Archive for December, 2009

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A beautiful ending

I’m sure many of you have seen this article from the Wichita Eagle, already but it bears reproducing.  I did their funeral yesterday (sunday) afternoon.  It was difficult but beautiful.  The church was packed. I also had the opportunity to be there when they passed away.  It was a truly beautiful and holy moment.

This love story had a perfect ending


The Wichita Eagle

As they died side by side Tuesday evening at St. Francis hospital, Loren and Florence Gerber’s hearts beat as one.

When his blood pressure went up, hers did, too.

When his went down, so did hers.

The Gerbers had been married 62 years and had known each other since grade school. Florence Gerber liked to tell people that her husband’s name fit inside her own.

The Harper couple were critically injured in a car accident last week on their way home from Wichita. On Tuesday, their family made the decision to take them off life support.

The staff in the trauma/surgical ICU at Via Christi Regional Medical Center-St. Francis Campus had an idea:

Why not move them into the same room so they could be together in their final moments?

“That was the only thing to do,” registered nurse Stefanie Shuler said. “There was really no question about it. If at all possible, we were going to make that happen.”

Respiratory therapists helped to make it happen, Shuler said.

The Gerbers were taken off life support at the same time. The family placed their hands together — Loren’s left hand grasping Florence’s right hand.

“Their heart rates seemed to coincide with each other,” Shuler said. “It was very precious.”

The gesture to put them in the same room touched son Allen Gerber, a surgeon who used to practice in Wichita but now lives in Hot Springs, Ark.

He said with everything going on, he hadn’t thought of it himself.

He and his sister, Marilyn Gerber, who lives in Wichita, said their parents would have wanted to die together.

Loren and Florence Gerber are also survived by another son, Larry, of Olathe.

Marilyn Gerber said her parents were so in love that her mother didn’t go to lunch with her friends after quilt group on Wednesdays “because she didn’t want to be away from him.”

Mary Enstrom knew Allen Gerber from when he lived in Wichita and was an elder at Central Christian Church. She was in Sunday school earlier this week when Allen Gerber’s wife, Jan, called her daughter and requested prayers.

The church activated its prayer chain — by e-mail and phone. One message Tuesday said:

The family believes they will both go to be with the Lord this evening. The SICU unit at St. Francis is moving both of them into one unit, so they can be together. It is a beautiful love story. Allen shared with us that his parents have loved each other since second grade and have been married 62 years.

Enstrom visited the family that night but left when the Gerbers were taken off life support.

“I just think that was so thoughtful, and it was so beautiful,” she said of putting them in the same room. “The family just started crying because it was so touching to them.

“Jan said it was so amazing because it was like they were one.”

Loren Gerber used to farm in Argonia before moving to Harper. He took correspondence courses and became an appliance repairman. He was still taking calls at age 86, Allen Gerber said.

He and his wife, who was 88, liked to garden together and travel in the trailer they pulled behind a pickup. They had been to all 50 states together.

Loren Gerber was a “fanatical videographer,” Allen Gerber said.

“When video cameras first came out, I bought one, and he saw it one Christmas and said, ‘I have to have one.’ ”

He videotaped church events, family gatherings, birthdays, always behind the camera. He recently learned how to convert videotapes to DVDs.

Florence Gerber enjoyed quilting and sewing.

Their funeral will be 2 p.m. Sunday at Pleasant Valley Mennonite Church in Harper. Visitation will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Prairie Rose Funeral Home in Harper.

The doctor listed their times of death as the same.

“It was just the perfect ending to a perfect love story,” Allen Gerber said.

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And here’s the third video.

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Sorry I’m a couple weeks late on this one.  Here’s the second video in the Spiritual Gifts Ad series.

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This has been bugging me for a while.

When Obama gave his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize (most everyone has already noted the irony of this prize in the same month he escalated a war) he said the following.

“As someone who stands here as a consequence of Dr. King’s life work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence.  I know there’s nothing weak, nothing passive, nothing naïve in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.  But as a head of state, sworn to protect and defend my nation I cannot be guided by their examples alone.  I face the world as it is.  I cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people.  For make no mistake, evil does exist in the world.  A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitlers armys.  Negotiations cannot convince Al Quieda’s leaders to lay down their arms.”  (Video below)

1)  Gandhi was actually asked about whether or not he thought Hitler could be dealt with using non-violent means.  He said he thought Hitler could have been dealt with non-violently, although it would have taken a lot of lives and manpower.

2) Obama basically said, “yeah, I really look up to these guys but I live in the real world, I have to deal with the problems of evil.”  Really?!  You’re going to sit there and tell me that Gandhi didn’t understand the evils of imperialist oppression?  You’re going to tell me that Martin Luther King didn’t have a realistic understanding of the evils of Racism? Seriously?!

No, Mr. Obama, it is you who does not understand the problem of evil.  Evil is not dealt with by using more evil.  You are never going to win peace at the end of a gun, especially in Afghanistan.  If there is anywhere in the world that history has shown us that every new war simply causes evil to take a new shape, it’s Afghanistan.

By in large I like the president, but on this one, he’s just plain wrong.

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By virtue of the fact that I am (at least for now) under 30 or so and that I spend more time on a computer than I should, occasionally people ask me to help them fix some sort of computer problem.  This may be tipping my hand but the cartoon below fairly accurately describes the process for just about every bit of computer advice that I’ve ever given………..ever.

For the actual cartoon site click here.

And for a bonus window into the mysterious world of troubleshooting computers, the following clip contains the first and most successful fix to most mysterious and troublesome computer problems.  Don’t call me until you’ve tried this.

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PVMC will be doing a study on the book “Rediscovering our Spiritual Gifts” by Charles Bryant beginning in January.  I put together a series of ads for church that parody the Mac vs. PC ads.  Here’s the first one.

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Wait, don’t answer that question.

When I sent in my article on putting Christ back into Christmas to the Harper and Anthony papers, also sent it into the Wichita Eagle as well.  After hearing absolutely no response what-so-ever from them, I simply resigned myself to the idea that they were a big media conglomerate and had stifled free speech……or it was just over the word limit.  Either way I wasn’t expecting it to get printed.

Then comes the Sunday edition.  I don’t actually get the Eagle so my uncle (thanks Clint!) sent the family an email informing us all that I made it onto the editorial page.  It turns out that they printed my article with very few edits, and even included a picture.  Which is really strange because I didn’t send them one.  Of course, I had to go check out the online version of the article.

Now for the ignorant buffoon part.  One of the developing features of the series of tubes known as the “internets” is the practice of having a comments section following things like online versions of newspaper articles, blogs, Youtube videos and other questionable contributions to the internet.  While in certain circumstances it allows for some interesting dialogue on a particular topic, in the newspaper realm it simply functions as an amplifier for any moron with too much time and a computer.

And of course, I had to read the comments attached to my article.  Keep in mind that in the grand scheme of my theology and political views, this letter ranks somewhere between singing Kum By Yah and eating freshly baked bread.  It’s not exactly controversial and the main point was to come together in spite of differences.

So naturally, the comments turned into a naked display of hatred, anger, theological ranting, scripture quoting, atheism touting and all around contempt for other human beings.  You know, uplifting stuff.

And of course, there were the expected pot shots at me.  My favorite so far is the following:

wichitabeacon wrote: Alan you are an ignorant buffoon. Christ has NOTHING to do with Christmas. He was not born then, it was a pagan winter solstice celebration that the Christians used to co-opt the locals. Christ has Easter, that one is his with adequate documentation. Lets give Christmas back to the humanists who understand that piece and and good will toward man does not require a divine inspiration.

Two observations: 1) I think you mean “Peace” and not “Piece”, unless you were referring to pie and 2) making the argument for a humanist ethic of “good will toward man” carries a little more weight when you don’t start by calling someone an “ignorant buffoon”.  But hey, what do I know, I’m just an ignorant buffoon.

Ahhhh, tis the season to be merry!

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Did the massive increase in the theology known as the prosperity Gospel help cause the economic collapse?

That was the question on the NPR show “Here and Now” yesterday.  The basic premise is that the prosperity Gospel teaches that you should go ahead and buy the fancy things (i.e. car, house, cell phones, clothes, etc…) that you can’t really afford because “God will give you the money to pay for it”.  The thinking is that this mentality then led people to do things like take out loans for houses that they couldn’t afford (sound familiar yet) on the “faith” that God would miraculously send them a check to pay the monthly payment.  The guest even goes so far as to compare the regional data that suggests the pockets of highest foreclosure rates coincide with pockets where the prosperity Gospel is very prevalent.

It’s an interesting premise.  I don’t know what I think yet but it’s definitely worth checking out.

Click here to listen to the program.

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This week I stepped into the wonderful world of the Harper county newspaper scene.  I submitted a letter to the editor for both the Harper Advocate and the aptly named Anthony Republican.  Basically everything I submitted was printed.  The Republican did leave out the words money we make, what our job is or isn’t, what color our skin is, what faith we claim in the last paragraph.  Besides making for an incredibly awkward sentence, it lost a bit of the punch.  I’m assuming that it was an innocent mistake and not a manifestation of political censorship, but I did email them just to find out for sure.  In anycase, here’s the article in it’s entirety.




Taking the Christ out of Christmas

As the Christmas season swings up each year I often hear some people talk about the abbreviation for Christmas, Xmas, as taking the Christ out of Christmas.  But have you ever wondered where that abbreviation came from?  In Greek, the original language of the New Testament of the Bible, the word for Christ is Christos.  The letter in Greek that makes the “ch” sound looks like the English X.  As a result, it is a common practice for many Christians to abbreviate Christ with an X.  Christians gets abbreviated Xians, Christianity into Xianity, Christmas into Xmas, and so on.

However, I would still agree that Christ is often taken out of Christmas, but for a very different reason.  Jesus was a man who lived in what is now Israel/Palestine.  He lived his life as a homeless man, often not knowing where his next meal would come from.  He was born to an unwed mother in a barn out behind a motel and his first bed was a cattle trough.  His birth was attended not by the wealthy and powerful but by poor, uneducated shepherds.  Jesus was a man who cared deeply for the poor and the oppressed and taught that those who had more than they needed should sell all they had and give it to the poor.

It seems to me that this Jesus might not recognize the holiday we now call Christmas.  We now live in a world where Christmas usually means spending money that we don’t have and eating food that many of us don’t need to.  This Christmas season, especially, is going to be very difficult for many in our community.  As you think about the ways to let your loved ones know how much you care, think about these things as you do your holiday shopping.

–         Buy local.  There are people out of work right here in our community.  Shopping locally keeps your hard earned dollars in the community and creates and keeps jobs for others.  If we like having a variety of businesses in our community, that means intentionally shopping there so that they will still be here in the long run.

–         Focus on gifts with meaning.  Christmas is a time to celebrate with the ones that we love.  With the uncertain economy ahead, we all need to be careful about how we spend our money.  What counts is the love behind the gift, not how deep into credit card debt we went to get the gift.

–         Give to those who really need it.  Many of us will be able to afford things, like presents and a table full of food, that are normally present at Christmas.  There are many people in our community will not be able to afford those things.  Consider making a donation to the food bank, the Salvation Army, the Angel Tree, your Church or another local aid organization that will make a Christmas possible for some people who are having trouble making all the ends meet.

This Christmas season, let’s all come together to truly support each other, regardless of how much money we make, what our job is or isn’t, what color our skin is, what faith we claim, or even whether we live in Harper or Anthony.  This year, let’s put the real Christ back into Christmas.

Alan Stucky

Pastor of Pleasant Valley Mennonite Church

Harper, Ks

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