Not the Future, but the Church!


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back-to-the-futureIt’s heard a lot around youth events or at confirmations and graduations. “You are the future of the Church,” the youth are told. Observers say, “this is the future of the church,” or “I’m no longer worried about the future of the church.” Add to that the trend of having High School worship services, where the high school youth go to one service and everyone else goes to another, and the impression is given that they aren’t really the Church at all, they are their own separate community.

That’s simply not true. The youth aren’t the future of the church and they aren’t a separate church.

They are the Church. 


Because Christ has died for them. They have been baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection. They need the same Jesus as adults. They need to receive the same forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation as their parents. They need to be rescued from sin, death and the devil just like everyone else!

The youth of the church are intelligent. Talk with them and see that they have probably thought through things more deeply or more analytically then their adult counterparts. The church’s youth can apply Law and Gospel to things many people haven’t even considered. They know that they don’t know everything yet. So they hunger for more knowledge, more hymnody, more baptism, more Lord’s Supper, more Jesus!

Youth are the Church, but they aren’t the only ones. Their parents and grandparents are the church. The 80 and 90+ year old homebound members are the Church. The young children who escape their parents and their pews on Sunday morning are the Church. Even the infant who makes a joyful noise by screaming and squealing during pastor’s sermon is the Church.

The Church is composed of the young and old alike who receive the gifts of the Lord in Word and Sacrament. The future of the Church rests not in the hands of a portion of the Church, but in the death and resurrection of Christ.

10 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

– Jeremiah 29



Tolkien Quote: Death and Deathlessness


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But I should say, if asked, the tale is not really about Power and Dominion: that only sets the wheels going; it is about Death and the desire for deathlessness. Which is hardly more than to say it is a tale written by a Man!
-Tolkien, J. R. R. Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien. #203. To Herbert Schiro. 17 November 1957


Tolkien on C. S. Lewis


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“As C.S. Lewis said to me long ago, more or less – (I do not suppose my memory of his dicta is any more precisely accurate than his of mine: I often find strange things attributed to me in his works) – ‘if they won’t write the kind of books we want to read, we shall have to write them ourselves; but it is very laborious’.”

-Tolkien, J. R. R. Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien. #159. To Dora Marshall. 3 March 1955

“But Lewis was a very impressionable, man, and this was abetted by his great generosity and capacity for friendship. The unpayable debt that I owe to him was not ‘influence as it is ordinarily understood, but sheer encouragement. He was for long my only audience. Only from him did I ever get the idea that my ‘stuff’ could be more than a private hobby. But for his interest and unceasing eagerness for more I should never have brought The L. of the R. to a conclusion…..”

-Tolkien, J. R. R. Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien. #276. To Dick Plotz, ‘Thain’ of the Tolkien Society of America. 12 September 1965


Tolkien on Liturgy


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“If you don’t do so already, make a habit of the ‘praises’. I use them much (in Latin): the Gloria Patri, the Gloria in Excelsis, the Laudate Dominum; the Laudete Pueri Dominum (of which I am specially fond), one of the Sunday psalms; and the Magnificat; also the Litany of Loretto (with the prayer Sub tuum praesidium). If you have these by heart you never need words for joy. It is also a good and admirable thing to know by heart the Canon of the Mass, for you can say this in your heart if ever hard circumstance keeps you for hearing Mass.”

-Tolkien, J. R. R. Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien. #54. To Christopher Tolkien. 8 January 1944

O death, where is your sting?

One year ago, today, I was at the Higher Things TWELVE conference in St. Catharines, ON. I received word that my grandfather had fallen asleep after battling cancer. It was truly a blessing to be at a conference during that time. That night we prayed Compline, the prayer office that is all about falling asleep at the end of the day and at the end of our lives. The reading assigned for that  night was the very comforting 1 Corinthians 15:51-57:

 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.

54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 

55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The next day, I attended the closing Divine Service with 250ish registrants. Heaven came down from above and we were joined with them in the song and feast of heaven. Joined with the whole church here on earth and joined with the Church Triumphant. Joined with those who have gone before us. Joined with my grandfather.

Today, on the anniversary of his baptism and the anniversary of his death, I was blessed to attend another Higher Things closing service. This year we celebrated Easter. I was reminded a year later that the victory remains with life and that the reign of death is ended. Heaven came down to meet earth and Christ was delivered to us. We were joined with the whole church once again, as we are week in and week out in divine service.

The worst thing that can happen to you is that you can die. In Christ, that’s not so bad because we have already died! We have been baptized into Christ death! Born from above and raised to new life in Christ!

Passwords are Bad!


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That’s right. I said it. I don’t use passwords. You shouldn’t either.

“But wait, Jon! You have to use passwords. You have to set a password for every account you create!

That’s partially true… so lets take a look at some passwords using



“Everyone knows you don’t use “password” for a password, so that’s a bad example.”

Okay, okay… I really like corvettes so lets try corvette


Also cracked instantly on your typical personal computer.

Do you get really annoyed when websites ask you to include at least one number?

Let’s try password1: 


Well that didn’t help any.. I added a number and my password is no better off than it was before.

What about a capital letter?




No good.. and that just fulfilled all the requirements of a “complex password” Capital letter, number, and over 8 characters.

Lets add another number just for fun:



Woohoo! It takes 10 days to crack password21. That got to 10 characters. Now I only have to change my password more frequently than once every 10 days!

What if we add the capital letter here too?



1 capital letter and it goes from 10 days to 6 years for a single personal computer to crack your password. Now if they have more power than a single computer or go about things in a strategic way it will only take a fraction of that time.

Let’s add a symbol.



That’s more like it! I’ll change my password at some point in the next 4 thousand years! But it’s kind of hard to remember.. what were the numbers? Where did the asterisk go, again?

But the point of this post was that passwords are bad.. even complex passwords like that last one.

Now, let’s use a pass-phrase instead of a password.


passwordsarebad No capital letters. No numbers. No symbols. Just 15 letters. That more than tripled the time it would take to crack. Plus, it’s easy to remember!

Length is the best thing for your password:



Easy to remember. 72 quadrillion years.

Passwords are bad. Take your first steps to being more secure online and use pass-phrases.

Of course other things play into strong passwords. Don’t let people see you type it in. Don’t use phrases that someone who knows anything about you would be able to guess. Use a different password for every site. And I could go on and on.. This definitely isn’t THE thing to do to make your passwords uncrackable, but it’s a start.

*Don’t type your password into random places that it shouldn’t be.

Sing For Your Neighbor


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The setting is May of 2003. Little 8th grade me is a few weeks away from graduation. My sister talked me into trying out for the most select choir at Martin Luther High School–the school I would be attending for the next four years.

It’s not cool for guys in middle school to sing, especially when it’s mandatory and the director is more concerned with telling you that you have to sing rather than making you want to sing. Add to that melodies that are way too high and cracking voices; that would discourage just about anyone from singing for the rest of their lives!

So, it’s still rather amazing to me that my sister was able to talk me into trying out. But she did, and I began preparing a piece to sing and learned what “tonal memory” was and how it would be tested and started dreading the sight-reading portion of the audition. On the day of my audition, I walked into the choir room so nervous that I was shaking. I sang a couple stanza’s of “Christ, the Life of All the Living,” rocked the tonal memory portion of the audition and bombed the sight-reading.

About a month later I got a call from my sister, when I was out of town, saying that I got a letter in the mail from the Martin Luther Music Department and asked if she could open it. I said sure, she said she already had and said that I made it into the Troubadours! When I had a chance to see the letter I saw that I was one of three basses in the ensemble, the other two were seniors. From that point on, music and singing specifically have been one of the biggest parts of my life. In High School, I was a member of three choirs, received a choral letter and pin, and in my senior year received the choral musicianship award. Since then I spent a year singing in a choir at Concordia, have appeared in a handful of episodes of Lutheran Time Out and sang and chanted in church and at Higher Things Conferences.

“Okay Jon, we know that you can sing and now it just sounds like you’re bragging. What does all of this have to do with singing for your neighbor?”

I’m extremely thankful for the gift of a good voice and the talent to be able to use it, but this next encouragement is for everyone. If you have a good voice or a bad voice, if you can read music or not, if you’ve been singing in choirs for years or have never had any experience singing under a director, sing!

I’m not going to tell you that God needs you to sing praises to Him. I’m definitely not going to tell you that if you aren’t singing as loud as you can the spirit isn’t really working in your heart. But I am going to tell you to sing. Sing in church. Sing throughout the week. Sing for your neighbor. Even sing for yourself! I don’t care if it’s “good” or not.

As you look around the church on Sunday morning you’ll see all sorts of people for which you should be singing. In the pew ahead of you is the elderly couple who is losing their eyesight and can only sing select stanzas that have been imprinted on their mind throughout the years. To the left is a family whose father has fallen asleep after a long, hard struggle with sickness. Their voices break as they hit some of the lines they need to hear the most, “It was a strange a dreadful strife when life and death contended the victory remained with Life the reign of Death was ended” (LSB 458:4) Sing it for them. Sing it even if you can’t do it on the right notes.

Behind you there are little children who can’t yet read who are counting on hearing you sing so that they may know the treasure of the churches hymns too!

I was blessed to be able to participate in family Vespers with my niece and nephew. Of course, we had to sing their favorite hymn, “Chief of Sinners Though I Be.” They both sang the first two stanzas with all their heart. They can’t read the words or the music but they know them both because they’ve heard their parents and other people sing them. Sing for the little ones in your congregation.

Your pastor needs you to sing too! Even if it sounds terrible and nowhere close to the melody the way it is written, trying to sing it will encourage him to pick the really good hymns that may have a more difficult melody. He also needs to hear the words of the stanzas when he’s distributing the Lord’s Body and Blood or at other times when he doesn’t have the opportunity to sing. Sing for your pastor.

As you sing, even if your singing is flat or sharp or nowhere close to the notes that are written, it encourages those around you to sing as well. That ends up being gift to you.

If the time comes when you can no longer see the words in the hymnal and can only remember some of the hymns that you’ve been singing your whole life, your neighbor will be there to sing for you. When you are faced with the death of loved ones, when you lose your job or your house, when all the changes and chances of life overwhelm you so that even when you try to sing the words just don’t come out, your neighbor is there to sing the treasures of the church for you! When you voice gets stuck in your throat when you hear 1200+ youth belt out “A Mighty Fortress” at a HT conference, your neighbor is there to sing for you! When you bring your own young children to church you can rejoice that the whole congregation is there to help teach your children the faith.

So, sing! Love your neighbor by singing for them. Sing hymns throughout the week with your neighbor and for yourself! Sing the hymns that talk about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for you and for your neighbor too! And when you go through trials and temptations, when you get sick and are near death remember that the church is there singing to you and singing on your behalf.

Leaking “Top secrete” Skype Request


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I got this in a Skype contact request today. I think this was the example used when we went over scam email in my first security class. It made me laugh.

Hello Kohlmeier

I Am Mr. Sylvester Idrisu, a banker here in Ghana . I write you this proposal in good faith hoping that I will rely on you. In 2010, Mr Desmond Kohlmeier who has same surname as yours and who has your country in his file as his place of origin, made a fixed deposit , valued at $7,150,000.00 with my bank. I was his account officer.

Unfortunately, while on a business trip, he died in a deadly Tsunami earthquake that occurred on March 11, 2011 in Sendai Japan that killed many people.

The management of our bank have been finding a means to reach him so as ascertain if he will want to roll over the Deposit or have the contract sum withdraw , when I discovered that this will happen, I learn t of his death, so I have tried to think up a procedure to preserve this fund and use the proceed for charity. Some directors have been trying to find out from me the information about this account and the owner, but I have kept it closed because, I know that if they become aware, they will corner the funds for themselves.

Therefore, I am seeking your co-operation to present you as the one to benefit from his fund at his death since you have the same name, so that my bank head quarters will pay the funds to you. I have done enough inside bank arrangement and only have to put in your details into the information network in the bank computers and reflect you as his next of kin.

I immensely request for your optimum honesty and cooperation and Let me know your mind on this, and please do treat this information as Top secrete. We shall go over the details once I receive your urgent response strictly through my personal email address, ([email address removed].) we can as well discuss this on phone. Send me your phone number for easy communication anticipating your communication.

Best Regards,
Mr. Sylvester Idrisu
[email address removed]


The lesson? Don’t contact and give anyone personal information. Even if they send you a skype contact request and their english seems slightly better than the other scammers out there.

Pear Wood Churchwarden Pipe


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churchwardenA couple weeks ago I received my first churchwarden style pipe: Mr. Brog’s Churchwarden No 14. I’ve only smoked it a couple times but so far I’m really impressed.

The packaging the pipe came in wasn’t so great. It was loosely placed into a box which was then placed in a bubble mailer. The box was pretty smashed up by the time it got to me but the pipe didn’t appear to be damaged in any way.

As you can see the pipe isn’t very ornate. I chose the natural finish which has a gold band at the end of the shank and the long black plastic stem. A reusable metal filter was included, which I removed for better airflow.

This is also the first time that I’ve ever smoked a pipe made from pear wood, so I really had no idea what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised in my first half-bowl. The pipe smokes great! Relatively low maintenence through the whole bowl giving off a cool refreshing smoke the whole time. I think it’s about the perfect length for a churchwarden. It’s very light and very comfortable.  The bowl did end up getting a little hot in my hand but I expect that to go away after I have a good layer of cake built up.


The two negatives that I can think of are:

1. the small bowl size (I smoked a full bowl in about 20mins) when you just want to keep smoking it all day.


2. the plastic stem (which you would expect from a $30 pipe).

I highly recommend Mr. Brog’s No 14 Churchwarden. It’s very affordable, very comfortable, and smokes great!