Saturday, July 23, 2016

THE GREAT MORTALITY by John Kelly (2005)

I enjoyed this book.  However, I have to admit that it took me months to finish. Perhaps it was the
time, with other distractions getting in the way such as the defense of my thesis, graduation, etc.  Being a student of the Medieval Era I found the wealth of information about this time period to be fascinating.  Kelly not only explains the technical aspects of the Black Death from the 14th Century, he also weaves into the narrative stories and accounts of events impacted by this great plague.  Some might argue that he spends an inordinate amount of space on some of these issues, such as the antisemitism of the time.  However, historical events should always be considered in the overall context of the period, recognizing that disease impacts many areas of a society, including family, economics, politics, and faith, to name but a few.  Kelly walked away from his extensive study with a mixture of sadness and encouragement.  Sadness over the horrific immensity of the death that transpired throughout the world, from the far east to the shores of Greenland.  Encouragement over the instances of virtue and kindness in the midst of the global tragedy, as well as the developments that rose as a result of the plague.  Although not an expert in any way on this topic, I was impressed by his attention to not only the historical sources, but to the scientific questions alike.  He did his homework.  In fact, this book was several years in the making.  The approach of the book is a tour de force that works its way from Mongolia (its supposed origin), throughout eastern and western Europe, England, and even as far west as Greenland.  More than once I was thankful for the map provided in the very front of the book that shows the progress of the plague as he narrates it in the book.  Given how long I took to finish the book, and the length of the work plus the wealth of information (over 340 pages), I feel like I should re-read it some day.  As a side note: The book is appended with personal information on the author and a brief story of the writing of of the book.  I recommend this volume heartily. P.S. Although I want to move on to another topic, I just might read Norman Cantor's book In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World that Made It (2001).  Kelly makes note of Cantor, and it seems like an equally readable work.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Historical Roots of the Warham Guild Hood

In doing just a little checking on the internet, it's interesting to see how the Warham Guild hood, which I have as part of my STM degree attire, is actually a throwback to the Medieval hood. One article notes "the work of the Warham Guild in its imaginative renderings of medieval hoods" (reference is from here).
Again, here is my hood:
The Medieval hood, which was originally a very practical outer garment to cover a person's head and shoulders, protecting both from the elements, bears striking resemblance to this revived form:

This hood was also a part of the garb of monks in that era.

The Medieval hood, in some cases, also had what is known as a "liripipe," a long tail hanging from the back of a hood.
You can see the modern stylized version of this on my own hood.

From an article on "Academic hood development" we read that "By 1463 the favourite dress of doctors was the hood with round bell-shaped cape, and the liripipe, which was now shortened or entirely removed and replaced by a separate article, the scarf, now represented by the lapel or panel. By 1592 the hood was worn with the lining displayed." See here for the linked article. The article also notes that "By the fifteenth century the hood came to be seen, in England at least, as a token of graduation and was given distinctive colours and lining."

In an article on the evolution of hood patterns, they echo the observation made above that "initially they evolve from the actual medieval headgear used by everyone." The article then notes that "the medieval hood consists of three parts: the cowl (or hood proper), the cape (or shoulder) and the liripipe.  Exactly what shape the medieval academic hood had is open to question, but it doubtless was the same as the hood in everyday use." Then, referencing the Warham Guild style in particular they note that "a reconstructed version of this, known as the Warham Guild shape...from the company that promoted its use in the church....it will be seen that all three parts are present, although the liripipe is possibly much shorter than the medieval one would have been." Eventually the hood evolved from this form, eventually changing shape and function as time passed.  You can read the remainder of the article here.

I noticed that the Warham guild hoods for the lower degrees, such as the Masters in Ministry and the Master of Arts in Theology were mainly black in the cope portion.  Those of the higher degrees, such as M.Div and STM then adopt the maroon color for the cape, with the red lining for theology.  Maroon appears to be the school's color.

One additional picture of a priest wearing a full hood in the Warham Guild style:
The source is from an article here from 1915 in reference to the Warham Guild.  It is captioned: "Doctor's Full Choir Habit. (Surplice, Scarlet Chimere, true Hood, Tippet, and Cap.)" I find it interesting that it notes the "true Hood."  The Warham Guild attempted over a century ago to restore what they believed was the original hood design.

Here is another image from the 1950's:


Going back to our own era, here is a present day example of a hood much like mine, this one borrowed from "Robes of Distinction""
It is posted on a Pinterest site under the designation "Ornaments of the Church," which also includes many examples of ecclesiastical garments, although it is identified as "University of Hull, BA".  The academic color of the lining corresponds to the school color, which is turquoise.  The University of Hull is in England, and I am not aware of any other institution in the US, save Nashotah, that uses this unique style of academic hood.   In checking the school's website, it does not appear that this style of hood is currently used, so the picture might be from an earlier period.  Their site also notes that "the distinguishing feature of the System to be used in the University of Hull may be termed 'The Single Silk System', i.e. one special silk (turquoise blue taffeta) lines." Note: Where this hood has the lining in the color of the institution, I am now wondering how this works for Nashotah.  Red is, in the American system, at least, the academic color of theology. 

Some additional information from a online discussion board for musicians.  One participant wrote: "By the way IanW, I just purchased, for the fun of it, a Wareham Guild-style hood from Wippell of London (I hold a Doctor of Musical Arts from a "Big 10" university). Its design is adapted to the American academic regulation (with the institution colors in the lining and a 4-inch border of the discipline color in velvet around the bottom edge. It actually looks really amazing, and I can't wait for the opportunity, however rare, to wear it with cassock and surplice, as it was designed."  Interesting.  I had wondered how I would wear this hood for an academic occasion outside of the church.  I thought of purchasing a standard master's gown (if needed), but according to this source that would not be entirely correct.  Perhaps that is why the picture above is on a white robe instead of a black one. And according to the source above this hood was originally "promoted its use in the church." So I guess I'll figure out what to do when and if such an occasion arises.

So far the closest thing I have found in academia that resembles a Warham Guild hood, are the ones used in Australia, specifically at Deakin University. The one below is for a master's degree by research:




Also, here is some more information on the evolution of the hood from STILIM.AZ:
"Medieval dress consisted of a flowing gown or cappa clausa, with a cape or cloak draped over the top. This often had a cowl-like appendage that could be pulled over the head, much like a hooded cape or capitium. By the second half of the fifteenth century, the fashion had progressed toward an open gown, said to be an expression of the new acceptance of academic learning and the arts. From 1490 onward this gown became standard academic dress, with the hooded cape becoming more ornamental than practical. Most commonly, bachelors and masters scholars wore black gowns made of “princes stuff” or “crape,” with the senior man’s garment having wider sleeves to allow for movement while teaching. The dress hood took the form of a drooping cape, lined with silk or fur to denote the scholar’s faculty or social status. For example, in 1432 Oxford forbade the use of miniver for anyone except Masters of the Arts and those of great wealth or noble birth. Variations in sleeve style and lining continued to mirror fashionable dress, and by the sixteenth century academics followed professionals and the clergy in the wearing of caps.
It is difficult to pinpoint the origins of the academic cap, but it is thought to have evolved as a variation on the ecclesiastic pileus cap and the medieval head scarf. Most contemporary graduates wear the trencher form of the pileus quadratus-or the Oxford mortarboard. This consists of a small skullcap, shaped to fit the head, and a flat, square top, adorned with a silk tassel. This form of headwear became popular with the clergy after the Restoration, when it was thought that emphasizing “squareness” denoted greater dedication. However, the modern academic form was not popularized until the eighteenth century, when wood or card was used to stiffen the square. Some philosophical doctors or secular doctors may wear a variation of the Tudor Bonnet, a softer, fuller hat, or if of Scottish origin, the John Knox cap."  (http://stilim.az/99-2/)
---------------------------------------------------
Here are some examples from Spain, the only place that seems to use a true cape-style hood:


These people are wearing attire for those with honorary doctorates. The green cape is for education, and I think the blue one on the top is for the sciences. The third one is the president of the European Union.  It appears that these capes do not have a hood, an evolution of the garment in modern time, perhaps.  I am not sure what the gold symbolizes, or the red. They seem to come in a variety of colors.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
More searches......Here is a picture of the faculty at Trinity Episcopal School of Ministry.  The gentleman on the second row, far right, appears to be wearing a Warham Guild hood with his doctoral robe.  Far as I can tell he is the Rev. Dr. Henry L. Thompson III, whose doctorate is a D.Min from the same institution. 


Not sure if this was the original hood that he was awarded, though.

 

 

Graduation from Nashotah - At Last!

It took six years in total for me to finally make it across the finish line, and twenty years from the time I took my first graduate course.  However, as of April 29 the thesis was successfully defended, and as of this past Thursday, May 26, I was officially awarded the Master of Sacred Theology degree.  I have chronicled my journey over the years through this blog, and it's nice to finally write about the completion of this process.  My first post in 2010 describes the beginning, and subsequent posts along the way fill out the journey (If anyone reading this is truly interested in the remaining posts, simply type "Nashotah" in the search box in the upper left corner). It's hard to believe that I initially registered for the thesis hours in the summer of 2012, nearly four years ago!! At my defense I had actually not been on campus since January 2014 when I spent an entire weekend researching the thesis in the library. It's been a long, interesting journey, to say the least.

Overall I am very pleased with the graduate program at Nashotah.  True, they went through more than a few transitions during my tenure, including multiple changes in deans, registrars, readers, and heads of the graduate department.  Then there were the two proposals I wrote in order to get to a manageable topic on which to write.  That was no less than forty pages of writing alone.  At times the process was maddeningly frustrating.  I don't think I ever seriously entertained the possibility of quitting.  Too much was invested, both time and effort.  Still, remaining optimistic did pose a challenge over the years.

All said, however, I gained much from the rigors of graduate work.  I added to my knowledge, and I learned valuable lessons in the academic process of research.  It was interesting to begin the research process believing that I would be supporting the original thesis idea, only to get to the end and discover that I could not.  However, that, too, is part of graduate studies.  I learned to be a more mature scholar who could critique and analyze information.  Too often writers - and even credentialed scholars - put forward ideas without adequate support and documentation.  At this level of study you have to find the courage to believe you can examine their ideas and offer reasonable criticism.  Based on the defense of my thesis it appears that I did just that.

It was also interesting to do graduate work in a theological context different than my own.  Many Lutheran scholars have done this as well, some receiving their graduate degrees from such places as Marquette University, Notre Dame University (both Roman Catholic), Princeton, Harvard, and various institutions representing the Baptists, Evangelicals, and others. Working with Episcopalians, especially of the Anglo-Catholic variety, was a fascinating experience.  They have a very high view of the liturgy, which for me was a true plus.  Nashotah also felt like a connection with the Church of England and its storied and historic past. 

At the graduation at Noble Victory Memorial Chapel (at St. John's Northwestern Military Academy), the conferring of degrees was done in Latin. cum laude.  I had hoped to end my formal academic work on a high note.
I knew this ahead of time, but to be honest it was a bit intimidating.  Something as simple as instructions to sit and stand were challenging to discern.  However, it all had a very historic feel to it, and coupled with the beauty of the older, stone chapel, I again felt transported back to another time and place. As you can see in the picture, my diploma was also entirely in Latin.  I am particularly pleased with one Latin phrase:

The graduation service was in the context of what high church Anglicans call a "Solemn Mass."  It was presided over by the bishop from the Springfield, Illinois dioceses, the Rt. Rev. Daniel H. Martins, who is also the chairman of the Board of Directors at Nashotah.  Earned degrees were awarded by the Very Rev. Steven A. Peay, dean of Nashotah.  When your named was called you would go forward toward the altar and keel before the dean.  After the invocation you would remove your tippet (an ecclesiastical scarf that is the sign of ordained status; usually worn as part of "choir dress" at non-Eucharistic services), then the hood was placed over your head.  In the picture above you see that I am wearing a different kind of academic hood than you might be accustomed to seeing.  It is in a "Warham Guild" style of hood, which is a kind of revival of the pre-Reformation form.  The red satin collar and lining is for theology, and the maroon exterior of the cape, I believe, is the color of Nashotah (which is also reflected in their doctoral robes).  I had a choice between this and a more "Oxford" style, but I wanted something different and uniquely Nashotah.  In looking at the internet I do not really other institutions using this style, with the notable exception, perhaps of the Spanish universities.
In the picture you will notice the bishop in the gold chasuble and miter, flanked by Nashotah's dean on one side and the commencement preacher on the other.  I am in the first full row above them. A little later in the afternoon we took a second picture on Nashotah's campus in front of the "cloister," right by the room where I defended my thesis.
I am in the second row right behind the dean who is in the center, front row. Dr. Garwood Anderson, one of the readers of my thesis and also my primary professor for Biblical studies, is to his left.  Well, here is a summary of the journey:

  • February 2010 - I decided to apply for the STM program at Nashotah.
  • May 2010 - I am accepted into the program and register for my first classes.
  • Summer 2010 - I took my first two classes: The New Perspective on Paul: A Critical Engagement with Recent Trends in Pauline Scholarship with Dr. Garwood Anderson, and Liturgical Change in the Church of England, 1928-2008: Controversy, Conflict, and Comprehension with Canon Jeremy Haselock of the Norwich Cathedral.
  • January 2011 - I took one class with Anderson on the Book of Romans.
  • Summer 2011 - I took two more classes:  The History of the English Hymnal with Dr. David Herman, and The History and Function of the Liturgical Year with the Rev. Dr. Philip Pfatteicher.
  • Fall 2011 - The paper I wrote for Anderson in my 2010 summer intensive is published in the Reformation issue of LOGIA. 
  • Summer 2012 - I enrolled for my thesis hours. 
  • April 2013 - The final proposal for the thesis is ready to submit to the committee.  (I wrote two proposals. One ended up being too broad.)
  • January 2014 - I spent an entire weekend researching in the library at Nashotah. 
  • August 2015 - The first complete draft of the thesis is completed and ready for proofreading and review. 
  • December 2015 - A reviewed copy is sent to the readers.  I am hoping this one can be ready for the defense. 
  • January - April 2016 - Additional review and further editing.  
  • April 2016 - The thesis is defended. 
  • May 2016 - Graduation!!!!!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

MARTIN LUTHER: VISIONARY REFORMER - Scott H. Hendrix

Although a very readable book, finishing the nearly 300 pages took me longer than desired.  Part of this was due, in part, to the final revisions on my thesis and the ongoing labor of pastoral tasks.  Normally I don't have the opportunity to read and review such a new book (Yale University Press, 2015), but my wife, who works at the local library, saw it as a new acquisition and brought it home, aware of my interest.  Hendrix produces a fresh and somewhat original biography, choosing to see Luther not as a larger-than-life saint, but as a man given to a very human combination of strengths and weaknesses.  Although it might seem as if such a biography could turn into an attempt to downgrade the great reformer from the usual accolades of those who admire him, Hendrix instead reveals his flaws while clarifying misunderstandings of Luther, placing everything into the historical context of the times.  Seeing this human side of Luther is actually refreshing since our heroes too often seem super-human and thus practically unreal and intangible.  Hendrix does recognize Luther's passion and commitment to the Gospel and to Christ, even as he exposes his sometimes human foibles.  Many historical details gave vivid context to the story, helping the reader to feel far closer to the events than many more academic accounts.  I would actually like to purchase this book and reread it in the near future as it seems impossible to soak up all that you read over a period of many weeks.  Hendrix also does a wonderful job of describing the various personalities that surrounded Luther, helping the reader to appreciate their true value in the reformation, which like most endeavors in life, is seldom the work of just one man. I highly recommend this biography to anyone interested in the life and times of Martin Luther, especially as we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

AFRAID: DEMON POSSESSION AND SPIRITUAL WARFARE IN AMERICA - A Review

It has been about three years since I read the last book by Dr. Robert Bennett, entitled I am Not Afraid: Demon Possession and Spiritual Warfare. I posted about this book, but looking back I notice that I did not review it after reading it.  In short, it was a very enlightening and eye-opening work about demons, exorcism, and spirituality from the perspective of the Lutheran church in Madagascar.  The book is the fruit of his Ph.D work at Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, and much of it reflects his research conducted in Madagascar.  Nevertheless, it was very applicable to the situation here in the US.

The description of the book from the Concordia Publishing House site offers a nice summary:
While Africa and Madagascar seem like strange and faraway places, the world in which we now live has become much smaller than many of us could ever have imagined. Moreover, even our neighbors visit the local fortuneteller, read the horoscope page in the newspaper, and attend séances that seek to reach departed friends, lovers, and family members. Consequently, as we begin a journey into faraway places, we may soon find they are not as far away as we may have expected.
— Chapter 3

I Am Not Afraid is Rev. Dr. Robert Bennett’s fascinating first-hand account of the spiritual warfare found within the Lutheran Church of Madagascar. Is spiritual warfare something new to the Church? Bennett reviews what the Bible, Church Fathers, and contemporary Lutheran leaders have to say.
Part One includes recent conversations dealing with spiritual warfare, an introduction into the Malagasy Lutheran Church, and the traditional Malagasy worldview. These are the stories of those who have been rescued from the darkness of sin and brought into the light of the Gospel.
Part Two looks to the Bible and the Church for explanation and historical perspective on the spiritual warfare found in the Malagasy Lutheran Church. Is it something only found in the time of Jesus and the apostles? What has the Church said in the past about such activities? Bennett explores the views of Martin Luther and other Lutheran leaders, and finally provides some helpful contemporary material and resources for dealing with spiritual warfare in today’s context.
Includes a glossary of key terms, transcripts of personal interviews, bibliography, Scripture index, and subject index.


This year he followed up with a second work, Afraid: Demon Possession and Spiritual Warfare in America.  Focused more on conditions in this country, this second volume touched on topics not necessarily handled in such a work.  For example, there are chapters on Vodoo and Indian religion.  Again, it is not simply a retelling of other second hand sources, but in many cases reflects his own research in the field.  As I look back on my ministry it is apparent that there was little in the LCMS to refer to when dealing with the demonic in actual parish situations.  The Pastor's Companion (Lutheran Service Book portable agenda) for the first time provided a full house blessing rite along with additional resources for dealing with the demonic and occult.  Bennett has added to these resources with two easily read books that offer practical advice and insight to those working in real world situations.  I could only wish that such resources had been available in my early ministry. Yet even now in the last third of my active years, I am thankful to finally have someone not only address the issue, but offer information for pastors to become better educated and equipped.

I picked up my copy at the recent Symposium on the Lutheran Confessions at CTS-FW last week and read it within the week after I returned. Dr. Bennett was gracious to sign my copy and included in his signature the reference Rev 2:10, which happens to be my confirmation verse.  Dr. Bennett, by the way, is not the executive director of Luther Academy.


Both books can be ordered from Concordia Publishing House.

Again, the summary from CPH offers additional information for any who may be interested in reading the book:
A fascinating and unnerving book, Afraid is a must-read that equips all Christians to recognize the devil’s influence in our society and to act on it.
Robert Bennett describes real events and actual confessions people have shared with him of demonic encounters—in America, in our modern age. Summoning demons, interacting with “ghosts,” and holding séances led to what many may call horrifying hallucinations and even schizophrenia. But for many Americans, these things are their spirituality.

How can we break free from the despair and crushing fear that such encounters can bring? How do we come to the aid of our neighbors who are lost in Satan’s deceptions? Bennett points us to the only way out: God’s grace and the medicines He gives to His people.


Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year's Goals

It has long been fashionable to set "resolutions" for the new year.  It has also been a running joke how these resolutions are quickly and easily broken.

What follows, then, is not so much a list of resolutions as goals; items I hope to accomplish or at least attempt - some directions to set me on the road for the months to come. They are also reflections on past goals and new year completions. By year's end I'll review and reassess.

1.  Finish the revisions on my thesis, defend, graduate and try to determine what I should do with the degree.  This may seem almost self-evident by now, but it is a goal in the making since 2010 when I first began the degree.  I don't think that I ever doubted my ability to finish it, but I did envision its completion a bit sooner.  My original reason for pursuing the degree is being reevaluated.  I had hoped to one day teach at a post-high school level (college, university, seminary) and knew that I needed more than just my M.Div to compete.  Over the years I realized that this goal may have been a bit unrealistic in certain ways.  First, many positions teaching theology go to those with doctorates, especially Ph.D's (and I simply do not have a goal to go that far, even though it's possible if I tried). Secondly, I'm not sure if even offered a position I would want to relocate at this juncture (largely because of my youngest being in high school).  So I'm considering other options, such as adjunct online teaching and offering to teach overseas for short-term mission trips (such as Luther Academy or Lutheran Heritage Foundation, etc.).  Like my goal with entering the military years earlier, my intent is not necessarily to leave my first calling (local pastoral ministry), but to supplement it.  So, too, with teaching. I see this year therefore as wrapping up the academics that set me on this course, and then exploring and reaching out for possibilities of how to use it to the glory of God.  Unlike my attempt to enter the military before, the goal of graduate work did materialize, and I firmly believe that it was a door that God Himself opened.  Now I need to see where the path beyond that door leads.
2.  Read more.  Too many precious minutes and hours are wasted with the TV and the computer.  It is a plague of our day.  Now I value both for various reasons, but I also see its limits as well.  I saw a challenge online to read 100 books by year's end.  That's a tall order and I'm not really sure one I feel I need to meet.  But I do want to read more and it will take discipline to do so.  This blog, as in the past, will record that reading by occasional reviews.
3.  Be more disciplined in my devotional life.  When I went to Nashotah the spirituality of the place inspired me to become more spiritual myself.  As happens too often, though, I became lax over time and let this fervor wane.  I'm not really concerned to adopt one program and see it through, as I  am to simply make sure time is set aside each day in meditation on God's Word and in prayer.  At present I am using the simple orders of Daily Prayer in Lutheran Worship along with Day by Day We Magnify Thee, a devotional of readings from Martin Luther.  This seems appropriate with the 500th anniversary of his birth approaching.  I need to keep this goal as simple as possible in the interest of keeping consistent.  
4.  Grow in my firefighting skills.  Even after 13 years on the department (I joined in January 2003), I too often feel like a novice. Granted, my original position was that of chaplain, and I feel competent there, although I'd like to add to my skills (more training in CISM, for example).  I became an actual trained firefighter later in March of 2008, which will be 8 years this March.  So I've had less time in this field.  Nevertheless, I need to improve.  Last year I finally finished the EVOC course to improve my driving skills.  I have been trying to learn more about running the engine as well, knowing that given my age I will not always be able to work with hoses and such on the fire ground as I do now.  Each year I take advantage of whatever training is offered, feeling good about increasing my knowledge and skills as a firefighter.  This year I will build on that and try to increase it as well.
5.  Learn or relearn a foreign language.  Rebekah may go on a class trip to a Spanish-speaking country and I may go with her.  I also see value in trying to go back to German.  Whatever I do I need to increase my knowledge in a second language.  I also plan to continue my work with the Greek Study Group that meets on Tuesdays. 
6.  Work on the crossbow.  This past year I purchased a crossbow (as a previous post noted), partly in the interest in extending the hunting season.  Time and weather did not really make that much of a possibility, so I decided to aim for the Fall when the new season begins (September).  I also purchased a range-finder, which is more needed with bows than with firearms.  So I have all the components.  Perhaps taking advantage of the local range in town might be helpful.  We'll see.  This hunting tool takes me to a more simple historical period and I'm excited to learn to master it.
7.  Spend time with those we love.  I know this again sounds self-evident, but too often we let precious moments slip away in the busyness of life.  My older children are very involved in their jobs and educational pursuits, but they also look forward to our visits.  Rebekah will soon be off to college and Carol and I will be empty-nesters for the first time since 1988.  I also want to remember to take the time to be with my cats Jody and Romeo.  They are both growing much older and I want to appreciate them while they are still with me.  2016 could be the year when they pass away.  Time does not stand still.
8.  Write and publish.  The STM allowed me to do my first true writing-for-publishing (LOGIA, 2011).  Now I have the bug to do more.  Although I already have ideas for books, I am thinking that beginning with articles may be a more realistic goal at this point.  So, let's see if I can actually get at least one article published this coming year!
9.   Maintain my diet.  This past year I finally committed to changing the way I eat, mainly for weight loss, but also for better glucose control.  At my best I hit about a 20 pound loss of weight, and my glucose control has been excellent over all, giving me AIC readings of under 6.  So, my goal this year is to continue that and not slip back into old habits.  I like where I am physically and do not want to return to the past. 

Well, I think that's enough of a list for now.  These are items I had already been thinking about, so they are good goals that I have a prior commitment to meet.  May God's will ultimately be done. To Him be all glory!

Looking to a good 2016!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 in Review

This review is personal and in no way exhaustive.  It simply seemed like an interesting thing to do as the old year winds to a close. Looking back at the first post on this blog back in January, I noticed that after years of concerns and tensions surrounding the teaching of Dr. Matthew Becker (part of which is documented in this blog), we went from an exoneration of his theology (and the frustration that it would never be dealt with properly), to his final departure from the LCMS.  All this within a span of six months.  Amazing.

As one of my more recent posts indicates, I am finally in the last stages of my degree, begun way back in 2010.  I had hoped, originally, to have finished it before now.  However, the life of a pastor, husband, father, chaplain, firefighter and circuit visitor is full, and the thesis received attention as I was able.  I made a final push this summer and by summer's end the last page of the last chapter was reached. A post in February indicates that I had reached page 60 and was done with the first part, debating whether I should make a major push to finish.  But it did not seem like a good idea, and I am glad I took the time necessary to do a quality job. Many revisions later, with many more awaiting, the thesis is largely done.  I hope to wrap up revisions early in the new year and schedule a defense before Lent.  This might be tricky since Lent comes early this year.

Throughout the year, even as I worked through the thesis, I have tried to read more.  As a way of documenting that effort this blog has also become a running review of the books I read.

This Spring my youngest child, Rebekah, graduated from the 8th grade and was confirmed.  Now 15 she is a freshman at the local high school and involved in a combination of band (she plays the flute and piccolo), piano, and dance.  David, my middle child, finally secured a full-time job at Gordy's County Market in Chippewa Falls.  Rachel, my eldest, is working on her master's degree at the University of Minnesota in educational policy and started working for Vets Plus, Inc.  My wife, Carol, began working in August as an independent consultant for Thirty-One, a direct marketing firm specializing in bags of all sorts (totes, purses, etc.) All-in-all, it was quite a year for beginnings and conclusions.  It will be interesting to see what 2016 holds in store!

I end the year in this blog with a total of 19 posts, up from my lowest of only 3 last year! It's hard to believe that I am still blogging after just over 9 years.  It appears that I started the Northwoods Seelsorger on November 25, 2006.  Wow! The blog posts no longer receive comments, and I am sure few probably read this anymore.  Blogging has been eclipsed, in part, by social media, and that's o.k.  I keep this site open, in part, because it is a much safer way to write about subjects that will only engender negative attacks. It also gives me the chance to write about subjects that would have little interest to those on FB.