Cherry Bream, Flickr, under Share-Alike License


Hogwarts Adjusts to New Realities

From Debra Rienstra

           “I am so glad I’m not taking Divination anymore!”

Hermione had just come down from the girls’ dormitory into the Gryffindor common room. She plopped down into a squashy armchair next to Harry and Ron, looking thoroughly disgusted.

            “Look at this,” she said, flipping open her laptop and clicking the tab for Divination. Since her family were muggles, she had adjusted more quickly to laptops and cell phones than most of the students from wizarding families. “See?” She pointed to the screen. “Leave it to Trelawney to come up with only one Student Learning Outcome: ‘Gain access to the inner eye.’ What is that supposed to mean?”

            “Blimey, how should I know?” Ron scoffed. “We’ve never understood anything she’s ever said. Why should we start now?”

            “I know, but at least she could try to adjust to the new requirements. I think it’s excellent that our teachers have to provide syllabi and learning goals now. But honestly, no way is this a SMART goal. How do youmeasure ‘access to the inner eye’?”

            “Hermione, you’re taking this all too seriously.” Ron turned his attention back to his cell phone. He was playing Mountain Troll 2: Clash of Ghouls with evident relish. It was about all he had so far figured out how to do on the gadget. 


Remembrance from the Great War

From James C. Schaap

He was my grandma's only brother, only sibling. He was, therefore, my great uncle, Uncle Edgar, a man who died just a few months before my mother was born. That's downtown Oostburg, where he was born and reared. He was, just then, in his twenties. He'd just signed up to fight the Great War, and he was hit by some kind of explosive, blown to pieces, according to a hand-written, eye-witness account, a letter I have in my possession. He was recognizable only by his dog tags.

The government notified his sister, my grandma, that her brother had been killed, but it took them almost two years--I have the note.  Why it took that long, I don't know; but the government claims he died on August 8, 1918, just three months before the end of the war.

All of that I've known for a long, long time because I came heir to the family documents when my grandma designated me to be the one who would keep them. What that means really is that I've got every last thing there is to know--pictures, war documents, childhood memories--about this man Edgar Hartman, my great uncle. Here it is, right beside me.


I See God

From Thomas C. Goodhart

Two weeks ago we met JJ TenClay, Reformed Church in America missionary and social worker. “JJ will work in the region of Naples, Italy, as a social action worker, developing partnerships with medical, mental health/substance abuse, governmental, and social service entities as well as ministries focused on meeting the physical, spiritual, and socioeconomic needs of the over 500,000 migrants in the area, most of whom are from Africa and the Middle East.” She and her family—her husband and two children—have relatively recently relocated to Naples and are immersed in learning the local culture and language as they engage in ministry. They are partnering with the Waldensian Church in Italy. Today we are reintroduced to her husband, the Rev. Tim TenClay, who has written a month of Sunday postings here at The Twelve some time back. Tim is serving as pastor to two local Waldensian congregations.

A few weeks ago, my Italian professor taught me a phrase he’d memorized as a schoolboy, a phrase beautifully set to music by Giovanni Paisiello in an aria from his oratorio La passione di Gesù Cristo:

“Dovunque il guardo giro immenso Dio ti vedo”

[Wherever I look around – O immense God – I see you.]

This isn’t the first time I’ve moved to a new country; it isn’t the first time I’ve lived in a new culture and been surrounded by a new language. My own history has taught me that I’m the kind of person who easily sees the “good” in newness. “New” is almost always exciting to me.


They've got a way with words

From Jes Kast-Keat

There are two writers that have caught my attention this Fall. One is recapturing my attention and the other I was recently introduced to through a poetry and faith workshop that one of our elders is leading. The first author is Marilynne Robinson whose work has so obviously been influenced by a theologically Reformed lens. In light of her new book Lila I am currently rereading Gilead.  One of my colleagues on The 12, James Bratt, recently wrote about Robinson and you can read more of his thoughts here.

The second writer that has caught my attention (so much so that I have even gone as far to say he has been my bread and wine) is the poet Christian Wiman. Wiman grew up in a evangelical church in Texas after that experience he then left the faith for quite awhile claiming an agnosticism. He returned to practicing his faith in his 30's and is now attending a small Presbyterian Church in Connecticut where he actively practices his faith. He was diagnosed with a rare form of incurable blood cancer. He teaches at Yale Divinity School where he is the Senior Lecturer in Religion and Literature. He has caught the attention of the New York Times, Krista Tippett in her On Being podcast, as well as Bill Moyers. Marilynne Robinson has said this about his work: "His poetry and scholarship have a purifying urgency that is rare in this world.  This puts him at the very source of theology, and enables him to say new things in timeless language, so that the reader’s surprise and assent are one and the same."

Personally, I find Wiman to be spiritually refreshing while also offering a depth that I sometimes judge to be missing in American Christianity.



From Scott Hoezee

Depending on where you are, it is Veterans Day or Remembrance Day on this 11th of November.  It's the 96th anniversary, too, of the end of World War I, "the war to end all wars" except that it turned out to be just the beginning of lots more wars (and now we are told we are in a perpetual state of war against terrorism).     Ten days ago it was also All Saints' Day in the church, though I am part of a church tradition that never did much with that (Deb Rienstra had a nice reflection on this recently here on The Twelve).   I am also from a family that is not rich in having a lot of connection with the military in any of its branches.  So I confess that growing up--and now into my adult years--Veterans Day in the U.S. has often passed without much notice.  I am very sure I have never attended a parade or any ceremony downtown at the local war memorial.

That's probably bad on me, though, because it makes it too easy to forget that we all live off the benefits of enormous sacrifice.  No, not every war in history was fought for the right reasons and some were almost certainly avoidable altogether.  But there have been any number of conflicts that were make-or-break for big chunks of civilization and for the freedom I still enjoy and so it is only fitting that there be goodly measures of due gratitude in our hearts for those who won the victories that kept evil and injustice at bay.