Today, my maternal grandmother, Erna Laser, passed away in the early afternoon. She joins my grandfather, Heinrich Laser, who passed several years ago now. My Oma and Opa stood firm in the Faith through many trials, hardships, sufferings, and mistakes. Their lives testify and bear witness to God's grace. I learnt many things from them, though I didn't always appreciate the lessons at the time or learn them well. They taught me:
1. about God's love and grace. 2. the value of geneaologies and family. 3. that giving doesn't require money. 4. the value of food, milk, and water. 5. German. 6. the importance of saving and financial stewardship. 7. the value of a good argument. 8. that an argument hasn't truly been exhausted until someone declares, preferably in German, that you are going to put them in the grave. 9. that true poverty isn't the absence of wealth but the absence of God and family. 10. that cleanliness is next to godliness. 11. that notes in all sorts of places are a great way to hold people accountable. 12. the value of a Swiss Army Knife for opening presents and that wrapping paper can be reused. 13. that birthday cards can be reused because 4 + 2 = 6. 14. the value of hard work. 15. the value of a quarter, especially when a tornado is coming and people leave their shopping carts behind. 16. the value of a penny. 17. that Brandy is a good medicine and a great way to keep warm. 18. that communion is best served with wine, not grape juice. 19. volunteerism. 20. the game of shuffle board. 21. that not all Germans supported Hitler. 22. that my German heritage is something to celebrate. 23. that I have royalty in my family. 24. the power of prayer. 25. generosity. 26. that speaking German is important. 27. to appreciate my parents, especially when my parents are gone for the summer and my grandparents have to watch me. 28. the value of grandparents. 29. the value of sacrifice. 30. that I have no clue about poverty and hardship. 31. that the Eastern Front is where Germans who didn't like Hitler served out the war. 32. the value of laughter. 33. that you really can get every last remnant of peanut butter out of the jar. 35. to lick my plate clean, especially when eating rouladen and potatoes and gravy. 36. to not be ashamed to lick my plate clean when a Quebecer comes over for dinner. 37. that prayer is perhaps the most important spiritual discipline. 38. that we do not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. 39. that only grace can save us. 40. the value of faith and sacrifice.
The list goes on and on...
Deus det nobis suam pacem et vitam æternum. Fidelium animae, per misericordiam Dei, requiescant in pace. Amen. ✞ We love you, Oma, and await that wonderful day when we will partake with you in the blessed joy to which you have been called. Thank-you for your prayers and never-failing love!
Today, I rediscovered Leonard Cohen's classic song, "Hallelujah." It's a haunting piece that in recent years has been covered, perhaps most notably by Jeff Buckley. It does not present a very sanitized view of praise but nevertheless one that resonates with me because of its brutal honesty and its blurring of physical and spiritual moments of praise. Not surprisingly, the refrain has made it popular among Christians, though the verses are not nearly as well received. Consequently, a Christian artist, Lincoln Brewster, has covered the song with new lyrics. Although the Christianese lyrics are theologically sound, they obliterate the raw intensity and brokenness of Cohen's original. I'm curious to know what my readers think. Whose lyrics speak to you?
Apparently Leonard Cohen wrote some fifteen verses for this song and didn't settle on an "authoritative version" until it was covered by John Cale. I've reproduced the version of the lyrics I like the most:
Now I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah
Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you
To a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah
Baby I have been here before
I know this room, I've walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you.
I've seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah
There was a time you let me know
What's really going on below
But now you never show it to me, do you?
And remember when I moved in you
The holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah
You say I took the name in vain
I don't even know the name
But if I did, well really, what's it to you?
There's a blaze of light
In every word
It doesn't matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah
I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah
The lyrics for the Lincoln Brewster version, which is actually called "Another Hallelujah," are much shorter:
I love you Lord with all my heart
You've given me a brand new start
And I just want to sing this song to you
It goes like this the fourth the fifth
The minor fall the major lift
My heart and soul are praising
I know that you're the God above
You're filling me with grace and love
And I just want to say thank you to you
You pulled me from the miry clay
You've given me a brand new day
Now all that I can say is
As I mentioned in my previous review of Netflix, my wife and I have really enjoyed it. The streaming feature, in particular, is really cool. Although the selection isn't quite as good as I would like, it's great not to be tied down to a specific location or waiting for a couple of days for another movie to arrive through the mail. You can stream as many movies as you like each month, wherever you have Internet access. The quality of the streaming is really quite good. The other day I had to bring my kids with me to the exam I was giving to one of my classes at Penn State. In order to keep them occupied, I put them in one of the neighboring classrooms and streamed Blues Clues through my Netflix account. Aidan loved the big screen! It was great and got me thinking that Netflix is a great pedagogical tool. With a Netflix account, you can stream clips from any of the movies they have available to illustrate or support points. I'm not sure though whether you could legally show a whole movie as that may violate licensing. Netflix, however, should look into marketing itself to universities and college, and really ramping up their selection of documentaries. No more pulling DVDs and videos from the library! Just login and stream the documentary directly to the classroom computer! Does anybody know if Netflix is already doing this?
One of the movies my wife and I recently streamed on Netflix was a documentary called Food Inc.. This documentary examines the American food supply chain and reveals some pretty interesting facts about factory farms, genetic engineering, food-borne illnesses, pesticides, chemical processing, and the politics and business of food. The film only rarely falls into predictable "left-wing" sentiments, e.g. with its segment on illegal immigration and the food industry. More often, the film takes a balanced approach to issues and so, e.g., advocates a combination of market and government driven solutions for the problems it identifies. On the whole, the movie is a balanced, informative, and even entertaining documentary. Well worth watching!
For my family, the issues raised in this documentary touch close to home. My wife, Melissa, suffers from an autoimmune disorder called ankylosing spondylitis while my son, Aidan, was recently diagnosed with moderate-to-severe autism. Through consistent research, we've discovered that autism spectrum disorders and autoimmune conditions can have food triggers. We've also discovered connections between autoimmunity in parents and autism in children. The reasons for the connections are complex. In my causes, a new section of my website, I've posted some of the books and medical research articles that support this emerging understanding. In any case, my wife and son are now benefiting from an organic, GFCF diet. They avoid gluten, casein (a protein in animal milk), corn, sulfites, nitrates, preservatives and additives (e.g., BHA/BHT), metals, phenols, and yeast. They also avoid sugars as much as possible, substituting Organic Blue Agave or Stevia. It's not an easy diet to maintain as you can imagine. After watching Food Inc., you'll have an even deeper appreciation for the difficulties! However, we have noticed demonstrable improvements. My son clearly feels better and has improved behavioral functioning and communication while my wife has been able to better control flare-ups. The instant she breaks her diet, her hips flare-up and she is severely limited for the next two or three days. Keeping the diet and ensuring you still get the right nutrients is especially challenging and my wife (a Registered Nurse) highly recommends a certified nutritionist work with you and that your doctor is informed, though the latter may not support your decision and even attempt to dissuade you because of the extreme challenges of the diet and potential for malnutrition if you are not prepared to carefully monitor and manage your nutritional intake. Many doctors also continue to operate under the assumption that there is lack of supporting clinical research indicating the benefits (though see the resources in my causes). A certified nutritionist will help not only with a diet plan but by prescribing helpful probiotics, supplements, and herbal adjuvant remedies (e.g. Stinging Nettle for Rheumatological conditions). You can follow our family's journey with these issues at Melissa's Moments, my wife's blog devoted to our challenges living with ankylosing spondylitis and parenting a child with autism.
At present, I don't keep the diet as strictly as my wife and son, because I fortunately don't suffer from an autoimmune condition. I do, however, like many of the foods and snacks. In particular, whether you are on the diet or not, I highly recommend the Angel Food Ministries' Allergen Free Box and Meat Box, Hormel Natural Choice Uncured Salami, Wegman's Uncured Applewood Smoked Bacon, and Kettle Brand Chips. Excellent stuff, though note that not all Kettle Brand flavors are casein free! I also recently discovered Goat's Milk Brie Cheese and Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Bread with Sesame (God apparently is an accomplished baker. Go figure! Sovereign Lord and Baker Extraordinaire!). These technically violate the diet—goat's milk contains the casein protein and the Ezekiel 4:9 Bread still contains organic gluten—. The casein in Goat's Milk, however, is generally tolerated better than the cow's protein. My wife has tried it and suffers no ill effects. Our nutritionist also said the Ezekiel 4:9 Bread was acceptable for our circumstances, though my wife doesn't want to take any chances and so does not to give it to our son or take it herself.
I just finished uploading some significant site updates. I'm especially excited about two new sections to my website: your Bible Guide and my Causes. Although the latter is not completely finished, I did finish the Health and Wellness section, which focuses on autism, ankylosing spondylitis, and dietary intervention. Throughout the site, I have fixed bad links, updated probably three quarters of my product links, added the Logos RefTagger to a number of pages for easy reference to biblical texts that I cite, and added social networking features. I am hoping that the new features will generate more traffic for the site. I appreciate my visitors who have continued to buy through the links on my website. While I don't earn a lot of money through this site, what do I earn is greatly appreciated. More importantly though, I hope that the products and ideas are helpful and useful. Please feel free to leave comments here if you notice any glaring problems with the new features.
I also had the distinct honor of contributing to a volume published by Continuum and edited by my colleague at Penn State, Deirdre Fulton, along with my advisor, Gary Knoppers, and Lester Grabbe. Exile and Restoration Revisited remembers the enormous contribution of Peter Ackroyd through a collection of articles that clearly stand on the shoulders of this great scholar. My essay entitled, "Rebuilding Jerusalem: Zechariah's Vision within Visions" elucidates and comments on the prophetic-scribal vision of Jerusalem in Zechariah 1-8. One of my dissertation chapters revisits and incorporates aspects of that article, though I take aim at some of my earlier ideas, especially in one scathing footnote! I would like to extend my appreciation to the editors and the publisher for including my article.
In any case, I really enjoyed the experience of editing and publishing. Hopefully, my contributions are well-received.
Over the past couple of months, my wife and I have been using Netflix to stream movies and get DVDs by mail. Before using Netflix, we were happily using Blockbuster Total Access. I liked that with Blockbuster I could exchange movies received in the mail at the store. For some reason, I find it easier to browse movies in store than online. That really hasn't changed and the lack of a storefront is still my greatest frustration with Netflix. For the life of me, it takes hours to find movies to add to my queue at Netflix but all of five minutes to find movies I want to watch at the store. That being said, I ran into lots of trouble with Blockbuster Total Access and finally decided to make the switch to Netflix.
Though I'd still like to be able to visit a store, I can highly recommend Netflix. The website is easy-to-use and the queue works well. So far, I have experienced no problems with the queue and received the correct DVDs every time. The service is quick too. I get a new DVD about two days after I return the one I have out. The library is excellent, although as I mentioned, somehow I find it tougher to choose movies online. Still, it's not for lack of titles, because when I find something at Blockbuster, I do a search on Netflix and always find it. For auteurs, Netflix has a healthy selection of foreign films and many titles from the Criterion Collection. For an extra fee, you can also add the ability to order Blu-Ray titles.
Perhaps the coolest feature of Netflix is the ability to stream movies instantly and directly to your computer; and, now with select Blu-Ray and DVD players, televisions, receivers, DVRs, and even the XBOX, Playstation 3 and now the Nintendo Wii, you can stream them directly to your television. Streaming movies is great! So far I haven't had any problems with checkering, stuttering, or buffering. Also, the interface on the Playstation 3 is intuitive and easy-to-use. The kids like to stream movies and television shows all the time and they do it without problems. Obviously, the selection of available streaming movies is not as good but it is still an impressive, and always growing, library of titles. The kids are able to watch SpongeBob, iCarly, and many other television programs that we no longer get through cable. I especially like that you can start streaming a movie and then stop, come back weeks later, and Netflix resumes the movie at exactly the same place that you left off!
There really is no reason not to switch to Netflix. For $8.95/month, you can stream movies and get unlimited rentals (one-at-a-time). You can't even rent two movies from Blockbuster for that price! If you are still not sure, they offer a free trial so you can test the system. If you are not a Netflix member, I encourage you to give it a try!