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If they were writing this post, my pragmatic church planting friends would have made sure the word “Team” were somewhere in the title. I devote many pages in my Momentum book to the critical factor of who you have around you if you aim to go anywhere with God. I tried to figure a way to sneak in the words “steady” and “longevity” because there is nothing better than steady people around you who are there for the long haul.

The poster child for this in my life, aside from Kristen, is Pastor Dennis. I wish I wasn’t so opposed to human cloning because I’d like to clone him – faithful, steady, always right there, and smiling.

This past year at Church at the Gate, in multiple settings and venues, repeatedly and on purpose, our equipping pastor Don Parsons and I have unpacked his Mature Love diagram (below, but I’ll walk you through it first using words). Basically the cycle of growth in love begins as we are aware we are all different and that at some point different people have conflict. Conflict isn’t a sign something is wrong (or that someone is wrong and someone is right), this isn’t something to avoid or run from, or ignore as if all is well, it’s simply the unavoidable and only path to true oneness and mature love.

Conflict, of course, results in separation and this, sadly, is where most people part ways. So many in the Body of Christ never enter into mature love because we bail on each other and leave the church or whatever. Aren’t you glad Jesus didn’t wiggle off the cross and walk off offended when it got hard for him to love us? Pastor Don has been teaching us about the culture of the cross and what the culture of the cross affects in the atmosphere of our relationships.

The only way past this impasse of conflict and separation and on to mature love is through repentance and humility. Jesus did it, he laid his life down. There is no other way. Repentance and humility open the door to reconciliation and reconciliation takes us to unity and oneness.  It’s at this point we really enter into higher levels of maturity in our love. There is no greater level of mature love except that which is reached taking this path (of laying your life down). And mature love is only evident when we embrace those who are different/difficult- whereby the cycle begins again and we GET TO grow in love even more. Immaturity in love is evident when we take ourselves out of this process with people God has put in our lives.

Here it is visually and I’ll produce a follow up post shortly to unpack this further in light of some of what I’m uncovering here in the epicenter of where the Christendom split in two.


The reason Thomas and I were one hour late for supper tonight is because about 4pm I twisted his arm to go with me to try and find Karl Barth’s grave. It’s only 25 minutes from here (Kandern, Germany), just over the border into Switzerland (just on the edge of his hometown of Basel). We found the cemetery quite easily, Friedhof Hörnli (70 Hörnliallee, Riehen, Basel-Stadt), but the grave plot locator computer wouldn’t tell us where in the cemetery he was buried. So, we walked it row by row and section by section for one hour and thirty minutes.

It was a needle in a haystack, really. Ugh. Thomas will verify that after a while I started praying out loud that the Holy Spirit would order my steps. Tom knew I’d come back tomorrow if we had to leave without finding it. (The reason I believe the Lord let me wander a while is because I needed the walk.) We finally found it along the furthest back wall (section 0803, grave 0014). Hope that last little piece of info is a blessing to the next pilgrim who tries to google and find the grave of Karl Barth. Here’s a pic so you know what you are looking for…

Karl Barth grave

I’ll tell you why I’m pointing to two names in a little bit – if you like bizzare love stories – trust me you’ll want to keep reading.

Karl Barth TimeMost regard Karl Barth (pronounced Bart) as the most important Protestant theologian since the Reformation.

Someone once asked Pope John XXIII whom he thought was the greatest theologian of the twentieth century. Expecting him to name a Catholic they were all amazed to hear him answer… Karl Barth.

The Pope went on to say he thought Barth was the greatest Christian thinker since St. Aquinas (d. 1274).

When someone told Barth what the Pope had said about him Barth commented… “I am starting to believe in the infallibility of the Pope!

Here’s are some quick highlights of his life:

  • Raised in liberal theology, he had a change of mind and heart and broke with liberalism. His method is referred to as dialectical theology or neo-orthodoxy (though he rejected those designations). He sought a return to the Word and a positive reevaluation and recapturing of Reformation theology and teaching, particularly Calvin.
  • He was a friend and mentor to Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
  • He wrote the historic Barmen Declaration (with Bonhoeffer’s help) – the declaration was the Confessing Church of Germany’s rejection of the pro-Nazi “German Christian” churches and a renouncement of anti-Semitism. Barth mailed the declaration to Hitler personally.
  • Born and raised here in Basel Switzerland, taught for a short while at the University of Bonn (Germany) until he was kicked out of Germany in 1935 for refusing to sign a statement of loyalty to Hitler.  He returned to Basel and taught there until his retirement. He died there in 1968.
  • He wrote the massive 10,000 page, 13 volume set of books called Dogmatics.   You can find that here. He never completed the project. Theologian colleagues frequently asked him when the final volumes would be written. He’d reply by asking them if they fully read and digested what he’d published already. He was too prolific for anyone to say yes. Dogmatics is nine times the size of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. Barth towers over every other with this monument of Christian theological thought.
  • If you were to only buy one book of Barth’s I’d recommend his famous commentary on Romans. If you want a Cliff notes version of Dogmatics, start here with this book, it’s the one I’m holding in my hand in the picture.
  • One of my favorite Karl Barth quotes… “To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world. “

Even if you have never heard of Karl Barth, perhaps you’ve heard this story. Someone once asked Barth to sum up in one sentence his vast understanding of Christian Theology. He thought and then replied… “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

A “skeleton” remains at his grave:

Now for the reason I’m pointing at a second name – Charlotte von Kirschbaum. In 1909, Barth fell in love with a gal named Rosi. A relationship between the two was forbidden, but for the rest of his life Karl Barth carried her picture with him – and at times he’d weep looking at it. (Rosi died in 1925.)

In 1913, parents all but arranged that Karl Barth would marry Nelly Hoffman, an accomplished violinist. Nelly remained his wife until the time of his death in 1968. You’ll see her name, Nelly Barth-Hoffmann, is listed on the gravestone immediately underneath his.

Barth became extremely close with a female assistant (13 years younger, also his former student) named Charlotte von Kirschbaum (whom he nicknamed “Lollo”). His wife Nelly was no match for Barth intellectually however Charlotte certainly was— in fact, Charlotte accused Barth of stealing her ideas more than once. Some believe she co-authored Dogmatics contributing far more than secretarial help. At minimum it’s evident he developed theologically in dialog and communication. In 1929, Barth invited Charlotte to move into his home.

This open-secret “affair” was shocking and scandalous throughout the church world and many, including Dietrich Bonhoeffer, adamantly rejected the arrangement. Barth’s mother and his children were equally unaccepting – son Marcus later said he used to think he had two mothers. There is no evidence of a sexual relationship between Karl and Lollo unless you consider it a given and painfully obvious as they vacationed together (leaving Nelly at home), worked closely together and lived together (1929-1968) for the rest of his life. The last years of Charlotte’s life Alzheimer’s set in and she was moved into a nursing home.

Here’s a picture of Charlotte and an interesting article on her with a few other details. This link has more including the important books related to their lives together. Some close to the family say it was no sexual affair, that Nelly tolerated all this because she too was committed to his work as a theologian. Others see Barth as a womanizer who used them both, one to care for his house and children and another to meet his professional, companionship and emotional needs. Feminists see Charlotte as the shining star, constrained by set roles for women at that time, her only outlet for scholarship was in his shadow. Thus the book by Renate Kobler, In the Shadow of Karl Barth: Charlotte Von Kirschbaum, Westminster John Knox Press (1989).

As you can see in my picture, Charlotte died in 1975 and Nelly honored Karl’s request that Charlotte be buried with him in the family plot. Nelly died the year after and was buried with him also. The reason I really wanted to find this gravestone is because I heard it had all three names on one stone. Yep, it does. I guess you could say I wasn’t just looking for his grave, but also the skeleton in his closet.

Some say all this made Barth an adulterer (at least committing emotional adultery), others go so far as to say therefore he was not a Christian. Anyway you slice it this was dysfunction junction and a very substantial, unfortunate and lasting blight on his life testimony and work. In case you are wondering, I’m not God. But I did have this thought today… I wonder who will receive the greater crown in heaven, Karl for his contribution to Christian thought, or Nelly for putting up with Karl.  I’m voting for Nelly, how about you? (He may have written 31 volumes, but her testament spans 55 years.) Please vote in the poll below and, so I’m not doing all the talking, please comment.

Little did I know that this year, 2009, marks the 500th anniversary of John Calvin’s birth – in fact his birthday was yesterday July 10 (1509). During our days in Geneva earlier this week we discovered much activity underway to commemorate the occasion. Theologians from around the world have come here for conferences and symposiums (a big one ends today, Calvin500) on Calvin’s enormous influence on the entire western world. Calvin is even getting credit for capitalism as we know it, I look forward to reading this new book on that topic soon. (You’ll note on the book cover this book is one of several in a Calvin500 commemoration series.)  If you are interested, this blog will fill you in on all the Calvin Quincentenary happenings here in July.

To go along with Thomas’ blog series – What should we get Pastor Dennis? – I thought Pastor Dennis might like this commemorative John Calvin bobblehead they were selling at the conference. HA!  (Actually, what I REALLY want to get him costs $22,000.)

Anyhoo, I chalk it up to more providence that I happen to be here at this time. I commented in the last post something to the effect that it’s as if God is saying to me – Come here (to Europe) and when you are here I will put you within earshot of the testimony of these cloud of witnesses. Listen to them with fresh ears.

Even the mention of Calvin’s name instantly conjures up rigid religious categories and boxes of theological thought and controversy. But I’ve been able to break out of all of that for a few days thanks to a little phrase that caught my attention on a Calvin500 banner outside St. Pierre’s Church in Geneva. The banner stated that one of the goals of Calvin500 is to “surpass the overly simplistic representations of the Reformer.”

Here’s my thought there… I personally know how frustrating and miserable it is to have people pigeonhole me unfairly, inaccurately and intentionally inoculating others to me by spreading a bad report that my doctrine falls short and ALL WITHOUT EVER HAVING READ FIRST HAND even one of my books, sat through even one of my messages live or even CD, or without having ever spoken to me personally. 

Reading that statement on that banner made me think, to a great degree, I’ve kind of done that with Calvin. Yes, I waded ankle deep into Calvin in seminary (beyond the standard history/theology requirements I took an elective on the Theology of the Reformers, had to read a couple books, write a few papers, etc…) but I didn’t really “listen” to him or sit at his feet for any length of time. And it’s been my loss.

Thinking back it wasn’t that I didn’t like him, I just didn’t like his followers. It’s often said that Calvin wasn’t a “Calvinist” and that his followers took his ideas to places he did not venture. So, I’m saying we’d all do well to ignore what people say and go straight to the source.

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.)

Though the length of my posts here may lead you to believe otherwise, I’m actually stalling and holding back on some major downloads here on the Reformers – figuring you all like the light/personal stuff more than this heavy historical stuff I’m relating to how God changes the face of Christianity in one generation. To the delight of some of you I do have more of what I consider healthy-mental-diversion-stuff-for-me on topics like watches, classical guitars and Hogan’s Heroes. We are working our way through the six seasons of Hogan’s Heroes in the late evenings.

Thomas and Kaitlyn have some new posts up to share with you. Geneva was fun for me, but as you’ll read, not so much for them.  Kaitlyn came up to me in the Reformation bookstore after we walked through Calvin’s church/museum and said, “Dad, this is like a candy store to you isn’t it?” 

Kaitlyn is putting the main pics from our two days in Geneva on her Facebook. I’ll explain this particular picture in case you are wondering about it. Yes, I did have a cold one a couple days ago at, of all places, The Museum of the Reformation.

We were hot and thirsty but was not my intention to buy a beer. I would not have bought it if I had really thought that is what it was. However the bottle intrigued me (Kristen wanted the bottle to make salad dressing with, I wanted it on my bookshelf as a book end) and I seriously thought SURELY it would be cream soda or root beer or something – after all, the place was crawling with church ladies and Reformed Church pastors. You can imagine my surprise to open my bottle of Calvinus and pour out cold beer. (The slogan on the bottle is “IN BIRAE PREDESTINAS” which I’m guessing is Latin for ??predestined beer??)

Calvin beer

It’s no secret that Luther and Calvin drank beer. If that is a surprise to you, this book  – Drinking with Calvin and Luther: A History of Alcohol in the Church – will detail the historical record for you. Luther made sure his stein was full before he prepared sermons and lectures. Luther viewed reformation as both a process and a promise that was totally accomplished by God. He used to say that God reformed the church, while he, drank Wittenburg beer. Calvin wrote that when he was traveling he could not wait to taste each local towns brew.

HOWEVER, Calvin and Luther both saw drunkenness and being under the influence of anything but the Holy Spirit as evil. Luther spoke against excess (Soberness and Moderation against Gluttony and Drunkenness, I Pet. 4:7-11, May 18, 1539 Luther’s Works  51:291).  Here’s a taste from that message:

We ought to give thanks to God for providing us with food and drink and then besides, liberating us from the papacy, and feeding us with food and drink. If you are tired and downhearted, take a drink; but this does not mean being a pig and doing nothing but gorging and swilling.

An interesting historical side note on the topic: Calvin sought to institute three reforms for a godly society in Geneva.  The first concerned the taverns. He took issue with the evil of drunkenness and formulated a plan for the sanctification of the tavern. They were to be gathering places… clubs (abbayes) that were not-profit producing. Everyone was to say grace before and after eating and drinking. There was to be a French Bible on the premises. Swearing, slandering and dancing were forbidden. It was okay that Psalms would be sung and anyone so moved was free to address the rest of the company for their edification.

Would you be surprised to know that Calvin’s abbayes did not last long and the taverns were soon back in force? I wonder what he would have said about his name and face being on a beer bottle today. (He didn’t even want a tombstone on his grave and it remains unmarked -Tomb no. 707- honoring his wishes.)

YOU MUST MUST MUST check out the little flash video here at the intro to the Calvinus beer website. Make sure your sound is up. Very funny!

The Nazirite-like vows that Caleb and his peers at IHOP have taken reflect the higher calling God is laying on the hearts of the forerunners of this end day generation. It’ll be, in those days, as it was in the days of Noah, eating and drinking, but there will be a remnant that is fully set apart to God. Following the fasted lifestyle of the Sermon on the Mount today is preparation for that day.

Here’s another picture I thought you’d like. I share it with the disclaimer that it was taken BEFORE I found the beer and not a reflection of my jolly mood afterward. You have to admit, it’s a bit funny to have a cardboard-Calvin-cut-out right here for all these suit-wearin’ Reformed and Presbyterian Pastors to line up for a photo op!

Calvin cardboard

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?

Every kid and parent recognizes the Disney Castle.

A couple weeks ago we visited the actual castle it was patterned after – King Ludwig II of Bavaria’s (1845-1886) Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria (Germany). This castle appears in many movies including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Great Escape. It was a finalist in a 2007 New Seven Wonders of the World contest. (Sorry this post is out of chronological sequence in my reporting here, I was just thinking about it again this morning. Surely you realize we can only cover the highlights in the blogs.) Here’s a few shots from aerial angles. The photos here are from Kaitlyn’s camera. (The kings bedroom photo, below, I took with her camera off a page in a booklet on the castle that I bought – no photos allowed inside castle)

Castle 1

No need for one to hit the treadmill after a visit here. We got our workout for the day getting to it, another whole workout getting up the stairs inside  to it’s various levels, and we worked a whole new set of muscles walking back down through the woods to the parking areas. The views of the Bavarian Alps are stunning.  And this castle, built in the 1860’s even had running water into his bedroom and kitchen from the natural springs in the hillside! Here’s Kristen’s prize photo from one of the kings patios.

Castle 2

King Ludwig II was good looking, but a nut. Some say literally he struggled with insanity though that is disputed even today. A commission even determined fits of insanity rendered him unable to govern. He was lonely, unfulfilled. He planned to marry his cousin but for unknown reasons called it off so late the gold wedding carriage had already been completed. I had the thought that he was gay. Kristen gave me a stern glance and a shh! for thinking that outloud within earshot of the others on the tour, but hey, he was obsessed with theatre AND poetry AND had significant childhood/father issues AND had swans adorning literally every room, wall, vase and door handle – you do the math!  Kristen didn’t think it was funny either. I repented. Some suggest he called off the wedding because he actually liked another woman who more closely fit a favorite theatre romance fantasy he was trying to play out in real life. He never married.

The book, The Swan King: Ludwig II of Bavaria says on the back cover (viewable through that link on… “In this penetrating biography Christopher McIntosh seeks to unravel these layers of mystery and reveal the man at the core of the legend, shedding new life on the more ambigious aspects of Ludwig II’s life – his latent homosexuality, supposed madness and the enduring mystery of his death.” Apparently I was right. (FYI – The swan was a regional symbol of the Bavarian kingdom.)

I’ll spare you the room by room tour which honestly I think you’d find interesting, the throne room is just what you’d think it’d be – I coveted his reading chair such that Kristen gave me another firm shh! because as a hearing-impaired person, my whisper voice is apparently still loud enough to disrupt the tour guide’s presentation.

I found his bedroom most memorable, especially his bed.  He was six foot four so he had a special bed made.  It took four full-time woodworkers FOUR YEARS to carve the more than 100 Gothic Church spires that make up his bed’s canopy. 

Kings bed 1

Each spire is an exact replica of spires he admired that donned cathedrals all over Europe. Maybe you are aware that in Christian architecture, the church spire was as an artistic prayer, reaching from earth to heaven hoping to draw divine attention. Had to wonder what was in this guys lonely heart every night as he tossed in bed that he’d go to this extreme to ensure that God wouldn’t overlook him. I was thinking about guys, leadership, and this guys 100+ spire bed canopy… Too bad King Ludwig didn’t go that that extent to develop his character, we know God takes note of a leaders character.

King Ludwig II only lived less than 200 days in this majestic castle that he had made for himself- it was actually unfinished (2rd floor left unfinished, floors 1, 3, 4 were completed) at his death and that second floor is still unfinished today. (You prophetic people help me out – what’s significant about an unfinished second floor – seems significant to me.)

Ludwig II and his shrink drowned mysteriously while out rowing in a rowboat on a lake. The death of his psychologist (Dr. von Gudden) and the King by drowning is still considered a mystery – some think it was a murder/suicide. Only God knows. I wonder if Disney knows any of this history, have to imagine they do.

Bavarian tradition called for the heart of the king to be placed in a silver urn and sent to the Gnadenkapelle (Chapel of the Mercy) in Altötting, where it was placed beside the heart of his father and grandfather.

This morning I preached in Zurich on walking in step with God and discerning the pace of the Holy Spirit.  Then came the Sabbath nap. Then a large block of delightful reading hours – cool, kind of rainy today – my the beauty out on the second floor patio – I’ve been blowing through highlighters and found I could get a couple more chapters out of this one simply by touching the dry tip to the raindrops that periodically hit my arm.

Part of my reason for the extended read time today was I wanted to get through my book on Calvin before we head 2.5 hours south tomorrow to enjoy the city in which he served… Geneva, Switzerland. I grew up going to our family’s cottage on beautiful Lake Geneva in Wisconsin. To be heading to the real Lake Geneva makes me wish my mom would have lived long enough to have joined us here.  I regret that she died during some very hard days in our household last fall and know she would have benefited as we are from this heavenly respite. (Those of you who knew her may not know she and my father were fluent in German – though Geneva is Swiss-French, not the Swiss-German up here by Zurich and Germany). We would have had trouble getting Kaitlyn and Grandma out of the cool clear Lake Geneva water that’s for sure.

Kristen says my posts are way way too long so for now I will spare you the five or six lengthy posts that are in my spirit from the two Zwingli books I’ve read and now this Calvin one. Three of them center in some way on how brutal we are to others in the Body of Christ.

Luther was the worst (of the Reformers), Zwingli was deeply hurt by him (and many others – but it hurts far more from those who are supposed to be on your side). My big Zwingli book here says the story of the Luther/Zwingli relationship was “one of the saddest in the history of religion.” These apostles of grace (not works) were sorely lacking in grace toward others. Wow. 

Even though Zwingli was abused by Luther (who didn’t even consider Zwingli a Christian because he disagreed about the meaning of the word “IS” in Jesus’ last supper statement… this IS my body), Zwingli himself showed not shred of grace to the anabaptists or the spiritualists (those having Holy Spirit encounters, trances, dreams, visions, etc). It all reminds me of ex-church folk who have tried to influence others to come out from among us because they “care” and “want them to go heaven” as if staying in our midst, under my “heresy,” calls ones salvation into question. Ha! Please.

Look in the mirror. Repent. Love. Why do we so often strain gnats yet swallow camels?

Calvin was so violently opposed (his friend poisoned, false accusations, riots/mobs firing into his house at night) they evicted him from Geneva (he was later called back to his post there after his four main opposers each died suddenly– accidently/fell out a window or were executed/for killing a man in a fist fight). Calvin was so deeply wounded he, at first, refused to even consider going back to the church in Geneva having “made up my mind never again to enter any ecclesiastical charge whatever unless the Lord should call me to it by a clear and manifest call.”

Imagine that, one of the greatest theologians in church history was content to leave ministry forever and go back to being a lawyer because he felt pastoral ministry was too abusive. He did decide to go back to serve the parish and city in Geneva. (BTW, it wasn’t any better for him when he went back (1541) but he did stay until his death twenty three years later (1564) – great stuff in all that about following the hard call of God on your life, making a city/territorial commitment, staying the course, staying steady, crossing finish lines, etc).  Though Geneva was “an unstable city” he still “felt a responsibility” and his sufferings there “ought not to prevent me from embracing it with paternal affection. For God, when he charged me with it, bound me to be faithful to it forever.” As you can see, in case you are wondering, there are powerful and positive things I have to reflect on too.

I’ll leave you all to your own armchair pscyho-analysis of me as to why those aspects stand out to me and why I felt like getting them out of my head and plopping them here first- but don’t think too long and hard about it – those of you who have been following my sabbatical musings here know I’ve been soaking in the seven parts – one a week – of what I’m calling my sabbatical verse (given to me before I left by CATG friends/elders Glen and Dianne Heynen).  That verse again is 1 Peter 5:10;

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ,
after you have suffered a little while,
will himself restore you
and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

The phrase for this fourth week has been… after you have suffered a little while. We covet your prayers for week five’s focus phrase… will HIMSELF restore you!!!  Can’t wait for that!

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.

Today we got up early and drove an hour to the city of Luzerne, Switzerland – beautiful times three here – water, Swiss Alps, old town! It’s been a really full day 1) walking, in a 2) car, in a 3) gondola, on an 4) alpine toboggan, down a 5) cogwheel train, on a 6) boat, and a 7) bus back to the car.

And it’s been a record breaking day times three… we first saw 1) the Guinness Book of World Record’s largest rolling ball clock in the world (that’ll be featured in the next post). We had a blast flying down the beautifully flowered mountainside of the Alps on 2) the longest summer toboggan run. And, we rode back down on 3) the world steepest cogwheel railway – 48% gradient!! I know Kaitlyn will be putting pictures up soon and Thomas has some video. It was a great day. I had a few God-moments in the toboggan.

Now on to the point of this post. All this transpired at Mt. Pilatus. This mountain is named for Pontius Pilate, you know, the one who gave the green light to crucify Jesus, the one who tried unsuccessfully to wash his hands of the shedding of innocent blood. Here’s a pic…

Mt Pilatus 3

Most people know what happened to Jesus but few know what happened to Pilate. According to the ancient historian Philo, Pilate was “inflexible, he was stubborn, of cruel disposition. He executed troublemakers without a trial.”  Philo refers to Pilate’s “venality, his violence, thefts, assaults, abusive behavior, endless executions, endless savage ferocity.” Three years after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, Pontius Pilate was exiled from his post as the Governor of Judea for cruelty to the Jews. The second century historian Eusebius tells us he was exiled to Gaul and eventually committed suicide in Vienne.

Here’s where it gets interesting.  His body was thrown first into the Tiber, but the waters were so “disturbed by evil spirits” that the body was taken to Vienne and sunk in the Rhône. Apparently he kept washing up ashore. The Rhône also rejected his corpse and it was then taken and sunk in the lake at Lucerne on, what we call today, Mt. Pilatus (its ancient name is fractus mons or “broken mountain.”).  This is my new favorite example of the reality of all creations allegiance to our Lord, the ground kept spitting this guy out, the earth would receive him or give him rest.

For centuries Mt. Pilatus was haunted, feared and reputable people gave numerous detailed and collaborating eyewitness account of seeing dragons on Mt. Pilatus. In 1387, six clergymen were arrested for planning a journey to the lake and an ascent to the peak. Fierce thunderstorms and heavy flooding were common and confirmations that spiritual darkness loomed there. The government of Lucerne forbid locals and visitors to climb the mountain. Here’s a bit from my guide book;

Even shepherds were placed under oath to not approach the dark waters of the lake, where it was believed that the Roman governor Pontius Pilate had been laid to rest. Banished to this desolate wilderness, the man’s tormented spirit was said to surface every year on Good Friday, in a vain attempt to wash his bloodied hands.

Fireballs and flame-throwing dragons were frequently observed and described in minute detail by Europe’s most celebrated physicians and scientists. One such account is as follows: “While observing the night sky, I suddenly saw a fiery dragon emerging from a cave in a massive crag on Pilatus. It flew with rapid wing-beats to another cave called “Flue” on the opposite lake shore. It had a gigantic statue, with a long tail, a great neck, and a head with jagged, snake-like jaws. In flight, it threw off showers of sparks, not unlike a blacksmith’s hammer striking white-hot iron on an anvil. I first believed the phenomenon to be a meteor but, observing it’s limbs and bodily motion in detail, I could only conclude that it was a dragon.”

I have a little booklet with a dozen more of these wild stories and the spiritual mapper and prophetic prayer warrior in me about fell out of the gondola chair on the way up reading about the brave 16th century pastor who led a prayer mission to break the power of this demonic stronghold in the region. Note the prophetic acts!

In 1585, a parish priest of Lucerne led a courageous band of his church members on an exorcism mission.  They prayerfully ascended Pilatus to challenge any spirits lurking there. They threw boulders into the lake, churned it’s surface, waded through the shallows. A supernatural counter-offensive failed to materialize and the spell was broken. To still the spirit’s thunderous habits for good, a sluice was dug in 1594 to drain the lake. Four centuries were to pass before the watercourse was dammed in 1980 and placid waters once more filled the lake bed. The spirits of Pilatus are at peace.

Here are a couple more pics – we have many others with more blue sky on Kaitlyn’s facebook, but I picked a couple here that better illustrated this foreboding, jagged-edged mountain with it’s bleak crevaces.

mt Pilatus 2

Mt Pilatus 1

A few of you may be following the dialog that has been on going at one of my recent posts here.  I’ve said some things that have evoked a notable Catholic response. Oops, not my intention, but hey. If you need to get up to speed go here.  

Kristen has followed our discussion about idols in the church and Mary worship and shakes her head at my ability to come here and in a matter of days re-ignite and get myself in the middle of a centuries old Reformation controvery with Catholics. Saying things that bother people is a spiritual gift I seem to have.

This morning, “coincidentally” I’m sure, Kristen was working through Allen Hood’s Excellencies of Christ CD’s/workbook and she came across something that brought me to some level of conviction with regard to Protestant smack talk about Mary. Hopefully I’ve honored Mary in what I’ve written even while seeking to keep our worship solely on her Son.

Allen is Caleb’s favorite prof down at IHOP in Kansas City. I love it that Caleb is there drinking up every drop of what Allen Hood is teaching. What an apostolic anointing to sit under!

Here’s a download link to the 2min 30sec sound bite that Kristen shared with me this morning about Mary.

Jesus’ Humanity_Mary   Allen is talking about the humanity of Christ.

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