Saturday, September 29, 2007

Pray Without Ceasing

A conversation today touched on those similar words that aren't exactly alike. For example, nauseous is when something induces nausea, while nauseated is when you're experiencing nausea. [The smell of the septic tank backing up into the house is nauseous. I am nauseated by the thought of mandatory standardized testing of my grade-schoolers.] Another example was continuous versus continual. You eat continually, but your heart beats continuously -- well, except when you're subjected to open-heart surgery, but that's another topic. A mnemonic device to help with that one is "-ous" stands for "one uninterrupted sequence." Of course, in ADD-ish fashion, we jumped from continual/continuous to another example, "pray without ceasing."

I know that some people take 1 Thessalonians 5:17 as a command. They are to pray without ceasing. They take this so literally that they try to train themselves to pray subconsciously so that they can obey the command.

Personally, I really like the Jesus prayer. I probably pray it more than I do the Our Father. But it very much bothers me that those who promote the Jesus Prayer do so for legalistic reasons.

In Luke 18, Jesus tells a parable "that men ought always to pray and never lose heart." Then He goes on to tell us about the persistent widow and the unjust judge. Interestingly, the KJV and NKJV say that the judge complains, "lest by her continual coming she weary me." Was this lady banging on the judge's door day and night, every day, for days on end? Or did she come every day and pester him again?

When Jesus says men ought "always to pray," does He mean that we should pray 60 seconds per minute, 60 minutes per hour, 24 hours per day? Or does He mean we should not give up on our prayers when it appears our Lord does not hear us? Does Jesus mean prayer every day, several times a day? Or does He set down a law of perpetual subconscious meditation so that we can follow a supposed rule of "praying without ceasing"?

Reading Aloud

Rather frequently, my kids come up with things that amaze me. They remember details from stories. They remember trivia. They make connections between different sets of information.

Given what I've observed about their memory and comprehension and problem-solving, I am thinking that it's due to the amount of reading aloud we do together. So often, my husband and I need to see words on a page to actually understand them, but the kids can hear the words and benefit more than we could from just hearing, and often benefit more (just by hearing) than I can by listening AND looking at the words both.

It would be really interesting to do some research on families who do 10-15 hours per week of read-alouds, and compare those families to ones who read aloud together only 2 hours per week. No, it would have to be less than that. Even 15 minutes of reading aloud per day would do good things for young brains. It would be interesting to look at families who read 10 hours/week and those who read less than 1 hour/week ... well beyond the time the kids learn to read for themselves. I'm not talking about reading aloud to 4 year olds; I'm talking about reading aloud to 14 year olds.

I sometimes wonder how much we could improve people's thinking skills, memory, and comprehension if we would just delay the teaching of reading until age 10 at the earliest. What would happen to education in this country if half the schoolday could involve the class reading good books (not textbooks!) aloud and discussing them?

Friday, September 28, 2007


Okay, I admit it: this is a pet peeve. But I justify my peevishness in that this error can sometimes make a big difference in theology. Not always, but often.

Fellowship is not about bowling leagues and throwing darts. Fellowship is not about potlucks and helping with fund-raisers.

Fellowship is something that happens primarily at the altar. We are made one with Christ by eating His body and drinking His blood. In this way we are also united to one another. Fellowship is also seen in our praying together "Our Father" because we are united in the Creed which we confess jointly. Fellowship is when we say "Amen: yes, yes, it shall be so" to the same sermon. Fellowship is when we study the Bible together and pray Matins together.

It really doesn't matter a hill o' beans whether I like you or not. Fellowship isn't about liking each other. Fellowship isn't about doing things together. It is about the love of Christ claiming us, and that we are made one body.

Now, it so happens that when we pray together, sing hymns together, say "amen" to the same doctrine, and (of course!) commune together,

we will grow in affection for each other. We may play even softball together, eat birthday cake together, go to movies together, and visit each other in the hospital. But those things are an outgrowth of true fellowship. They are never the cause of fellowship. If a church wants more of the friendliness and chumminess, it ain't gonna find it by focusing on activities and friendliness. It ain't gonna find fellowship by serving coffee and donuts. When the people are bonded together by the apostles' doctrine and the "fellowship" (that is, the liturgy and the Holy Communion)* then the chumminess and friendliness will follow. And we might even enjoy donuts together on a Sunday morning too.

* See Acts 2:42.

Merchant of Venice

When we saw Much Ado About Nothing two weeks, I thought it was really really good. But if I could go back one more time before the end of the year, it would be to see Merchant. It was so awesome! It plays in Milwaukee the last weekend in October, and in Whitewater on October 23.

The notes in the program seemed to indicate that the play was about anti-Semitism. I think the play was about living by mercy versus living under the law. Those who live by the law will die by the law.

Katie and Rachel will be amused by one of David's comments before the show. This year he's putting on his make-up on-stage for about 20 minutes before the play starts, answering questions people have. When he came out onto the stage, our family applauded wildly. He looked up and said, "Oh. It's you folks. What would I expect?" Yippee! David knows I'm one of his groupies! Anyway, back to the comment... In answer to a question about the difficulty of learning his lines, David was saying that it was easy except for his ADD distractibility. (No wonder I liked that man right off the bat! He thinks like I do!) He said people have suspected that he's really ADHD, but he could never sit still long enough for a test to diagnose him as such!

Oh, and also to taunt my daughters.... we went to the General Store for lunch and Colleen and James came in with their son. Oh, he's cute! And jabbers!

The number of people in the talk-backs is growing, and the Q/A today was super. Some of the typical questions about stagefright and learning lines and favorite characters. But also lots of questions about character motivation and historical background. Very cool!


We have both propane AND plumbing. At the same time. A stove. A water-heater that's working on reheating the water in it. A furnace for when the nights get cold. Toilets that flush. Sinks and bathtubs that drain. A wash-machine.

Like my mom said a couple of days ago ....
living in the lap of luxury!

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Somewhere in the Confessions (I'm too lazy to look it up right now) it says that the Holy Spirit comes only through the Word. God's Word is the only way we can know Him.

Jesus said (Luke 24) that is was necessary not only for the Christ to suffer and rise, but also that repentance and forgiveness be preached. That makes sense if the preaching is the only way we can know God.

Different words, different preaching
= different god.

So if two pastors disagree about doctrine, does make any sense at all for one to accuse the other of being "too picky about words"? I mean, hey, you might disagree. You might disagree vehemently. But if words are the only way we know God and know His anger at sin and know His heart of love, then doesn't it make sense that the WORDS we use to bespeak this doctrine are THE VERY THING WE SHOULD BE PICKY ABOUT? Can't people confront and discuss their differences without writing them off as "pickiness"?

don't anybody mention
homo-ousios versus homoi-ousios.
Or Luther being stubborn about the word IS.


The question was asked recently, "Is there anything that makes you happy?"

The kitten. The kitten exploring the dirt pile in the back yard. The kitten fiercely attacking moths and crickets. The kitten curled up in my lap purring.

Thursday morning Bible class.

Reading good stories aloud to the kids. I gotta dig into that stack of Freddy books that Rachel recently discovered for us.

Plays at APT. Tomorrow we see Merchant of Venice.

Editing Pastor Fabrizius's stuff.

Playing hymns on the piano.

Fruit smoothies.

Hearing the events in the lives of the kids who don't live here anymore.

Hotfresh bread with too much butter and honey.


The pictures of Lily and Claire and Isabelle on Erin's blog (and their "stunts").

Funny movies. Especially romantic comedies. (Sorry, Anthea, but I ain't making you watch 'em.)

And a lot more....


This morning Gary saw the nasty critter who's ripping up the lawn. The guys at church said you can't shoot a skunk unless you've got super-precise aim. Don't wanna risk hitting the wrong part of the animal! I suspect a live trap would cause the same problems.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


If the repairman with the backhoe comes in trepidation to your door, full of apologies, and tells you that he cut your fuel line (because the fuel-company was WAY off when they marked the buried pipes),

if your response is to laugh because, of course, what ELSE would we expect (!!!),

are you still sane?

Or do you just pat yourself on the back for having had the foresight to tell all the kids to enjoy REAL showers last night?

New Glasses

The world seems to be getting fuzzier and fuzzier. Especially those stoplights at night! Since we're beginning to wonder how much longer we'll have health insurance, I decided I'd better make an appointment to see the eye doctor while it's still covered. Happily, he reported that my nearsightedness is the same in one eye, slightly improved in the other.

But he said I need bifocals.


I don't want bifocals. I had a hard enough time adjusting to these new [smaller] glasses two years ago, where I can see out from under the lenses. And Gary was just totally sick to his stomach when he was trying to adjust to bifocals. When he was so miserable with his new glasses, even after weeks of trying to adjust, I decided I was going to get reading glasses for years until I was thoroughly disgusted with the switching back and and forth and just couldn't take it anymore.

I now have on order a nice pair of Harry Potter frames with little-old-lady lenses in them. They're actually pretty cute. And unlike a couple of guys I know, my reading glasses and regular glasses look different enough that I'll know which is which.

Y'know, if they hadn't changed the hymnal on me, I wouldn't be struggling with my "new" [aka "two-yr-old"] glasses, and I wouldn't be in need of bifocals now. But nooooo.... they had to sneak new words into my hymnal just when my eyes get too old to change their focus. [mumble crab grouse murmur complain]

Restaurant Demographics

We had library books due, and the propane tank still hadn't shown up by dinner-time Tuesday. So we decided to splurge and go out to eat. We chose Old Country Buffet because of the variety and the amount of fruits and veggies... and because we still had a little credit left on a gift-card from Christmas a few years ago.

11:30 a.m. on a weekday. The place was FULL of senior citizens. There were a few people our age, all of them Hispanic. Not a blond in the restaurant anywhere: just our brown hair, the black of the other young people, and lots and lots of gray. Not only that, but we had children there, outside the confines of school. What on earth was the matter with us, out in the middle of the day, crashing the seniors' restaurant??? LOL!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Singing in Church

Sometimes people don't want to sing out in church. They mumble their way through the congregational responses -- whether spoken or sung. They sing with a subdued voice during the hymns and canticles. When nobody else is singing (or the acoustics are so bad that it seems that no one else is singing) it is very discouraging for people, and we often have the tendency to pull back so we don't stick out. But then it just cycles worse and worse: there are fewer people singing because they hear fewer people singing, which makes the singing even less, etc.

My pastor has told us many a time how important it is that we sing out in church, and that we speak the responses full-voiced. There are people in church with us who are grieving the loss of loved ones, and people who are enduring satanic attacks, and people who are depressed, and people who are struggling with family problems, and they may be unable to sing because of the depth of emotion goin' on there. It is our ministry to our needy brothers to sing for them. They need to hear the congregation singing when they can't. They need people praying those words for them when they are too weak and too beaten down. And you experience that for yourself when you are trying to sing, but the tears choke your own voice, and you need your neighbor singing those words when you cannot.

"Speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" is most concretely done in the Divine Service. "The mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren" is something that is done obviously and frequently as we speak and sing in the Divine Service.

I regularly attend two congregations that have very very different personalities, so I've observed something. Forget for just a moment that the main reason we each go to church (and participate) is because of what God does for me there, what He does to save me and love me. There's also something else that I have become quite aware of in the last several years. I am greatly encouraged in the Faith when I am at church with others who yearn to be there, others who sing and participate, others who desire to soak up the Word of Forgiveness. It is discouraging to our neighbor and makes light of the importance of his faith when we choose not to participate in worship. When we attend church weekly, and go to Bible class, and sing in church loud enough for our neighbor to hear, that is one of the greatest ministries we are privileged to engage in.

Now, I don't think pointing this out to a mumbler is going to encourage him/her to sing out. It would probably be a law-motivation to do so, anyhow. ("Hey, buster, you'd better sing so that you can do your duty for your neighbor!") We participate in church because what's being said and sung is our life and strength, without which we're done for. But if people believe that the liturgy and the hymns are their very sustenance and life, annnd if it's also pointed out to them how much it means to the little old lady in front of us to hear our voices, who knows, maybe the love in them for their neighbor might move them to "preach" God's word (by singing out the hymns and liturgy full-voice) to their fellow worshipers.


I baked bread tonight. I didn't have to go out in the rain to do it. I only had to walk six measly feet to flip the dial to preheat the oven -- instead of 600'.

I baked a pie tonight. I knew how hot the oven would be, without having to make wild guesses as to the accuracy of the church's oven dial. We sniffed the lovely aroma of the cherries as they baked. I could be washing dishes while continuing to check the doneness-level of the pie, or helping Paul with his ACT registration, instead of standing at church doing nothing while I waited the last 10-15 minutes for the pie to finish.

And some hungry boys needed a quick supper. So I grabbed a package of hamburger, nuked it to thaw, and slapped some hamburgers into the skillet on the stove top.



The truck is here! The driver is putting fuel into our tank! I can turn on the stove now!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Acoustics in Church

Four years ago, the Higher Things youth conference was held in Arlington TX. The speaker was great; the sessions were great; the entertainment was great. Some people had mixed feelings about the worship.

The conference organizers didn't have access to a nice big church. Worship was held in a huge box-shaped conference room. The singing and participation wasn't what it had been in years past. Some of the chaperones were complaining about the liturgical worship and the choices of strong hymnody. They said it was too hard for the kids, or uninteresting for the kids. But at previous conferences, the liturgical worship was deeply appreciated -- the high point of the conference for most attendees. So what was up with the changed attitudes?

On the next-to-last evening of the conference, Vespers was held in a rather bizarre location. Thursday was spent at Six Flags, riding roller coasters, eating junk food, riding roller coasters, foisting MORE water on kids so they wouldn't get dehydrated, and then riding a couple more roller coasters. In betwixt all those roller coasters, the whole 1000 of us took over one of the show palaces. As soon as the pop music and light show and dancing was done, those Lutherans rushed into the place, set up an altar and lectern, covered over most of the wild decorations, got everyone seated, and began to pray.

We'd been skeptical. Having prayers in this place? Would it work? How distracting would it be?

But it turned out to be one of the best services of the conference. Not in spite of the location, but because of it. The acoustics were ideal. After all, the place was built for musicals and entertainment. The architects for Six Flags knew how important it was for the sound to carry, how important it was for the words to be clearly heard, how important it was for the singers to preserve their voices for show after show each day.

When you put 1000 Lutheran youth into that building to pray vespers and sing their hymns, the sound was awesome! Those kids did love the liturgy and the hymns. They did sing out.

It wasn't the kids' attitudes that caused the apparent lack of enthusiasm for worship earlier in the week. It was the acoustics of the building which had dampened the sound. The lousy acoustics made it seem that "nobody else was singing" and nobody else cared, and that the worship should've been different so that it could "appeal to" the kids.

Before that week, I'd always thought acoustics in church was a hoity-toity thing, important only to artsy musicians and persnicketty perfectionists. That evening, in the show palace at Six Flags, I learned otherwise. Acoustics in a church matters to everyone -- even if they know nothing about music and/or acoustics. Good acoustics in a church make it possible for the congregation to support each other in their prayers, as well as making it possible for the sound to carry so that more people can hear the readings and the preaching. Poor acoustics in church make you feel like you're there alone, singing alone, praying alone. And that's not good for the body.


From the "Things I Didn't Want to Learn" file.

When you throw your dishwater out the back door, you get critters. Buggy critters as well as mammal critters. Mammal critters who dig holes in your yard, looking for whatever food it is they think must be around, since they're smelling the little bits of starch and grease that came off the plates into the dishwater. Besides the holes in the yard, those critters leave piles of poop. Which draws flies. It's really really nice to be able to drain your dishwater down pipes leading to the sewer or septic!

We've been told "When it's yellow, let it mellow. When it's brown, flush it down." Well, we have been using the toilets at church most of the time. But even the "mellowing" overnight can get mega-stinky. And you get bugs in the house when you do that! Yuck! I think I've heard that they used to sprinkle ashes in the outhouses after each use, to keep down the bugs and the odors. Can't sprinkle ashes in an indoor toilet with pipes, though.

I don't know what's up with the kitchen sink. It smells so bad. I'm wondering if it's because of dumping so much of the dishwater outdoors. Or it might be due to the septic-system still awaiting repair. I noticed that the sink was getting pretty grungy, without having hot soapy water in it a lot. Finally I just DID IT -- I hauled out the Ajax and scrubbed the sink, even though lots of water had to go down the drain. That helped, but didn't solve the problem. Smells like my kitchen sink has dead stuff rotting in it. Yuck!

We've also recently noticed the glories of hot water in the shower. The knots in a person's neck and back can be much alleviated by the hot water running over one's back daily. Bursitis can be helped by the hot water. Snotty sinus cavities can be helped by the hot water. Infection can be drawn out by soaking a sore in hot water. I'm beginning to see why doctors in past centuries would prescribe a vacation to a place where there were hot springs. Sometimes hot water (in copious amounts) can do wondrous things for your health that pills can only approximate. It makes you wonder how people plugged away hundreds of years ago, doing much more physical labor than we do today, but without the daily hot baths/showers to reduce the pain. (We're such wusses.)

I'm beginning to see recently how the plumbing we take for granted isn't just about convenience and comfort, but about health too!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

They Stood Still

A sermon I heard this morning was about Jesus' compassion to us who ache because of death, and how He took the death and the illness and the separation into Himself so as to give us life and health and communion. And I appreciated the sweet words. I did! And I listened with part of my brain.

But the other part was noticing the fact that those who were carrying the coffin stood still. They stood still and saw the Lord's salvation of this one man. Well, this man and his mother.

And when you look at Exodus 14, one of the lines the Israelites use to sass Moses was about "Weren't there any graves in Egypt that you had to bring us out here to die?" And these guys in Luke's story were on their way to the graveyard.

And the crowd in Luke's story proclaimed Jesus to be a great prophet when He stretched out His hand and brought salvation. Just like Moses was known as the great prophet -- Moses who stretched out his hand over the Red Sea.

In the Exodus story, Jesus stood between the Israelites and the Egyptians all night, protecting His people from their enemies. In the Luke story, Jesus interfered between this man and death, driving back his death.

Now, some of my friends who are pastors like to make a connection between this story and the story of another Son who was carried to His burial and who was raised. So I figured I must be having wacky thoughts to be seeing all these connections to the story of the exodus. But maybe it's not so wacky. Maybe the story of the exodus IS actually another aspect of the story of the Son who died and was raised again. "How holy is this night when innocence is restored to the fallen, and joy is given to those downcast!"


The Fellowship of St James puts out a lovely calendar for the church year. It includes many many saints days. It includes feast days according to both the Eastern and Western calendars. There is usually a brief quote from a church father, chosen to fit with the month's artwork. Most months also include little snippets of information; this month's was about themes from the Jewish calendar being carried over into the Christian calendar (such as Yom Kippur and Holy Cross Day).

Each month's art typically fits with the church year. The pictures are most often woodcuts, but not always. This calendar is not good for keeping track of appointments; there's not enough writing space in the little boxes. But other than that, it's quite a find. And it's affordable. But it would be more affordable if you can find a neighbor who wants one too, and you can piggy-back your orders.

The Gospel

I decided during this morning's Gospel reading (the story of the raising of the son of the widow of Nain) that the "John 3:16" of the Old Testament might be Exodus 14:13-14.

I know that the first promise (Genesis 3:15) is considered one of the prime passages from the beginning of time. And I don't mean to diminish it's importance.

But look at this passage from the constituative event in the history of God's people:

[At the Red Sea] Moses said to the people,
"Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace."

If I remember right, that's used at the Easter Vigil, connecting it to the ultimate salvation of the Lord. And if I'm wrong, and it's not one of the readings, it's still at the Easter Vigil in: "This is the night when you brought our fathers, the children of Israel, out of bondage in Egypt, and led them through the Red Sea on dry ground."

The Long Winter

At the end of a very long, hard, blizzardy winter, the people of DeSmet were much relieved to feel the warm winds of the Chinook. They rejoiced over the melting snow and the arrival of spring. But it took another whole month before the railroad tracks were cleared of snow, such that the trains could finally make it through with supplies. They knew the end of the problem had arrived. They knew winter had been defeated. And yet, their rescue had not come to fruition.

(Come to think of it, this is not unlike Christ's death winning the victory, while we continue on in this valley of sorrow until the rescue comes to fruition in our own deaths or the end of the world.)

Church's fund-raiser yesterday brought in enough money to pay the fuel bill from last winter. So we can ask our propane-supplier to bring us a tankful. This means we'll have a stove. This means our hot water heater will work. This means we can bathe and do laundry without boiling water on the stove at church. This means that when the next cold snap comes, we'll have a furance that works. This is good news.

However, we're still waiting to know when this will happen. The money is there. But will the company bring us fuel just because we say "the check is in the mail" (even though it really would be)? Will we need to drive the check to them (a two-hour round-trip)? Will they send out a truck to fill our propane tank, with the promise that we'll give the check to the driver? Even though the money is there and we can buy propane now, it will be late Monday at the earliest, or even as late as Friday (hopefully no later!), before we actually experience the joys of turning on the hot water faucet again.

And I'm really really looking forward to the ease of cooking in one kitchen instead of shuttling between two. Besides that, the church kitchen is currently unusuable due to flies. I'm not a neat freak. I do naughty things: I eat food off the floor. Yesterday my friend Kathy rolled her eyes when she caught me grabbing a dirty glass out of her sink instead of getting a clean one out of the cupboard. The day before, Kathy rolled her eyes as she caught me eating olives off kids' plates after they'd finished their pizza. But even I get the heebie-jeebies, thinking about cooking in a kitchen so disgustingly filled with flies. (I am going to HAVE to go get bug-bombs for church soon.)