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Those of you who wish there were more hours in a day can be thankful we have twenty-four hours a day not seventeen. This ancient water clock in the ancient agora (market) of Athens took seventeen hours to drain when the plug was removed at dawn. My first thought was they went with seventeen hours instead of twenty-four because they got tired of digging. More likely the clock was needed during the day to mark time and refilled in the off hours each night.

Those of you who share my interest in horology can see some of the other interesting clocks and watched I’ve found in the world here.

Thomas has been having some fun with a little blog series he’s been calling “What should we get Pastor Dennis?” At each gift shop things just seem to remind us of Pastor Dennis.  Here’s his latest gift idea for Pastor Dennis.  Here are some earlier ones.  My favorite is still that yodeling marmot.

A recurring blog theme for me this past month here has been to show a few cool clocks and time measurement systems I’m finding here in the epicenter of the world of horology (Switzerland). Links also here and here and here.

In that vein I share some of my latest finds. First, the pulpit hourglass– sorry the pic is so bad, one of the kids stood in the way of the security camera so I could take a quick pic (we always seem to be sneaking around the no-foto Gestapo here.)

Pulpit Hourglass

This “pulpit hourglass” can be seen in the Luther House in Wittenberg. Some of you are thinking that I perhaps need one of these as each weekend back home I seem to fully ignore the present clock we have hanging in the CATG worship center.

During the main Reformation controversies and debates this type of pulpit hourglass stood next to the lecturn and Luther was alloted a certain amount of time to present his views and his Catholic opponents were given equal time.

One of my Luther museum guidebooks says “it is also known that Luther  possessed a number of timepieces.” In 1532 he wrote… “The invention of the clock is a truly remarkable thing because it can measure time so accurately as one cannot express with words. It is certainly one of the most important human inventions.”  Sounds to me like he likes clocks too!!  Here is one of Luther’s table clocks (it stands about 15 inches high). I really like the little brass guy with the big hammer ready to sound the bell!

Luther table clock

Here’s a common sight – this is a sun dial outside the town church in Wittenberg. I thought we had, but I guess we don’t, a picture of another one that had a Latin inscription around it that describes the irony of the sun dial; “First the shade shows the light.” That’ll preach!! (It was an overcast day so no shadow is visible on this one.)

Wittenberg sun dail 1

Here’s another one that is on the outside of the church in Basel where Erasmus is buried. You can see the shadow and the light and the dial clock below it confirms the sun dail reading of two o’clock. (The brown square border and the ten lines to each number are paint.)

Basel church sun dail

What I can’t take a very good picture of is the sound of church bell towers that chime on the hour IN EVERY EUROPEAN TOWN. I often think when I hear them that God intended for his people on earth to be his metronome in every metropolis. Sad that the church is so often behind the times.  Here’s a pic from inside a church clock tower we climbed in Innsbruck Austria – this is some of the mechanism behind the faces of the enormous town clocks. The rod extends to the center where it enters a gear box. So, four rods extend from this center gear box and go forth from there to each of the four faces of the clock tower.

clock mechanism

One more pic. This is from a chapel in St. Pierre’s Church in Geneva (Calvin’s Church). Note the Latin phrase on the wall – Post Tenebrae Lux.  It means “after darkness, light.” That little phrase became the slogan of the Protestant Reformation. After centuries in the dark ages, God’s timing shifted and the light of the gospel came forth again. I discern a greater shift in our day in terms of God’s times and seasons.

Post Tenebrae Lux

The thought occurred to me to attempt to shorten the posts by increasing the number of them and reducing the length by narrowing the focus. I hope to at least be as successful at this as I have been at keeping my sermons short.

One of the things I’ve missed in recent years is any real sense of providence in my life. It’s not that the Providential Hand ever lifted, it’s more the case that one has to step back far enough, or away long enough for it to come into focus and become perceivable. These weeks away have been good if just for the fact that they’ve afforded me opportunity to get reacquainted with the Providence in my life.

In my message last week here at the church in Zurich I defined Providence as the precise, loving involvement and guidance of God in time. Those carefully chosen ten words sum it up nicely for me. Webster defines it; “God conceived as the power sustaining and guiding human destiny.” I like my definition better. A thousand plus pages of Reformation History in the last couple weeks have left me with a profound sense of Providence. However, seeing God’s hand in history is one thing, noticing how he’s thoughtfully set it up for me to be refreshed now to re-engage later is another. It’s very assuring.

Even his hand in plopping me down in the watchmaking epicenter of the world has been a way he’s reacquainting me with Providence. Here at the surface level we only see the motion of the second hand, but behind that there is a complex arrangement of diverse wheels interacting with precision.  I like these watches that give us window into what is happening underneath the second hand – they remind me of Providence.

Watch window

An awareness of Providence will turn you into a worshipper – Thank you God – I love you too-  to think that you’ve personally considered me and that not even a sparrow falls to the ground apart from the will of the Father! That verse, Matthew 10:29, first mentioned the “value” of sparrows – “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?” It then goes on to speak of OUR value – “you are worth more than many sparrows.” I know I take care of stuff that is valuable to me – it’s a good feeling to know God watches over what’s valuable to him. You and me!

I’ve even noticed the guidance of precise and loving Providence in little things these past weeks, like the order in which I’m reading books. It’s like I’m walking out a script or that he’s handing me successive and essential clues on a treasure hunt. The closest thing I can think of to describe the love felt in these Providential touches is when a girl wells with emotion at the realization that her boyfriend remembered something little that she liked or wore. (I’m not all that fluent in the language of romance so I hope that made sense.)

I didn’t scan the world and pick this place as the place I wanted to rest. I didn’t think, Hey, I think I’ll go spend a couple months in Reformation history or in Bonhoeffer’s backyard. Honestly, it wasn’t until I was here that the dots connected between the Reformation and strong sense we’ve been praying into back home that God is about to the change expression of Christianity in one generation. The present political struggle and disengagement of the church in America and it’s parallels to the years 1933-1945 here, the silence of and the silencing of pastors, etc, etc, etc. It’s all like God said “Hey, come over here, and when you are here I want to show you something that will encourage you and give you perspective and strategy. I want you to help my people not make the same mistakes twice. The cloud of witnesses here have some things they want to show you about their lives fighting similar battles to the ones I’ve called you to fight.”

I’m fully aware how fortunate we are to be able to be here and do what we are doing – truthfully there hasn’t been one post or picture put on this blog where, as I hit the “publish” button, I haven’t wondered who back home is resenting our fortune. I fight feeling guilty and the temptation to pull back on what we post to minimize our exposure and vulnerability. As one who feels as if he hasn’t had a free weekend in two decades I can fully appreciate those who’d look at the pictures of us at the lake here and think, “must be nice.” I understand those sentiments. Yet, this extended block of days is NOT God’s reward for a job well done (though it is his blessing) nor is it even the long overdue taking of accumulated unused comp or vacation days. Providential doors opened before us and I’m keeping a list of the moments where I have the strong sense that “God has me here.”

A week doesn’t go by when I too don’t have the thought that this is way too long to be away, or that it’s way too expensive. But each time so far God has interrupted those thoughts giving me a fresh sense of Providence – the end result is the assurance that since Providence obviously has me here, Providence can be trusted to provide for me being here as well as providing for my absence elsewhere.

(oops, somehow this ended up being 900 words. drat.)

Had a once in a lifetime experience yesterday – I was invited to fill a suddenly vacant spot (read… divine favor and providence!) in a Swiss watchmakers introduction to Watchmaking course (Uhrmacherkurs) at Chronometrie Beyer in Zurich. Four people a month can take this course. I suppose these are offered by watchmakers in the states, but I’d probably not spend the money, nor would it ever measure up to taking such a thing here in horological heaven. I am very grateful to Herr René Beyer for making it possible for me to attend and for the English translation. You can read this if you are not aware of who he is as the seventh generation watchmaker here at the internationally renowned Beyer’s of Zurich.

Thomas was able to attend as my photo journalist and we squeezed an afternoon into 2min 47 sec video just for you. Another journalist was there writing a story with a photographer and he took my card and will send me the magazine article when it comes out.  My instructors were Ernst Baschung and René Clémençon – Ernst comes from a watchmaking family and has been a watchmaker for 35 years. I picked his brain, are you surprised? He said I did a remarkable job grasping the complexity of a basic time measurement system and disassembling and reassembling a simple pocket watch mechanism on my own.

Before you view the video I’ll share a couple things for your edification and interest.

Ernst tells me golf and tennis are the two no nos with watches. It’s not the swing motion, its the shock energy released from the moment of impact with the ball that will break even the most expensive Rolex. Anyone with any watch they care about should never play golf or tennis with it on.

I asked him about the best watch in the world in terms of quality – hands down Rolex is the highest quality watch in the world; the parts are thicker, better material, etc. Other watches may look finer, and they may be, but quality/durability is sacrificed. A good and complex Rolex has upwards to 1200 parts. The watch I took apart maybe had 100. Previously I would have said a $10,000 watch can’t be a whole lot different than a $1000 watch and the rich are only paying for the name.  Now I disagree. If a watch costs $10,000 it’s worth $10,000 because of the mind-blowing precision inside it and the quality of support and warranty ready to repair it if it breaks. The really expensive watches today are made with a new material – a new silver – one slight touch of a human finger ruins the material and the part is worthless.

Throughout the afternoon I was in awe of those who can work on these things – but what really trips me up is to think that someone invented this and that it works! Somewhere in there is a strong Intelligent Design argument.

The Breitling by Bentley Mark IV watch I’ve coveted for a few years is now over $10,000. (Check out the video on this watch – sweet.) Here’s the thing… illegal replica’s are available all over the internet for under $500. Ernst says a replica is really two watches, a cheap mechanism inside with a imitation casing outside. Were you to wear your illegal imitation into a Swiss watchmakers shop and ask him to repair something (he would likely recognize it a fake from just a glance at it while you are wearing it) he’d likely take it, put it on his bench and smash it with a ball-peened hammer right in front of you and send you out of his store. 40 million FAKE “Swiss” watches are made each year compared to the 26 million REAL Swiss watches that are made each year – estimated loss of sales annually is 1 billion Swiss francs. That has an ENORMOUS economic impact on the Swiss Watch industry. If you are thinking of getting an imitation, read this.

Most of the clocks in the shop for repair are 17th and 18th century clocks. I asked about transporting these things to and from the shop because the UPS guy has yet to bring me a book I ordered without a dented corner! – how do they get these here and home safely? Answer: one of Beyer’s watchmakers travels to the location/home of the broken clock and personally assesses it, gives an estimate, transports it by hand back to the shop in Zurich and then back home again.

Here’s a pic of the various parts of the watch I worked on.

Watch parts

The part in the picture, #710 (it’s in far the lower right and looks like a small “T”), is called the Swiss Anchor Escapement. Here’s the guy who invented it. This little thing constrains, controls and releases the right amount of power for the entire mechanism – without it the watch would spin out until it’s drained of power. 99% of watches use this Swiss design escapement- it has two jewels, usually rubies on the edges of the T. This little part moves back and forth thousands of times every hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – and it doesn’t wear out – your car only runs a few hours at a time and is in the shop multiple times a year!!!

What’s remarkable to me is that this thing is SO SMALL that a small size mosquito could probably fly off with it resting on it’s back. No kidding, when it sits on a whitetop workbench, your eyes have to adjust to even see it like they do picking out a plane hidden high up in the sky.

Lesson… if you open the back of your watch and a miniature mosquito flies out… it wasn’t a mosquito! More fun facts, some who open their watches and look inside then go get a tweezers to remove what they think is a fine hair – fyi… it belongs there – leave it alone!

You can see that the video ends with me holding my Certificate of Course Completion. I can’t read German but I’m assuming that what is written there says something about how you can now send me your broken expensive watches and I’ll be able to fix them. Inside joke… a few years ago I commented after seeing a rerun of a Discovery channel Operation program that I could probably now perform a heart surgery. I’m a quick learner, monkey see, monkey do.

Here we have the latest installment of my blog tour of the super cool clocks I’m seeing here in the watch epicenter of the world – Switzerland. Maybe there are a few other horology fans enjoying these off-the-typical-topic posts of mine. If you are just joining us, welcome and here are some of the earlier clocks that have impressed me enough to receive a mention here.

Flower clock 1

I’d guess this is the world’s most beautiful clock – sitting right along the lake in Geneva is the L’Horloge Fleurie, or Flower Clock. It’s been there since 1955 – there are approximately 6,500 plants/flowers that change seasonally (if you play around on the googles you can see it in a variety of seasons.) It measures 15.7 meters in circumference, the diameter of the clock is 5 meters. The clock features a second hand, which is 2.5 meters long. The second hand holds the reputation of the being the longest on this planet. I just about took a short video so you could see it spin but you’ll just have to imagine.

flower clock 2

This used to be the largest clock of it’s kind in the world until 2005 when it got beat by a clock in Tehran, Iran.  You be the judge but I like this one far better than the one in Iran.

I have been sermonizing along the way here – my thought on this clock is that time is an absolutely beautiful thing and it is a central part of God’s created order, really it’s a beautiful gift. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says “he has made everything beautiful in its time.” No time, no beauty.

Kaitlyn has a few pics up on her blog from Geneva – check them out. Special thanks to my family for literally walking miles with me to locate these things. This morning we worked up a good lather, spent two hours and never found what I went looking for – Horloge Solaire Et Laser (Solar Laser Clock). We scoured this massive park (Parc Mon Repos) and never found it.  I think someone stole it. Pardon me now as I philosophize for a moment… is time actually wasted if one spends two hours looking for a clock that doesn’t exist?

Felt like we had a video production company here this morning. Had to prepare another short video of me greeting the folks back home at CATG for this Fourth of July weekend. And, Thomas has some great video stuff on his blog from yesterday. Here is his toboggan video. And he has new video installment for his blog series – What Should We Get Pastor Dennis? We frequently find stuff that makes us think of Pastor Dennis when we are in gift shops.  Also, Thomas is now offering vitally important Tourism Do’s and Don’ts tips on his blog.

Kaitlyn has some great pics on her latest post, especially the last pic of the Swiss flag outlining the mountain. I think it’s a great shot and we, being puzzle people, just may turn that one into a puzzle. Kristen hit a home run on a meal the other night and has a post about this delicious German meatball thing she whipped up.

Thanks to Caleb for putting together the following video clip from our visit yesterday to the Guinness Book of World Records Largest Rolling Ball Clock.

This clock is found in the Bucherer Store in Lucerne, Switzerland. The clock is four stories high. It runs on rolling glass marbles and kinetic energy. It took twelve people an entire year to make it. Here are some more details:

One marble ends up in the ring every minute, until 60 of them finally make up an hour. A polar opposite to this ongoing motion is provided by a giant crystal ball on the ground floor, which oscillates once every quarter of an hour. The mechanical components, all perfectly geared to one another, are fascinatingly combined to create a clock system that is precise, completely self-contained and infinite. The installation extends to all four floors in the Bucherer store, is 11.6 m (38 ft) high and 6 m (almost 20 ft) wide. In the entire system, 150 crystal balls measuring 30, 40 and 150 mm (1.2, 1.6 and 5.9 in) run along 297.8 m (977 ft) of track.

More pictures can be found here. Check them out as they have pictures of how all the parts are handmade.

Those following the blog know I’ve posted a few times so far on Swiss watches and clocks – banks, army knives and watches are huge things here. I’ve learned these are “time measurement systems.” I’ll get right to the point… as big and mind boggling as this huge clock is, it only measures God’s time. Try to wrap your mind around the Providence of God and you’ll truly be blown away. But even in the natural order, every time measurement system invented is a mere human attempt to capture what no amount of random unguided chance could have possibly arranged and set in such complex yet precise and perpetual motion. Jeremiah 31:35 tells us that it is God above who “appointed the sun, who decrees the moon and stars to shine at night, who stirs the seas so that its waves roar.” Job 37:12 tells us how God is the One who set the elements of the earth in motion and they do “whatever he commands.” The planets, the seasons, the tides of the seas – he’s behind it.

Let this thought speak to you… he’s never late. But, it is possible to not “keep in step” with Him. Make sure you do. Synchronize your life in Him. Seek to know and discern his shifts in times and seasons. Check out pages 86-90 in my Momentum book for how to discern the sacred rhythms and pace of the Spirit. You’ll find what is written there no where else – I’ve looked – and, not finding anything, I decided to write this critical stuff down myself. You’re welcome.  There is a “moment” in momentum’s development that we must discern. Many are at a spiritual standstill today because they are oblivious to discerning these key moments.

I think I’m going to preach on this topic this weekend.  Read this. And, then read how the adversary tries to change God’s times and seasons (or at least get us out of sych with them).  Here’s a great clip for those of you who want to reflect on this more.

The forecast today was 70% rain – we discovered that means seventy percent of today it was pouring down rain. We now have forty Swiss franc’s worth of umbrellas to bring home.

Also, I discovered that if you keep driving for a while after the gas light comes on… it starts flashing at you. Maybe some of you who love to live close to the edge thought the rest of us already knew that. Not so.

We also learned that if you buy a can of corn in Germany, the words “4 stück” on the side of the can means it’s not kernals but four ears still on the cob. All would have been well if the can had 5 stück, but 4 stück means that one of the five of us went without.

Zurich 091

Among other things today we went back to Zurich to the Beyer watch store.  It’s like there is a magnet drawing me there. Here’s a picture of the front of it and here’s what our travel book says about this location; “Banhofstrasse – some call it the finest street in Europe -along its path is an impressive display of wealth – the head offices of the “Gnomes of Zurich” (the five largest banks in Switzerland) – this is the center of Switzerland’s opulence – everything you can never afford to buy is sold there.”

Zurich 092

Since I can’t buy I decided to covet instead. You know, covet, as in the tenth commandment thou-shalt-not-covet. Not to worry, I hardly covet a thing, ever.  But watches are hard for me.  And this one in particular kept winking at me as I went by. I think it’s The One. Kristen says Dream on, she’s way out of my league.

Zurich 093

I have no idea if anyone else is interested in this but I for those who are I want to show you another amazing clock from the Beyer museum.

This one is called Pendulette de table avec Planetarium (aka Planetarium Table Clock). It keeps time.  AND, the earth rotates around the sun in perfect real time.  AND, the other nine planets rotate as well, around, up, down in relation to the etched constellations of precisely positioned stars on the crystal globe, which if you are smart enough will reveal what season it is. (You can see the stars better in this pic).  I have trouble getting my watch’s date feature to not switch at noon each day and here’s some guy back in 1770 had the whole universe gracefully moving in precision.

Zurich 084

Here’s the thing – the universe is a billion times more complex than this mind blowing clock which is unquestionably the product of an amazing mind. I don’t know, I guess I just don’t have the faith to believe even this level of complexity could be in any way random. Honestly I felt like worshipping God after I saw this clock.  And to think kids today are being taught they are just the next mutation in a unguided process. Sad.

I’m teaching my kids they are no mistake but rather they were conceived in the mind of God before the foundations of the world (as the Bible says) and God’s dream for their life only manifest in the flesh at conception.

My kids wonder if anyone else out there besides me who thinks of ways to hammer both on the theory of evolution and abortion while wandering around a clock shop.

We travel all week starting tomorrow AM and are not sure where along the way we’ll have internet. Stay tuned.

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