Saturday, April 04, 2009

Water Heater

When the old water heater started leaking a year ago, the plumber who installed the new one told us that we should flush it once a year. He said that would get rid of the sediment that builds up at the bottom of the tank and thus provide a longer life-span for the appliance.

So today I did. Boy, it sure takes me a long time to figure out the instructions in the owner's manual. I begged Gary's assistance. It took forever to drain that tank. Turned out that we weren't draining just the tank, but also all the hot-water pipes in the whole house. It took nearly an hour to drain. I was surprised at how quickly the water heated up once we refilled the tank.

Next year, I'm going to make sure I've got washers in the hose we attached to the drainpipe. It would've been nice if the hose hadn't spit and leaked all over the basement floor!

Getting Started

I pulled out the pattern for the bridesmaid dress today and an old sheet. Maggie's size is going to require a significant amount of alteration, so I'm making a trial-dress first, to be sure I've gotten pretty close to the correct adjustments. So we checked the pattern pieces and laid them out on the practice-fabric while watching the Michigan State game. (Kinda hard to say "Go State" so instead we can cheer "Go Big Ten!")

I wanted to post a picture of the beginning efforts on the dress, but I can't seem to upload photos. And here I was going to spend the evening uploading photos from the wedding shower too. Hmmm, this is something that's going to take some repair work. I went back and hunted my blog to discover that I have, indeed, successfully uploaded photos since the computer remake. So something else has happened in the meantime. Hmm.

Satan's Triumph

Satan wanted Jesus dead. Satan entered the heart of Judas Iscariot to betray Jesus. Satan wanted to destroy the Messiah.

And yet, Satan also wanted to turn Jesus from the cross. Remember what Peter said about "May it never be" that Jesus suffer and die? And Jesus said, "Get behind Me, Satan."

Movies about Christ's passion can't agree with each other. Was Satan happy over the crucifixion, or did he try to prevent it? Did he egg on Jesus' persecutors, or did he shudder at what was happening?

I have even heard pastors disagree about this. Some do not like the hymns that say, "The foe in triumph shouted when Christ lay in the tomb" and "The foe was triumphant when on Calvary the Lord of creation was nailed to the tree." But other pastors see value in those lines.

What if...
Satan did want the destruction of the Son of God? Maybe he just couldn't contain his glee over the thought of killing God. Maybe he knew his theology, but still yearned to take out the Messiah.

Is that so different from us? The old Adam in us wants the very thing that will harm us. Our sinful nature yearns to hang onto that which will destroy us.

Maybe that is what was going on with Satan. He wanted the very thing that would turn out to be his undoing -- the death of God.

Somehow, the blindness of unbelief made Satan (and makes us!) unable to see. We expect that succumbing to temptations and lust and covetousness will satisfy. But they don't. They bring harm. Satan lusted for God's place. When he saw what he thought he'd accomplished (but which was actually Jesus' laying down His own life, and not having Satan take it from Him), it turned out to be to his destruction.

It's like that line in The Royal Banners Forward Go:
"Spoil the spoiler of his prey."

Maybe the Moral Of The Story here is that
"getting what we want"
never turns out to be
what we want.

If anyone desires to come after Me,
let him deny himself
and take up his cross daily
and follow Me.

Today's Laugh

Farmer Carl wakes up and looks outside his window. There on his property he sees a dozen penguins. He can't believe his eyes and runs over to his neighbor and asks, "Hey, John, do you see what I see?"

"Well, a dozen penguins on your land ..."

"Gosh, what am I gonna do with them?"

"Well," said John, "I think it's best when you take them to the zoo."

Next morning John wakes up and looks outside the window. Lo and behold, he sees a dozen penguins on his neighbor's land again. He runs over and asks,"Hey, Carl, what is this I see? A dozen penguins on your land, and they're all wearing bathing caps! I thought you took them to the zoo."

"Well, John, that was yesterday. Today I'm planning to take them to an indoor pool".

Friday, April 03, 2009


Gethsemane means "oil press." If you've ever made cider or grape juice, or paper, you've seen what a press can do. There's a lot of pressure. [Hey, I just noticed. Those words are connected!] A press squeezes something out, with crushing damage to the thing being squeezed.

Jesus was in the "press" of Gethsemane.
And drops of blood were pressed out of Him.

Curriculum Decisions

Society has certain expectations about what children should study, and that's what appears in textbooks. Unschoolers count on the fact that the children know best what they should study. Many homeschooling parents take it upon themselves to determine the curriculum.

So who should determine the course of study? I certainly see that some of the curriculum in traditional schools is unnecessary ... and sometimes even harmful. And yet, I know that children are sinners and can be lazy, so I cannot say that the students are pure as the wind-driven snow and will consistently make the right choices about their own curriculum. And yet, I doubt my own wisdom in choosing the curriculum.

Somehow, through our homeschooling years, our family has come to some weird conglomeration of all three methods of choosing curriculum. There are things we study just because society expects it, regardless of the excellent reasons my daughters might've given me for algebra being a ridiculous requirement. Much of what we study has been driven by the children's interests and passions. And sometimes I even overcome my fear and trepidation and foist upon introduce to my children subjects that they are not interested in and society doesn't care two hoots about. But I want the kids to know something about it, and I'm the mom, so they get to learn it. (Happily enough, usually it turns out interesting enough for the kids too.)

I wish it were easier. I wish that it was clearer to us all what was necessary, so that our curriculum decisions didn't have to be our "best guess" but that we could know what was right. I wish I had the confidence to make these decisions and implement them without always wondering how a different decision might've better served my children and our neighbors.

Sometimes it is harder to have choices than it is to just do what you're told. But I guess being a grown-up sometimes means making the decisions for those you're responsible for, taking the risk of being wrong, and forging ahead to the best of your ability. Scary scary scary...

Today's Laugh

A dog walks into a bar and orders a beer. The bartender looks at him and says, "You're a dog, ain't you?"

"Sure am," says the dog.

"Yeah, well, we don't serve dogs in here," says the bartender, and he pulls out a gun and shoots the dog in the foot. The dog howls with pain and limps away.

The next day, the doors of the bar swing open and the dog is standing there wearing a ten-gallon hat and a brace of pistols. He strides into the bar and says, "I'm looking for the man what shot my paw."

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Grammar Words

Who decided that OBJECT and SUBJECT should be so similar? It's hard enough to keep those words straight when you're an ADD mother with Deficient Noun Disease. But when you're a kid with Central Auditory Processing Disorder, who knows whether we're calling a subject an "object," or calling a direct object a "subject"?

And then there's a B in "verb" too.

And there's "preposition," "pronoun," and "proper noun," all of which start with PR and have O's and end with N. Why does this have to be so confusing??!!? Arrrrrrgh!

Philip's Place

Philip was turned down for a mortgage and so began looking at apartments.

Then the loan officer found another mortgage company that would consider his loan application. On Monday he received word that he was okayed for a mortgage. On Tuesday he was poised to make an offer on the condo he liked. It would be a bit of a stretch financially. It so happened that someone made on offer this two-bedroom condo, which has been on the market for a full year, on Tuesday before Philip did. So instead, Philip made an offer on a [less expensive] one-bedroom condo at the same place. On Wednesday his offer was accepted.

Wow, that was a quick change in plans!

The current condo-owner is renting out the place. He must give 30 days notice, which means the renter will not be out until May 15. Closing date is set for May 29. The extra 8 weeks will provide Philip four more paychecks before coming up with the down-payment and taking on all his own bills.

It's weird to have a kid moving out without a firm date (like a wedding or the first day of college) governing the move.

Theology of the Cross

We like comfort. We want to be rich, or at least keep our stuff. We want to hang onto our health and our happy family relationships. We don't want to suffer.

That's where we so often have problems with the Table of Duties where Romans 13 tells us about the government. It's hard for us to believe that God will "do good" if we're hurting or losing or dying.

Even though Pilate unjustly condemned an innocent Man to death, Pilate was "God's servant to do [Jesus] good." It doesn't look good to us who like comfort. But it was good.

We have a hard enough time distinguishing between punishments and chastisements and God's wrath as it is. Sinners don't want to believe that discomfort and loss can come from God. But it happened to Israel. It happened to Judah. It happened to Jonah. It happened to David. It happened to Jesus. And it will happen to us. If we were not so enamored with the theology of glory, it would be a lot easier to recognize that the call to repentance is a blessed thing. (Certainly that's easy enough to recognize when we're talking about it. Far harder to recognize when we're experiencing it.)

Today's Laugh

The son of the rabbi was doing terribly at Hebrew School. His parents paid for tutors. The boy took extra classes. He had no success. Finally they resorted to enrolling him in Catholic school. After one semester he was getting straight A's.

The rabbi asked his son, "Why the change? What is it? The structure? The nuns? The discipline?"

"No," said the boy. "When I walked in and saw the Jewish guy nailed to the plus sign, I knew these people meant business."

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


When we went to church for prayers yesterday, we noticed that the timpani had been dropped off. And there will be brass and strings along with the organ. Oooooooh!

Today's Laugh

A customer in a bakery was observed carefully examining all the rich-looking pastries displayed on trays in the glass cases. A clerk approached him and asked, "What would you like?"

He answered, "I'd like that chocolate-covered, cream-filled doughnut, that jelly-filled doughnut over there, and this cheese Danish."

Then with a sigh he added, "But I'll take an oat-bran muffin."

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pilate's Many Messiahs

Pastor has been talking the last couple of years about how there were messiah-figures all over the place in Palestine during Jesus' life. What I couldn't figure out, though, was why the Sanhedrin cared so much about the one. Pastor cleared that up on Sunday.

The Sanhedrin didn't necessarily disagree with the other messiahs who were revolutionaries and wanted political power and earthly kingdoms. The Sanhedrin wanted to preserve their own political authority, but weren't too upset when some Jew threatened Rome's authority.

Jesus was different. He preached a message of grace and forgiveness that the Sanhedrin couldn't stand; they believed in merit. Besides, the Romans had been eliminating all the rabble-rousing messiah-dudes. The Romans didn't have to do that with Jesus; He wasn't a threat to their authority; He didn't intend to set up an earthly kingdom.

And that's why the Sanhedrin had to step in. They wanted this guy shut up. And the Romans had no desire to take Him out. So the Sanhedrin had to force Pilate into a position where he had to eliminate even the one Messiah who was no threat to him.

Abortion and Conscience

In the 1970s, the "church amendments" were passed. These are laws (or regulations?) which protect medical workers from discrimination due to their position on abortion or sterilization or anything else which might offend the doctor's or nurse's conscience. If a group (a hospital, clinic, med school, whatever) accepts federal funds in any way, shape, or form, the group cannot use a person's beliefs about abortion to influence his firing, hiring, promotion, raises, etc. These clauses were intended to ensure that no doctor or nurse was forced into choosing between his job and his conscience which forbid him to help with (or advise for) abortions.

In 1996 a law was made that said the government could not discriminate against a hospital or med school which refused to teach how to do abortions.

In 2005 and ever year since then, the budget for the Health and Human Services Department has included an amendment stating that funds may not go to any program that discriminates against pro-life doctors or hospitals or programs.

In the fall of 2008, a rule was proposed which would establish the amendment mentioned in the previous paragraph. This rule was an attempt to balance the rights of patients and the rights of providers. When govt funds are involved, patients should be allowed to obtain legal services (such as abortions). When govt funds are involved, doctors should not be coerced into providing abortions or advising abortions when that would be contrary to what their conscience permits.

Health and Human Services now believes that this rule will restrict people's freedom of access to care they wish to receive. HHS believes that this "freedom of conscience rule" is contrary to the Obama Administration's policy. In other words, the current administration doesn't care if a doctor is coerced into providing an abortion or a sterilization, so long as we ensure that everybody has access to information and services from the first doctor a patient may happen to visit.

Rescinding this rule would not automatically undo the church amendments or the other safeguards in place from 1996 and 2005. It does seem a step in the wrong direction, though, to rescind the rule. My synopsis here is admittedly brief and lacking in the precision of legalese. More information can be found and comments can be made at the website for government regulations.

Today's Laugh

Girl Potato and Boy Potato had eyes for each other, and finally they got married and had a little sweet potato, which they called 'Yam.' Of course, they wanted the best for Yam.

When it was time, they told her about the facts of life. They warned her about going out and getting half-baked, so she wouldn't get accidentally mashed, and get a bad name for herself like 'Hot Potato,' and end up with a bunch of Tater Tots.

Yam said not to worry: no Spud would get her into the sack and make a rotten potato out of her! But on the other hand, she wouldn't stay home and become a Couch Potato either.

She would get plenty of exercise, but no so much that she'd end up skinny like her Shoestring cousins.

When she went off to Europe, Mr and Mrs. Potato told Yam to watch out for the hard-boiled guys from Ireland, and the greasy guys from France called the French Fries.

Yam said she would stay on the straight and narrow and wouldn't associate with those high-class Yukon Golds, or the ones from the other side of the tracks who advertise their trade on all the trucks that say, 'Frito Lay.'

Mr and Mrs Potato sent Yam to Idaho P. U. [that's Potato University] so that when she graduated she'd really be in the Chips.

Yet, in spite of all they did for her, one day Yam came home and announced she was going to marry Tom Brokaw. Tom Brokaw! Mr and Mrs Potato were very upset. They told Yam she couldn't possibly marry Tom Brokaw because he's just a commentator.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Piano Tuning

The piano tuner came today. It's been a while. This was the first time the piano was tuned since we moved, so the tuner was new to us. I liked this man quite a bit. He explained what he was doing, and why, and asked questions about how the piano has been cared for in the past (without being judgmental for the not-as-frequent-as-should-be tunings). I learned two important things.

I didn't used to think it was tremendously important for the piano to be tuned annually. I figured that it was enough to call the tuner when the instrument was sounding bad. Or every now and then, even before it sounded bad. I thought annual piano tuning was for people who really really care about precision in music, or for people who have perfect pitch. Today I learned why regular piano tuning is necessary for all pianos.

1) We learn to sing based on our piano at home. If the instrument isn't kept in tune, our ear attunes to a slightly off-key note. No wonder I've been singing just a little flat for most of my life. And no wonder I've been able to stay on pitch better in the last year: I've been doing more of my singing at church with the choir or the schoolkids (tuned to a pitch pipe).

2) Annual tuning preserves the life of the piano. The tuner today explained the massive amount of forces that the strings put on the piano. He also explained how the higher notes will go out of tune quicker than the low notes, and how this changes the pull on the wood and iron in the piano. If the piano is not tuned regularly, there is slight twisting in the inner workings of the piano. This twisting is what was causing my sustain pedal to be ineffective for the lower octaves of the piano. It has also resulted in some not-too-major cracks in the soundboard in back. The twisting has resulted in some hammers being crooked; the tuner will fix those next time. Eventually, this unevenness and twisting would result in the pegs being too loose to adjust; happily ours hasn't deteriorated that far.

So spending money for frequent tunings isn't a hoity-toity thing for fine musicians. It's also for us frugal folks who want our investment in a piano to last many a year.

... to do you good

Our catechism portion this week is from the first verses of Romans 13, about how the government is God's way of keeping control in this world. The government punishes the bad guys. Your reward for being a good guy is that the government will leave you alone and not punish you.

Sometimes we think that government has this part really botched up. Sometimes the innocent are punished while the guilty go free. In some nations, there is serious persecution of the good guys while the criminals and murderers stage a coup and take over the government. Sometimes we fear that doing good (whether a religious good like speaking God's truth, or a secular good like stopping to help an injured person) will not garner a reward, but punishment. But, hey, when Paul wrote this, he wasn't exactly writing to Christians who lived in a Christian society under a just government; he was unjustly beaten by his government.

What are we to make of it when the government punishes the good guys? Is it possible to remember that God is doing us GOOD when we are unfairly punished? Maybe God's "good" is bigger than the comfort of this temporal life. Maybe He actually is "doing us good" through the government even when the government punishes good guys. That'd sure be hard to see. Either way, the truth of God's blessing-in-trial is certainly no excuse for the government to fail to do what they've been called to do.

Today's Laugh

A business had expanded and moved to a bigger store in a busier part of town. The owner's friends decided to send him flowers for the grand opening. The floral arrangement arrived at the new business site, and the owner read the message, Rest In Peace.

The owner was annoyed. He called the florist to complain.

"Sir, I'm really sorry for the mistake, and I'm sorry you were offended," the florist apologized. "But even worse, somewhere there is a funeral taking place today, and they have flowers with a note saying, Congratulations on your new location."

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Mark 15:30

And those who passed by blasphemed Him,
wagging their heads and saying,
"Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days,
save Yourself, and come down from the cross."
Likewise the chief priests also,
mocking among themselves with the scribes,
said, "He saved others; Himself He cannot save."

Were they right?
Were the mockers right?

Well, yeah.
He couldn't save Himself.

But it wasn't impotence.

He couldn't save Himself because it would mean letting go of saving us.

The communion of the Holy Trinity within itself was pure love. Jesus had His Father's love, and unity with Him, and all the fullness of communion with His Father. And He left it. For us. When He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane that this cup of His Father's wrath could pass, it wasn't because He didn't want the pain. It was because He knew He would be enduring His Father's wrath, losing touch with that love. And yet, to stay in His Father's "good graces" would mean turning away from the work of salvation, hanging onto His own benefits instead of making our rescue the priority. He would have to deny who He is and what "makes Him tick."

If we are faithless,
He remains faithful,
for He cannot deny Himself.

"He saved others; Himself He cannot save" has a truth embedded behind the mockery. He cannot save Himself because His self-sacrificing love compels Him to save others.

Today's Laugh

What do you get when you cross a canary and a lawnmower?

Shredded tweet.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

What do you get when you cross a four-leaf clover with poison ivy?

A rash of good luck.