Dispatch from Finland

640px-Luther_Church,_Helsinki,_insideWe are in Finland, safe and sound.  We are having a good and fascinating time.  The church situation here is complicated, but don’t believe what you hear about the utter secularism of Scandinavia.  We are meeting some very vibrant and very solid Lutheran Christians who are true inspirations.  And, yes, they are reaping lots of Muslim converts to Christianity.  But I’ll tell you more when I get back.

Thanks for sticking with the blog while I’m gone.  I may be able to post more than I thought I could.

 

Photo of Luther Church, a confessional congregation attended by over 200 people each Sunday by Abc10 – Oma teos, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49178504

I’m off to Finland

Helsinki_from_sea_with_Cathedral_and_Finnair_SkywheelToday my wife and I fly off to Finland.  I will be giving lectures at an apologetics conference and speaking at two universities.  I’ll also be meeting with the confessional Lutherans there, including Rev. Jujana Puhjola.

Earlier, I was in Denmark and Norway, and then Denmark again.  As I said then, the image of the secularist Scandinavians is not completely true.  I have been meeting lots of very devoted Christians.  My book Spirituality of the Cross has been translated into the Scandinavian languages and it’s getting some readers.  I am touched at the thought that I might be used in some measure to be part of a revival of Christianity–indeed, Lutheran Christianity–among the delightful people in these fascinating countries.

So what does this mean for the blog?  I am not going to take away from my Scandinavian moments by constantly monitoring the internet and blogging all the time.  I am not sure of my internet connections, seeing as how at least part of the time I’ll be in the deep woods.  But I’ll post when I can.  I probably won’t be able to post as many items every day.  There may be days when I don’t post any at all.  But I’ve got some very interesting posts scheduled to come up through the week.  I’ll be back in the states the first of May.

You might say a prayer for us from time to time.

 

Photograph of Helsinki with Lutheran Cathedral and Finnair Skywheel by Kotivalo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Russell Westbrook for MVP

512px-Russell_WestbrookThe Oklahoma City Thunder marketing office called our church a couple of months ago, saying they were offering special deals for church groups.  So we got some folks together and got tickets to last Tuesday’s game.  They were playing the Milwaukee Bucks, the only other NBA team that I’ve seen in person.  The Thunder game began with a local pastor giving a Christian invocation–how common is that in professional sports?  (tell me if you know)–and after lots of opening razzle dazzle, the game settled in.  The Thunder won 110 to 79.  A good time was had by all.

We got to witness Thunder star Russell Westbrook tie the record for triple doubles (double figures in points scored, rebounds, and assists [passing the ball that leads to a basket]).  We can tell our grandchildren that we were there when Westbrook ties Oscar Robertson’s record of 41 triple doubles set back in 1962.  Actually, it will be easy for me to tell my grandchildren, since a number of them were with us and witnessed it too.  The next game Westbrook didn’t make a triple double, but he made enough rebounds so that his average performance for the year was a triple double.  And Sunday, Westbrook set the record after leading his team to a comeback win over Denver, which was leading 10 points in the last two minutes.  Westbrook scored 50 points.

The entire state of Oklahoma is Thunder crazy.  Kevin Durant was everyone’s hero until he signed with the hated Golden State Warriors.  But Westbrook stayed with the team!  One fan started a petition to change the name of Durant, Oklahoma, a small town that had that name long before the Thunder was even thought of.  The petitioners wanted to change the name of Durant to Westbrook, which is actually a good name for a town.  So, of course, all Oklahomans think Westbrook should win the league’s MVP award.

But how could he not win it?  Not only has he made history with his triple doubles.  He leads the league in points scored!  And yet some pundits and fans are championing former-Thunder James Harden of the Houston Rockets.  After the jump, I will make the case why Westbrook is the NBA’s most valuable player. [Read more…]

“Welcome, dear feast of Lent”

“Welcome, dear feast of Lent,” wrote George Herbert in a poem on the subject.  Of course, it is not a feast but a fast.  But I know what Herbert means.  Lent, even when celebrated by fasting, gives us lots to feast upon.

I love Lent, which begins today.  I get so tired of my constant self-indulgence.  It really is a form of bondage.  I find Lent strangely liberating.  I don’t do any grand renunciations or meritorious deeds.  Maybe I can work up to those some year.  Right now I just watch what I eat and exercise.  All I do is live more healthily than I usually do.  I can do that for 46 days.  And usually I can carry over a few good habits into the rest of the year.  But saying “no” to myself–not eating the empty carbs even though I’m hungry; keep walking even though my muscles start to ache–is good for me on many levels.

Oh, another thing I do is start some challenging reading project.  This year I am reading  J. G. Hamann.  (More on him later.)

Do you have any Lenten observances that you have found helpful?

So why the loss of interest in the NFL?

9791303373_196450407d_zTelevision ratings are way down for professional football games.  The NFL is trying to figure out why the sudden loss of interest.

I have to say that I am not as interested in the games as I used to be, even last year, and I’m not sure why.  I don’t think it’s just because the Packers aren’t doing all that well.  I saw them through rougher times.  And it’s not because the games are too long.  I like long games.  And it’s not because Colin Kaepernick is disrespecting the flag.  He’s getting sacked so much that a patriotic fan might take some satisfaction in watching that.  I’m just kind of tired of it.  I still get excited about College Football (go Sooners!) and I’ve started following the NBA (go Thunder!).  But the NFL is giving me a “meh” feeling.

So let me consult you.  Are you still following NFL games as avidly as you used to?  If not, why not? [Read more…]

Back in the U.S.A.!

photo-1474663898126-6f6f19a48b1d_optWe are back in the good old U.S. of A. after spending a month visiting our daughter and her family in Australia.  We enjoyed our time down under very much.  But it’s good to be back home.

I can’t believe that I was able to keep this blog going as usual despite the time difference (16.5 hours, a day ahead) and our many activities.  Thanks for hanging in there with me.

It was strange to watch the election from the other side of the world, but sometimes a little distance (literally) is clarifying.

After the jump, a cool picture of me in the Australian landscape that my son-in-law took.  I call it “Australian Sublime.” [Read more…]