Saturday, December 29, 2007

Books for Sale

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

Bouncing Knee

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

Christmas Diary

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 2 on December 28

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

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

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

Friday, December 28, 2007

Almost Dug Out

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

Cash in the Mail

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

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

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Pastors Moving

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

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

Sharing the Same Words

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Brown or Burned?

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

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

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

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

All Theology Is Christology

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


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

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

Available from

Carols and Hymns

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

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

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

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Birthday Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Food Availability

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

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

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

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

Christmas Tree

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

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

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

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

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

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