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My Only Comfort in Life

(Here’s another random chapter from my new book, Letter to My Grandchildren: Brief Essays on Identity.)

When I was in third grade I started to attend weekly catechism classes at my church, something I would do until I graduated from high school. At the time I thought children all over the world did pretty much the same thing.

In catechism classes we memorized the 129 questions and answers of the Heidelberg Catechism, a doctrinal statement published in 1653, in a city called Heidelberg, in what is now Germany. It’s a lovely medieval city. I have been there, and I hope you are able to visit someday as well. Continue Reading →

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My name is Brouwer

(Here’s another random chapter from my new book, Letter to My Grandchildren: Brief Essays on Identity.)

Where I grew up there was nothing at all unusual about the name Brouwer. Nearly everyone I knew – neighbors, classmates, teachers, even my pastor and dentist – had a distinctively Dutch last name, and so no one was ever puzzled by my name or had to ask me how to spell or pronounce it. Continue Reading →

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Those Embarrassing Names

 

(For a few months now I have been reading about and researching my ancestors, the women and men who came before me and passed down to me my name, my ethnic identity, my DNA, and of course my faith. Here’s a sample chapter from the new book which I’m – tentatively – calling “Letter to My Grandchildren.”)

Many of the people I knew when I was growing up had odd-sounding names. Not distinguished sounding at all, like I wanted them to be. The names were slightly embarrassing, I thought, as though in a previous life I had grown up with much better people, maybe in a much higher social class.

There wasn’t a Henry David Thoreau in the bunch. Or a Harriet Beecher Stowe. Those names and a lot of others like them always sounded remarkable to me, like you’d want to know them and read their books and be like them. Continue Reading →

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Turns out I’m not Dutch after all

Here’s the latest on the search for my identity: I’m British! No kidding. Take a look.

To bring you up to speed, I bought one of those DNA testing kits, spit in a glass tube, and sent the package off for testing. I declined the medical results, as I mentioned in a previous post, and I also decided that I didn’t need to know about “surprise relatives,” thinking that the ones I know are surprising enough.

But the results were – how should I put this? – still surprising. Continue Reading →

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Remembering who I am

A few months before I retired, a dear friend, someone I have known since college days, asked me what I planned to do in retirement, and to my surprise – to hers as well – I said, “I plan to remember who I am.”

These were words I hadn’t planned on saying. I blurted them out and then wondered what they meant. After three months of retirement, I think I know a little better what I had in mind that day. Continue Reading →

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Facebook and me

Was it just me, or was Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance before Congress this week less than reassuring? I wanted to feel better than I do about Facebook.

I deactivated my account several weeks ago (before Zuckerberg’s testimony) and haven’t missed it … much. Continue Reading →

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How I learned to shut up and be quiet

It’s been nearly two months since I retired (and longer than that since I posted anything here).

At first I traveled a bit – to Morocco and Iceland, two countries which could not be more different from each other and which, believe me, required some careful packing. But mostly, since arriving back in the U.S., I have tried to shut up and be quiet.

After 40 years of talking – blah, blah, blah – I was weary with the sound of my own voice. But turning off the noise and easing into a world with little talk has been surprisingly difficult. Continue Reading →

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Saying Goodbye (reposted from October 2013)

saying goodbye

Saying goodbye is never easy.

Even the times when I thought it would be easy, when I was glad to leave, when I couldn’t wait to walk out the door, I realized later that it hurt, that I had no idea how attached I had become. Continue Reading →

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My Swiss Photo Journal

I have tried my best to offer an honest written account of my years in Switzerland, but it’s possible that a few well-chosen photos might convey – in a different way – what living and working here has been like. It’s a deeply visual experience, as you can imagine. And now, toward the end of my time here, I find myself wishing that I had taken my camera everywhere. Pictured above is my office, scene of many thoughtful conversations, plus some hard thinking and praying. Continue Reading →

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The Annual Christmas Letter

 

Dear family and friends,

Continue Reading →

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