Saturday, January 27, 2007


One of those church-dinner fundraisers is tonight. Because of a time-conflict with my part-time job, I didn't volunteer to work at the dinner, so they prevailed upon me to make cookies. I spent the whole morning and part of the afternoon making five large batches of bars. Sorting through recipes, I had the urge to make something peanut-buttery. But as I progressed through the batches (chocolate chip bars, lemon bars, caramel oatmeal bars, and pumpkin bars) I figured I needed to throw in some chocolate instead of making my last batch be peanut butter bars.

Still craving peanut butter, I decided to make the brownies for the sake of Necessary Chocolate. But instead of putting in all the butter called for in the recipe, I put in 2/3 of the butter, and for the rest of the butter I substituted peanut butter. It sounded like a good plan to me, but the rule-of-thumb is that you're not supposed to experiment with recipes when you're cooking for company.

When the cookies were cool, we trimmed the edges off. (Just for the sake of nice appearances for the cookies going to church! NOT because we wanted to taste them! No! Of course not!) Apparently, the peanut-butter substitution was an okie-dokey plan. Paul melted into the couch, enjoying them and "mmmmmmmm"-ing away. When Andrew found out that there was peanut butter in the brownies, his response was, "So THAT explains the total lusciousness!"

I might have to try this again.

Bach for Book Lovers

With all the people who live here, a lot of different music gets played and a lot of different noise is made. I'm getting old enough and my senses are overloaded enough that I often crave quiet. Even when I'd like music in the background, it's just one more noise that I can do without. So yesterday, when I noticed something playing that was absolutely beautiful, and yet didn't overwhelm, didn't distract the attention, didn't demand thought, I had to go find out what was in the boombox. Turned out it was Bach for Book Lovers: A Soothing Companion for Reading. The subtitle is well put! My daughter tells me there are other CDs in this series, but I can't imagine any of them to be gentler and more soothing -- and yet cheery -- than this. This is so good that I'm even considering spending money to buy one of these when she moves out of the house and takes her stuff with her.

New Blog

Just wanted to mention that my husband took the dive into blogging this week.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Sermon on Good Works

Some people listen to their Walkmans or their iPods when they exercise. Me? I'm weird. Sometimes I drag along my clunky old tape-recorder with me when I jog, and listen to a tape of a Bible class or the Divine Service that was recorded for the shut-ins. So this morning, I grabbed the tape on the top of my stack, popped it into the tape-recorder, and headed out the door in my tennies. Serendipitously, the sermon happened to be on Matthew 25:31-46, the passage assigned to the Second-Last Sunday of the Church Year.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said to His disciples:
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, "Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me." Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, "Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?" And the King will answer and say to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me."

This is the Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Have you ever thought about the question, "Why am I a Christian?"

The answer to that question for every Christian rests in what Jesus has done for you. "I am a Christian," we confess, "because God visited me in my sinful condition. I was naked, and I was sick, and I was in a prisonhouse of my own making from sins from which I could not free myself, in bondage to death and the devil. And it was the Lord Jesus who visited me, who bound up my wounds, who set me free, who released the shackles of Satan and everlasting death. And He clothed my nakedness with a robe of righteousness." And He did so by a word: "Son, Daughter, I forgive you all your sins. Do not be afraid. Come, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."

"I am a Christian," we confess, "because God's only Son came to me, in my sin and in my weakness, and suffered and died for me. He is my life. He is my salvation."

As Jesus said elsewhere, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them" [in all of their sin and all of their weakness, and that's why I died for them], "and they follow Me, and I give them" [I give them -- it's a gift -- I give them] "eternal life." That's what faith is. That's why you and I are Christians -- because Jesus, God's only Son, in love, has visited us. By that word of forgiveness -- that sweet word of forgiveness -- in the waters of Baptism, in the daily hearing of the Gospel, in the Word of Absolution, in the testament of His body and blood -- that sweet word of forgiveness is what draws us to Him. And it is by that sweet word of forgiveness that we follow Him, wherever our life takes us. This is the meaning of St Paul's word in Romans: "A man is justified by faith," [faith in whom? faith in Christ] "apart from the works of the law."

Then why is it that in the Gospel for this Sunday, on the day of judgment, Jesus mentions works? You heard the words: "Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me." If it is true that a sinner is justified by faith in Jesus, apart from the deeds of the law, then why, why in this parable of the Judgment, does Jesus mention works?

It is for this reason: faith in Jesus is never alone. Faith in Jesus is always active in love: in love for the neighbor, in love for the enemy, in love for the unlovely spouse, in love for children who rebel and turn away from parents and despise their birthright, in love for the stranger, for the naked, for the sick, for the imprisoned. Faith is never alone. Faith in the Lord Jesus' love is always active in love to the neighbor, to the enemy. In this parable that Jesus teaches on the last judgment, He tells us something very profound and it's paradoxical. When you look at your neighbor, when you look at your spouse, when you look at your children, when you look at your enemy, you and I (according to the Gospel of Jesus) are called by faith in that Gospel to see in that neighbor, to see in that enemy, to see in that family member, Jesus Himself. That's a paradox. That is a profound mystery. Because when we look at our neighbor, we see a sinner. When we look at our spouse, we see a sinner. When we look at our children and our enemies, we see sinners. And yet faith in the Gospel of Jesus calls us to see behind that sinner Jesus Himself, our Lord. That's a paradox. That's a mystery.

Why does Jesus speak this way? Because faith that trusts in Him is active in love for those whom He has placed in our path, that you and I -- by faith in the Gospel -- might be to our neighbor (who doesn't deserve God's love) what Jesus is to us. For we were the naked ones. We were the sick ones. We were the imprisoned ones in sin and death from which we couldn't free ourselves. But Jesus visited us. And He loved us in place of Himself. And He laid down His life for our salvation. And it is because we believe this Gospel that faith manifests itself in love toward the unlovely, toward those who do not deserve it.

But such faith never trusts in the works of love that flow from it, as is evidenced in this Gospel. "Lord, when did we see You naked or sick or in prison? When did we come and visit You and clothe You?" That's because faith never trusts in its own works, but solely in the work of Christ.

Now, when you hear me preach this way on this text, honesty compels your heart to confess, "Pastor, I do not love the way you describe. Does that mean I am not a Christian?" No. Rather, it gives testimony to the sin which still rages in your heart. For the Old Adam in you and in me is always a self-righteous, works-righteous brute. Never loving, except those who deserve it. Never forgiving, except those deemed worthy of forgiveness. This is also why we are Christians, for to be a Christian is to daily be in repentance, returning to the voice of our Shepherd, confessing our faithlessness, and therefore confessing our lovelessness, that we might receive anew the word of His love, which not only sets us free again and again and again, but which also brings forth the fruits of His love in our lives, for loveless and unworthy sinners, like those whom He has placed in our path. Christians are Christians because of what Jesus did. And by faith we return to Him, again and again and again, to receive His Word and Sacrament, that we might learn to love as He has loved us. So that, on the last day, clothed with the righteousness of Christ, we might hear those words of eternal absolution: "Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit" [inheritance is always a gift] "inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."

In the name of Jesus.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Guns in the Home

Last September, I wrote about a local news item about the fellow who broke into a house in the middle of the night and was headed toward the children's bedroom while the dad was shouting at him to stop, to get out of the house. After sufficient warning, the home-owner shot the intruder, not to kill, but to stop him from advancing toward the children's bedrooms. The DA investigated for a couple of days and determined that no charges would be filed against the shooter/home-owner.

The intruder later decided to file civil suit against the home-owner. I've been wondering how the case turned out. A recent news article tells about the criminal case against the intruder. He was found guilty this week and will be sentenced several weeks hence. He is currently in prison for having violated parole. A snippet near the end of the article mentions that the civil suit (in Milwaukee county) against the home-owner was withdrawn and would be re-filed elsewhere.

So far so good. Hooray for the armed victim who protected his family. And hooray for a sensible court system which protected the real victim instead of the intruder who now walks with a limp.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Busy Work

My oldest three kids were insatiably curious. If I wanted them to read a book, all I had to do was bring it home from the library or leave it lying around the living room -- it would get read, consumed, devoured. But my next-to-youngest isn't as curious. He doesn't need to know how things work and what people think and what's going on in the world. Part of this may be due to his inborn nature just being different from his siblings. Part of it, though, is probably due to the amount of time we spent with his sister's doctors and therapists when he was just a toddler and preschooler. We didn't do as many science experiments, take as many walks, read as many kiddy books, as we'd done with the older children.

Since we've been homeschooling, I've despised busy work. It has always seemed like a waste of time. If the kids can learn something by practicing it 4-5 times, why make them do the handwriting or the math 30 times? If we can work on things orally, through discussion and reading and working out concepts, why make them sit in chairs and write just for the sake of have some worksheets filled out? We are people who know how true is the saying, "So many books, so little time!" Why divert our limited time from those books and those projects and those educational videos to something as dreary as seatwork?

But right now, I'm finding busy-work to be somewhat useful. If I have a kid who is perfectly content to read comic books and play video games all day, then I am not content. I can do interesting educational activities with him, and he will enjoy them. I can even make him study certain things on his own, but of course he retains very little of it. I am discovering, though, that busy-work doesn't hurt him. Oh, he may think it's injurious to his time in front of the computer or tv. But for some odd reasion, I just don't have a lot of sympathy for his grief.

For the older kids, busy-work distracted them from the excitement of learning. Because of that, I see busy-work as detrimental. But in recent weeks, I'm beginning to see that busy-work isn't altogether bad. It's certainly better than perpetually vegging out.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Government Goof-Up

Our state government had a slip-up in the past few weeks. They accidentally made public some information that had names and addresses, with SocSec numbers attached. It wasn't a big group of people, but I was one of the group. I got a letter yesterday informing me of the risk. Along with profuse apologies, the letter had all sorts of information about "fraud alerts" and "freezes" that we can get from the credit bureaus, and I need to figure that out. They've provided for insurance that will cover up to $20,000 to compensate victims of identity theft. (From what I've heard, that amount could be barely a drop in the bucket, given the trouble identity theft would cause.) They've offered to pay for a year of daily monitoring with the credit bureaus, in an attempt to protect the people whose numbers were released.

I'm trying to figure out exactly what "fraud alerts" mean. It sounds to me like the inconvenience of having a fraud alert on your record probably means something as inconsequential as not being able to get a new credit card while you're in line at the check-out of a department store. Like, maybe, before they extend credit to you, the company will actually have to verify your information like they all did 20-30 years ago.

They assure us and assure us and assure us that they take utmost care with our personal information and will never release it to anyone. I never believed that. I get called paranoid. I get told that I don't understand the high value businesses and government place on privacy. But mistakes happen. And sometimes (not this time, though!) there is intentional manipulation of private information too. But even if we believe that everybody in government or hospitals or insurance companies is honest and upstanding and completely moral, nevertheless, mistakes happen.

I guess we're going to learn more about credit bureaus this year than we intended.

Some Links

Elizabeth had a great post about the importance of vocational tech school, and thoughts about what kind of education/training might be good for kids after high school.

In the comment section on one of my recent posts, a friend pointed out Jonathan Lange's article Using the Third Use. I thought it was a fantastic article on the topic of the Law and sanctification, and just wanted to mention it here in case anybody's interested.

Scott reminded us that most of us need to get a patch for our computers so they can update themselves correctly this year when Daylight Savings Time is made longer than before. You can get more information on his blog.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Random Thoughts

Gas down in Rockford this morning was still over $2 when we went to church, but on our way home we saw a gas station in Wisconsin with $1.98. It's been a while since we saw that!

For years, I told myself that we needed to buy snow-fence and put it up in late fall. But year after year, I neglected to do it. Then we had to dig out the drifts. When I was little and my dad talked about "drifts," I didn't understand what he meant. Sure, I understood the concept in my mind, but I didn't understand the way that snow drifts make shoveling seem entirely futile. After a few years of drought, snow-fencing seemed pointless (even though there were several days per year of digging and re-digging out a sidewalk that had already been cleaned four times since the last snowfall). This year I'm wondering if the increased snowfall will motivate me to get snow-fencing in November. Probably not...

I had sixteen hours added to my week this past week. Didache was canceled because of Pastor's being in Fort Wayne for symposia. So was Thursday Bible class. I also skipped my weekly errand-day in the city because I'm trying to get back onto my Monday routine after having the errand-schedule goofed up by Christmas and New Years. Those three things alone put sixteen extra hours into my week. Did I cross a lot of projects off my to-do list? Did I catch up on chores? No. Granted, I spent a little more time on the computer than I should've, and I spent a few hours answering phone calls from desperate parents investigating the possibility of homeschooling. But most of those extra hours got used up in homeschooling. No wonder I always feel like I'm behind.

I was a good girl last week and did schoolwork with the kids instead of listening to symposium lectures live-streamed on the computer. Boy, that took some self-denial!

When we were driving into town the other day, Andrew saw a sign that I hadn't noticed. He asked, "What does evangelical mean?" I asked whether he meant the real meaning of the word, or the way it is commonly used today. He asked for the real meaning first. So I told him it means "gospel" or "gospel-ish." The sign he saw was for the Evangelical Free church in town. He wanted to know why any denomination would call itself something like "Gospel-Free Church."