Bumping into a Sliver of Church History

This past weekend, we had the great pleasure of joining family and friends – new and old – at the wedding of my niece Leah and her fiancé (now husband) Perek.

It was a joyous, festive ceremony in Decorah, Iowa, at a lovely little Lutheran country church just outside of town. But, of the many great memories that I know I’ll cherish, one that was entirely unexpected was from the informal, noon-time lunch preceding the wedding.

As it turns out, we were joined by the church’s Pastor and, in conversation, he began telling us the story of the church’s unique relationship with a 19th century artist, Herbjorn Gausta.

Before we knew it, we were on brief field trip to the parsonage where the Pastor said he had something special to show us, concerning an extended stay-over by Gausta in the early days of the church. Up to the second floor our wide-eyed guest party climbed, making our way to the guest room of the parsonage where the artist had stayed over 100 years ago.

As it turns out, Gausta had used the original plaster walls of the room as his personal study canvas in preparation for a major work. These original drawings were on all four walls of the tiny room and had been covered up by at least four layers of wallpaper, through the years. It wasn’t until the parsonage received a major remodeling job in recent years that the Gausta sketches, long since forgotten, were discovered in the guest room.

As we all slowly circled the room, there was something of an aura of calm and timelessness. Standing within inches of these drawings, it was easy to imagine the artist alone in the room at the turn of the last century. You could feel his spirit…creating, dreaming, meditating on the serene pastureland he would have seen then, just as we did now, rolling for miles outside the second-story window.

It was a real treat and ever a reminder to keep one’s self open to life’s little surprises each and every day!

Culturally Christian

There was an interesting article that ran in the Toronto Globe & Mail recently, summarizing the current dialogue around the subject of “neurotheology” and the notion of a biological predisposition that we humans have to belief in God or a high spirit. In other words, faith is literally in our DNA. But, while that subject is a fascinating one, the part of the article that caught my attention for the purpose of this article, was the following section, about Dr. Phil Zuckerman’s research on populations in Sweden and Denmark.

He observes both countries are: “…affluent places where non-believers count for 80 per cent of the population. His research found that, rather than being hostile to religion, non-believers in those countries tended to express indifference or to call themselves ‘cultural Christians’ because they still participated in many rites – baptism, marriages, funerals and holidays – linked to the national church.” You can read more about these research findings in Zuckerman’s book Society without God.

To some extent, I think the United States is another example of a society where there is a large population that is culturally Christian. The rising, post-WW II affluence that we have gained, further guaranteed by the Great Society mandates of the 1960s, have made values taught by Christ and the church part of our country’s heritage and social operating system, so to speak.

It wasn’t always that way. And, it’s interesting to hear from voices that lived during the times when the United States’ prosperity and leadership place in the world wasn’t always so obvious. This week (and month), we are very pleased to offer the comments of Pastor Merle Franke, who was born in the shadow of WW I and lived through the Great Depression.

Pastor Merle’s comments offer us all a bridge for understanding how much our current and future generations owe to the generations before us. They built their lives, and ultimately much of our country’s governance, based upon “an assurance of things hoped for; a conviction of things unseen” – in other words, a personal and shared faith in a higher power, on which we should base all aspects of society.

We hope you enjoy Merle’s reflections. And, in a quick end-note, I want to thank my son Andrew (in the picture with me, enjoying a recent birthday brunch) for his work on the video series we’ve been bringing to you so far this year.

We couldn’t have done it without his film editing wizardy!

Using Current Culture for Faith

I had a visit yesterday with one of the Austin representatives of Priority Associates. They and Search Ministries put together a great breakfast meeting a couple of weeks ago – over 230 men before 8:00 am in the morning – to hear an inspiring talk by Dr. David Cook, a professional sports psychologist, talk about his practice with famous pro athletes and his personal mission to spread the faith.

Part of this personal mission for Dr. Cook involves his current quest to bring to life a major motion picture, Links of Utopia. One of the things we’re encouraged by is the increasing sophistication of believers like him to use the culture to witness the good news.

George Barna was among the first during the current internet age to research and document the critical importance of employing music, movies, games, the internet, and other modern media to reach children and young adults, where they spend an increasing majority of their waking time.

We couldn’t agree more. That’s our journey here at Faithkeepers – to equip you with inspiration, recommendations, and resources to give your kids (as well as family, friends and colleagues) a chance to add healthy culture to their lives. It’s no different than adding healthy foods to your daily diet.

Speaking of daily diet, we hope you enjoy another in our series of faith stories, this one shot at an Austin Tex-Mex favorite, Maudie’s with a long-time friend, Susan Scrupski.

In her “day job,” Susan is the founder and chief analyst for the 2.0 Adoption Council. There are few positions that one could have more prominent than Susan’s to put you at the pulse of how companies are using the most ground-breaking technologies to make the products and services that shape our culture.

But, Susan is also a mother, community volunteer, passionate advocate for those things she cares about, with a deep spiritual core that she shares in her story. You can get to know her better at her personal website, “Taking it Personal.”   We hope you are inspired by her thoughtful comments, perhap hearing some situations that are familiar to your own life.  Share it with others and, as  always, let us hear from you!