Monday, December 24, 2012

Wishing You a Happy Christmas!

And best wishes for 2013

Dear friends,

It's Christmas Eve. I have a day of work at the store ahead of me -- the last day of Christmas shopping. Then the days of Christmas clearance begin. I am looking forward to a few vacation days in early January! I expect to return to more regular blog-writing as my work schedule slows down again.

This evening I hope to go to a Christmas Eve church service with my family. When I get home, I want to do a few things in the kitchen before I go to bed. A few short hours later, it will be Christmas day. We will open gifts with the children and enjoy the day together.

Many dark, sad and worrying events are in the news, and many of us cope with our own sorrows, worries, and stresses at the holidays. December is never an easy month of the year, and especially not this year. As Christmas Day approaches, I see the world's need (and my own need!) for the Savior more clearly than I ever have. He is the source of peace, hope, love, and joy.

I wish you a Happy Christmas. May God bless you and your family throughout the New Year.


Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Stars and Stripes Forever

A big flag in Hopkinsville, Kentucky

The largest American flag in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, is on display 24 hours a day at the Sisk car dealership. I compliment them for having a tall flagpole that is in proper proportion to the flag, and for never flying a tattered flag. This photograph was taken from the Lowes parking lot against the last glow of sunset. I wish I could make the photo larger, but it's a bit too fuzzy and grainy.

Archaeological Finds in Christian County, Kentucky

Where are these specimens, relics and treasures today?

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Catalogue of Prehistoric Works East of the Rocky Mountains By Cyrus Thomas

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The American Antiquarian and Oriental Journal By Stephen Denison Peet, also documented at the New York Times (PDF document)

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The History of Kentucky: Exhibiting an Account of the Modern Discovery ... By Humphrey Marshall

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Annual Report By Smithsonian Institution

Flint mines south of Hopkinsville

In 1903, an archaeology dig in central Christian County revealed a prehistoric burying ground of a race of "giants." The skeletal remains of 150 bodies well over six feet tall were found among ancient pieces of pottery and flint weapons. The largest skeleton was measured at six feet eight inches tall. A few miles from the burying ground, a flint quarry was discovered near Bennetsville. Authorities determined that the skeletons were those of a race of mound builders, who lived in the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys c.100 B.C.–A.D. 400.
Sources: Kentucky Explorer, March 1998; Kentucky Files: Counties, Christian

Book by Moorehead, The American Indian in the United States, Period 1850-1914

Warren King Moorehead

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The Night Will Soon Be Ending

Story behind an Advent hymn

Early winter sunset
Early winter sunset in Christian County, KY

When we lived in Germany, I experienced the shortest winter days and longest winter nights I've ever seen! In Berlin, the sun set before 4:00 p.m. in December and January and didn't rise until 8:00 a.m. Winter was a very dark time there. (Berlin lies about 7° farther north than Montreal, Canada, believe it or not.)

"The Night Will Soon be Ending,"  a German Advent hymn, was penned in 1938 by novelist and poet Jochen Klepper (1903-1942). Klepper's knowledge of long winter nights and his personal experience with the Nazi regime were surely on his mind as he wrote this poem about darkness, light, hope, and promise.  Here is the first verse (as translated by Herman G. Stuempfle, Jr.)

The night will soon be ending; the dawn cannot be far.
Let songs of praise ascending now greet the morning Star!
All you whom darkness frightens with guilt or grief or pain
God's radiant Star now brightens and bids you sing again.

In the new LCMS hymnal, "The Night Will Soon Be Ending" is set to the Welsh tune "Llangloffan." But in Germany, the hymn has been sung since 1939 to a melody composed for it by Johannes Petzold.

The story of  Klepper's life is tragic. Jochen Klepper was married to a Jewish lady named Hannah ("Hanni".) Hanni had two daughters, Brigitte and Reni, by a previous marriage. The Kleppers sent the older daughter Brigitte to England in 1938, the same year that Klepper wrote "The Night Will Soon Be Ending." They could not bear to send little Reni too, so she stayed with them in Germany. Later, they tried to get an exit visa for Reni, but they were denied repeatedly. They also faced a mandatory divorce because it was illegal for a Jew to be married to a German.

German postage stamp
German stamp honoring Jochen Klepper
In December 1942, Adolph Eichmann, the Nazi official in charge of Jewish deportation, personally rejected their request to leave Germany. Certain that death awaited them in concentration camps  Klepper, Hani, and Reni committed suicide. Klepper wrote a final entry in his diary minutes before they died: "Tonight we die together. Over us stands in the last moments the image of the blessed Christ who surrounds us. With this view we end our lives.”

Klepper's diary was used as evidence in the trial of Adolph Eichmann.* A collection of excerpts from the Klepper diary, In the Shadow of His Wings, was published in 1956. I could not find a copy at any of my usual internet booksellers.

Several short histories of Klepper's life are available online. One article explores the role of German Mennonites in World War II as related to some events in Jochen Klepper's life. Another article on a Lutheran website discusses Klepper's theology and spiritual life in addition to the story of his life.
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*I clearly remember news reports and adult talk about the Eichmann trial during my childhood, though I did not grasp the full significance of it at the time.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.