Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmass!

A very merry Christmass to my readers and friends. And I wish you the happest of new years for 2013.

And, yes, I have been quiet of late. It's not that I have run out of things to say, but I've not had the strong desire to post things. We'll see if that changes.

Peace and all good, Steven+

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Retrospect: The End of an Era

A very cool video entitled Ride The Last Red Car Los Angeles April 1961.

Personally, I don't think they needed to add all that newer footage of the motorman operating the Red Car. But still, seeing the city from a perspective I am just a wee bit too young to remember...

Monday, November 26, 2012


Continuing from last Monday's post, Henry Weinhard's Private Reserve is every bit as good as I remembered. No, it's not the best beer available, but it is better than most.

So, while I've not finished the 6-pack I bought last week, I purchased another this evening while getting milk at a different Kroger store. Where the young lady at the register asked to see my ID.

Granted, Kroger's policy is to ask for ID of anyone purchasing "adult" goods who looks under 40...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Day of Thanksgiving Is Proclaimed

In response to this annual Proclamation by the President of the United States, the Chapel at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church of Peoria will be open this evening, Thanksgiving Eve, for prayer and Holy Communion beginning at 7 pm. You are welcome to join us -- we're at the corner of Easton and Hayes, one block west of the intersection of Jefferson and Western, on the South Side of Peoria. Fellowship and refreshments follow!

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Presidential Proclamation--Thanksgiving Day 2012

On Thanksgiving Day, Americans everywhere gather with family and friends to recount the joys and blessings of the past year. This day is a time to take stock of the fortune we have known and the kindnesses we have shared, grateful for the God-given bounty that enriches our lives. As many pause to lend a hand to those in need, we are also reminded of the indelible spirit of compassion and mutual responsibility that has distinguished our Nation since its earliest days.

Many Thanksgivings have offered opportunities to celebrate community during times of hardship. When the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony gave thanks for a bountiful harvest nearly four centuries ago, they enjoyed the fruits of their labor with the Wampanoag tribe -- a people who had shared vital knowledge of the land in the difficult months before. When President George Washington marked our democracy's first Thanksgiving, he prayed to our Creator for peace, union, and plenty through the trials that would surely come. And when our Nation was torn by bitterness and civil war, President Abraham Lincoln reminded us that we were, at heart, one Nation, sharing a bond as Americans that could bend but would not break. Those expressions of unity still echo today, whether in the contributions that generations of Native Americans have made to our country, the Union our forebears fought so hard to preserve, or the providence that draws our families together this season.

As we reflect on our proud heritage, let us also give thanks to those who honor it by giving back. This Thanksgiving, thousands of our men and women in uniform will sit down for a meal far from their loved ones and the comforts of home. We honor their service and sacrifice. We also show our appreciation to Americans who are serving in their communities, ensuring their neighbors have a hot meal and a place to stay. Their actions reflect our age-old belief that we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers, and they affirm once more that we are a people who draw our deepest strength not from might or wealth, but from our bonds to each other.

On Thanksgiving Day, individuals from all walks of life come together to celebrate this most American tradition, grateful for the blessings of family, community, and country. Let us spend this day by lifting up those we love, mindful of the grace bestowed upon us by God and by all who have made our lives richer with their presence.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 22, 2012, as a National Day of Thanksgiving. I encourage the people of the United States to join together -- whether in our homes, places of worship, community centers, or any place of fellowship for friends and neighbors -- and give thanks for all we have received in the past year, express appreciation to those whose lives enrich our own, and share our bounty with others.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twentieth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.


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Read more here about the National Day of Thanksgiving in the United States.

Monday, November 19, 2012

This, however, is so right!

At least I hope so. But it was about the very last thing I expected to find walking down the aisle at Kroger's -- an item I haven't bought in 20 years because it was 1) a West Coast brand that 2) had disappeared even on the West Coast.

And I'm not quite sure how it caught my eye since coming to Peoria I have purchased maybe 3-4 6-packs of beer. Not that I don't like beer; I do. I just prefer not to drink it by myself. "Lead us not into temptation..." and all that.

But tonight I'm making an exception, for there at the Kroger store in East Peoria, Illinois, was my favorite beer from California (actually an Oregon brew), particularly my Berkeley years -- Henry Weinhard's Private Reserve.

I hope it's as good as I remember.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

This Is Just SO Wrong

"Leslie shares ways to make an intimate baptism ceremony elegant--even around a swimming pool." The good news is that that the YouTube likes-dislikes score is 38-653.

The bad news? While I haved tagged it "parody," apparently the producers of the "reality show," Big Rich Texas, are serious! (The things I miss not having cable....)

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Election Day 2012: I'm #200

I'm tempted to quote the first words spoken by President Gerald Ford to the nation: "Our long national nightmare is over." Well, the polls here closed in a little over an our and the TV is still playing political commercials, so we aren't there quite yet.

It was 4 pm when I walked into my polling place.  I signed in and, as I usually do, asked how many had voted.

"About 200," replied one election judge, who then looked at the form the other judge had completed for me. "No," she continued, "you are the 200th!. Ring the bells!"

For my precinct, that's pretty good. Four years ago, I was about the 160th voter around 3 pm. By the end of that day 336 votes (including early and absentee) ballot were cast for my precinct, though that is still less thatn half of the registered voters. In the 2010 election, without a President, it was 166. In the 2011 city election, it was 25.

Now to sit back and watch the results.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

How's This for an Opening Sentence?

"The following essay is—whatever its errors or other faults—at least timely."

Thus begins Robert W. Jenson in "Can Ethical Disagreement Divide the Church?" the lead paper in The Morally Divided Body: Ethical Disagreement and the Disunity of the Church, the just published book from the 2010 Conference of that same title sponsored by Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology.

FWIW, the essay is more than
just timely.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Twenty Years!

This is a slightly edited re-post of an entry I first posted five years ago, and have re-posted three and two years ago. A blessed St. John Chrysostom's Day to you all. Zip+
+ + +
O Lord God, dear Father in heaven, I am indeed unworthy of the office and ministry in which I am to make known thy glory and to nurture and to serve this congregation.

But since thou hast appointed me to be a pastor and teacher, and the people are in need of the teaching and the instruction, O be thou my helper and let thy holy angels attend me.

Then if thou art pleased to accomplish anything through me, to thy glory and not to mine or to the praise of men, grant me, out of thy pure grace and mercy, a right understanding of thy Word and that I may also diligently perform it.

O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, thou shepherd and bishop of our souls, send thy Holy Spirit that he may work with me, yea, that he may work in me to will and to do through thy divine strength according to thy good pleasure. Amen!
That is Luther's Sacristy Prayer, and I pray it every Sunday as I vest for the Eucharist. I'll sometimes think then that it would be good to post it here and it is particularly fitting to do so today (thank you, Father Weedon, for the idea), for it was 20 years ago today that the Rev. J. Roger Anderson , Bishop of what was then called the Southern California (West) Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America addressed me as we stood in the Chancel of the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection (now called Faith Lutheran Church), Canoga Park, California, about 15 feet from where I had been baptized 33 years (less one week) earlier:
According to apostolic usage you are now to be set apart to the office of Word and Sacrament in the one holy catholic Church by the laying on of hands and by prayer.
Bishop Anderson was joined in the addresses that followed by the pastor loci and my pastor, the Rev. C. David Olsen (of blessed memory, who preached that afternoon), the Rev. Brian Eklund (pastor then at St. Mark's Lutheran Church, Los Angeles, who had supervised my seminary "Cross Cultural Experience"), and the Rev. Jeffrey Frohner (a friend and seminary classmate who had just begun serving his first call at Trinity Lutheran Church, Santa Barbara). With them standing around me, the Bishop then examined me:
Before almighty God, to whom you must give account, and in the presence of this congregation, I ask: Will you assume this office, believing that the Church's call is God's call to the ministry of Word and Sacrament?

I will, and I ask God to help me.

The Church in which you are to be ordained confeses that the Holy Scriptures are the Word of God and are the norm of its faith and life. We accept, teach, and confess the Apostles', the Nicene, and the Athanasian Creeds. We also acknowledge the Lutheran Confessions as true witnesses and faithful expositions of the Holy Scriptures. Will you therefore preach and teach in accordance with the Holy Scriptures and these creeds and confessions?

I will, and I ask God to help me.

Will you be diligent in your study of the Holy Scriptures and in your use of the means of grace? Will you pray for God's people, nourish them with the Word and Holy Sacraments, and lead them by your own example in faithful service and holy living?

I will, and I ask God to help me.

Will you give faithful witness in the world, that God's love may be know by all that you do?

I will, and I ask God to help me.

Almighty God, who has given you the will to do these things, graciously give you the strength and compassion to perform them.
After the Prayer of the Church and Come, Holy Ghost, they (though Brian and Jeffrey aren't really visible from this angle) were joined in the laying on of hands by the Rev. John Stump (of blessed memory; Pastor Olsen's predecessor and my pastor at Resurrection during most of my college years) and the 2 nearest neighboring ELCA pastors, the Rev. John Lundeen (then of St. Luke Lutheran Church, Woodland Hills, and one of the Augustana Synod's Lundeen clan) and the Rev. Bryan Woken (then and now at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, Canoga Park (West Hills). And thus they committed the Office of the Holy Ministry to me. Every time I attend an ordination, or simply take a few moments during devotions to review those promises -- many of us who have been in the Society of the Holy Trinity for a longer time have a card with them imprinted on the obverse of a holy card of Rublev's icon of the Old Testament Trinity -- I am struck once again by what I have been called to. How awsome! And how inadequate I am to bear that office.

Being reminded of that is a good thing. There is another similar Sacristy Prayer of Luther's that I don't use, but it always makes me smile, then ponder:
Lord God, thou hast appointed me a bishop and pastor in thy church. Thou seest how unfit I am to undertake this great and difficult office, and were it not for thy help, I would long since have ruined it all. Therefore I cry unto thee; I will assuredly apply my mouth and my heart to thy service. I desire to teach the people and I myself would learn ever more and diligently meditate thy Word. Use thou me as thine instrument, only do not forsake me, for if I am left alone I shall easily bring it all to destruction. Amen.
What an exciting day it was 20 years ago. And in all I've done since, I've not (yet) ruined it all. What a gracious Lord God we have!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

When Righteous Indignation Is a Red Herring

The news media and politicos have been scrambling all over themselves in righteous indignation over Congressman Todd Akin's poorly-expressed (that's putting it mildly) comments on rape and pregnancy. In all the commentary I've seen and heard, though, no one seems to be talking about the actual babies who are conceived in such circumstances (which until this week both pro-lifers and pro-abortion advocates were insisting was very rare). The unstated, but clear, sentiment has been that, of course, abortion is the righteous response.

Yesterday afternoon Judie Brown, President of the American Life League, offered a more truthful commentary on this week's talk in:

Assault on Akin is Pro-Abortion Red Herring

It is astounding that the media has created such a circus over the awkward comments of Congressman Todd Akin on the subject of "legitimate rape."

While I am not quite sure what he meant to say, I can guess that he was attempting to define an actual criminal act in contrast to the rape claims sometimes attributed to dating experiences gone wrong, when the female in question changes her mind and decides she never said yes in the first place.

Regardless, that is not the point. Akin's position is that when a child is conceived as the result of a criminal sexual assault on a woman, the baby should not have to pay for the sins of his father by dying a violent death at the hands of an abortionist.

This is really not about Akin at all; it is about the red herring that pro-abortion forces have used for years to define genuine pro-life apologists as zealots, fanatics and unrealistic Pollyannas.

For my money, being squarely out in front in defense of preborn children is precisely the right place to be, whether your name is Akin, Ryan or Obama. This is not about political posturing; it is about truth. Preborn children are always and in every case worthy of our respect, no matter how they were created.

Personally, I am grateful that Akin brought the snakes out of their pit so that we can see clearly who they are and what their game is. Bring it on.
Hat tip to David Becker at ALPB Forum Online.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Feast of St. Mary, Mother of God

August 15 is the Christian Festival day commemorating the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ -- and thus properly called, as the Council of Ephesus (in 431) and the Council of Chalcedon (in 451) taught (and the Formula of Concord [1580] affirms), "Mother of God." This morning one of my friends, a priest in the Swedish Church, posted on his Facebook page the following prayer from the Swedish (Lutheran) Reformer, Olavus Petri:
O rena moder Maria, det är dig väl att du har funnit en sådan stor nåd i Gud, att Han i sin stora barmhärtighet och godhet ville utvälja dig att bli hans moder, skänka dig större nåd än till någon annan människa, lovad och ärad vare Hans eviga barmhärtighet och godhet, och välsignad är du, mot vilken han ville vara så nådig.
Google Translate renders it thus (with a couple of adjustments that I think make it more accuriate):
O pure Mother Mary, it is well with you that you have found such a great grace of God, that He in His great mercy and goodness would select you to be His mother, give you more grace than any other person, blessed and honored be His eternal mercy and kindness, and blessed are you, towards whom He would be so gracious.
While there certainly could be a more elegant English translation (perhaps someone knows of one), even here one sees a lovely prayer, no? Thank you, Father Fredrik Norberg.

Over at the For All the Saints blog, Todd Granger reproduces much of a brief essay on St. Mary from Philip Pfatteicher's book, The New Book of Festivals and Commemorations: A Proposed Common Calendar of Saints, where I was struck by the sentence that read,
More is known about her that about most of the apostles.
It is worth reading the entire essay here.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

"...but they assume ... not create the nature of marriage"

Continuing a theme I've been, okay, harping on for several years: the Archbishop of Chicago, Francis Cardinal George, OMI, recently offered some "Reflections on 'Chicago values'." Notice where this Christian teacher's reflection on marriage begins:
It might be good to put aside any religious teaching and any state laws and start from scratch, from nature itself, when talking about marriage. Marriage existed before Christ called together his first disciples two thousand years ago and well before the United States of America was formed two hundred and thirty six years ago. Neither Church nor state invented marriage, and neither can change its nature.

Marriage exists because human nature comes in two complementary sexes: male and female. The sexual union of a man and woman is called the marital act because the two become physically one in a way that is impossible between two men or two women. Whatever a homosexual union might be or represent, it is not physically marital. Gender is inextricably bound up with physical sexual identity; and “gender-free marriage” is a contradiction in terms, like a square circle.

Both Church and state do, however, have an interest in regulating marriage. It is not that religious marriage is private and civil marriage public; rather, marriage is a public institution in both Church and state. The state regulates marriage to assure stability in society and for the proper protection and raising of the next generation of citizens. The state has a vested interest in knowing who is married and who is not and in fostering good marriages and strong families for the sake of society....

People who are not Christian or religious at all take for granted that marriage is the union of a man and a woman for the sake of family and, of its nature, for life. The laws of civilizations much older than ours assume this understanding of marriage. This is also what religious leaders of almost all faiths have taught throughout the ages. Jesus affirmed this understanding of marriage when he spoke of “two becoming one flesh” (Mt. 19: 4-6). Was Jesus a bigot? Could Jesus be accepted as a Chicagoan? Would Jesus be more “enlightened” if he had the privilege of living in our society? One is welcome to believe that, of course; but it should not become the official state religion, at least not in a land that still fancies itself free. Surely there must be a way to properly respect people who are gay or lesbian without using civil law to undermine the nature of marriage....
Read it all here at the Catholic Chicago Blog.

Leroy Huizenga used this on Thursday over at First Things' "On the Square" to offer a cautionary word to both those of us who desire to conserve marriage in our culture and those who desire to re-cast it into something new:
Because of the harmony of faith and reason, thoughtful Christians can speak of marriage in terms of both categories. And we sometimes confuse categories, and that proves confusing to the general public. But make no mistake: Our defense of marriage is no act of legerdemain, in which we try to force what we know solely by revelation on the public. (Observe no one is pushing laws forcing participation in the sacraments or forbidding participation in a particular faith.) Rather, we are concerned for the common good, a rational concern motivated by our very faith. Convinced that reason and nature teach us the truth about marriage, we will continue to make arguments in the public square about the public goods of marriage, for no society or person can long thrive kicking against the goads of reason and nature.
Read it all here in Huizenga's post, "Opposing Gay Marriage Is Rational, Not Religious." And note that I've linked a definition for "legerdemain" in that quote.

Hat tip to Joe Carter at "Mere Comments," the Touchstone blog.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

So, Papa, how do you like the iPad we got you?

No need to understand German to understand this video.

Hat tip, Chaos Manor Mail.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Guess Who Got Posted at Chaos Manor?

Friday I posted to my Facebook page the link to yesterday's memorial for Ray Bradbury at the LASFS Clubhouse, commenting, "Oh, to be living in LA!" (For some reason, probably because Thursday evenings were for choir practice, I never actually made a meeting of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society.) Well, I still haven't experienced it personally, but it seems I was sort of there anyway. Read it here!

I haven't been this excited since LA sports radio legend Jim Healy acknowledged on the air a note I sent him from here in Peoria!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Justice and Mercy

The Rev. John A. Fale writes:
Yesterday I overheard three pastors seated across from me at a pastoral care conference in Washington, D.C. One of the men remarked, "I'm trying to get my congregation involved in justice ministry. I just can't get them going." Another responded, "When I talk to my people about what they want, they say they want mercy, not justice." After a brief pause, he continued, "Because they know what they'll get if they ask God for justice."
Pastor Fale is the Interim Co-Executive Director, Office of International Mission, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. The above quote begins his message in the March/April 2012 LCMS World Relief and Human Care Sharing newsletter.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Open Letter: Free Exercise of Religion

The following was issued Thursday by the leaders of several religious communities in the United States, including the Presidents/Bishops of four Lutheran church bodies. Written by the Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison, President of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, he also offers this video introduction. Pastor Zip

Hat tip to Fr. William Weedon at
ALPB Forum Online.

Putting Beliefs into Practice

An Open Letter from Religious Leaders
in the United States to All Americans

June 21, 2012

Dear Friends,

Religious institutions are established because of religious beliefs and convictions. Such institutions include not only churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship, but also schools and colleges, shelters and community kitchens, adoption agencies and hospitals, organizations that provide care and services during natural disasters, and countless other organizations that exist to put specific religious beliefs into practice. Many such organizations have provided services and care to both members and non-members of their religious communities since before the Revolutionary War, saving and improving the lives of count- less American citizens.

As religious leaders from a variety of perspectives and communities, we are compelled to make known our protest against the incursion of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) into the realm of religious liberty. HHS has mandated that religious institutions, with only a narrow religious exception, must provide access to certain contraceptive benefits, even if the covered medications or procedures are contradictory to their beliefs. We who oppose the application of this mandate to religious institutions include not only the leaders of religious groups morally opposed to contraception, but also leaders of other religious groups that do not share that particular moral conviction.

That we share an opposition to the mandate to religious institutions while disagreeing about specific moral teachings is a crucial fact. Religious freedom is the principle on which we stand. Because of differing understandings of moral and religious authority, people of good will can and often do come to different conclusions about moral questions. Yet, even we who hold differing convictions on specific moral issues are united in the conviction that no religious institution should be penalized for refusing to go against its beliefs. The issue is the First Amendment, not specific moral teachings or specific products or services.

The HHS mandate implicitly acknowledged that an incursion into religion is involved in the mandate. However, the narrowness of the proposed exemption is revealing for it applies only to religious organizations that serve or support their own members. In so doing, the government is establishing favored and disfavored religious organizations: a privatized religious organization that serves only itself is exempted from regulation, while one that believes it should also serve the public beyond its membership is denied a religious exemption. The so-called accommodation and the subsequent Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) do little or nothing to alleviate the problem.

No government should tell religious organizations either what to believe or how to put their beliefs into practice. We indeed hold this to be an unalienable, constitutional right. If freedom of religion is a constitutional value to be protected, then institutions developed by religious groups to implement their core beliefs in education, in care for the sick or suffering, and in other tasks must also be protected. Only by doing so can the free exercise of religion have any meaning. The HHS mandate prevents this free exercise. For the well-being of our country, we oppose the application of the contraceptive mandate to religious institutions and plead for its retraction.

Sincerely yours,
Leith Anderson

National Association of Evangelicals

Gary M. Benedict

The Christian and Missionary Alliance U.S.

Bishop John F. Bradosky
North American Lutheran Church

The Most Rev. Robert J. Carlson

Archbishop of St. Louis

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan
Archbishop of New York

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, S.V.
Superior General of the Sisters of Life

Sister Barbara Anne Gooding, R.S.M.

Director, Department of Religion

Saint Francis Health System

Sister Margaret Regina Halloran, l.s.p.

Provincial Superior
Brooklyn Province Little Sisters of the Poor

The Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison


The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr.
Senior Pastor, Hope Christian Church
Bishop, Fellowship of International Churches

The Very Rev. Dr. John A. Jillions

Orthodox Church in America

The Most Blessed Jonah
Archbishop of Washington

Metropolitan of All American and Canada Orthodox Church in America
Imam Faizul R. Khan
Founder and Leader

Islamic Society of Washington Area

The Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky
Director of External Affairs and Interchurch Relations
Orthodox Church in America

Most Rev. William E. Lori
Archbishop of Baltimore


USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty

Sister Maria Christine Lynch, l.s.p.

Provincial Superior
Chicago Province Little Sisters of the Poor

Sister Loraine Marie Maguire, l.s.p.

Provincial Superior
Baltimore Province Little Sisters of the Poor

The Rev. John A. Moldstad

Evangelical Lutheran Synod

Deaconess Cheryl D. Naumann

Concordia Deaconess Conference

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez


Hispanic Evangelical Association

Sister Joseph Marie Ruessmann
Generalate Secretary

Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Michigan

The Rev. Mark Schroeder

Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod

L. Roy Taylor
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America

Sister Constance Carolyn Veit, l.s.p.

Communications Director

Little Sisters of the Poor

Dr. George O. Wood
General Superintendent

The General Council of the Assemblies of God

The Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), authored and issued “Free Exercise of Religion: Putting Beliefs into Practice,” an open letter to all Americans voicing opposition to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) contraceptive mandate and pleading for its retraction. Twenty-four religious leaders joined President Harrison in signing the letter, which was issued June 21, 2012.

For more information about the LCMS response to the HHS contraceptive mandate, please visit www.lcms.org/hhsmandate or call 888-THE LCMS (843-5267).

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Air Force's X-37B Space Plane Lands

Courtesy Space.com, here's official video of the US Air Force's unmanned X-37B landing early this morning at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Lompoc, California (about 100 miles or 177 kilometers from where I grew up). According to the report, the secret, experimental craft aka Orbital Test Vehicle-2 (OTV-2) had been in orbit since being launched March 5, 2011 (15 months), and was the second one flown by the Air Force. The X-37 project began in 1999 as a test bed for NASA until its funding ended. DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) took over the project in 2004, with the Air Force taking charge in 2006.

The video released by Vandenberg AFB begins in infrared light, so the bright parts would represent heat from the X-37B's descent into the atmosphere. Then it switches to normal light, which is not very bright since it is ten minutes to six o'clock in the morning at the Pacific Coast base. Note that the plane is only 9.5 feet (2.9 meters) tall and 29 feet (8.9 m) long, with a wingspan of 15 feet (4.5 m). Its payload bay is about the size of a pickup truck's bed. Boeing has done some study for a larger X-37C, which could be configured to carry a crew of 6 astronauts in low earth orbit.

More photos and graphics of the X37-B can be found here.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Requiescat in pace: Ray Bradbury

What then shall we say about this? Ray Bradbury is dead.

The book is called The Martian Chronicles. Its introduction is the short-short story, "Rocket Summer," dated (for the book) January 1999. It's now June 2012, and I'm still waiting for Rocket Summer, though Elon Musk's SpaceX (on which I posted recently) offer us belated encouragement. But I digress.

I discovered Bradbury through The Martian Chronicles. It's not so much a story as it is a collection of short stories from the 1940s and published in both mainstream and sf magazines (with all due respect to Forrest J. Ackerman, "science fiction" ought not be shortened "sci-fi") that Bradbury wove together and published as a book in 1950. Old Time Radio would re-broadcast the 1950s NBC Radio programs Dimension X and X Minus One, which included adaptions of several of these stories. The stories were magic when I discovered them as a young teen, and they remain magic when I return to them in my "advanced youth." (In the 1979-80 TV miniseries starring Rock Hudson, the magic is excised -- so don't bother.)

There's much, much more, of course. I'll leave that to the obituary writers, pointing you to this page from the Los Angeles Times where you can see an important side of Bradbury that others may not notice, but with which I connect.

And from the front page today of raybradbury.com:
...In 2005, Bradbury published a book of essays titled Bradbury Speaks, in which he wrote: In my later years I have looked in the mirror each day and found a happy person staring back. Occasionally I wonder why I can be so happy. The answer is that every day of my life I've worked only for myself and for the joy that comes from writing and creating. The image in my mirror is not optimistic, but the result of optimal behavior....

Throughout his life, Bradbury liked to recount the story of meeting a carnival magician, Mr. Electrico, in 1932. At the end of his performance Electrico reached out to the twelve-year-old Bradbury, touched the boy with his sword, and commanded, Live forever! Bradbury later said, I decided that was the greatest idea I had ever heard. I started writing every day. I never stopped.
And here are my other Ray Bradbury posts.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day 2012

Today has been Memorial Day. This is what we remember:
From the days of the Revolution, through the struggles of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, the Korean War, Vietnam, the first Gulf War and the present War on Terror, the strength of our nation is in the spirit of its men and women who fought and died for a nation determined to know its ancient liberty. 4,435 combat deaths in the Revolutionary War, 2,260 in the War of 1812, 1,733 in the Mexican War, 140,415 on the Union side in the Civil War, 74.524 on the Confederate, 385 in the Spanish-American War, 53,513 in World War I, 292,131 in World War II, 33,667 in the Korea War, 47,393 in the Vietnam War and 148 in the Persian Gulf War. Over 4,477 have died as a direct result of hostile action in Iraq, with 1,803 more in Afghanistan. The loss of life to American military men and women in all of our nation’s wars exceeds 1,340,000.
There's more in Michael Avramovich's post at Touchstone magazine's Mere Comments as he says a bit more about the beginnings of this American holiday and two of our most sacred pieces of land, Iwo Jima and Gettysburg.

And pardon me if I'm a bit of a grump about it, but today is about those 1.3 million men and women who gave the ultimate service for our nation. Veterans, for whose service we are also thankful, have their own day — Veterans Day, November 11, and we thank them then.

Today, the last Monday of May, when we remember those who died serving in our armed forces, has been Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Entering the Mouth of the Dragon

Here's a key follow-up from a post of nearly 2 years ago, Launch of Falcon 9 -- SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft has become the first commercial space vehicle to attach to the International Space Station. Thanks to private enterprise, American remains a space faring nation.

Here you can see ISS astronauts open the hatch and enter the Dragon.

Dragon was launched on the Falcon 9 rocket last week:

Liftoff from SpaceX on Vimeo.
The Falcon 9 launch vehicle carrying the Dragon spacecraft,
climbing from the launch pad. 5/22/12

Over the next few days the Dragon cargo (over 1000 pounds of supplies for the Space Station) will be emptied and return cargo (including experiments) will be put onto the craft for return to Earth next Thursday, May 31. The Dragon is scheduled to splash down that day in the Pacific Ocean, west of California.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

California: From Another Age

The following concludes Literature Reader: Sixth Year, edited by Leroy E. Armstrong, a sixth-grade reader from 1916 used in California at least through the mid-1920s. This weblog post is inspired today in part because I read the news from my home state, in part because I posted a new "cover" for my Facebook page featuring a postcard of downtown Los Angeles from the early '60s, and in part because I was thinking of essential things I learned in (California's public) schools that simply aren't taught any longer. Those were the days, my friends, and they seem long gone...


(Poets, dramatists, and historians are quite as useful and helpful to society as are wonder-workers in plants. John Steven McGroarty has served the people of California well by writing the Mission Play—a highly interesting portrayal of the days when California was owned by Spain. Mr. McGroarty has also written a pleasing book entitled California: Its History and Romance. The introduction to this book is a poem that is a worthy tribute to California. The author’s love for our beautiful State is felt in every line.)

’Twixt the seas and the deserts,
    ’Twixt the wastes and the waves,
Between the sands of buried lands
    And ocean’s coral caves,
It lies not East nor West,
    But like a scroll unfurled,
Where the hand of God hath hung it,
    Down the middle of the world.

It lies where God hath spread it,
    In the gladness of His eyes,
Like a flame of jeweled tapestry
    Beneath His shining skies;
With the green of woven meadows,
    And the hills in golden chains,
The light of leaping rivers,
    And the flash of poppied plains.

Days rise that gleam in glory,
    Days die with sunset’s breeze,
While from Cathay that was of old
    Sail countless argosies;
Morns break again in splendor
    O’er the giant, new-born West,
But of all the lands God fashioned,
    ’Tis this land is the best.

Sun and dews that kiss it,
    Balmy winds that blow,
The stars in clustered diadems
    Upon its peaks of snow;
The mighty mountains o’er it,
    Below, the white seas swirled—
Just California stretching down
    The middle of the world.

Hat tip to Jerry Pournelle at Chaos Manor.

Monday, April 30, 2012

"If I Wanted America to Fail"

Writes Morgan Richmond over at Hot Air, "A provocative new video from the folks over at Americans for Limited Government promoting a new project focused on economic liberty and free market policies." Indeed it is. Watch it.

Tip of the hat to Chaos Manor Mail.

Friday, April 27, 2012

South Side Garden and Farmers Market

It was only a couple of months ago that Pastor Karl Eckhoff of the neighboring Christ Lutheran Church -- Christ and Zion have been about three blocks apart for since the 1890s -- called me to ask if Zion might be interested in patcipating in a community garden. My response was along the lines of, "We're not in the position to offer much labor, but what other ways can we help?"

Turns out the garden was actually established last year at Logan Park (just a couple of blocks away) by the gitm Foundation ("gitm" is for "Gifts in the Moment") in association with the Peoria Park District, Garfield Elementary School (which is next to the park), and with support from other area businesses and agencies. The kids of the school and park would have the opportunity for hands-on learning about food and nutrition, and some produce and spices would be available in the neighborhood.

Everything was looking good until the school district rather suddenly decided to close Garfield School. But Christ Lutheran School also borders Logan Park, and this winter Denise and Kim from gitm approached the school to see if they might be interested in becoming a stakeholder in Garfield's place. Turns out this has been a win-win solution, and this winter and spring plans were devised to enlarge the garden and begin an Urban Farmers Market. Amazingly, everything has come together quite well to move the ideas into reality.

Zionites are helping provide seeds and seedlings, one of our members is with me on the board and has been very helpful in getting other area Lutherans on board, and the last couple of Saturdays I helped put up a fence and put a dirt mixture in the garden beds. Yesterday was a ribbon cutting for the garden and urban farmers market, with speakers from the gitm Foundation, the Peoria Park District, Illinois American Water, a song from the school children, and where I offered a prayer and blessing.

Here's the news report that aired yesterday on WEEK-TV, Channel 25:

Or read and view it here.

Friday, April 20, 2012

It's Been Four Years

It's now been four years since my prostatectomy, and today was my checkup. My PSA (prostate-specific antigen, that is, not "public service announcement" or the dearly-missed Pacific Southwest Airlines) is still less than .1. So, no change since my last report 6 months ago. Even better, with no sign of cancer my urologist says now I can go a full year before my next check up. Praise the Lord!

A Lockheed L-1011 TriStar in PSA livery, from when flying was fun.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Childhood Memory

For some reason, Laura Scudder's Potato Chips, the Noisiest Chip in the World, came to mind. The following TV commercial (which I'm sure I saw hundreds of times) takes us back to the glory days of the potato chip section of a market being filled with several different brands, most of which (at least in LA) were local.

Today's ubiquitous Lay's potato chips, a national brand, were actually rather exotic 40 years ago. Chips like Bell Brand, Granny Goose, and Laura Scudder's (three California brands) almost disappeared. "The noisiest chip in the world" is available (again), though I don't think I'll be buying a case of them, the only way I'd be able to get them here in Peoria.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Halleluja! Kristus är uppstånden!

(That is Swedish for) Alleluia! Christ is risen! Here's a repeat from my blog for Easter 2007, an Easter Sermon from St. John Chrysostom. A blessed, holy day to you all.

Photo: Easter 2011, Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church of Peoria
If any person is devout and loves God,
let him come to this radiant triumphant feast.
If any person is a wise follower,
let him enter into the joy of his Lord, rejoicing.
If any have fasted long
let him now receive refreshment.
If any have labored from the first hour,
let him today receive his just reward.
If any came at the third hour,
let him keep the feast with thankfulness.
If any arrived at the sixth hour,
let him have no misgivings for he shall not be deprived.
If any delayed to the ninth hour,
let him draw near, fearing nothing.
If any have waited even until the eleventh hour,
let him not be alarmed at this tardiness.
For the Lord will accept the last
even as the first.
Therefore, all of you,
enter into the joy of your Lord.
Rich and poor together,
hold high festival.
Diligent and heedless,
honor this day.
Both you who have fasted, and you who did not fast,
rejoice together today.
The table is full;
all of you, feast sumptuously.
The calf is fatted;
let no one go away hungry.
Enjoy the feast of faith;
receive the riches of God's mercy.
Let no one bewail his poverty,
for the fullness of the kingdom is revealed.
Let no one weep for his iniquities,
for forgiveness shines forth from the grave.
Let no one fear death,
for the savior's death has set us free.
He who was held prisoner by death
has annihilated it.
By descending into death,
he made death captive.
He angered it
when it tasted of his flesh.
Isaiah saw this, and he cried:
Death was angered when it encountered you
in the lower regions.
It was angered,
for it was defeated.
It was angered,
for it was mocked.
It was angered,
for it was abolished.
It was angered,
for it was overthrown.
It was angered,
for it was bound in chains.
It received a body
and it met God face to face.
It took earth
and encountered heaven.
It took that which is seen
and fell upon the unseen.
O Death,
where is your sting?
O Grave,
where is your victory?

Christ is risen
and you are overthrown.
Christ is risen
and the devils have fallen.
Christ is risen
and the angels rejoice.
Christ is risen
and life reigns.
Christ is risen
and not one dead remains in the grave.
For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep, and to him be glory and honor, even to eternity.

He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Were You There?

Johnny Cash and the Carter Family in 1960.

Hat tip to Canon Kendall Harmon at TitusOneNine

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The HHS Mandate: What's at Stake?

"We don't ask people for their baptismal certificate, nor do we ask people for their U.S. passport, before we can serve them, OK? . . . We don't serve people because they're Catholic, we serve them because we are, and it's a moral imperative for us to do so."

That's Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, in James Taranto's "Weekend Interview" in The Wall Street Journal entitled "When the Archbishop Met the President."  You can read the entire article here (unless it gets hidden behind the Journals paywall).

In the interview Cardinal Dolan speaks of his conversations initiated by President Obama regarding the Department of Health and Human Service's new mandate that all forms of birth control be covered by medical insurance plans, including the plans of those for whom some (or all) forms of contraception are morally repugnant.
Mr. Obama knew that the mandate would pose difficulties for the Catholic Church, so he invited Archbishop Dolan to the Oval Office last November, shortly before the bishops' General Assembly in Baltimore. At the end of their 45-minute discussion, the archbishop summed up what he understood as the president's message:

"I said, 'I've heard you say, first of all, that you have immense regard for the work of the Catholic Church in the United States in health care, education and charity. . . . I have heard you say that you are not going to let the administration do anything to impede that work and . . . that you take the protection of the rights of conscience with the utmost seriousness. . . . Does that accurately sum up our conversation?' [Mr. Obama] said, 'You bet it does.'"

The archbishop asked for permission to relay the message to the other bishops. "You don't have my permission, you've got my request," the president replied.

"So you can imagine the chagrin," Archbishop Dolan continues, "when he called me at the end of January to say that the mandates remain in place and that there would be no substantive change, and that the only thing that he could offer me was that we would have until August. . . . I said, 'Mr. President, I appreciate the call. Are you saying now that we have until August to introduce to you continual concerns that might trigger a substantive mitigation in these mandates?' He said, 'No, the mandates remain. We're more or less giving you this time to find out how you're going to be able to comply.' I said, 'Well, sir, we don't need the [extra time]. I can tell you now we're unable to comply.'"
Cardinal Dolan has more to say about controversy that has ensued, both within the Catholic Church and the nation in general, particularly regarding what appropriate and proper "ministry" of the Church is in our land.  
The archbishop sees a parallel irony in his dispute with Mr. Obama: "This is a strange turn of the table, that here a Catholic cardinal is defending religious freedom, the great proposition of the American republic, and the president of the United States seems to be saying that this is a less-than-important issue."
Strange indeed. Alas, that is also the current state of the Republic. Again, read the interview here -- it's really important.

Tip o' the hat to James Kushiner at Touchstone's "Mere Comments."

Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Patrick's Breastplate (The Lorica)

In honor of the Feast of St. Patrick who died this day c. 461, here is Cecil Alexander's translation of his wondrous hymn to the Holy Trinity as sung at the fine traditionalist St. John's Episcopal Church in Detroit. And, yes, St. Patrick's Day is also the day of my birth. Which rather makes this hymn all the more significant to me in so many ways.

I bind unto myself today
    the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
    the Three in One, and One in Three.

I bind this day to me forever,
    by power of faith, Christ's Incarnation;
his baptism in the Jordan river;
    his death on cross for my salvation;
his bursting from the spiced tomb;
    his riding up the heavenly way;
his coming at the day of doom:
    I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
    of the great love of cherubim;
the sweet "Well done" in judgement hour;
    the service of the seraphim;
confessors' faith, apostles' word,
    the patriarchs' prayers, the prophets' scrolls;
all good deeds done unto the Lord,
    and purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
    the virtues of the starlit heaven,
the glorious sun's life-giving ray,
    the whiteness of the moon at even,
the flashing of the lightning free,
    the whirling wind's tempestuous shocks,
the stable earth, the deep salt sea,
    around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
    the power of God to hold and lead,
his eye to watch, his might to stay,
    his ear to hearken to my need;
the wisdom of my God to teach,
    his hand to guide, his shield to ward;
the word of God to give me speech,
    his heavenly host to be my guard.

    Christ be with me, Christ within me,
        Christ behind me, Christ before me,
    Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
        Christ to comfort and restore me,
    Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
        Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
    Christ in hearts of all that love me,
        Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
    the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
    the Three in One, and One in Three.
Of whom all nature hath creation,
    eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
praise to the Lord of my salvation,
    salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

My Music

I don't know how many others are like this, but since Bill Cosby spoke about "having your own music to ride with" in his "Go Carts" routine when I was a kid, I don't think I'm alone. Cos' music was taken from The Rough Riders. Weird Harold's was taken from The Lone Ranger. (You can listen to it here.)

In the cinema, particularly older films, it is not uncommon for a particular tune to appear any time a particular character is on the screen -- or some other times when the director wants you to think of that character. Organist Shay Torrent at Anahiem Stadium or Helen Dell at Dodger Stadium (and others at ball parks across the land) would play a snippet from a particular song when a batter would be announced. When I was 11 I imagined Shay Torrent playing the theme from "They Call Me Mister Tibbs" when I would be announced as the next Angels' batter.

In reality, though, I don't have a tune. I do, however, have my music. And I've had it for as long as I can remember. Sure, if I'm listening to the radio, or a record or CD, or something on the computer, that'll be the music in my head at the time. And the stylistic range of that music rather broad; the "Arts and Entertainment" section of my Facebook profile has a really long list of musicians and I once listed 52 "favorite vocalists" here. And that doesn't include other kinds of musical artists. But this is about the music in my head when I'm not listening to music.

Yesterday, and part of today, the hymn tune ST. CATHERINE was going through my head. I had finally finished selecting the hymns we would be using for our Wednesday Lenten services, and that tune was used for two different hymns I chose. You might recognize it as the tune used for Frederick William Faber's "Faith of Our Fathers" [note: the music will start almost immediately if you click that link].

The thing is, however, that what I've been hearing in my mind is most likely very unlike any way you have ever heard it. Heck, it's unlike any way I've ever heard it. Yet it's the way I hear it, and just about any other tune, when one is running around in the back of my mind all day. For "my own music" isn't a particular piece of music.

It's lots of different songs or themes -- ancient or modern, classical or pop, a really fine tune or horrid schlock -- set off by who-knows-what-kind of stimulus, that since I was a kid have managed to have one common thread when stuck in my mind for hours at a time. Something I realized just a few years ago as I was watching "Friends" the show's theme song was, once again, stuck in head thoughout the entire episode sounding entirely unlike The Rembrandts. Not long ago the tune was a Lenten Lutheran chorale from the 17th century.

The common thread is that my own music is performed by Billy May and His Orchestra.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pope Benedict XXVI: Ash Wednesday Homily

I had to run to the store for some olive oil this morning before the Ash Wednesday service and, on the way back, Sebastian's radio (Sebastian is my 2002 Golf TDI) was tuned to our local EWTN Radio station, which was airing the Ash Wednesday Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI. As I said to the congregation, not only is this Pope a fine theologian, he can preach.
...I would like to reflect on the liturgical sign of the ashes, a material sign, a natural element that, in the Liturgy, becomes a sacred symbol, so important on this day that marks the start of our Lenten journey. In ancient times, in the Jewish culture, it was common to sprinkle one’s head with ashes as a sign of penance, and to dress in sack-cloth and rags. For us Christians, there is this one moment which has important symbolic and spiritual relevance.

Ashes are the material sign that brings the cosmos into the Liturgy. The most important signs are those of the Sacraments: water, oil, bread and wine, which become true sacramental elements through which we communicate the Grace of Christ who comes among us. The ashes are not a sacramental sign, but they are linked with prayer and the sanctification of the Christian people. Before the ashes are placed on our heads, they are blessed according to two possible formulae: in the first they are called “austere symbols”, in the second, we invoke a blessing directly upon them, referring to the text in the Book of Genesis which can also accompany the imposition of the ashes: “Remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return”.

Let us reflect for a moment on this passage of Genesis.

It concludes with a judgement made by God after original sin. God curses the serpent who caused man and woman to commit sin. Then He punishes the woman saying she will suffer the pains of giving birth. Then He punishes the man, saying he will suffer the fatigue of labour and He curses the soil saying “accursed be the soil because of you, because of your sin.” The man and woman are not cursed directly as the serpent is, but because of Adam’s sin. Let us reread the account of how God created man from the Earth. “God fashioned man of dust from the soil. Then He breathed into his nostrils, a breath of life. Thus man became a live being. Then God planted a garden in Eden, which is in the East, and there He put the man He had fashioned.” Thus the sign of the ashes recalls the great story of creation which tells us that being human means unifying matter with Divine breath, using the image of dust formed by God and given life by His breath, breathed into the nostrils of the new creature.

In the Genesis account, the symbol of dust takes on a negative connotation because of sin. Before the fall the soil is totally good: through God’s work it is capable of producing “every kind of tree enticing to look at and good to eat.” After the fall and following the divine curse it produces only thorns and brambles and only in exchange for the sweat of man’s brow will it surrender its fruits....
That's what I got to hear (in translation from Italian) about an hour before placing ashes on some 30 foreheads and preaching Ash Wednesday myself. You can (like me) read the rest of it here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Lutheran Church President Testifies Before Congress

Yesterday LCMS President Matthew Harrison testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform regarding the Obama Administration's mandate. Listen to (or read) his powerful, (dare I call it) prophetic message.

Mr. Chairman, it’s a pleasure to be here. The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is a body of some 6,200 congregations and 2.3 million members across the U.S. We don’t distribute voters’ lists. We don’t have a Washington office. We are studiously non‐partisan, so much so that we’re often criticized for being quietistic.

I’d rather not be here, frankly. Our task is to proclaim, in the words of the blessed apostle St. John, the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all our sin. And we care for the needy. We haven’t the slightest intent to Christianize the government. Martin Luther famously quipped one time, "I’d rather have a smart Turk than a stupid Christian governing me."

We confess that there are two realms, the church and the state. They shouldn’t be mixed – the church is governed by the Word of God, the state by natural law and reason, the Constitution. We have 1,000 grade schools and high schools, 1,300 early childhood centers, 10 colleges and universities. We are a machine which produces good citizens for this country, and at tremendous personal cost.

We have the nation’s only historic black Lutheran college in Concordia, Selma. Many of our people [who are alive today] walked with Dr. King 50 years ago on the march from Selma to Montgomery. We put up the first million dollars and have continued to provide finance for the Nehemiah Project in New York as it has continued over the years, to provide home ownership for thousands of families, many of them headed by single women. Our agency in New Orleans, Camp Restore, rebuilt over 4,000 homes after Katrina, through the blood, sweat and tears of our volunteers. Our Lutheran Malaria Initiative, barely begun, has touched the lives of 1.6 million people in East Africa, especially those affected by disease, women and children. And this is just the tip, the very tip, of the charitable iceberg.

I’m here to express our deepest distress over the HHS provisions. We are religiously opposed to supporting abortion‐causing drugs. That is, in part, why we maintain our own health plan. While we are grandfathered under the very narrow provisions of the HHS policy, we are deeply concerned that our consciences may soon be martyred by a few strokes on the keyboard as this administration moves us all into a single‐payer ... system. Our direct experience in the Hosanna‐Tabor case with one of our congregations gives us no comfort that this administration will be concerned to guard our free‐exercise rights.

We self‐insure 50,000 people. We do it well. Our workers make an average of $43,000 a year, 17,000 teachers make much less, on average. Our health plan was preparing to take significant cost‐saving measures, to be passed on to our workers, just as this health‐care legislation was passed. We elected not to make those changes, incur great cost, lest we fall out of the narrow provisions required under the grandfather clause. While we are opposed in principle, not to all forms of birth control, but only abortion‐causing drugs, we stand with our friends in the Catholic Church and all others, Christians and non‐Christians, under the free exercise and conscience provisions of the U.S. Constitution.

Religious people determine what violates their consciences, not the federal government. The conscience is a sacred thing. Our church exists because overzealous governments in northern Europe made decisions which trampled the religious convictions of our forebearers. I have ancestors who served in the Revolutionary War. I have ancestors who were on the Lewis and Clark expedition. I have ancestors who served in the War of 1812, who fought for the North in the Civil War – my 88‐year‐old father‐in‐law has recounted to me, in tears many times, the horrors of the Battle of the Bulge. In fact, Bud Day, the most highly decorated veteran alive, is a member of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

We fought for a free conscience in this country, and we won’t give it up without a fight. To paraphrase Martin Luther, the heart and conscience has room only for God, not for God and the federal government. The bed is too narrow, the blanket is too short. We must obey God rather than men, and we will. Please get the federal government, Mr. Chairman, out of our consciences. Thank you.
Pastor Harrison and others also answered questions asked by members of the committee:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Lutheran Perspective on the Obama Mandate

I first met Pastor Matthew Harrison in the spring of 2007, at the Conference on Mercy sponsored by the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod World Relief/Human Care for which he was Executive Director. I was quite impressed by him not only as a driving force in the LCMS' relief efforts, but as a theologian who both understood and taught why the Church is involved in such things. In the summer of 2010, Pastor Harrison was elected President of the LCMS.

Here President Harrison addresses the current controversy over the Obama Administration's chilling mandate that all forms of "birth control" be fully covered by medical plans, including those of churches and church agencies that have always taught that it is grave sin to take the life of a child in the womb:

Hi. I’m Pastor Matthew Harrison, president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, a denomination of some 6,200 congregations across the United States. We also have many institutions, which care for the needy and also 10 universities.

In response to President Obama’s announcement Friday concerning an ‘accommodation’ to a previous mandate that health plans must cover all forms of birth control (even those that can kill the unborn), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod remains deeply concerned. We strongly object to the use of drugs and procedures that are used to take the lives of unborn children, who are persons in the sight of God from the time of conception. Drugs such as Plan B® and Ella®, which are still included in the mandate, can work post-conception to cause the death of the developing child, so don’t be fooled by statements to the contrary.

We see President Obama’s action Friday as significant, in that it appears to have been prompted by the many voices united in concern over an infringement of our religious liberties. But the ‘accommodation’ did not expand the exemption for religious employers, nor did it restrict the mandate in any way. It simply described a temporary enforcement delay and a possible future change—a change that, unfortunately, would not adequately protect religious freedom or unborn lives.

We remain opposed to this mandate because it runs counter to the biblical truth of the sanctity of human life. We are committed to working to ensure that we remain free to practice the teachings of our faith, that our religious rights are not violated and that our rights of conscience are retained. Freedom of religion extends beyond the practice of our faith in houses of worship. We must be free to put our faith into action in the public square, and, in response to Christ’s call, demonstrate His mercy through our love and compassion for all people according to the clear mandate of Holy Scripture.

The government has overstepped its bounds. This controversy is not merely about birth control and the Catholic Church’s views about it. It’s about mandating that we provide medications which kill life in the womb. And moreover, and perhaps even more ominous, it is about an overzealous government forcing coercive provisions that violate the consciences and rights of its citizens. We can no longer expect a favored position for Christianity in this country. But we can, as citizens of this great nation, fight for constitutional sanity against secularizing forces. As we have vividly experienced in discriminatory state legislation with respect to homosexual adoption, we and our institutions (and those of other religious citizens of good will) are being robbed of the right to the free exercise of religion absent government intrusion or threat. The next assault will come upon church-related retirement facilities. How much longer will it be legal in this country to believe and act according to the dictates of biblical and creedal Christianity?

We in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod pray for our president and his administration every day. In fact, I personally pray for the president every single day. We have had members of our church body serve in very significant positions, including attorney general, also chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and many other significant positions. We have and have had senators and House of Representatives members. We’ve contributed to the well being of this country in countless ways. In fact, the most highly decorated living veteran is a member of the LCMS.

Jesus bids us, “Render to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's” (Mark 12:17). We will pray for and support our government where we can, but our consciences and our lives belong to God.

Thank you.
And thank you, Pastor Harrison.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Catchers and pitchers report in...

Nuts! This is no fun. Depending on the team this year's Spring Training voluntary report date for pitchers and catchers is between Feb 19-23, with the Mariners on Feb 12! But for most teams it's the 19th (9 of them) or 20th (10). And MLB says it's the 19th -- except for Oakland and Seattle, who report on the 12th. And the Angels report on the 19th, so...

Catchers and pitchers report in 9 days!

Friday, February 03, 2012

Curing Breast Cancer or Keeping Abortion?

Yesterday I "shared" a cartoon on my Facebook page got lots of "likes" and positive comments. It showed a funeral chapel with lots of empty chairs and a woman whispering to the man next to her, "He had over 2,000 Facebook friends. I was expecting a bigger turnout." I can't recall that last time I got this much response.

Today I "liked" "Komen Get It", today's "Best of the Web" by James Taranto over at the Wall Street Journal's WSJ.com [tip o' the hat to my Facebook friend, Pr. Rich Heinz]. I expect this one will not get so positive a response, but it's worth reading anyway. Taranto begins:
Susan G. Komen for the Cure actually is what Planned Parenthood advertises itself as being: a charity whose main concern is women's health. Komen was founded in 1982 by Nancy Brinker and is named for her sister, who died of breast cancer two years earlier. Until this week, it was probably best known for its fund-raising runs and walks known as Race for the Cure.

Now Komen has provoked the fury of Planned Parenthood, whose self-description as a women's health organization is at best tendentious. In truth, Planned Parenthood is America's leading provider of, and one of its most zealous advocates for, elective abortion. It is also a recipient of government largess; federal funds it receives are not supposed to pay for abortions, but they make it a political lightning rod all the same. And it is one of the most powerful interest groups in the Democratic Party. In last spring's budget deal, funding for Planned Parenthood was the one subject on which President Obama refused to compromise.
Taranto has more to say, then concludes,
Planned Parenthood's bitter campaign against Komen--aided by left-liberal activists and media--is analogous to a protection racket: Nice charity you've got there. It'd be a shame if anything happened to it. The message to other Planned Parenthood donors is that if they don't play nice and keep coughing up the cash, they'll get the Komen treatment.

There's one crucial difference, however. In a real-life protection racket, the victim never pays voluntarily. The threat is present from the get-go. By contrast, Komen presumably was not under any duress when it made its grants--and it could have avoided all this nasty publicity by never dealing with Planned Parenthood in the first place.

Thus smart prospective donors--especially ones that are apolitical, like Komen--are getting the message that supporting Planned Parenthood is a trap. Give once, and you will give again--or else you will pay.
Following the Komen-PP controversy of the last couple of days -- the mass media are either actually or playing ignorant of just how controversial that relationship has been for years -- I keep thinking of this past Sunday's Gospel (St. Mark 1:21-28), which begins:
21And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. 22And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. 23And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24"What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God."
That's the thing about the Devil. He'll say anything to entrap you in his lies and deception; he'll even say the truth or do good works, when he can say it in a way to lead you away from the truth and good. And that's been my experience with Planned Parenthood, both nationally and locally here in Peoria; they will say and do anything -- even very good things -- as long as it profits and protects the abortion business. Threaten that, and watch out.

Thomas Peters, who blogs as the American Papist over at CatholicVote offered this comment just a little while ago to reports this morning that "Komen caved" in to the PP blitz. "No, they didn’t," he begins.
I’ve received a crash-course education in the foundation over the past couple days and I can say without doubt that one thing motivates their President Nancy Brinker: ending breast cancer. That’s why she decided to cease funding Planned Parenthood, because they are about the lousiest group to help if you are serious about ending breast cancer. Second, that’s why their President is worried about the damage to the Komen brand being done by Planned Parenthood and it’s pro-abortion allies. President Brinker knows if Komen is weakened it will be less able to pursue it’s objective of ending breast cancer. She’s not throwing pro-lifers under the bus, she’s trying to save an organization she built to honor the memory of her sister (who died from breast cancer) and prevent it happening to others.

That’s why we need to make common cause with Komen and support their pro-woman goals. That’s why we need to expose Planned Parenthood’s scurrilous move to destroy Komen.

I mean, just pause for a moment: if Planned Parenthood is so serious about protecting women’s health how does it justify leading a crusade to destroy the world’s leading breast cancer research foundation over these past days?? It’s simply incredible, and we need to make sure it’s never forgotten!

One last thing: we need to remember the big picture. Over the past 48 hours, not only did Planned Parenthood reveal itself as willing to seriously damage and attempt to destroy the pro-woman Komen foundation, but also, thousands and millions of people potentially learned for the first time that Komen doesn’t believe Planned Parenthood is an ideal provider of health care for women. So even if Planned Parenthood wins this battle (an outcome very much in doubt), I would argue they have seriously weakened themselves for the wars ahead. This will be a long fight, so take the long view.

Here’s what you can do to continue to support Komen in the short term:

1) email news@komen.org and say “Thank You for Defunding Planned Parenthood” and promise to buy products bearing the pink ribbon. Encourage them directly in other ways.

2) sign the petition at www.IStandWithKomen.com (this is not an effort to harvest emails, you only have to supply your name and location) and invite your family and friends to do the same.

3) blog/facebook/tweet/email/write op-eds about this. Get the word out any way you know how.
In a few moments, this blog post will make it to my Facebook page. My (currently) 859 Facebook friends really are all over the place on faith, morals, politics, and philosophy, as are those who regularly read Pastor Zip's Blog. We'll see what kind of reaction this gets.

[See comments for update. Zip+]

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Marriage and Religious Freedom: An Open Letter

The following statement, Marriage and Religious Freedom, was issued today by leaders of some of the largest religious communities in the US, joining together in an open letter to all Americans to voice their shared concern for marriage and religious freedom. Signatories include leaders from Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish, Lutheran, Mormon, and Pentecostal communities in the United States. (The Lutherans are LCMS President Matthew Harrison and NALC Bishop John Bradowski.) Below the signatures to this fine letter I'm posting the "Executive Summary." Pastor Zip

Hat tip to James Gale at
ALPB Forum Online.

Marriage and Religious Freedom:

Fundamental Goods That Stand or Fall Together
pdf verson here
An Open Letter
from Religious Leaders in the United States
to All Americans

Released January 12, 2012

Dear Friends:

The promotion and protection of marriage—the union of one man and one woman as husband and wife—is a matter of the common good and serves the wellbeing of the couple, of children, of civil society and all people. The meaning and value of marriage precedes and transcends any particular society, government, or religious community. It is a universal good and the foundational institution of all societies. It is bound up with the nature of the human person as male and female, and with the essential task of bearing and nurturing children.

As religious leaders across a wide variety of faith communities, we join together to affirm that marriage in its true definition must be protected for its own sake and for the good of society. We also recognize the grave consequences of altering this definition. One of these consequences—the interference with the religious freedom of those who continue to affirm the true definition of "marriage"—warrants special attention within our faith communities and throughout society as a whole. For this reason, we come together with one voice in this letter.

Some posit that the principal threat to religious freedom posed by same-sex "marriage" is the possibility of government’s forcing religious ministers to preside over such "weddings," on pain of civil or criminal liability. While we cannot rule out this possibility entirely, we believe that the First Amendment creates a very high bar to such attempts.

Instead, we believe the most urgent peril is this: forcing or pressuring both individuals and religious organizations—throughout their operations, well beyond religious ceremonies—to treat same-sex sexual conduct as the moral equivalent of marital sexual conduct. There is no doubt that the many people and groups whose moral and religious convictions forbid same-sex sexual conduct will resist the compulsion of the law, and church-state conflicts will result.

These conflicts bear serious consequences. They will arise in a broad range of legal contexts, because altering the civil definition of "marriage" does not change one law, but hundreds, even thousands, at once. By a single stroke, every law where rights depend on marital status—such as employment discrimination, employment benefits, adoption, education, healthcare, elder care, housing, property, and taxation—will change so that same-sex sexual relationships must be treated as if they were marriage. That requirement, in turn, will apply to religious people and groups in the ordinary course of their many private or public occupations and ministries—including running schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other housing facilities, providing adoption and counseling services, and many others.

So, for example, religious adoption services that place children exclusively with married couples would be required by law to place children with persons of the same sex who are civilly "married." Religious marriage counselors would be denied their professional accreditation for refusing to provide counseling in support of same-sex "married" relationships. Religious employers who provide special health benefits to married employees would be required by law to extend those benefits to same-sex "spouses." Religious employers would also face lawsuits for taking any adverse employment action—no matter how modest—against an employee for the public act of obtaining a civil "marriage" with a member of the same sex. This is not idle speculation, as these sorts of situations have already come to pass.

Even where religious people and groups succeed in avoiding civil liability in cases like these, they would face other government sanctions—the targeted withdrawal of government co-operation, grants, or other benefits.

For example, in New Jersey, the state cancelled the tax-exempt status of a Methodist-run boardwalk pavilion used for religious services because the religious organization would not host a same-sex "wedding" there. San Francisco dropped its $3.5 million in social service contracts with the Salvation Army because it refused to recognize same-sex "domestic partnerships" in its employee benefits policies. Similarly, Portland, Maine, required Catholic Charities to extend spousal employee benefits to same-sex "domestic partners" as a condition of receiving city housing and community development funds.

In short, the refusal of these religious organizations to treat a same-sex sexual relationship as if it were a marriage marked them and their members as bigots, subjecting them to the full arsenal of government punishments and pressures reserved for racists. These punishments will only grow more frequent and more severe if civil "marriage" is redefined in additional jurisdictions. For then, government will compel special recognition of relationships that we the undersigned religious leaders and the communities of faith that we represent cannot, in conscience, affirm. Because law and government not only coerce and incentivize but also teach, these sanctions would lend greater moral legitimacy to private efforts to punish those who defend marriage.

Therefore, we encourage all people of good will to protect marriage as the union between one man and one woman, and to consider carefully the far-reaching consequences for the religious freedom of all Americans if marriage is redefined. We especially urge those entrusted with the public good to support laws that uphold the time-honored definition of marriage, and so avoid threatening the religious freedom of countless institutions and citizens in this country. Marriage and religious freedom are both deeply woven into the fabric of this nation.

May we all work together to strengthen and preserve the unique meaning of marriage and the precious gift of religious freedom.

Sincerely Yours:
Rev. Leith Anderson
National Association of Evangelicals

Johann Christoph Arnold
Senior Pastor
Bruderhof Communities

Randall A. Bach
Open Bible Churches

Dr. Gary M. Benedict
The Christian and Missionary Alliance

The Rev. John F. Bradosky
North American Lutheran Church

Glenn Burris, Jr.
The Foursquare Church

Bishop H. David Burton
Presiding Bishop
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Dr. Ronald W. Carpenter, Sr.
Presiding Bishop
International Pentecostal Holiness Church

Rabbi Abba Cohen
Vice President for Federal Affairs
Washington Director
Agudath Israel of America

Most Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone
Bishop of Oakland
Chairman, USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage

Nathan J. Diament
Executive Director for Public Policy
Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America

Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan
Archbishop of New York
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Dr. Barrett Duke
Vice President for Public Policy and Research
Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

The Most Rev. Robert Duncan
Archbishop, Anglican Church in North America
Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh

Rev. Jim Eschenbrenner
Executive Pastor
General Council of Christian Union Churches

Dr. William J. Hamel
Evangelical Free Church of America

Rev. Dr. Ron Hamilton
Conference Minister
Conservative Congregational Christian Conference

Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison
Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

John Hopler
Great Commission Churches
Dr. Bill Hossler
Missionary Church, Inc.

Clyde M. Hughes
General Overseer
International Pentecostal Church of Christ

Rev. Kenneth D. Hunn
Executive Director
The Brethren Church

David W. Kendall
Free Methodist Church USA

Dr. Richard Land
Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Most Rev. William E. Lori
Bishop of Bridgeport
Chairman, USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty

Dr. Jo Anne Lyon
Chair Board of General Superintendents
The Wesleyan Church

James W. Murray
Executive Director
General Association of General Baptists

Most Rev. Kevin C. Rhoades
Bishop of Ft. Wayne - South Bend
Chairman, USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth

Commissioner William A. Roberts
National Commander
The Salvation Army

Rocky Rocholl
Fellowship of Evangelical Churches

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez
National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

David T. Roller
Free Methodist Church USA

Matthew A. Thomas
Free Methodist Church USA

Dr. Joseph Tkach
President & Pastor General
Grace Communion International

Berten A. Waggoner
National Director
Vineyard USA

W. Phillip Whipple
United Brethren in Christ Church, USA

Dr. John P. Williams, Jr.
Regional Director
Evangelical Friends Church, North America

David P. Wilson
General Secretary
Church of the Nazarene

Dr. George O. Wood
General Superintendent
Assemblies of God

Executive Summary:

We, as representatives of a broad array of faiths, join together to affirm that marriage, the union of one man and one woman, must be promoted and protected for its own sake and for the common good. We also agree that redefining marriage will incur grave consequences, including a deleterious impact on religious liberty. Altering the definition of marriage will change not just one law but hundreds, even thousands, of laws. There will be government mandates, requiring the recognition and accommodation of so-called same-sex "marriages," that pose a critical threat to institutions and individuals who for reasons of faith and conscience will resist the law’s compulsion. Cases involving criminal and civil penalties and the denial of grants and other government benefits are already occurring and will only increase in number and severity if more jurisdictions redefine marriage. The law not only will coerce and impose disincentives, but will also teach that religious objectors must be marked as if they were bigots. We encourage all people of good will to protect marriage as the union between one man and one woman, and to consider carefully the far-reaching consequences for the religious freedom of all Americans if marriage is redefined. May all of us work together to strengthen and preserve the unique meaning of marriage and the precious gift of religious liberty.

Signatories come from the following communities:

Agudath Israel of America
Anglican Church in North America
Assemblies of God
The Brethren Church
Bruderhof Communities
The Christian & Missionary Alliance
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Church of the Nazarene
Conservative Congregational Christian Conference
Evangelical Free Church of America
Evangelical Friends Church, North America
Fellowship of Evangelical Churches
The Foursquare Church
Free Methodist Church USA
General Association of General Baptists
General Council of Christian Union Churches
Grace Communion International
Great Commission Churches
International Pentecostal Church of Christ
International Pentecostal Holiness Church
Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod
Missionary Church, Inc.
National Association of Evangelicals
National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
North American Lutheran Church
Open Bible Churches
The Salvation Army
Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
United Brethren in Christ Church, USA
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America
Vineyard USA
The Wesleyan Church