Saturday, September 30, 2006

Grieving Takes Time

Three years ago today was the last time Steve talked to me. I had a few more days to talk to him and sing hymns to him and sit in his hospice room with lots of other friends and family. I'm very aware of these anniversary days -- the day he was diagnosed with his third bout of lymphoma, the last day I visited him and his wife at home, the day he was admitted to hospice, etc. But this year, finally, those memories aren't wipe-ya-out painful like last year and the previous year. Those memories are still incredibly vivid, and there is still some sorrow there, but the pain isn't there like it was.

I picked up a tape from church last Thursday. It was supposed to be the Service from a couple of Sundays ago. But somebody forgot to turn on the tape recorder. So what I found (which was supposed to have been recorded over) was a tape of Bible class from Eastertide 2000. Pastor Wiest was there. He was asking questions and making comments, being theologically provocative and insightful. It was such a happy thing to hear his voice and the things he said. Kinda a nice touch to hear his voice again on the anniversary of the day I last heard his voice. And also kinda nice to know that mourning and grieving eventually ends. But shame on the person who decides that a person's grief is "taking too long."

Turkey-Dinner Work Anyway

Resigned to the fact that I would have to work at church's fund-raiser today, I hurried off to do paper routes, returned home, got several things taken care of in the kitchen and laundry room, and arrived at church only 20 minutes late. Everything was running smoothly everywhere and my presence there was quite pointless. So I came home and took care of some deskwork.

I was free! I didn't have to be forced into something I didn't want to do. Hooray!

I went back about 45 minutes later to see if they needed any help. I went of my own free will. They did need help. I worked in one area, then another, changing jobs and responsibilities, just pitching in wherever things were most behind.

And it was okay. Really okay!

Part of me thinks I should feel guilty for being so unwilling to do the work when I was told to do it. Like I was just being contrary. But another part of me thinks there's something theological here -- something about what Church is all about, and that it's not about forcing people to DO but inviting people to receive, and also accepting their offerings of work (or money) but without compelling them to do so.

So I had a perfectly decent time working at the turkey dinner. And one of the sweet mommas at church let Maggie be her sidekick, so that Maggie was permitted to help indoors where it less likely for her to catch a cold.

And at the end of the evening, a conversation took an interesting little twist, and I found out where I can get milk.

Slimy, Low-Down, No-Good, Cheatin' Democrat

I am so majorly ticked at the guy running for State Assembly in our district.

He's cute. He's young. He's charming. He has run for the office persistently. He keeps losing, but he keeps trying. One day, he will make it; I have no doubt.

He is a slimeball. Two years ago, he stopped by our house and asked permission to put one of his yardsigns in our yard. "No. We live in a parsonage, and you can't put one on church property. That's not allowed when you have non-profit status." He tried to convince us to put a sign in front of the house and not over by church. We did discuss a few issues, like abortion and homeschooling, but I didn't argue politics with him. I didn't say whether I agreed with his political stance or not. I just told him he couldn't put a yard sign on church property. He was pleasant enough and thanked me for the conversation and asked for my vote. Then he left.

This week (the week of our turkey dinner when hundreds of people will be coming to our church property) suddenly a yard sign appears. It was on the property line, between us and our neighbors. I fumed. I knew he put it on the property line so that it would look like it was on church property.

After a few days, and hours before the fundraising dinner was supposed to begin, I decided to visit the neighbors. I went to pick up the yard sign on my way to their front door. Turns out that the sign wasn't on their property; it was about 6 inches on our side of the line. I asked the neighbors if they'd chosen the location for the sign, or if they'd just given the permission and then Ryan chose where the sign would go. They were surprised. They hadn't given permission for any sign to go in their yard. And besides, as they'd pointed out, the sign wasn't in their yard, it was in mine. I had intended to ask the neighbors to put the sign in front of their house instead of way over by our property, but they said they sure didn't want his yardsign in their yard!

So the man couldn't get permission to put the sign here, but did anyway. And he couldn't get permission to put the sign in the neighbor's yard. So he slimily stuck it between the houses, knowing that we'd each assume it was the other's sign. And he put it in our yard, even after having been told the reason why a church couldn't put out a yardsign EVEN IF we agreed with the candidate. But he chose to do it anyway.

If a guy can't campaign honestly, why would anybody in their right minds expect him to govern honestly??

This dude often has yardsigns in people's yards, alongside yardsigns of people of the opposite party. I always assumed his charming demeanor and his boldness in asking was what got people to agree to allow him to put up yardsigns. But now I'm wondering if he just goes and sticks 'em anywhere he feels like.

Now I have to figure out how I can rat him out. Maybe letters to the editors of the county weekly and the daily news? Maybe contacting his opponent and telling him what's up? I don't like the Republican incumbent too much, but at least he's got some ethics and morals!

Nasty Taxes

Chatting with my daughter today, she was telling me how pleased her bosses are with not only her work, but also with her attitude and her work habits. (Being translated, this means she shows up every day, on time, and actually works. AND she's cheerful.) The bosses gave her a raise to reward her. And then she also got the raise for being fully trained and certified. So she got a $1/hr raise after only a month working there. I thought that was pretty great!

But the big bummer was when she got her paycheck. Not only was it NOT bigger, but it was actually smaller. The gross pay went up, but the net pay went down. There is something seriously wrong with our tax system when getting a raise puts less money in your pockets.

But I Didn't Sign Up!

It's one of those days I hate being a pastor's wife.

Today is the annual turkey-dinner fundraiser at church. I think it would be best if those sort of things were not needed; I think the members should actually give enough in offerings that they don't have to "play restaurant" to come up with operating funds. But the last few years I've helped with the dinner, and it's been okay.

This year I didn't sign up. There were reasons that I felt like I just couldn't do it this year, partially because of being out of town all day yesterday, and partially because of the upcoming surgery.

Then this morning I was told that my husband, my children, and I are all working in the carry-out portion of this fundraising dinner. If I weren't married to the pastor, I'd just tell them that I wasn't doing it. When I told them I hadn't signed up, they told me that Pastor had signed me up. Well, he didn't. But now what am I supposed to do? This totally botches up the things I have to get accomplished today.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Litany

From the crafts and assaults of the devil;
from sudden and evil death;
from pestilence and famine;
from war and bloodshed;
from sedition and rebellion;
from lightning and tempest;
from all calamity by fire and water;
and from everlasting death:
good Lord, deliver us.

That always struck me as an odd assortment of petitions. The paragraph groupings in the other sections of the litany seemed like more cohesive units to me. But after Sunday's gospel and sermon (the end of Matthew 6), and after several days of having my mind hijacked by "What God Ordains Is Always Good" and "All Depends on Our Possessing God's Abundant Grace and Blessing" and "In God, My Faithful God, I Trust When Dark My Road," I have a thought.

We do pray for protection from those temporal tribulations: death, famine, storms, war, etc. But those aren't the "biggies." What is even worse than these crises is how the devil can craftily use them to assault faith. "See, God doesn't care about you: your house burned down [or your nation was attacked by war-mongers, or hail destroyed your crops, or whatever]." So this list of harms to the body and threats to our possessions is book-ended by the first and last petitions which pray for deliverance from how these losses and sorrows could threaten faith. Because even if God permitted pestilence and famine, war and bloodshed, what ultimately matters is that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them, and win the victory.

I guess I could type out the words to the last stanza of "A Mighty Fortress" because they'd fit SO well, but I'm not going to right now. (I'm trying to write shorter posts. A futile endeavor, I'm sure....)

I Love to Laugh

For a good giggle, go to my friend Melody's blog and read the recipe for "The Best Rum Cake Ever". But you can't skim the recipe; you actually have to read it.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Guns in the Home

Last summer there was a robbery in our nearby big-city. The robber broke into the victim's home through the roof and came crashing down through the ceiling in the middle of the night. The homeowner is relatively well-known in the community -- a physician and daddy of three. When the scuzball wouldn't leave even after the doctor had yelled at him several times, and while the wife was phoning 911, finally the doctor pulled out his gun and shot the intruder. Within just a few days, the DA announced he wouldn't be pressing charges against the doctor because he obviously shot in self-defense.

Now, more than a year later, the scuzball is suing the doctor. Not only that, but the robber who is now in jail managed to file suit in Milwaukee County, knowing that he'd stand a much better chance of winning there than in the community where he committed the crime. The doctor is asking that the civil suit be tried in the county where the shooting took place, and that it be a jury trial. I would love to be on that jury!

Today's paper quotes the jailbird's wife: "he had no right to shoot my husband." Really now? And your husband had the right to be in the victim's hallway, near his sleeping children, in the middle of the night, after crashing through the ceiling? Massad Ayoob writes in Backwoods Home Magz, teaching gun-owners the difference between self-defense and excessive force. And this was definitely not excessive force. (And even if it were excessive according to legal definitions, which it wasn't, it still wasn't excessive according to common sense and decent morals!)

I think my 14-yr-old had an excellent observation. "So if the robber couldn't get the doctor's money by stealing it in the middle of the night, now he's found a different way to get the man's money." Exactly.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Psalm 80

Restore us, O God,
cause Your face to shine,
and we shall be saved.

I had always thought "cause Your face to shine" referred to God being happy with us, God smiling upon us, God's grin beaming down on us.

But praying Psalm 80 today, something different crossed my mind. Jesus is the Face of the Father. Jesus is the Light of the world. "Arise, shine, for your light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you."

And where does He shine? There was fire on top of Sinai. There was the pillar of fire at the exodus. There was the cloud in the tabernacle. There was the top of the Mount of Transfiguration. But mostly, there's Golgotha. In Jesus' passion and crucifixion, that's where the love of God really shone. And that love continues to shine when repentance and the remission of sins is preached today. And that is how we shall be saved.

Restore us, O Lord God of hosts,
cause Your face to shine,
and we shall be saved.

... a Light of consolations
and blessed Hope to those
who love the Lord's appearing.
O glorious Sun, now come,
send forth Thy beams most cheering,
and guide us safely home. (TLH 58)

A Good Homeschooling Day

Yesterday was what I wish most of our days could be like. It was not stressful. We got the schoolwork done in a comfortable and happy way.

Problem is, yesterday was not typical. I went to bed on Sunday night with the laundry finished. Virtually no housework remained to be done after a good amount of cleaning at the end of last week. I decided to put off the week's errands (usually done on Monday) to another day. I didn't cook a Real Meal. I chose not to tackle any of the projects on the long to-do list (pruning trees, putting photos into albums, finishing off an article to submit to a magazine, etc.).

So that's how to have a happy homeschool day: don't have any other work except the fun of learning.

Life is gonna catch up with me today, ain't it?

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Best Food

I am not appreciated.

Yes, yes, I'll get in line with all you other moms.

Daddy is in Colorado at a meeting with a bunch of other pastors. In attempts to get a lot accomplished today, I figured we could pretty much blow off dinner and just find some kind of calories. After all, it wouldn't offend the daddy who'd get stuck eating waffles or some other such dinner-impersonation.

My youngest requested tomato soup and grilled cheese. Sounded like a good plan to me!

As we're buttering the bread and heating the skillets, my child who is Logically Challenged made a very reasonable deduction. A wrong deduction. An offensive deduction, at least, offensive in the eyes of a woman who loves to cook.

"Mom, when you were in Colorado for the youth conference, we ate the best food while you were gone. And then you came home, and we went back to eating bad .... uh,... ummm, regular food that's not so good. And now Daddy is in Colorado, and we're back to eating the very best food again. You know what, Mom? There's something about Colorado. Whenever someone is there, we don't have to eat bad .... uh ... ummm ... well, we get the BEST food."

So who in their right mind would ever choose roast turkey or meatloaf or salads or mixed veggies when there are frozen pizzas and mac&cheese and canned soups to be had?

Little Road Hazards

Shortly before dawn I was returning home from dropping off one husband at one airport. Now, being up before dawn is not usually according to my plan! About 3/4 mile up the road from the house, I hit a road hazard. Somebody's metal lawn decoration had been taken out by a passing vehicle, and debris was scattered in the road. It couldn't be missed; it covered too much of the lane. As I'm driving the rest of the way home, hoping that my tires survive, I thought I should tell the boys to watch for it when they go to work today. Then I thought, "No, better drive back and pick up the chunks of metal so that they don't have to remember about the threat of tire-puncture." It's really quite a shame that I had no incentive to do that to protect other drivers and their cars. But somehow, when I realized that I could have three cars with flats by the end of the day, self-interest compelled me to be kind to my neighbor.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

No Sin Can Harm ...

[Warning: if you're prone to antinomianism, don't read this. But for the rest of us, folks who are more prone to legalism, you're allowed to continue.]

"How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds" was our hymn-of-the-week last week, and the hymn-of-the-week at Peace the previous week. I love the stanza that got left out of LW and LSB.

By Thee my prayers acceptance gain
although with sin defiled.
Satan accuses me in vain
and I am owned a child.

There's plenty in LSB about being cured from sin, and plenty about God choosing us as His own although we were sinners, but not too much about God loving us although we are still sinners.

I love the new tune to "Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me." But it is quite sad that LSB left out some stanzas that LW omitted, including --

Oh, draw me, Savior, e'er to Thee;
So shall I run and never tire.
With gracious words still comfort me;
Be Thou my Hope, my sole Desire.
Free me from every guilt and fear;
No sin can harm if Thou art near.

And the hymnody committee decided there wasn't room in LSB for Luther's Christmas hymn --

Oh, then rejoice that through His Son
God is with sinners now at one.
Made like yourselves of flesh and blood,
Your brother is the eternal God.
What harm can sin and death then do?
The true God now abides with you.
Let hell and Satan rage and chafe,
Christ is your Brother -- you are safe.

If the church is bereft of such words for several decades, I fear that our hymnody will lead us to accept a theology of glory that teaches that sin is conquerable this side of the grave.

I like what Pastor says to those who think Christians can actually avoid sin with the help of the Holy Spirit. "Go ahead. If you can stop sinning, then do. Just one day without sin; that's all."

There's a Luther quote pasted inside the cover of my hymnal. Part of it says, "Beware of aspiring to such purity that you will not wish to be looked upon as a sinner, or to be one. For Christ dwells only in sinners."

Knowing All the Words?

At a wedding reception last night, my husband and I were at the bar, requesting beer and Pepsi. (No, not mixed! How disgusting!) Another guest took a look at me and said, "Oh, so that explains it."

Her statement was met with my raised eyebrows and puzzled expression. She tried to explain further. "Now I know who you are."

I was still puzzled. She didn't explain further, so I asked, "So.... who am I?"

"Well, you're with him." And she pointed to the cute guy next to me in the black shirt and round white collar. "That explains why you knew all the words."

"All the words? What words???"

Just a wee bit more explanation on her part enabled me to discover what it was that we were talking about. She'd sat near me during the wedding. I had noticed during the wedding that nobody but me and my daughter and the bride's parents were responding to the versicles. But, c'mon, how much could we stick out? There was almost nothing to respond to! There were no hymns or canticles. "All the words" that the four of us (afore-listed) participated in were
-- "and my mouth shall show forth Thy praise" and
"make haste to help me, O Lord."
-- the Gloria Patri once
-- "amen"
-- "thanks be to God" in response to
"this is the Word of the Lord."

And of those four things, the opening versicles were printed in the bulletin, with instructions for the congregation to respond. They didn't. Well, there were the four of us, but that's all.

In this day and age, I can understand churched people being unfamiliar with the liturgy. Too many churches have gotten all funky and ditched the liturgy. But for people my age, or a decade or so older, I simply cannot fathom how Christians could be entirely unfamiliar with things like "amen" and the Gloria Patri. That was the first thing munchkins learned in SunSch when I was little. The Gloria Patri was an excellent "first song" because it was used so frequently: it was sung at the beginning of prayer offices, after the Introit and the Nunc Dimittis, and at the end of many canticles. If you went to church at all, you were going to hear "amen" and the Gloria Patri at least once in each service.

Jessen is in second grade. He was in church with his family today, and he spoke right up, clear as a bell, when we got to the Lord's Prayer. Jessen apparently "knows all the words" too. (And he's not even married to a pastor!) Amazing how little it takes to "know everything" these days....