Friday, August 03, 2007


Let my prayer rise before You as incense,
the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. Ps 141

At the For You youth conference last week, we had plenty of chances to meet in the chapel for worship. For evening prayers, Pastor Kind used incense.

Being a typical Lutheran who has very little experience with incense, it was very interesting to me to WATCH the incense. I like the idea of incense, assuming the building is large enough and assuming my asthmatic daughter isn't too close to the altar. But I always thought of incense as going UP, like prayers going up to God. I guess I thought of it as very much like smoke from a chimney.

But it didn't just go up. The incense billowed out and up. And as I watched it through half an hour of prayers, I saw how it thinned out and spread. Not just up, but throughout the chancel. Throughout the nave. Up and out and through. Even down. And even when you lost sight of the smoke, it wasn't gone. You could smell the perfumed incense permeating the air, beautifying the place. Couldn't see it, but it was there.

From Bender's Lutheran Catechesis, page 29:
The Lord's Prayer shows us that our lives are made holy by God's Word that is received and believed. We cry out to Him because we believe in what He has promised us. The Lord's Prayer directs us sinners where to find our help. This is the holy life of faith in Jesus Christ.

Thinking about that incense, it's like prayer. Prayer rises like incense, not like smoke from a chimney. Prayer doesn't just go UP to God. It goes out and through our lives. It may not be visible. As it spreads its perfume, our lives are made holy by the Word that is spoken to us and by us in our prayers.


Rachel tagged me for the "Personal Style Quiz" that's making its way around our friends and acquaintances. I'm not tagging anybody else because I can't remember who's done it and who hasn't, and I don't want to go look.

Rules: You have to choose one of the two. You cannot answer "neither" or "both." You can indicate that you like both or neither, but you must state a preference.

Animal fiber or plant?
Plant. I like cotton but love linen. Wool itches.

Natural or synthetic?

Ornate or simple?
Simple to the point of boring.

Color or Neutral?
Probably color. Although... the blue in blue jeans is something I treat as a neutral, and that might change the answer.

Pastel or Vibrant?
I have equal amounts of both. But the red I like is vibrant so I'll pick that.

Blue/Green or Red/Orange?
This is the nastiest question on the whole quiz. I like blue and dislike most greens on me. I love red and don't want to wear orange (unless it's Illini orange, but that's disconnected from fashion). I refuse to answer on the grounds that "blue/red" is not set in opposition to "green/orange." So there!

White Gold or Yellow Gold?
Easiest question on the quiz -- yellow gold!

Gems or texture?
Huh? Gems? Texture? Where? I say ditto to Rachel's answer: "I lack the necessary fashion vocabulary and cannot answer this question." Even reading other people's answers hasn't given me enough of a clue to understand this question.

Watch or no-watch?
No watch. I kept jamming watches. Too much wiggling and movement, so those "self-wind watches" would always get overwound on my wrist and stop running.

Comfort or fashion?
Oh, wait. I take it back. This question is as easy as the one about yellow gold. COMFORT! I look dorky, but I'm comfortable.

Trendy or classic?

Cables or lace?
Cables? What, in socks and sweaters? Some of my favorite dresses have had white lace collars. But I suppose I have more cable-knit sweaters than I have lacey things.

Heels or flats?
Oh, look, another no-brainer. FLATS.

Flip-flops or sandals?
Birkenstock sandals.

Skirts or pants?
Since jeans are pants, the answer must be pants.

Geometric or floral?
Geometric? Would that include stripes? I think I have more stripes than florals, but no other geometrics.

V-neck or turtle-neck?
Turtle neck. And even more so after last winter's multiple trips to the chiropractor because of cold breezes on my neck.

Skulls or butterflies?
I don't think I have any butterflies, but it would be a possibility. But I don't think I'd ever be happy with anything with skulls.

Loose or snug?
Loose. (Remember that question on comfort?)

Long hair or short?
Long. Short hair makes an ostrich-neck look even longer.

Headbands or barrettes?
Why is SCRUNCHI not an option? Headbands look better on me than barrettes, but they usually make the backs of my ears hurt. Cloth headband, however, would usually be preferable to barrettes.

Shoulder bag or handbag?
Shoulder bag.

Psalm 18:20-24

The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness,
according to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me.
For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
and have not wickedly departed from my God.
For all His judgments were before me,
and I did not put away His statutes from me.
I was also blameless before Him,
and I kept myself from my iniquity.
Therefore the Lord has recompensed me according to my righteousness,
according to the cleanness of my hands in His sight.

I always had a problem with psalms like this. God's gonna pay me for all the good I do.

Uh, then I'm toast.

Pastor could explain and explain and explain. And I could understand, but my heart would still set up shields at words like these from Psalm 18. He could explain that it's talking about Christ. He could explain that it's talking about the New Man of faith in me. But still .....

And today I noticed something. "MY iniquity." Look at that: "I kept myself from MY iniquity." Think about that! If I have iniquity, if it is part of me, how do I keep myself from it? "I kept myself from my elbow"? "I kept myself from my eating"? How would that work anyhow? It's altogether different from keeping myself from my house or my car or my toothbrushing.

And with the admission that I have iniquity, that sheds some light on "my righteousness" and "blameslessness" and "keeping His judgments before me." Maybe, just maybe, there's a both/and goin' on there?

This is the name by which He will be called:
The Lord Is Our Righteousness.

If you toss Jeremiah into the mix, maybe "rewarded me according to my righteousness" could be understood as "rewarded me according to my Jesus." And maybe "according to the cleanness of my hands" would be that He recompenses "according to my baptism."

Thursday, August 02, 2007


For the last several years, I've been puzzling over the stories of the anointing of Jesus. John says (chap 12) the dinner was at Bethany, Lazarus was there, and Martha served. Luke says (chap 7) the dinner was at Simon the Pharisee's house. Mark says (chap 14) and Matthew says (chap 26) the dinner was at Simon the Leper's.

Topic for Bible study today was John 11, the raising of Lazarus. Pastor mentioned that Pr Wiest suspected that Lazarus ["God is my help"] was possibly an alternate name Jesus gave to Simon the leper, like He gave the name Peter to Simon the fisherman. That really makes a lot of sense.

1 Down, 2 To Go

Katie got a job! Yee haw! Woo hoo! Hooray hooray!

Hoping to post similar yee-haws about some other people in the near future.

Psalm 15:4

Who may abide in the tabernacle, in God's holy hill?
He who swears to his own hurt and does not change.

How often the Lord swears His promise in the Old Testament to the patriarchs! He swears to Adam and Eve that the Seed would crush the serpent's head. He swears to Noah that He will not destroy the world with water again. He swears to Abraham that He would make of him a great nation, and that his son would save the nationS. He swears to Jacob that the land would be given to him. He swears to David that his son would sit on the throne forever. And those examples just scratch the surface.

God swore to His own hurt. Isaiah 53 and the ends of the Gospel accounts show how much it hurt Him to make those promises. Still, He would not renege on the promise; He would not change.

Psalm 11:5

The Lord tests the righteous,
But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates.

Interesting. That's one of those contrasts. God hates the wicked, but He loves the righteous. But the word isn't loves, it's tests. A person being tested sure doesn't feel like he's loved. He feels like he's being picked on.

Somehow, Abraham offered up Isaac anyway. He didn't think God was picking on him. No wonder he is called "father of the faithful."

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

For You

I took the boys to Minneapolis last week for the national Lutheran youth gathering. The theme was "For You." There were a lot of good things, even if there were some inconveniences with the location of our housing.

But what they did with the title of the conference bothered me. Even before we registered for the conference we would get mailings about the conference that used that phrase "for you" in a variety of ways. They were working on getting travel information "for you" to get from the airport to the conference. They would have the conference schedule available "for you" on thus-and-such a day. They had arranged busses to the ball game "for you." The phrase "for you" was also used in sermons and catechesis, usually connected to the Gospel and what God has done for us.

But the cutesy nature of how they overused the phrase "for you" (almost in a "marketing" type of way) did not set comfortably with me. And I realized why on Sunday morning. When Pastor preached, "Christ died for you. For you He took on human flesh and ...." my brain recalled all the cute little "for you" phrases I'd heard in connection with the conference. When I was at church on Monday night, and the Pastor said, "This is My body, given for you,..." I thought of all the silly little ways "for you" had been tossed around the previous week.

Somebody will say I'm a pietist. Somebody will say that I need to learn how to laugh and have a good time. Somebody will say I'm too picky. Nevertheless, those words "for you" are so totally precious and sacred that it seems to me they were bastardized last week. And I wonder how long it will be before I can hear those words clearly and rightly again.


One of my most essential homeschooling supplies is my calendar. It's available from Miles Kimball and is boring as all-get-out. No pictures. Nothing pretty. But the supremely attractive feature of this calendar is that each day has a roomy 2" x 2.5" box for writing in appts and stuff. There's also a space for notes at the top of each month, as well as two weeks of the next month on the bottom of each page. The order number is 553545, the "Giant Write-On Calendar," and costs a whopping three bucks. (Shipping costs more than the calendar itself.)


If you feel a sore throat coming on, you can suck on zinc-&-C lozenges. If you feel a cold sore coming on, there's Abreva. If you can tell that you're starting mastitis, you interrupt the progression of the illness by clearing the schedule, taking a nap, using moist heat, and nursing a lot. With a cold, you start chugging orange juice and home-made chicken soup, and popping echinacea capsules. When a boil starts, you reach for a slab of garlic to tape onto the spot.

But what is the preventative measure when a person feels a bout of depression beginning?

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


When I put the lid on the compost bucket last night, I did not seal it tightly.

Y'know, some people poke fun at Luther for what he said about mice and bugs. He agreed with Aristotle that, though it is obvious mice give birth to mice, mice also originate from decay. Luther also said dung beetles come from horse manure.

What if they DO? If I leave the lid on the compost bucket, there aren't bugs in it. But when I left the lid of the compost bucket loose, there were gazillions of little fruit flies and gnats. They weren't in the house before. It sure looks like they sprang out of the cantaloupe rinds and garlic peels!

I wonder how long till all these little pests die off?
Well, one lesson learned about the compost bucket ....

Just Children's Stories

Warning. Depending on how careful you are with avoiding any details, this may possibly have a Harry Potter spoiler in it. I don't think it does. But I'm giving fair warning just in case.

Hermione didn't believe the children's stories. They aren't real. They're just children's stories. They're make-believe.

Some people did believe them. Sometimes they were thought to be loony. Sometimes Christians are thought to be loony for buying into those "myths."

Sometimes what appears to be "just children's stories" are much more. When Aslan told the children that they would not return to Narnia, they mourned their loss of Aslan. But he told them they would learn to know him by another name in their world. Narnia is not "just a children's story."

We were talking last night about whether J. K. Rowling intended for Harry Potter to be a Christian story, or if it was just a good story in which some of us saw something more. They say Tolkien did not intend for the Lord of the Rings to be a Christian story, but Christians certainly see a lot of truths encased in the story.

I assumed that's what was going on with Harry Potter too. Now I'm not so sure. That business about the Bard's tales not being "just children's stories" seems like it could be a clue about the very volume I'm holding in my hands as I read about Hermione & Xeno arguing over those "children's stories." Maybe that volume too is "not just children's stories."

I don't like fantasy. I don't enjoy magic in my stories. I don't like talking animals in stories, or elves, or goblins, or any of that stuff. But Narnia and Harry Potter are different. They aren't fantasy. They're theology. And they're stories I'd hate to miss just because they're dressed up in a literature-genre I'm not usually fond of.

(With 150 pages to go in the last Harry Potter book, I reserve the option to revisit this post and stamp my feet and say that I take it all back. Y'know, if it all turns out very wrong, very different from what I expect.)


Luke 10:24 -- Blessed are the eyes that see the things you see; for I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see the things you see, and have not seen it, and to hear the things you hear, and have not heard it.

Warning. Warning.
Harry Potter spoiler to follow.

Sometimes I wonder what it was like for the people of the Old Testament to know Jesus, to believe in Him, and yet not have the intellectual knowledge of how the Promise was going to pan out.

I'm not done with The Deathly Hallows yet. When my family was listening to Pastor Stuckwisch on the 7-29 radio program yesterday, I heard something while carrying a laundry basket through the room: Harry dies as he defeats Voldemort. My husband gasped and reached to shut down the volume before I heard any more secrets.

THAT was a secret?

C'mon, I knew THAT. I knew that from way back when I first starting reading the books (when #4 was newly published). I can't remember when I figured it out, but I know that I knew prior to finishing reading book #4.

I didn't know the details. I didn't know in which book it would happen. I didn't know that Dumbledore would die too. I didn't know whether Snape would turn out to be good or bad. But I knew the anointed one would give his life to defeat the evil one. And as I continue to read, the details continue to unfold.

And it crossed my mind: is this what it was like for the believers in the Old Testament? The slow revelation of details? But knowing all along the basic plan?

Monday, July 30, 2007

Harry Potter and Galatians 1:6-9

Pr Stuckwisch was interviewed on Issues Etc last night. Although I could not listen, the rest of my family did. My husband also told me that Pastor S mentioned on his blog the number of people who called in to the show and claimed that it is evil to read Harry Potter books. (I haven't looked at Pastor's recent blog posts, seeing as how I'm not done with the books yet.)

This is what I decided yesterday morning. You can argue with certain Christians till you're blue in the face about whether Harry Potter books are good or bad. But the problem isn't the books. The problem isn't magic. The problem isn't sanctification. The problem has nothing to do with the philosophy of literature. The problem doesn't even have anything to do with whether we're feeding lovely and pure things into our minds (Philippians 4:8). The problem is that they have a different Gospel, a different Jesus (2 Corinthians 11:4).

Of course, there are people who don't like Harry Potter because they're not fans of that style of fiction. No problem. But it's no use arguing about Harry Potter books with those who say it contradicts Christianity. Because we're starting with different definitions of what Christianity is.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Beach Pass

After some consideration, I decided to gather the money to buy two beach passes.

Since school let out and the neighbor kids are home, I'd noticed Maggie had become ever more dependent upon their company, her attitude had gone downhill, and she was no longer able to entertain herself. In other words, she was always bored unless she was playing with friends who were proving themselves to be a less than salutary influence. Now, don't get me wrong: they aren't bad kids. It's just that too much time with friends seems to make my kids icky. So I determined that we needed to curtail most of the playtime with the neighbors.

However, because of Maggie's scoliosis, she needs to be outside, playing, exercising, in the sunshine and fresh air. But what is there to do outside when you've become accustomed to playing with your friends and are now cruelly deprived of them? So she has a new bike, one that fits her taller size. And we've hauled out the scooter. But she's really missing those hours that she spent in the neighbor's pool.

That's why I bought the beach pass. Cheaper than buying our own oversized inflatable pool. Less convenient geographically. More convenient as far as effort needed to take care of it.

On that day I bought the pass, we couldn't go to the beach because I had to fetch Gary from O'Hare. The next two days we couldn't go to the beach because Harry Potter was newly out and we didn't get our audio version, but had to read aloud for hours upon hours each day. The next five days I was out of town and couldn't take Maggie to the beach. So the next day we were rarin' to go. Drove over to the village with the beach... not a place to park in the whole town. Not one! The Lions were having their annual Lobster Boil fund-raiser, and there were no available parking spots even 1/2 mile away.

Disappointment reigned. But do you know how sweet my husband is? He took Andrew to town to do the paper route, and he did my part of the route for me, so that he could drop Maggie and me off at the beach and then fetch us when they were done doing my job for me. And then Maggie and I drove over tonight too, and I got in four chapters of Harry Potter. Before we even left the beach, Maggie was trying to elicit a promise from me to take her back tomorrow.

Sun, fresh air, and exercise. Some of our main anti-scoliosis weapons. I may feel like I'm goofing off at the beach, but those early puberty years of great gains in height are when scoliosis worsens the most. So what we do now for Maggie's back will have consequences for the rest of her life. So I guess I need to find time to go to the beach again tomorrow. And I suppose that means I'll have to read more Harry Potter!