Thursday, December 31, 2009

Today's Laugh

Middle age is having the choice of two temptations, and choosing the one which will get you home earlier.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Acts 26:16

Paul is recounting his conversion to King Herod Agrippa, Queen Bernice, and Governor Festus. Jesus told him,
I have appeared to you for this purpose,
to make you a minister and a witness
both of the things which you have seen
and of the things which I will yet reveal to you.

Gary has long posited that Saul/Paul observed much of Jesus' ministry. Paul was a Pharisee. All the other Jews knew him as one who'd spent his youth in Jerusalem, at the feet of Gamaliel (Acts 26:4). And Paul was in Jerusalem at the time of Stephen's ministry and martyrdom. Paul was busy imprisoning and murdering Christians (Acts 26:10).

Furthermore, there was no secret about what was happening with Jesus. Everybody knew about Zachariah seeing the angel in the temple, about John's birth, about the angels appearing to the shepherds, about Simeon's and Anna's proclamation of the arrival of the Messiah. During Jesus' ministry, crowds flocked to His preaching and for His miraculous healings. When He was on trial, He said they all knew what He taught; it was common public knowledge; He did nothing in secret. And the Pharisees had been spying on Jesus all along.

But even with all that common sense pointing to Paul's having been one of the Pharisees who was keeping track of Jesus, I couldn't be absolutely certain that Gary's theory was right. Then today I noticed this verse. Jesus told Paul at his conversion that He would make him a minister and a witness of the things which he had seen. We know that Paul had this mega hang-up that he didn't want to preach anything except Jesus' death and resurrection (1 Corinthians 2:2, among many others). So what was it Paul had seen that Jesus made him a witness of?

Today's Laugh

Courtroom testimony in a drunk-driving case:

Q: Trooper, when you stopped the defendant, were your red and blue lights flashing?
A: Yes.

Q: Did the defendant say anything when she got out of her car?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: What did she say?
A: What disco am I at?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

God Grew Tired of Us

We watched a documentary this weekend on the lost boys of Sudan.

1. One of the producers of the film was National Geographic Society. Nevertheless, it still came out (briefly) in the film that this was a war of the Muslims against the Christians, that this was genocide. There were also references in the movie to the faith of the refugees, such as their confusion at America's celebration of Christmas because, in their country, Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ.

2. Boy, do we live a cushy life here.

3. The guys being interviewed often spoke of missing their parents. Again and again there were comments about "not having parents to take care of us." These were men in their 20s. They were capable of getting around town, holding down a job, cooking their own food, etc. Yet they recognized something important about having parents, something that I think isn't recognized in America.

4. Similar to a recognition of the importance of parents, the guys recognized the importance of family. It was hard for them to leave the refugee camp and their companions, even though they knew they would have more temporal goods. When they arrived in America, they lived with only a few other refugees in an apartment. Their jobs took them away from the apartment, so that they could go for days without seeing their "family." And that was unsettling to them. It didn't seem right that earning money should separate them from loved ones so much of the time.

Today's Laugh

A young man asked an old rich man how he made his money.

The old guy fingered his worsted wool vest and said, "Well, son, it was 1932. The depth of the Great Depression. I was down to my last nickel. I invested that nickel in an apple. I spent the entire day polishing the apple and, at the end of the day, I sold the apple for ten cents.

"The next morning, I invested those ten cents in two apples. I spent the entire day polishing them and sold them at 5:00 pm for 20 cents. I continued this system for a month, by the end of which I'd accumulated a fortune of $1.37.

"Then my wife's father died and left us two million dollars."

Monday, December 28, 2009


When I was 28, I realized I could no longer eat pizza after 9:00 at night without some seriously weird dreams. When I was in my mid-40s, I realized that the delight of a frozen custard on my tastebuds wasn't enough to compensate for the effect the sugar-high had on an empty stomach. And now I'm realizing that the feasting that goes with Christmas is more than my body can bear, and it must be reigned in and controlled.

Hey, all you young folks. Enjoy it while you can!

Today's Laugh

"What kind of work do you do?" a woman passenger inquired of the man traveling in her train compartment.

"I'm a Naval surgeon," he replies.

"My word!" spluttered the woman, "How you doctors specialize these days."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Shut In

As Pastor was reviewing Old Testament stories today, he was pointing out how God is always the one doing the doing in the stories. One example he gave is that God was the engineer for the ark, God was the one who brought the animals to Noah, and God was the one who shut Noah and his family into the ark. Noah didn't shut himself in.

Jesus didn't shut himself into the tomb either. He was put in, and the door was closed. Hmm.


Do you know how many stanzas of All My Heart This Night Rejoices they cut out of LSB??? (The answer is 60%. Do you think I will reconcile myself to that before I die?) I came home on Christmas Eve and played piano and sang the rest of it -- several times. Gary got out the violin and joined in on melody. Cool, eh?

We shall call this year "The Christmas of the Hair-Straightening"

Birthday girl, with straight hair, wearing her new Illini shirt. With straighter hair, we were calling her "Katie" all day long. It was freaky! I thought they looked alike, but, boy oh boy, straighten Mag's hair and then they really look alike!

Concentrating on the Qwirkle game --

Christmas ribbons nabbed off a present from Grandma made Rachel's hair look festive!

Now, why would you touch the filthy poker for the fireplace?

Oh, that face is more handsome than the last snapshot.

Caught a lot of nice-looking shots of Philip this week.

Gary's known at work as the guy with the interesting ties. Gumby is a favorite.

Aw. Isn't that romantic? Sharing their present-opening.

Katie. Or not. Maybe Miss-Maggie-of-the-Straight-Hair

Captain Andrew-of-the-Straight-Hair. Piratical earring. And a parrot cat on his shoulder.

Today's Laugh

Chris and his wife had just finished tucking their young ones into bed one evening when they heard crying coming from the children's room. Rushing in, they found Tommy crying hysterically.

He had accidentally swallowed a nickel and was sure he was going to die. No amount of talking could change his mind. Trying to calm him, Chris palmed a nickel that he happened to have in his pocket and pretended to remove it from Tommy's ear. Tommy, naturally, was delighted. In a flash, he snatched it from his father's hand, swallowed it and demanded cheerfully, "Do it again, Dad!"

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Holy Spirit Gives Life

John 1 -- In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.

I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life ....

As Gabriel told the blessed virgin Mary, the "Holy Spirit shall come upon you" and she would conceive the Son of God in her womb.

I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver-of-Jesus ....
(Seems to me to fit with the High Priestly Prayer and Augustana V.)

Today's Laugh

It was the day after Christmas at a church in San Francisco. The pastor of the church was looking over the creche when he noticed that the baby Jesus was missing from among the figures. Immediately he turned and went outside and saw a little boy with a red wagon, and in the wagon was the figure of the little infant, Jesus.

So he walked up to the boy and said, "Well, where did you get Him, my fine friend?"

The little boy replied, "I got him from the church."

"And why did you take him?"

The boy said, "Well, about a week before Christmas I prayed to the little Lord Jesus, and I told him if he would bring me a red wagon for Christmas, I would give him a ride around the block in it."

Friday, December 25, 2009


Can you believe a mother who would mortify her 15-yr-old by getting a bunch of her friends to sing Happy Birthday to her in the choir room after church?

Then off for Chinese food --

Picture didn't turn out too well, but we stuck a candle in a cream puff and sang Happy Birthday at the restaurant. Hey, the folks at the other tables quieted and listened and then applauded Maggie. That only happened once before.Maggie was, once again, mortified.

Illini girl -- (Was this from Mom or Karen?)

Intuitive Learning Company

One of the popular Christmas presents was something I stumbled onto at Goodwill and snapped up the second I laid eyes on it. Intuitive Learning Company also sells shower curtains with French and Spanish vocabulary. The only puzzle is whether to put it with the writing facing into the shower so we can read it while we're bathing, or words out to the room to look more attractive overall. Gary noticed this evening while he was brushing his teeth that we can read the vocabulary left-to-right in the mirror, so for now we have to read backwards only while we're on the toilet.

Matt was asking today what homeschooling is like. It's like ... uh ... buying vocabulary-laden shower curtains ....


Ten days straight without sun. (Well, there were a couple of minutes on Sunday morning during church when a beam peeked through the stained glass.) The 10-day forecast calls for "partly cloudy" next Tuesday. And only Tuesday: the rest is overcast and snow.

If somebody had not eaten for 4-5 days, a person who said, "Gee, you look hungry!" would not be disapproving of the person's discomfort for being hungry.

But what if somebody looks sad and droopy because she has not seen the sun for 10 days? Is she supposed to just chipper-up? Should a person be able to control her body's response to light-deprivation more than she can control her body's reaction to food-deprivation?

I think it's high time to start goofing off with regard to work, and time to start playing the piano more, watching funny movies more, and reading something fun to Maggie.

♫ Oh, Mr Sun, Sun, Mr Golden Sun,
please shine down on me! ♫

♫ Sunshine on my shoulders
makes me happy. ♫

A Visit

Today's Laugh

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas Tradition

The liquor companies give GOOD rebates around Christmas and New Year's. So if you're going to buy vodka-for-vanilla or whiskey-for-medicine or schnapps-for-granola or Southern Comfort [-for-yummies], now is the time of the year to do it. You may get a bottle of schnapps for $2, or a year's worth of vanilla for $4.

But the GLUE! Oh, the glue!

For a rebate, you have to turn in the UPC code. You have to soak it off the liquor bottle. Now, the labels will fall off my syrup jars in about 20 seconds. The labels will fall off my bouillon jars in 5-10 minutes. But soaking a bottle of vodka? The front label will fall off the bottle in half an hour. But the part of the label where the UPC code is? After four hours, the UPC code can be pried off only with lots of tearing and ripping of soaked paper.

Can the ladies processing the rebates even read the shreds I send them from the UPC code?

Maybe it's a conspiracy to not pay the rebates?

Or maybe the company is trying to protect itself from people who scam businesses out of rebate money? Maybe if you send in a decent-looking UPC code, they will know you faked it ... because you didn't have to fight the Superglue-strong-enough-to-hold-a-spaceship-together!

Whatever it is, I discovered this is one of the dumbest Christmas traditions we have. But a tradition it is, nonetheless.

The Lion Shall Lie Down with the Lamb

I've lived in Wisconsin a long time. No dangerous snakes. No scorpions. Virtually no deadly spiders. There are certain times of year where your outdoorsy preschooler may be covered with welts from mosquito bites. But overall, it's a pretty safe place.

Katie has told me about the fire-ant hills and the snakes and scorpions and the other nasty critters in Texas. She has to watch out for Alia when they go outside to play.

So when we hear during Lessons & Carols that the baby will be playing outdoors by the snake holes, and the toddlers will be stickin' their little hands into the den of venomous snakes, it sure sounds different this year. That's something that was just words to me before; I could intellectually assent to the coming of peace and safety Isaiah describes. But wow, those words probably sound completely different to mommies who have to keep their kids away from rattlesnakes and fire ants.

Faking Confidence

At the Christmas party for Gary's job, one of the guys we were chatting with mentioned how it's important to sound like you know what you're talking about. Even if you don't.

I've heard the same thing from other salesmen: sound confident. It will instill confidence in your prospective buyer. If you sound confident, the sucker will do what you want him to do.


Gary and I did a little Christmas shopping on Tuesday night. We were trying to figure out exactly how the sizing on a particular item worked. When the label says it's thus-and-so big, exactly where on the item is it measured? Because it made a difference. I was digging in my purse for my trusty tape measure (a necessary item for those who shop at Goodwill and Salvation Army) when a saleslady came by. We asked; she told us the answer; we bought the gift. Came home and found out she was just talkin'. She didn't know. She was wrong. So I had to go back to the store and return the gift. The exchange was easy and there were no complaints from the store. But I had to go back.

Really, now, would our whole economy collapse if salesmen told the truth? Would it destroy their careers if they said, "I don't know; I'll have to find out for you"? (Who knows? Maybe it would!)

These incidents make me think I should trust no one's word, no matter how inconsequential the situation is. [sigh]

Today's Laugh

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

California Trip

You disembark from the plane for your lay-over, walk into the Las Vegas airport, and face a whole bank of slot machines. Around the corner we found the wheel. Boy, you know it's Las Vegas!

Sacramento airport was a little more peaceful-looking.

The entrance to the M.I.N.D. Institute. Notice all the sun sun SUN in these pictures.

The side view of the MIND Institute, as we saw it from our room.

The entrance to the Kiwanis Family House.

The side of the Kiwanis House where we stayed, as seen from over at the MIND Institute.

The nearby corner where we could find food: groceries and sit-down restaurants and fast food and an awesome Thai place. It was about two-thirds of a mile.

Our bedroom at the Kiwanis House.

Maggie working in our section's kitchen.

The dining room. (How'd that kombucha bottles get there?)

A shot of Maggie at the Phoenix airport.

Today's Laugh

A man was brought to Mercy Hospital and taken in for coronary surgery.

The operation went well and, as the groggy man regained consciousness, he was reassured by a Sister of Mercy, who was waiting by his bed.

"Mr. Smith, you're going to be just fine," said the nun, gently patting his hand. "We do need to know, however, how you intend to pay for your stay here. Are you covered by insurance?"

"No, I'm not," the man whispered hoarsely.

"Can you pay in cash?" persisted the nun.

"I'm afraid I cannot, Sister."

"Well, do you have any close relatives?" the nun essayed.

"Just my sister in New Mexico," he volunteered. "But she's a humble spinster nun."

"Oh, I must correct you, Mr. Smith. Nuns are not 'spinsters.' They are married to God."

"Wonderful," said Smith. "In that case, please send the bill to my brother-in-law."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Certainly Not by Merit

The story in Sunday School this week was about Jacob and Esau. Jacob was not exactly a pillar of morality in his younger years. Pastor was talking about Jacob being

the son of the promise (this is key) by the free choice of God's grace, not because he was entitled to it. The birthright has certain rights associated with it, but Jacob was not the first-born. Furthermore, Jacob's sin does not nullify God's promise. God certainly does not condone sin, but neither does our sin make God renege on His promise. If His promise is "I will love you, and I will send My Son to die for you and to redeem you with His blood," your sin does not then cause Him to say, "You know, I changed My mind. I do not love you any longer, and I will not send My Son." Understand?

He is faithful for His sake. Before the twins were even born, He chose Jacob to be the son of the promise. His choice was made purely on the basis of His grace. When Jacob proved himself to be unworthy of the blessing, when he schemed, when he coveted and stole, God did not come up with Plan B. God did not ditch Jacob. His word is sure. His promise is certain. And the promise made to me in baptism is just as sure and certain.

Romans 11 -- The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.

Oh, then, rejoice that through His Son
God is with sinners now at one.
Made like yourselves of flesh and blood,
your Brother is the eternal God.

What harm can sin and death then do?
The true God now abides with you.
Let hell and Satan rage and chafe --
Christ is your Brother; you are safe!

Christmas Decorations

Every year the girls had to wear these as earrings. Hey, we only have two left. I wonder if Rachel and Katie have a pair each at their houses?

Katie tried to convince me these were hers. They weren't, and I wouldn't let her take them when she moved away from home. But she looked forward to pulling them out every year. She can see them only when she comes to visit. But the rest of the kids should let her have them after her father and I die.

Gary used to be in the Giraffe Club. This was from Mom to go with the other giraffes in the giraffe collection. The hook broke off his little head, so now he hangs by floss. Not the best, but it works.

Ornaments I made as a kid. I think the craft kits from Montgomery Wards were probably Christmas or birthday presents.

The first year we were married, we realized we had nothing for the top of the tree. No star. No angel. No money to go buy one. No idea what to choose for something that would last for decades.So Gary cut a star shape out of the bottom of a cardboard box and we covered it with foil. If you look closely, you can see the round indentations from the food cans that were shipped in the box. The star was a temporary fix. (Ya laughin' over that??) After about 15 years, somebody suggested we buy something nice for the top of the tree. Well, after that little piece of cardboard has moved with us repeatedly, decorating the top of the tree for nearly 30 years, do you really think I'm going to let go of it now?

Today's Laugh

A little girl climbed onto Santa's lap. Santa asked the usual, "And what would you like for Christmas?"

The child stared at him open-mouthed and horrified for a minute. Then she gasped, "Didn't you get my e-mail?"

Monday, December 21, 2009

Solstice and the Return of the Sun

Rejoice now, all you heavenly choirs of angels!
Rejoice now, all creation!
Sound forth, trumpet of salvation,
and proclaim the triumph of our King!
Rejoice too, all the earth,
in the radiance of the light now poured upon you
and made brilliant by the brightness of the everlasting King!
Know that the ancient darkness has been forever banished.
Rejoice, o Church of Christ,
clothed in the brightness of this light!
Let all this house of God ring out with rejoicing,
with the praises of all God's faithful people.

That is from the Easter Vigil.

Look at it! All that talk about light. And the King. And the angels' rejoicing. You'd almost be tempted to think that it dovetails with Advent's

O come, Thou Dayspring from on high,
and cheer us by Thy drawing nigh.
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death's dark shadow put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, o Israel!

Christmas Decorations

Some newer ornaments that are beautiful and theologically spot-on:

Some very old ornaments. I remember these on Nanna & Gramp's tree when I was little. And I don't think they were very new then. We had the glass balls on our tree at home, but Nanna's ornaments had the etched pictures and words. That just seemed so special and beautiful to me as a child. Wait. It still does.

Today's Laugh

A man is in bed with his wife when there is a rat-a-tat-tat on the door.

He rolls over and looks at his clock, and it's half past three in the morning. "I'm not getting out of bed at this time," he thinks, and rolls over.

Then, a louder knock follows. "Aren't you going to answer that?" says his wife. So he drags himself out of bed, and goes downstairs. He opens the door and there is man standing at the door. It didn't take the homeowner long to realize the man was drunk.

"Hi, there," slurs the stranger. "Can you give me a push??"

"No, get lost, it's half past three. I was in bed," says the man and slams the door.

He goes back up to bed and tells his wife what happened and she says, "Dave, that wasn't very nice of you. Remember that night we broke down in the pouring rain on the way to pick the kids up from the baby-sitter and you had to knock on that man's house to get us started again? What would have happened if he'd told us to get lost??"

"But the guy was drunk," says the husband.

"It doesn't matter," says the wife. "He needs our help and it would be the Christian thing to help him."

So the husband gets out of bed again, gets dressed, and goes downstairs. He opens the door, and not being able to see the stranger anywhere, he shouts, "Hey, do you still want a push??"

He hears a voice cry out, "Yeah, please."

So, still being unable to see the stranger, he shouts, "Where are you?"

And the stranger replies: "I'm over here, on your swing."

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Lunch at the Beach

One of the readers at Lessons & Carols today went just a wee bit fast with one phrase. She was reading Genesis 22, the promise to Abraham, and did it completely right. But it sounded a little funny when she read:

Blessing I will bless you,
and multiplying I will multiply your descendants
as the stars of the heaven
and as the sandwiches on the seashore;
and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.


Another Democrat fell. A purported pro-life "obstructionist" sold out to a big barrel of pork for his state.

Remember the story of the little Dutch boy who held his finger in the dike? He was an obstructionist. He got in the way. He slowed down what was coming.

Look what happened in New Orleans when the levies didn't do the job of obstructing that they were supposed to do during Hurricane Katrina.

Let's applaud some of those obstructionists!

Christmas Decorations

Because the four oldest weren't here to help with tree-decorating this year, and thus unwrapping these tangible memories, I thought they might want to mosey down Memory Lane via photos.

Beeswax ornaments from our honey lady in Clinton. Local honey for a good price. And she had to think of something to do with the wax; she had a variety of beeswax candles and decorations. It was one of our first fieldtrips with our homeschool group, and we returned to Vaenoski's often.(I was amazed to see that these had survived a hot summer in the attic -- something that destroyed our Advent candles.)

From our trip to Sarasota (with much appreciation to Jane's mom and Wicked!). One day we visited Mote Marine Aquarium. Fantastic place!

The lighthouse at Ponce Inlet. From our trip to Daytona (with much appreciation to my parents!).

From our visit to the EAA Museum. All the time we lived up there, we never actually visited the fly-in or museum. But when Gary had a pastors' conference in Oshkosh one year, we went along to enjoy the hotel pool. While there I took the kids to the museum.

Today's Laugh

In the year 2009, the Lord came unto Noah, who was now living in the United States, and said, "Once again, the earth has become wicked. I see the end of all flesh before me. Build another ark, and save two of every living thing along with a few good humans." God gave Noah the CAD drawings, saying, "You have 6 months to build the ark before I will start the unending rain for 40 days and 40 nights."

Six months later, the Lord looked down and saw Noah weeping in his yard -- but no ark. "Noah!" He roared, "I'm about to start the rain! Where is the ark?"

"Forgive me, Lord," begged Noah, "but things have changed. I needed Building Regulations Approval. And I've been arguing with the fire department about the need for a sprinkler system.

"My neighbours claim that I should have obtained a planning permit for building the ark in my yard because it is development of the site, even though in my view it is a temporary structure.

"We had to then go to appeal to the Secretary of State for a decision.

"Then the Department of Transportation demanded a bond be posted for the future costs of moving power lines and other overhead obstructions to clear the passage for the ark's move to the sea. I told them that the sea would be coming to us, but they would hear nothing of it.

"Getting the wood was another problem. All the decent trees have Tree Preservation Orders on them, and we live in a Site of Special Scientific Interest set up in order to protect the spotted owl. I tried to convince the environmentalists that I needed the wood to save the owls -- but no go!

"When I started gathering the animals, the SPCA sued me. They insisted that I was confining wild animals against their will. They argued the accommodation was too restrictive, and it was cruel and inhumane to put so many animals in a confined space.

"Then the County Council, the Environment Protection Agency, and the Department of Natural Resources ruled that I couldn't build the ark until they'd conducted an environmental impact study on your proposed flood. I'm still trying to resolve a complaint with the Equal Opportunities Commission on how many disabled carpenters I'm supposed to hire for my building team. The trades unions say I can't use my sons. They insist I have to hire only accredited workers with ark-building experience.

"To make matters worse, Customs and Excise seized all my assets, claiming I'm trying to leave the country illegally with endangered species. So, forgive me, Lord, but it would take at least 10 years for me to finish this ark."

Suddenly the skies cleared, the sun began to shine, and a rainbow stretched across the sky. Noah looked up in wonder and asked, "You mean you're not going to destroy the world?"

"No," said the Lord. "The government beat me to it."

Saturday, December 19, 2009