Happy 7th Anniversary Light from Light

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The first post on this blog appeared seven years ago in May 2008 A.D.  Happy anniversary Light from Light.

In the topmost picture please notice the mountains behind the trees.

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The photos in this post are from Bierstadt Lake in the Rocky Mountains at about 9465 feet elevation.

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An anniversary is always a time for reflection.

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“He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.”  (Psalm 23:2, ESV).

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“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  (Psalm 23:6, ESV).

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God’s blessings to all the readers.  Thank you.

Under Creators

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In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

And God said, …

— Genesis 1:1-3, ESV.

In the beginning, God created everything from nothing.  He is the original creator.

We are sub-creators.  We create only from what has been created.  One of the reasons I enjoy outdoor photography is because it embodies the very concept of capturing or reflecting the reality of what has already been created.

Because we are made in the image and likeness of a Maker, we can all make.  (Genesis 1:26).  Using our creative imaginations we can step into the picture above, stand on the shores of Lake Winnebago, and ponder the glory of God.  We could even write a short story or description of the experience.

Near the waters,
he hovers,
we stand.

He creates,
so do we.
He blesses,
we receive.

Fox Cities Book Festival 2015

“Clearly, one must read every good book at least once every ten years.”

C.S. Lewis.

The Fox Cities Book Festival is currently under way.  The purpose of the festival is to connect authors and writers with readers.  Schools and libraries all across the Fox Cities in Wisconsin are involved with the festival.

Since my brother wrote a book, I’ve developed a more intense interest in reading and writing books, and hope to attend at least one of the festival presentations in part just to see what it is like.

In this area, our local libraries can be a powerful resource.  Borrowing a book is as easy as browsing the internet, and clicking the “place hold” button.  If the book cannot be found in the local area library system, they will often do an inter-library loan.  For example, they have gotten theological books for me all the way from Concordia University’s library in Mequon, Wisconsin.  All one needs to do is make an online request.

The Lord wants us to always learn and grow.  Good books can help us do that.

Pastor Lidtke’s Letters of Recognition

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Recently after the divine service at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Pastor Paul Lidtke received some letters of recognition.  In the picture above from left to right is Pastor Lidtke, State Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt, Congressman Glenn Grothman, Camille Solberg, and the congregation president Greg Kargus.

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Many of Pastor Lidtke’s accomplishments came as a surprise.  Apparently, in addition to preaching and visitation, he also does many other things such as help counsel offenders and victims of crime.

I have always been impressed by his good pastoral care and common sense.  He is an earthy preacher who proclaims the pure word of God without adding a bunch of nonsense; for example, he doesn’t preach about himself.

And that is why he was embarrassed by the letters of recognition he received.  (He did not know that he was going to get them until only a few days before the service).  Nonetheless, they were obtained for him out of love and appreciation.

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One of the challenges of photography at Bethlehem Lutheran Church is the amber stained glass windows.  They can make it difficult to get a clear color-balanced picture.  Nonetheless, I like how the pictures above and below brought out the beautiful color, grain, and texture of the wood in the sanctuary.

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In the end, it is all about Christ.  His cross, his sacrifice, his sacraments, his grace and mercy are the beginning and end of all life.  (John 14:6).


Notes

For all the pictures in this post, I used Digital Photo Professional to do the white balance on RAW files.  DPP came bundled with my camera, and can be very useful when dealing with certain types of tricky indoor lighting.

Pastor Lidtke to Receive Letters of Recognition

WELS logoToday, I received a news release indicating that Pastor Paul Lidtke will be receiving letters of recognition for his work in advocating for victims and helping to rehabilitate offenders.  The letters will be presented on Sunday, April 19, 2015 at 10 am after the 9 am divine service at Bethlehem Lutheran Church; 1206 Ontario Street; Oshkosh, WI 54901.

Oshkosh Pastor Receiving Eight Letters of Recognition

Reverend Paul J. Lidtke, a Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) pastor, at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Oshkosh, WI will receive 8 Letters of Recognition from Wisconsin leaders and government officials on Sunday, April 19th at 10:00am for his work as a victim advocate and with offender rehabilitation.

Several victims along with other ministers and attorneys contacted Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s office to let him know how much Pastor Lidtke has done for them and what he has meant to them.  In his written Letter of Commendation, Governor Scott Walker thanked Pastor Lidtke for encouraging and assisting crime victims in the State of Wisconsin, particularly in advocating on their behalf to make sure they received the help and support they so desperately need.

Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch also adds, “His work in the victim advocacy and offender rehabilitation fields is praiseworthy.”  Kleefisch further stated that Pastor Lidtke’s, “efforts and leadership over the past 25 years have helped make a lasting difference in countless lives.”

Pastor Lidtke’s commitment and dedication to victims goes well beyond his congregation.  As expressed by one victim, “It is with his leadership and crucial contributions to assist and empower victims, that he has given hope to many, even under the most difficult circumstances.”  Pastor Lidtke has gone above and beyond advocating for victims and, “his voice became their voice and that gave them strength” states Harry Sydney, former Green Bay Packer and founder of My Brother‘s Keeper.

In addition to victim advocacy, Sydney also states, “The impact of Reverend Lidtke’s relentless efforts can be felt from his work in prisons as he works with individuals preparing themselves for their next chapters in their lives.”  On at least one occasion, he spent four years encouraging and supporting a woman on parole so she wouldn’t reoffend again recalls Reverend Daniel Krause, a former Wisconsin Lutheran Institutional Ministries pastor and Winnebago County Sheriff’s chaplain.

Governor Scott Walker, in closing, praised Pastor Lidtke by saying that he “is a wonderful example that others would do well to emulate”.

Reverend Paul J. Lidtke Recognitions:

  • Letter of Commendation Given by:  Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker
  • Letter Given by:  Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch
  • Attending and speaking:  Wisconsin State Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt
  • Attending and speaking:  U.S. House of Representatives Congressman Glenn Grothman (WI-06)
  • Letter Given by:  United States Senator Ron Johnson
    • Read by:  Camille Solberg – Regional Director/State Minority Outreach Coordinator for Ron Johnson
  • Letter Given by:  Burke Tower, Former Mayor of Oshkosh
  • Letter Given by:  Harry Sydney, Former Green Bay Packer and founder of My Brother’s Keeper
  • Letter Given by:  Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) Northern Wisconsin District President Joel Zank

When this first started, it was supposed to be a surprise for Pastor Lidtke, but this simple expression of gratitude and appreciation quickly grew too large to keep it a secret from Pastor Lidtke.  So now the information is public.

For members of WELS churches who might be interested in attending the 9 am divine service, Bethlehem Lutheran Church receives the Lord’s Supper every Lord’s Day (every Sunday).

May the Lord bless Pastor Lidtke.

Kim Kardashian, Pope Francis, & the Armenian Genocide

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On April 24, 2015 Armenia will recognize the 100 year anniversary of the start of the Armenian Genocide.  During this genocide, Islamists murdered 1.5 million Christians.

Members of the Kardashian family recently visited the Armenian Genocide memorial.  They laid red tulips at the site.  Kim Kardashian’s great grandfather and great great grandfather both fled Armenia for California right before the genocide began.

The UK’s The Daily Mail has an interesting story about the Kardashian visit and the Armenian genocide.  That article has many more pictures of the Kardashians in Armenia (including the picture used above).  The somber tones of the picture above relate well the topic of tears, murder, and genocide.  The red is a nice accent.  Red can symbolize blood, death, and remembrance.

Kim Kardashian was wearing the red jumpsuit.  She wrote on her Instagram account, “It was an honor to meet the Prime Minister of Armenia, Hovik Abrahamyan who expressed how proud they are that we are proud Armenians and we have not forgotten our roots!  #NeverForget.”

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kin were killed between 1915 and 1917 as the Ottoman Empire was falling apart and have long sought to win international recognition of the massacres as genocide…

The Armenians have found a willing supporter in [Pope] Francis, who as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was particularly close to the Armenian community in Argentina and referred to the ‘genocide’ of Armenians three times in his 2010 book, ‘On Heaven and Earth.’

As pope, Francis provoked Turkish anxiety—and a minor diplomatic incident—when in June 2013 he told a delegation of Armenian Christians that the killing was ‘the first genocide of the 20th century.’…

The Vatican spokesman subsequently said the remarks were in no way a formal or public declaration and therefore didn’t constitute a public assertion by the pope that genocide took place.

But St. John Paul II referred to the ‘genocide’ both before and during his 2001 trip to Armenia, even signing an official document with the Armenian church leader Catholicos Karekin II noting that that the episode ‘is generally referred to as the first genocide of the 20th century.’

Kim Kardashian lays Flowers at Armenian memorial,
The Forgotten Holocaust
, The Daily Mail.


The Forgotten Holocaust


1.5 million Armenian Christians murdered

The killing of 1.5m Armenians by the Ottoman Turks during World War I remains one of the bloodiest and most contentious events of the 20th century, and has been called the first modern genocide.

Chillingly, Adolf Hitler used the episode to justify the Nazi murder of six million Jews, saying in 1939: “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

So how exactly did the events of 1915-17 unfold?  Just as Hitler wanted a Nazi-dominated world that would be Judenrein—cleansed of its Jews—so in 1914 the Ottoman Empire wanted to construct a Muslim empire that would stretch from Istanbul to Manchuria.

Armenia, an ancient Christian civilisation spreading out from the eastern end of the Black Sea, stood in its way.

At the turn of the 20th century, there were two million Christian Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire.  Already, 200,000 had been killed in a series of pogroms—most of them brutally between 1894 and 1896.

In November 1914, the Ottoman Empire entered World War I against the Allies and launched a disastrous military campaign against Russian forces in the Caucasus.  It blamed defeat on the Armenians, claiming they had colluded with the Russians.

A prominent Turkish writer at the time described the war as ‘the awaited day’ when the Turks would exact ‘revenge, the horrors of which have not yet been recorded in history’.

Through the final months of 1914, the Ottoman government put together a number of ‘Special Organisation’ units, armed gangs consisting of thousands of convicts specifically released from prison for the purpose.

These killing squads of murderers and thieves were to perpetrate the greatest crimes in the genocide.  They were the first state bureaucracy to implement mass killings for the purpose of race extermination.  One army commander described them at the time as the ‘butchers of the human species’.

On the night of April 24, 1915—the anniversary of which is marked by Armenians around the world—the Ottoman government moved decisively, arresting 250 Armenian intellectuals.  This was followed by the arrest of a further 2,000.

Some died from torture in custody, while many were executed in public places.  The resistance poet, Daniel Varoujan, was found disembowelled, with his eyes gouged out.  One university professor was made to watch his colleagues have their fingernails and toenails pulled out, before being blinded.  He eventually lost his mind, and was let loose naked into the streets.

There were reports of crucifixions, at which the Turks would torment their victims: ‘Now let your Christ come and help you!’

There were reports of crucifixions, at which the Turks would torment their victims: ‘Now let your Christ come and help you!’

So began a carefully orchestrated campaign to eradicate the Armenians.  Throughout this period, Ottoman leaders deceived the world, orchestrating the slaughter using code words in official telegrams.

At later war crimes trials, several military officers testified that the word ‘deportation’ was used to mean ‘massacre’ or ‘annihilation’.

Between May and August 1915, the Armenian population of the eastern provinces was deported and murdered en masse.

In urban areas, a town crier was used to deliver the deportation order, and the entire male population would be taken outside the city limits and killed—’slaughtered like sheep’.  Women and children would then be executed, deported to concentration camps or simply turned out into the deserts and left to starve to death.

Walking skeletons begged for food, and women threw their babies into lakes rather than hand them over to the Turks.  There was mass looting and pillaging of Armenian goods.  It is reported that civilians burned bodies to find the gold coins the Armenians swallowed for safekeeping.

Conditions in the concentration camps were appalling.  The majority were located near the modern Iraqi and Syrian frontiers, in the desert between Jerablus and Deir ez-Zor—described as ‘the epicentre of death’.  Up to 70,000 Armenians were herded into each camp, where dysentery and typhus were rife.

There, they were left to starve or die of thirst in the burning sun, with no shelter.  In some cases, the living were forced to eat the dead.  Few survived.

In four days alone, from 10-14 June 1915, the gangs ‘eliminated’ some 25,000 people in the Kemah Erzincan area alone.

In September 1915, the American consul in Kharput, Leslie A. Davis, reported discovering the bodies of nearly 10,000 Armenians dumped into several ravines near beautiful Lake Goeljuk, calling it the ‘slaughterhouse province’.

Tales of atrocity abound.  Historians report that the killing squads dashed infants on rocks in front of their mothers.

One young boy remembered his grandfather, the village priest, kneeling down to pray for mercy before the Turks.  Soldiers beheaded him, and played football with the old man’s decapitated head before his devastated family.

At the horrific Ras-ul-Ain camp near Urfa, two German railway engineers reported seeing three to four hundred women arrive in one day, completely naked.  One witness told how Sergeant Nuri, the overseer of the camp, bragged about raping children.

In the desert regions, the Turks set up primitive gas chambers, stuffing Armenians into caves and asphyxiating them with brush fires.

Everywhere, there were Armenian corpses: in lakes and rivers, in empty desert cisterns and village wells.  Travellers reported that the stench of death pervaded the landscape.

By 1917, the Armenian ‘problem’, as it was described by Ottoman leaders, had been thoroughly ‘resolved’.  Muslim families were brought in to occupy empty villages…

Kim Kardashian lays Flowers at Armenian memorial,
The Forgotten Holocaust
The Daily Mail.

For over a thousand years all of Anatolia was Christian.  Then repeated invasions and pograms committed by Islamists and Mohammadans purged the Christians from the land.  Constantinople is now “Istanbul” and Anatolia is now “Turkey.”

The Islamic Turks claim that the Armenians all died in a civil war.  However, there are pictures of lines of crosses with naked Armenian Christian women nailed to them.  Crucified.  The systemic murder of Christians in the Middle East continues to this day.

The Islamic Turks deny their behavior was a genocide, and lobbied Pope Francis to not use the term “genocide” at an April 12 meeting with a delegation of Armenian Christians.


 Pope Francis


On Sunday, April 12, 2015, Pope Francis did use the term “genocide.”

The Pope made the comments at a Mass in the Armenian Catholic rite at St. Peter’s Basilica, attended by the Armenian president and church leaders.

He said that humanity had lived through “three massive and unprecedented tragedies” in the last century.

“The first, which is widely considered ‘the first genocide of the 20th Century’, struck your own Armenian people,” he said, in a form of words used by a declaration by Pope John Paul II in 2001.

Pope Francis also referred to the crimes “perpetrated by Nazism and Stalinism” and said other genocides had followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Burundi and Bosnia.

He said it was his duty to honour the memories of those who were killed.

“Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it.”

“Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it,” the Pope added.

Armenia’s President Serzh Sargsyan welcomed his comments, saying they sent a powerful message to the international community.

But Turkey immediately summoned the Vatican’s ambassador to Ankara for an explanation, and then later recalled its ambassador from Rome.

The foreign ministry said it felt “great disappointment and sadness” at the Pope’s remarks, which it said would cause a “problem of trust” between them.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted: “The Pope’s statement, which is far from the legal and historical reality, cannot be accepted.

“Religious authorities are not the places to incite resentment and hatred with baseless allegations,” he added.

Turkey anger at Pope Francis Armenian ‘genocide’ claim,
BBC News.

When will the slaughter of the truth and of human beings cease?  When will we start to deal with these moral problems in an open, honest, and straightforward manner?  Pope Francis is to be commended for speaking frankly about this moral issue.

Brother’s Book on the Nook

My brother Jonathan’s book, The Death You Deserve, is now available on the Barnes & Noble Nook.  The Facebook post announcing this is embedded below:

Here are additional links to the same book on Amazon.com and Goodreads.

Are Fantasy Stories Just for Children?

Some people used to say that fantasy and fairy stories were just for children.  Here are some thoughts by J.R.R. Tolkien about whether any branch of genuine art should be just for children:

The process of growing older is not necessarily allied to growing wickeder, though the two do often happen together.  Children are meant to grow up, and not to become Peter Pans.  Not to lose innocence and wonder, but to proceed on the appointed journey: that journey upon which it is certainly not better to travel hopefully than to arrive, though we must travel hopefully if we are to arrive.  But it is one of the lessons of fairy-stories (if we can speak of the lessons of things that do not lecture) that on callow, lumpish, and selfish youth peril, sorrow, and the shadow of death can bestow dignity, and even sometimes wisdom.

Let us not divide the human race into Eloi and Morlocks: pretty children … with their fairy-tales (carefully pruned), and dark Morlocks tending their machines.  If fairy-story as a kind is worth reading at all it is worthy to be written for and read by adults.  They will, of course, put more in and get more out than children can.

Then, as a branch of genuine art, children may hope to get fairy-stories fit for them to read and yet within their measure; as they may hope to get suitable introductions to poetry, history, and the sciences.  Though it may be better for them to read some things, especially fairy-stories, that are beyond their measure rather than short of it.  Their books like their clothes should allow for growth, and their books at any rate should encourage it.

— J.R.R. Tolkien
Tree and Leaf, pages 44-45,
First American Edition, 1965 A.D.

Resurrection Sunday 2015

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Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  (John 14:6, ESV).  Jesus is life eternal.  He is the bread of life given for us to eat.  (John 6:35).

Happy Easter!

He is risen!

“Speak, Mary, declaring
What you saw when wayfaring.”

“The tomb of Christ, who is living,
the glory of Jesus’ resurrection;
Bright angels attesting,
The shroud and napkin resting.
My Lord, my hope, is arisen;
To Galilee He goes before you.”

Christ indeed from death is risen,
Our new life obtaining.
Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!
Amen.  Alleluia.

— “Christians, to the Paschal Victim,” LSB, 460.

He is risen, indeed!

Good Friday 2015

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It is finished.

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