Always ethereal, always eclectic, I write as the mood strikes, when there intrigue reveals itself. Usually that means something controversial or adventure of some sort.

I've tried really hard to be unprovocative, but have as yet been unsuccessful.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Return to the Land of Qat and Man-Skirts

Long ago, at the beginning of this blog, I journeyed to an ancient land, to explore what might await me. Today I had the opportunity to return again.

When I first visited, I took a picture at night of a new, great mosque being built. I accidentally used my flash, and one of the guard-soldiers made me delete the picture, on penalty of taking my camera. I went back to the hotel room and took the picture from a distance- for there was no logical reason why they would deny people the right of taking pictures of a mosque that can be seen from everywhere in the city. This incredibly beautiful mosque, the President's Mosque, is the largest in Yemen and one of the largest in the world, and it is now completed.

























Monday, 13 July 2009

Paranormal Panorama

Suqutra is that Yemeni island that I would really love to get to one day. Just now my Google Bots have delivered some radical new links. It's about as close as one can get without actually being there.

Dragon's Blood trees, Diksum Plateau, Socotra, Yemen in Yemen

Between two Dragon's Blood trees, Socotra, Yemen in Yemen
http://www.360cities.net/image/wadi-geneb-socotra

Wadi Geneb, Socotra, Yemen in Yemen

Homhil Protected Area, Socotra, Yemen in Yemen

Sand dunes, Socotra, Yemen in Yemen

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Commitment and Calling

For all my dad's preaching, as an adult, I've never heard him. Well, that's not true. You can take the preacher out of the pulpit, but you can't take the pulpit out of the preacher. So let me start over.

As an adult, I've never heard my dad preaching from the pulpit. He preached often when I was a child, but I don't remember it. Today in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, was my first opportunity to experience this treat. And, perhaps your first opportunity as well.

Video below is broken into five chunks, for uploading purposes. First off is my old babysitter singing:

The sermon began with my dad sharing how there was something really special going on at this church, Cornerstone Church, but some treat it like their favorite restaurant. They don't want to tell anyone else about it, because the chef and waiters won't pay as much attention to them if everyone goes there.

Technical difficulties kept me from video recording the segment about the open air double-decker bus police chase, where our band would play righteous rock n'roll from the top of an open double-decker bus down the streets of London, with the bobbies trying to chase us down as the bus wove in and out of traffic, and then shutting us down. For a block, after which we would wait for the police to leave and start up again.




At this point, I ran out of video, so there is an eight minute segment unrecorded. Here my dad discusses how God provides miraculously, and how the Jesus Movement changed Christian music forever. He goes to the invaluable contributions of the Steinkes (whose daughter is married to the pastor of Cornerstone Church) in the beginnings of the Jesus Movement in Wisconsin, and how they provided their best bed for my mother and father some nine months before I was born. The Holy Spirit works amazingly, and we are called to act in real faith. The economy will hopefully get worse. To hear more of this, go to the audio only link below.



To hear full audio only, go to Cornerstone Church's MP3.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

The Apostle Junia

This is devoted to the memory of Junia, the only named female apostle in the New Testament.. Though traditionally the name at the end of Romans 16.7 has often been translated as "Junias", the grammer at that point in the Greek doesn't leave an indication of the gender- the last letter is not included, due to the construction of the sentence. Millenia of male translators have assumed it to be a man. But in exhaustive searches of tombstones and other Roman archeology, the name "Junias" does not appear once. The name, "Junia", however (meaning "youthful" and taken from Hera/June, the wife of the head of the Greco-Roman Pantheon, Jupiter/Zeus), appears numerous times in Roman writings.

To read more, please visit:







Above:
Early Church female leaders including Theoda, the Bishop of the Church of St. Prassede in Rome in 820 A.D.; with her predecessor St. Prassede, founder of the church; St. Prudentiana, and Mary, the mother of God. The square halo shows a living person at the time the picture was made. Ancient graffiti is clearly marked, changing the name "Theoda" to "Theodo" to make it appear that the bishop was a man.

Left: "St. Andronicus, St. Athanasius of Constantinople, and St. Junia"



B
ooks exclusively on Junia:

Other books on women in leadership:Where can you run into Junia in 3-D life? There is a Mission of St. Junia the Apostle in Costa Mesa, California, part of one of the groups that has split off the Roman Catholic Church. Also St. Martin the Merciful Orthodox Church in Corvallis, Oregon has a six-foot fresco of St. Junia.

Right:
A mosaic in a cathedral floor covering the tomb of Julia Runa, a presbyterissa/priest.

You can also now buy postcards and "pre-icons" of St. Junia for $2.50 plus postage from the bookstore of the General Theological Semnary of NY. Their number is 212-727-3907.

Celebrate an amazing woman,
on the Orthodox commemoration and Feast of St. Junia (and Adronicus) on May 17th.

Following in Junia's footsteps, three centuries later Nina lead the entire country of Georgia to Christ, making her perhaps the greatest female evangelist of all time.

Care passionately about women's leadership in the church? Join
Christians for Biblical Equality!

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Nina

The First Great Female Sharer

Nina (also Nona, Nonna) was perhaps the greatest female sharer of the early church. Through her efforts she introduced an entire nation to the Light. Most of what is written of her remains enshrouded in myth. But all myths have truth at their core. This is her story, and what we can learn from her.

There were some Christian groups in Georgia when Nina arrived there around 330 AD. (The date appears difficult to establish- other traditions indicate that she arrived in 276, 318, 327, or 335 AD.) Nina healed many people, including eventually the King of Georgia. The king then committed himself to the Light, and was advised by Nina to contact Constantine to obtain bishops. She continued to encourage the meeting and share truth until her death. She is responsible for founding the gathering of believers in Georgia.

The tradition of Nina is more expansive than the bare facts. The Georgian Church traditionally dates it's first understanding to the Mother of God, Mary, indicating that the church seems to have had an early psychological acceptance of women in ministry. Nina herself grew up in Jerusalem, and is portrayed as someone of noble birth, who came as a sharer to Georgia, according to Georgian Church record. However, most other sources indicate that she was a slave when she first arrived in Georgia. This would put her in the tradition of Patrick of Ireland, coming to share with the people who had enslaved him. If Nina was of the Patrick tradition, then her sharing of Georgia is even more astounding. As to the Georgian traditions, it would seem more likely that a tradition would arise defending Nina's freedom, rather than Nina's enslavement, as there is less honor in being a slave.

However, the Georgian church believed her to be a nun, perhaps "Nina" being a title rather than a proper name, deriving from her Egyptian order of "Nonnes". Other Georgian sources argue that it was a common name, like Gregory of Nazianzus' mother's name, Nino. According to the traditions, Nina was the niece of the Patriarch of Jerusalem, and given up to God by her parents.

She is said to have received the cross of the wood of the vine from a vision of Mary, and this cross still exists today in Georgia. The present primary cross in Georgia is admittedly ancient.

On the way to Georgia Nina shared extensively and was persecuted in Armenia. Upon arriving in Georgia she began her sharing with a prayer against a festival of the gods that was about to begin. A large hail storm then arose that dispersed the revelers and destroyed the idols. The hail storm was ascribed by the natives to the anger of the gods, but three days later Nina started to share the truth of the Light. Nina here demonstrated familiarity with the power encounter, dependence on God, and trust in His miraculous power.

Nina came then to stay with the king's gardener, and there healed the gardener's wife's womb, to allow her to give birth to a son. Following this she healed a widow's son by putting a sackcloth on him. She met the felt needs of the people around her; sons are important in a society where women are degraded, and for a widow, the son is the only thing allowing her to be supported. She related to the Georgians emically, from their perspective and needs.

Tradition then indicates that the work of Nina began to expand through the convincing of the royal house. The queen noticed the healing, and, knowing of Christianity, she asked Nina to pray for her own serious illness. After the queen was healed, Nina began to have her own disciples. Likely this tradition of discipleship is accurate, as it goes against normal church beliefs of the next 1500 years to have disciples attached to a woman. Also, discipleship would have been necessary for Nina's ministry to expand.

The king, Mirian, did not appreciate Nina's success, so he decided to persecute the Christians and become himself more devoted to his gods. Mirian ordered his advisers to lead his wife away from the Gospel or else he would divorce her.

Sources contradict on the next immediate events. Some say that Nina healed the king of a sudden blindness, and others that it got dark suddenly when he was hunting. The king asked for help from his gods, but to no avail, so he asked for help from Nina's God, and promised to proclaim Christianity and worship the cross. It became immediately light. Whatever happened, the king made a promise to turn to the Light in the process of these events.

A beautiful cross was almost worshiped (not just venerated) by the Georgians shortly after these events. And the Armenian traditions concerning Georgia speak of Nina having people bow down before a cross as well. The people refused, however, according to the Armenians, as the cross was ugly, so God sent a cloud and light over it, and made a pleasant smell, and music came from the cross, at which the Georgians gladly worshiped. There seems to be a number of traditions supporting the idea that cross worship occurred, which of course would be heretical. But it does reflect a primitive understanding of Christianity. It appears that Nina, in her pursuit of contextualization, supported this worship.

Interestingly, the Armenian tradition states that Gregory of Armenia had to instruct Nina on her early mission, providing some of the ideas such as throwing down idols and worshiping the cross. This tradition is questionable though, as it comes from Armenia and magnifies the importance of Armenia's patron saint. It also appears to denigrate the abilities of women to make decisions on their own, reflecting the male hegemony of historians. But even if she had the help of Gregory, still, through her sharing, she established the Church of an entire country and people. She was the type of a saint.

After the king turned to Christ, so did the rest of the capitol city. Nina showed an awareness of the importance of leaders in a kinship society. She instructed and taught the leader, and the people followed. There is of course the danger of nominalism in this approach, as the people can follow their leader without making a decision for themselves. There is always also the danger that it would be forgotten that the Gospel is intended first for the poor and downtrodden, and for the wealthy and powerful only secondarily. But this was a more kinship, group-focused society, and it appears that Nina continued to disciple her followers throughout this time, to ingrain deep and not just widespread belief.

The Church of Georgia was then guided by Nina into the greater church. At her request, King Mirian sent to Constantinople for bishops and priests, and shortly thereafter the Patriarch of Antioch arrived with permanent clergy and sacred relics. This was the beginning of a strong tie between Georgia and Antioch, and with the establishment of Georgia as an autocephaly, there was also a strong liturgical link with Antioch for centuries.

Nina was also very vigorous in establishing the Georgian cult of worship. Soon after his conversion King Mirian built a temple, and when the builders could not erect the seventh pillar of the temple, Nina called for angels to help her set it up. Although it is difficult to know if this tradition is accurate, it demonstrates again Nina's awareness that the supernatural was ever present, useful, and could make an impact on people steeped in superstition and the spirit world. The king also encouraged Nina to look for the coat of Christ, supposedly brought to Georgia by the soldier who won it at the cross, and it was miraculously found by her, so a chapel was dedicated to Nina. (Another tradition has Nina sharing the Light with the Jews of Mtskheta and then receiving the coat of Christ from them.) Nina knew from her own cultural setting that physical objects could be imbued with spiritual strength- both holy and evil. She again affirmed the intimate presence of the supernatural.

Nina continued to build temples throughout Georgia. Even though much of her story may never be confirmed this side of eternity, the ideas in the myth show a woman depending on God. She was known as an powerful and constant preacher, and lead many people to the Light. She does not appear to have been afraid to share to men, even though her own culture was against it. She prayed and expected healings and miracles. Nina demonstrated a boldness to obey Christ's commands to share the Gospel. She was not only ethereal and idealistic in her beliefs, but set up practical church structures, to encourage the continuation of the church after her death. She was not only a great female sharer, but a witness to us all on how to do effective love and truth.

Sources:

Isoelian, P. A Short History of the Georgian Church. Saunders, Otley, and Co., London: 1866.

Myendorff, John. Imperial Unity and Christian Divisions. St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY: 1989.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

4

I had the pleasure of golfing yesterday for the first time in ages, with my fellow Glarites, Bret and Emily from my church, before going off to see Transformers and Star Trek at the Drive-Thru. (The former you really need to avoid. The special effects are cool but they get tiring because that's all there is. The latter is the only movie I've seen this year worth seeing twice.) When you move to New Glarus, you get a lot of cool coupons, and one of them is a 2:1 golf outing, so we took advantage of this.

This was truly a Wisconsinite golf course: cheese, and live goats.
















It's a beautifully manicured course, where they achieved an incredible amount of packing in. Every hole winds in and out of the next. The water trap was mostly avoided, though we did have some difficulties in the sand traps.

Most of the holes weren't that innovative, though there was one loop-to-loop that only Bret was able to achieve on the first attempt. Actually, that was kind of the play on every hole- Bret did well, and me and Emily struggled to stay only a couple above par. (And I spent a few holes forced to yell "Four" to get the ball back on the green.) Thus we were pleased that Bret was not entirely Spiner and at least partly human, losing his ball- in the same bush that I lost mine in.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Yudl - Ay - EEE - Ooooo

New Glarus is a town of festivals, with some eight over the course of the warm months. This weekend is Heidi Fest. (Not to be confused with the William Tell Festival, because a Swiss town really can't have too many celebrations of Switzerland!)

Unfortunately, the celebration began with a community presentation of Heidi at the local high school. Don't get me wrong- it's a sweet enough story. But the production was anything but sweet. As someone who's directed productions in the past, the acting was atrocious, and the directing not much better. It was easy to see where improvements could have been made. The 4th grade child playing Heidi did a better job for her age than most of the participants, but everything was at the level of what you'd expect in a junior-high play. Not being able to hear the loud whispers of the woman with the cue cards would have helped. There were a couple notable exceptions, such as how we saw the obvious theatrical training of the woman playing the mean Miss Rottenmeier. But largely, the high point for the audience was when the live goat began to chew on the rope near the end of the two hours. The rope was attached to a large Swiss bell, and we all began silently to cheer the goat on, hoping against hope of some relief from the tedium. We were finally rewarded with the clear dulcet tones of the bell. But it bodes not well when the best acting is done by the goat.

The next day I made my way to the main square, where the dancing, crafts, and music were. On the way I discovered that New Glarus has it's own Ents.

At the festival there was a delightful presentation of bell ringing, though unfortunately their drumming accompaniment left something to be desired, so it was not recorded. (This is not to speak ill. Keeping a beat is often the hardest part of an orchestra, and the drummer has to be that much better a drummer than any other instrumentalist.)

I was happy to see a live goat next to the cheese table, and across the way some Naughty Dolls.









Yes, I wondered about that myself. I think the woman selling them doesn't realize the modern connotation for the old appellation. What it actually means is dolls without faces but only hair, designed to look like they're standing in the corner. Trust me- that's not what you'll get if you Google "Naughty Dolls". (And may I say, dolls without faces, for me, is more "Scary Dolls"?)

Another booth at the festival had these amazing bottles, reheated to 1500 degrees and melted, turned in to beautiful wind chimes. I spoke with the proprietor, Creative Touch, about bringing back some of the Mountain Dew and Coke bottles in Arabic from my trip to Yemen in a month, perhaps even a couple extra for him to sell to others.

Towards evening there was dancing, but because of a spot of rain, hardly anyone came out. When I stopped by around seven, they were playing a series of songs with little kids dancing to them. Sadly, one of them was "Little Willy" by the British band The Sweet. I say sadly, for I have not been able to get it out of my head, and if you know anything of British culture, and are aware that the band is British, the song takes on wholly new connotations.

The end of a day was a treat of sunset over New Glarus, looking over the police station and town hall from the hill of the old United Church of Christ church, going back to 1850.

When a Tree Falls on You, Do You Make a Sound?

Moments ago, with a great crack and a crash, I became convinced that the RV was finally falling apart. I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter, and what to my eyes should appear, but a giant fallen tree, rotten at the core.

There is a collection of these trees around here, mostly dead except for the new life springing at their roots, and mostly cut to stumps to remove any danger of falling. But a few have not yet been cut, and there have been high winds today. This fell about 20 feet from the bow of the RV- had it hit, it would have assuredly caused great damage to the roof and bow.

This is what it looked like after it had been moved out of the way, further from the RV, and this is it's size in relation to the RV.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

The Presence of God From a Bike

New Glarus has a very level extended bike trail, relatively cheap to bike on, and very long, extending miles in each direction. I traveled out to nearby Monticello today, six miles away, and enjoyed the beauty around me. There are long stretches of straight sun-filled fields, intersperses with over-arching canopy. With no people or buildings or roads around, one comes across a bridge disappearing above the bike path. Near Monticello are marshlands of pussy willows, and willow trees overhanging the creeks, with what I imagine the South looks like. It is a place of peace.

Until I neared completion, and discovered a wicked crick in my neck, necessitating getting the bike repair shop to lengthen the main handlebars of my bike.


Sunday, 21 June 2009

A Century of Fatherhood

I changed my first flat today. On my way to see my dad, a few bits of rubber flew out from underneath the car, but I figured it was only something on the freeway, since the tires looked good when I stopped. And when the rearview window was shaking, both me and my dad thought it was just bad Wisconsin roads. But on the way back, outside Sentry, a great whoosh informed me that the tire had gone flat, and I had to get a big Sentry worker to loosen two of the lug nuts.

But earlier, I took a trip back in time with my dad, visiting Stone Bank, where he grew up. After a great BBQ at the Steinke's daughter's house, we stopped at the house my dad grew up in, which he rented from the Kutz's in the 50s. They were remodeling, but the Kutz grandson, now owner, was there, and we were able to see the room he grew up in. My dad had a good conversation with Kutz III catching up on those of the family he knew.

We drove down the road, with my dad pointing out where all his friends used to live, and where he used to play, in the small town of Stone Bank, where everyone knows your name.

Down the road was Kutz's itself, the corner store, pub, and general hangout. This is where my grandparents worked, when not at the goat farm, and my dad hung out a good deal. It was extensively changed as well, but where he is standing there was some semblance of how things used to look.




































This was the way Kutz's used to look.


The small town of Stone Bank had five bars. Across from one of them was the two-room schoolhouse where my dad went to school with Mary Steinke. I knew they had gone to school together, but I had no idea it was a two-room schoolhouse. I had no idea that those things still existed in the 40s. Now it's a Teen Assistance Center.


But the highlight of the day was finding the cemetery where my grandfather and grandmother were buried. My aunt knew the location, and then we arrived at a cemetery in Ixonia, much larger than I'd envisioned. I was thinking perhaps 60 graves, and this was closer to 600- all flat, and none alphabetized.

I began a long trek, looking through grave after grave, and found many Jaegers, a family my dad had known, before I got to the Palosaari stone. There they were, Sarah and Jon Quincy. I'd not been to their funerals in '82 and '85. This was my first chance to pay respects.

Their stone is in the sheltering boughs of a small tree, and we laid two wreaths on the stone, perhaps the only living flowers in the cemetery. We stood for a moment, remembering. I thought of all my grandfather and grandmother had seen. My grandfather was born in 1901- he'd be 108 years old were he alive today. When he was born, there was no electricity, running water, or cars- certainly not his first few years in Russian-controlled Finland. I haven't considered it before, but as Finland wasn't independent until 1917, my family were Russian citizens until they came over in 1906- much as the Russians were viewed as imperialist oppressors.

It was good to remember. No grave should be unattended, with no memories to hang over it. Much as we might believe in eternal life today, we neglect at our own peril the Jewish interpretation of life after death- in the memories of our offspring, and the generations of descendants.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Serendipity in Minnesota

I know that many are like me, and have viewed Aimee's blog and just assumed that she's given up on the Truth Testimony, and is just making it up as she goes along. Like they've got a new house and are remodeling it, and bought a bunch of chickens that they're raising from the egg! So for all of those in doubt, I went to Minneapolis to obtain true unbiased pictorial evidence of Airemy's lives. The journey started auspiciously enough, with the roar of rockets. But rockets don't always land where one expects.

I had a four day grueling conference, from eight in the morning until six at night- without even a lunch break! I had little time to think or contemplate anything in those four days. I was on the same street, just a few minutes away, from Christians for Biblical Equality, that center of focus on emancipation of women for equality in the family and the Church. I have admired and followed their work for years, but was unfortunately unable to visit there during the times they are open.
Jeremy and Aimee were also living just a few minutes from where I was staying, and I was able to visit their cute (and very real) house, in the process of extensive remodeling that will surely greatly increase it's aesthetic value. It looks like it would fit right in with the old prairies. I had a wonderful dinner catching up with them (though of course any dinner is better with wine), and got to visit their pets in the back. They are named Squwak, Cheep, Chirp, and the other sister, Chirp. (I made those names up.)







Aimee has also worked on a beautiful Rain Garden, which in case you are unfamiliar with the term as I was, is a place where water collects to feed the plants and provide a home for the mosquitoes. Here they are standing in it.

But the most amazing part of my journey was all of the random people I ran into in the Twin Cities. I knew I would be seeing Scott and Kimberly, and hoped to meet up with Airemy. But I was not at all suspecting that I would be able to turn around and see I was sitting at a table next to Raja from North Africa, and be able to have dinner with Lillis, also from Africa, and her roommates- but when I looked up, there was Lillis, at the Lemon Water Stand! Perhaps most mysteriously, as I sat down for dinner, based on my first name and unique upbringing, one of Lillis' roommates deduced that we had been housemates at a conference in Chicago, fully ten years prior! Truly, Minneapolis is the Nexus of the Universe.