Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Ok, I'm cheating...

but this is too good not to share. It's been printed twice already, and I'm going to quote this section here just in case you missed it ... because it's too good to miss, and too important not to read it again and again. And all I have to add is "Amen and Amen".

Reconcile. What does it mean to be reconciled to one another and to God?
Does it mean we agree to tolerate one another's differences, while privately holding the conviction that the other person is wrong? Does it mean we must all be alike in thought and word and deed? Does it mean that we must have identical theologies, worship styles and sermons?I don't believe it does. I'm not the sort of Christian who believes that the only true Christians are those who believe and worship exactly as I do. I'm just not convinced that God works that way.

God's grace is too wide, God's mercy is too deep, God's creation
of a diverse world suggests so clearly that we're not all meant to be the same.
I think that applies to thought and theology as well as to physical appearance and temperament.

If we're all created in the image of God, then we all have something to learn about God's nature from one another.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

why are we running?

Dow Chemical is currently sponsoring the Blue Planet Run. The purpose is to raise awareness of the need for clean and safe drinking water around the world, and to raise money in an effort to do something about the problem. 20 people are running for 95 days, 24 hours a day, across 16 countries and over 15,200 miles. Of course they are not all doing it at once ... it is a sort of relay. But the impact is made: Wow! That's a long time! That's really far! What an incredible physical challenge!!

I don't think runs like this are bad, but I'm just struck by how odd it is. Personally, I've run in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Thanksgiving Day 5k several times, and I've participated in the Blue Bell Fun Run to raise money for the Brenham High School Athletic Program in Brenham, Texas (all the blue bell you could eat was available at the finish line!!!) And several good friends have participated in a number of races, marathons, biking events, etc. to raise money and awareness for a number of different health-related phenomena, including Juvenile Diabetes and Leukemia and Muscular Dystrophy.

There are several benefits I see: 1) money and awareness are raised; 2) people who might not ordinarily go for a jog are inspired to give sacrificially of themselves in an effort to help others. It's not just about saying, "Hey, there's a problem here, why don't you give money to help out" they're saying "not only is there a problem, but I'm willing to put myself through physical suffering (depending on your level of fitness) to show you how much I care about this particular problem. Please support me by giving a little money"; 3) people who run or bike or walk derive huge feelings of self-satisfaction from doing the physical exercise involved; 4) companies who sponsor the events get social awareness and community involvement points.

Does it matter, in the end, if some of the companies do it only for the name-recognition they gain, as well as for the social awareness and community involvement points? Does it matter if we do it more for ourselves, really, than for the program we claim to support?

A problem I see is that all of this costs us very little, in the end. Yes, we have to put out the effort to run on the race day, and we go through weeks or months of training (if you work with a group like Team-in-Training), and we give money to the programs. But we also have a great deal of fun on the race day, and connect with others who have the same concerns and cares, or who are just interested in having a good time at the race. What impact does this have on the people we are trying to help? Is it really the best and most efficient way for us to change their world and their lives for the better, whatever they happen to need? Or is it more about making us, as a society, as people living in a world of privilege, feel good about ourselves and our ability to give of ourselves for others?

In the world of charity and their support, it is an interesting phenomenon to me. We are certainly called to GIVE, and to give of ourselves sacrificially (which I don't feel like I do, to be completely honest here.) But why are we running? And having benefit concerts? As much as I like these events, and will continue to support them (and my friends who choose to take part!!), I wonder if they aren't more about us than about the people we're trying to help. I'd love to hear your thoughts about this!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Regina Jonas

Regina Jonas (1902-1944) was the first female rabbi. She was ordained in Berlin in 1935 and murdered in Auschwitz in 1944. This is a picture of a picture in the Jewish Museum in Berlin. To explain her call as a Rabbi, Regina Jonas said the following:

"If I am asked ... to confess, what drove me, as a woman, to become a rabbi ... (it was) belief in my calling and love of my fellow man. God has bestoyed on each one of us special skills and vocations without stopping to ask after our gender. This means each one of us, whether man or woman, has a duty to create and work in accordance with those God-given gifts."

Addendum: At the New Synagoge in Berlin (Oranienburgerstr.) I learned that Rabbi Jonas was the first and only female Rabbi in Germany. She was never given her own pulpit, but ended up filling in for male colleagues who were taken to concentration camps, until she herself was taken.

the Servant Song

I will hold the Christlight for you

Pastor Amy reflects lovingly about her kids' experiences with VBS this week: Talk With the Preacher: Thank God for VBS

but I was caught by the words of the song her little boy was singing:

"I will hold the Christlight for you,
In the nighttime of your fear,
I will hold my hand out to you,
Speak the peace you long to hear ..."

More Maureen...

[Aside: NY Times Select may not be around much longer... and then you'll be able to read these yourself! But in the meantime, here's another good op-ed piece:]

A Woman Who's Man Enough
by Maureen Dowd
July 22, 2007

Things are getting confusing out there in Genderville.

We have the ordinarily poker-faced secretary of defense crying over young Americans killed in Iraq.

We have The Washington Post reporting that Hillary Clinton came to the floor of the Senate in a top that put “cleavage on display Wednesday afternoon on C-SPAN2.”

We have Mitt Romney spending $300 for makeup appointments at Hidden Beauty, a mobile men’s grooming spa, before the California debate, even though NBC would surely have powdered his nose for free.

We have Elizabeth Edwards on a tear of being more assertive than her husband. She argued that John Edwards is a better advocate for women than Hillary, explaining that her own experience as a lawyer taught her that “sometimes you feel you have to behave as a man and not talk about women’s issues.”

We have Bill Clinton, who says he’d want to be known as First Laddie, defending his woman by saying, “I don’t think she’s trying to be a man.”

We have The Times reporting that Hillary’s campaign is quizzical about why so many women who are like Hillary — married, high income, professional types — don’t like her. A Times/CBS News poll shows that women view her more favorably than men, but she has a problem with her own demographic and some older women resistant to “a lady president” from the land of women’s lib.

In a huge step forward for her, The Times said that “all of those polled — both women and men — said they thought Mrs. Clinton would be an effective commander in chief.”

So gender isn’t Hillary’s biggest problem. Those who don’t like her said it was because they don’t trust her, or don’t like her values, or think she’s too politically expedient or phony.

There is a dread out there about 28 years of Bush-Clinton rule. But most people are not worried about Hillary’s ability to be strong. Anyone who can cast herself as a feminist icon while leading the attack on her husband’s mistresses, anyone who thinks eight years of presidential pillow talk qualifies her for the presidential pillow, is plenty tough enough to smack around dictators, and other Democrats.

John Edwards and Barack Obama often seem more delicate and concerned with looking pretty than Hillary does. Though the tallest candidate usually has the advantage, Hillary has easily dominated the debates without even wearing towering heels.

When she wrote to Bob Gates asking about the Pentagon’s plans to get out of Iraq, it took eight weeks for an under secretary, Eric Edelman, to send a scalding reply, suggesting that she was abetting enemy propaganda. But Mrs. Clinton hit back with a tart letter to Secretary Gates on Friday and scored something of a victory, since he issued a statement that did not back up his own creep.

Maybe Hillary has had her tear ducts removed. If she acted like a sob sister on the war the way Mr. Gates did, her critics would have a field day.

Even in an era when male politicians can mist up with impunity, it was startling to see the defense chief melt down at a Marine Corps dinner Wednesday night as he talked about writing notes every evening to the families of dead soldiers like Douglas Zembiec, a heroic Marine commander known as “the Lion of Falluja,” who died in Baghdad in May after giving up a Pentagon job to go on a fourth tour of Iraq. “They are not names on a press release or numbers updated on a Web page,” he said. “They are our country’s sons and daughters.”

The dramatic moment was disconcerting, because Mr. Gates, known as a decent guy who was leery of the Bushies’ black-and-white, bullying worldview, has clearly been worn down by his effort to sort out the Iraq debacle. He and Condi, who worked together under Bush I, have been trying to circumvent the vice president to close Gitmo without much success, while the president finds ingenious new ways to allow torture.

Mostly, though, it was moving — a relief to see a top official acknowledge the awful cost of this war. The arrogant Rummy was dismissive. The obtuse W. seems incapable of understanding how inappropriate his sunny spirits are. And the callous Cheney’s robo-aggression continues unabated. (What could be more nerve-racking than the thought of President Cheney, slated to happen for a couple of hours yesterday while Mr. Bush had a colonoscopy? Could it be — a Medal of Freedom for Scooter?)

Mr. Gates captured the sadness we feel about American kids trapped in a desert waiting to be blown up, sent there by men who once refused to go to a warped war themselves.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

"Whatever is unnamed, undepicted in images, whatever is omitted from biography, censored in collections of letters, whatever is misnamed as something else, made difficult-to-come-by, whatever is buried in the memory by the collapse of meaning under an inadequate or lying language-this will become not merely unspoken, but unspeakable."

--Adrienne Rich

Friday, July 20, 2007

Oh, Maureen....

Hey, W! Bin Laden (Still) Determined to Strike in U.S. --- another fun op-ed by Maureen Dowd.

Not a bad idea...

An article from The Australian, suggesting that Australia pull its troops out by Christmas, unless the U.S. engages in "high-level diplomacy" in order to find some way to bring stability to the region: Fraser calls for Iraq withdrawal The Australian

This echoes a call for diplomacy by Thomas Friedman in a July 18, 2007 article, "Help Wanted: Peacemaker" (the link is to a reprint kindly posted on the web for those in need....)

But the White House still seems utterly convinced of the rightness of its actions, and of the possibility that the surge could work, despite all appearances to the contrary. It is a mystery to me that they could see what's happening in Iraq and still think their strategy might work out. Of course, it was also a mystery that they thought invading Iraq was a) necessary and b) a good idea.

So let's bring our men and women in the armed forces home, and bring in the diplomats. For those a bit confused by rhetoric, the fact that I want the men and women in the military home and safe, means that I support them. I'm tired of seeing them blown to bits, dehumanized, and otherwise damaged. Their lives are valuable and worth saving.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


How could we do otherwise, having been given so much?

My First Time in New York City - Mixed Emotions - Rutu Modan - Times Select - New York Times Blog

Another fun illustrated blog from the NYT:

My First Time in New York City - Mixed Emotions - Rutu Modan - Times Select - New York Times Blog

The most recent before this was Maira Kalman. Such a treat!!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling - Books - Review - New York Times

This is not ok. The New York Times has already published a review of Harry Potter, and the book's not even out yet. I read it in all innocence, thinking it would be one of the usual previews, but it reveals quite a bit of what happens and even reveals what the title of the book means.

I'm so annoyed. So, don't read this review by Michiko Kakutani, who had NO BUSINESS revealing so much before the book even comes out, until you've had a chance to look at the book yourself.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling - Books - Review - New York Times

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

"crash course in global economics"

So, the exchange rate is awful. But according to Mark Langler (NY Times), the dollar hasn't hit bottom yet. Oh, joy.

And who knew being environmentally responsible would be so chic (and riot-inducing)?

Harry Potter Book 7 is the largest pre-ordered book in history (at least at Barnes and Noble, Border's and

Hello friend!

And congratulations. SO thrilled for you, always. Thanks for telling Henri's story, and for telling it so beautifully.

Happy Anniversary :)

To Mom and Dad, who have been married thirty-SEVEN years, as of today. Congratulations, and have a great day!!

special request

Anonymous requested that I post Psalm 82, because it's important to keep things in perspective.

Psalm 82 (RSV)

1 A Psalm of Asaph.
God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
2 "How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? [Selah]
3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked."
5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
6 I say, "You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you;
7 nevertheless, you shall die like men, and fall like any prince."
8 Arise, O God, judge the earth; for to thee belong all the nations!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

the soul of our nation

[This information is gleaned from today's OpEd in the NY Times by Bob Herbert]

On Sunday, Barack Obama discussed the public school children who've been killed just this year in the city of Chicago. He said that “there’s an epidemic of violence that’s sickening the soul of this nation." He went on to point out that more children have died in Chicago than all of the soldiers from Illinois lost in Iraq during the same period, more have died than died at Virginia Tech, and that there are more gang members on the streets of America than police officers.

He suggested the following concrete steps to improve the state of our nation's children (and thus our nation's soul), requiring both governmental action, and a sense of responsibility on the part of each of us:

1) care as much about them and their loss as we do about the more highly publicized "exceptional" murders;
2) care for the children here already, taking the time to read to them, talk to them, discipline them and guide them. Show them that they matter.
3) Invest more in after-school programs, giving children a safe place to be.

We need to spend much more time hearing about these children than we do about David Beckham, Posh Spice, Knut (the cuddly polar bear in the Berlin zoo), and the latest cure for hyperactive bladders, aging, and erectile dysfunction.

Mark 10:13-16 (The Message)

13-16The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: "Don't push these children away. Don't ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God's kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you'll never get in." Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them.

James 1:26-27 (NIV)

26If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. 27Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Micah 6:8 (The Message)
8But he's already made it plain how to live, what to do,
what God is looking for in men and women.
It's quite simple: Do what is fair and just to
your neighbor,be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don't take yourself too seriously—
take God seriously.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Really cool music ...

"Wa" by Kaissa ... she's from Cameroon, and the song is about love, separation, grief and hope. It's dedicated to her sister, Mamade, who passed away in 2005:

My love
You, I gave all of my heart to, where are you?
You are gone now, so quietly, my dear
You are gone now, God bless your soul.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Good friends

Dorothee Müller, Claudia Schuff, Marco (Ursula's boyfriend), Ursula Müller.

Frau Schuff and her great-great-granddaughter Jana.

At the Müller's. Frau Müller (who wants Mom to know how much she misses her!!! And also that she spoke the best, and most understandable English of anyone.), me (ugh, bad pic, but worth it for everyone else who is on it), Volker Müller, Dorothee, Marco and Ursula.

Annette, Dad and Spaghetti Eis. It's a beautiful thing...

With Lara at Alexanderplatz last night --- after having Gelato :). I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm pretty thrilled so many Italians decided to move to Germany and bring their icecream-making skills with them.

More party pics

Thomas, Christina, and Ursula

The fire-eater.

The fireworks

The cake.

The cake pose. (Immediately prior to eating the yummy cake.)

Party after wedding

With the bride and groom after the church wedding.

Ruben Reiser, Christina's brother, right with Dad and Annette.

The umbrella symbolizes something like showers of blessing ... money and baby paraphernalia are attached.

Inside waiting for dinner ... the multi-course meal started around 7:30 p.m. There were something like 85 or 90 people invited for the dinner (and dancing and etc. etc. etc.). It was a fun night!! Annette and I gave in at about 12:30 or 1, the party itself was rockin' until around 2:00 a.m. Corey requested "I will survive" and managed to get everyone dancing. It was pretty funny. We didn't let him ask for the electric slide, so he then contented himself with asking for "more songs like I will survive". That worked as well. Even Dad got out on the dancefloor to boogie!!!

Wedding pictures

Dad and Michael (musician), waiting for the ceremony to start. Thomas and Christina had had their legal wedding at the Standesamt at 11:00 a.m. The church wedding started at 3:00 p.m.

Thomas, Christina and Ursula (mother of the bride).

Dad preaching. In GERMAN!!!!!!!!

After the blessing.

At the party after the church wedding. There were about 180 people at the church, and they had a nice reception for everyone immediately following the ceremony. Annette, Erin, Amber, Corey (Dad's biggest fan), and Dad.