By Paul Koch

Do you confess the Unaltered Augsburg Confession to be a true exposition of Holy Scripture and a correct exhibition of the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church? And do you confess that the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Small and Large Catechisms of Martin Luther, the Smalcald Articles, the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, and the Formula of Concord—as these are contained in the Book of Concord—are also in agreement with this one scriptural faith?

By Cindy Koch

There are already too many holidays on our calendar that are a challenge to the Gospel and the pure Word of God. Some holidays are widely scoffed at by Christian communities, like Halloween. When I lived in the Bible Belt, trick or treating would be canceled if it ever fell on a Sunday. Some holidays are in the middle of a church and state type battle, like Christmas and Easter. Do you really celebrate the “reason for the season” and say “Merry Christmas,” or do you trade in your crosses for Easter bunnies? Then there are the holidays that surprise you, where our church and culture just might be celebrating the same thing. For example, that special Thursday in November that everyone takes a day to give thanks for every good thing they have been given. And while we all just love having a Monday off the normal routine (and any reason to barbeque and drink beer), this Labor Day should also inspire a little careful thought.

By Paul Koch

When we are quiet, when we give ourselves moments without distraction or entertainment, when we allow silence to occupy our space, we begin to think about our lives, about our world and our place in it. We begin to realize that there is something wrong, something misplaced or broken about our existence. Maybe for you it begins when you realize how bad your joints ache or how difficult it is to do things that once seemed to do with ease. Or perhaps, in your contemplation you struggle with inner demons, with things no one else can see, with depression and anxiety. Some days are a dark and confusing battle where hope seems to be in short supply, and you can’t seem to get a hold of the reason why. Then again, maybe your quiet moments are consumed with thoughts of guilt and shame. You think of friendships that you’ve lost, of loves that have grown cold. When we enter the quiet we often find that we quickly seek the distractions, the diversion from what is broken within ourselves.

By Tim Winterstein

[SPOILERS, BUT YOU CAN PROBABLY GUESS THEM ANYWAY]

That seems like far too important a title for thoughts about a dinosaur movie, but underneath the fantastic and seamless CGI, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is claiming to be far more than simply an adventure movie with dangerous animals. The tired part of the movie is that people always do stupid things when it comes to dangerous animals about which they really know nothing. Yeah, we get it: If you’re ever in a room with a caged dinosaur, do not open the cage, no matter how much you want a trophy or a closer look. Don’t pretend to be Chris Pratt if you’re not.

By Bob Hiller

As if I needed another reason to love Mike Trout, MLB’s commissioner has inadvertently offered me one. For those of you who don’t follow America’s pastime, Trout is arguably the best player in baseball. For what its worth, if you engage in arguing against that point, you’ll lose. If you’re a pitcher, he is a constant threat. Seven years in, he’s a career .300 hitter, batting .310 this year with 25 home runs and 50 RBIs (those are good numbers for the halfway point in a season, in case you’re wondering). I’m sure his weird analytical stats are money too. His arm is insane, and he is one of the top outfielders in the game. I think I can make a fairly good case that Trout’s swing is an aesthetic argument for the existence of God. He’s great with the fans, and somehow, for all he has going for him, he seems to stay out of the spotlight. At least, that weird spotlight we like to shine on our idols while looking for their warts.

By Bob Hiller –

Sammy Sosa hasn’t been to Chicago in 11 years. This man, who was right at the center of one of the most provocative sports stories in my generation, who brought baseball joy—which Cubs’ fans had so longed for—back to the Windy City, hasn’t been there for over a decade. Instead, according to a recent Sports Illustrated “where-are-they-now” story, Slammin’ Sammy has become somewhat of a globetrotter. The magazine caught up with Sosa in Dubai, living it up in luxurious restaurants, drinking expensive booze, basking in the glory of his wealth. SI quotes Sosa, “‘Look what I am today,’ Sosa says, motioning toward the opulence around him, ‘This is my life, and I don’t take garbage from nobody. I do what I want.’” Sosa, it seems, has it all. Except Chicago. He’s not been to Chicago in 11 years.

By Tim Winterstein

Since high school, I’ve been interested in my family’s genealogy. Nearly all of us German Lutherans as far back as I can trace, all of those generations are part of who I am. So far, there haven’t been any shocking discoveries, but there are certainly intriguing gaps in the records. At what point did my German ancestors settle in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (my father’s side) or Russia (my mother’s side)? What is the connection between the German town of Winterstein and my family? (One interesting speculation is that our ancestors were Sinti [Christian Roma or Gypsies] who took the Winterstein name after working as tailors for the minor nobility of Winterstein).