering around the house. I cleaned, washed dishes, watched Shrek, and reinstalled our air conditioner before starting a series of blogs about my weekend trip, 1 post to go. When Steve and I installed the AC unit back in May I new something wasn't quite right, especially when I noticed that it wasn't draining. There are three main components involved. There's the unit itself, a wood shelf it sits on, and a piece of wood cut to fill in the rest of the window. We got these things in but something didn't seem right to me. Steve thought it was as he remembered it though. At some time in late June it started spitting water, so I picked it up and drained it and we turned it off for a while. The last few days of June it seemed to be doing fine so when I returned on Monday I let it run. Tuesday morning there was a puddle on the floor. So I drained it again and cleaned up the puddle. Then I took it out of the window and looked at our apparatus. We'd put the shelf in backwards so that the AC unit was tilted into the room instead of tilted back toward the outside and its drain. I also fit the other piece inside the window frame so the whole set up is more secure. Now we have water dripping outside, cool air inside, and I feel two steps closer to being handy; only 2998 to go.
Last night I went to a 4th of July party at my friend Greg's. There was a good sized crowd there, a mixture of people from my small group, friends of Greg's sister, and friends of his parents. We had fun hanging out. The Vernon Hills fireworks started at 9:30 and were being launched at Century Park, about 1/2 mile from Greg's. We hoped to see them reflect in Lake Harvey, but I think they were too close for the angle to work. It was a pretty good show. It was made spectacular by the use of 3-D Glasses. I don't know who originally came up with this idea but it was brilliant. The glasses refracted the light from the fireworks so you got a cool rainbow effect with every one. You would see the explosion in the center with 6-8 versions of it in full spectrum around it. If you bobbled your head side to side you got a Kalidoscope effect. There was also occasionally that genuine 3-D feeling where it looked like the explosions were coming right into you. On some it didn't seem to make a difference at all but some would go off and you'd have this little shimmering spectra all around your field of vision, the delayed ones where the firework would go off and then reexplode a few seconds later were also really cool, as Greg's sister noted every time that happened. Dave got some neat pictures using his digital camera shooting through the 3-D lenses. Like I said, 3-D glasses and fireworks were a brilliant combination. After the Vernon Hills show was over we saw some other fireworks being shot off a little farther to the west. On some of those the angle was right to see their reflection off the lake. That was also nice.
Oh well, back to work.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Verse of the Day and a few more weekend thoughts

"Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
bind them around your neck;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good success
in the sight of God and man." Proverbs 3:3-4 (ESV)

I thought after a trip to Rochester in 1997 that Jim reminded me of one of the wise men from Proverbs who was enjoying favor and good success in the sight of God. That impression has never really changed and then God added to the blessing with a Godly women whose worth is far more than rubies. I know they're not perfect nor without trials but I'm deeply honored to be their friend.

Quote of the Day:
"Come on, Dad, let's read scripture." Evan Kluth
Thinking about the boys I was going to say how nice it was to be the visitor and just be able to enjoy them because I wasn't really responsible for them. Mostly I could just play with them and let their parents worry about discipline. That's true, and if it made the weekend more tiring in any way, I'm sorry. But then I got to thinking about other families I've known where it's not so uniformly a pleasure to visit them because of the tense and unhappy dynamics or the behavior of the kids or the parents. That's not necessarily an exact quote although Evan definitely said something like it in a pleading or urging tone of voice Saturday night while Jim's parents were over. Jim pointed out that I don't get to see Evan's heart in a short visit or the depth of his thoughtfulness. That's true as he's busy showing off for his daddy's big friend from far away, but I get to see a little and I think his excitement about reading the Bible with his dad is part of it. Evan told me I should move closer so I can visit more. He also said Saturday that maybe I should be his dad since I'm bigger than Jim and would be able to protect him better but he really loves his daddy. I liked watching how Aidan was sure he could do anything Evan could do and how he would frown and whine, "I don't like them" about his sandles or something else he had decided he didn't like even if he hadn't seem to have a problem with it a few hours ago. I liked watching Evan and Aidan play together when it was clearly something that Aidan wanted to do and didn't seem that interesting for Evan like the game where one would scream VBS and then the other would. I liked watching Toby throw his cup on the floor and then say, "Pease." and when you asked what he wanted he'd say, "Cup-cup." Or watching him giggle when Tara would flick him on the cheek to punish him for screaming at the table. Did I mention it was a fun weekend?

Daddy Elephant serving Batman and Fighting Buzz Lightyear in Rochester

Now that we've got the preliminaries out of the way except for preliminaries about the title I can report on my weekend. I left late on Friday aided in delay by sleep and Blogger, and got onto the Interstate about an hour and a half after I'd planned. With the further aid of Milwaukee traffic and a slow Subway staff in the middle of nowhere southern Minnesota I managed to completely miss the end of VBS, BVS to Aidan, and arrive at the Kluth campus after Tara and the boys. There I met the late, lamented Mr. Squeakers, pause for a moment of mourning [...wail...], and learned that Aidan had declared me a pachyderm parent. When Jim and Evan returned and the boys had been put to bed we had a delicious bar (marshmellow, chocolate chip, m&m, butterscotch chips, lots of butter, mmmmm) and hung out. Eventually I crawled into the bunk beneath Evan and went to sleep.
I awoke Saturday morning to Evan shaking me and chastening me for wasting the day in sleep. It was already nine o'clock. Wasn't I worried about missing the day? I wasn't but I got up anyway. Evan talked me into a game of chess. I'm not a good chess player. I've lost on three separate occasions in about three moves. I'd like to think I could have beat him since he's five but it would have been a long game of attrition. "Why would I take that pawn just so you could take my bishop," he says. I have trouble beating people who think that way. I got to spend a little more time with Aidan and Toby in the morning. Toby is walking and talking and was generally smiley while I was around. He's definitely mastered the word "Bubba". He's also good with "pease" which means he wants something and "cup-cup" which was often the answer to the inevitable follow up questions to "pease." "What do you want, Toby." Aidan calls me "Efrit" or "Elfrit" which sometimes sounds like "Alfred", hence the batman reference. Aidan tried to teach me to play the GI Joe Game which seems to involve getting the game board out of the box and making a pile of the cards that Toby isn't sucking on. Evan and Aidan also took a number of horse rides. I would sit on the couch with my legs extended on the floor. One of the them would sit on my legs and I would swing them around and try to buck them off. Usually the ride ended when I would spread my legs out from under the rider and drop him on his butt, though Evan was picking up on that trick by the time we stopped playing. It was a game I learned with the younger Schwaar children a few years ago but hadn't played in a while. With a 45 lb. kid it's a good leg workout. Jim spent the morning alternately hanging out with us and trying to concentrate on preparing his Sunday School lesson. Tara and Aidan made us tasty strombolis for lunch. After lunch Jim, Evan, and I went and saw "Cars". We enjoyed it. I thought it possibly had too many moments that were too slow or talky for little kids. Evan was pretty squirmy but he definitely seemed to enjoy it. On the ride home Jim suggested that it was made by people in their 30's or 40's who were dealing with getting older and the loss of dreams and consequences of life choices. There was also a definite lament for the loss of an older, off-the-path America. After the movie we added Aidan and went to Conrad and Mel's to pick up the horse balls set. When we finally got back to the Kluths' we played a few games of horseballs while Evan and Aidan played in the sprinkler. Tara made us tacos. After supper I played with Evan and Aidan while Jim finally got a chance to concentrate on his lesson. We played Space Ranger. You imagine yourself as a Space Ranger with a particular power. I started out with the ability to be invisible. Evan had a lazer and could get any weapon he wanted. Aidan was Buzz Lightyear. He could fly and he had a lazer. I then decided to be Zurg. I could shoot ping-pong balls out of my arms. T'poink. As it turns out Evan has an unspoken power whereby he can do anything you can do and has a special shield that automatically prevents your power from hurting him. Aidan has the unspoken power of doing everything Evan can do but less systematically. Soon they were shooting my own ping-pong balls back at me. They seemed most impressed with my ability to hock up and spit out invisible ping-pong balls that they had shot down my throat. We had fun except for when Evan turned into a goblin and scared Aidan. After the kids went to bed we visited with Jim's parents for a while and then Jim and I watched half of "Sahara" before going to bed.
Sunday morning was church and Sunday School. Then we went to visit Jim's Auntie Alice, his dad's younger sister, for her birthday barbecue. Mmm, brats (sausages not kids). We played some more horse balls and watched Alice and Roy's horses with Evan and Aidan. It was a fun overload of the Minnesota/Upper Midwest accents. If I didn't know where I was linguistically before the party I did then. It was a happy birthday. Back at the house we played on the deck and hung out. We had slightly frozen sandwiches for supper and ice cream for desert. Tara gave the boys haircuts including a mohawk for Evan and then sent them to play in the sprinkler to wash the hair off their backs. After Jim and Tara had put the boys to bed Jim and I went over to his parents house, they moved to Rochester recently, where we had cookies and bars and played ping-pong and pool. Jim won every game but I managed to push him to the limit on the ping-pong. This shows that my Tuesday night practice sessions with Luke are bearing fruit as Jim'd've crushed me when we were in college. Finally we finished watching "Sahara" and then spent a couple of hours talking church and life.
Monday morning Evan showed me his castle toys, Aidan showed me how he can bounce on a bed, and Toby smiled. I hugged Jim, Tara, and the boys, though Aidan was definitely displeased that I was going. He didn't want to hug me good by and he didn't wave until I started driving off. In homage to "Cars" I shun-piked on U.S. 14 through Winona and across Southern Wisconsin, except for a brief stretch on I-90 south of Madison. Due to construction I had to take a detour south of La Crosse and got to go through a number of pretty little valleys. 14 is marked on the map as a scenic road as it runs along the Wisconsin River Valley west of Madison But for my money I preferred Wisconsin 161 and 14 before Richland Ctr. That was a lot more scenic and pleasant than the later stretch. Eventually I got home. Monday night I went with some friends, including Yente from Trinity's 1997 production of "Fiddler on the Roof" who's been going to my church for a while now without my recognizing her, to see "Nacho Libre." It's as stupid as you can imagine a movie starring Jack Black and made by the guy that made Napoleon Dynamite could be, but it's definitely got a number of good funny bits.

Rreliminary Information and Stories

I spent the weekend in Rochester at Chez Kluth, a homey manse a few blocks from downtown. I met Jim when we were freshmen at St. Olaf College 14, gasp, years ago. We knew each other as freshmen but really became friends as sophomores when we became prayer partners through Dan and Kari's IV small group, I believe. During the second semester Dan and I hosted a Tuesday night prayer meeting in our room in Melby. Jim was one of the regulars at that meeting along with Elizabeth K. One Tuesday Jim decided he needed to blow his nose. He politely excused himself from the prayer meeting and went next door to the bathroom. A few seconds after he left we heard a resounding honk through the wall. Our junior year Jim and I shared a room in a Manitou God Pod. We had a lot of fun with the answering machine and wasted a lot of hours on a homemade (not by us) foosball table. Our senior year we occupied the two single rooms in another Manitou God Pod. That year Jim met a young woman named Tara over email. She came and visited us and he went and visited her. They decided they weren't really interested in dating one another but stayed friends. A few years later they changed their minds, about dating, not friendship, and got married. They had three awesome kids. Evan, a.k.a. Little Peanut, Aidan, a.k.a. Tater, and Tobias, a.k.a Toby or Tobs. As he's the oldest by about three years I have the most history with the peanut. He's the one who called from the upstairs window to inform his daddy that he'd just had a poop disaster but that it was okay, he'd clean it up. Jim hurried inside. Evan also is the one who most often seems to get the duty of waking the Everett when I visit. Once he came to wake me up on a Sunday morning. He said very sweetly, "It's time to get up." When there was no response he tried again. With still no response he said to his daddy, "He won't get up." Jim advised him to try again. At that point I rolled over suddenly and grabbed him. I also once astounded Evan when he and I went down to the basement to get something for Tara. One of the steps completely collapsed under my weight. One of the nails was sheered clean in two. Evan was most impressed and mentioned it the next couple of times I visited, each visit about a year apart. He didn't mention it this visit though he remains fascinated by my size and weight since I'm much bigger than his daddy. He's also, or was, an avid little artist. When I was up last October, since it was near Evan and Aidan's birthdays I brought them gifts. I brought Evan a sketch pad. I brought Aidan a firehouse set that included a little elephant fireman that may be the source of a new nickname.
I traveled up this weekend because today is Jim's birthday. If you're wondering why all the fireworks and to do on the fourth there's your answer. Some people might say it has to do with the founding of the country, declarations of independence, revolutions, and whatnot but they're probably just confused. Jim gets older today and for another three months and four days he and I will be the same age until I retake the lead.