Sunday, December 30, 2007

New Years Eve Already

Four kids (and a chauffeur) arrived this evening to begin tomorrow night's party already. "Fluxx" and "Apples to Apples" and lots of funny You-Tubes. The rest of the crowd arrives tomorrow. I suspect the teenagers will need far less sleep than the three adults in the house. We sure have enjoyed a lot of laughing so far this evening, and silliness and amusements will multiply rapidly when more of Paul's crew arrives.

(Y'know, I think Paul's guests are all homeschoolers -- or were for most of their school years. Too bad these kids aren't socialized. ROFLOL!!!!)


Once upon a time, my friend Fritz mentioned to us that the icons of the "Adoration of the Magi" always had the wise men kneeling. I don't know if there's some etymology of the word that's connected to kneeling -- probably not -- but ever since then, it seems like "Oh, Come, Let Us Adore Him" is very much connected to kneeling at the altar to adore and receive the Christchild.

But then yesterday we sang the carol at a funeral Mass. Look how much of the Nicene Creed is in that carol.
Highest, most holy, Light of light eternal,
Born of a virgin, a mortal He comes;
Son of the Father, now in flesh appearing!

And the proper preface too.
Sing, choirs of angels, sing with exultation;
O sing, all ye citizens of heaven above
Glory to God in the highest!

So there we are at the funeral, inviting Mel to sing with us. Not that he really needs invitation, though. That's exactly what Mel is already busy doing: receiving, communing, singing, adoring.

Closed Communion

What Child is this,
who laid to rest in Mary's lap is sleeping,

Or resting in the ciborium or on the paten?

Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
With angels and archangels and all the company of heaven...

While shepherds watch are keeping?
Are not the shepherds -- the pastors -- given the responsibility to guard and keep watch over the Eucharist? They must know the people whom they commune. And they must take care that the elements are treated reverently and properly.

This, this is Christ the King,
whom shepherds guard and angels sing.
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
the Babe, the Son of Mary.

We laud and magnify Thy glorious name,
evermore praising Thee and singing,
"Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Sabaoth...."

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Books for Sale

My husband has a bunch of theology books for sale. He priced them low compared to ebay or amazon-used or AbeBooks, because he wants to shoo them on out of the house. If you're interested, here's a list of titles.

Bouncing Knee

For those of you who have had to sit by me in church, or across from me in Bible class, or beside me at a symposium (or have had to sit by any of my four oldest children in similar circumstances), there is a cartoon that Paul found that is just hilarious!!

Christmas Diary

My friend Cheryl mentioned that her blog tends to be her thoughts and observations and musings, and seldom about the day-to-day goings-on. Mine tends to be more thinking aloud and less about the events of our lives. But I really like reading the things my friends are up to and how they spend their time. For example, I get really cranky when people find fault with Pr Petersen for including silly stuff or family matters or cat stories on his blog, instead of confining himself to theology. So I'm going to take Cheryl's lead and report on what we did for Christmas.

Paul was done at work on the 24th at 2:00. After we stuffed some leftover dinner into him, the whole family went to church at my father-confessor's church. We tried to save a seat for Rachel & Matt, but the crowd was unbelievable, so they ended up sitting in the aisle instead of by us. We came home and worshiped here. I'm on altar duty for December, so I cleaned up after church and set up for the morning.

When we came home that night, I intended to watch Passion, something I've seemed to need every Christmas since it's been out. But Gary asked if I'd ever blogged about Maggie's birthday story, and he suggested that it would be nice if I did. So I did that instead. Andrew filled stockings for me while I reminisced in writing about that Christmas of 1994.

Next morning, the children got up, ate the contents of their stockings (Poptarts, cocoa, instant oatmeal), I jogged, and then we went to church. We ate at the Chinese restaurant and managed to refrain from embarrassing Maggie by breaking into a rousing version of "Happy Birthday." (Every other year, we sang to her, nice and loudly, at the restaurant.)

After dinner, we went to the hospital to visit and sing to a shut-in. We came home and opened presents, one person and one gift at a time. The evening was spent trying out Fluxx, phoning our kids and parents, and watching a video that arrived as a gift.

Psalm 2 on December 28

After years of faithfully watching not only MASH but daily MASH-reruns, the finale came. Everybody was having MASH parties that night, gathering with friends to watch the 2½ hour show. But I was distracted. Early in the show, a mother had to hush her baby so that the enemy would not find the whole busload of people and kill them all. The baby died. I lost it. I had a small baby myself, and the grief of that story-mother's dilemma consumed me for days, and still is strong in my mind.

That memory came back to me last night. The psalms appointed in the hymnal for December 28 are 2, 110, 111. Psalm 2 includes the verse where God succors His people and brings vengeance on those who interfere with His good plans: You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.

Ouch. On Holy Innocents Day, our psalm is about the enemies of God being dashed to pieces. But that's the day we hear about the little ones being run through with the sword and dashed to pieces. And all I could think of (like during that MASH episode 25 years ago) was those babies' lives and the wailing and grief of their mothers. These babies were not God's enemies, but His chosen ones. Maybe it's just a hormonal girl-thing, but I think I might want to rearrange the psalm chart in my hymnal before next Christmastide.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Almost Dug Out

Wow, did we have a lot of snow today! Unfortunately, the weather caused interruptions that put off my paper route until tomorrow, so now we can't go to the family gathering in central Illinois tomorrow. Instead of traveling to visit dear family members, we spent the afternoon today shoveling. And shoveling. And then doing a little more shoveling. Using old-fashioned shovels, we cleared about 130' of driveway (15' wide) and another 120' of walking paths. It was warm out, and the snow was falling gently and prettily, and there was very little wind. The snow was heavy and wet and quite deep; it would've make great snowmen if we had the energy to play after the work! When we finally called it quits and came in before it got totally dark, and got out of the wet clothing, and grabbed some hot drinks, I looked out the back window and realized -- oh no! -- we'd completely forgotten the back porch and sidewalks. How much more forgetful can I be??? I could've been a good girl and gone back outdoors, but I fear sore muscles tomorrow. Besides I wanted (???) to get started on the 2007 taxes to be able to fill out college financial aid forms soon.

Cash in the Mail

It always amazes me when cash arrives safely in the mail. Although it's certainly not a regular occurrence, we have had mail go missing (like the bill for our insurance that never arrived). I think that's why my one sister-in-law likes to hear back right away when she mails cash to the kids as gifts. She just wants to know that it arrived. But now that I think of it, we've had very little problem with our mail in more recent years.

Some people enjoy giving surprise gifts through the mail. Anonymously. And they have no way to know that it arrived safely. That takes confidence that God will see that the charitable gift arrives safely. But it does arrive safely and bring joy to the receiver. Just thought somebody might like to know that.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Pastors Moving

Recently someone commented anonymously (and thus the comment was not published), and mentioned in part that my husband should just take a call and move away from here.

For all the talk in our church body about God's hand in the call process, sometimes it amazes me how little we expect Him to have any involvement in where pastors go, like as if we humans are able to make it all work out the way that strikes our own fancy. Some pastors can say, "Gee, I'd like to be at another place," and within months will have some options to consider. Some pastors are settled and contented and have no desire whatsoever to move elsewhere, and yet several times a year they will have congregations asking them to please come to be their pastor. And then there are other pastors who, for years and years, may have their names on call lists and yet never receive a call to consider. Are we willing to believe that maybe this too is part of God's plan for His Church and for individual congregations and individual pastors, and that it is good?

Sharing the Same Words

Last August, Father Hollywood posted on Weedon's blog about ESV

It has really hurt the cause of biblical literacy when the KJV ceased being a nearly-universal standard in the English-speaking world. As much as I personally like the ESV, I think it's just one more version in the smorgasbord that adds, rather than helps, the problem of a multiplicity of versions.

In accord with what Katie wrote, I'm thinking that we've also lost hymn literacy, not just among Christians, but even among Lutherans of the same church body. Hopefully we can be committed to some stability now, and not tinker with things again in another couple of decades.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Brown or Burned?

I don't know how to tell when a roast has gone too far. And I don't know how to learn, except by repeated and expensive mistakes.

A couple of weeks ago, I made a beef roast. I was afraid I'd burned it. But I rescued it in time so that the meat wasn't spoiled. I thought I'd give a go at gravy, just in case it wasn't tooooo burned. It was the most awesome gravy! The roast and the drippings had browned just right.

Today I made a turkey. It seemed that the gunk in the bottom of the pan was too burned and I was going to pitch it. But Gary thought it would be worth keeping the drippings and seeing how they tasted. And it was great! But my nose tells me it's burned.

So how does a person know when "burned" goes too far and actually is burned?

All Theology Is Christology

Having been told that the chief article is Christology and not justification, I found this quote to be interesting.

Asserting that all theology is Christology does not remove justification as the central doctrine. On the contrary, Christology is the content of justification and completely informs it: Christology is what the Gospel is all about.

The Lord's Supper is at the same time a participation in and proclamation of Christ's death, which is, after all, what Christology is all about. Justification is only the other side of the coin from Christology. The article on Christ in the Augsburg Confession anticipates justification, and the article on justification is thoroughly Christological in that it directs Christ's benefits to believers. Lutherans had little or no quarrel with Rome's Christology. The problem was that, by insisting that salvation was by faith and works, Rome was taking away with one hand what it had given with the other. Lutherans saw that justification by works was unacceptable not only because this doctrine lacked biblical support, but chiefly because it deprived Christ of His glory.

From an article in Modern Reformation, September 1999.
"All Theology is Christology" by David P Scaer.
Also in a soon-to-be-published volume of Scaer articles.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


We got a fantastic card game as a Christmas gift. Fluxx is basically Calvinball played with cards instead of a ball. It's whacky and fun. It makes a good group game but can be played with as few as two people. It's not too much of a brain drain as any attempt at strategy is likely to end up a vain endeavor. But the constantly changing rules sure keep you on your toes.

This game is as good as Set and Apples to Apples. This is something that should catch on and spread like wildfire. Try it; you'll like it!

Available from

Carols and Hymns

At our church, the Christmas Eve service is full of carols and has a few of the good, solid, sturdy, Lutheran hymns mixed in. Christmas Day service is mostly hymns with a few carols mixed in.

The hymnody committee for LSB showed great wisdom in not changing nor updating nor tweaking the words to the Christmas carols. The committee recognized the importance of not changing the words. But they didn't treat the hymns the same way. Stanzas got left out, words got changed, whole lines got changed. I used to love the hymndoy of Christmas Day so much! And this year I stumbled through it. It's hard to pray a hymn when your focus is entirely on Say 'precious' and not 'cherished' or Say 'proclaim the Savior's birth' instead of 'repeat the hymn again'. And even when you're willing yourself to sing the words on the page, they just won't come out your mouth because the old words that you've cherished so long are too deeply ingrained in you.

I hope, in decades to come, when somebody somewhere decides LSB needs to be replaced, that the hymnody committee will recognize that words to hymns should not be changed and "improved" yet again.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Birthday Story

Thirteen years ago this evening, I went to Mass pregnant and cranky. I showed up at church about 30 seconds before the opening hymn, and I was back home by the time the postlude was over.

The baby was due December 23. I had an OB appointment on December 23. The doctor said the baby was nowhere close. He said he expected a delivery date of January 6 or 8 or so. But you know how people are about due-dates anymore. Nobody seems to realize that HALF of babies are born AFTER the due date. A "late baby" is not late until he's three weeks past the due-date. Even on December 18, I had people at church asking, "Isn't that baby here YET??" So I really did not want to listen to more of that now that it was actually past my due-date. The children were given instructions to tell people that "NO, the baby isn't here yet, and if you know what's good for you, you won't eeeeven mention it to Mom until after Epiphany."

By 10 p.m. I felt "funny." I told Gary not to come to bed with intent to finish his sermon in the morning. I told him it would be wise to finish it before hitting the sack. After a while, I decided it might really be labor and not just a funny feeling. By 2 a.m. I decided it might be good for Gary to drop me off at the hospital so as to get me out of the way. I told him to drop me off, come home and sleep, do the service, and show up at the hospital in the afternoon for some baby-birthing.

Got in the car and had a contraction. No. HAD A CONTRACTION!!!! Two miles up the road was another one. Two miles up the road, when we got to town, was another. Another one leaving town. Gary asked if we should keep driving, or if we should stop at the doctor's house. "Nah, keep driving," I said. We got onto the interstate to head to the hospital (which is normally a half-hour drive, but can be reached in 20 minutes when there's a woman in labor or a child who's bleeding profusely). As we merged onto the highway, I told him to turn around and go back. Now! Go back! We'll never make it.

So he took the first U-turn, about a mile up the road. Suddenly I realized that a baby couldn't be born trying to squeeze past a seatbelt. (Duh!!) So I unhooked the seatbelt, removed a bit of clothing, and she plopped out onto the floor of the car before we got to the stop sign on the off-ramp. (Ooops. Was birthing supposed to be a sanitary thing? Botched that one up!) It was a mere-half hour from the time we'd decided to mosy on over to the hospital so that Gary would be free until the afternoon.

Rather than go to the hospital and incur all the bills, and having previously talked to our doctor about the possibility of his unofficial involvement in a home-birth, we just knocked on the door of our doctor's house. Well, that's not entirely true. We knocked on the door of our doctor's neighbor's house. At 3 a.m. on Sunday morning. The neighbors were very gracious about being dragged out of bed, and pointed us in the right direction. Our doctor pulled on some clothes, and told us he'd meet us at the clinic. His only regret was not waking his son (a med student) and dragging him along too.

So we drove to the neighboring village. He opened the clinic, and I managed to waddle indoors. Thankfully it was a warm Christmas -- in the high 30s. I was glad for the time of night too. You feel really weird walking from the parking area into the clinic (tiny trip though it be) undressed from the waist down. But not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse; the children were nestled all snug in their beds, and the grown-ups had all settled down for a long winter's nap. Indoors, the doctor noticed that the baby was a bit blue, but nothing to worry about; she really had very nice apgar scores. Gary seemed to be in worse shape than either Maggie or me: until that night, I'd never actually seen a person "turn green around the gills." But he was green. We were there for an hour. The doctor was thrilled. He LOVES delivering babies, but the cost of OB malpractice insurance is just too much for a family-practice man, so he had to get out of the birthing part of his practice. The funny part was that he left rather a mess -- bloody sheets and some other messes. When the nurses and aides came in on the 26th, they knew that something interesting had happened since the time they closed the clinic on the 23rd, and unbeknownst to us, Maggie was all the talk of the clinic that day. When we got the bill, we were charged $100 for "an extended office visit." Much cheaper than the thousands upon thousands if we'd gone to the hospital after dropping the baby onto the floor of the car. (By the way, after that little adventure, the car got a goooood cleaning on Christmas afternoon!)

The doctor sent us home. The girls (left in the care of my parents and sister who were visiting for the holidays) had awoken when we left for the hospital and hadn't managed to go back to sleep, waiting anxiously for The Phone Call from Daddy at the hospital. By 4 a.m. we were back home, showing the hour-old baby to the sisters. We crawled into bed and napped for the rest of the night. My parents had snoozed through all the excitement.

The next morning, my dad wondered where I was, and why I was lazing around in bed so late on a Sunday morning. Gary said, "She's in bed with the baby." He peeked in the door, saw 2-yr-old Andrew lying next to me, and thought it was a bit much to be referring to Andrew as a baby. "No," said Gary, "she's in bed with the BABY." Dad thought we were pulling his leg until we introduced him to the itty-bitty little child that hadn't been there last night.

Most women are exhausted following childbirth. I get high for about 18 hours and then I crash. So here it is, Sunday morning, the Feast of the Holy Nativity, and you think I'm going to sit at home while the Mass is going on right next door? (Sorry. Hymn addicts just can't DO that!) And I was still on the post-birth high, with a half-day still to go before I crashed. So I went to church. I took the front pew and sat for nearly all the service, and I didn't exactly get dressed up -- LOL! But, hey, I got to go to church on Christmas. And the baby was there with her godmother who was visiting. So we had a planned-at-the-last-moment baptism. That was the year I learned (never to forget) that the passage from the catechism on baptism ("as St Paul says in Titus chapter 3...") is the epistle for Christmas Day. How appropriate!

When I was about 4-5 months pregnant, we learned that our hospital was involved with a trial program where they had social workers posing as nurses, trying to get personal information out of the maternity patients. I was ticked. It seemed so underhanded and so snoopy. There were many reasons I wanted to have a home-birth, but that was the clincher. But Gary said no. He wanted me in the hospital. I remember praying during summer for God to solve that. And it turned out that neither one of us was disappointed. I didn't have to go put up with hospital maternity-ward shenanigans. Gary didn't have to dread a home-birth. (Although the in-the-car birth did leave him green. And with that mess to clean up. A home-birth might've been easier!) But that turned out to be the small blessing.

A week or so later, we noticed that Maggie turned blue when she cried. Most babies get red in the face when they pitch a tantrum. But she got blue. When we took her in for her check-up, the doctor realized that her heart hadn't made the change-over from how it works in utero to how our hearts work now. We began the rounds of doctors and echo-cardiograms and hospitals. When she finally had her surgery (at 40 days of age, on the Feast of the Presentation), we saw the other families in NICU. They had had babies in the hospital. Because of that, their babies' birth defects had been discovered at 24- or 36- or 48-hours-old. Their children (like our god-daughter five years earlier) had been whisked away in a helicopter to a specialty hospital. The mommies were pulled away from home during their recuperation from childbirth. The siblings had never met the new baby, and here their homes were being ripped apart for weeks. It was heart-breaking to see what happened to these families. And we were spared that. We took our little one home and cuddled her, and started nursing, and had the siblings play with her, and life was nice. We got over the trauma of childbirth and began to "get on with life" before we faced the trauma of heart defects and surgeries. Furthermore, in the last year I've begun to realize that these early hospitalizations have as side-effects all sorts of other health issues and feeding problems. Those difficulties too we were spared.

And all because a putzy little goin'-nowhere labor took a BIG turn very fast. Sure seems to me that God had a boatload of temporal blessings to pour out on us, and a hospital birth would've ripped all those away. And so He made sure to work it out for our good.

And now my baby is a teenager. Happy birthday, Magdalena!


Ever since that year-long bout of laryngitis, I have to be careful with my voice. I can't read aloud to the children like I used to (boo hooo hoooo HOOO). But overall, I've gotten used to being careful with my voice and treating it tenderly. It's times like this evening (and the evening of Good Friday and the afternoon of Easter) when reality smacks me in the face. Two services in one day, with oodles and oodles of hymns, is exactly what I want. But I don't know if I'll be able to talk by the time we get to Christmas dinner tomorrow.

Singing hymns might just be worth it though....

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Food Availability

Spent some time chatting with one of the local farmers on Saturday. He's getting near retirement age and ready to quit. Of course, ethanol came up. He says that, right now, hog farmers are spending twice as much to raise a pig as they can sell it for. It costs 50% more to raise a cow than the farmer can sell it for. That's what ethanol is doing to the farmers. So the grocery prices have sky-rocketed, and they're not anywhere close to as high as they're going to get ... even IF farmers stayed in the business of farming.

If young people don't go into farming, and the older farmers retire or give up, where will our food be coming from in another 20 years? How much will it cost? Are Americans willing to spend ¼ or ½ of their income on food? What would that do to our economy? Are we willing to ignore the oil in Alaska and the Gulf, and instead use our food-producing soil for production of inefficient fuel? We're afraid of being dependent on the middle-east for oil, but we're willing to be dependent on other countries for the food we need to stay alive??

I remember a conversation about 20 years ago where people were talking about a drought-year. They said the farmers were complaining, but that didn't matter to non-farmers because they could just water their lawns and gardens with a hose. And they buy their food at the grocery store. Not like those farmers who grow their own. These ding-dongs even suggested that the farmers might have to start buying food at the grocery store, too, if it was a bad year and they couldn't grow their own. Are we really that clueless about where food comes from???

Every now and then, I think it might be better for our family to be content here (even if there's no income) because here I at least have a couple of acres of dirt. Well, actually, clay. But it's theoretically possible that I could have a big garden and raise chickens and keep a Jersey cow. I keep thinking how the people in the country suffered less during the Depression than did the people in the cities.

Christmas Tree

1. When we moved here, there was a nice little arbor vitae shrub near the corner of the house. All the other arbor vitaes have been removed through the years as they became drastically overgrown. But the one we left. It's no longer 5' high. Now, it's about 25'. It drops branches and leaves into the gutters and makes a mess. We've trimmed away branches so that it doesn't keep scraping the house. But we haven't taken it down: it's the favorite shelter for one of the cats when she gets caught in a storm and cannot get our attention to open the door.

2. My Christmas-tree garden has given us what it can through the years. Many have been harvested. The rest are overgrown. So we are in need of a tree.

Hey! Let's combine those two problems into one grand solution!
3. What if we cut the top off the arbor vitae, and use it as our Christmas tree?

Guess what? It is NOT easy to cut the top off a tree with a dull bow-saw. (I know, I know. Who'd'a thunk it?) One person on a ladder, sawing and sawing away, up there in the sky. One person putting all his weight on a rope, trying to tilt the tree just a bit, so that gravity wouldn't cause the tree trunk to pinch the saw while it's sawing. One person holding the ladder for the person up in the sky. One person holding the flashlight... because of course we didn't manage to get the job done while the sun was still up.

When the top finally toppled down down down onto the ground, and we had to drag it around to the front door, we discovered that arbor vitae trees are a darn sight heavier than pines. I wonder how that's going to work with the tree stand??

I'm beginning to be skeptical that this is actually "one grand solution." But we'll know more when we try to bring it into the house tomorrow and start decorating. I hope it will turn out pretty anyway. Of course, with a kitten and a real tree... there's just no knowing how any tree would fare. At the moment, even a Real Tree Devotee might begin considering artificial....

Saturday, December 22, 2007


Then, one FOGGY Christmas eve,
Santa came to say,
"Rudolph, with your nose so bright,
Won't you guide my sleigh tonight?"

So, Rudolph is going to be pressed into service this year, eh? Visibility on the way to town today was about a tenth of a mile; that's how it's been for most of the week. On the way home a half hour later, visibility was about 100-120 feet. You couldn't see the next telephone pole until you were halfway there from the telephone pole you just passed. You couldn't see the houses alongside the road.

Tonight, Andrew learned how important "Stop Ahead" signs are. When you pass the "Stop Ahead" sign and it's too foggy to read it, but you know what it says because you're familiar with the roads, and then you drive
and you drive
and you drive,
knowing that stop sign is going to pop up any second,
but it keeps not showing up.
And then --BOOM-- there it is.
And there'd be no way to stop in time if you hadn't seen the "Stop Ahead."

Santa is going to need Rudolph for sure.


Most of you won't care, but maybe Rachel and Katie might. It might help them on their recipe site. I found some code for things I want to type that aren't on my keyboard. Okay, so some of them are math, and the girls won't care about that. But, hey, they can humor me. They'll need SOME way to ask me questions via e-communication when they're teaching algebra to their kids someday.

First you type the ampersand and pound-sign (shift-7 and then shift-3) followed immediately by the number. And then, poof!, your sign magically appears it your blog.

162 is the cent sign ¢
169 is copyright ©
174 is trademark ®
180 is accent-mark ´

176 is degree °
188 is quarter ¼
189 is half ½
190 is three-quarters ¾

177 is plus-or-minus ±
178 is superscript 2 (squared) ²
179 is superscript 3 (cubed) ³
215 is multiplication ×
247 is division ÷

More symbols are available here.

Sugarless Oatmeal-Banana Cookies

Normally I have no use for a "healthy cookie." If you want healthy, eat a carrot or apple. If you want a cookie, have it be a real cookie. Not a low-fat or low-sugar or low-anything concoction, but a REAL cookie.

But these good. And there's not one thing bad for you. Gosh, these are just as good for you as a rice pilaf or a veggie stir-fry. The only problem with this recipe is that it calls for 3 ripe bananas. It's mighty hard to get bananas all the way to good-n-ripe in this house without having them consumed/inhaled before they're baked into goodies. But if you DO manage to find some ripe bananas, this recipe is much more non-guilt than is banana bread. And just as tasty!

Sugarless Oatmeal Cookies
350º for 15-20 minutes
makes 30 (use two or three greased cookie sheets)

1/3 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup milk
2 cups quick oats or rolled oats (uncooked)
1/2 cup raisins or craisins
1 tsp vanilla
3 ripe bananas, smashed and smooshed

Mix all ingredients. Let stand about 5 minutes for oats to soak up liquid (longer if using rolled instead of quick). Drop by tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes. Let cool a minute or two before removing cookies to cooling rack.

Friday, December 21, 2007


Today I had to stand around for a while, outside a dressing room in a department store. While waiting, I noticed all the people in the store at this time of year. This may sound dumb, but it struck me how much prettier the women at church are.

In the store, there were a few pretty females, but a lot who weren't beautiful. The girls and women at the store may have had the make-up and the clothes and the hairstyles that are supposed to make us females beautiful. Compared to the women at church, a greater percentage of the women at the store would "have what it takes" to be in a women's magazine. And yet, most of them just weren't as pretty as the normal-lookin' women that I hang around with. There's something in the faces of my friends (whether aged 15 or 45 or 75) that betrays a kindness and a friendliness. And that something makes a person more attractive, even to strangers.

Andrew was asking a week or so ago about wrinkles and smile-lines, and we talked about how 60-70 years' worth of personality ends up etched in the kind of wrinkle-lines on a person's face. That's why we can so often look at an older person and assess whether the person looks nice or cranky. But that wouldn't explain why personality (brashness, gentleness, arrogance, patience, etc) shows up in the face of a teenager or young mother.

Psalm 111

The works of the Lord are great.
His work is honorable and glorious.
He has made His wonderful works to be remembered.
He has declared to His people the power of His works.
The works of His hands are verity and justice.

That's a whole lot of references to God's works, all in one psalm. It's so easy to think of God's works primarily as feeding us (verse 5) and powerful acts (verse 6). But the psalm looks entirely different when you start thinking of His work on the cross: His righteousness (verse 3) and His compassion (verse 4) and His promise (verse 5) and the redemption of His people (verse 9).

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Cardiology Visit

The echo showed beautiful results from last year's surgery. There's the tiniest bit of leakage from the homograft, better than the doctor could've hoped for. The pulmonary arteries and the ventricles are perfect. The doctor said there's nothing her heart can't take as far as sports activities -- except maybe tackle football or high-school wrestling. (Like we were going to have her involved in those boy sports anyhow???)

Doc's only concern is Maggie's weight gain. It's common after surgery, but it's something to start taking seriously. She got speeches today (from somebody other than Mom) about veggies and exercise.

Instead of going "lub-DUB," Maggie's heart goes "lub-swish-DA-DUB" and the doctor explained to me what the sounds were, and that it sounds just like an atrial septal defect (in case Matt wants to take a listen to the current sounds).

We also discussed the necessity of the next appointment and its timing, in case of not having insurance coverage then. We know what to watch for, and that if we don't have insurance, there can be some allowances made (by the doctor, but not by the hospital).

Hot Dogs

Oh, they're full of salt and fat and mystery meat and other things I don't want to know about. They're terrible for you.

Last Saturday, the tree was put up at a sister-congregation, and they served hot dogs to the workers. When I was there for Bible class today, they were trying to clean out the fridge. They sent home hot dogs and white-bread buns with me.

Oh, yum! Oh, melting away in deliciousness! Hot dogs are awful. But they TASTE sooooo good!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Psalm 24

Somehow, the sections of this psalm always seemed so disjointed to me. The first section is about the Lord making the whole world. The middle section is about holiness being necessary to come into God's presence. And the third part is "Lift up your heads" which shows up in many Advent hymns, and thus seemed to me to refer to getting our hearts ready for Christ's coming. The pietist in me sure saw this psalm as referring to our efforts at spirituality.

But what if verse 3 ("Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?") is connected to verses 7 & 9 about "lift up your heads, o gates, and be lifted up, you everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in"? If Jesus is the one with "clean hands and a pure heart," then He is the one who "may ascend into the hill of the Lord." Jesus is the one who receives blessing and righteousness from God. So --yoohoo-- somebody meets the requirements for coming into the holy place [in the middle section of the psalm] and therefore, naturally, the doors need to be opened for Him [the last section].

In addition, He may stand in the holy place --He may enter into God's presence [the middle section] with the blood of atonement-- because He is the one who is "strong and mighty in battle," the one who fights, the one who defeats the enemy [the last section].

Hey, maybe this psalm hangs together a little more than I thought for the past few decades!

Where I Live

I love it that there are no city lights close by, and the sky is dark, and we can see stars. I love it that we can watch a meteor shower and have even seen the Northern Lights this far south.

I love my beautiful hardwood floors. I love it that I can get more hardwood floors as soon as I can manage to find the time and energy to rip out more carpet.

I love it that I can see the horizon. The horizon to the west is about 13 miles away, and to the east it's about 6 miles away. We can see the sun make its trek across the sky, setting way down there in the south now, past the garage. We can see it start to move north next week until at Easter it will be setting behind the tree that's smack dab straight out the front window. And in summer it will be way up there in the north, beyond Paul's bedroom. Although I learned this science in school, it didn't gel in my brain until I lived with it, watching it out my window year after after.

Seeing the horizon also means we can see the storms approaching, and judge whether the rain will be here in 10 minutes or 30. We can watch the lightning dance and flitter its way from Rockford to Beloit to Janesville to Madison. We can see from the shape of the clouds whether to expect huge gusts of wind such that we need to hide lawn-chairs in the garage.

On a mostly-sunny, partly-cloudy day, I love watching the isolated shadows of those few cumulus clouds crawl across the hayfields and the bean-fields.

I love that my bird-watching is more than robins and finches and cardinals. I love watching the red-tail hawks hunting and the turkey buzzards floating on the warm updrafts of air. I love watching (and hearing!) V's of sandhill cranes migrating.

And most of all, I love marking the passage of time by the wildflowers that are blooming. I love knowing when the St Johns-wort is early, or the wild roses are late. I love the ribbon of chicory and Queen Anne's Lace that lines the country roads in July. I love the phlox of spring, the soapwort of summer, and the goldenrod of fall. The inexorable flow of one flower's season to the next flower's month is a beauty and a comfort and a sturdiness that can't be known in the city like it can in the country.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Wisconsin Homeschooling News

Two weeks ago, a district court of appeals declared that it is illegal for a public school to run a charter e-school and take in out-of-district students. Some homeschoolers will agree and others will disagree. The big problem, though, is some of the reasoning used by the court. Legislation will be coming to sort and settle this matter. It is likely that homeschoolers will be caught up in the trouble. We need to be on our toes, paying attention to what's happening, because it's very likely that there could be changes coming that would effect homeschoolers.

Homeschoolers need to ensure that public e-schoolers (kids who are enrolled in the public school, but who do their work at home via computer) are NOT confused with homeschoolers. Homeschools are PRIVATE schools. They operate under the private-school law. Public e-schoolers, even though they're at home in their living room, are PUBLIC school students.

Homeschoolers also need to take this opportunity to remind legislators that we do not want favors and help from the government. We want to be left alone to make our own decisions about the education of our children. There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. If we are offered tax breaks or any other help from the govt, we need to remember that strings will be attached, and we will no longer have the freedom to choose an education that is best-suited to our children's needs and interests.

For more information, please check out the WPA website. Please circulate the information to other homeschoolers. We may need to be very active in January or February to protect our excellent law. Any groundwork that can be accomplished now, ahead of time, would be good.

Kitty, Kitty, Kitty

I stewed one of Karin's chickens overnight. That always makes me immensely popular with the cats. They smooch my legs. They look at me with loving eyes. They proclaim that they are the BEST kitties and surely love me so much that they deserve for the chicken to be dropped on the floor. Not the whole chicken?? Well, okay, they'll settle for bits. Not bits of chicken either?? Can we at least lick the pot when you're done?? Please? We're such GOOD GOOD kitties!

The one who was begging last night (the older one) happened to be unavailable when I was picking off the meat this morning. So we called, "Rosie, Rosie, Rosie." It has a different sound from "Kitty, Kitty, Kitty" which is the call to the older cat, our huntress. (Of course, by now they're beginning to learn to come when the other is called ... so as to be able to stick your nose into her business bowl.

Maggie always asks about why I didn't call "Kitty, Kitty, Kitty." I try to intercept the question and hush her, because no matter how quietly you say those magic words, the cats will hear and come a-runnin'. So we've taken to using the abbreviation "KKK" for the magic words. For me and the older kids, those letters still bring to mind the Ku Klux Klan, but I imagine it won't be long before my first thought on hearing KKK will be something to do with greedy cats and stewed chicken and/or roast turkey.

Can you even imagine what my kids are going to do when they see "KKK" on a CLEP test or a college history exam?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Stuck But Unused Stamps

At the post office today, I learned something new. If I had an unused stamp that was attached to a self-addressed stamped envelope that a business had sent us, or if I mistakenly attached a stamp to an envelope with the wrong address, I used to snip it off and glue it onto another envelope. The postmaster today wouldn't accept it. He told me that it is fine to bring in the envelope with the unused stamp attached, and they'll refund the money or give me a new stamp. But any stamp going into the mail must be attached to the current envelope and cannot have been stuck onto anything else first.

Okay. That's good to know for future reference.

But today it took all my gumption not to burst into tears in the post office over that 82 cents.

So I proceed to the welder's place to pick up my pots whose handles had fallen off last week. When his assistant fetched my order, I asked her how much I owed her. I expected somewhere between $5 and $10, and I really have no clue if I was anywhere in the ballpark. But Denise told me I didn't owe them anything; it was "a donation to the cause." Overwhelmed, I thanked her. Granted, it was probably no big deal to them who fix great big honkin' pieces of machinery. A little handle on a little saucepan maybe isn't any more to them than sewing on a button would be to me. But it meant a lot to me that they did the repairs out of kindness, without cost to us.

And a few minutes earlier I was stressing over 82 cents.

Leaking Roof

And in the "What Next??" department...
A year ago I told the folks at church that the church roof was leaking. Nothing was done. In September, the turkey-dinner committee discovered that the kitchen roof was leaking. The decision to repair was made that week. Bids were obtained, and within 3 weeks the repairman was hired.

He didn't come do it. The roof isn't fixed yet.
Can't be fixed now. Not until spring's thaws.

We had a relatively warm day last week. Almost 30. Because the roof is flat and black, that was enough sunshine to start melting the snow and ice. The church kitchen started getting wet again. The ceiling and walls and cupboards are being damaged. But most of the stuff is safe; dishes, glasses, counters, and silverware are designed to be washed, which means they can get wet without being ruined.

But now Gary's study is leaking too. He keeps books in there. And a computer. This is not good. Books should not get wet. We're trying to figure out where the contents of his office can go.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

"Doublespeak" Revisited

Last week I wrote about the intent of the congregation here to maintain a full-time ministry. Well, Gary was making a hospital visit to one of the officers of the congregation, and they were chatting a bit about the previous week's meeting. That revealed the reasons behind my confusion.

I gotta admit upfront that I think the pay-scale suggested by the district office is high. It's a rare pastor who gets paid the recommended salary. I think a whole lot of congregations aim for somewhere around 75-90% of what's recommended. So when Triune suggested that they'd try to pay Gary 30% of the recommended pay-scale (but that we ought not be caught off-guard if/when it turns out that they only pay 15-25% of scale), it seemed obvious to me that he'd have to be looking for a secular job that would provide at least $25,000 in income. It seemed obvious to me that they wouldn't be expecting a full-time commitment from him if that's all they can provide their pastor.

Turns out that they are. From their point of view, they aren't dropping the salary that much, so there's no reason to think the pastor should change from being available 24/7 to being available only in the spare hours when he's not at a [different] full-time job. So of course he can't get a full-time job.

So that's where their communication didn't quite get through to me initially. We just came with different assumptions.

And the Mountains in Reply

Angels we have heard on high,
sweetly singing o'er the plains,
And the mountains in reply,
echoing their joyous strains:
Glory be to God in the highest!

The mountains? The song says "the mountains." The mountains are singing too? I always used to think that the mountains were just the big wall for the angels' song to bounce back from. That's what an echo is, right?

But ...
Romans 8 tells us that the whole creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. The creation groans and labors, waiting for deliverance from the futility to which it was subjected.
And ...
Jesus told the grumbling Pharisees that if the children were not praising Him on Palm Sunday, then the rocks themselves would cry out in praise.
And ...
in Psalm 98 (and others) we pray things like: "Let the hills be joyful together before the Lord."

And the mountains in reply,
echoing their joyous strains!


We are anxious here to get back to more than 9 hours of daylight per day. I find it interesting, as we approach the 21st, that the collect for the week is imploring Jesus to "hear our prayers and to lighten the darkness of our hearts by Your gracious visitation." And I found it likewise interesting that the antiphon for the 21st is

O Dayspring, splendor of light everlasting:
Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Christmas Lights

We were instructed by the voters assembly last week that electrical usage at the parsonage should be decreased by 12% in an attempt to make the church budget workable.

I don't know how to cut it any more. We don't use the garage door opener. We turn off lights. We usually keep the radio, stereo, and tv turned off. We don't use the air conditioning. I often hang clothes on the line outdoors instead of using the clothes-dryer, even when it's pretty darn inconvenient. We don't have many appliances (hair driers, can openers, bread machines, wood-working tools, etc). We don't have decorative lighting indoors or out. We don't use those little plug-in air fresheners. We don't have electric toys, and the kids don't have tv's in their rooms. Because we've ripped out 1/3 of the carpeting in the house, we can clean that much more floor with a broom instead of the vacuum.

So I'm ready to start doing a little Christmas decorating. The first time I put up Christmas lights on our spruce, someone from church told us they were appreciative that we were finally "doing something like that" to participate in the celebration like everyone else instead of being so different. The last few years we have put four (count 'em: four!) strings of lights on the forsythias in front of the house. I don't know if that's okay anymore. I fretted about this all day yesterday. If I put up Christmas lights, I'm wasting electricity. If I don't, I'm weird and stand-offish.

We finally decided that I'd go ahead and put the lights up. If the church council decides to tell us next week that this is too wasteful, then I guess we'll know even better exactly where we stand.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Avoiding Cracked Nipples

Guys may want to stop reading now. You've been forewarned....

My mom's career (in addition to momming) was an RN in the hospital nursery. In her last decade or so before retirement, she also worked as a lactation consultant. Nursing seemed to come very easily to me, but when I read How My Breasts Saved the World, I realized that a large part of my ease probably was a result of having my own personal lactation consultant on hand 24 hours a day for the first week after my eldest was born.

Nevertheless, I frequently had cracked nipples and also suffered greatly with mastitis. Eventually, sometime during Kid#2 or Kid#3's nursing days, I learned to recognize the signs of a breast infection early and take steps to prevent its worsening. (By the way, in case anybody is inclined to listen to a doctor's advice to stop breastfeeding when mom has a breast infection, take the doctor and stick his/her head in a toilet and flush, and then go home and nurse your baby more than ever.)

Some time after I'd had 3 or 4 kids, Mom happened to be at work and ran across a new mom, still in the hospital, who was nursing her baby for 30-45 minutes per side. This is usually not a good plan for new moms; it's usually a perfect plan for obtaining sore and cracked nipples. But this mom was doing fine. So my mom the lactation consultant asked her about it. It seems this woman had pulled on her nipples 300 times a day for the last couple of months of pregnancy.

That's it? No complicated exercises from the Lamaze teacher? No "nipple conditioning" out of a modern book on pregnancy and labor? Nope. Just holding onto the nipple (not the areola) and pulling straight out 300 times a day.

Now, with my track record of sit-ups, jogging, dusting, saying my prayers, and other things that I struggled to make habits, I never managed to do the 300x per day thing. But I probably did manage to work in 150-200 yanks on most days, divided between getting dressed, showering, changing into jammies at bedtime, etc.

And that was the END of my cracked nipples. So simple. So easy. No problems with any of the kids after I heard this tip. And so I want to shout it from the rooftops, beat mommies over the head with it, and foist this information upon them, to save themselves trouble when the baby is newborn. So any of you pregnant people out there (Melynda!!) consider yourself whopped upside the head.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Homeschoolers (and others) will get a laugh from reading about Laura's conversation today regarding Ben's socialization.


Once upon a time, in a fit of Thinking Outside The Box, pondering how we could rearrange the living area, we wondered what would happen if we put the living room furniture in the dining room, and put the dinner table in the living room.

Last week, Andrew was all hyped to try this. So the two of us made up a map of the room, with little furniture cut-outs the right size. I let him shuffle those pieces around until he found something that would work. Then I would shoot a hole in his theory: "nope, that blocks heating vents" or "can't get to the light switch there" or "no seats where the tv is visible" (the last of which really wouldn't be toooo bad because it would be incentive to move the screen to the chilly and uncomfortable basement; but that's another topic).

Andrew finally came up with three plans that were feasible. Tuesday he picked one, and we started moving. Hey, it's a great way to get around to dusting the backs and underneaths of furniture, and vacuuming those never-to-be-reached places! It's further from the kitchen cupboards to the dinner table, but it hasn't gotten intolerable yet. The living room is nicely cozier.

I was reminded, partially by the kids, but mostly by the cats, how much I loved it when I was little and Mom switched around the furniture. It's like it's intellectually stimulating. New ways to do things. New things to explore. I remember wanting to just TRY sitting on the couch in its new place. I'm not sure I want to be kept on my toes right now, with regard to where the pens are sitting or where the boombox is. But so far, I'm still functioning in spite of the changes, and there are a lot of good aspects of this.

Most people don't take on wacky projects like this during December. No cards are sent. No tree is up. No decorations are out. But we think the furniture placement is pretty nifty nonetheless!


Pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. James 5:16

Jesus is a righteous man -- the righteous man. He prayed fervently on the night in which He was betrayed: Father, I desire that those whom You gave me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me. John 17:24

If the Father will do whatever a righteous man asks, then surely He will grant Jesus His petition that we will be with Him in heaven.

Job News

Philip started a temp-to-hire job yesterday. It's one of those jobs where you work 12-hour days, 7 days over the course of a 2-week period. Right now he's just making boxes. But the temp agency told him this was a "get to know you" job, and if the company likes him, they'll keep him on, giving him more interesting work and higher pay. We didn't really hear last night how his first day went, because his windshield got an ice-brick thrown at it on the way home, so we were dealing with auto-glass repair issues instead of a calm "So, how did your day go, dear?"

Gary has had only one bite on any of his job applications. He had a phone interview a month ago. This week he got a return phone call, inviting him in today for a series of interviews. It sounds like it went very well with two of the interviewers, and pretty okay with the third. Now, we wait some more.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Fashion Sense

Was I supposed to have some? I thought the reason for my existence was for fashion photographers to take pictures of me and put me on the "Don't" page, across from Bethany on the "Do" page.

Wearing jeans underneath your dress is not stylish. But your legs don't get cold!

Wearing jeans under your dress, and outfitting your feet in wool socks and Birkenstock sandals is entirely dorky. But my legs aren't cold, my feet aren't cold, and my bunions don't hurt.

And who knows? Maybe I'll end up famous, in a magazine with my face fuzzed-over to conceal my identity.

Processional Cross

I was in Stemper's consignment room last week. I always check when I go in ... just in case. So in case anybody's interested:

There's a gorgeous processional cross. The corpus is about 7-8" high. The cross itself is probably about 20". The pole and stand are a nice medium-dark wood. (I'd guess maple, but I'm not good with knowing wood grains.) Stand is sturdy. I've seen things on consignment there that are chipped or cracked, in less than stellar condition. This is in very good shape; it's the nicest thing I've ever seen in the consignment room. It's not big enough for a large church building, but would be very nice for a chapel or maybe for a church that seats 100-140. I don't have the code number of the item, but if you contact Stempers or drop by for a look, it came to them in July 07 and is priced at $450.

1 Thessalonians 5:3

Then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman.

Men just don't get this.
Pastor was talking about it in Bible class the other day. Everything he said was true and good and right. But being a man, he missed a major point.

When a woman is pregnant, she thinks she will always be pregnant. Her mind knows better -- the baby WILL be born sometime in the next couple of weeks. Her logic knows how it all works. Nobody has ever seen a woman wandering around who has been pregnant for the last 57 months ... or 57 years. Sometimes women will say, "This baby will never come." Men think it's hyperbole. Men think she just trying to express her feeeelings. Men think that statement is about frustration.

It's not.

There's something deep inside that cannot fathom the change. Even though your mind knows better. Even though history has proved that the baby WILL be born. Still, a woman's KNOWS that nothing is going to change and that the travail will never start and that that big belly is going to be there forever. It's frustrating as all-get-out when your mind knows how stupid that is. But that doesn't change your "reality" that the baby is never going to be born.

THAT is one of the points in comparing the Last Day to the arrival of a baby. Paul might've been making the point with regard to the suddenness, or the danger. But there's also that other aspect that is known only by women who've been overdue.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Yesterday's Meeting

The proposed 2008 budget for the congregation included a $200/month pay-cut for the pastor. The congregation cannot afford that. Even having been bailed out (by outsiders) to the tune of $9000 this year, they're still behind on bills, and paychecks are running late. A realistic view shows that offerings would cover the pastor's health insurance and the utilities at the church and parsonage, with about $800/mo left to pay the pastor. So the big decision yesterday was whether they were going to cut the pastor's pay a little ($200/mo) or cut it in half. Even cutting Pastor's salary in half would be a financial stretch for them.

Several suggested eliminating the pastor's salary altogether, as that's the only way to "keep this organization afloat." The circuit counselor pointed out that this would require a severance package.

Even though the congregation cannot afford it, the final decision was to keep the so-called full-time pay, with the $200/mo cut. It was made clear that this is just a plan, not a promise. The paychecks may be late or skipped if necessary. One of the men pointed out that pastor had been saying he'd rather get a smaller paycheck that he could actually rely on to be there, rather than a bigger amount but never knowing when we'll actually get it. But so many people could not bring themselves to vote for $1200/month for their pastor.

So the plan is to try to pay him the $2400/mo salary. But pastor's family needs to remember that it's not a promise; it's what the congregation wants to pay but may not be able to. And they will cut his salary when he finds secular employment. They don't know how much to cut his salary now, because they don't know how much he'll be earning when he gets a job. It's kinda nice to know that they would rather give him more for a bit longer, not knowing if/when he'll be able to get secular employment. (It's awfully hard to job-hunt when you're answering the phone at church and making shut-in calls and keeping up with his responsibilities here.)

Interestingly, the circuit counselor pointed out that the congregation is not now paying a living wage. He said that if Pastor earns an extra $1000/mo flipping burgers or sweeping floors, that the congregation ought not cut his pay, but consider that a supplement to what is already a too-small paycheck. Problem is, the reality is that they're only go to be paying $1000-1500 per month (max), regardless of what the budget says they'll pay.

So, for those of you waiting for news of yesterday's meeting, there ya go.

Anticipating the next question (because it's been asked a lot!), yes, we have food on the table. During our "fat years," back when Gary was actually earning almost 1/2 of district scale, we scrimped and put money in the bank. Furthermore, God's saints from all over the country have been sending money directly to us or giving us grocery scrip. There for a while, in my panic and unbelief, I thought we might need to start spending money on lottery tickets. But as the paychecks from the congregation fail, God has been giving and continues to provide daily bread through the generosity of His saints.


Yesterday was the voters meeting to determine the annual budget. The congregation has come nowhere close to being able to pay the pastor during 2007. So after much discussion over the past months, it was finally time to make the decision about what to do.

Someone said in passing something about the pastor having been given permission to look for outside employment. This confused me. At the last voters meeting, several people were very vocal about the fact that he was NOT to look for a job. One even said it didn't matter how little we paid him, we needed a full-time pastor and so he would be full-time, even if the pay is $1400 per month. One (only one) maintained that it was unfair to the pastor to pay him a minimum-wage salary and prohibit him from earning additional income. (To be fair, a lot of them sat quietly and didn't choose a side.) After that meeting, the district president told Gary to start job-hunting. Gary also told the elders and the council that he had been advised to apply for secular jobs. But the last the voters assembly heard, the congregation had said "no."

So I asked for clarification.

People thought I was nuts. "We never said that." "I don't remember that being discussed." "Where did you get THAT idea?" I was beginning to wonder if I might truly be going insane and hallucinating, remembering things that I was completely certain of, and finding out that they never happened.

Someone looked in the notes from the last meeting. He found the reference. He read it. "The intent of the congregation is to maintain a full-time pastoral ministry in this place."

Okay. So I wasn't insane. I had remembered correctly. And then came the stunning comment. "SEE? We never said he couldn't look for a job. The INTENT of the congregation was that he remain full-time. But just because it's our intent doesn't mean it's going to happen that way."

I'm still reeling from that one. How can I rely on anything they say?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Mom's Best Apple Pie

My mom makes mighty good apple pies, but this is her bestest one. You start with your standard pie crust, your standard apples, and your standard flour & sugar & cinnamon & salt. (By the way, if you use more than one kind of apple, it really boosts the flavor!)

It's the top "crust" that makes this pie great in all its caramel deliciousness.

2/3 cup white flour with
1/2 cup brown sugar (preferably dark brown)

Mix in 1 stick (aka 1/2 cup) softened butter

My recipe card says "crumble over pie." According to my understanding of the word crumble, there ain't no way you're gonna crumble this pasty goo. I just pick up little bits of the goo, squeeze it kinda sorta flat between my fingers, and keep plopping these little "crumbs" onto the top of the pie until it's pretty much covered. Bake at 350 for an hour.

If you want low-fat and low-sugar, this cover for an apple pie is not the way to go. But if you want ultra yumminess, then it's definitely worth a try.

Easy Pie Crust

Mix together
2 cups white (or mostly white) flour
1/2 tablespoon salt

1/2 cup olive oil (or other vegetable oil) with
5-6 tablespoons cold water

Add liquid all at once to flour. Stir lightly with fork. Form into two balls. Flatten balls slightly. Place between two squares of waxed paper, and roll thin, to edges of wax paper. Remove wax paper from crust, fit into pie pan, and fill.

This crust "patches" nicely if it doesn't roll out into a pretty circle, or if you poke a hole in it while transferring it to the pie pan. And no "cutting in shortening" -- just measuring the liquid!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Daily Bread

God gives daily bread.
Whatever we have is from Him.
Whatever we have is what He has decided is good for us.

Because of our sinful flesh, we are never satisfied with the amount of what we have.

But sometimes people don't have.
There are house-fires. There are deaths. There is war. And hunger. And betrayal. And concentration camps. And unemployment.
This can seem paradoxical at times, because God gives daily bread even when it appears that there is evidence that He doesn't.

When we don't have:
1. we still know God gives what we do have
2. we still praise Him
3. we still believe that this is good
4. and most importantly, we still have Jesus and His forgiveness.

Give us this day our daily "Living Bread which came down from heaven."

Another Ethanol Rant

I got stuck having to fill (I mean, FILL) the tank with ethanol-laced gasoline. After driving on it for a few days and topping off the tank, I discovered that instead of 29 mpg on real gas, I got 20 mpg on the corny stuff. That means I'm gonna have to pay FIFTY PERCENT MORE for gas when I can't find real gas anymore. That stinks. Who came up with the bright idea to "save gas" by making our fuel-economy nosedive???

Wisconsin Winter Joke

Nancy told this at Bible class this week, and I thought it was a crack-up.

Do you know how to adjust your dishwasher to use it for snow removal? Just hand her a shovel.

Psalm 90

Till this morning, whenever I've prayed this psalm I hear the music of "Our God, Our Help in Ages Past" going through my mind. I've always heard this psalm in terms of us and our needs and what God does today. But today I realized this was written by Moses. My head knew that before: it's written right at the top of the psalm. Today, though, I realized it.

Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
During those 400 years in Egypt. And when Abraham was bopping around Canaan as a nomad. And when Jacob had run away to Uncle Laban. The Lord had all along been their dwelling place.

For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past.
So I guess 400 years is, like, less than half of yesterday, huh?

You turn man to destruction.... You carry them away like a flood.
And all of Pharaoh's horses and all of Pharaoh's men were floating dead on the Red Sea when morning dawned.

For all our days have passed away in Your wrath.
Except for the kids and Joshua and Caleb, all of Moses' followers passed away in the wilderness of Sinai, as they waited until the nation was permitted into the Promised Land.

Let Your work appear to Your servants, and Your glory to their children.
And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us,
And establish the work of our hands for us.

Their hands had worked at the artisanry of building the tabernacle, weaving the tapestries, shaping the goldwork. And that tabernacle brought to them the glory and beauty of the Lord as He forgave their transgressions.

Meat Scraps

Maggie went next door to play with the neighbor kids. The grandma sent her home with meat scraps for our cats. The kids and I looked at that little baggie of beef. We all thought it looked like very good people-food that should be stir-fried with some veggies. We're not going to eat it because we don't know if it's already been in a pet bowl, or if it's old meat, or what other reason might have caused those beautiful little chunks of beef to be labeled "pet food." But I suspect there's just a huge huge difference between us and the neighbors about what constitutes garbage.

Lipstsick on the Chalice

Maybe the rule should be that the people in charge of washing purificators should be the women who wear red lipstick at the altar rail.

It really is okay, ladies, to wipe off most of your lipstick after the sermon or the Agnus Dei.

Friday, December 07, 2007

A Far Off Place

We watched this movie tonight. Overall it was pretty good.

Basic plot is two white kids (one raised in Africa, one there against his will for vacation) end up in danger and must make their way across the Kalahari Desert. They have a Bushman friend with them. Poachers are out to kill them.

It was interesting to see Reese Witherspoon as a teenager.

Somewhat predictable plot. But that's fine with me. I like predictable plots that don't jumble my wee little brain. And I usually like survivalist stories.

I always wondered about the "clicky language." A couple of the characters spoke in the clicky language. Guess what? It's not all clicks like they told me. There are vowels and other sounds too. But it does have quite a few clicks in it that my western mouth doesn't want to make.

The one thing we didn't like was the religion. Part of the message of the story was that the god Mantis was watching out for the characters, protecting them, providing for them, responding to their "prayers," and communicating with them. If only we could be in tune with nature the way the Bushmen are, we too could have nature on our side, helping us against bad guys.

But other than that, it was definitely a movie worth the two hours time.

Does He Remember?

A pastor vows at his ordination never to reveal the sins confessed to him. Luther says that a pastor is to "make his ears a tomb" to what he hears in the confessional.

There have been times when I've tried to speak with Pastor (maybe 10 minutes or a few days or a few weeks later) about a matter which I had referred to during private confession. He would respond, "I don't know WHAT you're talking about." Oh, yeah... right. He doesn't remember what he heard.

And yet,...
he's got a brain. He remembers. Sure, there are some things he doesn't remember. He practices forgetfulness. He prays for God's Spirit to put out of his mind the things he hears in the confessional.

But when he "remembers," is that a problem?

I've actually found that there is blessing in that too. When the pastor has heard the same confession over and over and over, when he repeatedly listens to the grief over the same iniquity, when he repeatedly forgives the besetting sin, there is some comfort in that he doesn't physically/mentally "forget." He knows me in my sinful condition. But he doesn't treat me any differently. He doesn't consider me any less a Christian. He doesn't demean me before others. He doesn't give away any hint of my sin.

But he knows. And what does he do with that knowledge?

He takes the opportunity during Bible class and sermons to say things in a way that will not distress me. He speaks words of comfort in his preaching that will assuage the guilt of me and other penitents -- while never revealing sin confessed to him.

If a person has a bad back and can't sit for an hour through Bible class, maybe the pastor would make sure that person has a padded chair, or that there's a spot near the back where the person is free to get up and walk around for a few minutes during class. If a person has poor eyesight, maybe the pastor will make sure a large-print Bible is available. The pastor uses his knowledge of our physical weakness so that he can serve the sinners in his care. His knowledge of macular degeneration or arthritis doesn't make him think less of his people.

In the same way, Pastor's knowledge of my sinful weakness doesn't make him think less of me. Rather, it makes it easier for him to take care of me and serve me and bring Jesus to me in my own particular struggles.

And isn't that a picture of God? God is omniscient. It's not like He's unaware of our sin. And yet He says, "I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more" (Jer 31).

I don't have to hide my sin from God. In fact, when we cover up our sin, we suffer for it. (See Psalm 32.) In the same way, confessing sin before the pastor will not result in having our noses rubbed in it, nor getting "instruction" in how to "be better," nor having the pastor look down his nose at us. Confession before the pastor teaches us in an experiential way how God's "head knowledge" of our sin fits with the truth that He does NOT remember our sin.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Used Books

When a person -- with much pain and grievous letting go -- clears out her bookshelves, then what is to become of the books? Some can be sold to other homeschoolers via websites or the spring conference. A few can be sold to used-book stores. But what about the rest? The ones that are valuable, but no longer valuable enough to keep on your own shelves? The ones that could benefit a family, except that everyone else's bookshelves seem to be full too?

I realize there are websites where I can sell some items. But I don't particularly want to type in the names, authors, publishers, and asking-prices of hundreds of books that might sell for a dime or a quarter. The idea, though, of throwing these books in the trash seems horribly harsh and wasteful. Books are friends! We don't throw our friends in the dumpster.

Wet Socks

A local resort is offering their pool to the rec district for swimming lessons. One of the rules they set up is "No shoes in the pool area." Everybody has to remove shoes at the door.

My socks come off too, and wait with my shoes.

Other people wear their socks. This is by a pool. There are puddles. There is no way to avoid stepping in puddles and getting wet socks. I hate wet socks. It makes me shudder every week to see these mommies and kids walking from their seats, through puddles, to the door, to put their shoes back on.

I hate wet socks.


People tell me that the Roman Catholic Church no longer teaches salvation by works alongside their teaching of God's grace in Christ to sinners. Some people tell me that indulgences are a thing of the past.

I remember, though, all the indulgences that were made available in the year 2000. So many years off purgatory for giving up smoking for a half-day. (So what would I get, given that I haven't smoked for my whole life?) So many years off purgatory for working in a soup kitchen. There was a whole list in our secular daily-newspaper.

Pastor Esget passes along information that pilgrimages made on certain days to certain Marian shrines will get you an earlier release from purgatory. This is not news that inclines me to believe that the pope is as strong on justification as some of my friends would like for me to believe.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Collect for Advent 1

Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come
that by Your protection
we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins
and saved by Your mighty deliverance,

Okay, I always thought that meant we were praying that the Lord would end the world, and bring us to heaven.

But when Pastor was talking about the meaning behind "threatening peril of our sins," something occurred to me about the verb. (Mentally diagramming sentences in collects and Pauline writings helps so much.) Come that we may be rescued and saved.

It's not just the end of the world that saves us from these perils.

It's not just Jesus' having come in the flesh 2000+ years ago to die on the cross and save us from our sins.

He comes NOW. He comes in the absolution when Pastor says, "Susan, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." He comes when the pastor places Jesus' own body onto my tongue. He comes now. And that coming IS what rescues us NOW from "the threatening peril of our sins." We won't be rescued on the Last Day unless we are being rescued now. Like Pastor so often says, Judgment Day is not going to be anything new and different; it will simply be the public announcement of the judgment of absolution that God has been speaking to us Christians all along.

Come, Lord Jesus, that by the protection of Your blood shed we may be rescued by the blessed message of forgiveness poured over us and into us.

Frugal on Groceries

The first rule of being frugal on the grocery bill is to eat the food that's fresh. You don't open a can of peaches if there's a cantaloupe to be cut. You don't get out Ramen noodles or a box of mac&cheese for a light supper if there is leftover chicken-n-dumplings in the fridge to be nuked. You don't eat the Oreos when there is leftover home-made coffeecake on the table. You don't take things out of the freezer or the cupboard when there are foods on the counter or in the refrigerator that would spoil within a week.

This doesn't seem terribly complicated.
Why do so many people (including one I live with) not understand this?

Stock in Band-Aid

Dry weather and chapped hands.
Carrying newspaper bundled with sharp-edged plastic cord.
Eczema and other allergic rashes.

As if I didn't have enough cuts on my hands.... Apparently, if you drop heavy dishes out of the cupboard, on top of the dirty glasses waiting to be washed, the flying glass shards will cause more blood to appear on one's hands. (Go figure!)

I don't think I've ever used as many band-aids in one day as I used in the one hour at dinnertime today. BUT there was no blood in the food, no blood spots on my shirt, and there was no blood on the laundry I was folding. Hooray for the band-aids! (The many many band-aids....)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A Homeschool Laugh

My friend Karin posted an article on her blog from the Secular Homeschool Magazine ($7 per issue, which is $28 for a one-year subscription). Deborah Markus is the author of a "Bitter Homeschooler's Wish List."

It includes items such as
15. Stop asking, "But what about the Prom?" Even if the idea that my kid might not be able to indulge in a night of over-hyped, over-priced revelry was enough to break my heart, plenty of kids who do go to school don't get to go to the Prom. For all you know, I'm one of them. I might still be bitter about it. So go be shallow somewhere else.
18. If you can remember anything from chemistry or calculus class, you're allowed to ask how we'll teach these subjects to our kids. If you can't, thank you for the reassurance that we couldn't possibly do a worse job than your teachers did, and might even do a better one.

Go check out the new magazine and enjoy a giggle!

Monday, December 03, 2007


Bigfoot has no shoes. He has some flipflops I bought for $45. (That's what happens to shoe prices when your cute little child grows up ... and up and up ... and becomes Bigfoot.)

It's getting cold. There's snow on the ground. My son Bigfoot can't live in flipflops all winter. But where to buy shoes that big?

Visiting my folks today, something came up about shoes. Eureka! My dad is a bigfoot too. Not as big as my son. But still a bona fide bigfoot. While we were in their city, we decided to go shop at their shoe store. Wow -- those people know how to fit shoes. And they know about feet. And they work with the podiatrists at the hospital.

I had to pay a horrifying price for a pair of black tennis shoes that will have to suffice as everyday shoes, boots, and dress shoes. But my kid has shoes! Real shoes -- the kind where his toes are covered! And he has the comfort of having a pair of shoes that actually FIT and don't pinch his toes unmercifully. At the moment, I feel on top of the world for getting some brownie-points for good momming.

We also know where we can go to buy another pair of shoes when he outgrows these and goes to [gasp!] size 17.

Nunc Dimittis

Because we don't have distribution hymns, during communion distribution yesterday I was praying through several of the hymns in the Advent section. When the last table was finished, my hymnal was still open to Lo, He Comes With Clouds Descending. So my mind was still caught up in the words:

Every eye shall then behold Him
robed in glorious majesty.
Those dear tokens of His passion
still His dazzling body bears,
cause of endless exultation
to His ransomed worshipers.
With what rapture gaze we on those glorious scars!

So, like two transparencies, one on top of one another, Simeon's song was added to the newer hymn:

For my eyes have seen Thy salvation
which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people.

My eyes have seen "those dear tokens of His passion" in the Supper and will see them in fullness at the second coming.

And He has prepared that suffering, that cross, that passion, those scars "before the face of all people," or according to the other set of words, "every eye shall then behold Him."

We believe in Scripture interprets Scripture. But Scripture also interprets hymns. And sometimes it even happens that hymns illuminate parts of Scripture.

Sunday, December 02, 2007


There were three local stations that I could patronize that sold real, non-ethanol gas. Two of them switched over to the corn-stuff in the last couple of weeks. Now I must fill the tank every single time I'm near the one remaining Real-Gas gas station, even if I only need a couple of gallons.

Last week, I pulled into one of the three stations, had my credit card in the machine, had the gas cap unscrewed, and already was putting the nozzle into the tank, when I saw the sticker by the button for 87-octane: "May contain up to 10% ethanol." Argh! What to do; what to do? So I went ahead and pumped the gas. "How much difference could it make?" I thought. After all, I only needed 1/4 tank. So I drove for a week with 3/4 of my gas being real, and 1/4 being corn.

Today I filled up. I've been getting 28 miles to the gallon. Today I computed that I got 25 mpg since my ethanol-laced fill-up. That's a 10% decrease in mileage.

Now, lets' think about this. Ten percent (or less) of my fuel purchase last week was ethanol. That means the corn was only 2-3% of what was in my tank. However, I got 10% worse mileage.

Good grief! If the corn were simple FILLER, my mileage would've been 3% worse. But it was 10% worse. It's like that corn-stuff handicapped my Real Gas.

And they're trying to tell us ethanol is good for the environment? We have to use the same amount of Real Gas (or more) to get to where we're driving. But we get to pay more for it because it's been "thinned down" by the ethanol mixed in. Seems to me that anybody who wants to be green would be running away from ethanol as fast as possible. And so would anybody who's not particularly green, but who prefers to keep as much cash as possible available for expenses more interesting than gasoline.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Bread Fix

Yesterday I had started the grain soaking for my bread. And then I forgot. Shoot -- I didn't want to leave the grain soaking overnight; 24 hours would be too long. But I didn't want to stay up half the night finishing the bread-baking. So I put together the dough and kneaded. Then I put two loaves worth of dough in a 5-qt ice-cream pail. Put the lid on. Popped it in the fridge. In 11 hours overnight it rose to double -- that's all -- not too much, not too little.

This morning I took the bread dough out of the fridge, and let it start warming up to room temperature. After dinkin' around too much with lasagna and paper route and helping a kid make a scale-drawing of the living room, I finally got around to shaping the loaves, letting them rise, and baking. And y'know? It worked! When the world and the to-do list and the schedule just get too too busy for the bread to be made all in one day, using the refrigerator for rising-time will slow down the yeast growth, and make it easier to keep the bread from over-rising until I get to an appropriate time for baking. This is going to be handy to know.


Did you know that if you wear sandals and cotton socks outdoors in 2-3" of snow, that your socks will get snowy? And when they get snowy, the so-called heat coming from your chilly feet will melt the snow? (Surely not! Surely feet outdoors in sandals are not warmer than 32 degrees?!?) And then your feet would be wet. And wet feet in the cold winter are even colder than dry feet.

Did you know that?
I know it.
You would've thought I'd be smart enough to knooow that without trying it out as an experiment. But no........

Boy, I knew there was a reason for keeping an old pair of Birkenstocks around. (I mean, besides the ingrained packrat mentality.) The shoes hiding in the back of the closet are DRY.

I discovered something, though, from those old Birkenstocks. The ones I've been buying off ebay for the last few years, the ones with the "easy to adjust to" sole, don't have nearly as much arch support as the "uncomfortable" styles. Back to the uncomfortable version for me!

The Seasonal Phrase

"Keep Christ in CHRISTmas."
"Put Christ back into Christmas."

I see it on shopping bags, lapel pins, signs in front of churches, marquis signs on businesses, and more. Nothing wrong with the slogan.

But where is the call to keep the Mass in ChristMAS?


What homesteaders have in common is the desire to be more self-reliant. To be more pro-active in planning and living their life. They value the simple things in life and structure that life around family and relationships. They refuse to run on the modern treadmill of society. Their identity is not based on how much money they make but in the confidence of living a life with purpose and independence. They value the simple, the plain, and the functional things in life....

With each new choice that you implement, your self-confidence increases. You feel a freedom that feeds on being in control of your life and its future. You start considering things that would surprise even yourself. Before long you're studying the possibility of solar energy panels and whether you can build a hydraulic ram to bring water out of that small river.

This is from the current issue of Backwoods Home, an article by Frank Dujanovic entitled "Dreams to Reality." The article is about beginning homesteading, but it applies to self-reliance in many areas of life. Unfortunately, this article is not one that's available online, so maybe you'll just have to hie thee to a bookstore and purchase a copy (although few bookstores carry it any more) or order one online, or better yet, subscribe.

Weather Forecast

I had hoped to go visit my folks this weekend. But I heard the weather warnings. Snow. Ice. Freezing rain. I think maybe I'll postpone the drive a bit. I never know whether those dire warnings of imminent storms are just hype to get more viewers to tune in to the news and the Weather Channel, or if they're for real. But the one experience that Katie and I had in freezing rain was enough for a lifetime. The threat of freezing rain will keep me hunkered down in my house, whereas snow and ice are just part of living in the northern Midwest. (Now, I am gonna be mad at those forecasters if this is just another time when they're crying "Wolf!" to increase their ratings.)

Friday, November 30, 2007


Back in the ancient days, when I was in college, back when people programmed computers in Fortran and Cobol, there was a conundrum of how difficult it was to obtain a job without experience, but having a job was the only way to become "experienced."

Today it's worse. Increasingly socialist government policies have made it nearly impossible for employers to fire incompetent and/or dishonest employees. So the bosses --understandably-- want to be extremely careful with regard to whom they're hiring.

Colleges offer internship opportunities -- sometimes as part of coursework, sometimes as a summer job. We thought those would be a nice extra, but we also thought it would be good for kids to come home over summer and be with the family again, saving money over summer instead of spending it on rent, etc. Now I'm wondering if it would've been better to kick the kid out the door, and make sure he was out there in the Real World each summer, in Chicago or New York or London or Tokyo, making his resume look more enticing.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

John 14:27

Peace I leave with you,
My peace I give to you,
Not as the world gives do I give to you.
Let not your heart be troubled,
neither let it be afraid.

Pastor preached last Eastertide that Jesus' peace is not like the world's peace -- the peace that makes you comfortable and happy and all nicey-nice. Sometimes we want that peace (peace among our family members, peace with our boss, peace with the nations who bomb us) more than we want Jesus' kind of peace.

Today I noticed something else about this verse. I guess I always think of peace as a calm restful state of mind. But there's also the peace that comes at the end of battle, at the end of war, when the fighting is finished [a la "It is finished!"]. Jesus' peace means we are no longer at odds with God, no longer waging war with Him. The blood has been shed. The treaty has been agreed upon. The terms have been signed. Peace has been declared.

Chex Mix

There's not a whole lot of Christmas preparation goin' on here. There probably won't be either. It's not so much an objection for weighty reasons, but more practical reasons like a shortage of space and a time-crunch. So Philip decided to indulge himself with multiple batches of Chex-Mix making. Mmmmm. It smells good in here! Mmmmm. It tastes good too!

Three Christmas Memories

Emily started her own meme of sharing Three Christmas Memories that you have, be they good or bad, hilarious or just plain odd. (I'm not linking to Emily's particular blogpost, but to her site. Several of her recent postings have just been too good to miss! So go look at the whole blog.)

So a few of my memories:
1. I remember when I was very small -- one of my earliest memories. There was a big box under the tree. I was very very interested in that big box. I don't know if Mom told me it was boots for Grandpa, or if she just suggested that it might be boots for Grandpa, but I know that it was A Confirmed TRUTH in my little head that that box held galoshes for my dad's pa.

2. My brother and I are very close in age, and my sister came along a little later. She was beginning to get skeptical about the existence of Santa. Old enough to want to believe, but not quite able to believe. When I took the trash out on Christmas Eve, I came rushing back into the house, gasping, all excited, pointing to the sky, and saying I heard sleigh bells overheard. It's possible my sister was just going along with the game, but she sure seemed to buy it.

3. When Gary was at sem, there was an annual Christmas-shopping night that was held in connection with Mrs Graudin's resale shop. People throughout St Louis and the country would send clothes and furniture and toys and household items to the sem, to be distributed to the poor seminarians and their families. (Groceries too, but that came through the nurse's office.) Mrs G would reserve some of the nice things that would make good Christmas-gift items, and put them out one night in early December. Some of us would do virtually all our Christmas shopping at this sale, spending $10 or $20. I guess that is especially fresh in my mind right now as I am weeding out too-much-stuff in our house. And there's one toy, one dear toy, that I'm not sure I can give to Goodwill or sell or even pass along to friends. And it came from one of those Christmas resale shopping-nights. There were other very nice things we found too, and wonderful gifts that friends picked up for their families. But this particular set of blocks is still precious to me after 20+ years. So THANK YOU to all you people who donate to the seminaries' clothing banks and food banks!!!

I think I'm going to tag Barbara and Rick and Elizabeth and Paula.