Tuesday, January 29, 2008


One last post on our trip to Europe (maybe...). In some ways this was very much a World War II trip. Someone had encouraged us to watch Band of Brothers before we went - an excellent suggestion and a great series. We spent a day at Dachau and got some feel for the German perspective on things. We spent several hours in the World War I and II exhibits at the Military Museum in Paris, and got some feel for the French perspective on things. (Did you realize that DeGaulle was almost single handedly responsible for the Allied victory in WW II?) And on the Friday before we left Paris we took a day trip to Normandy.

We took an early (7:15 am)train from Paris to Caen, where we were met by our tour guide. We spent the morning at the Peace Museum in Caen - an experience I would recommend to anyone who has any interest in World War II. We were served lunch at the museum and then boarded a bus with a couple of other small groups to visit a few of the significant sites in the area, including St. Mere Eglise, Omaha and Juno beaches, Pointe du Hoc, and the American Cemetary. I've seen The Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan and now The Band of Brothers, and have a much greater appreciation for those depictions now than when I saw them, but none of them manage to fully convey the conditions that the American soldiers faced at Omaha Beach on D-Day.

I have been to the National Cemetaries at Gettysburg and at Arlington, and am duly appreciative of what they represent, but the American Cemetary in Normandy, at the top of the cliff overlooking Omaha Beach is something extra special. Nearly 10,000 American soldiers are buried there, and more than 1500 additional names are on the Wall of the Missing. Perhaps some of my perspective comes from visiting it with my (then) 19 year old son. Most of the bodies buried there were around his age when they gave their lives on foreign soil for the sake of freedom. It was truly an experience that I will never forget.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Paris Museums

Paris was a bit overwhelming - large city, lots of people, and so many things to see. One of the difficulties was in deciding what we could reasonably do in the time that we were there. Being first time tourists, we had bought a guide book which suggested starting with a walking tour. On our first full day we began at Notre Dame, then walked across the bridge to the Left Bank and a brief tour of the Latin Quarter. Back across another bridge to the Palace of Justice, which houses the Conciergerie (the prison where those sentenced to execution were held - among them Marie Antoinette) and St. Chappelle - a cathedral where the walls of the main chapel are entirely stained glass. We ended the day at the Louvre, which needed about 4 days rather than the 4 hours we gave it.

I did not realize until we were in Paris the organization of the three 'major' art museums. The Louvre houses pieces from Antiquity and the Greek and Roman eras through the early 19th century. The Orsay picks up in the early 19th century through the early 20th century, and the Pomidou houses the modern collection. There are several other significant museums in addition to these three, including the Orangerie, the Cluny, the Picasso museum and the Rodin museum.

The next day our plan was to see Napolean's tomb and visit the Rodin museum, which is just around the corner, and then to finish our day at the Orsay. Napolean's tomb is located in what was the chapel of the former Ecole Militaire (military school), which also houses a military museum. We thought we would spend from 30 minutes to an hour at the military museum, which has an extensive collection of weapons, equipment, and uniforms from the Chaldeans all the way through World War II. There is also an extensive World Wars exhibit and our 30 minutes turned into 3 hours.

The Rodin museum is a collection of sculptures - mostly works of Rodin, but also works of several of his contemporaries. Several of his works are in a beautiful garden, with the rest in the mansion where he did most of his work. By the time we finished, we were museumed out for the day, and decided to postpone our visit to the Orsay until the Saturday before we left. That turned out to be a less than brilliant decision - we waited in line to get into the Orsay on Saturday morning for more than an hour.

The Orsay is housed in what was a train station. Although not as large as the Louvre, it houses an extensive collection of neoclassical and Impressionist paintings, and really needed several days as well. The Louvre was originally built in the 12th century as a royal fortress and palace for Philip II, and evolved over a couple of centuries into a complex of interconnected buildings. The glass pyramid entrance was built in the 1980's - I got a picture of it, but it does not come close to doing justice to the immense complex of buildings that form the Louvre.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Larry James' OpEd Piece

Larry James is the conscience of Dallas, frequently challenging our complacency and comfort levels, and providing leadership in making all of Dallas a better community. He wrote the following piece that was published in Friday's Morning News.

Focusing on volunteering diminishes significance of his life
06:24 AM CST on Friday, January 25, 2008

Several years ago, lots of people got the idea that the best way to celebrate the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday was to organize a special day of community service. You've likely heard it: "Not a day off, but a day on!" The idea is that the best way to honor Dr. King's memory and legacy would be discovered in organized volunteer efforts to extend compassion and aid to the less fortunate among us.

Here at Central Dallas Ministries, we manage a rather large AmeriCorps program, so we received word from the Corporation for National Service directing programs like ours all across the nation to orchestrate volunteer projects. Certainly nothing wrong with that.

I picked up on the same sentiment early this week at the Web site of the White House Office for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Here's part of the post: "President Bush marked the Martin Luther King Jr. King holiday by volunteering and calling on Americans to honor King's legacy by showing compassion on the holiday and throughout the year.

"The President and First Lady Laura Bush joined dozens of volunteers at the Martin Luther King Jr. library as they repaired and shelved books and taught lessons about King's life to children. More than a half-million Americans are serving in 5,000 King Day of Service projects across the country."

Here in Dallas, we enjoyed the commentary of popular Dallas Morning News columnist Steve Blow, who bemoaned the lack of organized community volunteer opportunities on this special day of national service ("Ready to go, nowhere to serve," Jan. 20).

I'm all for seeing folks volunteer. I believe in the value of community service. Nothing beats genuine compassion and concern for others, especially for those who are down and out, ill, mistreated, marginalized and neglected. Don't get me wrong.

But, in my opinion, the continuing and growing effort to link the memory of Dr. King to a day of volunteering diminishes the real significance of his life, to say nothing of how badly it misses the mark in understanding his personal mission.

Dr. King didn't call folks to volunteer to help the poor. He wanted to know why so many people were poor in a nation of such opulence and wealth. So far as I know, Dr. King never organized a food pantry or invited the rich to serve in soup kitchens. He asked hard questions about the meaning of hunger and homelessness to our collective, national soul.

He didn't call for mentors and volunteer projects in our public schools. No, Dr. King asked penetrating questions about the quality of education for all of our children. Dr. King didn't just invite people to visit the hospitals where soldiers were returning home with severe injuries and lifelong disabilities caused by a terrible conflict in Southeast Asia. He asked why the war needed to continue at all.

He didn't wonder why more health care professionals weren't volunteering in indigent clinics. He challenged the nation to adopt just universal health care policies to ensure that every American received adequate and routine treatment.

The kinds of volunteer opportunities that Dr. King invited people to take part in often landed them in jail, not on the front page of the society section. He asked people to march, register to vote, sit in, resist and confront systemic injustice and unfair laws. He asked people to lay down their very lives for the sorts of changes that made the American system better for everyone.

His program didn't seek to simply meet needs. His vision called for the elimination of need. To redefine Dr. King's life and legacy in those terms limits his importance and drains his message of its power. And, frankly, such an emphasis lets us all off the hook when it comes to the fundamental and sweeping public policy changes still needing our attention and the full expression of our courage as a people.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


I rarely even read emails that say to please forward, let alone forward them, but today I will make an exception. The following email from one of my fellow basketball officials was in my inbox this morning, and was a reminder of something that I had learned while taking a First Aid course. I think it is worth passing on...

We all carry our mobile phones with names & numbers stored in the memory but nobody, other than ourselves, knows which of these numbers belong to our closest family or friends. If we were to be involved in an accident or were taken ill, the people attending us would have our mobile phone but wouldn't know who to call.

Yes, there are hundreds of numbers stored but which one is the contact person in case of an emergency? Hence this "ICE" (In Case of Emergency) Campaign.

The concept of "ICE" is catching on quickly. It is a method of contact during emergency situations. As cell phones are carried by the majority of the population, all you need to do is store the number of a contact person or persons who should be contacted during emergency under the name "ICE" ( In Case Of Emergency).

The idea was thought up by a paramedic who found that when he went to the scenes of accidents, there were always mobile phones with patients, but he didn't know which number to call. He therefore thought that it would be a good idea if there was a nationally recognized name for this purpose. In an emergency situation, Emergency Service personnel and hospital staff would be able to quickly contact the right person by simply dialing the number you have stored as "ICE." For more than one contact name simply enter ICE1, ICE2 and ICE3 etc.

A great idea that will make a difference! Let's spread the concept of ICE by storing an ICE number in our Mobile phones today!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

We'll Always Have Paris...

On Christmas day we took the train from Strasbourg to Paris and then a cab from the train station to our hotel. We had read reviews of our hotel that included comments about the size of the lift (elevator), but it was even smaller than we could have imagined. It was deep enough that I could stand with my back against the rear wall and barely have the door close, and wide enough that Taylor and I could squeeze in side by side.

There was a Metro (subway) stop a few blocks from our hotel, and after we got settled in we figured out how to get to the Eiffel Tower. We got there around 4 pm and there were long, winding lines. The shortest line, by far, was the one for the stairs, so after about a half hour in line we began our ascent. There are two platforms accessible by stairs - the first is about 60 meters high, and the second about 120. There are a total of 704 steps from the ground to the second level. It was beginning to get dark by the time we reached the first platform, and was completely dark by the time we got to the second platform. There is an observation tower accessible only by an elevator from the second platform, but the line was long, it was dark, and it had been a long day, so we did not go to the top.

By the time we got back to the area where our hotel was located and found a restaurant open it was nearly 9:00. Europeans eat late, and the restaurant was busy, but we had a really nice Christmas dinner. The food we ate in France and Germany was good, and the desserts in France were outstanding. More on Paris in the next post.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.

Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies - or else? The chain reaction of evil - hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars - must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.

History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.

All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.

An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.

At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

If we are to go forward, we must go back and rediscover those precious values - that all reality hinges on moral foundations and that all reality has spiritual control.

In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'

Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.

Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.

Pity may represent little more than the impersonal concern which prompts the mailing of a check, but true sympathy is the personal concern which demands the giving of one's soul.

Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.

That old law about 'an eye for an eye' leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.

The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But... the good Samaritan reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.

To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.

We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.

We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


We left Munich on December 23rd and arrived in Strasbourg mid afternoon. Strasbourg is more than 2000 years old, established during the Roman Empire, and is located in the Alsace region at the confluence of the Ill and the Rhine rivers. Strasbourg is currently in France - this section of the Rhine currently serves as the border between France and Germany - but the entire Alsace region has gone back and forth from German to French control for the past 3 centuries, depending on who came out ahead in the most recent war. The European Parliament and the European Union headquarters are in the modern part of Strasbourg.

Strasbourg is known for its Christmas market and celebration, and has a significant section where the streets are open only to pedestrians. We spent the late afternoon and evening among the crowds on the streets and in the Christmas Market area. The next day we took a boat tour of the city (covered and heated). The boat was full, and we had the option of 14 different languages to listen to the recorded commentary on the headphones provided. That evening we had an Alsatian Christmas Eve dinner at a quaint restaurant and then strolled the empty streets.

Barbara and I went to the midnight mass at the Notre Dame Cathedral. The doors opened at 11 pm; we arrived about 10 minutes after 11 and were lucky to find seats in the next to last row. By 11:30 the sides and back were full of people standing. There were easily more than 1000 people present, all of whom were bundled up to ward off the cold.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


While in Munich we took a couple of day trips. The second was to Neuschwanstein - King Ludwig's castle that was the model for the castle in Disney's Magic Kingdom. Ludwig, known as The Mad King, was brilliant and creative, and spent his fortune designing and building castles. His best known was Neuschwanstein - the new castle - which overlooked the old castle that his father had built. His advisors declared him insane and removed him from his throne before the castle was finished.

We traveled by train to a small Bavarian village at the edge of the Alps. We had some cold weather in Germany and France, but this was the only real snow that we saw. We hiked along a narrow road for a mile from the village up the hill to the castle, and the view was definitely worth the climb. The scenery was magnificent and the castle was impressive.

PS - Happy Birthday little sister - I love you.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Further Reflections on Dachau

May the example of those who were exterminated here between 1933-1945 because they resisted Nazism help to unite the living for the defence of peace and freedom and in respect for their fellow man.

This marker greets visitors who enter the gate at Dachau. Many memorials are established to bestow honor; this one serves more as a warning to the world to not allow such a thing to happen again. Which begs the question - how could it have ever happened in the first place? A couple of thoughts...

One common assertion is that the German people were, for the most part, unaware of what was taking place. For the extermination camps, it is possible, however unlikely it may seem, that they were not fully aware - these were built in Poland and Russia away from Germany, and the idea that an entire race of people could be systematically exterminated is fundamentally unfathomable. The same could not be said for the concentration camps. These were located throughout Germany and occupied western Europe, and were well publicized by Nazi propaganda. One of their purposes was to demonstrate the consequences of opposition or failure to cooperate with the Nazi party. It took a great deal of courage for those who did resist.

Another idea that is unfathomable is that human beings could be so deliberately and intentionally cruel to other humans. Undoubtedly evil exists in the world; there are examples throughout history. And undoubtedly, many of the camp personnel were evil, but many were average people with families, hopes, and dreams. The only way they could have acted as they did was to dehumanize - to regard as subhuman - their victims. The processes of the camps were designed to remove all dignity and any sense of humanity from the victims, and that paved the way for unimaginable treatment.

That seems to be a pattern in the justification of mistreatment of others - to regard them as less worthy of basic human consideration. It is evident today in the way immigrants are regarded, in the way people of different races are regarded, in politics and in religion. "...in respect for their fellow man" sounds a lot like "Love your neighbor as yourself".

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Called of God

Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. Isaiah 6:8

God did not address the call to Isaiah; Isaiah overheard God saying, "Who will go for us?" The call of God is not for the special few, it is for everyone. Whether or not I hear God's call depends upon the state of my ears; and what I hear depends upon my disposition. "Many are called but few are chosen," that is, few prove themselves the chosen ones. The chosen ones are those who have come into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ whereby their disposition has been altered and their ears unstopped, and they hear the still small voice questioning all the time, "Who will go for us?" It is not a question of God singling out a man and saying, "Now, you go." God did not lay a strong compulsion on Isaiah; Isaiah was in the presence of God and he overheard the call, and realized that there was nothing else for him but to say, in conscious freedom, "Here am I, send me." Get out of your mind the idea of expecting God to come with compulsions and pleadings. When our Lord called His disciples there was no irresistible compulsion from outside. The quiet passionate insistence of His "Follow Me" was spoken to men with every power wide awake. If we let the Spirit of God bring us face to face with God, we too shall hear something akin to what Isaiah heard, the still small voice of God; and in perfect freedom will say, "Here am I; send me." --- Oswald Chambers

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Happy Birthday, Taylor

My son turns 20 today. Oddly, the end of his teenage years is not as much of a shock as it would have been just a few weeks ago. The confident young man who met us at the Heidelberg train station a few weeks ago displayed a degree of maturity and self-assurance that was hinted at, but not fully present in the teenager we had said goodbye to a few short months ago.

Lauren is 5 years older than Taylor, and while he has been physically bigger than her since he was in the 5th grade, she has always been the big sister. On this trip, however, he was like her big brother, taking care of and looking out for her (and us). He is a good young man and a great son, and I am proud of him.

Happy Birthday, son.

Friday, January 11, 2008


After a couple of days in Heidelberg, we took the train to Munich, which served as home base for a couple of day trips. One of the most sobering experiences I have ever had was the trip to the Dachau Concentration Camp.

Dachau is a small city - essentially a suburb - near Munich, about 20 minutes by train. The site of the concentration camp is about a 15 minute bus ride from the Dachau train station. During the Nazi years, many of the high ranking Nazi officials had homes in Dachau.

The concentration camp at Dachau was among the first built, and served as the model for hundreds of camps. The dark labels on the map in the photo show where the main concentration camp sites were throughout Germany and occupied western Europe. All of those lighter squares were subcamps built because the main camps could not hold all of the people. The map does not reflect the Extermination Camps - Auschwitz, Treblinka, and others which were located in Poland and western Russia, and were built for the express purpose of the extermination of the Jewish population.

Although Dachau was not an extermination camp, more than 60,000 people died there during the years it was in operation. Some were executed; many were literally worked to death; others underwent a variety of "medical" experiments; and many succumbed to a combination of mistreatment, disease, starvation, and loss of hope.
There were two crematoriums at Dachau for the disposal of dead bodies. The original crematorium was built in 1939, and was not large enough to handle the volume; the second, larger one was built in 1943. There was a gas chamber in the larger crematorium - there is no record of it having been used, but it was the prototype for those used in the Extermination Camps.
The majority of prisoners at Dachau were Germans. Initially, political opponents of the Nazi party, and then an increasing number of those who were deemed "unfit" - Communists, Socialists, homosexuals, mentally and physically handicapped, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Jews. I'm reminded of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's quote
First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Top 10 Posts of 2007

For some thought-provoking reading, check out The Top Ten Posts of 2007 at Out of Ur, Christianity Today's blog...

Heidelberg Castle

The Heidelberg Castle was built by Frederich IV in the 1500's, with a couple of additions over the next hundred years or so. Strategically situated on a hill above the Neckar valley, it commanded one of the key transportation routes in that part of Europe. After multiple attempts, it was mostly destroyed by Louis XIV in the 1700's. Parts of it remain and are open to visitors today.

Quote for the Day

One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight
of the shore.
-- Andre Gide

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Heidelberg - Dec 18-20

Barbara, Lauren, and I arrived at the Heidelberg train station a little before noon on the 18th. Taylor was waiting for us at the train station - he had been traveling in Hungary, Rumania, and Croatia since finishing his finals on the 7th and it was so good to see him. We checked in to our hotel, which was located in the alten stadt - the old city, and then went out to explore our surroundings.

Heidelberg is an old medieval town, more than 1000 years old. That afternoon we strolled along the narrow, cobblestoned main street, and then after resting for a couple of hours we hiked up several hundred stairs to the Moore Haus - Pepperdine's home in Heidelberg - to see where Taylor was spending his school year. We walked back down to the main part of town; it was beginning to get dark and the Christmas Markets were getting lively. We sampled the sausages, the breads, the crepes, and the gluwein - a hot, cider-like mulled wine.

Being gluttons for punishment, the next day we hiked back up the hill to tour the Heidelberg Castle. That evening we had our first sit-down German meal, and Barbara discovered Spaetzel, a small, dense noodle prepared with various sauces and/or cheeses.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Home; Quote for the day

Barbara, Lauren, and I left December 17 for Germany, and arrived at the Heidelburg train station a little before noon on the 18th. Taylor was waiting for us there, having gotten in from Munich a couple of hours earlier. Over the next 2 weeks we would have a wonderful time in Heidelburg, Munich, Strasbourg, and Paris; the best part was spending 2 weeks together as a family.

We got home last night a little before midnight after having departed our hotel in Frankfurt about 24 hours earlier (7:40 am Frankfurt time) - a couple of hours in the Frankfurt airport, 9 hours across the Atlantic to Detroit, several hours waiting in Detroit for our connection to Dallas as an approaching snowstorm wreaked havoc on schedules, and after our delayed flight to Dallas, another hour at DFW waiting for our luggage.

I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble. -- Helen Keller

A New Year's Prayer

From Rubel Shelly...

Holy God of Heaven and Earth, I know that a thousand years are as a day to you, but we humans are bound up in time. As a new year is beginning, please teach me to ...
* care more about people and less about money,
* enjoy my work but not let it enslave me,
* and laugh more easily than I did last year.

As I get ready for 2008, help me to remember things that are easy to forget ...
* that it might well be my last year,
* that some people are counting on me,
* and that you have things for me to do.

Lord, with the things I have accumulated over the years, please let me ...
* shake off the monotony of life,
* try some new things in this new year,
* and mend some broken fences.

And, Father of Mercies, please teach me in this new and unspoiled year to ...
* lighten up and enjoy children, sunsets, reading, and long walks,
* avoid quarrels and work at being a peacemaker in this world,
* and start next year with fewer regrets than I bring to 2008.

May we live it for your glory! I cannot know what this year will bring, and I am grateful for that! But help me ...
* eat less junk food,
* exercise and take better care of my body,
* and learn to enjoy the simple pleasures of life.

Above all other things, Father, I want to be your instrument for ...
* easing somebody's too-heavy load,
* relieving some sad person's misery,
* and introducing some lost soul to Jesus.

Come what may in the year about to begin, may we live it for your glory, within your will, and to your delight. We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.