The World of Lu

Creating a digital heritage while engaging in some quality musings!

Archive for the month “July, 2012”

London 2012: A Return to Roots

Part 1 of 2

DESTINATION LEWISHAM

Friday, July 20, 2012 was the day I finally got my chance. I had wanted to go Thursday so that if there was anything unforeseen I would still be able to make my trip.  Fortunately, though my right foot hurt from periodic cramps (compliments of lots of London sightseeing) I experienced relatively little problems with transportation. I had gotten online earlier and was thrilled to see that our hosts here in Bromley were correct.  Only 4.3 miles to my destination of Lewisham University Hospital.  And London’s mass transit is awesome!

One of the famous red double-decker buses of London!
They were literally everywhere!

ROOTS DELAY

Only one delay. I had two lithium batteries for my camera.  On Thursday on the way home the 2nd one gave out and I was left battery-less! I decided to buy a new one and get the other two charged.  I found a camera/photo shop across from the bus stop and was happy to buy the last compatible lithium battery on the shelf.  After purchasing it, eager to be on my way, I replaced the battery in the camera only to find that this brand new lithium had absolutely ZERO charge!!  Say it ain’t so!  “Arrgghhh!!,” I groaned, simply aghast in unbelief that I could be sold a defunct battery right out of the package!

What to do?  I’ve come too far to abort this trip.  I was on a mission.  So I told the salesman,  “I’m going to go to lunch. I’ll be back in 30 minutes.  Charge all my batteries.  When I return I’ll take one with me.  Keep charging the rest while I’m gone.”  He nodded still showing the sting of embarrassment on his face.

NANDO’S TO THE RESCUE!

So off I went to lunch hopeful I would find the Nando’s restaurant I had caught sight of briefly from the return bus the night before.  If you know me you know that I really like Nando’s and their unique South African Portuguese Peri Peri Chicken.  I discovered the Peri Peri hot sauce while traveling in South Africa in 2003 and since then whenever I found a bottle of it at a local (or not so local ) store I would buy some no matter the price.  A few years ago the first Nando’s opened in Washington DC near the Verizon Center and since I worked across the street from it I became a very regular customer.  The Nando’s chain is an international phenomenon with restaurants found in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Malawi, Zambia and the UK (to name a few),  The managers of the DC location were from London.

One of the 200 Nando’s restaurants in London alone!

Little did I know that there were 200 Nando’s restaurants in the city of London alone. Had I known that  they were pretty much ubiquitous in town I wouldn’t have been so concerned in locating one!  The Bromley Nando’s turned out to be only a block and a half from the bus stop.  The meal was delicious and probably the best value of any meal I had on my trip… £6.75 (which is about $10.60 depending on exchange rate).

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

It didn’t take too long to get my partially charged Lithium battery, load it up in my camera and catch the next big red double-decker bus towards Lewisham. The pictures below are of the town of Bromley which is in South London.  We were in the suburbs here!  They had a very nice mall there called The Glades (half way up the street to the right is the court yard the brings you to the entrance).  Funny thing… it closes every night at 6:00pm except Wednesday when it is open till 9:00pm .(!!) Go figure!?!

The red restaurant called Cafe Rouge was Dan and Lariah’s favorite eatery.  They were able to find them everywhere they went, even having a meal in the airport the day of our departure! (click on the picture for a closer look!)

Bromley Bus Stop – Nandos up the street and to the right

From the upper deck of my Red Bus – Leaving Bromley

I traveled north to Lewisham 20-25 mins stopping every 2-4 blocks. Upon arrival I was greeted by (you guessed it) London showers. The bus dropped me off right at the hospital… 390 High Street, Lewisham SE13 6LH.  As the rain came down harder I found my way around to the new wing entrance (Riverside Building which was officially opened in May 2007 by Bishop Desmond Tutu). and checked in to see if the records department might assist me in getting the exact address of my first home in Lewisham.  The records department was blocked by construction and there was no way they could see me in person.  They also told me I had go the City Registry as they were unable to access any of my records!

Where was this City Registry I inquired?  The receptionist smiled and said… next door!

Happily I proceeded out into the now light rain and began snapping pictures of the old wings of the hospital that welcomed this preemie into the world.

In the rain my first glimpse of Lewisham University Hospital (old wing)

Looking for an entrance to the hospital…

Must be down the street… starting to rain harder!

Ah there it is… Riverside entrance at the new hospital wing

Straight on view as the rain turned to a drizzle and then abated

BRIEF HOSPITAL HISTORY

This hospital has quite a history.  It started out as workhouse for inmates in 1817 and went through various renovations and additions in 1837 and 1865. A separate infirmary was added in 1984.  This date marks the beginning of the hospital era.  The photos above and below of the red brick building are ones of the infirmary built in 1894.  More details of the fascinating history of Lewisham Hospital can be found at http://www.ezitis.myzen.co.uk/lewisham.html

Exiting from the registry I looked up… Man. this building is old!
It was actually built in 1895 for medical staff accommodation.

As the sun breaks through it’s me that’s feeling a bit old… but nonetheless happy!
This building is now the Childrens’ Out-Patients Department.

This original workhouse building along Lewisham High Street, built in 1817, preceded the hospital.
It is now called the Waterloo block.

The original 1817 entrance to the Lewisham workhouse.
This building could house 186 inmates.
At the top is the logo of the Lewisham Union above the doorway.

Pretty cool looking entrance… the logo of the Lewisham Union which was formed in 1837 to establish a Board of Guardians who would run the then expanding workhouse.

UNFORTUNATE NOTE

The hospital’s reputation has been none too good in recent years.  In fact in December of 2009 there came a “damning indictment of its patient care” and Lewisham Hospital was rated the worst in London.  Its bad reputation extended beyond the city and it was named as being one of the 12 poorest hospital trusts in the UK! (http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=lewisham+hospital&view=detail&id=20B94B47CFF1196C6F3D7ED94D79EF3F4BBD6763)  No wonder people raised the eyebrows a bit when I mentioned where I came from! LOL!  Got out of there none too soon!

Along with this sad note I also found out that there have been plenty of gangs in Lewisham (one of them was called the Ghetto Boys) and they were pretty notoriously bad over the years. Like I said, eyebrows were raised when I said I was born in Lewisham… like saying I was born in Anacostia.  I hope to write a future blog called “Can anything good come out of Lewisham?” discussing life in Lewisham for my parents and many displaced Polish after WWII.

But time to move on. Having found the hospital I was ready to visit the neighborhood…

Continued with Part 2 London 2012: Next Stop, George Lane!

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London: George Lane – the First Years

Wow! Are we really going back to London!

Londontown visit is on the horizon.  I hope to visit the area where I lived my first 2 1/2 years.  My mom told me that we lived at 6 George Lane in the London Bourough of Lewisham.

My birth certificate states that I was born in Lewisham and that I was baptized at the Catholic Church there. Hopefully we’ll get to visit and take some pics.  I haven’t found any photos of the outside of the townhouse yet.

My mom, Danuta and her older sister Hala and their mom Janina (who we kids called Babcia aka Grandma) lived in Lewisham.  Eventually Hala marries Wlodzimierz and Danuta marries Zygmunt (later US spelling – Sigmund) and the both get pregnant.  Hala’s due date  for her baby was to be sooner that her sister’s but… Danuta’s baby, Chris was born premature and beat Hala’s baby, Christine by a month (June – July!)

Kid Preemie with Mom (Danuta) & Dad (Zygmunt)

It just dawned on me why my mom was going to call me Adam. Her sister had picked Christine and so my mom defered to her so that there wouldn’t be two Chris’ running around the row house!   And fittingly Hala as the older sister was going to have her baby first.  But it looks like my dad had no such loyalties. When I arrived ahead of schedule he didn’t mind calling his son Chris… ahead of Hala!  Of course he had to override my mom who had already talked to the hospital staff. She could always say it wasn’t her fault… see, look at the birth certificate!  So the duality of Adam/Chris was born!

And thus my grandfather who was greatly beloved by Danuta (and of course Hala, but I never talked to her about it) was given his first grandchild (and grandson) through the younger sister.  I’ll have to talk to Christine to check in with her to see if she knew of any sibling rivalry.

Christine, Aunt (Ciocia) Hala, Babcia (Janina) (l to r)

Unfortunately any potential for preferential treatment ended when my grandfather died of lung cancer within a year or so.

My cousin Christine, my mom’s sister Hala (and her husband) and my mom’s mother Janina would stay in London for a number of years after my mom and dad and me left.

I have never been back to George Lane since though I have been back to London for a day some time ago.  Hopefully I will get some good pictures.

My mom and dad somewhere in London

Happy the war is over… My mom with friends in Paris (I am told!)

Star Wars: Heir to the Empire: The 20th Anniversary Edition

20th Anniversary Edition

It’s summertime which means travel-time!  With kids in tow I recommend you consider a quality audio-book for all to listen to.  Of course it depends on your family and the level of ADD that is prominent in the vehicle.  But it might be worth a shot. This one’s for an age group that likes Star Wars… Luke, Han, Leia and the gang.  Let me tell you about one such offering.  (I have a post coming later for the younger crew which I think will be a hit).

Six months ago I subscribed to Audible.com monthly subscription for audio books. What could motivate me to sign up?  Well they were offering a very special audio book of the 20th Anniversary of “Heir to the Empire” Book One of Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy.  I had read the 3 book set when it first came out and loved it. And the description of the audio offering was compelling. I also bought the anniversary edition book!  Couldn’t resist! A must read Sci-Fi Novel for adults of all ages!

This publication was historic in that George Lucas would not authorize any books released until this one in September of 1991.  It became an instant #1 New York Times bestselling novel and it reignited the entire Star Wars publishing phenomenon.  The anniversary edition features an Introduction and annotations from award-winning author Timothy Zahn, exclusive commentary from Lucasfilm and Del Rey Books, and a brand-new novella starring the ever-popular Grand Admiral Thrawn.

It was the biggest event in the history of Star Wars books.  Heir to the Empire begins five years after the Death Star was destroyed in Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi and Darth Vader and the Emperor were defeated.  The galaxy is struggling to heal the wounds of war, Princess Leia and Han Solo are married and expecting twins, and Luke Skywalker has become the first in a long-awaited line of new Jedi Knights.  Chewbacca, Lando, C3PO, and of course R2D2 return along  with Admiral Ackbar, Mon Mothma and Wedge.

The lovely & mysterious Mara Jade

The story line is excellent introducing new adversaries in Grand Admiral Thrawn and Captain Palleon.  Thrawn is a great villian who is able to anticipate the alliances moves and countermoves.  He’s even found the equivalent of “Jedi Kryptonite”. “Heir to the Empire” will thrill you with a host of colorful supporting characters, most notably smuggler Talon Kardde and the mysterious but deadly Mara Jade.   Mara’s position of prospertiy as the”Emperor’s Hand”  was lost because of Luke’s killing of Palpatine and now she is filled with an intense desire for revenge!  Yet circumstances will thrust her into an uneasy alliance with Skywalker against a common enemy.  You don’t have to be a Star Wars geek to enjoy this great bit of science fiction.  The book is well-written and the plot and characters are not cartoony in the least bit.  The original series did have it’s cute factor Ewoks but this series is written by an accomplished award winning author Timothy Zahn and it’s no pulp fiction sci-fi!

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One customer on Amazon raved, “This book was one of the most enjoyable reading experiences I have ever had. I had never read Heir to the Empire before and so when I saw this book I had to pick it up and read it since I had heard how good it is. Not only is the story excellent, the annotations and introduction are great because it reveals the author’s thoughts and motivations behind the different parts of the story. It’s like watching a movie with commentary, except it’s better because you can “pause” the book (stop reading the story), read the behind-the-scenes look, then go back to where you left off”.

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The icing on the cake so to speak has to be the audio version.  Made specially for the 20th anniversary edition.  Wow! This is best described as Radio Theatre.  Sound effects… the engines, the wind, the comlink communications, John Williams music, R2D2 sounds, Chewbacca growls, C3PO’s unique voice along with the main characters voice interpretations.  Outside of watching this as a film on Blu-Ray this is the best!  Plus I love that it is unabridged.  Some of you may balk at the length but the book is written so well you’ll want to absorb the whole thing.  It’s not just the plot but it’s the literary journey in this one.  I listened to book 2 in abridged form and was greatly disappointed.  It seemed like listening to Cliff notes!  But not this one!

If there is anything lacking it would be that it could use a complimentary female narrator (the narrator does a great job with the women’s voices but you know it’s a guy doing it!) or better yet having actors to narrate each main character’s part.  Even with those slight negatives I would definitely give it 5.0 out of 5 stars.

Below is the Amazon link to the book and audio book.  Hope you get a chance to enjoy this book, either in hardback or via audio. A great summer read (or listen!)!

http://www.amazon.com/Heir-Empire-Star-Anniversary-Edition/dp/0345528298/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1342021721&sr=8-2&keywords=star+wars+heir+to+the+empire

[Scientology]: Mission Impossible

Years ago when I was in college before Travolta and Cruise and other famous actors became identified with the Church of Scientology I had my first encounter with the group.

I was with a friend in Georgetown walking around one summer evening when an unusual fellow in jeans and a t-shirt came up to us and asked us if we were “clears”.  Taken off-guard yet curious as to what a “clear” was we engaged him in some conversation. After a little while his eyes seemed to glaze over and he started blubbering about how one could become clear of the engrams that were in your head that prevented you from living your life unencumbered… this state of being unencumbered and free from all your engrams was called being a “clear”. Which he was! (tada!) 

An engram is a painful memory or a judgement about a memory or a memory you got stuck on and couldn’t leave well enough alone.  Not all engrams are directly aware to our consciousness.  We all auto-magically develop them without knowing as we go through life.  Which is a real bummer… cause you don’t know if you have them, how many and if a number of them have ganged up to form a formidable engram wall or barricade in your life.

Now enter in the “genius” of Scientology which is the Engram Meter that is used to identify these neural speed bumps and roadblocks!

Before going further here is some helpful definitions… Engrams are a hypothetical means by which memory traces are stored as bio-physical or bio-chemical changes in the brain (and other neural tissue) in response to external stimuli.  They are also sometimes thought of as a neural network or fragment of memory, sometimes using a hologram analogy to describe its action in light of results showing that memory appears not to be localized in the brain. The existence of engrams is posited by some scientific theories to explain the persistence of memory and how memories are stored in the brain. The existence of neurologically defined engrams is not significantly disputed, though their exact mechanism and location has been a focus of persistent research for many decades.

E-meter is considered a religious artifact

Back to the Engram Meter or E-meter.  Through the use of this apparatus (which is listed as a religious artifact in Scientology literature) one can identify these neural memory traces.  And become free of these nasty pests… through a series of sessions with a trained Scientology professional (or high priest or Grand Thetan?!?  this is a religion, is it not!)… set free all for a relatively low fee!  Low is relative here for who can put a price on freedom!

So we listened to our new-found “clear” friend who encouraged us to go take a short test so we could sign up for a free session or two of “auditing” which is what using the e-meter with a professional is called!  We said we might go and he seemed quite excited.  He then told us something curious.  He said that now that he was a “clear” he was ready to explore the bright clarity of the various upper levels of being an “Operating Thetan”!  He then went on his merry way leaving us to contemplate that last unexpected concept.  “Operating Thetan?!?” All right then…

She is audit-ready!

 Hard for me to believe but we actually went to the Scientology Center (not a ‘church” building but a townhouse) near Georgetown the next day.  We were cordially welcomed by a friendly enough chap and given a multi-page set of questions that were not too taxing on the brain.  Once we finished we sat in the reception area.  Our host told us all about the Thetan part of ourselves,  the spirit or soul part of us that is to be freed up via the audit process. Being pre-clears we needed to get to clear before moving on into the “Operating Thetan” stage like our friend from yesterday. So far so good… 

After asking where this Thetan part of us came from he gave us a synopsis of the Super Thetans (extraterrestrials?).  These beings willed themselves into existence a gazillion years ago and then united their “visions” and together created the “perception” of the universe.  Gradually these Thetans got so enmeshed in the material world that they gradually forgot who they were.  They flat-out forgot they were Thetans!  My friend and I looked at each other mouthing “they forgot!” to each other.  We were getting a tad bit uncomfortable. 

And all was still quite manageable until… we started hearing shouts and stomping of feet from the upstairs of the row house. It sounded a bit painful and a bit intimidating.  Our host was totally unaffected and explained what was happening… the  e-meter had come across a particularly painful experience like a major rejection by a parent and that the auditor needed to help the person push through the pain and in turn push through the particularly nasty engram or engrams.  Like pulling out a splinter or a nail or popping a blister or boil… no pain, no gain!

At that point when our host answered the phone and turned his back to us, we eyed each other knowingly, forsook our free audit and we slipped out as quickly and as quietly as we could.

It is widely believed that the creation of Scientology was the result of a bar bet between L. Ron Hubbard and Robert A. Heinlein. The story says L. Ron Hubbard dared that he could create a religion all by himself. According to Scientology critic Lindsay this is “definitely not true”, no such bet was ever made, it would have been “uncharacteristic of Heinlein” to make such a bet, and “there’s no supporting evidence”. However, several of Heinlein’s autobiographical pieces, as well as biographical pieces written by his wife, claim repeatedly that the bet did indeed occur.

No psychiatrist is going to mess with me!

The whole engram painful memory part has some merit in that we all know that memories with bad meanings attached to them can be particularly debilitating and Tom Cruise himself has forcefully communicated its benefits along with the freedom from psychotropic drugs and psychiatrists which is an OK goal.  Though the price tag on auditing ain’t cheap by any means!  

However to call this a religion you must add the Thetan stuff.  Thetans are beyond extraterrestrial because the Super Ones existed before the universe existed.  They are deities or super beings in the way Zeus, Hercules and Thor are… not supreme beings but powerful “creators” of the “game” called life.  The material universe started as a projection of their consciousness and now all us amnesia-ed Thetans involuntarily participate in upholding the projected universe with our perceptions and thoughts.  

All in all this stuff seems pretty loony and beyond far-fetched to me, even with the above mentioned redeeming aspects.  And I haven’t even touched on Xenu or Xemu! I can only think of it as L Ron Hubbard’s big joke on the world!

With the breakup of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes Scientology goes under the microscope again and I think it looks none too pretty.  However a deal will be cut with Katie to give her full custody in exchange for an end to any revelation of dirt on Tom and the church.  This was the apparent strategy used by founder L Ron Hubbard during one of his divorces.  I provide the link below for those interested in more about not only Katie and Tom but also about the potential crumbling of significant parts of the Scientology empire.

http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2012/07/scientology_katie_holmes_tom_cruise_divorce_rathbun.php

Afer leaving the townhouse I actually read my free copy of Dianetics by L Ron Hubbard.  I found it fascinating. But also filled with flights of fantasy amid some good points concerning psychological health and dealing with your past.  But they lost me for good at a step beyond “clear” heading towards the ET-like Operating Thetan… all I can say to that is…

Mr Phelps… er I mean Mr Cruise, this is one MISSION IMPOSSIBLE I will not be joining you on…  be careful, your message is self-destructing in… 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…

Have you had a personal experience with Scientology?  How about sharing it in the comments section!  Thanks.

In the Beginning… I was Adam

Me with my Mom (Danuta) in London probably wondering, “Who am I?”

There I was in the passport office… Now what is your name, Sir?  Chris Lutyk.  OK and is this your birth certificate?  Yes.  Well OK, thank you. Oh… this paper is the birth certificate of an Adam G Lutyk.  You say this is yours.  Yes, ma’am… uh… if you look to the right you’ll see the baptism name… Oh, OK I see it, it says Christopher.  Smiling, I say, yes that’s right that’s my name. Well, I’m afraid we will need some additional identification.  Do you have any other ID with your “real” name?

And so it began…  I needed to prove that this Adam and me, Chris, were one and the same guy!  Yet the dilemma was that I had never been called Adam and until that time I never really grokked that my birth certificate didn’t “officially” say I was Christopher.  The good news was that at least it showed my baptismal name on it.  THAT confirmed that the name Christopher didn’t just appear out of thin air one day.

Turns out that when I was born my mom was asked what my name was and she blurted out Chris but it sounded like Adam… no, not really!  She actually said Adam and much to my Dad’s chagrin!  “I thought we agreed on Christopher”!  No other details were ever revealed to me concerning this SNAFU.

A somewhat stunned Adam after being baptised as Christopher… my uncle and mom oversaw this life-transforming switcheroo!

I was baptized a week or so after my birth, my Uncle (married to my Dad’s sister, Jana), George (or Jerzy or Jurek in Polish!) Mirski was my godfather.  In those days the documents bureau in London added the baptism name to the official birth certifcate.  Lucky for me!  So in the beginning… I was Adam.  After baptism… I was Christopher (Christ bearer!).  That part I think is kind of cool!

So my baptismal name stuck and thereafter I lived in London as Chris until I was 2 1/2 years of age at which time my Mom (pregnant with my brother Rick) and Dad and I gained passage on some steamer heading for America.  (Neil Diamond singing in the background!) We had been sponsored by my Dad’s older relatives Jan and Zophia Lutyk who moved from Canada to the DC area (great story for later post!).

I don’t know if I was Adam or Chris on my visa.  I assume it was Adam.  Up till then though, I had been called by Chris (Krysio in Polish) all my life.  Looks like my mom enrolled me in daycare and school and whatever with the name Christopher G Lutyk.  Without filling out any official papers to affect that change I would obviously be flying under the radar until some day of judgment in the future.  I had no idea. In my mind there was no one but Chris! And no one asked any questions and I pretty much officially became Chris Lutyk!  (Trumpets sound!)

My parents eventually became citizens of this great land and as is customary renounced their British and Polish citizenships.  Via the natualization process I piggy-backed their citizenship with my own. I was now the American Chris!  And not the British Adam! (More trumpets, please!)

Official School Pic of Chris

Life proceeded without a hitch.  I finished High School as Chris, ditto College with Student Loan, throw in a marriage license and then ordination and minister’s license.  Got my Social Security Card… the IRS was happy to take my taxes! I was 100% Chris… the old self, Adam was nere to be found!  (ta-da!)

All was right with me and America and the world until the day I wanted to leave the country.  I was a pastor at the time and I was pretty excited about my first trip out of the country!  I was going to Buenos Aires, Argentina for a week-long conference. And this catches us up to my first encounter with the glorious US Passport Office!  The unexpected S.N.A.G!

So how does the Passport Office Counselor Affairs of the Department of State help me get this resolved?  How does one right the information for a passport for a birth certificate gone wrong in London? Not easily to be sure!

Every piece of identification that I had on me except the birth certificate said my name was Christopher G Lutyk.  But was that good enough for the DoS of the good ole USA?  Nope!  Not by a long shot…

They decided to banish me the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service aka INS, an agency that no longer exists since 2003.  Now it’s the Department of Homeland Security.  Glad this all happened before DHS!  Who knows what would have transpired!  As it is, what happened was wild enough!

First they needed to see mail from my current residence addressed to me… like electric and gas and auto insurance and the like. Then I needed get copies of my parents naturalization papers which of course you could not get from the main INS office I was at.  I had to go to the court my parents did the swearing of allegiance… which they couldn’t tell me!  After a bit of searching I was off to Alexandria!  Once I got those I needed go back to my grade school St Thomas More in Arlington where I went from first through fourth grades.  There I needed to get a couple of report cards (!?!) which had my date of birth and my address and proved that Chris existed back then!  Naturally my mom vouched for me and signed whatever affadavit was required.

But was that enough… No, of course not! I had to go to another INS office a few times for them to get the record of the day I came into New York harbor along with the name of the ship I traveled on with my parents!  This information must have been buried under Ellis Island in a time capsule considering how long it took to find it.

Finally after successfully jumping obediently through the maze of hoops I was certified as both Adam and Chris!   Of course being certified as the same person helped more that I could imagine… MPS – multiple personalilty disorder was thankfully stricken off the list of my possible psychological maladies that day!

I was issued a bona fide US Passport with the name… you guessed it!  Christopher George Lutyk. No mention of Adam on it at all.

This later came in very handy when I needed to get my government clearance.  Thankfully the Passport Office has all the gory details logged in my file saving me ever to go through this again.  As long as… I don’t let my US Passport expire! (perish the thought!!)

Going to England soon has brought all this back to memory.  I now ask myself.  Why haven’t I officially changed my name to Chris so that Adam is finally put to rest?  Good question… hope to answer that soon. Till then I leave us with this final thought.

In the beginning… I was Adam (and of Adam).  In the end… I am Christopher (and I am of Christ)!  That part I like!

Freedom & Religion

Freedom.  Religion.  In your mind do these terms go together? When you think of Freedom do you think of Religion?  When you think of Religion do you think of Freedom?

This past Sunday, July 1, my Pastor at The Life Church, David Baird gave an excellent message.  Not sure of  the title… I was going to put a link on this post to an audio file but I don’t see it up yet.  In any case let’s call it “Freedom & Religion”.  The message focused on three relationships freedom and religion can have.

The first relationship that he spoke on was called “Freedom OF Religion”.  This part was definitely prompted by the coming 4th of July Celebration on Wednesday.  Pastor expressed his gratefulness for being in a country where Religion can be for the most part practiced in Freedom. He said it is great to be able to drive down the street and see churches, synagogues, mosques and temples where people can freely worship.  He took the opportunity to chide those who would try to remove “God” from government contending that those kind of references did not violate government’s mandate of not establishing religion.  Prior to the message we saw a video that showed an amazing number of inscriptions referring to God on government buildings and some powerful quotes from our founders concerning God and effective government.

The future of the use of the word “God”, prayer at school events and at government facilities, Bible clubs and Church meetings in public schools or displaying of the Ten Commandments anywhere in government is still not resolved and is currently up in the air.  Judging by the way the courts are approaching these types of things as violations of the “separation of Church and State” I foresee the removal of the word “God” from the pledge of allegiance and from our coinage in the not too distant future.  Just think, the government’s National Day of Prayer was recently ruled as unconstitutional. 

The current status can be summed up by a commentary I saw on the web saying… “Though the ”place of religion in our society is an exalted one,’ the Establishment Clause, the Court continued, prescribed that in ‘the relationship between man and religion,’ the State must be ‘firmly committed to a position of neutrality‘.”  I find this to be an odd interpretation of the Establishment Clause which says that government shall “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  (I hope to write a post about it in the near future.)

Regardless of how all this shakes down I join with Pastor David in grateful thanks for the freedom that our country provides us now for practicing our faith.

The second relationship that he spoke on was called “Freedom FROM Religion”. This part focused on truths found in the book of Galatians. Our Pastor is pretty passionate about this aspect of the Christian Life.  He has been quite adamant about us being a church that celebrates its freedom FROM religion.  He reminds us of this regularly!

Galatians 5:13 says “For you were called to freedom” (ESV)  and 5:1 states “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery”. The yoke or bondage is what Pastor defines as “religion”.  He defines it by saying “Religion is what we do to get God’s acceptance and approval.  It is performance-based living of any kind!” As Galatians says, a life based on the law is bondage and does not bring freedom. Pastor then referenced Galatians 5:12 to reinforce the severity of leading a Christian back into this kind of “religion”.  “I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves”!   That’s right…  emasculate!  That’s a nice word for “castrate.” Paul is pretty darn serious about keeping us out of dead performance-based religion!

The third relationship that he spoke on was called “Freedom FOR Religion”.  For  this part he went to the book of James.  He said if there is a good side to religion then it is defined here in James 1:27 “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world”. So there is a good side to religion and we are to wholeheartedly embrace it. 

It’s also important to note that we at TLC seldom use the word “religion” to describe the Christianity that we are to live.  The word that Pastor David would use to describe the Christian life is LOVE and not religion.  For we have been set free to LOVE as it states in Galatians.

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another”.  We use our freedom to love… to love God, to love people! (Gal 5:13)

Because Freedom FROM Religion and Freedom FOR Religion go hand in hand we embrace both. The Apostle Paul exhorts us therefore to put off the OLD and put on the NEW! We thank God for this wonderful FREEDOM in Christ! For the “from” and the “for”!

What I’ve heard many times before applies here…

“It’s not Religion, it’s a Relationship!”

Or as singer Scott Wesley Brown used to sing in the late 70’s…

“I’m not religious, I just love the Lord!”

The 3 in 5 Plan: First Glance

Daniel, Tessa, Chip, Tony & Sasha

The 3 in 5 plan is the true life story of how God personally intervened in the lives of Chris and Nora  Lutyk.  It’s the unexpected miracle that started with the very bad news that we could not have children through normal means.  In fact after we were seen by the fertility specialist at Georgetown University Medical Center in 1983, he sat us down and said, “Come back in ten years and maybe the medical technology will have caught up to your problem”!  No standard in-vitro plans, no special procedures, no modern day scientific breakthroughs were offered to us at that time or have been offered to us since.  We were on our own.

Well not really.  Both Nora and I had a strong faith in God and we belonged to a  supportive church family.  We had gotten married in 1980 and subsequently I came on staff at Fairfax Covenant Church (today it is called Sovereign Grace Church of Fairfax) doing Youth Ministry and Worship. As Christians we believed that God still performed miracles and we trusted that He would guide us in the right direction.

Chip, Daniel & Anthony 1991

The essentials of the 3 in 5 plan were quite simple.  One day God put it on our hearts that we would have 3 children in 5 years… one adopted, one natural born and one that he would not tell us… it would be a surprise.  This happened in June, 1984.  Of course the doctors had told us that the natural born child part could not happen naturally… or scientifically.  So we are talking at least one miracle!

Anthony (meaning “inestimable”) came to us through adoption in September 1985 (He had been born on August 6th). We prayed that God would do some very special things to confirm to all that his becoming a part of our family was planned by Him.  God did some amazing things for us, details forthcoming in other blogs!  When Anthony was 8 months old we had the “it’s blue, it’s blue” event.  This is the color of a positive result of the home pregnancy test that Nora took in April of 1986.  Needless to say we were dancing  and laughing joyfully upon seeing the result.

Chip was born in December 27, 1986.  But not without a scare along the way.  Nora had a mild stroke the day after Thanksgiving that year.  But God was merciful and gracious on our behalf and Chip was protected.  Nora recovered quickly…fast enough to have a natural childbirth much to the chagrin of her pediatrician who had wanted at least an epidural to ease the delivery after a 27 hour labor.

The final child of the 3 in 5 plan was the trickiest for us.  Should we adopt or should we hold out for another miracle pregnancy?  No clue from God on this one.  One evening in December of 1988 Nora and I sat at Anita’s Mexican restaurant discussing possible adoption scenarios.  I had suggested Filipino but that day we found out that the Philippines had just closed off all foreign adoptions.  We had entertained Korean adoption but that didn’t seem on target. Nora had suggested the possibility of a bi-racial American adoption. Time was running out if we were to start the adoption process and fulfill the 3 in 5.  We asked ourselves often if adoption at this time was taking control of the plan rather than continuing to put our faith in God’s promise.  All the doors seemed closed.

I didn’t have to wait long for one to open.  Nora had already taken her home pregnancy test earlier in the day and she knew it was positive.  So running out of options that night presented the perfect opportunity for her to announce that she was pregnant again!!

Our third son, Daniel, was born July 30, 1989.  Again this was a natural birth but we almost didn’t make the hospital in time after stopping for film (film!?! hard to say that word with everything digital these days!) at the local CVS a couple of blocks from the hospital.  But all turned out well.

Indeed it had.  I went to the doctor after both Chip and Daniel’s births to verify that nothing had changed with my condition.  They confirmed it again and again.  One doctor explained that my wife must be extremely fertile! Miraculously so I replied grinning ear to ear!

We are so very thankful to God for putting faith in our hearts and not only doing something wonderful and miraculous but also by telling us ahead of time.  I look forward to adding more details to the story over the next few months.  The 3 in 5 Plan has some marvelous twists and turns and surprises and is filled with good and faithful friends and family.  Can’t wait to tell you more of the story!

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