Saturday, January 17, 2009

Day of Rest

The kids and I have big --and exhausting-- plans for the next week. There will be lots of driving, but lots of stops with chances to see some of our favorite people.

So last night my throat started to hurt a bit. And this morning I got up with a sore throat that worsened as I began to feel more and more weary. So the raw garlic cloves are taped to my voicebox. I had a couple of fat raw garlic cloves with my lunch. And I slept much of the day. The driveway is not shoveled. The rest of the family winged it for dinner. The grocery shopping is not done. All the other things on today's to-do list (well, actually, they were on last Monday's to-do list, and just keep getting bumped over to the next day) languish undone. But I slept most of the day, and still have hopes of not canceling the trips.

Types of Government

Melody pointed out a great summary of the various forms of government, particularly what it means to have a democracy as compared to a republic. It's less than 11 minutes of video, and very helpful.

Today's Laugh

What happens if you get scared half-to-death twice?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Today's Problem with Math

When the Lutheran school at my Aunt Mary's church bought new math curriculum, she did a little dumpster-diving and nabbed us the old textbooks. Seemed to me they were practically new at the time: they'd been published between the birth of my two oldest kids. We used those textbooks throughout the years with nary a problem.

Today one of the word problems began:
Mary had 8 singles and one LP.

Mommmmmmmm. What's an "LP"?

Oh. Maybe those textbooks are a little older than I realized.

Strength of Faith (2)

During Gary's first two years of seminary, Pastor Baker came to the sem one morning a week for Bible class with sem wives. It was great. During Gary's fourth year, someone decided that this should be discontinued and we should get with the modern way of doing things and have small-group Bible class. So the wives were bunched together by neighborhood and time availability, and we were told to pick something to study together. Our group chose What Happens When Women Pray. It's not good.

The book is full of works-righteousness and the theology of glory. I brought up points for discussion; most of the group disagreed with me. The real killer was when we got to the part of the book that said God refused to hear your prayers until you had figured out each and every sin you had ever committed, and asked for forgiveness for that specific sin. (The illogic is mind-boggling. If you can't remember all your sins, then you should pray for enlightenment to know your sin so that you might confess it so that you could get right with God so that He would listen to your prayers.) It was at this point that several of the women decided I was no Christian. They determined to pray for my conversion and enlightenment. (They also decided to go to the administration and tell them that Gary was not fit for a call, considering he had a pagan wife like me, but that's another part of the story entirely.)

I remember being offended that they considered me to be an unbeliever.

Fast-forward several years. I got involved with some homeschool groups. At two different points, women in the homeschool groups decided I was not a true believer. They prayed for my conversion too. By now, I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, I was thankful that they were praying for me. They were praying that I would believe in Jesus, that I would be His disciple, that I would live the life of a true believer. Now, who can complain about that? I pray those same things for myself! Hooray that they're joining me in those prayers! And yet ... there was still something that bothered me about it. It wasn't what they were saying about my sin and unbelief, though. The terrible thing was what they were saying about Jesus. HE baptized me. HE claimed me. HE speaks His words of love and mercy to me. And when somebody implies that I don't have His love, when somebody implies that my baptism is nothing, that's just plain wrong.

Basically, it got down to the different views of faith. If faith is my act of believing, then of course it's questionable as to its strength and durability. But if faith is about the objective work of the Son of God for me and the whole world (and that I cling to what He has done), then raising questions about someone's faith could actually be turning him from Christ to navel-gazing.

Strength of Faith (1)

Christians often evaluate "strength of faith." Is my faith strong? Should it be stronger? Should that guy over there do a better job of trusting God like I do? Shouldn't I be further along in my faith-walk?

Good and faithful pastors have repeatedly tried to pound into my head that faith is passive receptivity. Faith is not so much a "thing" in and of itself, but faith is what receives Christ. What matters is not the "trustingness" but the OBJECT of faith. I have been told gazillions of times that we are speaking about faith wrongly if we cannot replace the word "faith" with "Christ" and have our sentence still be right.

Pray more, so that your faith can get stronger.
Pray more, so that Christ can get stronger.
Hmmm. Doesn't work.
Faith saves.
Christ saves.
Hmmm. Does work.

So for years I've been muddling along with the conflict between my old idea of faith and what my understanding of faith should be. And I was slowly starting to get it.

And then along come some stories from the Gospels where Jesus talks about strong faith and weak faith. (There's the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15. And the centurion in Matthew 8. And the disciples in the boat in the storm in Matthew 8.) Now, hold it just a minute! If Jesus talks about strong faith and weak faith, just what does Pastor have to say about that???

He said it's not how much trustingness we have, or that we could have "more trustingness" or "less trustingness." He said that faith is strong when its object is Christ. But we sinners have false faith. We are laden with unbelief, even as Christians. When faith is fixed elsewhere, then we are "weak in faith." When the disciples were looking at the stormy waves instead of at Jesus, He said they had "no faith" or "little faith." The whole point of preaching and teaching is that the false faith be killed in us (yet again) and that we be converted (yet again) so that faith instead is firmly fixed (yet again) upon Jesus and His mercy.

So the antidote to weak faith is not "doing a better job of trusting." The solution is not to try harder to squash the unbelief. The problem is not solved by bucking up and acting in the way that I think I'd act if I were a good truster. The solution is to be absolved, to hear more of Jesus' love, to receive the Supper, to look at Him and not at my faith or its strength or weakness.


Since early days of Christianity, the fish has been used as a symbol of Christ. The letters in the Greek word for fish can be used as an anagram for "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior."

Right now, we are immersed in baptism stories for our daily readings at chapel. We started with Jesus' baptism, and yesterday we had John 4. Coincidentally we also happen to have just begun studying Jonah on Thursday mornings. Through the years we have gone through the story of Jonah, discussing the connections to baptism, and how he was thrown into the water and then saved alive. We have looked at the references in the Gospels, where Jesus talks about the "sign of Jonah" and how it shows the death and resurrection that are in baptism (Romans 6).

Pastor's emphasis this week has been on how baptism gives Christ. He keeps pointing out that we cannot pit "baptism saves" against "Jesus saves" because Jesus IS the very content of the water.

So we're talking about Jonah, right? He doesn't believe in God's mercy; he doesn't want the Ninevites to hear God's word because then they might repent and then God would go and forgive them. So he runs away. Then he is thrown overboard to drown in the sea. Why did he not die in the condemnation he earned for his unbelief?

The fish!

He was IN the FISH.
That's what saved him.

And the fish later became a symbol of Whom?

Isn't that cool?
It's almost like the Author of the Bible knew what was coming up as history unfolded through the years.

Today's Laugh

How much deeper would the ocean be without the sponges?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Happy Day

The plan today was to drop off the car at the mechanic's, walk to church (about 1/2 or 2/3 mile), go to Bible class, walk back to the mechanic's, get the car, go home, and get on with the day.

It's cold.

So I was thinking that I didn't want to take a kid with me to deal with walking in the cold. I mean, we own only so many ski masks, insulated gloves liners, etc. But Maggie insisted on going to Matins. Okie-dokie. So she took something to read during Bible class, and we proceeded with the plan.

Then the headmistress of the school asked if Maggie wanted to join them for their medieval day. The upper grades were going to be watching Henry V, enjoying an intermission for a medieval feast that some of the moms were preparing. I was stunned at first that they'd invite Maggie to join in. It was such an unexpected surprise! So I left Maggie at church to join their school day, and headed off at 11:00 to fetch the car.

Uh oh. The bitter cold had brought in many an urgent call to the mechanic. He was so apologetic for not having gotten to my car. But of course he needed to rescue people before doing something like periodic maintenance on my perfectly drivable vehicle. So I took the car, did the errands, putzed in the kitchen to clean up and start supper, and then headed to church with Andrew. The car needed to go back to the mechanic's. I figured the movie would be done around 1:30, so I took schoolwork to occupy me and the two kids prior to chapel, while the car was being worked on. Well, it turns out that the kids had a nice, long intermission for their feast. So Andrew and I joined the movie-crew instead of doing the schoolwork we'd toted along with us.

So today I was overjoyed to take four walks out in the glorious sunshine. I managed to fit in the errands and start a supper that will meet with rousing approval from at least two of my men. I got watch the last 1/3 of Henry. And I was overjoyed to be invited to participate with the schoolkids! I hear sometimes about friction between homeschoolers and Lutheran parochial schools. Never having been at a church with a school before, I had no experience, good or bad. I didn't expect any problems whatsoever with our homeschooling situation. But still, the pleasure over the kind invitation to be part of their day -- that's really something special! It's definitely a big huge warm-fuzzy!

John 4

Remember the story of the woman at the well? When Jesus told her about her having gone through five husbands and currently shacking up with her honey, her response was, "Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet." I always thought she said that because He knew something that she thought a stranger-in-town surely couldn't know.

But Pastor pointed out today that that wasn't the only reason she said that. He was pointing out her sin, calling her to repentance, so that she would rejoice in the living water of His forgiveness. It wasn't just the "knowing" that made her realize He was a prophet, but that Jesus was doing what prophets do: calling sinners to repentance and bringing God's word of absolution to them.

Today's Laugh

How To Give a Cat a Bath

1. Thoroughly clean toilet.
2. Lift both lids and add shampoo.
3. Find and soothe cat as you carry it to bathroom.
4. In one swift move, place cat in toilet, close both lids, and stand on top so cat cannot escape.
5. The cat will self agitate and produce ample suds. (Ignore ruckus from inside toilet as cat is enjoying this.)
6. Flush toilet 3 or 4 times. This provides power rinse which is quite effective. Cat is too big to go anywhere.
7. Have someone open outside door, stand as far from toilet as possible, and quickly lift both lids.
8. Clean cat will rocket out of the toilet and outdoors, where he will air dry. Cat will return when hungry.

The Dog

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

IRAs and Pastors

As I've been beginning to work on the income taxes, I've noticed how much we're going to have to pay in income taxes because of withdrawing an IRA for the downpayment on the house last spring. Conventional wisdom says that IRAs are good because you defer payment on taxes until you're retired and thus in a lower income-tax bracket.

Nobody told us that pastors need to watch out for this!!!

Eventually we figured it out on our own, but not until after we'd put a little money away in an IRA for Gary. Granted, some pastors actually are paid what's recommended, or at least 75-90% of what's recommended by the district. But some are paid far less. I know so many pastors' families who have one very low income from Dad, no income from Mom who's staying home with several children (all of whom become exemptions on the tax form), and thus are already in a zero-percent tax-bracket.

If you're not paying taxes anyway because you're too poor, by all means, DO NOT PUT MONEY IN A TRADITIONAL IRA. A Roth IRA is a different story: you pay taxes on that now ... all zero percent.

When you're bombarded with advice to put away money now so as to "put off paying taxes on it," it never seems to cross the mind of a financial advisor (or the editors of the AAL magazine) that a nice middle-class family in America might be poor enough to pay no taxes, and thus wants to include as much income as possible NOW when it's not being taxed.

Today's Laugh

Eschew obfuscation.

Quantum mechanics is
the dreams stuff is made of.

The lottery is
a tax on people who are bad at math.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

M. P.

For several days, Maggie kept asking if we could watch Monty Python. Uh, I don't think we own any Monty Python movies. If we did, I'm not sure whether they'd be appropriate for Maggie. Besides, I just can't imagine her asking to watch Monty Python. It was such a confusing request, and I kept giving an adamant "NO!"

Finally one day she asked how long we'd had that Monty Python movie from Netflix. But we don't have a Monty Python movie. We only had a documentary on English kings and Mary Poppins.

Mary Poppins.

M. P.

Is that what she meant by "Monty Python"?

Yes. Central auditory processing disorder strikes again!

Washing Fat

We've been getting low on soap, and I've been intending for more than two months to make another batch. So today, after a lovely two hours outdoors in the SUNSHINE and the frigid cold and the SUNSHINE, finding anything to do outside that I possibly could, just to be in the SUNSHINE, we did a little schoolwork and I pulled out the soap-making supplies. (Y'know, sometimes I wonder what the neighbors think when they see me all bundled up, outside, doing chores that don't really need to be done, on a day when any reasonable person would be holed up indoors with a blanket, a cup of hot coffee, and a heating pad. But there was SUNSHINE!)

Anyway, back to the soap-making.
There is no washed tallow!

Good grief. I didn't know that. At least I bought some suet last spring when the store had it on sale, knowing that it was getting to be weather when the birds could find their own food. And really, who wants suet? Well, hot diggety-dog, I nabbed it up for soap. But now I have a big pot of suet and water on the stove, melting my fat. At least it's cold enough this week that I may even be able to wash the tallow twice before bedtime.

(For those of you who don't know, you wash fat by melting it in an equal amount of water, and then letting it cool. The fat rises, and the meat and other impurities stay below in the water.)

Newton's law of momentum says that an object in motion tends to stay in motion. But it also says an object at rest tends to stay at rest. Now I've been thwarted in my soap-making plans and am at rest. You do realize, then, that when I can't get going tomorrow on the soap-making, it will all be Newton's fault.

Today's Laugh

A new pastor was visiting in the homes of his parishioners . At one house it seemed obvious that someone was at home, but no answer came to his repeated knocks at the door. Therefore, he took out a card and wrote "Revelation 3:20" on the back of it and stuck it in the door.

When the offering was processed the following Sunday, he found that his card had been returned. Added to it was this cryptic message, "Genesis 3:10."

Reaching for his Bible to check out the citation, he broke up in gales of laughter.

Revelation 3:20 begins, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock."

Genesis 3:10 reads, "I heard your voice in the garden and I was afraid for I was naked."

Monday, January 12, 2009


We got a lot done today. There was also a lot we didn't get done. But we:
cleaned the basement
went to chapel twice
made gumbo for supper
did some algebra
made cherry jam
made peach jam
made blackberry jam

You know what? Jam made from store fruit isn't as tasty as jam made from fresh-picked berries. And it's not just that I used frozen fruit. When I froze strawberries from my own strawberry patch and then later made that into jam, it was excellent. It's the store food that isn't as good.

For some other reasons, I've been noticing the change in our diet since our shares of organic veggies --from the farm where we bought a share of "community supported agriculture"-- ended for the winter.

And right now, I am hypothesizing that "more taste" is probably indicative of better nutrition. Wouldn't an August-tomato be healthier than a January hot-house tomato? Those organic carrots that taste like candy... they have spoiled me forever when I think of buying regular store-carrots.

My jam results today, although perfectly decent, ought to be the reminder in spring that I have GOT to get out there with the shovel and the dirt and the seeds and the hose, so that we can have awesome food instead of decent food.

Today's Laugh

Not unlike the sign on your review mirror:

WARNING: Dates on calendar are closer than they appear.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Last January at the symposia in Fort Wayne, I couldn't believe how MUCH talking could be done about minor points. Sometimes a whole hour-long lecture could've been summed in 1-2 minutes of plain English. Now, don't get me wrong: hours upon hours of talking (and even debating) theology does not bore me or tire me out. But what surprised me at symposia was how obvious topics could be belabored and questioned and picked to pieces.

The topic of symposium last year was the atonement. Some of the speakers spoke for their whole hour, weighing the opposing viewpoints and intellectual evidence, and came to a conclusion that most Christian 7-yr-olds would know. Or worse yet, came to a conclusion that a young Christian child could easily debunk.

Now, given the topic, those three days could've been spent talking about the atonement in a way that would be not only academic/educational, but it would have been nice too if the atonement had been "preached." I remember after one of the lectures, talking to Sandy. She and I both noticed that in one sermon, either of our pastors could teach all the worthwhile academics in some of those [much longer] lectures, while nevertheless focusing primarily on preaching Jesus and bringing the comfort of the forgiveness that's found in the atonement.

I realize there's a place for academic, high-falutin' speeches and debate and examination of issues. But somehow, last year, I would've preferred to hear about the atonement as we teach it to little kids instead of to grown-up, intelligent, theological experts.

Kinda makes me nervous about this year's symposium. I'm thinking that I may spend more time playing patty-cake with a grand-daughter than listening to lectures.

Writing Rules

Verbs HAS to agree with their subjects.

Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.

And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.

It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.

Avoid cliches like the plague. (They're old hat.)

Also, always avoid annoying alliteration.

Be more or less specific.

Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.

Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies.

No sentence fragments.

Contractions aren't necessary and shouldn't be used.

Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.

Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.

One should NEVER generalise.

Comparisons are as bad as cliches.

Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.

One-word sentences? Eliminate.

Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.

The passive voice is to be ignored.

Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary. Parenthetical words however should be enclosed in commas.

Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.

Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.

Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth earth shaking ideas.

Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."

If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times: Resist hyperbole; not one writer in a million can use it correctly.

Puns are for children, not groan readers.

Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.

Even IF a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.

Who needs rhetorical questions?

Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement. And the last one...

Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.