Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Labor Day

Well, it's been a long hiatus from blogging. Some of that was vacation, some busyness, some lack of incentive to post anything. I'm going to try to catch up.

First up, here's what I did on my Labor Day holiday:


I labored! :-)  We have a bunch of these large, overgrown, part dead, part rotten, all ugly bushes behind our house, next to our deck. Wanting to do something with our deck, we figured the first step is getting rid of these monstrosities. Without them, the whole backyard opens up and is much nicer. But what a lot of work! So many branches so densely grown together. I got the first three out - the first two were the biggest and toughest. There are three left - we may leave the last one, not sure yet. But also have to think about the stumps now. I'll try to dig them out, but if that's too hard, we'll just saw them off down below dirt level. Then we're thinking of putting a raised garden there. Anyway, that was my Labor Day!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

More Post-Storm Pictures

Just got back from the church. Here are some more pictures of the tree which fell upon our little church . . .


View from the east side of the building, the top of the tree over the roof.


View from the west side, the main trunk of the tree.


View from the neighbor's yard. A pretty big tree! Probably fortunate it didn't go farther into the church and cause more damage.


Red tagged building.  :-(

Storm Damage


Last night during the storms that blew through our area a tree came down onto the church building that we rent for use. So the building will be unusable for a time. Hopefully we will be able to get in today and move what we need out of our closet there. Please keep us in your prayers.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Special Guest

Athanasian (can't say "former Athanasian" because "once an Athanasian, always an Athanasian!") and missionary Chris Yang and his family are in town on furlough from their work in Asia and visiting friends and supporters. He will be at Saint Athanasius to preach this Sunday and present what he is doing to the congregation afterward.

Yesterday, however, he made the time to visit my father. My father supported Chris through Seminary and corresponded quite often with the family, even after they left the Seminary. When they arrived, it was great to see his face light up - he knew them right away. We had a great visit. Here's a picture . . .






Monday, July 17, 2017

One BIG Weekend!

This weekend we got one of our seminarians both ordained and married! Not sure I would advise that for others, but it made for both a busy and joyous weekend. Some pictures . . .


Me and my former seminarian!


A good group of pastors present. A great big THANKS! to Pastor Esget and the folks of Immanuel for allowing us to use their church for this day.


The happy couple with the pastors who participated in the service.

So as I said after the service . . . I have now catechized, baptized, ordained, and married George. There's only one thing left! Let's hope I do not have to do that one.  :-)

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Rest in Peace, My Friend

I was going to post this a few weeks ago, but life got busy . . .


About a month ago, a good friend of mine, Bill Hecht, was suddenly taken from us and called home to be with his Saviour. This is a picture of us from 2003, when I received my STM and he received the Miles Christi award from Concordia Theological Seminary. How great that we could receive these together.

As soon as I arrived in Virginia, Bill befriended me and took me under his wing. He was always a good friend, would go out of his way to do anything I asked if I had a problem or need, and was always encouraging and supportive. He invited my wife and I to several happenings on Capitol Hill - where I usually remember looking around at all the dignitaries there and thinking, "I don't belong here!" 

Bill was a pastor for several years before going into politics, but continued to pastor our congressmen in Washington whenever he had the chance. He would not only talk politics, but religion with them, and tell them of his Saviour. He was a true gift to me, my church, our synod, and to so many. He will be greatly missed. But thank you, Lord, for giving him to us as long as you did.

Bill wrote a book which was published a couple of years ago. I learned a lot from it. In it, you can not only find out more about him and his life, but the threats facing our country today. If you haven't read it, I encourage you to do so.




Saturday, July 8, 2017

Higher Things - Day Last

The last day of Higher Things is always a bit easier - breakfast, Matins, the last plenary session, lunch, packing and loading up, and the closing Divine Service. There's a bit more time to sit and talk to folks after lunch and bid farewell before everyone scatters. This year, our gathering was on the small side since the chapel could only seat 300 - so that was the maximum. The nice thing about that is that you get to know more of the people. So, the scattering was to 20 states - from South Dakota to Florida to Texas to New England.

Some pictures from after the closing Divine Service . . .


Our new friend and catechumen Jenna, a friend of our young ladies, who joined our group from Georgia. I do believe she's hooked and will be back with us next year!


Our row in chapel.


Old friend #1, Pastor Olson.


Old friend #2, Pastor Drosendahl.

Then on the way home, we stop for dinner. Last year the place we picked didn't turn out so good . . . so we played it safe this year: Cracker Barrel!


Even if you tried really hard, do you think you could wind up with 10 pegs left and no more moves? Someone did . . . !  :-)


Foooood!


Fried Alex. All fried, all the time.


That just looks good!


Mawmawmawmawmaw.

Then got everyone home safe and sound. Some on one side of midnight, some of us on the other. Next year, the closest conference will be in Southern Illinois! So we'll have to decide if we want to make a long drive or see if we can raise enough money to fly to one of the four. But for learning, fun, spiritual feeding, and unity, you just can't beat Higher Things.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Higher Things - Day 3

Many good things today. The youth are having fun and learning a lot - including lots of good discussions during meal times. All the services continue to be a highlight, and other things the will go unmentioned but that warm a pastor's heart. :-)  Makes these worth all the effort! And good for me is getting to spend time not only sitting in the services and being fed, but sitting there with my youth and especially my daughter. You know, pastors don't get to sit with their family in church very often! Nice.

So our great "gangsta" social media post from yesterday didn't get selected. Sigh. But undaunted, we try again . . .


Caption: Miss Ostapowich's Home for Peculiar Children
(If you miss the movie reference there, check the Google.
And Miss Ostapowich is the Conference Executive for Higher Things.)

That's got to win, right?

Other photo opportunities as well . . .


Are these the same girls in the group photo above? What happened?

And remember the "Giant Jenga" game I mentioned yesterday? Some more pictures of that  . . .


Maybe if Pastor yells at it . . .


Noooooooooo! You didn't just do that!
How is this thing staying up?

And then there's this picture . . .


Um, no. This is wrong.

And yes, there was free time . . .


There were always many different evening free time activities - some more strenuous than others. But all fun.

So today is the last plenary, then lunch, Closing Divine Service, and the drive home, arriving laaate. I'll try to take some more pictures today. But as usual, a very good week. :-)

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Higher Things - Day 2

I started yesterday by talking about how long our drive here was. Well, there's few groups here from South Dakota who drove 30 hours to be here! Yowzers. Impressive. I met one of the young men from that group, Morgan, who just graduated high school and is thinking about seminary in the future. Good guy. 



How about a group picture?


If you don't like that one, how about this one?


Um . . . well . . . we're hoping for the best social media post of the day. I think we have a pretty good one thought up for today as well!

Overall a good day. Everyone I talked to enjoyed their breakaway sessions, and of course, all the services. Just something about singing good solid liturgy and hymns in a chapel packed with youth all singing heartily. :-)

I taught my second session already, so I am d-o-n-e! Get to kick back now. Actually was doing that before. This trip is busy, but a nice break from the usual routine and other kinds of busyness. But I digress . . .

How about the food? Not bad. Other places we've been to have been better. More limited choices here. But good conversation and fun around the table - some serious questions and discussion, too.


Last night during free time, Sarah and I played the most epic giant Jenga game of all time. It just wouldn't end. The picture below doesn't do it justice - we went many more rounds after this picture.


 I finally had to lose on purpose so I could get to the talent show, to support our own . . .


Miss Fields, who sang awesomely! There were some other really good talents as well, and some not so good, too. They'll announce winners today, but she gets my vote!

Met another old friend - former vicar in the circuit, Pastor Neugebauer, from South Dakota.


And just a few more random pictures for your viewing enjoyment!



(Don't worry! No old pastors were injured in the taking of this picture.)

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Higher Things - Day 1

I have so many things to blog about, but things have been so busy I haven't gotten to it. Soon. But anyway, here in North Carolina at Higher Things and will try to post each day, as I have other years. Though I didn't take too many pictures yet . . .

This is how the day started:


We left at 5 am to get down to Mars Hill University in time. But a little later:


We got there in time. The first thing to notice is that the campus is much smaller than last year (Vanderbilt) and so we won't have to do anywhere near as much walking! Also, its probably about 20 degrees cooler here in the mountains of NC - so a lot better that way too.

The chapel here is nice but rather small, so this conference had a max of 300. We either met it or got rather close because the chapel was full. That's good for singing. Dr. Fickenscher from the Ft. Wayne Seminary is the first of our two plenary speakers, and guess who made it onto the stage during his first session?


Yes, our own Miss Juliana was part of the "human timeline" Dr. Fickenscher put together to talk about where the Reformation fit into history.

The first Breakaway sessions were after dinner and Evening Prayer, and I had one of these first slots. It's tough at the end of a long day, but it went pretty well. I had better than expected attendance - filled the room they put me in. My topic this year is: Should Christianity Be Legal? to get the kids thinking not only about threats to Christianity in our world today but how we think about ourselves as Christians, learning some lessons from history. I'm up again today in the second afternoon session, right before dinner.

We also got to see some fireworks last night - I love fireworks! A good cap to the day. I took a short video of the finale, but think I accidentally deleted it on my phone. :-(  Yes, technology bites me in the butt again.

Well, off to shower now . . .

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Litany of Humility

Came across this in my reading yesterday and thought I would share it.

Litany of Humility

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart,
Make my heart like yours.

From self-will, deliver me, O Lord.
From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me, O Lord.
From the desire of being loved, deliver me, O Lord.
From the desire of being extolled, deliver me, O Lord.
From the desire of being honored, deliver me, O Lord.
From the desire of being praised, deliver me, O Lord.
From the desire of being preferred to others, deliver me, O Lord.
From the desire of being consulted, deliver me, O Lord.
From the desire of being approved, deliver me, O Lord.
From the desire to be understood, deliver me, O Lord.
From the desire to be visited, deliver me, O Lord.

From the fear of being humiliated, deliver me, O Lord.
From the fear of being despised, deliver me, O Lord.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, deliver me, O Lord.
From the fear of being calumniated, deliver me, O Lord.
From the fear of being forgotten, deliver me, O Lord.
From the fear of being ridiculed, deliver me, O Lord.
From the fear of being suspected, deliver me, O Lord.
From the fear of being wronged, deliver me, O Lord.
From the fear of being abandoned, deliver me, O Lord.
From the fear of being refused, deliver me, O Lord.

That others may be loved more than I, Lord, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, Lord, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, Lord, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, Lord, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I go unnoticed, Lord, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others my be preferred to me in everything, Lord, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Lord, grant me the grace to desire it.

At being unknown and poor, Lord, I want to rejoice.
At being deprived of the natural perfections of body and mind, Lord, I want to rejoice.
When people do not think of me, Lord, I want to rejoice.
When they assign me the meanest tasks, Lord, I want to rejoice.
When they do not even deign to make use of me, Lord, I want to rejoice.
When they never ask my opinion, Lord, I want to rejoice.
When they leave me at the lowest place, Lord, I want to rejoice.
When they never compliment me, Lord, I want to rejoice.
When they blame me in season and out of season, Lord, I want to rejoice.

Blessed are those who suffer persecution for Jesus' sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

(This is an expanded adaptation of the Litany of Humility by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val as found in The Power of Silence by Robert Cardinal Sarah, p 17-19.)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Luther Conference

This is where I will be this week:


The line-up of speakers for this conference looks promising - I will let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Week That Was

Had a busy past seven days with a couple of trips and lots of other stuff going on. Won't bore you with the details, just some pictures to look at!

First, some of the fox family that seems to be living - at least part of the time - under our sun porch.


One of the kits coming out from under the sun porch.


All three of the kits together.

On Saturday night, I got to go to a Washington Nationals game with my youngest daughter. It was school Safety Patrol night and she got a free ticket. They were playing the Phillies! Not bad seats, though it was pretty cold!




Before the start of the game with the scoreboard behind us.



Our view of the game. We were in row T, so about 20 rows up from the field.


Teddy, one of the racing presidents!

With my kids now home from college and us all together (for a few days anyway), we all went to see my Dad . . .



This was just two days after the oral surgeon had to dig out an abscess - he's doing really well! (The good thing about dementia - the next day, he didn't remember anything about having to drive all around and all the pain involved.)


Petting "his" cat.

Funny story: While my wife was visiting last week, he said: "I've always been a dog person, but here I went and got myself a cat!" :-)  Glad he feels at home.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Comps. Passed.

As I was waiting in line at the airport yesterday to board my flight home, I received an email from my advisor at school notifying me that I have passed all my comprehensive exams. Yea! I will now receive a Master of Philosophy degree and am eligible to apply for "candidate status" - meaning to begin work on my dissertation, the last step to a Ph.D. As of yet I am undecided if I will actually take this last step or step away. I will speak with my advisor soon and begin that discussion. Many other folks are giving input as well. It's not a small decision - lots of work involved. So we'll see.

But for now, I am going to enjoy and rejoice in achieving this milestone! :-)

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Oh, the Joys . . .

. . . of not having your own building continue! This weekend is our annual Good Shepherd Seminar. We fly in a professor from our Ft. Wayne Seminary who holds forth on a topic for us on Saturday, and then leads Bible Class and preaches for us on Sunday. Every year we've held this at the same hotel, for eleven years now. We never had any trouble. Never. Ever.

Until this year.

At about 8:30 last night, we arrive at the hotel and they know nothing about us. Zilch. Nada. No reservations at all. The meeting room had been rented to another group. We have no place to have our seminar. We call to other area hotels, but they either have no meeting space, have already committed it, or want to charge something spectacularly high since we're over a barrel. And at that time of night, it's most difficult to get a hold of the hotel managers anyway.

We had our contract with them, but the sales manager who made it no longer works there and apparently didn't enter it into their system - or however they do it. Sigh. Fortunately, they still had a guest room for our professor, so we got that. But now we'll have to meet at local members house. It'll be a bit cramped, but we'll make do. But what a headache last night! And trying to communicate to everyone coming today for the seminar to go to a new location. We'll have a sign up at the hotel and information there - hopefully everyone will get to the new location okay.

The professor was very good and good natured about it all. And, lesson learned. Check. Double check. Confirm. Triple confirm. But this I know, too: it will be a good seminar today, despite the circumstances. :-)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Amusing

You know what amuses me? Pastors who left the Lutheran Church for Orthodoxy who still quote hymns from the Lutheran hymnal in their blog posts! Hmmm . . .

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Update

Well, time for a school update . . .

As I've posted before, I've been finished with my Ph.D. classwork for some time now and had my exams to take. I'd taken a leave of absence to deal with family issues, but the time had come to fish or cut bait, as they say. My congregation graciously allowed me to cut back on a few things this January - March, so that I could take my exams in April. As the year began, I registered and began studying.

Then my father went into the hospital . . . and went again . . . and went again. Again, as I've written before, this is tough because my wife and I need to be there with him because of his dementia. When he is sick, he is prone to agitation and upset when he doesn't have someone he knows there. So, my studying took a hit. Its just very hard to get much done in the hospital.

But I tried. In the beginning of March I had one exam to pass so that I could move onto my big, three-day, comprehensive exams. Well, I didn't do well. In fact, I was pretty sure I had not passed - 95% percent or more sure. So I was pretty bummed. At the same time I got slammed with an issue in the district that sucked up a lot of time, so for three week I didn't check my school email and I didn't continue studying. (For why study for exams I won't get to take anyway?)

Well, after about three weeks I decided to log onto my school email and just get the bad news over with. Except . . . I passed. As I told my advisor, I didn't know any human being had that much grace in them! But now I was in a pickle - for my exams were to come up in a couple of weeks and I was not prepared! Both because I got set back with my father's hospitalizations, and because I had stopped studying for a few weeks. But I also don't want to keep having these things hanging over my head, and my congregation had been so gracious. So I called my advisor to see how to move forward.

Turns out my advisor never got the email I sent him to register for my exams! I don't know what
happened, if the fault was on my end, his end, or somewhere in between, but no paperwork, no necessary signatures, nothing had been done! And this is all supposed to be in place 30 days before the exams which were now two weeks away. My advisor said he would see what he could do. Originally, if all had gone according to plan, I was to take them April 10-12 which, for those of you liturgically astute, is Holy Week! Yes, the first three days of Holy Week. My advisor realized these probably weren't the best days for a pastor to be taking them, but we'll see.

So he asks for permission for special days for me, which is sometimes done. I thought maybe the first week in May, since that was finals week. Kinda makes sense. These are like my finals. Administration says no. The logistics wouldn't work out; people wouldn't be in place. They counter with some alternate dates: what about April 17, 19, 20? Well that doesn't make sense, since the days aren't consecutive (which they're supposed to be), the 17th classes aren't in session and so the logistical and personnel would be a problem that day too, and the day after Easter is still not an optimal day for a pastor! So, we counter with April 24-26. Accepted.

That gives me one week after Easter to cram for the exams. So cram I did. The days for the exams came. I woke up each morning super early to study and get my notes together, reviewed them on the Metro, and then took them. Now I must say, in my opinion the exams were quite fair - no outlandish questions, no unreasonable minutiae. And I think I did as well as I could expect. My answers fairly reflect what I know. Now the question is: is that enough? I really have no idea. Just have to wait for the results.

But, as if all that isn't enough, one more heart-stopping thing happened. On Thursday, the day after all the exams were done and I was feeling quite a sense of relief, I get a call from the Associate Director of Graduate Studies . . . there was a problem with my exams. Oh no. They didn't have one of them. You see, each day I would go to an office with a computer they had ready for me, write my answers, and then email the test to the Associate Director. Except the third day, I emailed the wrong test. So she had two copies of the second day and did not get the third. Oh no! Was it still on the computer? In the trash? I really didn't want to go back and do it again! So I gave her my account logon information and waited while she went and checked it out. I think that was the longest 30 minutes or so of my life! Then she calls me back: she found it. It was there. All was in order.

Heart, you can start beating again . . .

So that's the story right now. I am waiting for the result. What will I do then? I don't know. If I pass, the school can give me candidate status, meaning I am full steam ahead to write my dissertation. But do I want to commit to that? That means several more years of intense research and writing, including a boat load of translating that I would need to do. And will I be able? Will my father go back in the hospital and need me to be there? Will I be able to travel for sources and research? Did I have the energy to devote to such an endeavor? I don't know. I am leaning toward no right now, though many are encouraging me to keep going. If I stop (assuming I pass) I can receive a Master of Philosophy - not a small accomplishment. So we'll see.

Now, I'm trying to catch up on all the stuff I put off to study!