Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Greetings my friends

Hello! Welcome "Praying at the Bricks!" This is the personal blog of John "JM" Kraemer. This is an extension of the  "The Lego Church Project" Face Book Page! Here you will find posts related to The Project along with writings dealing with the Catholic Faith and issues related to disability awareness. 

The Project is a yearly tradition and is a massive Catholic Parish built using LEGO bricks. We are currently into Season 19. 

"Praying at the Bricks" is a common phrase I use when I'm working on the project as it is at time of prayer and reflection. I write about issues relating to the Catholic Faith. More so about spirituality and understanding. I try to avoid political mind fields in my writing. That is not my focus or the purpose of this place. However sometimes the lines between faith and politics get a little blurry. 

If you would like more information drop me an email at Feel free to check out the FAQ for extra information or any of the other links. 

Sunday, March 18, 2018

A diocese in crisis.

This post was adapted from a FB post that I wrote earlier today. It has been rewritten and expanded from the original content. 

With in the last few weeks. Two major cases of sexual misconduct have come to light in the Saginaw Diocese of which I live in. To say the news is a shock is putting it mildly. As we go about our daily lives we realize that at some point we must face a storm darker than what ever we have faced. One that will test our own resolve to remain true to what we believe in.  Any time someone with in our religious leadership is accused of a crime. It is extremely hurtful to us as a community. Trust is shattered in the blink of an eye. Even if that person is not guilty of the crimes that they have been accused of. That sigma that those accusations carry will remain. The court of public opinion is easily angered and they will want vengeance that instant. Never mind if the person is truly guilty or innocent. That same court will also go after that religious institution. They see that religion as the source of the evil. Even though that is clearly not the case.

When accusations are proven true. They do far more damage to the religious community than those on the outside realize. The damage runs deep and creates fissures and fractures that most cannot see. It plants seeds of doubt. Often times making us question why we follow this religious path. Makes us question why we even stay. Does staying mean we are turning a blind eye? Or by staying are we making a silent stand and making it clear that want action. True change that those seek will not come from the outside.  It does not come from those who chose to leave. But rather it comes from with in. From those of us who have chosen to remain faithful. That change comes from standing firm and not being afraid to speak out when the time is called. If a religious leader is accused of a crime we allow the law to do their job. We let the courts decide their fate. We offer up our prayers to the victims and that God's justice be delivered fairly. We always show mercy and compassion when it is needed. Above all else we use this storm as a way to build up our faith and not allow it to break us down.

My heart has been troubled by the news coming out of the Saginaw Diocese. I have anger that such actions have taken place in our region. However I temper my feelings. I do not presume guilt or innocence of anyone. Instead I will allow the law to do their job and do what I can not to rush to judgement. Despite the grim news this will not change my opinion of the Catholic Church. My faith has always been rooted deeply in Christ. In these times of crisis we need people to step up and not walk away from the faith. As I've prayed on this issue lately I am reminded of a phrase I use: "Surrender to Christ all things." It serves for me as a constant reminder that we are in the hands of God. That during the most difficult storms Christ walks with us. Even when we cannot see the road in front of us.

I want to make something extremely clear: I do not condone evil acts committed by our religious leaders. If they are guilty of the crimes that they have been accused then they must be held accountable. I do not condone any in leadership in either turning a blind eye or trying to cover up those crimes. If they have done so. Let them be held accountable for their actions. I will however stand firm in my faith. For that is what Christ has called me to do. Please pray for the Saginaw Diocese. Keep them in your prayers. The storm that we are facing now. Has only just begun. 

Till Next Time.


Monday, February 19, 2018

Look Into History: Season 15

Season 15 (2014-2015): The Priest in the photo is Fr. Emmett. He retired a few years prior and was filling in while Fr. Ron was on sick leave. It is an important reminder of how long the project has been around and how important the various displays that I do mean to me. It is a chance to share my gift with others.

The Project build was pretty straight forward. As you can tell it was one of my more infamously massive works with a side wind design that has not been really repeated. Though the tapered windows in that section are a bit of a tribute to the Season 4 project. Some of the windows were developed from the same ideas I used in the previous year. However they did have the same issues as last season. But over all the building was rather structurally sound. The balcony went though a minor revision from the previous season. Adding an extra spot to bring out some more detail.

This was also the season that really hammered into the point of "Just because it looks finished doesn't mean that it is." On the balcony section as I was waiting for a friend to show up. I decided to put a floor with a pattern. I had planned to not do anything for that section of floor. But since I had the parts left over I figured I would. Turned out rather nice for the short amount of time it took.

The other major addition was the upgrade of the Christmas Lights. Switched over to LED's that I got from Bronner's in Frankenmuth, MI. They have lasted rather well over the years and are a bit easier to set in that the normal bulb lights that I had used in the past.

Season 15 turned out to be an amazing year for me. Had some neat displays and a good time. Thanks for reading.


Look Into History: Season 14

Season 14 (2013-2014): This season was dedicated to the life of (now Saint) John Paul II. That part alone added some extra challenges to the build. I had a small statue of him inside which meant the wing section had to be built a little higher so it would be able to fit inside. It was a fun addition and one that for me added a personal connection to my work. As I had seen Saint John Paul II during WYD2002.

One of the biggest changes that took place started in this season and has continued very year sense in some form. Which is having a balcony! Now some people may not think much of it. Their are probably may ways to build one effectively. Mine probably not the most practical at the time. But the idea came about even before the Season 14 layout had been established. As with many things on these Project it started off as a simple question of "Can I do it?" and after more than a few hours of tinkering the answer was indeed yes. Their were a few issues with the over all setting of the section into place. But over all those issues were resolved later on down the build.

The window on this project were also a bit of a hit or miss. While the building was pretty solid. I had designed the windows to come apart so people could look inside. On one hand the idea worked. On the other hand the windows were not easy to remove and did not always want to stay together. But over all it didn't effect the building that much. It held together pretty well considering.

This Project was a neat one to build. One that turned out rather well. Thanks for reading.


Sunday, February 18, 2018

Look Into History: Season 13

Season 13 (2012-2013): This Project was a very interesting build. I was trying to capture some of the feelings of the older seasons. With the massive window so people could look inside and see just about everything. From a pure technical stand point this was the first time I had nearly the full sides with secondary sections. This created the extra challenge of making sure I had all the support pillars in place to help support the upper sections of wall. Unlike last season were the tower was planned as an after thought. The bell tower on this was planned out from the start. 

A few fun things happens with this season. Our Sunday Visitor ran an amazing story on me. Was also the first display at Knights of Columbus Council 4232. A council I would later join as a result of that display. 

It was a rather fun build over all and one of the projects that stand out as a good example of what I do. 


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Look Into History: Season 12

Season 12 (2011-2012): Season 12 came about during a challenging time in my life. I developed a rare neurological condition called "Visual Snow" late in 2010. At the time I did not know much about it. Or how it would effect me down the road. One of my worries was how it would effect my work on The Project. Season 12 was my first project since this condition developed.

This Project is one of my favorites. But it is also one of the most goofiest ones I've built. It goes into some fun directions that worked out well for the time. This was my first attempt having the project off to one side of the board. Which allowed for a bigger "wing" section. Any time you attempt something for the first time. Their are bound to be extra challenges with it. Just because of the over all nature of this layout a few things had to be taken into consideration. One of the biggest issues is with the bell tower itself. One of my personal rules after Season 8: The Project must have a bell tower. When I designed Season 12 I pretty much forgot to add one. The solution was to create a tower that fit into the roof tile section. The tower is big and heavy. But given the unique nature of the build it works.

Considering all that I was dealing with at the time. I have to say I'm really glad the project turned out as well as it did. Gave some good starting points for future seasons.


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Look Into History: Season 11

Season 11 (2010-2011): This Project was a fun build. I had decided to simply reuse the same basic foot print for that I had used on Season 10. However what came from that is something very different from what I was expecting.  I pretty much went all out on this project. I had decided early on what kind of window set up I wanted to do. What added to the challenge of the build was the secret doors that could open up on the sides. Getting them too look like the rest of the section with out making it obvious that I had done something fun. (I did not want the little kids to realize this and open up the walls). But it was very slow building. I had to build each section row by row and had to work on all three window segments all at once. The project wasn't as tall so their wasn't any worry about the gaps being able to support the weight of the roof.

One of the bigger change for that year was the change to the Grand Cross. Replacing the solid yellow Cross with yellow 1x2x2 windows. This worked out for a while and added a neat change to the project's over all look. This also the first season where I added the Roman Numbers to mark the season. This came about because I wanted something to fill the space because on the other side their is a Tabernacle in the center. In fact this idea would be reused later in another season. The numbers have been used in every project sense. However the location has always been depending on the nature of the build.

The roof tiles get a mention because till Season 18 they were the main feature. They were redesigned from scratch after Season 10. I wanted something that captured the feel of the old dome roofs. It was something that I missed about the project and to be honest would have loved to revisit at some point down the road. But the tiles were built up and they worked out rather well for what I needed them for. It served a purpose and did a good job of it.

Season 11 was an amazing build. Some of the ideas carried over into other Seasons. Or in some ways revisited years later. It is the nature of The Project for ideas to be given a second or third look. To see how I can improve on things. Which is always a fun journey.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Look Into History: Season 10

Season 10 (2009-2010):  It is still hard to believe at that point I have reached ten years of The Project. For me this was a rather fun season. Filled with a lot of ideas and some fun experiments that worked out decently enough. At this point the project was still focused on using what I had on hand. Thus the lack of windows in the back section. This was also the first project to have the Grand Cross used both on the wall and on the floor (of the main entrance).

However this project does feature some design elements that will become staples of later works. In this case the use of the current "Grid" system. The first real use of having the project "centered to the board" which allows me to have two side wings on either side. The roof also used a combo of custom built tiles and base plates giving the roof that neat flat top style.

Over all this was a very good project that held up rather well. Always fun going back into the history of what I have done. Sometimes it can give me direction as to where I want to go.