Friday, December 17, 2010

I had To Share This

William Faulkner's Acceptance Speech for the Literary Nobel Prize in 1950:

     I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work--a life's work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before. So this award is only mine in trust. It will not be difficult to find a dedication for the money part of it commensurate with the purpose and significance of its origin. But I would like to do the same with the acclaim too, by using this moment as a pinnacle from which I might be listened to by the young men and women already dedicated to the same anguish and travail, among whom is already that one who will some day stand where I am standing.
      Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only one question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat. He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid: and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed--love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, and victories without hope and worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.
      Until he learns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal because he will endure: that when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Live Like You Were Dying?

A few days ago, a friend from my old church told us he was dying. The doctors have given him six months to live and aren't even sure he will make it that far.

This got me into the discussion of how I might choose to live the last months of my life. After running it by a few friends, I was surprised at the varying responses I received. There was the usual answers of thrill seeking and adventures unlived, but some were genuinely different. Brian told me he would simply set aside some time to just be with God and share experiences with the people he loved. Amile would go back to where his heart truly came alive and die on the stage. Eric wants to take a trip to the Rockies.

The thing is, when we know we're dying, our hearts go back to what fulfills us. We want the last part to count.

I spent most of last Thursday talking to Amile about how we would live while we died. After that conversation, I realized I want my whole life to count, not just the last six months. When I die, I want people to know God was in my life, that we were desperately close.

When my great grandfather died, his funeral was something unique that no one who was there will soon forget. Arnold made everyone he knew feel special, like you were the only person in the word who mattered. His life and his marriage to my great grandmother were inspirational. I can't imagine a better role model.

That is the kind of life I want to live. The people we remember are the ones who know the secret. Not the book, but the understanding that life is not about living under the pressure of God's "Plan" but rather knowing that God  actually cares about us individually and takes an interest on our daily living.

Once I finally get around to understanding that, I think we can move towards a closer relationship with God and living like that relationship actually means something.

"Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?"
1 Corinthians 3:16 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

White and Blue

As the starting weeks of college approach and my dear freshmen begin to pack their bags for the greatest adventure of their lives, I've decided to share a few pearls of wisdom regarding the college career path. As a recent college graduate, there a number of things I wish someone had told me, things I wish I had heard when someone did tell me. The following is my own advice to my brothers and sisters as they start their journey towards the ivy covered halls of my beloved alma mater.

1. Don't be afraid to change your major (10 or 15 times if necessary)

When I was a freshman, I wanted to go into medicine. Delivering babies was my idea of helping the world. As a sophomore, I wanted to teach Latin to high school students and change the world through the younger generation. Then, right before my junior year, I started an internship at a local radio station in Seattle.

Within the first two weeks on the job, I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life. I love stories, I love hearing about adventures and how people think and change over time. I love seeing God's hand in history and philosophy. I chose a profession that requires creativity and organization but also allows me to use my brain ways I find enjoyable.

Right about then, I should have changed my major. I knew I didn't love Latin as much as I thought I did and that history and philosophy were much more up my alley. But I didn't. Fear kept me from doing what I wanted and stubbornness made me stick to something I knew I should have changed. My teachers told me switching majors was wise, but I was determined to prove I could do it.

In the end, I graduated on time, but I still feel like I might have been happier with a major I loved rather than the one I started with.

2. Listen to your teachers and advisors

The educators at your college have been there longer than you. They know the ins and outs of the school and how things are run. Often, they are your best allies in navigating the next four years of your life. Get to know your advisor as early as you can and make sure you visit often.

The hours I spent in Jim Stephens’ office are some of the most treasured of my Hillsdale career. You will learn more in these moments of honest discussion than you ever will in the classroom. Don't be afraid to disagree with them, but listen to what your advisors have to say and take it to heart. 

3. Don't move off campus

Due to tight finances, I moved off campus my senior year and spent most of it alone in my room trying to get the Internet to work. It became difficult to attend weeknight bonfires and even harder to stay as late as I wanted to. The family I lived with was very gracious. They allowed me to use their car, come home after 1 am, and live in their house rent-free. I am forever grateful for their hospitality. 

The move, however, changed my relationship will nearly all my friends. I wasn't "part of the group" anymore. I wasn't around for those unplanned, last minute, goofy moments that made those final months of school so precious. 

Unless you are moving into a house with a group of friends, staying in a dorm will help maintain your social circle. You will make friends, go to meals together, and spend much of your time outside of class eating junk food, watching the cable TV you won't have after graduation, and whining about the ridiculous amounts of homework you're not doing. 

4. Realize you can make your own schedule

Most students don't realize when they first start out that the schedules handed to them at the beginning of the term are merely suggestions. You can change things are around whenever and however you want. If you decide to take molecular biology instead of attic Greek, you can do that. 

I ended up taking or withdrawing from several classes that I didn't even need to register for my freshman year. Just remember again that your advisors are there to help you. They can walk you through the registration process (which, at Hillsdale, is much like navigating the Labyrinth). 

Take the classes you need to take, then look at taking the ones you want to take, and leave everything else. Drop/add cards will quickly become your ally and the registrar office will know you by name. 

5. Take pictures (then take more)

When I was a student, my camera was my most valuable possession. I took so many pictures I had to buy a new hard drive halfway through my freshman year. The years you spend in college are some of the best of your life. You want to remember them. 

6. Don't be afraid to fall in love (but remember what you learned)

If you’re attending Hillsdale College, you probably fall into one of two camps. You came to get an education and a spouse at the same time, or you are branching out into the world of romance for the first time. For all I know it could easily be both.

While the world is still at your feet, don’t forget that you are at school to learn but also remember that not all learning is done in a classroom. More than half of college is the growing up part, learning to jump back on your feet and realize that the world demands your responsibility.

Part of growing up is learning to be in relationships. Whether that’s romance, friendship, or business related, it takes time and experience to learn the ropes. Be warned, you’re going to mess up, you’re going to fall down, and you’re going to get scraped up. The important part is to remember what you’ve learned and use to take the next steps in your life.

As a student, you have to study, but make time for the people around you too. The friends you make here are going to last the rest of your life. They are the ones you’ll remember long after the papers are turned in and you leave school forever.

7. Finish your classes

I know it sounds painfully obvious, but seriously, if you start a class and aren't smart enough to drop it before the deadline, finish it. Do not leave those last minute pieces hanging until the registrar tells you that you can't graduate because you're missing a paper or need to finish that lab leftover from last semester. 

It will kill you when the last three weeks of classes are spent in agony when you could be wandering the halls worrying about where you'll be when the food plan runs out. You'll want time to think about what really matters, like what to wear at the commencement ceremony and how to tell your girlfriend she can't come to Phoenix with you. Trust me, those last few weeks are special and you don't need the extra hassle before you walk up on that stage. 

8. Go abroad

It doesn't matter if you can't afford it or of you just don't have the time, SPEND A SEMESTER ABROAD! I cannot stress this enough. The rewards of going to France for six months outweighs any unhappiness you may feel about cleaning your mom's garage over the summer. 

It can be a complicated process, but I promise the trip is worth the effort. Immersing yourself into an unfamiliar culture is a huge part of a fuller education.

If you’re short on money, find a way to get it. If you’re nervous about leaving, pick up some courage on the way to the airport. No matter what, find a way to make it happen. In the end, you’ll be glad you did.

Realistically, most of this is stuff you’ll figure out as you go along. You’ll learn the ropes by experience. Trial and error will teach you more than anything else. As you start your first semester at a new school, remember that the things you learn here will shape you into the adult you will become. If that sounds cheesy, that’s because it is … but it’s also true.

Monday, July 12, 2010

If We Are The Body............

My best friend and I are currently debating why I'm going to a house church. It's interesting how easily that leads into arguing over the purpose of the church and man's role within the body of Christ. As a kid, I learned most of the Westminster Shorter Catechism by heart. The first question, right off the bat is "What is the chief end of man?". Any schoolchild who went to PCCS could answer: "Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever". 

Now, to me, that seems pretty simple. Not easy, but simple. As Christians, we are called to pursue a relationship with God through Christ and share that relationship with others. Salvation is an invitation. It is not a demand. Like Frank Viola's book "From Eternity To Here" explains, Rebekah was not forced to move to Jerusalem and marry Isaac. She chose to go. God is the same way. 

When the early church began, new Christians did not have the structured setup we in America have come to realize. Today, here, the goal of church on Sunday is to be educated and guided toward correct doctrine and theology before moving on to apply to our daily living. While I agree that doctrine is important, I believe the modern church has moved away from the vision of Christ's early disciples. 

To quote the tired phrase, "Don't go to church; Be the Church" It is not about about a building or a given structure, but rather about the fellowships and relationships that come from meeting as believers and seeking Christ. 

Initially, the church was body of believers coming together to share what God had done and to celebrate a new relationship with a personal God. Worship was meaningful and corporate, there was no strict liturgy and pastors were just like everyone else. 

Like everything else in life, Christianity is about a relationship. It's closeness and intimacy with the one person who can love you more than anyone else. The doctrine and theology are important, but without the relationship, without love, we have nothing. 

More to follow..............

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Liability and Responsibility

"The people in the Gulf have my commitment that BP will meet its obligations to them.”

Words from President Barack Obama last week regarding the oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico offers little comfort to Americans concerned about the President’s leadership qualities.

While some may find them comforting, Obama’s promises and band-aid solutions could be frightening to others. One has to ask how BP’s $20 billion in relief funds will eventually be spent.

By appointing Kenneth Feinberg to the fund and selecting the judiciary panel, President Obama now has direct control over BP investments. The President has taken the reins using his own selected pay czars, which begs the question of whether this situation is the President’s responsibility in the first place. While the oil spill and the ramifications that followed cannot be blamed on any one individual, it is not the President’s job to offer assurance on BP’s behalf.

Once again, the government is stepping in to take over when the private companies can’t pull the weight. Much like the big three auto deal, President Obama has failed to understand his responsibilities. In an order to make himself relevant, the President feels the need to do something, anything to help.

The mistake lies in the President’s inadequate leadership and BP’s complete lack of preparation. 65 days after the oil rig caught fire, BP and the US Government are still fighting to come up with a reasonable solution. Perhaps the President was concerned about having his picture snapped with an oil executive considering his past track record? Or maybe he was simply unsure of his responsibilities in the first place. Regardless, it is time for Tony Hayward and President Barack Obama to step up to the plate, sit down, and figure it out.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


This morning my mom called me much earlier than she usally does just to say hi and let me know how the kids and new kitties are doing.

She mentioned that the Tacoma News Tribune was running a feature on our family and a follow up to her kidney transplant a few weeks ago.

I casually scrolled over to the article expecting the usual blurb on Mom's medical history and work as a volunteer at the local fire station.

After reading the article to my mom over the phone, I found myself crying at my desk. Kris Sherman had finally told the story I'd been wanting to tell for about two years. Below is a link to the article and a copy of the text.

‘Providence' leads to kidney transplant
Donation: Events bring women together, resulting in the gift of a kidney

Published: 05/27/1012:05 am | Updated: 05/27/10 5:13 am

Some would call it a string of fortunate coincidences.

Tammy and Larry Aegerter and Michelle and Mark Braunschweig call it providence.

There was a conversation between airline passengers. A call for help in a church bulletin. A grandmother’s broken hip. An introduction at a party in celebration of menopause.

All led to twin surgical suites at the University of Washington Medical Center, where Michelle Braunschweig gave Tammy Aegerter her left kidney May 5.

Tammy, a 44-year-old Dash Point-area mother of seven, was in extreme need. A rare disease destroyed her kidneys years ago. The organ her brother donated in 1991 had failed. Now she’s recovering well. Michelle, a 39-year-old Auburn mother, says she’s feeling fine, though she’s still moving a bit gingerly.
Two years ago the women didn’t know each other.

Now they are friends.

But their story differs from those you often hear about people who need transplants and strangers who donate life-sustaining organs.

It’s a six-degrees-of-separation tale. One connection led to another, and another, and another.
The Braunschweigs and the Aegerters, both couples deeply religious, believe Michelle’s left kidney was destined for Tammy from the day Michelle was conceived.

The surgeons who implanted the kidney told Larry the organ was a perfect fit, that everything “was right there.”

Before Tammy was out of surgery, her new kidney began cleansing her blood.

“I’ve never heard so many doctors excited about seeing urine,” she said.

God’s hand brought them together, uniting two families in the process, they say.

“We don’t use the word ‘coincidence,’ ” Mark said.
“Providence,” Michelle added.


February 2007: Tammy is listed on UNOS, the United Network for Organ Sharing, as a transplant candidate.

Sept. 7, 2007: Joe Ferong, stepfather of Larry, sits next to Len Bundy on an Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle to Oakland. Bundy, an associate pastor at The Summit church in Enumclaw, would later invite Ferong, a staunch Catholic, to come and worship. Ferong ultimately visits and joins the church.

April 2008: A notice is placed in The Summit’s church bulletin about Tammy Aegerter’s need for a kidney. Michelle Braunschweig sees it and begins thinking about a possible donation.

Nov. 3, 2008: Larry and Tammy Aegerter, in their roles as volunteer firefighters, answer a call at the home of Mark’s parents, Joe and Sherry Braunschweig. Mark’s grandmother, Anna Osthus, who’s in her 80s, had broken her hip. A few days later, Larry and Tammy stop by St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way to see how Osthus is doing. They briefly meet Mark.

Dec. 22, 2008: Larry’s mom, Terri Ferong, throws a celebration of menopause party. Among the guests is Michelle Braunschweig, who is introduced to Tammy. Tammy doesn’t know Michelle is a potential donor; Michelle meets a warm person she thinks she’d like to help.

July 7, 2009: Michelle begins the process of becoming a donor for Tammy.

October 2009: Tammy begins dialysis, her body no longer able to filter her blood. The treatments leave her nauseated, vomiting and exhausted.

Feb. 5, 2010: After months of testing and blood matching, doctors pronounce Michelle a healthy and fit donor for Tammy.

April 2010: Doctors tell Tammy dialysis won’t work much longer. “The kidney was done,” she said.

May 5, 2010: Tammy receives Michelle’s left kidney in a six-hour procedure at University of Washington Medical Center.


The Aegerters and the Braunschweigs discovered along the way they have much in common. Both couples are active in their respective churches – for the Aegerters, it’s Family Life Christian Center in Federal Way; for the Braunschweigs, it’s The Summit, an Evangelical Free church in Enumclaw.

Tammy and Michelle are homeschoolers, teaching core values to their children along with other subjects. Both couples believe in the power of giving, offering comfort and aid.

The Aegerters are volunteers for Pierce County Fire District 13, Browns Point-Dash Point; each has an emergency medical technician certification.

“They are a great, caring, giving family,” Assistant Chief Cliff McCollum said.

Both got their starts in EMT classes McCollum taught. Larry is a firefighter and medical responder; Tammy’s heart aches to learn and perform the more rigorous firefighting duties, but her weakened body holds her back, McCollum said. So she rides out on EMS calls and helps with CPR classes.

Larry has served in the Army, the Air Force and the National Guard, his record totaling about 15 years. He’s currently an active-duty reservist in the 446th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where he teaches survival skills.

He and Tammy met a few years ago while each was a flight attendant at Horizon Airlines. She was a single mother of five. Their family now includes Katie, 23; Alex, 21; Mya, 16; Max, 14; Noah, 13; Hannah, 11; and Haakon, 3.

The Braunschweigs have one daughter, Kacy, 18. Mark owns a commercial window business. The couple is active in church work: he, in men’s ministry and leadership; she, in the youth program.

Though many people told Michelle they couldn’t imagine giving up a vital organ, she knew she was called to the task. “God just kind of laid it on my heart,” she said.

“I couldn’t imagine – knowing that I have what she needs to save her life – and looking into Tammy’s eyes and saying, ‘No, I can’t do that,’” Michelle said.

She worried initially about the effect an organ donation might have on her family’s finances and her health, but both fears were quickly allayed.

She was healthy enough for the rigorous surgery and could live with one kidney, doctors said. Costs were covered by Tammy’s and Larry’s insurance plans and by a donor program.


The message Michelle wants people to take away from this story is that organ donation might be inconvenient, but the rewards are well worth the short-term pain.

“And at a minimum, list organ donor on your driver’s license,” her husband, Mark, said.
Tammy and Michelle both have O-positive blood. Though not all of the chemistry fit perfectly, there were enough crucial components to make a match.

Most people believe your donor must be a close relative, but with advances in immunosuppresants, that’s no longer necessary, said Dr. Leanna Tyshler of the Northwest Kidney Centers.
The need is great, and kidneys are in highest demand.

About 107,000 patients are awaiting organ transplants in the U.S. according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. Nearly 85,000, or about 79 percent, need kidneys. Seattle medical centers – University of Washington, Virginia Mason and Swedish – perform about 240 adult transplants annually, Tyshler said.
A transplant, Mark Braunschweig said, is a wonder to behold.

“I probably cried more on Wednesday (the day of the surgery) than I have in 20 years,” he added.
“Every bit of good news that we received (from the operating rooms) was just an opportunity to rejoice.”


Firefighters at Fire District 13 “passed the boot” to collect money for the Aegerters, McCollum said. The Browns Point Diner helped with a spaghetti feed. Though insurance will cover many bills, there are still expenses.

While Tammy was in the hospital, Larry thought he’d surprise her with a bit of remodeling and install a new bathtub. He found a dead rat and four anthills beneath the tub, plus mold and dry rot that ran into the kitchen.
Now an unexpected remodel is under way; doctors banned Tammy and her fragile immune system from the house until two weeks after the work is complete. The family is staying in the home of an aunt who recently died.

Last week, the men of their two churches started remodeling parts of the Aegerters’ 1,200-square-foot house. Their work is just a small part of God’s larger construction project, the families say.
“When you can step back and see all the interweaving, the interconnectedness” that led to Tammy’s transplant, you know a divine hand was building it all, Mark said.

Kris Sherman: 253-597-8659

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