Thinking Out Loud

February 19, 2019

An Amazing Divine Appointment

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:22 am

This picture was taken in Boca de Sama, one of the villages. It’s possible that some of the resort and tour staff live in places like this, but more likely they live in crowded cities.

Before Ruth and I left for Cuba last week, someone asked me if we were going on a mission trip. I supposed that’s more consistent with our history as a couple, but no, the purpose of the trip was ostensibly pleasure.

However, as with our previous trip there, we did take some Spanish New Testaments and Christian books; about 12 pieces in total. (I greatly regret not having taken about four more.) This is so important when Canadians are travelling to Cuba because Americans can’t go there, and Europeans don’t have access to U.S. Christian resources in Spanish.

There is a tradition of Canadians leaving gifts on the bed each morning for the housekeeping staff — so we include a piece of literature here — but I did give a few directly.

And the we met L., part of the resort’s entertainment staff. He was standing talking to the lifeguards and we got into a one-to-one conversation about family, education, work, faith and life in general.

Do you believe in divine appointments? I have goosebumps just typing this. They happen but you have to be programmed to expect them and then intentional about making them happen.

Either that day or the next I said to him, “Would you like a Bible?” He said he had one but it was borrowed and wanted to give it back to the person who had given it to him. (God was already at work!)

The reason I felt bold enough to come out and ask him if he wanted one — feeling bad that I had to walk it back and say it was only a New Testament — is because of another divine appointment we had with Steve, another guy from Canada who is spending a month at one of the resorts. Steve is a whole other story which I’ll save.

L. never got the Bible the next day. We just didn’t connect. But we did the day after.

And then he said something extraordinary: “Are you going to the buffet? I’d like to join you for lunch.” Just that day I had comment that you never see the hotel staff at the buffet. God was up to something!

For an hour we talked (Ruth was there for 75% of it and made some excellent contributions.) Christianity in Cuba has its beginnings in Roman Catholicism — though Pentecostalism is growing rapidly — and L. struggled with the sacramental view of baptism; that it is the human agency of salvation; that it changes you into a different person. There were many other discussions including about words which are important but not Bible words, such as “trinity” or “incarnation.”

The subject turned back to his family. I told him to be sure to impart his faith to his kids, mentioning them by name. For some reason I started tearing up at that point and so did he. He then told me it had been an hour and he had to get back to work.

Pray for L., his partner (couples tend to live together in Cuba) and his two kids A. and L.  His sister is an Evangelical — they call us Evangelists which is appropriate — so he does have other possibilities for getting his questions answered.

Do you believe in divine appointments? I do. This came at a time of genuine spiritual disappointment, and yet for an hour afterwards, I walked the length of beach in amazement of how God set it up. Pray also for J. who was so happy to get a copy of “In Touch” by Charles Stanley which helped break open a wider conversation. (I think many of the Canadian Christian tourists are very reticent about their faith while on holiday.) Pray also for T., our housekeeper, who was the recipient of about 7 of our pieces of literature.

Pray also for M. who took us on all-day jeep tour including a hike and swim in the mountains. He grew up Quaker — a large Christian group with a strong presence in Cuba — but like many Cubans, can’t get to church because they are always working.

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December 13, 2018

Strasbourg Christmas Market Shoppers Weren’t Expecting Bullets

Reports of killing rampages which take place in Europe may seem a world away, but it’s different when you walked those same streets just five months earlier. You have a mental picture which no television news crew can come close to approximating. You remember how those streets fit together. You remember the crush of people when you were there. You try to imagine what you might do or where you would run if the same thing had happened on the day you visited.

Crowd scenes have always been potential threats. For as long as I’ve lived, I’ve been aware of men switching their wallets to their front pockets and women clutching their purses more tightly. But of late we’ve realized that every concert, every sporting match, every trip to the shopping mall is fraught with the possibility of a random act of violence being carried out by someone mentally deranged or having a political agenda.

As we walked the streets of Strasbourg earlier this year, those thoughts are always in the back of your mind, but they are buried deep — very deep — as you take in the sights and sounds and smells. The people at the Christmas market on Tuesday night were no doubt in the same head-space; not expecting anything the second before the bullets could be heard.

The city we saw was beautiful. In the collage above, the upper left corner looks like it’s from a tourism photo. The tour boat came by at the right time and there was a young couple, possibly on their honeymoon, standing next to us who I chose not to photograph. We had crossed the border from Germany an hour earlier and after an unnecessarily long bus ride, had been let loose in this picturesque place that stated so clearly we were now in France.

Christmas Markets are a big deal in Europe. Our friend Lorne has written about them extensively. When you’re in the moment of a scene like the one upper right, you never think of people firing shots into the crowd; you never consider your vulnerability. Your brain doesn’t say, “I could be dead in the next five seconds.”

Which is how it should be. You ought to be able to enjoy an occasion like this in relative security. But that’s not the world we live in.

As of this morning the confirmed death toll is 3, with 13 people injured.


(I’ve included enlarged versions of the two pictures mentioned below.)

 

August 14, 2018

Diary of an Anne Frank Tourist

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:33 am

 

I have not read the book. My wife had, and before leaving for Amsterdam, she purchased tickets for us to tour the memorial site and the actual house where Anne Frank and her family lived before being discovered and then transferred to concentration camps.

For my wife, an unusual revelation was that the original diary is plaid, something she just never pictured, as captured in the cover for this, as well as the 60th Anniversary Edition.

I have however read the book and seen the movie for The Hiding Place, which has many similarities (and one striking difference) to the story in Diary of a Young Girl. Were we ever to return to Amsterdam, I would consider taking the train to Haarlem to see the clock and watch shop where that story played out, not really that far from where we were.

Groups are admitted about a dozen at a time. We’re given an audio tour guide, which sometimes triggers automatically when you enter a key area, at other times you need to point it at a designated mark on the wall.

The focus is the adjacent house. The house where Anne kept her diary. The house where her family lived. The house they were unable to leave.

Everyone reacts differently, I’m sure, but for me, this was the story which never should have happened. I’m not unaware of what happened in the Holocaust — film footage shown by a first year Sociology professor quickly took care of that — but the horror is never something to which one becomes accustomed. Each story opens it up like a wound that won’t heal.

And I have no skin in this game. No relatives. No immediate friends. Just the brotherhood and sisterhood that unites all humanity and the dawning that all vestiges of humanity and decency were set aside during those war years.

But this is 2018. As I tour the facility, I am reminded that many — not all — of the Protestant establishment of the day went along with Hilter’s initiatives and I can’t disconnect this to the present-day Evangelical support for another head of state. A comparison? In the willingness of Christians to swear unlimited allegiance to a leader whose capacity to lead is at best questionable? If the shoe fits, yes. […sound of people unsubscribing…]

That’s the part that scares me. The foolhardiness of saying, “Well, at least that could never happen today.”

Who’s to say?

There is an eerie silence as people snake through the different rooms of the exhibit. Even the children are relatively hushed. At the end, the tour exits to the street, but I take a different turn, approaching a security guard who seems to be in charge and asking if people are ever physically overcome with emotion.

He’s clear that certainly for Jewish people that is the case, stopping to pray at or near the exit or in the street. There are tears. There is the shortness of breath that goes with emotional overload.

How can they not?

The guard had also worked at another Jewish memorial. The reactions are similar. So why put yourself through that? Why not enjoy your visit doing something fun?

Because people tend to forget. The Holocaust story needs to be told, and it needs to be repeated, and it needs to be repeated often.

This is what happens when a person has both the view that one race is superior to another, and the power to act on that belief.

It ends badly.


Click the individual pictures at top to view full size

 

July 17, 2018

Longing for Connection

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:44 am

Have you ever done this?

You’re a zillion miles from home and you’re walking through a mall or a downtown street and you’ve got your radar on to see if you see anyone you know.

You don’t know anyone.

It’s a given.

(Well, extremely unlikely.)

But you keep scanning anyway.

Just in case.

We’re human.

We’re social.

We long for connection to other people.

We’re wired that way.

Most of us.

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 31, 2017

Ark Encounter Not the First to Remember Noah

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:16 am

Despite bringing much attention to the Genesis narrative surrounding Noah and his boat, Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter in Kentucky — pictured above in its LGBT-friendly colors — is not the first.

First of all, how about an Ark that floats! “The Ark of Noah replica was built by Johan Huibers from 2008 – 2013. The Ark is in the Netherlands and has attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors.” A voyage to Brazil was cancelled due to uncertainty involving the Olympics and Zika virus. You’ll find more on this online by searching for Johan’s Ark.

Another Noah’s Ark — also in the floating category — is owned by Dutch TV and theater producer Aad Peters. Peters has been living on the ship for five years and is the owner of what can best be described as a floating museum of biblical artifacts. This one travels around and has visited various ports in Norway, Holland and Germany.

In my home and native land, in Cobden, Ontario, Noah’s Ark Restaurant is a big feature at Logos Land Resort.

Most commendable is this Noah’s Ark Theme Park, complete with fiberglass animals, which sits in front of the Tsing Ma Bridge in Hong Kong.  A Daily Mail article notes that the structure, built by two billionaire brothers, “is now run by Christian organizations, who use it to promote peace and unity.” 

Next is Noah’s Ark Water Park in Wisconsin, considered the largest water park in North America. If anything on the grounds actually resembled Noah’s big boat, we couldn’t find a picture of it after 15 minutes of sleuthing.

If you’re thinking of doing the tour, you’re too late for this one. The Noah’s Ark Restaurant in St. Charles, Missouri was razed in 2007.

There’s also an ark that you may have already seen, especially if you go to the movies. For this one, we settled on a mid-construction pic of the Noah’s Ark built in 2006 for the film Evan Almighty.

Then there’s the Noah’s Ark itself — the actual resting place of the original — as documented in this Strange Mysteries video.


Wanna go nuts with this topic? After all the research was done, we found this website.

July 27, 2017

Resenting the Church’s Wealth

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:34 am

Before leaving Austria’s Melk Abbey, I persuaded my wife to buy two small postcards. It was a rather strange place to make our only abbey/cathedral/church expenditure because she was not terribly impressed with this particular excursion.

She found it extremely opulent and it was such a huge contrast to the simple crucifix that we had seen in the museum. The two postcards were meant to ask the question, “How did we get from this to this?” In other words, how did the death of the simple, peripatetic rabbi as a common criminal lead to the layers and layers of gold which adorned the worship space?

One answer that was given us on another tour was that the churches and cathedrals “must outdo the palaces” because “God deserves better than the King.”

Just ponder that for a few minutes…

…I wonder to what extent the average person at the time of construction could come to resent the church’s wealth? When your family is living in a cold and damp hovel in the middle of cruel winter and you’ve had to skip supper because the rats have eaten the food you had set aside to cook that night; and then you look out the window and see this gigantic gold-topped cathedral being built just a mile or two from your home, do you start to wonder about the equity of all things? Or do you in fact the connect the dots as we did and wonder how the simple story of the teacher who told his closest disciples to carry no bag for their journey and focus on building heavenly treasure gave way to stained glass and organs and statues and twelve libraries?

Fast forward to 2017. Are things much different? Do people resent the church’s wealth today? When your family is living in subsidized housing and the landlord refuses to fix the hot water heater and you’ve had to skip dinner because the refrigerator is empty, the Food Stamps/EBT debit card is missing and the only friend who might help you out is in lockup for DUI; when you look out the window and see the megachurch on the other side of the freeway which now prevents you from seeing the sunset; do you start to wonder why that huge building needs to exist at all while you go hungry? Do you connect the dots and wonder how the story of the Nazareth carpenter who preached the Sermon on the Mount and told the rich young man to sell everything gave way to an air-conditioned house of worship with 2,600 plush seats and a fully equipped children’s ministry center and state-of-the-art sound and lighting?

Are we still trying to outdo the palace?

July 22, 2017

A Place Where God Isn’t

Filed under: Christianity, personal — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:43 am

Crowds in Prague are looking upward, not for some spiritual reason, but rather waiting for the 12:00 Noon strike of the Astronomical Clock

First of all, let’s deal with the theological error in today’s title. No, there is no place where God is not present, but I’m sure there are many places in this world, beyond the ones that we explored, where it seems that way.

Our last tour guide said something to the effect, “Most people here [Czech Republic] do not have a religion because we’ve [collectively, historically] tried religion and we see that it doesn’t do anything [help, solve problems].”

Again, we need to look at a statement like that theologically as well, because if the Bible teaches us anything it shows that when it appears “there is no one left” it often turns out that God has a remnant of people who have stayed loyal to him.

Peering through the glass doors at the back while a Priest leads a small group in a midweek 5:00 PM mass.

In the 2011 census, 34.5% claimed no religion and 44.7% did not answer the question. That situation leaves us with 10.4% Roman Catholic, 0.5% identified with an Evangelical denomination there and 0.8% claiming affiliation with “Christian churches not exactly stated” along with even smaller percentages of other groups.

However, we know that historically, under Communism, answering a question about religion on a government survey would be unwise. It’s possible that in that combined 79.2% saying they are ‘nones’ or skipping the question there is room for belief.

Still, it stands in contrast to the vast number of cathedrals and churches and synagogues (0.01% present membership) that are clustered throughout the cities and countryside. It stands in contrast to the degree to which religious belief is interwoven throughout the country’s history.

At the end of June, a four day rally or festival was held in Prague, the third such summer event held as part of the Awakening Europe series begun with Nuremberg in 2015 and Stockholm in 2016.  On their website, one of the organizers wrote:

Even though it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world outwardly, to my heart it seemed like Nineveh, caught in the valley of decision – not knowing where to go. There are many cities like it all across Central Europe…

That’s how I felt. Despite the history. Despite the beautiful churches. The words of the tour guide keep echoing as I write this.

On the second last day, I told her that for some of us, the Jesus story is real, and vital, and life-changing and something we commit our lives to daily. She was cordial, but I felt like I was being met by a blank stare.


Awakening Europe (June 29 – July 2) on YouTube. Organizers from the UK’s GOD-TV seem to have brought a Charismatic worship style, but I hope they presented a strong apologetic that would rationally and intellectually present the Christian message to seekers. My other concern with this event is that possibly the majority of attendees were simply Christians from other parts of Europe.

 

 

 

 

 

July 20, 2017

Sensory Overload

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:02 am

Up until the night we arrived in Prague, there were two times in recent memory when I experienced sensory overload.

The first was expected. Fireworks on New Years Eve at Walt Disney World in Orlando. They actually do an early show and then another at midnight and we stayed for both. But that was anticipated.

The second was unexpected, and happened in just a moment. Our youngest son had the lead role in a play at his college and when the curtain call came and the applause intensified when he took his bow, as a parent I wasn’t exactly pleased or proud. I was dazzled. That was our kid they were clapping for. I wish him more successes like that.

But now I must add a third one. We had arrived in Prague late in the day and after a welcome meeting in the hotel lounge, we were offered a “vicinity tour” consisting of nothing more than half mile from where were staying. Now remember, we had already seen Budapest and Vienna and various smaller places. We weren’t about to be amazed by the old buildings or the trams or the late night shoppers.

But what happens when they’re all there at once?

The city was just teeming with life. In fact if I have any impression of Prague it’s simply that the place is so very much alive.

We’re not the only ones to say this. There’s something about this city that simply hooks people. Some friends of ours got to live there for a year with their three kids. They returned last summer and now, having seen the place, I walked up to them individually at church on Sunday and asked, “How could you ever leave?” In one of the conversations I added, “There must have been tears;” and at that one of their daughters looked at me as if to be happy to find someone who gets it.

I get it. So does the guy we met on the tram on our last day. He came for a few weeks. He’s been there a few days. Work visa? “That’s something we don’t talk about on public transit;” he replied. I almost hope he gets to continue flying under the radar.

This trip was an extension of our river cruise — I’m not posting these impressions chronologically — that at one point in the three hour bus ride I started to question. Even the drive to the hotel and check in wasn’t particularly impressive.

But all that changed in about 30 seconds. If you get a chance to see this city, don’t pass it up. It’s alive!

July 16, 2017

We’re Back from Europe

We are back from eleven days in Europe

In the early days of my reading faith-focused blogs — approximately 2005 to 2009 — I was often disappointed to turn to some of my favorite writers only to learn they had taken the day to talk about their latest vacation. This occurred at a time when even an out-of-state (or province in our case) trip would have been impossible. Over the years there have been four significant factors preventing us from going anywhere. In order:

  • Raising children, including one who would have been considered special needs at the time.
  • My health; though we did take some road trips.
  • Economics, especially in the sense of affording air travel.
  • My parents health which perhaps wasn’t always as much a barrier as we thought, but certainly did require us to be in daily contact, which would have complicated an overseas holiday.

So when the opportunity to catch up arose, we selected a package which took us to Hungary, Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic. We also passed through Slovakia which I later got to visit more closely while Ruth took a different side trip.

I knew nothing of these countries prior to leaving and did not have time to do much research. I probably could have pointed to Germany on a map and said something about wiener schnitzel, polka music and beer. (For the record, I don’t remember hearing an accordion and my beer consumption consisted of splitting one with my wife on the last day of the trip.)

As familiar as sightseeing destinations are in Paris and England and Rome, the recent terrorist activity in the first two doesn’t lend itself to worry-free touring. (I’ll grant that Germany has not escaped such events.) So we chose this particular set of countries. They were different. They were unknown. They were a nine-hour flight away.

The trip was certainly eye-opening. As I sit typing this at 5:45 in the morning — my body confused by the six hour time difference — I am reminded particularly of our reaction the first day to the historical sections of Budapest on our first full day, and our first glimpse of the old town of Prague last Wednesday. It was surreal.

We were there. It wasn’t a movie set. We saw it. We felt the bricks. We walked on the cobblestones. We pinched ourselves a few times to make sure it wasn’t a dream.

In North America, generally speaking nothing old is older than the late 1700s. Our old buildings are mostly mid-to-late 1800s. In Europe, tour guides speak of a structure saying, “this was erected in the year 921” as casually as they are reminding you not to leave personal belongings on the bus. “…And the one on the left was built in the 1100s.”

Europe is also all about cathedrals. Our last tour director — the trip was in two stages — told us that many travelers reach a the ABC stage, meaning “Another bloody castle.” But they might also say, “Another bloody cathedral.” You know your brain is saturated when, knowing the ornateness and beauty that awaits inside, you pass by because you are simply cathedraled-out.

But it does offer the opportunity to consider a number of faith-focused things. Tomorrow we’ll look at the emergence of a new group of conservative Christians in Germany, and then move on to look at

  • The very not-seeker-sensitive synagogue district in Prague
  • Resenting the church’s wealth
  • Church funding in Germany
  • Meeting people who grew up Godless

and other topics as I think of them and go through our pictures.

So that’s the line-up for this week, plus hopefully a return of the link list on Wednesday.

If you don’t want to hear about someone’s holiday excursion when having one of your own seems remote right now, please understand I totally get that.



The Eugene Peterson Thing

On the last few days of our trip an interview Religion News’ Jonathan Merritt did with Eugene Peterson blew up into a major tempest and then within 24 hours, as quickly as it had begun, the gale subsided. We’ll obviously be focused on other things this week, but here’s a 7:00 AM Sunday morning update from Religion News in case you missed it:

  • Jonathan Merritt’s column was actually the third in a series of Q&As with the author. | Read the story
  • Merritt’s question to Peterson was by no means unfounded, especially given what he said in this 2014 video. | Read the story
  • Our summer intern Madeleine Buckley looked at other prominent Christians who’ve had a change of heart on LGBT issues. | Read the story
  • Commentator Jacob Lupfer says the controversy shows that Peterson is exactly where most non-mainline Christians are — “confused, conflicted, and torn between fidelity to beliefs … and compassion for people they know and love.” | Read the story

Note: I thought what Peterson said about engaging in hypotheticals in interviews like this was brilliant; it’s hard for a pastor to answer a question which begins if there was a gay couple and if they were Christians and if they asked you to marry them…

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