Saturday, June 02, 2007

More About Kombucha

For more information, here's a website that lays things out pretty clearly. I would, however, be leery of their recommendation that you can use high-grade plastic. As a friend told me recently, kombucha is such a good detoxifier that it will snag toxins out of anything very well. That's good if the kombucha is getting the toxins out of your body. It's bad if the kombucha is leeching toxins out of its plastic container and then you're drinking it!

Don't keep your mushrooms, your tea while it's fermenting, or your bottled tea in anything plastic, or anything with a non-stick coating, or in aluminum. Try to stick with glass or a pyrex bowl or possibly stainless steel. I noticed even when I was storing the kombucha in a glass jar with a canning jar lid that the lid would get "eaten into" by the kombucha sitting below it.

Also, it seems to me that it would be good to use only organic tea. But I know not everyone does. And I use good water, run through our reverse-osmosis system.

Because kombucha is a detoxifier, some people experience adverse reactions at first. Some people decide to do a cleanse first and then continue with kombucha. Others just start small with the kombucha: a tablespoon or two a day for a month or so, and then increasing the amount slowly. And then there are people like us who had no problems diving in and drinking it.

I don't like drinking the mushrooms. I don't have a clue as to whether it's good for you or not. But they're slimy and I don't like them in my glass. When I open a bottle and pour it into a glass, you can hear the plop if a mushroom goes into the glass. I fish it out with a fork. My husband, however, has not been so opposed to the mushroom once he heard about Pastor T's dog (which likes to dig the mushrooms out of the compost pile) having the thickest and shiniest coat of fur of all the dogs in the neighborhood.

Kombucha Nutrition Facts

I found nutrition information online, through a company that sells bottled kombucha. His claim is that there are 30 calories per 8 oz serving, as well as about 20% of the recommended daily allowance of B vitamins. As for probiotics, a half-pint of kombucha also provides about over a billion living organisms. Because it is a raw food, it's also loaded with enzymes. Raw kombucha also has organic acids and amino acids, but I haven't read enough about health to know what those are or why they're supposed to be good for you.

Kombucha is a liver detoxifier. That's why sometimes you see claims that it can be a "wonder cure." If your body is overworked with too many toxins, too many allergens, too many illnesses or sicknesses in the past, or whatever, it just can't handle all the garbage we throw at ourselves these days. So some people end up with allergies or asthma, some people end up with rashes, some people end up depressed, some people end up with compromised immune systems or fibromyalgia or reflux or any number of other ailments. Kombucha is not a medicine to cure any of these things. But if it helps clean out the gunk, that enables your body to more easily fight the things that drag it down.

Edit a year later: the page previously linked to has disappeared out of cyber-world. I linked instead to another of my posts referring to a couple of alternate pages, even though they aren't as clear and helpful as the previous link used to be.

Assorted Things

Katie pointed us to another article on ethanol and how it will harm both the economy and the environment.

Philip has been asked to come in for an interview for one of the jobs in Japan he applied for.

We have been getting multiple boxes from FedEx and UPS and USPS every day this week. I don't remember having so many wedding gifts arrive after Nathan and Katie's wedding. Good thing Matt and Rachel stopped by yesterday; they cleared out corner of the living room from its stash of big boxes. But another has arrived. Wow!

I made two dozen tortillas, four loaves of bread, and a half-gallon of granola today. I'm beginning to think I need one of Polly's grandma's aprons. My black shirt is all floury!

Y'know the cliche, "Every cloud has a silver lining"? Well, fewer mosquitos has been the silver lining in the "cloud" of years of drought. After getting some rain last summer and a decent amount of rain this spring, we are seeing mosquitos like I haven't seen in a long time. Time to haul out the DEET or start looking into less toxic alternatives.

Glenda linked to an article on the importance of picnics. That's something we really need to work on. I remember with great fondness the picnics at Lake of the Woods and the parks in town. However, I have a husband who hates camping and hates picnics. After decades of marriage, I still haven't figured out how to work that -- other than going camping without him a few times. Besides, with the aforementioned mosquitos, it makes me wonder how picnics would be this year. The closest we get to picnicking is burning the brush pile in the backyard and then cooking hotdogs over the fire. It's outdoors and away from the phone. And as long as we don't continue to set standing live trees on fire, we should be okay!

Still no sign of chickenpox in our household. I was thinking that the pox-breakout should be today or tomorrow, but no fever yet either. Woo hoo! Not bad for an immune-depressed kid.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Bottling Kombucha

I enjoyed drinking kombucha before I discovered bottling. I have to admit that I tried to make a very small batch every night so that it was usually nice and fresh, without being too old (where it starts to get more vinegary). I had eight 1-qt canning jars lined up in the basement, so that we'd have 2-3 cups fresh kombucha each day.

But when we discovered bottling and aging -- wow, oh wow! -- we really started getting spoiled!

The Frugal Home Brewer is a little shop in downtown Waukesha that sells pint-sized E-Z Cap bottles. The Purple Foot in Milwaukee sells them too, as (I suppose) do many other home-brewing supply stores. Bottles usually sell for a little less than $2/each, but both my stores sell them only in boxes of a dozen.

I have found that it's easier to bottle kombucha in the day, by a window. If I do it in the evening, it helps to have a place where there's a reasonably bright light on the other side of the bottles. If your kombucha is properly ready for bottling, it will be fizzy. When you pour the tea into the bottles, it will fizz up and sometimes overflow. So you want to be able to see through the bottles a bit to know how high the head of foam is getting in your bottle.

I use a funnel to fill the bottles. If the fizzy head is especially significant, you may have to leave the bottles alone for 5 minutes after they're nearly full, to give the head time to "bubble out" and get lower. Thing is, you want the bottles filled into the top of the neck of the bottle. If the tea doesn't come up within an inch of the top, there will be too much air, and that will affect the taste and the carbonation build-up.

We try to let the kombucha age at least 4-5 days after bottling before we drink it. I don't know if that enhances or detracts from the nutrition content, but it sure does make it extra delicious.

On occasion I have run out of bottles when there's tea to be bottled. On other occasions, I have had need of small containers of kombucha (like 4-ouncers). I have discovered that canning jars serve as a sufficient substitute for bottles. When I tried keeping the kombucha in a glass jar in the fridge after it was done fermenting, it seemed that I lost my fizz. So when I need to use canning jars for bottling, I make sure I have small containers: no bigger than pints, and hopefully half-pints. If you fill the jelly jar up to the top (so there's only about 1/8" of air at the top), and if you use a NEW Kerr or Ball lid, and if you screw the band on very tightly, you can get a good tight seal -- enough to keep the air from turning the kombucha to vinegar, and enough to hold in the carbonation. However, I've noticed that the pressure build-up in the jar has bent the metal canning-jar lids. And not by a little bit. So I suspect there's a risk of canning jars exploding from trying this. Whenever I have kombucha aging in the glass jars, I try to get to those bottles/jars first, before I develop a problem with explosions.

When I bottle, I label the bottles with the bottling date. That way I can keep track of what's the earliest I should be drinking from the bottle, as well as making sure that old kombucha doesn't sit in the basement neglected without our realizing how old it is.

We've discovered that it's wise to have a glass nearby when you open a new bottle of kombucha. Sometimes it will spray like a bottle of champagne at the end of the Superbowl. I don't open kombucha bottles in the car anymore, nor over the carpet. It should be at the dining room table or the kitchen counter, with a damp washcloth nearby, and the cup right there to pour into.

Back Door

Oh, I'm so proud of the guys!

When we needed a new back door, the one purchased was chintzy and it was installed wrong. Within a year, it was rotting. We finally gave up and decided we should just replace it ourselves. Neither Gary nor I had a clue as to what to do. But he figured he couldn't do any worse than the way the previous door was installed.

He bought a door, read the instructions carefully, and worked today to replace the storm door. It sits square in the door frame, which is a lovely change of pace. Not only that, but Gary had Andrew help him do the work. Personally, whenever I'm trying to figure out something I'm unfamiliar with, I get very edgy trying to let the kids help. But the two guys did it! Hooray!

Hiding in Closets

It's time for cleaning. Not the regular weekly vacuuming and dusting, but the looking-in-closets kind of cleaning. Today I eliminated from bathroom drawers and closet:

contacts that haven't been worn in ages,
contact solution that expired 3 years ago,
rubber bands for braces that were removed 2 or 3 years ago,
and Desitin.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Kombucha Stains

Just want to mention that kombucha stains. Not like tea, but worse. I have noticed that if I splash some kombucha onto the cloth cover while I'm carrying the jar from the kitchen to the quiet & cool fermentation spot in the basement, the stain will be significant. I used to get spots on my light-colored shirts if I splashed a bit while bottling. The only thing that would get them out was my bleach-milk combo. I've also discovered that, once my bottles have been filled and sealed, I need to rinse them under cool tap water. Otherwise I'll get tiny drops of kombucha on my shirt when I carry the pile of bottles, and those stains are stubborn!

Nativity Story

Because of surgery, we just couldn't manage to make it to a theatre last December to see The Nativity Story. We watched it last night, and I have really mixed feelings. The parts I like, I reeeeally like. The parts I don't like, I was quite annoyed by.

From the perspective of a woman who's been pregnant a few times and who has birthed two babies outside the hospital, it bothered me that they showed things like Mary feeling the baby move as early as 2 or 3 months along. And Mary didn't nurse her baby right away. I'm sure -- to men -- that seems immensely over-picky. But to the women who've had babies the old-fashioned way, we just want to say, "Oh, c'mon. Get real."

The timeline for the story was unsettling. The wise men did not come to the stable. They came when Jesus was more than 40 days old. The slaughter of the Holy Innocents was not something that happened when Jesus was a day or so old. I just don't understand how they could gloss over the Presentation of Our Lord as if it never happened.

There was something wrong with the visions and the messages from God. I can't pin down what was wrong with the way the movie did it. People aren't supposed to criticize unless they can say how it should've been. And I just don't know how they should've presented those scenes. But what they showed was simply not right.

However, there were some very good things about the movie. I liked the "culture" that was depicted in the film: the clothing, the houses, the worship, the family relationships, the jobs, the herb-gathering, etc.

I loved the way they showed Zechariah in the temple, ministering at the altar of incense, while the people were outside, participating in corporate prayer.

I loved the "realness" of several of the characters. Joseph being perturbed with Mary and her pa when he noticed her little tummy when she came back from Judah. Pa's skeptical glance in Joseph's direction at the same time. Mary's cradling her belly sometimes as pregnant mommies are wont to do. The wise men being ornery wise-guys to each other. Mary's "why me??" Mary's parents concern for her safety from the neighbors' self-righteousness. Both Joseph and Mary wondering "Now what? How do we do this?" and their fear.

I loved the catechization of the kids. Just telling the Bible stories over and over, with the same words, so that they would learn them by heart.

I'm glad we watched it. When I first heard the initial reviews, I thought I wouldn't want to see it, ever. But there was enough good there to outweigh the bad. I don't know if I'll watch again someday. It's so unlike Passion. Whereas Passion is the Gospel, whereas Passion doesn't have any mistakes or misinterpretations in it,* Nativity Story is merely a very nice movie. Good, to be sure. But I guess I've been spoiled by Passion, and now I want all my Bible-story movies to be as wonderful as the Christmas sermon and Good Friday sermon.

* The only mistakes I remember from Passion are
1) that the believing thief was on Jesus' left side, and
2) the shape of Jesus' cross on the Via Dolorosa.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Kombucha Mushroom

The kombucha "mushroom" is not a fungus. It's a symbiotic colony of yeast and bacteria.

When a batch of kombucha tea is fermenting, the mushroom you started with will grow a new mushroom on top. Usually the new mushroom will grow as large as the opening at the top of the jar. Mushrooms can be reused. However, I get my best results when I start my new batch with the new mushroom that grew on top of the old batch. You should be able to peel the new and old mushrooms apart. Don't worry if it tears. In fact, I usually use a clean pair of kitchen scissors to snip a section of my new mushroom. I usually like to have a starter mushroom that's about 1/4 the size of my jar opening. So for a 3-quart batch, I'll use a blob of mushroom that's about 3" across. For a 3-cup batch in a quart-size canning jar, I'll use a a piece of mushroom that's a little bigger than a half-dollar.

If you're trying to get multiple batches going at once, it's okay to reuse the old mushroom. But if the mushroom didn't sour the tea properly, it may be bad: throw it out and don't use the tea. If the mushroom gets black, it's probably spoiled. I have on occasion had a little black grainy stuff grow on the mushroom. I'll usually cut that part off and dispose of it. Sometimes I will gently wash the mushroom under running cold tap-water to remove those dark spots. Ideally, I want to keep the clearest part of the new mushroom.

Old mushrooms can be used in the compost pile, or buried at the feet of your tomato plants or corn seeds. I've heard it's a great fertilizer.

Kombucha Recipe

Kombucha is a fermented sweet tea. It has a bit of a vinegary taste with some fizz. When aged, it can taste somewhat similar to a homebrew beer without the depressing effects of the alcohol: it's energizing instead of relaxing.

I make a batch with:

3 quarts filtered water
4 organic black tea bags
1 cup white granulated sugar
pinch sea salt
1/2 cup starter and a "mushroom"

Bring the water to boil in a stainless steel or Pyrex container. Turn off heat. Add sugar, salt, and tea. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Let sit at room temperature until completely cooled; this may take 8-12 hours.

Remove tea bags or strain out loose tea. Put tea into a glass jar or Pyrex bowl; do not use plastic. A wider mouth is good. I usually use a glass "cracker jar" in which the mouth is nearly as wide as the height. Sometimes I use a sun tea jar (without a spigot!). When I make half-batches or quarter-batches, sometimes I use a wide-mouth Mason jar. The point is that you want there to be a significant opening for air.

Add a kombucha "mushroom" that you get from a friend. (I've heard that you can buy them off the internet, but I can't imagine how a living organism can get shipped through the mail very well.) Also add 1/2 cup of finished kombucha tea. Cover jar with a light cloth. Label jar with the date you started it fermenting, and sit it in a cool, dark place in the house. (Not cool like in the refrigerator, but cool like in the basement.) It should not be in a cupboard, but be fermenting in a place with air flow. If the kombucha is fermenting in a pyrex bowl, you might crisscross masking tape over the top of the bowl so that the cloth does not dip down into the tea.

Ferment for 7-10 days. In the amount I make, with the width of my jar openings, in the temperature where I let it sit, mine almost always takes 8 days.

Smaller recipes can be made with 3 cups water, 1 tea bag, 1/4 cup sugar, a little salt, and 2 Tbsp starter tea.

Rather than using tea bags, I use a loose tea. It took me a while to figure out that I need a slightly rounded tablespoon of leaf tea to equal a tea bag. When I get to the bottom of a bag of tea leaves, I noticed that the leaves are broken down and I have more crumbs/dust and thus need much less tea.

Green tea or oolong tea is sometimes used. The health benefits are greater when black tea is used, however. Don't use herbal teas.

Phone Messages

So many people today have complicated telephones with all sorts of technology embedded in them. When I call Kathy, she answers the phone with "Hi, Susan" and I'm still not used to that. But, hey, caller-ID....

What gets me is when people leave a message on the answering machine and forget to leave the number. I guess they figure you can just hit the "reply" button. But some of us out in the boonies can't even "star-69" somebody. When they don't leave a call-back number, I feel like a heel ignoring their call (especially when it's a desperate homeschooler needing help). But if you don't have a last name and you don't have a phone number, there isn't much way you can contact the person.

So all you people with cell phones, have pity on us folks with the old-fashioned rotary-dial land-lines. Tell us your phone number when you leave a message!

Revolutionary War Fiction

We'd been doing some non-fiction reading aimed at the late 1700s in our country. We'd read some political science, a couple of biographies, and studied the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. To go with that, I wanted some good stories. So we read Johnny Tremain and My Brother Sam Is Dead.

Johnny Tremain is such a good story, even if you're not interested in historical fiction. It's a story about hard work, grudges and forgiveness, vocation, starting over, and even a smidge of romance thrown in (enough to keep Mom interested but not enough to put off the boys she's reading too). Johnny Tremain definitely comes from the perspective that the Americans were right to rebel.

Just by chance, we followed up immediately with My Brother Sam Is Dead, which happens to begin in April 1775 at Lexington and Concord, which is precisely where Johnny Tremain ends. The main thing I didn't like about Sam was that I sometimes wondered if the story were written for the express purpose of encouraging pacifism and showing that war (even in self-defense) was never worth the cost. Another thing I didn't much care for was the depressing ending. But the thing I really really appreciated about this book was showing the viewpoint of the Tories. We seldom find books that give any credence to the colonists who honored the fourth commandment and respected their king. Sam doesn't promote either viewpoint, but gives fair treatment to both sides. It surely provided food for thought and instigated discussion. (It's got enough gore and sadness that it probably isn't appropriate for young kids. Most of the time I see it listed as "young adult reading." That's not due to difficult reading level, but for the need for some maturity.)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


A few years back, my husband and I decided to invite one of the old guys in the congregation over for an afternoon of dinner and poker lessons. Neither he nor I knew how to play poker, and we had kids who needed to learn. (See? See? Homeschoolers can find ways to "fill in the gaps"!) There was a bit of amusement in his voice and a twinkle in his eye as he clarified: "You want me to come teach the pastor's family how to play WHAT?"

Turned out I didn't like poker.

Today the kids were playing. A cry of disgust went up from Heidi: "But I had two pair! And you had NOTHING!" It seems a certain scammer replaced none of his cards on the second draw and bet a whole lot of chips. Heidi folded. She would've whooped 'em all.

And that's why I don't like poker. It's much more about bluffing, scamming, and lying than it is about strategy or statistics. Give me a math puzzle any day rather than mind-games.


I remember when, as a child, my mom told me that the "poor pastor's family" could only afford one 8-pack of Pepsi a week. I pitied them. I remember when, as a child, my dad would tell me that (in days of yore) two or three people would have to split a 16-oz Pepsi, and that having a whole 12-oz can to myself was more than enough. Then I pitied myself.

Now I'm one of those moms who buys pop, but we usually only have it 2-3 times a month. There's still something reminiscent in me that wants cola with potato soup or clam chowder, like we had back at home when I was younger. Besides being expensive, pop is full of all sorts of chemicals and sweetener. I am convinced that sugar is better for a person's body than the Equal and Nutrisweet. But pop isn't even made with sugar: it has super-refined high-fructose corn syrup. ("High fructose corn syrup." My children have learned that those words on a label will often get a product banned from my grocery cart.)

If I didn't have enough reasons to avoid the substance, my husband ran across an article on Drudge Report about research on pop. They have found that it messes with DNA. Good grief! I like a decaf Pepsi now and then, but I'm beginning to think pop is a plague on our country as bad as cigarettes. (Which does NOT mean they should be regulated by the government. That's a whole 'nuther issue!)

I almost feel like a drug dealer, passing on leftover pop to Nathan and Justin after the wedding.

I sure do love my kombucha. After learning to enjoy it, after coming to crave it, AND after learning its health benefits, I just don't find much enjoyment in pop anymore. I am going to have to get around to posting kombucha instructions on my website.

(Wisconsites -- including my children -- can just substitute the word "soda" for every "pop" in this post, and chill out about the Illinois girl. Okay?)

Formal Wear

The day of the wedding was a mite chilly. Matt's mom pointed out that men's formal wear involves long sleeves, ties, and jackets. But women's formal wear involves spaghetti straps. Now, how much sense is there in that??

Monday, May 28, 2007


Rachel and Matt's wedding was lovely. The processional was Pachelbel's Canon (with strings and organ) -- people from Fort Wayne are NOT allowed to comment on the choice of song! The first hymn and concluding hymn were various stanzas of "Oh, Morning Star, How Fair and Bright." We also sang "Now Thank We All Our God," "In Thee Is Gladness," and the beautiful wedding hymn "Gracious Savior, Grant Your Blessing."

I'm afraid I laughed at one line in the Old Testament reading: the part about two keeping warm when they lie down together. Rachel is the girl with an electric blanket on her bed, 6-7 quilts, and a huge fat comforter. So that struck me as funny. But Pastor brought another part of the reading into the sermon: a cord of three strands is not easily broken. The other readings were the more commonly used Ephesians 5 and Matthew 19.

The sermon was the absolute longest I ever heard Pastor preach. And he could've just kept going, for all I cared.

Matt and Rachel glowed!

The reception became much more a feast than we'd originally planned. I guess I just like to feed people. But then, Matt's family wanted very much to contribute to the reception. So they brought sandwiches and side dishes and more beverages. So we had quite the dinner instead of the original thought of just having cake and maybe some hors d'oeuvres.

Back in January, we weren't sure whether to have the wedding at the congregation where Rachel grew up and had been a member for 15 years, or have the wedding at the congregation where she and Matt have been attending ever since he moved to Milwaukee. Here would've provided convenience for our family. But so so many of the wedding guests were from up in the city that it made sense to have the wedding closer to where the vast bulk of the guests live. There was also the worry about weather if the wedding reception was planned for our backyard like Katie and Nathan's. Turned out that not only was there wind, rain, and chilly temps, but the church roof started leaking bucketfuls in the wee hours of Saturday morning. The kitchen here would've been entirely unusable! So for practical reasons, it was nice to be in Sussex. But then there's something deeper about the couple being married in their own church. I remember at Nick and Naomi's wedding, and how lovely it was that they were married at the church where they'd been attending and where they would continue to attend -- the church where they commune together weekly, the church where their babies would likely be baptized. I never thought about it before, but Pastor mentioned that very very few couples who marry are both members of the same church and actually get married in that church. And there is something meet, right, and salutary about that.

Anyway, we ended up with about 140-150 people for a reception in a large room with cement-block walls. The volume was loud, but it was a pleasant chatter and excitement. Between showers, sometimes the kids would go outside to play. We shoved a few tables aside so there could be a little bit of dancing. However, a boombox doesn't put out enough volume to overwhelm the exuberant chatting, so dancing wasn't a big part of the reception. I was glad for the munchies on the tables. At last summer's wedding, there was plenty of space to play outdoors in the sun with the potato cannon or the foam swords or the croquet. But the weather didn't allow for much football or foxtail this year. The munchies just made it more welcoming for people to sit around and nibble and continue to chat.

Some dear friends asked to help serve at the wedding. They were such a blessing! They made sure the food was set out on the tables, ready to go as soon as people were dismissed from church. They kept refilling bowls and they served the beverages. They fetched the cheesecakes when Rachel and Matt were ready to cut the cake. Not only all that, but they did most of the clean up. Wow! What a gift that made our day of visiting with new (& old) family so much freer and enjoyable!

As far as serving food to a crowd, I think the lesson I learned last year and this year is that you can never have too much fruit salad. Boy, that goes quickly. We didn't actually run out at either wedding, but we ran down the supply low enough that the leftovers were gobbled up within 24 hours after the wedding. The wedding was good for my "cooking ego" -- I got a lot of compliments.

Dead Theologians Society met today at a friend's house. We had some stuff to pass on to Rachel and Matt, so they stopped by the party for a little while. Matt decided to ask what he should call me and Gary now. Even 10 minutes before the wedding, he was calling me by my last name. So we talked about Susan/Gary or Mom/Dad. I don't know what he'll settle on. But when it was time for the kids to go, he came over to me in front of everybody and hugged me and said, "I'm going to say it now just because I can! Bye, Mom!" And he kissed me. Ahhhh, I love this guy!

I don't think it would be possible to have ordered up two better sons-in-law!


Mrs Mumme had a very good idea: plugging the CCA symposium on her blog. So I'm gonna copy her. The topic this year is especially timely with the synodical convention coming up, and with recent events in our synod.

End of the School Year

We tend to homeschool year 'round ... except in February, when days are short and sunlight is in short supply and it seems that the only way to get through life is to play piano and to pop comedies into the VCR. Around Holy Week and shortly thereafter comes a busy time where not a lot of schoolwork is accomplished. But usually we spiff up the action a bit in summer. So the whole "end of the school year" thing is something that we observe from the outside, as the rest of the world begins looking forward to summer vacation.

Visiting with some friends at the wedding, somehow the topic of textbooks came up. I am the schlock of the group. I am the one of those relaxed homeschoolers, and I do not teach my children Latin. Most of the others in this conversation are Real Teachers. And in a perverse sort of way, Saturday's conversation brought me much comfort.

When I was scoping out church on Thursday morning, measuring how large Loehe Hall is, counting how many chairs were available for the dinner guests, etc., I walked past one classroom where the TV was on. It didn't look like anything remotely educational. In fact, it looked like one of those movies that my husband would let the kids see that I would inwardly chafe over. Seems the teacher had to have his grades turned in by lunchtime Friday. Huh? Friday? Already? But they have school next week.

Well, Friday afternoon was the school picnic. Monday is a holiday -- no school. Tuesday is the all-school fieldtrip. Wednesday evening is graduation, and they'll spend all day getting ready for the service and party. Thursday is supposed to be a day of "real school" but much of it will be cleaning out desks and organizing and picking up the room, and Friday is a half-day.

In other words, they ain't doing diddly of "real school" all week.

If a Real Teacher can do it, I don't have to feel so guilty for squeezing in only an hour or so of school a day for the last few weeks as we've been getting ready for the wedding. Usually talking to Real Teachers intimidates me and sends me spiralling into the woes of inadequacy. But this time was a boost!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

First Communion

Pr Stuckwisch mused a bit on Friday, in light of dear little Oly's first communion today. It's a long long blogpost, which will put off a few of you. Maybe it especially touched my heart because of my love for the children of whom he wrote. But if anyone were to wonder whether children are "too young" to be ready for receiving Jesus in the Supper, this is necessary reading.


On Friday, my husband painted the church sign.

Ya gotta understand that his congregation is accustomed to having a pastor for 2-3 years, then having a vacancy for 1-3 years, and then having a pastor for another couple of years. That's been pretty much all they've known. By the time my husband had been their pastor for five years, they knew he was way overdue on his time to hightail it outta here. (By the way, he's been here more than 16 years now.)

Back to the story of the church sign. The sign was parallel to the highway and the letters were tiny. When memorial money was given for a sign, high priority was given to making it easy to read as cars flew past at 60 mph. Minimal information could be included: name of church, phone number, service time and day, and pastor's name. The decision was made to not have the pastor's name engraved on the sign with the other information, but to have it on a separate plaque that would hang on the sign. After all, pastors come and go. No sense mussing up the sign with Pastor's name.

A few years later, the church's phone number changed. Okay, that meant a plaque had to be made for the sign, correcting the phone number. In our household, we found it rather amusing that the same pastor's name was still on the sign, although the permanent phone number had changed.

A few years later, the congregation decided to go to an earlier service time during summer. So the time of Service changed from 10:00 to 9:00. Oops. Another change to the sign had to be made.

They've always had a summertime non-weekend service here. This year, they decided to change from Thursday night summer services to Monday night services. So the pastor spent his so-called day off making a plaque to hang on the sign, covering up old information, declaring to the world the new day of midweek services.

And I couldn't help but giggle as he hauled out his power saw and his paint. The pastor-dude they all thought was temporary -- the guy whose name they refused to engrave on their church sign -- is the same guy who keeps making changes to the sign's "permanent" information. Can you say "irony"? I wonder if anybody besides me sees the beauty in God's faithfulness to them in their pastor's longevity in this place?

Pastoral Care Companion

Thursday morning I walked into the Bible class room and saw a little book in Pastor's hands and exclaimed, "THAT is what I want to look at!" He immediately offered me his copy of Pastoral Care Companion, but first I had to attend to duties, putting away bunches of groceries for the wedding and other preparation for the reception. Eventually I got my hands on the book, and I had 30 minutes to soak it up before class started.

This book is awesome! I mean, it is almost unbelievable in the tools provided for spiritual warfare.

One of the things I have achingly been missing in LSB is the collects and the proper prefaces. Both of those -- plus the Beichtafel (questions designed to show one's sin in preparation for private confession or going to the Supper) -- are included in the Pastoral Care Companion. So I'm thinking that it may not be an inappropriate book for laymen. For pastors, the book is also a portable agenda, with the funeral rites, the wedding rites, and other Services he may need to have handy when away from church.

But the reason I couldn't put the book down on Thursday was the section with resources for various situations. (Phooey -- that sounds so vague.) For each situation it's got appropriate Bible passages, psalms, prayers, and hymns. Situations are as varied as rejoicing at the birth of a child, struggling with infertility, a run-away child, persistent grief at the loss of a loved one, difficulty dealing with changes in life, considering suicide or abortion, periods of anxiety or depression, and so much more. This book will be a tremendous reference for pastors who think, "Now what am I supposed to do? How can I bring God's word to bear on this situation for my troubled sheep? How do I help them???"

When Pastor finally managed to pry the book free from my hands, he spent the first half of Bible class bubbling over to the group about the book. He said he wished for two things with regard to this book.

First, he hopes pastors will begin using the book for their own personal prayers. There is so much in the book about family life and one's daily work and about struggles with doubts & worries & fears. If the pastor is using this in his daily prayer life, he himself will be edified. But there will also be the resultant benefit that the pastor will know what's available in the book, and he will begin to learn how to use it to minister to his people's needs.

Second, Pastor said he hopes that the Pastoral Care Companion will be something used in the confessional. In the private confession rite in the hymnal, it says after the absolution that the pastor will know additional passages with which to comfort the troubled conscience. Well, what happens when the pastor doesn't know what to say? What happens if he knows which Law to apply, but knows it's time for him to shut up with regard to speaking the Law, and needs to speak Gospel? The Pastoral Care Companion will put God's Word into the mouth of the pastor so that those sweet words from Jesus will go into the ear of the penitent.