just an apprentice

the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...

Saturday, December 30, 2006


Saturday, December 23, 2006


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Elephant in the Meetinghouse...

There is a fascinating exchange on Dwight Longenecker's blog in recent posts. There is much to chew on in the Monday post about the elephant in the chancel--authority in the Church and how we interpret Scripture.
The exchange between Fr. Dwight and Nicholas Lubelfeld is beautiful. My words are insufficient, yet I will only open my mouth to utter the words...
God of grace and God of glory, on thy people pour thy pow'r.
Crown thine ancient church's story, bring her bud to glorious flow'r.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the facing of this hour,
for the facing of this hour.
Cure thy children's warring madness; bend our pride to thy control.
Shame our wanton, selfish gladness, rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, lest we miss thy kingdom's goal,
lest we miss thy kingdom's goal.
Save us from weak resignation to the evils we deplore.
Let the search for thy salvation be our glory evermore.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, serving thee whom we adore,
serving thee whom we adore.
There is a powerful arrangement of this hymn done by the EMU Chamber singers on a CD which I recently purchased with some Christmas money. As I have listened to the songs on this CD, this hymn in particular has moved me. The expansive sound of the solemn pipe organ transports me to a beautiful cathedral--which is also a metaphor for the church as I listen. The organ plodingly pulses and gradually crescendos in disonant tones that clash and capture a yearning, a struggle, a pressing forward through time. There is confusion, discordant notes, conflict, tension, movement and intensity. And then there is a break and a single harmonious melody emerges. There is light. There is order after the chaos. Grace. Glory.
This arrangement captures for me the mystery of God's grace revealed in the Church. Not on a linear, cognitive level, but at a visceral, spiritual level.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Simple carols...

Dan Wilt has a blog post where he shares a link to access chord charts and free downloads of how to play simple carols with acoustic guitar.

Angels We Have Heard on High is one that he shares.

You can also download the Christmas carol chord charts.


Friday, December 15, 2006

American schools...

Some are quite critical in their analysis of the current state of American public education. Thomas Friedman, while honest about the challenges, offers a more optimistic spin.

This post is not an in depth opinion on this topic, just a few observations that were triggered by the simple joy of quality learning experiences our third grader had yesterday.

You know it's been a good day at school when you come home from school with a candy dispenser, a ginger bread house and an ecosystem--all products of learning experiences of the day.

The third graders visited the high school yesterday and were engaged in these projects as they worked alongside high school students.

The ecosystem. What an amazing product. The simple joy of planting orange mint leaves in soil that draws water from a subterranean water basin inhabited by a fish. A self-sustaining balanced system. Our neighbor thought it was a molly or a guppy. How fascinating. A learning experience that touches the senses and involves working alongside older mentors from the high school

When learning is fun, when there is visible fruit to the educational process, when working with older learners who can model a quest for knowledge is involved--there is success.

The simple joy of learning is contagious. It came off the bus and is displayed around our house.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Living between the two Advents...

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Grant us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

My soul is filled with joy as I sing to God my savior:
you have looked upon your servant, you have visited your people.

And holy is your name through all generations! Everlasting is your mercy to the people you have chosen, and holy is your name.

I am lowly as a child, but I know from this day forward
that my name will be remembered, for all will call me blessed.

I proclaim the pow'r of God, you do marvels for your servants;
though you scatter the proud hearted, and destroy the might of princes.

To the hungry you give food, send the rich away empty.
In your mercy you are mindful of the people you have chosen.

In your love you now fulfill what you promised to your people. I will praise you Lord, my savior, everlasting is your mercy.

Text: Luke 1:46-55, David Haas
GIA Publications, Inc.

Monday, December 11, 2006


A Christmas season tradition around our house is the making of peppernuts. Dalina usually would come over and help with the process. This year it was Heather and the kids, keeping the tradition alive.

Peppernuts, if you haven't tasted them, are spicy little holiday sweets about the size of a nut. They may be dark and peppery, soft and light, or crisp and crunchy. It is a tradition that comes down through the Russian Mennonites.

I married into this branch of the Mennonites, by marrying a Lousiana girl with Kansas roots. This tradition was preserved by those who came to the midwest from Germany and Prussia. The tradition (along with others such as zwieback and varenika) has made its way to our table through the Unruh-Loewer clan. There is nothing quite like a hot mug of Russian tea and a plate full of peppernuts.

Here is a story from Peppernuts: Plain and Fancy, by Norma Jost Voth (Herald Press, 1978).

"It was almost Christmas in our Berlin refugee camp after World War II," says Elfrieda Dyck. "Food was scarce; coffee didn't exist. We needed something special to brighten the holidays. So we asked our refugee ladies if they would like to bake cookies and peppernuts for Christmas. 'Peppernuts! Too good to be true,' they exclaimed." The camp had flour sent by American churches, but no ovens for baking. Then, thanks to goodwill, a "Christmas miracle" worked out. Peter Dyck was able to make an exchange of flour for the use of a bakery several nights--which meant from midnight to 4 a.m. "You should have seen those women," Elfrieda continues, "sifting, stirring, baking laundry baskets full of peppernuts and cookies. Of course, they were made with what we had--flour, a little sugar, dried eggs, a little lard. But those dear ladies stretched our simple ingredients so that on Christmas Eve each of the 1,100 refugees in camp had a sack of treats with his own name on it." (Later Elfrieda Dyck escorted four shiploads of refugees to a new home in South America. The Dycks served with the Mennonite Central Committee.)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Sweet mother of pearl...

It's Friday. Time for some lighter fare. I found an interesting post by Bradley Wright on slang expressions people use.

"Sweet mother of pearl"
This one is used as some would use "holy cow" or "oh my gosh".

"When I saw all the Christmas shopping traffic downtown today, I loudly exclaimed "sweet mother of pearl, that's a lot of cars."

Here is another hilarious example of this slang expression being used.

Other slang expressionss...

Thanksgiving pants

Pants that are worn in anticipation of eating a huge meal (i.e. Thanksgiving dinner). These pants usually boast an elastic waist, to allow some give for that third helping of sweet potato pie.

The girls and I are going to a buffet for dinner, so I'm wearing my Thanksgiving pants.

google drift

To drift aimlessly between subjects of interest, by finding them accidentally on a web search for something else.

"I was looking for information on the Holocaust and I found a lot of neat sites with historical facts about Germany.""Oh, so you were google drifting."

purple state

A term that is used to descibe a even split in a state between democrat and republican voters.

Ohio is usually a purple state in Presidential Elections.

pot licker

This is one I have only heard used by Wendell Nofziger when we worked together at EMM. Could be used in a good game of Rook or Settlers of Catan, when someone bungles up your strategy with their move.

"Why you little pot licker..."

Any others?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


We are finally taking the big step. We are getting a dog. This is Magnolia. She has already been born. We will bring her back with us from Louisiana at Christmas.

She is a Dachshund. My mother-in-law, Onietta Loewer, raised dachshunds before she passed away in 2004. So Maggie has a special sentimental value for us.

Speaking of Christmas in Louisiana...it is about time we get back to LA. It has been too long. Seafood gumbo here we come.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Litany of Penitence...

Most holy and merciful Father:

I confess to you and to the whole communion of saints in heaven and on earth.
I have not loved you with my whole heart, and mind, and strength.
I have not loved my neighbors as myself.
I have not forgiven others, as I have been forgiven.
Have mercy on me, Lord.

I have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us.
I have not been true to the mind of Christ.
I have grieved your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on me, Lord.

I confess to you, Lord, all my past unfaithfulness:
the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of my life,
I confess to you, Lord.

My self-indulgent appetites and ways, and my exploitation of other people,
I confess to you, Lord.

My anger at my own frustration, and my envy of those more fortunate than I,
I confess to you, Lord.

My intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and my dishonesty in daily life and work,
I confess to you, Lord.

My negligence in prayer and worship, and my failure to commend the faith that is in me,
I confess to you, Lord.

Accept my repentance, Lord, for the wrongs I have done: for my blindness to human need and suffering, and my indifference to injustice and cruelty,
Accept my repentance, Lord.

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward my neighbors, and for my prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from me,
Accept my repentance, Lord.

For my waste and pollution of your creation, and my lack of concern for those who come after us,
Accept my repentance, Lord.

Restore me, good Lord, and let your anger depart from me,
Favorably hear me for your mercy is great.
Accomplish in me and all of your church the work of your salvation,
That I may show forth your glory in the world.
By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,
Bring me with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.†