Center Room

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One of the coolest places at the Eastern State Penitentiary is the center room.  From the center room a guard could see down all the main cell blocks. There were other cell blocks off of those main cell blocks.  In order to see down those cell blocks, guard had installed mirrors at strategic locations so they could literally see everything by standing in the center of the center room.

Here’s a feel for this.

Covfefe is all the rage-fefe

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Ever since POTUS came up with an alternative word – covfefe – the internet has been all abuzz with it.

It’s made it into memes, and posts, and used for humor and ridicule.  And since the POTUS never makes mistakes this obviously isn’t a mistake either.

At any rate, I kind of like the word.  I’ve been thinking about its meaning though.  We need to have a consistent meaning so that this word can make it as the word of the year for 2017.  I think it’s pretty symbolic of 2017 as a whole and is a great candidate for word of the year – the best one ever.  And just think, we didn’t need anyone to pay for it either.  Then again, maybe it’s already the best word ever tweeted.  Plus, we need a consistent way to say the word.  Maybe the POTUS can clarify for us.

At any rate, here’s my shot at what the word covfefe means.  I welcome your definitions:

Covfefe – slang for a favorite type of coffee

Covfefe – slang for a favorite covert operation

Covfefe – “cover your dog Fe Fe”

Covfefe – Tweet for “we’ve covered that, you now you have to pay two fees.”

Covfefe – Tweet for “I like the music album cover with Fe Fe on it.”

Covfefe – Tweet for “That corvette is so expensive I can’t afford all the letters.”

Covfefe – Cover all the fees, yes, even the hidden ones.

Covfefe – The sound someone getting ready to sneeze.

Covfefe – a new swear word for anyone who disagrees with POTUS.

Covfefe – the name for the super secret club that only a few people are a part of.  The tweet was telling them to come over to POTUS’s tree house for the next meeting where they will be trading super hero cards and baseball cards, and talking about that yucky girl Jenny in fourth grade.  She has some serious cooties!

Covfefe – a new translation of the Bible.  (Just think of the possibilities here.)

Here’s something else to consider – maybe covfefe is so great of a word that it has more meanings than any other word that ever existed.  Isn’t that just great!  No wonder our world has been so screwed up – we’ve been living without this incredible word for all this time.  Now that covfefe has been tweeted, there will be peace and prosperity.

Or maybe covfefe doesn’t actually exist and it’s all been a worthless distraction because some of us can’t admit a mistake and some of us can’t resist poking fun at a mistake.  Nah! That’d be so covfefe.

What do you think covfefe means?

Maintained Ruins

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It’s been said that Eastern State Penitentiary is a maintained ruins.  You can see it throughout your visit there.  It gives the visit an eerie feel to it.  Imagine going here on Halloween.

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Maintained ruins.  It has a certain sound to it.  The prison is honest about what it is.  I wonder if we could be honest about some other places that we come across in our lives.

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Lutheran World Federation Assembly Reflection

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A few weeks ago I boarded a plane with several others from the seminary and we flew down to Windhoek, Namibia to go to the Lutheran World Federation Assembly.  It was an incredible experience and a great way to finish up my seminary career.  I’ll be posting pictures from the Assembly in the near future, but I while it is still fresh, I wanted to offer a few reflections.

First, I learned about (or better said, I was reminded of) the diversity of Lutheranism.  That’s not hard to do when you travel halfway around the world to gather with other Lutherans.  You see that Americans are just a small speck in this giant world. (A good lesson to be reminded of – something that only really see when you step out of the continent.)  You hear that English is not the only language that people speak (another good reminder).  And of course many, many Lutherans don’t look-alike either.  All of this became obvious quickly when we came together for worship in multiple languages, heard people speak in four primary languages, and saw many people from about 90 different countries.  It was especially evident with the election of the new LWF president – who happens to be from Nigeria.

Second, connections are important.  We learned that there are approximately 75 million Lutherans in the world.  That’s a good number of people, yet still not a huge percentage of the world.  At the same time, when you come together at assemblies like this, you start to see that much like national gatherings, synod assemblies, and even congregations, there are a handful of people who are the most engaged and you see them everywhere.  They are the ones you want to get to know for multiple reasons.  They are the ones who can connect you with many other people.  They are the people who get things done.

Third, worship comes in a wide variety.  During the assembly, we experienced such a wide range of worship.  It was great.  I’ll be honest, I didn’t like everything, but that’s ok.  It wasn’t about liking everything – I’m sure there were people who didn’t like what I like.  That’s ok too.  But it’s still good to experience different worship styles.  The best worship was the Sunday commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  It was in a stadium and the sermon was very powerful.  Worship lasted for four hours – but then again, when you have to commune 10,000 people, that takes about an hour.

Fourth, I want to go back to Africa.  This was my first time to the continent and I loved it. I can’t wait to go back.  I was exposed to a part of Africa that I knew very little about – which is why I wanted to go (I wanted to learn more).

Overall, going to the LWF Assembly was a wonderful trip, a great educational opportunity, and I’m glad I went.  Next time though, I want to go as a delegate.  Let’s see what happens in the next six years.

Inside a cell

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We had the opportunity to go inside a cell.  It’s quite the experience.

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Each cell looks the same.  The table served as a work bench also.  Each inmate was expected to work doing something that they had a skill for.  Their time was not meant to be a time to just sit.

And best of all, here’s what the lighting looked like.

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Not much light.  But still better than no light at all.

The thing that makes Eastern State Penitentiary so interesting – it’s a preserved wreck.  It’s in decline, but kept that way to show the reality.  Prison here wasn’t meant to be pretty and nice.  And now that deterioration has set in, we see the reality of that.

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Looks like the setting for a horror film doesn’t it?  It gets better.

What does graduation mean?

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Now that I’ve had a bit over a week to soak in my new reality, it’s time to reflect.  I graduated on May 19th from Seminary.  I spent five years of my life focused on seminary.  It’s determined so much of my comings and goings.  It’s afforded me and my family some amazing and life changing experiences.  Because of seminary, we got to live in Finland for a year.  And now seminary is over.

Ordination is next for me – this coming Friday.  Right now I’m in this in between stage – graduated, but not ordained.  It’s a waiting time.  It’s a time of relaxation and rest, but also anticipation of what comes next.  In a way it feels much the same as when we had our first child while still in the hospital.  We had the baby, but there we were, still in the hospital.  The really scary part was when they let us walk out the door of the hospital. At that point, bam, it was just us.  But while in the hospital, we were in this weird waiting time.  Parents, but not quite on our own yet.

Graduation means the completion of a goal, the commitment to the next stage of life.  Graduation means it’s time to start paying back the student loans too.  Graduation means a great deal.  Graduation from seminary feels different from graduation from college – that’s not a statement of good or bad, rather a statement of fact.  And maybe it should.  It’s been 19 years since I graduated college.  The world was at my fingertips then. So many possibilities and ways life could go.  I was living the dream of living and working on Capitol Hill in DC.  Now, the openness doesn’t exist – at least not in the same way. And that’s ok.  I don’t need it to.  I see where the next steps are and I am content.  I have joy in knowing what lies ahead.  I am ready.  And I can’t wait to start.

Lastly, I can’t help but say that graduation means one more thing.  Being a part of the last graduating class of Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg means that I am tied to the many men and women who have gone before me from this fine institution.  The 191 year history of LTSG ties us together.  Yet, much like all these other graduates, we don’t have time to dwell on the past.  There is much to do.

Graduation means it’s time to get to work.  It’s what I’ve been waiting for five years.  Actually, God has been preparing me for this all my life.  Just like God has been preparing you for just this moment.  Let’s go.

Cell blocks at Eastern State Penitentiary

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I’m back to posting about our trip to Philadelphia in January.  We were stopped by the Eastern State Penitentiary.  Let’s just say that it was incredible.

Once you pay for the audio self-guided tour, you get to wander freely about the grounds.  We spent about two hours doing just that and really enjoyed it.

First stop, a visual history of how the cell block changed over the years.

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Can you imagine being in a cell like this?  And this being your door…

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Of course, maybe that’s better than this option:

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Inmates were brought in through the outer entrance.  These little doors were where they would receive food and be checked on.  Inmates were in a cell by themselves and had to remain silent.  Even the guards were said to wear socks over their shoes so that they would be silent while going down the hall.  The inmates had access to an outer cell where they could see the sky.  The point at the time was to give inmates the time to contemplate what it means to be good.  The reality is that many inmates went insane because of the lack of human contact.

The last two weeks of my life…

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The last two weeks of my life have been unlike any other two weeks that I can recall.

Two Mondays ago, I left my home in the morning, met up with several other students, got on an airplane and traveled about 30 hours (flying time and layovers, etc) to Windhoek, Namibia.  We were heading to the Lutheran World Federation Assembly there.

We stayed there for 7 days and then jumped on some planes last Tuesday and arrived back in Pennsylvania last Wednesday – tired and exhausted, but happy about the trip.  I promise that I’ll be writing more about the trip in upcoming posts – along with some pictures too.  I’m still processing the trip.

I got a nap (mostly because I don’t sleep well on long plane rides), got to use a real sauna, and got a shower.  I was then ready for the senior banquet – a fun even for seniors at the seminary who are ready to graduate.

Then on Friday of last week there was graduation.  A truly historical event in its own right.  First, every graduation is historic because the graduating class is added to the history of the institution.  Second, this would be the last graduation of Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg.  The seminary will be merging with Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia come July 1 to form United Lutheran Seminary.  It’s been a long road for LTSG.  I’m proud to be a part of the last class.  Again, there are lots to process here.

Then on Sunday I had my call sermon – and the congregation voted to call me as their pastor.  Beginning June 26th, I’ll be pastor of St. Stephen Lutheran Church in New Kingstown, PA, USA.  I’m pretty excited about this.  And again, there’s plenty for me to process.

Because of all of these things, it’s taken me a bit longer than normal to get back to any type of routine with posting materials on social media and online.  I haven’t been able to post a daily prayer or do my usual tweets about made up bible passages or do travel or theological posts here on the blog.  I finally unpacked from Africa two days ago and I’m still working on going through the piles of paper on my desk to clear that off.  I hope to start posting again tomorrow, but give me a little slack if I don’t – I’ll get there.

The next big thing is ordination – next Friday, June 2.  Again, that will take some processing on my part.

And the biggest thing – figuring out the new normal.  Classes are done, but I don’t start as pastor until the end of June.  There is work that needs to be done around the house that I have been putting off for some time.

Let’s see what tomorrow holds.  Blessings.

The next two weeks

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A lot will happen starting Monday.  I’ll be part of a group from the seminary going to Namibia to attend the Lutheran World Federation Assembly.  We’ll be there about a week and a half.  Then we’ll return and two days after returning I’ll be graduating from Seminary.  All while this is going on, I’m in the call process with a congregation, and so soon after graduation, there is a possibility that I will be called as pastor.

That’s a great amount of change in a short period of time.

Yet, when I turn inward, I’m not sure what I feel about all of it.  I’m mixed about traveling.  I enjoy traveling.  I’m not thrilled with the long flight to get to Namibia though.  I’m sure once I’m there I’ll love it.

Part of the issue is that I’m in the process of finishing up my class work for the semester – so this has taken most of my attention.

I’m excited to graduate.  This was my fifth year of seminary.  That’s long enough.  It’s time to get out and get going and doind ministry.

I’m excited to complete the call process.  It’s gone great and I look forward to serving the church and God’s people.

I’ll see you on the other side.

Easter State Penitentiary

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After hitting the steps of the Museum of Art, we went to the Eastern State Penitentiary.  Let’s just say, it was awesome!  It is a definite must see in Philadelphia.  Well worth your time to go there.

It’s an old prison in Philadelphia that after it closed was left abandoned, so it’s in a state of decay.  The group that took over has left a good bit of it that way so that people can see it in its nature state.  Imagine going through this in Halloween?  Scary!  There’s actually an option for that.  If you go, you’ll have to let me know how it went.

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The prison is designed to look like a castle.  And it feels like it too.

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Over the next few weeks, I’ll give you a virtual tour of our time at the prison.