Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Screwdriver Meets the Computer ....

So the computer-duncehead has to backup her computer, wipe her hard-drive, and re-install everything from scratch.

Hoo boy.

So yesterday I slowly and painstakingly read what was written on the screens, translated it into English from computo-jargonese, and figured out which button to push. With only two or threes pleas for help from my son-in-law, I re-installed the operating system. But I couldn't continue with Spybot, Zone Alarm, and AVG (much less anything interesting) until I could access the internet. That means I needed access to the wireless monitor in the house. That means I needed a "driver" for my computer to talk to the little box that slurps the Internet off the cables, into the house, and sends it beaming out into the airwaves of my home.

That means we had to reinstall not only the software but also the hardware. Okay, that means we need to unscrew the little doober-jobbie that hooks the antenna into the hard-wiring of the computer. Okie-dokie. Grab the screwdriver from the kitchen drawer.

But, man! We were having problems. A screen would disappear. Or the machine would say, "Okay, we're halfway through the installation. Now turn off the machine. Attach the hardware piece. Turn the machine back on. And we'll pick up the software installation where we left off." And then it wouldn't! The nerve of it!

After repeated tries, and we were finally on a roll, thinking we would make it, suddenly we plopped out of Proper Installation Mode and had the screen go belly-up on us again. And it crossed Gary's mind:

We're using a magnetized screwdriver.

We were fine as long as we turned the screws by hand. But the second we touched the screwdriver to the screw, we were messing with the magnetism in the machine, and it flipped out.

Good grief.
Everybody knows to keep magnets away from the computer.

But then there are those tricksy tools, disguising themselves as helping-hands, when they're really computer-crashers.

As much as I'd rather pay somebody to do this, we just can't afford that. So I guess I keep learning lessons about the computer these days. (Boy, I'm glad Nathan is just a phone call away!)

Dressing Up for Church

This week I could finally wear a dress to church on Wednesday night. For the preceding weeks, it had been cold. Cold in the house. Wicked cold outside. And not exactly toasty warm in the church. I could not bring myself to change out of my jeans and put on a dress [read: "have naked legs"] for church.

I suppose it may be due in part to how I was raised, but I feel funny when I don't dress up for church. I don't think it's a rule, so don't think I'm condemning people who show up to church in play-clothes or sweatsuits. Sometimes that's necessary. And to some extent, it's a relief to know that you are free to go to church in not-so-nice clothes, like when the time got away from you in the garden or on errands, and it's "go a little grubby or don't go at all," or when a kid is going through a big growth spurt and you can't afford nice clothes that will last him only 4-6 wearings before he outgrows them.

But still, I feel funny when I'm at the Divine Service in pants.

Today's Laugh

A little boy comes home from first grade and tells his father that he learned about the history of Valentine's Day. "As Valentine's Day is for a Christian saint and we're Jewish," he asks, "will God get angry at me for giving someone a valentine?"

The father thinks for a moment and then says, "No, I don't think God would get mad. Who do you want to give a valentine to?"

"Osama Bin Laden," the boy says.

"Why Osama??" his father asks in disbelief.

"Well," David says, "I thought that if a little American Jewish boy could have enough love to give Osama a valentine, he might start to think that maybe we're not all bad, and maybe start loving people a little bit. And if other kids saw what I did and sent valentines to Osama, he'd jump with joy. And then he'd go all over and tell everyone how much he loved them and how he didn't hate anyone anymore."

Father's heart swells and he looks at his son with newfound pride and joy. "David, that's the most wonderful thing I've ever heard."

"I know," David says, "and once that gets him out in the open, the Marines shoot him."

Friday, February 13, 2009

Matthew 18:20

If two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in My name, there I am in the midst of them.

I have heard that verse used to assure people that it's okay if only a few show up for church services. After all, God is still there with them. And that's true.

I have heard that verse used to support social activities at church, like dartball or potlucks or an outing to the roller rink. That's just totally taking the verse out of context, where the "agreement" and the "gathered" is clearly about bestowing the absolution on the penitent.

Pastor said during prayers today that he has heard this verse used to claim that God's will was being done whenever the church voted on matters of carpeting or refinancing the mortgage or whatever.

What I'd never heard (until today) was that there are two people together in the confessional, and they agree. That is, they CONfess. The sinner agrees with God about his sin. The sinner agrees with God about His remedy for sin. The pastor obviously agrees with God because he's the one speaking God's message. And so "what they agree upon" --that is, the forgiveness applied to the sinner-- will be done for them by My Father in heaven. Jesus is surely in that place where confession is heard and the absolution is spoken.

Exercise and Depression

"They say" that exercise helps with depression. Every now and then you get a chance --against your will-- to check that out with a nice, scientific experiment. For the last week, sores on my feet prevented my 2-3 miles of brisk walking daily ... even on those absolutely gorgeous and sunny (and warm!) days. And boy, my mood sure has taken a hit. Of course, the "stimulus" package from Congress, the notice that there will be no raises at work, and the broken computer haven't exactly brought cheer -- although "no layoffs at work" IS good news.

I've learned this lesson before about the exercise. It's important for me to remember that the daily outdoor exercise is critical to health, and not just for long-term health, but even for next week's health. But there's not a lot you can do when you have to walk around the house gingerly to do simple things like set the table or throw in a load of laundry. My owies are improving, though, and I'm hoping to give it a whirl again soon for the walking.

Today's Laugh

A man walks into a post office one day and sees a middle-aged, balding man standing at the counter methodically placing "Love" stamps on bright pink envelopes with hearts all over them. He then takes out a perfume bottle and starts spraying scent all over them.

His curiosity gets the better of him; he goes up to the balding man and asks him what he is doing.

The man says, "I'm sending out 1,000 valentines signed, 'Guess who?'"

"But why?" asks the man.

"I'm a divorce lawyer," the man replies.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Jonah 3:9

Who can tell if God will turn and relent,
and turn away from His fierce anger,
so that we may not perish?

I had always thought this was a "contritionism" (i.e. a belief that God forgives me because I'm sorry) and it didn't make sense to me. The Ninevite king was brought to repentance and called upon his people to repent and turn from their evil ways. "And maybe God will decide not to zot us after all??"

But in Bible class today Pastor pointed out that this wasn't so much an attempt to manipulate God by making a nice sorry-face and sorry-words. This was more like when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego declared that their God was able to save them from the fiery furnace, but that even if He didn't, they still would worship the true God and not bow down to Nebuchnezzar's idol (Daniel 3:17). Or like when Job told his pietistic friends, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him" (3:15).

What matters is that we do not perish eternally. God may choose to spare us on earth from cancer or war or poverty. But whether or not He spares us temporally, He will without doubt not permit us to perish forever.

Three Days

In Bible class today, Pastor mentioned how Jonah was a picture of Christ in his own self, in that he was "dead" and then came alive again when the fish vomited him out onto dry land. Saul/Paul was the same: Saul "died" on the road to Damascus and then was made alive again.

Interestingly enough, Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days, and Paul sat waiting for Ananias to arrive for, also, three days.

Today's Laugh

The drunk was driving home after an evening at his favorite bar. A policeman pulled him over. The policemen asked the driver if he had been drinking. The driver admitted he'd "had a few."

The policeman then asked the driver, "Did you know your wife fell out of your vehicle about two intersections back down the street?"

The drunk threw his hands in the air and shouted, "Thank heavens! Thank God! I thought I suddenly went deaf!!"

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Computer Frustrations

For the last six weeks my computer problems have been growing. I have spent two full days now with a computer full of messes -- days when it was beautifully sunny and there was something better to do than pull my hair out over computer repairs at which I am quite inept. The computer shuts itself down repeatedly. I have to keep running the programs that find and remove spyware and viruses. It refuses to open new windows until rebooted twice or more. I may be a computer addict, but this is bad enough that even I don't want to have anything more to do with the machine. I can borrow Gary's or the library's, but my computer is worse than useless at this point.

Now we have to figure out whether to risk the bill to repair it, not knowing how big the bill will be. Or whether to buy a new one. Or whether to learn to live without it. None of those are good choices.

Today's Laugh

A lawyer was driving much too fast down a country road. He ran a stop sign and broadsided another car. The lawyer jumped out of his car, ran to the other driver, and pulled him out of the wreck. The other driver said, "I'm fine. I'm just a bit shaken up."

The lawyer then reached into his jacket and gave the driver a flask and said, "Here's some brandy that I keep handy for medicinal purposes." The driver took several large swigs of the brandy and handed the flask back to the attorney, who promptly put the cap back on and returned it to his jacket.

"Aren't you going to have some?" the driver inquired.

"Sure," said the attorney, "right after the cops leave."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Maggie and I recently read Pollyanna. I'd never read it before; I only knew that calling somebody "Pollyanna" was usually used as an insult which meant the person lived in Lala-land and couldn't see the reality of suffering and distress around them, somebody who always put on a fakey cheerful exterior for the rest of the world to see.

But that's not what I got from the book. Now, granted, we read an abridged version because I am a bear of very little brain. (My pride really took a hit when I was visiting at our church-school's open house, and the girls were reading Sense and Sensibility and I was pretty well clueless. Good thing my daughters taught Jane Austen to themselves!) The story of Pollyanna was fun to read. There was a bit of romance. A bit of childhood fun and wonder. A bit of adult drama. And the story of how love changes people. And it's about mercy and forgiveness. And for those who love to talk about "vocation," the story handles that well too. But honestly, some of what I'm writing makes it sound stuffy. It's really a fun book to read. Well, at least, our dumbed-down, abridged version was fun to read!

One of the things Pollyanna did was play the "glad game" her father taught her. They would try to find something to be glad about, no matter how terrible a situation might arise. Every cloud has a silver lining. God works in all things for the good of those who love Him, the ones called according to His purposes.

Since we finished Pollyanna, I've been noticing the word "glad" as I pray my psalms each day. Wow! "Glad" is in there a lot! But it's not "glad" that the sun is shining (even though I am very happy about that!), or "glad" that my old car hasn't bit the dust, or "glad" that my grown-up kids attend church. The "gladness" in the psalter is almost always the joy of sins forgiven, the comfort that we are IN Christ, the blessing that we have eternal life with the Lord. As Moses wrote, God makes us glad according to the days He has afflicted us. That's just weird -- the gladness in the midst of affliction.

And yet, there is no true joy, even in the happy things of life, unless we have forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. And even when the happy things of life are missing, even when our minds play tricks on us and make us miserable, even when the world and the demons attack, they cannot take away what God has done for us. When we believe that, when we really really believe that, against all evidence to the contrary, there is no way that we can be robbed of gladness of heart. [God have mercy on me for all the unbelief and idolatry which makes me focus on my circumstances instead of trusting in what His Word gives.]

I'm getting far afield. I just wanted to say that Pollyanna is a good book. But now my brain is full of Gerhardt hymns:
If God Himself be for me, I may a host defy....
Rejoice my heart, be glad and sing....
O Love, how cheering is Thy ray! All pain before Thy presence flies...

Today's Laugh

What do fishermen and hypochondriacs have in common?

They don't have to catch anything to be happy.

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What do Attila the Hun and Kermit the Frog have in common?

The same middle name.

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How can you tell if a blonde is making chocolate chip cookies?

There are M&M shells on the kitchen counter.

Monday, February 09, 2009

What the Rates Indicate

We're refinancing the house. Interest rates dropped low enough that it was clearly advantageous to us to pay the costs of refinancing so that we could lower the monthly mortgage payments. (Quick, quick, before the rates go up. Because they're gonna go up.) Our mistake last year was that we didn't know something that "everybody" knows -- that you can lock-in the rates when they get to a number you like.

What's weird this year is that the rates for shorter-term mortgages are higher than for the 30-yr mortgages. That's not the way it was last year. And it's not even reasonable. The banks like to give better rates to the people who will have the money for a shorter time. But we keep finding the 15-yr rates to be the same as the 30-yr rates, or even slightly higher. The 20-yr rates are higher yet.

Seems to me that there is trepidation out there about what interest rates and inflation are going to be doing in the next years, but that the banks expect (or hope?) things will even out in the long term.

And still, Congress is promising us a "bail out package" that will "bail out" the representatives from those who accuse them of not bringing home enough pork, while leaving the taxpayers holding the bag full of IOUs. I'm wondering if maybe it's a good sign that the banks are at least expecting that the economic times will actually begin recovering in 20 years. I guess I'm not even that optimistic.

Cutting Costs

Our local newspaper is running some stories on how people in the area are coping with the recession and what effects the national economic conditions are having on local businesses.

Most interesting to me was the interview with the manager of the grocery store. The grocery store has seen its business improve. This I expected.

But here's what got me. The manager said the MEAT DEPT is leading in sales now. His reason was that people aren't eating out. So they're buying their steaks and roasts from Piggly Wiggly instead of from Outback.

And I'm thinking....
WHAT??? The MEAT DEPT is leading sales? So my version of cutting costs is less meat and more legumes, more potatoes and cabbage and less of apples or berries. And other people's version of cutting costs is buying meat to cook at home instead of eating at restaurants. Oy.

Today's Laugh

Julie, the blonde, was getting pretty desperate for money. She decided to go to the nicer, more affluent neighborhoods to look for odd jobs, as a handy-woman.

At the very first house she came to, a man answered the door and told Julie, "Yeah, I have a job for you. How would you like to paint the porch?"

"Sure, that sounds great!" said Julie.

"Well, how much do you want me to pay you?" asked the man.

"Is fifty bucks all right?" Julie asked.

"Yeah, great," said the man. "You'll find paint and brushes and all you'll need in the garage."

The man went back inside his house where his wife had been listening. "Fifty bucks! Does she know the porch goes all the way around the house?" asked the wife.

"Well, she must know, she was standing right on the porch when we made the deal!" her husband replied.

About 45 minutes later, Julie knocked on the door and the man let her in the house. "I'm all finished," she told the surprised homeowner.

The man was amazed. "You already painted the entire porch?" he asked.

"Yeah," Julie replied, "I even had some paint left so I put on two coats!"

The man reached for his wallet to pay Julie. "Oh, and by the way," said Julie, "that's not a Porch. It's a Ferrari."

Sunday, February 08, 2009


I love to sing. I don't have a very pretty voice, though. Just kinda "adequate," good enough to teach my kids to sing the liturgy and hymns, good enough croon to babies while rocking them or nursing them, good enough that I haven't been kicked out of choir yet.

When we had our high-school church-choir reunion a few years back, somebody had put on an audio-tape of one of our musicals. The girl with the prettiest voice in choir heard the part of the tape where I had my tiny little solo one year and said, "Oh, that's bad enough to hurt your ears. WHO was that???" I didn't volunteer the answer, I was so embarrassed. But it didn't surprise me; I actually kinda agreed with her.

But Rachel and Katie have beautiful voices. They sound especially awesome together -- there is, after all, something about genetically similar voices that amplify the beauty of the other. Even when the voices are merely average, they sound more lovely in combo.

Today I heard the same thing from two different people at church: not only does Rachel look like me, but they said that our singing voices are just alike. When Rachel sat behind somebody at church, they were sure it was me behind them. I'm stunned. If I sound like Rachel....

(I'm sorry if this sounds braggy. But I've been wondering recently if choir would be better off without me, and this makes me think that I can't be dragging them down too terribly. And that is a happy relief because I really really like being in choir.)

For the Sake of the Other

Sometimes we make jokes when someone's patience is tried: "Well, you prayed for patience, didn't you? What did you expect?" Or maybe we pray for humility, and then God sends situations that take away everything we're proud of, and we end up embarrassed. Or maybe we pray for contentment, and God sends poverty, and we end up learning that it's not possessions which instill contentment.

I have had Protestant friends tell me, "If you could just learn the lesson that God wants to teach you, then you could be done with this struggle." They essentially are saying that it works like this: a woman prays for patience, becomes the mother of an especially exuberant and strong-willed child, and begins to learn patience. But if she could just get patient faster, then God would be free to resolve the issue with her strong-willed kid. Somehow, it seems to me that this paints a false picture of a God. Somehow, it seems to me that this viewpoint is more consistent with the theology of glory than with the theology of the cross.

But even more than that, this kind of theology smacks of an American brand of individuality. I have a lesson to learn. God is teaching me this lesson. Once I learn my lesson, I can go on to a new lesson.

But we are one body of Christ. Sometimes things happen to us for the sake of someone else.

Pastors see these kinds of situations. Why does Grandpa Schmidt linger so long in the nursing home? Maybe there's something he needs to learn about dependence upon God alone. But maybe not. Maybe there's something his children and grandchildren need to do in caring for him. Why did Gary have his non-heart-attack? Because there was something for him to learn? Maybe, but I don't think so. It was because of that man who was his roommate in the hospital, the one who needed to be returned to the fold so that he might have a pastor in the last year of his life.

Sometimes our suffering is because of a work God is doing in someone else's life. It may not make sense to us; we probably cannot see what God is accomplishing. Whether or not we can discern God's reasons, no amount of "learning my lesson" is going to bring an end to my suffering in that case. We just have to be content that God knows what He's doing, even if I can't make sense of it.

Obama's Nominees

Another tidbit that I came across while reading my tax instruction booklet. Check out the inside cover for a message from the tax commissioner:

We should be proud that the vast majority of American citizens pay their taxes honestly and of their own free will. In an ever more complex and global world, we cannot take for granted this cornerstone principle of our democracy.

and later in the message:
Unfortunately, there will always be some that cheat their fellow citizens by avoiding the payment of their fair share of taxes. The IRS owes it to the millions of you who promptly pay your taxes in full to pursue these people through strong enforcement programs.


We pray in ["forgive us our trespasses"] that God would not look at our sins, nor deny our prayer because of them. We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give them all to us by grace ....

I don't know about you, but I usually think about "prayer" as "asking God for things." I am not worthy of such a great husband, nor a pantry full of flour and peaches and peanut butter, nor a house with a furnace. I have not deserved my Camry, nor my rabbit-killing huntress, nor a neighborhood free of crime. But God gives me all these things by grace.

At least, that's how I normally think of this petition.

But this week the light-bulb finally clicked for me about something that Pastor has been saying for years. "Our prayer" and "the things for which we pray" are particularly the things we just said. In other words, the other petitions of the Lord's Prayer.

We are not worthy for there to be true doctrine anywhere on earth.

We are not worthy that God would send prophets and preachers out into the world.

We are not worthy that God would give His Holy Spirit into our hearts.

We are not worthy that the devil's will be thwarted.

Somehow it's easy to see how I do not deserve to have my sins forgiven, that I do not deserve for God to guard me from temptation, that I do not deserve the material "stuff" that sustains my physical life, etc. But it seems so much bigger to realize that we --the whole human race-- we do not even deserve for any true doctrine to exist anywhere on the face of the whole earth. Even before I can be saved, even before the Holy Spirit can work faith in my heart, there is the wonder that God in His grace ensures that His word is taught in its truth and purity at all.

Our unworthiness doesn't stop God. His loving nature gives and gives and gives, even though we most surely do not deserve it.

Today's Laugh

A baby seal walks into a bar, and the bartender says, "What'll you have?"

The seal replies, "Anything but a Canadian Club!!"