Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Trusting Christ

We trust in God.
We trust Him for guidance in how to live our lives.
We trust Him for the power to do those good works.
We trust Him for forgiveness when we screw up.
We trust Him for daily bread.

Those are all things we ought to trust God for.
They are good things that He promises to give.

Interestingly, though,
these are also things the Pharisees trusted God for.

The thing that sets Christians apart from the Pharisees is that they trust in Christ and His blood-bought redemption as their rescue because they don't live their lives right, because they don't have the power to do the good works God has laid out for them, because there is often nothing but screw-ups, because we are ungrateful for our daily bread.

Christians trust in a merciful God.
Christians trust in forgiveness from a Savior.
When we talk about "walking in faith," that's what it's really about.

Snow Tally

Snow tally for the month:
8" on December 1
3" worth of shoveling drifts on December 2
6" on December 3
3" on December 6
4" on December 9
2" worth of shoveling drifts on December 10
4" on December 16
12" on December 19
2" on December 20
6" worth of shoveling drifts on December 21
6" worth of shoveling drifts on December 22

5" on December 23
4" on December 24
rain to shrink the piles on December 27
2" on December 28
½" on December 30

Newspaper reported 41" before the Official First Day of Winter.
They said it was the snowiest fall on record here.
(Can you see me rolling my eyes and sighing???)
Thankfully, we've only had a foot since then.

Grateful Hearts?

My friend Karl was telling us last week about his trip to Ghana last summer. He said that, after he returned to the States, it really strikes him how much we have here, and how ungrateful we are for our blessings, and how piddly and inconsequential are the things we worry about.

Yesterday I was chatting with a neighbor, and she mentioned that she got a phone call from the doctor on the morning of the 24th about a lump. She worried all through Christmas that this was her last one. The surgery and biopsy on the 29th showed it was benign, but she was telling me how those five days made her realize that her worries about a clean house or the number of presents under the tree are nothing, and that what matters is that she's alive and has her health and her family around her. She also acknowledged that she had a scare like this about a year ago, and appreciated the "attitude adjustment," but that her improved perspective wore off faster than it should've, and she went back to being consumed by all the regular American concerns.

But how does a person get a better perspective? What if you can recognize that you have much to be thankful for, but nevertheless worry about all the failings? What is it that changes hearts -- other than being smacked upside the head with a huge loss (or seeing another culture's poverty)?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Giving Up

Halloween is October 31.
People carve jack-o-lanterns in October.
They light them for decorations for Halloween.

My pumpkin didn't get carved for Halloween.
Okay, we could put a turkey on it instead.
It didn't get carved for Thanksgiving.
Okay, we could put a Christmas decoration on it instead.
It didn't get carved for Christmas.
I was thinking we could put a New Years carving into the pumpkin.

But instead

I just threw it out a few minutes ago.

I feel wasteful.

But how dumb would I feel with a Valentine carved into a pumpkin???

Bekah and Gabe

I should've been taking pictures after the wedding when the families were gathered at the front of church. But no, there were cookies to eat in the fellowship hall, and I was socializing instead of snapping photos. So this was the best I could do of the new couple:

Hey, it's Wisconsin. What can I say? Is anybody in Wisconsin REALLY married until they do the chicken dance at the reception?

Laura has been saying all along what it's like to see Katie all grown up and married to Nathan and being a mommy, when she remembers Katie as a little little girl. And now I see what she means. Bekah's wedding was very different from my own daughters' who lived with me, or Naomi's or Bean's. I knew Bekah when she was little. And I watched her grow, not from the perspective of her mom, and not from a couple of states away. Nevertheless, I was going to be tough and strong and not cry. And then Philip walked down the aisle. Oh, yeah, the mom was maintaining control. The sisters/bridesmaids were smiling. But the brother.... oh, the love in his eyes and the emotion he was trying to hold in check. That did me in. And then the last pair to come down the aisle: Rebekah full of smiles, and Dad trying to keep the tears at bay. Y'know, I may have made it through the service without tears if it hadn't been for those two men brimming over with love for that lovely bride.

And for fun, here are some of the ones we had fun with at the reception: Wietings, Mays, Vrudneys, Burgesses, and the Fabrizii. I think we need to marry off more kids so that we have more excuses to get together and have parties and laugh and catch up on each other's lives and laugh!

Today's Laugh

An editing oops from The Scroll, the college newspaper at BLC:

The article is about an on-campus group that promotes "awareness, motivation, and action." This group covers topics such as alcohol, body image, stress management, and pro-life issues. The November event was an attempt to raise awareness of domestic abuse. But the editor supplied an antecedent (in the brackets) for a pronoun ... and it just didn't quite work:

"I was searching the internet for ideas on how to promote [domestic violence] because I wanted to do more than just have a speaker..."

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Holy Innocents

Today we recalled the story of the little boys at Bethlehem who were slaughtered by Herod in his attempt to kill the Christ-child (Matthew 2). Matthew recalls the prophecy from Jeremiah about Rachel weeping for her children because they are no more.

Pastor talked today about that inability to be comforted. Of course there was deep grief over the heinous death of the children. But there was more.

The rumor mill had been going for two years or more by this time. That old priest came out of evening prayers at the temple, unable to speak. His old wife became pregnant. At the child's circumcision party, the priest is prophesying about the Messiah's arrival. Everybody was talking about it. Then there were those shepherds telling everybody about that business of angels in the sky, and the baby in the barn, and a savior. Tongues were wagging -- Simeon knew what day to show up at the temple so that he could meet Mary and Joseph and see God in their arms. And then there was that retinue of the magi who showed up and set everybody a-tremblin' because Herod got news of a rival king. (And they all knew that a ticked-off Herod would result in no happy thing.)

The faithful had been waiting for the Messiah.

The Jews had been waiting for their version of a messiah, one who would kick out the Romans and restore their nation.

Luke tells us over and over that these events "were made widely known."

So when Herod wiped out all the babies around Bethlehem, it wasn't "just" an atrocity (not unlike legalized abortion). But it also looked like he had thwarted God's plans to send His Messiah. No wonder the women were despairing. They had lost not only their babies, but it appeared they had lost also their Savior and all their hopes.

It reminds me of Abraham, being asked to kill the one who was his son, but who was also the one through whom the Savior would come.

And yet, both times, God knew what He was doing. It sure didn't look like it. It looked like He had reneged on His promises, letting His people down, and doing it in a most painful way.

And yet,
things are not what they appear.

(So why do I always tend to believe appearances instead of the Promise?)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Emotional Christmas

Upon Cheryl's urging and Fritz's do-it-right-now reminder, I listened to a portion of the Lessons & Carols service from King's College in Cambridge. I see why they both like it so much. There's something about it that kinda chokes you up.

Pr Petersen cried while he was writing his sermon for Christmas. He noted that the tears sneak up on him more frequently at Christmas and Easter.

As I did exciting things on Wednesday (like clean the litter box and mop the floor and fold laundry and do an errand in town that involved driving past the Episcopal church) I pondered these things. (Nooooo. I was not pondering the cat box. I was pondering the Christmasy emotions.) Anyway, I had a thought. [Ta da!]

What is preached in Christian churches? Far too often the sermons and the Bible readings are about things like being kind those who are less fortunate, helping the elderly, giving more money to church and charities, even topics like politics and weight loss and "Christian" financial management.

But not at Christmas and Easter.

Even the churches that care oodles about making us into good little people tend to get it right at Christmas and Easter. They read Luke 2 and John 19-20. The sermons and hymns are about the incarnation, the passion, and the resurrection -- the historical events tied most closely to the forgiveness of sins in Christ's blood. (Now, don't go and give me counter examples. There are probably way too many. But, y'know, compared to other times in the church year, these are the times we particularly look at God's mercy instead of at ourselves.)

At Christmas and Easter, the Christian Church is ecumenically united in a way that cannot offend even the most conservative bronze-age Missourian. Furthermore, "it is necessary to everlasting salvation that a person believe faithfully the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Athanasian Creed) and, at these two high feasts, this is what we are all are focused on together.

So we listen to and sing about the most fundamental portions of the Creed, and we all do it together. Seems odd if that didn't bring tears of joy to our eyes.


After learning from a master herbalist that comfrey is totally awesome at healing cuts and other skin problems, I added a pound of comfrey leaf when I next ordered my spices and herbs. But I have no experience in making poultices. Whenever I try, I end up with all the poultice herb-gunk falling all over the place and not staying on the part of the body to which I presumably bound it. (Hey, lookie there, instructions that maybe even I could follow!)

Katie arrived a week ago for a visit of a couple of days. She had some sores on her hands. Alia had something on her eyebrow that looked like it might be a cold sore, but we're not really sure what it was. So we decided to experiment.

One shot glass, full of dried comfrey leaves.
Olive oil poured over the comfrey.
Heated briefly in the microwave for about 20 seconds.
We applied tiny drops of the oil infusion to Alia's cold sore, Katie's wounds, and a couple of itchy spots I had on my hands and arm.

WOW! That was speedy healing!
I don't know if plain olive oil would've done the same thing. But whatever it was, Katie and I were impressed.

She took home a baggie of comfrey leaves.


The nice post-master smiled at me today as I mailed some textbooks to ebay customers. I'm getting to where I recognize the clerks at the post office here.

When Gary and I were first married, we expected to be moving all over. Even though we had two years of college left, we took an apartment that we would be allowed to rent for only a year. The fantastic rental price and the neighborhood was worth it, even though we'd have to find a second apartment. We knew there would be the move to sem, the move to vicarage, the move back to sem, and the move out to his first call. It was all an expected part of his education, and everybody else in his class was doing it too, so everything stayed in a state of flux, and that was okay.

After about half a year in Wautoma, I realized that we couldn't stay. The situation was transitional from the get-go. We would either move to the village where Gary had the mission-start, or there'd be some other change. We knew the time in the parsonage, and just a block from Wietings and three blocks from the library, was going to be short-lived.

So when we moved to the next place, I yearned for it to be permanent. Even when the pay was low, even when we found out that pastors stayed there only 2-3 years before moving on, even when midweek services were practically empty, I eventually came to accept that God was going to have us live there till we died, and there is definitely some comfort in that kind of rooted-ness.

So now we've moved again. It's getting close to a year now. I recognize some of the faces at the library and the grocery store and the post office. I should be following Tammy's lead (a friend who moved here less than a year before we did, and for the same reason) and doing more exploring to find the streets and the stores and the restaurants that are around here, trying to make myself feel at home. But I don't. I just do what I need to do to get by.

People tell me that this feeling of instability is good. (Well, at least, some people do.) They say we should not be attached to this world, but always feel like pilgrims on our way to our heavenly home. They say we should not be "stuck" or settled or too comfortable in our home, but always be ready to go wherever the Lord calls.

But I want to be settled and stable.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Baby Pictures

From about 6-weeks-old

All giggly

Daddy's girl

Mommy's clone?

Blog-Worthy Accomplishment

I turned on the TV.

Yes, I did.
First time since we got the digital converter box last summer.

I wanted to listen to the Christmas music on PBS. Paul was in the living room. He gallantly jumped up to help his mother. But I insisted that he just sit down and laugh at my ineptitude, and give me minimal pointers only as requested.

And you know what?
I did it without his help!
Of course, I punched some wrong buttons and did some stupid things first. But eventually I got the television turned on AND the channel changed.

I think I deserve a big pat on the back.

By the way, smoothies made of raspberries, raw apple, pomegranate-blueberry juice, raw milk, raw banana, raw kiwi, and honey.... ooooooh, it makes your tastebuds happy. If only my tongue were as long as a giraffe's, then I could lick up the inside of the smoothie glass to savor every last drop. Mmmmm.

Cat Litter


Poor kitties have to potty indoors because of the deep deep snow. I had to buy more litter and carefully scanned the boxes at the grocery store to ensure that I didn't bring home the stuff that "clumps." I have a septic system instead of city-sewer. It seems to me that flushing kitty-poops that have the clumpy litter stuck to it would be a very bad plan for my plumbing.

But today when I opened the new box to change their litter, I discovered the small print instructing me how to use clumping cat litter. Now what? We are accustomed to cleaning out the box every single time a kitty uses it. The kitties are too; they don't like a dirty litter box. But what am I going to do with poops that cannot be flushed? Right now, I am envisioning an environmentally-dangerous (and expensive) amount of plastic bags being used to dispose of smelly kitty-litter clumps multiple times daily.

Right now I am [perversely?] almost glad that Rosie accidentally missed the box when she gave it her first try. I picked the poops up off the floor next to the litter box and flushed them, and didn't have to deal with the nauseating smell remaining in the house. But then again, I really really don't want to be finding turds on the floor of the bathroom for the next month or so.

Today's Laugh

If something needs to be done right now,
do it yourself.

If you've got some time to do a project,
delegate it to someone else.

If you have forever to accomplish the task,
form a committee.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Big Sin

My pastor has often said that God hides most of our sin from us. If we could actually see the full extent of our sin, it would destroy us. We could not bear it; we could not believe that Christ's atonement could ever forgive the hugeness of our sin. And so God allows us to see only enough of our sin to know our need for Him and to depend upon Him for our salvation.

God seems to know that no one can fully discern his errors (Ps 19). He seems to be content to sanctify us a bit at a time, drawing us ever closer to Himself. He seems to think that there is no way for us to be made free from sin as long as we continue in the flesh in this earthly life.

And yet, Christians often take it upon themselves to point out to each other all their failings and sins.

IF they had the vocation to care for the souls of those they are crushing, that would be one thing.

And IF they had the real answer (Jesus' forgiveness) for those whom they have crushed (instead of telling them how they can fix their behavior and be better trusters, better servers, better Christians), that too would be a little bit understandable.

But when the business is to point out to others how they haven't quite measured up in "walking the Christian walk" and in "amending their sinful ways," you wonder where these people find their comfort in the end. If they're telling me what to DO to be a better Christian, then is DOING where they find their own assurance that they are God's people?

Rethinking Snow-Blowers

I never wanted a snow blower. It seems that shovels do a better job of clearing the driveway. And it's another machine to maintain. That alone is a bigger disincentive than the price tag on the snow blower.

Today Pastor called and asked a simple question. I had no idea what the answer was.

This evening, as Maggie was helping me shovel the driveway, she asked if she should go here and I should go there, or what. I had no idea what to decide.

It's hard to know which load of laundry to throw in next.

The futility of coping with all this snow, and knowing that we're not even 1/3 of the way through winter, is making it hard to think. That physical labor should not so thoroughly deplete my ability to make simple decisions.

The neighbors have plenty of snow in their yards. But the "cut edge" in their driveways are only about 2' deep. They have snow blowers. Snow blowers throw the snow waaaaaaay out there into the middle of the yard. The snow doesn't pile up next to the drive, as high as my head, only as far away as I have muscle to pitch it.

I may have to rethink whether maintaining another engine is worth it.

Large Families

Has anybody noticed how many homeschooling moms of large families struggle with depression?

I think that those who homeschool are prone to depression, in part because they want something so good for their children and their family, and then they find they cannot measure up to the high standards they so greatly desire to meet. And I think that moms of large families are prone to depression because there is so much they yearn to do in service to their families. When you put those two situations together, it seems more normal to face depression than seeing both mom & dad safe from it over the course of their child-raising years.

This is not to say that people should avoid having large families. And it is not to say that those with large families shouldn't homeschool. It's just odd to see those who have faced serious mental-health issues stumping for others to follow in their footsteps.

Today's Laugh

A cowboy was overseeing his herd in a remote mountainous pasture when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced out of a dust cloud towards him.

The driver, a young man in a Brioni suit, Gucci shoes, Ray Ban sunglasses and YSL tie, leans out the window and asks the cowboy, "If I tell you exactly how many cows and calves you have in your herd, will you give me a calf?"

The cowboy looks at the man, obviously a yuppie, then looks at his peacefully grazing herd and calmly answers, "Sure, Why not?"

The yuppie parks his car, whips out his Dell notebook computer, connects it to his Cingular RAZR V3 cell phone, and surfs NASA page on the Internet, where he calls up a GPS satellite navigation system to get an exact fix on his location which he then feeds to another NASA satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high-resolution photo.

The young man then opens the digital photo in Adobe PhotoShop and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg, Germany. Within seconds, he receives an email on his Palm Pilot that the image has been processed and the data stored. He then accesses an MS-SQL database through an ODBC connected Excel spreadsheet with email on his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, receives a response.

Finally, he prints out a full-color, 150-page report on his hi-tech, miniaturized HP LaserJet printer and finally turns to the cowboy and says, "You have exactly 1,586 cows and calves."

"That's right. Well, I guess you can take one of my calves," says the cowboy.

He watches the young man select one of the animals and looks on amused as the young man stuffs it into the trunk of his car.

Then the cowboy says to the young man, "Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my calf?"

The young man thinks about it for a second and then says, "Okay, why not?"

You're a Congressman for the U.S. Government," says the cowboy.

"Wow! That's correct," says the yuppie, "but how did you guess that?"

"No guessing required." answered the cowboy. "You showed up here even though nobody called you. You want to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked. You tried to show me how much smarter than me you are.

And you don't know a thing about cows . . .
this is a herd of sheep.
Now give me back my dog."

Monday, December 22, 2008

When Are theTwelve Days of Christmas?

This factoid may be obvious to many readers, but I have been bumping into the wrong idea a lot this year. The "twelve days of Christmas" are NOT now. Christmas Day is the first day of Christmas. St Stephen's (the 26th) is the second day of Christmastide. The twelfth day of Christmas is January 5, the last day of Christmastide prior to the change of seasons to Epiphany. It's not just the guys on the secular radio stations talking about the "twelve days" this year, but even Christians are confused on this.

All right. Speech done.


My pared-down goals for the day were to:
finish clearing snow off the driveway,
clean the bathrooms,
make supper,
buy milk,
make bread.

I had to BUY bread at the end of last week. With company and with snow-shoveling and with Lessons & Carols, we have done almost no housecleaning, not even the daily chores, and the yuckiness is beginning to get to me. And eating supper would be a nice idea.

I did not think this was an overly ambitious plan. When I see what needs to be done, this is barely a drop in the bucket. But I haven't started on bread or kombucha or cleaning or laundry or granola. I have no idea what we might eat for supper. All I've done so far today is buy milk and work on snow.

Thing is, with three hours of hard physical labor so far, picking away at the snow piles, I haven't even begun to clear the driveway yet. There was no place to PUT the drifts from Saturday night and Sunday. I have spent the day moving piles -- taking chest-high piles of snow and throwing them 5-10' further from the driveway, making massive eye-high piles of snow. At least now I've got a place to try to move the drifts to. And a place to put the snow that's due to fall from tonight until Wednesday night.

I think I'm going to have to buy more bread.

I think I'll take of my glasses before entering the bathroom. That way I won't be able to see the ick.

It's very cold outside.

Maggie is inside, barfing.

Gary was hoping we could go Christmas shopping tonight. There are no guarantees I'll still be awake by the time the guys get home from work at 5:30 or 6.

Do you know there are people who LIKE snow?

I'd like to say I'm done whining now,
but it would probably be a lie.

Today's Laugh

One of Karin's kids wants to know why the Virgin Mary is so skinny after just having a baby.

While I would respond, "Because life is not fair,"
Karin had a better answer.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Tree

I'm going nuts. I want so badly to water the tree!

This is our first year ever to have a fake tree. There's something unsettling about its not being real. For instance, I miss the piney smell. And yet, there was neither money nor time to buy a real tree. In the middle of January last year, we found a very nice artificial tree on clearance, for less money than one real tree would cost. Thinking ahead, I bought the fake tree.

It's actually very pretty. We tend to get Charlie-Brown trees. This one is NOT our typical scraggly penny-pinching tree.

I was surprised to discover that our arms and hands were poked and scratched from the artificial tree just as much as from the real ones. But what confuses me is the sudden panic out of nowhere: "Oh no! It's been a long time since I watered the tree! I better do it right away before it sucks up all the water and goes dry!!!" And then I realize that there's no place to put water. Gary told me that I could put a bucket or dish under the tree so that I'd have a place to pour water, y'know, just to satisfy that craving.

The tree went up very early this year -- the evening of the 12th. For quite a few years we've been setting up the tree around the 22nd, give or take a day. I don't know how I would've pulled off the tree set-up. So Gary took it upon himself to tackle this Christmas-decoration project. With Lessons & Carols this weekend and a very long choir practice the previous day, and with the kids here from out of town, and with Gary and the boys working every day until 5:00 on the 24th, the tree set-up had to be last weekend, or not at all. It was so nice of Gary to come up with the plan for decorating, and nice of Andrew to do so much to build and fluff the tree and then to put all the lights on.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Lighten the Darkness

The collect from Sunday implores that God would lighten the darkness of our hearts by His gracious visitation.

After a cruddy day on Wednesday, it is such a relief that He does indeed answer those prayers. Church on Wednesday night, the sacraments, a long choir rehearsal full of Christmas hymnody, and then a Thursday morning of Matins and Bible study...

It may not solve any of the problems, but
His visitation does indeed lighten the darkness of our hearts.

What was that Luther said about music driving away the devil?

Snow Day

We worked hard to be clearing the driveway this morning, even as the snow continued to pour down. I figured with 8" on the ground and no sign of letting up, we might as well start to whittle away at the snow-dump.
At 10:30, Andrew and Paul's boss called to say that their "late-start day" was being morphed into a "don't-come-in day."

When the snow plows finally came through the neighborhood at 11:30, Philip cleared the blockage of the entry to the driveway and headed off to work. He figured once he got onto the state and US highways, it should be much better than on the little dead-end roads in our neighborhood. Uh,... didn't work that way. He got out on the big road and it was worse than our little streets. He turned around and came back.

Gary never did head in to the office. But the company had warned people last night to be sure to take home their laptop computers and charged-up cell phones so that they could work from home today if necessary. It was necessary. So here's where Gary spent most of the day

But, hey, it's cool that he got paid! And he got to be around Alia today. Even though his attention was focused on work, how could you not smile as somebody passed through the room with a little darlin'?

Beer Bread

I don't have self-rising flour in the house. Beer bread is a standard recipe that is recorded in nearly every church ladies' cookbook I own. And rightly so -- it's delicious and simple! But the recipes all call for self-rising flour.

Seeing as how we spent time shoveling snow and making goo-goo eyes at Alia today, I didn't get around to making bread. And with company in the house, breakfast toast and lunch sandwiches depleted the supply of bread in the freezer. Oops. Quickie bread for supper it is:

1 ½ cups ww flour
1 ½ cups white flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 can beer
1/4 cup water
1/2 stick melted butter

Thanks to Farmgirl, I found a recipe that doesn't call for self-rising flour. Hooray!

Mix the dry ingredients. Add the beer and extra water. (If you're making the bread with white flour only, you don't need the extra liquid.) Beat. Pour into well-greased 9x5" loaf pan. Pour melted butter over the top of the batter. Bake at 375° for about an hour. Let cool in pan about 10 minutes before removing bread to cooling rack.

Birthday Dinner

In a convenient confluence of dates, it just so happens that two wonderful men (with absolutely wonderful wives) happen to have birthdays just a day or so apart from mine. Two years ago we celebrated together at a rib restaurant. Last year Gary and I were too wiped out from life to even think of celebrating. This year I hoped to spend the birthday money from my mommy & daddy at a nearby restaurant with an awesome atmosphere and blow-ya-away food. Happily, it turns out that Kathy has been wanting to visit this restaurant for thirty years ... no, no, I know you don't believe she could've wanted anything for 30 years, but believe it or not, we are that old.

Laura and I forgot our cameras, but Kathy remembered, and here's what she got:

Today's Laugh

It was the end of the day when I parked my police van in front of the station. As I gathered my equipment, my K-9 partner, Jake, was barking, and I saw a little boy staring in at me, "Is that a dog you got back there?" he asked.
"It sure is," I replied.
Puzzled, the boy looked at me and then towards the back of the van. Finally he said, "What'd he do?"

A little girl was watching her parents dress for a party. When she saw her dad donning his tuxedo, she warned, "Daddy, you shouldn't wear that suit."
"And why not, darling?"
"You know that it always gives you a headache the next morning. "

While walking along the sidewalk in front of his church, our minister heard the intoning of a prayer that nearly made his collar wilt. Apparently, his 5-year-old son and his playmates had found a dead robin. Feeling that proper burial should be performed, they had secured a small box and cotton batting, then dug a hole and made ready for the disposal of the deceased. The minister's son was chosen to say the appropriate prayers and with sonorous dignity intoned his version of what he thought his father always said: "Glory be to the Faaather, and unto the Sonnn, and into the hole he goooes."

A little boy opened the big family bible. He was fascinated as he fingered through the old pages. Suddenly, something fell out of the Bible. He picked up the object and looked at it. What he saw was an old leaf that had been pressed in between the pages.
"Mama, look what I found," the boy called out.
"What have you got there, dear?"
With astonishment in the young boy's voice, he answered, "I think it's Adam's underwear.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Today's Laugh

When Melody sent along these kids jokes, she said they're old, but worth laughing over again.

A woman was trying hard to get the ketchup out of the jar. During her struggle, the phone rang so she asked her 4-year-old daughter to answer it. "Mommy can't come to the phone to talk to you right now. She's hitting the bottle."

I was driving with my three young children one warm summer evening when a woman in the convertible ahead of us stood up and waved. She was stark naked! As I was reeling from the shock, I heard my 5-year-old shout from the back seat, "Mom! That lady isn't wearing a seat belt!"

While taking a routine vandalism report at an elementary school, I was interrupted by a little girl about 6 years old. Looking up and down at my uniform, she asked, "Are you a cop?"
"Yes," I answered and continued writing the report.
"My mother said if I ever needed help I should ask the police. Is that right?"
"Yes, that's right," I told her.
"Well, then," she said as she extended her foot toward me, "would you please tie my shoe?"

While working for an organization that delivers lunches to elderly shut-ins, I used to take my 4-year-old daughter on my afternoon rounds. She was unfailingly intrigued by the various appliances of old age, particularly the canes, walkers and wheelchairs. One day I found her staring at a pair of false teeth soaking in a glass. As I braced myself for the inevitable barrage of
questions, she merely turned and whispered, "The tooth fairy will never believe this!"

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Outdoor Refrigerators

We know lots of people who have fridges in their garage. What we didn't know was that refrigerators don't work outdoors in Wisconsin winters. After Thanksgiving we began finding the contents of the freezer (no meat, whew!, just bread and shredded cheese and juice and ice cubes and lard) way softer than we expected. And the apples and carrots in the fridge froze. What's up with that?

Fretting that we needed a repairman, I planned to ask some of the moms at chapel. Karen was the first I asked, and she has an outdoor fridge, and she knew just what I was talking about. They too were surprised their first year here. She told me not to call for service; she made that mistake already; there's nothing the repairman can do. Our only option is to bring the machine indoors, or treat it like a large Igloo cooler.

So now my job involves figuring out which fridge items won't be harmed if they're frozen (butter, lunchmeat, cheeses, beer) and reconfiguring where stuff is stored. Oh my goodness... this means I'll need to remember where stuff is so that I can find it again later.

We're discovering that it's a lot easier to simply put the food & drinks right outside the back door on the floor of the garage than to traipse all the way to the other side of the garage to fetch a refrigerated item that ended up freezing anyhow. And, hey, that apple-cider slushie last night wasn't so bad!

Not Looking Good

I think my first mistake yesterday was going shopping. Maggie has been dying to use the gift card she got as a Christmas present at Gary's company's Christmas party. Because I had to pick up Andrew from work yesterday, I figured we'd already be out, and in the direction of the Target, so I could let Maggie spend her money.

I hate shopping any time. I hate it more in December.

The store didn't have what she had been longing for, so she browsed dvd's until she found something reasonable. Andrew wanted to hold out for what he really wanted instead of "settling." So we came up with a plan. I would buy something using his gift card, give him the cash, and take him to another store which would be likely to have what he wanted. As we've gotten closer to Christmas, I have been getting a little stressed over the acknowledgment that we can't really do presents this year. So I thought getting one $30 item for the whole family to share and enjoy would put something under the tree to unwrap. Maggie wouldn't go along with the buy-out plan; she had videos she wanted, and she really has a hard time leaving a store with money in her pocket when once she's got it in her mind that she's being permitted to spend.

So we go to the geek store for Andrew to spend his money. Surprisingly, they didn't have the items he was searching for. (But according to Murphy's Law, we're not really surprised, are we?) And of course, they carried the items that Maggie originally had wanted to purchase from Target. So we talked about buying Choice#1 and going back to Target to return Choice#2. But nooooooo, she wants to keep Choice#2 too.

I am not happy.

By now, we had time to make it back to town for chapel, but only if we skipped Aldi and continued to live with no bananas in the house. Okay, we can make it another couple of days without bananas.

So we go home and start the turkey for supper. Two hours later than intended ... because of shopping [ugh]. And then we had the heat turned off.

Of course, it was a cloudy day, and it began snowing.

Shortly after I discover the lukewarm non-roasting turkey, Gary arrives home. Someone promptly tells him about the Christmas present that would've been a surprise only to the daddy. But at least there would've been one person who got to unwrap something and be pleased. Okay, so we knock that plan outta the water.

We're hearing weather predictions that make me skeptical as to whether we will get to see Katie's family this weekend. I haven't been counting on their being able to make it because, after all, it is December in Wisconsin. We're supposed to get 6-12" of wet, heavy snow from middle of the night Thu/Fri until noon Friday. Then we're supposed to get another dump on Sat/Sun. Yesterday's snowfall was forecast at 1-3". We got 4". At least it was light and powdery this time. But so far this winter, we have always gotten the upper limit of what was forecast, or more. So I think we'll spend the whole weekend shoveling.

And then this morning we head off to chapel. The car sounds funny. Must be the bumpy roads because of the snow. But as the sound worsened, I got suspicious. Got out at a stop sign and checked. A flat tire. Not a little flat. Totally flat. The rim was on the ground. Okay, so the girl has to figure out how to change a tire on icy roads when it's 5°. Got that taken care and drove home. Suspicious because of the flat tires from two weeks ago, I checked around. I had changed one front tire on the Mercury; the other front tire was very very low too. Checked the Camry, and one of its front tires is completely flat.

I should be resilient. Other people have dinners ruined. Other people go Christmas shopping. Other people have flat tires. What's the big deal? You fix the problem the best you can. You sigh over the spoiled Christmas surprises and go on. But all I want to do is curl up in the corner and cry.

I should get out the bike-tire pump first,
and fill those car tires

in case I need to run away from home later.

Today's Laugh

A man owned a small ranch in Montana. The Montana Wage & Hour Dept. claimed he was not paying proper wages to his help and sent an agent out to interview him.

"I need a list of your employees and how much you pay them," demanded the agent.

"Well," replied the rancher, "There's my ranch hand who's been with me for 3 years. I pay him $600 a week plus free room and board. The cook has been here for 18 months, and I pay her $500 per week plus free room and board. Then there's the half-wit who works about 18 hours every day and does about 90% of all the work around here. He makes about $10 per week, pays his own room and board and I buy him a bottle of bourbon every Saturday night."

"That's the guy I want to talk to, the half-wit," says the agent.

"That would be me," replied the rancher.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Oven Off

You teach them to turn off the lights when they leave a room.
You teach them to turn off the oven when they're done baking.
You teach them to pick up their dirty clothes.

Sometimes they do.

Sometimes they don't.

The big problem comes, though, when they DO when they OUGHTN'T. It's not good to turn off the oven when somebody is still cooking something in it.

After a long day where quite a few things went wrong, it got to be 6:30 and we were all starved. (Ended up skipping lunch because of some of those things that went wrong.) It was about time for the turkey breast to be finished roasting. So I grabbed the meat thermometer and went to check....

and found a cold oven and a lukewarm turkey. Turns out we cooked the turkey long enough to get it up to a nice, comfy, bacteria-incubating temperature, and then turned off the oven's heat and left the turkey to sit. So I started roasting the huge turkey breast at 6:30. What else ya gonna do? At that point, you can't put it back in the refrigerator.

I had been longing to go to bed tonight about 7:30 or 8:00. I was so tired. And here it is 11:00 and I'm still dealing with broth and drippings and carving, and cleaning up greasy messes. And I'm hungry. I haven't had lunch and I haven't had supper. I think surely there must be a turkey sandwich that can find its way to my mouth before I hit the sack.

I want for tomorrow to be better.

Choosing the Choir Director

Back at our previous home, I was missing being in choir. There wasn't a choir at church, and it had been many, many years since I'd been able to sing in a group. I considered joining Sweet Adelines. Eventually, though, I gave up on the idea because of time commitment, dues, and not knowing what we'd sing and whether I'd be okay with it.

Now that I'm in choir again, I'm realizing how important that is. The pieces for choir get stuck in my head. My son goes around the house, singing his bass line. Maggie (who isn't even in choir) has learned the soprano and bass lines for some of our songs for Lessons and Carols, just because she hears them so often. Good grief, I even dream my choir music.

And think about when teens are in a musical at school. How many decades does that music stick with them?

If music has the power to stay in my head that long, and fill my mind so pervasively, I guess I'd better only be in choirs where I know I can depend on the director to give me music that I'm okay LIVING WITH.

Monday, December 15, 2008

His Name Is John

Our Bible story today was the birth of John and the Benedictus. During chapel, one of the questions Pastor asked the kids was, "What does John mean?"

We're lucky he doesn't call on my kids during chapel, because Maggie leaned over to me and whispered the answer, ....


By the way, for those who don't have the footnotes in their study Bibles instantly available, the answer was "God is gracious."

I Did It

It took two hours of procrastinating, but I did it.
I kicked myself out of the house to go on my exercise-walk.

Yes, it's wickedly cold out there.
Yes, it's windy.
No, I did NOT want to go out.
Yes, I did bundle up in multiple layers, with the only exposed skin being my eyelids. (So much for any vitamin D benefits.)
No, I do not want to know what the neighbors thought when they occasionally saw me walking backwards down the street so that I could hide my face temporarily from the rush of icy wind. (My poor little face was covered with only two layers of clothing, and neither of them wool.)

But there was SUN, glorious sun, streaming into my eyeballs. And with my lack of exercise-walks over the past week (too exhausted and achy from snow-shoveling) and with what the lack of sunshine has been doing to me, I figure I HAVE to go out, no matter how cold, if my sun-god* is making an appearance today.

I wish I could get myself moving out the door without two hours of trying to talk myself into it. I know I need it. I know what the consequences are when I avoid the outdoor exercise and am shorted on sunshine. But right now, I'm just pleased as punch that I actually DID IT today.

Shall I aim for tomorrow and make it two days in a row?

* footnote -- As Luther says in the Large Catechism, a god is whatever we cannot live without, the thing we look to for comfort and help.

Hearts of the Fathers

The last verses in the Old Testament are
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.
And he will turn
the hearts of the fathers to the children,
and the hearts of the children to their fathers.
lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.

For many years, Elijah Company (no longer in business) was unequivocally my favorite homeschool supplier. When they first opened for business, I don't think there was one single item in their catalog that wasn't perfect for our family. Of course, I couldn't buy and use everything they offered: not enough money and not enough time in the day. But it was ALL excellent material. That was when their catalog was only a couple of dozen pages. The business grew, and they began to carry some items that reflected their theology a little more strongly, so no longer was I thrilled with everything in their catalog, but it was still the best place to shop for books and games and kits.

The key Bible verse for the company (and the source of the company name) was that verse from Malachi quoted up above. They --like many among American Christians-- were committed to strengthening the family, and encouraging dads to spend more time with their kids, especially their sons, so that godly men could be raised up in this country.

Now, I am not against strong families. And I am not against dads spending time with their kids; actually, Gary's new job has been hard for us this past year because of the decreased time he has with the family. But somehow, that verse always bothered me. The point of sending the fore-runner was to strengthen families? That doesn't sound right. If the dads and the kids don't love each other, God will bring curses upon us? Somehow, this seems a little off-base. Not that I'm against their conclusions, but I don't believe that "family time" is what God's will and Christianity are primarily about.

Today our prayers included the story of John's birth and the Benedictus. Pastor started us in Malachi so that we could see how Zachariah's song was grounded in Malachi's prophecy. He said that this final verse is about people believing the promise made to our father Abraham: "and in you and in your Seed all the families of the earth will be blessed." This verse is about people trusting the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This verse if about listening to our fathers in the faith, the patriarchs and the prophets and the psalmists and now even the apostles and martyrs.

Suddenly, this verse makes sense like it never did before.

Today's Laugh

Quotes from Dilbertesque bosses:

We know that communication is a problem, but the company is not going to discuss it with the employees.

E-mail is not to be used to pass on information or data. It should be used only for company business.

No one will believe you solved this problem in one day! We've been working on it for months. Now, go act busy for a few weeks and I'll let you know when it's time to tell them.

Teamwork is a lot of people doing what I say.

This project is so important, we can't let things that are more important interfere with it.

and the best one:
As of tomorrow, employees will only be able to access the building using individual security cards. Pictures will be taken next Wednesday and employees will receive their cards in two weeks

Sunday, December 14, 2008

John's Ministry

I don't know about you, but I grew up thinking that John the Baptist was a fire-n-brimstone preacher. He was the one who showed people their sin and preached law, Law, LAW.

But then a couple of years ago, Pastor pointed out that John's preaching was summarized precisely the same way as Jesus'. (See Matthew 3:12 and 4:17.)

And then there's the head-scratcher over why all these people were flocking out to hear John's preaching (Luke 3:7) if all he was doing was condemning them.

But then, last Sunday, we heard in Mark 1 that John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

John wasn't preaching only the Law. Yes, he condemned sin. But he called sinners to repentance so that they might be forgiven. He preached the Gospel too!


Early in September, Gary was at a company picnic, playing kickball, and injured his finger. He was in a splint for six weeks. The finger didn't heel correctly, and now our doctor is checking into the possibility of surgery. (Gary is thinking he's just going to forego the surgery and live with the misshapen finger, as long as they can get the pain under control without surgery.)

Just as the splint was coming off, he injured his shoulder while moving lumber for his deck-project.

Now, with today's warm spell, Gary decides that steaks on the grill would be a lovely idea. Baked potatoes. Slow-fried, caramelized onions. Marinated rib-eyes. Spinach salad. Steamed mixed veggies. And leftover birthday [cheese]cake. Sounds marvelous, right?

It almost was.
Then a gust of wind blew through the garage and slammed the door on Gary's hand as he was headed to the grill. He screamed and headed for the bathroom sink, yelling for a bandaid. When I brought him the box of bandaids, I about lost it when I saw what he was washing under the running water. We decided pretty darn quick that this was nothing to mess with at home.

One finger was banged up by the door slam. The other was seriously cut. And broken. (Oh, gosh, I'm getting queasy again. Gotta think about it to write about it.... Urgh.) So now he's all bandaged up. On antibiotics because the risk of infection in open fractures is so great, especially in the hand, and they don't want the bone getting infected. On Vicodin too, for the pain. Needing a follow-up appointment tomorrow afternoon or Tuesday morning.

Well, when we got home, the steaks had marinated an extra four hours, and they were even tastier than they would've been at a proper dinner-time.

Don't play kickball.
Don't have a deck.
Don't grill some yummy lunch.
Don't have fun.
It's too dangerous.

(PS to the children who grew up in my house: You know your mother's hang-up with slammed doors. Your father was commenting on that in ER today.)

Narrow Skirts

Those pencil-skirts are supposed to show off curves. Gary likes it when I try on narrow skirts; he thinks they look nice on me.

I like full skirts. I like the way they look on me and on other people. But there's more: a woman can actually move in a fuller skirt.

Today I wore a red plaid jumper that's very cute ... but the skirt is relatively narrow. I kept finding myself stuck. I was putzing at one end of the kitchen counter, and tried to take one step over to the sink to drop something there, and my skirt constrained me. I was trying to walk very fast (that is, taking extra long strides) on my way from the ER parking lot into the hospital today, and my skirt constrained me. Getting into the car was easy enough on the passenger side, but hard on the driver's side.

Of course, Gary's ever-helpful suggestion is that my narrow skirts need to be shortened. If the hemline is up above my knees, the skirt wouldn't interfere when I need to take big steps.

Ain't he helpful?

The Great Exchange

New hymnal:
He undertakes a great exchange,
puts on our human frame,
and in return gives us His realm,
His glory, and His name.

Old hymnal:
A wondrous change which He does make!
He takes our flesh and blood,
and He conceals for sinners' sake
His majesty of God.
He serves that I a lord may be;
a great exchange indeed!
Could Jesus' love do more for me
to help me in my need?

Y'know, in Luther, the blessed exchange (or great exchange) is that my sin was imputed to Christ, and His holiness is imputed to me. The great exchange is about the substitutionary atonement.

I realize that Christ's incarnation is a necessary component of the great exchange. If He were not man, the exchange wouldn't "work" because then Man would not die for sin, and we men would not have the holiness of the Man.

But I'm still struggling with this "definition" of the great exchange which makes it be about Jesus' becoming Man so that we could have heaven. I mean, there's nothing really wrong with it, but it leaves out so much that was in the TLH version. Particularly that Jesus became not just man, but was made the sinful man in our place. And if I'm understanding it right, I don't think this LSB/LW definition is really what the phrase means when we read it elsewhere in theology. Those two stanzas from TLH were some of the most solid, year-round proclamation of the Gospel as I puttered about my life for the last decade or so. Somehow I have to find a way to invest all that [blessed] "baggage" into the new wording.

Today's Laugh

A Lutheran preacher and his wife decided to get a new dog. Ever mindful of the congregation, they knew the dog must also be a Lutheran. They visited kennel after kennel and explained their needs. Finally, they found a kennel whose owner assured them he had just the dog they wanted. The owner brought the dog to meet the pastor and his wife.

"Fetch the Bible," he commanded. The dog bounded to the bookshelf, scrutinized the books, located the Bible, and brought it to the owner. "Now find Psalm 23," he commanded.

The dog dropped the Bible to the floor, and showing marvelous dexterity with his paws, leafed through and finding the correct passage, pointed to it with his paw. The pastor and his wife were very impressed and purchased the dog.

That evening, a group of church members came to visit. The pastor and his wife began to show off the dog, having him locate several Bible verses. The visitors were very impressed.

One man asked, "Can he do regular dog tricks, too?"

I haven't tried yet," the pastor replied.

He pointed his finger at the dog. "HEEL!" the pastor commanded. The dog immediately jumped on a chair, placed one paw on the pastor's forehead and began to howl. The pastor looked at his wife in shock and said, "Good Lord! He's Pentecostal!"

Hat tip: Rebellious Pastor's Wife from a long time ago

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Obesely Hungry

Gary said he heard on the radio yesterday that the poor people in America are disproportionately obese. The middle-class and rich are thinner. This is SO different from how it is in other countries and how it has been throughout history: the fat people were the ones who had money enough to ensure a plentiful food supply; thinness was a sign that the person didn't have enough to fill his belly.

I think this news story is intimately connected with how horribly we have stripped the nutrition from our food supply. I remember so clearly when Jenn talked about her husband coming back from his soldiering and being able to cut back on his portion-sizes. Apparently he needed to eat huge amounts of the food the army serves (food much like typical American diets) to be able to meet his nutritional needs. When he came home and was eating organic veggies and grass-fed beef and whole grains, his body was getting what it needed, and thus he wasn't as hungry.

This makes so much sense. When a body takes in food that is lacking in nutrients, the body gets the calories but is still craving the vitamins and minerals and proteins it needs. So even after we eat, we're hungry. Hunger is our body's way of signaling malnourishment.

In America, we eat white bread and white rice. Our salads are small; our vegetable servings are tiny. We put chemical fertilizers on the fields and gardens instead of cow poop. We irradiate food. We genetically alter seeds. We keep chickens cooped up in tiny boxes without letting them see the sun and scratch for bugs and stretch their legs. We fill ourselves with pop and Snapple. And then there's McDonalds and Twinkies. And have you read the labels on lunchmeat and salad dressing? The recipes online this time of year are loaded with ingredients like Cool Whip and Cheese Whiz and Jello. What are we eating? Our idea of "getting our vitamins" is to pop a pill or eat a bowl of Total cereal. It's stunning that with all this food available, with all these calories we consume, we are still malnourished. But it's true.

Problem is, those healthy foods (like fresh produce, or eggs from happy chickens) cost a lot more than what you can buy at Aldi. And then us po' folks are stuck with some hard decisions.


I don't know about you, but I never learned about the lymphatic system when I was in school. We learned about skeletons and hearts and stomachs and brains. But not lymph. So now I am supposedly teaching my own children. Oops. Jay Wile's section on biology (in the general science book) has intrigued Andrew. He's telling me all this cool stuff he reads and learns. Some of it I knew. And to some of it I say, "HUH?"

Lymph is what I just do not understand. So in addition to what Andrew taught me from his science book, I checked me out a kiddie-book from the library. Best I could find was a book on the cardiovascular system and the lymphatic system. As I read, I discovered that the authors didn't have too much to say about lymph. I guess that's why the lymphatic system didn't warrant its own book, eh? I suppose I could get a grown-up's book on the subject, but deciphering that would leave me no time for onion-chopping and laundry-folding and snow-shoveling. So I delved into the kiddie-version.

Well, here's what I learned.

The lymphatic system is made up of vessels (like the veins and arteries) all over the body, almost like a frontage road following along the highway of the cardiovascular system. The tubey-guys are bigger than capillaries but smaller than the smallest veins and arteries. And the tubey-guys in the lymphatic system have valves that go only one way; they take lymph AWAY FROM the body's cells.

Interstitial fluid is the liquid in the body that allows movement of molecules. That is, the slippery slidey lubrication, in my super-advanced way of categorizing things. This excess fluid flows into the lymphatic system, and then it is called {ta da!} lymph. Lymph looks a lot like plasma and has much the same composition.

Lymph flows through the lymphatic vessels. Scattered all along this frontage road (the lymphatic system) are lymph nodes. These guys I understand. They are places where the germies meet up with the germ-fighters. That's why lymph nodes swell when you're sick, because you have extra germ-fighters. Lymph nodes are the part of the lymphatic system that is so important to a person's immune system. I did not know, though, that tonsils are a big ol' collection of lymphatic tissue.

After the lymph makes its circuit around the body, there are two bigger tubes in the chest where the lymph gets dumped into the blood. I guess that's where the white blood cells fight off the rest of the germies that made it past the lymph nodes??

So here's what I want to know. When you get a teeny-tiny cut or a cold sore, and you get that yellow crusty stuff instead of a scab, is that lymph and not plasma?

Today's Laugh

I've come up with a set of rules that describes our reaction to technologies:

1. Anything that is in the world when you're born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.

2. Anything that's invented between the time you're 15 and 35 is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.

3. Anything invented after you're 35 is against the natural order of things.

Hat tip: Elephant's Child from quite a while ago

Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas in Advent

I recall years when I was torn between the two viewpoints: "getting ready for Christmas" that had been so much a part of my Decembers versus the rule of "waiting for Christmastide" until we actually arrived at the 24th or 25th. I can see the point of those who don't want to do anything "Christmasy" during Advent, but I still rebel against the idea of putting up a tree on the 24th when I'd rather be in church. In some of my blog reading this week, Pastor Cwirla made a point that made more sense than any I'd heard before.

He spoke of having distinct seasons of Advent and Christmas within the church. He said that, in his home, there was a blend of "getting ready" and "waiting." But what I loved most was his perspective on what's happening out there in the world, with manger scenes set up the day after Thanksgiving:
In society, I rejoice whenever I see a nativity scene or hear an actual Christmas hymn, even if it's the day after Halloween. With everyone trying to wipe Christmas off the holiday map, I don't need to help them. I'll gladly sing along with the Christmas carols at Home Depot and wish anyone a "Merry Christmas."

It IS amazing, isn't it, to hear
He from whom joy streameth
poor in a manger lies

while you're shopping for mittens, or

veiled in flesh, the Godhead see,
hail the incarnate deity!
Pleased as Man with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Immanuel

while trying on jeans at Fleet Farm.

Before the Face of All People

As we studied Joel 3 in Bible class this week, one thing confused me.

God is speaking about judgment on the nations who persecute believers, the nations who reject His word, the nations who despise His grace. Even though God's people may appear to be downtrodden, the Lord will vindicate them in the end. He will bring His people back to the Promised Land. The thing that confused me was how the believers were supposed to know whether these promises in the prophets were something that would happen in time, with regard to the physical land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, or if these prophecies would be fulfilled only at the Last Day. After all, we reject the modern-day false prophets who are always promising us goodies in this life (and pretty darn soon, too, in pretty good abundance) as they preach a theology of glory with a focus on how God is going to make us healthy, wealthy, and wise.

As Pastor answered my question, he spoke about how God's people could know what the prophets meant (that is, how the physical land itself would need to be restored prior to the Messiah's birth, as well as how the main point was the restoration of creation and the Church through the sacrifice of the Messiah) only as they studied and meditated upon what the prophets preached. He said that, yes, these things were made known to all peoples, but that they weren't seen by all.

Simeon knew. (Not about the Babylonian captivity and the restoration of the Jews to the promised land. That was already history by Simeon's time. I mean he knew other things about which the prophets preached.) He meditated on what the prophets had taught. He prayed. He listened. The Holy Spirit enlightened him with His gifts, and sanctified and kept him in the true faith. Simeon prayed that he was ready to die when once he had taken the baby Jesus in his arms and had seen Thy salvation which Thou hadst prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.

But so few see it. The blindness is great. Look at all the things Isaiah said about the people sitting in darkness, and the blindness that pervades the world. Look at all the miracles Jesus did to give sight to the blind -- not just so they could see the pretty clouds and pretty trees and their dear family members' faces, but the healing of blindness is more significantly that we can see
what the fathers most desired,
what the prophets' heart inspired,
what they longed for many a year.

When He
stands fulfilled in glory here,
God grant that our blindness be healed that we may see aright His glory in the Son of David.

Today's Laugh

Kari says these are quotes from Douglas Adams:

The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at and repair.

I'm spending a year dead for tax reasons.

Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?

It is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it... anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.

It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.

The knack of flying is learning to throw yourself at the ground and miss.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hymn Greeting Cards

I've been meaning to post pictures of some of the greeting cards available from Hymns in My Heart. They are beautiful and priced quite nicely compared to cards in the store. And they are designed with hymn stanzas!!!!

While I was dawdling in further advertisements for these people (who are strangers to me) who have the fabulous cards, the creator's father set up a website to make it easier for people to see and order cards. It's definitely worth a look!

Joel 3:5

... because you have taken My silver and My gold,
and have carried into your temples My prized possessions.

Roger pointed something out in Bible class today. This verse is in the past tense. It was recorded by Joel around 250 years prior to the time when Babylon came into Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, and carried off the gold and silver. But when God is speaking, it's in the past tense.

I find that fascinating. It fits so well with the understanding that Jesus' cross is the center of all the Bible, and that everything (before and after Him, in time) is affected by the pivotal event of all history ... because to God, it IS. God is not confined to seeing things as we do, always within the passage of time. For Him, there isn't some "waiting around" for things to happen.

2 Peter 3:8 With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

Baby Pictures

Approximately 5 weeks old:

I know those of you who are Facebook-friends with Katie have already seen these, but there's my mom who needs to see too.

Psalm 87

This psalm had always drawn my mind back to the hymn, "Glorious Things of You Are Spoken." What I'd always noticed before was the specialness of Zion.

But what is all this stuff about being born in Zion? Three times it says that.

I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon
to those who know Me.
Behold, o Philistia and Tyre, with Ethiopia:
"This one was born there."

And of Zion it will be said,
"This one and that one were born in her;
and the Most High Himself shall establish her."
The Lord will record,
when He registers the peoples:
"This one was born there."

Both the singers and the players on instruments say,
"All my springs are in you."

Somehow, some way, there must be something important about that "being born there." And interestingly enough, the psalm states that three times. Three. Such a trinitarian number.

But then there's that business about the Lord recording births in Zion. The Lord registers the people according to their birth in Jerusalem? What's up with that? Hmmmm. John clues us in (end of Revelation 20) that there is a Book of Life, and anyone whose name is not found written in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire.

Wait a minute. Birth!
Unless one is born again,
he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

Ah ha! So THAT is what the final verse of Psalm 87 has to do with the rest of it. The springs --the waters of Holy Baptism-- are in Zion, the Church. We who are born in the Church --born of water and the Spirit-- are recorded in the Book of Life. And this is the "glorious thing" about Zion!

Today's Laugh

passed along from Melody

Political Correctness is a doctrine fostered by a delusional, illogical liberal minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Psalm 89:32

What's the deal with the publishers of the NKJV? We were praying Psalm 89 this morning, and there was not ONE little star in the margin (y'know, those stars that indicate a messianic prophecy). This psalm is, like, messianic all over the place!

If his sons forsake My law
and do not walk in My judgments,
if they break My statutes
and do not keep My commandments,
then I will punish their transgression with the rod,
and their iniquity with stripes.

Hey, what's that about punishing their transgression? WHO is gonna be the one punished for God's people forsaking His law, anyway?

From Isaiah:
He was wounded for our transgressions.
He was bruised for our iniquities.
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him.
And by His stripes we are healed.

Roof Raking

Up on the housetop Grandpa paused,
not with hammer, wrench, or saws,
but with a rake to move the snow.
He wants to make the ice-dams GO.

Down on the ground Grandma sees him.
She groans, "There he goes again!
I sure wish he would not do that.
What if he falls and goes kersplat?"

So here ya go, Mom. Here is a picture of my roof rake. It's aluminum, so it's lightweight enough to wield way up there. And amazingly enough, you use it while standing on the ground.

PS: Note what's up above the roof. A sky. A sky that is BLUE. And notice the shadows of the tree and me and my roof-rake. That means there was sun for a while today!

Sad Kitties

Katie is getting more sleep. Long before she was born, Alia liked to be up and going and active and busy from bedtime to the middle of the night. Alia is beginning to learn that she is supposed to sleep at night and be awake during the day. This means that Alia's mommy gets to sleep a whole lot more. This is good for Alia's mommy.

Snow tally so far:
8" on December 1
3" worth of shoveling drifts on December 2
6" on December 3
3" on December 6
4" on December 9
2" worth of shoveling drifts on December 10

What does the 2' of snow mean? Well, for one, it means I'm tired. I'm really really tired, and I'm watching too much tv and blogging too much because we come in from the shoveling reading to crash.

But for another, 2' of snow means sad kitties. No bon-bons to hunt. No place to go potty. No warm spot to lie in a sunbeam. Good grief, your little paws can't even reach the ground -- the snow is too deep.

So the kitties are inside. Cranky and trapped. Rosie (the young one) is stir-crazy and wanting to chase string, attack the kitty-in-the-mirror, and run run run. Apparently she discovered sources of water outdoors because now that she's stuck inside she is back to her old ways of begging persistently for water faucets to be turned on for fresh water. Athena (the old cat) is hungry (no bon-bons) and growly and altogether perturbed. With indoor kitties we have to be cleaning the litter box and we have to be feeding them more kibble.

BUT I found the silver lining! When kitties are stuck indoors 24/7, they cannot go out at night. And come in at night. And go out at night. And come in at night. Man oh man, I'm getting some good solid sleep, with no beggar pawing gently at my face, "Hey, open the door, I need to find a snack rid you of mammalian pests."

I know it's not the same as the rest Katie is rejoicing to have, but I am sharing her relief in a small way.

Today's Laugh

Erin told me about a church-sign she saw.

Put Christ back in X-mas.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Come, Lord Jesus

I'm not in the mood for Christmas and hanging up lights and finding a place in the [crowded] new house for a Christmas tree. Oh, and doing the grocery shopping is about all the crowd-fighting and money-spending I can handle; I don't want to do gift shopping too.

And it's been snowing and cloudy a lot.

So there is something absolutely wonderful and comforting about the versicles for Advent.

Every morning at Matins we pray:
Praise to You, O Christ, King who comes to save us.

And then Pastor proclaims,
Behold, the Lord comes to save us.
And we respond,
Oh, come, let us worship Him (and continue with the Venite).

And nearly every day,
at the beginning of Evening Prayer,
and at the start of the sermon or Bible class,
we pray,

The Spirit and the Church cry out,
Come, Lord Jesus.
All those who await His appearance pray,
Come, Lord Jesus.
The whole creation pleads,
Come, Lord Jesus.

This is the Christmas preparation that I can handle.

Today's Laugh

From Pastor Colgrove:

The real conclusion to be reached from all the scientific studies on nutrition:

1. The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

2. The Mexicans eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

3. The Chinese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

4. The Italians drink a lot of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

5. The Germans drink a lot of beers and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

Therefore, eat and drink what you like.
Speaking English is apparently what kills you.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Reason for Disaster

Today's Bible story was about Zachariah in the temple, conducting the liturgy, praying at the hour of incense, confessing sin. Pastor started us off in Daniel 9 to review what the priests were praying for, what the confession sounded like, how they approached God. Daniel was confessing the sins of Israel, how they had transgressed God's law, and he said in verse 12, And He has confirmed His words, which He spoke against us and against our judges who judged us, by bringing upon us a great disaster.... As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not made our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand Your truth.

Think about that for a minute. What if God had NOT sent the Amorites and the Philistines and the Assyrians and the Babylonians to overrun the Israelites?

In the Torah, God has said thus-and-such will happen if you transgress My law. So His people transgressed His law. If the results/consequences/punishments (or whatever you want to call them) had not come about, that would mean that God's word didn't pan out as He had said.

What would that mean with regard to His promises?

Think about that. Wow. I mean, well, there are reasons that God allows trouble to befall us -- so that we learn to depend upon Him, so that we do not continue in impenitence. But this too -- that we cannot depend upon the happy promises in God's word if some of the rest of His word is lacking in veracity.

Baby Pictures

Four weeks old:

Kewpie-doll hairdo:

Watching dinner-time:

Gingerbread House

Maggie has been yearning to make a gingerbread house, but it didn't look like it was likely to happen. It takes time to make all the parts. Last time we tackled the project, it cost a lot of money to buy all the different varieties of candy. But the other day, we were doing errands at Walmart and saw this kit for a gingerbread house. I splurged for the kit (which was actually much cheaper than doing it from scratch). Friday afternoon she built and assembled and decorated.

Pretty cute, eh?

Today's Laugh

From Kim in Kansas:

Living Wills

Last night, my wife and I were sitting in the living room and I said to her, "I never want to live in a vegetative state, dependent on some machine and fluids from a bottle. If that ever happens, just pull the plug."

She got up, unplugged the TV, and threw out my beer.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Double for Her Sins

"Comfort, yes, comfort My people!" says your God.
"Speak comfort to Jerusalem,
and cry out to her that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned;
for she has received from the Lord's hand
double for all her sins."
Isaiah 40

Received double what?

It always seemed to me that what you receive for sins is punishment, so she has received double punishment for her sins. Hmmm. That's comfort??? Not to my way of thinking. Well, maybe because she's been good-n-punished, there can't be any more punishment still waiting???

Pastor has told us in previous years that it is double grace. Okay. If he said so. Didn't make much sense to me though.

But today he talked about it more. We might think punishment is due a sinner. But God takes the punishment for our sins upon Himself, and then He dishes out forgiveness for sins. ("For your thoughts are not My thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," declares the Lord.)

And comfort IS the point of the passage. The end of her warfare --and the pardon of her iniquity-- is what the prophets are to speak to God's people. So the double is double grace, double forgiveness, double peace.

Pastor made the point that God's forgiveness is not "just" commensurate with our sin. It's not like He gives us as much grace/mercy as is needed to counterbalance our sin. No, He gives more. A super-abundance. Paul picks up on this notion in Romans 5: But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.