27 December 2011

On the Deaths of Heroes

I'm reminded of an old song from my days in the Cayman Islands. "Where Are Your Heroes, Caribbean?" is a song that laments the lack of statues and other memories of genuine heroic men and women of that region. 

Other nations and regions have little problem with erecting monuments to military and political figures. I have written, on my old blog, of the appropriateness of memorials (that essay found here). 

Why am I pondering these things, one might ask. Well, three immense personalities have died in the past few weeks. Vaclav Havel, first President of a free Czechoslovakia; Christopher Hitchens, noted atheist and philosopher; and Kim Jong Il, despotic ruler of North Korea each died within three days of one another.
Kim already has monuments in the form both statutes and schools named after him. Hitchens probably will not have any statues, but he has left behind a legacy in his books, including a bestseller from 2007 titled God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.

Havel will, no doubt, have many memorials erected in his name. There is already a proposal to re-name the international airport in Prague in his honor. Havel is certainly worthy of such honors. As an anti-Soviet dissident, he helped to bring about the demise of the Communist hegemony over his entire region. He was loved by the people, elected President of the emerging nation of Czechoslovakia, then of the Czech Republic after the departure of Slovakia to independency. 

Thousands upon thousands of people poured into Wenceslas Square, the scene of many historical events, to pay homage to the great political and moral leader.
Alas, we have to ask, what's up now with these three late, great men? Kim and Hitchens often declared themselves to be atheists. They've now found out the truth about the God they denied.
Vaclav, Thank you.
Vaclav Havel, however, did have a belief in God. It was, however, not the God of the Bible. He saw God as a transcendance of some sort. While he saw Christianity as an antidote to Communism, he never fully grasped it himself. His concept of "self-transcendence" can be compared to the "spirituality" sought after by many Hollywood types. It's popular, it's trendy, it's Godless.

I hope that as he faced his last days Vaclav Havel fully comprehended and embraced the need for repentance and forgiveness. He was a great human leader. Czechs and citizens of the world are right to remember the sacrifices and the leadership of Vaclav Havel. Human greatness, however, does not buy a ticket to heaven. For that, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is necessary.

28 November 2011

Holiday Cheer from Czech

Christmas. Here in the Czech Republic its a time for men to turn their thoughts toward ... more stuff! For years we’ve heard the cry in the US about the Crass Commercialism of Christmas. Well, it’s not just an American thing, nor a West European concept. It’s everywhere.

The malls and shopping areas have been mobbed for weeks here. Christmas shopping is in full swing. They didn’t have to wait for Thanksgiving to be over to start thinking about Christmas. They don’t have a Thanksgiving holiday! Strains of Bing Crosby and Johnny Mathis can be heard everywhere, singing the old Christmas standards - in English.

The following was published in the Prague Daily Monitor today:
What makes Czechs tick? Close to two decades after the fall of communism it is money, money and more money – and good things to spend it on, of course. A survey conducted for Mlada fronta Dnes shows that Czechs value goods and services as the most important factors in overall satisfaction, followed by freedom and education. The survey conducted by Gfk showed some surprising results – for instance what do respondents who vote for the Green Party need to feel happy? The answer was not a clean environment but a high income and private assets. What do Christian Democrat voters need? Forget about moral values – they appreciate a broad offer of goods and services. The survey clearly showed that while Czechs do not like to admit it they are very much in the grip of a consumerist lifestyle.  
Czech families will gather around the dining room table for their traditional carp dinner on Christmas Day. Some families still go to midnight mass. Most, it seems are just waiting to see what’s under the tree for them.

It’s not so different around here, after all.

For me all this means that I will stay away from shopping areas (just as I always did in the US). The gifts have already been sent back for the kids and grandkids. What did I forget? Oh yeah, Jesus the savior came to rescue His people from their sins. Thank you, Jesus.

17 November 2011

A City By the Sea

So, it’s 1972. I’m walking along in the woods near the Black Sea. It’s the city of Burgas and I’m studying, with a group of visiting Political Scientists, at a Socialist Youth Camp. The loudspeakers, which are strung on many trees, are blaring (in Bulgarian) sonnets in praise of the glorious Communist Revolution.
Fast forward 39 years! I’m in Burgas again, this time as a visiting Christian statesman (for that is what I am).
What a difference a few decades makes. The city has changed tremendously. Billboards, capitalist everything, lots of cars, and lots of tourists. I have had a few changes, too. I was SAVED by Jesus Christ; served in the pastorate; was a missionary to several places; and now, I’m “retired” to Prague, a city I love.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

29 October 2011

Czechoslovak Independence Day

Yesterday was Czechoslovak Independence Day. I asked a Czech why they still celebrate Czechoslovakia, which technically ceased to exist in 1993, when Slovakia became an independent nation. She told me “we still think of ourselves as Czechoslovakia, even the the Slovaks don’t agree.”

Here is part of the explanation of the holiday given at the US Embassy website.

"On October 28, 1918 the first independent Czechoslovak state was founded from territories that were previously part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. President Tomáš G. Masaryk became the leader of a state that was based on President Woodrow Wilson’s 14 points, especially the principle of self-determination.

Czechoslovakia became one of Europe’s first successful multi-party parliamentary democracies, and it was stable enough to withstand the international depression of the 1930s. The First Republic only lasted two decades until Nazi Germany occupied the Czech Lands in 1938/9. Although Czechoslovakia no longer exists today, Czechs continue to view October 28 as the day of their national founding."

We spent part of our day at Wenceslas Square. It was here that independence was declared on October 28, 1918. It was crowded with people who were just out for a stroll, or shopping, or spending time at the several monuments commemorating the lives and deaths of several Czech heroes.

The photo at the right is the statue of Good King Wenceslas at one end of Wenceslas Square.

25 October 2011

A New Day; A New Blog


Dobry Den. (Good day; hello; etc).

For years I have maintained a blog called "Coffee with Curt." As I indicated in my last post to that blog, however, my wife and I have moved to the beautiful city of Prague, capital of the Czech Republic. Here we will continue our work with Lifework Forum, ministering to families in this region of the world and beyond.

I do not yet know what, if anything, I will do with the old blog. For the moment it will be an archive. I think that I have some pretty good posts there!

For the moment, I will be posting my reflections of life as an expat (expatriate) learning to live in a new country; on a new continent; and with a new language to learn. There have been many blogs from Prague (I know. I checked), but most of those bloggers are nowhere near my age. This should be a different perspective.

I will also post ministry notes here, For instance, we do not have our own place to live here, yet, but we are leaving to go to Bulgaria next week. Brothers and sisters here are taking care of us, however.

More later, but please note this: I have closed my LinkedIn account. It has caused much grief with no discernible upside. I apologize to those of you who received emails from that account.

This is a lovely city. When we have space to host you (which is our aim) you are welcome to visit.