Thinking Out Loud

September 21, 2018

Prayer Requests in Writing

Prayer is a language unto itself, but it also uses language, and not unlike the emails and Facebook status you may have checked before reading this, it is language which, while it can be visibly seen, usually isn’t.

The reason is that most of our prayers are spoken, or perhaps cried out, or even breathed.

Still, some of you keep a journal where your prayers are written out. Seeing them often makes what is an invisible practice more tangible.

Others of you perhaps have been in a service where you wrote an immediate need or a long-term longing of your heart on a sticky note which you brought forward and placed on something at the front of a church sanctuary or perhaps on a piece of colored paper which you pinned to a wooden cross.

Seeing the above scene in Europe* reminded me of the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Wikipedia reminds us that,

Today, more than a million prayer notes or wishes are placed in the Western Wall each year. Notes that are placed in the Wall are written in just about any language and format. Their lengths vary from a few words to very long requests. They include poems and Biblical verses. They are written on a wide variety of papers, including colored paper, notebook paper and even bubblegum wrappers, using a variety of inks.

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, Rabbi of the Western Wall, receives hundreds of letters yearly addressed to “God, Jerusalem“; he folds these letters and places them, too, in the Wall.

Online services offer petitioners the opportunity to send their notes to the Western Wall via e-mail, fax, text messaging and Internet; the note is then printed out and inserted in the Wall. The Israeli Telephone Company has established such a fax service, as have a number of charitable websites.

But the above replica (if that’s what was intended) is made of plaster covered over with chicken wire, in a place available to all people all the time.

It’s a more tangible expression of what we might normally just say, and then the element of walking away, and leaving our request with God is also significant.

Some churches have a prayer request book in the lobby. Others have an email to which you can send requests. Still others will share requests in the main weekend service, although that practice is widely disappearing.

Does your congregation have a vehicle whereby you put either a physical or a community presence to your petitions to God?


*Picture above, taken by Ruth, is of the Heiliggeistkirche Lutheran Church in Heidelberg, Germany

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January 11, 2018

Random Thoughts from Lorne: Cultural Differences

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:36 am

After a lifetime in Canada, as of October my friend Lorne has moved to Germany. Despite globalization, the world is not one homogeneous place. There are differences — both subtle and overt — and he’s been blogging them. This link takes you to a precis of all the articles so far.

Windows and Mosquitoes:

…In Canada if a window opens it has a screen. The idea is to allow the air to flow in and keep insects out. Simple really. In Europe, wherever we went there were no screens. Private residence, youth hostel, hotel, bed and breakfast, it made no difference. If we were staying in a 400-year-old chateau I could understand, but some of the places we stayed in were recently renovated. There is no reason the windows couldn’t have been fitted with screens when the renovations were done. Europe has mosquitoes too; I saw them (and felt them). Not to mention the other flying creatures that took advantage of the barrier-free access to check out our room.

I can only assume that European mosquitoes, and whatever the continental equivalent of the black fly is, are much less a nuisance than their Canadian counterparts, so people would rather put up with a little inconvenience rather than going to the trouble of installing window screens. No malaria worries either I presume. But I sense a great business opportunity here, or would if I had an entrepreneurial bone in my body. I suspect someone could make a fortune installing screens to keep the bugs out. All it would take is a few early adopters and you could make enough money to retire…

Gas Stations:

…I already knew gas was cost more than twice what I was used to. It was about two dollars Canadian a liter, call it six American dollars a US gallon.

All these things I knew in advance. What I hadn’t thought about was the payment options. There weren’t any. I don’t mean that there wasn’t the option of cash, debit or credit card. But you had to go into the gas station to pay. No payment at the pump.

In our busy world paying at the pump has become the norm. No time “wasted” going inside and having a human interaction…

Corn Off the Cob:

…I’ve looked in stores from four different grocery chains, and none of them stock frozen corn. There is, to be truthful, canned corn, but I can’t see myself getting that desperate. Canned corn brings back memories from my youth of mushy flavorless yellow things.

It’s not that there is no corn being grown here. Quite the opposite. My unscientific observations would place corn second to grapes as a crop. Maybe that’s why I can’t buy any – you can’t buy local grapes in the grocery store either. Well, you can, but in bottles. The local grapes are all turned into wine; the ones you eat are imported.

I’m told I wouldn’t want to eat the local corn, that it isn’t like Canadian corn. It is grown for animal, not human, consumption and cows have less discriminating palates.

Retail Employee Identification:

…In North America it is common for retail salespeople to wear name tags. Turns out they do in Germany too, but there’s a big difference…

…The name tag humanizes the employee. Angry customers are less likely to scream at Donna or John than at someone whose name they don’t know. That’s my theory anyway; no-one has ever disagreed with me.

The name tag worn by clerks in Germany don’t tell me that I have been served by Hans or Jutta. They inform me that I am being served by Herr Schmidt or Frau Muller. Apparently, things are much more formal here…

Metric, But Unfamiliar:

…Canada switched to the metric system in 1975, so I wasn’t anticipating any problems in the kitchen – I know how metric measurements work. I figured I could read the numbers on the packaging…

…Turns out that in Germany you don’t use amounts when you are cooking, no teaspoons or tablespoons or fractions thereof. Everything is done by weight…

Everything But Including The Kitchen Sink:

…In Germany, when you move, you take everything with you. That includes the kitchen sink and the light fixtures. I was grateful the previous tenants left me the light switches and the smoke detectors (though they took the batteries out).

How do you buy a kitchen? I hadn’t a clue where to start, but I was told to go to IKEA…

…I still can’t get my mind wrapped around this massive kitchen industry. In Canada (and the US) we take what is there when we rent an apartment. If you don’t like the kitchen, you rent somewhere else. Much less fuss and hassle. Here kitchen making is a whole industry. When you move you take your kitchen with you. I presume that you only rent a place that you know you can fit your kitchen into…

More Baking Challenges:

…I’m used to working in metric; it is no big deal.

Except they don’t use milliliters here to measure dry goods. They use grams. Every German kitchen has a scale to weigh things like sugar and flour. You can’t buy a measuring cup or measuring spoons. I know, I looked everywhere…

I did have one measuring cup, the only one I could find. It holds a liter. That’s more than an American quart. And it has different markings on the side; the quantity apparently is different whether you are using flour or sugar. I never worried about that at home; a half-cup is a half-cup, liquid or solid. Never had any problems.

The measuring cup has no marking for powdered sugar, which I was using for the cookies. The sugar box said it held 250 grams. If a gram and a millilitre are more or less the same, which is how I bake in Canada, the box was the perfect amount. Except, when I poured it into the measuring cup to make sure, it showed as 400 milliliters…

…Vanilla is powdered here, not a liquid. Food colouring comes not as a liquid in a jar but a type of paste in a tube. Makes it tougher to figure out if you are low on the stuff. There are multiple different types of flour, identified by number. I haven’t tried to figure those out, I just went with the one that seemed the most popular, figuring that was the equivalent of Canadian “all-purpose” flour. Baking powder comes in little envelopes, just like vanilla.

A Holiday Epiphany:

I knew Saturday was January 6. I knew in the church calendar that is Epiphany, the dated celebrated for the arrival of the Magi. But I’m from Canada; it never occurred to me that the date was important enough to be a holiday.

I had planed on grocery shopping Saturday, picking up some staples like flour and sugar that were depleted during the Christmas baking season. So much for that plan. I would also have bought a liter or two of milk, and perhaps some butter, because we go through a lot of both and the stores aren’t open Sundays. That wasn’t going to happen either…

…Turns out Epiphany isn’t a holiday everywhere in Germany, but it is in this state…supposedly because of a large Roman Catholic population. Turns out Epiphany isn’t the only holiday I am going to have to watch out for.

I knew Labor Day was in May here, not September like it is in Canada. But Ascension Day? Pentecost (and that one the holiday is the Monday since Pentecost is always on Sunday, like Easter). Corpus Christi Day? I definitely see a religious theme to the holidays or maybe I should use the old English, holy days

You can connect to all these pieces in Lorne’s Cultural Differences series using a single link.

 

 

July 17, 2017

Conservative Christians in Germany

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:54 am

It was interesting to learn that if anything frustrates Evangelicals in Germany, it is the emergence of conservative Christians who have decided to march under the banner of six day creation instead of, well, perhaps the message of Jesus.

Also at issue is the sovereignty of God. Perhaps this was really dumb on my part, maybe I was tired and missing something, or maybe I’d been away from my computer and the Christian blogosphere for too may days, but I didn’t see this as framed in terms of Calvinism vs. Arminianism — which I never thought to mention — but more in terms of a very narrow view of what constitutes man’s freedom in the everyday; perhaps something more akin to the debates on open theology.

On returning home however, I connected the dots and realized that Neo Calvinism is certainly having an influence there as it is doing here. Probably just as well we didn’t go there, as we had other places to visit and things to see.

But it was the creation thing that rather irked me. I am being greatly influenced by many writers who would belong to the theistic evolutionary view on this, but it’s too early to say I’ve changed my views. If God wanted to do what he did — and the not-so-peripheral issue of intelligent design has to always be on standby in any discussion of this nature — in six twenty-four hour days, then he certainly could. He wouldn’t need a secondary agency in order to accomplish this and he could certainly give this created world an apparent age. But why would he leave us so many indicators that point to something different?

Again, I’m somewhat undecided, or perhaps even apathetic. Let me explain.

My Christianity doesn’t hinge on the first two chapters of Genesis. Not for a moment. I no longer think I can see that as the Genesis so much as our Genesis. As a science professor who was also a Christian explained to me so clearly, to believe the Bible you have to include an Adam who walked with God in the cool of the evening.” I like that Genesis 3:8, which uses that phrase, also introduces our sin story.

But now we’re into the third chapter of the Pentateuch, long past the origins narrative.

What if I had grown up in a culture where evolution is a settled fact? Upon being given a Bible, how would I deal with the conflict or contradiction of Genesis 1 and 2? Perhaps I wouldn’t see it. Hopefully, the person who gave me the Bible would direct me to Mark and John and Luke and Matthew. Hopefully I would meet Jesus first and then, as I gained a deeper understanding of what God’s bigger plans and purposes are — the book of Hebrews would provide the perfect introduction — I would understand the system that was in place prior to the incarnation of the Christ.

To decide to that young earth creationism is the hill to die on is simply to walk into the arena of religious thought looking to pick a fight. There are better ways to be Evangelical than this.


Hunting for a graphic image to associate with this article I came across this article which raises some issues not discussed here. I don’t agree with some of the more inflammatory nature of his approach, but I think he’s making some good points.

The actual image used was from this Seventh Day Adventist article.

March 6, 2010

Those Who Don’t Learn The Lessons of History…

…are doomed to make fools of themselves.

Once and for all, the difference between Martin Luther, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’m always astounded how often this confusion appears, as though out of nowhere, in the middle of conversations. But it is especially lamentable when it takes place among Christian people. I mean the 16th Century reformer doesn’t really look a thing like the 20th Century civil rights activist.  Both were revolutionaries; you could get a high-school term paper out of some similarities, I suppose.

Things could be worse, however:  The last time this came up, later in the discussion, the person thought my reference to Jehovah’s Witnesses using the term “JW” was actually my way of saying “Jew.”

I’m thinking of starting a website as an alternative to TotallyLooksLike.com, that will be called TotallyDoesn’tEvenResemble.com (the domain is available…)

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